Monday, September 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: September 2014

Yesterday was a glorious day to be in the garden. We had much needed rain all day Saturday but Sunday was sunny, cool, and a great day to be puttering around. I spent 7 hours outside ripping things out, planting anew, and god knows what else. So, this Bloom Day post is going to be short and sweet, mostly because the garden is putting itself slowly to bed but also because I'm Egg. Sauce. Ted.

The Pharm

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

A butternut squash nestled in the sedum

Aster 'Alma Potschke'

A mess of Russian sage and Rudbeckia


Aster 'October Skies'

The allée

My hibiscus is was  not as prolific this year compared to last year, but it's still nice
to see it in bloom.

Another hibiscus about to bloom

Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising'

Geranium 'Rozanne' in front of the remains of Nepeta 'Walkers Low'

Zinnia with Eupatorium 'Phantom' hiding behind it

The back yard

Anemone 'Queen Charlotte' tangled with Echinacea

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' with the remains of Phlox 'Blue Paradise'

Echinacea 'White Swan' hanging in much longer than the species

That wraps up my late summer/early fall garden. Thanks to May Dreams for hosting again.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Like Christmas morning

Nevermind that I was up at 4:45 in the morning yesterday because one of the dogs decided it was a great time to be awake.

Or that I was out of the house to my job by 7 am, and didn't get home from my second (teaching) job until 7:30 pm.

Though it was dark when I got home, three boxes of plants had arrived! I scarfed down some dinner and set to unpacking them outside.

Thank goodness I wrote down where each one should go when I was ordering them. My addled brain didn't even remember most of what I ordered, let alone what I intended for them.But with this big purchase of close to twenty plants, I'm trying to introduce more variegation, height, textured foliage, and colored stems in my garden. 

Get the shovels ready! I'm going to be digging all weekend!

Have you made any fall purchases to help improve your garden next year?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Looking for a few good shrubs

I need your help.

Over the past week or so, I've been putting together a list of perennials to fill in some of the holes in the garden but have realized that I'm deeply unsatisfied with the shrubs I have in most of it. They should help provide structure and definition but they've really an afterthought or just put in wherever I thought I had room. So I'm trying to remedy that with some strategic purchases.

Right now, the area that unsettles me the most is the allée for three reasons: upkeep, privacy, and blah (this is a technical term that will be explained shortly).


I bought three shrubs last year and they're all on one side of the allée. On the other side, the side that borders my neighbors' yard, are three other shrubs that were originally elsewhere in the yard and doing great. Once I moved them to the allée, however, everything turned to crap. Coincidence? Not sure. But the Hypericum frondosum (St. John's Wort) has root rot and two-thirds of it has already been removed. The Viburnum is making a slow recovery from its near death experience last year but still looks awful. And for unknown reasons, my bushy lilac partially died this year (one giant branch just turned brown).

St. John's Wort. It's a massive shrub but two-thirds of it has already been removed.

The writing seems to be on the wall and I'm kind of over the whole thing. I'm sick of babying these guys in the hopes that maybe in a few years they'll look good again. 


Earlier this year, I thought my neighbors on the allée side were going to put up a fence. I envisioned structure and some more privacy via a nice wooden one. Well, I went a little too far in my imagination. They will eventually be putting up a fence but it will be a smaller iron one. In the mean time, I'd like a little more screening from their new shed or privacy from their patio when I sit at my back table. 

Craptastic Viburnum in front of neighbors' new shed

Finicky lilac in front of neighbors' new shed


I took this picture below and was thinking that I'd have to put one hell of a caption to describe where the Viburnum and lilac are, and it hit me:

Too. Much. Green. Everything blends together. There is no definition, no structure. It's all so blah! I guess there was a reason I was looking online at plants like Cotinus 'Royal Purple' and thinking about evergreen shrubs or trees. 

So you can see my dilemma. I'm ready to make changes but I don't know what to buy. Do you have any suggestions, dear internet? I'm in zone 7a. The allée gets full sun (from about 10 am until sundown). These beds are narrow - only about 3 or 4 feet wide, so unfortunately something like a Cotinus is too big. An evergreen would be nice to look at it in the winter when there's nothing else there to look at. I'd love it to help on the privacy front and be low maintenance. I don't care if it flowers (or when, if it does). The area gets more winter wind and snow than other parts of the garden because it's open to all of the other, fence-less yards of my neighbors, so whatever I put there will need to be up for the pummeling it may get in difficult winters.

If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2014

This is a belated post but when you have company from out of town staying with you for a week, blog posts don't get written on time.

The garden is at once both vibrant and on its way out for the summer. The Pharm continues to produce tomatoes and the butternut squash vine has taken over every spare inch of space. The allée is more alive a year into its existence than I could have ever thought possible. And the back yard continues to be subtle but reliable. The weather has been cool and hardly humid which is really rare 'round these parts. I feel like I ought to take advantage of it and weed or something but it's too nice to do anything but just sit, sip some coffee, and stare at the flowers.

The Pharm

Zinnias, marigolds, and Rudbeckia complement the vegetable plants

Butternut squash growing on top of Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Rudbeckia and Russian sage

Echinacea purpurea starting to fade

The allée

Echinacea, Hibiscus and Phlox 'Blue Paradise'

Rudbeckia and Phlox 'Blue Paradise' (which looks purple!)

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee' and Joe-Pye Weed 'Phantom'. The bees lurve it here.

More Rudbeckia, Phlox 'Blue Paradise', and zinnia. I love this color combo.

Looking from front to back

Looking from back to front

The back yard

Oh hey. More Echinacea (including 'White Swan), Rudbeckia, and Phlox 'Blue Paradise'.

A vignette of potted plants and Barbara the lime tree outside my back door.

Wide shot from the side

From the back to the front

That wraps up August. Thanks, as always, to May Dreams for hosting another Bloom Day.

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.


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.