Friday, May 18, 2018

Other Roses

To follow on from the last post, the non-KO roses in our garden have been blooming, too.  There aren't that many different types, because as much as I like roses when they are at their best, I'm not really a rose collector.  However, once I start listing them all, I see that we have more than I realized!

- - - - - - -

Some of our best performers have been unknown pass-alongs.

First, there are the "NOID" pink shrub roses, which I believe were passed along from Aunt Cathy (but I may be mistaken...) and which I've never been able to identify.  I'm not even sure what type of rose they are.  (However, based on a quick bit of research, it seems likely this is a polyantha rose similar to 'The Fairy'.)

These roses tend to want to grow to about 3' to 4' tall and wide.  They rebloom, but the biggest wave of bloom comes in late spring/early summer.  (They're blooming right now, in fact, but I don't have any photos from this year.  The flowers grow in large clusters; the buds remind me of candelabras in their branching.  Each individual flower is small (2" or less, I think), but the clusters amplify their visual impact.  The flowers are a cool pink that fades gradually over the days they're open, giving an old-fashioned, watercolor effect, and they're tightly packed with petals. If they have any fragrance, I don't think I've ever noticed it.  It's a fairly thorny rose and likes to grab onto your clothes when you're pruning it (or any other time you venture too close!).

I've found these plants eager to duplicate themselves (by rose standards).  I'm not sure how many pieces I started out with, but it's not uncommon to find a new "baby" rose growing near one of the parent plants-- probably where I've cut through the root with my space-- and I've had great success digging up these new plants and transplanting them around the garden.  They now grow in several spots around our yard.

Since I have no photos of these roses from this year, here are a couple photos from years past:

Unknown Pink Shrub Rose

Unknown Pink Shrub Rose

- - - - - - -

Another pass-along from the same time period (not too long after our house was built, so probably 2004-ish) was a climbing type of rose.  Again, I know little about it, though I've tried to ID it a time or two.  It has a climbing habit but isn't trained on anything, so it just meanders over some evergreen foundation shrubs and sprawls against a wall of the house.

It may have a light rebloom (I'm not sure...), but the biggest bloom comes in spring.  The flowers are larger than the other NOID pink rose-- maybe an average of 2.5" per bloom-- and tend to be slightly darker pink.  These flowers do have a classic rose fragrance.  It has had one or two really good years; other times, it doesn't bloom quite as much as I might hope.  I'm sure I'm not giving it ideal conditions and treatment-- partly due to an ignorance of what roses want and need, but also because I'm lazy.

NOID Climbing Rose

NOID Climbing Rose

NOID Climbing Rose

NOID Climbing Rose

- - - - - - -

We have a 'Joseph's Coat' planted on the western side of our rose arbor (which is my oh-so-creative name for the arbor Donald built for our main gate).  It did really well for a year-- maybe two.  Since then, it's gotten scraggly and sparse. 

I've been waiting a few years to prune it, as I'd read that you shouldn't prune climbing roses too enthusiastically until they'd had time to settle in.  However, I'm really not sure it will make a difference, at this point.  I'll definitely try giving it a good, hard prune this winter, though. 

The flowers are beautiful.  I love the way they change color as the blooms age!  It does rebloom through the summer, too (though it needs deadheading for best performance).  My problem with this rose is how the canes keep dying and how terrible the foliage looks.  I suspect it's not the best rose for this humid climate-- especially if, like me, you aren't willing to put in the time and effort of regular spraying.  (I'm just not going to do it!  Life is too short, and I barely keep up with my weeding and deadheading!)

One other big negative with this rose is the thorns.  They are absolutely everywhere, and they are mean thorns.  I've found the canes to be brittle, too, which presents some challenges when training the rose on an arbor.

But again, the flowers can be gorgeous.  They are double and start out yellow/orange, then gradually darken to pink and red-- all very warm shades.  It's a sight to behold when the blooms range from yellow to red in one cluster.  Oh, and it is fragranced-- a nice, fruity perfume that's strong enough to catch your attention as you walk past (on good days). 

