It's Keen, a "reel" beauty!

I've mentioned that I've been cleaning out the garage lately. One garden tool that I've had for a few years but was buried behind a lot of, um, important stuff (not junk, honest!) is an old reel mower that I got from my mother-in-law:

I've been thinking about trying a reel mower for the last ten years, so maybe it's time to take a closer look at this beauty.


Cicada videos

Although there are still some emerging, the cicadas are in full find-a-mate mode, which means noise. Loud, loud noise. (If you're not sure what I'm talking about by "emergence", click here to read my posts about these 13-year cicadas in St. Louis.)

I've captured some videos to help you get a sense of it. I recommend cranking up the volume or listening to them in headphones.



I'm terrible when growing spring greens. I've thought about it a little and I'm pretty sure there are a few mistakes I make, but the main one is I'm not good at thinning. Some of the pots of greens I planted on my deck (for convenience -- no need to make the long trek down to the veggie garden) exhibit this quite clearly:

I plant densely, thinking that I'll use the thinnings in some early salads, but then the days and weeks go by and the next thing I know I've got a little lettuce lawn.



It's the start of a holiday weekend here in the US, and I am looking forward to doing a lot of different things in the garden, but I may be disappointed. I should say I may be even more disappointed, because I've actually taken a few days off work to extend the weekend, and this is pretty much what I've been seeing so far:

Yes, it's grey. Overcast, cloudy -- call it what you will, it's still grey to me. We had some nasty storms on Wednesday-- my first day off -- which not only kept me working on projects indoors, but kept me in the basement most of the afternoon. (Click here to see a slideshow of hail images from the storm. There was crazy-big hail in some parts of the city!)


dried, forgotten, wonderful

I've been cleaning the garage recently (once every decade whether it needs it or not!) and I don't know how many times I've asked myself "why did I keep this?!" Sometimes there is a reasonable answer. Often times there is not. I've filled a few trashcans lately, but there are some things I just have a hard time throwing away.

For example, dried flowers. It's not that I collect seed heads from every plant I grow, but there are some circumstances that make it worthwhile to save the flowers. Here are three examples that were saved with good intentions but have now become garage clutter, so I thought I'd take a look at them here before they headed to the compost pile.


Touch of man-made beauty

For me, Nature is king (queen?) in the garden. I'm not talking about a "natural" look to the garden, as if you've stepped off a hiking trail somewhere, or discovered a hidden glade or meadow. I'm talking about the things in the garden: I want them to be provided primarily by Nature: plants of course, but also stones, rocks, boulders, tree stumps, logs -- essentially plants, stone, and wood. At the same time, I think there is definitely a place for man-made objects and materials in the garden too: glass, metal, fabrics, concrete, and ceramics.

One of the most important uses of ceramics is in glazed pottery. I think a nice, colorful pot can do so much when used in the right way in the garden, and to allow gardening where there is no soil (like on a deck). I really love a big, heavy, beautiful ceramic pot, and recently I received what is probably the most beautiful pot in my collection.


Unwanted flowers

Usually I'm pretty happy to see flowers blooming in my garden. Although foliage is what really makes a garden beautiful (in my opinion), it's also important to add colorful blooms to the mix. Sometimes though, flowers are just not welcome.

For instance, this cilantro. Although I used to hate cilantro, we can't get enough of it now in our house. Unfortunately it bolts (flowers) when it gets too hot. We always seem to get an early hot spell that makes the cold-loving edibles flower too early.


All over the place

Today's post is one of those rambling, no-point, all-over-the-place posts. Mainly some photos of stuff that I saw in my garden this morning that caught my eye. (Yes, it's one of the rare days when I snap photos in the morning and post them immediately.)

I've got a few days off from work coming up combined with a holiday weekend, so lots of planting will occur soon -- if it doesn't rain every single day like it's supposed to.


Spikey, dreamy, cool

Although I'm excited about so many things in the garden this year -- bamboos getting bigger, new varieties of tomatoes I'm trying, new plants that I received from trades -- there are a few plants that have me the most excited. Somewhere near the top of the list is this one.

It's the Gunnera manicata I received in a trade a couple of months ago. The leaves will eventually reach huge sizes, but even now while they are less than 6" (15cm) across the plant is intriguing. I can't help but stop and look at it every time I walk past.


The cicada emergence continues

I don't like to do too many posts of the same type too close together. I like to mix things up a bit so you're not reading about bamboo every day, or seeing endless posts about weeding or whatever. Even so, sometimes circumstances dictate that I need to focus on a single topic more often -- like right now with the 13-year periodic cicadas emerging in St. Louis.

