Pink Hyacinth

Spring Blooms in my Back Yard

[Taken 9 April 2013]

My back yard has untold treasures waiting for the spring sun to reveal themselves. So far, I’ve seen these pink hyacinth, grape hyacinth, daffodils, and some tiny purple flowers that may or may not be weeds.

Gardening: Year Five

I’m not exactly Jerry Baker when it comes to gardening. I tend to be a passive gardener, rather than one who waters daily and feeds periodically. I’ve killed more plants than I’ve successfully tended over the past five years as a homeowner.

I’m finally starting to realize that bulbs and rhizomes are definite winners for me, as I can pretty much “set it and forget it.” Three years ago, I planted some miniature daffodils that Sheryl gave me for my birthday, and they’ve survived, albeit weakly. Two years ago, I planted some daylilies from my co-worker, Scott, and they’re easily the strongest and healthiest plants in my yard. Finally, last fall, I planted a lily and a few bulbs (daffodils and tulips, I think) by the mailbox, and they seem to be sprouting up just fine.

I’ve tried my hand at supposedly “invasive” plants, too, like catnip. It’s supposed to spread and self-sow like a mofo, but it hasn’t, really. The first year, I started the catnip indoors and then planted it outside, and I harvested a sandwich bag full of Kitty Herb, leaving several plants to go to seed. Last year was the second year of the catnip, and only a few plants came up, so I only harvested a few sprigs, leaving most to go to seed. So far this year, I see just two little catnip plants sprouting up, and I doubt the harvest will be very plentiful.

The newcomers to the yard this year will be the grape hyacinth I bought to add color to my desk at work. It may end up being friends with the miniature daffodils, or I may plant it under another tree in the front yard.

Oh, and I’m also planning a resurgence of annuals this year — specifically, impatiens, which seemed to thrive well enough in the dry shade under the overhang in front of our split-level house. (Nothing else ever did.) I may see how hostas fare there, too. But nothing will be planted until mid-May, after we return from our vacation. Never again am I leaving new baby plants to the mercy of the elements while I’m out of town. Not even for a long weekend.

I have a large container of lilies of the valley, also from Scott; I had planted them under said overhang when he first gave them to me, but they didn’t do well, so I rescued them and transplanted them. I’ve had them for a few years now, and I keep meaning to bring them inside during the winter… but I forget and leave them out all winter long. Last year, I still had a few left. We’ll see how many I have left this year. Maybe I’ll find an appropriate permanent home for them this year. I have a few ideas.

Someday I’ll have a decently landscaped and colorful yard. Until then, I’ll just see what works.

Gardening: Year Four

Year One (2004): Moved into the new house in March. Planted $100 worth of nursery plants in April. Killed every blessed one.

Year Two (2005): Received free plants from work and bought seedlings online. Planted miniature daffodils that Sheryl gave me for my birthday. Only the daffodils lived to see another Spring.

Year Three (2006): Planted daylilies from Scott at work in Fall 2005. Bought plants in a white elephant sale in the Spring. Started seeds indoors. Daylilies came up grandly; plants died before I planted them; only catnip and lemon basil seedlings survived the furry aminal seige once planted outside. The previous year’s mini daffodil bulbs came up, albeit a touch weakly.

Year Four (2007): Impending. Daylilies currently showing leafy growth. One lone mini daffodil has already peeked out its little head, only to get snowed on. Catnip is still MIA, although I have high hopes. Scott got me greenhouse tulips that have already bloomed and done their piece; I plan to plant the bulbs outside after the leafy growth dies back.

Today, I spent some quality time with my lone surviving Rose of Sharon cutting. The ones I brought from the old apartment died off over time, but one of the cuttings from Scott is still alive and kicking. I’ve had it in perlite (a rooting medium) for nigh on two or three years now. I forget. At any rate, I repotted it this evening into a large plastic pot, leftover from my unfortunate garden center trip of 2004. I’m not sure what its root system is *supposed* to look like, but what it’s got is a long, stringy root system with feathery branchings-off here and there. The root system, stretched out, is probably one and a half times as long as the stick-with-leaves is tall.

