Monthly Archives: May 2016

We Love Windowboxes

 

One of the ways we like to enjoy our flowers is by inserting them in some large window boxes that are mounted on the west side of our home. We have a brick ranch house, which means the western facing sun heats up the brick during the day and they will radiate heat even after the sun goes down. Usually the boxes do really well as long as you keep them watered regularly.

Usually we have geraniums, wave petunias and another type of trailing flower combined to fill out these larger containers. The issue we run into in most cases is that the plants get rootbound and begin to look tired and less vibrant by the end of July. I want this year to take the plants out during the first weeks of July and cut off much of the root system to try to invigorate the whole window box.

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At first we began with second year geraniums we had pulled out of the window boxes and hung up downstairs in the basement where they could overwinter successfully. To look at these now you would be amazed at how quickly and beautifully they have grown, but in the first weeks they did not seem so robust, causing us to change plans and insert new geraniums we purchased from our favorite local greenhouse.

Normally we will pull these window boxes out after the tenth of May and put them in place, but on May 13 th we had a cold night and frost, which would have severely damaged and possibly killed the plants if exposed. We patiently waited a few more days and finally got our chance on May 17th to get these in place. This was too close for comfort as we were readying for a four child graduation party and this detail was expected to be done long before this date.

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But, not to be outdone the second year geraniums had caught up and had their own coming out day.

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We also have another window box that is mounted outside the window of my wife’s hair salon. This window box holds Gerber Daisies and trailing Verbena.

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The window boxes give us another way to enjoy our plants and are always a highlight of our planting experience.

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My Love Affair With Clematis

 

 

Over time I have had the joy of planting and enjoying at least a half-dozen varieties of Clematis. The range of colors is dazzling, from white to dark purple to a combination of different colors. Clematis is a perennial, which means you can get many years of enjoyment from this plant.

Clematis is a full sun type of plant, something many of us seek when we go ot the garden center or greenhouse to find a new plant. To be sure many folks enjoy some shade in their yard but at my house our three and a quarter acres benefit from the shade of only three maple trees. One tree per acre just doesn’t shade nearly enough.

But do not fear, you can still grow these in spaces where they do not benefit from full sun. The one above only gets direct sun until noon or so and does very well along with another that is planted about eight feet away. Both of these benefit from a deck railing onto which they attach and climb.

Of all the Clematis I have grown the one to do so well is a variety called Montana Reubens. On the product tag it said it could grown to be 30-40 feet tall. With this in mind I planted it near a telephone pole and then took some lightweight fencing and nailed it around the pole to allow the plant something to climb on. As you can see from the photo it did not reach the potential height, but rather due to its weight fell back down to the sides to make an even more spectacular display.

To say that I will mourn a plant when it dies seems an exaggeration, because all plants will at some point, but when this beauty failed to sprout two growing season ago I was saddened. Such a beautiful and seemingly vibrant and hardy plant showed no signs of distress. But alas after sitting dormant for most of a second growing season I knew it was time to replace the beauty with another. The replacement has the potential to be somewhat like its predecessor, but the Montana Reubens had been in place for almost a decade and will hold a special place in my flower memory for some time to come.

If you have Clematis photos to share let me know, I enjoy seeing all of them!

 

Vision – Daily Post -5-13-16

 

 

The Daily Post has provided a one word prompt for today and it is Vision.

When I think of the word vision, like so many words in the English language I can quickly think of two meanings. The primary of course relates to the ability to see. My eyes are something I am very sensitive about. Just ask my wife any time she tries to put drops in our help me remove some foreign object.

 

If you do not know that I have a particular obsession I will inform you now. I LOVE pictures. I take lots and lots of pictures, especially with my phone. Why do I use a smart phone for my photography? Basically because it is always handy. Four Decembers ago I took my first international mission trip to Belize. I was the poster child for the tacky tourist with my digital camera swinging from a strap around my neck. When I returned a year later I had a smart phone with and 8 mega-pixel lens and the rest is history.

But, you ask, why did you choose to do this post on your Chasing the Blooms blog? Again there is dual reasons: (1) This flower and gardening themed blog needs some love and (2) the second definition of Vision. The other way I think of vision is as a plan. I have a vision of a bountiful garden this year. I have struggled with critter issues the last two years and last year was almost enough to break me. You see, I work in an information technology job and seeing tangible results for your work is harder than when you garden. A failed garden is a personal affront to me. When I did not do it right then that is on me, but when rodents take it away I get angry.

