Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Compost Plans

I want to put a compost pile in the back yard where the doghouse used to be. I'm planning to dismantle the concrete blocks on this raised bed and use them to enclose the compost pile.

That plant in front is a Shasta daisy. I might keep it, I'm not sure. When we first bought the house, this little bed was a mess, full of weeds and dotted haphazardly with Johnny jump-ups. I just think it looks rather odd sitting there, it seems to have no relation with anything else in the front yard. So my plans are to move the concrete blocks into the back yard and then extend this bed so that it joins the shrub/tree bed right next to it. I have a honeysuckle that I got at the spring swap that I want to plant here. I also recently ordered some native shrub seedlings from the Pierce County Conservation Commission and my plan is to put some of them in here as well.

Here's what I ordered:
Viburnum trilobum (American cranberry)
Ribes sanguineum (Red flowering currant, I've heard it is a hummingbird attractor)
Cornus stolonifera (Red Osier dogwood)
Physocarpus capitata (Ninebark)
Sambucus racemosa (Red Elderberry)
Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen huckleberry)
Arctostaphyllus uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick, also called manzanita)
Lonicera involucrata (Twinberry)

They won't all go in there of course. I want to start a bird bed in the back yard. may have noticed a preference for red in this and previous posts. I think I may have been a hummingbird in a previous life. Too bad I don't also have the hummingbird's metabolism.

More Pictures

There's a mixed shrub and tree bed along the right hand side of the front yard. I took some pictures before I started planting, about a month ago, before the leaves started turning.


After (facing the opposite direction):

As you can see, the leaves are falling. Besides those plants from Santa Rosa and Bluestone, there are some Hellebores that I bought at a local nursery, and some swap plants -- a Heuchera Purple Palace, a Corydalis lutea, a Clematis tubulosa (a bush-type Clem), and an unnamed Aquilegia. At the back on the left there is also a Hedychium (butterfly ginger) that I got at the spring swap. I think it will have white flowers, but I'm not positive. We'll see next year.

Further down that same bed, closer to the street, I planted the grasses, which prefer more sun, and the blackberry lilies, which will have orange flowers that I hope will complement the bronzey grasses.

At the very front, near the street under the cherry tree I planted the Baptisias (blue and white) and the Pardon Me daylilies.

My legs and back are aching!


I've been taking pictures with all good intentions of keeping up my blogging, but every time I sit down to blog I put it off for a mythical "better time."

After I planted all the stuff in my previous post, I took some pictures.

Here's the front foundation bed. Along with the plants from Santa Rosa are a handful of black mondo grass offsets, culled from the rental house (Shh -- don't tell anyone!)  Let's see if I can remember what I planted here.
Salvia Purple Knockout
Sedum sieboldii
Sedum Fireglow
Sempervivum (aka Hens & Chicks)
Hibiscus moscheutos Luna Pink Swirl
Phlox subulata Scarlet Flame

Also in this bed I planted a red grass that is hardy only to Zone 8. Our new house is in Zone 7 because it's up on a ridge, surrounded by lowlands that are Zone 8. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed. The grass is called Pennisetum setaceum rubrum Fireworks. It's planted with a green and white grass and a hardy Geranium. I got both at a plant swap this spring, so of course I have no idea of their names.

Also in this bed at the back: Pennisetum Karley Rose and Crocosmia Lucifer.

Bought But Not Planted Yet

From local nurseries:
Berberis Helmond Pillar
Weigela Wine & Roses
Forsythia Fiesta

From Bluestone:
3 GERANIUM Dilys          
3 GERANIUM Dalmaticum          
3 GERANIUM Biokovo Karmina    

Planted in the Past Two Weeks

From Bluestone Perennials
1 GERANIUM phaeum Samobor       
3 GERANIUM Wargrave Pink        
3 GERANIUM Mac.Bevan's Variety    
1 GERANIUM Cheryl's Shadow     
3 GERANIUM Biokovo      

From Santa Rosa Gardens
Agastache rugosa Tutti Frutti 2
Aquilegia Clementine Red 2
Armeria maritima Splendens 2
Astilbe arendsii Fanal 2
Belamcanda chinensis Freckle Face 2
Baptisia australis 4
Baptisia alba 2
Carex berggrenii 2
Carex flagellifera Toffee Twist 2
Carex tenuiculmis Cappuccino 4
Crocosmia Lucifer 3
Gaura Bijou Butterflies 2
Hemerocallis Pardon Me 4
Heuchera Melting Fire 2
Heuchera Miracle 2
Heuchera Stormy Seas 2
Hibiscus moscheutos Luna Pink Swirl 2
Hosta Twilight 2
Hydrangea Pia 2
Lobelia cardinalis 4
Miscanthus sinensis Little Kitten 2   
Monarda didyma Jacob Cline 2   
Pennisetum orientale Karley Rose 4   
Phlox paniculata Starfire 1   
Phlox subulata Scarlet Flame 2   
Salvia lyrata Purple Knockout 2   
Sedum Fireglow 2   
Sedum Postman's Pride 1   
Sedum sieboldii 2   
Sedum Tricolor 2   
Sempervivum Black 12   
Stokesia laevis Mary Gregory 1   

