Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Triumphs and Tragedies

I'm leaving on a trip this week so this is one last look at the garden before I go.  Thankfully my partner Jody will be at home to manage the cats and water my plants while I'm gone but it pains me that I will miss those first ripening tomatoes.  So let's take a walk and see what's up and what's down and dream about what we can look forward to when I come back.

The garden is attracting more and more wildlife each day.  It is such a treat to see new insects and wildlife and know that they are here because we allowed the weeds to grow and planted new vegetation for them to thrive in.

A pair of grey partridge arrived on the scene last week.

Waltzing through the orchard and into my flower bed.  After searching on the internet I found that these birds are not native but rather were imported to the island in the 1920's for hunting.  Apparently sportsmen travelled here strictly to hunt partridge.  Today a small population has survived and here they are in my garden.  The downside was we had to chase them away as the feline hunters in our house decided wild chicken would make a perfect addition to the dinner menu.

Another recent sighting was this butterfly.

A group of these butterflies have been making themselves at home in my 'herb garden'.  I use the term herb garden quite loosely as the area, along with herbs, contains peppers and beans and a whole lot of weeds. After many tries I finally snapped a couple shots of these winged beauties and was able to search for them on the internet.  It turns out they are a native butterfly called a Common Wood Nymph.  PEI is the furthest north they are found.  They feed on butterfly weed, thistles, red clover and black eyed susans.  I guess we can add oregano to that list because that seems to be where they constantly hover in my garden.

Tragically none of the tomatoes have ripened yet which is frustrating as I expect they will ripen while I'm away.  Jody has promised they won't go to waste but I'll miss seeing them turn from green to red (or yellow or purple as the case may be).  Another issue, I found these tomatoes in the garden this week.

Only one variety, German Gold, has been affected which is good but this is rather frustrating just the same.  I think it may just be cracking as we've had awful dry weather for some time now and then a sudden rain.  I hope this isn't a trend though.

Elsewhere in the veggie garden the zucchini plants are puking out zucchini's as fast as I can blink.  I knew it was a mistake when I did it but it's been hardwired into my brain now - no planting more than one zucchini plant per year!

Garlic has been pulled and hung out to dry.  The leaves had begun to yellow and wither so it was time to pull up and dust them off.  It looks like we'll have more than enough to last us through the winter yet again.

I checked the cucumbers this evening and what did I find - Triumph!  Hiding under those big leaves was this beauty.

My very first cucumber ever.  And boy it was tasty.

We've also had some tragedy and triumph in the feline world.  Funnyface has been limping around and losing weight over the past month or so and we've been quite worried about him.  Attempts to catch him and take him for treatment were unsuccessful until this last week.

Although he looks sweet, he is at heart a feral kitty.  Putting him in a carrier is a not a battle for the faint of heart.  I have puncture wounds on my arm.  The good news is no terminal illnesses were found.  Because it is so difficult to trap the feral cats (not to mention traumatic for them) and bring them to a vet they have not had vaccinations so serious illness was a real concern.  An examination revealed he has an infection on his paws that is causing some discomfort so we're giving him antibiotics now and hopefully that will fix any issues he is having.

Another triumph - we're having puppies!  well not those kind of puppies, the cats wouldn't approve.

I did my rounds of watering houseplants and found little green shoots coming up around the aloe plant.  I'm going to have to do some transplanting of these pups into their own pots when I get back home.

In the flower garden a new wave of blooms has swept in.  The late summer flowers are beginning to strut their stuff telling us the end is near.  Echinacea, rudbeckia, hydrangea, dahlias and sea holly all mark the last half of summer in my garden.

Pow Wow White Echinacea

Ruby Star Echinacea

The Rudbeckia laciniata 'Golden Glow' has reached tremendous heights this year.

I stand 5 foot 6 inches and this plant is towering over my head.  I purchased some extra staking for the rudbeckia this year which has helped keep it upright but the storms of August are looming near and I had to take a picture before it inevitably gets knocked to the ground.

