Friday, July 18, 2014

Welcome to The Pharm

I've written before about digging out part of my front yard to grow a vegetable garden (see my most recent post about it here). It got off to a bit of a rocky start (literally - sorry root veggies! - and figuratively) but has really taken off in the past few weeks. I knew it would be easy for me to step out of the door and water, weed, or harvest, but I didn't expect the pure joy I feel upon leaving my house every morning and seeing food growing just steps from my front door!

Russians aren't just good spies - they also block views

I saw a neighbor recently and he asked how my veggie garden was doing. In my head I thought, "You live across the street. Can't you see it?" Then, I realized that my privacy plants were doing their job and unless you knew to look for tomato stakes, you wouldn't notice there were vegetables growing. My house sits about four feet above street level and is bordered with a retaining wall upon which I've created flower beds.  So, you would have the above view walking by my house, which is to say few people except my immediate neighbors know I'm farming in my front yard.

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In Philadelphia, people have the habit of changing any word that begins with an "F" to instead start with a "Ph" in written text. Phinally instead of Finally, Phit instead of Fit, Phood instead of Food... it's alternatively clever and annoying. I've been thinking about what to name different parts of the yard since I read this post last year. I have the allée on the side of the house, but right now I just have "front yard" and "back yard" in the front and rear gardens. Until..... It came to me. I'm going to be clever and annoying and the same time and where I grow food in my front yard will now be known as The Pharm. Let's see what's been going on there, shall we?

I started tomatoes from seed in the spring and they were leggy and not growing well. I then went away on a 10-day vacation in May and asked my neighbor to water them for me. It wasn't until the very end of May that I planted them. All of the signs were pointing to a craptastic tomato experience if I had one at all this year.

This is the tomato patch when first planted about 6 weeks ago:



And this is the tomato patch now:

They like me! They really like me!

'Bonny Best' tomato grown from seed. 

'Black Cherry' tomato, grown from seed

Hearing reports of friends harvesting their tomatoes already makes me realize that I'm still far behind, but damn it, I grew those things from seed and I'm going to have an amazing harvest when they ripen! (Please, please ripen!)

Moving on.

I've been adding compost to the front of The Pharm in anticipation of seeding root veggies again in the next couple of weeks. Somehow two parsnips survived my first seeding attempts in the previously-poor soil and they're fun to look at.

Turga parsnips in front and basil behind it


The only kind of squash I've grown in the past was summer yellow squash and zucchini. This is the first time I've tried butternut squash and it just keeps growing and growing. And growing. Maybe not the best idea for a small space garden.

Waltham butternut squash from seed. It's out of control!
To the lower left is a rosemary plant and one lone carrot that made it.

Butternut squash flower


Beans taking the place of sugar snap peas:



J's peppers. He's actually eaten a few this year.



The Pharm a month ago:



And now:



Not bad for a month. This front-yard pharming thing is going my way.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2014

Stop! It's hammer color time!

This has been a most pleasant summer. It's been mostly mid-80s during the day and the humidity hasn't been too bad. I think it's only fair after the horrendous winter we had that we should be treated to such a nice couple of months. In the gardens, we're still a wee bit behind past years but in the last couple of weeks, plants have been steadily blooming so there's now a lot of color when I look outside. I haven't even watered (besides the pots) yet this season.

The back yard

It's so nice to look out the kitchen window and see different flowers in bloom. The phlox I planted last year has added a really nice compliment to the echinacea. I still have some holes to fill in but overall am pretty pleased with how it looks right now.

Monarda, Echinacea purpurea, Coreopsis 'Moonbeam', Stokesia 'Klaus Jelitto', Phlox
paniculata 'Blue Paradise'

Echinacea purpurea, Coreopsis 'Moonbeam', Monarda

Stokesia 'Klaus Jelitto', Echinacea 'White Swan', Phlox paniculata 'Blue Paradise'

From the patio looking back

From the back looking to the patio


Abeille allée 
This is the first summer I've had the full allee completed and I think it looks great. I need to refine the edges and still need to sort out what type of pathway I'm going to put in (besides grass) but it's alive with color. I mulched it for the first time and it's helping a lot with moisture retention and weed control. There are definitely some holes here and there that I didn't anticipate, mostly from plants that didn't come back after the winter.

Echinacea purpurea, Phlox 'Blue Paradise', Stargazer Lily, Nepeta 'Souvenir d'Andre
Chaudron', Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee', Coreopsis, Phlox, Nepeta

Stargazer lily. These bulbs did almost nothing last year but this year has been
blooming nicely.

Monarda 'Jacob Cline' has been blooming since last Bloom Day

Eupatorium maculatum 'Phantom' (Dwarf Joe-Pye Weed)

Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising'. I raved about this last year but only one of my two plants
returned this year and it doesn't look so hot.

Nepeta, Geranium 'Rozanne', Heuchera

Looking back to front

Looking front to back


The front yard

I'm leaving out pictures of the front-yard vegetable garden for now and saving that for another post. The flowers in the front yard are a bit more muted as I try to have them accent the house instead of compete with it.

