Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mourning the Loss of a Tree

As the rain brings the brightly colored leaves to the ground, I can’t help but become nostalgic for a great, old tree. How old the tree was, I have no idea. But probably a lot older than me. It was a huge tree that shaded half of our back yard. It was a focal point of the back yard. When gardeners talk about the “bones” of a garden, this would’ve been the back bone, the spine, the bone that held all other bones together.

It was the large tree on the right, next to the house.
It was at its most magnificent in the fall. The green leaves would turn a bright golden yellow. And when the leaves would fall, they would carpet the grass in a warm, golden hue. Yes, it was a lot to rake. It was almost too pretty to rake.

Golden leaves covering the ground.
I wish I knew what kind of tree it was. I’m not good at identifying trees. If I had to guess I would say a sugar maple???? Heck, I have no idea what I’m talking about. Whatever tree it was, I loved it and I miss it every year at this time of the year.

Yellow leaves everywhere.
I took the photos above in November of 2007. Less than a month later the tree split in half and half of it ended up on the house. It was a sad, sad day.

Now, the left half of our back yard is an overgrown eyesore - with a huge stump buried in the mess. Something I have yet to tackle, but it’s in my plan for next year.

Overgrown left half of the yard, minus the big, old tree.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Late Fall in the Garden

Well, so much for that snow. What you saw on my last post was the extent of what that October snow brought to my area. Not that I’m complaining. I didn’t want snow in October anyway! But since it’s now November, I guess I’ll have to pull out the ole longjohns and prepare for the inevitable winter.

Here’s some photos I took on November 1st. This first picture is of the flower garden, looking from the back of the garden towards the front where the shed is. The hydrangea may be all dry, but it’s still an interesting feature in the fall garden. The pineapple sage is still showing off it’s red blooms.

Flower garden in late fall.

That annual Texas Sage is also still hanging on as long as it can.

“Lady in Red” Texas Sage

The Kitchen Garden is looking pretty sad. Some slugs or something have attacked the broccoli leaves, the Swiss chard is wilting, the tomato plants are brown, and the purple hyacinth bean vines are withering. Raking leaves from my gravel paths is proving to be a bit challenging. (Note to self, would you plant something tall to shield the neighbor’s play-set already?! Sheesh.)

Kitchen Garden in late fall.

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a picture of this wonderful shrub yet – the Beautyberry Bush that I planted last summer. It wasn’t looking too good after I planted it and I wasn’t sure it would survive, but it did and the purple colored berries have been gorgeous late summer into fall. The color of these berries against the bright green leaves truly is stunning. I planted it along the (invisible) fence that my neighbor behind us has yet to put up that he said he’d put up over a year ago. Yep. The Fence Farce continues. I should start taking bets as to whether or not that fence will ever happen.

The bright purple berries of the Beautyberry Bush.

This random tree is in front of the shed/workshop. Maybe it’s a Sassafras tree??? Not sure. But the bright yellow leaves in fall are a favorite, even though it’s in an odd spot. I actually cut it down accidentally one year and it came right back as if nothing had ever happened. This whole area in front of the shed was a problem spot for the first couple of years we lived here. It was an overgrown mess of weeds and weed-trees. I cleared it out and kept adding compost and organic matter to the soil until I could get stuff to grow other than weeds. It now houses a couple of Knock-out roses, a clematis, sedum, a hydrangea, Joe Pye Weed (not seen in this picture), daylilies (also not seen here) and ornamental oregano (aka wintersweet, wild marjoram or Origanum Herrenhausen). Of course there’s still ivy because that just keeps coming back. Then on the left of the path is some small English boxwood and a rhododendron that has never bloomed since I planted it. Maybe one day it will.

Plantings in front of the shed/workshop.

Here’s the front porch, looking a bit Halloween-ish.

Potted plants on the front porch.
Mum with sweet potato vine.

As much as I love fall colors, that brisk chill in the air reminds me that fall is fleeting and winter will soon arrive. I tend to hibernate and become a bit hermit-like in the winter because I am not a fan of cold weather. But winter is my time of planning. Soon I’ll be busy sketching out my veggie garden plans for next year, thinking of how to solve the dilemmas in my problem areas, and scheming on what to do with the overgrown area by the screened-in back porch. You can put the garden to bed for the winter, but you can’t put the gardener to bed. Always too much to think about for next year!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snow in October?!

