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Internet magic in the garden

One of the reasons I love the Internet is that it’s like a big encyclopedia, only easier to search! A few weeks ago, when I began assembling my hosta garden, I discovered a little patch of “something” that I couldn’t identify. (Actually I have several of those, but this one now moves to the “identified” column!) It had long, narrow dark green leaves and looked like a small clump of very lush grass or possibly wild garlic. I decided to dig it up, and quickly determined it was NOT grass because the cluster was comprised of many very small bulbs. The bulbs and foliage did not have the distinct odor of wild garlic, so I became convinced it was a flower, and decided to plant it loosely in one of my patio pots for safekeeping until I could look it up. I’ve mostly ignored it for two weeks… until yesterday, when I happened to notice that it was blooming! Here it is:

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Still having no idea what it was, I searched “white flower star shape” in Google Images. The very first photo in the search results looked exactly like my little clump, and it was linked to a “please help me ID this plant” thread in the Gardenweb forums online. Thanks to this, and a link to a very informative PDF file from Utah State University Extension (which described my plant right down to the comparison to wild garlic), I was able to identify the plant as “Star of Bethlehem.” This prolific plant is a member of the lily family that is actually considered somewhat invasive (and potentially toxic).

Faults aside, I intend to find a spot for it. It has come up every year since we’ve lived here, but has never bloomed until being tossed rather carelessly into the patio pot so it has never been a problem!

Hope you are having a wonderful Spring season – it was hot and humid here this weekend, with tornadoes on Sunday afternoon across central Iowa! A few of them touched down west and north of us – glad they missed us here in Des Moines!

More soon!

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Yard-farming 2013

In 1993 and again in 2008, our home in Des Moines was overcome by massive flooding of the Des Moines River. We lost most of our belongings in both floods, and after the one in 2008, we decided enough was enough and moved to a new place. Hard to believe we are coming up on the 20th anniversary of the ’93 flood. Here’s one of my favorite photos from that year – that is our little blue house that my hubby Steve is boating towards. The line cutting through his shoulder is the top of the fence that surrounded my beloved patio. The water at this point has receded a couple feet. This picture is dated 7-15-93.

 

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One of the decisions I made after the second flood in 2008,  as soon as we had determined that we were indeed going to move, was that I would take with me as many of the perennial plants from the old house as I could. Mostly, this meant hostas. I spent an afternoon, one day after we had closed on the new house but not yet moved in, digging up and dividing several hostas, potting them, and transporting them to the new house. I’ve had them in a placeholder garden ever since.

This year I decided to move them over to a couple areas adjacent to the house itself, and create a hosta garden across the front. Here’s the front of the house. Last Fall, we had a “tree guy” cut those yew shrubs to the ground. I’m neutral about them – if they come back, they come back. If not, that’s okay too.

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This is a challenging area – sunny in the Spring, but mostly in shade as soon as the trees leaf out, except for a couple hours in the hottest part of the day.  Then there’s that overhang which extends a couple feet out. Underneath it is bone dry with fine, poor soil. But the rest of the area is moist with noticeable amounts of clay.

Here are a couple shots of one of the beds taken from a couple different angles. As you can see, it slopes off and has a flat stone wall as it wraps around the corner of the house. It includes mostly hostas, but also daylilies, sedum, and a stray Astilbe.

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And here is the area on the other side of the front door – the hostas were divided from one plant and will fill in quickly. Hopefully, I’ll soon be filling in all the open space with some annual impatiens.

 

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Finally, here’s a picture you’ve seen before of the area next to my front door, showing my glass globes and The Virgin Mary looking over a large hosta.

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It’s still early in the season, so this area currently looks like this, with several more plants added:

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Again, I’m hoping to fill in with annuals and some fresh mulch. I’m making progress!

 

More soon –

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Spring….?

Hi all, hope you are well! I haven’t updated here for a couple weeks, but I am still plugging along! I have been very busy moving hostas from one part of the yard to another – I am trying to make a little hosta garden and seating area at the front of our house, and with my left leg giving me fits it’s been a bit of a challenge. BUT, it was coming along quite nicely up until yesterday, May 2, when we began to get THIS:

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Can you believe it?? It has been snowing constantly since yesterday morning. Much has been melting as soon as it hits the ground, so the above is the extent of the accumulation, but still – it just makes me want to cry! I was SO ready for the warm weather to stick around! I had blooming daffodils… my tiny redbud tree was *just* about to pop into bloom… my husband had just mowed the lawn for the first time and it looked lush and green. It was Spring! And now it’s… not.

