Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Garden In August

Seeing my garden turned into a wind-blown bog garden makes me long for the earlier days of August — after the heat waves of July and before the many heavy rain storms of August watered it down. White Hydrangeas, white David Phlox, and yellow Black-Eyed Susan were the garden stars in the flower garden.

The flower garden seen from the back in August.
Black-Eyed Susan and a white Hydrangea.
A different white Hydrangea and the Black-Eyed Susan.
The Kitchen Garden looked lovely in August. I don’t think I ever mentioned that in July, before we went on vacation for two weeks, Brian and I built two wooden obelisks for the Kitchen Garden. I painted them a milky green color. I absolutely love them. I'm growing purple Hyacinth bean vines on them.

Purple Hyacinth bean vines growing on the two green obelisks we built.
The u-shaped beds in the Kitchen Garden were looking colorful with orange marigolds, maroon coleus edged in lime green, green sweet basil, grayish lavender, variegated nasturtiums, and the giant leaves of grayish colored broccoli.

The colors and textures of the raised, u-shaped Kitchen Garden beds.
I planted the same variegated nasturtium in other areas of the Kitchen Garden and they looked so nice this month. The broccoli never produced anything, but the leaves are so large and architectural — I’ve really enjoyed looking at them.

This shot shows how huge the broccoli leaves are. Such a nice contrast to plants with more delicate leaves.
In the bed along the back of the Kitchen Garden (the bed that will be in front of the neighbor’s fence when they finally put it up) I planted Heliopsis Praire Sunset in the spring. It has filled in nicely for it being its first year there. I had also planted a Beautybush, three single Hollyhocks, two Miscanthus Purpurascens grasses, a Pink Velour Crape Myrtle, and two Euonymus Japonicus “Green Spire” in the bed by the “invisible” fence.

Praire Sunset Heliopsis on left with broccoli and variegated nasturtium on right.
Not only is the Kitchen Garden a feast for the eyes, it’s a feast for eating! We enjoyed delicious vegetables from the Kitchen Garden in August. Everything from round eggplant and round zucchini, to yellow squash, green pickling cucumbers, elongated green peppers, red plum tomatoes, and grape-sized yellow tomatoes. The plum tomatoes are an heirloom variety called Martino Roma. The grape tomatoes are also an heirloom variety and are called Blondkopfchen. We had the grape ones last year and really liked them, so I got the same variety again.

A bowl full of veggies, some plum tomatoes, and a jar of flowers from the garden.
Round eggplant and heirloom plum and grape tomatoes.
All the crazy weather doesn’t have me licked yet, though. After cleaning up from Hurricane Irene, I’m thinking of planting some seeds so we can have leafy fall greens in the Kitchen Garden. Maybe some other things, too. We’ll see where the wind takes me.

Goodnight, Irene!

So we survived the worst of Hurricane Irene and we were lucky it wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. At least for us. Yes, there’s some water in the basement and a leaking ceiling in the laundry room, but it could’ve been a heck of a lot worse. Our windows held, my tomato cages didn’t blow away, and so far (knock on wood) our trees are still standing. It’s still quite windy out there, so my fingers are still crossed.

Wind blowing the three big trees in the flower garden.
The tomato cages are still standing - wahoo!
It’s been a tough summer for my poor garden. First we had several heat waves, one while I was on vacation for two weeks; then we had a record breaking amount of rainfall in August; then a bit of an earthquake; and now Irene. My garden looks like someone’s been beating it with a stick and a dowsing it with a firehouse. Or like it’s been beaten by a category 1 hurricane packed full of rain.

Part of my wet and wind-blown garden.
I took a walk around the yard early this morning to see if there was any damage. Lots of twigs, but no downed trees or large limbs so far (fingers crossed). But I must say, this really struck me as funny — a branch about as long as I am tall landed straight up in one of my raised vegetable beds as if I were using it to stake my plants. Even Hurricane Irene has a sense of humor.

Branch that fell straight up in one of my raised vegetable beds.
So goodnight, Irene, and don’t come again. You are not welcome here.

Izzy inspects the not-so-welcoming welcome mat on the screened-in back porch.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Batten Down The Hatches — Hurricane Irene Is On Her Way!

I hate to say that I’ve given into the hype, but I’m pretty nervous about this category 1 hurricane. I’m worried about the big, old trees in our yard that drop branches even in a mild storm. I’m worried about our old windows that shake even when a gentle wind comes our way. And I’m worried my tomato cages will blow away carrying all of the tomatoes with them! But probably what I’m worried about the most is the leak in our ceiling. Yep.

