Sunday, January 7, 2018

What Will 2018 Bring?

The New Year has begun with an arctic blast, bringing cold and snow to much of the United States. I've been housebound most of the past week, venturing out only to pick up a few groceries and return some library books.  It's not that the roads are impassable; it's just that it's too darned cold to go out if I don't have to.  I really don't mind too much--after the whirlwind of the holidays and two trips to Texas in the last month and a half, I'm happy to settle down to a slower pace.  It's a good time to work on those New Year's resolutions and then settle down with a good book in the evenings.  Every year I make the same resolutions like eating healthier and exercising more, but my main goal this year is to purge this house of some the clutter that has been accumulating over the past 13 years in every corner of the house.  Once gardening season begins, I know that will occupy more of my time, so if winter is short, I may not get much done!

The New Year represents a clean slate, a chance to start over and focus on what is really important to us.  For some people, it means a goodbye to a bad year, in hopes that this year will be better.  But 2017 wasn't a bad year for me, other than the political climate in this country, but I'm not going to get into politics here.  For me, 2017 was filled with lots of family celebrations and activities from graduations to baptisms to birthdays to many, many sports events.  Many hours and days were spent with grandchildren, filling my heart with joy.

2017 had its ups and downs in gardening, too, and I'm hoping for an even better gardening season in 2018.  We had a mild--and short--winter.  By late February crocuses were blooming, the earliest in my memory, and I was already working on cleaning up the garden beds in March.

The first crocus blooms appeared on Feb. 22, 2017


The early spring meant that by mid-April the tulips were in all their glory.  Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that spring is my favorite season of the year, and I love, love tulips.  The problem with tulips, of course, is that they are more short-lived than other spring bulbs, so every year I try to take photos of the flower beds so that in October I can remember where I need to plant more.  The photos do help, but I still do a lot of guesswork in planting, which means that every spring brings some surprises.  Last year I noticed so many of the early tulips were yellow, which is strange since I'm not particularly fond of yellow.  But this year I got carried away ordering all different types of orange tulips.  I think I planted nearly 200 tulips this past fall, so I can't wait to see them all come up this spring!



I also planted another 100+ daffodils between the pine trees, in my goal of creating a "river of daffodils" on the edge of our yard.  I'm anxious to see these, too, and a little worried since my husband mowed this area last spring before I gave the okay.  I have my fingers crossed that the older daffodils survived despite the early shearing.

If I could have one wish for 2018, it would be that spring would last longer.  Though we had an early start to the season last year, by May the weather had turned warmer, almost summer-like, and the spring bulbs didn't last long.  There aren't many new blooms in my garden during this transition time, but I'm usually busy for several weeks planting hundreds of annuals in containers and in borders around the flower beds.  I remember telling some friends how excited I was about a shopping trip to a favorite nursery some distance away where I spent $400 on annuals that would have cost at least $600 locally.  They all thought I was crazy to have spent even that much--I think I am now officially the crazy plant lady of the group.


I remember thinking last year that it was time to cut back on the number of containers, especially when August and September rolled around and I was spending all my time watering all of them, trying to keep them alive.  But it's hard to cut back, especially when I find a new container that catches my eye, like this old wheelbarrow that my husband rescued from the neighbor's trash.  I know I'll be planting this one again!  One thing I learned last summer was that petunias don't like this wheelbarrow for some reason.  I wasted time and money planting and re-planting Wave and Supertunias, only to have them die shortly afterwards.  This photo was taken in the fall, when I'd replenished it with small mums and gourds, but I need to find something else besides petunias for the summer months.


Summer brought my favorite flowers, daylilies...


...and my beloved coneflowers.


The daylilies multiplied, and the coneflowers self-seeded, so that by mid-summer every flowerbed was a mass of blooms. Will 2018 finally be the year I get ambitious enough to finally divide and purge so that my garden isn't a jungle? Well, we will have to wait and see, but don't count on it.

