Friday, February 29, 2008

Grandparents, and Gardening With Children


There can be no greater pleasure than to share gardening. Gardening with children is an especially rewarding way to share the joy.


There was an article I read recently which said children are not learning gardening anymore. Families are too spread out and don't have close connections to grandparents, which traditionally (at least in my time) have been the primary trainers of up and coming gardeners. I learned to love gardening from my maternal grandmother and grandfather, and also from my paternal grandfather.

My grandmother was of the WW II generation and back then Victory Gardens were very big. She gardened and loved peonies most, and always wore gardening gloves; my grandfather did the heavy labor, such as chopping firewood, tilling and mowing. It worked.




My paternal grandfather, lost two wives to cancer. The second wife was my father's mother and she passed on when he was only 12. My grandfather, who died when I was only 12, used to take me to my grandmother's grave. He had planted a peony on her grave. He said it was forever and that was what he wanted growing on his grave. The last time I went to northern Maine (it has been awhile), we went to the cemetary. There are no markers on their graves, but the peonies are still growing and I had no trouble finding the graves. The seriousness of my grandfather about the peonies impressed a great love for flowers upon my young mind, especially peonies. Now you all can see why I am so happy they grow well here in Tennessee.

Where does all this lead besides telling you something mighty personal? To grandparents, gardening and children today. Really, not much has changed since I was a kid. Children still have grandparents, though families are often separated by distance, grandparents still garden, and nowadays, I think there are more parents gardening as well. You would never think this considering just how busy parents are with raising their children and working, but I truly believe more and more younger people are gardening because they value their homes and lives even more today.

Lola is a grandparent who loves to garden with her great grandchildren. The first picture is of her in her garden with the boys, the next two are of the boys, Anthony and Nicholas. Lola taught them how to plant the corn they are eating in the photographs. She is a hands on gardener with these two boys and you can see they enjoy the corn. They will also always have the good memories of growing those first ears of corn with their great grandmother.


The adorable baby sitting down with his 'Papa' is my grandson, Joshua. 'Papa' is Joshua's great grandfather, my mother's husband. Papa has had many grandchildren and great grandchildren on his lap over the years. He does a great job with them all and Josh is blessed to be close to a big part of his father's family in Maine. That family includes an aunt (my daughter Christy-she absolutely dotes on this baby and sees him daily), great aunts (Dawn with Peaches and Terri), cousins (Zack, Nikki-pictured below, Sandra and Heather), another set of great grandparents (my father and his wife), and various other uncles, aunts and distant cousins, as well as lots of friends. I am looking forward to teaching Josh all about gardening when he moves back to Tennessee. He will never remember his visits to the garden when he was only one month old, but he will be back someday. For now, I have to leave the teaching to my mother and extended family in Maine, since he and his parents (my son Brian and his wife Sarah) live there.


When I was growing up it was VERY rare to know great grandparents. It seems not to be rare anymore and many, many children are blessed to know not only their grandparents, but great grandparents too.

The sweet little blond boy with the big smile is anonymous's son, Jacob. You will hear her refer to him as "her sidekick" or the "little man". Jacob is the youngest of four; who all keep anonymous and her husband very busy, along with her gardening and new house. They walk around the south Clarksville neighborhood they call home right here in the Sango community on a daily basis and have a great time discovering all the flowers along the walk.

The little girl bravely touching the Prickly Pear, is my niece Nikki. She lives in Maine with her mother (Dawn with Peaches), father (Jack of all Trades), and big brother (Zack). I am not sure, but if she is like her mother and Aunt Tina, she will have the gardening gene and crafty gene as well. Though the crafty part will come from her mother, who is a creative crafter and excellent seamstress.



