In an effort to stretch my gardening dollar as far as possible, I like to plant easy care perennials; those garden work-horses that will return year after year.
Also, I hate planting annuals. I have no patience for a plant that will grow for one year and then die off. Kiss it goodbye. I’d rather save the time and effort, plant the $50 bill and be done with it. (Our porch is in deep shade and I make an exception for annuals there.) However….
Coleus are tender perennials so they behave like annuals in Virginia. After one summer in the sunshine, they are done. Sadly, I can’t overwinter them because our house has few sunny windows in which to grow plants. (And I need those windows for blog photography!) These plants are showy and worth every penny. They are ridiculously simple to care for. Plunk them in the ground in a sunny spot, water regularly and admire them. It’s just that easy!
While my taste in flowers tends toward ‘cottage garden’; these beauties are a punch of abstract art. The Andy Warhol of perennials, if you will. They provide edgy contrast to my restrained daisies and lavender. Give them a try! I think you’ll like them!
I’ve recently learned that so many of the blooms in my yard are edible: Dianthus, Impatiens, Scented Geraniums, Dandelions (of course!), Apple Blossoms, Lavender, Cherry Blossoms. The list goes on and on.
Edible blooms can be used to simply to brighten up a visually uninteresting meal, like these dianthus flowers in Paleo Egg Roll in a Bowl. It’s been said that we eat with our eyes first, which is a good thing. When taste tested, my husband and I decided the dianthus tastes vaguely like grass!
My lavender plant was battered by recent storms, so I purchased organic culinary lavender and dried hibiscus blooms from a natural foods store (Roanoke Co+op, if you’re local) and began experimenting with them.
“Experimenting” is probably a poor choice of words to describe what I’m doing. I feel very comfortable eating organically grown blooms from my own yard. I’m certain of what they are, and I know they have been grown in a manner that will not poison me.
If you’re concerned that lavender foods will remind you of soap, start by following recipes exactly as written. Most recipes require 1 tablespoon of lavender, or less. Once you’ve determined your own flavor preferences, you can adjust the recipe if needed.
Keto Lavender Scones with Lemon Glaze: These little goodies are so tasty, you’ll forget that they are low carb!
I modified this recipe as follows: Keto Lavender Scones 1 1/4 C Almond Flour 1/3 C Coconut Flour 8 packets Whole Earth sweetener 1/4 tsp Salt 1/2 tsp Baking Powder 1 Tbsp Dried Culinary Lavender 1/4 C Almond Milk 1/4 C Heavy Whipping Cream 2 Tbsp Butter, softened 1 tsp Vanilla 1 Egg In a mixing bowl, blend the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat™, form the dough into an 8″ round. Slice into 8 wedges. Bake at 350º for 18 minutes.
You can stop right there and serve these with fresh butter, or for extra credit, make them even more gorgeous and delicious with this glaze!
Keto Lemon Glaze: 2 packets Whole Earth sweetener 4 Tbsp coconut oil, melted 4 Tbsp canned, unsweetened coconut milk cream (not the milk), at room temperature 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice Optional Garnish – lemon zest and culinary lavender Whisk sweetener, oil, coconut cream and lemon juice together until smooth and glaze the scones. While the glaze is still wet, garnish with a light sprinkle of lemon zest and lavender, if desired. Refrigerate to harden the glaze. The scones will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, or in the freezer for a month, if they last that long!
What do you think? Do you cook with flowers? Is this something you would try?
While shopping for deer fence T-posts, I happened upon several racks of clearance perennials marked down to $1 each. Of course I loaded up my cart! Some of the blooms were ready for deadheading, but the leaves looked fresh and healthy. I figured these underdogs were worth a chance.
Perennial flowers are fantastic because you do the work of planting once, and are rewarded with year after year of blooms. Given the right growing conditions, most perennials are easy care, requiring only deadheading and occasional dividing.
We purchased these for the herb garden, because that is the sunniest area of our property. They range in height from 6″ to just over 2′ tall, so they shouldn’t shade other sun loving plants nearby.
