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 :/

Liriope

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!

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The Evening Primrose

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 – “Good morning, Elizabeth!”.  I was stunned.

The Hospital’s Foundation held numerous fundraising events throughout the year to benefit the hospital.  That long hallway I walked down that first day played host to many of these events.

I purchased one of my favorite gardening books at the annual book sale.

photo

The coffee shop at the hospital, The Little Shop, was also run by the Foundation.  It housed the cutest gift shop.  I would stop in there at least once a week, intending to browse, but inevitably finding a great doo dad for the garden or decoration for the house.

The annual plant sale was one of my favorite fundraisers.  Local gardeners and garden shops would contribute live plants.  I purchased at least one plant at each of these sales.  It’s where I picked up one of my most memorable specimens, the Evening Primrose (oenothera triloba),

It was kind of a sad looking specimen, and the lady who was selling the plants told me to just take it, she wasn’t sure it was going to make it.  It looked like a wilted dandelion, to be honest.  But I took it home and planted it right in the front of the border outside my front door.

stemless evening primrose

stemless evening primrose

That was probably at least 10 years ago.  That sad little “dandelion” has made an appearance in my garden every year since.  And I have given numerous pieces of it away – I was even able to add this variety to Alice’s garden.  It’s very hard to find something that Alice doesn’t already have!

When the kids were younger, it was always fun to try and guess how many Evening Primrose would bloom.  And just around 9:00 each night, we would go out and watch the flowers bloom.  I kid you not, we would go out and actually watch the small buds show a tiny bit of yellow, and wait for it, within 5 minutes you could actually watch the flowers bloom.

I was always so thrilled, and to this day, I ask the kids (teenagers now who have better things to do than watch a flower bloom) how many they think bloomed tonight!

Update posted 6/28/2015:  I finally captured the blooming of the Evening Primrose!  Well, it’s not my first attempt by any means.  At Brittany’s suggestion, I set up the mini tripod last evening.  The videos I’ve tried without the tripod are so shaky, they give me motion sickness!  

Pretty cool, huh?  Only 2 last night!

Bloom Day – May 15, 2014

It’s a very rare month that I’m actually posting my entry in the Garden Bloggers Bloomday blog on the 15th, but here it is.

Blog-May14May looks very white in the yard – the first iris to bloom is white, the azaleas (you can see them behind the chair) are white, the crabapple, which bloomed 2 weeks ago, was white!  There is some blue arriving as well, the bachelor’s button, the lungwort, and the pansies are a nice blue this year.

Many hostas are already up and spreading!  For as long as spring took to get here, she is quite suddenly in full bloom!

My columbine seems to appear overnight, and I completely forgot to spread the seeds I gathered from Tracy’s yard – she has a lovely pink columbine.  I will spread the seeds now, and hope I’m not too late to enjoy these lovelies!

Please head over to Carol’s May Dreams Gardens for more blooms from around the world today!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

What I thought would be an easy post turned into waaayyy more reminiscing than I bargained for!  So, thanks for that, WP!!

Of course, any garden blogger’s first thoughts of Spring are colorful flowers.  I knew I had some pictures of the kids helping me plant some color down at my Grandma’s house.  I had forgotten that the pictures I was looking for were now part of a scrapping project that has been an on-again-off-again event, like so many of the projects I have started.  But what I hadn’t expected was the trip down memory lane.

This scrapbook page was one of my first, and I’m very proud of it.

ScrapbookGarden

to grandmother’s house we go . . . . May 2003

I really like using actual developed pictures, although I understand there’s a whole other world of digital scrapping out there.  I haven’t tried it yet, but considering the fact that most of my pictures never see the outside of my computer screen, I should probably take it up.

Every spring, for the last 5 years of her life, Grandma had a visit from me and the kids on her birthday – May 29.  It was the perfect time to pick up a flat of flowers and decorate the two planters on her porch, then line the walkway with (low maintenance) marigolds.  She wasn’t much of a gardener, but she loved flowers.  All the neighbors would tell her how lovely it all looked.

That would prompt a proper thank you card and letter from Grandma.  Isn’t it really a shame how, not unlike the printed photograph, the days of actually writing a note and placing it in an envelope with postage has pretty much fallen by the wayside.

 

Be sure to check out all the other entries in this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring!

 

Bloom Day – April 19, 2014

It’s been a while since I had anything in the yard worth mentioning on Bloomsday, but it does appear that Winter has gasped his last breath and it may be time for  . . .  wait for it  . . . Spring!!

Nothing says Spring like . . .

Nothing says Spring like . . .

I took B out to Hazuza’s Greenhouse on Sunday to help me pick out the pansies for the containers.  It was such a beautiful day, I left them out on the deck to acclimate.  Tuesday morning, I phoned the hub from the office in a panic, as I had forgotten to move them closer to the house for warmth.  It was SNOWING.  He moved them in, and my check on them yesterday revealed they certainly did survive.  Pansies are very hardy and do prefer the cooler weather of Spring or Fall, but I was not so sure how the snow would treat them.

