I'm all ears!

The last of the plants that were stored in my garage this winter are the Elephant Ears. Apparently not only will I never need to buy another one of these again in my life, but nobody I know will ever need to either. It seems there's no wrong way to store these and have them survive the winter -- as long as they don't freeze.

Two autumns ago I just left them in the large pots, then dragged the pots out in the spring. This year I left three of them in their large pots, but also stored one bare on a shelf in the garage. Since they're starting to wake up now, it's time to get them out of the garage.


Rain rain rain rain (no rain) rain rain...

The severe storms that have affected so many people throughout the middle and southern parts of this country make it seem petty to talk about any weather that's non-lethal, but I can only talk about my own recent experience, and in St. Louis our recent experience has been rain. For the past 10 or so days it's been rain, rain, and more rain. It comes as hours of light or moderate showers punctuated by thunderstorm, sometimes severe. We had a few hours of sunlight late Tuesday afternoon, but then the clouds and rain returned.

Yesterday morning was the first sunrise we've seen for a while, and although it rained later in the day it was nice to see sunlight for most of the morning and early afternoon. I took advantage of the morning rays to take some photos of the wetness -- the first photos I've taken in five days!


Some vines need a boost

I grow several different types of flowering vines, and most of them have no trouble climbing on their own. Spanish flag vine, cypress vine, scarlet runner bean, hyacinth bean, snail vine -- these all will gladly wrap around anything vertical and vault themselves skyward. Even a slippery surface like a smooth metal pole isn't a problem for them.

The one perennial vine I grow right now is a different story I've learned. Sweet Autumn Clematis is a beautiful late-summer bloomer, but it just doesn't have the gripping power that the annual vines do.


Too many plants

If you're like me, you like your planting beds full of plants. To me there's nothing stranger-looking than a bed with each plant surrounded by its own little "neutral zone" of mulch. Yes, there is plenty of room for growth. Yes, that reduces competition between plants. Yes, it improves airflow to minimize fungal and other problems. Yes, it looks weird.

I prefer my plants all packed together. There's a limit though, and in some of my beds that limit has been surpassed. In some areas it looks like I was growing delicious sprouts for my salads, tiny plants all packed together, but then forgot about them and let almost every plant grow. Time to take action.


Goodbye and Hello

In today's short post, I'll say a couple of goodbyes, and a few hellos too. Think of it as a type of "good news / bad news" post. First, the bad news: this will be the last update you'll see of these cactus seedlings.

As you may know I planted these this winter as an experiment and to tide me over with some small-scale gardening until spring arrived. Since they are not cold-hardy cactus, they were always going to be winter houseplants for me.


Grass, you dig?

The hardest plant-related projects in my garden always involve grasses. Digging bamboo rhizomes (bamboo is in the grass family, did you know?). Removing turf grass when creating a new planting area. Removing or transplanting ornamental grasses. These are all hard work. About ten days ago I did one of these "little" projects, and I can't believe I almost forgot to post about it.

I removed a large ornamental grass that I was no longer happy with: this Miscanthus sinensis that I grew from seed a few years back.


cardboard opens, plants revealed

This past week I received two exciting packages in the mail, cardboard boxes that even if I had no memory of arranging for them to be delivered to me, I could still probably figure out what they contained. Of course, they contained plants!

The first package arrived on Thursday, and I could see it was a "custom" box, and rather tall. This could only mean one thing in my experience: it contained bamboo!


More bamboo pretty

As you may know, I grow many different varieties of bamboo in my garden. Most of it is running bamboo, and all of the species I grow produce new shoots in the spring. Bamboo shooting season (as we like to call it) is an exciting time, with new surprises every day.

In my ongoing efforts to share my excitement with you, I offer another series of photos that I hope captures some of the beauty I see when looking at the bamboo shoots and newly-emerged culms.


Bugleweed, essential in my lawn

In yesterday's post about the woodchuck, you can see a nice drift of purple flowers in the background in many of the images.

That's the bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) that my neighbor inherited when he moved in, and has spread in large swaths through his lawn and to a smaller extent mine.



Guess who I saw today? I haven't seen this guy for a couple of months, and was wondering where he'd gone. Today I saw him in the neighbor's yard (hehe), and watched to see if he had any interest in anything besides lawn weeds.

Although I call him "him", I'm not really sure if this is a male or female. Considering that I haven't seen him for a couple of months, that could have been time spent with pups in the den, making him a her... but until I see the little tykes I'm just guessing.


It's different: My Earth Day Reading List

I was recently invited by Christine over at The Gardening Blog to participate in an Earth Day meme: to compile a reading list of books that inspired me to "live green" and write a post about it. This particular idea was originated (as far as I know) in a post by The Sage Butterfly.

