Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June In My Cottage Garden

In June my cottage garden is regal with red peonies and purple alliums. The burst of strong color follows a gentle May with its pure whites of viburnum and bridal-veil spirea. May followed a golden April full of daffodils. The hues of my June flowers put us in the mood for a riot of color that is the cottage garden when it peaks in July. Today we are in the middle of an early heatwave with temperatures in the 90s and high humidity. This is a good day to stay in the air conditioning and write. But first, let's take a walk around my June garden in the comparative cool of the early morning to see what is blooming.

Miniature Japanese maple -- a superstar by Froggy Pond

Purple bearded irisis are everywhere
Clockwise from top left: mock orange, peony, smokebush, lady's mantle, and columbine

Adding to the purple theme, my new smokebush is leafing-out nicely. It has tiny white blossoms -- who knew? You can just see it's delicate flower in the picture above.

Smokebush Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' and Allium 'Globemaster'

Roses are blooming
The first clematis to flower each year. I don't know it's name.

When describing June in my garden, I have to include rhododendron and mock orange. They bloom early in the month and today most of their petals have fallen. The blooming rhododendron was magnificent this year; the mock orange filled the June air with its heady scent.

Rhododendron 'Roseum Elegans'
Below: Mock orange Philadelphus coronarius

I placed a tub of mixed annuals in pastel shades on the front porch. Their gentle hues offer visitors a sweet-tempered greeting.

Walking through the Serenity garden I am happy to see the climbing hydrangeas have some blooms. I'm not so happy to see multiflora rose beyond Bluebell creek. Its flowers are lovely and its scent is divine, but we wish we could eradicate this invasive shrub, our biggest gardening challenge. I wrote about it in detail here.

Serenity Garden above; Bluebell Creek below.
Bathing in a mound of golden spirea that is just beginning to bloom

We will NOT go into the Woodland Walk since that's where the bear may be hiding out. He came onto the back porch and broke my favorite hummingbird feeder to drink the nectar. 

Black bear leaving my porch and heading for the Woodland Walk.

Finally, let's check out the kitchen garden where the vegetables I sowed germinated. What a miracle it is -- I'm always anxious that they wont and I'm filled with excitement when they do -- it never gets old. Blossoms on the snow peas promise we'll have some tasty meals very soon.

I'm linking with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Don't forget to stop by her wonderful blog on the 15th -- thanks for hosting, Carol. I can't believe that we are nearly half way through June and I'm only just posting pictures of my garden. In my head, I have written several blog postings this month, but the weeks pass before I can put pen to paper (or fingers to keys.) At the beginning of June I visited a fabulous garden that I must tell you about. As a result of that visit, and previous conversations with the owner who is my friend Jenny Rose Carey, author of Glorious Shade, I'm struggling to clarify my feelings about mulch. I may be having a change of heart about what sort to use. I'll put my thoughts in a posting very soon. Also, I've been enjoying some new gardening books that I must share with you. Just not enough hours in each day, but I will endeavor to catch up ...

Oh, and please read my contribution to the Garden Writing Association's blog, GWA Grows, about what makes a great blog. The article has tips from me and from some other bloggers you may know, including Carol from May Dreams Gardens.

Enjoy June, dear gardening friends.

Pamela x

One of my five fairy gardens.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cold Frame Gardening

cold frame  /kōl(d) frām/
A four-sided frame of boards with a removable glass or plastic top. The frame is placed on the ground and is used to house, protect, and harden off seedlings and small plants, without artificial heat.
-- New Oxford American Dictionary
I've wanted a cold frame for a long time but never imagined I would own such a grand one. Years ago, I coveted a potting shed/greenhouse combination I spotted at one of the big box stores. We purchased it and placed it as the focal point of my yet-to-be-planned-and-planted kitchen garden. We built raised beds around the shed (we couldn't plant directly into the ground with the proximity of a walnut tree and its toxic roots) and eventually added fences. My kitchen garden took shape.

The construction of the potting shed completed 2006

Raised beds for square-foot gardening

We added a picket fence on two sides and a pasture fence on the other sides.

Over the years we made important changes to the inside of the potting shed. H.H. hung shop lights with grow lamps over the potting bench for my trays of seedlings on sunless days. We added a framework to support roller shades of bamboo for too-sunny days.

Potting bench with seedlings.

Always wishing to extend the growing season, we added insulation to the potting shed so that I could put seedlings (that I start in the house) out in the shed a little earlier. I painted the inside a sunny yellow and added treasured items from the attic of our 1850's farmhouse.

We added insulation in 2013
Purdy's rocking chair is a family piece probably more than a century old.

I painted the shed a barn-red color, added some chickens (H.H. wont let me keep real ones because of the foxes and coyotes that inhabit our fields and woods) and I was content ... for a time.

My collection of chickens

I love my potting shed and have written extensively about it over the years. You'd think I would be satisfied, wouldn't you? But I saw a cold frame at the Bloomsburg Fair last year and started reading about winter gardening with cold frames.

Bloomsburg Cold Frame

I pictured my seeds sprouting in a warm protected enclosure; my tender seedlings kept safe from wind and frost. I visualized a simple box structure, maybe topped with old windows, like the one at Bloomsburg. Then I talked with Victor.

