Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

So, it's been 10 days since I last blogged. Ugh! You know, this 'real life' thing is quite annoying. I've had several things I wanted to post to the blog but just haven't had the time to actually do it. So, get ready for a glut of information coming your way right...now!

The weather this past week has been total crap - until today, anyway. It was rainy, muggy, and just downright uncomfortable. Finally, the bad weather broke and today was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny, dry and a cool 72 degrees with a slight breeze. As our state motto says, The Way Life Should Be.

So, I guess I'll start with the local bird news. As I've mentioned before, we have yearly Barn Swallow tenants in our birdhouses and this year was no exception. Last week I even got a peek at the babies.

Do you have any food?
For several days we heard their soft peeping non-stop while we were outdoors and then two days ago I noticed it was quiet. The babies have grown up and the Swallows moved on as they always do once the young ones are big enough to fly. I don't know where they go but I'm glad they find our chipped and fading boxes a nice place to raise a family.

The past two years I've started spotting these beautiful, bright yellow birds. Today I saw them twice perching in the vegetable garden. I noticed they kept flying down into the garden but when I checked nothing seemed out of place. I'm hoping they're eating nasty, harmful bugs. Even if they're not, they're lovely additions to the surroundings.

Yellow Couple
Fuzzy Birds - they wouldn't let me get close enough for a good picture
The flowers are doing well for the most part. Well, that is, if you don't count the Petunias. Two out of three pots look like this:

Yeah, these used to be Petunias
At least the expensive Petunias are still living.

But price doesn't always mean anything. Here in Maine we have a chain of stores called Marden's. They're basically a surplus store - when other stores go out of business or have slightly damaged goods, Marden's buys it up and sells it at a reduced price. You can find some really nifty things there. They even sell plants and while we were there a couple of weeks ago my husband found a bag of five Astilbe bulbs for five dollars. Heck, at one dollar a piece I figured it was worth it even if all but one failed. Well, I had it backwards. One was a dud but the other four are doing great. Hell, one of them even has flower buds already!

Astilbe Group
This isn't a great picture, I know. They're a little hard to make out. This is an area in our back yard that, until this year, was the dumping place of yard debris. It's in a dark corner that no one can see from the front. It was finally cleared of everything this year and left this big patch of dirt. I have plans for a shade garden here and this is where I chose to plant the Astilbe. They've taken to it very well. I hope to get it fixed up before Fall but if I can't it'll be a project for next Spring.

The Astilbe aren't the only 'cheap' flowers doing well. Last year I planted several plants I got on the cheap. Last year they all did nothing - barely grew at all and didn't even bud. This year, two of those 'cheapies' are doing great.

Day Lily Greetings
I have these Day Lilies planted on both sides of the steps and they're a very cheerful greeting for us and any visitors. Last year I got two sprigs of grass out of them. This year, they're blooming like gangbusters and don't look to be letting up anytime soon.

Another plant that only grew about an inch last year was my Clematis vine. Currently, it's over a foot long and yesterday I saw flower buds!

Chewed, but still doing well
They look like they might be white, which won't make my day (white flowers are hard to see against our white house) but at least there are flowers.

And speaking of white flowers, I think my favorite blossom this year is from my Iceberg Rose bush I purchased this year.

Perfect
Isn't that absolutely gorgeous? It lasted quite a while, too and there are many more buds forming.

More white beauties on the way
My Sunbright Roses also bloomed this year, but it looks as if I'm getting two buds and that's it. There's signs of possible buds but I'm not sure they're going to happen. Oh well, the two blooms I got were very pretty and a beautiful shade of yellow.

Lovely Bud

Yellow Sunburst
The 'easy' flowers are doing well, too. By 'easy' I mean the flowers that were here before me and that I don't have to do anything to at all for them to do well.

The Tall Phlox has been ahead of schedule all year and the buds and flowers have already shown up.

Phlox Buds

Phlox Flowers - say that five times fast

The Magenta flowers are always first. In a few weeks the white will come in and make the side of the garage quite lovely.

