Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spring in Minnesota

As promised, I ventured out to the greenhouse with my phone today to grab a few pictures of the seedlings. On my way through the snow... yes snowy wintery mix fell all day yesterday here in grand ol' Minnesota, I found this columbine covered in water droplets. I love the colors of new columbine foliage.! As it varies from species to species, quite a few of the varieties I grow have a purple tone like this one here, and also the newest leaves look like a sweet potato color... pretty perfect.
I also admired my own handy work. I made these leaf bird baths from hand last year, and the water looks so gorgeous in them, especially on the table my husband made. Yay! He was about to scrap this huge chunk of metal when I nabbed it for my gazing ball. My son scored the raccoon for free at a yard sale last year.
Okay, so here we are in the greenhouse! It was 38 outside, and 50 inside the greenhouse. I don't have a heater in there, so with temps regularly dipping in the mid thirties I've experimented with bringing several strands of lights that keep warm-  so far it has worked to keep temps about 10 degrees higher. Seedlings here are stock "katz mix", Mexican feather grass, and blue bachelors buttons.  
Here are some of the tomatoes.  
I have two kinds of black eyed susan vines this year, blushing Susie and Spanish eyes. I've just transplanted the to large pots and included a little teepee for them to cling to.  Beside it you will find lettuce and cats grass.
Just a few days ago I planted all of the profusion zinnia seeds. I ordered them offline, and love giving them a little head start. I won't be transplanting them for two more weeks, weather permitting.  
I have transplanted some things that germinated in the basement into the greenhouse, including: basil, true lavender, rosemary, peppers, black eyed susan vine, stock, Mexican feather grass, eggplant and tomatoes. For my own record keeping purposes, and perhaps your curiousity, I'll include a list of seeds that germinated in the unheated greenhouse so far (note: I'm seeing new germinations every day, despite the cool temps overnight and the highs in the greenhouse reaching less than 50 for a few days): Mexican feather grass, lettuce, cabbage, kale, radicchio, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cat grass, borage, calendula, Spanish lavender, tomatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, several varieties of basil, marjoram, true hyssop, hollyhock, zinnia, bachelors buttons, snapdragon, cleome, aster, lobelia, painted daisy, foxglove, and more...
 One more outside picture- taken from the back window. I have never seen this kind of bird at my feeders, so I had to get a shot of it for ID purposes. My neighbor and friends tell me its a brown thrasher. I thought it might be, based on my bird book, but I so frequently get the bird IDs wrong!
Happy gardening! 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oh man, I'm so ready.

This week you will find me staring out the window, watching the rain collecting in every vessel, gazing at the wind blowing through the leafless trees, amused by the robins dashing from flooded puddle to the mud for worms. Its been stormy here folks, and cold- today we didn't get above 40, and tomorrow's high is also in the low 40's.  We have had over 2" of rain since Saturday evening, and we're not done--there's more snow forecasted, and more rain, for the next 2 days. We're officially in cabin fever overload. I normally would savor this rain, grab some knitting, and kick back, do some house chores I normally can't get to. Normally. But its been since last September since I've really played in my garden, and I've done most of the house chores I can dream up... and I'm so ready to get  OUTSIDE. Totally don't even need it to be warm, just dry.
Thank goodness for the greenhouse. I'll take some pictures of progress out there tomorrow, and in the basement under the shop lights- we have seedlings- that's for sure. And all the dahlia tubers are divided and ready. Ready, ready, ready...
So what else is there to do but go through last years pictures? What a blessing to have more time to plan things, to leave less room for sporadic planting, to make more deliberate combinations. My sketch book has been open on/off every evening. My pen has been going like crazy. The pin boards are bulking up with ideas.
So this collection of pictures below were all taken the same day.  Do you ever have those days when the camera seems to find all the things you're looking for- and it all just feels right? You come in, and feel so glad you decided to bring the camera out, that you planted those plants where you did, that the sun was just right? This was one of those days for me. I just enjoyed every drop of the experience on this day.
So happy the bee balm has reached its massive proportions finally- rather than the scraggely little divisions I brought with me when we moved here. The bees seem to hum, yum... and the yellow hollyhock bloomed the first year. Bonus.
Just a few feet away this dahlia, "Mrs Eileen," steals the show. She was a favorite of mine last season (new that year), and this year, as I'm mapping out the beds this year I'm finding I want to put her dahlia in every one.
I've already gone and transplanted some of the golden hops I planted last year. I can't wait to see it engulf the arbor I've planted it on... I mean, seriously CAN NOT wait.

This perennial echinops is wide awake and growing already. So happy to see its return, as last year was my first year growing it, and it preformed so well.

I have no more zinnia seedlings from this mixed packet, and I didn't collect seeds. This mango hued variety was one of my favorite flowers all season. I think it looks cool with the cleome seed pods.

Even the tree bark looked good that day...

Another zinnia from the mix packet- a coral beauty. Darn, I should have collected seeds!

The caladium are started in the basement now,  but this Miss Muffet will be so missed... succumbed to mold in the basement over winter. Such a great spotted pattern and color combination, especially with 'georgia peach' heuchera. 

Another caladium, taken at sunset with the sun behind it. It just glows!

I ordered a wholesale bag of 50 oxalis corms that arrived a few days ago. I also successfully overwintered the corms I dug up last year, and they are fully growing in the basement already. I should be hardening them off into the greenhouse in a few days. I love the color & shape they bring the to the shade garden.

I just planned where I'm putting all of the alocasia bulbs this year, too. Can't wait... can't wait!!!

Last year was my first year trying painted ferns. I also tried a hybrid mix painted and lady fern- pictured here. I can't wait to see their little fern fronds poke up soon.

More caladium. They seemed so happy in the garden, they made me a true believer, and I will always grow them now.

