The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond

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Frozen Assets

A winter ice storm–the first of the season–put a frozen crystal glaze on the grasses, trees and shrubs. Melting now, forecasters warn of a second and possibly third wave of freezing ice this weekend.



Graceful grasses look like spun brown sugar.


Crystal branches from my neighbor’s shrub.


Japanese forest grass


Splayed out by the weight of the ice, the oakleaf hydrangea’s branches arch toward the patio.



Yard objects are frozen in time.


The birdbath transformed to an ice skating rink.



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2016 Garden Hits and Misses, Part II

Joys and victories are always so much more enjoyable to share and savor. But the losses–painful as they can be–are learning opportunities. My 2016 garden was not without its challenges, some of which I have not resolved. I’ve been on a true learning curve since I began gardening and the lessons aren’t always easy. Below are my “Misses” for 2016.

The Misses!

dscn4865Containers. I knew when I bought this adorable galvanized can planted with playful petunias that those plants were going to fry on my south facing fence in St. Louis’ hot summer. And I was right.

While this lesson only set me back $10, it’s a valuable reminder about trusting my gut. Imagine a $200 tree biting the dust because it’s in the wrong spot. That means leading with your head and not your heart. I can be a sucker for a nursery and its well tended plants and vignettes that say “buy me, buy me, take me home.” I mean, how cute is the container below?


dscn4649I love petunias for their enduring blooming nature (minus the example I just gave). But I let them get leggy because I don’t take the time to pinch them back. The end result was containers that looked leggy. I had to show this because these are volunteer petunias and volunteer milkweed. They were beautiful in June, not so much in August.DSCN4578Voles. I’d like to declare war but I’m not sure what weapons of mass destruction I would use. My vole problem is affecting multiple garden beds. I called a mole company and they said they did not handle voles but I also hear that the traps really don’t work. I called a yar fertilizer type company and met with the same response as the first call. What works is chemical warfare but that’s not friendly to owls who eat the voles. And as I mentioned in my last post, owls hang out in the neighborhood.

DSCN4589These guys creep me out. I’ve stumbled across two or three of them and all I can say is yuck. I have not located all their tunnels but they seem to be in the front yard, back yard and side yard. But something has to give: I won’t abide by daisies, coreopsis, penstemon, phlox and more falling over and splayed out because their tasty roots are being devoured. Truly a continuing dilemma for 2017.


egg carton growing (960x1280)Growing from Seed. I admire those stalwart gardeners who begin their veggies from seed. But as I discovered in 2016, I’m not one of them. I tried it and realized I was in the wrong league. This route comes with no short cuts here (and I love a short cut)–a grow light is essential for success or your plants get leggy. I did manage to coax one very small lettuce head from two cartons of egg shell-filled seeds. That was a salad worth enjoying.

DSCN4483Instead, I will satisfy my fresh garden delight habit with small plants acquired at the nursery. Last year, peppers and spinach plants did well. The only caveat to this story is that I did scatter zinnia seeds with success.

dscn4642Tomatoes. Have you seen the number of articles, books and web posts out there on growing tomatoes? Who could fail with all these resources? I’m trying. Honestly I am. I like a great tomato as much as the next gal. But I think tomato growing is best left to someone else. I thought I had learned my lessons from 2015; I had that pot secured with netting like Ft. Knox and the @!##**!@ squirrels still invaded and took off with the ripening fruit. And the plant was l-o-a-d-e-d with tomatoes. I got one green tomato. No more. Produce stand here I come.

Garden Bloggers Fling. I attended my one and only Fling in 2015 but missed the fun in Minneapolis in 2016. This event is for gardeners who blog (what a great fit!) and the 2017 Garden Bloggers Fling will be hosted in the Washington, DC region beginning June 22. It’s a great way to put a face to the bloggers you’ve been reading and connect even further on this great joy we all share.

Happy 2017 everyone!


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2016 Garden Hits and Misses, Part 1

Happy New Year everyone. Due to extremely frustrating issues with my computer and WordPress, I have not been posting. Hoping that I have finally resolved these roadblocks, I am back to blogging.

Given it is now 2017, I see no reason to bring you up to speed on a relatively uneventful fall garden season. But a look back at the year is due. Due to length, this will be a two-parter, starting with the hits. Here are my ArchCity hits for 2016. (Drum roll please.)

The Hits!

DSCN4499paperbark by patioPaperbark Maple (Acer griseum). When I embarked on my backyard gardening journey in 2012, I was intent on only planting shrubs and perennials with the rationale that I didn’t want to get into pruning trees. Don’t ask why. The gardens were going to be easy, carefree and filled with shrubs and perennials, even though the first specimen I planted was a Japanese maple–like I said, don’t ask. In 2014, I amended my rule further and planted a dwarf Colorado blue spruce and rationalized that by the fact that it is a dwarf specimen. Dwarf is the operative here and it explains my justification for planting a paperbark maple in 2016. This beauty will top out at 20 feet and I can live with that. What I don’t want is a towering tree. I love this tree for its cinnamon-hued peeling bark, multi-stemmed trunk and vibrant trifoliate leaves in autumn.


dscn5299More hardscaping. The garden beds soften the patio and the hardscaping provides structure to the garden. At least I think that’s the principle. My flagstone path is small but it draws the eye through the garden bed and in a couple of years, I hope to be able to walk on it. I know I am relying on the Japanese maple to grow, but I have faith. For now, crawling down the path suits me fine. Most of the time I’m down low digging out weeds anyway.  On the left of the photo, you’ll notice I added a bird bath. I like the structure it provides to the softly flowing hydrangeas. And it’s a nice to provide birds a place where they can frolic.

img_2389Rain barrels were on the top of my list when I started gardening. Now I have two in the back and two in the front (delivered and installed by surprise in December–more on that in another post). I am happy with the rain barrels but they did come with a bit of an adjustment. The hose from the house spigot is a much faster way to water, but I enjoy being out and I have a system for filling up my watering cans. Each rain barrel in the back has two spigots so I can maximize the fill. I was amazed at how quickly a 50-gallon rain barrel will fill up. One good gusher and they are full. There is not enough pressure in the rain barrel to run a long hose from it and soak a garden and there are times when a good long soak from the hose is required, so a rain barrel is not a solution for everything.


DSCN4562Birds, butterflies and beesFor a new point of view, look no further than a garden. I’ve had a true attitude adjustment when it comes to gardening. I went into it for the flowers with nary a thought to the side benefits of providing shelter and food for insects, birds, butterflies and other critters. 2016 was a good year butterflies, birds and insects. DSCN5073dscn5172Sometimes I am repelled (crawly things can freak me out) but mostly I’m fascinated by what’s moving around the foliage. Is it a friend or foe? My new discoveries take me to a Google search to learn more. A garden gives you a real sense for the symbiosis of nature. To my delight, a tree in my neighbor’s backyard is home to a bard owl, which I have enjoyed watching hunt at dusk. I have several voles I would gladly offer to its diet. More about that in Part II.