Sunday, July 14, 2013

View of a Garden: Garden Walk 2013

Pagoda dogwood 'Golden Shadows', the other pictures can be seen by clicking on the "Read More"

On Saturday, 240 new sets of eyes saw my garden, most for the very first time.  This after Wednesday's Master Gardeners walk through of around 50 people.  These (pictured) are the plants and things I was asked most about.

In general, I was surprised at the level of discernment among this group of garden walkers.  Many of them were gardeners themselves, although vegetable or fruit gardeners, so these items, although not the most interesting and not the coolest things in my yard garnered a lot of attention.  But overall, lot of them asked if mine was a "real" garden?

I thought this was the very best question I was asked, although the first time I was asked it, I was a bit perplexed.  I stopped a moment and digressed a bit.  I told them the whole garden walk process starts almost a year in advance (just in case they didn't know).  As it was, there are always things that a gardener plans to do and stuff that we should be doing that doesn't get done.  The idea that my garden would be on the walk pushed me to finally deal with some of those issues.

I went on to explain how the long border had originally been created ten years ago, with newspaper, and wood chips, and leaves raked and collected from the library lawn a block away, as I had NO trees at the time.  I told them when I came to this lot I wanted to garden as organically as possible.  I told them how I lugged those leaves home and mowed them into the beds for a couple years.  How I composted everything organic I could find.  And how I still battle the terrible quack grass that is my lawn and how it runs from lawn to beds. And, how I had made the decision not to use Round-up because I have my own well and the garden sits on top of my drinking water, how I could probably dig my next well with a spoon, I'm so close to that water table.

I talked about how I don't use lawn chemicals, and the Village Maintenance Person dumps wood chips for me and how they are incorporated into the shrub and alley border, how I compost in place, everything but quack grass, weeds with seed heads, and really big sticks.   I talked about how when I dig a wider bed or a new area or remove sod I find the equivalent of beach sand, great drainage, but...

I talked about how I felt clean crisp bed lines is what draws a border into one cohesive "all."  and yet how the early long border has a couple ton of rock dragged in from my father's local dairy farm and how dragging it back would be too onerous, but how do you deal with it?

I talked about how I had redone the rock border 3 times in ten years.  First to weed it and raise the rock up as it sinks over time.  Second, to again raise it up and make an attempt to prohibit the quack grass entry into my long border.   I had put down REALLY heavy landscape fabric only to have the quack use it as a rooting mat and weaving itself into an un-weed-able, impenetrable barrier.

And how last fall I had dug everything up in a 20 foot section at a time and threw it on two tarps and laid down the rock yet again and replanted the long border.  And finally I had come across what I now think is "The Solution": a six inch deadzone between the rock and the lawn.   Finally, a clean bedline!

I was asked if I fertilize?  This year I did.  The last two years, I did not.  I did not fertilize my lawn.  I mostly fertilized roses and clematis.  I didn't fertilize my veggies.  Some years I mulch with compost; some years with wood chips.  The year I exclusively used wood chips I added chemical nitrogen.  I used to fertilize with cow manure, until there seemed to be too much of a thistle problem at my dads.

My worst weed?  Quack grass, clover, and turkey foot.  I seldom see creeping Charlie-- when I do it is all hands on deck. I don't tolerate violets and I am still eradicating the last of the lady bells, code name "campanula horribilis".

Do I spray?  No fungicides, I use 1:1 2 % milk to water and spray it every 3-5 days.  Yes, fungal stuff has been terrible this year, but my ninebark had that fungal disease that tends to kill ninebarks here and it appears nearly clean of it at this point.  Vigilance and good tool sanitation is key.

I explained the village's composting/chipping program, and the "too mulch of a good thing problem".  I told how I trim my shrubs and throw the trimmings and raked pine needles under shrubs in the long border.  I told how the duff under the iconic white pine is so fluffy, I can dig planting holes with my fingers because I never remove much there, just add mini pine bark nuggets each May.

And I talked about starting my own seedlings, cuttings and overwintering most of the annuals they see.

These were more the types of questions I had hoped to have.

