The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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A stunning day to garden

I love Saturdays, or even more to the point, I live for Saturdays. Especially early May Saturdays when the weather is pleasant, the nurseries are brimming with plants and I have all the time in the world to play in the garden.

Temperatures are on the cooler side for this time of year, and I noted it was a brisk 38 when I stepped barefoot onto the patio. Normally the low is around 52. I hauled several annuals into the garage last night including Kimberly fern, hibiscus and gerbera daisies because they forecast temperatures down to 34.

The azalea reacted predictably by shedding some of its lovely pink petals. But it is nearly done with its fashion show anyway.

So much is emerging right now. I do believe this is my favorite time to garden. The oak leaf hydrangea is beginning to bud. Within a month it will be an explosion of 12 inch blooms.

I checked on the budding white “Shirley Temple” peonies I planted in 2017. I’ve had my eye those and the “Eden’s Perfume” peonies I planted that year because they’ve not really bloomed well. This year there are buds on all of them. I’m feeling pretty optimistic.

My coffee inspection led me to the “May Night” salvia I moved to a raised bed last spring. No complaints here! It sits by betony, which I installed last year. I also moved some of of the salvia to a large bed at the edge of the patio and it too is doing nicely. The betony is bushy and looks vigorous but no blooms yet.

Also enjoying a moment is the variegated Solomon seal. A transplant from a friend’s garden a few years ago, I have divided it this season and shared with a neighbor. I love its string of pearl-like blooms. They are short lived.

The Japanese Forest Grass is emerging nicely. I was worried it looked a bit lackluster, but is seems to be rebounding for another year in the shade garden.

Hostas are another tried and true and rugged as can be plant frequently found in many area gardens, including mine. The morning stroll found them enjoying this spectacular morning as much as I did. I have several varieties but I do not know their names as I got them from garden club plant sales or as cuttings from friends.

I hope you’re enjoying your garden in your corner of the world.


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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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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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A spring moment

Full disclosure: these pix are not from my St. Louis garden. They are what’s on view in my sister’s San Antonio backyard garden. I feel encouraged that I’ll soon enjoy the lively colors of spring in gardens closer to my ZIP code.

Brightly hued pansies and snapdragons fill in the space of what was once a pond.


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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