The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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Upside/Downside in the Garden This Week

DSCN3054 (480x640)I don’t need my new rain gauge to tell me we’ve had a lot of rain in St. Louis. The “tap” has been running since last Sunday, and this morning the rain gauge was filled to the brim, indicating we’ve had nearly six inches of rain. Needless to say, all this moisture has had upsides and some downsides. Without further adieu, here’s a quick recap of my Arch City garden:

I was gone for the first part of the week so the upside is I did not need to water; the downside is ponding in parts of the yard, plants soaked to the bone and weeds, weeds, weeds. It finally stopped raining today and I spent an enjoyable few hours this morning tidying things up. You can translate that to mean trimming back spent blooms from the penstemon, lilies, lady’s mantle and roses, as well as the annuals. I have noticed lots of spots and white stuff on some of the plants, including the penstemon, echinacea and rudbeckia, so I cut back quite a bit. The roses have been food for some insect and now are displaying lacy leaves. Not a good sign.

By noon the sun was out in full force, the humidity unbearable and yours truly headed back inside.

DSCN3089 (1024x768)DSCN3058 (1024x768) (2) There are some bright spots to the garden as well. The daylilies my neighbor generously gave me last summer are starting to bloom and they are lovely, although the liriope nearby have been heartily munched upon (I suspect rabbits) and the more than one dozen tomatoes on my patio plant are g-o-n-e. That would be squirrels. In fact, they left half-eaten tomatoes scattered upon the lawn. Ingrates.

DSCN3077 (1024x768)

DSCN3073 (1024x768) DSCN3087 (1280x960)The “Berry Chiffon” tickseed I planted before I left for the Fling has begun to bloom and is quite showy with deep pink petals whose tips appear to be painted white. Yet some of the liatris nearby has been trampled just as it is beginning to bloom. It is now cut back and in a vase in the family room.DSCN3060 (1024x768)

The astilbe in the newly installed south bed were stunning and I could not be happier with the plants in this shady part of the yard–fern, Japanese forest grass, hosta, Solomon seal, coral bells. As the raspberry plumes on the astilbe begin to fade, the caladium are starting to emerge, although some critter seems to have had a nibble or two on them as well. Rabbits? I suspect so but am not sure. I’ve never grown caladium in the ground. Readers, any tips for critter control?

The true test of the garden will be when the heat really kicks up. I guess that test will be tomorrow, as we expect temperatures in the mid 90s.DSCN3063 (1280x960)

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Progress Report: Turning Dreams into Reality

concrete planter

Astilbe circle the base of the concrete stand. I placed the armillary sphere on top as a last-minute gesture. My original plan is to put a container oozing with plant atop the stand. But I do kind of like this look.

It’s just after 6 p.m. My fingernails are filthy, my shoes are muddied (and in the garage), I have hat hair, my lower back is talking to me, and the shade garden bed that I dreamed about all winter has begun to take shape.

It was a very good day in the garden.

The long view of the bed, looking toward the top of the bed.

The long view of the bed, looking toward the top of the bed. There’s plenty of room remaining for the caladium bulbs on order and Japanese forest grass. And as time goes by, I think I will add more heuchera to the front.

This was a day of moving plants from one bed to another, checking the layout I painstakingly mapped out in the midst of winter–desperate for a spring day like today–and making modifications on the fly. My daughter Louise and I hoisted a concrete plant stand and moved it to the middle of the bed, which could have something to do with the backache. Here is what has gone into this fence-line shade bed that is anchored at the top by a maple tree and curves at the bottom into the wet “problem zone” of the yard:

  • Astilbe Chinensis “Visions,” featuring a raspberry red plum.
  • Ostrich fern (Matteuccia Matteuccia). Placed in the back of the bed in front of the fence because they can grow five and a half feet tall.
  • Hosta “Frances William.” This is one forgiving plant because I have moved it three times in three years and it seems unfazed.
  • Heuchera “Plum Royal” and “Marvelous Marble.” The Ruffled Lime I planted last year have not reappeared.
  • Several variegated Solomon’s seal (polygonatum biflorum). My friend Mary generously allowed me
  • to dig up several transplants from her yard early in the week and I was able to get it in before the torrential rain this past week. It has doubled in height in the one week it has been in the bed.

Still to come: Caladium “White Queen,” Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra) “Aureola”, creeping jenny. And mulch, lots of mulch.

Dear readers, how does your garden grow?