Thinking about their mature size, bloom time and relation to neighboring plants, I placed them around the garden. I like to arrange them in irregular shaped, odd numbered groupings of 3, 5 or 7 of the same plant. This gives the garden visual ‘flow’ and is more appealing than planting in straight rows, as you would in a vegetable garden.
Here’s what we planted:
Balloon Flowers – one blue, one white I’ve wanted to try balloon flowers forever. These deer resistant plants are whimsical and fun. They both had tags showing blue flowers, so the white one was a surprise!
Poppy This one is a mystery plant only because I misplaced the tag. Oops! I seem to recall that it is an orange variety.
Darling Daisy™ Shasta Daisy Daisies were my husband’s great aunt Ruth’s favorite flower, so I remember her fondly when I see these. This variety is fairly compact, growing to just 12″ tall. I deadhead these about once a week, and they are blooming their little hearts out.
Dwarf Coreopsis We picked up nine of these, and I’m hoping they will provide a sea of golden blooms. They grow to 12″ tall, and bloom from spring through fall.
Giles Van Hees Speedwell – These tiny flowers bloom in summer. They seem a little finicky and we’ve already lost two of the five that we purchased. (R.I.P., little guys) I’m holding my breath that the remaining three will settle into the garden nicely.
Little Women Daylily – I’m not sure where we are in the bloom cycle, but I suspect that we’re done for the year. I bought three of these for their unusual, peach color which will pair nicely with the nearby lavender.
Hopefully our plants will be happy here, and provide some interest to the garden. They’ve already drawn the attention of neighborhood butterflies, so we think the bees will find them soon as well.
How about you? Do you take pity on the clearance rack plants, and take them home?
Succession planting is simply sowing seeds at intervals so that you have a constant supply of produce. In years past, I’ve made halfhearted attempts at succession planting our gardens. I’ve never made a planting schedule and stuck to it. This year I’m sowing seeds at two week intervals, so that we can enjoy our favorite herbs throughout the growing season.
I’ve planted cilantro, flat leaf Italian parsley and three varieties of basil; lime, purple and Thai. These are all familiar plants except the lime and Thai basil. I try to plant about a dozen seeds each time, because we tend to pick small batches.
My method isn’t very organized but it seems to be working. Every two weeks I wander out to the garden, seeds in hand, and find a little patch of soil near the previous plantings. I pull the mulch back with a hand rake and loosen up the surface of the amended soil underneath. After carefully placing the seeds over the loosened soil, I sprinkle bagged garden soil over them to the recommended planting depth. Basil takes 1/8″ of soil and the parsley and cilantro require 1/4″ of soil covering.
Once I’ve pressed the new soil down lightly; I water the planting area, taking care not to wash the seeds away. Unless we get a nice, overnight rain shower, I water every morning. If the weather is unseasonably hot or dry, my planting beds get a second drink of water in the early afternoon. After the seedlings sprout and the plants are established, I water according to the directions on the seed packet.
I hope you will give this project a try. If you do, I’d love to hear from you! Comment here or email me at arthurized dot home at gmail dot com.
Now that we’re planting the herb bed, we need a way to keep the deer out of it. My father-in-law (affectionately known as Pa Kettle) is a country farmer from way back, and he’s tried nearly everything to prevent deer from ravaging his garden. Mothballs, garden spray with hot pepper, smelly plants like marigolds; you name it, he tried it. He hung bags of (humanely collected!) human hair on stakes throughout the garden, and did the same with bars of Irish Spring soap.
Each of these methods works for awhile, the deer acclimate to it, and then it’s no longer effective. He currently has an 8′ tall, wire fence around the garden which seems to prevent most break-ins.
Our neighbors paid $500 to have an electric fence installed around their large garden, and we’ve watched the deer leap right over it as gracefully as ballerinas. The little, tick-ridden acrobats.
Because this garden is in our front yard, I need a fence that is reasonably attractive. Or, at least not ugly. I read about a fishing line deer fence and decided to give it a shot. It’s easy to install, low maintenance and a minimal investment.
