Thursday, November 6, 2014

Garden Detente: Cage Them for Their Own Protection

Reds and Golds

Brilliant Yellows

Orange and Gold Canopy

Gorgeous Fall Spectrum of Color
Underneath the breathtaking canopy of reds, golds, and oranges the nervous frenzy is mounting. The squirrels start it with their frantic hiding of nuts in so many odd places, half of which they'll never find again.   This gets the other animals worked up. Pretty soon the compost bin has been ransacked; the mice have begun taking up lodging in the garage, storing the neighbors birdseed in your gardening boot and all animals begin to eat voraciously of anything they can find. Deer eat the last leaves off of low shrubs before they can even hit the ground and once the leaves are gone the tender  branches are also fair game.They're fattening up for the coming winter. Bucks rarely come out in  plain view in our yard, only in autumn and when winter is at its absolute coldest. You don't get to be a big old buck by being careless but when you're hungry you're hungry. They can eat a lot.

So, lock up your shrubs for their own safety. Roll out the fencing, the chicken wire, whatever you've got. It's got to be metal, though. Plastic is no match for those voracious eaters. For years they wouldn't let a few of my shrubs get any taller than a few feet and that was probably only because the snow bank was protecting that much.

 I've been slipping a tube of chicken wire over newly planted shrubs as soon as I put them in the ground. In fall I need to remember to check to make sure they haven't outgrown their armor.

Last year, in one area, where I've put shrubs close together, I unrolled 20 feet of six foot high fencing and enclosed the whole area. Low and behold the shrubs I thought weren't growing because of the amount of shade they were receiving actually grew and looked full and healthy.

 I was so satisfied with that solution that I did the same with a roll of four foot high chicken wire around another section this fall. I'll take the fences down when the coast is clear and tender buds are safe.

So now I'm out of chicken wire on hand and am reaching for anything to protect my taller shrubs, my accent shrubs and anything that is normally fair game during the cold winter months.

Now, I'm not heartless. I certainly don't want deer to starve. I offer up all the buckthorns, honeysuckles and volunteer shrubs and trees that have popped up in inconvenient places. They can have those. Enjoy! Just stay away from my Euonymous, my Ninebarks, my Red Twig Dogwoods, my new seedlings, and  even my Arborvitae. Yes, they even eat those in the winter months. That's why I've locked them up out of reach until the warm breezes and sweet smells bring us all out of our dens in spring.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Garden Detente - Simplify

"All the great things are simple...  " ~Winston Churchill.
The garden simplifies. Ever notice how certain plants, shrubs or trees do well in your garden while others do not? As one species withers, is pruned back by animals, or fries in the sun others fill in to take its place. Our friendships can be like that, our careers, our interests. We often try to force the issue in the garden as in our daily lives. In an effort to keep that water loving ligularia from wilting under the long branching arms of your flowering crab you water and water until for a few days something keeps you from getting to it and inevitably it dies. But in its place you find the epimedium has filled in and is thriving.  It's sad but its a relief not to have to force nature.
Gardens have a way of taking care of themselves
that way. This is not to say our gardens and lives wouldn't benefit from some pruning and weeding now and again. Gardens are tamed or else they're fields or forests. We've taken away natural predators and introduced non-native species just as we've done in our communities and homes when we form friendships that are not based on honesty or when we look the other way when we see something that should be stopped. There doesn't seem to be anything to stop us from doing exactly what we please these days.  Many plants and shrubs thrive and grow stronger with pruning.

