Friday, December 30, 2016

Winter Clean Up Around the Utility Box

I noticed that the rabbit eating all my liriope and coral bells likes to hide in the tall grass around my utility box, so I decided now was a good a time as any to cut those grasses down and clean up the brush a bit.

utility boxes

utility boxes
Winter utility box garden clean up - I like to leave it a little brushy and not strip it down to bare mulch. I've even amended the soil with dead sod and this bed already has some of the nicest soil in my yard. 

I let my iris hang around a lot longer than I usually do, and the long leaves actually were a nice glowing golden color for a while, but then they started to turn leathery and decompose so it was time to do away with them. I hacked back the Russian sage and clipped the Shasta daisies as well.

I'm not so sure about my newest additions, the Gaura lindheimeri, because it seems to be on the border of hardiness zones - some sites say 5-9, some say 7-9. I'm fine if it wants to die back to the roots as long as my precious sale table plants don't bite the dust completely!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Starbucks for My Acid Loving Plants

I've never done this before but I picked up some coffee grounds from Starbucks to amend my alkaline clay soil to try to make it more acidic for my acid loving plants (rhododendron and Japanese andromeda). Now, I know you are probably supposed to compost it first, or at least mix it into the soil, but instead I just spread it around the top everywhere... What could go wrong?

coffee on hand
It was actually a neat texture and was still slightly warm when I opened the bag. I'm not sure why my hand smelled like cigar paper the whole rest of the day, like burt pulp. 

grounds for your garden
It was one of those free "Grounds for your Garden" bags at Starbucks

coffee around rhododendron
Rhododendron 'Ramapo' with coffee around the base

coffee around japanese andromeda
Pieris japonica 'Passion' with coffee grounds

I am a little concerned the coffee will be too acidic for the stem, and in hindsight I should have made a donut around the base. Then again, I SHOULD have worked it into the soil, but the ground is already pretty frozen and it's old out, so why bother, haha! I do think I'll work it in a few inches below the surface before I add new mulch in the Spring.

So far nothing major seems to be happening. All the plants still have their leaves, which is a good sign for December!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fall '16 Garden Highlights

Fall is a weird time in the garden. A bunch of stuff turns gross and yellow (I'm looking at you hostas!) and other stuff actually looks better than before - or at least stands out more than it did before. Take this inconspicuous scotch moss for example. It was minding its own business under the hydrangea and now BAM it's stealing the show!

scotch moss in fall
Scotch moss in fall
Next, take this Little Henry sweetspire - known for it's fall color - I can see why! Also, my Japanese Andromeda is doing something. Are those red buds, or is it trying to flower? These things are supposed to be evergreen, but we'll see if it makes it through the winter. I don't think it likes my clay soil one bit.

little henry red in falljapanese andromeda in fall

Next up, a combination of blue tones with this dianthus next to my dwarf lavender. The lavender was a hit last winter and kept an interesting ghost blue color all year. I'm wondering if dianthus will do the same or if it will die back.

dianthus in fall
Dianthus Lavender Lace next to dwarf lavender (appropriate)

Noblesville Fall 2016 First Frost and First Snow

For posterity, here is my documentation of the first hard frost of the year (November 5, 2016) and the first 'snow' of the year (November 19, 2016).

frost on grass in backyard
First frost Fall 2016 was November 5 in Noblesville, Indiana
We had some crazy fall weather (I feel like I say that every year), with temperatures jumping up into the mid 70's and then back down to freezing. In fact, just yesterday I was mowing the lawn shirtless in 74º weather and not 12 hours later we had our first dusting of snow.

It will be an interesting winter to see if we have temps in the 50's all December and freaky January heat as well. Last year the crocus came up early (not that I'm complaining).

snapchat temp compare
Crazy temperature swings in a 12 hour period!

dusting of snow on patio furniture
Dusting of snow, first snow of the year Fall 2016

Relaxing Footage of Hardy Pampas Grass Gently Swaying in the Breeze

This specimen grass is extraordinary, and when the feathery tops are in full bloom and backlit by the sun, it's a special moment. I tried my best to capture it using my 'real' camera and not just an iPhone. I turned the footage into a short but hopefully intensely relaxing video. Now you can experience the relief of watching this massive 15 foot tall grass dropping seeds as it sways in the breeze.