T-Posts, or other fence posts – we needed 10 – Cost: $70
1 spool of 30 lb. fishing line – Cost: $2
1 Sturdy Gate Post – we used rebar
PVC Pipe – two pieces, cut to 18″, use the correct diameter for your gate post
O-ring, Rope or another contraption to use for the gate latch
Shovel or Post Hole Digger
We dug the post holes about 5′ from the edge of the bed. This leaves a wide path to maneuver a wheel barrow or push mower inside the fence. It’s far enough back that if deer manage to poke their nosy, little heads under the fence, they still can’t reach my herbs.
T-Posts are easy to install. The process goes like this: dig, level, fill, move on, dig, level, fill, move on, dig, level, fill, move on. Repeat until you can’t stand to look at another fence post, ever again. Burying the metal flange just below the surface stabilizes the post.
Once the posts are up, it’s time to wrap them with fishing line. Leaving the gate section completely open, I worked my way back and forth, wrapping the perimeter using one continuous piece of line. I might come back and hit the knots and hooks with a little E-6000 if the line doesn’t stay in place, but for now it’s holding.
The gate post is made from a piece of rebar. If this works well, I’ll paint it to match the T-posts. We tied fishing line from the post to the right of the gate and straight over to the rebar. The rebar recesses into the PVC pipe and it holds the gate in place.
To secure the top of the gate, slide an O-ring or loop of rope down over the top of the T-post and rebar post. I didn’t want to put downward pressure on the fishing line, so I looped a hair elastic through a hole in the T-post and attached a carabiner to it. The carabiner slides over the rebar to hold it in place.
When we want to open the gate we simply lift the rebar out of the pvc, walk it over to a second piece of pvc that we sunk into the ground to the right of the gate. This holds it upright until we’re ready to close the gate again.
We’re hopeful that this experiment works and we don’t have to resort to using guard dogs and explosives. (I’m kidding about the explosives. Mostly.) I’ll keep you posted.
We’ve got just over an acre and a half here at Arthurized Home. About 1/3 of that land is wooded. The property was very overgrown when we bought it 15 years ago, and some areas (okay, most areas) still need a good clean-out. Along the way we’ve discovered surprises hidden in the woods, a Nikko Blue hydrangea, Annabelle hydrangeas and Bridal Veil to name a few. We don’t want to go in and clear it without a plan.
This year, as our plants bud and bloom, we’re flagging everything we want to spare from the loppers. We’ll be able to identify and prune them at the proper time in their growth cycle.
Flagging tape – Don’t be concerned by the word “tape”, this product has no adhesive. Find it at a home improvement or hardware store. Cost: $4
I chose obnoxious, neon tape. Although difficult to photograph, (who knew?) it will be easy to spot in the woods later in the growing season. Also, because pink is the best color.
Cut 12” – 18” sections of flagging tape and write the name of the plant on one end.
Fold the tape in half and double the loop over a sturdy branch and pull the ends through.
There’s no need to label every piece of tape. Hang blanks on plants that you’ve already identified. Later on, you can compare leaves if you’re unsure of the type of plant. Make sure that you place the tape so you can easily spot it when you return to prune the plant or trim back its overgrown neighbors.
This fall, I want to plant hyacinth and crocus in front of my daffodils. But, because they die back every year, I won’t know exactly where to plant without marking it. I placed a circle of rocks around each clump of daffys and I’ll know to plant in front of the rocks later in the year.
I hope these simple tips are helpful to you. Happy gardening!
Judging by the heavy, clay soil and the copious amounts of debris here, this area of our property has never been gardened. Our first job is to improve the soil by adding rich, new garden soil and compost.
Wheelbarrow or heavy, plastic tarp
Gloves – I prefer leather gloves for this job
Soil Amendments (depending on your garden’s needs – new garden soil, compost, manure, sand, peat, etc.)
Here’s how to amend the soil: Dig the first row about 12″ deep (or the depth of a shovel head), and place the soil in a wheel barrow, or on a heavy, plastic tarp. Pour the soil amendments down into the row.
As you dig the second row, shovel the soil from row two over row one and mix it in. You’ve just finished amending row one.
