It’s been little short of divine, but the humidity and steamy temps (70s and 80s) have left us a bit confused about which holiday weekend it was we were celebrating last week. After all, the lilacs which have perfumed our Memorial Day weekends past this year bloomed weeks ago. Only a few of the later dwarf varieties remain now and they are few and far between, it seems. It felt much more like the Fourth of July was upon us.
Irises, traditionally the mainstay of those first lightly humid weeks of early June, are well underway in their blooming, some even finished already. It’s show is through for another year (as I’ve currently only one root of this recent addition), but I can’t help but share with you another look at the delightful and sweet Gypsy Princess.
Not far away, the garden heliotrope is standing tall (about eight feet tall) and unlike so many of its garden companions, has come to bloom on the same schedule as always, just as Memorial Day comes upon us and right in time to help celebrate Dad’s birthday.
I just adore the vanilla-y fragrance, which has been drifting up and into the kitchen windows here at the Nest and scenting the whole place. One warm misty morning last week, their scent mingled with that of the neighborhood’s many rugosa roses and the salty tang of the tide rising in the marsh.
Mmmm, I could’ve leaned on that windowsill all day, it was so intoxicating. What a way to start the day.
I’ve posted some photos recently, but mea culpa about holding back with the Words. It’s not for lack of news or activity as there’s been plenty of both to keep me occupied. But the big news, as far as this here garden blog is concerned at least, is about the return of my deck garden and what a triumphant return it is.
You may recall from photos that the deck was a bit careworn and those who’ve visited know that it was becoming steadily more…uhmm, unsteady. It hadn’t been built the first time with pressure treated lumber, but in fact with lumber recycled from another location years ago. We joked that it had been built with the salvaged remains of the Wydah.
As far back as my moving into the Nest in September ’08, the plan was to rebuild the deck, which needed the attention. But you may recall that a robin eager to set up housekeeping built no less than five nests on the rafters beneath the decking, eventually settling down to lay eggs in one of them. By the time the young ones fledged, summer was upon us and the days raced along without the time for the job and by autumn’s arrival, I’d made note of certain places not to step and begun removing planters.
The birds tried to beat us to the punch again this spring, but since it was no longer safe to so much as chuckle heartily on the deck, we had to put them off and took to knocking out nesting materials as they’d appear on the beams below, until our human project could get underway.
Finally, the day arrived about two weeks ago, and Mister Downstairs and a friend got the old decking stripped away, revealing some equally old timbers below which crumbled as they were, in turn, dismantled. Suddenly it was clear just how lucky I’d been my last few times out there and an all-new deck rose up from the ground below.
In fact, it took just a few of those warm June-like May days for the project to be complete and what a treat it is!! I hadn’t been able to tell when there was only a framework, but when it was all planked, the increase in real estate was clear: the new deck is at least a foot deeper than the old one.
Since it is more spacious, there’s just a hint more privacy on the deck, which is nice. And it also doesn’t feel crowded once I get all my plants out there. And you can trust me, I have. As you’ll shortly see. I’ve also realized (and fortunately before any watering mishaps) that this new porch gets sun through more of the day, meaning I have to be more even dedicated to my watering. But that’s okay, it also means I might get to grow some other things, too.
There are a pair of shepherd’s crook railing attachments that came with the apartment which I’d never put to use before, since the old deck was always meant to be temporary, so I got those installed right away and then made my first order of planting business a pair of hanging baskets.
The top one is my red, white and blue arrangement, which should be in full bloom for the July Fourth festivities. In addition to a pair of red zonal geraniums, there’s a bit of asparagus fern and two trailing plants, a white bacopa and a blue evolvulus.
The lower pot in the image to the right is newly-planted with asparagus fern, nasturtiums and some blue lobelia. It’s my plan that all that should grown together into a big tangly blooming mess.
I’d also like to call your attention to the pot of violas and pansies in the lower right corner of that photo. Planted all that last summer and they’ve survived a winter out of doors in a little plastic pot quite handily. How very charming of them.
Next up were the window box planters. You can see at the center of each are two large dracaenas. They’re wonderful accent plants for such a setting and those two (as well as all the asparagus fern I’ve divided up into assorted planters) are survivors of last summer. You may recall I potted them up and brought them in to green up the living room this winter, making a black pepper spray which was meant to keep the Gray Catsby away, but probably only seasoned the long fronds more to his liking.
I ask you to take note of the square planter in the upper left of the photo above. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
Anyway, I liked the idea of building both these planters out of similar materials, each arranged in slightly different ways. I have not given up the idea of someday owning a greenhouse, and when that happy day arrives, I’ll surely grow many of my annuals from seed, each one’s start carefully timed throughout the winter to arrive together on Windowbox planting day. And on that morning, I’ll beam with pride.
But this spring, I was faced with a deck suddenly complete and a perfect weekend for planting (warm and sunny and just prior to the full Flower Moon), but a busy concert weekend schedule, too. So off I dashed in the early morning light to gather an array of likely suspects from a few different nurseries around town and came home to play at combining them.
Last summer, I had large zinnias in both yellow and red, but this year, the salmon-y pink ones were those that caught my eye. The pale purple angelonia spires seemed almost to demand being paired with the zinnias, for the contrasts in both color and flower type.
And for extra fun, I expanded the palette with some red petunias and yellow marigolds, both of the single-flowered variety and then rounded out the cast with some dark blue lobelia.