Finally, in the flower department, the Black-Eyed Susans have made their debut. These are one of my favorite wildflowers and I'm glad that they dot our large field with bright yellow cheerfulness.

Susans among the Clover
"So, what about that vegetable garden?" you ask. "Are you not showing it to us because it's overrun with weeds and looks just awful." A year ago I would have had to say yes, but not this year. I've done much better with weeding. It helps that we're not experiencing the deluge of rain that we got last year.

However, the unfinished pathways needed my attention so last weekend my big project was to clean out the remaining weeds and finish mulching in the pathways.

Meet the Enemy - Weeds on the border
Weedy Paths

It took most of the day, but I pulled all the weeds and made a much neater, and wider, path around the garden.

Two-Tone Walkway
Yeah, the mulch color didn't match but it already looks better now that we've had some rain.

And that was my week. How was yours? Busy?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

State of the Garden

Today's Weather: 84 degrees F and sunny. Nice :)

"So, how goes the garden?" you ask. Well, even if you don't ask I'm gonna tell you.

It goes well. Take a look:

Dahlia and Petunias

Day Lilies

Dianthus after the rain

Lobelia

Peas, Marigold Ring and Lettuce

Pumpkins

Tomatoes

Yellow Roses

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hydrangea

Of all the new plants I obtained this year, I think my favorite has been the Hydrangea.

It's not an uncommon plant here in my area of Maine and I've seen many over the past few years. Despite their familiarity I've always admired a pretty Hydrangea and finally decided to get one for myself. I was hoping to find a blue one but then I found out that the color really depends on your soil.

(Another thing I find fascinating about the Hydrangea - the fact that it can change color over time and that you can influence its color by providing the correct nutrients. That's just nifty beans.)

So, I found one at the local Big Box and it was even on sale because of a little frost damage. It wasn't too bad so I brought it home and planted it right in front.

New Plant - a little frostbitten
In a relatively short period of time it's transformed into a real beauty. The shade of pink is soft and very pleasing to the eye. The blooms have gotten so large I've often wondered if it was going to turn into all flower and no foliage.

Just a hint of pink

You can barely see the damage now






Current Color
Perhaps next year I will buy another and plant it on the opposite side of the steps so that I'll have mirror Hydrangeas. It would be really cool if I could make that one blue.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nice Weather

Not much to report right now. The plants are tending themselves, the seeds are cooking and all I'm doing is watching and pulling the occasional weed.

Heck, even the weather is playing nice this year. For the past week the pattern has been a couple days of cool, sunny days and then a day of slow, steady rain and then back to sun. I don't have to do any work at all!

I'm enjoying it while it lasts because pretty soon I'll be fighting bugs, squashing caterpillars and pulling the weeds that will no doubt multiply in the night while I'm not looking.

But for now, I will enjoy what Mother Nature has to provide, including this beautiful double-rainbow from last week's rain shower.

Looks like the pot of gold is in a shallow, Maine bog

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June Birth Month Flower

Yeah, I'm over a week late with this month's birth flower and I really have no excuse, especially since this is MY birth month.

Roses have many meanings, mostly depending on the color but sometimes on type. Here are some of the meanings that I could find

  • Rose: Bridal = Happy Love (So what's the rose for 'angry love'?)
     
  • Carolina = Love is Dangerous (Ain't it the truth)
     
  • Christmas = Peace and Tranquility
     
  • Coral/Orange = Enthusiasm, Desire
     
  • Dark Pink = Thank You
     
  • Light Pink = Admiration
     
  • Musk = Capricious Beauty
     
  • Pale = Friendship
     
  • Peach = 'Let's Get Together,' Closing of a deal
     
  • Pink = Love, Grace, Gentility, 'You're So Lovely,' Perfect Happiness, 'Please Believe Me'
     
  • Pink & White = 'I love you and always will'
     
  • Red = Love, Desire, Respect, Courage, 'Job well done'
     
  • Red & Yellow = Congratulations
     
  • White = Calm, Secrecy, Silence, 'You're Heavenly,' Reverence, Humility, Youthfulness, Innocence 
     
  • White on Red = Unity, Flower Emblem of England
     
  • Yellow = Infidelity, Joy, Gladness, Friendship, Jealousy, 'Welcome Back,' 'Remember Me' (The Infidelity and Jealousy of the yellow just scream manic depressive)
     
  • Yellow & Orange = Passionate thoughts

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I have vegetables!