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nursery Tour #1

It started out with a Google search -- Puyallup Garden Centers (not nurseries, that gets me garden centers mixed with nursery schools, not the most useful list). I spent yesterday plugging the addresses into my GPS and doing a little tour. I was the only fool out there, at both places I was their one and only customers. I didn't realize sitting inside my warm house that it was barely above freezing yesterday. The nursery workers were all dressed in parkas and warm, woolly gloves. And there I was wandering around with my camera in a sweatshirt, breathing out in puffs of mist!

Anyway, I got some good photos, and at the second place I went, I hit the jackpot. I found two of the shrubs I've been looking for to put in my front foundatuion bed (also some perennials I couldn't resist, LOL)

My first visit was to Todd's Nursery in Puyallup. They had a lovely koi pond, with a cool bridge and a waterfall, and some large, very hungry looking fishies.

Also, they had acres of shrubs and small trees to choose from.

There was a sweet doggie carrying a ball around in his mouth, who really wanted to play with me, and wouldn't hold still for a picture.

They had a nice display of heucheras. I was very tempted.

And I saw a water feature that I want! I've decided with this garden, I'm not going to have a pond, I'm going to have a disappearing stream. It looks like this rock has a hole drilled through it, the water bubbles up at the top and runs down into a reservoir below.

I think I'll save the photos of the second place for another post. That's enough for today.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Lately I have been on a quest. For a very important compost ingredient -- horse manure. You can make compost without manure, but it's one ingredient that really helps get a compost pile started, so I like to use it. Used coffee grounds are good too, also grass clippings. But a good source of manure is a thing to be cherished. I got a name from something called the Pierce County Manure Share List, hoping to be able to score some horse apples for my compost. It was a horse farm about 30 minutes away, in a town called Enumclaw. I went there on Friday afternoon, hoping to load some wonderful horse manure into my little Prius.

Well, when I got there, it was a one-track gravel road off the main road, across a gully and up a hill, through a tunnel of trees. I sat there and contemplated it for a few minutes. Could my little Prius handle it? Well, I'd never know if I didn't try, so off I went.

It didn't take long for me to realize that my little Prius was not a 4X4. In fact, in some circles, it's barely a car. I mean, it's basically a big battery connected to a lawn mower engine. How many times did the "You're skidding" light come on before I decided I was doing something very foolish? I don't know but I gave up trying to climb that rocky one-track hill. That meant I had to back down it in a straight line, trying not to end up in the gully. I did it, but not without some very white knuckles. Phew! Well, scratch that source off my list.

So, my next bet was craigslist. I searched today for free manure, and found someone who had a big pile of it sitting in her driveway, giving it away for free. Also about a 30-minute drive from me. I found my way there, and fortunately, she was not up a gravel road. I did have to go down a narrow, windy road, but at least it was paved! I filled up five lovely five-gallon buckets. SCORE! Isn't it beautiful?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Big Dirty Empty Spaces

I have two of them, that used to be filled with stuff the previous owners left behind, that I couldn't use. One was a kids outdoor playhouse. Beautiful, well-built, if I had kids or grandkids, I'd love to have it. Nigel calls it a Wendy House.

Thanks to craigslist, now that space looks like this:

Big. Dirty. Empty. I posted the playhouse a little over a week ago, in the free section. I got so many responses! It was so big and heavy that moving it was going to require a platoon to get it intact over my fence. I didn't want to have to do any work taking it apart myself. I made plans for one woman to come and get it, but she backed out. It's hard to know who to pick that will turn out to be reliable. My second choice worked out great! They came last weekend to check it out, and then came back yesterday with tools to take it apart. It took them about three hours. I'm glad they were handy, cause they're going to have to put it back together!

I don't know what I'm going to put in that big, dirty, empty space, I'm just glad the playhouse is gone.

As it turned out, they also had two big dogs. So....they took this too!

Now I have another big empty dirty space where it used to be.

And I know what's going in there. A compost pile!

The Previous Owners Had Kids!

I was just out in the garden taking pictures for my records. I was walking along, and saw this near the rocks bordering the back bed.

 All the garden decor that I brought here from my old garden is still packed up, stored in the shed. But I have a head start, thanks to this.

