Thursday, December 29, 2011

In praise of Moss

 Why do I not plant more moss to enjoy this wonderful green while all else is brown?
In the Back Woodland under our tiny Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Phipps Conservatory's Christmas Flower Show

Christmas in the Broderie Room
Our family made the trip to Pittsburgh, PA a couple weekends ago to see Phipps Conservatory's Christmas Flower Show, and I thought you all might like a glimpse. The first two photos are from their most formal room, the Broderie Room.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Garden Blogger's Foliage Day ~ December 2011

Hardy ivy (Hedera helix)
A few frosty shots for Foliage Day at Gilmore Gardens.
It has been getting steadily colder here, even with an entire inch of snow last weekend. Oh, my! (Note: We often have had over a foot of snow here in Pennsylvania by Thanksgiving. Not this year though.)

Berberis thunbergii
These are the seed heads of Sedum 'Autumn Joy' but I will include them here because I still love them.
Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) on our Hill; lovely in frost
Driveway Garden with lavender and creeping phlox by the walk
Low growing catmint (Nepeta 'Walker's Low') at the front edge of Front Walk
Columbine (Aquilegia) seedling that looks sprightly despite 12 degrees F (-11 C)
For more Foliage Day, visit Christina at Hesperides Garden for views from around the world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Merry Christmas Card for you!

From our family to you -
whether you are in snow or sun, 
in winter or summer -
May you know Jesus' great love for you.

Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.      Luke 2:11-12

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas tree hunting...

Out family has a tradition of going out to cut a fresh tree for Christmas with a large group of our friends. It is often a little chilly in December to be out in the woods and fields, but it is also beautiful.

This year we took a scenic drive to a tree farm with over 600 acres of a wide variety of evergreens to choose and cut for the season. It was a bit of a hike up the hill, especially with little children, but it was worth it for the view (above). The frost slowly left as the sun rose over the hills.
View across the valley to their other fields
We finally decided on a Canaan fir, strapped it to the car and brought it home for trimming with our assorted ornaments and plastic red balls. This is the second year we have read the Jesse Tree Devotional with our kids, which comes with picture ornaments. I made our tartan tree skirt from a fabric remnant nine years ago when we were first married and living on less-than-a-shoe-string budget. Here is a glimpse also of where all of my blogging happens - in our cozy living room. 

What sort of Christmas traditions do you enjoy at this time of year?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ December 2011

Cherry Corner garden at the front of our house
I am surprised, but I do have one bloom to share today. The garden is finally frozen solid this week after evening temperatures down to 12 degrees F (-11 C).  I thought I would throw in a few overview shots for contrast. See if you can find the flower...
Ground frozen for December 15th
 Not by the front steps...

There is this iced fairy rose on the Hill, but that was not what I wanted to share...

Nothing in Cherry Corner, except the Saccharum vittigera major, also known as large striped candy canes...

Not along this side either... but you should really appreciate these nice straight edges around the gardens. Those were a bit of work from last month.

Ok, here by the gate to the Shade Path you are much closer. Can you spy it? In the middle to the right a little?
Galanthus elwesii
There it is. Pretty, huh? Perhaps not quite the climax I would like, but there is it nonetheless. It reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas songs.

I was confused as to why I had an autumn-blooming snowdrop when I know that I have only planted two spring-blooming varieties so far, Galanthus elwesii and Galanthus nivalis flore pleno. Then yesterday, I learned from Carolyn's Shade Gardens that the former often sends up a few autumn blooms in her garden every year. That solves my mystery. (You might also enjoy Carolyn's wonderful post on autumn snowdrops proper; I am investigating some new autumn possibilities.)
My single, cherished Galanthus elwesii

I do have one flower in the house that is keeping my spirits up...
The florists' cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum
Thanks to my dear friend Bev for this pretty cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) on my desk! These like to be kept cool, less than 68 F, during the day and at least 15 degrees cooler at night to keep them flowering.
lovely winged creatures
Thanks to Carol at May Dreams for hosting yet another GBBD. Be sure to visit her and scout out the color that is blooming all over the globe.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blotanical Version 2

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' on the Hill with a dusting last week.
As a garden blogger, I have really enjoyed being a part of an online community called Blotanical. It was created in 2007 by Stuart, a fellow gardener in Australia. I have meet many wonderful gardeners on Blotanical that have truly encouraged me in my gardening through their gracious comments and by sharing their wealth of garden knowledge. It is a wonderful database for finding gardeners in your area, your state or even your continent. And it is mind bending to me to read about early summer at this time of year from the wonderful garden bloggers on the other side of the world!