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer wherever they may be and I look forward to visiting all of your blogs on my return.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Colour Schemes Gone Astray

When I first started planning the entrance flower bed I had a picture in my mind.  A cottage garden packed with flowers ranging in colour from whites and silvers to soft pinks and purples.  I picked up various plants on sale in the first couple years and last season started working on putting it all together (See this post.)

I even put together collages of the chosen plants to get a better idea how they would look side by side.

Starting at the top left:  Veronica, Artemisia, Bell flowers, Lamb's Ears, Rose Mallow and Meadowsweet at centre
This season I have worked hard to add more plants to this bed and arrange things in a way that shows flowers and foliage in a complementary way.  To my surprise, it looks nothing like what I planned?!  Instead of a romantic pastel scene the garden is looking rather  - vibrant.  How did that happen?

Definitely not pastel
Some of the choices were innocent mistakes.  I picked up this pink Astilbe chinensis 'Visions' thinking it was a soft pink and the reality was this.

Shocking, almost neon, pink was the true colour.

A soft purple penstemon was purchased and when it bloomed this spring it looked like this.

Hot pink blooms.  Not the cultivar I had thought I was purchasing.

Hubby purchased Stargazer Lilies for me this spring and I decided to plant them out in this bed.

Another strong pink colour in the mix.

Some of the choices have been thoroughly my own.  I took a half dozen Evening Primrose home from the plant sale last spring.

These flowers are a very strong, bright yellow, nothing soft or pastel about them but they were hard to resist.

Also irresistable was this Ruby Wedding Astrantia.

I have been pining for Astrantia for several years now so was pleased to find some for sale no matter what the colour.

What I am noticing, as each flush of blooms is produced, is that the groupings of plants as a whole has a decidedly bright look.  I think I once mentioned I love jewel tones and it has become evident now how true that statement was.

In this photo I paired the cotton candy blooms of meadowsweet with dark purple veronica and old gold juniper.  There is nothing soft about this colour grouping at all.  It would appear my love of strong colours took over while my mind checked out.

A better organized gardener would not have let this happen but I find it rather amusing.  The heart knows what it wants and my hands simply do the work.  One of my joys when I garden is I can let my mind wander, simply enjoying the experience of being outside rather than focusing on details.  The result seems to be a garden that is truer to who I am.  Instead of buying a plant because it fits a colour or planting scheme I have let myself go a little wayward and purchase things simply because I am drawn to them.

Next season is sure to be quite an eyefull as plants fill out and newer purchases start to bloom.  This year I added bi-colour monkshood, red valerian, mixed columbine, and purple Siberian iris.  I now see that I've picked yet more strong colours for this bed.  Unintentional but greatly looked forward to.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Daylily Bouquets

The daylilies (ditch lilies) have been blooming their heads off these past few weeks.  Under the poplars there is an explosion of orange.

Initially the double flowered pink roses were in bloom as well which made me smile.  What an unlikely combination but it's rather nice.

Both of these plants were here when we moved in.  Remnants of an old garden?  I couldn't resist gathering up some of the blooms to bring indoors.  But what to put next to that bright orange?

I went in the opposite direction of light pink and instead picked a dark contrasting purple using Darwin's Blue Speedwell, then filling out the bouquet with white astilbe and flowering ciltantro.

What I have discovered about daylilies though is the blooms, as the name suggests, only last a day.  My bouquet fell flat in short order.  Lucky for me there's a ton of daylilies out there so I just picked a whole new batch and tried something different.

Instead of contrasting colours I tried complementary.  Orange daylilies with chartreuse lady's mantle, white shasta daisies and white feverfew.

Have I mentioned how delighted I am these days to have a garden with enough flowers for picking?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Garden Update

I have been having an issue lately.  Some of you can probably commiserate.  When the weather is so lovely out of doors how can I bear to sit in front of a computer talking about gardening instead of actually gardening?

I hope you'll forgive me.

This will be a long post to try and catch up as there has been lots going on.  We'll start in the back garden.  Our lot is actually a large rectangle so there isn't an actual 'back' at all but looking from the porch to my left is approximately two acres that includes the meadow so I tend to call this the back as it's a bit blowsy looking out there.