So, I’m planning to set the Rose of Sharon outside once the danger of frost is past, in hopes of getting it growing upward more, branching out a little, and getting used to the outside. I don’t know if I’ll try to plant it this fall yet, but hopefully it’ll at least like its new home. Hopefully I didn’t just sign its death warrant, as I so often do with my garden plants.

The key for me? Finding low-maintenance plants that can stand being forgotten about for up to two weeks. Plants that don’t require daily watering. Plants that won’t kick it over the winter if I don’t get the mulch down in time. Yes, I am a neglectful gardener. But I still like plants. And gardening.

Filling In The Gaps

Since some fantastic small furry animal (perhaps now gathered together with several of its friends in a cave and grooving with a pict?) ate my sweet basil, I decided to start some new plants indoors. Three sweet basil, three lemon basil, and three lavender. They’re currently living under the plant lamp, which is on a timer, and they’ve been there for… three days? Four? Something like that. All three sweet basil are almost an inch tall, the lemon basil are over half an inch tall — the two that germinated, anyway — and the lavender aren’t doing crap.

I thought maybe I got three duds. So I planted a couple more yesterday, in the same peat pellet pots. No love today.

So, I went online to check the germination time of lavender. (I believe the internet before I believe the seed packet.) And what do I find? Lavender can take up to a month to germinate! I might have to research some alternate germination methods (in the fridge?!) to make these babies grow.

Oops. Who knew?

Getting Back In Touch With My Garden

While I was home today, nursing my lower back, Aaron suggested that I go into the back yard and check out the plants that are actually thriving on my benign neglect.

Turns out that the tiger lilies daylilies that I planted back in the fall are not only big and bushy, but are about to bloom! They’re currently sporting tall stalks topped with large orange buds. A photo op will soon be had.

The roses of sharon that I kept in my watering can are still green, while the one I planted in the ground is officially a dead stick. I can deal with hydroponic altheas, I suppose. Maybe someday I’ll manage to plant them somewhere appropriate.

My herb garden was the big shocker for me. I’d just about given up on it after the fuzzy aminals ate all my parsley and sweet basil. All that was left was catnip and two lemon basil plants.

The catnip are a freakin’ foot tall now. And the lemon basil plants are healthy and bushy. Who knew?

I harvested several stalks of catnip, and have some catnip tea chilling in the fridge right now. (I think I put too much honey in it, though. Oops.) I currently have about five stalks of catnip hanging in my dining room, and I have every intention of making Mei a cute catnip toy with The Good Stuff™, as soon as it dries.

Moral of the story? Bulbs good. Invasive herbs good (for my gardening style, anyway). High-maintenance plants not so good.

Seedlings = Planted

Yesterday, Scott gave me about a dozen Rose of Sharon shrublings (twigs with leaves and roots) that he removed from a friend’s yard. However, it rained like a mofo yesterday, so all I could do was stick them in a watering can full of water and hope for the best. This morning, before work, they actually looked pretty good. Perky, not wilty. Good sign.

When I got home from work today, I made myself some dinner and then prepared myself for some digging in the dirt. When all was said and done, I spent about an hour and a half gardening in the mud.

I ended up removing a patch of grass along the west fence that was maybe a little bigger than four feet square. I attempted to transplant the grass/sod/whatever to a bare patch in our lawn, handfuls at a time. We’ll see if that takes, or if Aaron berates me for attempting it. Anyway, I planted one Rose of Sharon in the middle of that newly-created dirt patch, and left the others in the watering can.

All the while, the wind was kicking up and it was threatening to rain, so I re-evaluated my evening of gardening fun once I was done getting the Rose of Sharon securely in the ground. (I hope.) I ended up leaving the remaining Roses of Sharon in favor of creating my little herb garden plot, as my seedlings were starting to look kind of peaked.