Blotanical is in the middle of an update to a new version that is set to come out in February 2012. I am excited to see the new streamlined design and better functionality, which should really make this site easier to use and more enjoyable overall.  For more information on the updates, check out Blotanical Blog.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Core Aeration for Lawns: Fall Gardening Task #9

Core aerate in the fall for compacted lawns
It is the 12th of December and still our weather is unseasonably warm for our part of Pennsylvania; today is a sunny 40 degrees F (4 C), even though the temperature in early morning was 14 F (-10 C). No blanket of snow has settled yet, only a flurry a month ago that melted in a few hours.

The nice weather has afforded me enough time this late-late fall to work on another garden problem: worn and compacted turf. It really is only in spots, but it is not so nice to begin a walk around the garden with a stomp through the mud at the gate. Since this is a narrow spot, it gets a lot of abuse from feet big and little. And there are also a few more areas of lawn that have been reseeded each spring with little permanent success. Some more research was in order.
Gate Lawn aerated and starting to breath easier before winter wetness
I first started thinking about core aeration when I read Libby's post at The Sproutling Writes. Curiously to me, she reported that they were core aerating their lawns in the fall. In my experience, homeowners in the US do that in the spring. Also, Libby reported that they raked coarse sand into the holes in their clay.

Then I went looking and found this thorough article on Yardener about lawn care which suggests core aeration in the fall also.  This article talks about using a machine or a hand tool.

After a moment of reflection, fall core aeration made wonderful sense to me though it is an uncommon practice in the US. The purposes of core aeration are to relieve compaction, increase drainage, and stimulate root growth by root pruning. Perennial gardeners know when it is time to root prune: before winter, because it is in winter when root growth happens. Drained is also needed the most during the wet winter season. Fall coring gives your lawn all of these advantages.

Plus, Yardener's best idea: core the lawn, then mow in your fall leaves for mulch and break up the core plugs all at once. Brilliant! I missed my opprotunity this year, but I want to remember for next year.

More benefits to core aerating in fall instead of the spring: the kids are not outside playing in dirt plugs during this colder weather; the crocuses blooms are not displayed above a multitude of yucky core plugs. Enough said.

A hand tool was very interesting to me since our yard is pretty small and the trouble spots even smaller. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to aerate small areas when I felt it needed it without needing to rent equipment? Especially when renting a core aerator runs $75 per day?!?
Hand Core Aerator on completed lawn
Remember what I said about it not being a common fall practice in the US? A few visits to my local stores confirmed it: no hand aerators were available until spring. They were sold out long ago.
Since there were none available locally, I decided to order one from Amazon.  I chose Yard Butler D-6C Core Lawn Aerator for anyone interested. (Note: I am not paid for any of my product suggestions.)  After having used it for a couple hours on a warmer day, I am really pleased with it. It is as sturdy as I hoped and does the job easily. It is now my second favorite tool, though far behind my Japanese soil knife of course.
Cores lay on the lawn to break down and add nutrients to the surface
The process is very simple, and made much easier by having rain in the past few days. Step down on the aerator, pushing the earth into the tubes and pull the tool out.  Repeat it again to push the previous cores out and make more holes. You will need to make 8-12 holes per every square foot. Leave the cores lie on top to break down over winter and add nutrients to the surface of your lawn.
You can see the previous cores coming out the top while hubby steps again.
It really is kind of fun. There is joy in hearing the roots breath freely I guess. I do recommend wearing your gardening gloves to help with the repeated gripping involved in pulling it out. I did large sections myself in a half hour, then I wanted to stand back and let my hubby have a turn. But I was soon going at it again.