Pansies

Pansies

The pansies will be the showcase flower of the yard this Spring – we got enough to fill the hanging planters and pots on the deck, as well as the planter on the chair.

the chair

the chair

The lungwort (Plumoneria) looks spectacular this year.

Lungwort

Lungwort

She heralds in Spring, and those speckled leaves will add an interesting touch even after her multi colored blooms have faded.  One of my favorite specimens in the Crabapple Shade garden.

I purchased a new daffodil for the garden – it’s a pink one.  B agrees it actually looks rather peachy!

Blooms@g4t 4.19.2014

Peachy Daffodils

Be sure to check out what else is blooming this month on Bloomsday.

 

From Seeds to Seedlings

The pansies sprouted and were transferred from the top of the fridge to the garden window about 4 weeks ago.

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I’m doing all I can to ensure their success – they are about 3 inches from the grow light and are sitting on a heating pad set to low.  The grow light is set on a timer so they get 10 hours of light a day, in addition to the indirect natural light this window receives.  The garden window tends to be a bit chilly, so the heating pad keeps the soil from getting too cold for good root establishment.

Here are the impatiens that I started about 2 weeks after the pansies.

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A few are robust, but for the most part, they all look rather gangly.  I’m not sure what more I can do for them.  Just keep them watered, warm, and enlightened!

I plan to start the sweet peas and a few other direct sow seeds this weekend.  The forecast in my area is predicted to be sunny with temps in the upper 50s and low 60s.  Sounds heavenly!  I’ll be out digging in the dirt!

Have a marvelous weekend!

A Formula for Seed Starting Success

I have never really given much thought to the science of starting seeds.  I estimate our set out time (here in Zone 5b) to be somewhere between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. So mid to late May.  I usually start my seeds on St. Patrick’s Day – mid March.  No science to this logic whatsoever.  Most years it works, depending on what seeds I’m starting.

seedling

So I’ve been reading many other blogs and a few have mentioned a starting formula, a seed starting schedule.  Wow – a formula for starting my seeds.  I should have thought of this myself!

We seriously need to start with the seeds.  And if you have organized your seeds like me, you know exactly where to find them!   Check your seed packets and separate them into 2 categories – those that are sown directly into the soil, and those that are started indoors.  Most annuals will be sewn directly into the soil.  Most perennials will be started indoors.  But take a look.

Most of my seeds indicate “6-8 weeks before last frost date”.

Last frost date?  Just how am I supposed to guess at the last frost date?  There’s an app for that – well probably, but I did a quick Google search and, lo and behold, a link that reveals the last frost date!   Check it out, compliments of the Farmer’s Almanac!  You can find cities in the US here, and any Canadian cities will be linked to the closest US Climate Station.  Interestingly enough, there are no guarantees here.  The site claims to be 50% accurate!  Hah!  It’s their best guess, I guess!  My last frost date is May 1.

Sort your packets according to these recommendations.  I added a small sticker to indicate (in large numbers!) which week to start, 4, 5, 6, and so on. Some packets, especially those for perennials, may only tell you how long it takes the seeds to germinate. If that’s all you have to go on, take that figure (which is usually a range) and add 6 weeks. Then label the packet accordingly.

If there’s no information on the seed packet, you can pretty safely just start all your seeds about 6 weeks before you’ll plant them outdoors. Make note of which plants are too big or too small at planting time, and then you can make adjustments next year based on your notes.

Creating the Calendar

To calculate your planting dates, you need to count back from the last frost date in one-week increments. (I base my calendar on Saturdays, because that’s the day that I usually have available for seedstarting). In my area, the last frost date is May 1.  For me, when I count back from May 1, Week 4 is April 3, Week 11 is the week of February 13, etc. Simply write the week number (8,4, 6 or whatever) on the seed packet.  When the planting week arrives, you just grab the right packet and start planting.

Making Adjustments

Now that you have a great schedule, here are a couple of reasons you may want to make some adjustments:

Start earlier: Seeds take longer to germinate and plants grow more slowly when air and soil temperatures are cool (below 70 degrees F). If you plan to start your seeds in a cool basement or cool bedroom, you may want to shift your whole schedule a week or two earlier.

If you have a cold frame or greenhouse, or if you use row covers or water-filled teepees, you can plant tender seedlings several weeks before the last frost date. Just count back from that expected planting date to get the right date to sow your seeds.

Start later: If you grow your seedlings in a greenhouse or a very warm room, you should cut a week or more out of your schedule. Heat promotes rapid growth, and you could find yourself with giant plants that are ready for the garden before warm weather arrives.

So, back to my seed collection.  Most of my seeds that can be started indoors should start 6-8 weeks before last frost date.  Seven weeks before May 1, is the week of St. Patrick’s day.  So, according to my system, I wasn’t so far off with my “St. Patrick’s day” to “Mother’s day” formula.  If I back it up just a bit, I should be able to enjoy a couple more weeks, 50% of the time.

Ah, but beware!  Last year was one of the “other” 50% frost dates, as we had a killing frost in late May.  By the time I went out to purchase the annuals I hadn’t started, most gardeners in these parts were purchasing their second crop, and the nurseries were sold out.  Good for those nurseries, not so good for me.

