Category Archives: Gardens

Remembering Summer, On a Winter’s Day

Patio fountain in summer
Our patio in the summer time

It is mid-January now, the heart of winter. Each year around this time I like to write one post that features some pictures from my gardens during the previous summer. Something to bring back memories of flowers, gardens, swimming, and summer warmth. I love winter, but even I am ready for a bit summer by now. The lush green plants and vibrant colors of the flowers bring me flashbacks to fun time spent on the patio last year.

Having the break of winter makes time spent on the patio, and gardening, that much sweeter. I would not enjoy either season as much without the break of the other. By autumn, I am tired from planting, splitting, weeding, fertilizing, deadheading, pruning, watering, and all the other work that accompanies keeping up multiple flowerbeds.

Garden aerial view
An aerial view of the west end of our enclosed garden. Hydrangeas in bloom.

Now that we have had cold and snow for a bit, I am starting to think about planning for this summer’s gardens. What flowers to plant, where to put each and when. This month would be a good time to order any seeds that we need. Last year I made the mistake of ordering seeds when I wanted them. Everyone else decided to order seeds last spring too and garden while they were sheltering at home. I did not get most of my seeds until it was nearly too late to plant them. This year, I will order early. I would advise you to do the same.

It is always a gamble in this climate (northeast Ohio) on when to start seeds indoors. The start of warmer weather is never guaranteed by any certain date. Some years it is safe to plant in April, and other years not until late in May. Sometimes I get away with planting early by covering my seedlings with sheets if frost is forecast. Other years it is too cold even for that.

If I plant seeds in trays early and plan to keep them inside as long as necessary, many of my plants get too tall and leggy, and lack good support. If I start them in trays later, they are small when I put them in the ground or containers and more susceptible to bug and bird damage. I guess if I could plant the same way, at the same time every year, it would not be as much fun.

I do start my seeds on our enclosed porch so the temperature must stay above freezing there for me to get started. We have a vegetable garden as well so our porch can get quite crowded with the various pots, trays, and containers. It is always a mish-mash of saved containers, supplemented with assorted cans and bottles that I have pulled out of the recycling bin to augment my collection.

By the time I slip those little plants into the soil, it is reminiscent of sending a child off to school. I have fed, watered, and sheltered them for so long that I am invested in their well being and survival. When one is attacked by slugs or picked out by birds, I take it personally. Hopefully I will have more sprouts as back up replacements. Those I may cover at night with upturned soda bottle or little screen cages in an attempt to help them reach maturity.

Perennial flowers beside the house
Phlox in full bloom scattered with hostas and bee balm.

We also buy new plants each year. Some are annuals and others are perennials to add to our collection. Even the perennials take work. Most of my perennials, I split or relocate in the spring. They also need pruning and shaping. Any dead sections that didn’t survive the cold must be removed. The roses need fertilizing when the time is right so they will produce blooms. I fertilize my roses monthly with a solution that also contains chemicals for fungus and Japanese beetles.

Trees may need to be trimmed if they have grown over plants that require full sun. Specifically, for the peonies and roses. They will grow but not flower if they do not have enough sun. Growing a garden involves a lot of doing your best to control nature. The growth of other plants and insects. Adding nutrients. Watering. It is an attempt to find a balance that allows your plants to thrive.

You can see why I am relieved when that first frost comes. Gardening is tiring work. But it is also rewarding and life giving. That is why so many people garden, and it is something that has lasted across the landscape of time. And that is why I plant.

The Fall Garden

Datura and Mandevilla

These cooler temperatures are a gift. Most of the flowers are still in bloom. And I can sit outside to enjoy them anytime. It is not so hot that I have to carefully plan time to be out in the cool of the morning or wait for evening’s shade.

Climbing Rose

I passed time this afternoon by reading a book and hanging out with dogs on the patio.

Cleome

I did take time for watering, but even that doesn’t have to be done as often now. Fall has become my favorite time of year.

Sedum with a burgundy dahlia

Beauty Born

When your gardening goes awry and there is an accident, you make flower arrangements.

I was tying up gladioli blooms and inadvertently snapped one off. It immediately when in my rose gold vase from the Stan Hywet gift shop. I love this vase, everything looks good in it. And it’s my little bit of the glamorous life, after all it was purchased at a mansion’s gift shop.

