Friday, December 28, 2012

Debunking Pinterest

This morning while scrolling through my Pinterest feed, I saw this pin, claiming banana peels are good for roses. I think I unconsciously doubt most similar Pinterest claims as they're akin to chain letters - easy to pass on yet no one actually investigates their accuracy.

Banana peels didn't seem that far off, though. They go in my compost bin every week and I'm sure they provide nutrients to soil. But would roses LOVE!!!! banana peels, as the pin claimed?

I found a lot of anecdotal forum and bulletin board posts, but wanted some more robust evidence. Then I found a newsletter from the American Rose Society, which is as good as it's going to get online. In it, the author states, "Banana peels are the true junk food of roses!!! They love the boost a banana provides from potassium and other elements contained within the banana and its peel." So while I'd still love to know why and what changes are evident in the roses, it's easy enough to add banana peels to the soil around the plants. It looks like an experiment for the spring.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The day after Christmas

My first attempt at hosting 11 people for 3 days went off without a hitch. Most everyone is gone, and I'm enjoying the quiet of morning with some coffee and signs of spring that just arrived in my mail this morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Invisible birds

I usually chop my dead coneflowers after it's obvious they're done for the year. I've heard that others leave them up for the "winter interest" or for the birds, but I've never thought they were particularly attractive once dead, nor do I want to help birds.

See, I'm terrified of birds. I won't go into how many times I've been bitten by those bastards, but yeah - anxiety level goes through the roof when I'm around them or see them. So to feed them and keep them around my yard? Hell no!

However, something obviously got into me this year because I left my dead coneflowers out. It was an experiment of sorts, to see if they'd actually take the seeds and if I could live with them doing so.

Well, they obviously filled their evil little beaks and I didn't once see them do it. And that is totally fine with me - I can coexist that way. I'll get some good karma points by leaving food out as long as they don't let their presence be known.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Heavenly bamboo

This is in my neighbor's yard. Look at those glorious berries! If I had room, I'd plant one in my yard to admire next winter.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like...spring!

Funny, as it's almost January in the northeast, but whatever.

Due to my irrational fear that the garbagemen won't take all of my garden clippings, I only finished chopping everything down this weekend. As I was cleaning up, I noticed this:

If my sedum (WHY are you always causing a problem, sedum?), baptisia, and peonies want to start budding now, fine. But you kids are about to get your butts kicked when it gets down to the 20s this week.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Meet Barbara

This is Barbara. She's a lime tree.

She came to me nameless and just about homeless. I'm her third mom in a year. I'm usually an advocate for unwanted animals, but unwanted lime trees? New territory for me.

I agreed to babysit her over the winter, as my neighbor (her second mom) didn't have room in her house with her four other citrus trees. In a sudden change of heart, my neighbor decided to give me Barbara outright.

I think she likes her new home. She's sending out new leaves like crazy and budding a lot.

Just don't tell Barb that I'm using her offspring for margaritas.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Paperwhites in sea glass

If I ask them to hurry, do you think they'll bloom in time for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I'm kind of mad

I think that's safe to say here, right, since my neighbors will never read this?

I worked on my garden for years(!) and it was finally starting to come together.

Then in 2011 we found out that our square backyard wasn't really all ours - that our yard was more like a weird slope-y staircase. The rest was someone else's property and he proceeded to develop it and build houses on it. There went half of my garden.

(Note to the pioneers in the 1880s who set the property lines up this way - FU!)

We put up a nice fence, since our new neighbors are lovely but part of their property is literally 8 feet from my back door, and their kids could see me scratch my butt as I cooked dinner.

I moved all of my plants and bushes to my new, smaller yard.

I didn't realize the fence would cast so much shadow in the spring, and whether because they were moved or there wasn't enough sun, my peonies didn't bloom this year. What if they don't come up again next year? I won't know until it's too late that it was the sun issue and not the transplanting issue.

I mean, can you imagine? People are homeless, foodless, shoeless, and I'm complaining about my peonies not blooming.

And yet I can't help worrying that things will look like crap again next year.

Someone should put my picture on a #firstworldproblems meme.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December means...

December means cold, and it has been cold (20s overnight) here in Philadelphia for a couple of weeks now. What does this mean for the garden? I would've thought it's time to tuck in and hibernate, but no, apparently it's time to bloom! To wit:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lantana tree

During a trip to Longwood Gardens in October, I saw a lantana tree.

