On Garden Time

July 7th, 2013 | Posted by Jill in garden - (4 Comments)

Exactly one year ago, I posted about how well my front garden was filling out after all our meticulous planning. Last summer we put a lot of effort into growing tomatoes and nurturing flowers and diligently picking tiny strawberries to enjoy for months and months. Year three? Not so much. Between the barely-winter winter and the fact that zero of my plants died back during the winter, I have the craziest garden ever this year. My travel schedule for work has prevented me from doing much maintenance so far this year – and thanks to the amount of rain we’ve had this year, I’m really disinclined to do much regular weeding in fear of my mosquito pals. I haven’t even bothered with tomatoes or an herb garden yet this year because I know that I don’t really have the time and attention required to give them a fighting chance. Pathetic, I know.

garden 5garden 6

To my original design’s credit, parts of the garden are looking great this year despite my every attempt to completely neglect it. The sunny woodland patch look I was going for on one side of the garden? Well, that vision has been realized… and then some. Yarrow flowers bend down to the sidewalk, their hot pink flowers full of bees. Salvia spikes have reseeded in several colors, scenting the sidewalk in their sage-y smell. The left side of the garden has grown big and unruly – and as my neighbor kindly put it – it’s got that cagey wild vibe going.

So, basically it’s exactly like my hair these days. Thanks, July heat and humidity.

garden 3garden 1

The right side of the garden – the side nearest the stoop – is equally as wild and out of control. The acid green creeping jenny has started to drip down the bricks. All the various sedum I planted have exploded in crazy textures – and they’re threatening to take over the entire garden. The sweet baby lavender plants have grown into massive overbearing clumps with purple fronds covering half the steps. And don’t even get me started on the oregano. I’ve already cut it back twice this year. The only thing not doing well on this side of the garden is the thyme. All the other plants are so humongous, the poor thyme can’t catch a break and get enough sunlight to survive. Tough luck, thyme. Natural selection is real.

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The other day, I came home after work and realized I was locked out of the house. I had a set of keys, but I couldn’t unlock the deadbolt. So to make good use of the time I spent waiting for Zach to get home, I decided to do a little work weeding, which gave me some excess time to spend thinking about the garden. See, while the garden has just happened to (unintentionally) grow to look (intentionally) wild on either side and is kind of beautiful, the whole middle section is balding. Once I got done weeding, the whole middle section was down to the bare dirt.

My garden has male pattern baldness.

wholegarden

A little story on how the baldness came to be: over the last couple of years, I became irritated with the random giant chrysanthemums that used to be in center of the garden. Planted by the previous owner of the house, I gather that their original purpose was to cover up the stump of a big weed-tree that used to sit square in the center of the garden. From what I hear in talking with the neighbors, the thing was massive and reached the second floor of the house. ANYWAY. I know that gardening is supposed to be meditative and a demonstration of patience and all that shiz, but I just ripped those chrysanthemums out in cold blood.

As a result, the garden looks a bit silly and I cringe just a little every time I step out the front door. The empty space makes no visual sense, and it’s yet another friendly reminder of my inability to fully complete projects. We’re finally having someone come take a look at the stump this week, so my hope is that we’ll be able to get it removed and get on with our lives.

I just want to get it planted and looking halfway decent again, so I can concentrate on other ongoing house projects these days. Really trying to stay positive and use it as motivation. Time to shop for new plants!

P.S. All images in the post were shot on iPhone and edited with the new VSCO CAM app! I’m in love! Have you downloaded it yet?

Tomatoes Forever

August 17th, 2012 | Posted by Jill in garden - (0 Comments)

A month ago, I wrote about how nicely our garden has been filling in this year. A few weeks later, it’s now become a crazy jumble that needs a serious pruning. The zinnias are popping up as fast as the weeds, and everything is in full bloom. Of the edibles we planted this year, the tomatoes are really stealing the show. Green zebra heirlooms, San Marzanos, golden cherry and grape varieties – it’s a bonafide tomato party!

