It Smells Green

It was a beautiful, sunny day today.  This is the first day we have both been out working on the lawn and gardens.  Dear Husband was mowing the lawn, (trying to kill the lawn mower), and repairing the lawn mower.  I spent my time in the sun working on the herb garden.  Between the chives I ripped out, and the grass DH cut, the air smells very green.

I cleaned out half of the walkway today, and turned the dirt in four sections of the herb beds.  I have two larger spaces to turn, and I want to add composted topsoil to the beds.  I have nasturtium seeds, and wildflower seeds, a pear tomato plant, and a pickle cucumber start to plant in the herb bed.  I may add basil and flat leaf parsley next week.

I’m fairly certain there is a bunny abode beneath my oregano plants.  I have enough oregano to stock the kitchens of Northern Illinois, and I noticed that one pod of it is raised in a very odd manner.  I thought about digging up the plant, but I think I’ll leave it for the new owners.  They can decide what goes and what stays.

The chives are about ready to bloom.  The clematis is reaching up, and we guided it to the arbor today.  The lemon balm, thyme,  spearmint, lamb’s ears, purple coneflower and day lilies are all doing well, in addition to the oregano. Feverfew is still trying to grow, and I’m still trying to eradicate it!

I won’t miss the weeding, but I WILL miss the herb garden.  It’s been a great joy over the years.

A Perfect Day

It’s just about 70 degrees here, the warmest day we’ve had since 2013, I think.  This is the day that we have been dreaming about while our lawns and gardens have been covered with six feet of snow.  It’s heavenly out there.  The sky was clear, earlier.  The birds have been making a racket and I saw a bee checking out a crocus.

I have been concerned about my iris.  This past winter was so very hard on them that they have practically jumped out of the ground, and need to be re-seated.  I began top-dressing them this afternoon with a mix of 70% top soil, and 30% mushroom compost.  It will rain this weekend and settle some of that in, and I’ll give it another  layer the next warm day to come along.

The squill are greening up at the base of the tree northwest of our kitchen.  I don’t think it will be long before we see their blue blooms.  I have early, mid- and late season daffodils, and all of them are up.  The early ones are close to bloom, but the weather is supposed to cool down during the next few days, so that may slow down the rush to bloom.  Soon, though.

I have tulip leaves coming up, but something out there (probably the bunnies) is snacking on the leaves.  I don’t know if we will see any blooms other than the Darwin hybrids which have bloomed like clockwork for just about 24 years.

I spent one break  today looking at the collection of seed packets I’ve been collecting in the mudroom.  I discovered that half of the packages were empty.  I’d kept the packages to have the name of the flowers, and where I’d purchased them.  I tossed a few packages which had been sold in years prior to 2010.  I segregated the seeds into flowers, herbs, wildflowers and food, and then made notes about where I wanted to plant them.  I have to wait about a month to put the seeds into the ground, but I’m ready as soon as things warm up.

There is something so satisfying about getting out and working in the early spring.  It does the soul good!


I am so disappointed.  The day started out so well.  I was up early and working in the garden while it was still covered with God’s air conditioning.  I weeded and got almost all of the plants into the ground that had been waiting for me.  I pruned and watered and really enjoyed being out in the sun.

Part of the pleasure came from the fact that my favorite landscaper had finally arrived to give me a hand with the mid-summer clean up.  We have so many gardens that I can no longer keep up with them on my own.  I hire Jose and his crew once during the growing year, and once again to put the gardens to bed for the winter.  Jose got his crew started and then disappeared.  The guys did a fabulous job cleaning at the north end of the garage and around the apple tree.  They pulled the overgrown weeds from the raised veggie beds which are too shady now for veggies.  They cleaned out the poison ivy from the pear tree bed, and weeded across most of the front of the house, and the day lilly bed on the south side.