I hope you liked it! Also check out my other photos of this impressive hardy pampas grass. PS what what what? Blogger lets you add emojis in the desktop editor? How cool! 🌾

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fall Walk at the IMA

I checked an item off my Indy bucket list today and took a walk through the gardens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I will definitely have to check back in the Spring and Summer to get the full experience, but there was still plenty to see on this overcast autumn day.

I wish I had brought my Canon T5i with me, but I did the best I could with my iPhone. It doesn't quite capture the coolness of some of these plants and colors I saw. I was also pumped to see that there were planet labels - such a nice courtesy! This garden walk rivals any local arboretum, it's a true gem.

indianapolis ima formal gardens in fall
IMA formal gardens
indy ima gardensindy ima gardens

Cyperus haspan 'Viviparus' dwarf papyrus sedge
Cyperus haspan 'Viviparus' dwarf papyrus sedge

Salvia leucantha 'Cislano' Mexican bush sage
Bright purple and fuzzy to the touch - Salvia leucantha 'Cislano' Mexican bush sage
Monkshood - Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii'
Monkshood - Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii'
Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Woolly Bear Caterpillar
indy island
Art, or a crashed spaceship? It's called Indy Island

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sidewalk Tree Unveiled: Syringa reticulata Japanese Lilac

After 2+ years living in this development, they added sidewalk trees up and down the street. Anticipating a Bradford pear, I already had plans to swap it out for something else. After a week of spying out the window to see when they would actually put in the tree in front of my house, it finally arrived - and I couldn't tell what it was. I send my friend Mike some photos and he immediately identified it as Syringa reticulata a Japanese lilac tree.

Japanese lilac, that sounds pretty! Well, Mike said it's sort of a boring tree, and that it does have white flowers in spring but that they start dying as soon as they open. At least it's not as brittle as a Bradford pear, so it won't damage cars parked in the driveway or on the street. It's also a little smaller than a Linden, so it might go well with my existing front yard tree - or at least not compete for a number of years.

Let's take a look... Obviously I was out there poking around and taking pics with my iPhone. Such a newsworthy event! Not every day you get a new tree.

japanese lilac twig detail
Twig detail

new sidewalk tree
Placement relative to the other tree in my front yard

japanese lilac bark detailjapanese lilac bud detail

japanese lilac leavesjapanese lilac leaves

japanese lilac dead flowerstrunk damage new tree

mulch base of young tree
Unnecessarily large hole for the root ball - but probably good so the clay gets chopped up

mulch base of young tree
Massive mulch pile around the base
Even thought the tree is likely dormant, I went ahead and slow watered it so the soil around the base would settle and get all the air pockets out. It's also going back up to 80 this week, so if this thing can get a few roots in before winter all the better. We'll see what happens in the Spring!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hardy Pampas Grass Season 2

I absolutely love this exotic specimen grass. I feel dwarfed by it, and I imagine being on the African Savanna or in the jungles of Vietnam - not that I've ever been there or know what it's like, but this huge grass just seems so out of place in an Indiana backyard. I also like how it blocks my neighbors house, and looks to be easily 15 feet tall in just it's 2nd year. The only downside is that it only looks good for a few months a year and then I'm left with a rather bare corner of the yard waiting for this warm weather grass to wake up again.

Last year, this grass put up 2 stalks and clocked in for a final height of 10 feet 8 inches. Judging by the height of the fence and the photo from last year, I'm guessing it will easily smash that record. There are also (let me count them) over a dozen large stalks this year.

Here is this year's grass:

Erianthus ravennae 'Hardy Pampas Grass'
Erianthus ravennae 'Hardy Pampas Grass'
Compared to last year:

Erianthus ravennae 'Hardy Pampas Grass'
Pampas grass last year

Fall Favorites: Gaura lindheimeri and Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'

It's officially Fall - I've had my first pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, the sun is once again south of the equator, and it's time for some last minute planting, grass seed, and gorgeous under-rated fall blooms. Here are a couple of my favorites blooming right now:

Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'
This aster is easily twice the size of anyone's mums right now, and comes back year after year. It's called Purple Dome for a reason, and is completely covered with these gorgeous purple flowers. This is one of my favorite plants in the yard, partly because when I first got it, it was this tiny little sprout and surprised me with how well it did even in the first season. Can't say enough about this one, wish my yard was bigger so I could plant more!

aster purple dome
Aster novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'

Gaura lindheimeri
I didn't know what Gaura lindheimeri were until I saw them on the sale table at Lowe's. What a pleasant surprise! The foliage looks like rosemary and the flowers look like little butterfly kisses on red stems. Simply gorgeous! Give me more! 