Well, I never would’ve believed it without seeing it, but we’re in the process of getting snow in October. I personally don’t ever remember having snow this early in the year before. I heard on the news that the last time we had snow in October in this area was 1979. Ok, maybe I would’ve been old enough to remember that, but I don’t. :o)  Just when I thought this gardening year was crazy enough, this happens. It’s nuts! It’s been mostly raining so far, all morning long, but it has mixed to a wet snow now and then. We’re expecting 1-2 inches by the time it finishes in the overnight hours. We’ll see what happens. Here’s some rainy/light wet snow shots that I just took outside the back door this morning.

A bit of snow by a mum.
A few tenacious roses have been holding on as long as they can, but will the snow kill them? We shall see. You can do it roses! Hang in there!

Roses and a dusting of snow.
I must admit, there isn’t a whole lot of interesting things blooming in the garden right now anyway, other than the red Texas sage, a few roses, some mums and asters, and two pineapple sage plants. The pineapple sage is a welcome fall color. When I planted my first one, I didn’t realize it was a perennial. Then when I saw how glorious it was the following year, I planted another one or two. They are kinda freakin’ big now, actually. They are probably almost five feet tall. And yes, if you rub the leaves they smell like pineapple. Pretty cool. I assume you could use them in cooking, but I’ve never been sure what dish would benefit from the flavor of pineapple sage.

Red pineapple sage with a couple of roses to the left of it.
If I can get my camera to squeeze in a few pictures tomorrow, we’ll see how much snow is on the ground, if any. Unfortunately, my trusty Cannon Digital Rebel with 17-85 zoom lens that I love so much is experiencing difficulties. I’ve been working with Cannon’s customer support, but it seems like I may have to send it in for repair. It’s an elusive “Error 99.” I think it might be the lens and not the camera. Sigh... My blog may have to go without pictures for awhile. Or maybe with older pictures. At least it didn’t happen during the height of gardening season or while we were vacationing in Oregon. Always SOMETHING to be thankful for! It is getting close to that time of the year, after all. Am I thankful for snow in October? Well, not really.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Favorite Garden Tools: Bionic Garden Gloves

I have a few favorite garden tools that I can’t live without. This is my first post on one of those important tools. THE most important garden tool of all has to be a good pair of garden gloves. I’m not talking about those flimsy “women’s garden gloves” that are made out of thin fabric that you can get at any big box store. You call those garden gloves???? How dare you. Those gloves are for wimps who have enough money to hire their own gardener and only go out to cut some flowers to add to the centerpiece on their fancy dining room table. And don’t give me men’s gloves that are so bulky you can’t do anything with them because you can’t find your fingers. I’ve been through many, many, many different kinds of garden gloves through the years. From fabric with those textured fingers, to goatskin, to leather. And let me tell you, I wouldn’t spend my money on anything other than Bionic Garden Gloves.  After trying Bionic, there’s no going back. They can withstand pruning roses without poking through to your delicate skin, gripping a shovel as you dig out invasive roots without giving you blisters, and pulling at those tenacious weeds without losing your grip.

I’ll tell you why these are the best garden gloves ever. They were designed by an orthopedic hand surgeon with extra padding in targeted areas to reduce hand fatigue and blisters and provide better gripping ability. These supple leather gloves literally “fit like a glove,” fitting snug over the hand and fingers. No more gloves where my fingers don’t reach to the very ends. These fit perfectly (women’s size small for my tiny hands). There’s a stretchy fabric over the knuckles and finger joints to help provide flexibility. The “elite” style (as opposed to the “classic”) have extra tough material in the finger tips – essential for active weeders. Supposedly you can wash these cabretta leather gloves, but I’ve never tried that. Before trying the Bionic gloves I would go through at least two pairs of gloves a year. The Bionic gloves with the reinforced fingertips last me two to three years. That’s good for gardening gloves when you use them as often as I do. Really, it is — you can’t expect them to last forever.

I tend to order directly from, however, it looks like Amazon carries them now, too. They have changed the style over the years. The kind that I have now look more like the men’s style now. The new and improved gloves have a wrist closure now, which seems like it would be a good improvement. Unfortunately, the Elite style only come in WHITE with colored accents. WHITE gardening gloves?! Come on, guys.  The Classic come in brown, but they don’t have the reinforced finger tips. Let’s hope they realize that white is NOT the right color for gardening gloves.

