Friday, July 30, 2010

Another pest inundation has begun: the dreaded Japanese Beetle has made the leap from the grapevines on the fence to my scarlet runner beans. AUGH. Tomorrow I will go pick off the ones that are roosting there and spray the bean plants down with a solution of garlic puree, which was the recommendation from Richmond Nursery - but I am not optimistic, considering that the grapevines are so thoroughly infested; even if I tackled the impossible-looking task of de-bugging the vines on my side of the fence, they're planted in the neighbour's yard (and invading the yard of another neighbour to boot). Maybe if I make the beans unappetizing enough they'll stick with the grapes.

Interestingly, however, I am growing some of their reputed favourite foods - roses, japanese maple - and so far they haven't touched them. (This had better not just be a matter of time!!) Also interestingly, the beans are located in the shade bed, the only piece of the back garden that is not planted throughout with alliums (garlic relative). Hmmm! As if I needed another reason to stock up on those. Hopefully my inference is correct; the internets seem to suggest it may be so. C'mon universe, work with me here!

In more positive news, while at Richmond Nurseries, I happened across a stand of butterfly bush (buddleja). And OMG internets, I MUST HAVE THIS PLANT. It smells heavenly, and true to the name, in the couple of minutes I spent staring at the stand of plants at Richmond, they had attracted several butterflies of at least three different kinds.

The trick, of course, is that it needs full sun, and while you're supposed to chop it back to the ground every year, it grows back to about 4 or 5 feet high and wide. It's also only borderline hardy here. Basically, were I to plant one, it should be in the backyard for preference, since it's nice and sheltered there; that would also allow me to sit and enjoy the fragrance and butterflies. But I really don't have anywhere left for a 4'-5' shrub. I toyed with the idea of putting it where the beans are now - the digitalis and azalea would probably be done blooming by the time it got big enough to block them from view - but I don't know if that spot gets enough light, and I wouldn't want to hide the phlox and sweet rocket, nor cast the mockorange into total shade. A more promising spot is probably in front of the yew and peonies out front; I could crank the windows open to catch the fragrance, and we could watch the butterflies from the window, at least. Have to check how much light that spot would get before the shadow of the house falls over it - will keep an eye out for this tomorrow over the course of the day.

Meanwhile, I have dug up and divided the bee balm - dun dun DUNNNNNN - and am pleased as punch with the results so far. It already looks more balanced. And the relocated chunks of bee balm will be a nice repetitive element to tie the whole garden together, as my garden magazines always say. Photos to follow when I have the replacements in the ground.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy houseiversary to us! I believe I will keep up last year's tradition of a compare and contrast picture post. Feast your eyes!




Lawn: similarly fried, but somewhat less weedy. Magnolia is a few inches taller. Foundation bed: more civilized in some ways, wilder and woollier in others. Need to take some shears to that yew.





Now THAT I think I can call half-decent progress. Awesome.

Sun bed





Damn, that bee balm really needs to move.

Wall bed




Holy crap, look how far the golden oregano has gotten! Too bad about the delphinium and the toad lily, though. Need some more stuff to go next to the wall that flowers around this time of year - the cotoneaster has nice red berries, but those will be another month or two yet.

Corner bed




This is filling in nicely, although again it could use more colour to bridge the gap between lilies and Joe Pye weed. And speaking of Joe Pye, so much for the "dwarf" variety; it's as tall as the delphiniums were (~6').

Side bed




Hmmm...improving, esp with the nice height of the delphiniums, but need to beat back the bastard ferns again; they're sprouting in the lawn, now.

And for future reference, here's the shade bed in 2010:


Sunday, July 11, 2010

While stranded in Carleton Place on Saturday (to make a long story short, our car is a craptastic bucket of bolts) I was intrigued to discover that hey, Canadian Tire in Carleton Place has different plants than my local one! I am tempted to run back there next weekend and snap up a couple of items:

* some asclepias (butterfly plant - I always thought this just meant milkweed, but no, it's much fancier, and likes part-shade to boot)

* a nice variegated green foliage plant, which turned out to be an artemisia called Limelight

...and some sedum, since everything is on deep discount.

As I think I've remarked before, Canadian Tire's garden section is surprisingly awesome. Loblaws is pretty good too. I've seen both places carrying the same plants from the same growers as one of the nurseries I like. (I wonder how badly nurseries are affected by the big-box places being half-decent. God knows they still end up with an embarrassing chunk of MY money...)

Home Despot, however, is pretty crappy and usually worth no more than a cursory look around. Wal-mart, that den of iniquity, is about as crappy as you'd expect for perennials, but is occasionally handy for things like cheapass 6' bamboo stakes.

I'm also trying to think of a possible use for a Globe Blue Spruce, which first caught my eye at the nursery, and then again on sale for $40 at Loblaws. I love blue evergreens, and this one is enticingly bushy and interestingly shaped, and mad drought tolerant to boot. Trouble is that although it's a very slow grower, it does eventually top out at around 8'. As adorable as it is, I don't think I have a spot for it. Bah.

