Garden update

Haven’t posted about my garden in a long time!  IN general, 2017 was NOT a very good gardening year for me.  We had a very long, cold and unusually snowy winter; followed by a very long and record breaking WET spring with nearly NO sunny days; followed by a crazy HOT summer with record breaking heat and more 100+ degree temperature days  than we’ve ever had before!  All in all, a very brutal year for my little flower garden!

My flowering Jasmine did not survive the winter.

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The Jasmine was planted in the big pot with a trellis, to the left of the ladder.  I had specifically selected tall growing vines for those two pots to provide some shade for the back of the house.  My bedroom in in that back corner and gets the late ‘hottest part of the day’ sun.  At the end of a hot day, my bedroom would be 90 degrees and unbearable!  (these duplexes are old and not very well insulated!)

We are only allowed to plant things in ‘existing dirt areas’ in our yards. so I couldn’t plant anything in the ground back there.  Hence, the two pots and ladder; which when in full bloom really DOES help cool down my bedroom.

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I had originally bought Jasmines for both pots.  One died right after I planted it, and I couldn’t find a replacement for it; so I bought something else that grew tall.  (Can’t remember WHAT it is!  But it’s growing well!) Was trying to not spend quite so much money on my garden this year, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with that back corner, so I tossed the handful of Sweet Pea seeds that I harvested last year in the pot on the left.  If nothing else, it would give me some shade!  At it worked fine for this year.

 

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The Sweet Peas grew taller than the ladder before they started turning brown.  SO, now I am right back where I started and will need to plant something in the left side pot in the spring.  Trying to start some clippings from the plant on the right; not sure if they are going to root or not though.

I’m trying to not spend too much money on annual plants, but I HAVE to have my Petunias every year!!  The wave petunias for my ladder in the back, and I decided this year to add some hanging baskets at the back patio window for some additional shade.  I ended up buying a bit more than I needed, so I also planted some in my little red wagon and and old rusty shopping cart that I had.

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AND I was hoping that the hanging baskets would help hide that shade hanging over the window.  Yes, I KNOW it’s uG-ly!  But it’s a necessary evil.  It’s one of those shade tarps that blocks 95% of the sun.  They are intended to be hung OVER the patio, but I have no way of doing that; and I really NEEDED some way to keep my bedroom cooler.  This was my best solution.  Finally, now with FIVE layers of window coverings, it keeps the hot evening sun out.

I hung this new shade over the old bamboo shade I put up last year.  Then, INside  there are the vertical blinds, heavy burlap drapes and room darkening drapes; and my bedroom no longer feels like an oven on hot summer nights.

Pictures from the front garden.  I didn’t add too much to the front this year, other than a few starts from my best friend up in WA.  Every time I go visit her, I take her a few clippings from my garden and she sends me home with a few from hers.  It’s a great way to add to your garden inexpensively.

I got very few strawberries from my plants last summer, with it being the first year; so I was really looking forward to having a lot of them to enjoy this year.  So were the squirrels, apparently.  They got to the ripe ones before I could pick them EVERY TIME!  Grrrr!!!  I did not spend all that time and effort planting 30 strawberry plants, just to feed the squirrels!  Time to outsmart those darn squirrels.

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So I spent DAYS digging up every single strawberry plant and replanting them in hanging baskets!  I was surprised at how minimal the root structure on the year old plants was; and decided that I could put 3 or 4 plants in each basket.  Not wanting to spend a fortune on hanging baskets, I decided that I’d re-use what I had and only buy a few additional ones.

So, for now, I planted the rest of the strawberries in some plastic pots that I got from Michael; and they are on old metal rack on the back patio.   Once the hanging Petunias are done for the season, I’ll put these plastic pots in the petunia basket hangers.

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(and I had about a dozen strawberry ‘runners’ that I planted to take up to my friend in WA!)

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So NOW I have a bare space in front of the Roses and Peonies, where the strawberries had been.  I’m hoping to be able to fill that area with plants that I’ve grown from seeds that I harvest from my front yard plants.  Did you notice the little white picket border missing from the back now too?

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Originally I only had to remove the picket from the left (MY) side of the duplex.  Reason being, my side gets a lot more sun and the fencing was plastic and the heat made it crumble and all apart.  After looking for more matching fencing to replace it, I decided to just pull it ALL up now, instead of waiting for it to crumble next year.  I had planned to replace the border next spring, but decided that I actually like it BETTER without the border.  Now that my plants are more established, it really doesn’t need a border.

I prefer to keep my rose bushes well pruned and more compact; which typically contributes to more roses.  For some reason, these that I have now seem to need to grow very TALL in order to bloom.  We get really strong winds blowing in the back yard; and sometimes it’s so strong that it actually bends and BREAKS off those long branches.  So to prevent future breakage, now I need to add trellises.  Trellises are NOT cheap, and I really didn’t like any of the ones I looked at.

So, I’ve decided to build my own.  But given how tall these roses need to grow to produce flowers, I was going to have to build some very TALL trellises . . .and then I’d be needing a small ladder to reach the top to attach the roses to the trellis?!?!  Hmmmm?!?!

