Thursday, July 2, 2020

Lily Time!

Hello everyone! I hope you are enjoying some beautiful summer days in your gardens -- I have been pretty busy in mine recently.

The weather is starting to get a bit hot and humid again, which shouldn't be a surprise, since it's summer in Iowa -- but it's time to turn the air conditioner back on again after a few weeks of cooler, rainy days.

But I've been using the cooler days (and a few hot ones too) to work outside to maintain and improve my garden areas -- some of which were looking pretty weedy and overgrown with grass in the last year or two. I've cleared a few areas entirely, and replanted other areas that I cleared last year (and the year before). Things are now starting to look a bit more under control.

The Pond Gardens are looking much improved this year, for the first time in several years. Two years ago I cleared them of the grass that had invaded them, installed a metal edging around the paving stones last year, and replanted them this year with annual petunias and dahlias, in addition to the roses and boxwoods that remained. This area has a well-kept, park-like feeling now (the two new benches helped with that too).

Here's another area that looks much better this year: behind my garage. This very long bed was completely infested with grass and weeds two years ago, so I cleared it and last year I planted a bunch of hostas that I moved and divided from another area (mostly from the Yellow Garden, so many of them are golden in color). This bed looks SO much better and is easier to maintain, now that the hostas have filled in to crowd out weeds.

Another area that is much improved this year is my new Tropical Garden around my patio. The plants have started to grow a bit since I planted them about a month ago. It won't look truly jungle-y for at least another month, but I'm pretty happy with it, and I've managed to keep it weeded and well maintained so far. (Please ignore the "project" waiting on the sidewalk at right....)

A closeup of the shady front border in the Tropical Garden -- complete with Jungle Cat snoozing among the tropical foliage. :-)

And this mock orange (Philadelphus) hedge is looking (and smelling) better than it ever has. I cut it down to half its height two years ago, and that has made the shrubs grow back much more thickly, and bloom heavier than the ever have before. The scent can be smelled across the yard.

Lily Show

The big current story is the lilies, though. The Asiatic lilies have been blooming for the past couple of weeks, and now the orien-pet lilies are are coming online too.

These Asiatics in the Paradise Garden look lovely in this pink shade.

These trumpet lilies (whose name I have lost) are blooming in the Paradise Garden too.

And these orien-pet lilies just opened today and have a wonderfully strong scent. They perfume the entire Paradise Garden -- and what should a Paradise Garden be, if not a scented garden? This evening  was magical outside after dusk.


But it's that time of year again: the cursed Japanese beetles have again invaded our gardens.

So up went The Big Net. This is the third year I've put it up, and I feel safer under it now that the buggers won't be able to chaw on my roses and mate to create even more of their horribleness. I wish I didn't have to put it up (it prevents the butterflies from flapping about in my garden -- at least until September, when they again have glorious free rein) but it's much better than the alternative:

Sorry to show you this hideousness, but it's important to realize just how horrible
the alternative is. This was two years ago  in early August, BBN (Before the
Big Net). Uggh.

Entering my Bedouin tent -- where roses can flourish freely all summer. Much better....

I hope you are able to enjoy magical evenings in your own gardens now that summer is truly here -- I can't believe that the 4th of July is already upon us. (I think this every year; the holiday always makes me feel a bit sad, as it marks the peak of summer, after which it's a long slide downward to trough of January. 

But there are still many nice evenings ahead this summer and autumn for us to enjoy. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Monday, June 8, 2020

June Flowers

Greetings! June is always such a floriferous time of year, from the irises and peonies that are now fading to the roses that are in full bloom.

Here's a few scenes from around my gardens during the past couple of weeks:

First, here's my Paradise Garden, filled with poppies and pinks and pansies.

A closeup of the eye-watering clashing going on between the pelargoniums in pots and the poppies behind them -- it was much more strident in person, I can assure you! :-)

Moving on to my delphiniums: This is the first time in 3-4 years that I have had delphiniums flowering here. The bed became overgrown with grass and I had to clear it out three years ago and leave it empty until last year, when I planted more delphs that I raised from seeds. Finally they're blooming!

Another view of the delphinium bed from the front -- I always love how these look with daisies!

Herbaceous peony 'Sarah Bernhardt' -- these flowers are so huge....

Intersectional peony 'Bartzella' in my Yellow Garden.

I finally painted the posts of our pergola white, after nearly two years. (They are treated lumber, so they did need to cure a bit -- but not really for quite so long....) The wisteria 'Amythyst Falls' that I planted two years ago is now blooming better than it ever has, and looks very pretty with the Dame's Rocket that self-seeded here.

