Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Monthly Garden Wrap-up

Black-capped Chickadee checking out the bird box

Whew, what a year it's been! I know it's been tough at times for a lot of people, myself included, but as I look back on this year in my garden, it's saying to me, "Spend more time here." So I plan to do just that in 2017. Meanwhile, I decided to scroll through my pics of the garden and post one from each month. One that will fairly represent what was happening out there. And I have two non-garden photos at the end of one of the things that kept me so busy this year!

American Goldfinches

January was all about the birds apparently. There were a few bulbs popping but most of my garden pictures were of birds - checking out potential nest sites and eating, eating, eating, especially the goldfinches that descend en masse, eat more and more, and then leave on a nice spring day just like that!

Hellebore, variety unknown

While the bulbs really started to pop in February, the hellebores were giving me much delight.

'Pink Charm' daffodil

Ugh, it's hard to pick just one March photo when so much was starting to happen in the garden - lots of daffodils, clusiana tulips, freesia, still more birds, spring ephemerals like 'Louisiana Blue' phlox and blue-eyed grass. But I chose this photo of a new-to-me daff, 'Pink Charm'. I also like the little crab spider hiding along the corolla.

Gulf Coast penstemon in foreground, 'Little Women' rose in background

By April the garden was in full swing. Roses were the highlight but also doing great - clematis, penstemon, gaura, verbena, sacred lotus, and succulents. And Indigo Buntings passing through.

'Cherry Brandy' gaura

May usually starts to signal the transition to summer and 2016 was no exception. The gaura tried to outdo itself, daylilies started to bloom, as well as cosmos, giant coneflower, and veronica. And the last of the migrating birds were seen - Baltimore orioles and Rose-breasted grosbeaks with the goldfinches leaving the month before. I even saw a family of five racoons, one mom and four babies, in the yard!

Daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

June brings the most daylilies into flower and the purple coneflower runneth over (does anyone else keep trying to call them pink coneflowers because they're well, pink?). So I chose this pic with both. I'm sorry I don't know the names of the daylilies but I couldn't find them in my journal. I'm hoping they still have tags out there! Though this pic really represents most of the garden in June, I wish I could have shown you two new flowers for me this year - 'Red Velvet' lily (gorgeous) and 'Deuil du Roy Albert' dahlia (yummy)!

Surprise lily (Lycoris squamigera)

Come July I don't spend much time in the garden cause it's just too darn hot. This July the taps also turned off - no rain at all. But I was surprised by a surprise lily! I had planted three a few years ago but this is the only one I got this year.

'Baby Joe' Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium (or is it Eutrochium?) 'Baby Joe')

The drought continued into mid August when we finally got a surprising several days of rain. August means the ornamental grasses start to put on some blooms but it's when the various Joe Pye weeds that I have are at their peak. The peak doesn't last that long but I know it's much appreciated by the various pollinators. One of the few hydrangeas I have, Mystical Flame (H. paniculata 'Bokratorch'), was also at its peak but the blooms of it and the oakleaf hydrangea quickly turned brown because of lack of rain. Rattlesnake master and black-eyed Susans continued to bloom through August.

'Deuil du Roy Albert' dahlia

I'll let this dahlia pic represent all the dahlias that were blooming in September (they continued through October as well). Excessive heat meant that this 'Deuil du Roy Albert' dahlia wasn't showing off the white tips it normally has. Here's the weird thing about this September through the entire fall - a lot of my plants either kept blooming, such as the 'Autumn Minaret' daylily, or re-bloomed for the first time ever, such as my sacred lotus. I attribute it to the surprise August rains but who knows.

Monarch on dahlia

October brought a plethora of butterflies so they were the true highlights of the garden! Especially monarchs. I only saw a few because we're not exactly in the middle of their migration path (we're kind of on the edge). I grow several different kinds of milkweed for them but oh well, I'll keep on trying.

Lots of daffodils to plant!

For some reason I took no photos of the garden in November. I did some traveling then yet that's no excuse. But I did snap a phone pic of all the daffodils I was trying to plant - 100 mixed daffs from ColorBlends. It kept raining though, so I kept having to wait until it was dry enough to plant. I still have about 30 left to go in the ground, oy! 😝

'Bloodgood' maple in foreground, yellowing elm and oakleaf hydrangea in background

December is when we get the best fall color so that's the real start of the December garden. A couple days after I took this pic of the 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple, whoosh, the leaves were all dropped in a storm.

Ruston Farmers Market new building with mural by Louisiana Tech art students

Ribbon cutting of the new building

Here's what really kept me busy this year and consequently out of the garden - our farmers market moved from a parking lot into a new space - an old, unused city-owned building! Lots of work and money on the part of the community made it happen. So there's at least one great thing for 2016!

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.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for February

Crown Azure pansy

It's usually a tough Garden Bloggers Bloom Day month for most garden bloggers in the northern hemisphere. But that doesn't stop us from showing off what few blooms we have!

Lent lilies with summer snowflakes and narcissus in the background

Luckily I live in the South where spring bulbs just barely start to pop this time of year. Even though we had a colder winter overall last year, I had more varieties of bulbs in bloom then than now. I guess the new norm is to expect the unexpected.

Leucojum aestivum, aka summer snowflakes

Can anyone tell me why Leucojum aestivum is commonly called summer snowflakes? I'm guessing it blooms in summer somewhere but certainly not in my neck of the woods!

Unknown narcissus but might be 'Grand Primo'

The narcissus pictured above is almost always the first to bloom in my yard. These bulbs were rescued a few years ago from an old homesite. Though the bloom stalks are always shorter than the leaves (as you can see here), it's a great dependable bulb. My guess is that it's 'Grand Primo' though that's only a guess.

Northern cardinal at a birdbath

This time of year I seem to take more pics of birds than blooms. They provide some colorful relief from a drab winter.

American goldfinch at the pond

Anyone else spending too much money feeding the goldfinches this time of year? I'm inundated with them!

Improved Meyer lemon

I do wish I didn't have to baby my Meyer lemon tree so much. We're just a teensy too cold in north Louisiana (Zone 8a) to reliably grow citrus, especially mine since it's planted in a stock tank. These days when the freezing weather hits I put a shop light near the tree and cover both with sheets.

'Butterfly Blue' scabiosa, aka pincushion flower

The Meyer lemon and rosemary plants are always reliable attractants for pollinators in winter. But I have a few other plants around my yard that also do that. I'm very impressed with the pincushion flower. It seems to always have a few blooms on it and the bees love it.

'Peggy Clark' flowering apricot and pollinator

As does the 'Peggy Clark' flowering apricot. This tree is outstanding for long bloom period. It started blooming at the end of December and my guess is that it won't be finished blooming until the end of February! The blooms start opening at the bottom and then slowly work their way up to the top. Highly recommended.

Unknown type of hellebore (aka Lenten rose)

And let's not forget the hellebores. Again, mine are just starting to bloom, which is a little later than usual. As you can see from the photo, I'm having a little fun with my new camera's macro capability. :-)

Don't forget to check out what's blooming in other parts of the world by checking out Carol's GBBD post!

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.

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.