I got some sturdy 8′ long metal conduit rods for my vertical supports and bought some 4′ bamboo staked for the horizontal supports . .  . and I’m going to build an espalier trellis for my roses.  I’ve never done this before, so we’ll see how it goes!  I’ll build the trellises in the late winter while the roses are pruned for the season.

This is the area along the side of my duplex.  The white picket is gone now.  I’ve got some marigolds (grown from seeds I harvested last year) planted between the Hydrangea; to add some color for the fall.  Behind the Hydrangea are Gladioli, which have now been trimmed back for the season.  Eventually the Hydrangea will grow into enough of a hedge that I won’t need to add any annuals between them.  But I do plant to add some Liatris (from seeds I harvest this fall) between the Gladioli.  I think that will make a really nice back drop for the Hydrangea.

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This is under the front window, three big Hydrangea bushes along the back, which will probably be full enough to create a hedge by next year.  I’ll have to keep these trimmed fairly low, under the window, as this is the ONLY window that I can put the air conditioner in.

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I had some visitors in a hanging basket of mint in the front, earlier this summer.  Look at those hungry little mouths!!  As soon as I’d get the hose out and start watering the garden, I’d see momma bird swoop down, hunting for worms to feed her babies!  I was surprised at how fast the eggs hatched . .  and again how quickly the babies grow and leave the nest.

And that’s my garden report for 2017.

 

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Published in: on September 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm  Comments (5)  
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Garden update: August 2016

After a record WET winter, we’ve had what seems like a record SUNNY spring and summer; which made for a very early growing season here in the Pacific Northwest.  My little garden plots surrounding my home have already peaked, and are getting ready to go dormant.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many rose blooms I got; given that I just planted these bare root rose bushes a few months ago.

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Some really pretty colors!  (Remember I didn’t know what colors I was getting.  It was a special offer of ‘mixed roses’ and they were only identified by NAME when they arrived.)

Some different types of roses too.  These are ‘small with ruffled petals’ and bloom in clusters.  I have no idea what the little white spots on all the leaves are.  I got two of each kind of bush and BOTH of this kine have the same spots.  They are NOT aphids. (which was my first thought er FEAR!)  I may have to write the company I ordered from and ask about this.

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I started some Cosmos from seed and planted them between the roses just to fill in the space a little this year.  The Cosmos grew HUGE!  The one in the above picture is AFTER I cut it down bu a couple of FEET.  They were so big that they were blocking the roses from getting enough sun!  A couple of the Cosmos didn’t produce ANY flowers; but they grew as big and tall (almost BIGGER!) than the ones that did flower.

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Here you can see the Cosmos that didn’t flower, before I cut them back.  My back yard is like a ‘wind tunnel’ in the evening.  Really strong winds blow through it several times a week.  Some of the taller Cosmos stems actually got bent over by the wind!

P1280359Mini white pumpkins coming soon!  Two plants grew great and a third (can you see it!) is stunted.  The big ones have nearly doubled in size in the last week.

My Glads were getting bent over by the wind too, so I staked them.  The blooms have died and been cut off already.  I don’t think my ‘second planting’ of Glads (smaller ones between the big ones) are going to bloom this year.

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The potted flowers on my garden ladder have peaked and started dying already too. (notice the bottom planter.)   The vines in pots are either side are still growing like crazy; vining to the top and over and back down again.

The Hydrangea I planted last year have bloomed quite nicely.

These pics are from a couple of weeks ago, hardly any color still left in the front yard now.

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See that HUGE Lupine in about the middle?  It’s now GONE!  sigh.  It was the first to bloom this year and had grown HUGE.  Truly the ‘star’ of the front garden.  Sadly it became infested with aphids.  I tried and ‘home remedy’ to kill the aphids and all it did was kill the leaves on the Lupine and surrounding plants!  Grrr!!!  I cut is Waaaaaaaay back hoping that would help but again it was totally COVERED with aphids.  (I get itchy just THINKING about them!) I know how much aphids love Roses too and I didn’t want them to get my roses, so I dug the Lupine completely up, roots and all!  Have some seed pods saved from it and may try starting some next year.  I also went to the garden center and god some ‘systemic’ stuff for my roses that is supposed to PREVENT aphids.  Any advice on aphids/Roses/Lupine is welcome!

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Originally, I had really wanted to plant Hydrangea in the garden plot along the side of the house.  But that area gets a considerable amount of sun and I know that Hydrangea prefer ‘just morning sun, so I planted other stuff there.  As the summer has progressed and I look at what other people have planted in the sun and shade areas of their yards; I noticed a LOT of beautifully blooming Hydrangea in full sun!  (I’m talking plants so FULL of blooms that you can’t even see any of the green leaves!)

 

Shortly after that ‘ah-HA! moment, I came across 6″pots of Hydrangea at the grocery store for $3.99!!!  SOLD!  I bought nine of them and planted them in the side garden.

