Thursday, October 23, 2014

Preparing for Winter

Last weekend temperatures dropped into the 30s'. For me and most gardeners this means, time to bring house plants and anything that is not hardy indoors or into some sheltered place for the winter. We haven't had our first frost here but it did go down to 39 last weekend. In the suburbs and Pocono mountains they got frost. The temperatures in Philly are up and down. Next week it's supposed to be in the 70's. Hard to believe when Saturday is the first day of November. I brought 2 of my mother's amaryllis from her house. They've sat in the yard since spring and grew long foliage. The plan was to stop watering them in August so they could go dormant. My brother must of kept watering them or they received rain water because they are huge. I don't know when they'll bloom. I hope not watering them will cause the foliage to die and they'll go dormant and then repotted  and brought inside to hopefully stimulate growth and blooming. 

This is my first year trying this. Normally I throw mine out after they bloom because they usually attract fungus gnats in my house. Of course I've learned that the gnats are already in the house on other plants whether I see them or not. My mother refused to throw out any flower I give her, so after hers bloomed she kept them as a house plant and then put them in the yard in the spring. Maybe this is one plant of hers that I'll be able to keep alive. A tiny palm and a poinsettia also came to my house. How am I going to keep a poinsettia alive? Mom did well with them after Christmas. Mines always bite the dust. A palm in my house! I've never had success with them. It's tiny, maybe the grow light will help keep it alive. Finally a small tradescantia made the trip. I should be able to keep this living. My brother has done well will the larger plants like the sansevieria, pothos, and amazingly her orchid. 

At my house I sprayed the plants on my porch 2 weeks ago, brought some in last weekend in clear sealed plastic bags and some stayed out until tonight. My Boston fern and a succulent came in after work today. I love ferns but this is the first one that has ever survived a summer at my house. I've purchased one almost every summer for years only to watch it die during the summer. I wasn't thinking because the fern was probably still alive and just needed watering until it developed new fronds. I killed a birds nest and maidenhair fern already this year. I tried to say the foliage less pots but got tired of waiting to see if new fronds would come out. Now you know I won't be out done and I'll buy more of them at the flower show in March.

 When the weather started to turn cooler the fern on the porch started to grow. I was elated! It must like cooler temperatures. Kept it watered and gave it filtered sun, and I had success. Her home for the winter is my bedroom along with a sansevieria my mother gave me a couple of years ago and another plant that I can't think of it's name right now. The succulent is also in the bedroom. My bedroom faces South and receives lots of light year round. They should enjoy it here. The fern is hanging over a radiator. Hopefully the dry heat won't kill her. I'm going to put a container of water on the radiator to increase the humidity in the bedroom over the winter and spritz her with water a couple times a week. I'll keep you updated as to how she does. If any insect is flying around my bedroom tonight it will get ugly. You know I hate, hate, hate bugs.

The fern and succulent were sprayed and watered with a solution of liquid soap and water. Hopefully they won't be dead in the morning. I doubt it. My lungs should love all the clean air in my bedroom. I'm amazed that plants actually help cleanse and remove certain chemicals from the air. I'm already lusting after plant's in stores with blooms. Rieger begonias, miniature roses, orchids, African violets, all call to me. Winter hasn't even started. I'm in trouble.

I've seen prettier ones, but for me this is an accomplishment. Nothing like the huge majestic ones adorning porches with rocking chairs in the south but, it's alive!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You Win Some and You Win Some

After waiting patiently for the results of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's City Garden Contest, today I got my answer. I was told decisions would be made in early October and that winners would receive a letter in the mail inviting them to an award ceremony. I tried to call but was greeted by the answering machine. Curiosity and impatience got the best of me and I went to their web site and saw that winners had already been posted. I thought, well I guess I didn't win because I didn't receive anything in the mail. Sadly I didn't win a blue ribbon, but I did win for Flower Garden Indivdual, Very small. Emphasis, "very small garden." I don't even remember entering this category. I thought I entered container gardening. I look at it as a win, win. Didn't win the ribbon but with 350 other entrants I feel good for my first try. I just realized they spelled my name wrong! That's okay. Will I work on my yard to enter it next year? I would have a lot of work to do. I'll have to think about that.