Here’s my beat-up Bionic gloves that I will have to retire now. I think these are about two or two and a half years old. As you can see, even with the reinforced fingers, I managed to poke holes through them. But you won’t find better-fitting, more durable garden gloves than these. At least I haven’t.

My well-used Bionic gardening gloves.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Garden in September

Hard to believe it’s the last day of September. This summer flew by. And what a weird summer it was weather-wise. My garden didn’t know what to think with a heat wave, then a record-breaking rainfall in August which seemed to continue through September. September didn’t seem as colorful as usual, but here’s a few things that were happening.

In the late summer purple morning glory vines take over my arbor in my flower garden every year. I never planted it, but it reseeds and takes over. This photo was taken late in the day, so you can’t see the tons of purple flowers that cover it. It really is pretty, but kind of a pain because it overtakes the climbing Hydrangea on the left side of the arbor.

Arbor in the flower garden.

Here’s a close up of the pretty purple morning glory flowers.

The subtle purple shades with the magenta center really are pretty on this morning glory.

I really like the green colors and different leaf textures of this grouping of plants in the flower garden. Left to right: Coleus, the leaves of Columbine, and the spikey leaves of a bearded Iris. Aw, look at the bunny statue.

Some of the roses continue blooming off and on during the summer, including this pink shrub rose.

Pink and white roses in the flower garden by the shed/workshop.

Sedum is a staple of the fall garden. Here’s some along the path in the flower garden.

Winnie looking down on some sedum.

I have another variety of sedum with dark purple leaves in another area of the flower garden. The leaves aren’t all purple, though, which is a bit disappointing. I had bought it specifically for the purple foliage. The bees sure do love the sedum flowers. Looky here, there’s a bee right now!

A bee on the sedum.

One of the plants that did especially well this year for some reason was my Phlox David. This white variety of Phlox is known for being more resistant to powdery mildew than most other Phlox varieties. However, usually it ends up with at least a little powdery mildew and I spray it to keep it at bay (with an organic spray, of course). This year I didn’t have to spray it once. Maybe the rain prevents it???? You would think the opposite to be true. I have this planted in two areas of my flower garden. In this spot it’s next to Plumbago Larpentiae, which blooms one of my favorite shades of blue. The buds start out reddish, which is really cool. And the foliage turns mahogany in the fall. It’s a very reliable ground cover in the garden and I have it planted in an area in front of the shed, as well.

Blue Plumbago and white Phlox David.

I really didn’t plant a whole lot of annuals in the flower garden this year, but this Lady in Red Texas Sage was one of them. I planted two four-packs in the early spring. They bloomed all season, but were thin and not all that wonderful until September. Then bam! There they were looking full and gorgeous. Red is not a color I use much in my garden. I think the only other red flower I have is Pineapple Sage which hasn’t bloomed yet (it’s a fall bloomer). I have this red annual to thank for bringing back the hummingbird. For the past three years I’ve had a hummingbird that would visit every morning in August. I thought it wasn’t going to come this year because I never saw it until late August hovering around the Lady in Red Texas Sage. I saw it several times after that. Hmmm...not sure how long hummingbirds live, so maybe it’s not the same one every year. Whatever the case may be, the hummingbird is always a welcome visitor.

An annual called Lady in Red Texas Sage - a hummingbird magnet.

In the area in front of the shed I have this turtlehead Chelone Hot Lips. Some bug usually gets the best of it every year (I think it’s slugs). This year it did quite well. It added a touch of color in this area that doesn’t see a whole lot of color this time of year.

You can’t beat the name Chelone Hot Lips.

I have always coveted Japanese Anemone. I saw this variety called September Charm at my local nursery recently and just couldn’t resist it’s “charm.” The flowers are soooooo sweet, aren’t they? I love the dark stems, too. Japanese Anemone add good fall color. I love the yellow and gold flower centers and the delicately curved petals. It’s a new favorite of mine.

Japanese Anemone September Charm.

In my bog garden pot (which also has my carnivorous plants in it) I have a type of orchid called Ladies’ Tresses. It bloomed beautifully in September. Much better than last year. The tiny little flowers on this spikey plant really did catch the eye by the back porch steps.

