One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Archive for the ‘sunflowers’ Category

Saturday Garden Report

I was a bit premature in declaring the irises finished.

These old irises I divided and transplanted last autumn are blooming a little late this year (compared to many of the others, anyway), which means they are blooming when they always have.   They’re also not blooming quite so prolifically, which is a product of the dividing, but they’re growing happily and will thrive in years to come.   Just to be sure I’m a liar, there’s some lovely purple irises still blooming in a shady part of the back yard, too.

The heliotrope, which I mentioned last time around, continues to perfume the yard and – on warm breezes through the window –  the Nest, which is lovely.  Here it is (above) are towering over the rest of the driveway fence garden.

At its feet, a host of Shasta daisies are beginning to form flower buds, almost a full month ahead of schedule.  My goodness, what will we enjoy for blooms when September comes, if this schedule keeps up?

New to the yard (but not to the blog) this spring are a pair of foxglove plants.   It’s been my experience that they will happily seed themselves about and give me plenty of seedlings to play with.

I just love the look of them and if one is going to create that overgrown, English cottage garden kind of look, foxglove is really required.  I’m a big fan of their tall spires of color.

Although it would be nice if I could figure out how to sleep in a little later these days(staying up late doesn’t do the trick, I still wake by 8:30, it seems, often much earlier), I do enjoy having my weekends off these days.

They fill up pretty quickly, I find, but this morning I found myself with some free time, so after putting on a pot of coffee, I wandered out into the yard to see and do a few things.

The big plan for the morning, anyway, was to address the sunflower seedlings.  I’d started them inside a while back, transplanted them into larger pots once and have been giving them a little extra love and food while they hardied off on the new deck.   But they grow fast and the time had come to put them in the ground.

A few have stayed in our own back yard, but the neighbors have much better sun exposure and have expressed their approval with my doing a little planting over there (“We would totally hate it if Greg planted sunflowers in our yard,” I am told they said with a wink.).

They are only around occasionally, as its a summertime rental property for them, but you can see they do some planting and mulching to make it look great.  Keeping my sunflowers watered means I’ll be watching after their zinnias and such, too.

So as thunder rumbled in the distance and the skies darkened, I took a dozen or so of my sunflower babies out into the yard and made new homes from them in this pictured bed below and also another in our own yard.   There’s a few more to find spots for (and a few have been gifted), and I have more seeds to direct sow for bloom later in the season.  I’m happy to say I got the majority of them happily into the ground just before a wicked thunderstorm with some good soaking rains cracked open all around us.

The yellow climbing roses above are in the neighbors’ yard, as well.   I’m a big fan of the single flowered rose, I think they are so simple and lovely and old-fashioned.   That also often means they’ve not had their delicious fragrance bred away in lab experiments that seek the perfect long-lasting blossom.  These guys are certainly a treat for the nose.

Not far away, great hedges of hydrangeas are sporting many flowerheads for the season ahead, a few of which are already blue-ing up nicely.

Back in our own yard, I was delighted to spot these pink double-flowered snapdragons in bloom.   They were planted as annuals last year and I’m tickled that they are going along with my plan for world conquest by having perennialized, as I’d hoped.

In another part of the forest – not far from one of the foxglove, in fact – I found this Sweet William blooming.   I’m sort of amused with the way this plant’s seeds get around, since it seems sort of random and far-flung sometimes.

But you shouldn’t think I’m ever unhappy to see the stuff, it’s a nice addition to the garden roster this time of year and the color range on the species is pretty remarkable.  It doesn’t read especially well in this image – a trick of the light, I suppose – but the purple centers of these fuschia flowers are pretty terrific.

And here’s that other iris that says I’m a liar.


Bustin’ June: All Decked Out

We’re all a bit confused about the weather lately.

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).

Pretty Things

I imagine you all thought I was kidding when I said it was nice to have the chair so Badum would have a place to sit…so I thought I’d share this image with you. I’m sure if I’d gotten there first, things might have gone differently.
But I was hard pressed to sit still last night, trying out the new Swiffer, playing the sliding tile puzzle game with all the boxes, cartons, milk crates and laundry baskets full of stuff, so I could Swiff (is that that proper verb form here? I’m new…), rearranging furniture, etc.

Anyway, he looked too comfortable to move and when I did sit down, I had color swatch charts spread out on the floor around me.
What fun to have carte blanche with colors! I think I’ve come up with the Plan of Attack, and might even be getting a start on the painting this evening. It just makes sense to try to do as much of it as possible before actually unpacking too much.
Of course, once I was reminded on the radio of the good possibility that the world as we know it might be sucked into a black hole when they turned on that particular accelerator in Switzerland, I did settle down a bit. No point being all exhausted when I get to the Hereafter, I figure. Considering I’d just found a great apartment and paid rent, it made perfect sense that the world might come to an end, at least according to the laws of Murphy.
Still, I was quite happy to see this morning that it had not. Hopefully, those scientists will be able to learn incredible new things about the birth of the Universe without all the trouble of those pesky black holes or dark matter. I can get all that in comic books, for gosh sake.
Considering the last few days, though, I am a little tired and not sure I have loads to say today, so I thought I’d give you a break from all that (and me, too), and just share with you some pretty flower pictures, which have been a bit minimal for the last few days. There are some nice shots from my visit to the garden on Monday that I think you’ll all enjoy.
Oh, but I did want to show you first, one of the cool features of the Gardener’s Nest I hadn’t shared with you yet: this cool, plaster light fixture on the living room ceiling. Not having a supply of spare bulbs, I’ve not had the chance to see if it works yet (on the list of things to do this evening), but I sure hope it does.
Purty, ain’t it?