Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kermit, Clematis and Christmas

Here he is again. I just couldn't resist. What a personality; I think I'll call him Kermit.

This clematis, called Red Cardinal, is doing quite well despite the dry weather. I still haven't started to water regularly. It looks like rain so I'll hold off a while.

A close up of Red Cardinal. It takes my breath away.

The Jacob's Ladder is also doing exceptionally well. Maybe the plants are feeling my happiness and feeding on that. The reason for my happiness, you say?......

Here it is. The start of my new potting shed. I have a strong sense of being a kid again and waiting for Christmas morning. For fifteen years I have struggled with using a garage stall that was designated as "mine." It was frustrating at times as I tripped and fell over the lawn mower, snowblower, and wheel barrels, and even on occasion, the gas grill. This building will be all mine. My husband is excited too because the area I had will now be set aside for his baby, the 64 1/2 Mustang. No more risk of a rake landing on a fender.

If you're not too bored, I'll follow up with other pictures of my little salt box.

P.S. The construction in the background is my neighbor's house. They are building a new pond, large and beautiful. They have allowed me to take pictures as they go, and I will feature it when it is completed.

From labor comes health; from health contentment springs. James Beattie

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lemon Balm, Lovage, Froggies and Poppies

Meet my new best friend. He moved into the pond this year and has decide to live among the rocks and new water plants. He seemed rather pleased to pose for this photo. Maybe he's wearing a new suit.

I just bought this wonderful lovage plant. I haven't grown any before and decided to give it a place in the herb garden. I'd like to try its celery flavored leaves in my next salad or soup. I can also use the seeds for seasoning stews.

So you thought making sun tea was "old hat"? Never, as long as there is lemon balm. I love putting out my sun tea jar filled with fresh water and a handful of crushed leaves. Wait for just a few sun drenched hours, fill your glass with ice and pour. Ahhhh, fresher than water with a lemon slice. Lemon balm has a mild sedative effect so let the relaxation begin. Now it really feels like summer!

Lemon balm aids in digestion, so if you prefer, crush a few leaves and make hot tea after your evening meal. Add a little honey and then put your feet up. Now, where did I leave my glasses? What did I do with my book? Okay, now I'm ready!

I couldn't resist showing you my pink oriental poppy. It looks like delicate paper, doesn't it? What would a garden be without this lovely pink color?

As you learn more about gardening, every new experience means more to you and makes a long-lasting impression. Rosemary Verey

Saturday, May 26, 2007

It's Raining!!

It's raining. Finally! It's a nice gentle rain that will not ruin the Peonies that I have not had time to stake, as I said I would. And it's probably not enough rain to really do any good, but it's certainly better than nothing. And I rather like the quiet pitter-patter sound I hear out the window. These pictures were taken late yesterday afternoon.

What did I tell you? Just like clockwork, the red Poppy opened in time for Memorial Day. A pretty amazing feat, considering that Memorial Day used to be on May 30th and now it floats to the last Monday in May. But there it is with many more buds to follow. The pink variety will show up a little later; it lets the red test the waters first.

This black Iris, standing alone, is really much darker than it looks here. I don't have names for them, because when I first started to collect different iris colors, I just wanted one of each color that I could find in the area. There weren't any thoughts of cataloging them, and of course, the Internet and blogging didn't exist. One of these days I will look each one up, so it can have the dignity of a name.

My darling Sweet Williams show up dressed in their finest. I love to study them up close. I wonder how they chose what color to wear to the garden party.

Now here is one of my dilemmas. These ferns seem to love the sun. They were planted by a previous owner when my garden area was an above-the-ground, 20x40, pool with a deck around it. We took all of that down and brought in loads of dirt and began the building of the garden. These ferns keep coming back year after year after year. I like them, but I really don't want them there. I have tried to transplant them, but it never works. I have tried to give them away, but they come back anyway. So now I give up. I just pull out the ones I don't want and leave them as a backdrop for the Siberian Iris. Does anyone know what kind of fern grows to 5 feet tall and loves the sun? Please let me know if you do.

Man must go back to nature for information. Thomas Paine

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Garden Angel

Every garden needs it's own guardian angel. This little cutie watches over the shade garden.

One of my favorite spots is this bench under the weeping willow. All gardens should have a resting place so you can catch your breath and admire your work.
Everyone told me not to plant a willow tree. It's dirty, they said. It will ruin your sewer pipes, they said. The secret is that it's in an area that gets very wet when it rains, so the roots have all the water they need. There's no need to travel to my septic system. Sure it drops little twigs constantly but the riding lawn mower eats them up. No problem. And I think the gentleness it brings to the yard is worth any trouble that occurs.

The Johnson's Blue Pyrenean cranes-bill (a perennial geranium) is getting a good start. We should see blossoms now for the rest of the summer and maybe into fall. Once again, I'm behind in my work; it should have been staked up a long time ago, but it's not to late to tie it up with some green twine.

The white iris opened today . What an elegant statement they make paired up with the light lavender. There is a gentle fragrance of grapes as you pass by. I wonder if the walkers and bike riders notice and wonder where it's coming from.