Spiranthes Ladies’ Tresses are in the orchid family.
You can see the Pitcher and Venus Flytrap plants here, too.

The Kitchen Garden started to look pretty sad in September from all the rain. I have several green tomatoes that just won’t ripen due to too much rain and lack of sun. I still got some plum and grape tomatoes in September, but my large, red Brandywine tomatoes just didn’t ripen. I tried planting some Toy Bok Choi, Romaine, and Lettuce seeds to get one last crop. However, they too suffered from lack of sun and did not germinate (they are what’s under the white row covers in the picture below). Makes me sad to see summer go.

Purple Hyacinth Bean vine on left and Brandywine tomato on right.

One thing that really is flourishing in the late summer Kitchen Garden is the Purple Hyacinth Bean vines. I have two and they are going to town. I absolutely LOVE the purple seed pods and the interesting shape of the bi-colored flowers. Too bad they are all the way in the back of the yard because they really are too striking to hide back there. These are growing on the green obelisks that Brian and I made earlier this summer.

Purple Hyacinth Bean vine.

Another thing that still looks great in the Kitchen Garden is the Alaska Variegated Nasturtium. These were slow to get started when I planted the seeds in early spring, but once they got going they REALLY got going. I love how they trail over the gravel path.

Alaska Variegated Nasturtium in one of the u-shaped raised beds in the Kitchen Garden.

Here’s a close-up. The variegated leaves look like someone spilled paint on them.

Alaska Variegated Nasturtium with Garlic Chives.

Drum roll, please...I finally got some decent sized carrots! It felt like it took forever, but here’s some colorful Kaleidoscope carrots that I had planted from seed in the spring. Too bad this was all there was to the carrot bounty! I also had Detroit Dark Red Beets that I had also planted from seed in spring.

Kaleidoscope Carrots.

As I say goodbye to September, I already get nostalgic for the earlier glories of the garden. Reflecting back on all the hard work I put into my new Kitchen Garden with its raised beds and gravel paths, I can’t help but feel satisfied and pleased with what I was able to do. The biggest thrill of all was to finally be able to direct-sow seeds and get full-grown vegetables out of them. The raised beds and row covers allowed that to happen. All of the home-grown veggies have been fantastic. Looking back on my flower garden, this year it looked it best in the early spring and in late June/early July just before I left for Oregon. A garden is always a work in progress, though. Each year brings new ideas and new joys. I’m already plotting my plan of attack for next year. My grand scheme for next year will be to try to clear out the overgrown area on the left side of the back yard. It’s overwhelming because it’s probably about 13 feet x 20 feet or more - full of overgrown honeysuckle, ivy, wisteria, poison ivy, and other invasive vines. But think about the potential for that space!!!!! I’m thinking mostly easy to care for plants such as evergreens and conifers to add privacy and some flowering shrubs. There’s a patio in the future, but probably not for next year. We’ll see, though. Oh the possibilities... A gardener never gives up gardening. Now if I could just get the neighbor in the back to put up that fence he promised a year and a half ago! The never-ending Fence Saga.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Details in the Garden

I like adding little details to the garden that you might not see at first. I have many more ideas that I haven’t implemented yet, but here’s a few that are in place now.

I have this old wrought iron café-style table and chairs that were a dirty brownish green from years of neglect. I spray-painted them a bright cobalt blue this summer and put them under a tree by the Kitchen Garden. I found this plant saucer I had spray-painted gold for a Christmas project years ago and put some shells in it from my trip to the Oregon coast. I happened to have tiny garden tools that resemble a fork and spoon when put with the plate. I love how the blue table brings out the bluish tint in the seashells. 

Here’s some more shells from the Oregon coast. I must admit that I like collecting shells when I go to the beach, which isn’t very often. This collection of shells are in a secluded little spot in the front yard.

My mom gave me this cute mobile that looks like mini watering cans and pails. It’s hanging on a tree next to the blue café table. 

We get lots of pine cones in the area between our house and the left-side neighbor’s house. They have a pine tree on the other side of their yard and when some of the pine cones fall they slide down the roof into our yard. I like it because I use the pine cones in fresh-green Christmas wreaths that I make for our front door each year. I also put pine cones in containers in the house and in the yard. Here’s some that I keep in an old rusted colander on the steps of my back porch.