By August I had the garden blahs--oh, I enjoyed whatever was blooming at the time, but I had no desire to get out and weed or do much of anything else.  It didn't help that we went for weeks without rain. I remember dragging out hoses every day and rotating sprinklers on all the garden beds, but that just isn't the same as nourishing rain.  I lost some plants, but by September I really didn't care, other than some native seedlings that I should have taken better care of. If it's not too much to ask, Mother Nature, I do hope you'll send us more frequent rainshowers in 2018.

If Spring 2017 was somewhat short, Autumn made up for it.  Warm weather continued through much of October, delaying the changing to fall color, but the leaves finally turned, providing a few weeks of beautiful color, a bit surprising considering the dry conditions.

The front yard, late October 2017


We had a very late frost as well, the first killing frost not arriving until November 8.  


The highlight of Autumn, though, had to be the return of the butterflies.  Through much of the summer I worried about the lack of butterflies.  A few Swallowtails appeared now and then, but it wasn't until late August that Buckeyes and throngs of Painted Ladies appeared.  In late September a few Monarchs made daily flights through the garden.


But one day in late October I experienced something I've never seen before.  My husband urgently called me to come out to the garden--a rare occurrence in itself--and there I saw two dozen or more Monarchs flitting about in the flowerbed, lighting in particular on the zinnias.  I stood there for the longest time, mesmerized and in awe.  My youngest grandson, who loves insects, happened to be there at the time and was impressed as well.  It was an experience I won't soon forget.  I hope this means more Monarchs in 2018!


A few weeks of mild weather after the first frost gave me time to do some clean-up of the garden and eventually do a little outdoor Christmas decorating without freezing my fingers.  The old wheelbarrow was cleaned out and decorated for the season with some dollar store finds and cuttings from around the yard.


The large urn in front of the porch was also decked out--
and then finished off later with a dusting of snow.


The first measurable snow fell on Christmas Eve, just in time to give us a white Christmas and the coneflowers their fluffy white hats.  And now the garden and I are ready for a long winter's nap.


We have no way of knowing what might come in 2018, but I wish you all . . .

Happy Gardening in the New Year!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November GBBD: End of Another Season

What a difference a few weeks can make!  Last month I was counting butterflies and enjoying the beauties of autumn's late arrival.  This month we are headed straight into winter.  We haven't had any snow, other than a few stray flurries, but it's been cold--frost on the windows in the morning is now the norm.


As for my garden, well, this is pretty much the scene everywhere.  The hostas stayed green longer than usual this year, but when the first killing frost came, they seemed to say, "Ok, ok, we give up!"


As I looked around the garden a few days ago for something still blooming to show for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the only thing I could find were some blooms on the Yarrow.


And one errant 'Stella d'Oro' bloom that was frozen in time for awhile.


Even the Knockout roses have given up for the year.


Although the temps dipped below freezing several times in late October, it didn't seem to affect my garden.  Then we left the first of November to visit my daughter and family in Texas for a week, celebrating my youngest granddaughter's first birthday.  The morning after we returned, a killing frost finally signaled the end of the season for the garden.


No more zinnias for butterflies to enjoy--and no more butterflies this season, for that matter.


  But there is still some beauty to be found in the garden, even in winter.  'Wendy's Wish' Salvia (in the forefront of the photo) gives one last lovely gasp before succumbing to the inevitable.


Behind it, the Amsonia hubrichtii and the berries of Beautyberry add some pops of color.


A glaze of frost gives the seedheads of coneflowers a little extra pizzazz.


They will look even better with a topping of snow.


The cold can bring some other surprises--I never saw any blooms on my milkweed, but they did produce seed pods!  I'm so happy--maybe next year there will be more than just one or two plants for the Monarchs.


Anyone recognize these plants?  They're asparagus--finally, it's time to cut them back.  In fact, I haven't done any clean-up at all in the vegetable garden.  I managed to get all my bulbs planted before we left for Texas, but that's about all I've accomplished in the garden this fall.  I'm hoping for a couple of warm, sunny days to finish up the must-do fall chores before the snow flies.  Everything else will have to wait till spring.