Seeds of Organization

Those of you who know me well are not surprised that I actually want to organize my seeds.  It’s a project that has been a long time coming, tho.

This old shoebox had been as close to organizing the seeds as I’d ever come.  photo (2)Not real sure about what was contained here, but at least I knew where the seeds were!

I started out by weeding out the seeds that were more than 5 years old.  I tested a few this past spring and got 0% germination rate, so I felt pretty good about tossing them.

I have many packets of store-bought seeds and many zip lock sandwich bags of seeds that I have gathered from nature.  For the store-bought variety, I placed the seeds in these small 2×2 zip lock bags I purchased online.

pieces

If you search on Amazon.com for “2×2 baggies”, you will find many vendors to choose from.  I then cut the envelope front for a picture of what will grow, and cut the back for directions on how.

For the seeds I gathered, I made sure to label the zip lock bags with a description and a hint of where they came from.

complete pages

For both sets I included the date, either of the “packed for” year or the year I gathered.

These trading card pages are the perfect size to catalog and store the seeds.

pages

I bought mine at Wal-Mart, and you can get them at any office supply store.  I sorted mine by flower v. vegetable v. herb.  I haven’t done much vegetable growing, so most of my seeds are flowers.  I have many collections of columbine and marigolds, so I have a whole page dedicated to them.  I also used “post it” type notes so that when I run out of the seeds in that pocket, I can reuse the pocket.

book shot

Keeping the seeds in a binder, labeled and sealed, makes it so much easier to visualize what might be started come springtime!

Puttin’ on my shades

I really haven’t thought much about the shade garden for the past few years. It was my ‘original’ original, the first garden I planted from scratch, so to speak. So much work to prepare the ground and find the right plants to survive in the shade of my beloved crabapple tree.

Crabapple

As in most gardens in areas that freeze, some of the perennials make it through the winter, some do not. That’s the main reason I have tried to map out my gardens, so that from year to year, I will recognize what pops its head out in the spring.  Most of what has survived from year to year in my shade garden, without much attention from me, are the numerous hostas.  Once I realized how unbelievably easy they are to start, I gathered many varieties.  My favorite is a blue leaved giant variety I found at Spring Hill Nurseries.

Blue Hosta

I’m not a fan of the flowers that this specimen produces, as they are a bit obscene.  I snip them before they even bloom.

I have a few astilbes that I love, a deep red one and a beautiful white one.  The color fades on these, but even the dead stems add texture and variety to the garden.  Most of the color of this garden, however, comes from the impatiens that I plant regularly.  The search is on for some colorful items that recover as nicely as all the hostas.

I found a lovely blog this morning called Carolyn’s Shade Garden that introduced me to an interesting shade flower called Snowdrops.  Turns out its a winter flower, and I was so excited to realize that Carolyn gardens in Bryn Mawr, PA which happens to be a zone 7a area.  Not much different that my zone 5b.

Snowdrops

I cannot wait to enhance my Shade Garden with some of the flowers I plan to purchase from Carolyn.  She offers Snowdrops and hostas on her website.  She speaks on cyclamen, and I’d love to obtain the secret of a successful cyclamen. Mine have a very interesting leaf, but lately all that I see from my crop are single pink flowers, no leaves.  Also plentiful on Carolyn’s site were Hellebores.

I was first introduced to Hellebores at the Philadelphia Flower show.  Last year, the theme was a British theme.  With England being the home of native Hellebores, most of the displays featured Hellebores of the soft green and white variety.  Subtle yet impressive; but if there are colorful Hellebores to be had, I’m gonna find them also!

Another website that I visited, A Way to Garden offers some good information on caring for Hellebores, in addition to information on adding a water feature to the garden.

Great plans are in the making for The Crabapple Shade Garden this year!

Forcing Paperwhites for the Holidays

In an effort to continue gardening through winter, I have decided to try some extra indoor gardening this year.  I have a garden window that looks pretty sparse these days, so I’m going to try my hand at forcing bulbs.

paperwhites

Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) are popular indoor plants for winter and the holiday season. Unlike other narcissus, paper whites don’t require a chilling period, so forcing them is as easy as putting the bulbs in water and waiting. The fragrant flowers bloom within about 3 weeks of planting, for almost instant gratification.

I tried a few websites first, just to take a look at the varieties that might be available.  The shipping charges for these items were enough to have me running  to my local Home Depot and checking out my luck there.  I found the Paperwhite Ziva variety, 6 bulbs to a package.  They appear to be pretty healthy, and anxious to start growing!

 

I used one of my favorite planters, one that does not have drainage holes in the bottom, spread a layer of glass stones on the bottom.  I then placed 3 of the bulbs in the stones, anchored them slightly in the stones, and then placed more stones around them.

Water the stones until the bulbs are touching the water.  You don’t want to cover the bulbs with water as they will rot.

Now all you have to do is wait!  But only 3 or 4 weeks.  I will be starting another planter in 2 weeks, so that the show will continue through the holidays.