Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sometimes technology can be a big headache

We were spared the bad storms over the weekend but something did happen late Friday night that messed up our phone lines, security system and disconnected our Internet service. Michael's brother and family were spending the weekend with us and they said that a huge bolt of lightening hit and was so loud it rattled the windows. The thunder woke me too but I drifted right back into my coma.

AT&T came today and the guy said that the ADT security system seemed to be the problem. The phone is working again. Still no Internet connection although I can connect perfectly fine with my laptop.

In the midst of all this, I decided to change my blog template (nice timing Phillip!) and of course that hasn't went smoothly either. I have now lost my blogroll and I'm attempting to rebuilt it from memory. If you come across any technical difficulties with the site, do let me know.

In the meantime, if anyone knows how to get the Blogger menu bar back along the top of my site, please let me know!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, April 23, 2010

Before the rain

We have rain and thunderstorms on the way so I took some photos this evening in case the blooms are ruined. We desperately need the rain and I could gripe about it coming on the weekend but I'm not going to.

First, the iris have started to bloom. This is my favorite, a variety that I've lost the name of - that is the rose "Carefree Wonder" in the background.
Another unknown iris

An old-fashioned blue iris
Siberian Iris

Beauty Bush ((Kolkwitzia amabilis)

Azalea "Gibraltar"

Clematis "Josephine"

The early roses have already started. This is "Fortune's Double Yellow". Notice how it is growing up into the Rose of Sharon.

The David Austin rose "Tradescant"

"Lady Banks" is still going strong

"Mutabalis" is an interesting and beautiful China rose (and one of my favorites)

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, April 19, 2010

White beauties

If yellow is the predominant color of March, then white must be the star of the April garden. Although the yoshino cherries were short-lived, the dogwoods have been spectacular and long lasting. In addition to dogwoods, there are many other white flowering shrubs and trees in the April garden.

Here are some of the whites in our garden:

"Maureen" tulips - this is the only tulip I've ever grown that come back year after year. These tulips have been in the garden for over six years. You can see the "Lady Banks" rose in the background covering a portion of the garden wall.

Azalea "Delaware Valley White" growing next to "Crimson Queen" Japanese maple.

Climbing Raspberry (Rubus rosifolius 'Coronarius') - I love the blooms which are reminiscent of an old rose. A tendency to sucker and spread doesn't diminish my fondness for this beautiful plant.

Viburnum "Shasta", not as pretty as she used to be because of shadier conditions and tight quarters. This is a big shrub that needs lots of room. Last year I pruned off some dead growth which also affected the beautiful tiered growth.

Another large shrub that is happier in its spot is Viburnum macrocephalum (Chinese Snowball). More tall and vertical, it towers ten feet in the air and is covered with huge balls of bloom.

Despite the lack of rain, it is shaping up to be a beautiful spring. The temperatures have been cool (for the most part) and the garden is so lush this time of year.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book giveaway winner!

The random number generator chooses "4" which means the winner of "The Gardener's Color Palette" goes to Sunita of The Urban Gardener".

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Bloom Day

Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis alba), Spirea 'Vanhoutte', Rose 'Lady Banks'

April is a riot of blooms! I think gardeners should get the entire month of April off from work because there is just too much work to do and too many plants to behold. I can't keep up with this madness!

Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum commutatum)

One of my favorite shrubs, Easter Rose (Kerria japonica). This is the double variety.

I also have the single variety (below). The shrub itself though is rather puny as compared to the double variety, which is quite vigorous.

Euphorbia 'Despina' next to a tree peony.

Chinese Witch Hazel (Loropetalum chinense)

Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium reptans)

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Phlox subulata

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Azalea 'Koromo Shikibu'
I discovered this azalea in Pam Harper's book "Time Tested Plants". I finally located a plant on E-bay!

Chinese Snowball (Viburnum macrocephalum)

Money Plant( Lunaria annua)

And I leave you with another photo of Rose 'Lady Banks.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites bloggers to share what is blooming in their gardens on the 15th of each month.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wordless Wednesday

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sustainable Living project - The no-mow lawn

Jan, at Thanks for Today, is hosting the Garden Bloggers Sustainable Living Project, in recognition of Earth Day, April 22, 2010. She asks bloggers to write about things that we have done to promote a greener lifestyle and contribute to protecting our environment. Lots of nice prizes are being offered (including a rain barrel, oh yeah!) so if you haven't joined yet, time is running out!

So I've been mulling this project over in my mind, trying to decide what to write about. I know I'm a very environmentally conscious guy. I'm obsessive about recycling. Our city accepts almost all recyclable items, except for glass (that irks me!). But I won't complain because many of our neighboring towns don't even have recycling programs.

