Monday, February 27, 2006

Impatient Much?

On Saturday, among my many garden chores, I checked on the ROS cuttings. Despite protection from the wind, many of the cuttings had fallen askew. I didn’t want them to develop into crooked plants, so I straightened each stick and firmed the soil around its bottom. One cutting had fallen all the way over and the butt end had popped out of the soil. I inspected the bottom of the cutting and found, to my disappointment, that it looked no different than it had when I stuck it in the dirt. No roots had developed. I began to despair. Most this year’s gardening budget is devoted to hardscape, not more plants! My secret garden plan is in danger of failure.

Thinking that I may have done something wrong, I researched Rose of Sharon cuttings today, looking for an estimated length of time for rooting. What I found: 25 – 80 days. I checked on my cuttings after only 15 days. Talk about impatient! I need to stop fretting over plant propagation and direct my energies toward the planter boxes I’m supposed to be building. After all, I've already spent the money to buy the wood and I, not Mother Nature, determine how fast the project is completed.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Yard Kicked My Butt

If you read Wawa's World, you may have gathered that I have a second job as an aerobics instructor. I teach classes three times a week and work out on my own twice a week. I consider myself to be in above average shape. This morning, though, after spending a few hours in the yard yesterday, I'm terribly sore. I limped down the stairs like an old lady, with a crick in my neck, tight shoulders, and an aching ass.

My discomfort began early in yesterday's gardening session. Walking in our uneven backyard, my right hip began to twinge almost immediately. Soon after, my back began aching from the lifting and reaching and crawling. Fatigue set in and I was finding very little joy in the mild weather and clear skies. I had planned on building an obelisk from tree trimmings, but finally gave up on yard work for the day. I came inside, took a hot bath, and then napped till dinner time.

I obviously need to undergo some sort of training regime to prepare me for the season. Maybe some squats, weight training, and stretching? Does anyone else experience this body shock after a long winter's rest? Do you physically prepare yourself for the gardening season or just accept that it's gonna hurt? Tell me that I'm not alone!

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. I rediscovered my original plan for the sun bed (left) and had to giggle at my ignorance and optimism. I was going to plant a butterfly bush in the center, and suround it with winter-sown columbine, delphinium, butterfly weed, chinese lantern plant, lupine, and oriental poppy. The gladiolas were already in the bed and I planned on buying the elfin thyme. Then reality set in.

First of all, I didn't have the germination success I expected. The poppies, delphinium, and chinese lantern didn't germinate at all. (I think they were all Burpee seeds.) I had a handful of butterfly weed and oodles of columbine seedlings. My lupine seeds were also a success, but I managed to later kill the seedlings.

I am glad now that the chinese lantern did not germinate. Unbeknowst to me at the time, chinese lantern (physalis) quickly becomes a noxious weed in the flowerbed and is notoriously difficult to get rid of. I am trying the seeds again this year (different brand), but the plant will go in a pot.

Secondly, even if all my seeds had given me sprightly seedlings, I had no idea that perennials didn't bloom their first year. I had the ephiphany in mid-spring and despaired of a flowerless garden. Thankfully, Patrick came to my rescue with a car-load of divided perennials, so I didn't have to live with a sparse foliage garden last year.

My initial drawing had no scale, so I really didn't know just how many plants I would need for the enormous drifts I had planned. As you can see from the "actual" layout, there is room for many plants and varieties. (The bed is 20' long and 8' deep.) I would have abolutely needed every single winter-sown seed to germinate to carry on with my original plan. (And imagine how terrible that drift of poppies would have looked in July!)

Finally, I had no idea that I would become such a plant collector. I was so put off by the cost of the plants required for my original cottage garden border, that I viewed live plants as prohibitively expensive. Little did I know that my generous friends would push free plants on me and that I would find such glorious sales all summer long!

My sun bed ended up being more plopped than planned. It's overcrowded. I had to move plants out a few times last summer and will continue to do so again this year. (I don't have a photo of the end of the season, but the plants had filled out so much that there wasn't a bit of mulch visible by September.)

Last fall, I created a new bed along the fenceline and to the right of the front walk. I will map it on paper soon and creating a planting plan. I only hope that I have better success with winter sowing this year because most of my plan will be dependent on the seedlings I raise myself. I keep telling myself that I will buy fewer plants and more hardscape materials this year. Will I never learn? Here's laughing at me, kid.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Finished Winter-Sowing Perennials

I've finished winter-sowing my perennials. That is, I've sown some of every variety I've purchased, but not every seed. (The Goat's Beard seed packet alone contains 600 seeds!) I see how buying seed can become addicting. The pictures on the front of the packets are so promising and the price point is so low.

