Sunday, July 27

Non-Gardening Weekend

As I'm sure I mentioned before, there are tons of weeds and lots of projects to get done in the garden. It was a beautiful weekend, and yet, I didn't work on ANY of those projects.

On Saturday, a group of my friends went to a Renaissance Faire because that is what Meagan wanted to do for her bachelorette party. I confess that I didn't quite know what to expect, and in fact anticipated that I would not enjoy myself. But my favorite parts of the day involved learning archery and getting to throw axes, ninja stars and throwing knives at chunks of wood mounted on the wall.

Today, which was probably the nicest day of the weekend, I did this:

That is a terrible picture, by the way. The sky was blue the entire time we played, and the sun was shining... but I didn't think to take any pics of the actual courts until later in the day, when the afternoon sun made the sky look a hazy shade of grey. There was enough wind to make the games challenging--and to power sailboats across the waters of Lake Erie, as you can see in the background of the photo above.

This volleyball extravaganza, which began for us at 9am and ended at 6:50pm (LONG day!) was held at Whiskey Island--er, now known as Wendy Park. I spend an awful lot of time here each summer (women's 2's on Mondays, and co-ed 4's on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, right now) and I have a soft spot for this little hidden jewel that seems to become better known to the non-boating and -volleyball crowds each year.

I started playing sand volleyball here a few years after I moved to Cleveland, back when it was just a marina, a marina bar with great views and lots of picnic tables, volleyball courts, and a huge chunk of overgrown forest. In fact, the woods were so thick that you didn't have these views of river bridges and city skyscrapers that we enjoy now:

Nor could you see much of the old Coast Guard station, which the city now owns. They are renovating the access road to the old CG station, so people will eventually be able to walk out to it (and enjoy a few observation areas on the way.) Right now, though, it still looks a bit solitary:

To the west, along the lakeshore, you see the "Edgewater" and "Gold Coast" neighborhoods of Cleveland and Lakewood, respectively. The Gold Coast is full of pricey high rises and mansions (of the real, not the Mc variety) and feels like another world compared to the humble houses in my neighborhood. It looks like big time when viewed across the water, too:

The mansions and other large houses on the Gold Coast were built long ago, and it's fun to walk through those areas. You can see wonderful examples of everything from Tudors to Italianate "palaces." I was lucky enough to be invited to a party inside one lakeside manse a few years ago, and it had all of the honest, craftsmanlike splendor you would expect from a huge house built in the early 1900s.

But I digress... and I sorely need to shower, and get my tired body to bed, if I plan to get up in time for work in the morning. I really just wanted to share a little bit of my beloved Whiskey Island on my blog... and give a small glimpse of my non-gardening life on a non-gardening weekend.

Friday, July 25

Reseeders and Other July Surprises

There are some reseeders that I count on seeing in my garden each year. For example, I love the smokey purple color of ruby mountain spinach, atriplex hortensis var. rubra, as well as the deep purple-green leaves and red flowers of 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth, seen here:

Some plants are known to be reseeders, but are hit-or-miss when it comes to making repeat appearances in my garden. For example, last year I found NO extra lyreleaf sage plants in the spring, but this year I have found a half-dozen seedlings of the salvia lyrata:

Last year, I had 4 or 5 volunteer sea kale, crambe maritima. This year, I only found one telltale set of light blue leaves coming up in an unexpected place. And as you can see, this baby sea kale did not choose a good site. It sprouted under the leaves of a Spanish foxglove, so I pulled it out after taking this picture:

Another plant whose volunteers don't always pick the best spots is Russian sage. I probably have, oh, a dozen Russian sage babies popping up around the garden... but since the plants get upwards of 3ft tall and are pretty bushy, too, they never have room to grow where they plant themselves. For example, this little seedling had to be removed from its bed of ajuga, before it started to crowd the nearby peach tree:

In previous years, I've had a few snapdragons flat out overwinter in my garden, and I've also had some good reseeding. The only problem with snaps reseeding is that you can end up with a few different colors. For example, last year I planted snapdragons that stayed very short and were almost completely bright red. This seedling looks a lot like last year's snapdragons but with a yellow throat and almost painterly touches of gold:

But how to explain this pure white beauty? She looks nothing like last year's snapdragons!

