A little problem fixed

Remember last summer when one of the utility companies dug a deep hole in the ground between the sidewalk and the street? They covered their tracks pretty well, with the grass seed they put down filling in quite quickly.

The thing is, it's not perfect. They didn't do a good job of leveling the soil before seeding it, or perhaps it just settled in a strange way. Whatever the reason, this ground is quite uneven.


More vinca

You thought my vinca cleanup and trimming project last week was the last you'd see of this vigorous groundcover for a while, right?

Well, you were wrong! I have another patch of out-of-control vinca in one of the front beds.


one last chance

With spring fast approaching (or not so fast depending upon where you live), late-winter cleanup is well under way in my garden.

One last chance to enjoy what last summer gave me before it feeds next summer's plants (in the form of compost).


Pond cleaning, phase 1

I decided to start cleaning some of the leaves and excess oxygenator plants out of the pond last weekend while the weather was still somewhat warm, before the colder air and snow hit us this past week.

I wasn't really looking forward to this task, but I know it needs to be done before the water starts warming up, and rather than trying to get it all done in one go in March or April I decided to do it little by little. I tackle lots of garden projects that way -- weeding for instance.


I forgot

There are things I forget every year in the garden. Late winter is when I usually notice them: things I should have done last year, plants I've forgotten about.

I'll take a look at some of them now, starting with the weirdest one: this board that is wedged in the shrubs behind my yard.


More cuttings, easy

In a post a few weeks ago I mentioned taking Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on fire' cuttings, and Loree at Danger Garden wondered what I did to get good success when propagating this plant.

The truth is I never did anything special, so never really paid attention to what exactly I had done. Recently I took more cuttings of this "pencil cactus", and this time documented the process.


vinca vinca vinca vinca

If you have any doubt about what today's post is about, let me make it clear: vinca. Vinca major 'variegata' to be exact. I write about this almost every year, as it needs to be explained as often as it needs to be tended.

As vigorous as this vine is, spreading 8-10' (2.5-3m) in a single year, I wouldn't stop growing it. Wonderful variegated foliage, almost evergreen, with cheery purple flowers once in a while -- it's a lovely plant. It does need to be beaten back every year though or it will take over.


It's moss time

I gave you warning a few weeks back: it's moss season here, and I cannot resist getting down on the ground for some mossy macro shots.

Most of this lovely green stuff will be dormant and dry by July, so I take advantage while I can.


Not looking good

No, it's not looking good at all. This could be one of the ugliest posts I've done for quite a while...

You see, this is one of my cardoons. Or perhaps it is a globe artichoke. Whatever it is, I can't say it's looking very happy right now.


Sowing those seeds

Yesterday I showed you some of the new plants I should be growing this year, that is if I can get the seeds to germinate. Sometimes it's tricky, you know.

But my first approach is always the simplest one: get the seeds into some sort of soil, keep them moist, and see what happens. The problem is my plant table has limited space right now, and there are lots of different cold-tolerant edibles sprouting there right now. I have a backup plan to get me more space though, and it's pretty simple.


New Plants, Generously

If you've been reading my posts for a while (thanks!) you probably know that I like to try a few new plants every year, whether in the veggie garden or in the ornamental beds.

This year I'm trying many more new plants than usual. Partly this is due to wanting to have more success with the edibles, especially in the heat of the summer. In the case of ornamentals though, it's mainly due to the influence of just one person: Nancy J. Ondra.


Late Winter Color

One of the great and unexpected things I've found about late winter (or very early spring if you're quite optimistic) is the way that many plants turn unusual colors. Unusual and wonderful!

This probably has something to do with the plants starting to readjust their internal chemistry for the coming warmer weather -- going from the "I'm not doing much but keep me alive" antifreeze-like mix, to the "full of stored starches for maximum energy"formulation that rewards us plant lovers with explosive growth in spring.


I think I lost one

Unlike earlier in the week when I photographed the depths of the pond, the fish weren't hiding the other day:

They must have been sunning themselves, absorbing a bit of warmth from the ever-increasing sunlight (until the trees start leafing out of course).



I think I've got a few rose-themed posts coming in the next month or so, with pruning that needs to be done, and a transplant/salvage project, but I'm starting things off today with something that required much less effort.

