Sunday, March 27, 2016

Photoshop Landscaping Mock Up vs. Reality

I've been wanting to do something about my front bed for a few months now. Over time, I'm less happy with how the rocks on the left hand side make an 'eye' shape that takes a bite out of the shape of the mulch bed. Also, since my boxwood go in a nice arch across the front, it would be nice if the bed line followed that same path.

photoshop rock design

I didn't want to get out there and start moving rocks without a plan, so I actually used Photoshop to test out the curves to see if I thought I would like it.

I'm still not 100% happy with the lines. Once you decide to make things symmetrical, then you have to be perfect or it will look funny. Sigh, the things I decide to worry about...

Now the mulch line follows the arch of the boxwood row

Thuja plicata 'Whipcord' and Other Interesting Conifers

I spotted some interesting conifers at Allisonville Nursery yesterday. They have dozens of varieties, so I didn't catalog everything, but I wanted to post some photos of a couple interesting ones I spotted.

Large conifer selection
mini conifer and succulent container
Mini conifer and succulent container, a really cool combination!

Pinus mugo 'Mops'
So adorable, Pinus mugo 'Mops'

Whipcord Western Red Cedar - Thuja plicata 'Whipcord'Whipcord Western Red Cedar - Thuja plicata 'Whipcord'

Whipcord Western Red Cedar - Thuja plicata 'Whipcord' - looks almost like an ornamental grass at first, but it's closely related to other arborvitae evergreen trees. Imagine taking an Emerald Green arborvitae and stretching out the fingers of each of its evergreen fronds and you'd make this bizarre plant. Whipcord is the perfect name for it.

Expensive But Long-Awaited New Additions

I think I've had black mondo grass on my wish list since I first created a wish list. And I've been wanting a Japanese forest grass for just as long, but got one last year for free from my dad - only to have it shredded by rabbits and barely alive. I'm tired of waiting around for it to take off, I just want a nice big one now!

Since Chris and I saved money buying a modest couch and love seat instead of a huge sectional, he treated me to a trip to Allisonville Nursery to look around. They had an entire cart of black mondo grass and Japanese forest grass together! Perfect marketing combo.

I was shocked how expensive they were! $16.99 for each of the pots below, total after tax was $56.

black mondo grass pairings
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (black mondo grass) and Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold' (Japanese forest grass)
I suppose I got a little more bang for my buck with the black mondo grass because each pot had one main clump and 2 baby clumps in it - connected to the main clump with an underground rhizome but with its own substantial set of roots. I teased them apart and planted them each separately.

Since the black mondo grass was so expensive, I wanted to give it the best possible chance to survive - especially since I am right on the border of its winter hardiness. I ended up planting it in a variety of places on 2 different sides of my house. I also paired it with plants I already had in place that were brighter, like my creeping Jenny and Scotch moss.

Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'
Black mondo grass paired with Creeping Jenny - Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' - or Gold Moneywort

black mondo grass and scotch moss
Black mondo grass and Scotch moss (Sagina subulata 'Aurea')

I forgot I haven't blogged about my creeping Jenny yet - that was actually a bargain because I found it on the sale table at Lowe's for $1, so that offsets the price a little haha! I didn't realize until just now how many of these things have GOLD in their name. Anything gold pairs with black mondo grass, we have 'All Gold' Japanese forest grass, both the creeping Jenny and Scotch moss have variety names 'Aurea'. According to Wikipedia: Aurea is a Latin female name meaning "golden."

black mondo grass in rocks
Giving this tiny clump a go as a rock garden accent. I think it will hate the clay soil, but it's worth a shot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What's Waking Up? March 23, 2016

Here in Noblesville, Indiana I've got lots of sleepy plants just barely waking up for Spring. Here's a photo tour of what's going on... if you just glance at my yard from the sidewalk you'd miss it, but if you get down on your knees you can definitely see things happening. I'm "that guy" walking around my yard with my iPhone taking pictures of mulch...

hosta blue mouse ears
Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' survived the winter after being planted later in the season last year (September). Can you see the eyes? No? It took me a little while to find them myself. Ok, I'll admit I dug down a bit to spot them and then covered them back up again to keep them warm.

