The decision has been made

I've been fighting with one of my bamboo plantings this year: as it got taller, it got droopier. It turns out that this particular variety has curvy culms (canes) that weep, which is quite attractive in the right space. I don't have the right space because of limited room, so I've done several things to help keep the culms more upright and out of my neighbor's garden: pruned the tops to lighten the load, tied culms together, even built a support "cage" to help keep them in place.

Although this bamboo has been sizing up very nicely and producing some beautiful culms, fighting with it has been a major negative. I've been considering removing the plant and putting one of my other bamboo species there instead, and yesterday I finally made up my mind and just did it. I didn't create a timelapse video as I did the other time I removed a bamboo from my garden, but here's the whole process.


My favorite thing

There's so much to like about my new front walkway: the stones, the dozens of new plants, the fact that I can walk to the street without trampling wet lawn, the improved view out of my upstairs office window. The one aspect that I think is my favorite of all though is the addition of the pots. You may have noticed them in the photos of the completed project. I know I can't stop looking at them.

These were a completely serendipitous find on the trip to purchase the metal path edging, and I think they're such a key element of the walkway now -- I couldn't imagine not having them!


climb, climb, flower, climb

Late summer and early fall may be my favorite time of year in the garden, mainly because some of the more substantial plants are at their peak: full-sized, flowering. Good examples of this are the flowering vines. Most are annuals, and have spent much of the summer growing up and over whatever they could.

Today I look at each of them, specifically their blooms. We'll start with the Cardinal Climber, which as I recently mentioned has finally started blooming.


Moudry! Grrrr.

I post about this grass every year: Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Moudry', or "Black Fountain Grass". It's irresistible to those who haven't grown it before with those wonderful dark inflorescences, but I have to tell you... it's a pain.

I've been removing the seed heads (the only reason to grow it really) for the past couple of years, but I still have seedlings coming up in the lawn. Well, they're really past being seedlings now.


A little veggie garden love

I've been planning on working on my fall veggie garden for a few weeks now. I started some plants in trays a month or more ago, and they've been ready to bite into some soil for a while -- my other projects have been getting in the way though.

This past weekend when I bought a load of compost and manure for the new front planting beds, I got enough for the veggie beds too -- no more delays! As is evident in the above photo (and the next few) I've been neglecting this for a while.


I've noticed

A few things have caught my eye recently (when I've taken a break from digging and lifting and building). For instance, I really love this bamboo:

It's Sasaella bitchuensis, and I hope I can keep it somewhere around this height every year. It's almost perfect like this! When I'm standing in back looking at the pond, this is directly behind me. Some days I have a hard time deciding which direction to face.


Walkway phase III

Today I finish up the walkway project. In part one I dug it and laid most of the stones. In part two I finished the details and filled the cracks. So what's left?

Planting beds! I've been jealous of the front yard gardens of some of my gardening friends in other parts of the country like Gerhard, Scott, and Loree -- their plantings give the neighborhood and passersby so much to admire. I want something like that! That's part of the reason that this walkway finally got built after 20 years: new planting beds!


Walkway phase II

Yesterday I "finished" the walkway that I started earlier in the week. That first day I dug the walkway, filled with base rock, and laid most of the stones. There were a few holes to fill, but I just couldn't do any more and was out of daylight.

After a few days of recuperation my body was ready to finish this project, and I was excited to get to work. Oh, I did spend an hour or so on Thursday and Friday evenings cutting stones -- the only way to fill the remaining gaps. Here's what I did yesterday.


perfect planning

I know that I wasn't very diligent when it came to deadheading (removing spent flowers) from most of the perennials and shrubs in my garden this year. It was just too hot, I was too busy, [insert your favorite excuse here] -- whatever the reason I just didn't do it.

Who could really tell though? Looking around my yard, it looks like a typical early-autumn garden. No evidence of my laziness. Except for the roses.



Stems, stalks, trunks, pseudostems, culms.

Of course they're the vertical structures that raise the branches and leaves into the air, and I've noticed that I have some interesting ones in the garden this year.



Even though I worked on a couple of big projects this past weekend (the planter box/trellis, and the walkway), I still had some time for some non-laborious fun.

My wife and I took a trip to rural Missouri to visit some wineries and just enjoy the countryside.


The walkway: phase I

At some point this summer I decided that we needed a walkway going from the street to the front door. Our existing walkway goes from the front door to the driveway, and I've lived with that for 20 years or so. Why is 2012 the magic year for a walkway?

I really don't know. Perhaps it was because that strip of grass got completely scorched this summer which helped me visualize. Or maybe since my driveway has been covered in potted plants the last few years and I've had to park my truck in the street, I'm just tired of walking through wet grass. Whatever the reason, I jumped into the project yesterday.


Something to climb

I've mentioned before that when the weather cools off, I get the itch to build stuff. There are lots of things to do in the garden, like get the fall seedlings into the veggie beds, or clean up this ragtag collection of pots:

So how do I take care of the garden tasks while still scratching the "need to build something" itch? Well fortunately the two sometimes overlap, as I'll show you today.



Fall may be for planting, but I rarely get new plants in the fall, except for the occasional bamboo or tree. This year is different though, as I've got some specific holes to fill in the garden, and will be putting in some new planting beds very soon. So I have a need for new perennials and more interesting plants.

Luckily, I have read other gardening blogs and gardeners like to share. Scott at Rhone Street Gardens sent me this package the other day, and I was so excited!


A scary fix

I don't normally post about houseplants, and rarely about pruning, but today I bring you both.

This Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig) is the oldest houseplant I own. I received two of them as a gift from neighbors who were moving out of my apartment complex twenty-something years ago, and they're still going strong. They have been perfect for me, handling drought, low-light, and poor nutrition for decades. I'm surprisingly bad with indoor plants.


