You talked me into it

This past Saturday my wife and I went to a gardening talk at Schlafly Bottleworks in St. Louis. The talk was actually given by the Schlafly Gardenworks -- an urban garden built on a former parking lot that provides fresh, organic produce for the restaurant. The point of the talk was to get people excited about growing their own food, and I have to say: it worked! Although I started renovating my veggie garden last year, I've been thinking about how to make it even more successful this year, and I got a lot of great ideas (which I'll share as I implement them).

The head gardener at the Gardenworks is Jack, and his relaxed approach to gardening (and talking about gardening) really impressed me. Especially when he talked about planting winter lettuce. He said that once lettuce germinates it can handle freezes, snow, ice -- it's really one of the toughest little plants around. He said he usually plants it on Valentine's day, or Groundhog day -- whatever is easy to remember -- and he always gets a great early lettuce crop. So Sunday I did some work on my beds and planted some lettuce!


It's moss time!

I told you, when I see moss I just have to stop and look. If my camera is nearby I need to photograph too.

I looked around the yard for examples, and I found plenty. I'm not sure what it is about moss, but I just love it!


Staying beautiful this year

One of the least "in your face" bamboos in my yard for most of the year is Sasa veitchii, also called "kuma saza" bamboo. It's mostly overlooked because of its size: only about a foot tall at most right now, and also because of its location in my garden.

I've got it planted in the narrow bed between the driveway and the house, and if you're coming into my backyard down the driveway you are probably looking elsewhere -- there are plenty of other things to catch your eye first.


Getting started on the map of the yard

I've mentioned that I've been wanting to create a highly-detailed map of my yard for some time. I did some experiments with a camera on a long pole, and recently posted several labeled photos of my plants in preparation for the map.

I've finally started working on it, so here's the first part of the process. The whole procedure will take several weeks I'm sure, but I'm getting excited about it now.


Rock, moss, moss, moss

Last weekend when I visited the large grove of bamboo near my house, I was excited. Not only because I had found a "walk-through" grove of bamboo nearby, but I also found something else that I'm always interested in: big rocks.

Not only that, but the rocks had some nice moss growing on and around them, and I love moss too!


It's been mild: bamboo damage comparison

I've said again and again how mild it's been this winter, which is perfectly fine by me. It's perfectly fine by most of my plants too, and today I'll illustrate just what that means by comparing the state of my bamboos this year to their state at the same time last year.

Last year when I did the bamboo damage survey in mid-January I said that you'd probably only appreciate it if you were a bamboo grower. This year, I think everybody can appreciate the photographic evidence of an unusual winter.


One-word Wednesday: Ruby


Glassing the little succulent

A while ago (I can't believe it's been almost 3 weeks already!) I got a couple of new succulents, one of which is going to someday be put into my succulent terrarium. Whenever I get around to it. Soon. The smaller of the two plants won't be going in the terrarium I decided, since there's not really room for it.

So I'm going to give it a little terrarium of its own.


Ice returns briefly

This first winter with a pond in the garden, I'm getting the idea that I'll never be short of photographic subjects again.

The pond was thickly iced just recently, but then warm weather and rain melted it completely, and now it's frozen again. Over the next few days it should melt again, with temps into the 40's F every day this week.


Bamboo grove discovered

A couple of weekends ago I was at the community mulch pile, picking up a load of free mulch. There was another crazy gardener there -- the crazy ones are those that pick up loads of mulch in January -- and we started talking about bamboo. Okay, I started talking about bamboo, but he added something really significant to the conversation: he told me about a large bamboo "forest" (as he called it) just a couple of miles away.

I headed over there with my camera this weekend, and it didn't disappoint!


Just some green

I was doing a little cleanup on the indoor plant table, and noticed something:

There's a lot of nice green here right now!


Hello blanket flower!

Well hello little Gaillardia bloom! It's such a nice surprise to see you!

Do you like living on my plant table under my grow lights indoors? Not too bad you say, but you miss the breeze? And the bees? And the sky water? And you say the light doesn't feel right?


My plants labeled, part 4

Last day of plant labels, as I finally found a couple of images that I've been looking for. I had to go back to 2010 to find them, but when viewed with the images in the part 3 post it helps complete the picture I hope.

So to start with, the prairie area again, showing the middle planting bed (which is surrounded by buffalo grass).


My plants labeled, part 3

Continuing with labeling the plants from recent photos of my garden. Part 1 here, part 2 here.

I realize that there are parts of my garden that almost never get photographed, or at least I missed them this past year. I need to improve on that -- I think it's important to have a visual record of the garden each year so you can review what worked and what didn't, and can see how the plants progress over the years. It's fun too!


My plants labeled, part 2

Continuing with labeling the plants in some parts of my garden. Yesterday's post started it off if you missed it.

I realized that I probably don't have shots of every angle, so I'm not sure how much more I'll be able to do now.


My plants labeled, part 1

I've begun working on a map of my yard and gardens. This didn't seem like it would be too difficult, until I realized just how many different plants I have. So it's going to take a little while.

In getting the map together, I decided to do what some readers have asked for in the past: label the plants in some of the photos I post. I've been meaning to do this for a while, and since it helps me get things together for the map, it's time!