It was looking fabulous, and then one of them started to work in the herb garden. I wanted them to pull the weeds from the chat in the walk way.  I also wanted them to cut back the lemon balm to about 6″.  Somehow, through lack of English, and the fact that I didn’t understand that THEY didn’t understand, they though I wanted them to trim back plants from the raised boxes that were growing over the sides of the boxes.

Nope.  That wasn’t what I wanted.  With a gas powered cutter in about 30 seconds the sage, day liles and the most beautiful huge  winter savory plant were reduced to stubs.  I was screaming at him from the kitchen window,  but he couldn’t hear.

They’ll grow back, but not this season.  They’ll look mostly stunted until next year.

In the future I’m going to have to be out there working with them.  I’ll hire them again, but I’ll be underfoot to be sure they do what I want them to do.

The rest of the gardens and several non-garden areas look great.  They’ve done a good job, but I’m really sad about  the sage and winter savory.  Dear Husband will say to me, “In a hundred years, will this matter?”  No.  Maybe not even by snowfall will it matter.  I’m just sad today..

Iris and Weeding

I have been thinking about  lifting Iris and dividing them for some time…..years actually.  Part of the problem is that I need to clear spots in the garden before I begin lifting the iris.  I don’t want them out of the ground for more than a week..  I thought I was going to start with a pod of beautiful dark purple iris near the downspout, because I think they are in a spot too wet for Iris, but this morning the plan changed.

I set my alarm for O-dark:30 and hauled myself out of bed.  I started spading the outer curve of the sidewalk garden at 6:30, and weeded for two and a half hours, while it was still cool.  There is a pod of peach iris to the right edge of the area I cleared that has needed to be divided for years.  Each year the blooms were getting fewer and fewer in number because the rhizomes are so overgrown and there are too many weeds competing for the dirt and light. The weather was good, and I felt good, so I dug up about half of the iris.  I plan to replant three of them and share the others with friends and family.
Weeded Bed Resized

I left two violets and a volunteer oriental lily, but I may take out the center violet.  I think I want to add more dirt, and plant a rose there, possibly some coneflowers, the peach iris and a verbena that will creep across the bed.  Once things are planted, I’ll put down Preen to discourage seed generation, and I’ll mulch.  DSC02094

It seems that two and a half hours of weeding equals one overfilled wheelbarrow.DSC02095

I think this is about half the peach colored iris, perhaps two-thirds of them.  It’s really difficult to tell because the rest of the bed is so over run by  clover and other weeds.

Next Bed to Weed Resized

THIS is the mess immediately to the right of the bed that has been weeded.  (sigh)  It will take me YEARS to finish this project, but I’m glad I got such a good start today!  I’m a happy camper!

Flower update

The sage and oregano want to bloom.  I cut back one of the oregano plants (barely a tenth of what’s there)  and took the branches to exercise class, tied in bunches with rafia.  Bless them, they took every bunch and I need to cut more!  I thought I’d cut off all the blooms on the sage, but I must have missed a few.  I clip them off when I deadhead the lamb’s ears.

Day lilies and purple coneflower, and the shrub roses are blooming.  What few lilies I have left are almost ready to open.  Something out there eats lilies!  One end of the sidewalk garden at the front of the house is filled with volunteer coreopsis.  The ox-eye daisies have bloomed and died back.  It’s time to pull them out.

I have a big wire basket lined with coir and filled with potting soil that sits in a well in front of the dining room windows.  Last fall I cut some of our evergreen branches and covered the basket, and then added some red twigs that have a curly stem for contrast.  I was VERY surprised this spring when those twigs grew leaves!  I’ve kept them, just to see what will happen for the rest of the year, and added a few annuals to the basket.

We’ve had so much off and on again rain, that I have not been keeping up with the weeding.  And, there are a few plants that still need to be put into the beds.  We have the possibility of rain today, but it might be worth it to get out there and do some weeding while the garden is so wet.  That makes pulling weeds SO much easier!