When I wrote the other day that they "emerged today", I should have said they "started emerging today", as it's not a one-day thing. That was Thursday, so today is day 4 of the onslaught, and I'm not sure how much longer it will go.


How I catch moles

I've had problems in my garden with several different large pests over the years. Rabbits were a problem early on as they nibbled my young plants. I've beaten them with quantity now: losing one plant when you only have ten is a huge loss; losing one when you have a hundred is usually not a big deal. Woodchucks have been staying away from my yard for the last few years, which is great because unlike rabbits who mostly nibble, woodchucks find a plant they like and they eat it. Much more destructive. Right now deer are a problem, as although they seem to be more nibblers like rabbits, their nibbles are much larger, so one bite can take out a whole plant.

Throughout the years I've consistently had problems with a smaller pest though: moles. They don't eat plants, but their tunnels and mounds not only are unsightly, but these guys will rip through the root system of plants without knowing it, causing inadvertent but possibly severe harm to the plant. Plus voles often use mole tunnels, and voles do eat plant roots (and bamboo rhizomes!) so I'm in constant battle with the moles. Fortunately I've gotten pretty good at catching them, and will outline my methods today.



Remember the other day when I was digging in the front yard and saw all of the cicada holes, and I looked up that this is the year for the 13-year cicadas in St. Louis? Well they emerged today!

If you don't live where these periodic cicadas do, or have never experienced one of their emergences, it's pretty fascinating. Or creepy if you're not a bug person. Fortunately I am a bug person.



Those of us gardeners who grow and love bamboo have a single goal. Whether we have one bamboo plant that we baby or nearly-unmanageable plantings of dozens of different varieties, we want big bamboo. We want it to be tall, with impressive, thick culms.

That's what makes every shooting season so exciting: we get to find out if our favorite plants have "sized up", and if so, by how much. The good news is that several of mine are starting to put on some respectable size this year.


Variegation: both unexpected and unsurprising

My earliest-shooting tall bamboo (Phyllostachys bissetii) started to leaf out the other day, and something seemed different about some of the leaves. Taking a closer look, one of the culms (canes) was producing leaves that were variegated!

This was a bit of a surprise. Even though I had another bamboo (completely different species and genus) produce one culm with variegated leaves last year, I certainly didn't expect to see it happen again on another plant!



My honeysuckle vine is in bloom, and there's nothing I can think of except "orange!" when I stand underneath it, surrounded by its thousands of blossoms. I've mentioned this vine a few times in the past: when I pruned it right after starting this blog, and after it flowered last spring. I have to post about it every year though, because it's just such an eye-catcher!

It's come back quite nicely after its pruning, and seems to be quite healthy and happy. If you really hate the color orange I suggest you do not continue reading.


Forgotten again, with unexpected results

You know how around Christmas you'll see a lot of posts about beautiful Amaryllis blooms? You'll never see that from me. Oh, not because I don't like Amaryllis or don't grow them. I do like them and have a couple that I've been growing for a few years.

The reason you'll never see me posting about Amaryllis in the winter is that I always forget about mine and they end up flowering way too late. For instance, mine is flowering right now.


searching for info, finding me!

After over a year of blogging about my garden and experiences related to gardening, I've seen the source of my traffic shift. Initially my few visitors either knew my site and came here directly (friends and family), or they came from other sites, mainly the bamboo forums I frequently post on. Over time I've seen more and more traffic coming from Google searches though, and those searches are now the main source of traffic to this blog.

This is quite interesting to me, as I wondered what people would be searching for that would land them on INWIG. Luckily Blogger's dashboard shows me the Google search terms that directed people to my site, and reading over those searches can be quite informative and very entertaining.


Front yard nicening continues

I kinda hate garden projects right now, at least the ones that I think might be interesting or informative as a blog post. I hate them because thinking about the steps involved, taking photos of everything that may or may not be important, and sort of writing the post in my head as I go along really slows things down.

Today I continue with some front yard gardening that I did last weekend and posted about earlier this week, and do some pruning!   (Yes, I made up the word "nicening".)


Thank you Siberia!

The third of the Irises that I received from a gardening friend last year have finally started to open, and I'm pretty sure they're Siberian Irises.

They're smaller than the Bearded Irises I've posted about before (here and here), the foliage is grassier, but they're no less beautiful.