They grow up so fast

Just the other day I posted a bunch of photos of a young stink bug that was on the hyacinth bean that is growing on my deck railing. That bug is happy on that plant apparently, as it was still there a couple of days later.

Looks a bit different though, as it's gone through one more molt and now as a 5th instar it's just one more molt away from adulthood!


Cool! Observations

I've noticed some cool and interesting things in my garden over the past week. Some more obvious than others.

For instance, this obviously is a plant you don't want to get too close to, right?


Maypop provides

One of my favorite plants right now in my garden is "Maypop", Passiflora incarnata. A vigorous perennial vine, I planted it a couple of years ago at one of the supports for the pergola over the patio. My thought at the time was that this would be a nice replacement for the annual vines I had been planting here every year -- my expectations were relatively low.

This surprised me last year by producing so many amazing flowers, and doing a pretty decent job at covering at least part of the pergola. Then it produced some fruit, and I knew this was going to be a winner. This year? Take everything I loved about it last year and double it!


Fixing bamboo flop

It seems I do this at least once a year, but I have a floppy bamboo that I need to take care of. This time it's black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra.

One of the attributes of this bamboo is its gracefully arching culms, but this is too much. It's not appropriate for this spot, as the drooping culms shade out too many plants and block access -- especially after it rains and the culms bend almost to the ground.


The Horde

Back in the mid-90's, I played a computer game called "The Horde" a lot. In it you were meant to defend a town from an attacking group of red goblin-like creatures. I remember it being quite frustrating, as many games back then were, but I don't remember too many details about it. There is one thing that will stick in my mind forever though: just when you thought you had scrambled around and killed enough goblins to end the level, this hunting horn/goblin cry would sound and another, bigger wave of goblins would come running out of the countryside toward your village.

In other words, it was futile. You'd never be able to handle the horde, and the game ended up being more frustrating than enjoyable. That's how gardening sometimes feels to me. Do you see this green and bushy marigold? It was struggling earlier in the summer, but I didn't give up on it and it rewarded me with vigorous growth and so many blooms!


Immature and shy

The other morning when I was taking photos of the bee blanketed with dew, I noticed an interesting little bug trying to hide from me.

Based on a few years of experience in identifying things that look like this in the garden, I had a good idea that this was a stink bug of some kind, and was not yet mature. For some reason the nymphs of stink bugs are much more attractive than the adults, and I took some time to get some good photos of this one.


Quick project: a little bench

When autumn approaches, I get the itch to build things. Yesterday this happened, and as I was moving the pile of accumulated wood to get to the big piece of plywood I really wanted -- all the way in the back of course -- I found a few scraps of wood that seemed to say something to me.

What they said was "use us!" What they also said (although they may not have known it) was "if you build something from us, you won't have to move us again". Sold!


two harvests, in a way

As summer ends, the time for fall harvests quickly approaches. I wouldn't say that I have "crops" to harvest, as my garden isn't large enough to qualify for that. I do have plants that are producing though, like it or not. I'll take a look at two today -- think of it as fall garden preseason.

The first is a plant that I never want to produce anything but blooms: the Buddleia or "butterfly bushes".


dew-covered bee

Some days I have to really think to come up with a title for a post -- something catchy, creative, but still relating to the subject of the text. Today is not one of those days.

Today there are no surprises, no wondering what the heck this post will be about. This post will in fact be about a bee. A wet bee.


fungal blooms

All of the rain we've had recently has resulted in several different fungal blooms in the front yard. Yes, it's time for some mushrooms!

It's been such a long time since I've been able to photograph mushrooms... have I even done it this year yet? Hmm, not since March it seems. Crazy.


A little help please

Today I've got a couple of plants that might be in trouble. As they're new for me this year I'm unsure what is going on, and am asking for some help.

The first is an Agave. In the spring I bought five or so Agaves from Cistus nursery, potted them all up in clay pots, and let them grow. The one above is an example of a healthy one -- there's nothing wrong with it (other than the spurge growing there).


A droop or two

Today I take a look at a couple of "drooping" plants that need some attention, and what I did about them. First up, this potted bamboo:

These culms should be pretty much vertical, but they're obviously not. I'd like to blame their arching habit on all of the recent rains, but these have been drooping since they leafed out earlier in the summer. With younger bamboos it's common for the weight of the leaves to bend the too-thin culms over.


How you look at it

Today we'll look at one part of my backyard garden. It's the spot closest to the house, and is probably the most visible planting area back here, at least to me. I see it when I look out the windows, when I'm up on the deck, when I come out of the garage and go down to the patio.

In other words, I look at it more than almost any other part of the garden, so I want it to be as pleasing as possible. As I was trying to take photos that gave a good sense of the spot I realized that it really matters how exactly you look at it -- so I'll show you different attempts at this, and you can judge which are most effective.


It's, it's... wet!!

The remnants of hurricane Isaac hit the Midwest this weekend, and here in St. Louis we've had a couple of days of on again, off again showers -- often heavy. For the first time since probably the start of June I have a seriously wet garden.

I mean just soaked. The ground is soft, actually moving a bit when you walk on it. I couldn't resist taking photos of the wonderful wetness yesterday morning.



Continuing with my unintended series of posts on "weeds" that I want in my garden, I bring you purslane. Previously I've talked about bittercress, dogsbane, and Datura inoxia, but purslane is different in that it's actually cultivated in many places. Like bittercress it's edible, but more nutritious. In fact it may be the king of weeds (or all plants) in the nutrition department!

Unfortunately, I don't have a single one of these common weeds growing in my yard. I've looked, as I was told "everybody has purslane in their yards". Nope. I had to find it along the sidewalk further up the block.


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