Our decision this year to plant the tomatoes in MUCH BIGGER self-watering planters has really improved the process. The tomatoes are much more productive, we’re watering less frequently and they’ve managed to survive more weekend trip neglect than ever before. Though we really don’t have a lot of space in the front garden to grow produce and the footprint of the new planters dominates the available space, I still think it was a good choice. Not only have our recent hauls been satisfying, they’ve been really colorful too:

an afternoon harvest

tomatoes!
green zebra heirloom tomatoes

And what’s an edible garden without loads and loads of herbs? We get so much direct sunlight all day, every day and the herbs are loving it. As usual, we’ve grown lots of basil from seed to go with the tomatoes (and delicious, delicious fresh mozz). This year we decided on a few different kinds — sweet basil, spicy Thai basil, and a new-to-me Japanese lettuce leaf basil that features huge aromatic leaves perfect for pretty much anything. I’m still hoping to try my hand at making lettuce wraps with them!

Rounding out the herb garden are two types of rosemary, creeping and English thyme, Italian and golden oregano, common sage, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and summer savory. This year – it’s second year – the lavender also went bonkers. Planted right by the stairs for all passers-by to enjoy, it has been showing off its graceful purple blooms for more than two months now. I’d love to learn how to shape it into a dried wreath this fall.

lovely, lovely rosemary
lettuce leaf basilsweet, sweet lavender
golden oregano
growing thyme from seed

Last, but certainly not least, are my strawberries. I’ve never had a lot of luck with strawberries but each year aspire to try something different to improve my haul. Marie’s are always so much more fruitful and jealousy-enducing, but thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s produce. Or something like that. Anyway, my plants are FINALLY putting out runners, so maybe I’ll encourage them to propagate into new pots so I can try again next year. Womp, womp.

strawberries!

I can’t wait to get out and do some work this weekend. Time to pull out the pruners and clean it up a bit.

Do your weekend plans include any gardening? I’d love to hear!

Garden, Year Two

July 1st, 2012 | Posted by Jill in garden | home - (2 Comments)

It feels like forever since I’ve done a proper garden update, and that’s probably because I’ve spent more time getting my hands dirty out in the front yard than inside writing and editing pictures. This time of year, it’s a serious undertaking to get the garden watered sufficiently while temperatures blaze into the upper echelons of bearable. We’re the only ones on my block without a shade tree, and even though I’ve chosen lots of drought-tolerant plants, even one hot day without water can scorch and kill a lovely plant.

Last weekend at the Mermaid Parade, Joel joked that I’m a little obsessed with my garden, and he is absolutely right. I love it. Even when it’s a million degrees outside, it feels so gratifying to experiment in our tiny little front yard. I’ll never get over that child-like wonder of watching things sprout and grow, and I already know I’ll be gardening until I’m old and grey.

Anyway! On to the pictures. This past week after tweet-promising a proper update, I went back into the garden archive to see the photos from when we first planned the garden last year. I had forgotten how awful it was. HIDEOUS! And then the garden looked like this on July 7th of last year. I was so proud at the time:

And today, here she is:

garden overview

So, yeah. I’d say she’s filled out just a tad over the past year! Of course, the extra-warm winter didn’t hurt, and all the rain we got this spring really kick-started everything into high gear. I’ve already had to cut back our oregano by half – and the butterfly bush that grew to three feet last year is TOWERING over the garden at more than eight feet tall already! It’s starting to flop over and go to seed, so I’ll probably have to prune it soon as well.

A few things have changed in the garden as you can see in the overhead photo below. Zach and I got real irritated with the chrysanthemums last fall when an errant snowstorm came and crushed them. They were originally planted by the previous owners’ estate to cover a huge stump in the front yard when the house went on the market, and they grew out of control last year. We dug all of them up except one, and now they live in pots with all my neighbors. In their place, I decided to plant some annual heathers, which should hopefully fill in the bare spots in the center of the garden rather quickly.

garden overview

We’re also aiming for a lot more flowers in the garden this year. I enjoyed growing zinnia so much last year that I found a company online – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – which offers loads of heirloom varieties, including zinnias. I ordered several and they’re starting to grow all around the garden. Really excited to see the colors start to appear, especially the acid green one I ordered!

Besides the zinnia, my clematis bloomed for the first time this year – and it was stunning. The yarrow has burst into tiny flowers everywhere, my several varieties of salvia are going through their second round of blooming, and tiny white flowers on the calamintha bring legions of butterflies and happy bees to the garden, which in turn are making the tomato plants really productive. The garden is really starting to achieve the wild look I was going for, and now I think it’s going to be a delicate balance to keep it under control. Instead of, you know, turning into THAT NEIGHBOR.

the clematis! it blooms!butterfly bush
hot pink yarrow
hot pink butterfly bush spikesgettin' wild and crazy

This year, we also decided to plant new window boxes, which I filled with petunias, vines, and other trailing flowers whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head. Next year, I’ll probably try and plan the window boxes a little better instead of grabbing whatever catches my attention on a trip to Home Depot (lame, I know).

In the center window box, I also planted a bunch of freesia bulbs that have begun to sprout — we’ll see how that works out because it’s been kind of a chore to keep all the boxes from frying in the heat. It seems like all our neighbors with shadier front yards have an easier time keeping their window boxes full and beautiful, but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy the color they bring.

new window boxes!

A late addition to the garden last year in early October, I planted two rhododendron that were on sale for cheap and needed a home. And who am I to say no?

Fortunately, they got established before the freeze and made it through the winter as small plants. Early this spring, both plants bloomed quite a fuchsia display and completely justified my decision. I was a bit worried about them since we had a freeze after they’d begun to bloom, but they bounced back and put out new growth quickly. I’d love for them grow tall enough to become a hedge in the back of the garden one day, filling the spring garden with pink blooms!

rhododendron, new growth

And last, but certainly not least, all the sedum are doing exceptionally well in the heat of my front yard. Sedum are close to my heart because my grandmother has many kinds planted in her midwestern garden, and I remember being fascinated by all the different kinds as a child. Every time I see them, I think of her.

Anyhow, we have several varieties planted in pots and in the yard, including hispanicum Blue Carpet, Platycladus, spurium Red Carpet, Sieboldi, spectibile Brilliant, and Angelina. The sedum in pots do exceptionally well, and the Angelina are becoming exactly the funky, textured groundcover I had hoped they would be in the front of the garden. I just want to pet it.
sedum starting to bud

So there you have it! A garden update almost exactly one year later. This week I’ll write a bit more about the edibles and herbs we’re growing. Are you growing a garden this year? If so, link me in the comments! I’d love to see what you’re up to outside this summer.

Twin Lens Garden

March 8th, 2012 | Posted by Jill in garden - (3 Comments)

A few weeks ago after a particularly nasty bout with the flu, I came out of hibernation and spent a Saturday afternoon hacking away in my front garden. Though it’s been a mild winter, I still had spent flowers, broken stems, and other unsightly trash to take care of — and I would argue that the time I spent outside was the best medicine of all. The kitten enjoyed it too — he rolled around on the front stoop in the sunshine like he’d never been out in the fresh air before.

I was inspired to get moving since I’d just ordered Gayla Trail‘s entire catalog of books. I’ve been a longtime fan of her blog You Grow Girl, but new book, Easy Growing, was published last month and features loads and loads of great ideas on growing edible herbs and flowers. And of course it got me hyperventilating for summertime. Can. not. wait.

Another gardening book I recently grabbed was Fern Richardson’s Small-Space Container Gardens. I’ve been reading her Life on the Balcony blog for a couple of years now and look forward to digging in this weekend — especially since Marie Viljoen’s terrace is on the front cover. (Why hello, Don Estorbo!)

It makes me so happy to support the work of the blogs I read. Awesome work, ladies!

To get myself in gear and start planning for this year, I dredged up some late-season photos from last summer. One golden fall afternoon before that freak snowstorm flattened all our hard work, I took my Mamiya out for a spin to enjoy the zinnias and coleus, Montauk daisies and sedum that were all in bloom.

I can’t wait for this view again.

the garden, in late october

coleus heartsmontauk daisies

lavender, in late autumn lightoctober zinnia

budding sedum

thai basil, at summer's end