I love lantana, but it's one of those annuals I never ever remember to purchase, though it looks lovely in my neighbor's yard. Can you even imagine having a whole tree of it?

Luckily, the Gardens provided some directions:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Finding inspiration in other gardens

I want to visit more gardens this upcoming year. They're a great source for inspiration and can chase away the winter blues. To wit, I asked J for a membership to Longwood Gardens for Christmas this year.

I also discovered that if I volunteer 10 hours over a year (I can do that in a weekend!) at Bartram's Garden, I can get a free membership!

Monday, November 26, 2012

'Tis the season...

...when I wish it was still warm and I wish I wasn't such a slug in summer and got outside more.

...when I'm reading gardening blogs like it's my job, and getting excited for planning in the spring.

...when I'm both overwhelmed and excited by the possibilities next year.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quick burst of energy

I'd finally convinced myself that it was okay to leave the big garden chores for the spring when I'd have an abundance of energy. But as I had bought some plants on sale about a month (!) ago and bought some mums today, I really had to get some planting done. And in the process, I needed to thin out the Black-eyed Susans, and pull out the junk trees growing under the azaleas, and dig out some grass in the front to make room for some new plants...

It only took about an hour and I feel like I got a lot done. I'll see if I can manage to plant the last new perennials tomorrow after my 20-mile run. And maybe in the process I'll get some more things done like I did today.

Dahlias from the garden

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The sedum saga continues

I am watching a bird out of my back window. It's perched on a sedum plant chowing down. It is either eating what's eating my sedum (in which case, yay!) or it is eating my sedum. If that's the case, birds eat perennials?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hollyhock rust

The hollyhocks I bought earlier this year are getting big. No signs of flowers, but I didn't expect them to flower in the first year.

Unfortunately, I noticed today that a number of the leaves have orange spots on them. Okay, a lot of orange spots and a lot of holes. The mosquitos have obviously prevented me from doing my personal garden tours in awhile. Thanks to Google, I discovered that it is a disease called hollyhock rust.

According to, I should remove any infected leaves now before the rust spores continue to spread, and/or use a fungicide. I prefer to steer clear of chemicals in my garden, but it looks like most of the leaves have some orange on them. What to do?

I did read on some garden forums that sprinkling corn meal around the base of the plants should prevent the disease from spreading. So it looks like I'll be removing most of the leaves and getting some corn meal at the store tomorrow. Maybe I can make muffins too, while I'm at it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

To do list this weekend

My running schedule this weekend is really light and it won't be too hot, so it is time to dig in and get some stuff done:

* Mow & trim lawn
* Prune butterfly bush
* Cut back echinacea and other plants on their way out
* Weed
* Extend backyard flower beds
* Use my Groupon at Primex to get plants for next years' bloom (they're having a buy one, get one 50% off - yahoo!); plant them
* Water

Monday, August 20, 2012

There are seasons...

I've come to realize that I go through cycles with the garden. In winter, I'm manic about looking at pictures, planning where to put plants, and desperate to see any signs of life. In spring, I'm a workhorse, and find any excuse to be outside doing something, anything. I do my best garden work then. In summer, it's too hot, humid and buggy. I'm too tired to do anything but glance out my window in disgust, or in longing of what could be. In fall, I put the garden to bed, looking forward to next spring, and wishing I hadn't wasted time in the summer being lazy.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer blues

It's that time of the season when the only thing that seems to be in bloom are the Black-eyed Susans. What was glorious only a month ago is now dying, dry, and colorless. It's too early for fall plants; it's too hot to weed. The manic energy I had in the spring is completely gone.

I bought a Groupon to a local garden center this week and am looking up plants that might fill in some of the dead spaces for next year. Of course, I'm likely going to have to spend time expanding my flower beds, as they're too small and squished. That means more work in the humidity.

First world problems!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I really regret not planting zinnias this year. I love cutting them and bringing them inside - they always bring a smile to my face.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baking soda can kill weeds?

I had no idea that baking soda was this useful. Apparently it can kill weeds, kill crabgrass, and prevent powdery mildew. I'm stocking up!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In bloom

Astilbe - Despite everyone telling me these are shade plants, this one does just fine in full sun.