Now, pour soil amendments along your newly dug row two.
Row Three: Dig and place soil amendments over row two, mixing as you did before.
Rows 4 – Last: Repeat the above process until you reach the final garden row. Once you have added the amendments to the last row, pour the soil from row one on top and mix it in.
Rake the bed smooth and pick up any rocks or clumps of soil. Your garden is ready for planting!
I’m so excited because we’re finally creating an herb garden! I’ve wanted one for years but the few sunny areas of our yard are out of sight and mostly out of mind. Recently, a wind storm took down a pear tree near our house, opening up the perfect place to grow herbs.
RIP, pear tree. You were a good climber, from what I hear.
First, we determined the size and shape of the bed. I wanted an interesting shape because this bed is smack-dab in the middle of our front yard. At the center of the bed I stuck a weeding tool into the ground and tied a string to the handle. I marked the string at 8.5′ and used that as my guide to spray paint the perimeter line. (This is my very unscientific method, and I’m purposely avoiding using words like radius and circumference here. I have to trick the right side of my brain into participating in math and science.)
Anywho, then we got to diggin’. Closely following the painted line, we dug a very deep border edge (8″ – 10″) and transferred that sod into a wheelbarrow.
Resisting the temptation to turn or till it under, we removed the sod layer entirely. This layer is full of seeds (grass and weeds, in our case) and they will sprout in the garden bed. We could have moved it to our compost piles, or filled a few low spots in the yard, but we chose to create a small berm instead, and we’ll have to aggressively weed it going forward.
Dig, remove sod, repeat. Dig, remove sod, repeat. Go to bed. Get up and do it all over again. You can see the berm taking shape in the back of the picture below.
Now that we’ve cleared away all of the sod, we’re ready to begin amending the soil. But for now, it’s time to stand back and admire our handsome new garden bed.
Crazy Story Time: Soon after we bought this house we noticed that whenever it rained, shards of broken glass and tile would work their way to the surface of the lawn. That discovery was quickly followed by a “no bare feet outside” rule. The debris that has surfaced since then seems to have no end.
Almost with the first shovelful of soil that we turned over in this bed, we began picking up rusty nails and other debris. The first day we threw them out. The second day we started tossing them into a 5 gallon bucket just to save a few steps.
We found half a license plate, bits of wire, metal springs, screws, a Willard battery cap and beer can tabs. Not surprising, since the original owner ran a neighborhood garage from our property.
We unearthed half of a broken, plastic cup, two table knives, four glass marbles and a tiny, blue game piece. Also not surprising, because the Thompson family raised fourteen children here. I can just imagine Mrs. Thompson raising Cain as her utensils slowly disappeared from her kitchen, never to be seen again!
And oh, my word! The nails that filled this bed! It’s been a week since we finished digging, and we haven’t found more nails, but I’m not deluding myself into thinking we’ve found them all.
Guess how many nails we dug up from the herb garden? Can’t imagine? Here’s a hint:
We picked up seven. hundred. and. eighty. two. rusty. nails! 782! I would love to know what on Earth happened here, to have so many nails in the yard!
And then there is the glass! Our nieces and nephews have played on this patch of lawn forever. They’ve chased lightning bugs, played What Time is it Mr. Fox?, Tag and Toilet Tag here. They’ve scoured this area for hidden Easter eggs. This is where we have our New Year’s midnight silly string battle. Our nieces turn cartwheels here. It’s really amazing that no one has been injured by a glass shard.
I told my sister-in-law that we’d never be able to work in this bed on our hands and knees, and she suggested that we use a small bag of soft mulch as a kneeling pad. Great idea! We will certainly do that.
The best discovery of all (the only good discovery?) are these two glass bottles that my husband dug up. The larger bottle is absolutely perfect with no chips or cracks. I cannot believe that it survived undamaged, considering that we used shovels and a mattock to dig this bed! The smaller bottle has a chip on the lip, but is otherwise in good condition.
So that’s your crazy story for the day, kids. Now, go update your tetanus shot!
