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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Front Porch Garden Remodel Part 4

Today I thought I would show you the before and after since yesterday I teased you on the details of the front porch garden remodel. It's current state is still classified in the unfinished category but it is well on its way to becoming a welcoming front porch garden.

First let me show you the before pictures:

The crabapple is front and center in the garden with the hollies along the porch. Two ragged Russian sages that need moved are standing on either side of the crabapple. The 'Powis Castle' artemisia is a bit overgrown but we kind of like it there so it might stay! Please ignore the weeds. I've kind of let this garden go since I was planning on re-doing it eventually!

Here's the other side of the garden with the same plantings as above except for the crape myrtle on the left. Irises and daffodils will brighten up the area in the spring. If our weather had been more cooperative the salvia would be blooming right now, but everything has been way too dry.

The in-progress photos:

Removing the hollies was the toughest part. I tried to save them but eventually gave up and ended up clipping them to the trunk and digging the main parts of the roots. I may end up with hollies again so I'll have to watch for those volunteers from the leftover roots. Digging in clay and gravel is very difficult, but you probably know that!

 From the side sans hollies.

In this picture all the plants are removed that need to be. I still want to move the Russian sage but I need to wait until dormancy or at least when rain is in the forecast. 

The after:

It's a little hard to see what I'm doing here but if you look closely you'll be able to tell. I planted two 'Otto Luyken' Laurels in the middle and left a space for a third. I only bought two since they were on the discount rack for $6 each - and really they looked great! On the left and on the right are my splurges two 'Winter Snowman' camellias. It's a relatively cold hardy camellia rated to a zone 6 hardiness. I couldn't pass up an evergreen planting that blooms in November and December!

Here we are from the side. You'll notice that the plants are spaced a good distance from the porch. I did that so that the plants were out from underneath the roof overhang of the front porch but also to give them space to grow.

Here's the other side. It's hard to see the plants with the Russian sage still present but as foundation plantings grow and the Russian sage is moved you'll be able to see it much better. All the plants are smaller plants which generally means cheaper on the wallet! It's also good because smaller plants tend to adapt quicker to their soil conditions. I did attempt to improve the soil a little by adding two wheelbarrow loads full of compost to the top of the soil. I didn't work it in but eventually it will be buried underneath mulch.

The plants:

'Otto Luyken' Laurel

'Winter Snowman' camellia
It's coming along and I can't wait to see it complete. A little mulch, a little weeding, a little transplanting, and soon it will be good as new!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Front Porch Garden Remodel Part 3

Today I started another segment of my Front Garden remodel. If you recall from my previous posts on this particular garden I wasn't pleased with the builder's special hollies and the crabapple I had there. The crabapple was free tree from Arbor Day that I planted in a completely wrong spot. I do that sometimes I get a plant going then just stick it in somewhere only to have to move it somewhere else later.

My plant was to attempt to save the hollies and move them elsewhere in the yard. I also wanted to see if I could move the crabapple. Unfortunately the crabapple turned into an exercise in futility. I had so much trouble digging around the base of the tree due to the clay and gravel leftover from construction that I kept finding everywhere. I also kept running into daffodil bulbs that I didn't want to damage which led me to give up on the crabapple. Out came my bow saw and down came the apple tree.

The hollies were a slightly different story. They were large and had mostly pot bound roots. I had to give them a severe pruning in order to get close enough to the root balls to dig. Once I did that I tried to save as much of the rootball as a possible on the first two which took a long time. That's when I decided to not worry about saving them. I found as I removed them that the roots were circling each other and they were planted a little too close to the house for their size. Plants should be planted at about half the distance of their ultimate width away from the house. These were way too close!

I managed to get all five of the hollies, the crabapple, and a spirea removed from the front porch garden. The spirea was transplanted to another location.  I still need to remove several 'Emerald Gaiety' euonymouses and transplant two Russian sages, a lavendar, and several New York Celeste asters. I'm waiting on transplanting the Russian sage until after dormancy since they're finicky when transplanted otherwise. The asters already bloomed and really could use a dividing to rejuvenate them for next year.

