Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hanging on till Spring

'Crown Azure' pansies and 'Clear Crystal White' alyssum

It's that REALLY slow time of the year. That time when you know there's more winter ahead yet you're itching to get your hands in the soil. That time when the plants are just sitting there biding their time. What's a gardener to do?

White-throated Sparrow; never mind the invasive Chinese privet behind it in my neighbor's yard!

Bird watch! Project FeederWatch to get more specific. Just because it's too cold for us humans to enjoy the outdoors it doesn't mean our bird friends aren't out there. I joined Project FeederWatch, a citizen-science project, just last year. I've birded for several decades now and yet I've found that reporting the birds I see in my yard makes me a better birder. I want to be accurate!

American Goldfinches cleaning up under the feeders

Here's an explanation of the project from the Project FeederWatch website: "Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. FeederWatchers periodically count the birds they see at their feeders from November through early April and send their counts to Project FeederWatch. FeederWatch data help scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance." Simple.

I've also become more aware of how our bird population trends right here at home. For example, the first American Goldfinch showed up at my feeders in mid November but they were only onesy-twosy. Then about three weeks ago - pow, an explosion of A.G.'s happened! It's a challenge to count them but the fun part is finding the odd bird out, such as the White-throated Sparrow, Pine Siskin, or Dark-eyed Junco.

Sunflower seed and peanut butter wreath for the birds, recycled from the holidays

One thing that disappoints me is that more people don't participate in my area. You can see the participant locations on their website. There are only four in all of north Louisiana, myself included!

Carolina Chickadee inspecting potential home

Yesterday we had a break in the weather with temps into the low 60's. That's when I caught this little chickadee checking out two of the different bird houses in my backyard. Oh boy, maybe spring won't be long now.

Improved Meyer lemon with bee

It's not totally drab and bloom-less outside. The Meyer lemon is doing its usual winter bloom thing. The last couple of winters have been really hard on this old tree. I live in Zone 8a, just a tad cold for citrus. But I have this on the south side of the house in a galvanized trough and since it's fairly short, I cover it during hard freezes. So far this year hasn't been bad but yikes, I thought I lost it a year ago. This year I'm trying an incandescent bulb under the sheets that I cover it with.

'Belinda's Dream' rose growth

The 'Belinda's Dream' rose nearby wants to start growing as well. Sorry, but that new growth will be cut back in just a couple weeks. It needs some good shaping up, which I'm always happy to do before it really gets going.

Joker hellebore

The hellebores (aka Lenten roses) are slow to bloom this winter. So far only Joker is starting to put out.

Unknown narcissus, maybe 'Grand Primo'??

Even the daffodils have been slow. They're coming up but the only one blooming now is one I rescued from an old house a few years ago. I do wish I knew what variety it is. I'm guessing 'Grand Primo' but I could be totally off base. Last year I had at least four different narcissus in bloom at this time. So far this year this is the only one and it's only just started.

'Peggy Clark' flowering apricot

On the other hand, the flowering apricot tree is right on time. It barely loses its leaves before it starts blooming, no joke. This year it started budding out at the end of December and now it's in its full glory (though this is a pic from last year). One thing I don't often show is...

Bark of 'Peggy Clark' flowering apricot tree

...its bark. It's really pretty to me. This tree has grown very quickly but it should remain the size of an understory tree, 15-20 feet.

Old pecan tree

Now to leave off on kind of a sad note. The old pecan tree has got to go. When we moved to this house 11 years ago, this old tree was being strangled by the invasive Chinese wisteria. It also had this hollow area you can see at its base. At that time we decided the hollow wasn't too bad yet, and we relieved it of the wisteria and trimmed up a bunch of branches so it had less weight on it. But sadly, the hollow has grown enough that it's best to remove it before it comes down and does some real damage. You can't tell from this photo but the tree has a fork down by that hollow. So one side or the other is going to go fairly soon. But I thank the tree for its service to the yellow-bellied sapsuckers, flickers, woodpeckers, and my shade garden.

Now, if I could just get through this next month. Oh I forgot! I have a good weekend to look forward to - it'll be in the low 70's and all the plants I ordered should be delivered by then! It'll be time to clean up for spring and plant some new things! I hope your spring comes soon, too.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2016. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 - A Year of Changes in My Garden

The start of the changes - a gravel and flagstone walkway from the square beds to the pergola and a flagstone walk from the walkway to the side gate

Well, it's been an interesting 2015 on all fronts. But I'll try to limit this post to observations about my garden and blogging! Both the garden and blogging took hits this year. The weather and changes to beds and the landscape has left my garden in kind of an unknown state. It remains to be seen how it will all turn out in 2016 but what follows are some of the changes through 2015.

Showing the curves of the new "woodland" area. 

