Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Final Frontier + What's Blooming this Week

It all started with the tomato seedlings I bought back in May. The tomatoes had grown so well that they were on the verge of being potbound. Either they needed bigger pots or they had to be planted out in the garden. We're travelling in the early part of July, so I figured they'd have a better chance of survival if they were planted in the ground.

But where to plant them?

In a flash of inspiration, I convinced my husband to dismantle an old workbench he no longer used and make me a raised garden bed for the tomatoes. The workbench was rough pine, which isn't the best choice for a raised bed (rot-resistant hardwoods like cedar and redwood are generally recommended), but hey, it meant a second life for the unused workbench.

The need to clear an area for the raised bed became the next big project. There is one corner of the garden that has been a thorn in my side for years. It's a mix of goutweed, ditch daylilies, self-seeded geraniums and Double Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis (all very invasive). I have come to think of this area as the final frontier– one of the last big areas of the garden I have to tackle.

Last week I cut all the invasive plants right to the ground and then my husband rototilled the area. This week I have been raking the ground level and covering it with a layer of cardboard and mulch. It will have to rest for the remainder of the season to make sure all the invasive plants under the cardboard don't come back next spring.

The markings on the workbench are still visible. I told my husband I thought the measurements and illustrations were a nice bit of industrial chic.

What are my plans for the final frontier? 

It will be a spot to grow tomatoes or other veggies, a permanent home for my two cold frames and we hope to build a DIY greenhouse. There will also be a little courtyard with a small metal table and chairs. So stay tuned for pictures of these new projects.

Another project I completed last week was my thyme lawn. 

Most of the hard work had been done last fall. Our soil is heavy clay, so the first thing I had to do was improve the drainage. Thyme is a Mediterranean herb that loves free draining, nutrient-poor soil. 

So I dug out most of the clay and mixed in fine gravel and sand to what remained.

Thyme plugs that I got on sale at a grocery store garden centre.

The package of bulk thyme seeds from McKenzie Seeds.

I planted plugs of thyme last September and again this spring. They're filling in slowly, but in the meantime, the weeds have discovered the open ground. When I spotted a bulk package of thyme seeds at Walmart, I thought I would give growing plants from seed a try. 

The package instructions for sowing a thyme lawn are fairly simple. The ground needs to be raked to loosen the soil and then the seeds scattered over the prepared area (organic vermiculite is mixed with the fine seeds to aid even distribution). Finally, the seeds need to be raked in and the area watered with a gentle spray.

The package of bulk seeds gives me enough for a second application if need be. Hopefully, it will fill in to make a dense carpet like this!

Across from the bench and the sundial is a mature lilac. It's an odd spot that gets a full range of light conditions; sun on the outer rim, part-sun and full shade. Hostas would have worked well, but I wanted to do something a little different, so a created a flowerbed devoted largely to hardy geraniums.

 Geranium 'Aunty Marge' is one of my favourites. Too bad it is not sold commercially anymore.

The area near the lilac as it looks now.

I want to show you some of the other things that are blooming right now. In the front garden, the white Gas Plant is finishing while the peonies and roses are in full flower.

The view out the front door.

One of my birdbath container plantings.

 Penstemon 'Husker Red'

The Euonymus arch just inside the back gate has grown so heavy it has snapped the wooden support. We have yet to figure out what to do about it. Right now, it's being held together with two metal poles and some rough pieces of lumber.

I moved these Lupins in the early spring and wasn't sure they'd still flower.  As you can see, they look lovely with the Catmint 'Walker's Low' and the Penstemon 'Husker Red'.

'Cherokee' Clematis which is part of the Boulevard series of patio clematis. It only grows 4-5 ft.

My favourite Amsonia

Amsonia 'Blue Ice' has dark blue buds that open into soft lavender-blue flowers. This is a nice compact plant that looks great at the front of a flowerbed. It is slow to establish but long-lived. Full sun. Height: 35-40 cm (14-16 inches) Spread: 45-60 (14-18 inches). USDA zones:4-9.

 Astrantia likes moist soil, so I have struggled to get it established. 
It's liking all the rain we had this spring!

Astrantia major rubra has lovely starry flowers that are rosy-red. Average to moist soil. Full sun to partial shade. Height: 75-90 cm (29-35 inches) Spread: 45-60 (18-23 inches). USDA zones:3-9.

Phlomis tuberosa 'Amazone' When not in flower, this plant makes a large mound of coarse green leaves. Flowers shoot skyward on these incredible reddish colored stems. Once finished flowering, spent flowers continue to add architectural interest well into winter. Normal or sandy soil that is on the dry side is best for this plant. Full sun. Height: 90-120 cm (35-47 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

I am showing you this picture so you can place the next image in the context of the whole garden. The Beauty Bush is just stunning at this time of year!

Beauty Bush, Kolkwitzia has pale pink flowers and a fountain shape with branches that hang in long, sweeping arcs. Full sun. Height: 8-10', Spread: 8-10' USDA Zones: 5-9.

 I am trying to include a little more peach in the garden.

Rose, Rosa 'At Last' from Proven Winners® has popsicle-peach flowers that are nicely fragrant. The foliage is glossy and disease-resistant. Repeat flowering without the need to deadhead. Full sun. Height: 76-91 cm (30-36 inches) Spread: 76-91 (30-36 inches). USDA zones:5-9.

