Being Careful

There you are just going along your merry way, when bam you are brought up short. Hopefully it turns out okay. Sometimes we don’t deserve the good luck we have.

It all started late Saturday afternoon. I decided to go out and work in the garden. Since it was late, I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot I could do before it was too dark outside to see. I started cutting out small trees that have popped up between our property and the vacant property next door. As I pushed to do just a few more and as it became dusky and a little hard to see, it happened.

I tripped and fell. Luckily I wasn’t hurt, but I did get a scare. The clippers I had in my hand scratched just under my eye and continued onto my glasses. I have a pretty bad scratch and one small gouge on my eyeglasses and just a small scratch just under my eye.

If I would not have been wearing glasses, the clippers would have hit my right eye and gouged it badly. I am so lucky all I got was that small scratch because it could have turned out so differently. One small thing can change your life forever.

So, this is a reminder to be careful when gardening. Watch out where you walk so you don’t trip. Remember all those safety rules when using equipment. And, most importantly, don’t work outside when it starts to get dark, and you can’t see.

Divide and Conquer

“Divide and Conquer”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I do try and set a few goals. The problem with goals is that they can be too large and never get accomplished. For example, last year I was determined to plant into the garden everything I had been holding in containers for months (and even years). I was tired of having to water them or bring them in because of the cold. And, while I did plant some things, there are still too many sitting around.

Another problem is those little garden jobs that keep getting put off until later. Of course, later never seems to come. That plant that needs to be moved, a trim of a shrub, all those little things that would take only about ten to fifteen minutes to accomplish.

 

 

Well, no more. Today, as I was watering around the patio garden, I saw (for the millionth time) a small clump of jonquils that I have been wanting to move for at least three years. They are now in a shady spot and don’t bloom but do come back every year. Moving them is one of those things you forget about as soon as it is out of sight. So, today was the breaking point because every time I see those jonquils, I get annoyed that I haven’t moved them yet.

Since there were other little jobs like this, I decided I had to get this under control. So, I walked around the garden and wrote down all the little jobs that I want, should, or must get done, and I came up with 42! These are all small things that should take no time to do. I think I should be able to do one or two every day after work before it gets dark or on the weekend when the weather is good for just puttering around before spring comes.

Instead of looking at all the jobs that need to be done, I’ll divide and conquer. I’ll only think about one, and having a goal of only one chore at a time just may be the trick to finally get plants moved or planted or rooted or pruned.

Not a Bad Idea

“Not a Bad Idea”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Busy, busy, busy. The cool, sunny weather has continued here the last few days and with daylight savings time, I am able to get a few things done after work and before it gets dark. Monday and Tuesday, I trimmed back the azaleas. I do not trim them back with hedge clippers. Instead, I cut each branch which gives a neat appearance but still keeps a more natural look to the bushes. Today, it was the loropetalums’ turn at a trim. Well, to be honest, it was more than just a trim. I do not believe that I got around to trimming these bushes last year which probably accounts for the lanky growth that needed to be cut back more than normal. I cut these back the same way I do the azaleas – no hedge clippers. I want the natural shape of the plant to show, so that means just cutting back the height somewhat.

On another note, the blueberry bushes have started blooming.

 

 

I think these are the prettiest, little flowers. These bushes are really dear hubby’s domain. He loves blueberries and was so disappointed that these did not bloom last year. Their blooming this year is, I am hoping, a sign that they are established and will bloom more each year. Hubby may like the berries, but I like the blooms better.

Usually, all I am able to do in the early evening is take a few photographs of what is new in the garden, but getting some gardening chores done this week has been very nice. I never thought I would say this, but after being able to work in the garden after work, daylight savings time may not be such a bad idea after all.

Working in the Garden

“Working in the Garden”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Today was a great day to work in the garden. It was sunny and mild with a high temperature of 73 degrees. It was great to get out in short sleeves and work in the garden.

I did a lot of clean up work – cutting back winter damaged plants, cleaning leaves out of entry garden, raking up fallen camellia flowers, etc. I also moved tender plants from their protected area and placed them around the garden. Most of these, I placed in semi shady spots until they get used to being outside then I’ll move them to sunnier areas.

I also used the sunny, dry day to fertilize the cool season annuals I had planted in the fall. When I planted them, I added a little slow release fertilizer, but it is used up by now. With the warm, sunny days we have been having, these annuals need a shot of fertilizer about now. Of course, I only fertilized the cool season annuals since it is too early to start fertilizing anything else.

One chore I had been wanting to get to for a few weeks now was finally accomplished. I cut back all my ornamental grasses. I wait to do this in the spring rather than the fall. I think the grass comes back from the winter better and faster when pruned in the spring. The purple fountain grass, that I grow in containers placed in urns, was looking wild and really needed cutting back.

 

 

I have had two urns of purple fountain grass for years marking the entry to the side garden. This year the containers seem overgrown and will need to be divided. That job will have to wait until we have had a few more weeks of warm weather. At least they look neater with a “hair cut.”