'Joseph's Coat' Rose

- - - - - - -

One of our newest roses is 'Peggy Martin', a.k.a. "the Katrina rose".  It has an interesting history-- worth googling, if you're not familiar with it.  I planted this rose in 2016, on the east side of the rose arbor, and it's done very well so far.  It does get leaf spot and there's defoliation, but I've come to accept that as part of growing roses in the Deep South. (And as part of being a lazy gardener who won't bother with sprays.) 

There's one big bloom in spring when the whole thing is dripping with flowers-- and then (if I recall correctly) there's rebloom.  I can't recall if this rebloom takes the form of smaller waves of bloom through the rest of the growing season or one more bloom in late summer/early fall-- and I've read plant descriptions that mention both types... In any case, there should be more flowers, sometime

The flowers start out a medium pink and gradually fade as they age, giving the plant a shaded, antique look.  Each flower is fairly small, but there are so many of them that the plant will be covered at peak bloom.  (The photos below are all from before peak bloom.  I'm sure I have more, better photos to come in some future blog post, as I work my way through all those photos I've taken!) 

It's practically thornless, and the canes seem fairly flexible, which is helpful when you're trying to train it up a trellis or along a fence. 

Again, we haven't had the rose that long, yet, but so far, I'm very pleased and would like to try some cuttings to grow it elsewhere in the garden.  If it has one shortcoming, it would be that it lacks any discernible scent. 

'Peggy Martin' Rose

'Peggy Martin' Rose

'Peggy Martin' Rose

- - - - - - -

Ok, time to wrap this post up!  I don't have new photos of the rest of our (non-KO) roses, but I can briefly mention them (and leave you to look up the details of named plants, as desired). 

Let's see... There's the "Too-Red Rose".  It's another NOID that came from Mom years and years back and survived my neglect and ignorance and at least two transplants.  It's still alive and kicking with such pretty ruffled RED blooms. 

From the same time period, there's a tiny white miniature rose also from Mom.  It's not doing quite as well as the Too-Red Rose, but I give it lots of credit for even being alive.  This rose has also survived neglect and less-than-ideal conditions, but I can't recommend it by name because I don't know its name.

A more recent arrival in the garden is 'Z├ęphirine Drouhin'.  It was planted at the same time as 'Peggy Martin', I think.  So far, I'd recommend 'Peggy Martin' instead... ZD doesn't seem to keep her leaves very well, and she has been very reserved with her bloom.  The flowers we have seen are nice enough.  I've only noticed her scent when I've taken the trouble to get close and purposefully sniff.  All in all, I'm somewhat disappointed, but I hope she may do better if I can remember to take better care of her.  Maybe she needs more attention...

We have two 'Nearly Wild' roses.  I can no longer remember if Mom gave us two or if I grew the second from a cutting... or if the second one "volunteered" next to the first one.  I've had mixed success with them. They've been better than they are now, but they're still not bad.  I think I probably could be handling them better.  I'll try to prune them this winter/next spring, because I suspect it's been too long since the last time, and it might rejuvenate them.  I do admire their form, and when they bloom, they are certainly very pretty.  No scent, as far as I've noticed. 

Before I planted 'Joseph's Coat', we got an unmarked rose that we thought might be JC.  It wasn't, and I'm not sure what it is... It's a weird, leggy thing that usually gives us just one or two large coral blooms a year.  I eventually moved it over to the garage, outside the fenced yard, so it's fairly well neglected.  I'm surprised it's still alive, to be honest.  (Ugh, I'm a terrible rose-mother! (g)) It might be a hybrid tea rose, but I really don't know enough about roses to do more than guess... 

We briefly grew an 'Apricot Drift' rose, but it didn't do well at all.  I'm not sure if it was something I did wrong or just the wrong rose for our garden, but it struggled and then died.  Oh well, that's gardening! 

