This week in the Garden…

This week in the garden…

The ongoing quest to turn our gardens from the bed of six foot tall echinacea plants it was when we moved in, into “anything-else”.

In the category of “well I didn’t think that one through”: early in the Spring Mike and I had both had the thought that the big rosebush at the side of the backyard needed trimmed; it had a lot of low hanging branches with thorns that become very problematic in summer when you’re trying to mow the lawn.  You are left with the choice of wearing protective gear on a hot summer day, or suffering scratched arms and bits trying to mow around it.  While doing the spring clean up of the winterkilled branches on the bushes, I went ahead and lopped off several of these annoying branches.

Side RosesNow said rosebush has started blooming, and I see the unintended consequence of this hackjob is fated to become my second biggest regret in the garden so far this year (the first being accidentally pulling a young peony sprout in the garden thinking it was pokeweed). As it turns out, those irritating low branches were where all the eye level blossoms were.  I’ve essentially trimmed and trained the bush to be getting taller, and all the new growth and blossoms is up at the top of the bush and I’m left with a less attractive area underneath of just the woody branches.  I might have to start experimenting to see if I can convince it to generate some new growth lower on the bush without having the thorny arms into the lawn.  I have a feeling this may involve hacking the bush back severely, which may not be a bad thing but is a shame considering how large it is and how attractive the blossoms are.

NightshadeIn that same corner, also blossoming this week was a less happy surprise — a flower that made me do a quick double check of leaf shape to realize we had several long, long vines of nightshade taking over.   I learned my lesson from earlier this week (when I realized the reason my hands kept tingling after pulling weeds was that 80% of what I was pulling was stinging nettles), donned gloves, and ripped out a rather impressive pile of nightshade.

The delphiniums are budding out, as is an unidentified plant that’s trying to strangle out the spiderwort; so I’m looking forward to being able to do some more identification.  The front butterfly bush is racing to resume it’s dominant place in the garden, while the one in the back is lagging so far behind that I have been wondering how much inadvertant damage I had done to the root system during this spring’s tilling.  The daylillies and rhododendrons are probably nearing the end of their blossom period — here are the last few good blooms I’m likely to see this year —

Daylillies Catmint
Daylillies in the front Catmint gone wild!
Rhododendron Up Close Dahlia
Rhododendrons The little dahlias that could

in the vein of other surprises:

  • I’ve found four “surprise” seedlings in the front of the garden near the patio door that seem to be descendents of my late-season Roma tomato bushes from last year.  I’m going to try to let these reach maturity, even though I’m out of tomato cages for them.
  • While those are naturally just sprouting, the intentional tomato plants that I’d started indoors from seed almost-too-early are just now starting to stretch past their cages and bud out, so it’s time to start pinching them.  (I didn’t do that last year, and ended up with uncontrollable spindly tomato plants.)
  • The dahlias I planted in the back “bird-feeder bed” seem to be doing well, despite the fact that as I read more and more about dahlias I’m finding out that I’m doomed with these plants. What dahlias need/like is going to take a lot of work with the way the soil is on our area. That being said, they’re turning out an impressive line of blossoms as I keep deadheading them, but the plant has not been getting much larger in the past month so I’m hoping the four I planted this year at least do well enough that I can save the tubers to plant again next year.
  • The blue irises we inherited near the back of the main garden this year look like they’ve given up the ghost to one vermin or another.  Before I could try out a homemade hot-pepper spray to protect them from pests, something got into the buds and appears to have killed all but one blossom.  These ones appear to be struggling, and they’re plopped right in the middle of my vegetable area.  (Right now they’re wedged in between a zucchini and a pumpkin vine, but I was waiting to see what the blossoms looked like since we missed them last year.)  I don’t care for the color of the one we got nearly as much as the white ones, so I may try to relocate these in the fall to be closer to the white iris’s and won’t be too heartbroken if I lose them in the process. At the very least I might find out if whatever has gotten into them is one of the bugs that burrows down through the stalk into the rhizomes. If that’s the case, I might just destroy these rather than risk moving them closer to the inherited white ones that I like.
  • In a happier turn of events, though, I’ve discovered a bit of what appears to be sedum “stonecrop” near the patio sidewalk. This is happy because I had been thinking of planting some there myself. 1) It was apparently a good idea and 2) I might not have to bother! This stuff appears to have been struggling with some of the other plants that had been taking over and now is having an opportunity to reassert itself, so we’ll see if I can manage to coax what we’ve got now back into a healthy spread of ground cover before the plumbago that was left completely dominates that part of that garden.

In the meantime, there’s a few mysteries I’m waiting on.

  1. Asiatic lily, or milkweed? In a picture I took of the drastic clean up of the garden in the fall, I think I spy one stalk of this plant, but in the fall it had no blossoms and neon green leaves. Upside is that I think it’s intentionally planted, which means its likely not milkweed, but that doesn’t tell me whta it actually is.
  2. Something is trying to dominate the spiderwort, and I’m really hoping its campanula or penstemon.  (I found a card for campanula in the garden, but — like the spiderwort itself — never saw it last year given that the echinacea strangled out nearly everything.
  3. The previous owner had two peonies, and one of them (in a very bad location) might be big enough to bud out this year.  I’m hoping that it’s one worth keeping.

This weekend calls for some serious weeding all over, plus additional hacking at some of the big shrubs int he back of the yard the continue to cut away limbs of the boxwood that don’t appear to be coming back after the last hard winter.


Surprise! Stonecrop. Mystery Plant #1 Campa
Surprise! Stonecrop. Milkweed? Or Asiatic Lily? (Update: It’s a stargazer lily.) What I hope is Campanula (bellflower), and not a weed.
(Update: It’s penstemon!)

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