Some front yard love for a change

Most of my gardening time is spent in the backyard. I'm not sure exactly why... maybe it's because it's a private area and I can do just about anything I want with plants, structures, whatever. In the front yard I feel more inclined to blend with the rest of the neighborhood and show more restraint. That doesn't mean I don't have planting beds in front, it's just that they're on a smaller scale. For example, there is no bamboo planted in the front of the house.

But today I'm tackling a couple of projects in the front yard: maintenance of one bed, and expansion of another.


Little flowers give me big smile

I wanted to take some more photos of my sempervivum flowers before they all faded, to show the variety in the blooms. After a few shots though, I realized their differences were subtle.

Perhaps too subtle to monopolize a post, so I found several other small blooms around my garden and included those too. Very few words today.


Coir: giving it a try

I'm a gardener who makes his own potting mix. It's not that I'm really fussy about the mix I use (I'm not), or that I don't think there are good bagged mixes available, because there are. I usually make my own mix for a few reasons, including being able to customize it for special needs, but usually to save money. I use a lot of potting mix during the course of a year, and mixing my own saves me some money. When I make the mix, the ingredients are typically bagged topsoil, Perlite, compost (leaf and stick mold), and peat moss.

Recently I've decided to reduce my use of peat, and have started trying a material that is not too common in St. Louis: coir.


Just what I need, more plants!

I already have a yard rather full of plants, pretty much filling my existing planting beds. I already have a driveway full of containers of all kinds, many of which will be planted in the remaining spots in my garden this year, but many are for next year. Although committed gardeners will always tell you there is room for more plants, something new, sometimes there really is not enough room.

Fortunately I'm not yet at the "can't cram any more in" point in my yard, so when a package arrives advertising "live plants" it's not a cause for concern, but something to be excited about!


A bee proves me wrong

The other day I posted photos of my Viburnum 'Onondaga', saying how much I love its blooms, but that I had never noticed pollinators on the flowers. I must never have looked before, or I was looking too early in the cold mornings, because pollinators love these flowers!

Not just honeybees either. Bees of all sizes, plus other insects. Let's take a look...


Wings of fire

My Japanese maple 'Fireglow' (or whatever it really is) has been very impressive this year. I wrote about it earlier this spring, but it's still spectacular. Not only has it finally filled out after five years in the ground, but it's producing seeds like crazy.

Just as the young leaves really capture the light and give 'Fireglow' its name, the winged seeds do too.


Eyesore. Nightmare. Fixed.

Although most of my yard is finally getting into shape for spring, I still have what I consider to be two "eyesore" beds. These are beds that may have been fine last year, but late season and winter and early season weeds have made them less-than-delightful, and seeing them every day makes me feel terrible about my garden. It doesn't help that they're adjacent to each other, right next to the bamboo that lost all of its leaves this winter. Makes this area pretty depressing.

This was my wildflower and annuals bed, and even though it got a mid-season makeover last year, it's pretty much a wasteland now. Well, unless you're a weed -- then it's a paradise. Can you even tell where the bed is in the photo above?


Onondaga, the shrub

One of the first shrubs I planted in my garden is one of my favorites. Viburnum sargentii 'Onondaga' is blooming now, and that's all I really want to say.

I might have a few comments here and there, but these photos speak for themselves I think.


Yeah it's late, but I don't care

Well, I've done it. I've added another garden task to the list of things I need to stop thinking about and just do. Earlier this year it was the blueberry plants that I finally bought. Now, it's garlic. I've wanted to plant garlic for years, but since it's best planted in the fall and that's the time of year when I'm not really thinking about edibles, I always forget or don't get around to it.

I didn't get around to it last fall either, even though I talked a few times with my neighbor who did plant a whole bed of garlic before winter. Seeing a cheap bag of garlic at the big box store the other weekend, I decided to buy it and give spring planting a go.


I'm starting to like Iris!

I recently posted photos of my first bearded Iris to bloom this year. That was quite a beauty, and it will be difficult to beat its blooms I think. Or should I say "thought". The second of my unknown Iris types is starting to bloom!

I didn't get to see this bloom last year when I got the plants from my new gardening friend Michael, but since they were free plants I didn't really care what the flowers would look like.


There will be fruit

It looks like this year I will actually be able to enjoy the fruits of my labors in the garden, literally. Unless something crazy happens, I will have a few different fruits to snack on sometime soon.

First, both of my new blueberry bushes have produced berries!


Table for four? Finch chicks.

A while back I mentioned the nest that the house finches were building under my porch roof, but I haven't talked about it again since then. I always forget how quickly baby birds grow up, and if you don't watch almost every day you're going to miss something.

Well I finally took some time to watch, and good thing I did it now, because these guys are just about ready to leave!


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