Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Alley

The alley can be a place forgotten. The shadow of the garden psyche. Trash cans, debris, weeds ... sometimes nothing but the raw edge of a fence line. However, we have realized in the nine years of living in this space that our alley is the only reliable full sun in our yard. We've grown veggies in the alley (cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, and eggplant have all done well) but the neighborhood dogs show no discernment between the edible and non-edible in their criteria for "plants on which to pee and poop."

Therefore the veggies were moved just inside the fence and now our alley is home to ...

Two baby dwarf Arkansas Black apple trees, lavender, sun flowers, stargazer lilies, gladiolas, nicotiana, two large compost bins that are overflowing with pumpkin vines, and two new raspberry bushes.

Aren't the pumpkin vines out of control? I weeded out so many but had to leave some. We get such a kick out of seeing the "trash" of last year becoming the bounty of this year!

We frequently enter our yard from the alley - upon returning home from a bike ride, dog walk, or stroll to the library - so I wanted some fragrant flowers to welcome us.

The lavender bed is new as of this spring and seems to be thriving. The nicotiana (that's what it looks like, right?) are volunteers - they may or may not bloom, I'm not sure at this point.

The lilies have gone by and the glads are about to begin.

And the sunflowers! There is a constant commute of goldfinches to these unnamed sunflowers which are grown from seed saved from year to year.

I know the apples and raspberries violate our "nothing edible" rule for the alley, but the apples will be raised off the ground and the raspberries should be fairly well protected. All the same, next summer when we harvest our first raspberries, we will make sure to wash them!

In a small city space, simply ignoring the alley is not an option. Every inch of possible garden space must be exploited. It's taken us quite a bit of time to find the best way to use this space, but I think we're finally on the right track.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July Fireworks

These are all the fireworks I desire ...

Happy 4th of July!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's been a LONG time since I've participated in Bloom Day! It's good to be back. Thank you Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting!

A "borrowed" bloom, my neighbor's New Dawn that graces our border.

Ground Orchids (belitilla striata) with climber "Zephirine Drouhin"

Another of my neighbor's plants along the border, a huge Snowball Bush (viburnum opulus)

My one and only blooming bearded iris.  

The last of the amsonia flowers.

The pass along peony from my mother.  It's fragrance is just unbelievable.

The last fading bloom of the baptisia.

Clemetis, unknown.

A rose that I dug up from a neighbor's yard (with permission!).

Zephirine Drouhin

Belitilla Striata

Siberian Iris

I love May!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dog Paths in the Garden

So.  Dogs and gardens.  I really have more problems than solutions.  Luna is, ahem, shall we say, a bit uptight (aggressive) when it comes to defending the property.  Since many of the dog owners in the neighborhood walk their canine companions through the alley, Luna spends much of her backyard time charging the gate and barking.  

I have studied Cesar and the wonderful monks but, more than likely due to some terrible character flaw, I am unable to modify Luna's behavior.  So I am left to modify the garden.

Most of the time she charges the gate, but frequently she will veer off and head for the southeast corner of the back fence - trampling the shade garden mercilessly.  My ferns and hostas are having a tough time.

In the early spring I use cheap, ugly wire fencing to keep her out of the beds when the plants are young and fragile.  It works surprisingly well considering how low it is.  This is because when I first bought the fencing, I put Luna on the leash and walked her around the perimeter of the fence.  Whenever she got too near the fence, I sprayed bitter apple spray on the fence and in her mouth.  A bit harsh, but she now respects the fence.  

Alas, I am currently unable to upgrade to some snazzy fencing that you might see in those clever garden books that address dog-friendly gardens.  So after about 3 weeks (during which time the garden is just butt-ugly since the grass is still brown and dormant), I roll up the white, wire nastiness up and dump it behind the shed.  

So then, what are my options for dealing with Luna's bad behavior in the garden?  I will continue to remind her to stay out of the garden, however, I am not going to expect too much from her.  Instead I have identified her chosen path (dogs are creatures of habit) and I will respect it.  Which means, I am going to plant hardy, durable plants along this path - moving the ferns, cimicifuga, and hostas.  I may even put down some pine tag mulch for her to run along.

