Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Year in Review

2012 is crowding its way in and will be here in 5 days leaving 2011 in our rear-view mirrors. Good riddance, I say.

No, 2011 wasn't my best year in almost all aspects of my life but here on this blog I'll just focus on the ups and downs of my gardening world to recap the past 12 months.

Spring was a few weeks late this year so January through April were my planning months - plans that I eventually didn't use. I rarely ever do. The one plan that I did follow through with was my back yard shade garden.

It'll get better...hopefully

As you can see it didn't really end up as I had hoped but I know that it will most likely fill in and I plan to add a few more Hosta to it this year.

Overall my flower gardens did quite well in 2011. I didn't move the Iris as I planned or plant more roses but I did do more fill-in with Hosta. My existing plants flowered nicely and for the first time in years my front flower gardens didn't look lopsided or sad.

Needed more mulch but otherwise quite nice
The vegetable garden, however, was pretty much a failure. The only vegetables that grew were the Peas and the Crookneck Squash. I got about 3 tomatoes from the 5 plants I planted, I got just a few Buttercup squash and they rotted quickly. Those strange Squmpkins had shells so hard I couldn't cut them open except for one tiny one and no one really wanted to try eating them anyway. My cucumbers were a malformed mess and although I got plenty of Strawberries, the ants ate them before I could pick them.

The sunflowers did well. There was that, at least.


By the end of the growing season I was glad to clear out the garden beds and put them away for winter. I can only hope that I can do better next year. It's going to be lonely, though, without my garden helper.



She kept the Hottentots away, you know.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sad Times

I didn't post about her much here on my garden blog, but our dog China was much beloved and very much an integral part of our family.

We had to let China go this past Sunday. She contracted Lyme disease about a month ago – the worst case the vet has ever seen – and over the weekend she went into acute renal failure.

We adopted China on December 7, 2002 and the past 9 years of our lives have been enriched because of her presence. She did everything with us including camping trips, vacations and everything in between. Although she was never a cuddler – in fact, she pretty much hated to be touched, although she would put up with it – we knew she loved us.

It’s going to be very hard living without her but we know that we did what was best for her. The only thing worse then putting China to sleep was watching her suffer.

We’ll always love you puppy.

China Mills: 2000 (?) - November 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Not gone, just busy

Sorry for the lack of posting. I have been so busy with work that I can barely breathe. The company I work for just acquired 3 new locations...and anyone who lives in Maine probably knows who I work for now. :)

The garden has been 'closed' for the year anyway, so there's not much to report. Here are a couple of shots of the garden and surrounding trees.

Prepared for next year
Golden front yard Maple

Monday, October 3, 2011

Early October Garden

Weather: The past few days have been total yuck. Chilly, rain, rain and - oh yes! - rain.

It's already October - September just flew by, didn't it? - and yet again I have failed to keep up with my garden reporting. But really, there hasn't been much to report. The flowers are still doing well, the vegetable garden is done and all that's really left to do is Fall clean up...which I'll get around to if it ever stops raining.

Here are some visual highlights of the current state of the garden:

Late season Hydrangea bud

Iceberg Roses

Sunbright Roses

Welcome Visitor

Sunny Flowers

Ripening Tomatoes

Zinnia Flower

Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Frost this Week

Today's Weather: Rainy/Thunderstorms with a high of  68 degrees Fahrenheit

Yes, Fall is coming. The rain today is hailing in a cold front and tomorrow the high is supposed to be only 58 degrees F. Over the weekend it'll 'warm up' to 68 and stay that way for at least a few days.

For any Maine readers out there, be warned - there's supposed to be frost on Friday and Saturday night. If you haven't harvested, you better do so or cover up those crops!

I'm glad to see Fall come this year. It's not been my best gardening year. I was in that funk for a long time (still not really out of it, but it's going to be a moot point in a few weeks anyway) and most of my vegetables didn't do well at all. Out of four tomato plants I planted, I got a total of four tomatoes - which are still not ripe. They will have to finish that process indoors because I'm cutting them when I get home from work tonight.