I overwinter all of my elephant ears in the basement in their containers. They are all growing, sending out large leaves, looking wonderfully awkwardly tropical in the dry ugly basement under the shop lights. Haha.

I am so glad I brought this perennial along for our move a few years ago. Its so tall, nearly 7 feet some years and always covered in flowers, covered in bees.  It lights up the back of the garden. I can find the name if anyone is interested- at the moment it escapes me.

Oh how I love how rain makes the garden glitter.
This fern overwintered in a huge jar on my dark dining room table! Here she is in her little terra cotta pot in the shade garden last year...
...with her other fern friends.

All of these containers came in for winter, and are growing like mad, ready for their trip back outside soon. The geranium leaf you see at the top of the frame here is even blooming in the basement today.

 I've already pruned the clematis. Some of them are sending out new leaves and shoots from the ground. This variety, Betty Corning, is moving up the ranks to my favorite as the years go by.
Because I didn't leave room for orientation, I can't tell if this clematis is the Polish Spirit I have the same trellis as BC, but I'm pretty sure it is.

I tucked my three succulent urns under the eaves of the shed- where no additional rain could get them. Folk say succulents are so easy, but the truth is, when you live in a wet climate there can be times when it rains and rains, and your succulents need a break- which can mean moving them around a lot. I keep my cacti in the greenhouse, and the majority of the succulents planted in tricky spots where they get sun, but no rain. Under these eaves works, and under our old gazebo, on the sunny side. Other options comes include up against a house.

Not bad for Minnesota, eh?
I love how the agave looks up against the shed. My husband built the shed from wood he took from a shed/barn he tore down in northern Minnesota.
This succulent hanging basket was also hung under the eaves. It seems so, so happy there all season.
Not far from the succulents this dwarf bedding dahlia blooms. I love using these for the front of beds, hiding the knobby knees of a rose, or skirting the edge of a shrub.

This is a large bed I have behind out garage.  It was filled with invasives when we moved in, but I unearthed a few keeper plants, and have finally made it my own. There's dahlia Mrs. Eileen center stage. You can also see another angle of the bee balm and yellow hollyhock from the previous pictures.

Last summer I tore out hundreds of ditch lily tubers on a path between our garage and the neighbors. I filled the path with perennial divisions and used stepping "stones" I literally unearthed in various spots in the yard (and/or repurposed from edging). In between the steps I tucked in some large hens and chicks I found at walmart on clearance.
The path is awkward because one side is all day intense sun, and the other gets shade from the neighbor's garage and a large tree in the back yard. So just inches from the succulents I have shade plants like this heuchera, some ferns, and a Japanese Maple.
 I found the Japanese Maple labeled as a Red Maple Tree, MISLABELED at a local walmart. JM aren't hardy here- they are supposed to be reliably hardy to zone 5, and we are zone 4a, so I've taken my special JM and placed it in a micro zone (between the two garages, in a bed of large rocks that warm the soil when the sun hits). On the off chance you find them available here you pay A TON- like $50-75 for the common "bloodgood" varitety. I was beyond excited (like, I may have shouted from the rooftops) when I found this guy for a song.
I also included my first cushion spurge in this section of the garden.
Right at the end of this walkway I planted this "mrytle's folly" dahlia. I wasn't too happy with how many flowers it put out, but the few blooms I did get were pretty great.

Across the walkway from the Japanese maple was 3 tall plants of dahlia "ice cube." I'm not crazy about the worn siding of our rental house, but it sure goes great with this dahlia!
My neighbor gave me this dahlia- and I loved it. It worked its head off all season- non stop huge blooms, and all from one tuber. I am hoping to have more of it this year through dividing.

One last beauty from this warm day last summer- some birch wood laying by the fire pit, ready for an evening bonfire. I'm pretty sure we ended this day with a fire. perfect ending to a great day in the garden.
I don't know about you, but getting lost in all these pictures for awhile made me forget it snowed today. For a little while anyway.
Happy gardening!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Autumn on the porch.

Still taking my time going through last season's pictures, although this season is definitely in the makes (finally). I found a few pictures from the back and front porch (and a few other areas) that I took just as autumn was arriving.  The temperatures were warm enough to still have all my containers outside, but cool enough to be setting pumpkins out.
This photo is from our back porch, inside the screened in gazebo (no longer screened in, as the sun parched materials finally gave in last fall, and we're in the process of figuring out an economical way to provide shade this year- more than likely involving twigs and burlap). I picked up this "lamp" on clearance at hobby lobby so many years ago. I put a pot of ivy under it, and a candle on top, and it looks like a topiary lamp. One of my favorite garden accents.
This is also on the back porch, in front of the coffee table. Big agave soaking up the real sun before she has to over winter under the florescent lights in the basement.

Under the big agave is this big ruffly echeveria.

On the front porch I had the pumpkins and a few succulents and mums tucked in. I loved how the colors worked together on our new front steps (railing were put in just after this). The jarrahdale pumpkin looks so great with the purple echeveria. My children grew the tall white squash, and big round orange pumpkin here.

Another autumn delight was this rose, Pearly Gates, with the Virginia creeper.

The two of them shared bed space with this self seeded Nicotiana.

I bought the bright yellow mums here in spring for a very low price (may have been $1), and was delighted to see they rebloomed in the fall- not always the case in our short growing season.

This is a frog on the back porch at night.

As I started bringing in the containers (tenderest first), I decided to hang these alocasia on my dining room wall. They are still there now, anxiously awaiting the outdoors again.

This was the color of the sky as I took the pictures of the pumpkins.
Pumpkins, mums, and succulents.
Funny how these pictures of autumn have me so ready to get back outside to pot up containers for spring!
Happy gardening!