The very most recent rose to come to our garden is one from Granny L.'s garden, so for that reason alone it is special to me.  I don't know the name, unfortunately.  It's a shrub, currently about three feet tall, I'd estimate.  The leaves are dark green and the flowers are creamy white and double (or full? haven't counted and am not sure).  I don't remember much of a fragrance, but there might be some slight scent.  I think it might bloom off and on throughout the year.  So far, it's seemed very healthy and hearty. 

- - - - - - -

I think that does it for roses.  If I've missed any, apologies to the forgotten.  ;o) 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

In Defense of Knock Out Roses

When it comes to Knock Out roses, there are two types of gardeners.  One type praises their easy-going nature and frequent waves of bloom.  The other type... Well, let's just say they don't seem enamored of the KO rose.

I've seen these harmless rosebushes insulted because they're "too common" (i.e. popular).  Another frequent complaint is that they are devoid of fragrance (though 'Sunny' certainly does have a scent). Some think they're gaudy-- too bright, too bold, too many flowers. (Ok, if you say so...)

Then there are those who say the Knock Out rose has no "soul".  That merits a head-tilt and a hearty laugh.  It's a plant... Now, if they mean that it doesn't have a fascinating, storied history going back centuries-- no romantic French name-- no pedigree-- they may have a point.  But a soul?  I guess I'm not poetic enough to take someone seriously when they talk of roses having or lacking a soul.  (That's the nice response; the grumpy one is "Don't be ridiculous!" or similar.)

Look, I love interesting and unique plants, and I loooove plants that appeal to my sense of smell-- but not every plant has to have an elaborate "history", and sometimes even fragrant roses don't perfume the garden as much as you might hope.  No plant can be all things to all people.  I'm happy to try old-fashioned roses as the opportunity presents itself, but I can't deny the appeal of a rose that blooms a lot and is generally so easy to grow.

Why can't we like all kinds of roses?  Why get nasty toward the Knock Outs?  (Don't believe people can actually be mean-spirited toward roses?  I distinctly remember reading someone's opinion that the yellow 'Sunny' rose blooms, which fade to pale cream as they age, look like used Kleenex. Gross.)

Anyway, I'll step down from the soapbox, now that I've said my piece. ;o)

They say that living well is the best revenge.  My garden-blog method of avenging these poor, maligned plants will be posting a bazillion photos of some of our KO roses.  (Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!)

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose and Viburnum

Red KO Rose

KO Rose and 'Sunshine' Ligustrum

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Pink KO Rose

Red KO Rose

Flower Garden

Flower Garden

Miscanthus and KnockOut Rose

KO Rose and Viburnum

KO Rose Bush and Rose Arbor

KO Roses

KO 'Sunny' Rose

KO Rose

KO Rose

KO Rose

Flower Garden

Meandering Garden Path

Meandering Garden Path

Meandering Garden Path

Some of these roses do need cutting back. I've missed the pruning window a couple of years in a row, now. Either the winter is too warm or I just can't decide when to do it, but I must manage it next winter, because some of them are starting to take over. In the meantime, maybe I'll do a smaller prune here and there to keep the path clear.

(I haven't updated the blog in a while, but I've been taking photos, so now I'm working my way through the backlog.  The photos in this post were taken in the past month or two-- probably sometime in April.)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Planting Daylilies

I'm afraid this is going to be another of those boring blog posts with next to no photos.  Its chief purpose is to record, for future reference, roughly where I've planted some named/registered daylily plants.

I want to try my hand at some amateur hybridizing, so it will be useful to know where to find the diploids vs. the tetraploids-- and also, it's just nice to know the name of a cultivar, if it is named.  So many of my plants are nameless (or at least "no ID"), so I'm trying to start off on the right foot with the ones whose names I do know.

Planting New Daylilies

Between the vitex and the southwest corner of the garage, there are three new daylilies.  Starting closest to the garage, there's 'Jo Barbre', followed by 'Elizabeth Salter' and 'Fairy Tale Pink'.

In the Oval Bed, on the northwest side/end is 'Miss Amelia'.  On the southwest side/end is 'Joan Senior'.  On the south end, 'Lullaby Baby'. On the north end, 'So Lovely'.  Northwest of birth bath (near blanket flower and bog sage), 'Prairie Moonlight'.  East side, to left-front of white muhly grass, 'Land of Cotton'.  North-east end of bed, to left of 'So Lovely', 'Jean Swann'.

