Tag Archives: outdoor plants

End of Month View – May 2016

This is part of a monthly opportunity to take photos reflecting the progress of your gardening adventures over the past thirty or thirty-one days depending on the length of the month. Depending on your climate this may be quite a bit of growth or none at all. For me it is at the cusp of summer and a lot of growth is happening. So sit back, relax and let me show you what we are enjoying these days. Oh and this is hosted by Helen Johnstone at The Patient Gardener.

In my climate zone the middle of May is the time we can finally put our annuals outside without fear of frost damage. I had to hold off an extra few days this time around as May 10th is usually the bench mark, but we had frost early on the morning of the 13th, meaning it was the 17th before I finally felt free to move things outdoors.


Above you see another window box outside the window of my wife’s hair salon on an eastern facing window where the Gerbers will not have to endure full sun conditions. There is also some trailing Verbena to help fill out the box.



Here is two large clumps of Wild Geranium and a smaller one of a different variety on the back side of the pansies that line the retaining wall outside the hair salon. Although you cannot see it, their are seed pods developing now.


This is a new type of Dianthus (perennial variety) we added this year. It is just beginning to bloom.


Our Dahlias are slow to emerge, but are beginning to show themselves. We love to cut these and make fresh arrangements throughout the late summer blooming period.


This is our first time trying a raised bed for anything. After having such terrible fortune with tomatoes succumbing to blight we wanted to give this a shot.

rue, but due to the nature of the trip, flying 1,300 miles to Be 009

The sporadic moisture throughout April and May have caused everything to grow sluggishly. We finally replanted beans after waiting as long as we felt we could for the first seeds to sprout.

The bed on the left was re-mulched and has many blooms that will come either late in June or early in July. The bed on the right has mainly hostas, with a new butterfly bush in the rear that may take a while to be seen.

rue, but due to the nature of the trip, flying 1,300 miles to Be 006

If you zoom in on this picture you will notice the freshly planted Gerber Daisies. Usually when the heat comes the pansies die back, but we worked really hard to get this new variety of Wave Pansies established and they continue to thrive.

sign pansies

This is another place we worked really hard to get the Wave Pansies established, planting them last fall. Usually by now we have Geraniums in place, but the pansies still are hanging tough.

rue, but due to the nature of the trip, flying 1,300 miles to Be 002

This is a long term project, a flower bed on a steep bank I don’t want to have to struggle to keep mowed. Right now it has Wild Geraniums, Japanese Iris, Gazanias, Cosmos and a few Wave Pansies. I hope by the next EOMV it will show much more color.

Tell me what you think fellow EOMV contributors!



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.


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.


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


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.


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

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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

2016 A to Z My Favorite Plants – N

Last year (2015) I began the A to Z Challenge started seven years ago by Arlee Buird with such high hopes. I took pains to do so much up front work to put skeletons of my posts together in an attempt to have posts ready prior to their publish date. All was going well until the middle of March of 2015. My daughter, wife and I traveled to Chicago with the high school band so our daughter could march in the Windy City’s Saint Patrick Day’s parade. While there I got a call that the wife of a church member had died and they asked if I would be a pall bearer. In itself that event alone would not have sidetracked me, but t was a mere body blow compared to the one two knockout that followed.


Moments after arriving home on a Monday after a never-ending chartered bus ride (Sleepless ride, I did not mention), I found out my dad’s youngest brother had died unexpectedly. Two days later the family pet died. Now don’t get me wrong, I would never equate the two events, but provide them for context. I am a dog person so much that when I see one out with its owner I ask to pet the critter. So you can imagine how being exhausted and having these two events coincide combined to make me feel uninspired.

But this is another year later and their is a new puppy in the house and with it a renewed vigor. So I thought I would pick up where I left off last year. I did not sing up on the master A-to-Z list because I was not sure of or when I might be motivated to try again.

Nicotiana is a plant I grew in my greenhouse during the six growing seasons I tried to make a go of selling annuals and perennials. In the climate where I live, the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, this is only grown as an Annual. The colors are rich and varied. The plant, leaves and blooms share some characteristics of the larger plant grown for use as smoking tobacco.

2015 A to Z My Favorite Plants – H – Hosta

Eight days into the A to Z and I am getting excited because many of my favorite plants are beginning to show signs of emergence as Spring grips my area. Among this list of favorites is my choice for H, the Hosta.  A Hosta is a predominantly foliage plant, although it will bloom at the appointed time in it’s life cycle.

hosta1 Hosta2

The Hosta does best in a shaded area, but at our home shade is a luxury. We have several Hostas, and they don’t fare as well when the temperature climbs into the 80s and 90s during the summer.

My Love of Clematis

By now, if you have read many of my posts, you know I love ALL flowers. But love comes in many degrees, right? Clematis is one of my higher degrees of love. My most favorite of all time is a white Clematis we has at our first home. Unfortunately it did not survive the move. It was white as snow and I have yet to find it again. I will dig for a photo of it and scan it to my computer to add here. In the meantime I hope you enjoy the ones we have now. I know I have some photos of a blue one, but cannot find them right now. I will edit if I find.


This is a Montana Ruebens Clematis. Light pink with habit to grow 35-40 feet. Due to the weight it cannot climb the light pole in the middle.

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