I ended up digging up a patch about three feet by five feet, right by the house, underneath the air conditioner. Believe it or not, it seems that this area gets the most sunshine during the most hours of the day. I hope I’m right about that. Anyway, I ended up with six catnip plants in the back row, six sweet basil in the middle row, and two lemon basil in the front row with six closely-spaced parsley plants. I really hope they take.

My two remaining hollyhocks ain’t doing too good. I put them in the front, with the other sun-loving plants that need planted soon. I think they’ll live, although I’m not sure if they’ll bloom (which will make it a challenge for them to reseed themselves for next year).

Aaron has gone on the record as being unenthused about me digging up so much grass, being that we already have giant grassless patches in the back yard. I’m going to make a concerted effort to make all this shit live this year, though. I want to make our shit pretty, dammit. I will make this work.

More Plants?

You guys are going to get sick of me continually blogging about the plants I haven’t killed yet.

You might recall that I got several plants from the resident Plant Guru at work last year. This year, she included her plants in the White Elephant Sale to benefit the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, rather than just giving them away. Everyone who placed a “bid” on her plants was guaranteed at least one plant, since she brought in about 30. It ended up that I donated $7.50 (not including what I gave for the dress-down day and the potluck) and got six plants. Not a bad deal.

Thankfully, Melissa labels her plants, and labels them well, so I knew what I was getting myself into before I selected which plants I wanted to take home. I tried to get plants that would tolerate partial shade, but I *had* to get the lamb’s ear.

Yes, lamb’s ear. It’s pale green and fuzzy.

Today’s haul consisted of:

  • (2) Lamb’s EarStachys byzantia
    6-12″ tall, full sun to part shade, perennial, fuzzy pale green leaves with purple flowers
  • (2) Veronica “Georgia Blue”Veronica umbrosa
    6″ tall, full sun to part shade, perennial, creeping ground cover with small blue flowers
  • (1) Purple ConeflowerEchinacea purpurea (?)
    2-3′ tall, full sun, perennial, magenta flowers
  • (1) Black-Eyed Susan “Goldsturm”Rudbeckia fulgida
    1-2′ tall, full sun to part shade, perennial, yellow-gold petals and brown/black centers

As always, getting plants from other people as opposed to making a planned purchase makes my garden planning a little more interesting. I don’t have much full-sun space, and what I do have is in the front yard (where everyone can witness my neglect).

I hesitate to plant anything of value to me by the mailbox, as I don’t have much faith in the permanence of our inexpensive cheap mailbox post. I’d hate to have to try to move established plants so we can install a new post someday in the future.

I also hesitate to plant anything along the driveway, as our driveway isn’t terribly wide, and I end up walking on the grass when I get in the car (on the passenger’s side, anyway), especially in the wintertime. There are also moles galore (OK, maybe it’s only one, but he’s a busy one) on the other side of the driveway, so I don’t think I’d be keen on planting anything there, really. Although it probably means that we have good soil there, and grubs, and nummy things for moles to feast upon.

My sunny choices are on either side of the sidewalk leading from the driveway to the front door. Either I bite into our front lawn proper (where the best sun is), or I take the foot or so in front of the bushes (which wouldn’t exactly be full sun, since our house faces north; the plants would sometimes be in the shade of the bushes).

The plants I picked seem to have good reviews on Dave’s Garden, though: the lamb’s ear is hardy and potentially invasive, the purple coneflower grows tall and doesn’t need staking, the veronica is evergreen, and the black-eyed susans are also evergreen and seem to be fairly low-maintenance.

I need to sit down and make a battle plan. The time is coming soon when I’ll need to put all these plants in the ground, and I’ll need to have an idea of what this little arrangement should look like when I’m done. I’m not averse to filling in any empty spots with some annuals (impatiens was my friend a couple years ago), but I don’t want my flower bed to look stupid. Y’know?

We’ll see how this goes…