What is Paradise? A garden. William Lawson

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What's New in the Garden Today?

Today, I strolled the backyard with my camera. The vines are looking nice. This is called a Virginia Creeper, or parthenocissus quinquefolia. It will turn a wonderful shade of red in the fall. But I don't mind waiting; we just got a start to the gardening season.

This Honeysuckle is on a trellis on the back of the garage. I love the warm yellow color with the contrasting rusty orange. Also known as Woodbine, its botanical name is lonicera periclymenum.

Soon it will be heavy with hummingbird activity. I know they're active already. I've seen a few but I didn't have the camera at that time.

This variety of honeysuckle is called "Harlequin." The leaves are variegated with occasional pink areas and the flowers are cream and pink moving to rose. It's somewhat of a slow-grower in this area, but that makes it a little easier than some vines to manage.

On the fence is a nice climber called variegated porcelain vine or ampelopsis. I prefer "Elegans." And it is just that -- elegant. It, too, will have a splash of pink on the leaves all summer long.

If you look closely, you can see the pink coloring on the new leaves and tendrils.

Where have all the bees gone, you say? They're right here on my meadow sage, or blue salvia, called "May Night." On this salvia nemorosa, I found three different types of bees, all very content to sample its nectar, collecting its pollen as it works.

The first blossoms of my Siberian iris! Soon the red poppy will open next to this gorgeous purple, just in time for Memorial Day as it does every year. How does it know? Does it have a calendar, too? This color scheme reminds me of my Red Hat Society. Hello, ladies.

And last but not least a dwarf Jonathan apple tree. Look, two little apples! Why am I so excited? We have been trying for years, and the rabbits keep eating the trees before they get started. Each year we wrap the trunks and put cages around them to the lowest branches. And each year the snow gets so deep that the rabbits walk across the top, eating what they can reach, destroying the bark. We have two Jonathans and one Red Delicious left. This might be the last effort. So keep your fingers crossed for me. Looks like I need to spray as well as pray, although I was hoping to keep it organic. We'll see.

Gardening is a kind of self-prescribed medicine, good for all ills. Sheryl London

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Morning Stroll

I usually take a cup of tea as I stroll every morning to see what has newly opened. But today I took my camera as I went for a walk around the front yard. These irises are in full bloom around the fountain. Gorgeous color.

I love the contrast of this Japanese Maple called "Garnet" against the spearmint.

The bleeding heart is struggling in its overcrowded spot. Time to do something about that.

I let the lily of the valley do its thing in the spring around these plants. It works as a great groundcover, holding back the weeds. Then I pull and thin after they're done flowering. Another job that needs to be done.
This area has alternating hostas and daylilies with a background of Cransebill geraniums.

Okay, I'm sure you'll recognize the unpainted garage. This is actually in the backyard, but I couldn't resist putting it in today. This iris looks like velvet. I don't know the name; it was here when I moved in 15 years ago and is still going strong.

And this lovely rhododendron just getting started. It seems to be a good year for them.

Well, the little walk is over, back to work. Maybe later today I can get out to smell this clean, fresh, Michigan air. It's so beautiful I could dance. I love this time of year!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

To Paint or not to Paint?

Every year for the past three or four years my husband says that he has to paint the garage. He thinks he'll get an early start in the spring so that he doesn't have to work in the heat of the summer. "Oh no," I say, "you can't do it now, the clematis are leafing out. I don't want to disturb them. Let's wait until after they are done flowering." He's easy going, and he agrees with me.

A few weeks later he says, "Dear, can I start on the garage now?" "Hmmm, I guess we'll need to wait a little longer, " I say, "because the daylilies planted at their base are sending up scapes. It won't be long when they'll explode with color. You wouldn't want to miss that, would you?"

And of course, by then we're into the heat of the summer; right where he didn't want to be. And so, he decides to wait until fall. Now it's too cold for the paint or it rains day after day until the snow falls. Will it ever get done? I hope not, I quite like the rustic, unkempt look it adds to my otherwise proper Victorian garden.

And I rather think he likes the excuses I come up with. It gives him more time to sit under the umbrella at the garden table and contemplate when to start painting.

Things seem to move very slowly in a garden. But nothing ever remains the same. Jamie Jobb

Friday, May 18, 2007

Migraine Remedy, Feverfew - and Sleep Aid, Valerian

I've been working so hard and the tension is building. Suddenly I found myself with the start of a migraine. I haven't had one in a few years, ever since I went through that (clear throat) female stage of life. I almost forgot what to do. My first thought was to go for the Tylenol, but I knew that wouldn't do any good on this type of pain. Then I remembered that yesterday I noticed the feverfew is up and looking healthy, as you can see above. I took a walk out to the garden and broke off a small leaf and popped one in my mouth. The fastest way to curb that headache is to chew little bites into the leaf, extracting the juice, but keep the leaf in your mouth, no need to swallow. It tastes very bitter; try to chew it as long as you can stand it, up to 2-3 minutes. Then it's okay to spit it out. If this is too strong for you, try making a tea with the bruised leaves. Go lie down for a few minutes, and if you caught the headache in time it should go away. Warning: Do not use this if you are pregnant; it has a stimulant action of the uterus. Hint: Harvest some leaves and freeze them in baggies for use later in the year.