Same Old, Same Old

This time of year, most of my blog entries are about gardening, or needing to garden, or needing rain, or having too much rain.  Nothing has changed.  I started work on the gardens at the sidewalk at the front of the house.  I cut back Iris stalks, and planted two purple fountain grasses.  I planted some Black-Eyed Susan vine seeds  between the grasses and set a tutor over them, so they’ll have support.

About 20 years ago my brother gave my mother an immense planting that had vinca in it.  We set it near the front sidewalk gardens, and the vinca reached out for the dirt and made itself at home. Each year it creeps out and tries to take over a little more of the garden, and I keep clipping it back.  THIS year, I cut it back to a patch about 18″ x 18″.  I rooted out most of the vinca, but I know it will be back.  In the dirt that I uncovered I planted cleome and alyssum seeds.  It’s about two weeks to a month late to be planting seeds, but I’ll take what I can get!

I need to cut back peonies and sweet William.  There’s an infestation of Bouncing Bet in the lower driveway garden, and one of clover in the sidewalk gardens.   There are more iris to cut back, and eventually, daffodil greens and chives to cut.   I plan to just keep hacking away at what needs to be done.

I was reading a book called “The Curious Gardener,” which talks about chores that need to be done month by month in English gardens.  I’m really glad that my gardens are fairly simple.  The list of chores took three pages in the book!

We’re celebrating Father’s Day a day early so that the “kids” can have Sunday to themselves.  I’m going to start the morning with deadheading, and then relax at a nice dinner out!  The perfect balance of work and leisure.  Happy Father’s Day to you all!

Daffodil Greens

It’s the time of year when the question of what to do with daffodil greens rears its head.  Dear Husband spent a good part of Saturday riding the lawn mower, trying to get most of the lawn mowed before the rain arrived today.  I noticed that on the west lawn he had  cut the daffodil greens that are naturalized throughout the lawn.  Ruh Roh.

I generally wait until the greens have gone brown before I cut them back.  That can leave the gardens looking untidy, and we want the front garden to look its best while our house is for sale.   I know the greens feed the bulbs for next year’s blooms, so, I went on-line to surf for advice on how long to wait to cut them back.

The best advice I could find was to leave the greens alone for eight weeks following their bloom time.  “Ice Follies” which blooms first in my gardens, is just coming up on the time when I could trim them back.   I have other daffodils that don’t bloom until late in May, so it will be late July before their greens should be ripe enough to cut back.   It’s a relief not to have to cut all the greens down on one day!

In addition, the website also said not to tie the greens and not to braid them.  It’s best  to leave them alone.  Many of my daffodils are planted behind day lilies, so some of the greens are hidden as they ripen.

Having to wait to cut them down, and having to deadhead the blooms, would never keep me from having loads of daffodils in my gardens.  I must have at least a dozen different types of daffodils, and I wait for those first blooms all winter long.  I recommend “Ice Follies” to you.

Daffodils Resized

June Is Busting Out All Over

I’ll have to post pictures of the gardens at the front of the house.  Between the greens from the daffodils, the early iris in bloom and the volunteer Oxeye daisies, AND the RAIN… everything is looking lush.

I made a second trip to my favorite nursery, and bought the rest of the herbs, three hostas to complete the planting in the renovated (smaller) bed under the pear tree on the front lawn, purple fountain grass for both the sidewalk garden and the east driveway garden, and plants to tie the sidewalk garden and the window well planter together.

Purple, and fuschia petunias, a purple verbena (not the Homestead purple that I love…it was not part of their offering this year), white alyssum, and white snapdragons will be tucked in around the greens from the spring plants and I have a purple sweet potato vine for the well planter.

I bought less this year, but Dear Husband reminded me that I shouldn’t buy more than I am able to get into the ground.  It’s been my mission the past few years not to buy plants and then waste them by not being able to get all my planting done.

