Saturday, October 31, 2009

Branching Out

Some girls collect shoes, I collect branches. Here's a stash in my shed ...

Where do I get them from (since you might know from past posts that I don't have any mature trees on my lot)? People here put them out on the curb after pruning or cleaning up their yards for the village to pick up - unless I get there first. Sometimes they put out nice pine and evergreen boughs, too, that look lovely in the window boxes and baskets over the winter. I also can find whatever size branches I need at the local dump free for the taking. Big piles of all sorts.

What do I do with them? Well, I noticed that the birds tend to "line up" for the feeders and bird baths and would land on my flowers and bend them down to the ground. So, I stuck a few branches nearby for them to use as perches instead - this worked like a charm! Here's a "branch perch" over a bird bath ...

Above is a Gold Finch perched upon it. Below is a Gold Finch poised on a "branch perch" (lower left corner above the big Monarda seed head) angling for a spot on the bird feeder ...

There he goes!

I also use branches to make my own rustic trellises. All you need is a power drill, some screws, hammer, nails, and maybe a little wire for the smaller branches. Here's one in the kitchen garden ...

And here's one I made for a wild rose that I will train to climb (and that will hopefully spill over and cover up some of that ugly chain link fence - ugh!) It adds a little more height and should act as a privacy screen ...

And here's one I made for this beautiful honey suckle to reach the lattice work on the front porch ...

You can also use branches and seed heads (like Black Eye Susan, Bee Balm and Cone Flowers) to dress up your pumpkins on Halloween. Branches make nice "hair." I just use a screw driver to punch holes with. Or you can make gourd ghouls like these ...

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spiced Up Sidewalk

This tiny patch of lawn in front was just begging to be dug up! And so it was.

I planted creeping phlox (brought with me from ME), dianthus, hens and chicks (plucked from a nearby apartment), a mungo pine, thymes and even some chives (also from ME) as this area gets FULL sun. A lamb's ear sprouted up (maybe from ME) and I encouraged it. (Some bulbs were thrown in there, too, for the next spring.) I got a little carried away and dug up some more lawn on the other side and started reshaping the front bed ... anyway, these plants should do well with minimal watering.

It filled in nicely right away.

I was surprised to find some petunias (red) and snap dragons from the nearby baskets - fun! And I sprinkled some alyssum seeds in there to see if they would like it - they did.

I had a little trouble at first with the neighborhood dogs - we have a number that "walk themselves." But a little cayenne or chile pepper sprinkled around this tiny patch does the trick! Too much for those sensitive noses. So, I encourage you to "spice up" your sidewalk.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Things Are Looking A Little Seedy Around Here

This is how I save seeds. I call it my "seed tray." Every year late summer until first frost I pluck a few from the garden and throw them in here to dry out. These are some from this year: sunflower, zinnias, marigolds, love lies bleeding, mallow, beans, peas ...

Here's one from years past.

Although this method has worked for me just fine, this year I am taking it one step further - I'm actually storing my seeds more properly in this nifty Michael's special box that I keep on my library shelf. I found these cool little bags at work and took them for myself. I have one of these boxes for all my plant tags, too. (Maybe I have a sickness.)

Truthfully, I was inspired by Patti - a woman I've met since moving here who gave me these lovely seeds. It was one of the best things I have ever received. She enclosed all the seeds in these little envelopes with custom labels and wrapped them in homemade wrapping paper printed with pictures of her garden. To me, she represents the true spirit of gardening.

And this is what bloomed from that spirit ...




Sunflower (from what she labeled "Fancy Sunflower Mix")

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tree Tops

Planting this one tree last fall of 2008 (as well as my shed) improved my backyard view throughout the seasons. Popular I know, the Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea Pungens), but I suppose popular for a reason. It has always been one of my favorites. The new spring growth on this tree was stunning. I am sorry but I am not sure of the cultivar/variety. If you have read my past posts you will know that I did not have any - as in big, fat nada - trees on this lot when we purchased this home. And trees are my favorite! Fortunately, we at least have some good neighbors like those Maples.

Reasons I chose this tree: native to North America, bird friendly, evergreen for winter interest, very full habit for privacy, readily available, transplants well in most soils and it is hardy - zone 2 in fact. Also, I am really trying to relate all my plantings by keeping within a color scheme of blue, orange, reds/burgundy. Or at least have those colors running throughout the entire garden. (I am afraid I find it very difficult to be that disciplined, however.)

Other large native trees I have planted: Eastern White Pine (above top in very early summer), Pin Oak (above with fall color against neighboring Silver Maple).

Why did I choose these? The Eastern White Pine is THE signature tree here along the river - majestic, beautiful. Both these trees have high wildlife value as well. I would have loved to plant a Swamp White Oak (another tree found throughout this region) but I do have a relatively small lot. I chose the Pin Oak because it has a much narrower form and transplants well in urban settings. The Eastern Pine will grow into (or should I say above), our neighbor's lot as it matures but he told me he loves trees (yeah!) and I did discuss my plans with him.

So, why all this tree talk? I had a great get away weekend and visited the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as well as Cornell Plantations in Ithica, NY. Not the best time to visit the theme gardens (of which some are undergoing construction), though still inspiring. BUT we also hiked through the Arboretum and it was a picture perfect fall display.

 Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Shadblow Serviceberry (Amelanchier Canadensis)
This is on my list to plant - but Amelanchier Arborea. Seeing this one just confirmed that YES, I definitely want to plant this.