We’ve got two driveways and the banks next to the first one are steeply sloped, shaded and have horrible, clay soil. When we moved in 15 years ago, we planted several flats of variegated ivy on one bank hoping that it would scramble up the bank and cover it quickly. The ivy proved to be slow growing and while it has spread, it’s not doing the job.
We’ve planted vinca minor on a third bank and discovered vinca major growing wild at the other end of that same bank. It has mostly filled in, and is beautiful when covered in periwinkle blooms. Vinca has glossy, evergreen leaves and looks great year round. It is on the Virginia invasive plants list, but we haven’t found it difficult to control.
In an effort to cover the other two banks, I’ve been researching evergreen ground covers. The banks are steep enough that withstanding foot traffic is not a concern. This will likely be a multi-year project because both banks are large. The first one is 52′ x 10′ and is under an ancient, oak tree. We’ve successfully grown Solomon’s Seal there, but it dies back in the winter. The second bank is 125′ x 22′(yes, that’s 2,750 square feet!) and has the slow-growing ivy on it.
With such a large area to cover, we need a plant that is inexpensive and will quickly spread to fill in. Last fall, we transplanted about a dozen plugs of liriope as a test to see if it would tolerate the deep shade, extremely poor soil and root competition from the oak tree. Surprisingly, they survived and are thriving this spring.
This spring, we’re transplanting liriope from two other areas in our yard; an unruly border and the bed of black-eyed Susans. Aside from lots of sweat equity, this project is free. My favorite price!
Because the test plants grew well in our poor soil, we’re not amending the planting holes with garden soil or compost. With thousands of holes to dig, it would only increase the time needed to complete this project. And I don’t think the extra expense is necessary.
We’re transplanting the liriope bare root so that we do not have to move a lot of soil. This enables us to dig smaller planting holes, and to tuck the liriope in next to the tree roots without damaging them. We started by using a trowel, but switched to a hand weeder to dig the holes.
Until they are settled in to their new home, we’re watering the transplants daily. We’ll mulch the banks once the transplants are established. This project is slow-going, but we’re hopeful that this is the tough-as-nails ground cover these banks need.
We have five large Nikko Blue hydrangeas, and I’d love to create a long sweep of them in our yard. They’re planted just opposite my kitchen window and bloom from June through the first frost. Last fall, I layered them in the hopes of gaining loads of baby plants (layers) for free. I layered 20 branches and 16 of them have taken root.
The layering process is super simple and I hope you will give it a try. A note about timing: I do this at the end of summer, while the branches are flexible enough to bend to the ground without breaking. In Virginia, this means mid-late October. I’ve read that you can layer plants in the spring, but I haven’t tried it.
You will need:
An established, healthy “mother” hydrangea – ask a friend if you can layer theirs if you don’t have one
Rocks, bricks, small children or other heavy object(s) for weight
Shovel or trowel
Wintertime and patience
Find a healthy, lower branch of the plant. I select branches that are leafy, with no flowers. Without disturbing the leaves at the tip, break off the next lower set of leaves down to the branch. The place where you removed the leaves is the node.
Gently lower the node to the ground, loosen the soil under it and then pile at least an inch of soil on top of the node. Place a rock or brick on top to weight it down securely. Water the mother plant occasionally if needed.
Wait until Spring and check on your plants. New growth at the tip of the branch indicates that your baby plant has taken root.
Leaving the rock or brick in place, snip the branch between the weight and the mother plant as below and give the baby a few weeks of living on its own before transplanting. Be sure to water the layer baby daily until it is established, more often in hot weather. If the baby is very small, you might wish to delay transplanting for an entire growing season.
When transplanting small plants like these, I dig a hole about 12″ deep and 12″ across. Make sure the roots have plenty of loose soil to grow into. I like to mix in a little garden soil to lighten up our heavy clay soil. Once you’ve transplanted the babies, they will need some TLC. Water them each morning for a few weeks and then as needed until they are established.
I’ve only done this with hydrangeas, but I understand this works for other plants such as forsythia, rhododendron, azalea. I would love to know if you try it and how the process works for you.