The only thing that did well this year - and it ALWAYS does well for me - were the crookneck squash. This makes me happy because I love crookneck squash fried with onions, green peppers and cubed chicken.

And then there are the Squash/Pumpkin 'things' my husband has dubbed Squmpkins.

But I love Autumn and I expect my spirits will lift as the leaves change color and then fall to the ground. I hope we have a long Autumn this year and that the really cold weather doesn't start until November.

Taken September 7, 2011 - Early changers

Celebrity Rose #12 :: Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney
I hear that all you need is love and that we should all just let it be...

Friday, September 9, 2011

State of the Garden

Today's Weather: Sunny, 73 degrees Fahrenheit after a long bout of rain.

Wow, I haven't been writing much at all lately, have I? Damn this gardening funk.

I am feeling better, though. I'm actually looking forward to doing some work in the beds tomorrow. I just hope I still feel that way after sleeping for eight hours. :)

Now, onto the 'State of the Garden' for early September.

Morning Glory
Hurricane Irene did very little damage to our property back in August. Mainly, it just blew out some loose branches and sticks that had been hanging around in our trees. It did topple some wildflowers I had in my front beds but they were fading anyway.

The worst thing the hurricane did was bend my hooks which were only there to hold up the Morning Glory vines. Since they had yet to produce flowers I was going to remove them but I kept putting if off for one thing or another.

I'm glad I did because they finally started blooming. They're coming in two colors - blue and magenta - and they're quite pretty. I will be planting more next year but in a different spot. I just need to find a place where it's safe to attach a trellis.

Morning Glory Spiral

Morning Glory Vines
This was my first year planting sunflowers. Too late, I realized I planted ornamental when I wanted them for their seeds (I'm seriously addicted) but I let them grow anyway. The first two opened just a few days ago and they look beautiful against the blue sky.

Sunflower
After transplanting them in the Spring my rose bushes struggled. They did give me a few roses early in the summer and then stopped producing buds. About two weeks ago they both started producing a ton more buds and the Sunbright had a strong growth spurt - it's about four feet tall now and it started out at around one and a half this Spring.

Iceberg Rose

Sunbright Rose
They Hydrangea is in decline but even the almost-spent blooms are attractive. I wish they could be this pink color all year.

Hydrangea
I thought the Day Lilies were done about a month ago but a few weeks ago - about the same time as the roses - they started producing flowers again. This is a picture from this past week.

Day Lilies
The Coral Bells have turned a beautiful rust brown color and have a large spider living among them. It's spun its web between the flower stalks and the rain and web produced quite a sight - which my camera can not capture.

Huechera Coral Bells
Remember my mutant pumpkins? Well, they're done now.

Pumpkin Things
As you can see, they are rather varied in shape and size. Some are smooth like a pumpkin, others are bumpy like a crookneck squash. I can't wait to cook one. I'm hoping for a crookneck squash with a hint of pumpkin flavor. My mother-in-law is curious about how they would taste in a pie.

Pumpkin Things
The hornworms have stopped ravaging my last tomato plant and I have about five that have started turning yellow. Maybe in a week or so I'll have my own tomatoes.

Man, I hate it when I only get a few tomatoes.

Tomatoes
And here's how the bottom half of the garden looks now. My cucumbers failed miserably so I pulled all of the cucumber and pumpkin vines after I harvested my mutant gourds. The only things left in the garden are the sunflowers, the strawberry plants, morning glory vines, one tomato plant and the crookneck squash vines (not shown).

Garden

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Celebrity Rose #10 :: George Burns

This was one of the most interesting roses I came across during my search for roses named after celebrities.

The George Burns Rose

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dagnabbit!

Before moving to Maine almost 7 years ago, I lived in Florida. I lived there for four years and never suffered through a hurricane until three months before we moved to Maine - and we got hit by two in one month.