They looked SO pretty, so full of blooms.  Of course I know the ‘forced blooms’ don’t last very long and half of them have already wilted away; but the plants are very healthy with new leaf growth.  And THEN . .   I was reading up on Hydrangea and discovered that ‘florist Hydrangea’ (IE small potted ones intended to give as an indoor plant gift and not necessarily ever actually planted in the ground; which is what I am pretty sure these that I bought ARE) seldom re-bloom when planted in the ground.  Heavy SIGH!!  Oh well.  Live and learn.  I guess I’ll have to settle for just GREEN in that part of my garden!

Not sure if I want to plant something in the ‘bare spot’ left from the Lupine right away or wait for next spring.  I typically do not care for bare spots, so I guess we’ll see.  I have no idea WHAT I want to put there??  Maybe a Black Eyed Susan?

How does YOUR garden grow??

Fuchsia baskets

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of these white fuchsia buds.

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The buds on most of the others have been more round; and none of the others were this BIG!

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After a few more days, a bit of pink began to show, and I thought maybe the insides were that vibrant pink that is typical of fuchsias.

***  I had all these hanging baskets planted at Fred Meyer on their ‘free potting day’, which they call Fuchsia Saturday.  They will plant as many as 8 pots or baskets for you; the soil and the service is free.  You just have to buy the plants there.  I had never worked with Fuchsias before and there were SO many options of varieties of them that I just picked a bunch at random and requested that they plant each basket with a combination of starts.  So I really NO IDEA what was going to bloom!

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Soooo000OOOoooo  Pretty!!!  The softest pink color imaginable!

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Here’s what’s blooming in the rest of the baskets:

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I think I probably went ‘too light’ on how many starts I had planted per basket, because my baskets are not nearly as full as the pre-planted baskets you see in the nurseries.  If I do it again next year, I will definitely buy more starts to plant per basket (at the price of 5 for $3.00 you can afford to splurge a little!)

But first I will see if I can get mine to ‘survive the winter’ in my garage and re-bloom next year!

Garden progress report

WHEW!!  It has been TOO hot here in Oregon. They were predicting temps to hit 100 over the weekend.  Fortunately it didn’t get quite that high.  I just canNOT handle heat like that like I could when I was younger.  The plus side is that my garden LOVES all that sunshine.  (as long as I give it plenty of water too!)

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My garden ladder is filling out nicely.

Not as overflowing with flowers as I WANT it to be; but much better than what I started with!

And it SMELLS amazing!!

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I finally got the picket border in along the backside.  Only the left side is actually ‘mine'(it’s a duplex); but the neighbor was happy to let me plant the entire space.   There are two rows of ever bearing strawberries in the front; then ten rose bushes at the back, and peonies between the roses in about the middle.

 

The roses are really starting to fill out with lots of leaves.  I probably won’t get many, if any roses this year; and the peonies haven’t even broken ground yet.  The roses started off terribly slooooooow.  ONE of them burst with growth right away, but the rest just sat there looking like the day I planted them.  Even though the planting directions had not said to do so, I pruned back all the tips just an inch or so and they started sprouting new growth almost immediately.  I had to go back and prune off a couple of dead limbs yesterday.

In my front yard garden area, my Lupine has bloomed and gone to rest already.I saved a few seed pods to try planting next year.   Flowers are starting to bloom on all the other plants now, and the plants I started from seed are popping up all over the place.  I’ve added spearmint plants ‘everywhere’, in both the front and back garden areas.

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The ‘side garden’ is still looking pretty pathetic!  sigh.  I’ve put mostly annuals started from seed in this section because I have several underground cables and roots from a tree to contend with for root space.  I really wanted to do Hydrangea down that entire side.  Alas, with minimal ‘root space’ I couldn’t do that and I really don’t know WHAT I should be planting there.  So for now I’m just doing what is easiest and not too costly.  (But I did get three Hydrangea planted at the BACK of the front garden, under the window.)

So there are Gladioli along he back; which I THOUGHT were perennials; but have since learned that they really need to be dug up every year . . . which is something that I was specifically trying to AVOID in my plant selections.  SO, we’ll see how they fare being left in the ground this winter!

There are mums planted between the gladioli.  I actually bought already blooming mums and planted them last fall.  Most of them are coming back.  Same with he winter pansies planted there.  Lots of assorted annuals started from seed too; but I’ll be darned if I can remember what I planted where at this point.  It’ll be a fun surprise when they finally bloom!

After this crazy hot week and having to water twice a day; I’m really looking forward to the predicted week of cooler, cloudy and rainy weather!

Published in: on June 8, 2016 at 10:01 pm  Comments (4)  
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I will NEVER shop at Home Depot EVER again!!!

Over the past few months I’ve spent at LEAST $500.00 at Home Depot on garden stuff, (plants, potting soil, fertilizer, garden tools) power tools, (a new hand drill and orbital sander) wood stakes etc.

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I bought two one gallon Jasmine plants to plant in pots on my back patio.  Nice BIG patio pots for those plants, pretty metal trellisses, B-1 to prevent transplant shock, a new hose and nozzle to water them.

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I also bought a couple of Japanese Holly shrubs at Home Depot.