Green is beautiful! There are so many shades and textures of green.  A pop of color amidst all that green really stands out. It's also nice when we can coordinate some colors or get a nice contrast going but when you look out at the garden and have every color in the rainbow and all their hues going at once it's like that kid in school who wore striped shirts with plaid pants or the old guy in the office who wears those wide, bold ties on even louder shirts, too much! The garden is supposed to be a peaceful place, not like a friend who just can't stop talking. I've been guilty of this, the overly colorful garden, not the too much talking, I mean.  Ok, maybe both! In a polite garden as in polite conversation one plant talks or blooms and then is quiet while another plants gets it's chance. In a larger garden two, maybe three conversations can be going on at once but above that it becomes a complete din and no one can hear even their own thoughts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Garden Detente - Divide and Conquer

Julius Caesar is credited with having said, "Divide and Conquer" in reference to Rome's approach to breaking up larger armies into smaller units and defeating them individually rather than taking them on in total and risking defeat against an army of equal strength. I guess that doesn't apply here at all but it sounds good because it is dividing time! We've passed the worst of summer heat and in many parts of the country there is enough rain now to reinvigorate the garden for a couple months. Many perennials have overstepped their bounds and creeped, crawled, pushed and shoved their ways into areas we don't want them. They've invaded other territories, another war analogy. They've gotten too big for their britches and our borders. In midsummer we risk losing newly transplanted dividings to the heat but the nights are getting cooler and the plants are coming back to life!

Sure it's true that we may want to divide plants before they get out of hand, as well. It's a great way to repeat color in our landscape. It's also smart to fill in dead spots with something you know grows well in your garden. Some people I know just don't learn. They keep replacing that plant that died with the same thing in the same place. Sometimes we just can't have that plant there no matter how much we'd love it. Maybe it can't tolerate those conditions or the foot traffic or your pets or other pesky animals that are definitely not pets. Why not divide a plant whose habits and needs you know very well.

Plants that spread readily by sending out new roots are the best candidates for dividing. There are many ways to divide plants and many plants whose root structure lends itself to dividing much more than others. Dividing a plant means that you will be doing a combination of cutting into roots and separating or untangling the roots. This can be done while the plant remains in the soil or once the entire plant is removed from the soil. Each method has it's advantages. Cutting through the roots with a spade can be done while the plant is still in the ground. The rest of the plant remains undisturbed. Digging the entire plant out of the ground is done when you don't want to cause undue damage to the roots and you want to be more precise with the separating of crowns and roots. This is often done with hostas because once you can get a good look at the roots it is usually clear where you'll want to cut. Cutting can be done with a kitchen knife for precision. I like to use a serrated knife.
 I keep one handy on my potting bench.

There are plants that do not multiply but instead come back strong every year. They may have a main tap root that goes deep into the soil cannot be divided but often leaf or root cuttings can be taken to multiply these gems in your garden. These are often the plants that multiply by seed as well. Leave the soil around them loose and clear of too much mulch that would prevent the seeds from contact with the soil they need. But that's a whole different kind of math than what were concerned with here.

Once you've divided your plants get them in the ground right away or at least keep them moist. Don't wait too long to get them in the garden. Give them the best chance to establish new roots before the first frost hits.

I can't wait to get right at this but tonight I'll have to be satisfied with listing the plants that need dividing and listening to the owls in the woods. Huhuhuhuh hoo hoo hoo

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Find Peace in the Garden

Escape, find peace.

Had a bad day? a bad week? Got bad news? Did someone let you down? Did you do something stupid? Feeling disappointed? Find peace in the garden. Weed meticulously or weed like mad! Take on a major task you've put off or barely do a thing when your eyes are too blurred with tears to see.

It's quiet even when it's noisy outside. The earth and foliage absorb sound. They absorb your thoughts, as well.

You see miraculous things in the garden. Butterflies float as if suspended on wires. Spiders spin webs more intricate than the finest French lace, have it torn to shreds and rework it before your eyes. Hummingbirds defy gravity. It can rain when the sun is shining bright, resulting in an array of colors promising new tomorrows. And if that isn't enough the garden can renew your soul.

Yes, the garden is filled to the brim with grace. You know it is. You've seen it renew itself after damage, natural or man made. It can heal YOU, too. Time spent in the garden is a soothing balm. It's Jesus Christ himself, cleaning your wounds, hand on your shoulder, telling you it will be all right. When he was here, physically, he spent time in a garden.

