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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
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.

 

June 3: front bed do-over. Thanks deer. Also, ornamental grasses 😍.

Deer munched all my New England asters and the blue wheat I was growing in the bed in front of our house. It’s the most important bed, being the one that leads up to our front door.

This weekend I bought a bunch of stuff to re-do it. I moved the asters into the middle of the bed, behind a barrier of lavender and nepeta (catmint), which I hear deer don’t like the smell of. I’m sure they’ll just step all over everything and eat the asters anyway, so I took some photos in case this is the one day it looks okay. Although, if it survives our neighborhood herd of deer, it will look much better when everything fills in.

sunflowers and cone flowers_0017
New plants in front, including Switchgrass, sunflower,white coneflower, Russian sage, lavender, catmint

I’ve also gone crazy for ornamental grasses this year. Look how pretty!

mexican grass
Mexican feather grass in late afternoon sun
blue grama grass
Flowers of blue grama grass

On Saturday, while our daughter was at swim practice, I went to Lowe’s to find the Eragrostis elliotti ‘Wind Dancer Lovegrass’ that I had seen last weekend, before my June garden budget was funded. At the time it was still May, and I saw these gorgeous, graceful grasses shoved on the bottom shelf of a rolling rack. They looked like they were waiting to be put out on the ornamental grasses display. I had never seen them or heard of them before, and a quick search told me not only are they not invasive, they’re native. I took pictures of the tags so I could come back for them on June 1.

When I went to Lowe’s on Saturday, the rack was gone, and the grasses were not on display. My heart fell because these grasses were exactly what I wanted. They’d go in a windy spot, and they’d dance in the breeze that is constantly blowing. I walked every aisle three times before I gave up.

Since I had nothing to purchase, I checked the discount rack — all the plants they forgot to water or that look too imperfect to get full price for. And on the $5 rack, there were my grasses! At full price I would have only been able to buy two.

I bought four.

lollipop vervain and grass
Wind Dancer grass behind lollipop vervain

I sit on the back deck now and watch them wave in the wind. Hopefully I can save them from the near death they were experiencing at Lowes in their too-small pots.

I’m really happy with how the back hill is coming along.

May 23: planted a few things

After two years of unsuccessfully growing cleome from seed, I found some cleome annuals at the nursery! I also planted:

  • 1 superbena Royale Chambray verbena (back hill)
  • 1 white guara ‘Whirling butterflies’ (back hill)
  • 2 lemonade lantana (back hill)
  • 2 dwarf agastache (back hill)
  • 2 Jr. Walker cat mints (rose bed)
  • 4 jalepeños
  • 1 Giant Thai pepper
  • 1 Habañero pepper
  • 1 Mariachi pepper