The pseudo garage turned storage shed is located out here with the
veggie garden and crescent garden.
Looking waaayy to the back you can see a blob of yellow in the distance.  That's the crescent garden as seen from the house.  I never did get around to expanding that space this year but I'm thinking I may yet lay some cardboard and compost this summer to try and gain a little ground.  Once again I planted my dahlias and sunflowers back there.  The bright colours and big flowers means even though it's a long ways off I can still see it from my kitchen window.

Dahlias and Sonata mix cosmos are blooming right now
Right now, as seen above, three of the four dahlias are blooming.  Just my pink/white striped one is lagging behind.  Annual flower seed for sunflowers, zebra mallow, bachelor buttons and Cosmic Mix cosmos were also planted but none of these have bloomed yet.  I was so desperate for some colour back there I picked up some Sonota mix cosmos from the nursery and popped them in.  So glad I did as I have seen a number of skippers back there enjoying these blooms.

On the close side of the garage is the veggie garden and it is rolling right along these days.  I have picked several bowls of peas in the last week and will need to get out again today.

Luckily one of my favourite tasks is sitting on the porch shelling peas so this works out okay.  I always forget though how few peas you get compared to the mound of pods.  We could definitely use a larger pea patch in the future.

Tomatoes are not yet ready but they are starting to form.

The cherry tomatoes Mexico Midget and Andrina were the first to take shape but these Bison tomatoes pictured above are quickly catching up.  I ended up with eight varieties of tomatoes planted this year so I'm keeping a close eye on which plants produce quicker than others.  Taste testing will start in a few weeks time I think.

Also growing in the veggie patch is zucchini.  oh boy do we have zucchini.  Hubby said yesterday 'you knew how many zucchini came off a plant and yet you still planted three of these?!?!?'

Sorry dear, I just couldn't help myself.  I only planted three seeds and all three sprouted.  Then I decided I couldn't toss any out just in case any of the plants died.  Finally, when my pumpkins wouldn't grow and I had a heap of manure just sitting there I thought, well I'll just toss a zucchini in that spot.  Now we have three sprawling plants with about a half dozen zucchinis per plant.  I've started picking them already at around 3 - 4 inches long.  They are so delicious at that size, perfect for grilling.  But I think I'll still have to call my mom for her chocolate zucchini cake recipe.

As previously noted I keep a few flowers in the veggie patch.  Partly because I love flowers but also because they attract pollinators.

From Left - Asiatic liles, Feverfew and Borage
The martagon lilies appear to have been hit with a fungus (Botrytis) so I clipped off the affected parts and disposed of them.  Luckily it hasn't affected the Asiatic lilies and you can see on the left we are starting to be graced with these blooms.

Last year a few of the Asiatic lilies got hit by the slugs in spring so they did not bloom.  They bounced back this year and I'm seeing blooms that I didn't get last year like this beautiful deep red.

In the front of the house I have been working as hard as I can to get the last of my newly purchased plants into the entrance bed.

Me and my guard cat plucking weeds
It has been exceptionally dry this year and only getting worse so I want these plants settled as quickly as possible.  I finally got the last of them in this week but they aren't placed as well as I would like.   The ground is too dry to dig and weeds are simply breaking off so I'll be waiting until spring to move plants around in the front of the bed more to my liking.

I'm pleased with how the back half of this bed is coming together
As various plants have been blooming in this bed I have been taking note.  Some combinations have worked very well.  You can just glimpse the purple veronica and pink meadowsweet in the above photo.  That was planned and has worked well.  I was surprised, and pleased, to find the white and pink astilbe blooming in the same time frame.

Astilbe chinensis 'Visions'
I hadn't anticipated how shockingly pink these astilbe would be.  I originally wanted something a bit milder but in combination with the shocking pink blooms of the meadowsweet they actually fit right in.

There have been a few surprises of the opposite kind though.  I recently discovered how much Garden Valerian smells.  Some websites describe this scent like cherry pie and delightful.  I, however, was taken by a headache when weeding in the garden due to what I can only describe as an unholy stink.  This plant will be dug up and given away next spring.

And a couple happy photos to finish up.  My clematis, after three years of waiting, has finally bloomed.