Oh well, as they say, “Don’t worry, it won’t last long.”

I do hope you are having a good week, I am not posting as often simply because it was finally warm enough to be outside working, riding the motorcycle, etc. But I am looking forward to sharing more thrifty treasures and the progress on my hosta garden as soon as I can!

 

More soon,

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Patio Garden memories

Editor’s note: WOOHOO!! I FOUND all the pictures of my old patio that I thought I had lost! I had this post all ready to go with a few stragglers that I had managed to dig up, but then I found where I had actually saved ALL the pictures on my computer. I did not (and DO not) remember doing that, but I am so glad I did! I’m sharing my favorites here!

Our old house didn’t have much to recommend it –  it was small, next to a dusty gravel road where young drivers liked to spin their tires, and over time the neighborhood around it had evolved into a bit of an industrial area so it was located right across the street from a factory. But it was the house my husband grew up in. Our daughter was born there, and we lived there as a family for 17 years, from 1991 – 2008 when it was finally destroyed by flooding. Here it is in winter:

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My favorite part of the house and property was the patio on the east side of the house. (In the photo above, we’re looking north. The patio is behind the fence on the right side of the picture. And yes, that big tree is wayyy too close to the house – and yes it was becoming a problem.) The patio was a slab of blacktop surrounded on three sides by a three-foot deep perennial border, and a lattice fence. On one end of the patio was a healthy row of large, old peony bushes – one of my favorite flowers.

Every year in the Spring and early summer, I would spend just about all my spare time tending the perennial border – moving plants around, adding new ones, arranging the “garden junk,” and just generally puttering. I absolutely was in heaven in this space, and I’ll be honest: while I don’t miss a lot of things about the house, I do miss the patio.

Here is the entry to the patio from the back yard. I built the path myself as a little walkway under the arbor, which was built out of plumbing pipe by my father-in-law sometime in the 1950’s when he owned the house.

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Here’s a better view of the little iron patio set – this was a garage sale find. FIVE dollars for all three pieces! I took a lot of naps on that glider! And, I made the table in the middle out of a thrifted lamp base. You can guess that because of the base’s shape, this wasn’t the sturdiest of tables. It sure was pretty though!

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Here is the area immediately to the left as you step in under the arbor. I love putting found items into the garden landscape – I honestly think that almost anything looks better with greenery growing around it! Here you can spot a little pedal car – a curb find – and, leaning against the fence, an old piece of barnwood that actually has a landscape painted on it.  The little trellis in the foreground was lashed together by my daughter. Plants in this area include hosta, peony, and bee balm. The tree is a yew that I “shaved” of it lower branches. You can’t see the full, green top, but this thing grew to be a monster by the time we left in 2008.

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Proceeding to the right from the previous photo, below is a very over-grown corner that I cleaned out one year, then built the little path, filled in with some new plants and junk, and left the patch of ribbon grass. This space looked a little different each year – in later years it was filled with purple coneflower. My pictures are not all from the same year so you can see how it evolved. This picture is before I planted the bee balm.

 

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Here’s the same space in a different year, when I took everything out and replaced it with mulch and stepping stones. The stones were acquired through a very unusual trade – I gave a local gal some bowling balls that she was going to decorate for the garden, and she gave me these pavers! You can see purple coneflower getting started in the lower right.

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This photo shows how I was able to use the remnants of a redbud tree by making it into a little shelf using the bottom of an old barrel planter.

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One of my favorite activities was acquiring different pieces of junk and turning them into garden vignettes. This child’s rocker was a curb find and I always loved the look of it sitting among the peonies.

 

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Here’s another view of the peonies in full bloom. The little patch of yellow to the left is Coreopsis Moonbeam, and the ribbon grass to the left of that. The Coreopsis didn’t last long in this spot, but the ribbon grass was there for many years – my mother-in-law planted it when she lived in the house.

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In the next few photos I stood in one spot along the longest part of the patio and took pictures to my left and right. This shot shows the corner we just saw, at the far left. You can see Mary in the corner, and a painted window frame/bird feeder project that I’ll show you in close-up later. The peonies by this time have thinned out – this happened because some of the trees in the area grew up and over, creating more shade at that end in the later years that we lived here.