I don't want to indulge her aggressive behavior, but I do want to be realistic about my chances of curing her of this habit.   A garden path that is dog-friendly will help me relax when we are out back together.  And maybe, possibly, one day, she will mellow and greet the neighborhood dogs with a friendly bark from the patio.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Worth the Wait

This azalea was on the opposite side of our yard six and a half years ago.  I moved it ... ahem ... I told my father and my husband to move it the week after I gave birth to Rosie.  For some post-partum, hormone-influenced reason, it had to happen.  In August.  During the worst drought in years.  No one dared to voice any complaint.  We had a delicate balance to maintain.

After they lifted it out of the ground, my mother directed them to a spot under the oak tree and instructed them to dig a hole large enough to accommodate the huge root ball.  She followed behind them planting all the small, spindly suckers that she had removed from around the larger azalea.  None of us thought any of them would live but why not try.

The large azalea and all the little babies have survived, and survived with style.  The spindly suckers are now 2' by 2' shrubs.   And the flowers are breathtaking.  However, this azalea family seems to have developed the biennial habit of blooming every other year.  Last year none of the transplanted azaleas bloomed.  Not one bud developed.  This year however ...

It was worth the wait.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Making a List

Lunchtime in the garden

My favorite plant sale is fast approaching and this year I will be ready.  I typically procrastinate and go plant shopping without a list and without a clue.  I wander through the stalls completely overwhelmed and without any funds because I haven't prepared.

But this year will be different.  I have cleared out the beds and noted holes.  I am getting rid of plants that having been lingering for too long in the garden (wild daylilies, black-eyed susans, blackberry lilies) taking up valuable real estate.  I have researched and made a list.  And most importantly, I have squirreled away some money.

Here's the list so far:
Lavender "Grosso" (5)
tomato transplants
Lady in Red hydrangea
hybrid daylilies
Thornless raspberries 

Of course there will be other purchases - the kids and Peter will pick out some veggies and I'll probably fall for something pretty and cheerful for the shade.  I can't wait!  If you're in Richmond this Saturday, grab a wagon for your plants and head to Maymont!

25th Anniversary
Herbs Galore & More
Saturday, April 25
Maymont, Carriage House Lawn
$3 fee, free for members and children 12 and under

Friday, April 17, 2009


These May flowers will become July blueberries:  Climax, a southern type variety.

I am a big fan of the print media.  I love devouring a new issue of a favorite magazine - either skipping from article to article regardless of order or respectfully combing through the issue one page at a time.  Either way, within a matter of hours the magazine is finished.

This past week, I read a column in Organic Gardening by Maria Rodale that I've been coming back to again and again.  It was short, simple, and put a name to what I've been trying to do in my garden:  Snackscaping.  

I can't farm even on a small scale.  I have .15 acres in the city.  I can barely grow tomatoes because I have chosen to fill my sunniest spots with lilies, roses, and ornamental grasses.  But I sure as hell can snackscape!

We've got figs, blueberries, alpine strawberries, sugar snaps, and lettuces that we all (and especially the children) eat just as a matter of course when out in the garden.  One day when our fruit trees mature, we'll add apples and plums to the list.  And later this spring, we'll plant cucumbers and peas.  And yes, tomatoes.  Sun Gold tomatoes.  After reading Rodale's article, I hope to add raspberries and grapes to our list of garden snacks.  

We belong to a CSA, so there's no pressure to harvest enough from the garden for meals (I am a lousy weeder/waterer in August when the weather is beastly) so snackscaping is perfect for me.

To read Maria Rodale's article on snackscaping please see the May 2009 issue of Organic Gardening (her blog - Maria's Farm Country Kitchen - is here).  Also, to visit my favorite snackscaping supplier, click here to browse the Edible Landscaping catalogue (a fabulous Afton, VA supplier).