The Year of Not Gardening

It’s been a bad year for gardening. I’ve done very little other than admire the flowers which survived the harsh winter, both mine and other people’s. I lost several lavender bushes, a favorite purple clematis, two older established John Cabot/David Austen rose bushes, and most of the ever-bearing strawberry plants. Other things came up looking pathetic including my hardy Knock Out Roses which did not seem as lush this year especially the ones facing north, not to mention a half dead birch tree and lilac bush. Blame it on the weird spring, with the temperatures yoyoing up and down so much.

In early May when all the hanging baskets were out for Mother’s Day, it seemed too cold to be buying plants which I would only have to bring in and out of the garage. So I waited until it got warmer. Then it was too hot, then cool again…..by then I had waited too long to buy dipladenia – all the pink ones were sold out. I was busy was other things and then it was too late for anything, although I did scoop up three Red Twig Dogwood bushes for half price to try and replace the privacy hedge the new neighbours had cut down. (Why oh why?) Otherwise my sole flower expenditure this year was a hibiscus plant, plus some lettuce seeds (I couldn’t find seedlings), one beefsteak tomato, and a new rhubarb plant. The plus side of not having any hanging baskets is not having to water, as rain has not been as plentiful either and now in mid-July the lawns are as dry as August, although we did get a glorious rain this morning.

Here’s a mini-tour of the good and the bad.

My mothers purple geraniums, with a twenty year spread.
Her honeysuckle bush, which is almost too sweet smelling to me.
My fuchsia clematis did well and is inching it’s way up the side arbor.
The purple clematis was very prolific too at climbing the garden shed.
I had better luck turning the hydrangeas blue this year due to a double dose of aluminum sulfate, which has gone way up in price, but note the dead lavender bush in front of it.
The rest of the lavender was meh, although the butterflies enjoyed it.
One bloom-again lilac bush did well, the other is half dead. My regular lilac bushes had very few blooms. Ignore the weeds, I did. (Note – Creeping Charlie cannot be halted without pesticides which are illegal here.)
I had five of these pink dipladenia pots last year, but they sold out early as everyone now knows they are drought resistant.
My solitary flower purchase – a pink hibiscus.
As for the vegetable garden, I planted five packages of lettuce, all different varieties, three came up, one mixed salad variety was so strangely peppery tasting that it was inedible, even to the rabbits which snuck under the chickenwire. The hardware store sold out of chickenwire so I couldn’t even reinforce it.
These bush beans are from a freebie packet the library was giving away as part of the One Tomato project. They are supposed to be purple but turn green when cooked….we shall see….
The rhubarb was thin and spindly, but at least the bunnies didn’t make a nest under it like they did last year. I haven’t harvested it yet. I bought another plant for next to it in case it’s lonely.
As seen in the neighborhood – a grass-cutting robot? It wasn’t doing a very good job as it was zigzagging all over and banging into trees like a drunken soldier. I’ve never heard of such a thing so maybe it was an indoor Roomba which went rogue! (I googled – The Terra is made by the same company IRobot and retails for around $1000 – it probably needed to be set up or maybe it was giddy from escaping to the great outdoors?)
And last but not least, this month’s puzzle – my kind of gardening this year!

#May Flowers – Wordless Wednesday

Lately I’ve been taking pictures while walking in the neighborhood
These purple irises deserve a a second shot
I’ve never seen a peony with multi-colors like this one before
The owner said it’s a woody shrub not a bush, and blooms earlier than other peonies.

She said this is catnip – a lovely sight if you’re a cat!
My rescue basket of pansies post CPR – the nursery was going to throw them out but all they needed was some water.
My Virginia bluebells are always nice but one strand came up albino this year.
It’s right beside the lily of the valley, so maybe I’ve created a new species?
Inhale the scent!
Lilacs over my neighbor’s fence.
Make for a nice place to sit and read a book!