I know that it’s June 1…or actually, it’s June 2 now, but I have seed to plant.  I’m running about two weeks late thanks to all the rain we’ve had.  I’ve planted some cosmos and cleome, but I’d like to plant more.  The same is true for dill, but dill really needs to be sown in succession if you want it to be available all summer long.  I have a short tower that I want to put out next to the windows in the garage wall, with Black-eyed Susan vine seeds.  That worked well last year.  And, I’d like to try morning glories on the arch in the east driveway bed.  I’ve had less success with them (not enough watering, I suspect).

Today I planted three more sweet basil plants, bringing the total to 7, two curly parsleys, two flat leaf parsleys, two rosemarys and a geranium, before the rain started.  I should have been out earlier, and kept finding other things to do (NOT QUILTING!).

I moved the geraniums from the office to the protected side of the front entry way.  They get sun for a few hours, and are protected from the heavy rain.  I think I’ll move them to their final home at the end of the week, if they are still doing well outside.  THey will either sit up on the ledge around the well at the dining room window, or on the walk, just below that ledge.  It’s hot and sunny there.  I’ll have to remember to water daily.

Same old, same old.  I could probably have posted one of the spring entries from last year, or the year before that, or the one before that, and it would have said just about the same thing.  I love my herb garden, and I’m looking forward to doing some renovation in the front gardens.  Send me some help! *G*

The Herb Garden

I spent four hours in the herb garden last week.  I find that two hours a day on my hands and knees is the limit.  I really hadn’t planned to do so much in the herb garden, but it moved along so well I just kept at it.  I still need to clear out the lower left  branch of the walkway, and transplant the thyme from the right to left upper arm of the garden.  I’m late getting the annuals in.  I have some basil and a couple of miniature tomatoes to plant.  I need to pick up more basil, parsley, rosemary, a pickle cucumber plant and a zucchini. And, I need to decide what I can plant in the upper left bed that will grow in a half day of shade.  I planted nasturtiums on either side of the walkway opening at the bottom of the garden.  I can see a couple of the seedlings from the kitchen windows.  If only half of them grow, I’ll have masses of color this summer!

Herb Garden Early Morn Resized

At the top right corner I have a good stand of lemon balm.  I think I’ll plant lemon verbena and a lemon scented geranium right in front of it, for a lemon garden.  I love saving the lemon verbena for use in potpourri. It’s too cold here to winter it over.

Fresh oregano, anyone?  I have loads of it to give away!



The Front Gardens

I wish I could tell you that I have been slaving away in the gardens for the past week, but the weather has been so odd, that I’ve spent most of the time inside.  In that time the gardens have gone from getting ready to bloom to lush.  The early iris are open, and the volunteer Ox-eye daisies are in bloom.  Here are some pictures of the gardens at the front of the house.

Last fall I planted these tulips and crocus at the front of the garage.

Pink Tulips Resized

The Sweet William is flourishing at the corner of the sidewalk.

Sweet William Resized

I don’t know how to describe the color of this iris, but it’s one of my favorites and is not spreading as the others do.

South Iris Resized

You’ll have to look closely to see the blue blooms, but I have what some people call “Perennial Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea montana)”  in a group of perennials at the front of the house.

Perennial Bachelor's Button Resized

The early iris close to the garage are blooming.  The over 80 degree heat today really brought them out.  It might be a short season, so I’ve been taking pictures.  The lighter ones to the far left are “Katie’s Blush.”  I bought them in honor of the birth of one of my nieces.

Garage Iris Resized

And this is what the sidewalk gardens looked like a few days ago before they erupted in greens and daisies and flowers:

Sidewalk Early Iris Resized

Thanks to the storms and heat I have lots of work to do.  When the iris have completed their bloom season I plan to move several of them to better locations.  I’ll be able to get rid of some grass that has made a stand in the gardens.  I’m pleased to say that on the right side of this garden there are several Oriental Poppies that have self propagated.  The original plant is still doing well, and it’s given me more volunteers.  Pictures later, when they bloom.