Saturday, November 10, 2018

The White Stuff Has Arrived!

The grayscale view across the Pond Gardens this morning.

The First Snow fell last night and we woke this morning to a light layer of white covering everything. This is the snow that most people, even including myself, can be enthusiastic about: a novelty that changes the entire look of the landscape overnight, and which will likely be gone in a couple of days.

Snow at this time of year is fun. Hardly any shoveling needed, and it goes away quickly on its own. (Not the snow of February, which keeps piling on the snows of January, forming sharp ice layers between batches, becoming a gray, dirty mess that's so hard to shovel that people die of heart attacks trying to clear their front walks.) This is the fun sort of snow, just enough of it to look picturesque.

A view to the gazebo on the south end of our property.

White on white on white....

I've just about finished the last garden tasks that need to be done this year -- with the exception of planting a few last bulbs in my Front Border. The ground isn't frozen yet, so I hope to be able to do that in the next week or so.

Yesterday I finally drained, disassembled and stored away the fountain in my Paradise Garden -- I was waiting until the last decent moment to do it, because doing it symbolically meant the end of the gardening season. I know that it's actually it's been ending in stages, like bringing in the potted tropical plants, pulling out the annuals cut down by the first frost and planting bulbs for spring.

But the heart of any Paradise Garden is the water, and now the center of my favorite garden is gone. My husband suggested putting a Christmas tree in a pot there, and I wondered about a fire ring instead of a fountain -- but none of our ideas seemed right for such a garden. Better to wait for spring when it can be reborn to what it's meant to be.

The Fountain, the heart of the Paradise Garden, has gone to its winter storage.

Winter is definitely here.

It's probably time to pull out the mounds of petunias that improbably have stayed green all the way up to this point, far after our hard frosts. Oh, and to make my kids put away the patio furniture and grill.

Soon I'll put up the icicle lights across my front sunroom windows, which always looks cozy. My teenage daughter pointedly informed me this week that there are only six weeks until Christmas. It's fun to get ready for Christmas and stay warm and hygge inside with wood-burning fires, fuzzy blankets and purring cats.

Winter can be nice for a while -- I really don't mind it in December and January. I just wish it wouldn't go on for so long -- it would seem more special if it finished up in February, instead of March (or even April, like last winter). But I'll try to make the most of the enjoyable part of winter, and not think about the rest of it. Here's to an early spring!

I hope you are enjoying a cozy transition from autumn to winter in your own gardens and home this season, and that spring will come early for you too. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Sunday, October 21, 2018

It's Mid-October already... Frost! and other updates

My view from sitting on the sunny steps in my Paradise Garden, last week, with roses, marigolds and lovely pink flowering tobacco that flowered for five months.

Hello everyone, I don't know where the last month has gone since my last post, but we're certainly in the middle of Autumn now, aren't we? I've been preoccupied with trying to finish my book about Iowa garden history (and get image permissions, write a book proposal, find a publisher...). Researching and writing the book was the easy part!

But here's an update about what's been happening in my gardens in the past month:

The Pond Garden:

As you may recall from an earlier post, my Pond Garden area needed to be completely renovated. The pond liner leaked, and the four L-shaped beds had been invaded by grass that couldn't be weeded out.

Back in May, my long-suffering husband helped me dig out the water lilies that had taken over the pond.

We replaced the liner, and dug out the stones around the four beds. And there things remained for the rest of the hot summer.

Finally at the beginning of October when it was cool enough to tackle big jobs like this, we replaced the paving stones around the four beds. The pavers around the pond itself still need be adjusted a bit, but at least they're largely in place.

We installed metal edging around all four L-shaped beds as we were replacing the paving stones. This was a rather big job, but with any luck, the edging will inhibit the grass from taking over the beds again.

I still need to plant in the Pond Garden beds the nearly 200 Dianthus 'Sweetness' replacement plants I started from seed earlier in the year. Here they were back in July, and they're still sitting in exactly the same spot next to my house. This week I really hope to get those in the ground, and then next spring I can replace the garden phlox 'Bright Eyes' that were also planted in those beds.

The Greenhouse:

Another project that I hope I've taken care of is fixing my greenhouse:

Here it was back in late September, after the wind AGAIN blew out several of the panels and ripped off the entire door. The plastic and tape I wrapped around the greenhouse last spring did keep some of the panels from blowing out, but it was starting to come loose too. It was time to try something else.

I read online about how other people try to keep their greenhouse panels from repeatedly blowing out (it happens to most greenhouses of this design), and thought this idea of using wood to reinforce the panels was a good idea. I drilled through the metal supports at the corners of the greenhouse frame, and used screws to attach the ends of these wood 2x2s I had lying around onto the frame corners. I then attached each polycarbonate panel to the wood by screwing through each panel from the inside, using large washers. I then reattached the door. We'll see how this holds up through the winter....

The Last of the Beautiful Flowers, before.... Frost!

I've been enjoying some last beautiful, sunny days in my Paradise Garden over the past few weeks, knowing that soon enough it will be time to put this garden away for the winter:

The flowers still looked beautiful in the Paradise Garden in mid-October, although I had already moved the orange tree from this garden inside my basement in late September.