Here's our favorite view -- which looks even more beautiful with the addition of the wisteria.

And look what I spotted in this border: an eremurus or foxtail lily! I think I spent $100 to plant a dozen of these in this border -- five years ago -- and never saw any trace of any of them. I guess one of them decided it could emerge and bloom now.

I hope you are enjoying many flowers in your own gardens during June flower time. Thanks for stopping by! -Beth

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Tropical Madness

A closeup from my Paradise Garden: pansies and finally one bloom from the Ranunculus or Persian buttercups that I started in my basement. They sure are beautiful flowers, but I might need to buy plants in spring instead of starting a couple dozen from corms I buy in the fall, because mine never look anywhere as good as the greenhouse-raised plants.

Greetings! It's been a cloudy week here in Iowa, and it looks like it will be followed by a rainy one this coming week. But it's a warm rain, and it's starting to feel almost tropical here -- humid with highs in the mid-70s and lows around 60°F.

I've been moving some of my houseplants outside in anticipation of making a new tropical garden around my east patio. Temperatures have been warm enough for nearly every plant to come outside now, with the exception of the banana plant that I bought a few weeks ago -- apparently if the nighttime temperature drops below 57°F, the plant's growth is stunted. Who knew?

My new banana plant: it's called a blood banana (Musa acuminata
  var. zebrina) because of the dark red variegated pattern on the leaves.

Yesterday, the soil was finally just dry enough to work over (just in time before last night's rain). So I could plant my tropical garden, and many of the plants are now in the ground. Here's a few pictures of the process:

BEFORE: I had moved several shrubs from the four beds around the patio back in March, so I just needed to weed -- especially those invasive star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalium umbellatum) at front! -- and then prepare the soil for planting.

After a light weeding to remove large weeds, I used a garden fork to turn over and chop up the soil. Then I added a garden fertilizer -- you can see it sprinkled on top.

Next I put a 4" layer of compost on top of the soil and fertilizer. Our local landfill finally opened to residential traffic after being closed for two months due to the coronavirus. It re-opened Monday morning -- and I was there in the long line of pickup trucks when it opened at 7 a.m. to get the leaf compost I needed for this project.

Good, thick, rich, dark compost -- this and the fertilizer should make the soil good for fast growing tropical plants. I'll use a liquid fertilizer later in the season. 

Then, I finally got to plant the many annuals and houseplants that have been sitting on my front porch, acclimating themselves to outdoor temperatures. I planted several dozen plants and then watered them in just before dusk last night.

It rained this morning, and the air was soft and warm -- just right for tropical plants. Everything looks pretty small right now, but in six weeks, this should be looking a lot more tropical -- especially the castor oil plant that's flopping over from the rain at front left, which will become ginormous by summer's end. 

The back bed is looking the most developed, as it contains several large houseplants, including a Ctenanthe lubbersiana, at left, a couple of small leftover poinsettias, a Philodendron bipinnatifidum in the center of the bed, a small Colocasia that I bought on closeout last fall, two cat palms (Chamaedorea cataractarum) that I found a deal on back in February, and a Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis). 

A closeup of the Philodendron, the Colocasia and the three palms. There are also a few coleus plants spotted about for color, which should get bigger.

There are still a few plants that I ordered and are taking longer to receive because of the slowdowns, which I've left room for: a Colocasia 'Sumo' (I'm looking forward to seeing how big something named 'Sumo' will get), a variegated ginger and three stripey cannas 'Pretoria', as well as the aforementioned banana plant waiting in my sunroom.

The other beds have coleus, tropical hibiscus, castor oil plants I started from seed, and various orange flowered annuals such as begonias, snapdragons, impatiens and celosia.

And there were already clematis and a wisteria planted near the posts (which I still haven't gotten around to painting to match the white top of the pergola), plus the two boxwoods and a patio-sized peach tree that I like the look of -- those leaves look pretty tropical to me

And I'll put a few potted plants on the patio too, especially when they're blooming -- there's nothing like a gardenia, star jasmine or Stephanotis floribunda in bloom, all of which I have in pots.

The dwarf-size peach tree at right looks tropical enough to someone in Iowa....

Now it's just a matter of waiting until the plants put on some size. Plus, I'm looking forward to finding a few fun tropical decorative accessories, like a tablecloth for meals out here, and maybe some patio cushions. I already found a fun tropical cushion at Walmart the other day:

This new patio cushion in my sunroom will definitely be moving out to my
new tropical garden soon!

I hope you are all enjoying warmer days and nights in your gardens too -- or will be soon, if not already. Thanks for reading! -Beth