I spent last night bringing in all the hanging plants and almost every potted plant that I have outside. That’s kind of a lot. It took me over an hour. There’s still a couple of heavy planters out there, but I don’t think they’ll go anywhere, even with the 50-70 mile an hour winds we’re expecting. Or at least I hope not. I also brought in the rocking chairs from the front porch.  I could just visualize them rocking right through our french doors.

Most of my potted plants had to go out of the cats’ reach and into the greenhouse. 

Potted and hanging plants in the left side of the greenhouse.

Potted plants in the right side of the greenhouse.
Earlier today when I discovered that our stained laundry room ceiling was bloating and cracking, I contacted our old neighbor around the corner in desperation. He came over and poked a hole in it to help it drain. So we’re all duct taped and plasticed up with buckets underneath. Let’s hope the ceiling holds up with the 5-10 inches of rain we’re expecting.

Water-damaged ceiling in the laundry room.

Laundry room ceiling after we duct taped plastic around it.
 We already had a record breaking amount of rainfall this month, so I’m not sure what that much more rain will do to the garden.

Already lots of rain and the hurricane hasn’t even hit yet.
 So we’ve battened down the hatches and are hoping for the best. The worst of the storm is supposed to hit between 10pm tonight and 8am tomorrow morning. We’ll see where we fare after all of that.

Garden Visit — The Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

The Portland Japanese Garden is said to be the most authentic Japanese Garden outside of Japan. The 5.5 acre garden is located just above the International Rose Test Garden. I've been to a couple of Japanese gardens before, including the Japanese Garden in San Francisco. However, I have never been so moved and transformed by one until I went to this one. It truly gives you a sense of peace and tranquility. I can't explain why or how. It must have to do with the thoughtful layout of the garden areas, the lovingly manicured plants, and the exquisite attention to detail. At the risk of sounding like a real dork, I have to say that it's like walking into a warm embrace. It was a transforming experience for me because I discovered a new-found love of this kind of gardening and a desire to learn more about
Portland Japanese Garden.
Each garden area works so well together and you flow from one to another with ease. So much thought went into the various vistas and sneak-peaks you see as you walk through the garden. I think part of what is so fascinating to me about a garden like this is the lack of flowering plants. Of course there are some flowering plants, but it's really about shades of green, shapes of plants, and the texture of leaves. Moss, stone and water are also a big part of the overall garden plan. I have a love of formal English gardens with their clipped boxwood hedges, so I guess it only makes sense that I would like the highly pruned, bonsai-like treatment of the Japanese garden.

Perfectly manicured shrubs around one of the ponds in the Strolling Pond Garden.
There are five main garden areas at the Portland Japanese Garden: The Flat Garden, The Strolling Pond Garden, The Tea Garden, The Natural Garden, and The Sand and Stone Garden.

The waterfall in The Strolling Pond Garden.
The Flat Garden balances the contrast of the flat, stone-covered ground with meticulously pruned trees and shrubs. Certain features in the garden symbolize the four seasons.

The Flat Garden.
The Strolling Pond Garden consists of a few main water features: A circular water garden surrounding by green, clipped shrubs with the Moon Bridge, a wooden bridge that zig-zags through a sea of irises which are reflected in the water below, and a Koi pond with a naturalistic waterfall. Strolling pond gardens such as this were usually reserved for the rich.

The zig-zag bridge in the Strolling Pond Garden.
A close-up of one of the Japanese irises at the zig-zag bridge.
The Tea Garden was one of Brian's favorite areas. Stepping stones and a bamboo arch lead you along a path that contains carefully placed/shaped stone formations and lanterns. The path (the journey) is an important part of the tea ceremony.

One of the interesting details in the Tea Garden.
The Natural Garden contains peaceful, shady areas with carefully planned streams and rocks. Gone are the poofy, manicured shrubs and replacing them are less formal, naturally growing trees and shrubs. There are a few different paths you can take through this area.

Water leads you through the Natural Garden.
The Sand and Stone Garden is about "the beauty of blank space." Most people would call this dry landscape a Zen garden because Zen monasteries used this style of gardening for contemplation.

The Sand and Stone Garden.
So somehow I have to find a way to incorporate Japanese garden design into my cottage-style flower garden and formal Kitchen Garden. Hmmmm....could be a challenge. But I like challenges.

The Portland Japanese Garden has a really nice website if you want to learn more:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Garden Visit – International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon

In July we spent two wonderful weeks exploring Oregon. Of course we had to stop at a few gardens, including the International Rose Test Garden in Portland.

