Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Star of the garden ~

Most of the time I plant things in the garden, keep my fingers crossed, then sit back and wait, hoping  that they will perform the way I envisioned them in my daydreams. I have some disappointments  but most  plants do fairly well and I am generally happy with the results.

Then there are the occasions when things turn out far better than what I expected.

It is like this with the Rudbeckias I planted below the deck in the back garden. I thought they would be pretty here but I didn't really expect how pretty.

I planted them from a six pack in early spring and now they are fully grown and lush with bloom. There are several varieties of Rudbeckias, these are the common, old fashion type. A tough, hardy selection that withstands our summer heat. 

I have pink Austin roses, the extrodinary Climbing Pinkie rose and several kinds of dahlias planted here also - if you look closely you can see them, but right now the Rudbeckias are the stars of this border. 

Any plant that can tolerate our 100+ degree days and look like this has my approval. This just might be my plant of the year.

Thank you for visiting. I hope you have a happy day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Digaplexis and hot summer days ~

It has been mercilessly hot this week, temperatures reaching 100 degrees everyday. This makes it very difficult to get much done in the garden. I am continually amazed that any plant can survive the heat, but surprisingly some continue to do so.

 I have found the best way to cope is to get out early, around  6:30 am before it starts to heat up. I work in the garden a couple of hours, come in and eat breakfast and then collapse until it starts to cool off in the evening.

 Even Miss Twiggley's routine has changed with the season, sleeping during the day, stalking the house at night, looking for bugs to play with and when she really gets bored, leaping on the bed and attempting to get me to wake up and play.

I do get other tasks accomplished but the hot weather is so energy sapping that even inside chores seem to take longer. A good book and a nap seem to be the best way to while away the hot afternoon hours and I am fortunate to be able to do so - but not without a little guilt.

But in spite of all my complaining things are happening in the garden. It is really too hot to plant most things but I did find this wonderful Digaplexis plant that I couldn't resist. It is a cross between garden foxglove and perennial isoplexis canareiensis. 

I had first seen these last year but they were quite expensive and in large containers. I found these this week in gallon containers at Home Depot and I simply couldn't resist. They are also available at Annie's Annuals. Foxgloves are one of my favorite flowers and any improved variety would be great especially if they turn out to be perennials in my climate zone.

I have decided to situate them in a partially shady area where they will get filtered sun. It is too hot to plant them now but it is supposed to cool off a little at the end of the week so I am waiting until then to put them in the ground.

These are so pretty I really hope that they grow well for me, if so I will definitely be getting more next year.

Wish me luck!


PS.  The flowers in my header are Oakleaf Hydrangeas. These were cut as fresh flowers. Oakleaf hydrangeas grow well for me, much better than other hydrangeas which I never seem to have enough of. Until this year I hadn't thought of trying to dry them but I had them in such abundance that I gave it a try and they dried perfectly. I think they are going to make a lovely addition to dried bouquets. If you have some you might want to give it a try. I just dried them by the hanging method - away from light, in a closet.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Planting for summer color ~

It was a beautiful and cool morning. A bit overcast with the sun occasionally peeking through.

Perfect for what I had in mind...

cleaning up, and planting out new summer annuals in one of the back borders.

Otherwise, out with some old and in with some new.

I have lots of perennials planted here: roses, mums, salvias, iris, lambs ears, and gaillardias to name a few, but I like to mix in annuals for summer color. Many plants needed to be tidied up, cut back and dead-headed and all of the altromerias, which had finished blooming needed to be pulled, along with the spent spring annuals.

I planted several dozen of the zinnia seedlings I had started last month, Echinacea, some Nicotianas I had also started from seed, and for a bit of brightness Rudbeckias. I love rudbeckias they are so cheerful and do well in our tough climate.

As you can see it was quite a mess, but I all got cleaned up, planted, fertilized and the walkway swept before I came in for the day. Now I just hope it lives up to the picture I have in my mind, with gardening you never completely know what you are going to get, each day is full of surprises.

Thank you for visiting.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Ants be gone!

For the past several years I have been at war with ants. Argentinian Black Ants to be precise. With cooler weather the problem abates, but the minute the temperatures warm up they are back again. Nothing can be left out, I even have to refrigerate Miss Twiggley's dry cat food

Image result for argentine ants

 I have worked very hard to build up the population of good bugs and propagators in my garden and every time I was at my wits end with an evasion of ants and was picking up the telephone to call an exterminator I would look out of a window and see a beautiful butterfly flit by, a buzzing bee, or birds at the bird feeders. I just couldn't risk endangering this.

So, I have been trying natural remedies and I have come up with two solutions that in combination seem to be working.


 Diatomaceous earth, a benign white powder is excellent in getting rid of ants outside; it simply dehydrates them. I have been sprinkling it around ant hills at the perimeter of my house. So far it has completely destroyed all of the ant nests I have used it on. I will leave some nests in the far back  of my garden because I believe in the diversity of insect life in creating  a healthy garden.

