The Virtual Garden Tour

I would love to have you all over to show you my garden. Since I can’t do that, here is a tour in photos.

The month of May is generally so kind to my garden. The beginning of June is, as well. Then nature turns up the heat and things get tired and crispy.

In May, it’s bloom after bloom. When one kind of plant stops, another begins.

I’ve got irises of all sorts (enough different sorts to stretch the blooming for weeks)…

creamsicle

reticulated iris

happy iris

IMG_1245

purple bearded iris

celebratory iris

And the wonderful baptisia…

baptisia

Blackberry…

blackberry

Peony…

peony

And now, honeysuckle. The air in the back yard is heavy with the scent, even with part of the honeysuckle wall cut back. Too bad I’ve got a cold and can’t fully appreciate it.

honeysuckle

With my new camera, I can get better panoramic views of the garden. It helps to (maybe) show how small the space is. Here is the back yard from the west:

view from the west

And now the same space but from the east:

view from the eastIn all my planting, I’ve also added more to the little rock garden I built last year. I added some begonias and other annuals and more sedums. It’s a real mix of things, so I guess I’ll just see what survives and add more of it next year. For now, I kind of like the way it looks:

rock garden

fern and begonia

begonia

Also around my garden:

little bug

Changes!

Our neighborhood has changed so much in the last several years. I’ve found it very interesting to look at the difference between this view of my garden from this week (May 2013)…

Garden View May 2013

and about the same view in June of 2011 (soon after I started this blog)…

Fairy House

Fewer trees now…old houses gone…new houses appearing…my plants have grown…our fence isn’t caving in.

In other changes, I have a new camera! People have asked me what kind of camera I use for this blog. The answer is a little Cannon point and shoot that probably cost about $125 several years ago. Thank you to everyone who’s complimented me on the photos I’ve taken with it. It struggles with marginally low light and close ups and other things. For every photo I post, there are 20 more that were too blurry to use.

Life’s been a challenge lately between the raccoon invaders at home and a break in at work. For me, the one positive thing that the break in brought was that I had to look up replacement prices for the camera I used at work which was among the things stolen. I found that the camera had gone down in price to the point that I felt I could purchase a second one for my personal use.

It’s a Panasonic Lumix that’s in the “hybrid” category–still not a digital SLR. I was happy with it at Patchwork, and I’m looking forward to using it at home.

Into the Wild

John and I followed up my art residency in Coshocton with a week-long vacation in Northern Michigan. The weather was great (none of the 90+ degree temps that were soaking Evansville) and we were there before Memorial Day, so the lake was clear and not stirred up by excessive pleasure boating.

John and I enjoyed some canoeing around Crooked Lake.

We also enjoyed visiting the Lake Michigan shoreline, shopping in Petoskey, reading on the deck, and eating lots and lots of really good food. What we didn’t do: have internet access or a TV!

We went hiking at a really nice nature preserve that was part of a whole network of preserves organized by the Little Traverse Conservancy. It’s beautiful land. There were several late-spring Northern Michigan wildflowers blooming.

My Garden Returns

It’s amazing the way that my back yard has exploded in just two weeks. Everything is so green. And not the exhausted, way too hot, just-give-me-a-little-more-water-so-I-can-survive-this-August kind of green. It’s the energetic, bright, succulent spring green of plants that double in size in just one day.

Looking back over my photos from the last two weeks, I can see the ground go from brown with a few scattered bits of green to a full garden. Now almost all of the perennials are well above ground.
It’s perfect. The plants are all happy and in their places. They’re not sagging from the heat. They didn’t sustain too much damage in the hail storm a couple Fridays ago (nickel-sized hail and lots of it). The raccoons haven’t dug them up. The starlings haven’t stripped them to the ground in a search for the perfect linings for their nest in the street lamp. The squirrels haven’t even done significant damage yet, though I wish I could teach them to weed so they could be more efficient in their random digging all around the garden.

Speaking of raccoons, we trapped our first of 2012 a couple weeks ago (seventh total). It was in our basement and was pretty gross. Ah well, the trap held.

Around my garden, a first iris bloomed. The tiarella are blooming as well. Out front, our azaleas are a mound of blooms. And, I was excited when the little redbud I planted last year did its thing, small as it is. Also in bloom: my 60 grape hyacinth impulse purchase from last fall.

When I was little, I remember my grandma had grape hyacinths beside her house. I always thought they were so cool. It was something about the tiny little beads of flowers and the odd smell. That’s why I planted these. I picked a few and put them in a vase on the window sill for old time’s sake.

Oh, and in keeping count of the wildlife inviting themselves into our house, I can now add a bat. John was watching a TV show that included vampires and looked up to see an actual bat circling the room. Our neighbor reported he didn’t hear any screams. I’m not sure how he missed them. At least we got the bat out pretty quickly by opening all the doors. Though, the bat did make an unfortunate stop inside the paper globe lampshade in the kitchen.

KA-Boom, Magnolia in Bloom!