The blooms on the 'Limelight' hydrangea are aging well.  They will hang on through winter; the branches of this shrub are a favorite of the birds since the suet feeder is nearby.


The trees were slow to change color this year, and once they did, they didn't last long.  It took weeks for the maple in our front yard to fully turn gold/orange.  Luckily, we arrived home from Texas just in time to see it in all its glory.


Now, a week later, half the leaves have fallen.  With any luck, a few windy days will blow these all away into the fields . . . if not, it looks like a good job for the grandkids:)


Although I am sorry to see the season end, I'm not really sad. I'm ready for a break from garden chores, time to enjoy the holidays and re-charge for a couple of months. And time to dream and plan for next year's garden, which I'm sure will be the best ever!


Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is held the 15th of every month.  Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting this so faithfully and keeping me motivated to keep a monthly record of what is blooming in my garden.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

GBBD: October Bloom Day

Autumn.  Next to spring, my favorite time of year.  Typically, the cooler temperatures are a welcome relief from a long, hot summer, the air feels crisp rather than oppressively humid, and the green of the garden is replaced with golden hues.  Autumn arrived late this year, no matter what the calendar said, as temperatures in the 80's and even 90's remained until nearly the end of September.  When fall finally came, what I most appreciated, however, was the rain--after months of near-drought, we have finally had some significant rainfall the past few weeks.  My poor tired and thirsty plants have been gratefully soaking it all up.  What little time I've spent in the garden the last two months was spent dragging hoses around to keep everything alive, but as we all know, it's just not the same as a nice, gentle rainshower.

In fact, on this October Bloom Day, it is raining once again, so I may have to do with some photos I've taken the past week instead.


Most of my usual fall bloomers have already faded away.  'October Skies' asters were in full bloom by the end of September and now are just a memory.  The same with the Goldenrod and Turtleheads.  In many ways my fall garden has been a disappointment.  The most puzzling is that none of my New England Asters bloomed.  My butterfly garden has been full of these every other fall, to the point that I thought I should rip some of them out.  But this year the only asters to bloom in this area were Frost Asters, also known as Hairy Asters, which are more of a weedy native.  I have no idea what happened to the New Englands unless it was too dry for them.  This small area I call my Butterfly Garden is filled with mostly natives, and I must admit I usually forget to water it during dry periods.  Perhaps it's time to re-do this whole area.


Other disappointments this fall included no-show cosmos and the zinnias.  The zinnias did bloom and eventually they grew to their usual height, but the blooms were much smaller than usual.  I planted the same variety of seeds that I have for several years, so that can't be the reason.  I'm thinking the dry conditions may have affected them, too.


The pollinators still enjoyed the blooms, even if they were smaller than usual, fortunately.


Even if there aren't many blooms in my garden right now, there are other signs of fall. The Amsonia hubrichtii is just beginning to turn to the golden hue it acquires late in the season.


The Beautyberry next to it is full of berries right now.


So is the 'Cardinal Candy' Viburnum.  I've never noticed many birds flocking to this shrub, but I'll have to watch more closely later in the season.


One of my favorite "berries" are those of the Blackberry Lily.  It took me years to get one or two plants established in my garden, but now they have self-seeded and form a border in front of the Lily Bed.  I think I like their seedheads better than their blooms.


Fall color has been slow to arrive in our area; perhaps it has been fooled by the warm weather we've had--yesterday was another 85 degree day!  I've noticed only a few leaves changing, and I don't expect the intense colors of some falls because of how dry it has been all summer. The big maple in our front yard that usually has the most vibrant color has begun to change a little.  I took this photo a week ago, and you'll notice the color changes start at the top of the tree.  Slowly, the transformation will work its way down, and in a couple of weeks, the whole tree should be a blaze of orange.


The garden is really winding down, and there isn't much in the way of new blooms.  About the only new blooms I have are the Japanese Anemones.  This pink one--name forgotten--looks a bit tattered, and the white ones didn't grow as tall as usual this year--again probably because of the dry conditions.  But they are a welcome addition to the garden, just the same.