The next picture is of Nina's granddaughter in Georgia. Her name is Sarah. Her mother (Nina's daughter) got the gardening gene. Both she and Sarah help Nina help in the garden frequently. Nina lives and gardens in Erin, just south of Clarksville. Sarah and her mother will be visiting soon. During the visit Sarah will help 'plant' some yucca tulips on her grandmother's yuccas. I will do a post on the yucca tulips very soon and will feature Sarah again.


The very last picture is of our Skeeter, aka Roxanne. Actually, Skeeter is Roxanne's beloved orange cat in her arms. Most of us realize our pets are part of our families, Roxanne's pets are her 'children', and this post wouldn't be complete without including her along with all the other children and grandchildren of commenters on this blog. Roxanne uses her cat's name as her screen name and is also a Pet People blogger. Now all of you know where the name Skeeter comes from! Isn't he beautiful? That flowering tree next to them as well.



I hope you all have enjoyed my post on grandparents, children and gardening. I especially hope my regular commenters and their families (including all the children pictured) enjoy this post-as it is solely for them and their families!


in the garden....thinking about families.








Thursday, February 28, 2008

Night Lighting



Lighting in the garden is a must if you want to enjoy it after dark and want a sense of security and safety. I especially enjoy night lighting of both my garden and home. I also enjoy it in other resident's gardens as well, because lighting a house is a very public thing.



Gerianne and I have traveled to Nashville monthly for the Perennial Plant Society (PPS) meetings for two years plus. We enjoy the ride together and talking about our gardens, families and whatever happens to be on our minds at the time. We also enjoy the scenery. The PPS meetings are held at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in the Belle Meade area of Nashville. What a beautiful and historical and upper scale place Belle Meade seems to be. Even the pizza joint (Michelangio's) we always stop by for dinner is upscale if you can believe that! Great pizza too!

One thing Geri and I enjoy doing while traveling through Belle Meade is looking at the houses and gardens. This area is a mature area with grown shade trees and gorgeous huge brick houses. We get a good view going to the meetings since it is usually still light enough outside to see, then we get a good view in the evening as well because all of the homes seem to be lit up. Belle Meade sparkles after dark in a star like manner. I am not talking about floodlights, porch lights and standard track lights, but complete packages of combinations of all types of lights. The effect is cohesive and gives me a sense of the community when I drive through the neighborhood. The whole area is nicely done.

Lighting a home at night is not an easy thing to do. You do not want to over light the home and make it look like Wal-Mart, nor do you want to under light the house either by not providing enough lighting for accent and safety. I believe night lighting of a home should subtly highlight important features of the home, and when one looks at the home they should be able to get a feel for the entire house, not just special features.

The homes in Belle Meade have all established this sense of subtlety while providing highlights, safety and security. Recently I began taking an alternative route home from school; which has led me into a new area of Clarksville I rarely see. I was thrilled to see a semi-"Belle Meade" right here in Clarksville! There is an area of homes off from Memorial Drive which are beautifully lit up at night. The homes are very nice homes and the lighting of them combines all touches of subtlety while highlighting key features on the home AND in the landscape. I loved it and knew I should stop and ask if I could feature the homes on this blog in order to convey a sense of what I am talking about with night lighting.

Now I do know not everyone has the time to design a lighting plan or may even want to do so, but lights do add a great sense of beauty to your home, and for me, a sense of security and safety. If you don't have lighting for after dark activities but may at some point consider installing a simple set, remember to highlight and accent subtly and you too can have an after dark home which sparkles just like those in Belle Meade and semi Belle Meade here in Clarksville. While installing your lights be sure to stand back and look at the effect as you go along.

The pictures of these two homes do not do them justice. Pictures are, after all, just pictures. Coming by these two houses at night always catches my eye and takes my breath away. The first house belongs to David and Betty. Betty tells me her children designed the lighting plan for the house. In fact, Betty and David's son has recently opened a landscaping company here in Clarksville. He might even design a lighting system for your house!

