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Showing posts from April, 2024

Smothering Grass With Cardboard To Rebuild Foundation Bed - April 2024

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Last Fall, when I was digging up/out the (extended) IB2DWs bed for the small conifer garden along the property line, I turned to a mix of grass-removal techniques.  The whole area was turf, so I did three things:  Dug it out, smothered it/covered it up and flipped it over (and smothered it).   For the material that I excavated, I brought most of it over to the southside of the house and used it to fill in the little gully/swale on the side of the house.  And, I tucked in a bunch of it (flipped over) along the side of the porch where I'd seen some erosion over the years.  On this side of the house, we have just ONE downspout that handles a big portion of the roof and when it gets clogged up, that gutter 'tops'.  That's one source of the erosion.  The other is the downspout outlet.  Whatever *does* get down the downspout, comes out one of those surface drains.    That 'flipped' turf was a way to raise the ground-level here.  And, like a bunch of the areas that I w

First Real Mulch Cap In Conifer Garden - April 2024

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Last Fall, I extended (what I call) the IB2DWs (In Between Two Driveways) bed to reach down along the property line, all the way to connect to the small sidewalk-adjacent bed.  In it, I planted a number of conifers ( Conifers Should Come First) , transplanted a few divisions (Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass and Serendipity Allium ) and tucked in a few other things.  When I made that bed, I was converting it from turf and that meant that I used a combination of techniques:  removing the turf, smothering the turf with cardboard and just leaving some of it in place.  I planted everything in biosolids and then topped the bed with even more biosolids.   But...I mostly focused on the planting.  And left the bed in a not-so-finished state.  That meant that grass was poking through in spots, the edges weren't clean and I applied arborist wood chips.  The chips were intended as an initial attempt to both retain moisture and (hopefully) improve the soil.  This area is hard-to-grow and liv

Bloodroot - A Native Spring Ephemeral Returns - April 2024

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Last Spring, my neighbor to the south shared a couple of native Spring Ephemerals that live in her garden - Virginia Bluebells and Bloodroot - or Sanguinaria canadensis .  They grow in a woodland part of her backyard garden and arrive in early Spring and depart before everything else comes alive.  She gave me a clump of each and I dug them into the bed that is right across the fence from where they came from - my thought was if they were happy on one side of the fence, they'll be happy on the other.  The conditions are virtually identical. The Virginia Bluebells came back earlier this month.  That's nice to see.  But, the Bloodroot just arrived.  See below for a look at the current state of this native Spring ephemeral: Nice to see this one come back for another year - as the transplanting process last year was stressful. These naturalize and spread out to create a little colony or drift (if conditions are right).  The idea of " Spring ephemerals " is something that

Red Cones on Weeping Norway Spruce in Spring - April 2024

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This Spring is full of new garden experiences for me.  That's all thanks to the big "Fall Planting" sprint that I ran through in October of 2023, when I tucked in dozens of new things including the creation of the small, linear dwarf conifer garden IB2DWs.  I found a pair of Weeping Norway Spruces that were labeled 'pendula'.   I put one up closer to the garage and the other one further down closer to the sidewalk .  I staked them both up and hoped for the best.   They both handled the winter just fine (as expected) and are starting to put on a little spring flush of needle growth.  But, one of them is also showing some cones.  That's nice.  But, even nicer?  They're red raspberry-colored cones.  Small ones, but certainly raspberry-colored cones.  See below for a couple of photos. What is interesting (to me, at least) is that there's not any mention online of these Weeping Norway Spruces producing red cones.  Other spruces - like Picea abies 'Acro

2024 Yard and Garden To-Do List

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  The season is here. The Yard and Garden Season, that is. Each Spring arrives and I’m OVERWHELMED by what I need to do, should do, have to do, might do in and around our garden. The arrival of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals at the big box stores and nurseries just add to the strong urge to GET GOING out there. But, over the years, I’ve learned that I need to prioritize. And plan. And give myself something to measure-up against, so I know that I’ve accomplished what I thought I needed to focus on each season. The first year I did one was 2019 and I've done one every year. Here is 2020 .  2021 .  2022 .  And last year - 2023 .  Each year, I score myself against the 25 items that I picked out.  Last year, in addition to scoring (22 out of 25 marked 'complete' ), I also wrote up a list of 10 takeaways/lessons learned that have become important in thinking about my path forward.  In that list of 10 takeaways, I included things like:  no more shade trees (for now)