Now we get to confession time: I confess that I am horrendously behind in regards to weeding and mulching my garden. There is way more bare earth than I'd like to see--and what isn't bare earth is unfortunately pretty weedy. With working two jobs and having to paint the fence I have fallen behind on a few things... but am working my way toward catching up. On the flip side, I'm betting that if I had mulched on time, I would probably not have been gifted with this pretty coleus seedling:

That's it (for now) for the reseeders... but I do have a couple of other surprises in my garden today. Last summer, I was gifted with some short (less than 3ft tall) oriental lily hybrids from a display garden that was being disassembled. They have all the fragrance of the Stargazers they resemble--it wafts up to my 2nd floor bedroom window at night--but stay short and need no staking.

One of the three clumps had a small, thin, weak-looking stalk come up at the edge. I thought it was probably just another, younger "bulblet," (Elizabeth and all you other lily experts out there--is that the right term?) but today it bloomed in a very different color:

It's pretty, with wavy petals that are recurved, but it is not particularly fragrant. If it had a great scent, I'd be asking how to move and "save" it, but as it is I think that I will just leave it be... if it comes back again next year, that will be fun. But if not, it won't be any great loss.

To end on a good note, the last surprise is a very welcome one. Last year, I grew three different gladiolus (gladioli?)... a beautiful deep red one, the horrendously ostentatious orange-and-yellow one, and a green one that was promptly pulled out before any pictures could record its sickly color. I forgot to dig up the bulbs of 'Espresso,' the red glad, so I was very excited to see a few of them come back and bloom again this year, albeit horizontally because I forgot to stake them:

Maybe this will be the year that I finally remember to dig up and overwinter the glads? Probably not... but IMHO gardeners are optimists, and one can always hope, right?! :)

Saturday, July 19

The Weedy Orchid

All spring, I have been pulling a weed out of my shady perennial bed that looks a little bit like Soloman's Seal... but not quite. I knew it was a weed because I didn't plant it there, and there was nothing in that area but grass and the usual lawn weeds before I made it into a garden bed. Today, I found one of these weeds that had escaped me and made it to the bloom stage. Imagine my surprise when I examined the flower stalk a bit more closely and saw this:

They look an awful lot like little orchids, don't they? The above is a pretty accurate representation of the flower color, but check out how small the individual flowers are as compared to my thumb in the darker picture below:

Needless to say, I was intrigued. I came inside to do some Google searching, starting with "native orchid" (yes, I'm an optimist!) and then "small white flowered orchid"... finally, when I typed in "orchid weed" on the third try, I made a plant match. This is indeed a weedy, non-native orchid, epipactis helleborine, which has been naturalized here in the U.S. since the late 1800s.

It is now sitting in a vase, safely inside my kitchen, but I'm sure that its creeping rhizomes are still hanging out in my garden... waiting to send up another set of shoots next spring. I'm not about to let it continue to "naturalize" in my garden, but I couldn't resist showing it here. As much trouble as some orchids are to grow, it just kind of makes me smile to know that there are a few types that "grow like a weed" as well!

Thursday, July 17

Jungle Garden Details

I have been feeling a little bit guilty about something. In my July Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post, I am afraid that I made it sound that I was completely dismayed by my backyard jungle garden. In reality, I am equally dismayed and delighted by this bed. Some things are a bit overgrown and weedy, but other things are shaping up almost as I had envisioned.

