Saturday, July 30, 2011

July Bouquet

In the confusion of the past weeks I almost forgot that I plucked a bouquet from the garden this month.  It started with the last of the peonies expiring but I didn't want to waste their beautiful leaves so I picked a few more blooms from the garden to create this.

I was amazed at what a large bouquet I was able to come up with.  Last year it was tough trying to find any flowers for bouquets but this year I can see more and more that plants are beginning to take hold.  A proper flower garden is beginning to take shape!

One last peony bloom, white astilbe and lady's mantle

Bell Flowers, Veronica and Astilbe

Pink malva set against Lady's Mantle

To see more beautiful bouquets or create your own visit Noelle at Ramblings from a Desert Garden.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thinning Apples and June Drop

I think the last time I spoke about the apple orchard was back in May.  The trees had burst into bloom for approximately two weeks and it was quite a show.  Bees were buzzing and I had a good feeling we would have a nice size harvest once again this year.  Sure enough, as quick as the blooms dropped off the trees, tiny apples began to appear.

It amazes me how quickly they form.  One minute there's a dried up blossom and the next a miniature sized fruit.  The next time you look and the fruit is the size of a golf ball.  As the apples started to grow I realized we needed to get thinning as quick as possible.  It takes no time for the apples to attain a large size and it's easier to remove them when they're small.

When I went to do some thinning I noticed a funny thing.  On the ground below the trees were dozens of tiny apples.
Do you see the tiny green globes hiding in the grass?
Why are the apples falling from the tree?  This event is a natural occurence with apple trees.  The tree in its infinite wisdom will produce copious blooms to attract pollinators and it produces much more fruit than is needed or can be supported.  This ensures that only the best fruit - and therefore seed - is produced.  The inferior excess fruits are dropped by the tree.  This typically happens in June - therefore it's called June Drop. 

Just because the tree has decided to rid itself of apples doesn't mean the work is done though.  In addition to Mother Nature we also thin our apples by hand.  We let the apple grow large enough that you can see any deformities or blemishes that indicate it won't be a good fruit.  We try not to wait too long, as the earlier you thin the apples the more energy is then directed to the remaining apples so they grow nice and big.  Late June and early July was that time for us.  We kept our eyes open for fruits that had spots, were oddly shaped, or were too small.

You can see the apple on the right is significantly smaller than it's buddy

This apple has scab as well as a spot on it.  
These fruits were removed in favour of well formed large apples.  Sometimes perfectly healthy apples were removed as well when there were large clumps growing together.  As the apples grow the fruits can rub and bump against each other causing bruising so creating some growing room is a good idea. 

Another task we accomplished at the same time was to remove some of the leaves.  If you find a nice fruit that is hiding behind a leaf it won't receive the sun to grow well and ripen.  Simply pulling off a leaf or two to expose an apple can help. 

While we attempted to complete the bulk of this work a month ago we have continued to pull less desirable apples off trees as we see them.  There are so many fruits on these big trees and it is easy to miss them the first time around.  The first of the apples will start to ripen in late August and until then we will check and re-check our trees to make sure we have a good healthy crop.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Triumphs and Tragedies

I usually reserve Triumphs and Tragedies for my weekend walk around the garden but this past week has been unusual.  I suffered a Tragedy last week when I was involved in a car accident.  Everyone involved in the accident is alive and that is a blessing.  We don't often think about how dangerous driving a vehicle can be and it's a traumatic experience, to say the least, to see your life flash before your eyes when cars collide.  There has been a lot of stress and details to take care of so I haven't been able to post as I normally would.  Another downside is that I am sore with neck and back pain right now and that is keeping me from my garden.  The half finished flower beds and weeds are taunting me.  And finally, my beloved truck Betsy Bear has had to be put to rest.  We had previously talked about exchanging Betsy for a smaller more ecomical vehicle but now we have no choice.

Betsy in better times
She has done us well, towing our trailer across country and getting us to our new home.  Carrying plants, mulch, furniture, lumber and countless other items.  I'm going to miss the old girl.  (I know I know it's just a car!  What can I say, I've been a touch emotional this week)  The good news is that a new car is now residing in our driveway.  Meet Alfie.