Harvesting Dahlia Seeds

This year at the rental house I grew Dahlias in pots, started from seed back in March/April. Now they are starting to die back, and the flower heads are ready to be harvested for seeds, so I can grow more next year. This was my first year growing Dahlias; now that I am in Washington, I can grow them in the ground and leave them over the winter because the winters here are so much milder than in Massachusetts. I was not interested in growing them back East, because they would have needed to be dug up every autumn  and replanted in the spring. I'm too lazy for all that work!

Anyway, I popped the spent flowers off the tips of the stems, and stored them overnight in a cabinet, hoping they might dry out a bit. They didn't, but I decided to harvest the seeds from them anyway.

Here is a picture of the spent flowers:

Here's what the mature seeds inside looked like, once they were separated from the chaff:

The term chaff is a botanical term meaning "all the useless bits." When I first opened the flower head, the seeds were still connected to the chaff. I needed to separate them, so they could dry out and be stored without getting moldy. When I first separated the seeds, they were waxy and a bit slimy.  They tended to stick together, to each other, to the chaff, to my fingers, to the plate.... They looked like this:

I just fanned them out and picked them apart. Some flower heads had a lot of seeds, some had only a few. Sometimes they were all around the outside edge of the flower, sometimes they were in a cluster in the center. It was a treasure hunt.

Sometimes there were what I think of as "fake me out" seeds. They look sort of like seeds, but not as big, and they didn't have that thicker part on one end.

They look like seeds, don't they? But here they are next to the real seeds:

These seeds are from the pretty red and white Dahlia, called 'Harlequin', that is pictured at the top of the page with my title. I also saved seeds from a yellow and pink one, a red one, and a streaky red, pink and white one. I want to grow loads of these next year in my new garden.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New and Improved!

Well, we finally moved into the new houswe about four days ago. Yesterday and today I had a local company here, Arbors & More, pulling out the old rotten fence on the right hand side of the back yard and installing new. It looks great, I am so happy with it! And my neighbor shared the cost with me. I had them turn the sections that face her house so that she gets to see the pretty side. It's only fair!

My lovely new fence. If you look at the pictures on my previous post, you can see the old fence.

Here's a close-up.

The same company also redid our front step. There was an area to the right of the front door that had been filled in with just concrete blocks and river rock. Now there is a concrete pad that matches the front step. In fact, it looks like it has always been there. I could put a chair there, or some potted plants.



Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Added a Gadget

Blogger has created a way for blog followers (not that I have any, but maybe some day) to donate money to charities. Just click on the American Red Cross window on the right hand side of the page. You don't have to donate any money, just clicking on it is enough. Like those pages online that allow you to donate to breast cancer research, etc. just by clicking on a button.

Anyway, I chose the American Red Cross because I think they do great work and are a worthy charity. I hope you think so too.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

First Things

The first thing I did with the new garden was take pictures of the shrubs to try to identify them. I think I have now got IDs on all the shrubs in the foundation bed.

 On the far left is Escallonia, which should have pink flowers in the spring. The shrub on the right is Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Blue Feathers'.

In this picture,  on the left is a tiny prostrate shrub called Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety,' next is a Helianthemum nummularia which flowers pink, and in back of those two is a dwarf blue spruce and another Euonymus fortunei called 'Monce.' At the far back, and very overgrown, is a low-growing Cotoneaster.

The bed needed a good weeding, it was overrun with ornamental strawberries. I also gave the bed a trench edging, to try to keep weeds from the grass from traveling into the bed. At the same time I pruned the Helianthemum and the Escallonia, as well as the Cotoneaster, to get the branches away from the siding on the house.

Some time this fall, I'd like to remove the large Euonymus, and the Cotoneaster. I'd like to replace the Cotoneaster with a Weigela 'Wine & Roses' and the Euonymus with a Forsythia 'Fiesta.' I'd also like to add a Hibiscus x 'Fireball' to the bed, and move the small Euonymus to a different spot. Oh, I also want to take the dwarf spruce out completely, it will undoubtedly get too big very quickly for the spot it's in, so close to the house. I think a Berberis 'Helmond Pillar' will look much better there. One thing all the new shrubs offer is interesting foliage colors, the Berberis and Weigela have reddish foliage, and the Forsythia is variegated green and yellow.

Getting Started

Well, enough procrastination. This blog is really just for me, to keep a record of my new garden at our new house in Washington state. We passed papers a couple of weeks ago. Here's our new house.

I have all kinds of ideas for what I want to do with the back yard. It's going to need some work. There is one area that is overgrown with blackberries and other weeds, and the previous owners left behind a swing set that has been cemented into the ground. They also used landscape fabric -- Aarrgghh! I'm going to have to tear all that out. It doesn't really work at suppressing weeds, and it prevents compost from doing its thing. And I love compost!
Here's the back yard, from right to left.