I have been sweating the ornamentation aspects.  I overheard several comments on how I nailed it with my signature green apple paint and ultra-modern "green" squiggle.

Other than Stella, about the only daylilies on bloom anywhere on the tour.

Beautiful SIL hung my discretely hidden tags at near the top of the shrubs we were being asked most about what they were.  This is a false Japanese cypress, 'Boulevard'.

Gooseneck loosestrife prompted a lot of discussion about marketing, invasive plants, getting perennials that will grow in our area, and how beautiful it was.  It was just starting to bloom, it will be a runaway show stopper in just a week.

I grew the amaranth caudatus 'Green Love' and the nicotiana langdorphii from seed and had a lot of seedlings.  They both were massed out, but they got a lot of attention paired in this pot with a burgundy coleus, and fuschia in my side seating area.

Lilium 'Elodie'

Lilium 'Algarve'

Even not in bloom, crabapple 'Red Jade' got a lot of attention.

The one area I actually dug out last fall and replanted got a lot of attention.  I saw people step back and frame picture shots in this area more than once and comment to their friends, "Pretty as a picture."

The trumpet vine looked more like a tree than a vine trimmed and trained to grow along the top of my fence.  For that reason, lots of people asked about it.  Typically it is not in bloom for two weeks yet.

This cement bloom planting idea was something I started, but had not finished.  Even so it got a lot of attention.  I believed it would be fairly easy to find the cement blocks I need to create a low stepped planting wall for herbs, nasturtiums, egpplant, peppers, and tomatoes all of which like the heat and I felt might be in short supply this year.  I intended to continue my signature graphic on a few of the blocks.  People liked this idea just as it was and commented I should try to complete this.  It is very possible people have a lot of cement block out there they would like to re-purpose.  More than one commented it would keep the rabbits away from their eggplant, peppers, etc.
'Satisfaction' gave none.  It was the one lilium, Dr. Appps and I both thought would be in bloom...

Nicotiana langsdorphii bedded out with daylilies (not blooming), silver sage, white begonia, ageratum, and unseen white alyssum.

Hydrangea Annabelle fronted by 'The Fairy' planted as a border.

Finally finished those cushion covers, a project put off for over two years.

Savoy cabbage, with Atomic Red carrot blooming and Asian onions which (surprisingly) formed bulbs.
Another version of the stylized seedling from the fence panels, this time adorning a planting box stained with a tester of stain to match my fence and filled with a 'Forever Red' hydrangea I intend to winter over in my grow room so it will surely bloom next year.

I added a pretty pot  filled with fuschias and coleus I wintered over between these chairs.
Yes, it's a "real" garden.


  1. Sounds like a great success, Rochelle! 240 people, whew! Over how many hours? Clearly you knocked their socks off. Congratulations!

    1. Over six hours, but there was a real dead hour over lunch, always about 20-30 people in the yard.


  2. Wow well done! And I'm glad you got the cushion covers finished--Sometimes it takes an event deadline. Really it all looks so great, you must feel terrific about the tour. The 'pretty as a picture' bed really is.

    1. Yes, I am probably the President of Procrastinators, WI Chapter, but I haven't opened the confirmation letter yet! Thanks! Now I fear I will lose that "finished look" my garden has finally attained!

  3. Beautiful! And the cement blocks.... that's pretty cool. You have these tucked in your garden- is this the potager you have talked about?

    1. Other than the family garden at my brother's where I garden with his kids and sometimes my very busy SIL, and where I grow the majority of the veggies I can and freeze for all of us; I have a large rectangle where I grow strawberries, herbs, lettuce, a few tomatoes, etc. I can walk out and pick supper or lunch. It is a true kitchen garden. In attempt to give heat loving herbs and veggies more of that I came up with a half-completed plan of a cement block terrace system, especially given our cold spring. Half-completed because I haven't been able to buy cement block as Fleet Farm has been sold out 3 different times I have tried to purchase them! I have plans to carry my green seedling graphic onto the brick and perhaps paint or mosaic a mural to the other side, but so far I planted the corner of block that I have actually obtained.