Jody did a glamour shoot in front of the garden.  Very pretty.
It will take some time to get used to a new (to us) vehicle and we're still working out how bikes, kayaks and other items will be carried but these are issues that can be dealt with in the future.  The last thing I feel like doing is kayaking right now!  The good news is I can tell already filling up the gas tank will be much less painful.

On a more positive note I have been lagging behind in my posting lately.  Caught in a blogging time warp there's much work that has been done that I haven't caught you up on.  So in the coming weeks while my back takes a break I'll be taking you around the yard and catching up on the work that I have done thus far and spending some time visiting all my favourite blogs.  Hope to see you all soon.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Garden Wonders

Typically on a weekend I do a Triumphs and Tragedies post but this week I found numerous little garden wonders that I felt needed to be shared with the world instead.  So take a walk with me down the driveway.  Where the driveway meets the road there is a corner filled with trees.  Spruce, poplar and maple call this spot home.  It is also Bug's corner.  Pet cemetary sounds so morbid.  Perhaps I've read too many Stephen King novels?  This week as I went by I noticed a glimpse of purple.

Do you see purple in the trees?
So I had to investigate.  And I found bell flowers.

At the foot of this poplar tree, bell flowers have taken root
Where did they come from?  There are bell flowers on this property but none near this location.  Seeds scattered on the wind?  Dropped by birds?   Who knows?  Does it matter?  They are beautiful and they are gracing a beloved's grave.  One of life's miracles.

Many may know that as I have begun creating beds on this property I have found numerous items in the soil below.  This is an old country home and years ago there was no garbage service.  I believe the garbage was simply dug into yard and as I dig my beds I find all sorts of interesting items.  A few weeks ago I dug up a spoon.  This week I found the fork.  Now I just need a knife to complete the set!

As summer marches on so do the weeds.  I haven't done any work in the back bed for some time so this week I returned and decided to get some weeding done.  To my utter surprise I found cilantro everywhere.  I planted sunflower seeds in this bed, could cilantro seeds have dropped out of my pocket while I was doing other planting?  Possibly but it seemed a long shot.  Beside the cilantro was another plant that didn't resemble a weed at all but I just wasn't sure what it could be.

I went to bed that night with cilantro in my brain and suddenly a light bulb lit up.  Tomatoes!  So I went back the next day and sure enough.  A rub on the stem verified the smell of tomato.  Surely tomato seeds didn't fall out of my pocket too?  No, they did not.  I had forgotten that I ran out of bagged store manure when digging this bed and used a wheelbarrow of homemade compost to finish.  Apparently when I tossed the old cilantro plants in the compost last fall the seeds were ripe and only needed to be spread in the garden to burst into life.  Likewise I tend to scrape seeds out of my tomatoes - I find the gooey bits extremely unappetizing - and into the compost.  Surprise!

And that in turn explains the other garden wonder.  I had abandoned the entrance bed for a time.  Tired of digging weeds.  Tired of trying to place perennials.  I turned my attention elsewhere.  And when I returned the homemade compost I used in this bed had sprung to life as well.  I'll be eating cilantro and tomatoes for months to come.  But what's this?

Oh how I laughed.  Earlier that very day Brenda @ Gardeningbren had suggested I plant squash in this bed to fill the gaps in between the newly planted perennials.  The gardening gods heard you Bren and agreed.  Could this be last years Halloween pumpkin come back to me?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Sampling

Last evening the light was just right and I ran and grabbed the camera.  Summer is fleeting but photos of summer flowers will be there to bring me some cheer in mid-winter.

Maltese cross

I thought I removed all of the bell flowers out of this bed but it seems a stray got lost amongst the spirea.

The weigela is already starting to lose it's petals.

The grasses in the meadow have started to form heads.

Also in the meadow are numerous wildflowers.

Lesser Stitchwort


And because I'm just so pleased with this tree and it's recovery from the brink of death.  A new red oak leaf.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Planting Time

After the compost fiasco I finally got around to working on the entrance bed.  All of the compost was raked across the entire bed and I started placing pots of plants in the bed trying to get an idea of where to plant.  My idea was rather than till the compost into the bed I would save the expense of a tiller and turn the compost into the soil as I dug in the plants.  This has meant that I'm digging a lot of weeds and picking up glass as I go.  It's a slow process but it is working well thus far.  The bigger question has been where to put the plants?

