Saturday, October 27, 2012

As my whimsy takes me

Catch-up post!  I need to go out and do some things today to prepare for the hurricane we're having in a few days, whee, and otherwise my gardening (with a very sore right knee) has been focused on my New! Community! Garden! Plot! which I am, as you see, extremely excited about.  I will have pictures soon, not that they will be very illuminating; it's a 20x20 square of soil that I'm removing weeds from, not too many weeds luckily, as the person who had it before took good care of it until she couldn't because of ill health.  There are peas growing in it, and a few herbs, and I'm going to plant more herbs, once the hurricane is over.

I did go to Longwood Gardens, how ever long ago that was now, and found it lovely, with plenty to walk around and goggle at.  It is a splendid thing; though it was, on that day at least, not quite my splendid thing.  Perhaps it takes itself a little too seriously, and just doesn't have enough whimsy to it.  I'd really need to visit in several seasons to judge.  But I went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA, last summer, and (again, a judgment based on a one-time viewing) they do whimsy a touch better.  Stuff like this:

and this:

in the conservatory, which just didn't seem Longwood's style.  Although I do have to admit these aquatic plants at Longwood:

are whimsical just by their nature.  I had no idea such a thing existed.  They are several feet in diameter, those things.  Just... wow.

Anyway, I'm not knocking Longwood; I just wasn't in the mood for it precisely that day, but it is beautiful and worth many visits.  And better maintained than Lewis Ginter (this is entirely a budget matter, of course).

Unfortunately I did not take many photos because I just had my phone and its battery was running low because of the GPSing on the trip up, and I had to do more GPSing to reach my hotel, so despite managing to charge it in the cafe I didn't want to risk running it down again by photographing everything.  But there were fountains, and topiary, and color-perfect flower beds, and some experimental gardens by students (possibly the best part; I really loved those), and even a vegetable garden, kind of tucked away on the side, but at least they had one.  And the Eye of Water.  Okay, that was whimsical, in a scary sort of way, like Porky the Litter Eater at Cabin John Regional Park except entirely different.  Local reference point, sorry.

I missed Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day due to travel, but there are still a few things blooming at home.  The nasturtiums have come nicely into their own in the waning days of warmish weather:

and here is a toad lily, possibly the one I grew from seed, which would be Miyazaki, or else the other one.

I love toad lilies.  I need to have many more of them.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Everybody is saying hello again

(I've been listening to a lot of Nat King Cole lately.  And everybody else, on my new music machine aka iPhone.)

You may have noticed (or, painful as is it for me to say it, perhaps you didn't) that I haven't been posting a lot recently.  This is because I haven't been gardening a lot (gardening being the excuse for this blog), which in turn is because I've been fatigued, short-winded, tremory, heart-poundy, and not interested in food, which are all symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which I was diagnosed with in mid-September after months of weirdness and exhaustion.  (The hot summer had something to do with the lack of gardening too.  Sensitivity to heat is, of course, another symptom of hyperthyroidism.)  It's not dangerous when kept under control and with medication I am already feeling much better and I can write my name again without looking like I'm drunk.

So I have been back in the garden a bit (my own; I never stopped going to the demo garden though it wiped me out for the day when I did), but I have so much to catch up on, and a lot of the projects I planned for this year have just gone by the wayside.  There is always next year.  One thing that is happening right away is that my request for a community garden plot please anytime one's vacated has been rewarded, and as soon as I pay for it I can start clearing and planting (a place for all those herb plants I started for some reason! around the border I think).  Can't do much in the way of veggies this year, since it's very much fall, but in the spring I will have food crops in sunshine.  My home veggie garden was a shady mess this year.

Anyway, more on all that later.  For now, have some pictures of things I didn't grow.

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco:

We were out there a few weeks ago to see our son who is doing an architectural internship, and, you know, make sure he had furniture and stuff like that.

