Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mid-July Scenes

An unidentified (but beautiful) pink rose in the Paradise Garden.

Greetings from the peak of summer! We finally got a bit rain last night after nearly a month without any at all -- which is strange, because other parts of Iowa have had so much rain that they have suffered serious floods. The forecast calls for a few more rainy days next week, so I hope we're getting back to normal amounts of precipitation and not heading into a drought.

It's been a couple of weeks since I have been able to post, mostly because I bought a new computer last weekend (the old one was making ominous grinding noises that I don't think were merely coming from a clogged fan). It's taken nearly a week to get my files transferred and software installed -- and I still haven't been able to successfully install Photoshop, which I used to edit my photos, despite a number of tries and much time wasted chatting with Adobe help.

But apparently Microsoft's photo editor can do basic editing (and is quite easy and quick to use as well), so that's what I've used for this post. I hope the photos will look OK.

Anyway, I wanted to share a few pictures of what's been looking nice around here, especially an update of what's been happening in my new Paradise Garden:

The Paradise Garden at dusk, when this garden is most beautiful and inviting.

The plants are starting to fill in a bit, especially the annuals and dahlias.

Vibrant colors of Wave petunias, marigolds and dahlias.

I've been impressed by the growth rate and rapid bloom of this bush-type dahlia 'Jaipur'. 

The Persian carpet colors of the annuals were a big part of my design for this exotic garden.

Exotic fruits are another key feature of this garden. I'm so excited that there are figs on my new fig tree! (Chicago Hardy)

Orien-pet lilies and pink flowering tobacco, each one vying with the other to release the most intoxicating scents in the evenings. These are planted against the front porch/sunroom, on the edge of the Paradise Garden.

Yellow orien-pet lilies in my front border, on the outside of the fence. I moved these here in May, which I worried wasn't a good time to do so, but they don't seem to have minded in the least, except for being a bit shorter than last year.

Around the corner on yet another side of the fence is this Rose of Sharon
that I planted about six years ago. It's never looked as good as it does this year.
One of my favorite self-seeding annuals, snapdragons -- I'm never sorry to see these popping up anywhere
in my gardens!

Every year, I usually experience a period of blahs during July, probably due to the days starting to become shorter -- I know I'm not the only gardener to feel this. Also, most of my planned garden projects are usually wrapped up by this time, and often it's too hot and muggy outside to do much of anything anyway (and weeds tend to take over during such periods, which is discouraging too).

But we're predicted to have a few cooler days this coming week, and I still have some small projects that I want to get done this year, so maybe I'll be able to work on a few this week.

And I feel pretty good about the improvements that I've made to my gardens this year, so this July seems like it's OK. Hard to believe back-to-school is just around the corner already, but that happens every summer (and undoubtedly feels much worse for kids!).

Hope you are enjoying a few cool days during the height of summer, and that your own gardens are filled with beautiful flowers and foliage. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Friday, June 29, 2018

Our new pergola!

Greetings! I hope you are all enjoying the official first week of summer and that it's not too hot either -- it reached 96°F here today, but until today it's been actually quite pleasant, with temperatures in the 80s.

My big news is that my final major improvement project of this year in my gardens is finished: A new pergola covering our east patio!

For at least five years, I've thought about having a pergola built over the patio -- it almost seems like the patio was designed specifically for one, the way it's laid out with beds all around it. But we never got around to it.

Then two years ago, enclosing our front porch into a sunroom eliminated our only shady outdoor place to sit. Last summer I tried solving the shade problem by buying a patio umbrella, but it never seemed to cast shade in the right place when we needed it, and it was pretty ugly, held down by sandbags to keep it from blowing over.

The patio umbrella was not very useful or attractive.... 

In early May this year, my husband's family came to our place for a visit. Most of his relatives wanted to walk around our gardens, but his elderly mother was too tired to accompany us. Sadly, there was no place for her to sit and rest in the shade, so she had to stay inside our house while we walked around. Time to finally do something about this unsatisfactory arrangement!

My husband and I had just built a very small pergola for my new Paradise Garden together, so I felt confident that I could design and build (with my handyman's help) a larger, more complex version over the patio.