And the mix of textures and leaf colors are really pleasing my eye. Especially here, where the spikey little bluestem grass leads your eye up to the brown carex and upright zebra grass... and then the round lilypad-like leaves of ligularia ground the whole composition. They reel you in and send your eye swirling back around the garden again:

When you look closer at this combination, the leaf color really takes on more prominence. The bluestem, brown carex and 'Plum Pudding' heuchera brighten up the plain green of the portulaca, whose red-orange flowers complement their surroundings and tie in the orange of the chimney tile at the same time:

The portulaca was a particularly good choice for this chimney tile, it turns out, because it's more than fine with the relative dryness there, and it cascades down the sides of the tile even better than I had hoped. This primitive wildness makes a nice contrast with the upright formality of the grasses:

The portulaca flower colors also echo the native honeysuckle, lonicera sempervirens, that is planted nearby against the fence. After admiring this vine in Annie's beautiful garden, I planted one last year in my own. I love the bright flowers and the glaucous leaves against the brown-stained fence:

As I was photographing the honeysuckle, a little burst of purple caught my eye. I had planted some succulents in this birdbath bowl after it cracked last year. It winters over in a sunny area at the top of my stairs, as some of the succulents that reside here are not winter hardy even in the ground. I like the mixture of leaf colors here, too, and I never really expected to see one of the nonhardy succulents offer up this lovely flower as well:

So, to be fair to my little jungle garden, I wanted to show you a few of the details in it that I particularly enjoy. And maybe once the eggplants start to really fill out, and the gardener gets around to weeding it... maybe there will be a few more highlights to show!

Monday, July 14

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: July 2008

On the 15th of every month, Carol over at May Dreams Gardens takes a break from planting plastic spoons and filing quarterly gardening reports to host Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. I am usually late to these gatherings, so this month I decided to get ahead and post a day early instead.

Walking out into the garden this morning, I realized 2 things almost immediately: 1) My garden is showing the effects of having gone for 3 weeks without any attention from me, and 2) "July" and "Jungle" may have a few different letters between them, but they are one in the same in my main backyard garden bed:

Yikes! Crazy, huh? Ligularia, eggplant, blueberry shrubs, creeping thyme... no wonder my garden has a bit of an identity crisis going on! Most are foliage and edible plants, but there are a few things in flower. Like this 'Yubi Red' portulaca and light purple Russian sage:

And at the feet of the Russian sage, this cute little Hardy Ice Plant from Mulberry Creek Herb Farm is a color echo for the portulaca blooms:

Walking further back, I am reminded that I have not yet dug up the little strip at the side of the driveway, in order to start my lavender hedge, by these 'Grosso' blooms:

The bees (and I) enjoy the drumstick flowers of allium sphaerocephalon:

And I wonder why the butterflies continue to ignore my bronze fennel, and my butterfly weed:

'Cinderella' asclepias, wintersown with seed shared by the wonderful Colleen, isn't even enough to tempt them, it seems:

At the end of the garden, my 'Copper King' lilies brighten up one of the grape arbor posts, although they appear a bit washed out in this early morning light. They are just about done blooming:

Around the corner, the first of these pretty lilies--which bloom like stargazers but stay dwarf--has just become fully open:

Nearby, a shrubby little clematis weaves its dainty blue blooms amongst the strawberries and sedum:

In the front yard, the garden is mostly quiet. The Spanish foxgloves are finished, and there are only a few snapdragons and verbena to keep the lovely oakleaf hydrangea blooms company:

Containers carry their weight here, though. In addition to the big urn, chock full of stuff, and the porch planter with New Guinea impatiens and lots of coleus, the rescued crown of thorns plant is happily blooming away at the bottom of the steps:

Since my digital camera is so old, it doesn't take good pictures at dusk... so I didn't get good shots of the other containers this time. Here is where our tour of July's blooms ends in my garden--but check out May Dreams Gardens on the 15th to see what's blooming around the world!