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Weekly Update — Buckets of Rain

rainIt has rained buckets in St. Louis. The photos from my last few posts were taken during the brief reprieves Mother Nature provided. I’m sure even She gets tired of pouring rain. I know my sump pump is working over time, and a distinct “squish” can be heard and felt underfoot during my now twice daily yard and garden inspections. Just three days ago some parts of the St. Louis region received more than 3 inches of rain. And I believe we got a repeat performance early yesterday morning and throughout the day.

Standing water is common after heavy rains in the low lying area of the yard. This is one of the problem areas of the yard. And I am attempting to address it with plants that like standing water.

ponding bed

Ponding occurs in the southeast corner of the yard after prolonged rain or a very hard rain. I planted winterberry in this spot last fall because it supposedly withstands standing water.

Needless to say, my first plant purchases for the season remain unplanted. Accompanying the rain are very warm temperatures. Today we were near the mid-80s F. This puts us more than 20 degrees above normal. While I expect we will cool off, I am not too worried about a major freeze, as our average last frost date is April 12, just days away.

Lest I begin to sound like a complainer, let me cast some sunshine on this predicament. The lawn, trees, shrubs and perennials are emerging quicky. The tonic of moisture and warm temperatures are just what they need. Here’s a closer look at their progress.

astillbe growing

Astilbe Chinensis “Visions” are coming along. Heuchera “Plum Royal” is peeking out near the botton right.

The ferns I planted last summer--and thought would not return--are back!

The ferns I planted last summer–and thought would not return–are back!

bloodgood maple leafing

The Bloodgood Japanese Maple has been a proven winner in my yard since I planted it in 2012.

oakleaf growing

Emerging young leaves of oakleaf hyrangea “Alice.”

"Dark towers" penstemon digitalis.

“Dark towers” penstemon digitalis.


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Attack of the Killer Sweet-Gum

What a cute looking pollen...until it covers the  yard.

What a cute looking pollen…until it covers the yard.

I’m lucky. I don’t really suffer too terribly from seasonal allergies. I notice the car or patio table lightly dusted in a shade of green, but really haven’t given it much thought. There is something in the air in July that makes my nose itch like the dickens but besides that, I really don’t have any problems. And, really, I have not been all that sympathetic to those who do suffer. My daughters will testify to that.

Until now. Wow.

Take a look at the pollen in my yard and on the patio. I came home from work yesterday and–as is my evening habit–went outside to survey the garden beds. Are the astilbe, hosta, heuchera and black eyed Susans I transplanted over the weekend holding up under the nearly 90 degree heat? Are the new ferns I planted adapting to their place beneath the tree? But wait, before I could even begin to answer these compelling questions, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the plethora—and I do mean plethora—of Christmas-tree shaped pollen grains from my neighbor’s sweet-gum (Liquidambar) tree littering my lawn and patio.

swept up pollenThose who know and love me know that I am not a fan of the sweet-gum tree. And Arch City is full of them. The sweet-gum is the tree of choice in my neighborhood. No doubt a builder’s special in the 1950s because they are everywhere in my mid-century-built subdivision. In fact, my backyard neighbors’ has a towering sweet-gum in their yard right next to a 100-foot sycamore. A sweet-gum will grow up to 100 feet and by the looks of it, my neighbor’s tree has accomplished this height. By the way, both trees drop fruit, a spikey gumball in the case of the sweet-gum and one-inch balls in the case of the sycamore.

Sweet-gum trees abound in my neighborhood. This one towers over my yard. At maturity, they can be 100 feet tall. I think this one is mature.

Sweet-gum trees abound in my neighborhood. This one towers over my yard. At maturity, they can be 100 feet tall. I think this one is mature.

I commenced sweeping the Christmas tree pollens up from the patio. And as I did, they began to break down and the patio looked as if it were littered with yeast. I decided to do a little research and visited pollenlibrary.com (who knew?) where they describe this yard menace as a mild allergenic.

To add insult to injury, the two smallish maples in my yard and in the yard of my neighbor to the south, have released a profusion—and I do mean profusion—of winged beans. I know you know what I’m talking about. Don’t ask me what kind of maple these are, because I have no idea. And these winged beans are a moderate allergen.

Winged beans from the nearby maples fill the gutters. Oh joy!

The forecasters warned that we would have a robust pollen season. Clearly they had this forecast spot on. Now that I’m becoming more sensitive to my friends and family with allergies, I can’t help but think I might have the sniffles. Oh, and a little cough too.

How’s your spring shaping up?