Category Archives: Plants

A Goodbye to a Much Loved Garden

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When you have to move and have to relinquish a garden that you have nurtured for twenty eight years, every moment you have left becomes precious.  As spring approaches, I spend as much time as possible walking the grounds and basking in the memories of each small vignette:  The twenty eight foot Weeping Spruce growing in the secret garden that my son brought home one day from school after an Earth day program his kindergarten year. He proudly presented it to me in a small paper cup. The Beautiful Cherry that dear friends gave us in a gallon pot when our daughter was born. The Hostas I dug up and transplanted from my first house.  The stand of Brunnera a girlfriend shared from her own garden and the different varieties of Pulmonaria I collected through the years now in glorious bloom, just as I am getting ready to leave. As gardeners, we all know that a gift of a plant will always have meaningful memories attached to it and long lasting  life. As such, I walk away with an ache in my heart but with the realization that the plants will endure and hopefully will give joy for many years to come.

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My wish is that the new lucky owners of this piece of land, home to nesting birds that return from migration to this patch year after year, home also to the bunnies who eat non stop and the deer who make their morning and evening rounds,  home to frogs and garter snakes that keep pests in check and the woodchucks who eat the dandelion flowers as they are fresh each morning . The squirrels nesting in its trees and the chipmunks who dig tunnels in the most inconspicuous places. They all belong here more than us.  My message to these lucky new owners (as of this point, unknown) is that they can draw peace and inspiration from its beauty, bask in the shade of its mature trees and receive joy from the song of its many resident birds as we did for so many decades.

I face a new beginning in my gardening journey, moving South to zone 9 in Central Florida, fauna and flora quite different from Pennsylvania which affords me the opportunity of learning new plant families and create gardens that require less water and more sun. I will explore the rich world of Cacti and Succulents and experiment with some tropical plants and fruit trees. I am eager to explore and share my journey with you and hope you continue to join me in the adventures to come!

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

Weeding Blues

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I left my  garden during the height of the summer for a month. The weather was hot and rainy while I was gone evident by the profusion of weeds I found when I came back.  Photo is not great, but yes, there is basil under all those weeds!  At first I could not even see the plants from the weeds.  This particularly pesky weed is Prostrate Knotweed, Polygonum aviculare. An annual weed, it spreads widely and very difficult to eradicate. Just finding the root is a real challenge!It covered all my vegetable beds even in places where I had laid black weed prevention cloth.I also found abundant Crabgrass some plants as wide as a child’s swimming pool! Not exaggerating… In my perennial beds, Prostate Spurge, Euphorbia maculata, Ground Ivy, Healall, Deadnettle, Dandelion and my archenemy, Canada Thistle! Clearly, I had a lot of work ahead!

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Here, one small area after weeding.

This brings me to the purpose of this essay. WEEDING. It requires tenacity, discipline and above all, the right frame of mind. To all those who have asked, no, there are no shortcuts. I always advise against using synthetic herbicides . Besides affecting our health and that of our beloved pets, they disrupt the delicate web connecting the millions of organisms that populate our soil.  I do recommend the use of organic controls such as corn gluten which is a pre-emergent that prevents seed from germinating. A very economical -and eco friendly-  homemade herbicide mix I use: 1 Gallon vinegar, 1/4 cup of Dawn and 2 cups of epson salts. Mix in sprayer and apply.  Works quite well on hard surfaces like  brick patios and driveways, or applied directly on deep rooted weeds like dandelion. Best sprayed on a sunny day. A cover of mulch on bare areas is a good option too. Here are some more tips to make weeding more manageable:

Be consistent.  Pull them when you see them and do not let them go to seed or you will have them forever.

Get those roots. If you are doing the work, might as well get the whole plant.  Most can regenerate within weeks if some of the root is left behind.

Do one area at the time.  This has the benefit of giving you that sense of accomplishment by seeing your results without being overwhelming. You will be surprised by what you can accomplish in just one hour a day.

Plant densely. Weeds are opportunistic.  If there is available exposed soil they will be the first to populate.  So use perennial ground covers in the front of your borders to keep them out.

Make the best of it. Look at all the positive aspects:  Spending time outdoors, can be a great workout once you incorporate some stretching and moving around, music or podcasts really help, my IPod happens to be an indispensable tool when weeding. Or just tune in to the sounds of nature. I am always surprised of how much is going even in a very small garden! So, get “in the zone”and weed on…

“Many gardeners will agree that hand-weeding is not the terrible drudgery that it is often made out to be.  Some people find in it a kind of soothing monotony.  It leaves their minds free to develop the plot for their next novel or to perfect the brilliant repartee with which they should have encountered a relative’s latest example of unreasonableness.”  ~Christopher Lloyd, The Well-Tempered Garden, 1973

 

 

Who I Am and Why Am I here

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Many of us ask ourselves this question at different points in our lives. But when, I ask myself, did I become passionate about plants? And at what point did that passion morph into a love affair with Nature and the environment?