One plant that looks better than ever is the 'Senorita Rosalita' Cleome.  Ever since I started planting it directly in the ground instead of in a pot, it has been much happier.  The Knockout roses just peeking it out in the left of the photo have also put out a fresh flush of blooms.


The only other new blooms this month are a few fall annuals I've planted. Most of my containers are looking pretty sad right now, especially the petunias, but I don't get too carried away re-planting fall combos.  Fall can be such a short season here in Illinois, so it's not worth the time or money to create new containers.  But, of course, I have to have a few mums!


One container I did re-do somewhat with the addition of some smaller mums and some mini-pumpkins was this one by the old oak tree.  This is a new "container" this year:  this spring my husband noticed this old, broken wheelbarrow that my neighbor had set out for trash pick-up.  He thought I might want it for a planter, which of course I did!  There was even a little horse manure left in the bottom (my neighbor has horses), which I mixed up with the soil.  The funny thing about this, though, is that I planted quite a few Wave petunias, thinking they would look good draping over the sides.  But a few weeks after planting, they all died.  I thought my neglect in watering them had killed them, so I bought a few more petunias--now on clearance--and replanted.  But they all died, too!   Everything else--the 'Diamond Frost' Euphorbia, Gomphrena, and 'Victoria Blue' Salvias--did just fine, even with some neglect.  I have no idea why the petunias don't like this wheelbarrow, but I'm making a note to myself not to plant them in this next year.


Fall means lots of chores in the garden before winter sets in, and I've been spending much more time outside the past few weeks, in between rain showers, than I have in a couple of months.  The big project ahead is pretty obvious from the picture.  I have tried to cut back on my bulb-planting the past few years, but I got a little carried away.  When my bulb orders came in, I realized I had ordered over 500 bulbs!  Not sure what I was thinking--well, yes, I do--I was enticed by all those pretty photos on the bulb company websites:)  I just hope I get them all in the ground before the snow flies!


The best part of my fall garden, however, really doesn't have much to do with flowers or foliage, other than indirectly.  On Friday the 13th, my husband, Mr. I-Don't-Garden, came in from mowing and said I really needed to come out to the garden.  There, to my astonishment, was a swarm of Monarch butterflies.  It was difficult to count them all as they floated from flower to flower, especially to the zinnias, but I think there must have been at least two dozen.  I've never seen so many Monarchs at one time!  It was truly a magical, almost spiritual experience, and I found myself repeating over and over "This is amazing!"


This had to be the highlight of my fall garden.  So even though most blooms are fading away and plants are getting ready for their winter's sleep, there is still something to delight in the garden.


Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is hosted the 15th of every month by author and garden fairy expert Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

GBBD: Mid-August Doldrums

It's time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I must confess I haven't been in the garden much this past month.  I wish I could say it's because I have been off traveling the world or doing something equally as fun, but no, I have been busy with mundane things like cleaning carpets and other household chores  I've also been chauffeuring grandkids around to their sports practices, because, well, that's what Grandmas do.  But I've also been pretty lazy--by late July, I'm tired of constantly pulling weeds and deadheading and would much rather just sit back and enjoy the garden and think about changes to make next year.  So let's stroll around the garden and see what is blooming--I might find something that surprises me as well as you.


The daylilies of June and July are pretty much done blooming for the year, but there are two later lilies in full bloom now, including 'Autumn Minaret' above.


'Challenger,' an heirloom lily, is the other one.  These are both tall daylilies, which are nice because they draw the eye upward, away from the dying foliage of the rest of the daylilies.


The coneflowers are still blooming, though many are looking pretty tattered by now.  I cut back some of the ones that look especially bad, but I leave most of them up for my pretty visitors above.  The goldfinches love the seedheads on coneflowers and are busy feeding on them all through the day.