South side of back-door patio, in front of 'Russian Red' canna and yellow KO rose, 'So Lovely'.  Same bed, between the two yellow KO roses, 'Rosie Meyer'.  Near 'Russian Red' canna' and boxwood, 'Persian Market'.

Northwest corner of covered patio, in front of pink NOID rose, 'Pandora's Box'.

South side of Straight and Narrow Path, in front of left-most miniature gardenia, 'Spanish Harlem'.  In front of middle gardenia, 'Apollodorus'.  On northeast corner of patio, to the right of single purple rose of Sharon, 'Lilting Belle'.

On the stepping-stone path, near the pink roses, 'Dominic'.

In front of the house: By the variegated hydrangea, 'Noble Lord'.  Between two azaleas, 'Midnight Magic'.

On front north fence, between white rose, weigela, and Black Diamond crepe myrtle ('Red Hot'?), 'Red Volunteer'.  Between banana shrub and rose of Sharon, 'Dallas Star'.

- - - - - - -

That's it for the newly planted named cultivars, but there are a few named daylilies I planted a year or more ago.

In the Oval Bed, on the east side, there are two small clumps of 'Stella de Oro'.

On the northwest corner of the covered paio, near the single white rose of Sharon, 'Night Beacon'.  (I think it's still alive... It was a bagged plant and didn't do very well its first year.)

Not sure about where I planted these... I think 'Happy Returns' is right where the Straight and Narrow Path meets the circle of gravel, near the light pink double rose of Sharon.  Somewhere, there's a 'Little Business'... I think I'll recognize it when it blooms.

There's also what must be 'Kwanso', somewhere around the yard... (Unless it's 'Flore Pleno'.  I doubt I could tell them apart.)

Some of the pass-alongs are probably named cultivars, but I have no idea what they are, so they'll remain beautiful mysteries.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Right Tool for the Job

It occurred to me that I've never written a blog post about gardening tools.  Everyone has their own favorites, determined by the type of gardening they do, the qualities of their garden, and their personal quirks.  What is invaluable to one gardener might be useless to another.

That said, I've picked up some good hints from other garden blogs and thought I'd share some of my own favorite tools.  (Some of them are obvious; this list is geared toward absolute beginners.)

Oh, and here's the standard disclaimer:  I'm not being reimbursed for saying nice things about products in this post, though I do include a few Amazon affiliate links.  These are my honest, considered opinions.

My mother turned me on to this type of shovel back when I first moved away from home.  I have no idea what brand I own, but it's been with me for years and is still going strong.  (I can't recall, but we may have replaced our sharpshooter once since we married in 2001.)

This type of shovel-- spade, really-- is sometimes known as tile spade, drain spade, or transplanting spade.  Mine has a relatively short pole with a D-handle and a long, narrow... head?  Whatever the technical term is for the metal part. ;o) 

This spade/shovel is great for digging in between existing plantings, but it's my favorite for any type of digging (unless we're talking post holes, which is best done with post hole diggers), even if it's not close quarters.  I only use the wider, typical shovel when transferring large amounts of a material from one spot to another (or if both of us are digging at the same time and the sharpshooter's already taken).

Different trowels are good for different tasks.  I have a lightweight plastic one that's an excellent scoop for adding compost or other soil amendments into the planting hole.  (If you want to save a few dollars, you can make a serviceable scoop from a handled plastic bottle.  Look up "milk jug scoop" for a visual aid.)

My favorite trowel for digging is the Wilcox All Pro 12" Digging Trowel.  It's incredibly powerful and makes digging by hand much easier than any other trowel I've tried.  In soft soil, when digging small holes for annuals or perennials, I often don't even need the sharpshooter; I'll just use this trowel.  For harder soils, though, I'll dig the hole with the sharpshooter but keep the trowel nearby for slight adjustments (widening the hole just a bit, roughing up the edges, scraping soil back into the hole).