White Birch (Betula - not sure which one)
This reminded me of the Paper / Canoe Birches in Wisconsin - one of my favorites.

The bark of River Birch (Betula Nigra)
Hmmm, maybe I can find room to plant one of these. (I find myself eyeing any village / suburban house with mature trees and trying to calculate just how much space those trees grew up in and how close together they are to see if I can fit more trees on my lot!)

Swamp White Oak (Quercus Bicolor)

Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Quercifolia)
Okay, not really a tree but I couldn't resist. I planted one of these ('Alice'), and seeing this mature shrub with its spectacular fall color made me feel really good about it! I would recommend to anyone.

Oh, by the way, the trees in Cornell's arboretum are all tagged so you can read what types they are. And I also found Michael Dirr's book "Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs" helpful in writing this post for the (hopefully) correct latin names and spellings. It is one of my favorite books and I refer to it quite often. You may enjoy finding out more about the Cornell Plantations.

We ended the weekend touring some of the wineries around one of New York's finger lakes, Seneca. Stocked up on that wine so I can celebrate another great day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shed Stills

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day and I thought I would let you see through the window of my shed ... the hickory nuts have disappeared. I am sure one of my "wascally" squirrels has planted them for me. The garlic I planted - a first for me - in my new "potager" which I will dig into in a future post. It is from a local organic farm, Cross Island Farms so I figure it will be hardy here. We'll find out, won't we?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gimme Shelter

Since we converted our garage into an office, I needed some place to store garden tools, bird seed and well, a lawn mower - which I am slowly trying to eliminate the need for. Here it is, my little shed! Custom built by my husband and modeled after the Amish sheds on a nearby farm. We've added a window box for, well more flowers, of course. Anyway, it will become part of the garden "structure," "an architectural element." It doesn't have a hot tub or wood stove, but it does have a nice potting bench built inside. I keep adding little odds and ends - fun! It was placed here to face the future "potager" kitchen garden. Oh, and Mrs. Robin seemed to like it, too.

Friday, October 16, 2009

In The Beginning, There Was Lawn

This is where I begin. My sketchbook - and sketchy it is. It goes way back to my garden in Maine. It's fun to flip through. I add notes, plants, conditions. It's good before bed when your head is spinning to empty out all those ideas - maybe sleep instead of going out to the garden with a headlight. We moved into this house in October and being in the "North Country" not much gardening was going to happen until Spring. So, I actually watched the sun - where it landed in the morning, the afternoon. And the wind (and wind there is!) - what was protected, what was swept away. Come Spring I had a pretty detailed plan of the whole yard and a list of great plants I wanted to try. BUT there is always room for improvement (and more plants). So, I just took some pictures of "lawn" that I would like to get rid of next year. In January and February when I am feeling the "itch" I will print out copies of the photos, sit down with my sketch book and "plan" more garden. Flip through some mail order catalogs, find even more plants that I want to try and place an order so I feel like I'm doing something. Hey, the sketch above is of the backyard on the opposite side of the Butterfly Garden ... but first I needed a place to store my "garden stuff" since we converted our garage into our office/shop.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Butterfly Garden: Helianthus Microcephalus

... Small-headed Sunflower, a native. I planted three small plants last fall. WOW! From 5-6 inches to 5-6 feet in one year! This is THE star of the border in late summer/fall. I wanted to try a perennial sunflower and will be planting more! Oh, and it is a bee-stopper, too. The bees climb over each other to land on a flower - sometimes two, three at a time. A fair amount of butterflies - Whites, Sulfurs. (Not a great butterfly year here overall for Brush-footed, Swallowtails perhaps due to the unusual rain and cooler temperatures?) Also now that the blooms have faded, the gold finches are moving in for the seeds. If you want a big and bold attraction for the fall border, I would recommend this.

Mentioning bees, have you heard of the Great Sunflower Project? Check it out and receive free Lemon Queen sunflower seeds for your garden while helping bee research: the Great Sunflower Project

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Butterfly Garden: Verbascum Nigrum

First, thank you fellow blotanists for such a wonderful welcome!

There was one lonely, dry "stalk" by our shop door when we moved here - hugging the wall ... I let it be because I wanted to see what it was. The following spring it grew large leaves almost "foxglove-like" and then a new stalk appeared and began to form yellow buds. It turned out to be Verbascum Nigrum. AND when I started digging out this bed, there was a plant tag to prove it! This plant has really grown on me (hey, a pun) - apparently from England. It has seeded itself all over and I have successfully transplanted it although it gets pretty droopy for a week or so. How it originated here in this lot of a few Hostas and a Barberry shrub I will never know. I have never seen it in a nursery. I do know that the bees LOVE the flowers. It literally "buzzes" with blooms. It is now a major attraction in my Butterfly Garden. I would recommend this plant to any gardener with a natural style.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Butterfly Garden: Swamp Milkweed (A. Incarnata)


Why did I plant this? I planted this because it is a member of the Milkweed family, more specifically, Asclepiadaceae - the only family that the Monarch Butterfly will use to lay eggs. I spied several Monarch caterpillars the very first year I planted it! It smells delicious when in bloom (humming birds are attracted to its flowers as well) and the seed pods are pretty in the fall. It will spread readily. For this same reason I planted Butterfly Weed (A. Tuberosa).


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