I started by placing pots and then moving them around
This turned out to be a much harder exercise than I had originally thought.  Who doesn't like putting new plants into a bed?  The joy and anticipation of blooms to come.  But starting from scratch in a new bed turned out to be intimidating.  The plants sat in their containers for days while I moved and pondered.  Sizes, shapes, colours, sun and shade.  There were so many details to consider and I was lost.  I had not drawn out a planting scheme prior to making this bed.  Instead I was operating on a fuzzy vision in my head.  Soft colours like white, purple and pink were in my mind's eye but not a clue how they worked together.

I love white flowers and variegated foliage.
The plants I had chosen all had a cottage feel to them, very breezy and blowsy.  I had assumed they would just go together but when it came to exactly how I was stumped.

A sampling of plants that are in this bed
After many days of moving plants about and getting nowhere I finally had to make a decision.  Any decision, just make one!  So the Artemesia was pulled from alongside the apple tree where it was getting too much shade and placed on the far end of the border where the sun is quite bright.  Once that was done I started to roll along.  What worked with the artemesia's silver colour and could stand full sun?  Bell flowers and that nice blue green clumping grass I picked up at the plant sale.  How about some dark purple Siberian Iris?  And so it has gone.  Each plant inspiring the next choice. 

My planting scheme is not incredibly inspired at this point but it's a start.  As plants start to grow and expand changes will certainly be made.  Perhaps putting chartreuse Lady's Mantle in front of the White Hydrangea Little Lamb won't look as good in reality as it does in my head?  Who can say? - unless someone has already done this, in which case, send me a picture!  But moving small shrubs and perennials is easy enough at this point and I can change the pairings over the next year or two as I see fit.  In the meantime I'm just thrilled to finally see this bed taking shape in front of our house.  I finally have a flower garden!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Triumphs and Tragedies

It's the weekend and that means it's time to go for a walk.  This past week the weather has been hot and humid and flowers are busting out all over so lots of photographs were taken on the walk.  I started at the front doorstep with the peony blossoms which are as big as my hand.

Some of these blooms made it to a vase inside the house as well as a certain person may have gotten too close with the weed whacker.  ahem.

From the door I turned right and walked toward the front yard admiring the last of the lupines and bleeding hearts.  These plants are beginning to form seedpods and will go dormant in the summer's heat.

In the entrance bed I'm having a bit of a dilemma.  Some plants put in this bed last summer have grown to epic proportions which is really nice.  They're obviously happy here.  Unfortunately placement wasn't given a lot of thought at the time they were planted and now they are too large to move.  In the below photo you can see the apple tree to the back left with blooming Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla) at it's feet and Meadowsweet (Filipendula) to the right.

The Meadowsweet is almost as tall as the tree!
There's no room to get under and around the apple tree for pruning or picking with the other plants this close.  But while they are this large and blooming I'm unable to move them.  So for now I will have to wait until fall, or even next spring to dig these plants up and move them.

From the entrance I backtracked to the veggie garden and found the feverfew sending out blooms in the herb area.

Marigold blossoms also caught my eye.  I bought a variety called Durango this year.  They're double blossoms in shades of orange, yellow and maroon.  I love the smell of marigolds but insect pests don't so I always include them in my veggie beds.

In the back garden I found some yellow blossoms I've been excitedly waiting for.

Unfortunately, I wasn't so excited when they finally opened.  This plant was marked as a Euphorbia when I took it home from the plant sale.  I should have noticed the leaves but I read the label and didn't think twice.  This isn't a Euphorbia but rather Lysimachia punctata or Yellow Loosestrife.  Not nearly as desirable.  To me anyway.  In fact, I think it's going to get pulled.  While this Loosestrife isn't as invasive as it's purple cousin it still has travelling tendencies that I would prefer not to have in the garden.  Which I know is ironic considering that's the very invasive Plume Poppy planted behind it but I really like the leaves on the poppy.  The Loosestrife however, does nothing for me.