This is my go-to all-purpose gardening tool.  I also use it for digging up stubborn weeds.  It's a very sturdy tool-- heavy-duty stainless steel, with a sharp point and a comfortable red plastic handle.  Some people find the leather strap annoying and cut it off, but so far, I've left mine on. There are a variety of different lengths/shapes of trowels in the same line, but the 12" is the only one I own, so far.

The cherry on top is that it's made in the U.S.A.!

Foam Kneel Pads
With our gravel paths, a fair bit of my gardening is done kneeling on sharp-edged gravel.  I'm a wimp about things like that, so I use foam pads to kneel on.  (Actually, I use them on the soil, too.  A little extra padding probably makes all that kneeling easier on the joints.)

There are plenty of products made specifically for gardeners, but the ones I use are those "puzzle piece" foam pads made for children's play rooms!

I originally bought these to use in connection with my crochet/knitting hobby (blocking pads), but once I bought a nicer, thicker set for that (from Harbor Freight), these thin, cheaper ones were made redundant.  Well, they work great for kneeling in the garden!  I usually double them up, two per knee, and one of these days, I might go ahead and duct tape them together...

Those knee pads that you strap on might be more convenient when you're moving around a lot, and I may upgrade to those eventually, but my cheapo kneel pads are sufficient, for the time being.  (They came several in a pack and should last for years.)

Pruning Shears
I've only tried a few of these, so I don't feel I have any hugely valuable brand recommendation to make... I'll just say that, in my opinion, hand-held pruning shears are a must-have for anyone who wants to grow roses.  They also come in handy for pruning other shrubs and small trees, as well as for cutting back or deadheading many annuals and perennials.

I prefer the "bypass" type.  We had one pair of the anvil type, and I didn't like those as much.  I'd suggest not buying the cheapest of the cheap, because you'll want something that's built to last.  They need to be strong and sharp enough to work properly or you'll end up hating them and not wanting to use them.

These are basically a larger, heavier-duty version of pruning shears.  I use them mainly when pruning limbs that are too large for the hand-held pruning shears, but they sometimes come in handy for pruning parts of plants that are just a little out of reach.

Pruning Saw
Just as the loppers are good for pruning small branches that are too wide in diameter for the pruning shears, a folding pruning saw is one step up from the loppers.  The one we have isn't anything fancy-- just a simple folding saw-- but it works wonders on small limbs that are too big for the loppers.  This is a nice tool to have if you grow small, ornamental trees, but I've also used it to limb up larger trees, such as oak and bald cypress.  (Just be careful if you need a ladder!  Ideally, have a helper hold the ladder steady.)

Um, yeah.  I said some of these were obvious... But seriously, though most people probably don't classify them as a "tool", they are one of my must-haves.  I rarely garden without gloves.  (The main exception is when I'm planting seeds.)  There are gloves to fit every hand... er, task.  Thin cotton gloves (with or without those little rubber dots on the palms and fingers).  Rubber-palmed gloves.  Elbow-length gloves for doing battle with roses.  Leather gloves.  My favorites are leather, because they provide more protection than cotton, and yet are more breathable than the plastic/rubber gloves.

Some people probably hate wearing gloves, but it's a good idea to have a pair for certain jobs-- such as handling thorny roses or pulling briars.

If you leave your gloves in the garage or barn or shed in between uses, don't forget to check them for spiders before pulling them on.  (Personally, I keep mine in the house, but if they do get left out, I rely on the "stomp and shake method".  Step on the gloves repeatedly, shake them out, then look inside them before putting them on.  It's worth the extra trouble to be safe.)

Hat (and Bandana, Sunscreen, and Insect Repellent)
I practically never garden without my trusty straw hat.  It provides protection from the sun, which is serious business-- especially for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors.  (I also wear a rolled/folded bandana tied around my head, under the hat.  It makes a huge difference in keeping sweat out of my eyes, and it also makes the hat fit more comfortably-- just a tip for my fellow sweaty gardeners who may not have thought of it... You could also use a jogger's headband instead of a bandana.)