Primulas In Bloom - Early Spring - April 2024

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Last Spring, I took a shot on a couple of primroses at an early-in-the-season garden show.  I was pretty unfamiliar with them - hence this post titled: " Giving Primrose A Shot " from March 2023 where I figured I was lulled into a false belief that these early-blooming flowers would work in our Zone 5b (at that time, now Zone 6a) garden. We're suckers for blue blooms and the three Primula belarina 'Blue Champion' that I bought were pretty close to blue.  I seem to have ONLY posted about the blue ones, but if you look back at the photos in this post , you can clearly see that we brought home four Primulas that day;  three blue and one white one.   They went in and seemed to manage their first growing season without much drama.  By the very early days of 2024, I posted about seeing some of their foliage - despite the harsh Winter temps in the garden.   Today - about 90 days since then, they're in bloom.  And they're quite nice.  Below is the 'Blue Cha

Lemony Lace Elderberry Leaf's Out - April 2024

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Just a month ago, the Lemony Lace Elderberry Shrub in our backyard was showing-off some neat-looking purple buds that were about to burst open with a mix of foliage and berries on the stems of this shade-tolerant shrub.  Fast forward to today - 30-or-so-days-later and the foliage of light green (lemon-lime color) and light purple is showing on the shrub that is tucked in against our fence.  See below: This Japanese-Maple-look-alike is something that I've grown to really appreciate and I'm planning on tucking in some groundcover in/around the base this year.  

Foraged Moss + Boxwood in Shade Garden - Side of Garage - April 2024

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The small, linear bed that is up against the foundation of our garage received some attention last year with the planting of three 1# Green Velvet boxwoods  and  a pair of Kousa Dogwoods that I'm going to espalier against the house.  This bed has been home to a bunch of orphans - including some Ostrich Ferns, hostas and the various Coral Bells that I've planted in containers and transplanted into this bed at the end of the growing season.  ( Note to self:  lay off Heucheras going forward, they just don't perform that well for me .) Historically, this has been a VERY informal bed, but my goal with the boxwoods were to add a little bit of structure, winter interest and formality to the garden.  This is 'on the way' to our backyard, so is viewed by anyone who 'comes back' via the gravel pathway. In the photo below, you can see the boxwood evergreen shrub that has managed the winter just fine, but you'll also note a clump of moss that we stuck into the soil

Seven All Gold Hakonechloa Macra Grasses - Back for Spring - April 2024

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As of last September, our little cluster of All Gold Japanese Forest Grasses in our backyard consisted of eight grasses that were planted in one of the curved beds sort-of by the tree swing tree.  Here's how they looked last year - six in front, two in the back row .  These grasses are some of the STARS of our garden, but they're slow-growing and (for me) not thrivers.  They're not in decline, but they're NOT the massive clumps that I see in other folks gardens online.  They also are, unfortunately, now located in the shadow of the soon-to-be-built pizza oven.  Two of them are tucked 'behind' the foundation that will require moving.  For now, I moved *just one* of them because it was in the direct line of construction foot-traffic.  I tucked it further back into the backyard - on the other side - near where I planted two divided ones from IB2DWs .  That cluster is now (I hope) three grasses and (I also hope) a couple of Autumn Ferns that went in last Fall.  Thos

First Spring - Green Velvet Boxwoods - Front Porch Bed - April 2024

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Last Spring, I planted four small (1#) Green Velvet Boxwoods in our front porch bed in a spot that was created when I took the Norway Maple tree down and opened up the bed.  My goal was to plant some evergreen shrubs here that extend the hedge of existing Green Velvet Boxwoods that are planted closer to our stoop.  These were late-Spring 50% sale plants and I planted them with a mix of compost and biosolids.  They seemed to handle the heat of the Summer just fine and have survived this past Winter.  Have a look below to see the little bit of new, Spring growth that all four have put on in recent weeks:  At the top of the photo, you can see the trunk of the Triumph Elm tree and a few other things hanging around - including some left-over Tulips that survived the stump grinding , a Summer Beauty Allium in front and a Matcha Ball Spirea over on the left of the photo.  Further back, there are a couple Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grasses and some of the Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas that I

