The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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A Peony’s palette

For the first time since I planted them 3 years ago, the peonies are rich with buds. I planted Shirley Temple and Eden’s Perfume varieties.

The photo above of Shiley Temple was taken early in the week after a rain. By the end of the week she was in full bloom.

A close up shows just how lovely these blooms are. The plant tag describes this plant as highly fragrant but I would disagree. I don’t pick up much of a scent.

I’m keeping an eye on Eden’s Perfume, which is heavy with buds. It has never bloomed before. Fingers crossed that this is the year.

The blooms emerge a soft pink, evolve into a blush color and eventually turn white. Truly a plant worth watching.

Last night and today heavy rains rolled through bringing with them more than 2 inches of rain, and flattening dear Shirley. Not to worry though, as I have my first vase of flowers from the garden this season.


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Time off for the garden

Friday turned out to be a perfect day to take off from the clattering at my keyboard and spend some time digging in the garden.

When I last wrote, we’d had some nice rain. That was followed by some heavy rain with about 2 inches over a couple of days. Which was followed by some dry, but cool, weather. Which brought us to Friday which was perfect for getting outside–sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s and the ground soft and easy to work.

As I began dividing the astilbe, I was thinking of how much I enjoy working in the garden and quickly amended that thought to playing in the garden. For there are days like last Friday that are so enjoyable they feel like play.

On a delightful day such as it was, even the weeding felt fine. I spent quite some time plucking violets from their unwelcome place amid the yarrow.

It was a day for spreading mulch. My mulch man places it throughout the beds and I spread it about. Tbis job takes a few days if I take my time with it.

And it was perfect for trimming the vines (Virginia creeper?) Climbing the fence and creating a wall of greenery.

It was a pleasant day for plucking up wayward black eyed Susan’s and dividing ostrich fern for friends and neighbors, trimming the Russian sage and watching with anticipation the beauty yet to bloom.

I savor days like these because I know that days like these are fleeting. As May advances toward Memorial Day it brings with it increasing heat and humidity. And that’s when play day chores like Friday’s begin to feel like work.


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Timely rain

Farmers often talk about getting a timely rain, that much needed moisture that comes at just the right time for their thirsty crops.

My little patch of ground has recently received some timely rain. The sweet woodruff ringing the catalpa tree in the front yard dries out pretty quickly. It’s clearly grateful.

With temperatures warming–but still quite variable–plants just come alive. The ostrich fern have grown 4 or 5 inches. So graceful and pretty. And the rain barrels are replenished and filled to the brim.

And the peonies are filled with buds. I can’t wait for them to bloom. This is the third year I’ve had them in the garden and they have never looked so good.

And the azaleas just burst forth in all their awesome fuchsia glory. Mother Nature is amazing at this time of year.


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The spring parade marches on

I don’t know about you, but this spring feels luxuriously long. Yes, it’s only April 20. And yes, we have just passed our estimated final frost date. But when every day feels like, well, yesterday, this lovely season feels like it has been around a while.

And to completely butcher a Martha Stewart phrase, that’s NOT a bad thing.

Cranesbill will bloom soon, right behind the azaleas.

That’s because I get to linger longer in the garden to watch the magic happen. I’m not running home for a quick bite at lunch while I enjoy my private oasis. I’m taking a conference call on the patio…all day! Who would have thought?

The ferns are one of my favorites to watch in spring…and I get to do this every day!

I get to see the secretive trillium tucked away in the deep shady recesses of my corner woodland bed before they disappear.

Of course, there is always the hazard of being distracted while on a call. Sometimes I find my thoughts wandering. For example, 2 of my leatherleaf viburnum struggled through a fungus of some sort last year. My Extension agent advised me to cut it back late this winter, which I did. But honesty, I worry about the poor things. They look pathetic! And I find myself staring at them during the endless line up of conference calls. Naturally I am distracted.

The hazards of working from home.

Healthy viburnum


There are signs of hope this viburnum will come back.

I had no intention of being all doom and gloom when I began this post, so I will end on a more upbeat note. The dogwoods are glorious in this corner of the world, and the azaleas are ecstatic as they burst into bloom.

The season may feel protracted but that’s just fine by me. How’s your corner of the earth?


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Bloom time in St. Louis

One benefit of the coronavirus is I am walking, walking, walking. I walk in my little neighborhood in the morning, sipping coffe, checking in with co-workers. I typically get a much longer walk in after work.

It’s on this jaunt that I take in the deep fragrance if Korean spice viburnum which are in bloom. Today, I came upon the heady, sweet scent of lilacs.