I'll show you some before an after pictures in my next post - stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making More Salvias!

Even though the fall is upon us I'm still propagating my perennials. It's an addiction. One of my favorite genus of perennials is salvia. Trust me, you can never have too much salvia! The advantage I have this year is a usable frost free place to house them over the winter - (insert trumpet sound here) THE GARDEN SHED! That is once I get a plant shelf built. Yet another thing on my fall to do chore list.

Today I was able to pot up 11 new 'Caradonna' salvias and 5 new 'Blue Bedder' salvias. Both have been great performers in my garden. I have this crazy notion in my head of a slope garden covered in a swath of blue and purple colored salvias, combined with a backdrop of Russian sage and purple irises. I'll talk more about that later but aside from mulching the slope area prior to planting I don't plan on spending any money on plants - I can propagate what I need for that project.

After potting up the cuttings I took more and placed them in the same container. A few weeks ago I chopped my salvias down to the crown since they were looking ragged and dismal (from the lack of rain and excessive heat) and the plants are now nice and bushy again with material just perfect for cuttings. I wouldn't normally recommend taking cuttings of perennials at this time of year unless you have a way to extend their season far enough for them to grow an adequate root system. However I do recommend taking cuttings of your favorite annuals like coleus or even annual herbs like basil to overwinter for next year.

Propagating salvias is very easy. I take the cutting just above a node and leave two to four leaves and two nodes above the cut. I add dab of rooting hormone to the cut stem, stick it in moist sand, and wait two weeks. Of thirteen 'Caradonna' salvias 11 rooted, none died, and two were still green but did not have roots. I put the two rootless salvias back in the sand to see if they could possibly root in the next week or so. Of the seven 'Blue Bedder' salvias 1 died, two didn't root, and five successfully rooted. All in all I think I had a pretty good success rate.

This batch of cuttings was kept outdoors in a clear plastic container filled with sand. The container was actually a salad green container that I re-purposed for use as a propagating container.

Important Propagation tip: Make sure you clean any re-purposed containers before you use them just in case there are any potential contaminants.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The September Arbor

Arbor and Moonflower
One thing I really like about garden structures: no matter how much rain, how hot, or how dry they always look good! Fortunately our arbor also has the added benefit of a nice annual vine plant (moonflower) wrapping around it.

Here is the arbor from the side yard looking toward the front yard. The homemade stepping stones are cured, solid, and very walkable now. Please ignore the cinder block on the left - it's leftover from installing a rain barrel I recently purchased. I've been meaning to tell you about it but haven't yet but I'm very pleased with its performance so far (It's this one from Fiskars)! The plantings on the left are coleus, iris, a Japanese maple (which is just outside of the picture) and a crape myrtle. A few hostas are also mixed into the garden. On the right is the self-sowing garden which has become covered with celosia. At least two different forms of celosia have hybridized to make some very interesting shapes and colors! It's definitely time to begin harvesting the seeds!

Here is the arbor from the front and to the left side. On the right you can see a globe basil I planted of which I've really become a fan. It's edible of course but has a really nice rounded shape and it might be the perfect plant to add to a knot herb garden. Next to it is a little Dusty Miller that I planted last fall. I'm really amazed that it has lasted this long. On the left side is the celosia from above and a snakeroot that is showing off its white cloud of blooms. I'll need to cut it down soon to prevent it from reseeding heavily but it's a nice accent in the garden.

What kinds of garden structures do you have in your garden?

Over the Weekend

This weekend was a busy one and not even really in the garden. The garden chores that need attention are significant but sometimes I actually have to get out of the garden to do other things! Hard to believe but it's true! This weekend had me shopping for materials on Friday night until 9:00 at the local home improvement store followed by a closet organization remodel (with custom built shelves) in my daughters' room on Saturday. I do have to admit that the garden was not completely neglected, I did manage to buy two Camellia x 'Winter Snowman' plants while shopping for supplies! 'Winter Snowman' is a camellia that is a hybrid of Camellia sasanqua and Camellia oleifera. It's a cold tolerant camellia that is supposed to be hardy in zone 6 and flowers in November or December.

