deck garden, garden

Can you believe it?

I certainly cannot!  The Wisteria Tale continues.  I stepped out on the deck that afternoon, it was such a nice day.  Low and behold, the wisteria had decided to create such a lovely display.


Do you suppose she heard me talking about chopping her down?  Crazy how she hasn’t created the display I’ve dreamed of  – UNTIL NOW.  Kind of how my hair misbehaves – until the day before I plan to chop it all off.

I really hate to say this too loud, but my plan to cut her down to size remains unchanged.



Only perhaps I’ll wait a week or so until those blooms fall.  So that was the wisteria just 3 weeks ago.

And here she is today.


You can certainly understand why she really needs to go.  But wait – what have we here – right in the middle of the railing?  I really cannot believe this.


The wisteria lives to see another summer.  Nice try, wisteria, but I see serious trimming in the future.

challenges, deck garden, Post-a-Week Photos

Stranglehold Decision

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Resilient.

Here she is, my wisteria vine.  She’s a bit naked at this moment, but the absence of her abundant (read overwhelming) foliage really lets me see just how persistent and actually strangling she has become.  I’m really trying to decide if I should keep her or if I really need to just throw in the towel.


In my mind’s eye, she graces the stairway railing with flowing cascades of blossoms each spring.  Lovely lavender (I’m guessing) ponytails of fragrance dancing over the edge of the railing.

She has never, not even once, lived up to the floral expectations I so loftily placed on her.  I found her about 15 years ago, and knew it would take years before this young vine would be established enough to bloom.  After about 5 years of waiting, I decided to read up on the care of the wisteria vine.

The year after I realized that she needed to be pruned in order to bloom, she did produce what seemed to be the perfect amount of bloom buds.

I was so excited and could not wait for her to bloom that year.  It was pretty early in the season, and the baby buds perished when the weather turned frosty in April that year.  I was devastated for I simply forgot all about her as I scurried to save all the early bloomers with bedsheets that evening.  She really hasn’t produced any blooms since.

The vine is pretty overwhelming in the summer, and the vines are getting pretty hefty around the new posts of our two-year-old deck.  It’s true – I had to chop her completely to the ground the year we extended the deck.  But she came back, stronger than ever.

A truly resilient vine.

I do think she needs to go, though.  The shield of privacy she provides is simply not worth the apparent stress she is placing on the railing she is using for support.  Not only that, but she really leaves a mess along the stairwell.  And she’s minimizing the actual space we have to climb up and down the steps to the pool.

I’m thinking a lightweight clematis would most likely be a bit more fitting for this location.  I’m so sorry, Miss Wisteria, but I think this story is writing its final chapter.

garden, winterizing

Fuzzy Wuzzy

Out tidying up the gardens this past week.  Not sure when Mother Nature will pull the plug on this unseasonal warmth.  Even though I’m late, I’m getting the beds cleaned up.  I do try to keep up with the Fall list of garden things to do, and I have to give myself a pat on the back this year!

I overturned a random brick next to the fence, and woke these guys from a nap!


Haven’t seen one of these for so long.  Took me back to the days when a little girl used to follow me just about everywhere.  She loved to pick up worms (they soon became her friends) when I was out turning the soil over.  She was also fascinated with locust shells, collecting as many as she could find from the base of the crabapple tree.  Not sure why they are so drawn to that tree, but there are so many shells there, and she just loved collecting them.

She also loved finding fuzzy wuzzy caterpillars.  I’m not sure how true it is, but I’ve heard these guys can predict the weather.  Probably about as good as the local weather forecasters, but I won’t tell them that!

According to The Farmer’s Almanac this is the legend: The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 distinct segments of either rusty brown or black. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter.

They will freeze over the winter months, then in spring will evolve into the Isabella tiger moth, shown in the center photo above.

It looks like these guys have more brown than black, so I’m hopeful for a mild winter!

flowers, garden

We’re Cool

We  don’t truly appreciate things in life until they’re gone.  How many times I’ve seen posts on Facebook, usually around Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, lamenting the times and people who are lost.

Certainly not on that level, but our air conditioning decided to take a break a few days ago.  How can you blame it, working basically non-stop through this searing heat of early summer.  My family has never known life with it.  I was not going to hear the end of the wailing until something was done to bring that A/C back to life.

The HVAC company I’ve always used (always being 20 years in this house now) told me it was time.  Time to put the A/C down, remove it from its years of service, replace it with a better unit.  Very well, I agreed.  It really wasn’t turning out the cool air like it used to.

Second opinions are always a good idea.  I know this is good advice.  Not that I always abide by it, but the cost of that new unit made me take note.  I’d be calling for quotes the next day.

We couldn’t bear to sweat through another dinner at home, so we went out to our favorite the local restaurant that night.  We ran into a friend, who we never see out.  She listened to my hot tale, and recommended a guy who had replaced their unit not long ago.  Get a quote.

I called her guy the next day.  Some service guys really mean service.  This one called me back after he had completed his service calls for the day.  It was already 6:30 in the evening.  He would grab a bite to eat and come take a look at the old unit.  He wasn’t going to replace anything he hadn’t tried to fix.

