Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

In the Mediterranean garden at Longwood Gardens

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Getting my hands dirty

Even though the weather wasn't great today, I had every intention of cleaning up some of the yard but was too tired after my run. But when I heard that we're supposed to get 4-6 inches of snow tomorrow, I got pissed and decided to get my hands dirty anyway.

I battled the forecasted crappy weather by planting more seeds. Today, I planted nasturtiums (a last minute purchase that I'd forgotten to get earlier) and cucumbers. I really enjoyed playing in the dirt, even if it was in a bowl in my kitchen sink.

I think I'm doing well with my seeds.  I'm remembering to water them and turn on their lights every night.

Arugula, cosmos, two types of zinnia, marigold

I think this is winter's last stand. If ten-day forecasts are to believed (I know, they're not, but let a girl dream), it's supposed to be much nicer next weekend, and then we'll skip spring entirely and summer will start.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'm having a moment

It's very hard for me to visualize things that aren't directly in front of me, which is why I often try to sketch out my garden plan ideas so that I can see them. It must be that it's the first day of spring, though, as I'm able to visualize something I've been struggling with for awhile.

My forsythia.

I've mentioned it before and have talked about keeping it and just trying to prune the heck out of it/dig out part of it. But as I look at it every time I enter my front door, I've come to realize I'm just not happy with it, for the following reasons:

1) It's lopsided. The photo above doesn't really do it justice, but the right-hand side of the bush is almost completely flat; otherwise, it gets in the way when you're walking down the side path. The rest of the bush is rambling and rounded and spreading toward my neighbor's driveway. I'm probably the only one who notices it's lopsided, but it still bugs me to no end.

2) The maintenance. Though I have a small city garden, there's a lot going on in it for one person to maintain.  If I keep the forsythia and try to prune it into a nicer shape and/or downsize it, who does the work? I do, and it takes away from other tasks I have to get done around the yard. As I was reminded when I moved my viburnum, I really dislike moving and digging out bushes. I have no interest in doing it every few years to try to manage a bush that is clearly too big for its space.

The pros? I love that it provides early spring color and a nice bit of privacy from my neighbors and from the street if you're in the back yard. However, as my First Day of Spring Visualization is taking shape, I realize I can still get early spring color and some privacy with something that's more manageable and more appropriate for the space.

So what will go in its place? I'm not 100% sure yet, but I already have a good start - my giant climbing rose.

It's directly behind the forsythia, though you'd never know it in that first photo above. If I can get another smaller shrub or bush to add some depth in front of the rose, I'll be in good shape. Or, I could purchase an inexpensive fence panel (the area is only about 6 feet wide) and then plant in front of it.

So, I'll let the forsythia bloom, and then once my mental image is more concrete, I'll remove the bush. It may not even be this year, but I feel good about the decision that it will eventually happen.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's not just me

I've been feeling like this winter is just not ending! It continues to be chilly and gray day after day. I've only just started to see crocuses, and barely a daffodil has poked its head up. So is it just me, or is it really chillier this year? I went through  my garden journal and this is what I read:

3/31/07 - "Another spring begins! It's a bit chilly today, around 55 degrees..."
3/4/08 - "60+ degrees today - cloudy, but still great to walk around in!"
3/7/09 - "60+ degrees today - just what I needed to get rid of the winter blues..."
3/19/10 - "75-ish and sunny - beautiful day!"
3/19/11 - "Beautiful day! About 55 degrees and sunny."
3/7/12 - "Amazingly beautiful day! 61 degrees and sunny."

This year's entry? Probably some sort of expletives about the following:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cultivating privacy

When we bought our house almost a decade ago, there was a nice open field (large for city standards) and an old barn behind our house. I've mentioned before that we then found out in 2011 that we didn't have a square yard as we thought, abutting this nice field, but more of a zig zag. We found out because the owner of the open field and old barn was finally able to develop the land as he'd wanted to do for years. So long, old barn. So long, open space. So long, privacy. In its place went two twins (four homes total). On the other side of the property the owner stuck another twin (two more homes) in the most awkward of spaces (in another home's front yard!!). And one more single is set to go up two houses down from us. We now have four families behind us and two more new ones (in addition to existing neighbors) who can now see into my yard if they are so inclined.

Naturally, this has destroyed the privacy that I so cherished. And while my new neighbors (the ones I've met, anyway) are lovely, I'd like to be able to eat dinner, have a glass of wine, or scratch my butt in the yard in peace.

After musing over my bushes for a couple of weeks, I decided to move things around this past weekend. It was in the high 50s and partly sunny both days - glorious weather for someone pining for spring. My mother talked me out of moving the bush right next to my back door and suggested I move it closer to my fence. She also suggested that I purchase a somewhat established evergreen - a nice idea, but I'm a bit impatient and wanted to move things RIGHT NOW! I was originally going to move the lilac tree next to the dwarf lilac bush but thought it would be too lilac-y. Instead, I decided to move the viburnum next to the dwarf lilac bush.

Before: My front yard privacy superfecta  (from L to R) - hydrangea, half-dead dogwood, lilac tree, viburnum, butterfly bush)
Before: The current view from my back patio with two new homes and my current doctor neighbors' patio in front of them.  The fence to the right is my property line; in front of it is the dwarf lilac. Missing: Lovely blue porta potty by cut-down trees behind neighbors' patio.
Though I've dug out my fair share of bushes (the house's previous owners had an affinity for cone-shaped yews), I haven't done it in a couple of years and forgot how much work it is. The process is roughly as follows: dig, dig, cut taproot, dig, cut taproot, dig, cut taproot, get dirt in mouth, dig, scratch face with branches, dig, cut taproot, push, pull, cut taproot, dig, dig, cut taproot, success!

Once the viburnum was out, it was smooth sailing. I just had to dig a new hole and water. I'm super pleased with how it turned out and think it'll add a really great privacy screen to that part of the yard. I was surprised at how tall the bush has become - probably 8-9 feet already.

After: Viburnum next to dwarf lilac. Once the foliage returns, I think it'll be a nice screen from the neighbors.

But now I'm less pleased with the front of the house. The superfecta is no longer - the viburnum has been moved and the butterfly bush is being removed shortly. I need ideas for a bit of privacy (grasses, maybe?) from the street. And even though I think it looks a bit ugly now, I'm excited for yet another project! After all,  gardening is most fun when you're moving/adding/subtracting things around!

After: Hole where the viburnum was, and awkwardly placed lilac tree in front of half-dead dogwood. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Random thoughts for the day:

* I sat waiting for a snow storm (albeit one that would only drop 2-4 inches) all day and it didn't materialize...yet. This time last year it was in the 60s, according to my garden journal.

* I've been waffling back and forth about attending the Philadelphia Flower Show. It's right in my city and would give me a sorely needed dose of spring, but I usually end up disappointed by it. With only a few days left, I'm pretty sure I won't be attending.

* This weekend it's supposed to be in the high 50s. Guess who has two hands and will be doing a lot of yard cleanup and lilac-bush-moving? This gal!

* I've been thinking about dahlias a lot lately just because, and in the meantime have discovered Old House Gardens heirloom bulbs . Hooray for retail therapy! I also need to figure out how to stake them so that I can make them go from drab to fab:

Why yes, my dahlias did remain flopped over like this all summer.

Staked dahlias at Longwood