May 17: fertilized, sowed seeds, and got a new bird bath

The weather this weekend was glorious, and I celebrated in the garden. I hate fertilizing, so I did that first to get it out of the way. Then I played with plants. I divided black eyed Susans that were encroaching on other plants, and I moved the divided clumps to the back bed where they can spread as much as they want. I sowed zinnia, cosmos, and blanketflower seeds, and I finished filling our raised bed. When I was finished with all of that, I tied on a handmade mask my friend Pam made, drove over to our local nursery during a time of day I thought it wouldn’t be crowded, and picked out a new bird bath.

I’m happy for winter to be over.

Front yard

Front bed with new bird bath

Back yard

The back bed starting to grow; I sowed seeds on the far right. It’s shaded in the morning, but hopefully gets enough afternoon sun for the full-sun seeds I sowed. The tree inside our yard, to the right of my chair, is the tree in the closeup below.
This tree was in our back yard when we moved in and has grown quickly. I think it might be a black cherry. The flowers smell sweet like candy. It is heavenly to sit under and inhale deeply.
They’re hard to see, but this is supposed to be a photo of goldfinches at the feeder. One is perched on the strap holding the feeder.
Our raised bed! I put four tomatoes and an habañero plant in today, plus some green onions I’ve been keeping in a glass of water to encourage roots. We’ll see if they do anything next year.

April 28: plants by mail

I’ve wanted a passionflower the past two years, but I always manage to miss the very brief window our garden center has them, if they get any in at all. I also wanted a couple more perennial milkweeds, specifically in orange, which is also always a crapshoot.

With the pandemic raging, and our local nursery not knowing what they’ll get or when, and because we’re sheltering in place, I decided to try ordering plants by mail. I wasn’t sure where to begin because I’ve never ordered plants by mail, and I really didn’t know what I should look for in a seller (or how to find a reputable one). Some Google searches turned up a few options, and I was able to find both passionflower and milkweed at Burpee online. I ordered in early April, and they said the plants would be ready to send April 27.

I had no idea in what condition they would arrive. This was all new to me! They arrived in a cardboard box. They were potted in soil and had a sophisticated cardboard contraption to hold the pots in place. The box was stamped with arrows indicating THIS SIDE UP, but of course the soil was spilled all over the place in the box.

Plants by mail
A peek inside the box — how do I get the plants out?

It was damp inside the box, and the plants looked like they’d been through the ringer, but they were intact and green. They were very small given how much they cost. I’d have been able to get plants 3 times that size at the nursery for half the price, but as I mentioned, that would have been dependent on the nursery actually having them. And also, pandemic.

Liberating the plants without injuring them
The pots underneath the pot holder

I had to destroy the box to get them out (I couldn’t figure out how to get the cup-holder like contraption out without tearing off the sides of the box), but the plants were alive, with leaves attached to stems and stems attached to roots.

Plants by mail freed from the box!
Passionflower (1) and Milkweed (2) plant tags

I put them straight into the ground and watered them in. I have my fingers crossed the rabbits don’t eat these. If they do, I’ll put up fencing.

One transplanted milkweed (foreground) and two milkweed by mail (middle and flagged)
Passionflower by mail

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.

February 16: cutting back, mowing leaves, and compost

I’ve got my gardening vacation on the calendar — first week in April — but there’s so much to do, I don’t think I can get it all done in one week.

It was sunny and 50 degrees today, so I started early with the cutting back and the turning compost and the getting ready for spring.

In fall, Brian raked and then spread the leaves at the top of the hill. I mowed them today to shred them for the compost pile and to spread on the hill to help prevent erosion.
I made compost! The pile on the right is ready to go. The pile on the left is my working pile. It should be ready in about a year.
The bulbs our mail carrier gave me two years ago (she’s also a gardener) have finally made flowers! The first flowers of the 2020.

Sep 7: State of the Garden, plus new goldenrod and mums

I wanted to spruce up the garden since many of the summer flowers are starting to fade.

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New goldenrod and mature red mums

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Little bluestem grass and Mexican feathergrass

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New mums and goldenrod

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Monarch caterpillar

New goldenrod

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Swallowtail caterpillars on rue

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Monarch caterpillar with aphids and milkweed seeds

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Left and middle back beds

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Right back bed

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Front bed

Aug 17: cleaning out spent flowers

August deadheading

It’s been hot and dry here for weeks. Since I put in mostly natives and drought-tolerant plants, I haven’t watered. That’s been fine for a lot of the flowers out in the garden, but not all of them. The New England asters didn’t make it, and the black-eyed Susans started browning before their time. Now I know.

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Big brown blob of dead asters in front of the switchgrass

I went straight out into the garden this morning to get to work before the sun got too high. It took about four hours to snip the brown flowers off the indigo salvia, black-eyed Susans, white coneflowers, roses, butterfly bush, zinnias, shasta daisies, and echinacea. I stopped a lot to take pictures of butterflies.

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Painted Lady on Miss Ruby butterfly bush

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Monarch on zinnia

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Swallowtail on zinnia

Blanketflower (Gaillardia)


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Back bed before I ripped out the marigolds

I decided I hated the tall marigolds I planted from seed, so I ripped those out. Which meant, of course, that I had to replace them. One of my favorite things to watch in the garden is goldfinches bobbing on Echinacea cones in the fall, so I bought more Echinacea to replace the marigolds. I waited until the sun was low in the evening to put them in the ground to hopefully minimize the stress of planting them. I’ll need to remember to water them a lot over the next few days since there is still no rain in the forecast. The ground was rock and dust when I dug in. There was no moisture anywhere.

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New Echinacea plants (Echinacea p. ‘Magnus’)

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Echinacea and wind dancer grass (Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’)

Now I want to move a bunch of stuff around, but I know I need to wait. I don’t want to kill everything moving it around in this heat. Plus, the caterpillars are on their way, and I don’t want to mess up their ability to eat and pupate.

July 6: Garden in Photos

I haven’t seen any caterpillars or big butterflies in a few days (or weeks?). The flowers are pretty though.

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Morning shastas

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Yellow zinnia and forget-me-nots

Volunteer cleome and echinacea

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New Sombrero Adobe Orange Coneflower

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Butterfly watch from the hammock

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Flight of the bumblebee 🐝

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The Joe Pye weed is blushing

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I love this Mexican feather grass so much


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My little prairie

Echinacea is starting to come into bloom

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Lots going on out back; still needs to fill in

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Late afternoon out front

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Out front

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.

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First monarch caterpillar! On butterfly weed.

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Great spangled fritillary on scabiosa

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Look how fuzzy!

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Feverfew blossoms

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Cornflower bud

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Sunflower bud from a volunteer

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White coneflower, nepeta, and yarrow

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

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

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Front bed filling in