The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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Wordless Wednesday: May Flowers

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Green is coming through the gray

If this were a Facebook status update I might write, “I’m feeling…sunny and dry.” St. Louis has received 13.2 inches of rain this month and a walk in my backyard now has a sound track: Squish, squish, squish. The lower end of the yard has a bit of ponding. Leaves still cover most of the beds. And accompanying all this rain has been cooler than normal temperatures. On a sunny day, we won’t discuss the gray, drab skies that are predicted to be back tomorrow.

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Even though I cannot get in the garden today, I am celebrating for a couple of reasons. First, and the most obvious, is that it is sunny and dry. Yes! This condition is not expected to last, as our forecast calls for rain for the next 10 days. Second (really first) is that I am off work today! Woo hoo! Third (but truly first) is I will spend the afternoon with my eldest daughter.

Before the day gets away from me, here’s an Arch City Gardener pictoral status update of my plants and beds at the end of March. Oh! And thanks for reading.

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In the front yard spirea begins to leaf out.

DSCN5872Penstemon’s lettucy looking red leaves. I love this plant, which has been happy in this spot for five years.DSCN5873Karl Foerster grass is coming upspring clean up18Just a couple of gumballs to deal with. This is Round 3 of the rake up.

DSCN5887Cranesbill Biokova Karmina (geranium x cantabrigiense). What a wonderful groundcover. And talk about easy care!DSCN5870The oakleaf hydrangea “Alice” looks deceptively docile. My pet name for her is “Godzilla.” The blooms are incredible.DSCN5886Planted about six years ago, this low-growing juniper (Juniper horizontalis) is a slow creeper and provides lovely texture with a green-yellow tint. Behind her are stella d’oro day lilies.DSCN5864The fiddleheads of Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) begin their graceful unfurling. Ferns are my favorite plants to observe.

DSCN5863Peonies–Eden’s Perfume, Shirley Temple, and Sarah Bernhardt–peek through the leaves. The peonies were a new additions last year to the bed below the paperbark maple.

DSCN5861Creeping jenny groundcover is vigorous and advancing. It had better dry up so I can get out there and rake.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Rain Barrel Update

img_2389Regular readers will recall that I installed two 50-gallon barrels in May. Except for a week or so in June, they have been full and I’ve been able to limit my water use in the garden.

We’ve had plenty of rain in St. Louis this summer, which doesn’t represent a typical summer for the rain barrels.So far this month 5.21 inches of rain has fallen in the metropolitan area. Typical August rainfall is 2.99 inches. July rains filled the rainbarrels to overflowing when we received 8.37 inches, slightly more than double the monthly average of 4.11 inches. And June rains of just 1.29 inches put the barrels to work, and I drained them watering the pots and garden beds.

DSCN5158Overall, I’m enjoying them. I think in a typical summer, I would be supplementing with the hose much more than I have this year. When I water, I simulatenously fill both a bucket and watering can. Because the water pressure in the barrel is limited, containers are a little slower to fill. I rely on the hose when I’m either too lazy to wait for my containers to fill up or I’m in a hurry.I have no doubt, though that I have saved water. Strange to say, but I actually look forward to receiving my summer water bill to see how much I have saved versus last year.img_2387I’ve attached a short hose with a spray attachment to one of the barrels, but, again, there is not enough pressure for the spray attachment. As you can see below, debris from the roof runoff collects in the top of the barrel. This can clog a small overflow hole near the top, so I keep a small stick handy (kabob skewer works well too) to unclog the hole so that standing water doesn’t attract mosquitos.DSCN4376


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How To Fix a Hose in 6 Easy Steps

hole in hoseThere’s nothing more annoying than when the hose springs a leak. Of all the many things I want to spend my garden bucks on, hoses fall to the bottom of the list. The last thing I want to do is go buy a new one. Fortunately, they are easy and inexpensive to fix. Before you get started, know if you need a male or female connector. You don’t want to have to make more than one trip to the hardware store.

Here’s a step-by-step of the process:Hose Step 1Step 1.  Cut off the affected area. You can see that this hose has already been repaired once. In the spirit of recycling, I reused it when the hose sprung another leak. I use my lopers to easily cut through the hose.Hose Step 2Step 2. Next, I remove the screws from the plastic clamp that keeps the hose end in place. Don’t lose the screws!Hose Step 2bThe hardest part of the whole process is getting the repair kit hose connector out of the hose. I cut away at the  outer sleeve of the hose, expose the rubber hose and cut that away as well.If you’re not reusing a repair kit, ignore this step and go strait to step 3. Hose Step 2aI use my trusty utility knife to do the cutting. Be careful and wear gloves so as not to inadvertently cut your hand.Hose Step 3Step 3. Next, I pop off the hose connector and I’m ready to begin the repair, which will take no more than 2 or 3 minutes.Hose Step 3aStep 4. Take the small end of the black plastic connector, push it into the hose and screw the clamp back on. Word to the wise, make sure you have the screws turned tight.Hose Step 4Step 5. Reattach the hose. Hose Step 5Step 6. Voila! Back in business.

 

 


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The Garden in Late May

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My oakleaf hydrangea, lush, laden with blooms and ready for a trim. Purple coneflower in front.

April showers did indeed bring May flowers to my Arch City garden. What a lovely month we’ve had; for the most part marked by relatively warm days and cool nights. Yet, as we wind our way through the month, the spring showers have not let up, and the forecast for early June in St. Louis looks pretty wet. (I just hope we don’t have a repeat of last year’s 19-inches of rain in June.) And true to form, our temperatures are on the rise as is the humidity and the frizz in my hair. What’s a girl to do?

Here’s an update of the garden.

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Clematis

Keeping with the order of things, the purples bloomed first, strutting their stuff throughout the garden. Purple clematis, English lavendar, “Walkers Low” catmint, hardy geranium and “May Night” salvia sprang to life earlier in May. Electric-hued gomphrena, Mexican heather, tall garden phlox and Russian sage will provide purple accents throughout the rest of the growing season.

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English lavendar is a new addition to the garden. I have planted one in a pot as well.

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Baptisia australis is one of the first to bloom in May.

The first bloom of roses was really quite beautiful and fragrant. I just trimmed the spent blooms.

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A lovely trio of radrazz roses, salvia and cranesbill.

DSCN4532Out popped the yellows as the month marched on. Stella d’Oro daylily and coreopsis began to bloom.

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Petunias are a key feature to my containers this year. In fact, one container that held last year’s failed attempt at tomatoes is full with volunteer petunias from last year and volunteer butterfly milkweed.

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I was wondering what to plant in this large container. The volunteers tood care of that decision.

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Supertunia “Raspberry Blast” on top and “Blue Star” Laurentia axillaris on the bottom.

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A combination container of gomphrena, yellow Surdaisy, cherry red angelonia and licorice plant.

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“Amelia” shasta daisy, ready to spring open…

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…fully blooming a few days later.

My favorite season is coming to a close and I am hopeful summer’s sizzlers will be equally as thrilling. Gardening friends, I hope you’ve enjoyed spring’s bouty as much as I have.