And fix it he did!  He was at the house for 3 hours that night, flashlights aglow, umbrellas overhead during the torrential downpour, he ignored the lightning in the distance.  He wasn’t going to let us go through another night in that heat.  Listen to the master – his quote, not mine!  And mark my word, when that A/C unit breaths its final breath, the master will get my business for the replacement.

The following morning, I went out to check the area he had been working in.  The outside unit sits right in the middle of one of my borders.  A neglected border.  (How do you control thistles?  I need to find out.)  But one of the plants he had trampled (not judging, as he did fix the unit) was blooming – a tall phlox I have not seen for a couple of years.


I’ve missed this plant so.  It hadn’t bloomed in years, I thought it was gone.  These tall flowers are great for the rear of this border, as the bright pink flowers show up so nice next to the dark brown brick of the house.

However, it’s always a good idea to place plants in locations where they will thrive, for optimal growth.  A quick check in my trusted flower book tells me this tall phlox is not in its optimal location.  It’s not a shade loving variety.  Most likely the reason I hadn’t seen it bloom for so long.  It needs a sunny location, protected from the wind.

There’s a challenge for me.  Most of my sunny beds are smack dab in the middle of the yard – no protection from wind.  There’s a new bed along the fence, and yes, it gets sun, so I’ll most likely put it there.

Occasionally, we get a second chance.  A/C units can be fixed, plants can be relocated.  Not always with people, though, so make an effort today to appreciate those who you know you will miss.


Daylily Faves

June, aka Daylily Premier month, pretty much escaped me this year as I was so busy preparing for B’s graduation party.  I took a few pictures here and there as I noticed the blooms.  I usually take note of the order of blooms – yellows, then oranges, then reds.  They are all in bloom today!  But I’m sure they did it all in order.  Great thing about perennials – they grow without any help from me!

Every year, I seem to have a new favorite.  As they emerge, I try to remember which was the favorite last year.  I think it was this one.

2015 Best of Show


But this year, I’m not sure which to choose.  These dark red ones are really captivating.

2016 Fave Contender


I wish I could remember where I got each of them.  I do know that these lemon yellow ones came from Elaine, and of course, the original Stella D’oros came from Alice.

I bought a few from Shady Rest Gardens last year, and the blooms are truly spectacular.  I tried keeping the name tags close to the spots where they would be coming up this year, but the weather was not kind to said tags.  They were blank this spring!!  There were a number of new-to-me varieties like Coach’s Fast Break, Jewel in a Crown, Monkey Giggles.  I wish I knew which was which, but they are great additions to the Daylily Collection.


garden, gardening

Move over Winter

It’s here!  The first day of Spring!  I’ve been waiting all winter for her!  (Spring IS a female, right?)


Of course, I woke up this morning to a light covering of snow out on the deck, but it didn’t “stick to the grass”.  Ha – the ground is too warm!  My crocuses heralded Spring a little too early this year, thanks to the extremely warm temperatures we had in February.  I’m not complaining!  This photo was taken back on February 20.

And the Snowdrops bloomed for the first time this year, I was so excited!  While I was out filling the bird feeder, this little guy shyly said “Hello!”.


I planted these bulbs 2 years ago, and have been waiting patiently for their arrival.  These guys showed up on March 8.  It’s so wonderful to have some color poking through.  This winter was one of the warmest on record here in the Pittsburgh suburbs, so it will be interesting to note the arrival of these early bloomers in the years to come.

So, this weekend is my annual seed starting weekend.  Along with the marigolds, I’m planning to start my Salsa Garden – Roma tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and cilantro.



garden, gardening

Time to Plant the Garlic!

I have this habit of thinking of a great idea, planning to make the idea reality, then tucking the plan away in the depths of my brain for safe keeping.  And forgetting about it.

I do not know what made me think of my garlic plan this morning, but when the thought crossed my mind, I was disappointed that I had surely missed the opportunity to plant the garlic.  But a quick search on “growing garlic in pa” yielded a very informative and comforting article from the Penn State Extension.  I haven’t missed the planting boat – mid October is the perfect time to plant!

Garlic is one of those vegetable plants that is planted in the fall, and being a bulb, that does make sense to a flower gardener.  It goes against the grain for a vegetable gardener.  But garlic must have a chance to start developing, then must sit and think about itself under cover of a blanket of snow, only to emerge in the spring with the other lovely flowering bulbs.

My western PA locale is absolutely perfect for growing garlic.

The Penn State Extension cautions against using garlic bulbs found in the supermarket, as these varieties are usually grown in California and don’t do well here in PA.  This summer, I visited a number of local vegetable stands and purchased a few heads of garlic.  I plan to use one of these heads in the new border garden I dug this summer.

In order to let the bulbs develop, the flowers must be cut back so that all the energy of the plant goes to the bulb rather than the flower.  If I let every second plant bloom, and cut back the others, I’m hoping I can enjoy some tall flowers amongst the garlic that will be eaten!

allium among the ferns
allium among the ferns – at Longwood Gardens

Garlic can bloom in white, purple, pink.  I wonder what color MY garlic blooms will be?