One of the garden “rooms” at the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, OR.

Portland is known as “The City of Roses.” This is pretty gosh-darn obvious at the International Rose Test Garden where there are 4.5 acres of more than 600 varieties of roses, adding up to over 8,000 roses. The garden overlooks the city of Portland with Mount Hood in the distance (although it was too cloudy to see Mount Hood the day we were there). It’s heaven on earth for any rose lover. Although, knowing how finicky roses can be you have to wonder about how much work must go into it! And how do they keep diseases at bay? In case you’re curious like me, they prune twice a year and spray for black spot about every two weeks.

This rose looks like someone spilled paint on it!
I think this is the first lavender rose I’ve ever seen.
 According to their website, plans were started for the garden in 1917 after the Park Bureau approved it as a way of providing a safe-haven for European roses during World War I. The fear was that European roses would be destroyed by bombings. In 1940 the garden became an official testing site for The All-American Rose Selection. The garden is separated into garden areas or “rooms.” They have roses of antiquity as well as the latest rose releases, replacing some roses each year with the best and newest varieties.

Roses, roses everywhere.
What’s so impressive about this garden is the outrageous amount of color — so much vivid color everywhere you look. It’s shocking. A feast for the eyes, as well as the nose; all of those roses each with their own scent. Shakespeare said, “Of all flowers methinks a rose is best.” Well he would’ve loved this garden. In fact, there’s an area of the garden dedicated to Shakespeare. (However, there aren’t many roses in that particular part of the garden for some reason.) 

So much color!
 If you are ever in Portland in the warmer weather, it’s worth the stop. And right nearby is another great garden – The Japanese Garden. More on that later. To learn more about the International Rose Test Garden, check out this link:
There’s some history there, as well as a PDF called “Rose Test Garden Self-Guided Tour” that is chock-full of interesting info.

Roses climbing a lamp post.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Container Plants

I have always had a lot of container plants. Before we bought this house we rented a house for six years. I wasn’t allowed to plant anything permanent, so I had tons of potted plants on our front porch. I still keep several potted plants on the front porch and on the back steps. I also have a few in my greenhouse. Here’s some of my outdoor potted plants from this year...

First the front porch. I get a little bit of sun here, but not much. Shady plants seem to do best, such as ferns, coleus, and begonias. 

Potted plants on front porch.
This was a gorgeous double begonia. Unfortunately, it didn’t do so good while I was on vacation and doesn’t look nearly as pretty as this right now.

Double Begonia.
This Osteospermum and Verbena were so pretty, but these didn’t last the whole summer.

The centers of the Osteospermum were purple with bits of bright orange.
I have tried several different plants through the years in my hanging baskets and these Dragon Wing Begonias outperform any other plants I’ve tried. My fern stand is in the background.

Dragon Wing Begonia and fern stand.
I have a few container plants on the back steps: (from top to bottom) Johnny Jump-ups which are no longer there, sedum, a red aloe, Balboa Globe Amaranthe, another much smaller variety of sedum, and one of my favorites which is my “bog’” of carnivorous plants.

Container plants on the back steps.
I planted the carnivorous plants last year in a class I took at Longwood Gardens. It was the COOLEST garden class I have EVER taken. I learned a lot about carnivorous plants and we all got to plant our own container which has these plants in it: White Top Pitcher, Moore’s Pitcher, Purple Pitcher, Venus Flytrap, Spoonleaf Sundew, Threadleaf Sundew, Ladies Tresses, and a Rose Gentian for a bit of pink in the center (not blooming in this photo).

My “bog” container of carnivorous plants.
 Here’s a close-up of part of the “bog” container.

Purple Pitcher plant and Venus flytrap.
I lost the tag for this one that I planted a couple of years ago, but I think it’s a type of Aloe.

Purple Aloe, I believe.
Here’s a tiny variety of Sedum along with Balboa Globe Amaranthe.

The purple/lavender Globe Amaranthe flowers with the bits of orange are really lovely.
I also have a container of water plants right outside the back door. This has a Pitcher plant, Dwarf Horsetail, and Star Grass.

Container of water plants near the back steps.
I have this strawberry pot in my Kitchen Garden. I planted a variety of succulents and herbs in it, including French Tarragon, a Scented Geranium, Curry Plant, and more. The Curry Plant can’t actually be used as curry flavoring in food, but it sure does smell like it. I love rubbing my hands on the various scented plants in this pot whenever I walk by it.