There is so much to enjoy this season. Temperatures aren’t too warm–if you dont count Wednesday when the temperature has hit 90–and the humidity is at bay. On a good day, I’m happy to open all the windows and let the fresh air flow through the house. The Chinese magnolia blooms are nearly gone as are the bright yellow forsythia, giving way to the colorful blooms of redbud, all types of viburnum, cherry, crab and dogwood trees. The colors are spectacular and my walks are getting longer!

A glorious exple of a redbud tree.

I am fortunate to live in an area with many historic homes with graceful landscapes.

I am not sure what this shrub is.

Do you have a favorite flowering spring tree or shrub?


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The unfurling, unfolding, uncurling of spring

This is my favorite time to marvel at the emerging plant growth in my gardens. The grass is greener, birds are nesting and all around nature is doing her thing.

Perhaps my favorite is the unfurling of ferns fronds. In a matter of days they go from brown stumps to tightly wound circles of green to soft graceful beauty.

The paperback maple has started its peeling of cinnamon bark. There are no leaves on its branches but I think that’s the point. The main attraction is its paper-thin bark curling away.

Also in a mere matter of days, the Japanese maple shed its leaves and its new leaves are unfolding. I’d been watching the tree for some time, wondering if there was something wrong with it. I didn’t recall it retaining its brown, shriveled leaves for so long.

A few leaves remain on the branches of the Japanese maple.

While I’m at it, here are a few more shots from the garden. I hope your garden treasures are as delightful to watch. Thanks for reading.


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Spring blooms

I planted tulip bulbs last fall and love seeing them come up. Tulips are one of my favorite flowers. In addition to planting them under this tree, I have tried them in a pot. We’ll see how they do. They’re a little slower to bloom. I know Jason over at Garden in a City has had lots of luck with potted tulips. Fingers crossed I do too.

A real show-stopper (as usual) is the rhododendron under the eaves of the house. There are two more fat with flower buds ready to open. And the azaleas aren’t far behind. One advantage of working from home is I can sit out among all the spring time blooms during endless hours of conference calls. How is your garden a refuge during COVD-19?


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Feeling the plant love during Coronavirus

I don’t know about you, but I’ve received coronavirus emails from just about every business I frequent. But I was mildly surprised to receive emails from one of the nurseries I frequent.

And I was especially pleased with their down to earth tone. So far I’ve gotten 3. The first was sort of a keep- calm-and-garden-on type of note. Calming and reassuring, not corporate sounding, just a nice note to their customers reminding them of the joy plants and gardening brings. So true.

The second one offered free delivery with a $25 purchase and the offer of curbside service. Today, they informed they are cancelling all events until May at the earliest.

What are your local nurseries doing?


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What happened to the southern magnolia’s this year?

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A southern magnolia is the lone man standing among leafy green trees and shrubbery.

In my last house a graceful southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) filled the back corner of the yard and I’d look forward to its June bloom of large, white saucer flowers against the dark green waxy looking leaves. One year, we held a surprise birthday party for my mom and I filled bowls on the table with the creamy flowers. So pretty.

I don’t have a showy southern magnolia in my yard but the trees are a quite common in the St. Louis area. Unfortunately this year, tree after tree seems to be the victim of what I am not sure. We had a drought over the winter and a cold, wet spring with a late winter blast when things began to bloom early in the spring.

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I don’t think this evergreen will make a comeback.

On a recent visit to my favorite nursery, I overheard one of the women who work there talking about how hard hit trees were by the drought.  She said area homeowners have lost lots of Japanese maples and was expecting to hear from lots more homeowners now that winter was long in the rear view mirror. It’s not until winter is long gone that the impact of a drought will become apparent.

20180529_192829There are some magnolias that look like they had a winter scorch; not all their leaves look like the photo at the top of this post. But until I overheard the comment in the garden shop, I really had not taken notice of the number of trees that have perished. It really becomes apparent when the temperatures rise and healthy trees leaf out. And my drive to and from work late spring found gardeners busy taking trees down, mostly the southern magnolias.

I never watered that magnolia at the old house. It never occurred to me that I should be watering a tree in the winter. Let me amend that. It never occurred to me until the pine next to the magnolia died one year and the nursery said it was due to a winter drought. Now, I’m more careful. Every year in late fall I begin watering the trees in preparation for winter. And one warm day this winter I watered a couple of my younger trees and the blue spruce that we have affectionately dubbed Spruce Springsteen.

Even though the calendar tells us we just began summer, here in St. Louis spring left town in early to mid May, and we went deep into a hot, hot summer with temperatures up in the 90s along with high humidity. And those southern magnolias that were lucky enough to survive, are not putting on the annual show they usually do. The blooms are rather paltry and pathetic.