The hydrangea blooms had to be trimmed off after heavy rains caused them to hang to the ground. And the orange trumpet vine cutting was sacrificed so the electronic eye on our outdoor light would function. They are displayed in a milk glass vase which suits them well.

Out of garden detritus, beauty is born.

On Not Lounging

Well, today I was NOT sitting in a lounge chair enjoying the patio. And not just because it was so hot.

First I helped tie up some loose ends from a construction project. Then I picked up nails from said project. After that it was time to pick green beans. Picking beans seems to be my new hobby. Either that or cleaning and snapping them.

This afternoon consisted of making rice pudding for this evening’s dessert and then working on cleaning up the office. I never did get around to writing which was the whole point of cleaning up the office.

Oh well, as a line from a great movie says (in a wispy southern accent), “Tomorrow is another day. “

Dogs On the Patio

This is how we have a relaxing day on the patio at our place. We do it with dogs. We have it all fenced in so we can relax, knowing the dogs are safely with us.

When we open the door from the side porch, our dogs know which way to go depending on if we say pasture, fountain/patio, or car. If they have taken off too quickly, they will do a big u-turn to go to the proper place.

As our newest dog, Claire has been on leash in the patio area most of the summer since we tried two times off lead and she went tearing through the raised flower beds. We tried her loose over the weekend and she did good! She seems to have the idea. So far she is only free when we can supervise, but she seems to have it.

This makes her, and us, happy!

Veggie Season

It’s that time!

We get this many cucumbers, zucchini, and yellow squash every three days.

We also have more than sufficient amounts of green beans, Roma beans, turnips, snow peas, and tomatoes.

I am trying all kinds of new veggie recipes looking for some variety. We have had Mediterranean pickled turnips, Thai cucumbers, old fashioned refrigerator pickles, zucchini fritters, and all the usual standbys too.

We can only eat so much. Time to freeze veggies!

Planning

The key to great things is planning ahead. See that lily pad shaped plant in front of the back stone wall? It is a hollyhock. Hollyhocks are biennials and don’t bloom until their second year.

I grew the one pictured above from seed and it is in its first year. The blooms won’t come until next summer.

Pictured here is the hollyhock I planted last year. It is about six and a half feet tall. I have fertilized it, kept it weeded, treated it for Japanese beetles, and staked it.

A garden can be a metaphor for our lives. If you want good results, you have to put in the work.

Abundance

Vegetables in the garden are ripening at an increasing rate.

Each meal now we must make the choice between turnips, beets, Romano beans, Slenderette green beans, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, zucchini, or yellow crook neck squash. Sometimes we have multiple vegetables.

This evening it was green beans pan fried with minced garlic and a dash of sea salt.

And none of our six kinds of tomatoes are even ripe yet. Summer can be glorious.

Dogs On the Patio

Cassius

Dogs enjoy hanging out on the patio at our house too.

Claire napping

Actually, they enjoy hanging out with us.

Zekie

If Zekie knows I am out here, he will bark every few minutes until I come and get him. As you can see, this makes him very happy.

Claire, Baxter, & Cassius

They especially enjoy laying on the futons.

Shelby & Nikki

Or laying in the shade.

Baxter

Hanging out with the pups makes me as happy as it makes them.

Attack of the Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetle season has arrived. They are eating my roses, our young trees, and my new blueberry bushes. I have been squishing them but I cannot be everywhere at once, and besides that…eeewww, gross.

So, today I set up two Japanese beetle traps. I looked at the box and wondered, do these things really work? Or is it just something that sells because people want it to work?

I opened the box and assembled the two plastic pieces. Check. Then I attached the collection bag. Check. Next step, remove the backing from the pheromone bait and attach. As I held the bait and figured out how to seat it on the plastic fins, a couple flying things hit me in the head and bounced off. Then another flew at me and got stuck in my hair. Yup, Japanese beetles!

I used the wire provided and finally got two traps installed in the yard. The trap nearest my blueberry bushes had about 100 beetles in it by this evening. So, I can report that the traps do work. Just wear appropriate headwear during assembly!