wee one
'Wee One' dwarf lavender with new green on old pale blue stems

green panda fargesia rufa
Lots of new and thick looking culms growing from my 'Green Panda' bamboo Fargesia rufa

hosta patriot eyes
Hosta 'Patriot' going strong, still a good 2 weeks ahead of last year

'Annabelle' hydrangea waking up with green coming out of plump buds. They will form new growth and bloom on new wood this summer - but I am trying something different this year by leaving more old growth above ground instead of cutting them down to the ground completely.

purple cone flower
Purple cone flower 'Prairie Splendor' by the utility boxes - this is the one that had a disease or something last year, it never formed real blooms and it got all wonky looking. I was kinda hoping it would come back normal this year if the disease died off over the winter. On second thought, based on photos, it looks like this one has Aster Yellows disease and I should rip it out before it spreads to anything else. Sorry little guy!

Leucanthemum × superbum 'Becky'
Shasta daisy Leucanthemum × superbum 'Becky' coming back after being transplanted in July

Installing P3 Mole Chaser

P3 mole chaser
Took me a while to dig a hole for the P3 Mole Chaser, it's a narrow vertical shaft in thick clay soil
I blogged before about my vole / field mouse problem in my lawn thanks to my neighbor not cutting his grass. When I visited my dad this last weekend, he gave me two of these Mole Chaser devices that emit a beeping tone underground that disturbs any underground critters like moles and voles so they pack up and make their home somewhere else.

There's a variety of these "chaser" devices that are supposed to work on voles, moles, gophers, etc. 

No idea if it's going to work yet. The web says it can take 2 weeks to really get rid of the voles, and that more might come around thinking the vibration is food before leaving for good. Ironic huh! This is the old school cheap battery kind - I've also seen solar powered and even wind powered mole chasers.

small animal pathways in lawnsmall trenches in yard

I had to try something, these voles probably spent all winter eating through the roots of my yard. I don't know if I have the heart to kill them, and I can't really hunt them down or mow down the grass because they live in my neighbor's yard - they just come into my yard to eat all my delicious healthy roots!

p3 mole chaser
I placed the Mole Chaser right at the edge of the bed, not very discrete but very targeted to the problem area
I just hope I don't send them running.... into my garage or house or into my flower bed. Here's some more information on how I installed it (duh, dig a hole and drop it in) but seriously, I tried hammering a broom stick into the ground, I tried using a survey stake to loosen up the soil. I ended up digging down with this Hori Hori Garden Knife that did a great job, but still tough with all the clay.

I'll let you know if this does the trick! It's worth a shot, especially since I got 2 of these free from my dad. They're not very expensive though. I was worried you'd be able to hear the beeping noise above ground but once the soil packs in around the device you really can barely hear it - but it's loud enough for you to check the batteries to make sure it's still working. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Parents' Early Spring Yard Featuring Helleborus et al.

Took a day trip to Dayton to do a little pre-Easter family time and spent a good part of the day outside playing 3 rounds of Easter egg hunts with my nephews and talking plants with my dad. Here's a few of the photos I took of their yard - I don't have the specific variety names for most of these but I can describe them in general.

A variety of helleborus were in full bloom, these "lenten rose" lived up to their name since we're in lent right now I think. I should probably get one for my yard since they make great evergreen leaves and large perennial blooms when everyone else just has crocus and daffodil.

purple lenten rose blooming

purple lenten rose blooming

pink helleborus lenten rose

purple helleborus with wood bench

purple helleborus

So, in addition to the great helleborus show, here are a few other notable features that caught my eye:

coral bells
Coral bells holding color all winter, looks like they even put out some new leaves this Spring, bright lime green.

winter aconite spreading babies
Winter aconite babies spreading like crazy (Eranthis heymalis)
Pachysandra terminalis
Pachysandra ground cover flowering, or Japanese Spurge (Pachysandra terminalis)