Clematis Emilia Plater
I had intended this plant to climb up and through the white birch but unfortunately it only grew a few short feet this year.  Better than the one foot it grew last year so I'm not complaining but hoping that next year it finally makes the leap into the tree.

And a happy shot of my garden companion.

Funnyface is trying to displace Gino as my garden cat.  He follows me everywhere when I'm outside, rolling around and trying to get my attention so I'll rub his belly.  Gino is displeased but I find it quite endearing.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Triumphs and Tragedies

The weather's been a bit off and on the last couple days.  The heat ramps up, as does the humidity and then there's a brief rain (but not enough to make a difference), the temperature dips and then repeat.

I managed to get some lovely shots of the yard with a thick layer of dew highlighting the blooms.

Some of the flowers are dying off now, like the peonies and lupines

Peony blossoms are beginning to fade
making way for a new wave of blooms, including these double flowered pink roses.

In the vegetable garden the strawberries have finished but there's a new wave of vegetables available, including garlic scapes

In my vegetable garden I also have a small section of flowers.

Asiatic lilies, borage, feverfew and martagon lilies are seen in the portrait above.  A pretty scene but unfortunately there's something wrong with my martagon lilies.

I don't have any experience growing lilies so I have no idea what this could be.  I don't see any obvious pest damage such as eggs or insects chewing at the leaves, just yellow spots and brown dead patches.  It isn't affecting the asiatic lilies either, just the martagon variety.  Does anyone have an idea what might be wrong with my lilies?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Creating an Oversize Garden Bed

You might be wondering after reading my last post what exactly I'm doing with my time if I can't manage to pull out a couple hollyhocks.

Working on the entrance bed is the answer to that.

This bed has gone through a lot of changes in the last couple years and I continue to pick away at it this season.  (you can read more about the trials and tribulations of creating this bed in this post)

At the end of last summer this bed was a mess.  I didn't have the time to complete such a big project and I had jumped ahead too quickly, buying plants I wasn't ready to put in the ground.  Half the bed was covered in weeds and the other half had plants thrown into the ground haphazardly before the snow flew.  I knew I needed a better plan when I started work again this spring.  To add to the trouble, in January I watched the garden flood and realized it was imperative that I think a little harder about the placement of plants.  So I drew a picture.

Actually as you can see this version was my fourth picture.  It wasn't the last either.  In fact, the plan I finally went with was changed on the fly as I worked in the garden this spring but it was really helpful having an idea in mind as I worked.

Initially when I started the clean up it was mid-April.  The ground was damp and the weather cool.  Digging was relatively easy and I spent hours in this garden developing a rhythm.  I started in the area most overcome with weeds, digging and pulling.  Hauling weeds away (and never ending glass shards) then hauling fresh compost back and beefing up the soil.  The sides of the bed were edged, plants were moved and then finally mulch topped it all off.

I started in the weediest sections
Mulch turned out to be a real life saver this time around.  Last year I left the ground bare and as soon as my back was turned the area would fill in with weeds.  This bed is approximately 50 feet long and 30 feet wide at its widest point.  The narrow section in the middle is approximately 18 feet across.  Quite a huge space to tackle so this time around I worked in areas about 4 x 4 feet to start, clearing and replanting, and finally mulching which allowed me to move on to next section without the fear of a weed takeover.

Clearing ground a few feet at a time
I had expected to have this bed finished by the time the weather turned hot but sadly I was wrong.  I'm still digging.  There's a lesson here somewhere about taking on too much.

At the beginning of June I had only finished this small section
The good news is that I'm getting there.  I've gone past the halfway mark and I'm relatively happy with how it looks.  It's a bit sparse as the plants are quite small yet but hopefully in a couple years time things will fill in and start looking proper.

As seen from a dirty upstairs window! 
Unfortunately the weather in the last week has turned summer hot so some of the work has stopped.  I'm no longer moving plants around and instead just plunking in the new ones I have purchased and trying to get them settled for a hot dry summer.  But weed removal is continuing, as is edging and mulching.  I hope to get the section on the left cleared of weeds in the next few weeks and then put this project aside for the year.  I'm ready to walk away for awhile and try an activity that doesn't involve weeding!