 

 

After I finished with the clean up chores I had planned to do today, I went on to planting my White Out rose. I had bought this last fall and decided to wait until spring to plant it since I wanted to place it where another rose was and that rose should be dormant to transplant. Well, today was the day, but before I could plant it, I had to dig up an Iceberg rose first. Then, of course, it is where to plant the Iceberg? I finally decided to put the Iceberg in a large container, and then planted the White Out rose. By then, I was tired and ready to call it a day.

I love days like today. Nothing can be better than sunny, bug-free, pleasant days spent outside in my garden.

Outside in the Garden

“Outside in the Garden”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Finally, able to work outside. The past few days have been mild enough to work outside in the garden. I can’t remember the last time I was able to do that. Monday, was a particularly nice day – mild and sunny. How nice since I had the day off from work.

Here, in the Gulf South, we have to get most of the heavy garden work done before the heat shows up. I try to get as many of these chores done in late winter, but, as often happens, work, weather, or family obligations will interfere with my good intentions. One of the jobs that often gets pushed to a back burner is the trimming of the liriope. I have edged most of my garden beds with liriope and late winter, before the new sprouts show up is the time to trim it back. Trimming it gets rid of the old, cold-damaged foliage. This year, I have started early. Here are the before and after photos.

 

Lirope Before Trimming

 

Lirope After Trimming

 

After trimming the liriope, the question becomes what to do with it. Well, I just can’t bring myself to just throw it away, but luckily this trimming coincides with the falling of the live oak leaves. This makes the perfect time to clear out the compost bins and load them up with the liriope and oak leaves. It is always recommended to have layers of green and brown yard waste to make for quick cooking compost.

Before I could start layering new material to make compost, I had to clear out the old bins. I was so pleasantly surprised because, as I shoveled the “gardener’s gold”, I realized that this was the best compost I have ever made. Wonderful, crumbly leaf mold. One bin yielded two large garbage cans worth of black humus. I plan on spreading this in the garden this weekend.

 

 

After clearing out the bins, the next step was to start layering the oak leaves and liriope. I put down a layer of about four inches of oak leaves, moistened it and then added about four inches of the liriope and then moistened that layer. Layer after layer, and the first bin was quickly filled. The second bin will be finished by the weekend.

 

 

On Tuesday night, it rained about a half an inch, just enough to keep the new compost happy. I think this compost may be ready earlier than the ones I started in the past since I have more green layers than usual. If I get compost from this new batch that is as good as my last batch, my garden will be very happy. I was happy just to be outside in the sun and warm temperatures working in my garden.

Out in the Garden

“Out in the Garden”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Glorious weather. The weather this last week has been absolutely glorious here on the Gulf Coast. Perfect gardening weather. Cool, crisp, sunny days just can’t be beat especially after months of heat, high humidity, and blistering sun. I was able to get so much accomplished.

One of the chores I was able to do was cutting back the bamboo stand on the north side of our property. This is not running bamboo, but it still spreads slowly. I cut back the canes that were leaning over and shading the lower plants. I think this will help the hydrangeas bloom better next year.

 

 

Even though I have cut back seven large trash cans worth of bamboo, there is still a big stand left to give us privacy from the neighbors. Later on in the winter, I plan on taking out the dead canes, but right now there are too many other pressing jobs to get done.

One other long put off task that got accomplished this weekend was the dividing of my Stella d’Oro daylilies. I was able to spread them out so that they make a nice border in the circle garden. I am hoping to be able to divide the other daylilies either this week after work or next weekend. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the “feel good” weather will last that long.

There is still a great deal of work to do in the garden before the cold weather arrives. I am still debating about planting more daffodil bulbs. I know I can’t wait too much longer to decide. Down here in the South, fall is a very busy time for gardeners. The cooler weather certainly makes me more energetic and willing to be out in the garden working.

This Is A Vacation?

“This Is A Vacation?”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

I have spent the last three days working in the garden. Vacation time has started, and I can’t think of a better way to relax than being out in the garden getting projects completed that have been neglected for months. Don’t get me wrong, it is exhausting. While the weather has been hot, it has not been so hot that you risk heat stroke. I have been working from about 7 in the morning till about noon. Then, I have lunch and take a break until about 3 or 4 o’clock. No point working in the heat of the day. In the late afternoon, I have been working until about 5 o’clock. Then it is inside for a cold shower followed by a relaxing cocktail. If I could keep this up for about two weeks, I think all my long neglected garden areas would be finished. Of course, the question is will the weather cooperate. When the temperatures get in the 90’s, I just can’t work as long even when I stay in the shade.

Working to get the garden in shape is only worth it when you can relax and enjoy what you have worked on. After dinner, when the temperatures have cooled a little, is the perfect opportunity to walk around and take the time to appreciate nature. New blooms are always a high point. While the peak of spring blooms are over, the summer ones are just starting. New flowers that have just started blooming are the pink crinums.

 

 

The crinums really took a beating this winter. I had never seen them lose all their leaves before. Even though they are usually evergreen here, they have bounced back from the winter damage with a flush of growth, and it seems even more flowers than ever.