The son-in-law of a dear friend, Victor is a musician, photographer, graphic designer, owner of a small construction/renovation company, and (cold frame) visionary. I told him I would like my cold frame attached to the south side of the potting shed. We discussed materials (non toxic, of course), size, and pitch of the roof. The latter proved to be the critical factor in making the add-on look part of the original building and, incidentally, very attractive. Victor felt the pitch of the cold frame's roof should match that of the shed/greenhouse structure. He was right!

Victor used cedar wood that he insulated and lined with a composite material.

He put wire mesh in the bottom to keep out critters.

Victor made four separate 'lids' covered with the same plastic material as the roof panels -- called Lexan®. The lids are very light and attached with lift-off hinges so I can remove them easily.

 Victor put a new coat of barn-red paint on shed and on cold frame to complete the 'look.'

You may notice in the picture above that Victor also replaced the rotting logs that bordered the long lasagna-garden on the extreme right. He used the same composite that lines the cold frame. Now my kitchen garden, with all it's new construction, is very snazzy!

We shoveled endless loads of my special compost mix into the new planting area. I couldn't wait to add plants although it was a record 90°F day in May. I sowed a row of Swiss chard at the back where the design allows for taller plants. I sowed carrots and, of course, you have to have lettuce in a cold frame, don't you?  I can prop the lids open or take them off, but I soon found it is easier to heat the soil up in a cold frame than it is to cool it down ...

Fried lettuce

Obviously, the cold frame will come into its own at each end of the gardening season. I plan to get a jump start on my spring garden by planting cabbage, chard, kale, radish, spinach and, of course, lettuce, in late winter next year. This should add more than a month to my spring garden season. I dread the coming of the first fall frost and look forward to planning how I will extend this year's growing period.

Thank you, Victor. I love it! Now I trust I've made some of my dear gardening friends green (appropriate color) with envy. Please check out Victor's website by clicking here. He enjoyed the challenge and would love to make more.

Pamela x

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Monday, May 15, 2017

The Marvelous Month of May

Clockwise from top left: bridal veil spirea, bleeding heart, lily of the valley, daffodil, allium.

My best-loved season is spring and May is my favorite month in the garden. Every day I discover a new bloom; the perpetual renewal never becomes boring. Today, I find bridal-veil spirea full of its delicate, lacy, white blossoms; there is more of Connie's sweet-scented lily of the valley among the lady's mantle; bleeding heart is stunning; and a few daffodils are clinging to the season. My biggest surprise is the purple allium in the butterfly garden: a surprise because I don't recall planting the bulbs last fall. Oh dear, my age is showing, but May always promises surprises.

"The world's favorite season is the spring.
All seems possible in May."

--Edwin Way Teale
 As is often the case at this time of year, the weather has been very unpredictable. Mark Twain famously said, "In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours." This is true of the past several weeks; heavy rains and high winds have not been unusual and some days have been too cold for me to venture outside. As a result, I am somewhat late in completing my spring tasks this year. But the garden didn't wait for me; it looks beautiful anyway especially since I gave all the beds a (late) mulching.

The Cottage Garden before I mulched with compost.
"The unmulched garden looks to me like some naked thing
which for one reason or another
would be better off with a few clothes on."
-- Ruth Stout

Weeping Japanes Maple by the waterfall is the star of Froggy Pond.

At the entrance to my Tranquility Garden, the viburnum is about to burst into bloom. This former shade garden is undergoing a transformation due to the felling of the large white maple. I removed the hostas, brunnera, hellebores and astilbes from the area because it now receives more sun. I've left similar plants, however, in spots that I think will continue to have enough shade.

I didn't remove plants from this side of Serenity Garden as it is still shady.
Can you see May apple behind the spirea
 A mixture of shade and sun plants. I'm waiting to see how Serenity fares this summer.

I doubled the size of the foundation bed across from the Serenity Garden and placed the shade-lovers there. I am hoping they will receive enough shade in the afternoon from the catalpa tree when its large leaves develop. If not, they must go to the Woodland Walk.

I added a recently acquired bloodroot.

Newly planted shade bed with bloodroot (top right.)

The Woodland Walk is looking lovely. To mark the path, H.H. placed branches from our beloved white birch that the wind blew down.

St. Francis on a carpet of sweet woodruff; wild ginger bottom right.

The kitchen garden displays all the promise of the new gardening season: peas are coming up, garlic and onions are green. All the beds are mulched with mushroom compost ready for planting.

Next time I'll write a Kitchen Garden update and tell you about my new coldframe extension on the potting shed. It is amazing; I can't wait to show you.

Today, it is very windy.

"Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May."
-- William Shakespear

The birds are busy. Top - Carolina wren. Bottom - scarlet tanager.

Forgive me for not giving botanical names but this is a late posting for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and I don't want to delay it further. (If you don't recognize a plant let me know in a comment.) If you haven't yet visited Carol's blog at May Dreams Gardens, please do pop by to see what is blooming around the world today. I'm off there now.

Happy May, dear gardening friends.

Pamela x

Yesterday, after the rain.

"Don't knock the weather: 
nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while."
--Kin Hubbard

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