Saturday was the big Harvest Festival at the Farm Park where Extension and the demo garden are, and the National Capital Dahlia Society folks were there as always (they have the garden beyond ours) selling bouquets, which I always get one of so I can stare at these amazing flowers for a few days.  Ladies and gentlemen, my dahlias:

They are even more impressive in person.  I should have provided something for scale.  Six to eight inches across, I'd say.  It was a very fun event as usual and I talked to so many people and gave away so many hot peppers and mouse melons and I was exhausted, but it's all worth it.

I'm not planning to do Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month, because I will be in New Hampshire on the 15th.  Unless my mother still has flowers and I get inspired.

I am, however, going to visit Longwood Gardens on the way.  Yay!

More soon, I promise.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bloom Day September

Oh, dear, I haven't updated in a month, which means it's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again.  I have nothing really extraordinary to share, but I did have fun trying out the camera on my new iPhone, so here are the results.

Sweet little nasturtium.  Actually, I should say bitter little nasturtium, but it belies its taste.

The developing flowers of the hardy begonia.

Beautyberry with sweet autumn clematis crawling over it.  This is right at the front of the yard.

So is this incredibly bright aster.

Goldenrod being all dramatic just behind the beautyberries.  I didn't have to plant this or anything, in fact I have to pull out huge amounts every year, but it's nice to keep some.

An adorable little caryopteris I planted last fall.

The developing flowers of Limelight hydrangea.  Last month, green, this month with a lot of pink added.

And finally, not a flower, but I love milkweed fluff (this is from one of my orange butterfly weed plants).  I remember discussing with a teenage boyfriend the idea of collecting the fluff and using it for insulation in jackets and vests.  Just makes me feel warmer looking at it.  And there will be more plants next year from those seeds.

Okay, not bad from the new phone.  I need to remember that I can turn it the other way. *g*

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day August

It's the 15th again, and the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post is up at May Dreams Gardens.  I'm posting both here and at Grow It Eat It today.  And here is some of what's blooming chez Smith this August.

I think this is Eupatorium serotinum, late-flowering thoroughwort, a rather aggressive native that's one of the best attractors of beneficial insects out there.  I'm letting it grow in small quantities for that reason, but I'll have to pull it out before it goes to seed.  It's about 4 feet tall.

Oregano is also good for attracting those small wasps and other useful insects.  Oh, also good for pasta sauce. *g*

Knockout rose 'Sunny' getting into the blooming act.  Ironically, I think I planted this in too much shade, but it's managing anyway.

I have a lot of sedums of various heights and flowering times in the bed by the road.  The fall bloomers are turning color now.

And another one.

The Limelight hydrangeas are blooming their early color (they'll get pinker later) on the northeast side of the house.  They're not quite as out of control as usual, thanks to the droughty summer, but the flowers are as huge as ever.


If we get any more rain the branches will be on the ground, as they usually are this time of year.

Hardy begonia is starting to bloom too.  I have a lot of these now, thanks to a generous benefactor.  I intend to be a generous begonia benefactor myself in a couple of years.

And that's about it for August!  We do seem to have recovered from the drought now; very happy to have rain!

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I'm not writing much here, because summer gardening is just depressing what with the weeds and the heat (yesterday morning when I got up it was 79 F. and 78% humidity), but I wanted to note two things from this week just for the record.

First (well, actually, second, but I'm recording it first) I started seeds for a number of fall crops: lettuce, kale, pak choi, kohlrabi, daikon (which will need to be transplanted early, so its roots can develop), endive, mustard, and collards.  All for the demo garden, most likely.  I may start some stuff directly in my garden, but I don't trust it now, because someone got in this week and ate a whole lot of sweet potato leaves.  Groundhog, possibly deer, probably not rabbit because of the volume that's gone.  I was not having great hopes for the sweet potatoes anyway.

The other inside task was to transplant the rest of my little herb plants into bigger pots.  I started them in May or June, I can't remember, maybe I noted it here:  a whole lot of lavender, rosemary, and Russian tarragon.  The intent at the time was to eventually set out the plants on the sunny side of the vegetable garden, outside the fence, with the intent of keeping invaders away with the strong smell.  I'm just not sure that's going to happen, given how awful a job I've done of keeping the weeds down and my plan to apply for a community garden plot next year.  (Of course, I may not get one; there's always a waiting list.)  I can certainly stick in herb plants in other places (though this is a lot of herb plants) including on the driveway side of the bed I'm hoping to put in between the mock orange and the pagoda tree.  The question is really whether they will be big enough to plant in September.  Keep watering them, I guess.