#Yellow and Purple – Wordless Wednesday

Yellow and purple are complimentary colors
Common in the first flowers of spring – like crocus
and Hyacinths
Which contrasts nicely with yellow daffodils
Cheerful pansies in bright
and pale shades
Violets sprinkled across the lawn
make the dandelions look sunny
Bright purple vinca stands out
as does the regal purple iris.
And last but not least forsythia – the welcome sign of spring!

Summer Garden Recap

The lawn is littered with leaves from the windstorm last week. The tips of the leaves are starting to change. The sun is still warm but the air feels cooler and the days are getting shorter. Summer is over. I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for the past two months, but thought I would post some garden pictures from the last few months as a last look at the season.

We’ve had so much rain this summer that the vinca outgrew the pots….a bargain that I will definitely be buying again next year.

And the color went nicely with the pink Knock-Out roses.

The dipladenia did well too. Like it’s cousin the mandevilla, it’s a tropical plant which thrived in this year’s sauna-like weather.

I bought a blue lightweight collapsible patio hose, (in the background below), but it rained so often, that I only used it a couple of times.
This was the first year I bought begonias – only because I couldn’t find pink geraniums.

Sometimes they looked okay, but sometimes they just had too much rain or not enough sun or something.

I think I prefer geraniums.

The clematis did so well, that for the first time it actually grew over the arch of the arbor.

It was lush with greenery, but not with flowers.

Sometimes seed packages can be misleading….these look blue and pink to me?

But I got deep purple morning glories and fuchsia zinnias…..

These morning glories turned out pink, but I could have sworn that package was blue too?

My neighbor’s lotus flower was only out for three hours….they have short life-spans….but it was perfection while it bloomed.

A sunny break from all that pink…

More mellow yellow….

The new lavender plants did well, the new rose bushes not so much….

As for the vegetable garden, I’ve never seen so much lettuce, all from four boxes of seedlings and two packages of seeds. I didn’t have to buy lettuce all summer and even had enough to share with the neighbors. Same with the tomatoes the whole month of August….from two seedlings, one beefsteak and one Roma, although the beefsteak were on the small side, probably from lack of sun.

I was pleased with my Brussel Sprout plant too….a new experiment for me.
Fellow blogger, Dorothy, of Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen, (see recipe for sweet and sour brussel sprouts), advised me to prune the leaves off so it resembled a pineapple, as that helps the plant to concentrate it’s growth towards the sprouts. The few I have been able to harvest were tasty little things, but they were difficult to remove from the stem, so I think they have to mature a bit more. I hated brussel sprouts when I was a kid – the smell of these min-cabbages reminded me of my grandmother’s house – but they are full of vitamins and antioxidants, so I’ve learned to appreciate them.
While the rain made everything flourish, and it was nice not to have to drag the hose around watering, the heat and humidity and mosquitoes made sitting outside unpleasant, both day and night. So much for enjoying the garden or the beauty of nature.

We’ve had very few of the sunny blue-sky, low-humidity days that I remember summer being about. I don’t mind the hot temperatures, but the humidity just saps my energy, and the gloomy skies don’t help either. I took to walking in the cool of the evening, but even then some nights the air was so thick I couldn’t walk at all.

Even now, the end of September, the weather continues warmer than usual. We haven’t had any those brisk, frost-warning fall days yet. Usually this time of year, I’m more than ready for the change of seasons, but not this year. It’s like I’m still waiting for the real summer to happen. It was the summer that wasn’t summer. Will this be the new norm?

I don’t mean to be a whiner, in view of the many areas of the world facing drought and wildfires, but it makes me wonder if we’re ruining the earth, or maybe have already ruined it?

There’s still time for one last bonfire…..under a full moon.

And one last look at the lake…

And also time to plan for next year….

PS. I have no idea why there are two different sizes of font in this post, and some of it showed up as captions? It was all in regular font in the draft version – maybe I’ve been away too long…..

My Secret Garden

The Secret Garden (goodreads link) is a children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett about an orphaned girl who discovers a locked abandoned garden on her uncle’s British estate. First published in 1911, it has been made into a movie numerous times, most recently in 2020 with Colin Firth in a cameo role as the uncle. As I enjoyed re-reading Anne of Green Gables so much I’m adding this one to my To Read list, and the movie also, as I’ve heard the cinematography is stunning, especially as there won’t be any garden tours again this summer.