The Hardscape and Other Projects
In 2014 I agreed to be on the Ruston Garden Club's 2015 garden tour. The main reason for agreeing to something that causes the mostly do-it-yourself gardener like me grief, stress, and expense is to finally finish up some of the many projects I've been thinking of. I had three main projects in mind: 1) Install walkways from the raised beds to the pergola and from the pergola to the side gate. 2) Remove some more lawn and start to create a "woodland" area (a pretty small one). 3) Remove all the plants from the raised beds, top the beds up with fresh soil, and rearrange/renovate the design of plants in those beds. I managed #s 1 and 2 before the garden tour.

New section of the former alleyway that I rescued from the creeping (crappy) liriope, invasive wisteria roots, and broken asphalt. This is obviously still in its infancy.

View from the side gate with the new walkway.
View from the top patio showing some of the new woodland area.

Ruston Garden Club Tour
I had a delightful time being on the garden tour. It was so well organized and I had many helpers the day of the tour. (Kudos to the organizers of the Ruston Garden Club and the volunteer helpers from the North Central Louisiana Master Gardeners!) Here are a few photos from the day of.

The day started out a bit wet.

Me holding forth on something but who knows what!

Lots of questions.

One area that got a lot of attention was my succulent collection. Most of them are on shelves in this area (though you can't see the majority of them). I guess succulents are not that common in a part of the country that's supposed to get its fair share of rain.

The weather leading up to the garden tour was so crazy. Hard freezes, rain, snow in February and March, lack of rain in February, and constant cloud cover resulted in a very slow start to the spring bloom season. I know I wasn't the only gardener affected. For a brief week or so after the tour we had sun and then the garden really bloomed!

Some blooms

View from the pergola of the side garden.

Renovation of the Raised Beds
After our one week of sunshine in May it started raining. And raining. We received almost 10.5 inches of rain in May with another 4.5 inches in June. I was beginning to think it would never stop. But then it did, and big time. Our area quickly progressed to the extreme drought stage (as determined by the U.S. Drought Monitor) by September. And it was hot. I don't think I took any photos of the garden after mid July! Regardless, I knew I still had to tackle those raised beds. Years of self-seeding cottage garden plants and hard rains compacting the soil had taken its toll on those beds. So I bucked up and bought 3 cubic yards of soil and started removing plants and shoveling soil!

The soil I shoveled!
Starting to remove plants.

One bed finished. This is a trellis for sweet peas made of tower supports and bird netting. I hung the CDs on the netting because I was worried the birds might accidentally fly into the netting.

The finished beds. They look like babies!

The idea behind the 'Baby Gem' boxwoods in the front is to eventually create a screen so that if it gets messy I won't freak out. :-) Also, you may have noticed green wired things on top of the soil. That's my attempt at keeping the beasts out of the beds. So far it's worked against the neighborhood cats but the squirrels will sometimes still get in there. The other thing I did differently this time is to put mulch on top. This means it may not be such a cottage-y garden next year.

This rusted steel trough for some of my succulents was made by Robert Moran.

Other Little Additions
I also added a little nicety to the rail along the deck late this summer. I had intended to use part of an old gutter but couldn't figure out how to make it work. After I asked our friend Robert Moran if he wanted the gutters (he creates fantastic artwork out of metals), he made me one out of some steel he had. And he just gave it to me because he said I do so much for our community - isn't that the nicest gesture?

Screening for the patio

For years I've been wanting to screen off the top patio (so-called "top" because there are steps up to it) from the street. My ideas around a partial fence near the front of the carport are too expensive. So this year I bought a stock tank and filled it and another pot with Chinese mahonia (Mahonia fortunei). And I added another bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) on the other side. These plants are evergreen, as you can tell by the current naked winter trees. You can see that at eye-level the lounger is hidden. I'm happy with it so far.

Late winter scene from the back corner of the woodland area

The woodland area was topped with some soil and pine straw after the lawn was removed. Now, as you can see, there's a heavy layer of fallen leaves on top. In the early spring I'll put more pine straw on top of that. Hopefully I'll start getting a nice humus-y layer there and can eventually plant some woodland ephemerals and shrubs.

Where Did My Blogging Go?
Now about blogging... I haven't blogged since last July. Yes, the weather hasn't been very inspiring for strolling about outside with the camera. And yes, I've been busy with other things. But really, I haven't been inspired or motivated to blog either. Sometimes I feel like I just have nothing interesting to say. And I've gotten used to and like the immediate feedback and interactions on social media (Facebook mostly). So am I abandoning blogging? It sure seems like it but I've realized a few things that I'm missing by not blogging as often. One, although I do get delayed feedback and interactions via blogging, I also get exposed to new people and ideas that I don't get through FB. Secondly, I've made some awesome friends through blogging and attending Garden Blogger Flings. Thirdly, by not creating regular blog posts, I'm missing out on documenting my evolving garden and the interesting things I find there. These are three very good reasons that I'm not going to give up on blogging. So please hang in there with me and help me reinvigorate my enthusiasm for garden blogging!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2016. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day July 2015

'Black Beauty', a lily introduced in the 1950's according to Old House Gardens

It's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, a meme started several years ago by Carol at May Dreams Garden. The 15th of every month is the day we gardeners share what's blooming in our gardens. I have a few plants blooming though the heat and drought of summer has kicked in big time.

Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' 

Every July my rather aggressive 'Goldsturm' black-eyed Susans start blooming like crazy. They may get banished from my raised beds in the Great Raised Bed Renovation I plan to do this fall. But I know these babies can be found in other parts of my yard and in many other yards around Ruston (courtesy of my pawning-off (weeding) efforts).

'Amistad' salvia

The 'Amistad' salvia in the raised bed is not as robust as last year. And the other 'Amistad' in the border bed may indeed be dead. This spring was very tough on plants - too much rain, too little sun.

'Pink' gaura

This guara I picked up this spring, simply called 'Pink', has been an outstanding bloomer for three straight months. In spring this gaura was uniformly pink but I wouldn't really call it pink now. Still, kinda cute.

'Robert Poore' summer phlox

Moving to the border bed and speaking of non-stop bloomers, once 'Robert Poore' phlox gets going, it'll bloom till fall with only occasional rest periods. I never do a thing to it. It never gets mildew as many summer phlox varieties do.

'Autumn Minaret' daylily

Here's a fun daylily - 'Autumn Minaret'. The blooms are not very graceful or stunning but I love the fact that it blooms later than my other daylilies and that it's a good 7-feet tall! I have three of them popping up above other blooms.

Hydrangea paniculata Mystical Flame ('Bokratorch')

The Mystical Flame hydrangea starts out chalk white in my garden. By fall it'll be a lovely speckled rose. I grew this from a little 4-inch pot I planted some five years ago. Though it's supposed to be 4-feet tall, this one is at least 6.5 feet!

Fig "blooms"

We'll see if the birds and squirrels leave me any figs to eat. I doubt it.

Long shot of 'David' summer phlox

Crapemyrtle, unknown variety

I'm going to end my GBBD post with some blooms that I take for granted this time of year - crapemyrtle blooms. I never take pics of these, I guess because they are just all over the place - our town, the highways, let's say the South. I probably wouldn't even consider planting one because of that. But I do love them. I have these light pink ones plus a few darker pink ones. Have you seen the dark red ones? Ooh, those are tempting.

Be sure to visit Carol's blog. She corrals all the GBBD posts so you can see what's blooming all over the world today!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2015. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - Lovely May?

Starlet Lavender Star petunias (mostly)

Goodness, the spring has been busy. And wet and cloudy. Now sticky, wet, and cloudy. As I write this, thunder is booming outside. Because of the above average rain and lack of sunshine, the plants have been a bit slow or shy to bloom. Heck, my sweet peas haven't even bloomed (and may not). Regardless, it's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - time to report on what IS blooming this month.

Larkspur and Chelsea Physic Garden poppy

I simply have to show a poppy or two since I thought they'd never bloom. In fact, today's the first day for ANY of them to bloom! The pink poppy above was collected from last year. I planted the original seeds several years ago, and they were purchased from the Chelsea Physic Garden in London.

'Lauren's Grape' poppy

This 'Lauren's Grape' started closing up before I could get out there today for a photo. The blooms are not very big. But then again, we haven't had much sun so I'm not discounting them yet.

These are always the first daylilies to bloom

I'm happy to say the daylilies are starting to bloom. Here's a few other beauties blooming.

Flowering tobacco (nicotiana) with chives in the background

Gaura lindheimeri 'Pink' (I'm not sure if that's the variety name or color!)

Chives and pollinator
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - first time I've EVER had any kind of lavender save Spanish bloom for me!
Bowl of blooms (mostly petunias)

The raised beds. Your seeing mostly Verbena bonariensis and flowering tobacco blooming
Mystery iris

If anyone can venture some guesses on this variety of bearded iris, I'd appreciate it. It was supposed to be 'Cantina', a re-blooming iris. But it turned out not to be. In fact, it's on the opposite side of the color wheel!

Eastern smooth beardtongue, Penstemon laevigatus

This penstemon is a passalong from my friend Travis, who helped me whip the invasive liriope area into shape. He wasn't sure what it was (I think he found it in the wild). After some investigation, I'm pretty sure it's eastern smooth penstemon. I like it.

A luscious oakleaf hydrangea bloom

'Pee Wee' hydrangea, a dwarf form

We'll see if this 'Pee Wee' hydrangea stays small. I planted it last fall and the blooms are supposed to turn pink when they mature. I may have to move it as it looks like it wants more sun. But then again, we all do.

Baptisia australis, false indigo

I'm happy to say the false indigo I planted three years ago is starting to mature and bloom like a righteous plant.

Verbena bonariensis

And that's the bulk of what's blooming today, if you don't count the cilantro, parsley, cleome, roses... Okay, a few others. Too see what's blooming in other parts of the world today, visit Carol's blog, May Dreams Gardens.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2015. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.