Shredded Umbrella Plant - Back for First Spring 2024

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Tucked into the little cluster of epimedium (Amber Queen and Spine Tingler) were a pair of Shredded Umbrella plants that I picked up at Northwind Perennial Farm last Summer .  I was influenced by a YouTube video and brought them home without much thought.  The scientific name of these Shredded Umbrella plants is Synelesis aconitifolia  and they're prized for their upright foliage that resembles - as you might have guessed - a 'shredded umbrella' in the garden.  You can see the pair of these interplanted in the photo below:  These didn't last long in their first season in the garden - going dormant well before anything else - so I'm somewhat surprised that they came back for their first Spring.   I figured that I didn't give them enough water and the summer heat took them before they could establish themselves.  Perhaps that's their foliage cycle?  Dying back by late Summer?  I'll be watching this year to see how they do - with hopes they multiply/coloniz

Parkway Tulips Spring Show - April 2024

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The pink tulip bulbs that are planted down close to the sidewalk IB2DWs are up and showing out this week with blooms that are opening up.  This area was grass until September of 2021, when I declared this a 'hard-to-grow' spot that wasn't supporting turf.  Between the poor soil conditions (clay + gravel from the driveway and sidewalk installation) plus the heat that radiates from those during the Summer made this an inhospitable spot that held Kentucky Bluegrass turf that ALWAYS went dormant during the heat of the Summer.  Look back here for a photo of this section when it was grass .  In the Fall of 2021, I planted a number of tulip bulbs down by the sidewalk and they had their first Spring in 2022 .  That makes this (2024), their third year of blooms. That same Fall (2021), I added an ornamental grass - Panicum Shaenandoah Red Switchgrass in that same bed that has come back each season.  Last Fall, I planted a pair of variegated sedums - Sedum Kamtschaticum Variegatum

Eliajah Blue Fescue - First Spring Post-Division - April 2024

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Last Fall, I dug up and divided the three Elijah Blue Fescue ornamental grass clumps that I planted in our IB2DWs bed and grew the colony (from three to six).  I originally planted three of these Blue Fescues back in Spring of 2022 along with a trio of Nepeta 'Cat's Pajamas' in a sort-of blue-hue'd combination planting.   These three were NEVER (to my eye) thriving, but they just chugged along over the course of two growing seasons.  Last Fall, I noticed some center rot and then read up on these ornamental grasses and learned that they need to be divided every few years to push healthy new growth .  So...I took my hori hori to them and created six grasses from three.  I put them back in the same location and just 'expanded' the colony with a staggered set of grasses.  Two of them were - at the time last fall - were TINY.   To my surprise, all six came back, including the two tiny ones.  Here, below, is a look at the six Elijah Blue Fescue grasses in the center

Penstemon Midnight Masquerade - Three IB2DWs - First Spring - April 2024

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One of the hidden gems from last Fall's planting sprint is going to be the three Midnight Masquerade Penstemons that I bought at the big box nursery end-of-season sale.  I tucked them into the IB2DWs Conifer garden - along the property line.  And, they didn't do much last year before going dormant.  But, they appear to be semi-evergreen with the foliage sticking around in some form all Winter.  This Spring, they have put on some new growth that is purple and green.  See below for the current state of these three natives:  This spot is loaded with biosolids, so I'll need to top the bed off with mulch this Spring to avoid some of that turf from coming back and/or to suppress weed pressure.  And, cleanup the back edge of that bed while I'm at it.   I'll also be watching these for height - with their plant tag saying they'll get 36 to 40 inches tall, so that back-of-bed location might be perfect. 

Yellow Daffodil Flowers In Bloom - April 2024

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Right around one month ago today, I posted photos of the inherited daffodil bulbs that were showing their annual strap-y foliage that had emerged for the year .  Today, they're in bloom.  Well... *some* of them are in bloom.   Below is a look at the colony of daffodils and a close-up of the yellow bloom that are on these.  (Note: to the top, right of this photo is the pile of material that I excavated for the pizza oven and tried to smother with arborist wood chips .).  By my count, I see just six flowers this year.  More than 2021 .  This spot in the garden has not been addressed yet, so I see NO reason to do anything other than enjoy these yellow blooms.  For now.  