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So, a couple of months have gone by since I purchased and planted the two Jasmine.  One has grown and thrived, and One of them DIED.  Completely dead; not one bit of green left on it.  So, I dug it up out of the pot, put it in a plastic bag, got the receipt out of my receipt box and headed to Home Depot to request a replacement.

I explained that I had purchased two of them and planted each exactly the same way; but this one died; I would like a replacement.  The guy at the returns counter opens the bag, looks inside and shakes his head.  “According to our store policy, we can only accept returns that are in their original containers.”  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!?!

Do you meant to tell me that if I had bought this plant and taken it home and just left it sit all root bound in it’s original pot and didn’t take care of it at all and basically LET it die, that you would take it back???  But you WON’T replace this one that I spent a good $100.00 on supplies for, and planted and took care of???

There is something SERIOUSLY WRONG with that return policy!  I will NEVER shop at Home Depot ever again!!

**** So, I guess this is your ‘heads up’, that if you have recently purchased any plants from Home Depot to; SAVE THE POTS after you plant them.  Then if they die on you; put them back in their original pots to return them!

But, I still needed a replacement plant for my patio pot.  I headed to Fred Meyer and the FIRST thing I did was ask the cashier in the Garden Center what their return policy was for plants that have died.  The cashier directed me to the manager at the other end.

I told her about my ‘problem’ at ‘some other’ (did not give the name at that point) garden center and asked how they, Fred Meyer, would have handled the same situation.  The first thing she said was “That sounds like a lot of stories I’ve heard about Home Depot!”  Apparently their reputation precedes them!

She assured me that if I had bought those plants at Fred Meyer, the dead one would have definitely been replaced.  I know where I’ll be buying any more plants or starts that I need from now on!!

Unfortunately they didn’t have any Jasmine plants.  I ended up with a Trumpet Vine; which has similar leaves.  I can only HOPE it doesn’t look to lop-sided to have different plants in the pots that flank my garden ladder.

Then I bought a Clematis too; because the one that I ordered by mail only has ‘seven leaves’ and is going to take FOREVER to grow!!  Planting it by the front door, where it will be able to vine up and across a rope I’ve attached under the overhang.

So, you have been WARNED!!!  Don’t buy plants at Home Depot!  Tell your friends and family too.  I REALLY do NOT like businesses that have such poor practices!

Garden ladder

I think I’m DONE with garden projects . . . other than maintenance, that is!  My final project was planting containers  for my ‘Garden Ladder”.

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Petunias (for fullness), Wave Petunias (to cascade down), Lobelia and Alyssum (for spilling over the edges) and Snapdragons for a little height.

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It doesn’t look like much in this photo that I took right after planting a couple of weeks ago; but it’s starting till fill in nicely already.  I’m envisioning the ladder completely COVERED with flowers by mid-summer!

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I decided I needed ‘something’ on the backside of the ladder too; so I bought a six-pack of Sweet Peas that will trellis up.

Frugal gardening

As I mentioned previously, I’m TRYING to add to my flower gardens this year by starting plants from seeds, instead of buying ‘starts’ or bigger ‘potted’ plants.  I have a LOT of area to cover and since I’m ‘just a renter’ I’d like to keep the expenses to a minimum.

Although I did ‘splurge a little’ last year and bought about a dozen gallon perennials (on sale of course!) to give my front garden a bit of a ‘jump start’.  Since I moved here the end of June though, it was close to the end of July before I was settled in enough to start ‘decorating’ the outside.  I KNEW it was really ‘too late in the season’ to get much out of them last summer; BUT they put me AHEAD of the gardening game THIS year. With a fair number of big established plants, I don’t mind starting the rest from seed.

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All too quickly my ‘thrifted stash’ of the little pulp starter pots was used up.  I found a ‘few’ more at Dollar Tree; 10-packs of the little 2.5″ pots; but not nearly enough to plant all the rest of the seeds I had.

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HINT:  Do NOT try using the cardboard egg cartons to start seeds in.  They will fall apart almost INSTANTLY when they get wet.  Yep!  I learned that one the HARD way.

Next on my list of things to try was TP roll I decided to try to make some of my own.  I had seen where the TP rolls were made into pots by cutting slits and folding the slits in to create a base, like this:

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But I wasn’t confident that the dirt wouldn’t just ‘fall out’ when you picked it up?!?!  So, I nixed that idea and came up with my own.

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I cut my TP rolls in half; paper towel rolls can be cut into fifths.

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I actually use a small square of paper towel in the bottom of my ‘store bought’ pots to prevent the soil from falling through the hole; so I knew that it would hold up.  For the TP pot bottoms I used 1/2 of a ‘select-a-size’ paper towel; folded into fourths.

Then stapled the four corners to the TP roll.  HINT:  The ‘cut end’ of your TP roll half MIGHT pull away when it gets wet.  I just try to be sure that I use the cut end for the BOTTOM where I attach the paper towel; but with paper towel rolls you will have TWO cut ends.  In that case I just added another staple at that second cut end.

