a little back yard project

The back yard had three small beds on the south side. I decided to consolidate. First I re-arranged the rocks to make one continuous wall, then I brought in some old horse manure, and last planted and added a layer of wood shavings mulch from the stables. Here’s the before and after:late May 002late May 005late May 010late May 024late May 026These last few days have been too hot to do much, but in the early cooler mornings I managed top lay down some hay mulch and move those bossy ferns. Here is the new fern patch: late May 038and here are some areas mulched with hay. It’s looking to be a dry summer so mulch is critical if I don’t want to stand around holding a watering hose.

mulched under the apple tree

mulched under the apple tree

happy mulched hosta bed

happy mulched hosta bed

obligatory cat picture:late May 021and a barn swallow nest over the door!late May 036Here’s a zoom shot, with the bird looking back at me suspiciously!late May 035

My birthday week

This past week I turned 55, and the garden gave me a lot of “presents”. This morning I walked around the garden with the camera.

Now blooming:

May 23 first orange poppy opened

May 23 first orange poppy opened

yellow corydalis artfully posed against a rock

yellow corydalis artfully posed against a rock

anemone sylvestris started blooming right on my birthday!

anemone sylvestris started blooming right on my birthday!

columbine with morning dewdrops. Columbine are also just starting to bloom.

columbine with morning dewdrops. Columbine are also just starting to bloom.

johnny-jump-ups are everywhere

johnny-jump-ups are everywhere

PROJECTS:

David built a new garden “gate”. Here is Mr Fluff trying it out. It’s an old screen door and it swings both directions. Very handy!May 23 008In the back yard I am planning another small wall. The ground is very dry, I discovered as I dug out the widened path in preparation for wall building. May 23 041We bought a little bird house as my birthday present. So far no birds have moved in. Maybe we have it too low? We might move it in another week and see if we get any takers.May 23 034White Garden: I bought a nannyberry (viburnum lentago) from a local nursery and planted it at the back of the white garden–these are native and grow around here, reaching ten feet! The three goatsbeard plants are coming along as well, and the two white hydrangea shrubs are leafing out. As for blooms, only the narcissus are around now, and the solomon’s seal. May 23 033Back Yard panorama: Here is the back yard view for May 23:May 23 back yardThe obligatory cat picture: I sat for a few minutes in the hosta corner at the bottom of the front yard. Mr Fluff, who was following me around the gardens, saw me sitting and made a bee-line for my lap.

"Oh, boy, she's sitting down! I can get my chin scratched if I hurry..."

“Oh, boy, she’s sitting down! I can get my chin scratched if I hurry…”

Challenges: I have a thuggish fern, an Ostrich Fern, at the bottom of the front yard. I have a few other types that are smaller and better-behaved, but this one is trying to take over the world. I have reluctantly decided that it has to go. I’m going to transplant it in  two spots where it can’t do any harm: the bed next to the garage, where it can fight it out with bishop’s weed, and a dark north-facing corner where it can compete with grass, stinging nettles, and more bishop’s weed. thuggish ferns

grading break!

This morning before coming to the office to grade final exams, I walked around the yard taking pictures. First, some narcissus photos; they are still stealing the show in the garden, with the early ones faded but new ones just starting to open.

pretty white and lemon, with a yellow edge on the cup

pretty white and lemon, with a yellow edge on the cup

a late split-cup two-toned yellow daffodil

a late split-cup two-toned yellow daffodil

late blooming very small narcissus

late blooming very small narcissus

a cute tiny double

a cute tiny double

white thalia are blooming in the white garden now

white thalia are blooming in the white garden now

The tulips are also in full bloom now. Some are being stolen for lunch by squirrels, but there are enough so far left to show their amazing colors.

red and yellow

red and yellow

a crowd of red and yellow

a crowd of red and yellow

a nice patch of tulips just starting to open

a nice patch of tulips just starting to open

Other plants that are blooming include Fritillaria meleagris (snake’s head fritillary) and Leucojum (Summer Snowflake), Polemonium (Jacob’s Ladder), fern-leaf dicentra (Burning Hearts), various primroses, and Mertensia (Virginia Bluebells). And of course pulmonaria has been blooming for quite a while already.

pulmonaria, fritillary, and bluebells

pulmonaria, fritillary, and bluebells

dicentra burning hearts

dicentra burning hearts

summer snowflake with Jacob's ladder

summer snowflake with Jacob’s ladder

cloud of primroses

cloud of primroses

Elsewhere in the garden some perennials are just starting to emerge from winter slumber:

lily of the valley

lily of the valley

hostas spearing up out of the ground

hostas spearing up out of the ground

cimicifuga unfurling

cimicifuga unfurling

a young peony not quite opened up

a young peony not quite opened up

As for the birdhouse–it took a pair of tree swallows less than 12 hours to claim it. They are now busy stuffing it with straw and other things to make a nest!

Chilly Garden Party and lots of wall-building…also a new bird house!

It was chilly and breezy for the Mother’s Day garden party but we still had a nice time chatting and eating inside. A few intrepid souls put on coats and walked around the garden. One guest brought a hand-made bird house, which we put up this morning where we can see it from the kitchen window. new bird houseWe will keep an eye on it and report on which birds grab this fancy real estate first. To get ready for the party I went into gardening high gear and got three new walled beds made. I posted about the small patio bed last time. I also worked on the front yard. It took four hours from start to finish. Here are the photos:

with the hay pushed back and the path lowered a bit.

with the hay pushed back and the path lowered a bit.

with the cart I used to haul in rocks

with the cart I used to haul in rocks

the wall is mostly complete here. I added a few more later.

the wall is mostly complete here. I added a few more later.

Done. The clay pot is planted with marigolds and a petunia.