Epcot Flower and Garden Show Bedding Plant Inspiration - April 2024

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The EPCOT Center annual Flower and Garden Festival is headlined by character topiaries and food booths.  Those are both just lovely.  But, in each of the last few visits we've made down there during the festival, the star(s) of the show (for me) are the bedding annuals that the horticulture team at Disney plant in large, colorful masses all around the park.  Here, below are a few of my favorite views of annual flowers in/around the World Showcase. First is a trio of purple, red and white - all planted in their own colonies: Closer to the Butterfly room, they have this colorful combo: SunPatiens made a big splash: This bed below is mixed with a number of flowering annuals all about the same height: Of course, I couldn't include a roundup of the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival beds without a look at the UK Pavilion.  I included a similar look from 3 years ago ( 2021 Festival) where they planted a similar red/yellow/purple mixed bed .   These below are my favorite of the set: As

Chocolate Chip Ajuga - Hits and Misses and Maybes - April 2024

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The past few years have been a love story between me, the gardener and Ajuga 'Chocolate Chips', the groundcover.  I've bought it a few different sizes (quarts and plugs) and have scattered them around the front and back of our yard.  Some have really thrived.  Some have died totally.  And others...well...they're still TBD.  This time in early Spring is when these Ajugas take on a different form - with curled-up, darker foliage that make them standout a bit.  Soon...they'll be filled with blue/purple flowers.   Here's a look at some of those - starting with some less-than-one-year-old plugs.  These went in the bed in late May in our backyard, sort-of in-front-of the Fanal Astilbes .  The six plugs are not stretching out into six plants.  Soon...maybe this year, they'll connect to each other: Next up, is a pair of plugs that went in the backyard in late Fall.  These are planted in front of the Baby Blue Spruce Tree.  They, well...survived the winter.  Are they

Squirrel Nest In Tree Swing Tree - Just Started and Removed - April 2024

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This week, when I came home from work one evening, I noticed a particular active squirrel trying to gnaw-off a bunch of small branches near the bottom of the big crotche(s) on our large Northern Red Oak tree in the back that has our tree swing on it.  I observed him/her for a minute, then quickly saw them scurry back to what appeared to be an emerging/being-established nest.  It was located a couple feet-up from the crotch.  I thought about what to do.  And, decided it was best to remove the nest.  My thinking was that it IS NOT baby season.  This nest is NOT occupied - yet.  It is just being built.  My preference is for him to build it much higher in this tree or...in a different tree further back from the patio/tree swing.  So...I hauled out my ladder (a platform ladder) and used an extension pole that is supposed to be used to hang Christmas lights in high places and knocked the little nest down.  My emotions are still mixed and I'm sure that if this gets views in some folks eye

Biosolids Added To Turf Improves Early Green-Up - April 2024

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This photo below is of a small corner of a lawn that sits between hardscape and is notoriously hard-to-grow-in.  It is also in the crotch of a driveway - which means that it gets driven-on from time-to-time.  That causes compaction and both a drop in the level of the soil AND a deterioration of the grass.   Last Summer, I filled the area with municipal biosolids.  Have a look at what the area looks like in early Spring - and compare it visually to the rest of the turf. The green-up difference is striking, no?   Biosolids.  Plus...(I presume) the warm-up that comes from the driveway retaining heat = a happy turf.

Garden Wall Inspiration in Disney's Animal Kingdom - April 2024

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One of the garden design components that I've been observing (and thinking about) over the years are garden walls.  I haven't built a garden wall (yet), but it is something I've been trying to figure out how to tuck into our yard in one-way-or-the-other.    The most-likely place has been the bed at the feet of the espalier'd Greenspire Linden trees (that now feature a mass of boxwoods) .   Or out front where the floating mulch/drainage issue remains out-in-front of our front porch bed .   I've collected some inspiration for walls in various public places including back in 2019 when Gabion-style walls were one of the big trends  and in the wild in Lisle .  And I've dreamed about a 'fountain wall' by our patio in back .   I also have found an example at Disney's Aulani Resort here .  Disney Parks are (for me) a good place to look around at built, landscape environments.  And on a recent trip I was drawn to a retaining wall in Disney's Animal Kingdo

Getting to Know Bog Rosemary (For Our Parkway) - April 2024

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We spent a little bit of family vacation last year in Southern California where we stayed in a neighborhood (thanks VBRO).  That meant that we were able to do a number of neighborhood walks - up and down the blocks - looking at the houses and landscapes.  Both Nat and I were BOTH struck by the use of Rosemary in the landscape of some Southern California home gardens.  They were big, silver masses of leaves that put off that easy-to-identify smell of Rosemary. Rosemary isn't something that will survive our Winters, so we've ONLY grown it as an annual herb in containers.   But, at both the orange and green big box stores, I spotted something new (to me) in their Spring nursery inventory:  Bog Rosemary.  The silver foliage certainly resembles that more traditional herb variety.  But, the containers that were in-stock were showing purple flower blooms.  See below for some looks at Bog Rosemary - specifically the Blue Ice variety: The use of Rosemary in the parkway/hellstrip in Los