Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Photo-Heavy Post

Donald did a little more "perimeter-clearing" yesterday, but is taking today off from yard work (to rest his sore arm).  Myself, I did just a bit yesterday, filling some of the holes in the raised bed cinder blocks with mulch-dirt.  Today, I spent an hour or so planting plugs of good sod (scraped from in front of the garage) into the weed patch that pretends to be the lawn on the pad.

("The pad" is the raised septic pad we had to have put in when we first started living on this land.  The soil didn't drain fast enough to suit regulations, so a humongous rectangle of soil had to be built up for our septic system.  It's right behind the house and not bad looking, as these things go, since it blends in fairly well, but for whatever reason-- poor soil?  too dry?-- the grass has never grown well there.) 

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Now for a photo-tour of things that caught my eye around our yard, yesterday...

Cleome Seedlings

Cleome seedlings are peeking up through the thin remainder of last year's mulch.  (I've been holding off mulching that bed, because I don't know if they could grow through the thicker, fresh layer of mulch I've been spreading.  Would they?)


The viburnum is now fully clothed in leaves, and the flower buds are starting to appear. 

Viburnum Leaves

We love the crinkled texture of the leaves.  They look their best this time of year, I think.  Last summer, they always seemed a little wilted in the heat of the afternoon.  It always perked back up after a good night's rest, but the droopy look was sad.  I'm curious to see if that's something we should expect every summer, or if a more established viburnum won't feel the heat as much. 


The achillea from Mom's garden are all growing and looking healthy.  (The tiny, fragile ones from seed just sit there, not doing much.)

Dianthus (Pinks)

These three clumps of dianthus that Donald planted last spring/early summer survived the winter and look prettier than ever, right now. 

Dianthus (Pinks)

Bright and cheerful!

Tiger Lily

The tiger lilies have emerged.  It will be a while before they bloom, though.

Volunteer Marigolds

Marigolds have volunteered in a few places around the yard.  (I haven't started those seeds, yet.)  These three are in one of the cinder block holes (of the raised vegetable beds). 


The blueberry bushes have berries.  No telling whether they'll hang on and plumpen up, however.  We probably ought to start watering those shrubs during dry spells...

Bridal Wreath

The other bridal wreath has been blooming, now.  It's definitely not in top form.  I want to give it a harsh pruning-- and maybe the other one, too, since it probably would also benefit from some tough love.

Everything I read says that it's ok to prune them back to the ground (or maybe about six inches above ground), usually right after blooming.  They may not bloom the first year after harsh pruning, but should recover by the next spring.


The azaleas along the front fence are full of blooms. 

Night-Blooming Jasmine

The Pensacola-based source I read last year was correct regarding this night-blooming jasmine:  It did die back to the ground during the winter, but it seems to be bouncing right back again.   It's not one of my favorites, but I'm glad to see it make a return.

New Hydrangea

Last summer, I planted two "new" hydrangeas created by layering branches of the existing one (at the back corner of the patio).  I'm pleased to see that both are putting out new leaves. 

Viburnum Cuttings

Those three viburnum cuttings (that I rooted in water as an afterthought) are now planted in some of that nice, dark mulch-dirt.  So far, so good!

Daylily Seedlings

The daylily seedlings don't seem to be doing much, but when I compare this photo to the last one I took, I guess they are growing.  I think they may be ready for a slightly sunnier location-- somewhere with a little direct sunlight.  It might be a good idea to transplant them into bigger pots soon, too... (Those tiny cups can dry out so quickly in the sun.)

Yellow Knock-Out Rose Bud

At least a couple of the small (volunteer) yellow knock-out roses Mom gave us from her garden are already putting on buds!  I'm amazed at how hardy they are!

English Ivy

The ivy seems happy.  Lots of new leaves.

English Ivy

Some of this variegated ivy is almost entirely white/cream-colored!  It looks so strange... It would be gorgeous growing over brick, but nope.  I've heard too many horror stories.  No brick for you!

Morning Glory Seedlings

These morning glories would rather be outside.  (They're on the kitchen table.)  Maybe tomorrow they can move out of the house.

