March 21: back hill is ready for mulch

My garden vacation begins in less than a week. On Friday we will have two trucks of mulch delivered. Today was gorgeous: blue sky, sunshine, and enough warmth that I could garden and turn the compost.

I finally cut back the remaining ornamental grasses and perennials today. I moved a bunch of stuff around — echinacea, sedums, rue, little bluestem grasses, bee balm — and planted about 20 liatris bulbs. I moved stuff around to group them better. The middle bed is predominantly echinacea and sedum now, it’s going to be so pretty in late summer.

I sat in the sun with a cup of coffee and my journal after I watered the compost. As I sat under white puffy clouds in a blue sky, sun warm on my skin and air fresh in my nose, it was hard to believe a pandemic is raging. It is a beautiful day. I sipped my coffee and listened to a lawnmower buzz, a woodpecker chock-chock-chock, neighbor voices carry on the air, and birds too-whit too-whit and twee-twee-twee-twee-twee.

Other than some seeds I’ll sow later, the back bed is ready for mulch. I’ve got a lot to do out front: cut back the grasses and perennials, prune the rose bushes, figure out how I want to arrange everything. I hope I can all get it done on my garden vacation! I can’t wait to put all that mulch down, and see the garden transform into a rich, thriving space. I can’t wait to watch the garden grow.

June 9: Garden in photos

I saw a hummingbird in the garden today, the first of the season. It’s been raining for days. We got 2.5 inches Friday, then another half inch yesterday. During a break in the rain today, I saw a great spangled fritillary flitting around and drinking from all the purple flowers: the dwarf agastache, scabiosa, and lollipop vervain. It was my first chance in a few days to get out in the garden, so I took my camera with me.

monarch caterpillar june 9_0002
First monarch caterpillar! On butterfly weed.

spangled frittelary side scabiosa June 9_0044
Great spangled fritillary on scabiosa

great spangled frittelary June 9_0055
Look how fuzzy!

feverfew June 9_0006
Feverfew blossoms

cornflower bud June 9_0014
Cornflower bud

hydrangea june 9_0034

sunflower bud June 9_0038
Sunflower bud from a volunteer

white coneflower front June 9_0020
White coneflower, nepeta, and yarrow

front lobe June 9_0016
Blanket flowers, blue grama grass, white speedwell, dwarf agastache, yarrow, a butterfly bush that will soon bloom, and a bunch of other stuff

agastache and liatris June 9_0015
Agastache (foreground) and liatris about to bloom (behind the agastache)

front bed June 9 0018
Front bed filling in

May 16: Garden in photos

The roses, penstemon, perennial salvias, and yarrows are in bloom. Zinnia seeds are in the ground, echinacea buds are forming, and the summer bloomers are starting to get full in their foliage.

I always love photographing the yarrow and salvia in May when they’re fresh and peaking. This time of year makes me want to fill the garden with them, though by summer’s end, I’m always glad I haven’t. It’s nice to have the bright zinnias and black-eyed Susans to fill in the space at their peak when the indigo salvia and yarrow are past their prime.

But for now, they sure are pretty.


yarrow salvia birdbath 30
Yarrow and (indigo?) salvia

More yarrow 😀

white zinnias34
I couldn’t resist these little zinnias at the nursery

front under dogwood72
My perch under the dogwood tree

front beds75
Front flower beds mid-May

mailbox salvia20
Hope the muhly grass comes back


blue fescue grass in bloom55
Blue fescue grass in bloom

chamomile in bloom59


Garden update in photos: May 5

I posted this on my main blog but want to keep a record of the garden’s progress here as well.

Butterfly Mind

My fiddling in the flower beds is never done. These past two days, though, rain has forced me indoors to watch the garden instead of work in it. I went out today between showers to get some photos.

rain guage and salvia31 Rain gauge, salvia, and lambs ears

bird bath indigo salvia chair23 The rain brought down the Dogwood petals

yarrow and rain boot06 The yarrow is beginning to yellow (barely)

chamomile flowers34 Chamomile volunteers from last year’s plants

sensation rose salvia09 A new salvia in the garden: rose sensation

scabiosa bud36 Scabiosa bud

purple tulip and indigo salvia13 Tulips and salvia

lilac02 Lilac in bloom with water droplets


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Buds and blooms at the end of gardening vacation

I published this on my main site and want to make sure to keep it here on my gardening blog as well since I use this site as my way to quickly review my gardening log.

Butterfly Mind

I spent last week’s daylight hours almost exclusively outside. I drank my morning coffee indoors, then put on my gardening gloves and hat and spent the days digging, carting, planting, and shoveling. I calculated on my gardening blog that I spread more than 2 tons of mulch in about 3 days. I was exhausted by the end of the week, but now everything is so pretty I can’t help but just stand at the windows (it’s raining) and admire all the plants that are about to burst into bloom. I ventured out into the drizzle today to capture these early buds and blossoms.

01 tulip These tulips will open any second now.