A few plants that might inspire shade gardeners. These foxgloves are self-sown and very willful. They like to pop up on the perimeter but never inside my raised beds.

Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina' Lady-in-Red'

Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina' Lady-in-Red' has light green foliage with reddish stems. Rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil is key to growing this fern successfully. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 45-60 cm (18-24 inches) Spread: 45-60 (18-24 inches). USDA zones:4-8.

Love this hosta!

Hosta 'Snake Eyes' has medium green leaves with a light green centre framed with a creamy-white edge. The flowers are lavender. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 55-60 cm (21-23 inches), Spread: 110-120 cm (43-47 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

Aruncus 'Misty Lace' has feathery-white flowers and fern-like foliage. It is a more compact form of Goat's Beard that would work well in a small to medium-sized garden. Height: 60-75 cm (23-29 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

We've been super busy (hence the lack of blog posts!). The pond is all dug out, but the stream and waterfall still need to be addressed. The days never seem to be long enough to get everything done.

Friday, June 14, 2019

What's Blooming This Week

How was spring in your part of the world?

Here in Southern Ontario, we've had a really cold spring. On the long weekend in May, the traditional date when it is finally safe to plant out tender annuals, my husband and I were working outside in our winter jackets. On the plus side, we weren't tortured by the blackflies that also mark the beginning of the gardening season.

While the cool weather has continued well into June, there has been plenty of rain. The garden has absolutely loved it. Everything is well behind the norm, but there's already so much is in bloom, it is hard to choose a few things to highlight.

If I frequently show Piper perched on top of the wooden bridge, it is because the bridge is his favourite vantage point to watch for hawks and turkey vultures in the sky above. When he spots one of these large birds, he chases them up and down the central pathway barking madly all the way.

The pansies have loved the cool weather!

Euphorbia polychroma 'Bonfire' has green foliage when it first emerges in the spring. The leaves quickly turn into a mix of burgundy and green. The "flowers" are actually bright orange and yellow bracts. In fall, the deep burgundy color seems to intensify and the plant becomes magical when covered with frost crystals. Full sun and normal or sandy, dry soil. This Euphorbia has a milky sap that is irritating to the skin, so it's a good idea to wear gloves when you are doing any pruning. Height: 25-30 cm ( 10-12 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 5-9.

Pagoda Dogwood 'Golden Shadows' has distinctive horizontal branching and beautiful variegated foliage. In the spring, it has lacey white flowers followed by berries that the birds love. It thrives in light shade. Mature Height:15-20 ft, Spread:20-30 ft. USDA zones: 3-8.

A Geum with a name torn from the pages of a romance novel!

Geum 'Flames of Passion' has small, semi-double scarlet flowers held aloft by wiry dark stems. The repeat flowering of this Geum is considered to be a new and exciting breakthrough. Its small size makes it perfect for the front of a border. Full sun. Height: 40-50 cm (16-20 inches), Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA zones: 5-9.

Geranium macrorrhizum 'W. Ingwersen's Variety' has pale pink flowers. The slow spreading mound of fragrant green leaves makes this perennial a nice groundcover. It's drought tolerant and can handle both sun and shade. Height: 25-30 cm (10-12 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 2-9.

I have waited two years for these flowers!

Dictamnus albus var. purpureus forms a bushy, upright clump of bright green leaves. It has tall spires of pink flowers striped with mauve in late May/early June. The plant gets its common name from a tiny amount of methane gas its flowers produce. A lighted match will flair if held near the flowers. This plant is very slow to establish. Average soil is fine. Full sun. Height: 60-90 cm ( 23-35 inches), Spread 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Geranium maculatum 'Chatto' or 'Beth Chatto' has lavender flowers and is one of the first hardy geraniums to bloom in early summer. Cut the whole plant back hard after the first show of flowers to encourage fresh growth. Full sun or part shade. Height: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA zones: 4-9.

There is just Piper now. Sadly, we lost Scrap back in February. Scrap was 14 when he passed away rather suddenly. Needless to say, we miss him dearly.

'Boomerang' Lilac blooms in the spring and then again after a short rest through the heat of summer in the late summer/fall. On the negative side, it does require deadheading after that first flush of flowers. Very fragrant. Full sun. Height: 4-5 ft, Spread: 4-5 ft. USDA zones:3-7.


Self-seeded Sweet Rocket

For you shade gardeners:

1. Geranium phaeum var phaeum 'Samobor' 2. Geranium macrorrhizum 'W. Ingwersen's Variety' 3. Heuchera 4. Hosta 'Joy Ride' 5. Dicentra spectabilis 'Gold Heart'

'Joy Ride' has wavy foliage that is a wonderful powdery, blue-green color ('Joy Ride' does become a bit greener as the season progresses). Light lavender flowers appear mid-summer. Part-shade to full shade. Height: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches), Spread: 90 cm ( 35 inches). USDA zones: 3-9.

Piper kicking up his heels.

Next week we hope to use some vacation time to finish digging out the stream and pond. So stay tuned for updates on that project. 

There is also an overgrown rose with monstrous thorns that desperately needs to be pruned (which is why I keep putting it off). I also want to seed my thyme lawn. 

Things always take so much longer than you think they will!