Tag: garden

What better place to spend Mother’s Day than Mom’s garden

One of my first blog posts was called Where it all begin. In it I talked about *my* first garden. But honestly, where my love of gardening and gardening experiences began were in the gardens of my Mom and my Grandma.

So it seems fitting that as I am re-connecting with my passion for gardening I spend Mother’s Day with my Mom – in her garden and visiting garden centers with her.
So much of this garden feels like home.

At the same time there’s bits and pieces of my influence- the corydalis lutea given to me by an on-line friend and shared with mom; the daylilies from an order I placed one winter as my life was about to change. I’d used Mom’s garden as a nursery bed during that time of upheaval in my life. Splits of these daylilies are spread around her yard, found homes in my subsequent garden but still have a home in this “temporary bed” by Mom’s vegetable garden 12 years later. Unfortunately, over time the plant tags for the daylilies have disappeared- hoping later this season I will recognize them – or at least be able to make notes of bloom time, height, and color, so I can divide and move pieces into my new garden.

On this trip I did dig up a few clumps of corydalis, and several of Mom’s ferns (including this one which had made it’s way out of the border), and was fascinated by the fiddleheads in the process.

I’ll take lessons from the side of the house where Mom says she doesn’t mess with – letting the plants spread as they may. Lesson one – I found the green white color scheme soothing, calming. It is one I will use in my own garden. Lesson two – skip the Snow in the Mountain, which is probably the influence behind the let the plants go attitude.

Left Mom’s with the car loaded to the brim with the spoils of our Mother’s Day adventures, two garden centers (Gurnee Garden Center and Jamaican Gardens), a stop by Wadsworth Feed and Saddlery for alfalfa pellets and cocoa hulls, a bucket of ferns in the back seat and Mom’s Corydalis tucked in the right corner.

When I arrived home, planted the ferns and potted up the smaller divisions. Made me smile this morning as I left for work to see these pieces of “home” waiting for their new spot in my current home.

Mother Nature’s Garden

If I consider my knowledge of shade plants to be lacking, my knowledge of wildflowers and natives is even worse. My last two gardens have been around new construction. New construction in both cases on land that had been farm fields. No trees means no shade. And years of row crop cultivation means no native plants (and in the case of the last garden, thanks to the developer, no topsoil, but that’s an entirely different story).

Now I own an acre of land in a suburb of Milwaukee. An acre of which nearly half is in a wooded, “natural” state (read bit of an overgrown mess). The first week we were here one of the neighbors stopped by to introduce himself. In the course of conversation he pointed out that there were trillium in some of the wooded areas. I’m thrilled to discover there’s several more patches dotted all around the woods. Some fairly close to the “cultivated” areas. I’m wise enough to leave them where they naturally choose to grow. But still smile knowing that *I* am growing trillium. I’m guessing these are Trillium flexipes.

I found a couple of patches of another little darling. But have no clue to it’s identity.

And of course, the May Apples (Podophyllum peltatum ). Lots and lots of May Apples.

I’ve always been fond of May Apples. Even from afar they reminded me of little umbrellas for fairies. This is the first year I’ve been able to view them up close. They first emerge as a tight little mass, and then slowly unfurl.

The flags through the May Apples mark the boundaries of the pet “fence” which keeps my cat and dog in the yard. This of course, does not prevent other animals from entering the yard. We have an opossum which frequents under our deck. Last week as I left for a pre-dawn plane flight, the cat snuck out.  My husband and son were awoken by a growling scream to discover a large red fox had cornered the cat (who has lost her out side in the dark priviledges). But the best was the deer last summer that seemed to love tormenting the dog by calming eating foliage just outside of invisible fence line. Excuse the picture clarity – all I had was my phone, and couldn’t get close because I didn’t want to scare the deer. As if that is possible, here in the wild, wild woods of suburbia!

Making the Bed(lines)

My serious garden project of the season is re-doing the beds along the front of the house. When we first bought the house two summers ago, this area was solid yews. To say that I am not a fan of yews, would be a gross understatement. I detest them.

This was the view in July of 2008.

Last summer we cut down all the yews. But got no further. I wanted time to live with the space, observe the amount of sunlight, get to know the soil. This year I’m ready to tackle the space. First step determining the bedlines. Which meant pulling out one of my favorite garden “tools”. Inverted marking paint. I know books and magazines tell you to use a line of lime or other chalky powder, or to lay out a garden hose. I prefer spray paint – downward spraying marking paint to be exact. Easily found at the large box home improvement stores. Usually in a variety of colors.

