Monday, June 8, 2015

The Cottage Garden--new PURPLE finds!

Here are some of the plants that are peeking around the many corners of this gorgeous property this week!  Many of them I haven't identified yet, so, if you know leave a comment and I will edit the comments down the road.  
I have three beauties hiding in the monuments planter.  Mom was over and I think she said it was an Allium.  They are really hidden in this planter, so, after they lose their flower I am moving them to the front of the white trellis so you can see them!

I have a couple of these in different planters.  I love the color--not my shadow in the background!  Mom says they need water every time she comes over...but they are getting a regular drink from Mother Nature, so, I am not gonna add more.  Any idea what they are?

In the same planter this one  has a different growing pattern but a similar colored flower!  Love it, too!!  But I don't know what it is, do you?

This Clementis is growing very delicately on the chimney trellis.  I worry about the tiny, thin stem that is peeking out of the ground...and then it produces two gorgeous purple flowers like this.  They didn't last long on the vine...too much rain or wind???

This vine is growing in the fountain planter and is circling its way around one of the two Dwarf Alberta Spruce I have growing in pots.  Again, I don't have a name for it, but the little flower "drops" are very pretty!!

This purple Baptisia is a show stopper!  After the flowers are gone, the plant produces cool black seed pods that stay on through the Fall to contrast the green of the plant.  It is hardy too!  I am actually going to make a hedgerow of these in front of the fire pit this Fall, dividing this huge one into four plants.  I will move two more (one is yellow) from the back of the soap room to join this big guy!

  The next two pictures are not purple or plants.  I discovered the entrance burrow about 10 days ago and the exit was dug out a day or two later.  It may be a woodchuck in there???  It's a pretty big opening as you can see from the brick I put in to show the size!  I closed the entrance by the fence and threw some used kitty litter in the other hole.  If it is a woodchuck, I understand any young ones would be out and about by now, so, I want to get whatever it is OUT before I seal up the borrow.  I have a trap out there too, but, I haven't had anything big in it yet.  Some smaller critters are going in to steal the bait, but, they aren't big enough to trip the door.   

Thursday, May 14, 2015

DIviding the Hostas


On Tuesday, I finally got the right conditions to spread some weed and feed--the grass was wet with dew and the temps were in the 50's.  I used my Dad's old bucket spreader and I can honestly say that I expect to have a few patches of yellow turf--the whole on/off mechanism takes a little getting used to.  At least I could practice on my lawn before doing Dad's. 

When I arrived at the folks house to spread the weed and feed on their lawn, Dad had decided he needed to mow--so that project got crossed off the list.  But wait, there was plenty more to do!  I finally tackled Mom'a hosta bed on the north side of the garage.  It was my first real experience dividing plants, and, unfortunately my partner in crime really shouldn't have been working in the garden at all.  But, I am finding it impossible to keep Mom from doing things that will end up hurting her back.  This is the finished product (picture above), nine plants all nicely spaced and set back from the sidewalk a bit.  When they are in full bloom, they tend to sweep over the walkway, so, hopefully this will keep them a bit more contained. 

While I was out there, I set up the fountain too!  Which reminds me I need to get mine going also. 
After a quick sit at the computer, we had the third project completed and it was home to do some work on the cottage. 

On Wednesday morning, we again had cool temps--perfect for a day of digging!  Mom came over and she masterminded the placement of the 20 hostas on the berm by the koi pond.  Then to keep her from doing too much, I sent her back to the backyard to work on one of the tiers she could weed standing up.  About the time she got done with that, I was mostly done with the hostas.  She was already planning on hitting up one of her friends who had a different color hosta to go with the two kinds we had in place.  There is plenty of room for more, but my back says to wait a while to put in any more!

My sister had helped Mom dig up a patch of overgrown irises a week ago, so, I had two trays of plants to put in.  Behind Mom is the bed she had prepared.  While she sat and cut the irises, I dug the holes and then planted them.  She wanted three rows, but, I think the two rows I ended up with are perfect.  And they won't need to be divided for a long while!   But, we still have a ton more to put in...somewhere.  I think they will go in a nice sunny spot on the east property line in the front yard.

Mom thought the leaves should be cut down more..I wanted them on.  Partly to see more of our hard work, but, mostly because I like the green in this particular planter.  I need to get some mulch on this bed...and if you can see the landscape fabric showing through on the next tier up, you would be screaming at me to hit Home Depot for MORE MULCH!!
Five of the new hostas with a bunch of coneflowers in the foreground.