This is one of my favorite pots. It’s really heavy, but I love the ornate medieval style of the carvings on it. I’ve had this Sedum in it for several years now.

This is another favorite pot, even though it’s just made of some sort of plastic. It has different faces on four sides. I keep it on a pedestal in the area in front of the shed. If you were going from the front yard through the gate to the back yard you would see it.

I can’t show special garden details without showing Mr. Wiggles! Mr. Wiggles is my pet pig. Ok, as much as a real piggie would be AWESOME, he’s just a cute statue. He hangs out in the Kitchen Garden. Good thing he’s not real or he probably would eat all my veggies.

I love cool tiles. This is one I got from a Celtic store many years ago. I move it around each year. Right now it’s in front of my pot of water plants. Pretend you don’t see the weeds next to it.

This is another cool tile. I got this handmade tile at the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown, PA. An extremely cool place right next to Fonthill, which is even more awesome. Fonthill was the home of tile maker Henry Mercer. He made it out of concrete specifically so he could showcase his handmade tiles and his collection of tiles he had collected from around the world. It’s this maze of rooms with tiles on the walls in every room. Truly amazing and definitely worth a visit. He had built the Moravian Tile Works next door to produce his beautiful decorative tiles using old traditional methods. This was during the Arts and Crafts movement, of course. But I digress. Here is a sweet little tile of a bee that I got at the Tile Works.

A candle lantern hanging from the wisteria by the greenhouse and shed.

And here’s my fairy garden. Yep. My younger sister thinks I’m a complete dork for having a fairy garden, but I think it’s WHIMSICAL, not dorky. There’s my little fairy with her blue and white “reflecting pool,” a mirror behind her, a toadstool, a turtle coming out of a small pot, and a bunny sitting on a small rock.

Here’s another fairy on a tire swing nearby. Sorry it’s a bit blurry.

And here’s a fairy door!

Hey, at least I know the fairies aren’t real.

New Visitor to the Garden

I have a new garden visitor that has become a “regular.” It’s not unusual to find a cat in the garden. I know of at least five that are frequent visitors to my garden. They like to sit under the plants or roll in the catmint. Some come up the back porch steps to sniff at my cats through the screened-in door. But this is a new one. He/she appears to belong to our next door neighbor on the right side. Every day and night I find him/her just sitting in the garden. What makes it kind of strange is that this cat most often sits right next to my old cat Monty’s urn/grave marker. How strange. I’m not sure Monty would take too kindly to that if he knew it. I’m glad I have another creature who enjoys my garden, though. I just hope nothing bad happens to him/her. My neighbor’s last cat died unexpectedly and they practically accused me of killing it! They asked if I had anything poisonous in my garden that would’ve killed her if she ate it. I was devastated that they would think I was responsible for their cat’s death. That happened not long after I had lost Monty to cancer. I would never knowingly plant anything in my garden that would be harmful to animals and I garden organically so I don’t use any hazardous chemicals. So let’s hope nothing happens to this cat! Here’s a blurry picture of the cat next to Monty’s urn marker.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Nursery Visit - Red Ridge Farms in Dayton, Oregon

I think this will be my last post on gardens we saw while in Oregon. Ok, so this isn’t a “Garden Visit,” but it’s a really, really cool nursery. So cool that I took a lot of pictures there. Red Ridge Farms is a nursery, gift shop, lavender farm, vineyard (Durant Vineyards), and olive tree farm / olive oil producer all rolled into one. There’s also a guest suite above the gift shop just in case you can’t tear yourself away (unfortunately with a two-night minimum stay). If I lived in the area, I would be a regular visitor to this fine place.

Entrance to Red Ridge Farms gift shop.
The nursery at Red Ridge Farms.

There’s a nice little garden area next to the gift shop.

Lavender and boxwood edging.
A Buddha statue overlooks this sweet garden area.

The nursery area had some really cute arrangements of pots, plants, and rustic garden furniture.

The nursery.
The nursery.

The paths was covered in acorn shells. I saw this same ground covering somewhere else in Oregon. Can’t remember where right now...

Crushed acorn path.

To learn more about Red Ridge Farms, go to

A cool potting bench inside the greenhouse.