P1270074THEN, after spending a LOT of time stapling paper towels to the TP rolls; I decided to re-think the ‘folded ends’ option.  BUT, I added slits to the last two folds to interlock them to prevent the bottom from falling out when handled.  I have NOT yet had time to ‘test’ this method though.  The paper towel method holds up very well, and I have transplanted several of those.

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The BACK side of my place is the most ‘daunting’ area to tackle.  I live in a duplex and in the back, the two units ‘run together’ and visually appear to be a single unit.  I added some big concrete stepping stones in the middle where the faucet is so I don’t have to get muddy every time I use the hose; but visually, it STILL looks like a ‘single canvas’.  The designer in me felt compelled to plant the ‘whole area’ as if it were one; and my neighbor gave me permission to do whatever I wanted.

This big area is going to need some BIG plants.  Since it faces west, it gets the hottest sun of the day, so that instantly limited my plant options to those that like full sun.  As with the front garden area, I wanted to plant perennials so as to not have to plant again every year.

The Delphiniums I planted at the trellises you see in the above photo just were NOT ‘coming up’; and I found a GREAT deal on bare root roses.  I dug up the Delphiniums and replanted them in the front; and moved the Japanese Holly (between the trellises) closer to the patios on both sides . . . to make room for the roses.

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It was late afternoon on a Saturday and my doorbell rang.  I opened the door to find a 4′ tall box waiting for me.  What IS this?!?! Holey smokes!!!  It was my ROSES!!  HUGE bare root roses.  Ten of them.  I had ordered ONE bare root rose from the nursery that I bought my strawberries (also bare root) from; and that one was about the size of my pinky finger.  So the enormity of these (especially for the BARGAIN price I had paid!!) was quite a surprise.

The only ‘bad thing’ about this order was that I couldn’t tell which ones where which color?!?!  I had ordered two ‘sets’ so that I could plant them to ‘match’ on each side of the back of the unit, so I really NEEDED to know what colors the were.  I searched the website for the nursery that I ordered them from, to no avail.  Each start WAS labeled with the NAME of the rose; (Sunset surprise. True Love etc) so I did a ‘general search’ on the internet for those names to find out what colors they were.  NOW I was ready to plant them.

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This area is a bit of a ‘challenge’ to plant as there are underground wires that run right down the middle!?!?  sigh.  So I planted the roses towards the back, close to the unit.  Those are ever-bearing strawberry plants, two rows of them, closer to the front.  I don’t remember which color rose I planted where (off the top of my head that is)  but I planted them so each side will ‘mirror’ the other side.  So, instead of planting them “1-2-3-4-5” and the other side the same order “1-2-3-4-5”.  I planted them “1-2-3-4-5” and “5-4-3-2-1”.  In my MIND they will look better in that order.  I hope the reality matches!

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Can you believe how BIG these starts are?!?!  I got them from Springhill Nursery; via a special offer I got in the mail.  It was called a ‘Rainbow of Roses’ 5 bare root plants for $19.99.  And you could DOUBLE the offer for just $37.99.  You can’t even buy ONE potted rose-bush for that price!  The colors they sent me are Red, Pink, dark yellow, Peach, and Deep Purple.

A few days after I had planted the roses, and while I was pondering what to plant in front of / between them; I found a bag of ten peony starts at Costco for $19.99.  It’s going to be SO pretty when they all finally bloom.  I’m not expecting much in the way of blooms this year, but next year should be spectacular!!

Squirrel proofing my garden

Squirrel proofing my garden had proven quite futile.  I really did not know that they were such voracious little DIGGERS!  Or that they BURIED their nuts in the ground; and not in a ‘bunch’, but one by one!  Of course it doesn’t help that several neighbors down the street have bird AND squirrel feeders.  Or that I have a nice BIG tree for them to climb in my yard.

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My ‘first line of defense’ against the dreaded digging squirrels had been to keep my yard ‘pine cone free’.  The big ole pine tree in my yard overhangs the front garden area; and several pine cones fall into this flower bed DAILY.  The pine cones end up ALL OVER the front yard.

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A few days ago I picked up 140 of them!   And ALL of those fell in 24 hours.  Later that same day I picked up another 50 of them.  Every morning I go out with my little bucket and my handy dandy ‘reacher grabber stick’ and pick up the pine cones that have fallen.  The grabber stick makes it easier on my bad back when there are so many of them to pick up.  Even IF the squirrels didn’t like the pine cones, I’d still need to pick them up to save my lawn.

After I pick up pine cones and dump them in my yard debris bin; I check all the ‘young plants’ to be sure the squirrels have not dug them up.  They tend to prefer  the ‘softest dirt’, so the new little seedlings are prime targets.  Usually have to re=plant a few every day; and fill up other holes that have been dug.

Many of the plants that I started from seed were getting big enough to be transplanted into the ground.  But they are so small and the roots still so delicate that they would not survive being dug up by the squirrels.  (Slightly bigger plants, like the store-bought starts, are grown enough that they will survive with the roots exposed over-night)  HOW do I protect ‘my babies’ from the tyranny of the digging squirrels??