Rusty and his family who live in the second house pictured, designed and installed their lighting system. I asked Rusty if his system was on a timer and he said no, it was hardwired directly. It takes commitment to remember to turn on your outside lights each night and Rusty has not failed to do so. Further along their road and right next door to both houses are more sparkling houses, but I always specifically notice these two, and for consideration of space and time I have chosen to spotlight just these two. Drivers on Memorial Drive can look at the area for themselves when they drive on Memorial Drive at nighttime.

I want to thank Rusty and Betty for allowing me to snap photos of their lovely homes. A stranger knocking on your door during the day is one thing, having her stop by your house at night to take pictures when you don't even know she is there, is a totally different thing. I hope I didn't disturb them too much the three times I had to stop by to snap pictures! I finally got the pictures I wanted and thanks!

in the garden....

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Things Going On


Now that my weekly short Wednesday post is out of the way, I will add a few more notes on here that may be of interest to you readers.


First of all, last week while at the Perennial Plant Society meeting, Gail, a fellow garden blogger at http://clayandlimestone.blogspot.com/ said "I write the way I talk." What a good compliment. I am glad to write this way as I think talking to you all is more fun than talking at you all. I do this through my writing. But, I must say I CAN, when the opportunity requires, write in a business like manner as well. I mean after all, nearly 20 years of college DID teach me a few things. I write informally on here because I write this blog voluntarily, and I have found my little writing niche with writing the same way I speak. Writing does give me an added benefit speaking does not; that is I can edit it first!

I have always wanted to be a writer, and my writing has helped me throughout my Army career and life in general. I have had a few articles published, written a few nationally recognized Army awards, but not written a book. Some day I might. I have often heard it said you should write about your experiences and what interests you. Gardening is but one of my interests. I think Stephen King must live a pretty interesting life because of the way he writes. Don't you? Okay, enough of me for one day. Now on the real reason of this post.

There are two important happenings within the community that will be of interest to gardeners. The first is the 'mini' Master Gardener Course'. This course will start next week, and will be conducted weekly on the following dates: March 4, 11, 18 and 25. Class times are from 18:30-20:30 and the location is at the Madison Street United Methodist Church, 319 Madison Street. Cost is $40. Contact Karla Kean at 648-5725. She has extended the registration deadline to this Friday. Go sign up if you have ever had the curiosity to find out about the Master Gardener organization, but didn't want to commit to the full course! Subjects include a class on herbs; Diann Nance my January Gardener of the Month, will be an instructor. Be sure to say hello to her!

The second very important happening in the area is the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show at the State Fairgrounds in Nashville. More information can be found at: http://www.nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com/ The show will run from tomorrow through Sunday. It opens at 1000 each day and closes at 2000 each night, except Sunday, when it closes at 1700. Admission is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $1 for children. Parking is free. Gerianne and I will be attending tomorrow. This will be my sixth year attending, and the third year with her. We have a great time and it is WELL worth the trip. There are many good speakers scheduled to speak, super vendors, and let's not forget about the 26-I say 26!-demonstration gardens-all indoors.

It has been awhile since I posted a picture of my home state of Maine. I know some enjoy them a bunch (Ginger). I find this picture to be a restful picture. It is typical of life in Maine. Stephen King lives in Maine not far from my sister, Dawn with Peaches. He writes often of real places in Maine, but you can see from the picture that Maine is rarely the scary place he makes it out to be.

in the garden....

Why Blog?


Now that this blog has been going for a while, and successful, I thought I would talk a little about me and why I blog. This information will come as no surprise to folks who know me, but there are many reading this blog and the newspaper version who don't know me.


I am happily married to the GREATEST man in the world for many years. Life with him just gets better everyday and that amazes me. Contrary to popular opinion, my plants are not the center of my life; he is and always has been.


I have four wonderful children. They are 26 year old twins Christy and Liz, 22 year old son Brian, and 13 year old son Jimmy (the Jimster). My oldest son is married to his high school sweetheart from Northwest High School, and together they have a nearly one year old son, Josh. He is my next gardening generation, though all of my children have the gardening gene.