So, sit in the garden. Take what you need of its inexhaustible peace, its unfathomable beauty,  intoxicating aromas. Watch its intricate workings, become a part of the cyclical ebb and flow, become one with God's creation. Feel your problems melt away like the spring thaw. Be at peace in the garden.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lightning: A Garden Delight!

There is nothing like a good thunderstorm for the garden. A hose or sprinkler could never equal the boost that a flashing, rumbling downpour can give a garden. The amount of rain is only part of it but even that often exceeds what we usually allot to our flower beds. Sometimes we water in the heat of the day and even out in direct sunlight and so much of the water evaporates but a good soaking rain goes deep down to the roots. It's wonderful.

Lightning, it's thrilling, sometimes scary but also amazing. It's like a big static shock, the kind you get when you touch a door knob in the winter. It's a release of electric charge. The energy from the lightning burst causes nitrogen in the atmosphere to combine with water and be changed into a form usable by plants. Then it's like it's raining down plant food.

I love walking out in the garden right after a rain. You can almost hear the roots sighing with relief or joy or both. The drops sit on the leaves or in the flowers. The soil is dark.
It continues dripping from the trees for some time afterward.Colors look more vibrant.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Garden Whimsy: Climbers

Clematis, Morning Glories,  Trumpet Vine. They all need something to grab onto to pull themselves up, up, up to the sky. I've tried various things, most of them unconventional, some of them natural, others whimsical. We have an old wooden swing set, under which the platform from an old tree house fit perfectly. My husband is a saint with just enough faith in me that things will turn out to make our backyard fun and interesting.

The old swing set is sturdy but no longer has the single, high flying swings our kids enjoyed. We changed those out for a bench swing that fits two or three comfortably with an extra hook for a hanging plant. The platform keeps feet out of the grass or dirt and eliminates the need to replace wood chips underneath. There's no longer any risk of falling as this swing isn't going anywhere at any great speed.
 To create an instant vine covered look I had my son go into the woods behind our house and cut down one of the wild grape vines. They climb the ash, hawthorn and elm trees and eventually kill the trees by shading them out when they cover the crowns. I wound it over and around the frame as best I could. It not only gives the vine covered look but also gives plants something to climb on.

The clematis climbs one leg and reaches over to the old dead vine. It blooms early in that classic deep purple the Jackmanii is known so well for.

The morning glories climb the other leg of the same side and bloom mid-summer. The vines grow quickly since it is an annual and self seeds each year. It has a strong winding habit so it appreciates something to hold on to like long sticks to start it upward.
The other end of the swing set is for the Trumpet vine with its late summer orange trumpet-like blossoms which the hummingbirds love. It does more leaning than winding or vining but grows quickly as a shrub from previous years growth.

On the other end of the yard I have a clothes line in the middle of the garden which makes a great place for clematis and morning glories to climb. I like this combination and use it in a number of places because as the clematis is finishing it blooming the morning glories are just beginning theirs. I'm careful to protect the bases of the plants with chicken wire since it wouldn't take much for a bunny or deer to bite through the stem and kill the whole vine. The deer munch on a few leaves in the middle section and occasionally break a stem but that's not the end of the world.
Once again the vines need something to hold onto. On the clothes line I've had some fun with black metal household items like a decorative basket or bowl base, a vine shaped candle holder and even a scroll-y plate holder.
The black painted metal will eventually rust which I'm fine with. Eventually each summer the metal becomes totally covered with vines and flowers but until then they are similar in theme and color and look interesting on their own.

I also have a rake from an historic home in the area. It is old and rusted and unusable except as decoration or... vine stake! The morning glories are loving this new place to climb.

When there is an empty hole in an area of the garden such as when something has died or been removed a great filler is a nice spreading dead branch and yes, some more morning glories. They self seed so readily and are easily transplanted. They'll grow up the branches and cover them with leaves and flowers.

I can't wait to find something to start climbing my new fence!