The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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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.


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Salad Gardening Experiment Update

Salad fixins

Lettuce, spinach and broccoli grow from seed in my veg trug.

I’ve enjoyed my first home grown salad of the season. Tender lettuce and spinach leaves gingerly harvested from the veg trug. Truly a satisfying feeling. A salad that was fresh, delicious and grown from seed in my own backyard.

Yet I seriously doubt I will grow vegetables from seed again.

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Freshly picked, washed and ready for tossing.

It’s not that I didn’t derive a great sense of accomplishment from harvesting my own salad fixins. I did! Honestly, though, I did not enjoy the growing-from-seed experience. I did two experiments: Starting seeds in eggshells (what I affectionately call The Pinterest Salad) and direct sowing seeds into my veg trug (what I call the No-Fuss-No-Muss Salad). And if I had to choose one over the other, I prefer the latter.

Daily I misted the eggshells and the seeds quickly began to sprout. Joyous, I envisioned gently positioning my eggshell seedlings into the trug beside the No-Fuss-No-Muss experiment. The race would be on! But wait, what’s this? My eggshell seedlings became…leggy. Apparently my bright sunny window was not enough. I actually needed a grow light which would provide the appropriate light so that that lettuce would grow bushier.

Uh-oh.

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Leggy lettuce, broccoli and pelargonium get their start in eggs shells.

Meanwhile, the seeds in the trug were, well, trugging along. They were very slow to get going. Day after day little progress greeted my pre- and apres-work inspections. Was I watering enough? Too much? Not enough sun? Too cold? I moved that trug from sun to shade to partial sun/partial shade. Time would soon tell. Wouldn’t it? The broccoli plant looks wonderful but has yet to bear broccoli.

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Direct sown into the veg trug, spinach and lettuce begin to sprout.

 

I decided this was too much anxiety for a salad. But patience saved the day and eventually the lettuce and spinach produced lovely leaves worthy of picking and drenching with salad dressing. It occurred to me that I should have written down the date I planted the seeds so that I could generally expect when they would mature. (I think I was looking out the window during science class.) The brocolli has yet to produce.

I continued to mist the Pinterest Salad. I had read that blowing a small fan near the seedlings would strengthen their stems. Whose got time for that! It’s no wonder I prefer the No-Muss-No Fuss method to salad gardening. I eventually took my Pinterest Salad outside and attempted to plant the eggshells in a small pot. That did not work. The shell fell apart and the seedling root structure was far to fragile.

Next year, I will fill my trug with salad fixins, but I plan to buy small starter plants from the nursery, which I expect will be equally satisfying.

Do you grow vegetables from seed?

 


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5 Container Favorites

I don’t talk about annuals much, preferring to invest in perennials and shrubs. But I do a bit of container planting each year to keep the color going. I’m anxious–but not too–for this cool, rainy spring to turn over to summer where the containers really take off. Every year I like to experiment with something new but I do have some tried and trues that I can’t live without. Here are five of my recent favorites.

 

2015 nicotianaNicotiana. I plant this near a window so I can enjoy its evening fragrance. A fast grower, nicotiana attracts bees and likes sun. Nicotiana comes in pink, a limey green and white. I like the white but have planted all three. I don’t usually combine this in a container because it likes as much room as it can get.

Trailing begonia 2Begonia. Not just any begonia. It’s gotta be dragon wing begonia. The light my window boxes receive suits this plant just right, and dragon wing has become a staple. I usually pair them with a spiller because these plants are all the thriller I need! Here I’ve paired it with purple spiderwort, another easy grower. I’m partial to the coral blooms that gently cascade on a delicate stem. As you can see, they take over, but I’m not complaining.

DSCN1945 (960x1280)Angelonia. I’m fairly new to this gem of a plant and I find the white cultivars are a bit more vigorous than the purple. However, I’ve only planted these in containers for two seasons and last season my containers (which had the purple variety) really didn’t perform well. This container had both white and purple varieties. I adored the yellow accent of calibrachoa, but it only bloomed once and looked pretty shabby.

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Gerbera Daisy. Happy, hardy, colorful. A friend brought this over one day. I popped this sunny flower into a sunny yellow pot and enjoyed the heck out of it all summer. This is an easy care perennial that performed best in a container. It did not take well to being transplanted.

Gomphrena containerGomphrena.  I wish I had a better photo but you’ll get the idea. This is a real workhouse annual, providing bloom after tireless bloom all summer. Its cute pom-pom shaped spheres on long thin stems make for a great fill-in. I planted this last summer for the first time and combined it with sweet potato vine and petunias. I’d categorize this plant as fun, if there is such a plant category. The nearly neon purple bloom is a lot of fun too.