A yellow I do like is this lovely dahlia.  

It's actually a bit early for the dahlias to be blooming but I had a hard time finding good storage this winter for this large tuber.  I wasn't able to keep it cool enough and it began sprouting in March so I threw it in a cardboard box with some potting soil and it began to grow.  By the time it was planted outside it was already a very large plant.  The result is super early dahlia blooms which I don't mind at all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Buying Bulk Compost

Removing the grass from the entrance bed was the first step in a long line of work to complete the flower bed.  After the sod was removed I intended to dig out any garbage that had popped up with the sod and also do some weeding.  I believe this area was used to dispose of garbage in previous years and I'm always finding pieces of glass and other odd items in the dirt. 

Note that I say intended.

Nothing ever goes as planned does it?  Instead I got caught up in finishing the vegetable garden and working on other beds that we had created.  The weeds grew long and the dirt grew hard in my entrance bed.  And then the compost arrived and there was no time to clear the bed.  It seems I will be finding broken glass among my posies for years to come.

I had ordered three yards of compost to be dumped on this bed in order to replace some of the top soil that was removed with the sod.  I also expected it would add humus and nutrients to the soil, making my flowers happy.  What I didn't know is that three yards isn't nearly as much as it sounds like.  This is the pile that was delivered.

Funny, it doesn't look as big as I had thought
Perhaps some of you have ordered compost in bulk form before but this was a first for me.  I've never had a garden large enough.  So when a yard was described to me as 100 square feet at a depth of 3 inches it sounded pretty big.  I actually thought 3 yards was overdoing it but I can always use more compost so I went ahead.  Thank goodness I 'overbought' because 3 yards barely covered my new flower bed.  After I received the compost I actually looked up a cubic yard (perhaps I ought to have done that first?!) and I found this link.  Essentially a cubic yard is about as big as a dishwasher - 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet.  And that is not very big at all.  Instead of buying an excessive amount of compost I had actually purchased too little. Thank goodness my own compost bin was ready for emptying and I was able to add approximately one more yard of my own compost to the bed.

I used the mini trailer to cart compost from my bin to the new bed
Unfortunately the issues didn't stop there.  When I purchased the compost I thought the price was somewhat high but never having purchased it in bulk before and being confused about the amount I was receiving I went ahead with the purchase and didn't second guess the price.  I shouldn't have done that.  Not only was I upset about how little compost I actually received but I was flabbergasted at how much it had cost me.  I checked another nursery sometime later and discovered I had paid twice the amount they were charging.  Let that be a warning - price check before buying!

I just barely managed to cover the bed with compost.
You can see the red dirt poking out around the edges.
 My stupidity did not stop there though.  The final issue was the compost itself.  At first glance it was a dark looking pile and appeared for all intents and purposes like the black gold that is so often described when speaking about compost.  Second glance told a different story.  There were white particles in my compost.  What could that be?  So I got my gloves and dug in.  The compost was light and airy, very dry and sifted between my fingers like sand.  I don't know what your compost looks like but I was highly distressed.  The compost that comes out of my personal bins is a thick material full of insects and worms.  I even found a garter snake hiding in my compost pile this past week.  It's also slightly damp.  My compost is alive and therefore supports other life.  It retains moisture and clumps together forming humus which provides texture to the soil.  As I sifted this new compost in my hands I realized what I had purchased was composed of peat moss (giving it that light airy feel) and perlite (those white bits).  Now, there's nothing wrong with peat moss or perlite.  Both materials are used in gardening and have great moisture retention qualities.  But my intention wasn't to buy peat moss or perlite.  As I sifted I realized - I had essentially bought three yards of potting soil.

The moral to the story is, like with so many things, buyer beware.  It was my responsibility as a consumer to do a price check and make sure I knew what I was buying.  If you're looking at purchasing compost in bulk know what a cubic yard looks like.  Then phone several companies and compare prices.  Finally, go to the company and see what it is they are selling.  Run your hands through it and satisfy yourself that it is indeed compost.  I didn't think it was necessary to ask if the compost I was buying was really compost.  How much of a difference could there be?  But obviously I was wrong.  Get a handful of the stuff and make sure your compost isn't full of additives. 