-------- My full July Blooms List:

Shrubs, grasses and climbers: Oakleaf hydrangea, clematis integrifolia, lonicera sempervirens, 'Rotstrahlbusch' panicum virgatum

Perennials and bulbs: 'Caradonna' salvia, Spanish foxglove (almost finished,) 'Chubby Fingers' sedum, 'Fuldaglut' sedum, 'Marcus' salvia, hardy red ice plant, Russian sage, various hosta, NOID artemisia, asclepias tuberosa, 'Cinderella' asclepias, drumstick allium, NOID dwarf lilies, 'Copper King' lilies, linaria, Mom's dianthus, 'Walker's Low' catmint, various heuchera

Annuals, herbs and vegetables: 'Bonfire' begonia, 'Totally Tempted' cuphea, 'Black & Blue' salvia, various snapdragons, purple verbena, everbearing strawberries, all tomatoes, sweet peppers, salvia officinalis, 'Infinity Orange Frost' New Guinea impatiens

Sunday, July 13

Weekend Trip: Two Garden Visits

This weekend, I took a small Tour of Ohio, of sorts. Friday, I headed down to the Queen City to visit Jessica, my best friend from my college days at the University of Dayton. Had I not followed my former husband up to Cleveland after school, I probably would have ended up in Cincinnati myself (Chicago, my first choice, was probably a bit out of my league) and I still love to visit.

I had really missed hanging out with Jess, and we had a great time. (A separate post, once I get pictures from Jess of things like the Findlay Market excursion, will be forthcoming.) She competed in the Fit to Fight team triathlon, to benefit Ovarian Cancer research, this morning... so I headed up to Dayton late on Saturday night to give her a chance to get rested for her part (biking) and stay with The Overachievers, my brother Jeff and his wife Amanda.

Amanda worked a 7pm-7am shift overnight Saturday, as she is in residency at a local hospital. She and Jeff gave me a tour of their garden on Sunday morning after breakfast, and I got a chance to look at the compost bin they built up close. Not only do they already have a divider in the compost bin--as several alert commenters pointed out--but also they have removable sides for easy pile turning. All of the boards in the sides of the bin lift slide up and out! See:

Very nice job! Speaking of work, this second picture gives you a better scale idea/size of the huge raised garden that they put in this spring. It's in the sunny far back corner of their yard.

As I was getting up this morning, my Mom and Dad (who were also visiting, on their way home from vacation on the gulf coast) noticed a rabbit in the garden. First it was eating a few weeds that Jeff had picked and left on the rock ledge, but then it went to visit the fennel and the cabbage.

Molly was let outside to chase Mr. Rabbit to the property line, and that gives me an excuse to post a picture of her happily enjoying a congratulatory chin scratch for a job well done:

Okay, I admit, Molly's just adorable so I wanted an excuse to post a picture of her. She isn't always just a help in the garden, though. She has been known to pull these sempervivum out of the wall for some reason... maybe she thinks she's weeding? But Amanda tucks them back in and crosses her fingers that they will take in the cracks yet again. It seems to have worked so far:

Above these sempervivums, tomato plants are towering. Jeff has been staking and tying up the tomatoes, and they are going to have a TON of beautiful tomatoes soon. Among the varieties grown are Marglobe, Early Girl, Yellow Pear, and Sweet 100's. (There is also an heirloom yellow variety that they grew in a pot last year and loved, but I can't remember its name.) As you can see, all are happy with this new bed:

In the other far corner of the triangle, their zucchini are blooming prettily. Amanda has plans to fry some of these squash blossoms:

But others are already turning into zucchinis. Jeff (posting as "Anonymous" on my cherry jam post!) had suggested that The Overachievers might enjoy some of that cherry/orange ginger jam. In return, I suggested today that I might enjoy some of these heavy, deep green zucchini since I hadn't planted any this year.

I did in fact arrive at their house bearing gifts of cherry jam and dried bay leaves from my laurel. As a result, I hefted two big squash (one of which doubled in size overnight, while he wasn't looking--as zucchini tend to do) home with me, although one was left at my next stop in Columbus. I also got to sample some of these yummy peas...

... and admired the rest of the garden, which includes asparagus, blueberries, black raspberries (from Amanda's grandma's,) eggplant, peppers, lots of herbs, and two grapes. On one side of this grape fence is a Concord, but that is a little behind the white Niagra you see here:

Yup... The Overachievers are definitely off to an amazing start!