Spirits of my garden

The other day I showed you the gigantic beet root I have in my garden right now. Although opinions varied, the consensus is that I should not try to eat is as it will probably be very woody. I'm not certain that I should even remove it from the bed, let alone eat it, as after careful observation I've found... seems to contain the images of the spirits of my garden.


pond meet ice, ice meet foot

A brief taste of winter before the unseasonable warmth returns -- it's been quite cold the last few days.

So cold that the pond is frozen. Not just pretty to photograph ice like last time either, this is thick, solid ice. I really want to walk across it. Really.


Green to black

Of the bamboo varieties I grow, some of them are "marginal", in that they're not reliably cold-hardy for my zone 6 garden. (All of them are "temperate" as opposed to tropical or sub-tropical, so can take some degree of below-freezing temperatures.) The good news is that unlike perennials which die when they're not cold-hardy enough, the bamboo that isn't cold-hardy enough will at worst "top-kill", meaning it loses all of the above-ground growth. The rhizomes are still alive and will produce new culms once it warms up.

This is not what bamboo growers strive for though. We want the big species of bamboo to get big -- produce thick and tall culms each year. The key to this is avoiding top-kill. Which brings me back to "marginals". These are the bamboos that have the greatest chance of losing all of their leaves each winter, or even top-killing. One that I'm most worried about each year in my garden is black bamboo: Phyllostachys nigra.


Veggie garden step 1

As you may know, my veggie garden is a small fenced-in area that usually gets a lot of attention from me early in the year, but then by the end of summer it's a neglected, weedy mess. Last year I built some raised beds to help organize things better (and provide better soil), but that didn't exactly work either.

The walkways between the beds became overgrown with weeds, and I'm not sure exactly how or when. I was pretty good with the hoe out here at first, but I think during the hottest part of the summer my will to weed wavered and I let them take hold. Taking advantage of the mild winter weather while it's here, I spent a few minutes the other day to help with this problem.


Too late, too big?

I was doing a little work in my veggie garden -- the first of many tasks I need to do to get this part of the garden back into shape before spring -- and noticed that some of my beets are looking pretty good right now.

Or are they? This one is huge, and looks pretty woody. Is it still edible?


The pond surprises me

I've only had the pond for a month or two, but it's already surprising me.

I didn't expect much to be happening until the spring when I start planting, the toads and frogs start using the pond (hopefully), and things warm up. But I've been surprised in several ways even now.


Crystal blooms

One of the plants I'm lazily overwintering in the garage is creeping wire vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris). I say "lazily" because I didn't bother taking it out of its pot or doing anything special. It's getting very little light, but since it's still holding some green leaves (although it's dropped a lot of them) I'm not too worried.

I want to get some part of this plant through the winter, as I don't feel like I gave it enough of a chance in the garden last year, keeping it in a single out-of-the-way hanging basket. The plant sits in the garage in an out-of-the-way place again, and only when I started looking at it closely this weekend did I notice something really cool about it...


Not expected, but welcome

I've mentioned a few times already that our winter here in St. Louis (like in many parts of the country) has been very mild this year. I fully expect to get the cold and snow later this month and in February, but so far it seems like Winter just isn't coming, at least for more than a couple of days at a time.

Some plants are definitely benefiting from this, taking advantage even. For instance, my variegated vinca which surrounds my large raised planting bed.     Flowering.      In January!


Single-subject Saturday: thready curls

My recently-transplanted yucca caught my eye today.

Its curling threads are the subject of today's nearly-wordless post.


New plants, thinking ahead

I've got a little project coming up soon... maybe this weekend. Remember the terrarium makeover I did last winter? When I converted my lush, humid greenery-filled terrarium (before I let the plants die) into a dry, succulent-filled low-maintenance thing of beauty?

Well, one of the plants in there isn't thriving, so I plan on replacing it.


Garden Bloggers Harvest Day

Barbara and Christine over at The Gardening Blog have started a garden meme showing what edibles have been harvested in the last month: Garden Bloggers Harvest Day!

It helps that they're in the Southern Hemisphere so are enjoying summer right now, with gardens overflowing with edibles. My cold St. Louis garden will pale by comparison, but I decided to give this one a go. It's a short list, but at least I have a list -- it is supposed to be winter right now.


Spray away

One of the problems with overwintering plants indoors (besides finding space for them all, giving them enough light, etc.) is insects. Mealy bugs, whiteflies, fungus gnats, spider mites, aphids -- you'll most likely see all of these during the cold months. I know I do.

Right now I've got two plants that are infected, and I need to take care of the problem before it spreads everywhere.


A rhiddle

Here's a little riddle for you...

What do you get when you mix a running bamboo, a big rotten stump, an unseasonably mild day, and a heavy mattock?


Favorite photos of 2011

I took a lot of photos in 2011 -- over 5300 -- and shared most of them with you in these posts. Here are some of my favorites from the past year.

January: water drops on window pane

I did this last year and I'm using the same format: picking two images from each month (or maybe three if I just can't choose). That makes sure I choose just my absolute favorites, and that the whole year gets covered. Shall we begin?


Happy New Year!

As 2011 ends and the next calendar year begins, I'm reminded that as impressive as many of the human-created celebrations and spectacles are, the ones provided by the natural world will put us in our places.

Fireworks pale in comparison. How can we compete with this?


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