And now that I'm living in Maine, a place I thought was going to be safe from these blasted things, here comes Irene. We had one a couple of years ago as well, but all it did was rain.

This time it sounds like we're going to get lots of rain and wind which means crop damage. I'm not too upset about the summer squash - I've already gotten tons and there's several more I can pick before Sunday - and my Buttercup squash can come off the vine if it needs to. The mutant pumpkins are done - I just haven't harvested them because I like to leave them on the vine as long as possible.

But my tomatoes - my poor, three tomatoes - ugh. If we get hit with a lot of rain, that means I will have none this year. I know, I know, a paltry thing to worry about when the winds could do so much worse damage on homes, trees, power lines.

But I will still miss my tomatoes if they drown.

My entire crop, right here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monster Plant!

Maine has a monster plant! It can sting, burn and scar permanently with just a casual touch. Youch!

The Maine Cooperative Extension posted today about Giant Hogweed, something I've never heard of and I hope I never encounter. It's described as 'Queen Anne's Lace on steroids' and can cause burning, blistering and permanent scarring if the hair on its leaves are brushed against and then exposed to sunlight.

Read more about this plant here and how to identify it.

It almost makes it seem like those old 50's monster movies are real, doesn't it?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fun with Macros

Today's Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Nice.

I'm still in my funk but it hasn't stopped me from taking pictures of the flowers out in the gardens. So today, we're going to get up close and personal with the winners of the garden beds.

Black-Eyed Susans
First up is that wild thing with that devil-may-care attitude - the Black Eyed Susan. Located in the wilds of the field, this group of flowers sprouted after the mid-summer field cutting giving us some unexpected yet welcome color to the field.

Petunias
Next are the Petunias. The baskets I planted in the front have withered and died but the Petunias I planted in pots behind the house (where nobody by we can see them) are doing wonderfully. These are my particular favorites of the multi-colored blossoms. I love the dark pink veins.

Tall Phlox
Never known to disappoint, the tall Phlox are doing particularly well this year. The white has given some blooms with a hint of pink and they are particularly lovely after a light rain shower.

Queen Anne's Lace
Another wild child of the field, the Queen Anne's Lace is popping up all over the place. The clusters of delicate white flowers make our large expanse of 'nothing' very pretty.

Snap Dragons
Back in the beds, the Snap Dragons are caged up and blooming profusely. All of them have come out this nice magenta color with yellow highlights. I will definitely be planting more of these in the future.

Wild Flower
Still in the beds, this wildflower has many brothers and sisters filling the bed with a warm, golden glow.

Wild Flower
These particular wild flowers have certainly brightened up the beds.

Zinnia - minus a few petals
Although something ate most of my Zinnia sprouts, one actually survived and gave me several flowers. This was the first and although it's damaged, it's still pretty.

Grasshopper
And lastly, here's a close-up of a garden visitor who was kind enough to sit still for several minutes, allowing me to have a nice photo shoot before he hopped away into my Petunia pot.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Celebrity Rose #8 :: Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of rock group Queen, had one of the most amazing voices to hit the airwaves. Whether singing about his impending death or about the love for his cat, he always gave it his all.


From the 'A Friend of Queen' website:

The Freddie Mercury Rose was propagated in 1993 by Battersby Roses and registered with the International Registration Authority For Roses in the USA, The naming of the Rose was decided on Fan club members who donated to the fund in order to raise the £2,000 needed to name and register it. The money was quickly raised and the first bushes were made available early 1994. The rose is yellow with a pink tint and was chosen as Freddie's favorite roses were yellow.

The first Freddie Mercury Roses were sent to Freddie's mum, his sister Kashmira, Mary Austin, Roger, Brian, John and other people that were close to Freddie. Since then a limited batch have been propagated every year and have been made available at Queen conventions or through Battersby Roses themselves with a donation of each sale going to the Mercury Phoenix Trust. 