I have lived in my house for almost seven years. It is the longest I have lived anywhere. My husband and I decided for logistical reasons we would retire in this area. Fort Campbell was both my first and last duty stations. We have also lived in Maine, North Carolina, Alabama, Italy, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Germany. My favorite place to live has by far has been Germany.

Why do I do this blog? A friend (Debbie) of mine recently said to me, "You have the heart of a teacher and more plant knowledge than anyone I know!” That kind of sums it up. I like to teach. I believe you can best teach things you know and experience. I have gardened my entire life and have learned a lot in that time. I continually learn. My blog has taught me many things as well as brought me new friends.


I really like this area and have met many wonderful folks. When I first retired from the Army, I had a terrible time getting into garden circles and being able to network with other gardeners. I didn't know anyone in the area and found it difficult to meet people with my same interests and values. The blog allows me to reach out to all gardeners, and also to reach folks who might be having a hard time finding a place to turn for information on gardening.


I believe my community is not only the Clarksville area and the Zone 6 and 7 growing area, but the entire world where there are humans who care about life, plants, living beings, and the environment. Most folks do feel this way, but we all know many who don't. I can only hope all humans get on board with the environment and can share in the number one hobby in America, gardening. I hope to be a part of the process through talking about my gardening experiences and look forward to many years of living in this community.


Did you notice the picture? White impatiens next to a 'Sum and Substance' hosta. A nice combination on its own, but look closely at the impatiens leaves. See the dew drops? A world within a world and a reminder of the greater environment we all live and garden within.


in the garden....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Sheds for Mowers and the First Cherry Blossoms


Skeeter has been very busy in the garden. Not only did she and the Saint have to cut down a huge pine tree in order to build this woodshed/mower shed/potting bench, but she had time to go shopping and snap some pictures of cherry blossoms in Georgia!

We have heard about the endearvor step by step on here; which has been great because Skeeter is a very good writer AND enterprising woman. Just look at the convenient potting shelf/bench she built behind her wood shed. It is in the shade! Very important in the south. She is using it probably right now to pot up some seeds.



And just look at the parkplatz (parking place) for the mower! Anonymous will appreciate this parking place, as we know how much she appreciates her 'baby'. Actually, I really love my lawn mower too. I don't know what it is about power tools you use so much, you just kind of develop a relationship with them after a time.



Skeeter, as we all know, lives in Georgia. Spring comes earlier to Georgia and Florida (where Lola lives) than it does to Tennessee, simply because they are further south. Skeeter has been seeing some lovely pink trees in her area. I had all kinds of ideas such as tulip tree (Magnolia soulangiana), maybe a redbud or cherry or crabapple trees. Skeeter snapped some pictures and sent them to me.


Skeeter thought it might be a crabapple, as did I until I saw the lenticels on the bark of the tree. Lenticels are a spongy area on the stems and roots of plants. They act as pores for the woody plant. Members of the Prunus family, such as cherries, have pronounced lenticels. They are often what makes the tree most attractive to landscapers and the general public in addition to the blooms in early spring. Cherry trees in particular have very pronounced lenticels. If you look closely at the bark of the tree on the last picture on this post you can clearly see the gray lenticels. They are lighter colored than the bark and horizontally laid out all along the bark.


Skeeter, this is definitely some type of cherry tree but it is not the 'Yoshino' cultivar, aka Prunus x yedoensis. I looked this tree up and I can only find it blooming in a white color. There are pink varieties of cherry trees though. You should ask the business what cultivar they had planted if you want to know the specific cultivar. I think it is a beautiful tree and looks very much like redbuds in bloom.