As of today, I have 70 containers of winter-sown seed on the back deck. My goal this year is to sow every seed from my packets (yes, all 600 Goat's Beard), so I will be putting out more jugs. However, I'm a bit bottlenecked by a lack of containers. I'm still persuading Mike to drink milk and downing diet soda myself. My coworkers are still bringing me bottles and jugs. I've also started hitting up the convenience store in my (work) building for jugs and scrounging through the leftovers of our catered events for containers. Mike discovered that it is illegal (city code) for me to dig through the neighbors' recycle bins. I'm trying to be a law-abiding citizen, but the milk jugs on the corner are calling my name...

The following is the list of my 2006 winter-sown perennials. I've grouped them by distributor/grower so that I can monitor germination trends and avoid the dud brands in future years.

Swallowtail Seeds
Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus)
Firefly Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea Splendens)
Dragonfly Hybrids Columbine (Aquilegia x hybrida)
Madonna Snowdrop Anemone (Anemone sylvestris)
Rose Beauty Grapeleaf Anemone (Anemone tomentosa)
Cerise Queen Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)
Siberian Wallflower (Erysimum x allionii)
Vintage Burgundy Stock (Matthiola incana)
White Sweet Violet (Viola odorata)
Band of Nobles Mixed Lupine (Lupinus hybrid)
Select Blue Catnip (Nepeta x faassenii)

Pase Greenhouses
Ajuga reptans
Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
Wintergreen Very Berry (Gaultheria procumbens)

Ferry Morse
Forget-Me-Not Blue Bird
Dame's Rocket
Johnny Jump Up Helen Mount (Viola)

Hollyhock Fordhook Giants Mix
Lupine Russell Hybrids Mix
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Delphinium Connecticut Yankee
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Park's Seed
Strawberry Foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis)
Hardy Iceplant (Delosperma cooperi)
Lantern Plant (Physalis francheti)
Lavender Lady (Lavandula angustifolia)
Siberan Blues Garden Pinks (Dianthus amurensis Siberian Blues)
Astilbe x arendsii Mix
Evening Primrose (Oenothera pallida Innocence)
Cyclamen Lily Pad Pink (Cyclamen coum)

Plantation Products (bought these at Big Lots, summer 2005)
Sweet William Red (Dianthus barbatus)
Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Bellflower Blue (Campanula carpatica)
Sheep's Bit Blue Light (Jasione)
Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
English Daisy (Bellis perennis)

Garden Place
Tritoma Red Hot Poker Mix

From my own garden
Centaurea montana

From Tim (these are actually shrubs and a tree, not perennials)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia)
Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentuckea)

In two weeks, no matter if all the perennials are sown, I begin sowing annuals. I have at least 20 packets of annual seed already, but, knowing my impulse-buying ways, I'll wait until they are all sown to publish a list. I have started collecting seed the way I collect cats.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Are You Going?

My calendar is quickly filling up with the upcoming season’s gardening events! For those in the Cincinnati area, here is a run-down on 2006 garden events:

Cincinnati Home and Garden Show, March 4 – 12
Cincinnati Flower Show, April 22 – 30
Civic Garden Center Plant Sale, May 6 – 7
College Hill Gardeners Plant Sale, May 7
Newport East Row Garden Walk, June 24 - 25
Civic Garden Center Neighborhood Garden Tour, July 13

Dates not yet set for:

Licking Riverside Historic District Home and Garden Tour (scheduled in early July last year)

(If June is the best month for seeing gardens – why are there two tours scheduled for hot July?)

I’d love to see a garden (and home) tour in College Hill. (I’ll have to suggest that to the College Hill Gardeners.) Maybe I’ll be ready for a tour of my own garden in 2007. Meanwhile, I hope to see you at one of our season’s gardening events. If you miss any of them, you can count on a photo recap on Cincinnati Cape Cod.

Leave a comment if I’ve missed a tour, show, or other special event.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

North Corner Plan

Thank you for your suggestions on what to do with the clothesline pole in the North Corner. Everyone’s input was so good that I plan on incorporating almost ALL of your ideas.

I will continue forward with the original plan of growing a vine teepee around the pole and topping it with a birdhouse. Nightmare on Elm Street mentioned honeysuckle as a possible vine candidate, and that reminded me that I had already found a honeysuckle that blooms in part shade (Lonicera x heckrottii). I planned on buying two for the arbor that will frame the front walk. Now, I’ll just increase my order and plant one or two at the base of the pole too. Although clematis are lovely (as suggested by Deb), I haven’t had enough success with the seven plants I currently have (3 jackmanii, 2 autumn, 1 pink (Nelly Moser?), and 1 unknown fuchsia variety) to be willing to add more.