First Day of Spring Update: Patriot and Japanese Forest Grass

It's the first day of Spring, and we're in the middle of a 2 day cold snap with lows down to 27°F, no thanks! Anyway, here is an update on a few things I'm obsessively watching in my yard:

Hosta 'Patriot' is waking up already, about 15 days earlier than last year! I'm calling these the Eyes of March, get it? (Beware the Ides of March).

hosta patriot eyes marchhosta patriot eyes march

Below, I've never been more excited to see 3 teeny tiny sprouts of Japanese Forest Grass. It's alive! After being transplanted twice and eaten by rabbits down to the ground, it came back! On a side note, my forest grass (left) is about the same progress, albeit smaller, than my parents' in Dayton (right).

hakonechloa forest grass emergehakonechloa forest grass emerge

Below, here is a good sign, I've got new growth on my Pieris 'Passion' - my Japanese Andromeda shrub. I hope it grows 5 feet tall, it will look great next to my Japanese forest grass if they both live and reach full size. My side yards are looking particularly Asian with these and my Japanese painted fern and bamboo on the other side.

pieris passion
Pieris japonica 'Passion' new growth on Japanese Andromeda shrub

Here's hoping that the cold mornings don't kill off all this great progress. I think it will be fine since the hostas haven't opened up yet and especially my hydrangea haven't leafed out since those are the ones that experienced some frost damage last year. Who knows, still plenty of time for a cold front or even some April snow wouldn't be out of the question.

noblesville indiana first day of spring 2016 weather
First day of Spring 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Blooming Boxwood, Edging, and Expired Grass Seed

I'm going to pretend that the low Saturday isn't going to be 27°F and keep doing yard work in denial. Today after work I sprayed some anti-fungal on the wet side yard that usually gets white powder on it, then I put down some (probably expired) patch grass seed that will water in this weekend while I'm in Dayton.

This has got to be the last cold bout until Spring (which technically starts in 3 days).

Buxus sempervirens flowerblooming english boxwood

I'm pretty sure my boxwood is Dwarf English boxwood Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa', and I'm pretty sure it's flowering. This one is only flowering near the top - is that because I trimmed off the buds last Fall? Note to self: Look up best time to trim boxwood to not remove new buds.... or does it even matter?

green pop up garden bin
Finished edging the back island, had to break a few birch tree roots (sad) but they shouldn't have been on the surface like that! Now I just need to mulch and this bed will be refreshed for the year. My crocuses are almost spent and it's only been like a week :(

patch grass seed
Look, it's snowing shredded newspaper and 3 year old grass seed! I'll be surprised if any of this grows, but at least it will amend the clay a little bit and if there's a chance some seeds sprout then all the better.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2016

It's finally (almost) Spring here in central Indiana! I'm pleased to report that I do have blooms on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for March 2016. The 15th of every month, bloggers gather at May Dreams Gardens to celebrate and exchange links to what's blooming or interesting in their gardens.

This month, I'm bursting with purple crocus blooms...

purple crocus top view
Gorgeous purple crocus sprinkled with water droplets

purple crocus side view
March 2016 purple crocus blooming
I also have flowers on my new addition, a Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica 'Passion') - I'm always hesitant to post store-bought blooms on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day because these were probably forced to bloom early to look nicer in the garden center. Who knows if they would actually be blooming right now. I guess I'll find out next year.

Pieris japonica 'Passion'
Pieris japonica 'Passion'
Finally, I'll mention my new addition just because I happened to put them in on the 15th and I haven't blogged about them yet. I got some resurrection lily aka surprise lily aka magic lily aka naked lady (Lycoris squamigera) from my grandpa's yard. You're not supposed to transplant them while they are growing like this, but I'll take what I can get, especially for free.

