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

Saturday, June 2, 2018

My Fountain Overfloweth

Success! I have been able to get the fountain in my new Paradise Garden to bubble forth like I had hoped it would. As I mentioned in my last post, I installed the fountain pump under the milk can, ran the output pipe up through a hole I cut in the bottom of the can, and then filled the sheep tank with water.

But when I turned on the pump, water sprayed out of numerous rivet holes all around the shoulder seam of the leaky can, which was not part of the design of my simple, bubbling fountain. So I used a spray sealant inside the can, and tried running it again the next day. After a few more adjustments, now the water bubbles forth from the top of the milk can and overflows into the tank, just as I had hoped.

The fountain really adds to the enjoyment of being in the Paradise Garden. The sound of the water flowing mingled with the chirping of birds as we sat under the pergola enjoying the gentle breeze yesterday evening. The effect was relaxing, very nice.

I run the fountain 24/7 to prevent algae and mosquitoes taking up residence (I was surprised to calculate that it costs only about $2/month in electricity). So it's enjoyable to be able to see and hear the splashing water every time I walk past to our front door. A nice addition indeed.

Looking through the leaves of my pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii), that I temporarily placed in the Paradise Garden until I find an olive tree. You can see that the water splashes out gently onto the pavement, cooling the air around the fountain.

Making my Paradise Garden fountain was a much more pleasant project than the one my husband and I worked on a couple of weeks ago, before it got hot here.

I've been renovating my Pond Garden area, because the pond needed a new liner, and also the four surrounding Pond Garden beds have been steadily invaded by grass. This spring, I dug most of the plants out of the garden beds and removed the edging stones, and we've been spraying the grass to eliminate it. This fall, I'll re-install the stones and put metal edging around them to try to keep out the grass, and then re-plant the removed plants.

But back to replacing the pond liner: I bought a new liner two years ago, but it has sat in my garage since then as I truly dreaded having to drain the pond, dig out all the muck, remove the water lilies, and replace the liner. But I swore we'd tackle the job this year, and a few weeks ago, my long-suffering husband and I did it:

My poor, long-suffering husband....

The good news was that it wasn't nearly as disgusting as I thought it would be -- it didn't smell very bad at all. But the bad news was that the two small water lilies we dropped into the pond five years ago were no longer small, or confined to their planting baskets. I had no idea that they had expanded into huge masses of roots, 3-4 feet in diameter and a foot-and-a-half thick. They weighed so much that my husband had to chop them into pieces small enough to lift. My job was to haul away the clumps in the wheelbarrow and dump them on the compost pile.

We then finished removing the water using buckets and a wheelbarrow, my husband removed the paving stones from the edge, and we pulled the liner out.

The new liner.

It took about a week to fill the pond, as we need to use the softened water from inside our house, and we can't demand too much from the softener in one 24-hour period (our well water is totally iron-filled; standing water turns dark brown on top within an hour).

Still some things to be done, but much improved. 

My husband still needs to re-lay the paving stones around the edge, but the new liner seems to be holding water much better than the old one. I feel very relieved that we have finally gotten this job mostly out of the way. And we'll still work on rejuvenating the garden beds, but that should be much easier.

It hasn't been all hard work around here though. Here are a few shots of what's been blooming:

A dianthus 'Fringed Loveliness' that I planted last year in my scented garden. Smells wonderful.

The cool, shady half of my White Garden, with 'Henryi' clematis and Ornithogalum magnus.

The Border Formerly Known as the Rainbow Border. Since I reorganized it to flowers not strictly in a rainbow order of colors, I don't know just what to call it any more. Perhaps the Big Easy Color Border? I might just keep calling it the Rainbow Border out of habit.... The poppies have already been done in by the heat.

Looking out across the freshly-trimmed boxwood hedges in the Herb Garden. Sweetly scented mock orange Philadelphus 'Innocence' flowers in forefront.

It's finally gotten a bit cooler here, after our near-100° temps of the past two weeks, which is a great relief. I've been getting the last annuals planted and tidying up the aftermath of some of the projects I've been working on. And I'm really hopeful that my gardens have improved with the additions, renovations and eliminated areas that I've been working on this year and last.

There is one last, exciting project to be done this month, a project I have been hoping to do for several years now, but I'll leave that for a future post....

I hope you are enjoying pleasant days in your gardens this weekend, and that your own garden projects are going well. Thanks for reading! -Beth

My 'Rooguchi' clematis, newly planted on the Paradise Garden pergola, has one tiny little bell-shaped flower on it!