Tag Archives: Gardening

Metamorphosis of a Garden

2013 vs. 2022

Hard work pays off! When I moved here in 2003, our current patio area was nothing but a side yard of grass. Shortly thereafter, my brother built me a small pond with a liner, some nice stones around the edge, and stocked it with goldfish. It was lovely. May you be blessed with such a brother. Some frogs moved in, and a blue heron occasionally stopped for a snack of goldfish (not the crackers!) before we could chase him off.

Fast forward 10 years. My husband changed the pond to photo number one above. It went through a few iterations before it got to this stage. At first, we had the fountain/pool, but it was not chlorinated. The water was a little green which the frogs were fine with. I would get in to cool off even with the frogs. We don’t have air conditioning and the frogs were willing to share. There was even one frog who became tame. He would sit on my shoulder as I walked around in the water. There were other frogs who would sit in my hand. I loved my frogs. I know, I’m a dang weirdo.

As the area was transitioning from grass to enclosed patio, my husband decided to start chlorinating the water, so it would be more hospitable to guests. Apparently, not everyone enjoys swimming with frogs. Any frogs that were left that spring were transitioned to our neighbor’s pond and our fountain/pool became a more maintained setting.

Baxter enjoying patio time this afternoon.

After the footers were poured, every year a new section of flagstone was installed by my husband to increase the patio area. New sandstone flowerbeds beds were added one by one. Sections of wall and fence went in over the years. I started spending significantly more time there the year the section of fence was added that made the enclosure complete. This meant that the dogs could join us and no longer had to stay in the house or their pasture. It’s true, everything’s better with dogs!

The pergola went up a few years ago, thanks to you know who. Thanks hubby! We are growing grapes on it in an attempt to provide some shade near the pool. People ask me whether this is a fountain or a pool or exactly what it is. I never know how to respond. It is a fountain. The centerpiece (designed, poured, and installed by my husband) splashes, mixes the water, prevents mosquitoes (which won’t hatch unless the water has been still for two weeks), and makes a nice noise. It is also a pool. The water is four feet deep. We get in and out via a ladder that we put in and take out when not in use. We swim. We have pool lounge chairs that we float around on. I drink iced tea and read books while I float around. I guess the only answer is, it is all of those things. It only depends what purpose we are using it for in the moment.

Last but not least, I will share a few flower photos that I took today when I was done swimming. Admittedly, I wasn’t actually swimming. I was standing the water while reading a book and cooling off. This was our first time in the water this year. I was so hot from running the mini tiller to weed the vegetable garden that I couldn’t resist. The water temperature was 75 degrees and it felt so refreshing after hauling the tiller around the garden.

Our patio and gardens have undergone a metamorphosis over the years as you can see from the two photos taken nine years apart. It is a labor of love, requiring dedication and hard work. We hope to be able to share it with more people as Covid slows down. It was an oasis for us during those rough times. I hope it can be an oasis for others as well.

White mandevilla
First hibiscus bloom of the year!
Two drift roses with lavendar in front.
Urn with verbena and zinnia.

What’s Blooming Now?

Weigelia close-up
The Monet Weigelia

This post is full of photos that I took in our gardens last week. We have been so busy buying new plants, planting the new plants, and weeding and mulching that I am just now getting around to sharing.

The photo above is of my favorite weigelia. It is a variegated weigelia. I love all things variegated. I have also heard it called a Monet weigelia. I am going to use the Monet moniker for mine because it just sounds so cool! Who doesn’t want a Monet weigelia to make you think of a great artist with beautiful gardens? And the term really fits. The flowers are white and pastel pink and bright pink and dark rose. Not to mention the fact that the leaves are green and white with varying patterns. The complementary splashes of colors make for an impressive plant! I pruned it last year and the show it put on this year was my reward.