Whenever I think of cherry blossoms in the spring, I think of Washington D.C. According to the National Cherry Blossom Page found at http://www.nps.gov/nama/planyourvisit/cherry-blossom-history.htm, the cherry trees in Washington D.C. were first planted in 1912 in the basin area. The trees were originally a gift of friendship from Japan. The Japanese people consider the exalted cherry blossom to be a "potent symbol equated with evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformations Japanese culture has undergone through the ages." (National Cherry Blossom Page) The website has the whole history of the cherry trees. There is more to them than what I am publishing here. If you want more information visit their webpage. I believe my mother has seen the trees in bloom, as have a few more of my regular commenters. I am sure anyone who has seen them in full bloom will never forget the sight. Now Skeeter has a 'mini' Cherry Blossom view of her own and has allowed us to share it. Thanks!

in the garden....

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coldframes


I thought I would share my coldframe with you all. It is about to get LOTS of use. I built this coldframe about four years ago and use it primarily for hardening off seedlings. It works very well because the seedlings are sheltered from the high winds we get in the spring around here, and I can keep the rain off of the flats by closing the windows (when all windows are intact).



My sister in Maine would love a hotbed. A hotbed is basically the same as a coldframe but it has a source of heat, such as a heating cable run through the soil. I have also read that if you place a few inches of manure in the soil of a coldframe, the manure will decay and will also heat a coldframe. It has been my intent to try this method of hotbed gardening. But only for growing lettuce or other cool season crops, and here in Tennessee we probably don't need the added heat for them to grow well in a coldframe. Due to time constraints, I have not attempted growing anything in this coldframe in the soil, though it would surely work and I will try this year! Best intentions!

Coldframes like this are easy and inexpensive to build. I purchased the windows at a flea market or yard sale for a few bucks. Decided on the length I wanted my coldframe, keeping in mind the standard lengths pressure treated wood is sold in. I then measured the window width to ensure the length would work.

I used 2 x 10s for the back board and side boards, and a 2 x 8 for the front board. I wanted it slanted so as to maximize the sun's rays. My coldframe is oriented east, which works perfectly. It is a simple matter to shade the western sun when it gets too hot, as it often does in the spring around here. I assembled my box and cut the sides to accommodate the tilt; attached the windows with hinges and walah! Instant coldframe.

Over the years I have lost a few panes of glass as you can see. These two were taken out by an errant baseball and by an errant PVC part from the nearby PVC arbor. I have extra panes from some old windows so I just attach new glass with caulk and it is repaired. No big deal. The problem is cleaning up all the glass.

in the garden....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Gardens



It has been a while since I posted about gardens, so here is a new one at my place. You can see why my intro on this blog says I am working on expanding my gardens-seems I never learn. I should do them big to begin with!

The Post Exchange had a 50% off sale on this little plastic greenhouse. It was a great opportunity for me as I had been wanting a greenhouse for a very long time. Of course, finding the perfect spot for it and preparing the garden for it to reside in was the longer and more tedious problem than erecting the pop up greenhouse.

I had to keep it out of the way of Mr. Fix-it's drive patterns so the north side of the yard in "my" area seemed the perfect solution, since his garage is in the south part of the yard. Unfortunately, it would not fit in nicely without extending the garden to encircle it. Never one to hesitate making new garden areas, I set about creating this new garden.

Back where the round stepping stones and plantings are located, was where the original outline of this garden was. I brought the garden out by removing the sod and reconfiguring the edging stones to make a nice curve towards the front of the greenhouse.

I then took a really big jump by drastically increasing the other side of the garden to meet the greenhouse. I think I more than doubled the size of the initial garden in doing so. The third picture is of the other side of the greenhouse and I am very pleased with this space. Sometimes when I make new gardens I don't always have a good plan in mind because I don't want to disturb the established plantings. Since this garden is pretty much bare with only one big crabapple tree in it, I was able to reconfigure without worrying about important established plantings.