Oh, and note to self: must remember to take a picture of the crocosmia, which is finally - and stunningly - blooming.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Well, after a week of 35-degree weather, the annuals in the front bed are looking pretty fried, despite my efforts to keep them watered. I think cleome must be a water hog of a plant, given the contrast between last year's 4' tall specimens and this year's shrimpy, shrivelled ones. The front lawn is also fried, but whatever, it's just the lawn.

Out back, things are doing better, but the Fairy rose is still looking pretty fried, despite its very pretty tiny pink flowers. Damn, that thing is a lot more persnickety than my other roses. I suppose I could try fertilizing it again.

To Do whenever it becomes bearable to set foot outdoors again:

* give grape vines a haircut, since they are attempting to grab the japanese maple. I fear this was a stupid location for said maple, since I will have to hack the grape vines away from it every single year.
* finish weeding and mulching the foundation bed.
* prune dead wood out of the remaining anonymous shrub in the foundation bed; I may or may not keep this one. Will think about it till the fall, since I'm told you're best to transplant hydrangeas when they've gone dormant anyway.

Plant Du Jour that I have my eye on: Sea Holly, aka Eryngeum. Specifically the stunning Sapphire Blue featured in the latest Canadian Gardening magazine. It likes full sun and poor, dry soil. Hmmmm, I think I can provide that!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

So here's the effect of the renovations so far:


Newly planted Black Lace elder!


I debated between this and a Wine & Roses weigela, which is a similar colour but a little smaller, but went with this one in the end because the nursery people tell me it's tougher. Given my crappy soil and the dry-as-dust conditions in this bed, it'll need to be pretty tough.

While there I was unable to resist the purchase of some asparagus, as burbled about previously, and some globe thistle, which I keep hearing about. It looks much cooler than it sounds, as a handy google image will demonstrate:

A few more pictures from the back, while I'm at it:


Bee balm and rose campion. What a lovely combination. Too bad I picked such a stupid location for them.



Lily patch, continuing in gloriousness. Although I spied one single, solitary beetle today. No rest from shit-bugs for the wicked.

This weekend has been the beginning of a ferocious heat wave that promises to continue all week, so I turned on the sprinklers this evening. The result, unfortunately, was that a few tall plants flopped over and broke. Lesson learned: SIX foot stakes for the delphiniums next year, and a "cat's cradle" arrangement with stakes and twine for the lilies.

As a silver lining, though, I got a nice bouquet out of it.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Because I can't stand thinking about something for very long without doing something about it, today with the help of the Brute Squad (aka Corey) I tore out the stressy tree, the juniper, and the probably-a-weed tree.


The front of the house is very bare all of a sudden, but given that it already looks better despite the empty spot, I'll call this progress.

Tomorrow I will pop by the nursery to pick up a Black Lace elder and scout for ideas for other shrubby things to plant in the spring. In the fall I will put down some cardboard and amass fallen leaves, thus expanding the bed to accommodate roses etc., and plant alliums.

Before planting the elder, must remember to dig some compost into the soil there. And then I will dig up all the stupid wood violets and mulch the hell out of the whole bed, hopefully thereby using up the last of my pile.

Friday, July 2, 2010

More front yard schemes illustrated with that glorious piece of software, Windows Paint!


So at the back we have a Black Lace cutleaf elder next to hydrangeas of insanity. In front of this will be a little trellis pyramid - I figure I'll take two of those nice 4"x4" square cedar ones (like the one for the teasing georgia out back) and lean them up against each other. This will serve as the climbing surface for a Zephirine Drouhin rose. All around the rose will be planted monster alliums. Down in the front will be blue star junipers, maybe, or whatever other low-profile shrub I can find in that colour, and a My Monet weigela.

Hey, maybe I can put some of the awesome Graziella maiden grass in with the mallows?


Hmmm. Hard to tell. Getting kind of cluttered though. Damn my plant-collecting urges!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canadian Gardening magazine, why must you get me in so much trouble!!

Idly flipping through some back issues I have kicking around the house, I ran across an intriguing front-yard garden design in the Fall 09 issue. The design was for a bungalow that featured a stone finish and bay window similar to what we have in the front of our house. They proposed a pretty trellis screen against the wall under the window and a paved "courtyard" area with stone bench surrounded by shrubby things of varying textures and colours.

I'm not sure there would be a lot of point to a sitting area in the front yard - much nicer, quieter, and more private in the back - but it would certainly make more sense to pave over that insanely dry area right in front of the house than to try to grow stuff in it. In any case, I do quite like the idea of an all-shrub planting in this area, since that would occupy lots of space and look schnazzy while being helpfully low-maintenance.

Possible candidate for replacing the perpetually-stressed-out-looking tree: Sutherland Gold cutleaf elder.

Would be a nice contrast with the monster yew. Maybe too yellow, though? There's a nice dark purple version too; that might do a nice job of repeating the purple-leaf sandcherry note.

These both get to be a little more than 6' tall, which sounds about right; the rest of the space at the back could go to some hydrangeas of insanity, and possibly a ninebark on the other side (again with the purple). Then in front of all that I can put all the random stuff I wouldn't have room for otherwise - barberry, a rose or two, possibly some less ratty variety of juniper (more blue stars or some of that spreading stuff, maybe). As an added bonus, this would get rid of an additional few feet of "lawn"; I could also yank the currently invisible daylilies and the beetle bait - ahem - orange lilies.