Because it falls into the same category, I'm sticking sunscreen in with the hat.  Sunscreen is a must.  Even on cloudy days, I put some on, because you can burn on a cloudy day.  Whether you use lotion or the handy spray-on type, just be sure to wear some sunscreen.

One more for this catch-all category: insect repellent.  I don't like using repellents unless I need to, but once mosquito season kicks into gear, I find it's worth doing.  Mosquitoes love me, and spray helps me avoid them as much as possible.  These days, it's not just a matter of itchy bites; there are a growing number of mosquito-borne illnesses to consider, too.

We have two types of sprays.  One is just a standard mosquito spray, but the other has a higher concentration of DEET, which I sometimes use when I'm going into the woods to gather mulch.  I like to think that this stronger spray offers some protection from ticks.  Maybe it's just a fantasy, but it keeps me happy.

I love my buckets.  I use them for hauling or temporarily storing soil/compost, collecting weeds for disposal, carrying plants during transplanting, and corralling tools.  I can never have too many buckets.  Reusing buckets that products came in is ideal, but you can also buy them empty.

This is another thing that I learned from my mother.  It's more of a specialty item and definitely a "nice-to-have" rather than a "must-have". I use mine for gathering pine straw (for mulch) off the floor of the woods, then again to take it out of the wheelbarrow and deposit it in the flower beds.  You could make do with a rake, but the pitchfork makes the job easier and faster, in my opinion.  Since I have to gather a lot of mulch every year, I appreciate anything that streamlines that process.  (Plus it gives you a lot of instant "Rural Cred" if you have your own pitchfork.)

In a small garden, a wheelbarrow might be cumbersome, but in my larger garden ("big yard" as some might call it), it's very handy.  As mentioned earlier, I use it when gathering and hauling mulch, but it also comes in handy when moving around anything heavy or otherwise awkward.  We've used it to haul compost, gravel, pavers, potted plants, monkey grass and other transplants-- and probably more besides.

Our current wheelbarrow is a two-wheel type, but the previous one was a more traditional single-wheel version.  Both work just fine.  Some report that you can haul more with the two-wheel type.  I'm not sure I've noticed a difference, but then again, I'm not the type to keep tabs on that kind of thing.  I can say that the 2-wheelers are more stable on level ground-- much less likely to tip over when the load isn't perfectly balanced.  However, if you have a hilly, sloping property, two wheels might be awkward.

I do remember that there was an adjustment period when I first switched to the new one.  It steers differently-- less "on a dime" maneuverability, I'd say-- but you can push it with just one hand.  (You might not think that matters, but I frequently use the other hand to hold my pitchfork or other tool steady, to stop it bouncing around, sliding out to the side, or slipping off the top of a pile of pine straw.)

We also have a Gorilla garden cart.  While a cart can perform many of the same tasks as a wheelbarrow, it has its own strengths and weaknesses.  It's better than the wheelbarrow for moving pots, since it stays level.  (The wheelbarrow tends to tip them over.)  It can also handle heavier items than the wheelbarrow.  On the negative side, with the type of cart we have, it's not as easy to unload things like soil or gravel.  With a wheelbarrow, you can just tip it forward to unload, but the cart doesn't work that way.  (However, there are garden carts that are made for fast unloading. Those might be worth looking into, if you want a hybrid wheelbarrow-cart.)

If I could only have one, I'd choose a wheelbarrow.  A cart is nice to have, but for most new gardeners, I'd say that a wheelbarrow is more versatile.

Plastic Leaf Rake 
Unlike a standard garden rake, a plastic rake is specially designed for gathering up leaves (and works just as well with pine straw).  When the straw is too thin on the ground to make the pitchfork practical, it's helpful to have one of these rakes.

In my garden, the plastic rake gets more use than the metal rake, but the metal one is good for preparing the vegetable garden and leveling out the gravel.

