March 18: lots of transplants, ripped out mint and bee balm

I was supposed to sow seeds today. In order to do that, I needed to move a bunch of plants to open up the spots where the seeds would go. After nearly 6 hours of ripping out mint, digging holes, unearthing plants, hauling them up hills, reburying them, and watering them in, I am pooped. And I didn’t start any seeds.

Here’s what I did do. Everything is still dormant, so I’m hopeful they’ll get established in their new spots and continue growing unstunted:

  • Sprayed weeds and grass that didn’t get killed the first go round.
  • Ripped out the mint under the stairs — two wheelbarrows full! I’m shocked by how much it spread. It was like an infestation.
  • Moved pink hydrangea spot vacated by mint.
  • Scooted white hydrangea closer to driveway.
  • Divided yarrow: moved one division next to white hydrangea, moved one to bed 9 out back, moved a small offshoot next to bee balm on side of house.
  • Moved 2 milkweeds (and a 3rd tiny one?) to bed 3 out back.
  • Moved 3 echinacea to bed 3 out back.
  • Moved 3 clumps of bee balm to bed 9.
  • Ripped out the remaining bee balm from front bed.
  • Moved 4 baby echinacea to fenced veggie patch so they can be protected from bunnies while they get a little bigger.
  • Moved 3 rudbeckia from herb bed out front to bed at top of hill out back.
  • Planted 5 liatris corms in butterfuly bush bed.
  • Moved Shasta daisy to it’s correct place in the butterfly bush bed.

I’ve got a to-do list at least as long as the one above to get to before I can actually plant the seeds. I’m bummed I couldn’t get more done today since we’re about to have 2 days of rain (and possibly sleet and snow). I guess we’ll have more rain in April, so everything can get watered in then. And this week I’ll try to chip away at my list :-).

Feb 24: tester transplants and outdoor seeds

Spring is near! It’s been in the 70s most of this week, and today, before a few days of rain set in, I did the following:


  • Transplanted 5 mums from out front to out back
  • Moved bottlebrush
  • Transplanted the only rosemary that still looks alive to out back by the birdfeeder. I’ll be surprised if this survives> I think I brok off some of its taproot, and the hole I dug for it wasn’t deep enough for its root. The shovel kept hitting gravel, making it difficult to dig any deeper. It also had very little root system, and no dirt clung to its roots when I moved it.
  • Transplanted a rue to the hill. Even after cutting it back, the rue was massive — probably a 2′ diameter disc of soil and roots
  • Consolidated 5 scattered creeping phloxes into a clump next to taller phlox out front.


Last night I scraped each blue bonnet seed across an emery board to rough up the surface, then soaked the seeds in boiling water over night. After moving the mums and rue out of the way where I wanted to plant the blue bonnets, I smoothed the dirt as much as possible and drew a pattern in the soil for where I wanted to plant each seed type.

blue bonnet bed at sowing time annotated
Bluebonnet bed out front

I sowed chamomile, feverfew, and blue bonnet seeds and sprayed them in. Coreopsis seeds need to be sowed when it’s warmer. I can expect the seeds to sprout anywhere from 10-25 days from now, depending on the weather. It may take longer, but I think now that they’re out there they can make their choice about when to emerge.

Colder weather is coming — it will still be warm during the day but will drop below freezing at night, so we’ll see how everything does. Here are some photos of what the garden looks like in late February:

And planning diagrams/seed packet instructions:


Divide and transplant: October gardening

I went outside to pull a couple of weeds this morning and wound up in the garden until dark, cutting back milkweed and blackened echincea. The autumn debris pickup is this week, so I’m trying to get all finished-for-the-season stuff out to the curb.

I also cleaned up the herb garden. It was all wrong. There was no harmony of height, shape, or color, and I couldn’t handle the chaos anymore. Low herbs like the silver mound Artemisia and the lemon thyme had spread such that greenery ringed the old woody stems at the center like a donut: the plants were bare in the middle. The spacing of the plants within the bed was off as well, with random dense clumpings adjacent to bare swaths of dirt due to plant losses during the year (catnip, rosemary).

I ripped out all the creeping thyme — it was unattractive and taking up valuable real estate — then didn’t stop pulling things out of the ground until I’d moved every plant in the bed except the roses.

herb garden after replanting 2881
Reorganized herb bed. I hope everything survives. Or at least most of it does.
  • Moved goldenrod from herb bed to back of the big bed next to the other goldenrod, behind the bee balm.
  • Divided the two giant clumps of lemon thyme into four clumps each; spaced the new smaller clumps along the border by the driveway. Also put one down by the street and one in the mailbox bed.
  • Divided the silver mound Artemisia in four; place three around the edge of the mailbox bed, and one by the street in the herb garden. The mailbox placement is likely wrong. I’ll need to adjust next year if they survive.
  • Moved the baby rue cuttings to the back, by the lawn and between the three rose bushes.
  • Divided the marjoram in four; placed two alternating between thymes by driveway, placed one by redbud (ripped out lemonbalm — it was the wrong height for that space), and moved one down by the street.
  • Moved penstamon from street to house edge of herb bed so we can see it from the window
  • Moved all three lavenders: they were taller than the rose behind them, and their spacing was weird. Moved one to the back of the herb bed next to the black-eyed susans, moved one to the center of the fat part of the herb bed, and moved one over by my chair in the other bed (the guara I transplanted next to my chair died).
  • Moved the little yellow tickseeds to the edge of the herb bed, by the driveway and spaced between the roses.
  • Cut a couple of clumps off of the lemon balm and moved them over to the back of the big bed; ripped out the mums that were there and replaced them with the lemon balm.
  • Moved a Russian sage from down by the street to between the two roses closest to the house; this looks like it may not have survived the transplant.
  • Planted a rosemary between the two roses closest to the house.

herb garden above view 2884
Another view of the tidied herb garden. I wish we had mulch 
Everything has room to grow. They won’t fill in their allotted space next year, but maybe the year after that.

Now I need to study my gardening books to see when I’m supposed to prune the roses and other shrubs.

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