A close-up--these two-tone hostas are just gorgeous when they reach their full bloom.  That's some grape hyacinth behind...the goal is to have no place for the weeds to come up!!!  Talk about wishful thinking!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The First Cottage Spring Cleanup April 2015

Earlier in the year I had grand plans to drive back to Illinois with the folks when they were ready to end their 2015 Snowbird Season.  It was a challenging plan, as trying to fit me into their SUV with all their stuff was not going to be easy.  But, I figured anything I displaced could ride with me in the big van up to Illinois in May.  But then I discovered an error in my calender.  My Orlando show, Fiesta in the Park, would not be on its usual first weekend in April, it was moved back a week due to Easter.  Oh snap!  My ride up to Illinois now became a challenge to book a cheap flight to go with the cheap return flight I had already booked on Allegiant on April 19th--about $80 with no bags.

I did find a flight on Southwest that was cheap-ish and came with two free bags, so, I booked that for Tuesday the 14th.  It would require the folks to make a trip into Milwaukee from Rockford, but, it's a pretty easy drive if you can avoid the rushes.  As the plane arrived at noon, it was doable.  What remained in question:  would I be able to whip the winter ravaged, 2/3 of an acre garden into shape in FIVE DAYS?!

Can you believe I didn't take any before pictures?  I was so excited and anxious on Tuesday afternoon I just started hacking away at the grasses near the back-up area of the driveway.  It took four hours the first day to get them cut up, bundled and bagged.  Over the next five days I would put in 40 hours,(my Mom volunteered another 8 hours, my nephew Roger about 2 very physical hours) bagging 38 bags of yard waste, 12 bundles of stalks and limbs and laying 54 bags of mulch!!  The pictures below show the end result--it isn't perfect but most of the brown, wind blown and spent plants had been trimmed.

Oh crap, I forgot to fill the bird bath.  The two brown bushes here we cut
back a bit...there was already new growth out to about the tips.  The red/
brown freeze on the two rows of boxwoods started last winter.  That may be a
project to replace down the road.   

The middle and top tiers both need mulch and the top tier needs some more
attention by the tall trellis wall.  Mom said there is some Ribbon Grass
I may want to remove.

The Scottish Thistle is starting to come up in this planter.  I will
get more pictures of that when I get back.

There are some daffodils and another unidentified flower (the reddish pink
one below that I will move into the little planter above.  These used to be
planted around an Airstream trailer they had back here.

What are these???

I didn't get the fountain set up in this planter...and, yes, there is still some
winter burn on those potted shrubs.

The Koi and the critters are playing in the "pond"!

You can see I still need to mulch the east property line planter...
another 20 bags there maybe???

I have already talked with Rod about taking a week of vacation in April with me next year so we can get the yard cleaned up.  Before I leave in October, I will get all the grasses cut back so those curly-cues aren't all over the place in the Spring...that will eliminate about 1/4 to a 1/3 of the work!  And this will become part of the Fall routine--those grasses get caught in the snowblower and we don't want any extra work come snow removal season!!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Being a good sport...

I was thumbing through a several month old magazine in my large, ever growing stack of back issues. I was kind of speed reading an article meant for parents on how to make your kids into good sports. There were several good suggestions and certainly this is one of those things most of us manage to pass with at least an average grade as we move into adulthood.  One of these, I can say I absolutely mastered and I know now exactly why.


It makes perfect sense, right?  To make it into adulthood, we have to weather a lot of disappointments.  We don't get the candy we want at the grocery store check-out.  We don't get to play with that new toy, now (and the ensuing tantrum certainly doesn't get us any closer to the toy box). We don't win the lead in the school play.  We will never, ever be good enough to stand in front of a sold out stadium and sing to our heart's content.  Chances are that Publisher's Clearing House prize patrol will not be standing at our door with a BIG CHECK.  There are a lot of little letdowns in the life's path to maturity.

Nephew Rog in 2008 sporting the colors!
My road to being an expert in tackling this attribute: I happened to be born into a family in Northern Illinois about an hour and a half from Chicago.   Our family was a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs, despite having reasonably good substitutes on Chicago's South Side, up in Milwaukee or down in St. Louis.  It was just that we were North Siders.  So, plain and simple I got used to losing.  Almost every day in the summer from the time I was in grade school, my team would go up against a team that may not have been any better than the Cubs and we would lose.  Nearly every single day more often than not, I would have a chance to exercise my "good sport" muscle.

That practice didn't involve something that was a matter of my personal health or wealth.  After all, it was just a game--and not even one in which I played.  So, it was a painless way to be told NO. Believe me, the lesson was learned and retained.  GO CUBS!!

Now, the main question is how a girl without kids found her way to that article at all!  Perhaps it is because I can always use a refresher course on the basics.  You know, wrap that dental floss around your teeth as you floss--not just in between them!  Drink lots of water!  Say Please and Thank You!!
At craft shows I get asked questions a lot and I try to give good advice.  But, that doesn't always translate into my real life conversations with friends and family.  Ever got into one of those one-up discussions with someone?  Next time, I hope I can just let it go and cede victory...because I don't/won't win them all!

Mom and I at Wrigley in 2006 with Rod and Dad!