The third and last pictures show just how much of an area I had to expand to include the new greenhouse. All of the removed sod was used elsewhere in the lawn. Right now the garden is not much to look at as all of the plantings are sleeping for the winter. Suffice it to say I planted a 'Burgundy Flame' Japanese maple, three 'PeeGee' hydrangeas, three oakleaf hydrangeas, brown eyes, sedum, mums, a peony, hostas and a ton of bulbs in this new garden. It took me quite a few days to complete digging this new garden. Work I love doing, but am oh so tired and happy when it is done!

You may notice white flecks on the soil in the second picture. Our family has forever saved eggshells. We just throw them in a paper bag in the kitchen. When the bag gets full or I need them, I crush the eggshells then scatter them on my gardens. I am sure it helps the garden if only slightly. The real benefit is for the birds. The finches in particular LOVE the eggshells. I have read it helps to add calcium to their diet, especially welcomed during egg laying season.



The last picture is of the completed area. The huge black tub is a leftover tub from a fountain. The tub cracked last winter during the freeze cycles we experienced. My intent is to dig this tub into the ground after ensuring I have some serious drain holes in it. Once it is buried I will fill it up with elephant ears. I believe elephant ears really like moisture so I am hoping this option of having a tub holding some water will help the elephant ears to really establish in this area. It should help during droughts and will be easier to water than the entire garden.

in the garden....hoping my new garden gets established quickly.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Arbors


Arbors, trellises and pergolas are something I love in the garden. Not only do they add structure and heighth, but they give me something on which I can grow vines. They also can provide some privacy provided they are strategically located.



An arbor versus a trellis versus a pergola can be confusing. For my purposes I define an arbor as a freestanding arch or other structure on which you can grow vines, a trellis is a structure attached to something like a house or building or even an arbor, on which you can grow something, and a pergola is a freestanding or attached structure which you can not only grow vines on, but you can have a party under. As you can see, the words trellises, arbors and pergolas are sometimes interchangeable and leave ALOT to interpretation. This post is about about arbors and growing vines.



I usually use arbors as entranceways into gardens. They define a space within a fence and again, the all important consideration for me, they provide a spot for vines and other flowers to grow on. I do not have alot of sun in my garden so reaching for the sky helps bring the plants up to the sun and aids in that lighting issue.



Good vines I have used on arbors include: Carolina gessimine, clematis, black eyed susan vine, dropmore honeysuckle, silverlace vine, hyacinth bean, cypress vine, sweet autumn clematis, moonvine, and wisteria.


You can make arbors from: wood, metal, PVC pipe, brick, rebar, plastic, and just about any type of material which would hold up well outside. There are many commercially available arbors as well.

These are but a few types of arbors. The first picture is of a wood arbor in Lola's garden in Florida, the second picture is of a huge PVC arbor in my garden (I covered the PVC with chicken wire to enable two vines to grow up it), the third picture is of a metal arbor with four types of clematis growing on it, and the last arbor is a metal arbor which can be seen at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville, Tennessee. That is my Jimster standing under it.

There are many more types and these are but a few. In the interest of shortening my posts and saving a few more arbors for another time; I will finish up this post by saying I'm....

in the garden....enjoying vines and the structures they grow upon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Garden Club


The third week of the month is a very busy week for me. I call it my Garden week. I not only attend the monthly Perennial Plant Society meetings in Nashville, but also attend my garden club meetings.

I have been a member of the Beachaven Garden Club for 3.5 years. I think in all that time I have missed only two meetings. When I first retired from the military I desperately sought out other gardeners through groups. Starting with the Master Gardener Association. I have attended and completed the course (with honors), but this association was not an option for me in Tennessee. I next tried some garden clubs. I was told garden clubs are social clubs and not really what I was looking for. Next, Karen of The Garden Place on Woodlawn Road directed me to the Perennial Plant Society. Just what I wanted but it meant a trip to Nashville each month. Bummer. I still wanted a local club.