Ghost Plant and Aloe

Ghost plant and aloe...

Luna and Trixie

Trixie and Luna

And in closing, the resident Eskies!  Trixie (the elder and larger) and Luna (looking lovely in biscuit/cream).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Plumbing, Mulch, and Preparing for Gravel

We had yet another leak, Monday morning.  This was just the push that we'd been needing, I guess.  Our plans to have the plumbing re-done went from "definitely someday, soon, but don't know exactly when" to "okay, let's get this over with this week".

It was all done by noon on Thursday.  By "done", I mean that there are still several holes in the walls-- and furniture out of place (to provide access to the holes)-- and one or two other little things that cropped up during the process.  But at least we have the house to ourselves again, and eventually we'll patch the holes, repaint a few rooms, and have everything even better than before (I hope).  And we shouldn't (*vigorously knocking on wood*) have new leaks popping up every few months, now.

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These past few days of cooler weather were just what I was wishing for.  I've been making the most of them by getting some of the mulching done-- so much easier to do when it's cool and dry! 

I'm trying to use pine straw (or in some cases, a mix of pine straw and assorted fallen leaves) as much as possible-- particularly for the (relatively speaking) "new" flower beds.  When necessary, I rake, but some of the places we recently cleared (in the woods) have a thick enough layer of straw/leaves that I can just lift it into the wheelbarrow with the pitchfork.  That pitchfork is heavy, but "pitching" is still easier and faster than raking first.

Some of the straw underneath the top layer is already partially deteriorated, but that's fine.  If anything, it's probably even better for building/improving the soil.  (The downside is that the sooner it breaks down, the sooner I'll need to add more mulch.)

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Saturday afternoon, my parents brought us some loads of mulch-dirt (mulch that's broken down so much that it's practically turned into soil) from the piles at Grandpa's pond.  (He sometimes gives the local power company permission to dump the chipped wood that is created when they have to clear branches and trees from the power lines.  The power company is glad to have somewhere to get rid of the stuff, and after it sits a while-- not that long, in our climate-- it's useful as mulch.)

We'll use most of it in the new raised vegetable beds, but I've also already used it to fill a couple of planters and a few small nursery pots, where the three water-rooted viburnum cuttings are now adjusting to life in soil.  (Fingers crossed!)

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While Mom and Dad were here, they also helped us clear the sod from the area in front of the garage.  Dad used the tractor to take off almost all the grass and some of the soil, too.  That saved us hours of back-breaking physical labor!  We'll work on leveling out a few spots and clearing the edges he couldn't reach.  When it's "right", there's a thick landscape fabric/weed barrier to put down, and then we'll have a load of gravel delivered.

Once the gravel's here, we can start spreading it in front of the garage, where we'll have a backing-out/parking area-- but we'll also start digging out the path in the yard to prepare it, too, for weed barrier and gravel.

I can't believe we're so close to finally getting that gravel path finished!  I have hopes that the gravel will cut down on the amount of dirt/sand/grass tracked into the house.  I'm sure some will still sneak in, but there should be an improvement-- not to mention that gravel will look much nicer than our current "exposed soil with weed edging" situation.

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Removing sod (and possibly a couple of weeds) from the perimeter:

Preparing for Gravel

Preparing for Gravel

Preparing for Gravel

Preparing for Gravel

Preparing for Gravel

Preparing for Gravel

There's more of that to do before we're ready for the gravel.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


This is the blog's first post.  (The previous handful were written for an old, no longer active blog.) 

I decided to start a new blog with a focus on the garden (and a secondary focus on our home and life in general) because, well, I wanted a clean slate. 

This blog is meant to record the progress of our garden and home improvements-- something to look back on when I want to remember how far we've come-- a way to remember those things which inevitably fade with time. 

So it's primarily for myself, because I enjoy blogging, but it's also for any friends and family who want to keep up with our latest doings-- and it's possible that even a few complete strangers will stop by from time to time.  (Make yourself at home!) 