It’s a busy assortment of colors, to be sure, but they all seem to work pretty well together, as most colors do. Predictably, I’ve undersown all those guys with some white allyssum. White flowers are great for helping potentially strident color combos work together smoothly, so the allyssum’s sort of an insurance policy, though I’m also comfortable with the choices.
And you know how I feel about allyssum, anyway.
Here’s the finished planters, as seen a week later (this past weekend), looking pretty good. Most remarkable in this picture, I think, is the progress that the nasturtiums in the hanging pot made in just a week. But also, I proudly call your attention to the small army of sunflower seedlings, getting a little extra TLC (and some drinking straw splints for good posture) on the new deck before they’ll be planted out in the yard below.
The new deck is also popular with my roommate Badum and here he is, lounging out there. (Oh, hush, he’s just big boned.) I think he likes being on the deck as much as our walks in the yard, maybe moreso, since I’m pretty comfortable with him being out there without the leash/harness business. I do keep a pretty careful eye on him, since I can see his attention sometimes focusing in on the nearby rooftop…or the deck railings.
Knowing that he is not always known for landing on his feet (he assures me this is a myth about cats every time he accidentally rolls purring-ly out of my lap and onto the floor), I like to make sure he’s staying safe and not putting us on a path toward an expensive and unpleasant visit to Kitty ER if he goes plummeting.
But mostly for him, after a bit of plant grazing (I have some grasses potted up for him, and of course, he’s still fond of those dracaena) its a fun place to watch the birds in the nearby treetops, that’s for sure. I was amused to note that, throughout the afternoon when I was beginning to pot everything up above, the robins had returned to resume building their nests on the underside of the new deck and recent behavior suggests that eggs are being sat upon now.
There’s a third window box to match the two I filled with flowers, but my plan for this one was an herb garden. And so I’ve combined some marigolds with golden thyme, curly parsley, tri-colored sage, lemon balm and coriander (aka, cilantro). They are all very different plants, appearance wise, but all look really great together and I hope the planting will inspire some wonderful summertime meals.
Below, you can see the full herb box at the center of the photo, more sunflower seedlings in the foreground. There’s also a pot of basil to the left and behind the herb box is a pot with both spearmint and white peppermint, the latter planted with sun-brewed ice tea in mind.
The large maroon pot upstage in this image (the one with the big hot marigolds) is actually the home to a plum tomato plant you can’t see much just yet. It’s had most of its side shoots pinched off and been planted deep, to encourage an extra strong root system. The marigolds should help keep some of the troublesome bugs at bay and will also help to shade the pot. To further assist in keeping the tomato plant well-watered, though, I’m trying a little trick.
During the recent heat wave, I discovered a bottle of birch beer left in reserve from last summer and made short work of the stuff, which I love. It was one of those one liter plastic bottles, which I’d normally rinse and take off to the recycle bin. I remembered, though, reading about how such bottles can be used for irrigation purposes by being perforated and buried, leaving the bottle top open to be filled with water, than then seeps out at the root level.
I’m sorry I didn’t think to take photos as I was putting the whole business together for a sort of do-it-yourself guide. I slid a cork into the bottle, which floats so I’ll be able to easily see what the water level is like inside the buried bottle.
After poking a number of holes through the plastic in the bottle’s lower few inches, I buried it in the pot, adding the tomato plant and the marigolds in the top layer.
Of course, I’ll keep you posted about how the idea works out.
[In as-yet unphotographed growing arrangements, I’ve also got some green peppers and squash potted up for container experiments. I have ideas about maybe letting the squash share a climbing trellace with some more morning glories, so those big yellow squash blossoms can bump up close against some giant sky blue morning glory trumpets. More on that another time.]
Now, back to that morning glory planter. Earlier in the spring, I may have gushed a bit about how pleased I was that the violas had seeded themselves in here, but I had no idea then just what a supportive little microclimate this large planter was hosting. In the lower right, you can see leaves of allyssum which seem to have returned from last season. And just a week ago, this planter filled with green, as a variety of seedlings – morning glories and cardinal climber – burst out of the soil, also self-sown from last season. What a pleasing development!
In the lower left, you are no doubt seeing the clearly fake purple tulip, but you might not realize it’s a solar lamp. Long-time readers may recall the tulip lights were a gift from my Granny back in Summer of ’08, which she ordered for me just prior to a nasty accident she suffered. I’m happy to say she’s made a pretty remarkable recovery from the unpleasant days of that summer and celebrated her 91st birthday at the early days of last month. She doesn’t get to do all that much gardening herself, these days, but she enjoys hearing about and seeing pictures of what I get up to in the dirt.
Next to the tulip light, you can see the foliage of a plant which rises out of frame. That is a bachelor button plant, from a seed scattered too late last summer. The plant was growing as autumn glowed and faded about us, but never bloomed and I feared it would surely be lost to Winter’s freezing. As is often the case, I could hardly be wrong-er. More wrong. Less right. What-ev.
Anyhoo. It would seem the plant simply paused for the winter and resumed growing this spring and just today, it’s first blossom is fully unfurled.
I’m posting it here this evening for my pal Curt, who perhaps will appreciate the reminder that, while bachelors are sometimes blue, they are also singular sensations who are stronger and more resilient than anyone might guess.
And so it’s June now (even if the weather suddenly feels more like May). Summer gets closer by the minute, as we dash through this short season of lengthening days, warm, star-filled skies and rose scented mornings. I wish each of you time – moments here and there, to appreciate all that happening around you – and I wish you more happiness and love than you feel you deserve (because about this you are wrong), and regular falls of rain (between midnight and six a.m., when possible).