Category: Garden

Wordless Wednesday: Driveway Farm Progress

July 28

 And a bit of history:

June 16
July 15

July Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

If nothing else, this monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom day project is showing me that I may have gone too far across the spectrum from “it’s all about the flowers” to “just worry about structure and foliage”. This garden doesn’t have a lot going from a flowering perspective. I’d blame it on the shade – but know I can have shade and flowers.

The lightpost bed is still the most colorful area of the garden. Huechera and Corydalis lutea are blooming, the barrel has filled in. Even the grass is adding some “flowers”. Over in the walnut bed, only things in bloom are the corydalis, and a small little hosta. That in this diminuitive form the flowers are kinda charming.

The blue/yellow container group by the driveway farm is beginning to fill in and look nice. And the driveway farm itself is rocking. The warm even hot days we’ve had the last couple of weeks have kicked the tomatoes into gear. Tons of flowers, and the beginnings of fruit.

In the front bed, there’s a few things in bloom. A perennial geranium, a foxglove lutea, an allium. But on closer inspection, things are in a bit of disruption. Plants knocked sideways, broken off, a covering of sawdust everywhere, piles of cut up logs.

All because when we got home from vacation Tuesday, we arrived to discover a tree on our roof. Well, not a whole tree, but a very large branch – which had taken out the smaller branch I was worried about overhanging the house. Honestly, the giant branch wasn’t even on my danger, danger radar screen. However, Monday morning’s storms, yanked it down. While coming home to it was a shock, I am glad we weren’t here when it happened. Kiddo is already wary of storms. The sound of this hitting the roof might have scarred us all for life. 
The large branch was from a crotch high in the tree. Diameter of a medium sized tree (that dainty looking foot is a size 10.5). Crushed a bit of the corner of house. Currently navigating the insurance/contractor jungle. But on the bright side, the tree canopy is opened up, I have slightly less shade, and no more branches overhang the house! And, most importantly, no one was hurt.

A bit of a slow start…..

The cool, wet spring (probably better described as long wet winter) combined with a significant amount of both work and personal travel has put me a bit behind on gardening. Did a bit of work a couple weeks ago, and this past weekend finally got out and got dirty – setting back up the driveway farm.

My yard and garden are heavily shaded with only a small area offering enough sun to successfully grow food. And that small spot is centered around and on my driveway. Last year I started experimenting with growing herbs and veggies in pots along the driveway edge. This experiment was mostly successful and has created what I call my driveway farm.

This year I’m focusing mainly on heirloom tomatoes and herbs with a pepper or two thrown into the mix. I started the day with last year’s pots filled with last year’s dirt and more than a few volunteer weeds. I look like a bit of a mad scientist as I rejuvenate the soil in the containers. Mixing in a bit of new potting mix, compost, fertilizer and my secret ingredient of alfalfa pellets.
I use the largest pots I have for the tomatos, filling between them with the smaller herb pots. I’ll be sticking in nasturium and other small plants such parsley at the base of the tomatoes. Also need to rig up some kind of automatic drip irrigation system, but all and all good progress on the farm.
 The area I think of as the lampost bed is filling in nicely. Planted the barrel with annuals a couple weeks ago, but it really is the perennials stealing the show – and proving the value of foliage for color in a garden. Love the brightess of the yellow foliage in this shaded yard.
 On the other hand, the bed under the walnut tree is not quite as successful. Several of the pernenials did not return. Some corners of the bed are fine, other a bit bare. Still experimenting here on what will grow successfully beneath a walnut.
As I worked  and took pictures around the garden, I realized that last year I kinda lost steam on updating garden progress on this blog. I think the last phot I did of the front beds looks something like this:
Nothing but spray painted bed lines on both sides of the front walk. Readers digest version: We tilled it up, I planted in a variety of shade and part sun plants, sticking to a green/white/burgundy color scheme, relying on foliage color more than flowers, and finally used stones from other areas of the yard to create an edging. If I can say so myself, it has all turned out quite well.
This spring we added the bottle tree, and bottle bug earlier this year. I lost few if any of the perennials over the winter. Most of all, I am thrilled with the Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ (aka red leaved redbudtree). One of my favorite small trees. I find the deep color of the young leaves enchanting. Cannot imagine a garden without this tree.

