Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gardening Season 2015 and Fall Bulbs

As fall and winter approach, my thoughts reflect on this years garden. What I've learned, what worked, did well and thrived, what didn't, and a wish list of changes and improvements I hope to make for the next season. Coming to terms with what does well in my yard has been difficult, as many plants, shrubs, and trees that I like shouldn't be planted there because they'll die. Accepting that everything I may like in the yard won't thrive in shade has been humbling. Even with the many branches cut from the Norway Maples that hang over my yard, the area is still mostly shaded. 

Philadelphia has warm humid summers perfect conditions for powdery mildew in the yard. I've battled it unsuccessfully for the past several summers. I started off well spraying plants thought to be susceptible in the past with organic spray. It worked for the peony this year or was it the added sun from cutting tree branches that helped? The disease did show it's head on the stems prior to cutting them. Spraying stopped when temperatures warmed up, not a good idea.The likely solution is, planting more natives and plants that have learned to deal with conditions in my zone including mildew, and avoiding those  that are most susceptible to the disease in spite of my love for them. Not watering plants from the top is said to help but, mother nature does not water from the bottom and many plants don't get mildew although their leaves get wet during every rain shower. I think having a combination of conditions in your garden and having plants that are more susceptible adds to the problem.

Some of the things that didn't work were hydrangea planted in containers. They were beautiful but now have dropped most of their leaves and those left are covered in powdery mildew. I even added 2 more in the ground in another flower bed not a good decision when evidence that they might not do well in my yard are visibly apparent. I love hydrangea why can't the conditions in my yard behave? Can't change that and cut down all my neighbor's trees. Then heat and having to water would be another problem. I'll have to make the choice to purchase them as annuals only, enjoy the blooms and not expect them to return. Lets see what they do come spring as I'll leave them in the container because from what I've read powdery mildew is not contagious. 

They were so beautiful when they first came. That rose bus did well most of the summer until now eaten every leaf. I'll have to work on that too next season.

Also purchased and planted in August were pink coneflower in a gallon container. Enough to divide into 3 plants. One section died and the other 2 still have foliage low to the ground and look healthy without further flower spikes. Hopefully they're developing good root growth before fall. Coleus continued to be eaten by slugs or some other unknown insect. Something really loves them. 

They didn't look that way for long. They also usually suffer from powdery mildew although it is a native. I love them but they don't usually love my yard. They've been planted in my yard before and died out.
Many bare root plants purchased at the Philadelphia Flower Show did not make their appearance and those that did had little growth. The blue agapanthus had a cluster of foliage but not a lot. There were no flower spikes. I also purchased the white ones but if there was a root within the peat moss it had deteriorated by the time of planting. A bare root fern bore one leaf as of August. Shooting stars never made their appearance neither did another bare root Lilly purchased from Bluestone Perennials. Anemone did come up but they dried up due to lack of my watering. The ones I've had in the past were really pretty but they didn't return the next year. I won't buy more because I'm not attentive to watering and plants I need to avoid plants that require a moist environment such as the astilbe planted several years ago have difficulty. 

All  things considered, those were the only problems but it could have been worse. Losing plants due to bad choices have to stop. Disappointment set in when I read today that black eyed Susan's are biennial so the ones just planted may not return next spring. What a disappointment. Hopefully sprinkling the seed heads already dried on the plant will result in new plants in the spring. My cucumber and tomatoes developed disease although the broccoli and strawberries did well. Two pepper plants were pulled. I planted them super late and they won't do much by frost and cool season annuals can be planted in their place. The container with lettuce seeds has some something on the surface of the soil that looks like coffee grinds. I don't know what this is but it's not normal and the whole container will be emptied and washed before planting broccoli. 

A major success were the lilies I'm in love and ordered more including the tree type that grow tall. They flourished in the yard all summer and cented the yard with their perfume. As always the impatiens put on a show. I'd love white ones next year, maybe. Working on color combinations in the yard for next year is important. A variety of color combinations in spring bulbs is okay but, the red and green of the sweet potato vine bothered me all summer. A monochromatic color scheme would be better but my choices usually come from what's in nurseries in the spring. Growing as many annuals from seed so I have the combinations I want isn't an option as space and time won't accommodate this. Ordering that number of plants online is too costly so I definitely won't be doing that. It's fun working on possibilities for the spring. As fall approaches perennials are discounted and I've taken advantage of this. I bought some hosta for my cedar planter and 2 fern which will go in my planter on the steps. The goal is more carefree plants that require little attention. 