My valerian is doing quite well this year. I'm very pleased. I also like that it has lovely flowers which not all herbs do. It's good for headaches,too, as well as insomnia. Valerian is an anti-spasmodic ; therefore good for cramps, but be careful it's also a sedative and will make you very sleepy. Take only at night and no driving! It's really not time to harvest yet, you should wait until late fall and unearth the roots. Wash thoroughly, and allow them to air dry in a shady area. To make an infusion, pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the root and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink as needed.

Now I'm going to sit back with cucumber slices on my eyes and dream of beautiful gardens full of healthy herbs and gorgeous daylilies. Maybe I'll actually get in a nap. And who am I kidding?

Flowers and plants are silent presences: they nourish every sense but the ear. May Sarton

Thursday, May 17, 2007

And More Blooms a Poppin'

This electric blue mountain bluet, also called a perennial bachelor's button, is formally known as Centaurea Montana. My single plant reseeded itself over the last two years, and where there was once one plant, now there are too many; they line one side of our pond. It's time to share with neighbors and friends, which is what it's is all about anyway. Without others viewing what we have labored over, gardening would be a selfish endeavor. My garden is open to neighbors and their friends and they all know it. Sometimes I walk through the house and look out the back window and there are people walking the paths of the garden. I enjoy knowing that my neighbors are comfortable enough with me to feel that they can check out my latest blooms with their coffee cup in hand while talking with their friends.

Please ignore the mess in the back. We're involved in a project, again (as we always seem to be.) Our creative work in the yard is ongoing. Will it ever get finished? If it is, then I must be dead.

These darling lily of the valleys perfume my yard. They have always been one of my springtime favorites because they bloom just in time for my birthday every year. They seem so cheery here on my Memorial Day quilt runner and are perfect in a small vase while I am getting ready for a quiet teatime after a hard day spreading wood chips. Maybe I'll go out and invite my visitors in to share a cuppa with me. I wish I had more days like this one. There's always so much work and hustle and bustle lately, that I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the fruits of my labors.

One should learn also to enjoy the neighbor's garden, no matter how small. Henry Van Dyke

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Plenty of Peonies

Every year the same thing happens. The peonies start to explode with color and fragrance, and then it rains. The next day, there they are lying in the mud. I have tried tying them up and using cages, but unless I catch them early, it's futile. I don't like the looks of cages, and besides the cage does not catch all of the branches so some still fall in the rain-splattered earth, making me feel like a failure.

Recently, I have tried running a green-colored twine around the branches once they are big enough and right before the buds start to open. That way I can catch most of the heavy branches. But of course, I am not always on the ball, and before you know it, the biggest rainfall of the season occurs.

There are two types of peonies, herbaceous and tree. The variety above is a tree peony; it originally comes from China, and it seems to solve all of my problems. Unless there is a tornado or derecho, which we call a straight-line wind, it holds up well. Of course, in a strong wind the flower would still be damaged but the branches and trunks are strong and will remain upright. Not too long ago, I started to investigate this plant and discovered that there are more beautiful colors than I had imagined. I think I'm hooked, so watch out; I can get a little obsessive about things, as you'll see when daylily season begins. Here is a nursery I found online that offers quite a selection.

I don't know anything about them or their reputation, but I might give them a try. I'll let you know how they do.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Columbine, a cache of nectar

I just couldn't resist showing you my columbine plants. As soon as I see these start to blossom, I know my favorite feathered friends, the hummingbirds, are returning. I was standing at the window yesterday, wondering when they would come, and suddenly there he was. Unfortunately, I was inside and didn't have the camera at hand. He worked furiously, trying to get the most of the nectar he had discovered. For him, it must have been like finding gold in a stream. Four plants all blooming to their max, right in a row. But then as all hummers do, he took off in a flight that defied the eye. Gone in a flash.

I seem to have quite a variety of birds at the feeders this year. I think it's because my elderly neighbor lady passed away and she always kept her feeders full. I tend to forget about them sometimes and then the birds go shopping elsewhere. Fannie would always say, "Are you taking my wrens? Are my cardinals going to your place?" I actually felt guilty when she said that as if I could control it. But now I feel a responsibility to take care of "her" birds. I hope someone will take care of "my" birds when my time comes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Helpful Gardening Tips

As you might have noticed I haven't posted lately. Even though the blog is calling out to me, work calls louder. I am self-employed and the worst boss I have ever had! I drive myself to exhaustion. Unfortunately, my type of work comes in spurts, and I have to make the most of it while I can. So for the last two weeks and the next week to come, I am in two (no, three -- no, four) places at once; my garden, my quilting room, my blog, and my work. Is that possible? Yes, I am woman; hear me roar!!! Well, mew. The roar is dying out quickly.

Anyway, I came across this blog that tells everything you need to know about planting an herb garden in a nutshell. Well, not planting a garden in a nutshell; I mean, it's all in one place. Check it out. Natural Family Online I'm sure they'll appreciate you stopping by.