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It looks pretty silly, but so far it seems to be working!  (bit it has only been 2 days!) I used 12″ bamboo skewers and 8 oz plastic cups.  I cut and X in the bottom of the cup with a box cutter to insert the skewer though; and pushed the skewer in the ground next to the seedling.  They still get light (slightly filtered so as to protect them from too much sun) and water will seep under the cup to keep them watered.

When the seedlings get bigger I just lift them off, save them to re-use of course!  About the time that these guys are ready to fend for them selves, another batch of seedlings should be ready to transplant.

MOST of the plants I’m starting from seed are perennials; just a few are annuals, like Marigolds.  But Marigolds are so easy to harvest the seeds from and re-plant.  Plus Marigolds keep some predators away.  The point IS, I won’t have to go though all this work AGAIN, year after year!  Thank God for perennial flowers!

Garden time

Here’s a reminder of what my yard looked like when I moved it at the end of June last year:

Although summer had JUST begun, the lawn was mostly brown, covered with pine cones and LOTS of weeds.  The entire area is duplex rentals, and renters typically don’t invest much effort or money into enhancing the landscape.

p1210266There is a landscape service that mows and edges the lawn; but that is ALL they do.  Most of the tenants don’t even bother to water their lawns; even though water is included (up to a certain limit!).

p1210271The ‘rule’ for tenants as far as adding any landscaping is that we can plant in the ‘dirt areas’ only.  The unit I moved into just happened to have MORE dirt area than any other unit; and there are over 100 units!  (lucky me!)  There were a few plants (shown above) in the large front area when I moved in; but not knowing WHAT they were, I decided to just pull them in order to have a ‘blank slate’ to start with.

p1210270The ‘front’ dirt area wraps around the entire right side; but I decided initially to just tackle the ‘front’.  I kept waiting for some ‘cooler’ weather to start planting, since I was getting a late start to begin with.  It never cooled down so I forged ahead and bought gallon perennials that would be less perceptible to dying from the heat.

Since I did have a completely blank slate to start with, I even went to the expense and TROUBLE (more trouble than expense!) of tacking down that black fabric ‘weed barrier’ stuff.

HELPFUL GARDENING HINT:  Don’t bother with that weed block stuff!!  It does NOT help at all.  In fact, the weeds grow right THROUGH it just as easily, BUT the roots of those weeds ATTACH themselves TO that black mesh and are IMPOSSIBLE to pull out through it!  Believe me, I TRIED!

So before planting any more flowers this spring, I tried to pull all the weeds first.  In doing so, the weed was SO well attached to the mesh, that it actually pulled up the mesh right with it!  Enough of that, I said!  I grabbed my razor knife and cut the mesh into sections and pulled it up, weeds and all!!  Now I’m trying to get in the habit of weeding a little every week.  If I catch them early enough they will come up with a few swipes of a hand weeding tool.

P1220439This is as ‘good as it got’ in my front flower garden last summer.  I really wasn’t expecting much though; considering I got such a late start.  I just looked at it as a ‘head start’ on this years planting!  It’s not very visible in the above photo, but I found a little white wire fence section at a garage sale, that I put in to border my flower bed.  It was not long enough though, and I never did find any more matching fencing to add to it, so I pulled that this year.

I did get a few nice blooms towards the end of last summer.

P1220430This container on my porch got nice and FULL last summer!

Early this spring I desperately needed ‘some’ color in my garden; and bought a few forced bulbs (tulips, crocus and narcissus) to plant along the edge of my porch.  Again, this was more ‘thinking ahead’ to next year; because these were already in bloom, they faded quickly this year.  (this picture was BEFORE I had pulled up the dreaded black weed blocker; which you can see in the photos.  shudder!)

P1260435We had a string of GORGEOUS, early spring, sunny and warm days in late May – early April and I was itchin’ to get my hands in the dirt again!  (this is AFTER pulling up the old weed barrier) I added about 20 bags of steer manure ( broken down into 4 separate shopping trips; spread out over 2 weeks for the sake of my bad back!)

I’ll share with you how I managed to unload, haul and spread all those BIG HEAVY bags of manure with my bad back; just in case any of you also have similar back issues and limitations.

Getting them loaded into my car at the garden center is no problem, as I just ask for help and tell them I need them to load onto the cart AND into my car as I have a bad back and cannot lift them.  I specifically have them load all the bags as close to the back edge of my car as possible;  (PT Cruiser; so it’s a HATCH and not a ‘trunk’.  This method wouldn’t work in a typical trunk) as shown in the above picture.  When I got home, I pulled out my little ‘flat bed dolly’ and just rolled the bags out of the back of my car and onto the dolly; letting gravity do the heavy lifting.  (I got my dolly years ago at Costco.  It is specifically sized to carry the plastic storage bins; but can be used for anything, really)  I use this baby for EVERYTHING!!

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Getting the bags to their final destination: I have an old folding ‘luggage wheely’ cart that I put next to the stack of bags on the dolly, and ‘roll and plop’ one bag onto the luggage cart.  Then I can just pull that across the yard to where I need it and roll it off and onto the ground.