This rose reminds me of the Peace rose I used to have. I might have to try this one.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Celebrity Rose #7 :: Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor is one of the best known movie stars ever to grace the big screen. Not only was she absolutely gorgeous, she had an abundance of talent and a generous heart.

The Elizabeth Taylor Rose

From Growquest
Like its namesake, this rose is a show stopper. The color is shocking deep pink with smoky edges. The tall buds open to lovely high centered roses that are long lasting. The plants grow to medium height and slightly spreading, producing long stems for the flowers. Elizabeth Taylor is one of the finest of all pink roses. Slight spice fragrance. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Funk

I am in a funk. This is not unusual for me but this year it's the worst that I can remember in a long time. It's caused my 'scrap it all' thinking to arrive about a month early.

It happens every year. As the seasons change from Summer to Fall I start itching to put the garden away, to just be done with it. The things that didn't do as well as I hoped just irk me and I don't want to look at them anymore. The things that are doing better than I ever imagined just irk me and I don't want to look at them anymore.

I just find the whole thing irksome.

I found myself pre-planning our Halloween display yesterday.

And I still haven't figured out my garden plans. It's obvious that the Hydrangea has to move. Even when it receives enough water the sun is just too much for it. When I planted it I didn't know it was a shade lover and it gets a full 6 hours of sun every day and it just doesn't like it.

And then there's the scraggly appearance of it all. The only garden passersby see is the front garden and that's the one that always looks scruffy, like my childhood dog. I want it to be full - and this year it looks its fullest ever - but I still have yet to achieve that look.

Hopefully I'll cheer up soon. I would hate to find myself ripping up flowers mid-August simply out of frustration.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Celebrity Rose #6 :: Dale Chihuly

The Dale Chihuly Rose
I love glass. I think it has to do with the fact that when I was young my family went to the closest theme park - Silver Dollar City - several times every summer. Silver Dollar City's 'theme' is the time period of the late 1800's and one of the main exhibits was the glass blowing and cutting center.

I loved watching the artists create art from glass and the attached gift shop was full of their work.

Dale Chihuly is an amazing glass artist and I encourage you to check out his website for some examples, especially his gardens of glass. His work is amazing.

Rose description from Growquest:

In naming a rose to honor America’s famous glass artisan, Dale Chihuly, it had to have impeccable style and an ever-changing array of flashy colors. This rose has it all! As the sun hits the opening petals, they blush from subtly-striped apricot yellow to dazzling orange and deep red...producing a remarkable display against the deep dark green leaves and mahogany-red new growth.



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Flowers are Flowering!

I'm still a relatively new gardener - I've only been doing this for 6 years. My weakest areas have always been my flower gardens. I've never tested my soil, I'm not very good at remembering to fertilize and my layout skills are just terrible.

I am learning, however, and this year has turned out to be my best years for flowers yet. They still look like an unorganized, jumbled mess - but at least they're growing!

Front Garden, South Side
One way I have found to fill in spaces is to throw in some wildflower seeds. Sometimes they take, sometimes they don't. This year, they took and I got some interesting flowers out of the bunch.

A pretty purple flower surrounded by Clarkia

Clarkia, Bachelor Buttons and a bright Orange flower

I have no idea, but it's pretty
And then there are some plants that I planted years ago and just won't die, no matter how damaged they become.

This Clematis was planted three years ago. It comes back every year, but it never gets very tall and usually breaks off at the bottom before it gets very far along. Last year I got a flower but bugs at the petals as soon as it bloomed.

This year, it grew like gangbusters and this past week it gave me a ton of flowers. No, I still haven't made a trellis for it - I honestly didn't expect it to do this - so right now it's weaving its way through the Iris leaves, which I think is quite pretty.
Clematis Vine

Clematis Close-up
The one flower that has never let me down is the Tall Phlox by the garage. Maybe it does so well because it wasn't me who planted it. Hah!
Magenta Phlox
The Magenta always blooms first, shortly followed by the white/pink.

I just love how the buds are tight little spirals before they open.
White Phlox Buds