The annuals are beautiful but I'm tired of sweeping up spent bloom from the impatiens out front all summer and watering every day sometimes 2 times a day due to the heat. In the yard I can use the hose with my new watering wand  to give the plants a good soaking and water deeply hopefully encouraging good root growth. Out front carrying a 2 gallon watering container in and out the house for refills is not fun. Okay, I was entice by fall bulbs already at Home Depot. It's not even September. Not a big selection but they had the orange/red ones that did so well this spring and I wanted more. They'll stay in the basement until October when the temperatures get cooler and then I'll bring them to my porch to await planting and hopefully they'll stay nice and solid as they are now. Other ordered bulbs should be arriving in late September. Ordering online allows a larger selection of bulbs although I haven't been disappointed with the size and performance of my Home Depot or nursery purchased bulbs. There weren't any paper whites yet although I ordered some on line. No zivia this year. I wanted a variety that didn't get too tall and need support. I'll share some more of my wish list and plans in another post. Am I blooming where I'm planted? For now and who knows maybe the future. Still thinking of another house in another neighborhood. Only God knows the answer to that.

I have visions of these ferns taking over the outside planter. I don't want an all green foliage planter but it's time for a change and something else that returns every year. The hosta go in my planter out back. They're still annuals planted in it but I may remove some so the hosta can be planted and get established before winter. Some annuals will still be squeezed in for some color. Thankfully the planter didn't have problems with plants wilting as those in the ground although the planter was watered the least.
I'll plant one pack of red tulips out front. I love the pop of color with the many purple perennials out front such as the salvia and catmint. Children are curious and I hope they aren't curious enough to pull up the alliums. It won't look pretty but this fall I'll put chicken wire with mulch over the bulbs I plant to deter squirrels from eating them and keep it from being unsightly. 
Gladiator alliums for a good price. On line they were really expensive for only one. I ordered some that are pink, white, and yellow online.
Tulips are very healthy with no molded ones. I'd love to have a small refrigerator to put them in till planting time. When my daughter graduated from college she brought home the one I purchased for her. Not a wise decision to give it away having it for bulbs or chilling seeds that need chilling would be wonderful. Too late for that. If I find an affordable one dirt cheap I'll get one in the future.
From this past spring. I had to have them again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Never Too Early

Philly continues to be engulfed in summer heat. I spent over five hours in the yard today getting rid of things I normally save for doing at the end of the season. This is an early start for me, and by October maybe raking and bagging leaves will the largest chore left in the yard not including bulb planting in November. While waiting on my bath to get ready after leaving the yard, I looked out the window inspecting some of what I'd done today. A refreshing breeze had started to blow rustling tree leaves. Reminds me of fall but not yet. We still have a few weeks. It would have been nice to have this breeze while I was in the yard. 

Today I focused on emptying containers of potting soil that wasn't used this or last summer. I stacked the pots for now until I decide what to do with them and see if I'll use them next season. Several containers of purchased perennials from last season that died finally went in the trash. I rushed to get things ready as this is our trash pick up day. I made it and bags won't have to sit around until next week. I now have a small space for something else next summer. My plan, a large container for sunflowers near the vegetables in the spot that gets the most sun in the yard. I actually planted some seeds today in a container to see what they do. Sunflowers can be planted in the summer for fall but I'm late doing it. They may not do anything as they require lots of sun but I'll see what happens. While digging holes for new plants I located the peony I planted in spring. They look healthy but didn't break ground this summer. Maybe next spring after getting more established. I'm glad I didn't chop them up while digging.