On my way home from Dayton today, I swung through Columbus and visited my other younger brother (Craig, the middle child) and his wife, Jennifer. Since Jeff and Amanda have a nickname on my blog, it's only fitting that Craig and Jen get one, too. I think that we'll call them the Apartment Dwellers--that moniker definitely sums up their biggest challenges in having a garden!

The Apartment Gardeners do lots of container gardening on a little patio and plot in front of their house--facing the hard Western afternoon sun, to boot. That doesn't stop them from growing yummy everbearing strawberries in several large hanging baskets and containers:

And this nifty window box, which fits snugly over their porch railing, adds some interest (and Jenny's favorite colors, purple and pink) to the front porch:

Check out this gorgeous hanging basket next to the window box, chock full of petunias and verbena:

They asked me if I had any hints on how to take care of this hanging basket. Mine have never looked so full and lush, so I think that they should keep on doing what they've been doing! You can see how lovely the pretty verbena looks next to the purple-throated petunias when the plants are basking in the sunshine:

Last year, The Apartment Dwellers planted a couple of tomatoes in containers, but this year they have all kinds of peppers instead. You can see the first tiny, baby pepper plant--which I need to get Craig to tell me how to start from seed successfully--at the tip of my finger here:

I had arrived in Columbus bearing another jar of cherry jam, and a live lemon verbena plant (which Craig loved, like I do, when he saw it in my garden last year)... and I ended up leaving them one of the two zucchinis that I had snagged from The Overachievers, too. They are going to bring me up a hot pepper or two when they come up to visit me in August, if the peppers are ready by then.

All of this garden visiting and sharing today really got me thinking. Between the Apartment Dwellers' peppers, The Overachievers' tomatoes, and my onions and herbs... we're going to have the fixin's for some darn good salsa this summer! Maybe it's time to plan a sibling reunion of sorts for next month? (What do you say, "Anonymous?!")

Wednesday, July 9

Late Night Jam Session

Last night, at my friend Alli's house, I spent a couple of hours picking "a shit-ton" (her words) of gorgeous, ripe tart cherries off of her trees while we chatted and sipped a few beverages. (Latte for me, white wine for Alli.)

Tonight, at my house, after a late day at work and some much-needed grocery shopping, I spent a few hours sorting and pitting yesterday's haul. I did the first half by myself, but luckily Brian consented to help me out for the second half. If not, I would STILL be pitting cherries, I think! Each half was turned into "cherry pulp"--which I couldn't help but photograph in its early stages, here:

The first half received some pure almond extract--not to be confused with "imitation" almond extract. The latter was composed of chemicals I couldn't pronounce, plus water and alcohol, so I bought the real stuff with recognizable ingredients for a few bucks more.

You may notice some grated stuff on the spoon handle in the picture above. That's either the zest from one orange or grated ginger from the 1 inch piece that I added to the second pot. When such things are needed, I go to my beloved micro-grater to get the job done. It does such a nice job of finely grating everything from soft orange peel to tough, fibrous ginger, and turns blocks of gourmet chocolate into yummy chocolate dust, too. I seriously don't know how I got by in the kitchen without this thing:

So tomorrow night, after volleyball, I am going to come home and turn this delicious cherry goodness into jam. I think that I'll do the orange/ginger mix first, and let the almond mixture simmer with some cinnamon and cloves on the stovetop while the first batches are being processed... even though I know the scent will tempt me to taste some along the way.

(Just a reminder, in case Brian is reading this post: Tasting along the way is referred to as "quality testing," not "snitching from the pot." I appreciate it when this is referred to correctly in my kitchen!)

The jars are ready, the waterbath canner is ready, and I don't have to work on Thursday so I can work as late into the night as I'd like tomorrow without having to worry. I do, however, still have to work tomorrow. I mean today. Wednesday. And since I need to get up for work around 6 am I'd better get my cherry pulp packed away in the fridge and myself tucked into bed... as my ex's wonderful character of a grandmother always says: "Tonight is one of those nights I need to sleep fast!"