Mar 31: the gardening has begun!


Today is the first day of my annual gardening vacation! It was chilly this morning, so I bided my time writing and waiting for the nursery to open. I showed up promptly at 9am. I was the first customer there.

Today was a day to buy supplies — dirt, flower box liners, fertilizer — which meant a trip to the nursery. Which, of course, meant I’d come home with a car full of plants.

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I bought plants. #gardening #vacation

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I was excited to see a bunch of perennials from my list already available at my local nursery, the Crow’s Nest, and especially a Miss Ruby butterfly bush: the magenta butterfly magnet that’s to be the centerpiece of the flower bed by my garden chair. My purchases on Day One included:

  • pansies for the flower boxes
  • Miss Ruby butterfly bush
  • white veronica
  • pink veronica
  • Russian sage
flower box pansies kale (1)
First order of business: flower boxes

After adding new coconut liners to the flower boxes, replacing the soil, and filling them with fresh pansies and purple kale, I spent all day today moving plants around. In order to plant the front beds according to my plans, I needed to clear all of the current plants out. I moved the lilac from the front bed to the herb bed. I moved sedums, salvias, milkweed, and Echinacea from the front bed to the back.

Digging holes on the hill is back-breaking work. Under the dead grass is gravel and rock, and shoveling through gravel and on a steep slope is ugly. It’s a good thing most of these plants are drought tolerant. Still, I worry about their survival. It was a lot of work to move them. I hope they do okay.

back hill before mulch
Back hill in progress

Today was about a 6-7 hour day, and I haven’t even touched the mulch. Tomorrow I’ll finish moving plants around and start working on the herb bed.


Fall gardening: Sept 30

I still haven’t cut the milkweed back, and I’m so glad I haven’t. I just counted 10 monarch chrysalises in the garden — 3 on the rue, 6 on the stairs, 1 on the rosemary — and there’s still at least one fat caterpillar on the plants. The monarch on the stool in the garage emerged today while I was out running errands. My husband sent a video:

There’s a chrysalis under the stairs that looks like it will emerge any minute, and two of the ones on the rue look close as well.

Caterpillar party: swallowtails on rue

Monarch chrysalis on rosemary
I also counted 13 swallowtail caterpillars on the established rue. Two of my cuttings have begun growing and thriving in the herb garden, so I’m excited to have them establish fully next year.

I moved a bunch of stuff today and planted some asters as well:

  • Moved three black eyed Susans  to the herb garden; ripped out the catnip.
  • Moved some of the zinnias to where the black eyed Susans had been. The zinnias were to tall and were getting leggy.
  • Where the zinnias had been, Planted 3 New England Asters and 2 cornflower blue asters that look like mums: Peter III Blue asters from YoderMums.
  • Moved the white pentas behind the asters, and the firecracker flowers behind those.
  • This opened up space by my chair, and I moved the guara next to my chair because it was hidden in the milkweed and I could never see it.
  • Planted cabbages and pansies in the flower boxes.

Fall flower box
Now I can see the rest of the garden from my chair again. The zinnias were gorgeous in their prime but they got way bigger than I expected and started blocking my view. I couldn’t see the birdbath, the lantana, the Shasta daisies, the gomphrena, or the bee balm.

Garden at end of September, with new purple asters

Garden after moving the zinnias and planting asters
It took me all day to plant everything and now it’s too late to sit in my chair and enjoy it. I hope the butterflies will still come. And I don’t know if the hummingbirds are still around, but I hope so. They’ll really like the guara.

September 30 garden

August 4: flower boxes are surviving

By August, our flower boxes are usually brown and desicated. Somewhere along the way we had forgotten to water, and in summer sun and heat, it doesn’t take long without hydration for the plants in these tiny boxes to shrivel and die.

This year I lined the coconut liners with plastic and I water them every day. And, what do you know, it worked! I put these plants in the boxes on July 2, and here they are a month later, still alive. It’s amazing what the basic necessities of life will do.

In other news, the rue cuttings I started on May 19, and put in the ground sometime in early July (maybe the same day I planted the flower boxes), have new growth! Only one of the cuttings actually had baby roots when I transplanted them into the earth, but now two of the cuttings have survived, put energy into their roots, and are finally starting to make new leaves as well.

I also planted a phlox — Phlox paniculata ‘Younique Old Pink’ — after the kids and my husband came home from a hike a few weeks ago and my son said, “Mom! Do you have any phlox in the garden? We saw some on our hike and it was _covered_ in butterflies.”

Of course I had to have some.

I’ve been on a hunt ever since. It was in every nursery in the spring, but late July and August are not really gardening season, so none of my regular suppliers had any. I found some at Lowe’s today and grabbed one. I planted it next to my chair, under our bedroom window. It is quite fragrant, and I can’t wait until we can open the windows again and smell it from inside.

Everything is in bloom, and I love it. I spent much of my day off today in the garden, watching butterflies and enjoying the summer abundance. I need to get out my real camera to capture some of this beauty so I can keep it for winter.

April 29: flower boxes


  • 2 coconut liners at $3.99 each
  • 2 4-packs of purple pirouette petunias (grandiflora double) at $1.70 per 4-pack
  • 2 4-packs of white alyssum at $1.70 per 4-pack
  • 2 vinca majors at $1.75 each
  • 1 bag top soil at $3.99

Already had:

  • Potting soil
  • Oregano (or marjoram?) — dug up some that had spread

The coco liners were too tall for the containers, so I trimmed the liners until they were flush with the top edge of the metal basket. I lined each coco basket with the bottom of a white plastic tall kitchen garbage bag and cut snips for water to escape. 

I filled the plastic lined coco basket with a mixture of top soil and potting soil, then planted the plants. I watered in with two pitchers of fresh, cold water. It’s 90 today and sunny.

September gardening

cabbages and pansies for boxes
Cabbages and pansies for garden boxes
We thought we were going to wait till spring to start any gardening, but none of us could stand waiting.

I’ve been poring over gardening books, planning the spring beds. Our house looked sad and bare, though, after we ripped out the previous owner’s shrubbery. So we decided, we can at least put in some evergreens for winter, right?

Hick's yew with berry
Hick’s Yew (Taxus x media “Hicksii”)
holly in the garden
Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata “Helleri”)
With our freshly painted porch and door, we thought it might be nice to add some garden boxes too.

window boxes on porch rail
Fresh paint and garden boxes
We’ve never had garden boxes before. They are my new favorite thing about our house. Besides the turquoise front door. And the oak floors. And the kittens.

flowering kale cabbage
Pansies and flowering kale
We wanted something alive at our house when winter comes, and the man at the garden shop said pansies and cabbages would be great for garden boxes. The only real gardening I’ve done was in Florida, and I know nothing about winter plants. I am trusting blindly. Even if they don’t last through winter, though, they look awfully pretty now :-).

porch rail garden box
Garden box on the front porch rail