Posts Tagged ‘plants’

Our “Spring Break” trip (minus any actual Spring Break-ers) was a week of relaxed-pace recreating in Myrtle Beach.  I knew our vacation was off to a great start when I spied our condo’s dishes:


If you guessed Fiesta, you guessed correctly. I’m feeling very influential these days.  Or maybe I’m just in good company.  What’s not to love about these dishes?

The week provided several rounds of golf for Mr. Official, a couple hours of hot yoga and a nice 5-mile run for me, plus plenty of pool time.  Our winter whites have been banished for the season, replaced by a pink-brown color they call “tan” – I hear it’s the “in” color this summer.

The temperatures exceeded expectations, pegging out in the high 70s/low 80s most days.  We  ate our fill of local seafood each night and we drove Thunder Road:IMG_3395


…well, one of us did. Somebody had to take pics, and besides, I wasn’t sure I met the height requirements.


Because Mr. Official is an easy-going good sport, one night he agreed to forgo a seafood feast and dine on movie theater popcorn and Cokes while watching Jurassic Park in 3-D (in a nearly empty theater.. which was kinda weird.)

In between golf, yoga, and taking laps around the lazy river on innertubes, we also got in a day of antiquing, which netted two red fruit bowls and a turquoise salad bowl for my (ever-growing) collection.  I also acquired some wonderful additions to our landscape, courtesy of a plant sale at Brookgreen Gardens and a fabulous little nursery in Murrells Inlet:IMG_3426.

But the highlight of the trip was on Friday…it was a paparazzi moment for me and my camera when I spotted this gosling surrounded by a couple tough-looking bodyguards on high alert.  I managed to squeeze off a few shots before they shooed me away.


Technically, it was six goslings.


Oh, wait…you thought I spotted Ryan Gosling?  Silly goose.  Nope. But I think these Canadians are just as cute as he, and it was way easier to get a photo of ’em than THAT guy.

Happy Monday,


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Transplanting in July.

Our old house was once again empty as of June 30.  After our tenants moved out, I found I not only needed to touch up the painted walls inside, but a stroll through the back gardens showed that my left-behind plants were seriously suffering from neglect. And realistically, that was not surprising – not everyone loves gardening as much as I do, and even an avid gardener isn’t necessarily going to appreciate my plant choices, or understand all the quirks that come with gardening beneath greedy, thirsty maple trees in thin clay soil and very hard, high pH water.  It took me several years of trial-and-error to figure out what worked, and my plant ranks suffered many casualties along the way.

I reluctantly made the decision to move some of the plants while we were between renters and give the beds a fresh coat of mulch for the new tenants. Moving plants is always stressful on them, but conventional wisdom says the best time to transplant is in the spring or fall…either before the plant breaks dormancy or as it is drifting off for a long winter’s nap.

Obviously, July is neither spring nor fall.  In fact, it is quite possibly the worst possible time to uproot and move plants around – they need all their strength just to withstand the rigors of high heat and dry conditions that July is notorious for.  But it was a “now or never” window of opportunity: No matter what arrangements we made at lease signing, I wouldn’t have felt right expecting new tenants to welcome me and my trusty shovel in September, and at the rate the plants were declining, I wasn’t sure they could hold on that long even if I did.  As it turned out, we had it rented just two weeks after it was vacated.

And so, in the middle of the month that is in the middle of summer and in the midst of extreme heat and drought, I spent an overcast but extremely humid Saturday morning digging up dozens of plants: hydrangeas, peonies, hellebores, hostas, heucheras, a prized Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and some pulmonarias and even a bag full of variegated Solomon’s seal roots (the plants had gone completely deciduous due to the extreme temperatures and dry spell.)

I tagged and bagged and hauled them all home, set them in the shade and began the process of putting them into new surroundings with as much rich, moist amended soil as I could muster.  Since I was digging and moving, I thought I’d bite the bullet and move three randomly planted peonies from this property, and create double borders along eastern fence, with hydrangeas on one side of the gate, and a double-row of peonies along the other.  The photo gallery shows the ugly truth about moving plants under these conditions.  These were taken yesterday, two weeks after the plants were moved. They will not win any beauty prizes this year, but if I can keep them hydrated and we have a typical fall and winter, I’m hopeful of their chances for survival.

