Friday, July 29, 2011

Heading into August

I seriously had no idea tomato plants could reach such epic proportions!

When it comes to flowers, I am a fairly confident gardener. I grew up in my mother's flower garden after all. She had a vegetable garden too, but my memories of our family vegetable patch has more to do with raiding it for an after school snack, than any working knowledge of growing vegetables. As a child, I loved picking green beans off the vine and eating them raw, warmed only by the afternoon sun. Raspberries were a favourite too. I liked them best slightly under ripe, when the berries were tart and a bit sour.

Although I can clearly remember helping my mother plant beans, peas and carrots each spring, I took no interest in growing vegetables, preferring to help with the flowers garden instead. So when I decided to create a vegetable garden this spring, I did not feel entirely like a I was standing on a solid footing of practical experience.

The design of the vegetable garden was the easy part. I had been carrying around a basic layout in my head for a number of years (filed in my brain under the general heading of creative ideas, right next to the series of large abstract paintings I hope to someday paint).

I knew I wanted a formal arrangement with four raised beds centred around some sort of decorative feature like a fountain or urn. (In the end, I went with an urn that I already had on hand.)

The thinking behind the raised beds was practical, as well as aesthetic. I figured the dogs were less likely to tear through raised beds. (As it turned out this reasoning wasn't particularly sound. We had no sooner filled the boxes with triple mix, when I discovered Rusty standing proudly atop one of the new beds, throughly enjoying this new, elevated vantage point on the world.) 

I don't want to bore you with too many of the construction details. Briefly, we marked off the beds with string held in position with 6" metal spikes. To create each bed, we dug down about 12 inches, removing the grass and the less than ideal soil.

Then, to make the pathways, we laid down heavy duty weed barrier and covered it with natural cedar mulch. (Eventually, we plan to replace the mulch in the centre section with flagstone and create more of a courtyard, with a French styled allée on either side.)

Each of the four planting boxes with made with 2 x 8 cedar planks. I opted not to finish them in any way. I know this means the boards will likely rot and will probably need to be replaced sooner than later. That is a risk I that I am willing to take in order to have a chemical free environment for our vegetables.

Once the boxes were constructed, we lifted them into position and backfilled them with triple mix.

This sounds rather straight forward, but the whole project took many weekends to accomplish. Planting was therefore delayed until we were well into the growing season. (If I was going to tackle a similar project again, I think I would do the construction in the fall, so everything is properly in place for the start of the planting season.)

In mid-June, I bought fennel, celery root, pepper, tomato and zucchini seedlings and way too many seeds for the relatively small space available. I started frantically planting everything, hoping to have some kind of harvest before the fall frost arrived.

On the edges of the boxes, I planted herbs and marigolds.

I was encouraged when green shoots sprung up through the soil. These are baby carrots.

The tomatoes quickly doubled in size and I ran out to the Canadian Tire store to buy hooped metal supports.

Then all hell seemed to break loose! As you know, a family of bunnies moved in and started eating every succulent shoot in sight. The tomatoes kept right on growing until they out-weighed the fine, hooped rings. Without proper support the heavy branches sagged and then, answering the call of gravity, they headed straight down to the ground.

A little too late, I remembered Deborah (Green Theatre) writing about the "towers" she and her husband had constructed to support the tomato plants in her kitchen garden. Oh, if only I had recalled that blog post sooner, I might have fashioned better supports for my own plants!

Anyway, enough complaining! Hopefully, I can still salvage some of the plants. At least the herbs and onions are at least doing well. And I managed to cordon off my sweet peas with some temporary fencing, so the bunnies wouldn't make a meal of them too.

Before I sign off, I want to quickly show you what else has been happening in the rest of the garden.

Daises shaped flowers are everywhere. There are yellow ones...

and pink ones...

and ones with black centres.

There is certainly no lack of color!

The ditch dayliles have passed the show over to their hybrid cousins. In the front yard, there is a mix of pink and orange flowers. These ones in front of the picket fence are cantaloupe colored (Evening Gown). 

Just inside the fence, there are smaller pink ones.

If we now head into the back garden, the hosta are just about finished.

In this part of the garden, the pink and burgundy lily color scheme slowly gives way to yellow.

There is a pretty blue-purple geranium in flower. (Geranium vivace 'Rozeanne'). The plant flops a bit, but it blooms later than the most other geraniums I have in the garden.

The pink lilies are just about done.

In the circle garden, the daylily color scheme changes once again to shades of red and orange. Now, if only my tomatoes had fruit this red and delicious! Oh well, there is always next year.

Last week, we spent a few relaxing days in picturesque Niagra-on-the-Lake. We even managed to get into Toronto to see the big Abstract Expressionist show at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Slowly, we are slipping back into our normal routine. I look forward to catching up with you and hearing what has been happening in your garden.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Somebunny has been Eating my Veggies!