After a hard day of measuring, cutting, sanding, painting, screwing, and sweating I saw this sunset I had to share. It's an almost perfect picture except for the utility poles.

A September Sunset

Cooler weather began to creep in on Sunday with wind and temperatures in the lower 80's. The cool weather means that many of the neglected tasks of the hot summer can now be tackled or completed. I'm thinking of a certain garden shed in need of painting...

Now that fall is here what chores are you looking forward to doing in the garden?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The First Colors of Fall - The Fall Color Project 2010

Maybe it hasn't quite reached you yet. Maybe the temperatures are still hanging in the 90's like they are here in Tennessee and the only leaf drop is due to dryness, but let me assure you fall is here! I have evidence, and it exists within the blogs below. Journey with me to see the first colors of fall as the Fall Color Project begins for 2010. While we watch the colors gradually transform across the countryside into a painters portrait

Mr. McGregor's Daughter had the first entry into the Fall Color Project for 2010! Originally posted last Friday her post highlights some of the early changes happening in her garden! Do you like Oak Leaf Hydrangeas? How about dogwoods? You've come to the right place!

At an Obsessive Neurotic Gardener's blog you will find more of fall's beginning color transformation. Goldenrod, itea, and 'Prairie Fire' crabapple are some of the highlights that will help get you in the mood for more autumn. And that 'Matrona' sedum isn't half bad either!

One of the plants that struck me for outstanding fall color last year was the grape. Plantaliscious shows us some photos of her grape vines changing. Although I have to admit I'm more envious of the fruit that she gets to pick than the fall colors at the moment! Pay a visit to this new gardener!

Thank you for stopping by to visit for today's Fall Color Project participants! Please stop by and say something on each of their posts to thank them for sharing their autumn with us. I hope you'll join us in sharing fall as it happens in your neck of the woods! For details read up at: The Fall Color Project 2010.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why They Call It Beautyberry!

If you every wondered exactly why the beautyberry is called a beautyberry I'll give you two words: "Beauty" and "berry!" These beautiful purple clusters of purple berries are well worth the wait each year for the autumn display. I've added several new beautyberries from cuttings to my garden this year and can't wait until their display matches the first one I planted.

If you haven't planted this one - you're missing out!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wildflowers Blooming in September

Welcome to my bone dry September garden for Wildflower Wednesday! We have an assortment of fall blooming flower pictures to share. You really don't need a reason other than their beauty to plant wildflowers but the fact that so many of them require little to no care during our current weather conditions is a great bonus. To have something that looks good in drought is absolutely necessary here in TN!

In the front garden: Gaillardia.

This gaillardia is a self sown offspring of my 'Oranges and Lemons' gaillardia.

The flowers appear red and yellow and continue blooming even without dead heading although definitely at a reduced rate.

The Self Sowing Garden:

White Snakeroot - a true wildflower that happens to thrive all around us. It's billowy white flowers blend nicely with others. I'll be pulling these plants soon after the blooms have faded to prevent them form taking over the garden. In this photo it mixes well with the celosia - which is also quickly taking over!

Another photo from the self sowing garden reveals some salvia, zinnia, and cosmos that decided it wasn't going to bloom this year. While these aren't necessarily native they sure perform like the natives - almost no care required.

In the Wild Garden (my term for the untamed areas around the yard)

Solidago or Goldenrod (no sneezing required). The truth behind the old myth that goldenrod causes hay fever is much more known today than it was a few years ago. Goldenrod is insect pollinated which means unless an insect climbs into your nostrils and delivers the pollen directly to your sinuses you aren't likely to sneeze because of goldenrod. Although the insect itself might cause more of the nasal irritation than the pollen. ;)

Perennial mist flower can be found just outside the vegetable garden. It popped up last year and I liked it so I left it!

Salvia coccinea is blooming in several places. This one is pink in color but red has also appeared from the same packet of seed. I made sure to collect some of the red earlier in the summer. I'll collect some of the pink soon as well.