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For any who don't really know us, we live in a coastal county of Alabama (thus the name of the blog).  We're not within walking distance of the actual coast-- more like a half-hour drive to the beach, about half that to Mobile Bay-- but we're close enough that our area is considered "coastal", I guess.  (Close enough that we need to pay attention during hurricane season, too.)

Our home is in a rural area of a county that is growing very rapidly.  There are both good and bad things about a growing population.  Since we can't do anything about it (short of moving away), we're better off focusing on the good things (when we can). 

I've lived in this area all my life, and in fact, our house is located within quick walking distance of my parents' new home and the home of my maternal grandfather.  My husband, Donald, on the other hand, moved here from Sweden in 2001-- totally different climate from what he grew up in, not to mention the language and cultural differences. 

Neither of us are expert gardeners, but we both grew up in rural surroundings, with family members who gardened (both flowers and vegetables)-- and you don't have to go back very far in either of our families to find farmers.

We're gradually shaping this patch of land to suit our needs and wishes. 

There are new raised vegetable beds (not yet planted), and I'm trying to create a cottage garden in part of our fenced yard.  Then there are the gravel paths/parking area, and a new mini patio off the back porch, and the trails we're clearing through the woods, and-- well, you get the idea.  We have a lot of plans-- some of which we may even carry out, at some point in the future.  ;o) 

Want to tag along and see how it works out?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Two in One Day?

Second post of the day!
I just noticed that I never blogged about the photos I took earlier this week (even if it feels like I did).

Raised Vegetable Beds

The raised vegetable beds, above.  They're in their new spot behind the garage.  Near a water source.  Out of sight.  Inside the yard (not that that will deter deer or rabbits, if they're so inclined).  They're not completely finished, yet, but at least they're in the right place!  (The bigger of the two blueberries is in the background.  I hope we'll actually get to enjoy some of the berries, this year.)


Here's my pile of rocks and old pieces of shingles.  (There are more rocks, but this may be enough.  I won't bother carting around more until I'm sure.)  I'm still not positive what I'm going to do with them... I need to decide soon, though, or the weeds will begin to grow in/around them. 

New Oak Leaves

The trees are beginning to put on leaves.  Amazing how they can go from bare to well-covered in just a few days' time!

Bridal Wreath

The bridal wreath with the tiny flowers is looking lovely.  The one next to it with larger clusters of flowers isn't so happy, right now.  Maybe it's just getting a slow start.  Otherwise, I need to remember to prune it back to the ground.  (I think that could help rejuvenate it.  Just need to determine when to do it.)


The viburnum that had just barely poked out a few tentative leaves, last week, is now greening up nicely!

Earlier this year, I cut a few ill-placed new-growth branches from this shrub.  At first, I was just going to toss them on the burn-pile, but then it occurred to me that they might possibly root.  I stuck them in a pot of soil, then (after days) thought maybe water was the better way to go about it, so I brought them inside and stuck them in my favorite old-jar-turned-vase.  Just when I'd decided they weren't actually going to do anything-- roots!  (I don't know that I've ever successfully planted something that I've rooted in water... I think maybe I tend to wait too long to plant them.  Still, it's exciting that they even grew roots!) 

Japanese Magnolia

The Japanese magnolia has been giving us a nice, long show.  The one in the front isn't quite as impressive, but it's newer.  It should improve with age.

Wild Iris

The wild iris has been growing steadily, along with the in-ground daylilies (not pictured). 

White Iris

We had three white iris blooms all on the same morning-- then this one the next day.  Funny how they are so perfectly in sync!

Creeping Phlox

The creeping phlox from Mom's garden is still going.  :o)  (This should be an easy plant, from what I understand, but I managed to kill the one I had before... We can only hope that I'm a slightly better gardener than I was back then.)


The achillea Mom gave us is growing!  (And a good thing, too, because the seedlings look so pathetic!  So spindly!)

And that is all for now! 

