The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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.


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.


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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Whistle While You Work

This blog title pretty well describes my day yesterday. First, it was Friday. No explanation needed there. Even better, it was planting day.

A group of us at work have come together to plant a container garden outside the patio of one of the buildings. We’ve been planning this for quite some time and have had several meetings to discuss what we’d plant–veggies; when we’d plant–Earth Day; steps needed to take to get this done–get seeds, containers, soil, signs, building approval, watering schedule, weeding volunteers, etc.

As these things tend to go, one thing led to another. I’ve mentioned before that I work with seed and plant experts, so at sometime along the way (like Meeting One) we decided we needed their, ahem, “engagement” in this project. And by that I mean we went begging, asking for quality seed, assistance to grow out the seed and maybe even a little bit of agronomic support. We’d do the rest! Honest. Especially the planting on a Friday part.

“Engagement” wasn’t an issue. This small project taps right to the roots of the joys of gardening. Lots of us love to get our hands dirty; and are as passionate about home gardening as we are about farming. Even one volunteer brought everyone rosemary plants he started at home from seed. Kind of a party favor, if you will. And Nick, a marketing manager for Seminis Vegetable Seeds, was more than happy to provide seeds and supplies so we could showcase the products he is so proud of on campus.

Planting site (1280x960)Here’s the lineup of what we’ve got going on. Many are AAS selections. Maybe you’ve planted some of these seeds in your own vegetable gardens:

  • Lettuce: Amanda
  • Spinach: Green Beret
  • Brocolli:” Artwork (AAS)
  • Peppers: Flaming Flare Fresno (AAS), Emerald Fire Jalapeno (AAS), Hot Sunset Banana (AAS), Sweet Sunset Banana (AAS), Flaming Jade Serrano (AAS)
  • Squash: Bossa Nova (AAS)
  • Tomatoes: Better Boy, Rugged Boy SV0056TD, Dixie Red
  • Cucumber: Gateway
  • Custard Beans

Eric, one of our planting experts, explained over lunch that our patio garden will have some challenges. The garden’s location gets lots of sun, which is good. It also will give off lots of heat retained by the patio. Fruiting plants like tomatoes will require lots of watering–even on weekends. And we’ll need to be coordinated in our watering schedule. We don’t want to drown the plants and we don’t want to overwater them either.

M Building Before (1280x960)

This is the patio bed before the plants were removed. It’s the perfect size for a container garden. Bonus: It gets tons of sun.

Full serpentine planters (960x1280)

The cool season crops like broccoli, lettuce and spinach will soon be replaced by more peppers, zucchini and other warm season vegetables.

I did learn this tidbit: Water deeply to encourage the roots to reach down to the water. I’m guilty of watering too lightly. That encourages shallow root growth. I’ll be more mindful of that in my garden this summer.

And he explained that we’ll need to be on the watch out for leaf molds and fungus, as well as critters who enjoy the fruits of our labor. You’ve heard me complain about squirrels and rabbits. This garden will in all likelihood also include deer.

What started as lots of gardending enthusiasts thinking “Wouldn’t it be neat to have a garden at work?” has become a reality that turned into a really neat way to meet and know new colleagues. We have more in common than where we work. We all love to garden. I’m thinking we could have a plant swap down the road.

Does your office or company gardening opportunities?

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In the Garden: What a Difference a Month Makes

Life in the backyard is abuzz with growth! Just one month ago, perennials were just beginning to push their way through the soil. Take a look and see for yourself the plant progress in my St. Louis garden.

This bed beneath the family room window and bordering the patio, looked rather barren on March 29.  The small bit of green is Meadow Sage.

This bed beneath the family room window and bordering the patio, looked rather barren on March 29. The small bit of green is Meadow Sage.

I had yet to trim back the roses and still need to add mulch. There are four KnockOut rose shrubs in this bed, three of them planted last year. This bed faces east and gets lots of morning sun as well as sun from the south.

Mother Nature is not the only one who has been busy. I have added the rocks to better direct the drainage from the downspout, cleaned out the bed and trimmed the roses. I have added a few plants as well, although the vast majority are perennials planted over the past three years.

Mother Nature is not the only one who has been busy. I have added the rocks to better direct the drainage from the downspout, cleaned out the bed and trimmed the roses. I have added a few plants as well, although the vast majority are perennials planted over the past three years.

This is one of my favorite beds. Everything I have put in this bed has been happy, happy, happy as Phil would say on Duck Dynasty. In addition to the roses and Mianacht salvia (salvia x sylvestris), there are Cranesbill Biokova Karmina (geranium x cantabrigiense) which edge the bed. These mounding plants have wonderful year round interest, their leaves turning deep green to crimson red in the fall and winter. In early summer they are filled with small rose-hued flowers. Filling in the bed are Shasta daisy(Leucanthemum × superbum), variegated lily turf (liriope muscari), threadleaf coreopsis and new this season, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis). I added the lady’s mantle to the north end of the bed, near the door, to bring some yellow to that end of things. I also transplanted a small and struggling shasta that had been in a bed near the fence. Anchoring the bed near the rocks on the south end is a low-to-the ground, creeping juniper (Juniperis horizontalis).  This evergreen has lots of yellow in, which complements the hot pink of the roses and brightens the deep purple of the salvia.

I also like this bed because it wraps around to the south, which gets gobs of sun. It begins its southern turn where the Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is anchored. I added two Stella D’Oro lilies(Hemerocallis) to play off the color in the juniper and contrast with the cool lavender of the Russian Sage. This small grouping is a nice segue to the south-facing part of the bed. I’ll share more of that in another post.

How’s  your garden growing?