After five months in lock-down we are slowly and cautiously reopening, with ten people allowed for an outdoor gathering in stage one, and the rest of the stages contingent on receiving second doses earlier than our scheduled 16 weeks apart. Although they are trying to speed things up, only 17% of the population have received two doses so far, and with the shot being only 30% effective against the Delta variant after one dose, I think my garden will be remaining secret for awhile longer. It’s a shame not to be able to share all the loveliness, so please join me for a tour of what’s new and what grew.

The weather has been weird and wacky all spring, an unseasonable hot spell the first of April, followed by a cold month, then hot and humid again in May, then cold with frost warnings at night, then hot and humid again and despite thunderclouds no rain for two weeks….and all this by mid-June! Most things in the garden bloomed earlier than usual and have already come and gone, (see Wordless Wednesday Peonies) or are past their peak. The roses (see Wordless Wednesday Roses blog) have become blowzy and even with succession planting I’m wondering what there will be left to look now that summer has officially arrived. Wilted hydrangeas perhaps?

Lots of flower buds on the ones which didn’t get tinged by frost.

Morning glories and zinnias if they survive the heat and the weed-wacker?

I liked the pink centres and they’re already up an inch along the back fence.

My lily of the valley, seen here peeking out from around the Dipladenia plant, was just starting to bloom but after being hit by frost the delicate little flowers turned brown overnight.

The daisies were particularly abundant this year and early as they are usually July flowers.

My regular Common Lilac bushes were duds flower-wise again this year, although they have lots of foliage. I was disappointed in these Bloom Again Lilacs too which I bought two years ago. The flowers are small and the bush spindly, without much greenery. They smell nice but I would not plant these again, as I do not like wimpy bushes. I like things which make a statement!

Prep Work: For me the fun is in the planning and buying, not the watering (I try) and weeding (I don’t). Whereas last year my entire garden expenditure was $8 (two tomato plants and some lettuce), this year I shopped, even if the selection was poor due to the yo-yo spring and the rationing by suppliers, the result of a lack of seasonal migrant workers due to COVID so one nursery owner informed me. I bought (but wisely) as I figured if I’m stuck at home I want pretty…….preferably in pink!

Vinca and begonias waiting to be planted. The planter box is painted in Molokai Blue.

Nice hanging baskets were scarce and expensive so I did my own pots using vinca instead of my usual geraniums and petunias. I’ve never bought vinca before but it’s heat tolerant and looked bright and cheerful. Plus at $4 a pot and two per basket, it’s a cheap alternative if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. (I’ve found those vinyl pandemic gloves very useful for gardening – just throw them away.)

I put some in my ceramic planter, where I would normally have wave petunias, also in short supply this year.

They’ve already spread out so much I probably could have just planted one per container.

The navy ceramic planter came with a couple of matching pails which I couldn’t pass up. Winners/Homesense had a whole gardening line of the same pattern but the thing about that discount store is if you see something buy it, as if you go home and think about it it’s always gone when you go back.

A floral pail can be a beautiful thing!

Seeing this colorful pot of pink vinca from my kitchen window every morning is a nice way to greet the day.

The mosaic bistro table was another Homesense find.

The Subject was Roses: I had to replace one dead Knock-Out Rose from last year when I couldn’t find any stock and I transplanted three others with too much dead wood, so four pink Double Knock-outs went on my list. At $25 per pot these are worth it as they are repeat bloomers and provide beauty all summer. The double pink can be hard to find although there are always plenty of red ones. The ones I moved are doing poorly from transplant shock as they had been in for ten years so I’m not sure if they will survive. (For more on Knock-outs’ check last years post – link) I wish Knock-outs had a climbing rose, but they don’t and the nurseries were all sold out of climbers. I finally located some “John Davis” ones at a pop-up nursery at $8 per pot so bought three for in front of some bare trellis. They’re small and not quite the color I wanted but the other choice was a clematis and I wasn’t happy with that selection either, although I did buy one “The First Lady” a pale lavender, also $8. One upscale nursery had Clematis for $49 per pot! The prices have really skyrocketed this year, (supply and demand), things sold out early and it’s even hard to find bags of garden soil.