Gaura lindheimeri
Gaura lindheimeri blooming after 2 weeks after being on the sale table because it was a dried up runt. This specific variety is BELLEZA Dark Pink. 

Extended Dry Side Bed and New Gaura

I finally got around to finishing the side bed on the dry shade side of my house. I took a couple divisions from Hosta 'Libby' because they grow so vigorously, and bought a Japanese spurge that hopefully will fill in the area nicely without becoming a nightmare. I gave it plenty of room to spread out, and maybe it will become the bed edge all on its own. Fingers crossed!

dry shade beddry shade bed

Pachysandra terminalis
Pachysandra terminalis - Japanese spurge
I enjoyed my Gaura lindheimeri BELLEZA™ Dark Pink that I put by the utility boxes so much that I tried to go back and get more. I was only able to find this Gaura lindheimeri 'Star Pink' which I guess is close enough. I put it in the back to fill in the back full sun bed a little more. This bed is starting to become a hodge-podge, but maybe when I start to see what does well and what I like, I can thin it out or do more repetition of the good stuff rather than having one of each.

Karalee® Petite Pink Gaura lindheimeri 'Star Pink'
Karalee® Petite Pink Gaura lindheimeri 'Star Pink'

Great Combo: Black Mondo Grass and Golden Moneywort

I'm loving this combination of black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens') and golden moneywort (also called Creeping Jenny Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea') in my shade garden. The dark black leaves of the black mondo grass contrast nicely with the lime green of the Creeping Jenny. The golden moneywort also helps to crowd out the weeds and provides a lush groundcover that is just unstoppable. I got these on the sale table a while back and they just took off!

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'
Black Mondo Grass with Creeping Jenny 
Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' and Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'
Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'
Black Mondo Grass with Golden Moneywort
The black mondo grass has been growing but not very fast. It put out little side shooters - it will slowly (SLOOOOWLY) spread by rhizomes to populate the area.

Here is a throwback to when I first put them in... I can't believe this groundcover took off and covered the whole area in only one season, since March 27. I'm also a little frustrated with how slow growing the Black Mondo Grass is, which I guess is why it's so expensive. I sure hope it lives through the central Indiana winter.

black mondo combination
Throwback from late March

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bright Pink Fiery Feathery Annuals

I saw these at my brother's house and I didn't ask him exactly what kind they were, but from a quick Google search for bright pink feather like fire looking annuals, they appear to be wheatstraw Celosia argentea var. spicata 'Flamingo Feather' - appropriately named from the hot pink color (no filter). 

Celosia argentea var. spicata 'Flamingo Feather'
Celosia argentea var. spicata 'Flamingo Feather'

Celosia argentea var. spicata 'Flamingo Feather'
Celosia argentea var. spicata 'Flamingo Feather'

They seriously look like you took bottle brushes and dipped them in a vat of pink highlighter ink. I was so amazed I stopped mid conversation and walked over to take a picture. 

If anyone knows exactly what variety these are, let me know in the comments, but I'm fairly certain Celosia argentea var. spicata is close enough. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Mulch and Late Summer Blooms featuring BELLEZA Dark Pink

The little prairie patch near my utility box got a bit of a facelift today. AT&T finally came out to bury the new cable line, so I was able to mulch and clean up the area. My new Gaura lindheimeri BELLEZA™ Dark Pink are going gangbusters and already started flowering and rooting in well. I can't wait to see them in the Spring and blooming all next summer.

Gaura lindheimeri BELLEZA™ Dark Pink
  Gaura lindheimeri BELLEZA™ Dark Pink

mulched utility bed
Here's my mulched utility bed

In other parts of the yard, my dwarf red hot poker plant is taking it's transplant to the rock garden very well, and even put up 2 new blooms. I'm hoping that's a sign that it will survive the winter and come back next year. Glamor shot!

Kniphofia hirsuta 'Fire Dance' - Dwarf Hot Poker Plant
Kniphofia hirsuta 'Fire Dance' - Dwarf Hot Poker Plant

Also in the rock garden, this Sedum 'Dazzleberry' is blooming even though the rest of the plant looks a hot mess! I hope it comes back a little less leggy next year. Also check out these grasshoppers mating, and my aster 'Purple Dome' is getting ready to put on a HUGE fall show with tons of purple blooms ready to pop. Any day now!

dazzleberry sedumtwo grasshoppers

dwarf poker plantaster purple dome