I planted 2 hydrangea, 1 black eyed Susan, and 1 coneflower. I have to find a space for the hosta and coreopsis. Today was warm but not as hot as yesterday. Planting in extreme heat is not recommended and I really didn't go out to plant but to clean up, but I just kept going. I made sure to water each hole before planting and the plants in the yard all got a good soaking with my watering wand purchased yesterday. My aunt recommend I get a sprinkler which I did but the watering wand also said, "take me home." Both were inexpensive. My yard has been a buffet for insects with good appetites this summer. All the hosta have holes, foliage of most plants has been nibbled from the rose bush which was doing so well to all the coleus. My small container of sweet potatoes have also been discovered. I cut down the tomatoes several weeks ago but didn't pull them up. I now have new plants that don't look diseased. I wonder what they'll do by frost? The 20 cent packs of cabbage and lettuce were planted. Lets see if I can get some seedlings.

I love hydrangea and I'm taking a chance buying another one because the ones in the planters have powdery mildew. Although the leaves are damaged on them I hope it doesn't kill the whole plant.
This one has some spots but I still bought it.
Time to get started. My sorry chives. They obviously like sun and have done nothing for the second summer.
That's my chicken wire to cover my bulbs. I saved it from last year. I need to pull up these weeks. I did get to that.
I emptied 4 containers including a cracked clay pot that was beautiful but broke in the winter. I hope to get some type of planter for sunflower seeds in the space next summer.
Those are my sweet potato potato plants. It needs to be weeded before weeds take over.
Part of today's project. Cut down the peony and plant hydrangea and some other perennials.
I'm still working on my brick border.
The peony is sprawling open and the stems have weakened. It also has powdery mildew on the stems but it hasn't reached the foliage yet. I won't miss it. I've wondered if cutting the foliage keeps the plant from forming blooms next year and if the plant uses the foliage to store energy next year like bulbs? It's coming down anyway. Hopefully if I give the area around it a good fertilizing in the fall and spring, it'll have blooms in the spring. There were no blooms this season.
I did good. Now I'll put down some mulch and probably sit some plants here till next spring.
Those bags are last years leaves from the yard; hopefully now leaf mold. The bags are now almost flat. I'm afraid to open them. I think I'll have someone open them for me by fall so I can see what it looks like now and put it in my flower beds. Maybe this years leaves will go in my basement so this area can be clean for next season and I can do something with it. A gardening vendor once had a small greenhouse that would have fit perfectly in this space. I wasn't able to find it when I looked for it again.
That space is better with everything not being used moved.
Peony cut but left enough so I know where not to plant.
Coneflower and  peony planted.

Black eyed Susan planted. That all green plant to the left is actually a canna. I planted it late so it may not do much this year. They're supposed to be hardy in my zone. They are for my neighbors who have them. Maybe mine will come back next year.
That's a small florist hydrangea. Supposedly they're only for  the bloom and then to throw out. It's living, I couldn't throw it out.
Sure hope that coneflower returns. I gave another one to my sister. She came over and demanded one. When we went back for more they were sold out.
Hydrangea planted.

Strawberries ran into the next container. I guess I'm supposed to cut off the runner now that it's rooted.
My strawberries are still alive but not as robust as they were. I guess they know fall is almost here.
Tomatoes are really hardy. Don't pull up the root and they come back. Maybe a tomato by fall?

Everything in the yard isn't doing well. Heat, slugs, and humidity did this.
Insects ate this up. I wanted to cut off the leaves but why do that when they'll just eat new leaves.
Remember how beautiful this was. Do I just cut off all the leaves? The shade in my yard even with some limbs cut is not good for many plants.
It finally got mildew. I cut off those leaves.

A little fresh water for the bird bath. I have yet to see any bird drinking or frolicking in it.
Elephant ear won't give up. Now I know it likes moisture. It won't be large like last year.
They're doing well in the clay pots but I don't know about surviving winter in them. I've got to find a place for them they're my favorite.

You see those weeks. In a place they shouldn't be. That's for another day. No rest for the gardener.
Put down some mulch. Maybe it would have helped if put out earlier in spring. Next year is a new season.
I wondered why this started dying the day after I got it. I had a hard time getting this root bound black eyed Susan out the pot. I cut half of the bottom off and untangled some roots before planting it.
I emptied these containers. 

I'm going to plant that hosta when some of the annuals start to die in the fall and it's some space.

I still have a whole lot of shade. The area near the vegetables and a small part of the flower bed have the only sun. It used to be even darker in the yard like night during daylight. I think I'll keep some shade because it would be brutally hot with not shade.

That's the blackberry. No berries my first year but it grew like a weed.
My new water wand. I love it.