Plantasia 2015

Mobile Botanical Gardens' Plantasia spring plant sale is going on this week (through Sunday).  We decided to check it out-- the first time we've gone to one of their plant sales.  It was busy and warm, and there were at least a couple of things on the posted "plants for sale" list that I simply couldn't find (though if I'd been persistent, I could've asked until I found someone to either show where they were or explain that they were sold out).  In any case, there were plenty of plants to ogle, even without those fancier varieties of echinacea.  ;o)

I'm not sure how their prices compared to nurseries and home centers...  Some things (the fruit trees, maybe the hydrangeas) seemed a little high to me, but others felt like a fair price-- especially considering that plants are rarely cheap, unless you catch them on clearance.

We decided to splurge and bring a few things back home with us.

Hibiscus mutabilis "Plenus" (double)
Confederate Rose
A Southern heritage plant.  The flowers start out white, then turn pink and darker pink through the day, and the petals on this one are supposed to be double.  I think Mom used to have a confederate rose in her garden... At least I know I remember her talking about them.  (If this one does well, I can give you a cutting, if you need one, Mom!)

Carex oshimensis "Evergold"
Japanese Sedge
Donald liked this one.  Evergreen, variegated, grass-like plant.  Good for a shady spot.

Salvia purpurea
Mexican Purple Sage

Ruellia elegans
Red Mexican Ruellia
This and the salvia listed above are supposed to attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.  I'm not sure how cold-hardy the Mexican purple sage is, but we'll give it a try...

Dryopteris ludoviciana
Southern Shield Fern
For the shady north side of the house.  I hope it will be satisfied.

Louisiana Iris "Jeri"
I really want this one to do well!  The flowers are supposed to be a rich, "grape purple". 

Baptisia australis "Purple Smoke"
False Indigo / Blue Wild Indigo
This is another I'd love to see succeed.  Need to remember that this one is best not to try to divide-- or transplant after it's established.  Apparently it has a deep taproot, so it's a good idea to choose its spot carefully, remembering that it can get large (3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide).

Bambusa multiplex "Golden Goddess"
Golden Goddess Bamboo
Clumping.  Non-invasive. 6 to 10 feet tall (and wide), depending on who you ask.

Chasmanthium latifolium
River Oats / Northern Sea Oats / Indian Woodoats / Spangle Grass
Some people complain that this reseeds too freely, so maybe it's best not to include in the main flower beds... If nothing else, I think it would be pretty along the edge of the shed... maybe around the edges of the fire ring clearing.  The thought of the grass and seeds rustling in the wind was too enticing, so this was on my "look for" list going into the sale.  Maybe I'll be cursing them in a year or two. ;o)

Photos of the new plants:

Plantasia 2015

Plantasia 2015

Plantasia 2015

Plantasia 2015

Plantasia 2015

Plantasia 2015

Plantasia 2015

Now to plant them... ;o)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring in Full Swing

This weekend, we set up the last of three vegetable beds in its new place behind the garage.  (Photos next time?)  They still need some more soil, but they're in place.

Then we started working on clearing some brambles/wild blackberry briars from the southern wall of the house and taking out some of the scrub growing along the fence on that side of the yard.  We could be fancy and call it a wilderness garden or something similar, but it's actually just a mess.  An invitation-to-snakes garden?  The clearing-out helped, but it still needs work.

Somehow, we went from chilly to hot almost overnight.  The temperatures are nice enough if you're sitting in the shade, but work of any description (especially in the sun) is a very sweaty and exhausting proposition.  Highs in the 80s already!  Weeds popping up everywhere!  Time to get serious about mulching.

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Daylily seedlings in their new home on the covered patio:

New Daylily Seedlings

Attempting to propagate ivy (to grow on the lattice wall of the covered patio):

Propagating English Ivy

Blueberry blooms:

Blueberry Blooms

Azaleas about to burst into bloom:


Tiny daffodils:

Tiny Daffodils

Aloe plants coming out of the garage again:

Aloe Vera

White loropetalum in bloom:

White Loropetalum

A new plant-- blue sea holly:

Blue Sea Holly

Another new plant-- red-hot poker/torch lily:

Red Hot Poker / Torch Lily

A new climbing rose ("Joseph's Coat") for the planned arbor by the main gate:

Joseph's Coat Climbing Rose

Green anole on the ivy trellis:

Green Anole on Ivy