Flat Tire Decor Review

My friend and garden blog guru, MrBrownThumb, asked me to join a group of garden bloggers reviewing products from Flat Tire Decor. I would receive one of their products for no charge, and provide a blog post of my experience and opinion. Other than receiving the product, I was not compensated for this review, and these are my honest opinions.

Flat Tire Decor is a Milwaukee (West Allis) based company that recycles/reuses old tires by turning them into footwear and other products.  Milwaukee company and keeping tires out of landfills, how great is that? I received their largest basket, the ‘Newport’, a two handled trug-type shape that’s about 8″high with an 8″ base and 12″ top opening. (Milwaukee folks – you can get these at any of the 4 Elliott’s Ace Hardware stores)

Kiddo suggested I use the Newport to chill drinks. This is a great use. We like serving food buffet style, and are always looking for different ways to present guests with self serve options for many different beers, wines or soda. I know, I have one smart Kiddo, thanks for noticing. He earned a pack of his fav Sprecher Cream Soda as a reward for coming up with the idea.

 My other favorite use was on the back of my bike. The stiff nature of the tires, allowed the sides to hold up to the bungee cords. The open top allowed me to safely carry plants and other farmer’s market finds which could get damaged in the pannier or messenger bags.

Ironically, the most obvious use of the Newport was my least favorite. I am a huge fan of using trugs in the garden, and already own three. I mix dirt and fertilizer in them, fill them with weeds, use them to tote tools, plants and other things around the garden. However, for this purpose, I wasn’t overly fond of the Newport. A bit too small, handles felt a bit clunky in my hands.

However, I so liked the idea of using the Flat Tire Decor items with my bike, that I exchanged several tweets with the owner (their twitter account is @flattiredecor) suggesting they make a bike basket version. An oval similar in size to the Newport with a way to attach to handlebars would be great. Even better with an easy on off feature to allow the user to carry it around while shopping and then quickly put on the bike. Something about using waste from an auto while using my bike as transportation makes me smile.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – May

 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is the 15th of each month. The idea is to chronicle the progression of our garden’s through the seasons by taking pictures and creating a blog post on the 15th. This month I was halfway there. I got the pictures taken…but getting this post up, well, better late than never, right???


This long, cool, seemingly never ending spring (late winter???) has highlighted how badly my garden needs spring flowering bulbs. That will be an initiative of mine this fall. In the actual cultivated parts of the garden, there’s little in bloom. The garden is just waking up, beginning to kick into gear. The spring renewal of the garden provides a little treasure hunt for me as I wander. Reminding me of the plants I’ve added, remembering their origins.


The Amelanchier ‘Princess Diana’ purchased 4 years ago from the Missouri Botainc Garden plant sale as a tiny rooted cutting. Grown for 3 years in a pot, moved from house to house, and now in ground, taking shape as a small tree  in this garden.

The Corydalis lutea, a division from my Mother’s garden – but a plant I’d given her as a division from a plant sent to me 15 years ago by a woman I met on the CompuServe Garden Forum.
A small pulmonaria, a division sent me last year from another great gardener and friend, a friendship which also bloomed on the CompuServe forum
And some of the typical spring bloomers, vinca, bleeding heart, ajuga.

Thankfully, Mother Nature has my back, and is providing some glorious woodland natives. Throughout my woods, clusters of Arisaema triphyllum(Jack-in-the-Pulpit) pictured at the top of this post. Masses of trillium.

However, within this all lurks a bit of evil. Masses and masses of Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), a noxious weed, introduced from Europe and threatening native plants throughout the Midwest. And I do mean masses. In clusters together, between the other plants, Best controlled by pulling, which when at flowering height is easy. However, lurking below millions and millions of tiny seedlings. I’ve read a single plant can produce 50,000 seeds, seeds that remain viable in the soil for 6 years. Garlic Mustard plants are alleopathic producing chemicals in the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants.

And so I pull…..and pull and pull. At times frustrated by the sheer numbers. Knowing I will have to remain vigilant all summer as additional plants reach flowering maturity. But also knowing that if I prevent the creation of new seeds, I’ll eventually get ahead of this scourge – at least in my small patch. And that with each plant I pull, I’m handing just a bit of the edge back to Mother Nature, and the plants she put in this space.

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