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You may see them as lost causes, but when I look at them, I see the potential for them flourishing once again under the watchful eye of the one who hand-chose nearly all of them for her garden, once upon a time.

After all, I moved these plants earlier this year:

and see how they are growing and filling in, just a couple months later:

If a fellow gardener or homeowner asked me for advice, I would tell them to do as I say and not as I did, unless they were in similarly dire straits.  Even with a lot of TLC, I’m sure these plants are going to take a few years to fully recover from this ill-timed move and I may lose a few of them.  But fortunately for us, plants are resilient and forgiving, so take courage and transplant your plants, but preferably in months that have R’s in them.

Happy gardening,

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A bad time of year to be a bad dog.

I love our grandpuppy. But the key word here is “puppy” – she’s got a full grown dog’s body and a puppy’s lack of impulse control.

Which explains some carpet stains.

And this.

As bad as this looks, it looked much worse when we first discovered the carnage.

So what do you do when a container goes kaput in late summer?  It’s too late to buy duplicate replacements, especially if they were part of a set, like this one was.

This late in the year, the pickins are slim indeed.  If we lived farther north, I’d just call the planter done for the season and put some pansies in it to enjoy through the weeks of fall.  But we live in an area that won’t see 30-degree temperatures for another 6-8 weeks.  Pansies won’t even be available for another month around here, and my motto is “leave no container unplanted,” especially since we don’t have much in the way of borders or vegetable garden this year.

Fortunately one of our garden centers still had a decent selection of annuals, including some coleus and begonias, making it easy to make do.  Since the begonias were in a four-pack, I inserted the others in a few other blank spots in the deck containers to try to tie the whole thing together, gave some remaining plants a haircut and fertilized and watered everything.

Now I’m just hoping the dog will leave this one alone and let it grow until the first frost does it in, sometime late in October.  Be good, sweet Sadie.

Happy planting,

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Okay, it’s hanging by more than a thread; picture hooks and picture wire are holding everything up.

This week was jam-packed full of activities and precious few loose ends got tied off.  But one memorable ending is now hanging in our bedroom.

Last winter, I was scheduled for a painting night at Faithful Strokes when a heavy snow canceled our class.  So I waited and watched their calendar for the right class to come along.  Call me fickle, but it wasn’t until last Thursday that my schedule and their class schedule were in sync. I finally got to paint “Brown Eyed Girl” and “she” is now hung in our bedroom.

I also framed a trio of photos: one from each of our trips to South Carolina and one of the St. Aloysius church ruins at Morley,  near where I grew up.  (Note to my mom.  Yes, that is the 1986 print you gave me how-many-years ago, finally framed and hung.  Yes, I found it while moving.  Amazing what one finds when one moves one’s uhhh, “assets” from one abode to another.)  Note the blank spot beneath the photos. Wouldn’t a dresser fit perfectly in that spot?  I’m determined to make that happen in the next 30 days.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I moved more (yes, more) plants this week. I can now say this is truly “my” garden. In addition to the irises and Shasta daisies and peonies and gladioli that were here, this area now has clumps of my favorite daylilies and coneflowers, bellflowers I grew from seed, a tickseed Coreopsis that has survived years of neglect, my Verbena bonariensis, which is supposedly not hardy to this zone (ha!), a lone Dahlia survivor (harsh winters and a weed-warrior neighbor did the rest in over the past few years), the one-and-only lily I have ever bought (a red ‘Garp’), some blue Echinops, a Kniphofia and my precious ornamental Alliums. They join some new plants I set out a month ago: Guaras, Amsonias, some ornamental grass, and the Dahlias and Acidanthera bulbs I planted a few days ago. It’s the best of all worlds – old, new and inherited. Hopefully next spring will show a melding of colors and textures (and not a shouting match.)

I brought some ‘Herrenhausen’ oregano and my rosemary over to start a kitchen herb garden next to the house. (My car now smells of rosemary – mmmmmmmm.)  And I brought other plants, too – variegated ‘Illumination’ vinca and native Pachysandra are going in the ground today.