To finish up, I decided to try raking in a little coarse sand as Libby suggested for her clay turf (see top photo). I am hopeful that it will increase the drainage even further in these compacted areas and help our turf mixed with white clover struggle to success.

Fall Gardening Tasks Series:

#1 Planting Lavender in wet climates

#2 New perennials for fall planting

#3 Thin Perennial Seedlings

#4 Bring in the tender plants

#5 Mowing leaves into Turf 

# 6 Planting Spring Bulbs

# 7 Edging and Removing Turf

#8 Heeling in- Quick Winter Perennial Storage

Friday, December 9, 2011

Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevan's Variety'... with a Christmas wreath on the gate

Red-leaved Geranium 'Bevan's Variety' and browned hydrangea blooms by the fence.
I am enamored of how the line of Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevan's Variety' along our fence turned red after I hung our Christmas wreath on the back gate.

This beautiful geranium has long-lasting fall color, but it is usually not visible in December since there is often a foot of snow covering everything. (See it here last year in the snow.) With its bloom in May, its terrific foliage the rest of the year and its easy rhizome propagation, it is definitely a winning geranium. It is also useful as a ground cover, even in dry shade areas.
It is also mounded in one of the squares by our sidewalk at the back of the house.
Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevan's Variety' in autumn color with the strappy fall Muscari foliage
I love how the red bow calls to this geranium through the gate.

Adds a festive spirit! ... even with no snow.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The All-Weather Gardener

One cold late-autumn day recently, I stayed inside to do the wife-task of ironing collared shirts for my husband, which I actually enjoy, sometimes. I like to put on music and make it a kind of meditative time; one of the few times that I allow myself to slow down and be reflective while still in my house full of kids & chores.
The pile has over a dozen shirts that I have saved up (and ignored) until I must do this task. I heat up the iron, turn on the music and let the Lord start to iron out the wrinkles in my heart.

I draw my curtains back so that I can look out onto the Shade Path while I work...

The song on loop is one of my new favorites, Matt Maher's song Garden because it is quiet - which I need while my two girls rest and my baby sleeps. It is also peaceful and reminds me of the Lord's presence with me...
And you walk with me
You never leave
You're making my heart a garden
As I start to relax, I begin to let down from my long day.  Being the mother of three small children can be exhausting!  I give and give, and try to give some more though part of me howls in resentment.  I am worn from their needs and requests, but also from the battle within - with my own selfishness.

I am faced in this quiet moment with my shortcomings... all that I do not do... and all that I do, that I hate.

And I look out at that cold, almost frozen garden...

Everything green is dying down. What's left looks broken, brown, shabby...
on its way into the dormant season...
the cold, frozen, dead-looking season...

 ...Like my heart
looks and feels.

Our Shade Path is very near to the sidewalk and the road; our home situated on a fairly busy street.  Many, many times in this fall planting season I have been out gardening in the cold afternoon, sometimes in the rain with water dripping down my hood, sometimes with fingers mostly frozen.

And they pass me by.

The cars driving home from work... the kids walking home from school.  And I feel the weight of curious, incredulous eyes as they see me out there in that nasty weather. I think to myself, "They must think I am crazy."

And what am I doing?  I am perfecting my garden.
That brown mess.   Beloved mess.  I am out there because I love it!
I love admiring what is there, even in this harsh season.

I am tweaking the beauty that will exist next year... moving seedlings... planting hundreds of bulbs.
The beauty is hidden, dormant; it cannot be seen by normal vision right now.
Only through faith can I see it already full of flowers... new growth... new color combinations... new heights of beauty. 
And you walk with me
You never leave
You're making my heart a garden

...the chorus sings on and I am suddenly struck: I am a garden!
I am brown and broken, yet loved by my Gardener. 
He tends me in the most caring way,
looking happily at the new growth here and shuffling more bulbs there...  
and He is making my heart beautiful.

Like me, He is an all-weather gardener... enjoying me right where I am, and patiently working into me the beauty that is to come.