Reality Post Script

I mentioned my garlic plan to my hairdresser / fellow gardener / killjoy last week, and she informs me that garlic is not all that when it blooms.  Perhaps my dreams of beautiful purple flowers won’t become reality, but I’m still determined to try.  I’m thinking of growing some alliums close to the garlic, just so I’m not completely disappointed.  

But hey, one gardener’s garlic bloom may be another’s rose.  Who knows!


The Evening Primrose

I finally captured the evening primrose as it blooms – catch all the updated action right here!


In a former life, I worked at numerous health-care facilities in Western Pennsylvania.  My favorite, by far, was the Latrobe Area Hospital.

It was a smaller hospital, located in a quaint neighborhood on the outskirts of Latrobe, PA.  I will always remember the feeling I had at my very first interview at the hospital.  Walking down a long hallway not really sure where I was going, every one of the people I passed said hello and offered to help me find my way.

After working for 15 years in the heart of the City of Pittsburgh, this friendliness was striking.  It turned out to be genuine.  And it started from the top.

The President of the hospital attended each and every one of the monthly orientation programs for new employees.  He met everyone at orientation, and he remembered names!  The first time I passed Mr. Clark in the hall –…

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Divide and Conquer

I spent a few moments in the front sidewalk border last evening.  I transplanted two large clumps of Liriope muscari from the back border that was destroyed in the great pool deck caper.  These two clumps were divided into 9 plants.  Here are the last 3.  The border is right on the edge of the driveway – let’s see how long they survive :/


I was able to dig the clumps out rather easily, then gently remove as much soil from the root ball as possible.  My small fork then separated the root ball and I gently pulled the small plants apart.

When transplanting, I always take the opportunity to amend that soil!  I live in an area that is mostly clay soil, so I am forever adding compost or even garden soil to the holes I dig for transplants.  Anything I add to this clay is an improvement!  I’ve worked the front border so many times – I’m always searching for the perfect plant that can tolerate direct sun for a significant majority of the day.  The sun hits the front of the house and heats the front border, on top of all that direct sun.  But not to worry – this variety of Liriope can handle both sun and shade.

There is a variety of Liriope (L. spicata) that blooms white, and is very invasive.  It multiplies by sending tough runners (even under concrete, I hear) and is very hard to get rid of, especially if planted in direct sun (read turf grass).

The Liriope I have will multiply in a contained clump, but not spread so much.  It blooms in purple, in late summer.

liriope muscari

In the late fall, I have cut it back in the past, and it comes back very nicely.  This past year, however, I neglected to cut it back, and it still survived.  The foliage from last year is a bit unsightly, but if you don’t have the gumption to be bothered with it, you don’t have to cut it back at all.  As the new growth gets taller, it covers the old very effectively.

A pretty versatile plant, Liriope is one of my favorites!

flowers, garden

May is Busting Out!

A recent walk through the gardens reveals that yes, indeed, spring has sprung!  If I’m not careful, I’m gonna miss it!  It’s amazing to me how fleeting this season is.  I look forward, as I’m sure you do as well, to the blooming of the flowers.  They don’t last long, though!

The crabapple bloomed just in time for prom season.


Roses for prom

Brittany looked simply divine, and I was so pleased that the crabapple waited until the weekend of May 3 to burst into bloom.

Amazingly, the blooms lasted all of a week, until a strong wind storm blew all the blossoms all over the neighborhood.

The azaleas have passed their prime, little over a week did they stay.

And now I’m thoroughly enjoying the irises.

A few years back, I found a lonely bag of irises under a bench at the softball field.  I’m sure one of the other softball moms brought them to share, but they were left behind.  I kept my eye on that bag until after the game, and when no one claimed them, I rescued them myself.

It has taken a few years, and a few relocations, but I think I’ve finally hit the jackpot with the current location.

I will never forget the excitement that first year waiting for the irises to bloom.  I had no idea what variety I had found.  I was secretly hoping for a blue one, but these purple ones were not a disappointment!  And I could not beat that price!

I did not have much hope that any of them were going to bloom this year.  Every day, I would go out and take a peep between the greens.  I hope they do forgive me, for I did feel a bit aggressive checking under the hood, so to speak.  But quite magically, one day I went out to an array of spikes that must have shot up overnight, I kid you not!

And seriously, these guys bloom at night.  I was watching the buds getting ready to burst one evening late last week, and the next morning I woke up to a purple garden that took my breath away!

And Beverly Sills has made her appearance as well.  She was the lone bloomer last year, and I do believe she really appreciates some company at the party this year.

I’m sorry to say that a heavy rain storm yesterday afternoon may have ruined these beautiful blooms, but there are more to come.  Hopefully, the rain will hold off long enough for me to catch my breath, as well as a few more pictures to share.

The Bachelor’s button is so much fun to photograph.  I got a little daring with the macro lens this past weekend, and got some truly amazing shots.

No wonder we look forward to spring, all year long!  But as I said, take a moment to enjoy it.  It won’t be around for long.