I am passionate about plants.  It started as a hobby, planting a few things here and there, keeping more and more house plants and then soon realizing that my happiest moments were outside, gardening. All this as I held a demanding full time  job in retail management.  And all of it in a span of thirty some years. So when I retired, eight years ago, I enrolled in a Master Gardeners program. I felt I wanted more, so I continued and earned a Certification in Horticulture and Landscape Design. I started my blog in April of 2009. I have posted close to ninety six blogs on all different subjects.

As to the Why I am here: The more I garden and write, the more I have come to realize that, as a gardener, I have also a duty, a responsibility to be mindful of the environment and of all the creatures that make this patch of land their home. I come across them all the time, toads and frogs, garter snakes, salamanders under rocks and a myriad of insects and birds that call my garden home.  I have come to realize that my actions in the landscape affect their survival and the future of their progeny.  It has become my mission to create a integrated pest control system in my landscape that nurtures not just the plants, but also all the creatures that are part of that habitat. It is also my duty to share all I have learned with those who are seeking the knowledge.

Patricia Davis

“We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
~Aldo Leopold

 

Misconseptions about Wildlife Corridors

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Talking with a colleague in the Landscaping and Gardening business, I was shocked to hear that she though the the term “Wildlife Corridors” meant that it was required to be planted with only native plants.  But the term refers to creating a highway of vegetation connecting garden beds or enlarging existing ones to assist small mammals, reptiles and insects to move safely though the land for the purpose of finding food, shelter and reproduce. In a sense expanding their habitats.

In the photo above, I have an example of an existing bed in my on garden. The Canadian Hemlocks planted twenty years ago and heavily shaded by many oak trees next door, have become very thin in the bottom and no longer provide the privacy screen they were originally planted to achieve.  I see this as a perfect opportunity to enlarge and add plantings for my benefit and to help biodiversity.

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Follow the guide lines in my 2009 post: creating a new planting bed. Determine the space to use, layer with newspaper to kill the grass, wet paper so it stays in place and add mulch (here I used leaf mulch created from last years leaf collection) and presto!

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New planting area ready and marked.  I will trim the hemlocks a bit in the spring so the shrubs will be outside the drip line. In this case I have chosen Aesculus parviflora or Bottlebrush Buckeye, very shade tolerant, large and just dense and tall enough to provide the needed privacy in two or three years depending on the size planted. And Yes, this is a native shrub that is also deer resistant!

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein

And the Winner is…

 

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 Melampodium divaricatum

By far, this annual is my favorite this year.  I planted it from a small plug in late June and promptly  went away for a month. Did not give it a second thought until I came back and was blown away!  A compact 24 inch tall and wide and loaded with small star shaped blooms.  This photo was taken yesterday.  It is quite a sight with spent perennials tired and colorless all around.   The thing that is impressive, is that it required no watering or fertilizers, rabbits and deer left it alone and it has bloomed all summer and still going strong.  This is a winner I must recommend, specially if you have trouble with deer eating your Rudbeckia, or Black Eye Susan.  I have read that it reseeds which I will welcome after this year’s performance!

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”
― Victor HugoLes Misérables

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invasive Plant Alert: Japanese Knotweed.

 

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If you are not familiar with this invasive plant I suggest you get acquainted. Japanese Knotweed, Fallopia japonica, also known as Polygonum cuspidatum, is not an unattractive plant, don’t you think?  But do not be fooled, this plant is one of the biggest threats to our native habitat, crowding out everything in its path and extremely difficult to eradicate. It is known to break through brick walls, concrete foundations and highways.  The plant itself, on the surface, is only five or six feet tall but its root system can be ten feet deep under ground and ten times as long.

I just read an article about how in the UK  banks will not approve mortgages if there is reason to suspect there is Japanese Knotweed in the property! Could this be our future? That, my friends, is another very good reason to get after this plant if you see it any where near your property!

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“Certain plants, like certain friends, you enjoy having for a visit but do not care to see remain forever and a day.”

Henry Sherman Adams 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Tour!

sedums

sedums

Garden tour01 Garden tour03

The Herb garden

The Herb garden

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Frog pond

Frog pond

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Vegetable garden

Vegetable garden

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Hostas

Hostas