Or to be more particular, somebunny's mama has been eating my veggies!

My beans are have been beheaded! My peas have been chewed into little green nubs! All I can say is, I'm glad mama doesn't like tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, otherwise my little veggie plot would be a complete write-off.

Scrap, who has the fine-tuned nose of a blood hound, discovered the nest yesterday in one of my flower beds. His sniffing around sent two baby bunnies scrambling. One disappeared into the safety of the underbrush. The other little fellow ran up the yard and tried to blend unsuccessfully into the green grass. I picked him up not wanting Scrap to get hold of him. 

But this is bloom day and I don't want to stray to deeply into my woeful success at growing vegetables. Let's take a look around my garden and see what is in flower.

Starting at the left side of the house, I have a large border of Ditch Dayliles. Ditch Daylilies tend to be the first ones at my summer party. Their hybrid cousins prefer to show up fashionably late. 

I don't want to get too off topic yet again, but while we are at the side of the house, here is a simple idea for you: Paint a wooden trellis an interesting color and hang a birdhouse on it. If that is too cutesy for your tastes, a sun or lion's head medallion might look just as terrific.

This color scheme in the front garden might be aptly described as everything and the kitchen sink.

This is Helenium. It makes a nice companion to summer daisies.

The first of the Echinacea in flower.

Throughout the garden, my hosta are in flower.

The back border is looking colorful.

This clemaits has been hitching a ride up my birch tree.

Here is a plant that you don't see all that often. This is Alpine Betony, Stachys monnieri 'Hummelo'. It has basal rosettes of somewhat glossy foliage and rose-lavender lavender spikes mid-summer. It makes a great companion for smaller varieties of yellow daylily.

My Bee Balm is still going strong. The flowers are usually hummingbird magnets, but I haven't seen one this summer!

This hydrangea is my favourite at the moment.

So what happened to the little baby bunny? There was no way I could do the little fur-ball in. You are going to think that I am nuts, but I put him carefully back in the nest. I never did find the second baby, but hopefully Mama Bunny did. This morning the nest was empty. Mama must have recollected her babies elsewhere. They can't have gone far though. There was fresh veggie carnage this morning. 

Oh well, at least I still have my tomatoes!

Have a great weekend!

Today, I am going to link to Fertilizer Friday at Tootsie Time and GBBD at May Dreams GardensTo see other beautiful gardens in bloom, please click the links.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Highlights from Our Weekend Tour

If I am being honest, last weekend's Pond Tour was a bit gruelling. Two days with twenty-three gardens widely spread out over the large area at the western end of Lake Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe. It was hot as he!!. And we got lost. Repeatedly!

Day 1. We decided to begin with the garden which was furthest distance away from home and work our way back. Bad Plan! The long drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake is approximately one and a half hours from our place. By noon of the first day, we had managed to cover exactly one garden. Then we got lost on our way to the next garden. By the end of the day, we went home disappointed to have only managed to visit 6 of the 23 gardens.

At least we learned from our mistakes. On Day 2 we planned our route with maps and driving directions between one property and the next. Touring ran much more smoothly, but even so, we still ended up getting lost more than a few times. We never did manage to make it to all the gardens on the tour.

All the aggravation of loosing our way was worth it though. We did see some beautiful gardens with impressive ponds and waterfalls. There was lots of inspiration for our own garden and the pond I hope  to build one day.

Here are just a few highlights from the tour.

Here is a closer look. That is Lavender in the background with Stonecrop blooming at its feet. 
The grass in the foreground is Japanese Blood Grass. 

Hidden behind this mounded planting, were two waterfalls which emptied into a large pond.

These homeowners had a ravine lot and were very proud to have done all the work on the garden and ponds themselves. A set of stone steps led down into the garden on one side of the property.

There was more to see on the tour than just ponds. Isn't this planting nice? That is pink Bee Balm in front of the arbor, Ligularia is the leafy plant in the middle foreground and Gooseneck Loosestrife is the white flower on the right.

Gooseneck Loosestrife is very invasive, so we will all be best admire it from this safe distance. (The homeowner has managed to just keep it in check by aggressively curtailing its spreading habit.)

Great whimsy!

What a pretty entrance to the back garden!

I found that having great plantings along the edge of the water made all the difference in how well a pond blended in with its surroundings.

Nature's collage.

Without exception, all the gardens we saw had a seating area just off the pond. 

And it is no wonder. The sound of water is so soothing ...

and watching the fish is darting around in the water is simply mesmerizing.

Today, I am going to link up to Blooming Tuesday.  On Thursday I am going to link to Cottage Flora ThursdayTo see other gardens in bloom, please click the links.