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Turning to the right, this end of the patio was mostly in shade. Here I grew impatiens, Columbine, Bleeding Hearts, and other shade-lovers. The three rams marching across the fence are made of steel. I found these buried in an old overgrown garden that was being torn out at my friend’s daughter’s house. They were shooting targets! I painted them in my favorite bright colors and mounted them along the top of the fence, bullet dents and all! Peeking through the lattice, you can see some beautiful irises – those also came from my friend’s dismantled garden.

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Turning a little more to the right, here’s the south end. My junky artistry here is the glass globes – I disassembled some thrifted lamps, and put the glass bases back together with various bits of lamp hardware so I could hang them from the shepherd’s hooks. The blue one is my favorite – I’ve never seen another lamp quite like that one!

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This shot is the area shown above, in another year. You can tell I moved stuff around a lot! This shot also gives you a better look at the blue lamp.

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This area is a few more steps to the right, showing the tree that’s too close to the house. (My husband used a router to carve our names into it!) The item attached to the tree is a large iron bracket for a business sign, with a painted rooster on top of it. I hung the white chandelier from the bracket for a bit of humor. One year, I was sitting out on the patio admiring my space and noticed that the sign bracket had been stolen! I was very upset about that… someone had come up into my yard, inches from my house, and wrestled that thing loose from the tree – and carted it away as if they were entitled to it! Boy was I steamed.

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A couple of miscellaneous projects: here’s a close-up shot of the window/bird feeder, after it had weathered a few years. I picked up this old window frame, broke out the bottom pane, and fit a small tin tray in the open space. Filled it with birdseed and had lots of feathered visitors. This project also allowed me to experiment with stained glass paint.

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And a better shot of the glass globes. I put the smaller ones on sticks so I could poke them in here and there for a bit of sparkle and color:

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On the street-side of the fence, here’s a shot of the irises in full bloom that came from my friend’s daughter’s garden:

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Our new house presents a challenge in that it doesn’t have a ready gardening space near the house itself, with the exception of the small patch shown below near the front door. There’s a perennial bed out across the yard, and I’ve tried to do a little with it, but it doesn’t create the sweet little enclosed oasis that I had with the patio. I will continue to work with it and see how I can improve it. Here’s one shot, showing how I was able to rescue and re-use my glass globes!

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Thank you for sticking with me on this photo-heavy post, and taking a tour of my old patio. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found my pictures, and am delighted to get to share them!

 

More soon,

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Hello, Dolly!

Just in time for Easter, today I’m sharing with you a big ol’ piece of rusty junk.

Assuming you’re still reading, here’s a picture to kick things off. See it, against the tree?

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What that is – is the remnants of a very old two-wheeled dolly. The kind used to cart things around a warehouse or to and from a delivery truck. I found it in the Fall of 2008, just a few weeks after we moved into our new house. It was down in the very large (and very overgrown) vegetable garden, covered with some kind of horrible invasive vine. I was actually really happy to find it – I love to use rusty junk as “art” in the garden. So, I rolled it up the hill to the perennial bed, where it has sat now for almost five years.

The wood supports are literally rotting away. It reminds me of an old hand plow.

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LOVE those rusty wheels!

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A lot of heft to those steel support pieces. I wonder where this handy “truck” was used? By a delivery person, a warehouse worker?

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Here’s the manufacturer’s tag – “Made by Lansing Company.”

 

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I just love the combination of decaying wood struts and these tough old wheels and supports.

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Not so useful for its intended purpose anymore, but looks great as garden art!

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My meanderings around the yard today also revealed big bunches of Surprise Lilies (a.k.a. “Naked Ladies”) popping up all over – and several inches high already…

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And tiny yellow crocuses (crocii?), just ready to bloom:

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This shot shows three neat things in the perennial bed: a cool reflection off the glass covering the camera lens on my iPhone, my favorite little bit of garden statuary perched on her usual log seat, and a volunteer redbud tree (cercis canadensis) seemingly arched over the statue and her seat.

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Here’s the statue – also a favorite piece of garden art!

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What’s coming up in your yard so far this Spring?