Last Monday was the peak bloom time for our magnolia.

It was a perfect day for it with bright blue skies.

It couldn’t have been any better.

But already the next day the petals had started to fall.

Meanwhile, I have several little plants started in a nearby greenhouse. I’m hoping it will give my tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillo a good, solid start. Yesterday I ran into some friends there who shared a snack of collard flower buds. They were really good! Maybe I need to add some collards to my garden somewhere.

Since this weekend was just as nice as last, I spent some of it preparing my garden for spring. The perennials are just starting to emerge after the winter and everything feels like it’s glowing green.

And the barred owls are singing out across the neighborhood again. Over the past week or two I’ve heard them singing from somewhere between our house and the river, but tonight I heard one in the oak across the alley. Two years ago, that tree was central to two barred owls’ courtship. They were out there for a good part of February and some of March. It was really neat to listen to them, except they would get really loud and do a shriek-y, cluck-y call. It wasn’t so poetic.

Major Coup…for the raccoons

Forget what I said earlier about the raccoons and I having an understanding. They had a different understanding and it was: “Try to keep us away and we will destroy you.”

Last Wednesday I was eating my breakfast when the floor started to make a creaking sound. It was as if someone was walking across the TV room but no one was there, not even the cat. Well, I had a sense that I wasn’t having a ghostly encounter. Shamoo and I walked into the room and we could hear fur rustling against the duct work.

That evening, John and I went down to the basement expecting rats but saw it was more likely raccoons. Yuck. They’d pulled apart the flexible duct work leading from the furnace. I think that because it’s been so dry recently they were looking for the moisture condensing on all the metal when the air conditioning was running.

Last summer the raccoons destroyed my garden looking for water, but this year I played country music 24/7 so they wouldn’t want to hang out in my back yard. I hate to think of what they will do next year if we try to block them from the basement. A friend of mine says her whole neighborhood came out to watch a raccoon tear a hole in her roof. I don’t want that to be us!

While John and I try to figure out what to do next about the raccoons, I’m working on something easy–finding ways to use the last of the fresh summer produce from my garden and the downtown farmers market.

Last weekend I made a nice soup with beans, carrots, and herbs from my garden. We’ve also had mac and cheese with squash in the sauce and chunks of pepper. This weekend I used the four ripe red peppers from my garden to make a red pepper pesto to go over broiled salmon (the recipe was from Cooking Light). Sunday morning John and I used the leftovers to make the Ultimate Scrambled Eggs: salmon, tomatoes and basil from my garden, onion, the pepper pesto, and a cheese mix of gruyere, parmigiano-reggiano, and parmesan. (It wasn’t horribly photogenic but it tasted great!)

Looking forward, even though the garden is slowing down there are still quite a few tasty things to eat up. I have a watermelon and squash from the farmers market and basil and tomatoes from my own garden. I know people with pears that are ripe, not to mention apples. Oh the possibilities!

Speaking of the farmers market, this is why the one in Evansville frustrate me: the lack of variety. For instance, I go there and find endless big red tomatoes. If I’m lucky I’ll find a couple yellow ones. I was there the other week and there were a few green ones and the woman next to me was looking at them like they were the most exotic things she’d ever seen. Now here are tomatoes from my garden:

Food should be beautiful!

There have been other beautiful moments around my garden recently. For one, I have a wonderful stand of elephant ears that I got from a friend. The water beads on their huge leaves so beautifully…

Blargh, Mulch!

Yesterday I finally got the mulch spread on my perennials. I’ve had the bags sitting in the back yard for a couple weeks but only yesterday did I both have the time and dry enough ground to do the job.

I don’t find the process particularly enjoyable. On top of that, yesterday was incredibly hot and humid.

So, here’s how it went…

First two bags done. It already looks better. My frog house from Art & Company looks even better now. My beans and other vegetables are looking good…

And there’re my Cucumbers. They’re really growing well. I never thought I’d like growing cucumbers, but last year my horned melons (a kind of cucumber) grew so well in this throw-away space that I decided to try another variety there this year. Next year I should rig some strings from the ground to the eaves of the shed and let the cucumbers grow up it. It would be a great wall of cucumber.

Oh, and hello Nala. Aren’t you so innocent there on the brick pile. No one would suspect that you’re a deadly bird hunter.

My blackberries are glowing in the sun. Should I try to keep the birds off them? I tried last summer and got a few berries for my tons of work wrapping the bush in bird netting, but then I got more than I could use from the bushes at Patchwork. Maybe the birds can just have these. The mockingbirds are already taking a toll…

Ok, ok, ok. Back to work. Three more bags of mulch in and I can see I’m going to fall just a little short. Drat! And John just came back from donating platelets so he can’t go do the heavy lifting for me when I get another bag. But hey, the mulch has added nicely to the level of the soil in the back corner of the garden…

And while I was at Lowe’s getting the last bags of mulch, I picked up a couple stepping stones so I stop trampling all over everything. But now it’s all done and looks great.

Maybe a break now for some fresh local peaches…