Also, one of the more successful starts has been Lavendula viridis, the yellow French lavender, which I was hoping would bloom this year, but that's not going to happen, and it's not really hardy here.  I happened to have seeds, not that I managed to germinate them last time I tried, when I actually did it in the early spring.  I suppose I can have lavender under lights all winter...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July sizzle

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!  It's been hot and mostly dry in Maryland zone 7a (though we've had a little rain) and this is the time of year I think I have no flowers.  But some of them hang on, loving the heat or fighting through it.

Here's my most dramatic bloom, a hardy hibiscus (Disco Belle, I think) that I grew from seed ages ago.  Unfortunately it is being dramatic in the direction of the neighbors' yard, but at least they can enjoy it.  It really is huge (balloon flower for comparison).

Also a drama queen, this green gladiolus.

Purple coneflowers are reliable in the heat.  They do insist on seeding themselves in inconvenient places, but I don't mind, and I love watching the finches feeding on them in the fall.

Daylilies are still in bloom - here are the red ones I forgot to include last time.  They may be 'Black Knight' but I had several dark reds and they've been moved around, so I don't know.

Calendula, with bee.

This is in the MG demo garden, not my yard, but I'm including it anyway.  It's tithonia 'Aztec Sun.'  Mexican sunflowers are usually orange, but I like this milder yellow as an alternative.  Next year maybe I'll combine the two.

This is a flower cluster from Sophora japonica, Japanese padoga tree.  It's nice to have a tree that flowers this time of year, and it's a pretty tree, but I wouldn't recommend it, because it self-seeds with a vengeance.  We also made the error of planting it next to the driveway, with this result:

Constantly - it's like a snowstorm whenever I drive away.  And they leave a sticky residue.

Hope your gardens are flowering and flourishing!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Worms Survive Despite Unforgivable Neglect: News at 11

I finally got around to putting a new level on the worm bin today.  In recent weeks months all I've been doing is chucking an occasional food scrap in there (worms eat much less than one thinks in the beginning) and not even renewing the bedding.  But they are still alive, and in fact there are baby worms, so things must be going fine.  The Worm Rebel Alliance continues to operate at the top of the bin, but perhaps this impulse to climb will get them through the holes and into the new bin, which has been provided with lots of bedding and some pieces of cantaloupe rind.

Worms, I promise to gaze on you more often.  Now keep making compost.  And please don't climb up the sides between the two bins, or you will be squished.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


I suppose I should write something about the horrible summer.  Every year I get rather depressed about gardening at this time, and this July is worse than usual.  I believe this is the 11th day in a row with temperatures at least in the 90s and mostly in the upper range of that (we are spared the city heat, but it hit 105 in DC yesterday), and nasty humidity until it gets really hot, and very little rain.  What rain we had came in the form of a derecho, which is a storm that comes straight at you (opposite of a tornado, you see), last Friday night: furious winds, intense lightning, like a thunderhurricane on speed and hair straighteners.  Trees were down all over, people died, the region declared a state of emergency.  We lost only branches and our power was only out for two days, which was lucky (some people are still without power 8 days later).  And my rain gauge recorded only 1/2 inch, although a lot of the rain came sideways, so who knows.  The whole thing lasted less than half an hour.  We've only had a gentle shower on 4th of July morning since then.  (It was the lowest-key 4th I've experienced in a while - most fireworks displays were canceled because of the heat and power loss and the need for emergency personnel to occupy themselves elsewhere - though there was a gorgeous moon.)

We have no water when the power goes out, but since Sunday I've been trying to keep things watered: the seedlings still on my deck, the pots, what little is in the vegetable garden, the young trees.  Luckily I forced myself out last Friday morning (before the storm) and rescued the trees from encroaching weeds, mulched, and placed unfortunately bright blue buckets (the new Lowe's color; I was counting on their old gray ones) with small holes in the bottom on the soil.  They can be filled to let the trees soak up water slowly.  (Though not slowly enough, since I put too many holes in.  I may transfer these to the tomato bed and get new ones for the trees, with just two tiny holes each.)