Russian sage and Black-eyed Susan.  The veggie garden is actually hidden behind the
Russian sage. You can't really see it from the sidewalk unless you're looking.

Gaillardia (I forget the variety)

Callirhoe involucrata. This plant is doing okay but the one by the steps suddenly died.

Echinacea and Black-eyed Susan

That's it for another Bloom Day. Thanks for reading and be sure to see how other gardens around the world are doing over at May Dreams.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Meadow Garden at Longwood Gardens

A couple of weeks ago, J and I went to Longwood Gardens to check out the newly reopened Meadow Garden. I confess that in my many visits to Longwood, I'd never explored the Meadow Garden prior to its closure and expansion, so I can't compare its current iteration to the way it used to be. The Meadow Garden doubled in size during the expansion. Apparently, Longwood successfully (after almost two decades of petitioning) moved a county road around the entire property in lieu of it bisecting the meadow. So they were able to join the two halves of the meadow (the former side and the one that was not open to visitors on the other side of the county road) to create an even larger garden.

Many of the gardens at Longwood are purposeful in their design and feature colorful plants that are always in bloom. Not so with the meadow garden. It felt very natural and peaceful and like I was walking through a field (I was). I recognized native plants for pollinators, walked on trails mown through the grass, and stepped on animal droppings. There was still a lot to see and great little touches of well-integrated design here and there.

You can read more about the Meadow Garden here. I'll let my pictures do the rest of the talking.











Home for mason bees




 

Asclepias tuberosa and Callirhoe involucrata





Saturday, June 28, 2014

Where the bees are

I'm officially worried. 

Unless you have your head in the sand, you know that bees are in serious trouble. But it's one thing to read about it and another to experience it first hand.

Last year I named my side yard the Abeille Allée, or bee lane (you can read about it here), due to the incredible number of bees on the plants in that area of my garden. If you stood still, you could see motion everywhere among the flowers. The bees buzzed my head constantly when I was weeding. There was always activity. 

No bees on the bee balm


This year, the absence of activity is startling. At first, I thought that maybe the long winter and delayed spring meant they were just hiding out until it got warmer. But as the days grew longer and hotter there was barely any bee activity at all in the allée. Their usual favorites - the nepeta, the coreopsis, and particularly the St. John's Wort - were devoid of activity.

No bees on the Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

In fact, it's only been in the last day or two that they've shown up to the St. John's Wort. Happily, that particular bush is now buzzing (sorry!) with activity. 

They've arrived!!

Still, the St. John's Wort has already hit its peak and is starting to lose its flowers so the timing of their arrival is troublesome, considering they've been all over that bush for years as soon as it blooms. And try as I might, I can't find bees on any other plant in the allée.

No bees here either

I'm not sure what to do from here. This is a problem much, much larger than me. I can do my part, but when my neighbors use Round-Up regularly, am I making much of a difference by not using pesticides and trying to use organic seeds?

What's the bee situation like in your garden?  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2014

With a week until the official start of summer, we're experiencing a very comfortable spring. Highs have rarely gone past the mid-80s and many days have still been in the 70s. I woke up this morning for a run and it was 55* outside. I'm not complaining. If I look at my June 2013 Bloom Day pictures, I can see we're about a week or two behind. Flowers are starting to pop but it doesn't seem like a lot is going on yet.

Back yard

In the back there is very little going on. The baptisia and peonies are done for the year. Spiderwort bloom daily but I'm waiting for different plants to start blooming. Note to self: Plant more transitional flowers for next year.

I have historically not had a lot of shade in my garden but I do love some shade-plants like astilbe. I created some welcoming spots for them by underplanting them beneath large shrubs or perennials that would create shade, like my giant baptisia or this red twig dogwood.



The ubiquitous salvia

The allée

The real show is going on here - where I barely had a semblance of a garden last year. This space is about to undergo a transition soon, one being forced upon me, but I'll save that for another day. 

Nepeta 'Walker's Low', Heuchera (variety escapes me), and Geranium 'Rozanne'


Geranium 'Rozanne'

Monarda 'Jacob Cline'

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' beginning its show



Above, Penstemon 'Dark Towers' looks very similar to Penstemon 'Husker Red' (below). The biggest difference I see is that 'Dark Towers' foliage is much more red.



Knautia (with missing tag - oops!)

Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising'

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam, Nepeta 'Souvenir d'Andre Chaudron', Echinacea, neighbor's new
shed (foreshadowing!)

Phlox paniculata 'Blue Paradise' just starting to open

The front

The flower beds in the front yard at this time of year are mostly muted. The real show will be getting started in the next few weeks. 

Grandma's evening primroses, the last of the Amsonia 'Blue Ice'

Verbena 'Homestead Purple'

Astilbe, a couple different Euphorbia, Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

And my favorite:

Callirhoe involucrata

That wraps up another Bloom Day. Slow and steady wins the race, right? Thanks to May Dreams for hosting again.