If you went by the silence of this blog, you would think that I've given up on gardening altogether. Au contraire, mon frere - or something like that. I've been working my freakin' ass off this long holiday weekend and after putting in the days I have, blogging just sounded way too exhausting.

But, now the vegetable garden is in, looks to have taken, I've watched Iron Man 2 with the sniffiliest kid in a nearly empty theater and feeling just enough recharged to catch up on here on  ye old blog.

Saturday was a relatively nice day. Overcast so the sun wasn't blinding, but it was a little muggy and not much of a breeze. At least the temperature didn't get over 75 so it all worked out.

Last year I experimented with raised beds and, well, it wasn't my best moment:

Straight lines are so boring...and hard!
Not only were the raised beds crooked, but they weren't level and I wasted a lot of usable garden space by having five small beds.

This year, I decided to try the raised beds again, but with fewer number of beds and dammit, they were going to be straight and level this time. My husband had the good idea of using twine and staking it so that I would have a reference but we forgot to buy twine Friday night and I wasn't going to go out on a Saturday afternoon of a holiday weekend. (I'm not 'up with people' in case you haven't noticed).

So, I proceeded slowly and measured everything out and used a bottle of water for my level - which works amazingly well, especially if the bottle has a label.

I layed out the bottom layer of the beds first, like so:

The Foundation Level
It may be hard to see in this picture, but I even 'tiered' the beds. The ground of my vegetable garden slopes and since I was working so hard to keep the beds level, I had to bring the second bed down, which meant starting that bed over and digging deeper.

Tier-ing the Beds
It added at least an hour to my work but it was worth it.

The third bed was only slightly lower than the second so the effect isn't as dramatic but I think it still turned out well. Most importantly, those beds were level AND straight. Check it out:

You'll need to turn your head - I forgot to rotate
If you're wondering about those rocks, I added those to support the structure. I'm still not sure I want to keep using the wood I bought for the vegetable garden and I'm not fastening it all together until I'm absolutely sure.

All that took me about 7 hours on Saturday. I was bit sunburned and I had four mosquito bites at the hat brim line on my forehead but I was happy with my progress.

Sunday was sunny and just a bit warmer but there was a nice breeze. It didn't feel muggy but there was a haze. I found out later that night that it was smoke from the Quebec fires.

Now came the fun/easy part - planting!

I'm not nearly as ambitious of most of the bloggers I read, but I planted more this year than ever before: Four kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of squash, Green Bell Peppers, Radishes, Peas, two types of Lettuce, two types of Cucumbers, Onions and pie pumpkins.

Around the birdbath I place in the center bed I planted Bachelor Button flowers and a ring of Marigold seeds. I'm going for form and function. 

Tomatoes, Squash and Radishes - living in harmony
After all that I still had some time, so I used up the rest of my mulch and started on the pathways around the beds. I still need to finish them up but that's a job for this coming weekend and it shouldn't take long.

So, here are pictures of the final product, minus a few bags of mulch:

I also need a couple more trellises for the cucumbers and possibly the peas - the package said that they were 'bush' peas, but sometimes bushes need support too. That'll get done this weekend as well.

Monday, I rested and celebrated the holiday with the family. I did a little weeding but for most of the day I relaxed and enjoyed the nice, sunny weather. There was low humidity and the temperatures were in the mid-70's so it was near perfect.

Since then it's been overcast and rainy but that's actually welcome. We had a dry May and needed the moisture, which is certainly a big change from last year. Last year was a wash out - literally.

So, here's to a good start for a productive summer of vegetables and flowers! Good luck to all you gardeners!