The much smaller pergola in my Paradise Garden, which gave me the confidence to build a larger version.

Step 1: Design the pergola on paper (based on standard designs), estimate and buy lumber, and have it delivered.

Step 2: Prime, paint, and paint again.

Step 3: Dig four 4-foot-deep post holes, using an ancient manual auger I borrowed from our neighbor -- actually, I made my kids dig these holes, even though the 3-foot holes I dug for the smaller pergola were fairly easy to dig.

Then I had to wait for my handyman to schedule a couple of free days to help me. He finally came over last week:

  1. First he used a jigsaw to cut the ends of the lumber the way I wanted.
  2. Then together we carried the 12-foot-long, 6x6 posts (about 170 pounds each!) from the garage to the patio and put them into the post holes.
  3. He mixed up concrete in our wheelbarrow and dumped it into the four holes.
  4. We carried the four, 20-foot-long main support beams and each climbed up on a ladder and rested them on temporary support nails that he had driven in at a level height, and he attached the beams on either side of the posts.
  5. I carried all the rest of the lumber from the garage and handed it up to him piece by piece to install on top.
  6. Finally, I primed and re-painted the cut ends of the boards, and replaced some of the topsoil back into the post holes.

The Finished Project! (Except for the treated wood posts, which need to wait until fall for paint.)

The table and chairs I got last year now look more sheltered.

I planted a wisteria 'Amethyst Falls' on the southeast post, and will plant clematis
on the other posts.

I think the pergola balances the house within the fence, and will look even better after I paint the posts.

A good addition, all in all.

I will need to re-do the formerly full-sun beds around the pergola as they become shady in the next few years when the wisteria does what wisterias do, but I think I'll wait until next spring to move things around. I did find three 'Twist-and-Shout' hydrangeas on final closeout last weekend, and planted them next to the fence, under the pergola -- I hope they'll be happy there, as I've never had any luck getting hydrangeas to overwinter....

Anyway, that's my final big project of this year, and I hope we will soon have a nice, shady spot for our family and guests to relax.

Hope your own projects are winding up, and that you are enjoying your gardens from comfortable, shady spots. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mid-June Scenes

Greetings! Summer is underway here in the Midwest, even if it doesn't officially begin until next week -- we've been alternating a few sunny days of highs in the nineties with a few days of rainy, cooler weather for the past several weeks now.

The roses have certainly loved this weather: 'Golden Celebration,' above, has looked beautiful, as has 'Seminole Wind,' shown below:

Clematis and astilbes next to my garage make a nice combination.

The evergreen North Border is looking pretty neat and orderly, now that I have removed the flower bed that  was in front of it. We're still working on getting the leftover self-seeded cosmos from the flower border under control, and those will probably keep popping up for years (not that they're such a bad "weed" to have, although they do tend to smother out the evergreen shrubs behind them). 
The Yellow Garden is coming into flower now, starting with early Asiatic lilies and yarrow, and gold foliage dominates the shadier section near the house. The dead-looking tree at right is a laburnum -- I don't think it's entirely dead, but I'm not sure if it has been damaged by residual farm field spray, to which they are apparently very sensitive, or if another malady has defoliated it. This is the second time it has suffered like this in late spring, and if it happens again I will likely replace it with something else. Who wants a plant that looks mostly dead every year?

The new Paradise Garden is beginning to fill in and show a bit of color, despite being planted less than a month ago.

A closeup of the Persian carpet colors in marigolds and short snapdragons in the Paradise Garden.

After a rain shower, the roses and stocks smelled wonderful near the pergola in the PG.

I've noticed with dismay that a number of the flowers in the Paradise Garden have been fatally nibbled, snipped off at the base or completely yanked out, mostly likely by rabbits! I didn't think they would be such a threat inside our picket fence so close to our house, especially since our dog spends most of her time near the house. But she is getting pretty long in the tooth, and probably can't see, hear or smell them like she once did.

Time for defensive measures: I'm going to run some chicken wire fencing around the bottom of the picket fence to try to keep them out. We'll see if the nightly pillaging is reduced after I do this....

Hope you are enjoying the beginning of a pleasant summer in your own gardens (and that hungry varmints aren't munching on your flowers!). Thanks for reading, -Beth