The plant in the blue pot above is an Italian Bugloss, a hardy perennial which can grow to four feet, so I planted it in front of a trellis. It likes sun and attracts butterflies. It appealed to me in the nursery because of it’s bright gentian-blue color (I’m partial to blue – see The Blue Garden) so I overlooked the fact that even at $16 it appeared scraggly and half dead from lack of watering. I try and add something new every year, even if it’s something I’ve never heard of. Later I saw it on a list of easy to grow no-maintenance perennial favorites in a gardening magazine.

I’ve discovered the name of this blue plant from last year which I did not remember buying but might have been from the annual horticultural sale. It’s a Virginia Bluebell and bloomed well this year too. It likes shade and blooms in late spring.

I bought two Lavender plants ($4 each) as you can never have too much lavender, although these were an organic Blue lavender instead of my regular English type. I planted one in front of a hole under the deck hoping the smell might deter the mice and/or other creatures from establishing an empire underneath, the other went in a blue pot until I can figure out where to plant it, probably to replace something which will inevitably die.

I had good luck with Dipladenias two years ago so I bought three pink ones ($7 each) for my pink recycled plastic pots. I’m always up for a bargain especially with annuals. They’re similar to a Mandevilla, are drought resistant and repeat bloomers, and give the the deck that tropical feel, like you might be on vacation somewhere exotic instead of stuck at home. They come in red and white too.

The lavender is blooming already too.

The Russian sage/lavender/pink knock outs make a nice contrasting mix.

Of course one cannot live on flowers alone, so the vegetable garden went in early too and seems to be thriving….four kinds of lettuce, some from seed and some seedlings, carrots, cucumber and pole beans, plus the everbearing strawberry plants if the birds don’t get them first.

Already harvested and sharing the bounty with neighbours.

And for the first time I planted brussel sprouts as they are supposed to be good for you.

Wish List: for when the end of July nursery sales come on, I’m looking for a rhododendron although they are hard to grow here. I tend to scoop up my perennials on the bargain table.

What I’m Reading: My (virtual) library bookclub is currently reading The Last Garden in England, (link) a three generational story about restoring a historic British garden. A light fluffy read if you’re a garden fan, although the garden was incidental to the story and I don’t think there will be much to discuss.

And last but not least, a study in pink, one of mom’s paintings.

What are you planting this year?

#Roses – Wordless Wednesday

Let your photo(s) tell your story.

An heirloom rosebush which came with the house.
and blooms faithfully and abundantly every year.
Behind it near the trellis is a repeat pink climber planted a few years ago.
They seem to live in harmony despite the close quarters and clashing colors.
Another climber on the back arbor……the one on the other side died from lack of sun.
An old pale pink Austen climber which gets too much shade to bloom much.
And my favorite repeat bloomer the Knock-Out rose of which I now have 25!

For more on roses check out The Subject was Knock-Out Roses – link.

#Peonies – Wordless Wednesday

Let your photo(s) tell your story.

Pink peony greeting the morning sun.
Second year for this “August Dessert” bush but the first with substantial blooms
Peony at twilight.
I was disappointed in this bush the first year it bloomed as they are too pale.
This bright pink color is what I ordered.
But they’ve grown on me…..and it’s right beside my meditation bench.
A crown of peony blooms fit for a June bride.

For more on peonies check out A Walk Down Peony Lane – link.

#Spring Green – Wordless Wednesday

Let your photo(s) tell your story.

The chartreuse green of the first leaves…
A field of wheat planted last fall……
The grass greening, even if it does need cutting mid-April!
The rhubarb is early this year too….
Spring green goes well with any color….
like pink…
or red and yellow….
or blue……
or purple…..
or white…..
….or Sunshine in The Meadow. It’s Mother Nature’s perfect accent color!
But not this kind of white!
For that you need evergreen! Snow on April 21?