Do you know what it is to be loved, even when you are unlovable?
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:8

A video worth watching for its amazing BBC botanical time-lapse footage, 
as well as to hear Matt's song, Garden.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quick Winter storage for your homeless Plants: Fall Gardening Task #8

Did you buy those extra bargains at the end-of-year plant sales only to get home and not know where to put them?

Do you have more plant cuttings potted up than you have space for in your garden beds?

A potted perennial in the open winter air will get much colder than your other plants in the ground.  So, if you are not sure where to plant it this moment, then an alternate plan is in order. (A side note: A good rule of thumb when buying plants for pots meant to stay outside all winter is to buy plants/shrubs that can handle one or even two hardiness zones colder than where you live.)

One option for your homeless perennials is to "heel in" your plants for the winter months. I believe it is called this because you are burying the pots just a few inches deep, up to their "heels".

First, I like to chose a location with a little bit of shelter (ie. a nearby bush, a fence or wall) but it needs not to be covered completely because you want your plant to be watered by the rain and snow.
My chosen spot: near the fence and lilac bush where they can cozy in for the winter.
 Next, dig a pot-sized hole to 2 or 3 inches deep. Deeper will give them more warmth, so if they are your prized cuttings from your grandmother's rose bush, dig a little more. "Plant" your pots, filling soil back around their edges. If I have more than one pot, I plant them snug next to one another. Some gardeners dig a trench, which would be much quicker for a large number of pots.

Geranium 'Rozanne' and a heuchra planted three inches deep in their pots.
Then, tuck some leaves or other mulching material around your pots to give some more insulation. It is a good idea to do this for all young perennials for their first winter, even those planted properly.

Night, night pretty plants. Cozy wishes for the winter!
In our cold climate, even some of my larger pots with hardy trees and bushes will be safer with a bit of cover. I just potted up a small Japanese maple tree this summer that I would like to ensure makes it thorough the winter. So I buried it a bit and tucked it on the other side of the lilac.
Potted baby tree heeled in for the winter

Fall Gardening Tasks Series:

#1 Planting Lavender in wet climates

#2 New perennials for fall planting

#3 Thin Perennial Seedlings

#4 Bring in the tender plants (more whimsy than informative)

#5 Mowing leaves into Turf 

# 6 Planting Spring Bulbs

# 7 Edging and Removing Turf

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Edging and Removing Turf for more Garden: Fall Gardening Task #7

Adding another foot on the front of the Hill Garden
I did one of my very favorite and hardest gardening tasks in November:  
tearing out sod to create more garden.
I staked a cord at the point of Cherry Corner and unraveled it down the front of the garden. I like to step back and look it over, and readjust to fit where I want the garden to meet the grass. Then I cut with my flat spade as close to the line as possible, always checking to make sure it is still straight. Winding the string back up, I move on to the hard work of prying up the turf which is made much easier after a day of rain to soften it. I like to use the pieces flipped over to make more garden beds, throw it on the compost pile (which has very limited space in our town lot), or in this case, gift it to my garden-making friends to make their own gardens (thanks Angela!).

A wheel barrow and industrial garbage bags were necessary this time around
I planted more creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) all along the front edge of the gardens because it makes a nice low-growing edging plant, is evergreen through our zone 5 winters, is covered in purple flowers in May, and matures quickly.  All of the creeping phlox on our property is the same color because it has all been divided from one plant that started as a tiny piece in a four-inch pot from my nursery working days. I am most happy about adding the extra space to the Hill garden because the silvery lamb's ears (Stachys byzantine) have taken over this year, so the balance will be restored (temporarily) by adding more room for phlox.
Planted up before the last leaves fell
The biggest reasons for the extra fall-season labor are because I enjoy a nice clean garden edge for the winter months, and because it gives the plants a head start on their root growth before next season.

Fall Gardening Tasks Series:

#1 Planting Lavender in wet climates

#2 New perennials for fall planting

#3 Thin Perennial Seedlings

#4 Bring in the tender plants (more whimsy than informative)

#5 Mowing leaves into Turf 

# 6 Planting Spring Bulbs

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...