The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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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Clever or Clueless?

DSCN5738Saving time, energy and resources are important to me, as I have a finite amount of each. And I like to try clever tips in the garden to help me achieve this. But I’m not sure any of these tips are actually worthwhile. For example, I bundle up my acid-loving azaleas in the winter with trimmings from the Christmas tree. I like to think this lovely stole of greenery protects them when winter temps drop and that maybe they even benefit from the acid in the boughs. Clever or clueless? I’ve done this for a few years now and I have really have no idea if this is a waste of time. My soil is relatively acidic and I feed the the azalea each year, so I’m thinking that perhaps I could be clueless. On the other hand, they are not protected from wind and leaves I rake beneath them in the fall blow away, so the boughs could be a clever idea.DSCN5834To help save time when cutting back grasses such as my variegated maiden grass (miscanthus sinensis variegatus) I tie them to keep them upright while I saw them back chunk by chunk. That way they aren’t flopping all over the place while I’m cutting them. Clever or clueless? I think I’ll score this one as clever. DSCN5838I use diluted solution of bleach water to wipe my clipper blades when pruning rose bushes. I wipe the blades clean between each rose bush so that I don’t transfer any pathogen to another shrub. In fact, I generally clean my tools after I use them. Clever or clueless? I think clever.

Of course there are a host of other time and money saving tricks I haven’t tried but consider such as smashing up eggs shells and incorporating them in the garden soil. I’ve read that buring a banana peel in the soil is good for roses. And of course, many swear by adding spent coffee grounds to the soil as well. Really? Are these clever or would it be better to incorporate them into a compost? I’m thinking these might be clueless manuevers.

What do you think? What are your clever tricks?



You Blog, But Do You Log?

IMG_1057I feel like a kid at Christmas. My Garden Journal just arrived in the mail and I’m busily going through its sections and filling it in. As a starting gardener, I underestimated the need to keep track of what I am putting in my small yard. Or maybe as I get older, I’m beginning to respect the benefits of being organized.

My gardening organization started simply enough that first year, a hand-written list I took with me to the with to garden centers and plant sales and I kept the plant tags for handy reference the next year–if I could only remember where I put them. Ah, but it quickly morphed into an Excel spreadsheet with column headings for light, placement, characteristics and the other attributes commonly found on the tag. I also used the spreadsheet to keep track of what I might want to put in the yard. (Somewhere along the line, the software I used was updated and the spreadsheet somehow got corrupted and the user experience is lacking for me.) And, then there are the crude drawings of the beds I am planning stuffed into the backs of books and magazines I was reading. You can probably get the drift of my dilemma: disorganized attempts at organization.

I am trying the new system, which is a bit more old-fashioned than a computer-generated spreadsheet, but somehow may be more satisfying. I’m cutting and taping the plant tags onto the pages for a visual. I am transferring information from the goofed up spreadsheet, and the journal includes a section for mapping out garden beds. This is a down-time project before the flurry of spring and summer gardening takes me out of the armchair and into the yard. I don’t doubt that I won’t be collecting more plant tags this year, but with my hand-dandy journal there’s a pocket for them.

How do you stay organized? Do you have a seed box like Julie at Peonies & Posies? I couldn’t help but wonder what Dee Nash’s organization tips are after reading Red Dirt Ramblings’ starter list of what she intends to plant this year.

Beyond the blog, how do you log?

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When Watering, Steady & Slow Wins the Race


Water releases slowly from a 5-gallon bucket, thoroughly watering the roots of a small shrubs and young plantings.

Water releases slowly from a 5-gallon bucket, thoroughly watering the roots of a small shrubs and young plantings.

Here’s a neat tip I’m trying this year for watering smaller shrubs: Drill a 1/8 inch hole in a 5-gallon bucket, fill said bucket with water and resume your gardening. I have struggled with estimating how much water to give my young-ish shrubs. I saw this tip in Garden Gate magazine and thought I would give it a try. The water comes out s-l-o-w-l-y from the bucket, targeting the plant roots with moisture, which is the goal. As an impatient gardener, I am learning that steady and slow means happy, healthy shrubs. It can take nearly an hour to drain the bucket, delivering the water just where I want it. As the bucket drains, I move it around the plant to ensure all sides are covered.

Bonus: I’m no longer trying to guestimate how much water the soaker hose is delivering. I’m now using this timing as my gauge with the soaker hose and in essence, killing two areas in the garden at once.

Got a handy tip you’d like to share?

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Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses

Use a serrated bread knife to cut back ornamental grasses. To make the process easier, first tie a string around the grass to hold it in place.

Use a serrated bread knife to cut back ornamental grasses. To make the process easier, first tie a string around the grass to hold it in place.

Like so many of you out there, I am itching to get in the garden. And there is lots to be done. I’ve started to cut back my ornamental grasses. I let my ornamental grasses die back and leave them in place for winter interest.  True confession, sometimes I just don’t get to the annual grasses I use in my pots and struggled getting them out of the pot in spring replanting season. But I digress. After years of using my garden shears, pruners, or kitchen scissors to cut back these ornamental beauties, I turned to the kitchen bread knife. It works like a charm and couldn’t be easier.

Here’s another handy tip. First tie the floppy wintered-over grass with a string to contain it like a ponytail, then cut back the grass with the bread knife.

Do you have a tried and true gardening quick tip?