Other things I do:

Composting - It is not the greatest compost pile and I don't tend to it like I should but any garden wastes and proper kitchen scraps are thrown in.

Chemicals - I don't use them except in cases of extreme emergencies. I don't spray my roses and rarely use fungicides. If I'm dealing with a problematic plant, I shovel prune it. I do use weed killers to maintain my sanity but I also try to use environmentally friendly products if I can find them.

Then it finally hit me - a big project that I started last year and shared it here - our no-mow lawn (or do you even call it a "lawn" if there is no grass? hmmm). Anyway, you may recall that I had a dickens of a time getting grass to grow in one of the few places I wanted grass - in our front lawn area. What started out as a sunny area had become quite shaded, like many other parts of the garden, and tree roots from the "October Glory" maple had created a thick web of roots on the surface of the ground. No wonder the poor grass struggled.

I thought I had solved the problem two years ago when I planted fescue, a grass that thrives in shaded areas. It started out good and I was pleased as punch to have a lush verdant patch of grass in the middle of winter. My excitement was soon crushed later that summer when the grass promptly died in our summer heat. I don't want to discourage anyone from using fescue because I see it growing in other lawns around town and it is beautiful. But it did not like our yard or maybe I didn't give it enough water (again, those cursed tree roots!).

The solution - out with the grass! I reluctantly decided to kill the remaining grass and create beds of dwarf mondo grass along with pathways of crushed gravel. I've been working on this in various stages this past year and so far I am very happy with the results. The dwarf mondo grass is drought tolerant and it doesn't seem to be bothered by the tree roots. I used pea gravel for the pathways and I love the sound of it as you walk across it. But most of all, it saves me the time and expense of mowing. Mowing has never been a favorite chore so it is not a task I'm going to miss. I still have a few areas of grass to mow but the largest section of grass that once comprised the front entryway of our home is gone, and my initial fear of there not being enough "green" was needless.

So, in the end, I think this is a good thing - I'm saving time (now maybe I can catch up on my weeding :( ), expenses for gas and lawn mower maintenance, mechanical frustrations which always seem to follow me, and no noise or gas fumes polluting the neighborhood.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Giveaway - The Gardener's Color Palette

I'm giving away a brand new copy of "The Gardener's Color Palette" by Tom Fischer with luscious photographs by Clive Nichols. The book profiles 100 garden plants, in chapters arranged by color, along with growing requirements, companion plant recommendations and a pronunciation guide for each plant entry.

To enter, just leave a comment with either your e-mail address or a link to your blog or website that provides a means of contacting you.

A winner will be randomly chosen next Friday, April 16th. Good luck!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tulip time

It has been years since I've planted tulips and you may recall my post back in January about getting these in the ground rather late. No worries though, as they have come up nicely and we've enjoyed them for the past two weeks. I thought that most of these tulips would be red but they are all orange, pink and yellow. Tulips have always reminded of big fat lollipops.

I had a few extra bulbs after planting the border and stuck those in the pots on the patio.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Yoshino Cherry

(Prunus yedoensis)

If it wasn't 85 degrees out, you would think it was snowing with all the Yoshino Cherry blossoms flying through the air. Yes, it was 85 on Friday. I sure hope this won't be one of those years where winter goes straight into summer. I hate that. Today was cooler, in the low 70s, after starting out with a rainy morning.

I was wise to photograph the Yoshinos before the rain because it looks like the show is now over. I'm miffed about this. The trees were only pretty for about a week this year and I know they lasted longer last year.

There are two Yoshinos in the garden. This was the first tree I planted on the property and I vividly remember the cold January day I planted it (that is saying a lot because I have a terrible memory). The tree is now 17 years old, the same age as the garden, and is about the same height as the house.

In the following photo, taken from across the street, you can see both trees. The smaller one on the left is the youngest and was planted five or six years after the first tree. (It looks larger in the photo but that is just the perspective from where I was standing). In hindsight, it probably should not have been planted. There is way too much going on and too many trees in the front. Can you believe the tree between them is a Sweet Gum? What was I thinking?

For some reason, the younger tree bloomed first this year. As the blooms age, they turn pink. You can see that the younger tree is darker in color.

The final photo is taken in the little garden under the older Yoshino. You can see the brick pathway is totally covered in petals. Although the weather has been absolutely beautiful this week, it has been rather windy. I guess all the wind is what caused the beauty to be so fleeting this year.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Weeping Cherry

(Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula')

This tree is planted right next to the house, right beside the patio. We have to remember to look up to see it. It is really spectacular this year.

Stay tuned for the Yoshino Cherry trees!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy