Forward to Spring — The Winter Clean-Up

Happy Spring, Everyone!

What a wild and crazy winter we had here in the Northeast! As someone who lives in between two great lakes and is used to some challenging weather, I can’t remember a more windy, bizarre winter. With winds up to 75 mph, it definitely was a “hunker down and stay warm” kind of winter. This left me longing for spring faster than usual. Fortunately, my daughter kept me busy, and we have some other exciting things in the mix this year, which will allow me to flex my gardening muscle and challenge me in a different way. Stay tuned for more information!

The Doldrums of Winter

While winter kind of let me down this year, (January was OK, but February and after was blizzard central), I got to do something I haven’t really done since my daughter was born– read!

Amazon prime kept me busy– I pretty much bought books all season long!

They were all great reads, and I think I will be posting my other favorite reads in a future post. However, I am recommending this one first, because, it was the first one I purchased and the first one I loved!

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The Atlas of Poetic Botany by Francis Halle is a WONDERFUL read. Honestly, this book was an Instagram Ad on my feed, and I was intrigued. It tells of the unique plants the botanist has encountered in his many years studying the rainforest. The illustrations are delightful. The words flow, making it an engaging and interesting read. It does not get boring and dry like some other informational/reference books on plants can sometimes get, hence the “Poetic” in the name. If you want to learn about the interesting plants of the tropics, including a “walking tree”, I encourage you to read this. There is another book in this series coming out in May called, “The Atlas of Poetic Zoology”, and I can’t wait to get that one!

Spring Things

This morning, I was finally able to survey the perimeter of my yard, to see signs of spring that I have been anxiously awaiting. Just the other day, we had snow burying all the little treasures just waiting to pop out and bloom.

 

From left to right, my alliums, hellebores and tulips are looking good! I guess my leaf mulch helped them get through the sub-zero wind and weather this year! (At least, I’d like to think it did). I am really anxious to get outside and clean up the twigs and other crazy things that blew in and claimed residence to my landscape.

Garden Plans

Yes, it has happened– I have officially become that person who wants to try to grow many varieties of dahlias. I like them because they are just so darn pretty, and they make people happy.  You can take them into work and give them to co-workers who are having a bad day, and they immediately perk up. They bloom well into fall and you can have fresh blooms all the time. I guess that’s why I like them so much. So, I saw one of my fellow gardeners on Instagram have a catalog for Swan Island Dahlias. I quickly requested one myself.

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So, cut flower gardeners, if you are looking for a good selection of dahlias, this one is for you! Or, if you know of another great collection, please feel free to share! I have purchased a few dahlia bulbs from my local store, so it will be nice to try them from the different places.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to enjoy spring and get my hands dirty!

 

It’s “snow” joke, we need winter for spring blooms!

As most of us are sitting inside because the wind chill is sub zero, and the snow keeps coming. We gardeners are daydreaming of spring. I mean, I just received my David Austin® rose catalog, and the 8 degrees that my phone keeps telling me is not making things any better. We are nearing mid-winter, and that means we are ready for it to end!

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One day soon the garden will be green and lush again! 

 

We must keep in mind that cold and snow is an important part of the gardening process. I am not going to ignore the fact that winter can kill a lot of stuff in the garden, and can cause a lot of damage, but when you get right down to it, gardens need winter to get through the growing season.

Here are some quick thoughts to think about on this winter day!

Snow:

  • Gives the necessary moisture to plants, bulbs and a variety of critters that are tucked away for their winter slumber.
  • Helps big organisms (frogs, earthworms, turtles) in their hibernation/life cycle, and small organisms (bacteria, amoeba, fungi) that are working overtime to make your soil rich and nutritional for your plants and trees.
  • Is a great insulator for all of plants and organisms.

Before you know it, the snowdrops and hellebores will be pointing their little heads to the sky, reminding us all why spring is sweeter because of winter!

 

 

Dahlias, Roses and Silently “Growing”- The 2018 Wrap Up

I am not even going to talk about how this year has flown by, or how it has been since May since I have last blogged. Life has been full and good, and trust me, I have not stepped away from the garden– I have been still digging, growing and learning new things.

I am at the point where I have pretty much quit adding to my garden (there are just a couple things I want to add this year), but maintaining and working with what I have. As I mentioned in my wrap-up post from last year, I went plant crazy in the beginning, and I paid for it. A lot of them did not come back after one season, so instead I am moving the plants I have to either 1. Give them more space, or 2. Make my garden beds look a little more put together.

In October, I worked on this bed. I extended it so I could bring more full sun-loving plants over here.

As I mentioned in my only couple of posts earlier this year, I had Dahlia tubers from last year that I planted, along with some new varieties. Here were my results:

  • My dahlia tubers I had from last year did not make it. I put them in the ground at the same time as my new dahlia varieties, and when they weren’t coming up, and the others were, I dug them up to find mold on them. I was disappointed because I overwintered as I was advised to, but it just didn’t happen. I have also read where some people just treat dahlia tubers as annuals. I thought I would try again this year, and if they didn’t come up again, I too, will be just buying new tubers every year to give me one less headache!
  • My new dahlia varieties this year were beautiful. I have caught the dahlia bug! I am now wanting to try many different new varieties. I am going to make more room for dahlias this year. I love how many blooms I get, and I love cutting them every morning before work to have fresh blooms in the house and to give them away to neighbors and co-workers.

I loved all the varieties I planted, but of course the “Cafe Au Lait” did not disappoint, which is why I plan on buying more for my little cutting garden this year. What was the biggest surprise was the “Nadia Ruth” variety, it blew me away and I got the most blooms from that. One variety did not come up for me at all, and that was the “Creme de Cassis”.

The “Burlesca” variety was marketed as a honeycomb shaped flower, but that was not the case at all. Still beautiful, but not what it was supposed to be.

My rose:

It did not bloom this year. I planted the David Austin Rose “The Pilgrim”, and it grew on my trellis, just never flowered. I am hoping this year it will, as with our 6-month winter last year might have had something to do with it. Fingers crossed!

So, looking ahead– I am going to concentrate on mulching all of my beds this year, and adding more dahlias. I also would like to purchase one more David Austin rose, and then really start “landscaping” my yard. Now that I have a bulk of the planting done, it’s time to give these beds some shape and definition!

I hope you all have a nice New Year, I look forward to getting back to business with blogging all of my outdoor and gardening adventures. I post on Instagram most often, so, feel free to take a look when you get a chance!

Our Veggie Patch Round Up and a Fall Report

And just like that, fall has been underway for almost a month, and it has been fun, yet productive.

Though I have to admit it has certainly not felt like fall, temperatures in Western New York have been higher than they were all summer! So, I really didn’t get into the “Autumn spirit” until a couple of weeks ago, because I can’t justify decorating for fall when it’s 90 degrees outside!

I have had a wonderful time with my family pumpkin picking, apple picking, fossil digging, bike riding, and taking a drive to my parents house to see that their leaves are turning before ours!

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In between our busy activity schedule, I have managed to get some important Fall work done in my garden– seed collecting and cutting down perennials that look ragged. I also just purchased another 100 spring bulbs to plants out in my back yard, because I want to see spring everywhere in my yard, and not just certain spots! I know I am a little behind on the bulb planting, but with the weather the way it has been, I feel like I have a little more time to get the job done!

My dahlias are STILL blooming, and if there is any great joy I am getting more so this growing season, it’s definitely the dahlias. I love being able to go out in my back yard and cut those beautiful blooms through the fall. I will be writing up a post very soon about my dahlias and what I have learned from my first year growing them! You can see my beautiful blooms on Instagram @thebenttrowel.

Now, it’s time to talk veggies! Last year, we planted tomatoes as an introduction to a “starter” veggie garden. They did VERY well. We planted cherry and beefsteak tomatoes, which I recommend to anyone who wants to start a veggie garden but who’s unsure of how to start. Tomatoes are very easy to grow– a good “get your feet wet” veggie, I say!

This year, we expanded our veggie crop to include cherry tomatoes, corn, cayenne peppers, habenero peppers (my husband LOVES hot peppers). I happy to report, most everything did well, but because of our cold and rainy summer weather, some veggies took longer to ripen than usual.

Here’s the lowdown:

Tomatoes— we planted cherry tomatoes this year, and we did not get nearly as many this year than last year. In fact, we still have some that are green, and they are taking a long time to ripen. I plan on letting them go a little longer, but unfortunately, I have will have to pull them soon.

Corn— If there was any surprise in the veggie garden this year, it was definitely the corn! We planted 10 plants back in May, and we were just hoping for an ear or two. I was a little nervous with the weather, as corn tends to like hot conditions, but we had wonderful results! The corn was big, and I have to honestly say, was the best tasting corn I had ever had!

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This corn was the best I have ever tasted! 

Cayenne Peppers — This was my husband’s pet project. He is all about very hot foods, and wanted to try to make his own rubs for chicken, beef or pork. The cayenne peppers ripened before everything else in our garden and were a beautiful bright red. My husband is trying to overwinter a plant and see if it makes it next year.

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Cayenne peppers among the sunflowers!

Habenero Peppers — These were the most difficult out of everything we planted to grow. We planted these with everything else back in May, and we didn’t even start getting any kind of pepper until end of August, early September. I think these plants were the most sensitive to our finicky summer weather. We had blossoms forever, and kind of gave up hope. But, they ended up tricking us, and we got some pretty nice peppers!

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This little baby was well worth the wait!

So, that is the veggie patch round up, which will surely expand next year, and naturally, we will learn more as we “grow”.

What did you plant in your veggie patch this year? What would you recommend?

 

 

 

Lessons Learned in the Garden – Midsummer Report

Happy summer! It’s hard to believe it’s the end of July– no doubt it’s been a busy one for us. My daughter is at an age where she can do a lot of stuff that she couldn’t before, and we have been taking advantage of it. Life has been busy, and unfortunately blogging has taken a back seat, but I honestly can say that I have been having the time of my life, and as long as I keep getting in a blog post in when I can, I am happy. Family time before all else!

Weather-wise, Western New York has been very rainy and much milder than last summer. I have enjoyed the cooler temps, though, but I have missed going to the beach! Honestly, I have not once had to actually water my plants. No sprinkler posts this year! My window boxes have been thriving, and have not looked sparse and brittle like last year!

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A little wilted after yet more rain, my window boxes are thriving this year! 

Despite the weather, we have busy bike riding, hiking, rollerblading, swimming, camping, all that good summer stuff, but I have been also doing a lot in the garden. I am at the stage where I really am not adding much, but doing more of the routine maintenance on what I do have, and there are certainly some lessons I have learned that I won’t try to intentionally “unlearn” in the future!

Lesson #1– It’s OK to have space between your plants.

I know, I have even mentioned this in past posts, I planted too many things VERY close together (we are talking so close you can smell the body odor on the person next to you close). I was so crazy about trying to get every plant I wanted, I planted them too close together– this resulted in what I like to say “The Survival of the Fittest” in my flower beds– I lost a lot of really cool varieties because I got a tad bit overzealous in my planting. I have spent a good portion of my summer thinning out a lot of my plants, and even moving them if needed…which leads me into the next lesson–

Lesson #2 Plants not blooming/growing that well? It’s OK to MOVE them.

Yes. The biggest thing I have learned in the past few years is if your plants are not doing well in the location you have them– try moving them. They just may need a new residence to make them happy!

A great example of this is my very pretty gayfeather. I purchased these three years ago for 50% off at the local farm store. I put them in an area I had some space, and they grew, but they never actually flowered. I finally had the sense last year to move them to a sunnier location. Ta-da! Full on flower power action!

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This bee is very happy I moved this lovely gayfeather!

Lesson #3 — Remember to do the little stuff.

I can honestly tell you that I don’t have time to weed my whole garden at once. BUT, when I am outside and my daughter is swinging on her swing, I pick an area and go to town! Even if it’s a little area, it makes such a difference! I have managed to keep weeding all summer– little by little, and I feel better about how my landscape looks! I also pruned my Lilac bushes this year, as they were getting a little to “bushy” for me. They were growing right over the area I have my daffodils and muscari, and I want that distinction, if you will, between all of my plants.

If you are follow me on instagram, you will see all the goings-on in my garden. I post pictures of my blooms and my gardening adventures. I will be posting about our little veggie patch, and my mini “cutting” garden. Two new ventures that I would like to expand next year! Until then, take care, and I hope that the summer has been good to you in your neck of the woods!

(Don’t) Blame It On the Rain

wp-1494543434376.jpgRain, rain, and more rain! My part of the world has seen its share of water lately! As we know, rain can  be damaging, destructive, and downright deadly. Despite all of this, there is an upside to rain and your garden, particularly in the spring time, right before the growing season ramps up!

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This spring deluge of water can be helpful to you in garden prep!

Now, it’s obvious the main reason why rain is crucial–it aids in growth. But there are a few other reasons that you want to LOVE gardening right after a good bout of rain:

  • It’s a GREAT time to pull weeds and/or invasive plants. You can successfully pull the whole weed/plant, root and all, right after a good gully washer.

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  • Making new garden beds. Digging into the earth trying to make new garden beds is hard enough —  do yourself a favor and dig into the ground after some serious precipitation, and that will make a hard job less hard.
  • Sinking your hands in the earth. Is there anything you can do to get closer to nature than getting dirt under your nails when it’s at its most workable and pliable? I think not.

So, even though the rain drives us crazy as gardeners, because we are stuck inside, just remember how much nicer it will be to go outside and work the soil with little effort and less headaches!

Let’s Cut to the Chase –Spring has Sprung!

Good morning, and happy spring! I say that because our two feet of snow finally melted, and as I walk around my yard, I can see signs of life, everywhere–including my first hellebore I planted last November– in the dark!!

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I have to admit that this year has been a little more difficult to focus on gardening stuff, as I had the ambitious idea to start seeds way back in January/February, and that fell through– my work load has been extremely demanding since the beginning of the year, and any free time I had left me wiped out, and I would rather spend my free time roller skating with my daughter!

However, I did get some time to pick out some more seeds and even get a few bulbs to put in the ground as soon as the threat of frost is no more! After getting much inspiration from my Instagram friends and fellow bloggers, like Kate at Grey Tabby Gardens,(Please check her blog out when you get a chance, beautiful photography and a wonderful tour through her Central Florida garden) I wanted to start seeds for a cutting garden. I love having flowers in vases all summer long, so I figured I should get some seeds and bulbs that would allow for that.

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The Easter Bunny brought me my basket a little early!

So, most of the seeds and bulbs I have so far are for a cutting garden, but the other ones, I just added to the mix! I still have my eye on some other great seeds, and I am going to get up the nerve to do a little more container gardening this year!

What’s in my basket?

  • Dinner Plate Dahlias— I figured I would start with these two varieties, and see how successful I was with them this year. NOTE: Dahlias are hardy for zones 8-10, which means the rest of us who do not live in these zones need to take these bulbs out of the ground at the end of the growing season. I learned this lesson the hard way my first year living in my house!
  • Sunflowers— Of course, I can’t not get these seeds. Sunflowers are so hardy and so darn pretty– I actually have my eye on another variety as well! I have a great idea for these– so, stay tuned!
  • Bunny Tails– A great cutting garden addition– so unique, I couldn’t help myself. I bought these seeds last year, and never planted them, because I thought I lost them. Turns out, my daughter was playing with these seed packs and put it in one of her little purses– I didn’t find them until August!
  • Zinnias— I was inspired by Instagram friends and their pretty zinnias– now, that’s one plant I had never had! So, now I can only hope the seeds come up!
  • Amaranth— Not really for cutting, but read a really great article on these last year, and thought I would give it a try.
  • Flowering Kale— I really love this, and think it will be great fall/winter interest! Sometimes adding a few new things for the late seasons can make all the difference!

So, happy spring, everyone! I hope your gardening plans are in full swing– what do you plan to plant this year?

 

Seeds n’ Things

Happy fall! I hope everyone had a wonderful summer– which honestly, it still feels like here in Western New York. The weather has been beautiful– however, maybe too much. It has been so warm here that my spring bulbs are starting to sprout again! I fear that we won’t have such a colorful fall like last year because it has been so dry and warm this past summer.

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Never the less, I am not wasting another minute inside, it’s time to get along with my fall garden preparation tasks. A couple of years ago, I wrote a step by step on how to plant bulbs in the fall. I know a lot of people really don’t know how to (I know I sure didn’t at one time), so I wanted to give a little tutorial on how to plant them.

Well, now I am learning how to preserve seeds more. I have done this a little bit in the past, but this year, I have found great joy in harvesting seeds. Every plant has its own unique seed pod.

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The seeds of the hollyhock are slim, wafer-like discs.

Here are a few tips when collecting seeds:

  • Make sure the seeds pods are completely dry when you harvest them.
  • When storing seeds, never place them in plastic bags. Use paper seed packets or bags to allow the seeds to breathe.
  • Remember to share them– think of them as holiday gifts!

Harvesting seeds is a good thing. It is a natural way of controlling individual plant species from taking over your garden.

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The seed pod of a Giant Hibiscus is, well, giant!

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Hollyhocks, Cosmos (Upper Right), White Globe Thistle (Lower Center) will make any gardener happy!

I spent a good portion of last weekend re-organizing and making a place in the unfinished side of my basement to become my little gardening area, which means, saving seeds and storing bulbs that cannot stay outside for the winter. I plan on scouring  Etsy in search for the perfect antique printer tray to hold all my seeds until spring!

I also have purchased 3 more varieties of Allium bulbs that need to be planted, but until it cools down a little more, I think I will wait it out a little longer.

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What are your plans for fall planting? I would to hear what everyone is planting. Trust me, I am not done purchasing bulbs, yet…