Echinacea purpurea "Green Envy"

Echinacea, Callirhoe involucrata (winecups), Easter lily

Stokesia laevis "Klaus Jelitto" (Stoke's aster)

Monday, June 18, 2012


I somehow missed this dahlia tuber last fall when digging them out to overwinter. Thanks to our mild winter, it survived to give me a lovely surprise this spring.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First veggie crop of the summer

My neighbor and I are fortunate enough to share two veggie garden plots a couple of blocks away at a community garden. We planted pretty early and our efforts were rewarded this weekend with a nice harvest of food:

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Callirhoe involucrata, winecups. They're so abundant that it's hard to walk up the front steps without stepping on them.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Just ordered these alcea perennials (aka perennial hollyhocks) from White Flower Farm. I really hope they last for years and years.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Again with the sedum

Something is eating my sedum again. Last year, the plants made it through the summer pretty unscathed, but this year big chunks are already missing from the leaves.

I have seen ants, teeny tiny black bugs (smaller than a pinhead) and ladybugs on them. I know we have slugs here and there.

My first guess is that the black bugs are aphids. Ladybugs eat aphids, which might explain why I've seen the pretty red bugs around lately. Apparently there are even black sedum aphids (see here). I have aphids on my daylilies, though, and they leave dead brown spots where they've been eating. What's happening now is more like bites are being taken out of the leaves. So my second guess is slugs. Jerks.

My plan of attack (shh! don't tell the pests!) is threefold:

First, I was going to chop the sedum this weekend anyway to prevent them from blooming too early. To attack the aphids, I'm also going to squirt them with some dish soap + water. Finally, I'll make a slug beer trap and leave it out around the plant to see if I catch any of the slimy guys. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I've been working in the yard for about two hours this morning. Already I've smashed into the porch trellis with my arm, creating a nice bruise; almost took my head off walking into a hanging basket; and just bashed my elbow on the back door handle. I'm not sure how I've managed to live in this world without any major broken bones or accidents - I obviously have no sense of space and where I fit in.

Any guesses as to how many more injuries I'll incur today?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet

I am not a rose person. I have never enjoyed getting them in flower bouquets. I thought they were cheesy when my high school boyfriend got them for me And as a gardener, I've always shied away from them because I was afraid they were too high maintenance.

I was right.

When we bought our house, there was a large rose bush that was entangled in an arbor. I ignored it, it bloomed twice each summer, and I thought I'd been wrong about how difficult roses were to maintain.

On a whim a couple of years ago, I bought another rose, Rosa 'Secret'. It has one of the most intensely fragrant scents I've ever smelled in any flower, let alone roses. It's a hybrid tea rose and wouldn't get too large for our small city garden. I planted it in full sun and left it alone to do its thing, thinking it'd be as easy to maintain as the one by the arbor.

But oh god! This rose! If it didn't smell so good, I'd have trashed the thing years ago. Every year it seems that the day its leaves form fully it is immediately plagued with black spot. I think it also has rust. I just removed about a hundred aphids via hose. The stems look like they're about to wither and die.

I don't really want to use chemicals. A neighbor with beautiful roses suggested a systemic granular product, but it seems those protect against bugs and not disease. For now, I'll just cut off the diseased leaves (i.e., all of them) and let it look naked.

My poor ghetto rose. You're ugly on the outside but really sweet if people get close to you:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Big dahlias, little yard

It's tough having big dreams for a small yard. I'm really restricted by what I can do. I was reminded of that again today as I was trying to plant some dahlia tubers and gladiolus and ranunculus bulbs. Nowhere left to put them!

Last year, I sort of tossed my dahlia tubers into a hole and hoped they would grow. Boy did they! They were massive plants - they would have been at least 5 feet tall if I'd staked them properly. They were prolific bloomers and provided many vases with beautiful cut flowers. This year, I tried to be cognizant of their needs. You know what that means - they won't grow! I divided some of them to give to my neighbor and hope I didn't destroy them. I just pulled them apart instead of doing what the experts in this video recommend:


I think they're hardier than they get credit for, though. I dug up all of my tubers in the fall and overwintered them in the basement. But what did I spy already a foot tall in the front yard? A dahlia. I'm guessing that I missed a piece of a tuber last fall and the mild winter didn't turn it to mush. Should be interesting to see what it does.

Tomorrow's To Do list:
* Stake the new eastern redbud before it falls over
* Buy the remainder of the fence finials and put them on the fence posts
* Turn over some more land at the off-site veggie garden; plant pea seedlings and peppers
* Coat the potting bench with polyurethane
* If time allows, move the St. John's Wort bush and Kerria japonica to the side yard hill


Restarting my blog as a place for more than just my garden photos, but to offer thoughts and commentary on keeping a small, urban garden.