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Once the bag is where I need it to be, and while it is laying flat on the ground, I slit it open from end to end and side to side.  Then flip it over and pull up each corner of the bag to empty the contents.  Toss out the empty bag and spread the manure out with a garden rake.

P1220439In the areas where I already had existing plants and could NOT just dump the whole bag out:  I still slit the bag open; end to end and side to side and loosened it up if needed) with my weeder tool.  Then using my trowel, I scooped and filled a gallon container and hand poured that around the plants.  Then filled in the surrounding bare areas the same way.  It SOUNDS like a very long and drawn out process, but really it only took about 5 minutes or do to empty out each bag.P1260057 When the stack of bags is fairly high, I sit on my little garden trolley while I am scooping into the container, so I don’t have to bend over and hurt my back.  When I get down to just ONE bag, which is lower than the trolley, I kneel on my foam pad ‘knee protector’ while I scoop.

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A ‘word’ about those foam pads  . . . . . they wear down QUICKLY!  Whether you buy a twenty dollar one from a pricey garden center, or get one from the dollar store; If you really USE it a lot (like I do!)  they will be totally useless before gardening season ends.  My solution this year?  I bought THREE of them and a spool of duct tape at Dollar Tree.  Taped the three of them together into one big fat knee pad!  It’s perfect!!!  AND not being quite as low to the ground makes getting back up easier on my back!  Win – WIN!!

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And FINALLY I’m ready to start planting!  This load was a few herbs for the ‘back garden’ and some more perennials to fill in the front area.  My ‘vision’ is to have the whole front area COMPLETELY FULL of flowers.

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This is what it looks like right now.  I was HOPING to do more ‘seed planting’ this year since I’ve got an earlier start . . .  and to minimize the expense of buying potted plants.  The neighborhood squirrel population put the kibosh on that plan though!  Those critters LOVE to dig up and bury peanuts in MY garden because my soil is nice and soft!  (and several other neighbors have bird and squirrel feeders!)

Between the squirrels digging up all the seeds and the birds eating them. . . it would have been totally futile!

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So I devised some make shift mini greenhouses to start my seeds in.

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And used these little starter kits I found at the thrift store.  Once they are big enough to transplant into the ground, they should be big enough to ‘survive overnight’ if dug up by the squirrels.  I seriously have to ‘check’ all the newly planted plants EVER DAY . . . and re-plant a few that have been dug up every day!

While the ground was still soft and moist for all the spring rains, I put in a cute little white picket border (which I bought at Dollar Tree!)  in the front and wrapping around the side.  It was a pretty time consuming project and each little section had to be put in ‘one by one’.

The sections are supposed to interlock, end to end; but I had to lock them together before sticking them in the ground and they kept coming apart when I put them in the ground!?!?!  My solution?  ZIP TIES!!  I just used zip ties to attach them together after I put them in the ground.

I honestly do not even remember what all I have planted!!  I just did random plants (what was on sale at the time!)  in random order for the most part.  Except under the window; where I planted three hydrangea.  Which will hopefully, eventually make a nice ‘hedge’ under the window; and a nice backdrop for the rest of the flowers.

The side of the house had been VERY problematic!!  Initially I envisioned this being filled with rose bushes, as it gets a lot of sun.  However, there are cables that run right down the middle of this 14″ deep border; from the utility boxes to the back edge.  AND there are big ole tree roots about 2″ down on the side closer to the front?!?!

I planted some mums along the back and some winter pansies towards the lawn edge last fall.  They did not do well.  Half the pansies were dug up AND carried off by the squirrels; and the mums turned dormant REALLY quickly.  Most of them are starting to sprout again, so I’m in ‘wait and see’ mode for now. I added some gladioli bulbs about a month ago, between the mums.  But I guess I’ll just make this my ‘cutting garden’ for planting annuals; since the tree roots and cables don’t leave much room for roots.

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Freddy’s had little starter 4-paks of assorted color Lobelia on sale for 79 cents this week; so I splurged and bought TEN 4-paks!!  The plants are so small that they are barely visible now that I have them all planted; even with so many of them.  I planted them around the border of the front garden and placed a few in bare spots, here and there.

 The ‘back’ garden area is conjoined with the neighbors.  (In the front, our garages are in the middle and separate our front yards.)  She has given me permission to plant ‘whatever I want’; which is nice because it would look really strange to have one side filled with green and the other still dirt.  I put a few concrete stepping-stones in the middle where the water faucet is; then plan to plant each side the same.

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In the center of the back garden area, and just under the bedroom window; I planted a Japanese holly and four Delphiniums, two in front of each little trellis.  (got these little wire trellises at Dollar Tree too!)  The hope is that they will grow tall enough to provide some shade.  This back side gets the hottest sun of the day all summer long.

In front of those, I’ve planted 30 ‘ever bearing’ strawberry plants.  Ordered them via the mail, as bare root starts.  We probably won’t get a lot of berries this year, but they will grow back year after year, so it’s an ‘investment’.

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I bought a few herb starts; that I planted close to my patio.