The large tree to the left of the front path makes it impossible to make this a symmetrical design. I knew I wanted to take the bed in front of the tree out to the driveway and slightly widen the border along the front of the garage.

Notice how as I play with the bed lines, the garden part gets larger, not smaller?

On the right side of the front walk, I wanted to bring a bed to the driveway along the walk. I originally thought a 6′ wide bed, but after eyeballing and measuring realized 4 feet made more sense.

From there I’m trying to create a flowing line that is mower friendly. 

At the far end, there is an area that gets 4-6 hours of mid day sun. I curved back out to allow me to expand my plant palette into more sun friendly specimens. And where I’ve marked an “X”, I am going to plant the ‘Princess Diana’ Amelanchier I purchased at the Missouri Botanic Garden plant sale in May of 2007, and have been torturing in a succession of pots ever since.

Next steps, wash the orange off my thumb, and begin to plan the plants. Fun times……….

Making progress

Still not time to plant, but there’s plenty to do in the meantime. Trying to work my way around the house cleaning up the existing beds. All of which appear to have been ignored for years.

This weekend I decided to focus on cleaning up the south side of the house. This is the sloped area with the retaining wall and planted primarily in hostas with a touch of pachysandra, lamium and lily of the valley. In summer this area is in full shade.

As of Friday it was also full of Garlic Mustard. Inspiring me to do some research and even write a post about it. Spent most of Saturday attacking the weeds.

In addition to the retaining wall one of the primary features of the space is a planting bed around a large black walnut tree.  This bed is an approximately  6′ by 15′ oval. Will be a shade perennials mixed border. One corner gets a few hours of sun, so plain on sneaking in a Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Little Honey’ there. 
After clearing the weeds, I wanted to amend the soil a bit to prep for planting. There was already a nice coating of chopped partially composted leaves, so added a couple of 50# bags of alfalfa pellets (one of my very special secret garden ingredients), and a few bags of cow manure, and tilled it all up. Ok, I admit, I just wanted to play with some power tools, but the bed needed the work!
Here in Wisconsin, we don’t have just any old cow manure, we have Dairy Cow Manure…….
Now this is much better. Kinda a blank slate. But one thing I do know is that Mother Nature abhors a vaccum and as evidenced by the garlic mustard will fill the space if I don’t. So next weekend will probably involve many yards of mulch. But also some planning.
The scariest part of all this is in many ways it is new territory. I just don’t have the mental palatte of shade plants.  In the past, I always knew where I was going with a bed. I might name it by colors and design from there – I had blue and yellow beds, peaches and berries beds. Or design around a favorite plant or combo. But those were all sun plants. I’ve never had a true shade garden. I can’t just start mentally ticking off plants to fill the space. 
But wait, I always like a “grape and lemonade” bed. And there’s some great gold leaved hostas, and dark leaved heucheras. Maybe a few dark leaved astilbes. And I saw this incredible tiarella with chartreuse leaves and wine colored veining. Always wanted to grow Aceta simplex ‘Brunette’. And hakonachloa, oh I love hakonechloa…….
Yes, there may be hope for this garden.
And for me……


I spy with my little eye….

Have a new resolution to try and get out of the office for a fast-paced walk over lunch on most days. Not sure why in two years of working from this office I never did that. Is a good little habit I’m bringing back from my Chicago office days.

This week as I was trotting along Martin Drive, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a pretty little Henry Lauder’s Walking stick (Corylus avellana “Contorta”). The intricacy of the twisted branches slowed my pace a bit, the plant tag and fresh mulch slowed it a bit further. But what stopped me dead in my tracks was the garden I noticed behind the bush, well, behind the low hedge behind the bush.

A charming little urban oasis. Paved seating area up front. Pretty iron arbor with some sort of climber – curious to see that that is when it leaves out. Stone path through what appears to be a herb garden. Lots of garden art, both on the wall and throughout the space. Another seating area in the back with a small statue centered at the rear. Obviously well tended. Someone or someones pride and joy. In a sliver of land between an apartment building and a parking lot. Somewhat a fringe neighborhood, abutting the semi-industrial area of Milwaukee where the Harley Davidson headquarters and Miller Brewery are located.

I’ve driven by the spot probably hundreds of times on the way to and from work. And have never noticed this garden. Now I can’t wait to watch it through the seasons. Funny what slowing down and paying attention to the world around you can bring…………….

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