I waited too long to rescue the winterberries I planted last fall; their area had never been cleared out properly and is full of pokeweed and wild grape vines.  I think the two females may survive, but the male looks like he's had it, so I'll have to get another.  This is the problems with planting things in our Way Back; the weeds have a huge head start.  The whole back slope project I wrote about last fall is not looking good; pokeweed is winning there too, though a lot of the daylilies are up and blooming.  In other depressing news, the pomegranate may be alive but I can't see it producing anything this year or surviving another winter.  (The fig looks great, though.)  The viburnums are still in pots and will stay that way until fall.  I'm hoping to manage some weed control and some transplanting into larger pots when the weather clears, which should be tonight.  Temperatures in the 80s will feel positively chilly.

More soon, I hope - need to get back in the habit of posting frequently.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bloom Day June

Time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by May Dreams Gardens!  Here's some of what's blooming in my garden this month.

Lots of very orange butterfly weed, with a bee.  I get seedlings every year now, so will be spreading this around.

Anise hyssop, with a bee.

And to complete the series, purple buddleia, with a bee.  I grew this from seed, believe it or not (the buddleia, not the bee).  I also grew the above two from seed, but that actually makes sense.

Stokes' aster, liking its new location better than being under a shrub.  Grew this from seed too.

The first Unwin's Dwarf dahlia flower from a tuber I missed in digging them up, which of course survived just fine.  Someone else grew these from seed.

This is some sort of campanula, I assume.  I got it at a plant swap where it was labeled "Blue-flowered ground cover." Not.

Elderberry, the bane of my existence, but it can't escape from where I have it now, ha.

Platycodon or balloon flower.  I am very fond of these, even though they all face my neighbor's yard along with everything else in that bed.  Grew these from seed originally too, but they have spread.

Common orange daylily, with blueberries.  Massive amounts of blueberries this year.  And of course massive amounts of daylilies.

One of many other daylilies.  I don't know what most of them are because (together now) I grew them from seed.

I didn't grow the lilies from seed, but I still can't identify them because they were part of a mix.

The magnolia is having one of its periodic reblooms.  St. John's Wort in the background.

My still-very-small lime tree is blooming!  Ants seem to like the flowers.

And finally, the wild and wacky petunias I planted in the window box on the deck railing.  What can I say, I saw them and yes I said yes I will Yes.


Happy Bloom Day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The garden of Dorian Gray

My life has been full of stuff I'm not quite getting done.  This is not exclusive to the garden, but that's what you're here for, so that's what I'm managing to post about this evening.

Often when I'm working in the Master Gardener Demo Garden, or showing people around it, someone will ask about my garden at home, and I produce a hollow laugh and some "oh dear" noises, and change the subject.  The demo garden is as near pristine as something that only gets worked on by a bunch of people once a week can be.  My garden... is not.  Gardeners in my situation usually say something about the cobbler's children having no shoes (Kathy Jentz wrote an editor's column about the phenomenon in the latest Washington Gardener magazine, which also contains a photograph of my torso and a pumpkin that my son won a prize for, not to swerve off topic at all) but I am of a more Gothic frame of mind, at least when thoroughly depressed by weeds, and so I prefer to consider my home landscape the Garden of Dorian Gray: the true ugly manifestation of my neglect.  (Although it is not hidden away in a cupboard, but unfortunately out in the light of day.)

The above photo shows one of the tidier bits, almost perfect if you discount the large pokeweed and the knee-high grass.  I am not showing you the vegetable garden.  However, the weather has taken a turn for the better (blessed coolth) and I may get ahead of the weeds in a few places before it gets bloody hot again.

In other news, we caught and relocated Groundhog #8 today (I think we had reached #4 in the last post).  (At least I hope it's #8.  Someone scared my neighbor with tales of a tagged groundhog finding its way home after being dropped three miles away.  But ours are going farther than that and on the other side of a 6-lane road.)  It defecated in the car; I hope it's happy.