More soon,

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Spring is blooming… indoors

The weather has been really frustrating around here for the past 10 days… upper 40’s to mid 50’s and rainy, which actually means cold and damp. That means our fruit trees are going to bloom really late this year, but I was getting desperate for a little Spring cheer in the house. So I snagged an idea from Wendy over at The Shabby Nest, and brought some budded branches inside. It only took a few hours before the warm house coaxed these branches from our pear tree to open and provide a very pretty “show” in front of the dining room window. I have really enjoyed this vase full of blooms all week!

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A couple days after bringing those branches in, I noticed that a good portion of my one lone lilac bush had been broken off at the base, either by animals or high winds. This really “hurt my heart” (as my daughter used to say) because lilacs are among my absolute favorite Spring flowers and we only have the one shrub. Not about to admit defeat, I clipped off some greenery and the one piece that seemed to have some buds on it, and brought that inside to force as well.

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This sprig hasn’t bloomed yet after several days, but I am giving it plenty of time – the buds had just appeared when the branch got broken.

And, here is the neat vintage green-and-gold vase I’m using. I’m not sure of the maker, it belonged to my grandmother and simply says “Made in USA” on the bottom.

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Meanwhile, neither the pear or apple tree, nor the remainder of the lilac bush, appear any closer to blooming outside than they did ten days ago. Hopefully we’ll have some warm sunny days really soon!

More soon!
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Daffodils in bloom

It’s an absolutely beautiful and perfect day here in Iowa today, bright blue cloudless sky and headed toward low 70’s – and, what could be more cheerful than these soft yellow Daffodils blooming in lemony clumps all over my yard?? I have got to plant more of these this fall and mix in some early bloomers as well. Just sharing a little garden cheer with you today, I hope to be enjoying a little “motorcycle cheer” as well. (Here’s a link to the write-up on my other blog about the ride we took on Sunday, just in case you want to live a little vicariously. LOL)

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More soon!
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Spring yard clean-up

EDITED: Two more pics added to the original post at the end, including one mystery plant. Anyone know what it is?

FINALLY – a glorious day to be outside doing a little ‘yard farming’!

Other than riding my motorcycle, puttering in my yard and garden is my absolute favorite 3-season activity. It’s far too early to plant tender annuals just yet, so today was just a day for doing a little policing and clean-up. I took a few pictures to share, but it’s still very early.

Most of these shots were taken in the perennial bed to the north of the house (um, that red thing isn’t the house, it’s the shed – LOL)…

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First up, here is (apparently) the ONLY early-spring bulb on the whole property – a lovely lavender crocus! I was lucky I picked today to go around picking up litter, otherwise I would’ve missed this little feller! This Fall I have GOT to scatter more crocus, hyacinth, tulip, and early daffodils!

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For mid-spring there are lots of small patches of daffodils – I’m waiting impatiently for those beautiful blooms!

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And, although they won’t bloom til mid-summer, I do have several patches of Surprise Lilies (aka Naked Ladies!) that will look lush and green for another few weeks til the foliage starts to die back. This little gnomey guy is overseeing this particular spot…

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… and he’s keeping an eye on the flamingos for me as well.

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Hard to see it, but behind this flamingo there’s a very large tomato cage poked down in the soil. Last year I used it as a trellis for Sweet Pea, but they never bloomed.

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There are also a few patches of sedum (my former neighbor called them Live Forever) poking through.

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This stump (which I dragged home last year over vehement objections from my darling hubby – it’s TOO BIG, he complained, though I didn’t even ask him to help me move it!) is the perfect height for sitting amongst the hostas, which aren’t up yet.

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Also in this bed, there is a very large patch of Black Eyed Susan…

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… some pretty purple Spiderwort…

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…and Monarda (bee blam) which smells wonderfully minty!

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Over next to the garage, I took advantage of my husband’s winter hobby – wood-turning – and used all the wood shavings and sawdust we cleaned up from our basement as free mulch in this little flower bed, which is supervised by my wire chicken, Henny Penny…

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… and her friend Miss Frog. This bed will be filled with annuals, and…

 

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… I hope some morning glory volunteers will sprout and take over this curb-rescued planter I’m using as a trellis.

EDITED TO ADD…

A little more raking revealed a few more tidbits in the perennial bed! First, the hostas are just BARELY beginning to peek thru!

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And, here’s something I planted a couple years ago, but can’t remember what it is! It’s bright green, and grows in a low, matte-like ground cover with frilly leaves, and blooms purple… hmmm, early summer if I remember correctly. Any ideas?

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Happy Spring, y’all, I’m headed back outside!

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