Seeing these lovely flowers makes the sore muscles a little less sore. So far, I think this vacation seems to be turning out fine.

Working on an Established Bed

“Working on an Established Bed”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Out of shape? Age catching up? Too much garden? Maybe the answer is all of the above. Yesterday and this morning, I worked in the garden doing a lot of bending over and stretching, and I really feel it now. It is a good thing I was able to accomplish so much or I’d be discouraged to feel this way with not much to show for it.

I cleaned out the entry garden making it ready to add some summer annuals which I will try and purchase Saturday. I really hated pulling out the violas which were still doing well but need to be pulled out by May because of the heat. First, I had to rake up 500,000 (not an exaggeration) magnolia leaves. With being out of town for five days, the leaves really piled up. Any that fall in the entry garden can not be raked up but must be picked out. Dear hubby made me a nifty little picker several years ago, so while it is not hard, it is time consuming.

I did move some things around. The Aztec grass that was scattered around the beds were moved to the front, and several red gerbera daisies were moved to sunnier areas and grouped together. I also had to move a daylily that was being crowded by a hosta. Most of my time was spent cleaning out the dead fronds on the holly ferns and pulling out the hundreds of Limelight artemesia that have sprung up. I have been trying to get rid of that artemesia for three years now, and I still expect some to appear later in the spring. Why or why do they sell this stuff?

 

Left Side

 

Right Side

 

Buying plants tomorrow and planting them is the fun part of gardening, and after all this grunt work, I am looking forward to some fun. I just hope my muscles will cooperate.

A Great Day for Garden Work

“A Great Day for Garden Work”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Saturday was a fabulous day. It was the first day in ages that I was able to do some very needed work in the garden. For a change the weather cooperated, and my lately very complicated life cooperated to give me hours and hours to garden. What I was finally able to do was some overdue cleanup from this winter. I cut back freeze damaged branches on the hydrangeas, cut back the green shell ginger, and worked on the patio bed.

Most of my time was spent on the bed surrounding our back patio. This past winter, which was unseasonably cold for us like it was in so many areas, actually did me a favor by killing things back. There were several plants that had just grown too much and were taking over too much area. When things are growing for several years, it is often so easy not too see that they are becoming too big and need to be cut back. I do have a problem cutting things back especially if they are in flower. With certain plants, I have got to learn to be ruthless and not just do a little trimming.

One plant that had taken over was the creeping Mexican petunia. I did pull up some last year that was encroaching into other plants, but I should have never let it get as large as it did. This winter killed it back with just a few plants starting to come back. After cleaning out an area about three feet by three feet, I am determined not to let it spread that much again.

 

Area under birdbath cleaned out of creeping Mexican petunias

 

The next group of plants that I tackled was the holly ferns. This is where I spent most of my time, cutting out the old, damaged fronds, so the new ones would show up better without the brown or yellowing ones around. I filled two 50 gallon trash bags with the old fronds and put them aside to use to refill the compost bins. After cleaning up the holly ferns, I realized they were not as big as I thought. I had seriously considered moving some because they were crowding other smaller plants. Now, I won’t have to – time saved for other tasks.

 

Before Cleanup

 

After

 

After

 

After

 

There were a few bright spots I found as I cleaned up this area of the garden. I found that the Blue Daze is coming back. After I trimmed away the dead stems, there were several stems with green leaves showing. I am so glad I didn’t just yank the plants out. When I pulled away the mulch that I had hastily placed just before a severe freeze, I found several cannas already sprouting up, as is the night-blooming jasmine.

While working on this particular bed, I did make some decisions about its future. I think I am going to make it less work by moving some plants to other areas of the garden and using more mulched areas here. There seems to be too much in this bed. I am thinking about removing the daylilies, sages, and the Triumphator lilies and having this area mainly holly ferns, hostas, and amaryllis. I think this will make a little less maintenance work and give a neater, more serene look which would be nice next to a patio where we like to relax.

All in all, it was a great day in the garden.

Showing Signs of Life

“Showing Signs of Life”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Saturday was the first day in about four months that I was able to get outside and work in the garden. This past fall there were too many rainy weekends and, just like everyone else, the winter has been too cold to be outside doing garden chores. It felt so wonderful to be outside making the garden ready for spring.

Of course, it is not quite time to plant any annuals, so I spent the time cutting back every thing that had died during the last big freeze. All the ginger had to be cut back, the both the variegated and green shell ginger as well as the butterfly gingers. I cut back the rest of the agapanthus and trimmed back the toad lilies as well as some of the bamboo.

One thing that surprised me while I was cleaning up was the signs of life. It has only been in the last three days that we haven’t had at least a light freeze, so seeing any signs that there is life in the cold ground is nice. Most of the garden seems to be dormant, but the butterfly ginger is already sending up shoots.

 

 

The toad lilies are sending up new plants, too. I don’t know if these new ones are seedlings (I let the seed heads stay on) or if the clumps are spreading. Either way, I can always use some more toad lilies.

 

 

Some trees are starting to show swelling flower buds, so it won’t be long before the peach trees and Japanese magnolias will be blooming. Spring is on the way!

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