While I have the native Echinacea purpurea throughout all my flowerbeds, I do have two hybrids, both 'Cheyenne Spirit.'  This is one hybrid that has done well for me, and the cool thing about this plant is that it can have different colored blooms on the same plant.  The one above had orange blooms when I bought it, but you can see it also has some pink on the same plant.  The other 'Cheyenne Spirit' I have has yellow blooms.


The other plant that is still going strong is my 'Vanilla Strawberry' Hydrangea.  I made my husband take this photo of me just to show how large it has grown in just a few years.  I'm 5'8", or I was before age started taking its toll, so this shrub is at least 6 feet tall.  The photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, and now the blooms have turned a darker pink with tinges of brown, but it's still lovely.


The 'Limelight' Hydrangea, however, is just beginning to bloom
 and keeps soaring ever higher each year.


The phlox have a second flush of blooms.  The white one is 'David,' but I'm not so sure about the pink--I think this might be a volunteer, since I also have some pink ones in my shade garden that I know I never planted.


The 'Radsunny' Knockout rose also is beginning a second flush of blooms.  It must have heard me telling a friend that I thought I might dig it out next year and plant something else.  We'll see--I have two, and unless the second one starts over-achieving, it may be destined for the compost pile.


Containers are still looking good, for the most part, though some of my petunias are getting rather leggy.  I had to share this container on the back porch, though--these caladium leaves are huge!  They are at least 10" across and 12" inches long.  I received these bulbs last year from a fellow volunteer at the County Nursing Home who passed away unexpectedly this winter.  I hope they make it through many more winters as a reminder of his friendship and generosity.


Okay, so let's move on to some new blooms or ones I haven't shown in previous Bloom Day posts.  'Wendy's Wish' Salvia is so hard to capture on camera, but it's a hummingbird favorite, just like its kin, 'Black and Blue.'  Next year I plan to plant one near the front porch where I can see the hummingbirds in action from my seat on the porch swing.


It's been so dry here for the last few weeks--I don't remember the last time we had a good rainshower--that about the only garden work I've had time for is watering.  Lantana, though, is one tough annual that seems to thrive in the heat and drought.


Volunteer Cleome are just beginning to bloom.  


A new perennial in my garden this year is Calamintha.    After seeing this at the Olbrich Botanical Garden in Madison, Wisconsin last year where it was swarmed by bees, I knew I had to add it to my garden.


I don't usually think to include my hostas or their blooms, but this is a new hosta I planted at the end of last season that I really like.  Not only does it have pretty blooms, but I love the color and and edging on these leaves.  And 'June Fever,' unlike some of the other hostas right now, doesn't have a single brown leaf.


No August Bloom Day post would be complete without my favorite late-summer annual, the 'Zowie Yellow Flame' zinnias.  They started blooming a couple of weeks ago on rather short stems, but as the days have gone by, they have gotten taller and filled with blooms.


August has never been my favorite month.  It's usually miserably hot, and I still think of this month as the end of summer and having to go back to school, even though I no longer have that deadline.  The garden is often looking a bit worn-out as well.  But one aspect of August I do love is that there seem to be more critters visiting my garden than earlier in the summer.  The hummingbirds are in a frenzy of activity right now, and there are more and more bees buzzing about.


After seeing few butterflies this summer, I am finally seeing many more of different types.  Sunday I spotted the first Buckeye of the season on the Nepeta.


The first Black Swallowtail in some time also appeared on Sunday.


And finally, there are so many Painted Ladies.  This lady fluttered about, but seemed to enjoy the tall Liatris most of all.


Even the 'Zahara' zinnias were sampled.  

Seeing all the butterflies and other winged visitors enjoying the garden this time of year makes me happy.  And while I may not be working much in the garden, I am enjoying just standing back and enjoying some of the fruits of my labor.  Garden chores can wait till September!


It seems as though I haven't had much time/motivation for blogging the past several months, so I especially want to thank our hostess Carol of May Dreams Gardens for continuing to host Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day each month and giving me the nudge to get busy and record what's blooming in my garden every month.