Weeding Tool
For a while, I had a weeder that looked a lot like a long screwdriver with a V-shaped tip and a wooden handle.  The idea is to stick the tool into the soil, get the "V" in the vicinity of the weed's root(s), and pull it up.  Admittedly, I wasn't as committed a gardener in those days, so maybe the user was the issue, but I don't remember loving that tool.  I also didn't take as good care of my tools back then, so it got left out and eventually fell apart.

The most recent addition to my garden tool arsenal is the CobraHead Mini Weeder and Cultivator, which works on the same principle as the screwdriver-style weeder, but with some serious tweaks.  First, the shaft is not straight, but curved.  Second, instead of a V-shaped metal notch, this tool has a sharp, pointed, flattened bit for a head.  I was surprised at how sharp those edges are!  You need to be careful with this tool, as you could easily cut yourself with it.  Finally, the handle is made of recycled plastic and has an ergonomic shape for easy gripping.

The mini version of this tool is a fairly recent introduction.  The standard version has been around longer, and I'd had it on my wish list for a while.  When I finally decided to order one, I saw the mini type and thought it looked better suited to my needs (more compact, lighter-weight, handle placed where you're most likely to grip it).

I haven't had this tool long enough to give anything but my first impressions, but so far I like it a lot.  It's comfortable to hold and looks like sturdy, solid construction.  Again, I was surprised by how sharp the head is.  It makes short work of a lot of weeds-- and I found it very useful in digging out patches of grass that had popped up in a flower bed. 

On the negative side, the sharpness of the tool also means that with something like torpedo grass, rather than prying it up, it cuts through the stolon, leaving most of the root underground (where it will resprout).  However, I never really expected it would perform a miracle and pull up something like torpedo grass.  That's too much to ask of any tool, unfortunately!

Back to the positives, It rips through the soil with the greatest of ease, which is probably why it's called a "weeder and cultivator".  I can see how this could be useful for loosening up soil prior to planting.

This is another American-made product!

- - - - - - -

Well, that's (more than) enough on that topic!  I think I've covered all the tools I use most often in my garden (not including things like water hoses). 

If you're a new gardener, start with the basics and gradually add items as you go.  It's better to have a few carefully chosen, quality tools than a vast collection of poor ones.  Every gardener has his/her own budget.  Some tools are out of my price range-- I simply won't spend that much on them-- but I've also learned that it's worthwhile to save for something nice.  The very cheapest option is rarely as effective, as comfortable to use, or as durable as something that costs a bit more.

And finally, a reminder (to myself, as well): We should endeavor to take good care of our tools so they can last us years.  (I at least try to keep my tools under shelter-- either in the garage or in a dish pan by the backdoor.  It only takes an extra minute or two to put them away when I'm done.)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Spring Marches On

The Spanish bluebells have returned. The flowers are still not so tightly bunched as in the example photos, but I'm just happy they're alive and blooming.  Some of the ones further back under the loropetalum have just leaves-- no bud stalk.  If I remember and feel up to the challenge, I might dig those up when the foliage fades and relocate them the a slightly sunnier spot. 

Spanish Bluebells

Spanish Bluebells

Spanish Bluebells

Spanish Bluebells

Here they are with the just-starting blooms of the strawberry begonia, which is looking great this spring.  It's starting to fill in the area in the front of the large loropetalum very nicely.  I might try to take a piece or two and get it started on the other sides of the loropetalum, next.  I'm not sure it'll get enough sun to thrive, but it doesn't hurt to try.

Spanish Bluebells and Strawberry Begonia

Other spring bulbs have put in an appearance-- a few daffodils, the spring starflowers, and the Italian gladiolus (sold as Byzantine glads-- not that I'm bitter or anything).  The gladiolus are nice, once they get going.  When I took these photos, a day or two ago, there were only a couple open, but more are joining in, day by day.

Italian Gladiolus

Italian Gladiolus

The viburnum is starting to flower, too.  The cutting I planted in the front yard is nicely leafed out, but I don't think it's blooming.  It should catch up in a couple years, unless the clay soil slows it down a little.



'Sunshine' ligustrum continues to be a delight.  I've been very happy with this plant.  The golden foliage provides much-needed contrast to all that green. 