At first I was reluctant to contribute, because I don't really read books on this topic. Reading more about the spirit of the meme, I realized that the books don't have to be about gardening, recycling, carbon neutrality, or the like -- they could be any sort of book. Hmmm... okay, here's my list. It's a bit different.


A little cleanup

I'm a bit behind on cleanup in the garden this year. Although I've been spending time getting some beds into shape, there are others that I haven't touched yet. A few of these are big jobs that will take a couple of hours, but some of them are little things that I can do in 5-10 minutes.

An example of a quick one is this bamboo. The bushy growth at the base of the left side of this plant is unattractive, and it has to go.


Photos, few words

After a busy and tiring weekend in the garden, I don't have much to say this morning.

So I'll just share some of the photos I've been capturing over the last few days.


This year's escape

There's something out of place in this next photo. If you can't spot it, can't figure it out, here's a clue: the grey stones in the photo are part of a staircase.

If you guessed that the pair of bamboo shoots is the problem, you're right! I know I'm crazy about bamboo and will plant it almost anywhere I can in my yard, but I'm not crazy enough to plant it in the middle of a staircase. Obviously I've had a rhizome escape, and it's time to take care of it.


This I like!

I've been growing Irises for just about one year now. I have three different types, and have no idea what any of them are. I've never even seen two of them bloom yet. The one I have seen (it was blooming last year when I got it) is really beautiful though.

The other day it bloomed again. I'm so glad I noticed, as the blooms don't last very long it seems. I got plenty of photos though...


Bamboo shoots pretty

If you grow temperate bamboo, Spring is definitely bamboo time. Shoots emerging almost every day, the new leaves unfurling to freshen the look of the existing foliage -- it's an exciting time! I can't tell you how many times a day I go outside to check on the progress of the shoots, or just take a close look at some of the more interesting leaves. If you grow bamboo you'll understand, but if you don't...

Well, I hope to show you this spring just what I find so interesting, beautiful, and compelling about bamboo, and why I can't ever imagine having a garden without it. (Image above is Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis')


More trade plants!

As if the arrival of warmer weather and the corresponding awakening of every plant in my garden isn't enough, I've recently received some more plants in the mail! This was another plant trade, and opening that box is always exciting! Although I had discussed which plants I wanted with this other gardener for the past few months, I hadn't been keeping a list -- so the contents of this particular box was somewhat of a mystery.

These are not typical small trade plants -- these things are huge! Plus they were packaged by somebody who really pays attention to detail. Let's take a look...


Another lawn idea?

Yesterday I looked at the violets that have taken over my lawn. Today it's another plant that seems to form as lush a carpet as any I've seen. I don't understand why this plant hasn't taken over every planting bed I have:

It's Agastache foeniculum or "blue giant hyssop", and it seems pretty much every seed that hit the soil in this container has germinated.


Violet-colored lawn

My lawn is not the main focus of my garden. It's not what I want people to notice, and for the most part I think I've managed to divert their attention with the bamboos and such. I really don't want them seeing what's below their feet as they walk along, because it's a bit of a mess.

It's difficult not to notice my lawn right now though, as although it's got some green in it, it's also a lovely shade of violet. More like "a shade of violets" really...



From the title of this post you might guess it's going to be about some spring flowers emerging, or perennials waking up from their winter dormancy, or dozens of bamboo shoots breaking through the soil. Those are all good guesses, but they're wrong. I'm talking about the emergence of my potted plants from the garage. We had abnormally cold weather very early, which forced me to move many of the still-not-dormant tropicals into the garage to protect them from the hard freeze.

Besides making my garage unusable by vehicles for the winter, it allowed me to experiment with which plants actually go dormant, which can survive in a state of barely alive, and which couldn't handle these growing conditions. As the temps soared into the upper 80's F (30 C) I recently pulled most of them out of the garage.



Yesterday afternoon as the temperature soared to 90ºF/32ºC - way above normal again - I was trying to find easy tasks to do in the garden. "I know, I'll get the dead annual vines out of the Japanese maple!" I thought. This tree is now touching my pergola, and the vines growing there move into the tree. I'm pretty good at keeping them off the tree for most of the year but toward the end of the season I "relax" a little (get lazy) and a few get into the branches.

Struggling to reach the highest branches of this tree (which is only about 6' tall), sweat and sunlight pouring into my eyes, I realized: "hey, this is really pretty!"


Onions get a new bed

My veggie garden area is pretty small -- the fenced area that is safe from herbivores is 13' x 13'. You may remember that I recently created some new raised beds in this area: 3 beds that are 4'x6', and one that is 4'x4' for a total of 88 square feet of planting area. That's not a lot of space, so to give me more options I plant veggies in containers but also use the area just outside the fence, planting things that rabbits, deer, and woodchucks don't eat.

Chives, horseradish, garlic chives, basil, and onions. These are all pretty safe from the critters, so they live in the "wilds" outside the protected area. The chives are perennial of course, as are the garlic chives -- which I've got zillions of now -- and the horseradish. The onions I'm planting today.