08 redbud tree Redbud 😍

10 lilac bud The lilac will smell delicious when these blossoms open

13 dogwood blossom The dogwood remains a favorite. I take this same photo every year 😛

03 redbud branches with sky The redbud is thick with fuscia buds this year

34 front lobe from side of house Our dogwood and a front bed before…

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April 10: Two tons of mulch spread. And I got a spicebush!

Everything hurts. My hands are blistered and cramped, as are my feet. My forearms could use a massage, and my whole body feels like it’s vibrating after two 8-hour days of shoveling, carting, dumping, and spreading mulch. But the front and back beds are done! All that’s left are a couple of small beds on the side of the house. I’m too pooped to do them today. Tomorrow.

Out of curiosity yesterday, I wondered if it were possible that I had moved a ton of mulch. I googled “how much does a cubic yard of mulch weigh” and got an estimate of 400-800 pounds depending on whether the mulch is wet. We bought 12 cubic yards in two dumptruck loads, and I’ve probably moved 10 yards in the past two days, so 4000 lbs. The mulch got drenched by heavy rain after it was delivered, so it was wet and on the heavier side, but I never know how much to trust the googles, so I’m just going to go really conservative and say it’s safe to say that yes, I moved a ton of mulch per day.

Everything looks so pretty 😍.

And nearly as exciting as the mulch? After three years of searching for a spicebush, I saw one at Crow’s Nest, my local nursery this week. By Monday, I had already been to the nursery nearly every day since I returned from my trip to Belgrade. When I plopped my plants on the counter at the cash register, the woman who always rings me up saw me, laughed, and said, “Maybe you should get a job here!” I told her I’d probably see her tomorrow, thinking “I won’t see her tomorrow, I’ve gotten everything I need.”

The shortest path to my car was through the shrub section, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the tiny yellow flowers of Lindera benzoin, the spicebush: host plant of the spicebush swallowtail and native shrub to our region. I didn’t buy it Monday but did go back on Tuesday, and was embarrassed to be there again for the fourth time in five days.

But now I have a spicebush! I’ve never seen one at the nursery before, and even asked about them the first year I was planning the garden. I thought I’d just not be able to get one and I gave up. And now I’ve got one! I’m so happy 🙂

Spicebush, Lindera benzoin

April 8: the mulch has arrived. Good thing I took a whole week off.

Every year I forget to fertilize until after I spread mulch, and then I have to move the mulch out of the way around every single plant, sprinkle fertilizer, then cover it back again. At this point we probably have 100 plants, and the thought of fertilizing that way makes me want to cry.

This year I did not repeat that mistake. I spent this morning fertilizing all the beds, and I was just putting the bag away when the first load of mulch arrived. I also edged the back bed, divided the hostas, planted a vervain, and stopped to admire our rhodedendrons and the violets that pop up out back every spring.

Once the mulch arrived, I procrastinated by eating a snack. It’s a lot of mulch.

load 1 mulch from porch
Lots of mulch

After spreading 10 wheelbarrows full, it doesn’t look like I’ve done a thing.

after 10 barrows full removed
After spreading 10 wheelbarrows full. I’ve got a long way to go.

Good thing I’m taking the whole week off to do this 😬.

April 6: Gardening vacation day one — Prairie plantings

I returned from a work trip to Belgrade, Serbia on Friday. Spring had arrived there — with pears, cherries, and tulips in bloom — and I could not wait to get home after a successful conference to take a week off for my annual gardening vacation.

Today was warm and sunny, and I drove to the nursery with the car windows open. Katy Perry came on the radio and I turned it up and roared Roar. I was one of those people that make me happy when I see them, singing full-throated like a pop star on a stage when really they’re all alone in their car.

I worked on the bed below the front door, moving a yarrow and the Little Bluestem grasses I grew from seed. I loved the bed in the summer, but in winter it was pretty bleak. I’m grouping the grasses in hopes that their dry golden blades will become more attractive when clumped as a focal point and covered in frost.

Stuff I added:

  • 3 Prairie Dropseed Sporobulus heterolepsis
  • 2 Calamint ‘Marvelette Blue’ (Calamintha nepeta ‘Marvelette Blue’)
  • 1 Ornamental Onion (Allium ‘Millenium’)
  • 1 Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata ‘Snowflake’)

Stuff that was already there:

  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’)
  • Catmint (Nepeta x.f. ‘Walker’s Love’)
  • 3 Russian Sage ‘Crazy Blue’
  • 2 Yarrow ‘Moonshine’
  • 2 PowWow white coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘PAS702918’)
  • 4 Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  • 2 Blackeyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

front bed after plantings
Front bed, early April

The beds still look pretty awful, since nothing is growing and I haven’t mulched yet. So I got my spring greenery fix by refreshing our flower boxes.

flower box bright
Flower box

Monday the mulch arrives. Tomorrow I’ll try to finish weeding and fertilize so I can get that done in time to begin a week of spreading mulch.