In the summer of 2004 Stacy Smith-Segovia did a feature article on the way I garden, specifically the French Intensive method of gardening. This article was my first public exposure with gardening here in Clarksville. Obviously, I have much more public exposure since I started this blog, but more on that next week. That first article opened alot of doors for me back then in the Clarksville community.

Sandra Watson, the President of the Beachaven Garden Club, saw that article and called me to ask me if I would like to visit her club. I missed the meeting I was supposed to visit. Shame on me! But, made the next one. The ladies asked me to join and here I am still a proud member, and now the President. (I think no one else would do it-lol) This garden club has made me feel so very welcomed in Clarksville and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not only do we socialize, because we are friends, but we also talk gardening, share plants and learn from one another. I often speak of my garden club friends on here; Sandra, Diann, Geri, Esther, and Nancy so far.

This week's meeting saw us treated to a really colorful and interesting program on a subject even I am not too terribly familiar with, Wildflowers. Charles and Vicki Moffitt (pictured) are a great team who pleased all present Thursday evening with the great pictures of the Applachian Mountain wildflowers. They have both personally hiked from Georgia to Maine, documenting the trip all along the way through some really wonderful pictures. Vicki especially loved Maine and had the opportunity to get down from the mountain to the coast where George Bush has a summer home. Anyone know what city that is in Maine? Besides my mother and sister who live in Maine. You can't answer.

Charles and Vicki are known on the trail as Papa Smurf and Flame. Can you guess why? We all had a great time enjoying the show and appreciate them traveling all the way from Springfield in the cold dreary rain last evening. Thanks! I believe they have a website under trail journals listed under their trail names, but I am not sure so I have not included a link. Sorry.

in the garden....

Lawns

videoOkay, I will start talking about lawns, specifically what works for me and my lawn. When Mr. Fix it and I moved here almost seven years ago there was no lawn. The house had been empty for more than four months between the months of May and August. No one thought to have anyone cut the lawn. What a nightmare. When we finally moved in the owner (or someone) was ready to spring for a lawncare man to come and cut the grass. The lawncare guy was so worried he might run into trees, debris and equipment buried under all the weeds that he did a long recon first. I thought it funny. But only as long as it took me to realize that jungle formerly known as a lawn would be my mess to clean up. Six and half years later I can honestly say it has come a long way.


We started with way more yard than we have now. Also, way more trees. Despite cutting down about 50 trees, we probably have that many still in the yard. Why do I mention trees? Well, with trees comes shade, grass does not like the shade. I like the shade though, so together the trees, us, and the grass have come to an uneasy peace which suits all. It works because I fortunately have the time to baby the grass.


Fescue does the best in shade over all other grasses. Though you can't tell that to the errant Bermuda grass which self seeds into my nice green fescue lawn. I hate Bermuda grass because it is so invasive. But, that being said, I do not begrudge anyone their warm season grasses such as Bermuda, Centipede, St. Augustine (more common further south than here), and Zoysia, they just aren't for me. Since I only grow fescue, what works for me will be tailored to my fescue lawn, but the same basic principles apply to warm season grasses with the exception of mowing height, winter color, and seeding. I will try to mention some differences as we go along.

Fescue is a type of grass that clumps rather than runs with stolons, which is what warm season grasses do. Warm season grasses are so much more forgiving and quicker to establish because they do run. Since fescue clumps, it tends to get thin during the year, not just in the summer when it is likely to go dormant due to drought. I have seeded my fescue every year for the past four years. The best time to overseed a fescue lawn is in late September, then you should plan to add fertilizer or amendments such as lime in late October or mid November. I have done it many different ways and experimented with the timing so believe me when I say this is the best way to overseed. Overseeding is really the only way to have a great looking and thick fescue lawn. I don't mind really. It is all a work of love because I do love my lawn, you might call me a desperate lawn wife as I spend an awful lot of time on it. So, first tip for fescue, overseed each year.