Inside the house where I can't physically reach the ant nests I made my own ant bait - the ants simply ignored the commercial products I purchased. I tried several recipes I found online all using a combination of borax and some type of sugar/syrup solution. Borax is the killing agent and the sweetner was the attractant. This failed to attract my seemingly gourmet ants.

Then I realized that they really, really, liked wet cat food, the cat food of choice ironically is also Miss Twiggley's - Meow Mix. I used cat food containers with a bit of food left in and mixed in the borax. This is the same 20 Mule Team borax that is used for laundry, I just happened to have an old box in the garage. I added a little water to thin it. The nice thing about the cat food containers is that you can partially close the lid and the ants can still get in.

I made up a couple of these traps, putting one in my pantry and one under the sink. For a couple of days it was a bit yucky because in order for this to be really effective you have to let the ants come, feast, and take the food back to their nest to kill the queen before they die.

As of now, I am ant free! I love when persistence pays off. I wish I could give you the actual measurements I used but it was a bit random - I tried to add enough borax to kill but not so much that the ants wouldn't eat it.

  The bait is not poisonous but I would still make sure it was completely away from any pets or children.

This is probably the strangest post I have ever written but I thought this information might be helpful to others that want a environmentally safe way to deal with their ant problem

I hope you have a wonderful and pest free day!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The good, the bad and the lovely ~

My week started off  in a stressful way with a very sick Miss Twiggley. I woke up one morning and found her sleeping under the bed - not a normal thing for her to do this time of year. Then I saw that she hadn't eaten, both signs of illness in a cat, or at least the cats I have lived with.

I quickly got her to the veterinarian where she was diagnosed with a high fever and an intestinal infection. After four days of antibiotics and a lot of anxiety on my part, she is finally feeling better, her fever is gone and she is eating again. I just hope it doesn't return. 

my beautiful girl

Now for some of the good parts of the week.
The poppies have all bloomed, they were beautiful this year. I have been waiting for them to dry out so I could collect the seeds. It is so much fun to turn the pods, which I am saving for dried flower arrangements, upside down and watch all the the tiny seeds fall out. As my very nice friend and exceptional gardener, Ralph said, "It's like shaking a pepper shaker"! I will plant them in the fall and hope that they will do as well next spring as they did this year.

I am trying to finish the new drapes for the entry hall. I was held up waiting for the gimp trim I had ordered to arrive. I found what I think will be a perfect accent trim online here. They always seem to have the trim I am looking for at very good prices.

The zinnia seeds I planted have germinated and put on their second set of leaves. I love the old time Pink Enchantress but this year I am also trying a new offering, a bi-color zinnia in pink and chartreuse. I am looking forward to seeing this new zinnia bloom, the photos in the seed catalog are gorgeous.

I also sowed sunflowers and nicotiana Sensation seeds. Nicotiana  used to be available in six packs but for some reason they haven't been available the past few years in my local garden shops. It makes a lovely, colorful and fragrant summer annual.


I leave you with the picture taken in the front garden...roses, Queen Anne's Lace, Foxgloves and Cleome. I have had never planted Queen Anne's Lace before, goodness what I was missing. There will be a lot more next year!

I hope you have a lovely, peaceful, and relaxing week.

Thank you for visiting.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pretty ~

Climbing Pinkie rambling with abandon along the deck railing in the back garden.

Such a pretty and such a reliable rose. She seems bred to delight, both in the garden...

and in the house.

We had a delightful surprise of rain today which kept me out of the garden but that was okay as I have been busy working on the new drapes for the entry hall. Sewing on a rainy day is almost as nice as baking. And now I won't have to water for a few days, always a good thing!

Thank you for visiting.

Friday, May 5, 2017

An introduction ~

Just is case you haven't met, I would like to introduce you to Sally...Sally Holmes that is.

Sally Holmes is a vintage rose with large, tightly packed trusses of ivory single 5" flowers of 8 to 12 petals  beautifully complimented by bright yellow stamens. 

This rose can be grown as a large shrub or a small climber. I have been growing her as a climber in this spot along the driveway at the entrance to the front garden for several years. Two years ago I had to drastically prune in order to install the new arbor I made to replace the old one that had fallen apart so she took a real hit. Now, between the rain and another year of growth she is well on her way to a
 complete comeback.

For some reason this rose blooms a bit later than most of my other climbing roses which makes it even more special. And it does have an excellent repeat throughout the season.

Such a pretty Grande Dame of the garden.

Last weekend I spent some time cleaning out my fountains and starting them up again. I have one in the front, which you can see in a couple of these pictures and another in the back garden. I had forgotten how nice it is to be working in the garden to the accompaniment of softly trickling water -small pleasures.

Thank you for visiting.
I wish you a rosy day.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A new use for tomato cages ~

I love tomato cages, you know those inexpensive ones you see at the discount stores. They come in several sizes. I never use them for supporting tomatoes because they just aren't big enough. But I have found them useful in other ways. 