Clematis

I no longer remember what variety of clematis this is. We have two types and this one blooms first. It blooms heavily and for a long time. Then it rests a little while and gives another round of blooms. I recently learned that you are supposed to prune clematis. Before that I had no idea, so this one never had been. It is a monster in size, with roots growing up to a couple feet away from where the original roots where planted. I found one entirely new rootling and separated it to plant on my rose trellis since the rose is having an off year. I’m sure there are other rootlings in there to if I look for them amongst the jungle of stalks. I cut some dead stems from this plant late last fall. I don’t know that I will trim it anymore than that since this plant has always provided us hundreds of blooms. Why mess with a good thing?

Purple columbine
Pink columbine

We just got the fancy purple and white columbine this year. We hadn’t planned to buy one, but when we saw this at the box store, we had to have it. We have had the pink columbine for years. I don’t even know where it came from. It just showed up. Either the chipmunks brought the seed, or it was carried on the wind. And new seedlings continue to show up in unexpected places. Sometimes I leave them alone and just enjoy the flowers, like the one that planted itself in between a rock and some bricks at the base of my rose bed. It looks whimsical there. The pink columbine’s favorite place to reseed seems to be in the crack of the sidewalk leading up to our side door. These I gently pull out and transplant elsewhere. They are never happy the first year I move them, but they come back the following year in fine form. I’m sure they wouldn’t survive in the sidewalk with the dogs trampling them multiple times each day. This year I found one growing between the steps leading up to our side porch. It now resides in a flower bed beside some foxglove. I hope the new purple columbine reseeds as prolifically as the pink.

Lupine

This is another plant that is new to us this year. If I had realized the lupine was such a large, substantial plant, I would have gotten one years ago. The spike with the blooms must be 15 inches tall. A new row of little individual blossoms opens up every day or so. There are also two more flower stalks starting to show color. What an impressive plant! I read that they will reseed but revert to the natural blue color. If the flowers are half as big as this one, on reseeded specimens, I will be quite happy.

Irises

These purple irises had been growing on the far side of our house when I moved here. I had never seen them bloom. I think the pine tree on that side grew so big that there was too much shade. I moved a few puny root tubers a couple years ago and this is what we have now. I think they like the sunny end of this sandstone raised bed. In another year, I should be able to split them for even more irises.

Begonia

This pot of tuberous begonias was so impressive when we saw it at the store, we had to have it. It provides so much color that it is in a place of honor on one of the four corners of our patio fountain. We usually reserve those corners for hibiscus or mandevilla, but the begonia offered so much color, we decided to change it up and try something different. We will still do the tropical plants on the other corners.

Azalea

This little gem was my pick on the trip to a local nursery a few years ago. I couldn’t resist its beautiful pink, double blooms. I’m a sucker for anything that blooms in doubles. And it’s pink!

By now we have many more plants in bloom so I will have to do another garden post soon. We are still in the planting stage for the troughs on top of the enclosed garden wall and my hanging baskets that are suspended from the workshop porch. Also, my roses are ready to bloom! Unfortunately, the little red squirrels have decided that rosebuds are a tasty snack. Time for the live trap. I did not go to all the trimming, weeding, mulching, fertilizing, and transplanting to have no roses to show for it. Not to mention the scratches and holes in my fingers from the thorns.

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The View from My Window

View from my living room window.

This is the view from my window this morning. It is raining, so this is a day for indoor undertakings. I have laundry going. It is a light rain, so I am not worried about the extra water it adds for the sump pump. This also makes it blogging time.

The view out the living room window shows the top of the ancient azalea which is currently in peak bloom. At the far top of the photo are our burning bushes. We originally purchased six that were 10 inches high. The originals are now taller than me, a scant 5″4″. The oldest bushes are over 6 feet tall. All the other burning bushes in the line are offspring of the originals. They sprout in various places around our property. When they reach transplantable size, my husband moves them to the line of burning bushes along the edge of the road. This provides us a nice green screen from the passing cars and trucks in the warm months and once the leaves fall, they still act as a snow fence during the winter.