Just some colors

Too often I think of the garden as a list of jobs that need to be done: weed this bed, plant those seeds, prune this shrub, mow the lawn. Other times I think of it as a collection of plants: the flowers, the shrubs, the bamboo, the edibles. Sometimes I like to forget about the jobs, and even forget about the plants, and look at things differently. One way I do this is to take a really close look at specific parts of everything that's growing.

Not to examine the structure or details of the flower or leaf, but to focus on the color. Springtime colors are so fresh and vibrant, I just can't help myself.


A Springtime Bully

The greening up of the garden in spring is such a welcome sight: perennials emerging, bamboo leaf buds growing, but the biggest impact is always provided by the trees and shrubs. When they leaf out, the yard is almost instantly transformed from primarily brown to overwhelmingly green. Plus the shade comes back, and there's more privacy, at least in my yard. Unfortunately one of the first shrubs to leaf out is a bully -- an invasive species that's taken over such a large percentage of Missouri's woodlands.

I'm talking about bush honeysuckle. There are a few different species of these plants that are problematic and I don't know exactly which I have here, but I don't really care.


More wood oats

The other day I talked about the "Indian wood oats" (Chasmanthium latifolium) that I didn't remove the seed heads from, and so will be paying for it later with more work removing seedlings. Today I remove many of the seedlings that I already have.

My original plant was in this bed and has reseeded for years, but I finally removed it last year because of the seedlings. It's not that I don't want it reseeding, it's just that I don't want it reseeding here.


Bags of twig

My neighbor knows that I have a hard time turning down a free plant, especially if it's a native, or something I don't yet grow. Last year I got some redbud seedlings from him, some big bluestem grass, and an amorpha fruticosa -- possibly more that I can't recall right now. So when he texted me this weekend asking if I wanted some River Birch saplings, I said "sure".

A few minutes later I had a bag of twigs, or should I say "bags of twig", as each plastic bag contained a single sapling. I wondered for a minute why they weren't all in a single bag, but then remembered that these were from a school-related activity of some kind and there were probably many small hands involved in bagging these small trees.


Wonderfully Ruined

I love growing plants in containers, and I've collected a lot of them over the years. Sometimes I get beautiful ceramic pots that will last many seasons but are somewhat expensive, but I also get cheap plastic pots, and the old standard: clay pots. I have a lot of clay pots -- I just like the look of them for most plants, and they're fairly inexpensive. One reason for the lower price is that they're typically not "frost proof", which means that if you garden where winter temperatures get below freezing, these pots may not make it through the winter undamaged.

So the advice is given to remove plants and soil from clay pots, and store the empty pots where they won't collect water -- it's the expansion of freezing water, including water in soil, that cracks these pots. I do this for many of my pots, but I have others that I leave planted all winter long.


Lazy gardening, aka "the hard way"

Today I'm going to talk about mistakes. One mistake in particular. One that I've made before, and swore I wouldn't repeat. Then I repeated it last year. It's a mistake rooted in laziness, or at least a strong lack of desire, and it involves an ornamental grass that you may have some experience with: Chasmanthium latifolium. This plant has so many different common names that I never know how to talk to people about it: "Northern sea oats", "Indian wood oats", "wild oats", "river oats" and several more regional variations. "Northern sea oats" is what it was called when I got it, and that's the name I used for a few years until I read that it doesn't grow anywhere near any sea, and is found instead in woody areas. So "Indian wood oats" sounds like the best candidate for now.

Whatever you call it, this is a great grass which grows in partial shade (like it might get "in the woods") but does better in full sun. Its key feature is the flat, oat-like seed heads it produces, which is the point of this whole post.


The gloves after a year

I've always bought the cheapest work gloves I could find, which usually means getting something canvas, or combination thin suede/canvas. The type of gloves that are $3 a pair, or 2 pair for $5. There are three problems with those cheap gloves: they're very uncomfortable, they don't last very long, and they get dirty fast in the garden. Last March I decided to buy a pair of more expensive work gloves:

I've been using these exclusively for a year now, so I thought I'd give a report on how they're doing. If you're not one who likes to read a whole blog post or you're in a hurry today, I'll jump to the conclusion: these are great gloves, with a great price/performance ratio! Read on for details...


Trimming some bamboos

In many parts of the world, bamboo is evergreen, and looks pretty and fresh even after winter. Some of my more cold-hardy bamboos look pretty good right now, even after the harsh winter we had in St. Louis. Leaves that were completely killed by the cold and wind will soon fall from the plant, but those plants with larger leaves that are still partially green pose more of a problem.

What to do with these leaves that are not dead, but still look quite ugly? If there are few enough of the damaged leaves, you can prune them off individually. When you have a lot of tattered leaves though, it's time to get more proactive.


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