The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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It’s Piddling Season

St. Louis weather in February can best be described as variable. We have days that feel like a reprieve from winter–like today’s 70+ degree temps–and we have clear signals that it’s still winter–like last week’s soppy snow shower. So garden time is sporadic at best.

Snow on Grasses (768x1024)

The grasses plumes drape gracefully under the weight of a wet snow.

2016 budding rhodo

The rhododendron will bloom soon, a sure sign that spring is near.

Sunday’s warm weather was accompanied by gusty winds and the ground is very soggy still. I take advantage of these sorts of days to piddle. I rake up a couple of trash cans of sweet gum balls, cut back the tall ornamental grasses and generally enjoy a nice day. Tempting as it was, I resisted raking the leaves out of the beds. I thought about edging some of the beds but it’s too wet. This piddling around allows me to begin to stretch my back and take stock of what really needs to be done once the weather begins to warm in March.

How do you take advantage of a warm day in later winter?

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Wading In, Part I

I knew from the first moment I sat on a plastic chair in the backyard of what was to become my new home four years ago, that the 32 or so 12” x 12” concrete pavers from the big box store down the road had to go. There we were, four of us crowded together, knees nearly touching, on that postage stamp- sized patio, immersed in conversation on the pluses and minuses of the mid-century ranch. I had no doubt that the house was for me, but the backyard?

The yard featured the so-called patio, a two-shrub Knock Out rose bed under the den window and a shade garden, freshly mulched, in the back corner. Along the side fence by the garage ran a 25-foot long raised bed, bare in February.

Also facing the backyard next to the a/c unit stood three young PJM rhododendrons under the eaves protected from harsh winds and elements.

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In the corner where the family room juts out of the long expanse of the ranch sits a purple barberry, also protected. Ugh, I thought, I hate that prickly barberry bush.

In the corner where the family room juts out of the long expanse of the ranch sits a purple barberry, also protected. Ugh, I thought, I hate that prickly barberry bush.

In the corner where the family room juts out of the long expanse of the ranch sits a purple barberry, also protected. Ugh, I thought, I hate that prickly barberry bush.

The yard itself is a typical tract housing suburban lot, with dimensions of about 40 x 75 feet. It is rectangular, gently sloped, fenced on three sides, with small trees randomly along the perimeter. Not a tree, shrub or flower disrupted the expanse of weedy grass (except of course, the so-called patio).
Did I mention that that the sell sheet advertised the property as landscaped?

“This is not landscaped,” was what my realtor said several times as we weighed the merits of the property.

Which, as it turns out, was a good thing.