Have you ever ordered compost in bulk and been surprised by what you received?  Is using additives common practice?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Entrance Bed

I have been going on about the entrance bed since last year.  When I first discovered this bed it looked like this.

Pretty scary.  The first task, obviously, was to clear out the weeds.  Once that was done I discovered there was an apple tree under all that mess.  And room for new plants. 

So at last spring's plant sale I picked up numerous purchased and quickly filled this bed right up.  All too quickly I realized it needed to be much bigger than it was.

Running out of room already!
So throughout last summer I dug and dug, using a hose to mark out the future shape and size of the bed.

I wanted the original circle to extend much farther into the lawn
But never came close to digging the space that I wanted.

Extended as far as the birch tree but just couldn't dig anymore.
Renting a sod cutter this year changed all that.

Finally!  The bed is now extended past the birch.
Within a couple of hours the size of the bed tripled and it was the exact size and shape I had been dreaming about.  I was ecstatic.

The photo above is from an upstairs window.  Sorry for the grainy visual which is due to a very dirty fly screen.  But I wanted to capture an overhead view.  It is HUGE.  It stretches across the entire front of our house separating the house entrance from the apple orchard and effectively creating two distinct areas.

With all that lawn finally cleared I've had my hands full working to fill it back up.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Triumphs and Tragedies - Canada Day Version

To all my fellow Canadian bloggers, Happy Canada Day!  Hope you are enjoying some nice weather this long weekend.  Also a happy holiday to those south of the border as I believe Monday is a holiday for you too.  It's Friday so that means it's time for Triumphs and Tragedies.  Time to walk around the garden and celebrate all that's good and embrace all that's bad.  I thought since it is Canada Day I would make my finds this week colour coordinated, so join me for some red and white fun.

Warm weather has moved in rapidly this past week and the garden suddenly jumped into action.  Triumph - Blooms are everywhere!  Starting with the roses.

Okay, so the roses aren't actually red, more a deep pink, but close enough for me.  

Another deep pink that I was thrilled to see was the weigela.  This plant bloomed last year but not nearly to this extent.  I guess removing the weeds and pruning it had a positive impact.

This plant is absolutely packed with blooms this year
Another bonus is that I finally got a photo of the blooms that is true to the actual colour, a deep pink/red.  Last year my photos all looked shiny pink.

In the real red category the Maltese Cross have begun to bloom as well.  

The vegetable garden has started producing food starting with these Rebel Red Radishes

One last pseudo red Triumph is the Diablo Ninebark.  I purchased three of these shrubs last summer and was dismayed to find them gnawed by voles over the winter.  Another loss I had thought.  Once again I was proven wrong - thank goodness!  All three of the shrubs have recovered.  A number of branches died and had to be pruned out so their form isn't as nice anymore but I'll take what I can get.

The shrubs aren't as bushy anymore but they're still lovely
An even greater surprise was finding buds on these bushes.  They're going to bloom!

And finally some white blooms to add to the mix.  This Jacob's Ladder has been blooming for what feels like weeks now and is showing no signs of stopping.

But we know, where there is Triumph there is also Tragedy.  The world requires balance.  Discovering powdery white mildew on my David Phlox caused some frustration.  

David is supposed to be mildew resistant but as soon as I planted him last year he was struck with the white fungus.  This year he grew back strong and healthy but once again the white stuff is showing up with the humidity.  I hear that powdery mildew isn't necessarily lethal so I could just leave the plant as is but I have two other phlox in the vicinity and I don't want this spreading.  Do I pull David?

The final Tragedy of the week isn't garden related at all.  We are renovating a room in our house and have been deliberating over paint colours.  I really wanted to try a red floor so this week painting begun. First the primer went down.

Nope, your eyes are not deceiving you.  We were told that red primer always looks pink.  Really?  Cause this looks like someone threw up pepto bismal all over the floor.  Then we put some red paint down.

YIKES.  Avert your eyes if you have to.  It seems the pink primer is mixing with the red causing our floor to look like some weird fluorescent rouge hybrid.  This is just the first coat and it's still curing so we must wait before trying a second coat of paint.  I really hope the floor darkens but frankly, I'm scared.