The Garden Shed Garden:

Outside of my garden shed (that is still waiting for painting) is a large Salvia farinacea. A very cool blue salvia that I grew from seed then propagated from a cutting and planted here. I'll take some cuttings soon to ensure it ends up again in my 2011 garden.

If we stand back just a little you will see much more of the snakeroot. It's an attractive plant this time of year but really doesn't do much the rest of the growing season. Like most white flowers it seems to work better with other colorful plantings nearby. Although there is something to be said for an all white display!

Monday, September 20, 2010

More Free Plants!

Free Plants! The best possible price you can find right? Last week I was struck by a post at everyone's favorite ranting website. The post discussed the "lies" of gardening and one of those supposed lies was that you don't have to spend money to get plants. The author implied that to get good plants you have to spend good money. To me...well...that's just ridiculous.

The author cited several ways to get free plants and how they just weren't quality plants of any account. She completely left out propagating plants. You can get almost any plant to root in some way shape or form. How do you think they amass so many kinds of plants of the same variety in the stores? All those fancy echinaceas won't come true from seed so they do root cuttings. Those beautiful shrubs you see are propagated through stem cuttings. Sure they take time to grow from a little 6 inch cutting to a large bushy foundation planting but you absolutely CAN get great plants for free. All you have to do is know someone who has the plant you like and ask to take a few cuttings at the right time of the year - then propagate!

Oh wait - maybe it isn't completely free - you might have to pay for gas to get to your friends house...

...but if you were going there anyway it's FREE!

So what free plants have I made lately? I'm glad you asked! 

Firethorn or pyracantha - greenwood cuttings made about 6 weeks ago. 5 of 7 rooted.

River Birch - Betula nigra. The first two cuttings from this batch of 5-6 rooted a couple weeks ago. These two took a little longer but are well rooted now.

Hydrangeas! Two of them are my favorite variegated lacecap kind. Easy, easy, easy to root! Did I say easy?

'Otto Luyken' Cherry Laurel. These root just the same as a the Schip laurel. Of course these would probably all be termed as 'boring' plants but you know what? The smallest 'Otto Luyken' you can buy in the stores runs about $20. Larger pots can be over $50. I have to say I like the price of the free ones!

So what do you think? Do you have to spend a ton of money to have a great garden?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Garden Filter Review

Have you ever wondered if the chlorine in your garden water harms the beneficial microbes in your garden soil? Chlorine, as you probably know, is a chemical  that is added to our water to kill off the harmful bacterias that might be present in our water supply. Unfortunately chlorine will kill the good things too. Recently I was sent a product to try out from AllFilters.com a company that specializes in all kinds of filters for various household needs. What they sent me was a garden de-chlorinating filter that attaches to my garden hose. According to the Rainshow'r Gard'n Gro overview from their webpage it:

  • Enhances plant growth
  • Protects beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings
  • Promotes healthy plant nutrition
  • Returns soil to its natural balance

I can't think of any one of those things that sounds bad to me! This weekend I hooked it up to my irrigation system for my vegetable garden and ran it a couple times. I honestly can't say if this will improve the health of my garden yet but I'm hopeful that it will. It's no secret that rain water is much better than tap water and many people recommend letting tap water sit for 12-24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate before watering plants. I can never think that far ahead!

Setting up the filter was easy. The kit came with a short hose to hook between the filter and the house faucet. The filter itself can be used either way. The instructions recommend switching the direction of the flow periodically to increase the life of the filter. The filter should last for at least 20,000 gallons of water.

Hopefully in the remaining time we have left to garden this season I can see some differences in the plants. And if not perhaps it will give my garden a great start for next year!

Disclosure: The filter was sent to me for review purposes. No other compensation was received for this review.

Garden Blogger Posts of the Week Vol.5

What posts stood out to me this week? Read on!

I was struck by the beautiful setting in Rob's post at Our French Garden in the Beautiful Dordogne. The rest of the post is great too but you know what they say about first impressions!

This week was Carol's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day which is always worth a look at all the wonderful blooms each month that people submit through their own postings. Also you really should take a look at Hayefield's post which is written by Nancy Ondra and great garden author. She always has something fantastic took look at! If you liked the caryopteris I showed you earlier in the week pay attention to her Summer Sunshine caryopteris!