I loved Garden Obsession’s idea to plant shrubs around the pole. Shrubs simply hadn’t occurred to me, but they make great sense. Shrubbery will help tie the pole in with the hedge and the miscellaneous shrubs/trees (not pictured) planted along the fence line. I was worried that the pole would stick out like a sore thumb, but flanking it with an azalea (yellow circle) and hydrangeas (blue circles) will create a corner planting. Adding shrubs also gives me a place to plant the White Lights azalea I just ordered from Bluestone. The hydrangeas will be of whatever variety I find at Funke’s summer 50% off sale.

I had planned on placing a birdbath behind the stump, but I also liked Garden Obesession’s suggestion of adding a birdbath near the pole to create a small bird sanctuary. (There is a birdfeeder hanging from a nearby sweet gum limb.) I’ll think on it.

Finally, you’ll notice some other additions to the plan. The ROS (Rose of Sharon) is an existing planting, but I left it off the original diagram. It is the source of my cuttings. I plan on adding a fragrant currant (another yellow circle), a small patio, and a path. I’ll fill out the rest of the area with the many shade plants I have started from seed this winter and hostas from the Civic Garden Center’s annual sale.

I have lots of grass/violets/indian strawberry/henbit to kill before implementing my plan. You’ll never guess how I intend to dispose of it (no Round-Up or newspapers involved). Stay tuned!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pole of Opportunity

We have an unsightly clothesline pole in the backyard. It (in theory) supports some sort of laundry-hanging device, but the clothesline and supporting framework have long since disappeared. Removing the pole doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, so, instead, I’d like to find a creative way to integrate it into the garden. What are your suggestions to transform this “opportunity area” into an asset?

I’ve considered:
1. Building a teepee trellis around the pole a la Minor Adjustments and growing vines up the supports.
2. Perching a birdhouse on top of the pole (possibly in conjunction with the vine-draped teepee).

The major limitation is that this area is shaded by the house (to the right of the diagrammed area) and the sweet gum. I don’t know of any flowering vines that grow without at least partial sun. (I’d classify this area as mostly shade.) Virginia creeper and ivy would do well, but they don’t flower (and they’ve already eaten the north end of the yard). A second problem is that the pole’s location very nearly intersects the proposed ROS hedge. I’ve considered adding second “door” in the hedge, directly across from the pole, but I think that might look odd.

All right, creative people, what would you do?

Friday, February 10, 2006

ROS Cuttings

First of all, I apologize for the dearth of posts. I don’t usually make excuses for, or even comment on, my absences, but in this case I want to share good news. I’m changing jobs (for the better) and the transition is keeping me busier, happier, and more fulfilled than usual. As spring approaches, though, it’s time to return my focus to the important things in life – like gardening!

I’ve been teasing you since last month on my mysterious use of the ghetto cold frame. As you can see in the photo, it is now filled with hardwood cuttings from the Rose of Sharon I discovered in the North Corner last summer. The 30 cuttings, once rooted, will be planted to form a semicircular hedge and create a garden room of the once hated North Corner.

As I transitioned from the military to the softer, gentler, more politically correct world of business I had to learn a whole new vocabulary. One of the ickiest terms I’ve had to endure is “opportunity area” (meaning “weakness”). As much as the euphemism makes me want to puke, I’ve taken the same sort of Pollyanna attitude towards the North Corner. I plan on transforming the ugliest corner of the yard into a charming garden room. The ROS hedges will be the “walls” and I am building an arbor for the “door.” Opportunity awaits!

I’ve never done hardwood cuttings, or cuttings at all, before this attempt. According to the sources I’ve read, hardwood cuttings are best done in the winter, when the plant is dormant and leafless, so that the cutting does not desiccate through the leaf surface and puts energy into making roots instead of top growth. The cuttings should be between 6 and 9 inches long and have a few leaf nodes. The top of the cutting should be just above a node and the bottom (root end) should be just below a node. I was unsure whether older or younger branches would be better suited for cuttings, so I used wood from both last summer and the previous year.

ROS is supposed to be one of the easiest shrubs to root from cuttings, but I used hormone powder, just to be safe. After dipping each cutting in the hormone powder, I inserted them into pots of soil. I put the pots in a cold frame to give the cuttings protection from the wind and frost. I do not want the sticks to break dormancy until some roots have developed, so there is no need to put the cuttings in a heated area. Thus, the cold frame is an ideal environment.

I have no idea if this will work. In preparation for this project, I read a number of strange methods of rooting cuttings, including bundling the sticks and burying them completely, UPSIDE DOWN. (I’d love to hear details on anyone else’s experience with the “buried alive and upside down” method.) The approach I chose seemed to be the simplest and most likely to work. If my experiment fails, Roses of Sharon are pretty inexpensive shrubs. However, a free hedge is best of all.