Lemon-Aid

During a particularly trying time in my life, a summer filled with stress and drama, I bought myself a lemon tree. 

Lemon tree

They were half price by late July, so I also bought one for my mother.  I had read in Oprah magazine that was the thing to do to cheer yourself up, a reminder of the old saying – when life hands you lemons make lemonade.  (Oprah was always keen on the visual stuff).  Of course, the photo in the magazine showed a smiling model beside a waist-high plant covered with big lovely lemons.   Being optimistic, I expected that’s what I would be getting eventually, with some TLC.      

lemon tree in pot (2)

I might also have been inspired by one of those posts which circulate from time to time on Facebook, a real estate ad depicting an abandoned Italian castle you could buy for cheap (it might even have been free) if you were willing to spent millions restoring it – an enormous stone monastery-like building which came with it’s own lemon grove.   It was the lemon grove which appealed to me – I already owned a building which required extensive renovations.    

Italian castle with lemon grove

I’ve never seen a lemon grove, but it must be lovely.  I’ve passed orange groves on my way to Disneyland as a child, but never paid much attention.  We don’t grow lemons here in Canada, our winters are way too cold to grow any kind of tropical fruit outside of a greenhouse.  While my southern readers might be amused at my nativity, I had high expectations of being able to pick my own fruit.  I envisioned making lemon cake from scratch using my own homegrown lemons.  

Lemons

Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

My plant did smell heavenly – I placed it outside in a sunny spot, and made sure it got watered and fed regularly, and it rewarded me with fragrant flowers right on schedule.   By fall when the nights started to get cooler, I brought it into the garage, and went they got downright chilly, it was brought into the house and placed in a sunny spot by the big front window.  With such a prime view it should have been happy.   By then it was covered with small green dots, which grew to the size of big green olives which then shriveled and dropped off one by one.   My mothers did the same, so I know, it wasn’t anything personal, it just wasn’t able to adapt to the change in conditions.  (It’s not like I expected a bumper crop or anything, but could not one or two of them have reached lemon-hood?)                  

Ah well, the best laid plans sometimes go awry, but I could just as easily buy shriveled-up lemons from the grocery store in the dead of winter if I needed to.   If you’re looking for a moral/life lesson instead of food, this has definitely been the year for way laid plans and being adaptable to change, but if you are looking for recipes, I don’t have any to share this week because although I’ve tried multiple lemon recipes, with mixed results, nothing was worth bragging about.   

blueberry lemon loaf

                                     Just-okay blueberry lemon loaf

I could never seem to get the right proportion of lemony flavor no matter how much zest I used, so I don’t bother experimenting anymore as I found an excellent Lemon-Curd Cake at the grocery store which can’t be beat.  (sometimes the easy way out is the best….)

It has lemon curd in the middle so it’s in the frozen dessert section, which is a bonus as it keeps well and you can just slice off as much as you want, for company or not.   Sometimes I add more lemon curd on top for an extra dollop of lemony goodness.  Mackays lemon curd

However, while lazing on the swing recently, reading the June issue of Victoria magazine,

Victoria magazine summer

                                      Such a pretty cover….

I noticed a culinary feature on lemon and lavender,Lemon and lavender - Victoria

And the lemon and lavender scones looked very tempting.   Plus I just bought some creamed honey at the Farmer’s Market.  They also sold a lemon-flavored creamed honey which I may get on my next trip.     

Lemon and lavender scones  Victoria - Victoria

              Lemon and lavender scones drizzled with creamed honey

And then there was this lemon tart – although decorating it with dried roses and sprigs of lavender does seem a bit over the top, my August garden yields plenty of both.

Lemon tart - Victoria

         Lemon tart decorated with lavender sprigs and dried roses….

So many lemony-good recipes, so much time to experiment this summer, so yes, my own lemon grove would definitely come in handy.   Best to pick up a couple of lottery tickets when I go to the store to get some lemons….  

lemon grovel

                                                        Limoneto

PS.   My apologies for the somewhat deceiving title, see the Victoria magazine website for a recipe for lavender-lemonade. (link)