The marigolds were lovely, attracting a few last little white butterflies.

The last of the roses....

But the nights got colder and colder, dipping down below 32°F/0°C a few times....

The light frosts got the nasturtiums first...

...although there were still a few sunny days to enjoy the garden. I found myself gravitating toward the sunny steps in front of the sunroom, not sitting in the shady pergola as I had during the heat of summer. I think I may replace that "stairway to nowhere" with a proper bench next spring.

This morning I woke up to 25°F / -4°C, which finished off most of the annual flowers.

It's time to remove the remains of the annual flowers: the petunias, nasturtiums, marigolds and flowering tobacco. (Does anyone else plant that pink flowering tobacco? It bloomed beautifully with a wonderful scent from June to October here -- why isn't it more commonly planted?)

After the annuals are out, I'll be able to plant the tulips, narcissus and hyacinths that are waiting to be planted, so that next year I'll have something lovely to admire while sitting on the sunny steps in early spring (until I replace those steps with a proper bench, that is).

Last night we watched the last episode of the season of Gardener's World with Monty Don and his adorable dogs, Nigel and Nellie -- it really is the end of the gardening season once again, isn't it? Time to finish off the last jobs outside and move our attention to indoor pursuits:

All my tropical plants are now back inside my sunroom, where the low angle of the sun once again streams through the windows to make sunny days a pleasure to spend in here.

Here's to sunny winter days....

I hope you are enjoying the autumn in your gardens in these last weeks of flowers, getting your last projects finished, and that you're still enjoying some sunny days, whether outside or from the comfort of inside through your windows. Thanks for reading! -Beth

Friday, September 14, 2018

Mid-September Update

Yay! My Paradise Garden is free of netting.

Hello everyone, it's been a month since I last posted and wanted to give an update on what's been happening in my gardens. After our usual intense summer heat, we had a couple weeks in which it rained almost every day -- I almost forgot what it was to water all my pots every day, since I didn't have to do it for two weeks. The cool weather and near-daily rain was welcome after we had been dry for while.

I also would like to give a recap about my Big Net, in case people are wondering how that worked out. As you might recall from my earlier posts, we've had a horrible Japanese beetle problem here, and they were destroying my roses, especially in my new Paradise Garden. So I came up with the idea of draping a Big Net over that entire garden:

Here's the PG a month ago. The Big Net actually worked very well, keeping the JBs off my roses, and I didn't mind the net at all.

But then disaster struck:
On August 28, a tornado warning, a ton of rain, and a huge windstorm with gusts recorded of up to 80 mph blew through here. I was home at the time, and I looked out the front windows and saw the net blowing straight out, horizontally (toward the viewer in the above photo), and saw that some of the garden was uncovered. After it was safe to come out of the basement, I went outside and saw that the net had been Torn Asunder:

Shredded. Back to the drawing board....

After this calamity, I was able to use paper binder clips to pin together the net in spots so it covered most of the garden again, although I had to keep a close eye on it on breezy days and re-adjust the net frequently.

During the cooler, rainy weeks, I hardly saw any JBs, so I finally took down the remains of the net a few days ago (I saved the two-thirds of it that wasn't shredded, to use on other shrubs or fruit trees next year). There are still a few remaining JBs now that it's turned warm and sunny again, but only a few -- not the mobs of them destroying my roses like before. I just go out a couple times a day and knock them into my soapy water cup, and the damage is quite limited. They'll likely be completely gone in another week or so.

The netting structure, partly disassembled. It's all packed away carefully for next year now.

Free at last! Filled with butterflies and hummingbirds, it really is a flower-filled Paradise.

The net really did help my roses avoid terrible damage -- they look great right now, as do the dahlias, marigolds and other flowers that JBs love to wreak destruction upon. I'm planning to buy another net next year and make a few engineering modifications to next year's edition:

  1. I need to reinforce the net with some kind of weather-resistant tape where I attach the grommets along the sides (those hold the net in place during wind and make headroom to walk under the net along the sides. 
  2. I need to cover the ends of the wood slats on the pergola at the back of the garden (maybe with tennis balls or something round and smooth), because their sharp ends were what caused most of the tearing of the net.
We'll give it another go next June, and see if it will work better, even in high winds.

These make all the trial and error worth it. If a Big Net is what I need to enjoy
my roses, that's what I'll use.

Still a lovely spot to sit and enjoy my flowers....

The Clematis paniculata is blooming incredibly generously, considering I just planted it in May, and you can see scented tuberoses and lavender at center, and lovely roses and sweet peas across the path. Heavenly scents all of them.

After the next few days of continuing warmer weather, it looks like it will cool down here and that might be the end of our summer weather. Hard to believe autumn is upon us. I've bought a few spring bulbs that are waiting to be planted, and there are still several improvements I need to make to garden areas this fall -- but it's a lot easier and more enjoyable to work once it's cooler.

I hope you are enjoying beautiful fall weather in your own gardens (and a few more warm summer days too!). Thanks for reading! -Beth