We have been eating lots and lots of blueberries and black raspberries, and freezing more (pies in the winter!).  I can't say the garden/landscape has been very productive otherwise (aside from peas) but I will have lots of flowers to show off for GBBD (must take pictures tomorrow).

Also tomorrow must look at the worms and perhaps add another floor to their habitat.

I promise to write more often.

Monday, May 28, 2012


We've been trapping groundhogs.  (Or woodchucks, depending on where you live.)  They have long been a menace, digging and climbing their way into my vegetable garden despite all attempts to keep them out (they've been baffled by the chicken wire underground, but not by the 6-foot deer fence).  I did try years ago to remove them by putting a humane trap in or near the garden, but they were too smart, or not distracted enough.

This spring our neighbors finally got fed up by the groundhogs' attempt to establish extensive condos under their garage and shed, and hired a professional, who trapped and relocated two enormous groundhogs for a sizable fee.  After that they placed a borrowed trap near the hole that's down back along the property line.  The photo shows the first one caught that way (why I never thought of putting the trap by the hole instead of by the food before I don't know, but it obviously works much better) and a young one found its way in there too.  We are in charge of relocation, so we drove them off sequentially to a place on the edge of the woods and watched them scamper off.  This one ate carrots loudly all the way there.

Four down, but we have seen more since, so after several fruitless days by the hole, which is apparently vacant now, the trap's been moved near the neighbors' vegetable garden for the time being (I hope to find another hole).

This morning I went outside, heard piteous meowing, looked around, and realized that our cat was caught in the trap.  He is not the world's brainiest cat, but I didn't think he liked carrots and apples... and sure enough, when I went to release him I saw a small and terrified rabbit at the other end of the trap.  I shook it out (it didn't want to leave) and it slowly hopped away seeming unhurt - I suspect Gobi didn't have enough "elbow" room to grab it, and he was pretty upset by his ordeal too.  He's fine now, after a lot of washing.

Wish I'd snapped a photo, but my instincts said get kitty out first.  Sympathetic instincts do not make entertaining blogging, alas.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May showers, May flowers

Once again getting in a day early for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and will link tomorrow when it's live over at May Dreams Gardens.  May has not been a particularly dreamy month here; it's been a rainy month that we desperately needed and still are capable of cursing when we never get a chance to mow the lawn.  (However -- I was in Houston over the weekend for absolute floods of rain that did not in the end prevent the Rice graduation from happening outdoors as planned, although the chairs were practically floating in the quad.  So I am appreciating the gentle drizzle here much more.)

Anyway, the moisture and the continued mild temperatures have been great for flowers, and many have hung on much longer than usual.  I took some photos last week, but the same ones are still blooming.  The peony above I bought on sale without a name (feel free to tell me what it is).  It has done better than the other two planted near it.  I plan to create a new bed near the mock orange

(which is still blooming by the way; going on a month now)

to plant peonies under hopefully more suitable conditions.

This is the Sunny Knockout, which is about my speed as roses go.  New yellow blooms fade to cream as they age.

I also have two Bonica shrub roses, which are bigger and more spectacular every year.  They are right at the front so everyone sees them and thinks I can grow roses.

Also spectacular in the front: a purple ninebark four feet tall and weeping gracefully, that's just been in the ground two and a half years since I bought it for $10 at Lowe's.  I love bargain plants that work out (they make up for the expensive ones that die and leave aching holes in the wallet).

Here's one of the ninebark flowers close up.
Baptisia australis growing shrublike and gorgeous, also right on the street where everyone can see it.  (There are a good many weeds in the streetside beds, so I hope it's distracting.)

Maple-leaf viburnum: a modest and cheerful late-spring presence.

Aquilegia canadensis, one of the few I have left in a too-shady spot.

Some of my Siberian kale, gone to flower.  The flower buds are very tasty - true of all the brassicas, not just broccoli.

That's by no means all that's blooming, but that's all the decent photos.  Here's hoping your gardens are in full flower, with cloudy skies for photography but rain only at night.