I heard they don't like to be moved, so who knows if they will even bloom this year, but I spread them around to different parts of the yard to see if they like a certain area over another. I did a mass planting in the side yard, a couple on the other side, and two clumps in the full sun back yard bed along the back. On second thought, I don't think I planted them deep enough. We'll see!

magic lily bulbs
Free bucket of Lycoris squamigera - we'll see if any come up this year, I hear they are a bit picky about being disturbed

magic lily first emerge transplant
Mass planting of magic lily (Lycoris squamigera) on my side bed but toward the edge to get more sun

surprise lily placementsurprise lily placement

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Shenandoah Switchgrass - My $1 MVP

I still can't believe I got this ornamental switchgrass for $1 last July, on sale at Lowe's because it had a fungal infection. I cut it back and it re-grew just fine, and even put out some signature maroon leaves in late summer.

Now, in Spring 2016 it's my first ornamental grass to wake up. It's got the heart of a champion, and I'm sure in no time it will be hiding my electric meter and providing vertical interest in my side yard.

On a side note, I wonder why my Northwind switchgrass is a warm weather grass that doesn't wake up until later in the summer, but this one is already up and running in March!

Shenandoah already awake in March

Raising the Wet Shade Bed

This weekend I took on one of the big projects I had planned for the summer (even though it's still winter technically!). I tried my best to guesstimate how many bags of mulch and soil it would take to raise my wet shade bed up a few inches to get the plants out of the water. My neighbor's main rain spout drains right into the side yard that has a flat grade that, combined with the clay soil, is prone to soggyness.

I knew I would have to dig up most or all of the plants in the side yard and add soil beneath them, or try to pile mulch on top hoping the roots would migrate up and still let the plant come through without smothering it. Can you mulch over hostas? I guess we'll find out.

mulch bed at night
Friday after work I started moving plants and adding soil beneath plants. I thought it was going to rain all day Saturday so I worked until it was dark. I actually put a couple plants in when I couldn't see that well - I guess we'll see what comes up!
pen drawing of landscape plan
This was my mulch and dirt plan, but I under estimated by A LOT and ended up needing 5 bags of mulch and 11 bags of soil just for the side yard (right) where I originally guessed only 6 bags of soil and 3 bags of mulch. Yikes! Raising the earth for the entire side of the house was a bigger job than I thought! It's not just about dusting to make the mulch darker, it was about adding mass and height.

I moved some hostas up by adding dirt underneath them and re-planting them. And for others, I just piled about 3 inches of mulch on top of them. I'm hoping the roots will migrate up and when the eyes emerge they will keep going until they break through.

In general, the plants were a little more dormant than I anticipated. I was expecting to see hostas eyes getting ready to emerge, but they were just big masses of roots. It was hard to tell exactly where they would pop up. Some might be too close to my new additions.

I'm also going to have to get used to the idea of my plants touching at some point. So far everything is so small and spread out. Hopefully with this bed getting raised I won't have to move as much around next year. I just want to let stuff grow in and get settled for a season. It still looks very young and new and it will be a few years before it has a full lush feel to it - but you have to start somewhere!

narrow side yard mulch bed
Nice clean bed lines, and those Scotch Moss really pop!

It's hard to tell just how raised the bed is from the photos. It actually has quite a steep include on the side, and I'm hoping the hostas come out and help hold in the mulch. I really like it! The raised look makes the yard feel more expensive, especially when everything is so flat in Indiana.

I also mulched under the air conditioning unit. I had originally put the rocks under there back when I didn't have a side bed at all. When I put in the side bed last year, I kept the rocks but over time realized how it broke up the flow of the line. I took most of the rocks and put them other places in the yard, but then I covered up a good amount - a nasty surprise for the next home owner? I can just picture them trying to plant in the mulch and being annoyed to find rocks. But for now it's not a big deal, I think it will actually help keep the AC from sinking over time, and help keep my ostrich fern from sending up runners under the unit. Plus it looks so nice and makes a clean line finally.

mulch around air conditioner
No more rocks under the air conditioner

raised side bed
Hard to tell by the picture, but the bed is raised about 5 inches, it makes the yard look more expensive for some reason.

Finally, I moved one of the Royal Candles to the back yard in full sun, which I think it prefers. I can test between the two to see which does better. All I know is that last year they did NOT like getting soggy all summer in a very rainy June.

mulch wet spot
That wet spot is the Royal Candles moved from the side yard.