The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


Week in Review: Need I Say More?

DSCN3103 (960x1280)Yes, of course, I will say more. And those who know me best would be surprised if I didn’t. The 2 inches of rain displayed in my Bonnie’s rain gauge follow the 6 inches we had last week. This rainy period is wreaking havoc not just in my yard and humble garden but in farmers’ fields, basements, rivers and roads.

But like Little Orphan Annie, I am an optimist–The sun will come out tomorrow. Should it not, I heed Scarlett O’Hara’s sage wisdom–tomorrow is another day. And our well-educated meteorologists promise both, in fact.

Finally, evoking the words of Martha Stewart–that’s a very good thing.

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Upside/Downside in the Garden This Week

DSCN3054 (480x640)I don’t need my new rain gauge to tell me we’ve had a lot of rain in St. Louis. The “tap” has been running since last Sunday, and this morning the rain gauge was filled to the brim, indicating we’ve had nearly six inches of rain. Needless to say, all this moisture has had upsides and some downsides. Without further adieu, here’s a quick recap of my Arch City garden:

I was gone for the first part of the week so the upside is I did not need to water; the downside is ponding in parts of the yard, plants soaked to the bone and weeds, weeds, weeds. It finally stopped raining today and I spent an enjoyable few hours this morning tidying things up. You can translate that to mean trimming back spent blooms from the penstemon, lilies, lady’s mantle and roses, as well as the annuals. I have noticed lots of spots and white stuff on some of the plants, including the penstemon, echinacea and rudbeckia, so I cut back quite a bit. The roses have been food for some insect and now are displaying lacy leaves. Not a good sign.

By noon the sun was out in full force, the humidity unbearable and yours truly headed back inside.

DSCN3089 (1024x768)DSCN3058 (1024x768) (2) There are some bright spots to the garden as well. The daylilies my neighbor generously gave me last summer are starting to bloom and they are lovely, although the liriope nearby have been heartily munched upon (I suspect rabbits) and the more than one dozen tomatoes on my patio plant are g-o-n-e. That would be squirrels. In fact, they left half-eaten tomatoes scattered upon the lawn. Ingrates.

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DSCN3073 (1024x768) DSCN3087 (1280x960)The “Berry Chiffon” tickseed I planted before I left for the Fling has begun to bloom and is quite showy with deep pink petals whose tips appear to be painted white. Yet some of the liatris nearby has been trampled just as it is beginning to bloom. It is now cut back and in a vase in the family room.DSCN3060 (1024x768)

The astilbe in the newly installed south bed were stunning and I could not be happier with the plants in this shady part of the yard–fern, Japanese forest grass, hosta, Solomon seal, coral bells. As the raspberry plumes on the astilbe begin to fade, the caladium are starting to emerge, although some critter seems to have had a nibble or two on them as well. Rabbits? I suspect so but am not sure. I’ve never grown caladium in the ground. Readers, any tips for critter control?

The true test of the garden will be when the heat really kicks up. I guess that test will be tomorrow, as we expect temperatures in the mid 90s.DSCN3063 (1280x960)


Knock-Knock–Your Weekly Flowers Have Arrived

I subscribe to our daily newspaper The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to the nearby YMCA, to all sorts of professional magazines and newsletters, to home and gardening magazines (of course!), and to an assortment of other services. But I don’t subscribe to a weekly floral delivery.

If I lived in Toronto I just might.

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Sarah Nixon, owner of My Luscious Backyard, arranges a bouquet for demonstration.

You see, for the very reasonable base price of $45 per week you can enjoy fresh, sustainably grown flowers on your desk or dining room table. I could move the clutter aside for that, I really could. Your weekly vase is personally delivered and retrieved by Sarah Nixon, owner/operator of My Luscious Backyard, a homegrown business built in her downtown Toronto backyard.

Sarah’s small and intensely managed organic backyard flower farm was the first stop on a whirlwind extravaganza of Toronto area gardens, courtesy of the Garden Bloggers Fling. Before escorting the 70-plus bloggers to tour her backyard, Sarah reminded us that small as it may be, hers is a working farm. Indeed it is. Equipped with a potting table, a small shed with grow lights and a yard that is nearly fully void of turf, My Luscious Backyard is an urban farm where she employs a manual no-tillage production practice to reduce soil erosion.

Sarah's backyard, which she estimates to be 1/16 of an acre.

Sarah’s backyard, which she estimates to be 1/16 of an acre.

Sarah began the business in 2001 and through a unique business model has expanded beyond her backyard by scouting area yards, contacting homeowners and turning their patch of turf into a flower bed. Currently, she is working with 10 area homeowners where she is growing a wide assortment of annuals. This is small-space gardening at its utmost. A steady rotation of seed is started and planted to meet the demand of clients who enjoy her fresh bouquets.Her clients include individuals, as well as florists who seek locally grown flowers.

Making the most of limited space.

Making the most of limited space.

All in all, her annual season consists of about 100 varieties from her perennial yard and her partners. She starts seeds in a small shed she dubs “the barn.”Those agreeing to turn their yard into a flower farm reap of the benefits of the beauty flowers provide but not the privilege of cuttings for their personal enjoyment. Also Sarah said she may ask them to purchase planting mix and help with turf removal but she does all the rest, which includes planting, watering, caring and harvesting the flowers.

I don’t know what happens when the flower season is over, however. I imagine those yards as large patches of brown dirt. Would you be willing to turn your yard into a flower garden?

A neighborhood city lot turned into a flower garden.

A neighborhood city lot turned into a flower garden.


Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling – What is a Garden?

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Private garden using natives.

Ask a Garden Flinger what turns his or her crank in the garden and you’d best be prepared for a wide variety of responses. Some like it sculpted, many like it native, there are tree lovers, beekeepers, edible erudites, professional landscapers with an eye for the truly unique, and garden hobbyists, to name a few. This palette for plants presents a pretty planning problem for the event planner. Or does it? Apparently not if you’re Helen Battersby and crew who put on a non-stop, can’t-get-enough-of-every-type-of-garden-out-there event in Toronto last weekend. Many thanks to Helen, Sarah Battersby, Lorraine Flanigan and Veronica Sliva for hosting the Fling.

As a first-time Flinger and increasingly devout garden hobbyist, the selection of tour gardens and conversation with other bloggers got my wheels turning about what a garden is and why we garden and I’m looking at my garden endeavor with fresh eyes. Gardening friends, what is your raison d’etre for digging in the dirt? Is your garden energizing? Or does it offer a respite from the day? Are you gardening on a balcony, backyard or football-sized scale? Are you inspired (or inspiring others) through plants, design or art? Is your garden an ecosystem? Does its bounty replenish? Is it up high?

Enjoy this sampling from the 2015 Garden Bloggers Fling.

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Garden at the Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Center.

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Private garden.

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A plant-loving bed in Ontario gardener Marion Jarvie’s garden.

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Rooftop garden at the Hugh Garner Coop.

Container edibles.

Container edibles.

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Asparagus piled high at the St. Lawrence Farmers Market.

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Starting flowers at Sarah’s Nixon’s backyard organic flower farm My Luscious Backyard.

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Side yard of private garden.

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Private garden.

Garden on Ward's Island.

Garden on Ward’s Island.

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Black oak savannah at High Park.

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The restored quarry at Evergreen Brick Works.

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Hugh Garner Coop rooftop provides all-day views of the city.

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Container gardens at Evergreen Brick Works.

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Private garden.

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Private garden.

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Private garden.