Strawberry pot in the Kitchen Garden filled with succulents and herbs.
When I was at the Philadelphia Flower Show early this year I saw a display there that included a birdhouse with a “green roof.” I looked and found a couple, however they were quite expensive. I thought I could convince Brian to build one for me. In the meantime, I found this miniature green-roof birdhouse (probably too small for birds) at Lowe’s. It actually already had the succulents planted in it. I nailed it to a stake and put it in my Kitchen Garden. Isn’t it so cute?!?!

“Green roof” miniature birdhouse in the Kitchen Garden.
 I have more container plants in my house and greenhouse. I think that will have to be another post, though.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Garden Visit: Mill Ends Park, The World’s Smallest Park

Ok, so technically this is considered a park and not a garden. But really, it’s still a tiny garden. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts on garden visits. I’m a fan of visiting gardens because I love to see what other people do with their landscape. Plus, it gives me ideas for my own garden. I can’t say that Mill Ends Park really falls into that category, though. It’s just gosh-darn funny.

As mentioned before, Brian and I took a two week vacation in July to Oregon. We haven’t done a “real” vacation since 2000, so it was a big deal for us. The reason for the trip was to celebrate Brian’s impending 40th birthday. Since he’s a homebrewer and an official beer judge in his free time, it only made sense to take a trip to Oregon where they have more brewpubs than any other state. But you can’t drink beer all day, every day, for two weeks straight (or can you????), so we fit in other fun things. I had read about Mill Ends Park in Portland and just had to see it.

Mill Ends Park is in the Guinness Book of Records as being the world’s smallest park. It is a circular plot that is no more than 2 feet in circumference. It is literally in the middle of the street. According to Wikipedia, it was intended to be a light pole. But the light pole never appeared and weeds grew. A journalist who worked nearby named Dick Fagan decided to plant flowers there. He made up a funny little story about a leprechaun granting him one wish and his wish was for his own park. The result was Mill Ends Park. To read more about Mill Ends, check out Wikipedia. It’s so silly, but it’s the silly things in life that make it fun.

When we visited Mill Ends Park there really wasn’t much interesting planted other than some Black Mondo Grass, a pine tree and some white annuals, along with some weeds. But it was still fun to see. Check it out...

Mill Ends park seen from across the street.

Mill Ends Park close up and personal.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It Used To Be July...

I learned a lesson this month. I learned that it’s not good for me to go on a two week vacation in July. Especially during a heat wave. July is always the prettiest month in my garden. Things were coming along nicely before I left, but despite having sprinklers set on timers, it struggled while I was away. And it shows. So here’s some photos of what it used to look like...BV (Before Vacation).

My flower garden in July.
The daisies bloom in all their glory in July. Daisies are a favorite of mine and are also my mom’s favorite flower. I’ve dug up some of mine to give to her in the past and can afford to give away even more!

Delightful Daisies.
I love this Hydrangea. I just wish I knew the name. I can’t take the credit for planting it. It was here when we bought the house. It has pink and purple flowers all on one plant, and even sports a few blue ones from time to time.

The purple Coneflowers are also magnificent in July. I’ve given some of these away before, too, and can still afford to give away a few more. I believe this variety is Magnus. It was one of the first things I planted in the garden. Both these and the daisies like to multiply each year.

Purple Coneflowers.
Some groundcovers now. Moonbeam Coreopsis and an annual called Superbells Coralberry Punch.

I planted one Monarda Raspberry Wine last year. I knew how much Mondarda liked to spread, but I had no idea how huge it would get in just one year. I probably need to give some of this away before it takes over half the garden.

Mondarda Raspberry Wine and Purple Coneflower Magnus.
This lily has become a real favorite of mine. I planted three of them in 2009. They are as tall as I am (which is pretty gosh-darn tall), but they’re a whole lot prettier than me. They are very regal looking.

A gorgeous lily: Lilium Leslie Woodriff.
I have some herbs right outside the back door for easy snipping when making dinner. Along with a Green Velvet Boxwood (which is NOT an herb) are sage, lemon thyme, Thai basil, sweet basil, rosemary, and a tomato that came back from last year. Yeh, tomatoes aren’t herbs either.

Herbs by my back porch.

The vegetable garden was HUGE by July. Seriously gigantic.

My Kitchen Garden in July.
Look at all the beets!

Beets with a tomato behind it and some petunias next to it.
The broccoli leaves are dinosaur-big, but no broccoli. I think I planted it too late. I believe it prefers cooler weather.

Broccoli, tomato, swiss chard. Bed to the left has carrots.
Some bounty from the vegetable garden.

Yellow squash and beets. And look at those sad-looking wee carrots. Don’t think those are ready yet!