'Sunshine' Ligustrum

The golden alexander(s?) on the other hand, I've found disappointing, as it never seemed to do much.  This year, it's looking somewhat better, so maybe there's hope for further improvement. 

Zizia aurea

I failed to prune the roses this winter... I'll have to do it next winter, instead.

KO Rose (Red Double)

Some of the clematis are beginning to bloom.  This is 'Fireflame', which is supposed to be a double.  It's only been a single for us, so far, but it's beautiful in either form. 

'Fireflame' Clematis

This is a no-ID from Mom's garden.  It's survived my neglect, transplanting, and repeated failures to prune (despite good intentions).  I'm amazed at how hardy clematis are, considering how frail they look. 

NOID Clematis

I can't seem to stop photographing the purple oxalis.  It always attracts my attention... This is another plant that takes a beating and keeps coming back. 

Purple Shamrocks

This yellow flag iris bloom caught me by surprise.  The clump growing by the covered patio is a little raggedy, flopping down instead of standing tall.  Maybe more sun would help.  Or fertilizer.  (Everything needs fertilizer.  I tend to forget to do it until inopportune times...)

Yellow Flag Iris

I've been pleasantly surprised by the sweet william (should that be capitalized?) that Aunt Cathy and Tucker started from seed a couple years ago.  I never realized it would return multiple years, but it has, and it's a pretty flower.  I'm also reading that it has a pleasant scent, so I'll have to check that out next time I'm near it!

Sweet William

They're supposed to be easy to start from cuttings, so maybe I'll give that a try, too.  (You know how I love taking cuttings... It's a form of magic that creates free plants!  Amazing!)

Sweet William

I think it was last year that I planted these azaleas along the front of our house... They're reblooming 'Autumn Sunburst'. 

'Autumn Sunburst' Azalea

The ivy in the pot by the front door is starting to fill in a bit more around the bottom.  Still plenty of vertical space to conquer on its own personal trellis.


More flowers on the darker Japanese magnolia...

Japanese Magnolia

And the mountain laurel is in bloom!

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

More azaleas!  These are the ones in the wilderness area (i.e. unkempt, overgrown source of enduring shame) outside our front fence.  Mom and I planted these many years back...



The weigela is very pretty this time of year!  (Passed along from Aunt Debbie.)





Salvia madrensis (forsythia sage) coming along nicely.  Still short, but before you know it, it'll be towering... and leaning... and swaying all over the place. This plant gets a little tipsy.  You can cut it back, but I don't think I usually remember to do it until it's too late.  Fortunately, I don't mind plants that try to hug you as you walk past-- though the yellow pollen of this one has a reputation for staining clothes. 

Salvia madrensis

And last, a peek under the covered patio, where sun-shy plants in pots like to hide out.  The beauty in front is Japanese shrub mint (not remotely minty) 'Golden Angel' (a.k.a. 'Gold Angel').  In back, Japanese sedge 'Everillo' vies for attention.  This is the prettiest time of year for both plants.  Later on, that gorgeous glowing foliage darkens somewhat (in my experience, at least).  They're still pretty, but not quite so eye-catching. 

'Golden Angel' Japanese Shrub Mint

- - - - - - -

Last weekend (I think...), Donald planted six 'Early Girl' tomatoes, and I set out some yellow squash seeds.  I've also planted some questionable-looking canna 'Pretoria' tubers, planted a 'Henryi' clematis along the northern fence, moved a bunch of orange daylilies (common type) to a new spot near the pineapple guava, planted daylilies (some of last year's seedlings and some I ordered online), planted a vitex (chaste tree) near the garage, and enlarged an existing flowerbed to include the vitex (and a fair bit of space where I can squeeze in some more flowers, because I like flowers and want to grow more of them, thank you very much). 

There's also been mulching and weeding and sniffing banana shrub and sweet olive and gloating over the burgeoning spring and hand-wringing over that blasted, infernal torpedo grass.  You know, gardening. 

I have some planting to do in the next couple days and seeds to start, too.  More about all that next time, maybe!