A new plant! In fact, a new rose! It joined our family yesterday -- yep, it was a Valentine's Day gift.


spring seedlings

It's finally time to start growing new plants! It's a bit early still for the warm weather stuff like tomatoes, but for the cool-season edibles it's time.

As usual I've bought too many different seed packets for my limited herbivore-free space behind the fence, but I just can't help myself.


One-word Wednesday: Red


so clear, what to do?

I wanted to show you the pond right now, as it's pretty incredible.

No, not the dreary, plant-free exterior of the pond. I want to show you the interior of the pond: what's underwater.


Spring greens

If you ask me what my weakest area in the garden is, where I show the least amount of skill, I'd have to say that's the veggie garden. I'm just not too good with edibles for whatever reason. Perhaps some of it is out of my hands as the trees limit the amount of sunlight in my small veggie patch. A good part of it is down to me though, in the form of soil prep, watering, and general diligence.

I'm also bad at timing. Getting the cold-tolerant (and cold-loving) plants into the garden early enough has always been a problem for me. Not this year though. This year I've got a great head start.


beautiful bamboo?

To those of us who are obsessed with growing bamboo in our gardens, there's nothing like a thick, beautiful bamboo culm.

Currently the 'Spectabilis' bamboo is the most eye-catching in my yard, with its golden culms striped green. (Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis' that is.)



Some of the most exciting things about gardening for me are emergences. (Not emergencies, although they are exciting too.) So much anticipation followed by satisfaction, surprise, sometimes disappointment, but seeing something where before there was nothing.

The first appearance of leaf buds on deciduous plants, seedlings coming out of bare soil or potting mix, bamboo shoots breaking through the ground, and the tips of early-flowering plants punctuating barren beds of earth. This last one is what I'll talk about today.



Last summer was the first for the new beds along the driveway. This is where I had lots of spring-flowering bulbs, and once their blooms faded I planted several different annuals. It was a big success both in terms of spring blooms and summer interest, and I'm excited to see what happens this year.

One type of "annual" I planted was snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus). This was one of the few flowers growing at the house I grew up in, so I wanted to give them a try. I love the idea of carrying plants over through generations of gardens.



I did some repotting of succulents recently. Confronted with the often overwhelming task of getting seeds started, I sometimes just do something else as a warm-up -- this was the task I chose.

Starting with this fast-rooting Euphorbia tirucalli cutting. It was sprouting so quickly in the tiny pot I had it in, I needed to put it into something bigger just to keep it upright.



With no sign of the colder side of February expected at least for another week (hopefully forever?), I decided to do something about my almost-uncluttered driveway.

Although I like having a nearly-clear space back here, it's just not to be: I'm going to start filling it with plants already!


houseplant neglect: Scale

I'm not very good with houseplants, mainly because I tend to ignore them for much of the year. In winter they end up looking pretty sad, as the normally low amounts of light they get dip even lower, the dry air does them no favors, and they don't get to go outside for a nice rain shower once in a while.

The end result is that some of them are in pretty bad shape right now, none worse that this peace lily. (Most are not overly happy, usually with different complaints.)


Different this year

Besides taking cuttings as part of my yearly overwintering strategy, I also overwinter some grass divisions, mainly purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'). I did the same thing this year, but in a different way.

Normally I bring a potted plant in before first freeze, make a dozen divisions from it soon after, then grow them indoors all winter long. Although this gives me some lovely green (and purple) to look at during the winter, it becomes a problem around this time of year because the plants are too large and very rootbound in their small pots. This year I tried a different strategy.



There was a chance of snow last night, with accumulations of up to 1" (2.5cm) expected -- in St. Louis that really means "it's not going to snow". They were a little off in their estimate.

We awoke today to about 3" (7.5cm) of the white stuff, a sunny and bright morning. I couldn't resist taking lots of photos, as snow this winter has been rare.


Chickadee art

A somewhat stylized look at one of my favorite birds: the Black-capped Chickadee.

Placing a feeder in the walkway beds was one of the best things I did this winter, as I get to watch these birds all day long.



I happened to snap a photo of something exciting last week:

Notice anything unusual about this? The photo is a bit shadowy, but take a close look.


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