Monday, October 20, 2014

The Shade Garden

I wrote recently regarding my yard and my battle with keeping anything alive in the shade. I've divided the yard into 4 zones for growing. The widest and largest area is along the fence under many Norway Maples. My neighbor's trees were small when I moved here over 20 years ago and have grown to be tall menacing structures providing a canopy in the warm, sunny summer heat, but bringing with them the problem encountered in shade gardens. I awoke early Sunday morning full of hope and plans for this area. Two emerald green arborvitaes purchased last week in the 50% off sale waited to be planted in the ground. I also planned the long awaited task of putting all my strength and effort into digging up my rose bush which has lived here as long as I have under the maples. A poor decision for a novice at the time who knew little about gardening and that roses need sun not shade. Thus the rose has never increased in size, it's leaves eaten most summers by insects or dotted with black spot disease and yields several beautiful red roses each season.

I am humbled to say the least. At first sad, followed by glee. I started to dig and hit what felt like hitting stone. The large roots tunneling underground from the tree, under the fence into my yard. When I dug the flower bed 4 years ago I also violated another rule. It's useless to dig up tree roots because the injured roots signal others to develop even more new roots. frightening but true prospect. Since I haven't done any monumental planting in this bed since it was dug, I had no idea how bad the root problem had become. Digging small holes for tiny annual or bulbs with little requirements for space didn't prepare me for reality. There will be no deep digging for arborvitaes, the ornamental grass I purchased early this summer, or any other plant with requirements for a clear roomy space. Anything planted will only be superficial, no deep holes. I was in shock and the yard a mess. Then I got a bright idea. Actually it's what I've been reading for years but failed to embrace because I thought, my yard will be different. This will work. It's recommended for such difficult area not to try to dig and battle the roots of trees. 

I talked about 2 other options in a previous post. A raised bed or covering the flower bed with thick layers of news paper which would prevent roots from penetrating into the new bed. Then build each new layer with soil, peat moss, leaves, sand and some other soil amendments. You would have a new bed with no problems for a few years. This was not a reasonable option for me because it would require massive amounts of soil and amendments to build a bed deep enough for shrubs and other plants that are already fully adult sized. Only to need to be repeated in several years when the newspaper decomposes.

So, my only option at his time was to do part of what I said I would do. Add some fresh soil and manure to the bed. I had 2 bags of garden soil, 2 bags of potting soil and a large bag of aged manure in the yard unopened all summer.  I dumped and spread 2 bags into the bed on Sunday. Planned on going back out today to do the rest but inside seemed more appropriate to me after work. I did have several hours after work to do it but no motivation and I was not feeling well. So, that will be done another day since it's expected to rain for the next 3 days. I did decided to plant the arborvitae in a container and it actually looks good. I was shocked, this may work. No I don't want more containers in the yard, but there is nothing else I can do with this area. I was appalled when I would read, don't plant just mulch and add some containers. Well, it will have to work for me also. I still have to plant another one which will go on the other end of the fence.

In the center, the planter will be put back with maybe the ornamental grass. I removed the dead shrub. Caladium will be pulled and saved for next year. I have some pansies to put in also. Sounds stupid? What else is there to do with it? I am also going to get little planters for the box woods that have been sitting in their containers for 1 year. Talk about plant abuse. After all this goes into place, bulbs will be planted and when the leaves fall, shredded and put into the beds as leaf mold. In the spring I'll still add impatiens, begonias, coleus, caladium, ferns, and elephant ears all shade loving plants. I've also started looking at online nurseries for bare root plants and bulb, things that will be easier to plant and can twine their roots lateral and were I can't dig. Lots of watering and much will still need to be done next summer. Until then the container shrubs will still need watering all winter. I'm glad they only grow up to 48" so they won't get much taller, although they may grow wider. Now that's a plan.