 First I paint them with a rust color spray paint so they will blend better into the garden - Camouflage is the name of the color I use. Then I dress them up with finials. For a person like me who thrives on details both in the garden and in decorating, some sort of finial makes an important difference.

 To make the finials this time, I took some old bathroom cabinet door knobs, glued them on the top of pots and  spray painted them in my signature red color.

Very simple

Then set them on top of the over-turned tomato cages. The tension of the wires keeps them in place.

Voila! What I call a Poor Man's Tutor.

In the first picture below I used one as an ornamental way to keep this small and newly planted rose safe from being stepped on. 


here in the vegetable garden I am using one to support climbing string beans. I will plant the bean seeds around the the bottom.

These are 4 foot tall tomato cages with a bottom diameter of 18 inches, but I also use the smaller ones depending on what I plan on using them for. The smaller sizes work well in pots for topiary.

In a casual cottage garden like mine these fit in perfectly, add architectural interest. a pop of color, and are useful. You might want to give one a try.

Thank you for visiting.I hope you have a wonderful day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Baskets in the garden ~

When I am out walking around in my garden checking what needs to be done, what is blooming, or what looks particularly nice that day, I will often stop to deadhead an occasional flower, or pull a weed, then I wander around with it all in my hand until I can trek back to the bin. I had the realization that it would so much more convenient to have some kind of containers, attractive enough to leave sitting throughout the garden, that I could toss it all in.

So a few weeks ago when I stopped by Michael's, to pick up something completely unrelated, and saw wicker laundry baskets on sale for $5.00 I thought these might be just the thing.

I bought 5 of them and tucked them around in various spots. Now I don't have to back track to the trash bin every time I have a hand full of weeds. Every once in a while I will empty them in the compost pile. Because they are made out of wicker they are very light weight, surprisingly strong and won't mind a bit of rain. 

 Being new they are a bit bright, over time they should acquire some patina and won't be as obvious.  I am very fond of baskets and really like the way they look, after all wicker is just dried plant material.

As a bonus, they can be stacked if I do want to store them.

Because my garden is fairly large I could really use a couple more of these...for appearance, cost and effectiveness they are just exactly what I wanted.

Thank you for visiting.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spring at it's best ~

In the far back of the garden sits my little vintage greenhouse. Somehow or other, a time long ago, we had it moved on the property - a gift from a friend that didn't want it anymore.

I really don't use it to grow plants but rather to store pots, other gardening containers, and baskets.

It's a cute little structure made even nicer this time of year when the white Lady Banks rose festoons it. This rose like it's sister, the yellow and more well known variety, blooms only once a year in early spring, but like most of the once blooming roses it is so lavish with it's flowers that I really don't mind that it doesn't repeat.

It would be hard to ask for anything prettier than these charming clusters of white flowers tinged at their centers in soft, soft yellow.

When the Lady Banks roses bloom this signals to me that spring has definitely arrived and every year I look forward to this display of nature at it's best.

Thank you for visiting.

May your day be filled with the beauty of spring.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Success! ~

It has taken me a very long time to find the right fabrics for reupholstering the furniture in my living room. I found the perfect fabric for the sofa/canape, a beautiful cream jacquard, right away, then after looking for several weeks I came across the lattice print you can see on the wing chair in the picture below. 

I immediately knew this was the right choice . And when I got the chair back from the upholsterer last week I loved it.

 The big problem and the final piece of my decorating puzzle was what to use on the two matching bergere chairs. My first instinct was to find a solid fabric in the same color or a bit lighter than the lattice print - no go. After sending away for a lot of samples nothing worked. So I decided to try other colors....cream, pale pink, green. It has been weeks now, going on months, and as fabric samples came I couldn't commit to any of them. 

Reupholstered wing chair in lattice print

Now I am so happy that I waited because two days ago, in the mail came a sample of the fabric I was dreaming of. A lovely velvet, called Straw that is as close to perfect as I could have ever hoped for.

You can see below how well it matches the fabric on the wing chair.

Today I ordered it - hooray!

Here you see the combination of fabrics for this room: the floral drapery print, the lattice print, the solid velvet. and the cream jacquard. The very pale pink I am going to use as a accent color on the seat of an antique child's chair. The celadon green on the right I am planning on using for the new drapes in the entry hall. The drapes need to tie in with the living room and the adjoining room. This green does both.

I have to say that this has been one of the most frustrating decorating projects I have ever attempted , mainly because of not being able to find exactly what I wanted and trying to barter with my self over what I thought would be right. What have I learned from this, something I have probably always known, that it is better to wait for the right thing rather than settling and being unhappy with the results...even if it seems to take forever!

As soon as the fabric arrives I will send the chairs off to the upholsterer, then this extended project will finally be done.

Thank you for visiting

I hope you have a successful day.