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And I have NO IDEA what to plant in the rest of the area  . . . yet!  Thinking marigolds along the front border (hoping the ones I started from seed actually GROW!)

And for shading the back patio door (which leads to my bedroom and was unBEARably HOT last summer!)  I got two big plastic 1/2 barrel pots, 6′ metal trellises and gallon pots of Jasmine; which should vine up nicely and generate some shade.  And I’ll fill the ladder with planters filled with petunias.  I envision them flowing over the edges and completely covering the ladder, eventually.

BARGAIN GARDENING TIP:  Sometime every spring, and for a far back as I can remember, (and usually the week before Mother’s day!) Freddy’s has ‘tray packs’ of petunias on sale for $9.99.  They are not planted in individual little pots, so you have to separate the roots yourself, but for that price; who cares!?!  There are usually at least 20 plants per tray.  (my son used to buy me one of these every year for Mother’s Day!) I think they might also have marigolds for the same price.  (I know there were two options, but I always wanted Petunias, so I’m not certain what the other offering was!?)

I’m waiting for those petunias to go on sale this year to fill the planters that I will put on the ladder rungs.  These rungs have been made deeper with an added piece of cedar fencing on them, to better hold the planters.  I’ll probably buy a few individual ‘wave petunias’ for the planters on the upper rungs so they will trail over.

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Another great ‘bargain gardening tip’ is to take advantage of Freddy’s “Fuchsia  Saturday” special. It’s already come and gone for this year (April 9th), but watch, and PLAN for it for next year.  They do it ‘rain or shine’ too. This was my first time taking advantage of it; and the weather was perfect!  The guy planting my baskets was telling me that it HAILED last year for the event.  (in which case they set it op under cover in the garden center.)

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There is a limit of 8 planters; maximum circumference of 18″.  The Fuchsia starts were on sale 5 for $3.00.  I got my hanging baskets and coco mat liners (individually priced) at Dollar Tree.  You have to go inside the garden center and purchase your starts FIRST; then get in line for the planting station.  I bought 3 starts for each basket; they provided the soil.  I took home 7 hanging fuchsia baskets for less than $5.00 each!!  Of course it will be a while before I get blooms on them . . . .but for that price, I can wait!

I have them hanging over my front porch where they get a bit of morning sun but mostly shade.  I really don’t NEED this many of them; so I’ll probably give them away as gifts later in the season when they are fuller.

The ‘key’ to keeping your gardening expenses from spiraling too high is:

PATIENCE.

  • Plant your own starts from seeds.  (you can ever MAKE your own ‘plantable’ starter pots from empty toilet paper rolls!)
  • Stick with PERENNIALS or bulbs that will grow back year after year.  Plant once and DONE!
  • If you MUST have ‘instant gratification’ and buy potted starts that will give you instant color; watch for sales.
  • Save your receipts!  Nearly all places that sell plants will offer some kind of guarantee.  If your plant fails to thrive, you can get a replacement or refund; but ONLY if you have a receipt as proof.

Sometimes, your answer LITERALLY falls from the sky!

Remember my ‘Yard Debris Wreaths’ from a while back?

I had added the nests and birds ‘as a finishing touch’, but they STILL didn’t feel done.  But I had NO idea what else to do!!  Some of you suggested adding a tag; which I tried – and nixed.  They are so ‘organic’ that the tags looked out-of-place.

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The one with the nest AND bird is hanging on my front door, and the one above on the shutter door to a cabinet in my living room.

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EVERY time I looked at them, I think: “They STILL need something!”  But I don’t know WHAT!!  sigh.

Then, while I was out working in my yard last week, picking up pine cones from the grass, I came across ONE of the wispy tree twigs that I had used to make the twiggy wreaths a while back.  It was just ONE little branch, and I still have a whole basketful of them leftover in my garage, AND about 15 wreaths already made; so I was just going to toss it into my yard debris bin along withe the pine cones.

Then BAM!!! Major BRAINSTORM!! 

THIS (this little twig that I had in my hand) is exactly what the moss and bark wreaths need!!!!

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It’s a very subtle added touch, but just that little ‘something more’ that they needed to feel ‘finished’.

The twigs show up much better in person.  So after I did the one on my front door with the branch I had just picked up in my yard; I went to my stash in the garage to find some to add to the other wreath.

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I seriously LOVE these wreaths now!

And I kinda think I like the asymmetry of the second one MORE.

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This is what I used to attach the twigs.  First I found the ‘spot’ that I wanted it to originate from and ‘punched a hole’ into the wreath with the point of my scissors.  I squeezed a fair amount of tacky glue into the hole and inserted the thick end of my branch.

Then I ‘played around’ a bit with positioning the wispy branch ends.  When I found the spot I wanted them to stay in, I used the floral pins (shown above) pushed in to hold them down.  It was a little tricky to find a spot that the pins would GO through, between the pieces of bark.  Then I just glued another little piece of moss on top of the pin to disguise it!

Do you agree with me that this was the perfect finishing touch for these wreaths?

Sometimes, your answer LITERALLY does, fall from the sky!