My container veggies go in the sunniest spot near the house. The 3rd zone is my cedar planter. I used wisdom when I put this here because digging this area was also horrific. The last zone gets some shade and is where the peony and mainly hosta reside. Although I insisted on planting cone flowers and Veronica here, they live but don't thrive. Have any suggestions? Tonight I really wanted to start some seedlings, begonias. Decided against it since my container need to be cleaned and washed in a soapy bleach solution. I will do this one day and plant another day. I ordered coir pellets, dragon wing begonia seeds, petunias, and black eyed Susan seeds from Burpee which is not too far from me. Maybe that would make a good day trip in the future. Having said all that I realize that these shrubs need sun. They do get some sun at certain hours of the day and hopefully they survive.



I took the dead shrub out.
Caladium to be taken out and stored for spring.


I hope that's enough holes.



I love hydrangea but I let this dry up after the beautiful display of flowers this summer. Thought it was dead. I moved it from under the trees and put it in a place to get rain water and I can't believe it's starting to bud out hopefully forming buds for spring. 
Squirrels have been busy digging up last season's bulbs. They haven't eaten them just dug them up. I also noticed that many had green tops already. The weather has been so variable they're confused. I'm going to put down blood meal which I read will prevent them from digging them up. Lets see if it works when I plant the fall bulbs.
My geranium seedling is pretty. It took all summer and it didn't bloom.
Tubers from canna and sweet potato vine. Marguerite even gave a small potato. There are a lot still attached to her in the sidewalk planter. Before frost I'll pull them.
Doesn't that look like a head with hair? That's the elephant tuber. I had to pry it out of the planter with a shovel. I chopped off some roots to get it up. There looks like there are now 2 tubers not 1.
This is why you don't let pretty weeds stay in pots. This was a beautiful pot of day Lilies last year. Some wild violets deposited themselves inside and took over. The seemed to suffocate the Lilies and they didn't bloom or hardly come up this year. Always remove weeds.

Time to wipe it off. Water proof it for winter and cover with a tarp soon.
Maybe it'll stay warm enough for the peppers to continue turning red.
I'm going to pull the garlic up nothing is there except the tops.



I trimmed her. I may trim her more severely. It does look better. Maybe she'll fill out some now.
I wanted to dig up the carex sedge but no place to dig to put it. Those maple seeds are horrible, so many. Can you see the bulbs that the squirrels have dug up?

A girl has to have her tools.
These are the problem.
Room for me to rest.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Out Front

How was your day? Get any gardening done? I had a lot I wanted to write until I turned the television to PBS and saw Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on. One of my favorite shows and probably not something young people would watch. I love it. I love old movies. Alone in the Wilderness is also on. Have you seen that. Also one of my favorite. I just had a warm bath after sitting on my porch for hours enjoying the weather and just sitting, listening to birds sing, feeling the cool crisp wind, and preparing this post. A pot of coffee is brewing and it will fell good tonight. I hope your're doing something tonight that makes you smile and feel comforted. 
I've been trying since summer to root the trailing plant in the container with no success. Now tempted to pull out the root and take it inside. If I do, I'll cut off most of the foliage.





The leaves are falling. The ones on my tree have not turned gold yet.
Can you see the dead arborvitae? Can't wait to remove them but there is so much more to do first. I will eventually get to them.
Geraniums seem to love the cool weather. I think I'll cut some tomorrow and try to root it for inside. I need to remove the annuals from these pots so I can plant bulbs. I'm not ready yet. The red blooms won't let me. I wonder if they'll bloom inside?
All from one plant. Euphorbia was well worth the $5.00's.
I love red geraniums. For next year I ordered seeds for white and pale pink ones. I tried the pink this year with no success. 








I thought that sweet potato vine would have started to die by now. Nights in the 40's next week may kill her. Lets see.
Just a little color other than green from the mums and pansies.






I bought these last week at Home Depot; for the yard.
The bulbs I ordered arrived in 2 days; ranunculus red, anemone white splender, iris cream beauty, freesia blue, anemone Mr. Fokker, and crocus Miss Vain.
This piece of geranium was on the ground this morning. My first uncut cutting.
Ready for a fire!