There is a new addition this year. We are in the process of fencing in our vegetable garden. If you look closely, you may see that the fence has three sides. We haven’t put up the fourth yet because we want to take the rototiller in one more time to mix in some new topsoil. Then we will install the last section. We are also going to have a gate. That is so shorties like me don’t have to hop over the fence!

We have had wild rabbits for years. They nibbled a few sprouts here and there but there was enough food for all of us. Last year the number of bunnies increased and some of them are huge. They did so much damage to the garden that we hardly had enough of several different types of vegetables to harvest. They especially liked the green beans. I replanted multiple times, but the tops got chewed off and we only had beans a few times. The sugar snap peas were a joke. Not surprisingly, bunnies love them. We only got a handful. So, this year, a fence it is! I also have to deal with crows eating the seeds I plant. Usually, replanting them once will take care of this. Since we will have the fence this year, I may hang some old CD’s or pie tins from the top wires and hope for the best.

I can tell you one thing. I have renewed respect for those who make their living as farmers. Putting up a little fence sounds so simple. Pound in some stakes, put up rolled fencing. Ha! It’s not cheap either. First you have to figure out which length of stakes you need and then how many. Same with the fencing. How high? What gauge? What spacing for the holes? Ok, you’re done with that. The rest is easy, right? Again, ha! You must measure and decide where to pound the stakes, so they are evenly spaced. And don’t forget to account for a gate. If you are off by two inches, you won’t have enough fence. Did you know you have to bury rabbit fencing, so they won’t dig under it? I didn’t. That means digging a trench for the fence and filling it in once the fence is up. Hanging the fence on the post will be easy now, I thought. Well, it still takes two people. One to hold the roll of fencing and keep it stretched tight. If you let it sag, it looks terrible and again, you won’t have enough fencing unless you bought extra. And those pesky little tabs on the stakes that are made to hold the wire? A lot of them are full of dried paint from the factory and you have to open them up with the flat blade of a screwdriver. Finally, we prevailed, hot, sweaty, and covered in dirt!

We are hoping for a good year in the vegetable garden. My husband took the Master Gardener course from the County Extension Office last year. We tested our soil and found that we were deficient in almost everything. Hubby has added nutrients, some topsoil, mulched leaves, and tilled them in. Time will tell how successful we were.

You can see in the photo that the near, right-hand side of the garden is grassy. That is where our asparagus patch is, so we can’t get the tiller in. I try to weed it in the spring, but it is hard to keep up with. Once we let the asparagus go for the season, it grows into beautiful, lacey fronds that outgrow any weeds. The garden is not exactly square anymore because the asparagus keeps moving farther out into the yard. I’m not quite sure what to do about this. If I dig it up and replant it back in the garden, I almost certainly will lose that portion of the asparagus crop for a year or two.

And so, on this rainy day I am happy to stay inside and work on other things. I am going for another cup of coffee, but I will leave you with this close up shot of our magnificent old azalea.

Our old azalea. Isn’t it glorious?

A Recipe for Fresh Turnip Sauté

A turnip, just minutes out of the soil

I came up with this recipe a few years ago when we were inundated with turnips from the garden. There must have been 50 turnips, all ready for harvest at the same time. I learned my lesson. Now, I plant a short row of turnips and replant as I use them, so we have only a few turnips needing to be used at any one time.

Sautéed Turnip with Greens

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium turnip with greens,

Cut the end and top from the turnip. Discard end and set the greens aside. Peel the turnip and cut into slivers, or do a fine dice. Cut the greens from the turnip top and discard the top. Strip the tender greens from the tough part of the stems. You can just pull and strip them off with your hand in one fluid motion. Discard the stems. Hold the greens in a bunch on the cutting board and cut into long strips.

In a medium size skillet, heat the oil on medium heat until it swirls freely in the pan.* Add the garlic and cook until golden brown and crispy. Add the white part of the turnip and cook until tender and edges are browned. This only takes a few minutes. Add the greens to the pan and cook until partially wilted. Add more oil if needed. Be sure to flip the greens and stir in the garlic and turnip so they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.