One new loose end got tied off promptly this week: thank-you notes for the wonderful (and completely unexpected) gifts we received during our first housewarming party go out in today’s mail. Friends have a way of knowing EXACTLY what to surprise us with, and I am humbled beyond words.  Y’all rock. 

The final loose end for the week: summer swim practice and meets are officially over for swimmer girl. For the past eight years, this occasion has been accompanied by a thundering rendition of the Hallelujah! chorus.  (There are 23 stoplights between our house and the pool.  Ask me how I know.  Ask me how many times I stop at each of them while taking swimmer girl to practice 4 nights a week.  Go on…ask, I dare ya.)

But the celebration is muted this year; there’s only one more summer swim season left on our mother/daughter dance card, and she’ll be driving herself next year. Sniff. Can someone please, please make time slow down for the next two years? Because I don’t want to miss one. single. minute. She’s our baby bird, and she’s swiftly growing a beautiful pair of strong and capable wings that will send her sailing into her future.

This week should prove interesting: a long holiday weekend launches it (and we ARE taking some time off from projects), and another gathering of friends is slated to cap it off next Saturday. Wonder what I can tie off between now and then?

Happy tying,

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Loose Ends, Week 5.

In between hosting Bunco on Monday night and opening our house for a house-warming last night, I managed to tie up a few loose ends this week.

The warm-up act was Monday night’s bunco party. Around 20 women and children (yes, we start ’em young) gathered for baked potatoes, salad, laughter and yes…putting out money and rolling dice. Don’t call the vice squad – the proceeds will buy a bicycle for a preacher in India to be able to get from town to town faster and easier.)

It was fun, but I just want to let those who toured my home know that my vacuum does NOT hang out in the middle of my bathroom all the time. Thank you for politely overlooking it, but really – you’re my friends. One of you could have said SOMETHING! I had to laugh when I walked in there later that night and there it sat.  It was one of those things.  I started to vacuum and then I saw some laundry that needed to be started, and when I got to the laundry room I realized I had a basket of assorted odds-and-ends that needed to be put away… And before long, I forgot all about vacuuming.

After Monday the countdown clock began ticking toward Friday.  Last night at 6:30, a steady stream of friends began showing up, and the last family pulled away a little after 10.  Swimmer girl and middle son took advantage of the still-flaming bonfire to make a few more S’mores while I tidied up and Mr. Official helped Little Dog and Big Dog do their business for the night.  (We have a weekend guest in the form of 35 pounds of energy and fur, also known as Sadie-the-grandpuppy.)

Where was I?  Oh yes,loose ends.

Although much of the week was spent on other things, I did tie up a few loose ends.

For starters, I moved a gob of plants from old house to new house last weekend – all my Louisiana irises, variegated Irises, Japanese purple irises, and several hostas.  To even things out, I shovel-pruned two clematis in the new house’s beds. I like clematis as much as anybody, but you gotta know your varieties, and “sweet autumn” clematis is NOT a dainty little vine to plant in your formal garden beds. It’s a thug. A sweet smelling thug, but a thug. They were smothering the roses on either side of them, so in the final analysis, it was the clematis that had to go.  Their departure left room for one of my birdbaths.

The deck rails and spindles are now  all stained.  They could use a second coat, but even if they don’t get it for a few months, they are sealed and ready to withstand the summer sun beating down on them. So we went from this:

to this:

 and this:

I also hung curtains in the two upstairs bedrooms. Fortunately, hanging them did NOT involve a rodent-sighting.

And I hung some pictures in our master bathroom and painted over my drywall repair job. The entire bathroom needs a painting – but at least it doesn’t have white spots here and there until I can completely tie up that loose end.  So that one is only half-tied.

I made a list of all known loose ends and wound up with two dozen projects, big and small.  All I can say is it’s going to be a very busy summer.

Happy tying!

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Summer is officially here and so is the urge to garden.  Actually, the urge started last weekend, along with rain in the form of intermittent downpours.

A dedicated gardener gardens in the rain.  A delusional gardener is surprised when she gets dirty or wet while doing so.  But it takes a heaping helping of insanity (and a wellspring of optimism) to create a new bed where Bermudagrass recently grew, and hope for anything other than a really nice stand of Bermudagrass to grow.

