Monday, November 24, 2008

A Very Belated Pumpkin Party Wrap-Up

Time has passed quickly here at Muddy Paws. The dog has turned two and is now absolutely no calmer than she was at one when we adopted her. However, the garden is surviving her.

And the garden seems to have survived our annual pumpkin carving party. We had over 140 people this year -- about 60 children between the ages of 2 and 12. That was crazy.

The best thing I did to protect the garden was to take the time to pound in about 40 stakes (maybe 2.5' high?) and to staple holiday lights to them.* It wasn't enough to be a true barrier (if someone just had to trample upon my scotch broom, they could) but it was a polite and gentle reminder to stay out of the garden!

We also moved the carving activities out to the alley. This kept the seeds and the guts out of the lawn and garden soil. I expect I will still have to weed out some pumpkin sprouts in the spring but fewer than in previous years.

It rained for one hour of the party, but then we had a tremendous rainbow and it was beautiful for the remaining two hours.

The pizza was delicious. The beer, our local Legend's Brown Ale, got rave reviews. The pumpkins were amazing. And check out this incredible flower arrangement my friend Jennifer gave us for the party!

It was a wonderful afternoon. The next post will be much more current!

*I'm not sure I would recommend this technique, I shocked myself twice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Final Fall Favorite: Nippon Daisy

This flower has been blooming in my garden for a good month now. It is a cheerful, sunny spot in the fall garden. However, I am struggling to keep it compact and shrubby.

I have this daisy, also called the Montauk Daisy in two spots: one part sun, one full sun. Both spots get decent moisture. Last year both were in part sun. I tried pruning them back in May in order to make it bushier and fuller. Alas, by October I had barely a bloom. The problem may not have been when I cut it back however. This site indicates that one should prune it by half in mid-summer. I wasn't sure what to do, so I moved one to a full sun spot and did not prune either.

This year, lots of blooms on the full sun daisy, but leggy and sprawling. And on the part sun daisy? Nothing ... and leggy. This week I am moving the part sun daisy into full sun and I will cut both back by 1/2 in midsummer. I want these to become small semi-evergreen shrubs in the perennial bed.

For a nice round-up of October flowers, check out Adrian Higgins' article in today's Washington Post. I think I'm going to pop by the garden store to buy some asters!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Fall Favorite: Physostegia

By early October these vigorous bloomers (Obedient Plant) have started to fade, however they are the stars of my garden for all of September. When I say "vigorous," you know what I mean, right? Be careful where you plant them!

I devote one section of the perennial bed to them and then rip them out without mercy from everywhere else. They spread but grow well around lilies and help stake them up. Their toothy foliage makes a great backdrop and I like their shade of green in front of the zebra grass. I'd love to try the purple, white, or variegated varieties.

They thrive in sun, but handle shade as well. Physostegia has never seemed to be a picky, thirsty, or temperamental plant. So if you can spend some time controlling it's spreading -- try this out for a fall bloomer. Stop by for divisions in November, I always have some to give away!

For some beautiful October plant ideas, stop by Nancy Ondra's fabulous blog: Hayefield.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Fall Favorite: Tricyrtis Hirta

Every year at the end of October, we host a huge party. Our garden is packed with kids and adults and pizza and pumpkins. I always spend the first few weeks of the month stressing about the state of my garden -- filling in the holes, deadheading, raking, mulching -- only to find again and again that no one really notices. Not the children trampling the perennials to hide in the shrubs nor the adults cutting through the lilies to get to the bar.

This year will be different. I will straighten things up but I will not purchase new plants. Most importantly, I will rope off the garden with stakes and Christmas lights so I don't go insane from the foot traffic in the garden beds.

Here is one of my fall faves:

My toad lily (tricyrtis hirta) was a welcomed surprise last week. I had given up on it -- it dried up last fall, turned brown, and was gone by October. This year I saw some foliage but never expected much. What a pleasant surprise!

Now while it won't win any awards for it's size and health, I am just thrilled that the wetter weather agreed with it. My plan is to leave it here for another year, pay closer attention to it's moisture, and check on it again next October.

Stay tuned this week for more of my fall favorites!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm Back

Ahh. Back to the blog. After over three weeks of seriously tricky computer problems, I'm back. Thank you to Kindnessgirl's dear hubby, Jorge, for getting me up and running right before the arrival of dear Lyra Grace.

What has happened in the past weeks? Any gardening? Well, not exactly. I've exploited my Gardening WOOs, but have not had any nice big blocks of time to tackle the restructuring that needs to happen.

Here's what's been going on instead ...

Visiting the river to kayak, swim, and play with the dog ...

Squeezing in some daytrips to Sandbridge ...

Cleaning up after Hurricane Hannah and enjoying late summer weather on the patio ...

Working for Change We Can Believe In ...