Add the salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the greens are fully wilted. They are especially tasty if you let the greens brown slightly. At this point, the dish is ready to serve. It holds well if you need to prepare other courses. Just turn the burner off and cover the pan. Let it sit on the burner to stay warm.

Serves 2-3 people.

Finished turnip dish.

*You may have noticed that I always mention heating the oil in the pan before adding the ingredients. This is an important step. Foods cook differently if they heat up along with the oil and it will change how the dish turns out. Also, some foods make stick to the bottom of the pan if they heat up along with the oil. You must, however, not let the oil get so hot that it smokes or it will burn your ingredients. Oil at the preferred temperature has a nice glossy flowing look to it as it swirls around the pan. It will also easily move around the pan and cover the entire bottom with ease.

Follow My Facebook Page to Keep Up to Date on This Busy Time!

Heirloom Peony

You may have noticed that I haven’t published many blog posts in the past couple of weeks. Time has been getting away from me. There is so much to do in the summer months that before I know it, it is time to cook dinner, hang out with my husband, and then off to sleep.

We have switched our hikes from the afternoon to the mornings. As it has gotten warmer (today excepted, rain and temperatures in the 50’s as June approaches!), it has been too warm for the dogs, and me!, to walk in the afternoons. Getting our walks in early has been good for several reasons. Besides it being cooler, it also helps the dogs burn off excess energy early in the day, so they are better behaved for the rest of it. Another plus is, there are less other walkers out and about when we go earlier. This is handy when you are trying to socially distance from people. It is also helpful when walking a reactive dog. There are less encounters that end with Zekie snarling and lunging at passersby which makes the whole adventure more peaceful.

And last but not least, walking in the morning has given us an opportunity to see birds and wildlife that we haven’t seen later in the day. Recently, we have sited a pair of scarlet tanagers, some orioles, some unspecified warblers, and heard birdsong that we hadn’t noticed before. I remember going birdwatching for ornithology class in college. We always left at 7:15 a.m. because that’s when you saw the most birds. Many birds are early risers. Silly birds!

We tend to get up earlier these days too. Claire the sheltie starts barking at first light and attempts at continued sleep become futile. It’s actually the cats’ fault. They know that as soon as one of us comes downstairs, they will get their breakfasts. So, when dawn breaks, the cats start tearing around the downstairs, chasing each other and wreaking havoc. This makes the dogs start barking, which was the cats’ plan all along. Once the barking starts, Claire continues until someone comes downstairs and puts her and the other dogs outside. Then all the dogs decide they are up and want their breakfasts too. No point in trying to sleep after all that.

Clematis

Once every member of the household, including humans, have had breakfast and a hike, it is at least mid-morning. That means it is now time for watering plants which takes up to an hour and a half. One of us does that and the other does some weeding, fertilizing, planting, or other plant maintenance. This takes us up to lunch time.

After lunch time, there may be errands to run. Going to the store for groceries, seeds, bedding plants and such. If there are no errands, we spend the afternoons on various projects such as moving or planting flowers, shrubs, greenery, or small trees. There is always something that needs weeding, and more gardening or mowing to be done.

Before I know what has happened, it is time for making and eating supper. We watch a bit of television and do some reading or crossword puzzles until bedtime. The days fly by so quickly that I wonder where they went and how I ever had time to work a 9 to 5 (or 6:30 to 3:00!) job. Occasionally, I miss that professional work life, but mostly having the freedom to do what I want without it, is great!

All these activities explain why I have been remiss in posting regular updates on the blog. In the end they will provide more subject matter for posts when I start taking photos of all those plants growing and blooming and share them here. If you want another way to keep up with what is going on here at Sanctuary Acres, you can also “Like” the page Sanctuary Acres | Facebook or follow us on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sanctuary_acres/ . It is easier for me to take a moment to post a photo or two during the day than to write a blog post, so you will find more updates there. The blog posts also publish to my Facebook page so if you follow it, you will be sure not to miss any!

Thanks for reading!

Roses and clematis currently blooming.