I did all three last weekend – which probably qualifies me for a 72-hour stint in the mental ward (and if they’d let me sleep in, I might sign up for a long weekend.)  But planting in the rain is great for plants, even if it’s a soggy proposition for the planter.  Saturday’s 20% chance of rain turned into an all-afternoon rain-a-thon; when the rain let up every so often,  I scampered outside to plant and transplant things. And was repeatedly surprised to find myself soaked and my shoes and shovel covered in mud and muck. Duh.

With Middle Son’s help, I divided my water lilies into half, and planted each in a nice big tub, and sunk them in the middle of the pond.   (When I say help, I mean he watched from the bank, and asked me if I had seen the snapping turtles – yes, plural – or water snake.  He’s helpful like that.)  Now I will watch and wait for them to grow and bloom and beautify our pond.  Several pots of purple irises now grace one steep corner of the pond; dozens of Louisiana irises were installed (with bona fide help from that same son) around another long stretch of pond bank. That will make Mr. Official happy since he won’t have to mow the steep patches.  My gratification is delayed until next spring when they bloom.

While moving things from there to here, I tucked in Heuchera and several hosta divisions in a new shady bed that middle son and the Mantis tiller created for me, then edged them with caladium bulbs sent to me by Bill at CaladiumBulbs4Less (thank you Bill!  Pics coming as soon as these pretty plants are up and flourishing!)  The area had some straggling Bermudagrass before it was tamed by the Mantis, so we’ll see – I could be dog-cussing this decision the rest of the summer.  But it is just a temporary bed; it needs to be deeper and swoopier (if that’s a word) before I will call it a real border.

Two hydrangeas (a new dwarf oakleaf and a deciduous hydrangea) are  now installed along the new fence row; the remainder of the perennials I acquired back in April are planted under an oak tree near the driveway – again, they’re in a holding pattern.  The bed has potential but needs some serious rearranging in the fall.

After a few years’ abstinence from any serious or heartfelt gardening, it feels really good to throw myself into digging into the soil and tucking plants into new homes here at our new homestead.  Need more proof my gardening mojo is back?  Look what we brought over last week:

Little Dog isn’t so little anymore…

I might just have to bring the fig and lilac that flanked it at the old place. (One was historically accurate: lilacs were planted for odor control back when an outhouse was really an outhouse.  The fig just seemed like a good choice – you never know when you might need a fig leaf for something or other.)

Happy planting,

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Containing the chaos

When I get in a garden center, my sensibilities tend to take flight and leave me wandering around dazed and confused.  I love plants, and all those rows of beautiful blooming bedding plants are as tempting to me as a candy store is to a kid.

I buy plants on a whim – some of these, a few of those.  I have no plan, no list, no vision for how I’m going to use them.  So when I get home, my purchases typically look like this:

But several years of frenetic plant shopping have taught me a few things, like:

1. Buy plants in pairs.   I can at least create symmetrical containers.  (Or in threesomes or foursomes if I’m doing baskets or a trio of planters.)
2.  Consider shapes.  Like people, plants come in all shapes and sizes.  A good mix of tall spiky and trailing stuff will offset all the bushy plants.
3.  Double-check sun/shade requirements.  Neither parched, scorched plants nor lanky, anemic-looking plants are attractive for the long haul of summer.  Fortunately I have lots of both sun and shade.

I tend to gravitate toward purples and oranges (often at the same time), with lots of chartreuse foliage thrown in for good measure, but I know eventually these colors can and will be separated into groupings that won’t assault a visitor’s senses when they approach our doors.

After a little arranging and rearranging, the chaos starts to shape up into this:

Caladiums, orange Diascia and burgundy spikes

More caladiums, purple shamrocks, lilac ivy geraniums

Plectranthus, Streptocarpellas, fiber optic grass & another Plectranthus

And here they are, all lined up and waiting to be slipped into their containers.

The plants in front are for a trio of deck containers…

And…a few days later, here they are in their new homes:

Trio on the back deck
Two more on the back deck, catching some morning sun
Two new containers flanking the dining room doors

Closeup of one of the two pots next to the front door

Over the next few weeks, with plenty of water and warm temps, they should plump up and fill out their containers.  Chaos is under control once again.

Happy planting,

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