And for the first entry to the Fall Color Project go visit Mr. McGregor's Daughter. The colors are just beginning! Her post will have the top spot in next Friday's Fall Color Post. Remember that every Friday I'll put together the Fall Color Project Posts for the previous week in one summary post.

If you want to catch up on what I wrote this week for The Home Garden take a quick gander below! (yep I used the word gander in a sentence for the second time, can you believe it?)

  • Last Sunday I wrote a post about what needs done in my front garden. While I accomplished some  weeding and moved a couple small plants there is still a lot to be done. There always is more to be done isn't there?
  • I'm pleased with how my caryopteris row is turning out. I only had a couple more gaps to fill in which I tackled later in the week. I can't recommend caryopteris enough for fall blooms. Get it, plant it, love it!
  • You may have missed a small update on a shelf-cabinet I built for the garden shed. It's time to get more storage for pots and all the miscellaneous trappings of a busy greenhouse!
  • For my entry this month for Bloom Day I added a little collage effect on the pictures. I was surprised by how much I had blooming and needed to consolodate a few of the pictures. The collage was a neat option.
  • Cilantro - I like it and it's growing again in the garden!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Cilantro is Coming Back!

One of our favorite herbs is cilantro and I'm pleased to announce that it is reappearing in our garden as one of our fall crops. Cilantro grows great in the cooler weather.  Here in Tennessee it will last until late spring when the temperatures get warm. I usually let our cilantro bolt and it reseeds readily.

I know many people aren't big fans of cilantro but we use it frequently and are always excited to harvest anything from the garden rather than the grocery store shelves. If you like cilantro and haven't grown it before you really need to try it. It grows easy without any special care, doesn't have pest issues, is a great companion plant (to keep away aphids, spider mites, and potato beetles), and even is an awesome edible ornamental when it bolts!

We have a few other fall crops beginning to appear but I'll save them for a vegetable garden update next week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day September 2010

Thank you for stopping by to see what's blooming here in TN during September. Also thanks to Carol for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day each month.

Before you look at the pictures below I want to invite you to participate in the Fall Color Project for 2010. Click on the link to see the information about the Fall Color Project. I hope to see you join in!

Now on with the blooms!

Caryopteris and Crape Myrtle - You can also see more caryopteris in this post.

Sweet Autumn Clematis, celosia, moonflower (in the morning on the arbor) and basil.

Salvia splendens, Reblooming Iris, Daylily, Kerria, and Gaillardia

Butterfly Bush, Zinnia (Persian Carpet), Salvia - Blue Bedder, Zinnia, Salvia coccinea, Echinacea purpurea, and cosmos.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Caryopteris Row

I wrote about caryopteris last year so I won't go deep into the details again but I thought you might like to see how I'm using it in the garden. First a bit of explanation. I once saw a picture of a row of caryopteris at Longwood Gardens and I thought "why not try that here?" The picture had caryopteris against a backdrop of arborvitae but not everything has to be duplicated! Since caryopteris propagates extremely easily from virtually any type of cutting putting together a row of them doesn't cost much at all. I began with just a couple plants two years ago (actual 'Longwood Blue' caryopteris) and propagated several more. Then last year I bought a two more that were a little larger than my cuttings so that I could fill in some gaps.

This year couple of other plants (not caryopteris) died out and left gaps where I could plant more caryopteris. I have several ready to go I've just been waiting for rain in the forecast to plant them. The line of blue extends about 25-30 feet along this border garden. Behind the caryopteris are a couple crape myrtles and a redbud that arc over the caryopteris row.

It's amazing how easy caryopteris is to take care of and grow. It rarely seems to need supplemental watering and has never been nibbled on by deer or rabbits. It grows into a 3' shrub in my garden but can be trimmed back significantly to reduce the eventual size of the plant and influence its shape some. Pruning should be done in the spring to give the flowers plenty of time to develop.

And I'm not the only one who likes it!

What plants have you found that make a good row/hedge planting?