And staging a professional photo shoot of the girls and their cousins for my mom. Allison (the photographer) was amazing ...

There will be some gardening content soon. I swear.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Garden Guests

Some might consider guests like these to be pests. I only see them as baby Black Swallowtails.

I love them. I plant extra dill, fennel, carrots, and parsley just to entice them into the garden.

The host plant usually survives despite looking quite scruffy. This fennel is actually doing quite well considering the many caterpillars climbing on it.

You can't have the beautiful butterfly without the very hungry caterpillar.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! Oh Pampas!

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted some of this fairy-tale-esque grass in my garden. Finally, after a spring trip to Colesville and very little attention, here are the plumes!

dwarf pampas grass (cortaderia selloana)

Her beauty makes up for the nearby "struggling border" -- next summer this wildflower patch will be alive with butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, but for now, I hope, seed, and water.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Backyard Parties

The wonderful Sustainable Gardener and Garden Ranter Susan Harris has asked readers to show her some pictures of "party gardens" or spaces in the garden for entertaining. So here we go ....

Preparing for a party for Rosie's class this past spring

Since all of our parties and gatherings include lots and lots of kids, we use every square inch of our garden. Most often, the kids attack the paths, swings, and old tree stumps while the parents hang out on the patio or in front of the pizza oven. For unfussy dinners, we simply thow a tablecloth over a folding table. For our larger parties (150+), guests find space wherever they can!

We had our patio installed six years ago, right before Rosie was born. It looked so small and insignificant surrounding by the sparse plantings and scruffy lawn. One friend actually questioned why we had payed so much for the patio when our yard was so unpleasant (she used nicer words).

Four years ago in May ...

A bit lusher in August, 2008

Today, the patio is my favorite part of the entire house. I would rather be sitting on the patio than anywhere else -- with the possible exception of right by the oven when the pizza are cooking!

Friday, August 15, 2008

August Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

Thank you Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting GBBD! Please visit her website and check out all the wonderful gardens!

I dreaded going out to the garden this morning knowing that I would find few post-worthy blooms. And yet, when I took the time to overlook the drooping hydrangeas and brown patches, I found some gorgeous flowers.

My favorite flower right now is this mystery hosta that I got from my mother. It is intensely fragrant and seems to be the hummingbirds' favorite as well. I have them planted all over since they tolerate sun fairly well but have most of them outside the kitchen window by the patio. Since we've had cool weather recently (what a blessing) and the windows have been open, the kitchen is filled with their wonderful perfume.

Here's a rundown of the August bloom action ...

My mystery sunflower -- it stands about 6' tall with multiple blooms on each stalk

The phlox is still hanging in there.

The scarlet runner bean won't stop! It's incredible!

My garden stalwarts -- what would I do in August without these little soldiers?

The blue haze by the patio is actually this caryopteris "Longwood Blue" which I love, as do the butterflies and hummingbirds.

Mandevilla climbing up a birdfeeder pole.


The weeds are growing nicely.

Sedem Autumn Joy

Is this Costa Rican Salvia? It's been here a few years and I've forgotten what kind it is ...

Wild, unruly campanula -- it lives in the alley since it can't behave itself.

The glads are still going strong, this one is just starting to open. They are just lovely.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where's My Plant Mojo?

Hard to believe, but I've been avoiding the garden. With the remarkable exceptions of today of yesterday (beautiful temperatures and low humidity), August has been the typical hot and humid. The city of Richmond has begun voluntary water restrictions and the river is low and mucky. Our favorite kayaking spots are drying up.

Instead of spending time in the dry yet mosquito-y backyard, I've been busy with knitting and food, only stepping into the garden to water the most vulnerable and harvest seeds.

The Knitting -- see details here. That's the lovely Kindness Girl as my model!

The Food -- besides all the canning we've been doing, I've been making delicious chocolate ice cream with cream and eggs fresh from the farm

The Seeds -- I wish I knew this sunflower variety, maybe Velvet Queen?

Now, with some cooler days, I'm back in the garden, trying to clean things up a bit and looking for my plant mojo. I know it's around here somewhere ...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Family Time

It's been a while since we've entertained in the garden, or in the house for that matter. The spring was busy with increased responsibilities at work for the BackBou and end-of-school/planning-for-trip duties for me. And following our trip to Norway, we were quarantined due to some unwanted lice hitchhikers from the old country (is anybody itching now?).

We're already looking ahead to our big pumpkin party before Halloween and thinking about how to accommodate friends, pumpkin carving, pizza eating, and crazy children. (I know it's early. What can I say? We're planners.)

Nora and Rosie create pizzas under the watchful eye of the BackBou

But for now, as July dwindles to an end and the dog days of August loom ahead, we focus on family time and food: homemade pizzas, baked in an ancient way and served in the warm evening air.

We are enjoying the laziness of summer.