We usually preserve 150+cans of green beans, another quantity of tomatoes and tomato juice and about every third year make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce. But, if the critters ravage the space none of this is possible. So I have fenced in the lettuce garden, fenced in the beans and am in the process of building a raised bed for our tomatoes. My vision of a bountiful garden will reconcile with my vision of a nice tomato to slice for my sandwich and all will be well in my #greenthumbworld.

What is your definition of Vision?

 

Can I Make My Own Mulch?

Yes you can!  This time of year is when the kooks come out. You know the ones I mean, the amateur or season gardeners that come out to take advantage of the Spring Black Friday sales at places like Home Depot and Lowes where they run the great deals on the bags of mulch. Something like 4 for $10 or maybe even 5 for $10.

So why do I call these fine bargain hunting folks kooks? It is not their frugal nature that my son despises. It is the customers that come in and want a pallet load of the bagged medium stuffed in their subcompact car. All the young men and women at Home Depot, Lowes and the rest would prefer you get your mulch loaded on the pallet into your truck or on your trailer.

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We are blessed to have a neighbor with a lawn care business who also does tree work. Five or so years ago he purchased an industrial size chipper and began chipping the brush created from trimming or removing trees.

If you have been here before you know my past includes a stint as a greenhouse owner and the experience of growing annuals and perennials for nearly three decades. This equates to having lots of flower beds. One of the bad things about lots of flower beds is that they are a great place for weeds to grow. Circling back to my neighbor and his chipper, the result of the chipping is a low cost alternative to the Home Depot bagged mulch scenario. My neighbor brings the chips and dumps them on my property as well, so there is no transport cost.

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As a deterrent to weeds and also to retain moisture for the plants we take the wood chips and use them as mulch. So there is your answer to the question. The chips are a low-cost alternative to mulch. If you aren’t blessed to have a neighbor who can provide your supply  you can contact one of the tree trimming services as they do the very same thing with their brush.

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This 23 HP Kubota tractor is one of the most versatile tools for our 3+ acre property.

The purchase of a Kubota subcompact tractor four years ago with a front bucket makes the entire process much easier on the back. Within a very few minutes I can move significant quantities of this great mulch source to where I need it. I used to either go to a business that made their own mulch or buy the bags. Then it was a matter of shoveling it out of the truck or hefting the heavy bags.

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Interestingly the day I drafted this post I was driving and got behind this car with the tell-all bumper sticker.

So I should be through with this post, right? Well, I am if you are not interested in the rest of the story as the great Paul Harvey used to say. There is a side benefit to mulch and the natural process of it breaking down, which is making your own compost. If you came for a highly scientific explanation I am sorry to disappoint you, but my method is more of a case of letting science and nature take its course. I learned early in my gardening experience that organic matter will break down over time. Green will turn to brown as the nitrogen escapes and brown to black with time. Such is the nature of mulch.

How do I make the compost? Well, as I stated before you really can’t, but nature can and will even if you would prefer it did not. You see the decomposition is aided by the elements of nature, sun, wind, rain, snow and human traffic across the mulch in the beds.

We are in the midst of redoing some of our beds where a few years of mulch application has developed into a rich mix of natural almost potting soil. It is like consistency of dirt atop our heavy duty, professional grade landscape fabric left over from my greenhouse business days.

One of the new pivots we have chosen to make this year is to move our tomatoes and perhaps another vegetable or two out of the garden into raised beds. My plan is to repurpose the rich soil we are shoveling out of our beds to fill the raised bed containers. We will need a significant amount of something to fill the raised beds. My thought is to put mulch in the bottom of the raised bed to take care of some of the bulk needed, since it will eventually break down anyway and then put the richer mix on the top where the plants will draw the nutrients.

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This is not something I have done before, so I cannot declare 100% that it will work, but the science seems sound. However, I can provide an anecdotal piece of evidence however. Last summer I took some seeds from a blackberry lily that were still left from the previous growing season and buried them in a portion of this decomposed mulch. They germinated within a reasonable short period of time..

Frugalness should not be a virtue people turn into derision. We are supposed to become smarter and wiser as we age, and I claim that as what this is. I invite you to come back as I chronicle the success or failure of this idea.