Done. The clay pot is planted with marigolds and a petunia. I brought in more hay to cover the path.

along the top the bed is edged with a handy log from a tree that got blown over a few years ago.

along the top the bed is edged with a handy log from a tree that got blown over a few years ago.

In the space between the meditation garden and the back yard we had planted a row of forsythia. They never bloomed and we finally decided to give up on them. I got out the shovel on Saturday and dug out the roots, which was a heavy job. Then I rolled a big decorative rock as a main feature for a new rock-lined bed. I added a wheelbarrow load of aged horse manure compost and planted some annuals. As a finishing touch I added a piece of garden art made by my niece Rachel. new bed w Rachel potnew little bedElsewhere in the garden the wood primrose is blooming a bright purplish pink, and is trying to escape its bed. I plan on transplanting the wanderers to a new bed. escaping wood primroseAnother escapee is a little patch of foam flower in the front yard hosta bed.escaping foamflowerUnder the kitchen window is the bed that faces north and is always last to thaw and last to bloom. I raked it and uncovered the hosta shoots. The bright green in the center is a white bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis). I’m planning to move this one to the new white garden a friend of mine is creating. I have other white dicentra that I’ll move to my own white garden. raked kitchen window bedAnd speaking of my white garden, we put out the lovely metal lotus given to us at Christmas as a garden decoration for this new Moon Garden project. Here it is:white garden decorationThe daffodils are in full bloom and love this cool weather. daff large cup salmondaff yellow edgepink daffThese are just a few of the showier daffodils coming up–these are part of the “daffodil 100” collection I bought from the wonderful Colorblends company. While I was doing all this rock-wall building and party prep Mr. Fluff was, as usual, relaxing!relaxing cat

creating a little patio corner garden

BEFORE

BEFORE

rocks placed

rocks placed

adding dirt and a stepping stone

adding dirt and a stepping stone

adding plants and putting the furniture back

adding plants and putting the furniture back

adding a cat always helps...

adding a cat always helps…

I got this idea because we don’t sit in the corner, and it just called out for a little raised-bed rock-lined garden. I stopped by a local nursery and bought $35 worth of annuals to plant there.annualsThen I realized that, although this corner faces south, because of the growing elm and maple trees on the hillside nearby, it doesn’t actually get full sun. Then I thought, I’ve been reading this great book about the importance of native plants to support our native bugs and birds and other wildlife. So I went around the yard with a trowel and carefully dug up small pieces of the following plants. Not all are native, but most are, and all can tolerate part shade.

primrose red and yellow

primrose red and yellow

forget me not

forget me not

dicentra bleeding heart

dicentra bleeding heart

wild woodland primrose from Downerville State Forest down the road

wild woodland primrose from Downerville State Forest down the road

white bleeding heart

white bleeding heart

foam flower from our own woods

foam flower from our own woods

There are eleven kinds of plants I transplanted there altogether; here is the complete list:

  1. tiarella foam flower from our own woods
  2. three kinds of primroses, one from nearby woods
  3. pink and white bleeding heart from my sister
  4. wild ginger from our own woods
  5. woodland phlox from the roadside in nearby Heuvelton
  6. forget me not from the in-laws’ yard near Albany
  7. violets, both purple and yellow wood violets here when I got here
  8. purple columbine from Eleanor’s garden
  9. sweet woodruff from a friend’s garden in town
  10. pulmonaria I can’t remember where from
  11. woodland anemone from a catalog, but it grows around here

Just after I planted them, we had a bit of rain, and this morning they all appear to have made the move without a problem. Now, where will I put those annuals?

My next project is to build a nice stone wall at the top of the front yard. I already have it done in my mind–but the actual doing has to wait until classes are over! I did, however, take the before photos already! Here they are:front yard before the wall

that’s from the driveway side–here is from the other side:top of front yard no wall

Stay tuned for the “during” and “after” photographs. I am hoping to finish it before the garden party on Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day annual garden party and potluck

This is really, for me, the sign that the gardening year has begun. Of course I am out there weeding and edging and raking to get the garden spiffed up for visitors, but the Mother’s Day party is the curtain opener. It’s partly because it always coincides with the last week of the semester. Yes, I still have grading to do, but the teaching semester is pretty well done and my thoughts turn to the garden.

front yard tulips on  Mother's Day 2012

front yard tulips on Mother’s Day 2012

I think I’ve been doing this for about 3 or 4 years now. It started out as mostly a way to share my growing collection of narcissus. A few years ago I bought a collection called “golden legacy” from White Flower Farm, and had the party to share the glory with friends.

getting ready for the party in 2013--the leaf pile gives it away. This was May 2nd.

getting ready for the party in 2013–the leaf pile gives it away. This was May 2nd.

The narcissus are the stars of the show, but I also have pulmonaria blooming by then and a few tulips. Forget-me-nots are just starting, violets are definitely well along. Hyacinths have faded.

pulmonaria

pulmonaria

Looking back in the last few years, it seems that 2014 was a late year–maybe it was cold that year? You can see in pictures from the week of Mother’s Day that I had done all the raking and clearing, but not much was blooming.

May 12 and mostly still green in 2014

May 12 and mostly still green in 2014

Last year we had that freakishly hot March, so Spring came early.

forget-me-not from 2015

forget-me-not from 2015

This year we had a nice warm spell that tricked all of us into putting away our winter clothes, and then we got a few really cold weeks. The garden last weekend was coming along about as usual, but the ground is dry after not much snow falling this winter. So I am happy to see this light persistent rain of this week. I just hope it clears off for the garden party!

common violet, a hardy and early bloomer. I recently learned it's a favorite of butterflies.

common violet, a hardy and early bloomer. I recently learned it’s a favorite of butterflies.