The next and very, very important tip is to soil test! I was always a gardener who thought that with good cultural practices I did not need a soil test simply because my soil would be good. Yeah right. When I had a soil test done two years ago it showed a ph for the front yard was something like 5.6, and the backyard was like 4.9. Very low and acidic. Lawn grasses like a ph somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0, with about a 6.5 being ideal. The soil report recommended that I add 100 pounds of lime per 1000 feet. My front yard alone is 4000 square feet of grass so that would translate into 400 pounds of lime just for it. QUITE a bit of lime in my little Buick and too much for me at one time. I instead opted for 50 pounds per 1000 square feet that year, and this year I applied the other 50 pounds. It takes a long time for the lime to change the ph and I wanted to see if adding lime would make that much of a difference. It actually did and this year I expect even sweeter things from my lawn. I had tried to use chemical fertilizers and weedkillers to get the lawn grass growing fast and that had been my mistake. Chemical fertilizers, when used over time, have a tendency to acidify a soil, so they are best used in moderation. Say, once per year in October for fescue, in April or May for warm season grasses. So, tip number two for a great lawn is to soil test and adjust for ph if necessary. Use chemical fertilizers sparingly.

Prior to overseeding I always aerate my lawn, front and back. Lawns are one of those gardens where cultivation is not really an option. But we walk and play and garden on our lawns which causes damage to the grass and compacts the soil. Compacted soil is not a good situation for any growing thing. The ideal mix of your soil should be 25% air, 25% water, and 50% soil. Compaction drives out the air so plant roots are not able to breath or move through the soil. Grass growth is stunted. Aeration, while not a perfect solution to compaction does helps the situation. Small core aerators are that can be attached to the back of a riding lawn mower are very reasonably priced and are a great help when striving for a nice lawn. I use mine about three times a year and ALWAYS before overseeding or adding amendments. Aerating in the winter works best as the wet cool soil is easier to aerate than when it is hard and dry as the soil usually is in the summer. I leave the plugs on the lawn to be washed down by the rain and weather. It is extremely muddy for a week or so, then you would never know I had aerated the lawn. The holes left by mechanical aeration help to hold seed or lime or fertilizer and to get the amendments closer to the root system of the existing grass. Also, aeration has saved me from losing all of my newly laid seed one year when we had an unexpected thunderstorm. I was sure all the seed washed away and was delighted when I saw it sprouting in the little holes left by aeration about a week later. Tip number three for a nice lawn, aerate regularly and always before overseeding or applying amendments.

Another very important part of lawn maintenance if you are starting from scratch or worse, like I did, is to get rid of the weeds. Easier said than done. I have spent countless hours all throughout the year with a fishtail weeder in hand, a wheelbarrow in tow, bent over pulling those dastardly weeds! This winter is the first winter I have not had to literally spend hours each week and I finally feel my hard work has paid off. The weeds I most have to dig are: dandelions (you really need to dig deep and dispose of the weed-don't compost it!), plantains (I love hostas but minature hosta like plants in the lawn are not what I had in mind), goose grass (the absolutely worse-see the two small pictures above), nutsedge (likes the shady moist areas in my lawn). I feel you need to remove the weeds prior to them going to seed to prevent the next season's crop, and removing weeds helps ensure you lawn grass can compete on an unlevel playing field. In the shade lawn grass needs all the help it can get. I also have problems with wild strawberries (very difficult to deal with because of the runners), and wild violets. I am still mad about those violets. I had no idea they would spread so doggoned much into the lawn when I purchased that innocent looking violet at-of ALL places-a master gardener sale here in Montgomery County. I still sting to think I bought such an invasive plant from this plant sale. I learned my lesson almost to the point of being fanatic about invasive plants like obedient plant and artemisia being sold by master gardeners. I usually don't say anything but I will definitely NOT buy any plants there. There are perhaps easier ways of getting rid of weeds, but I like to try to be organic and don't like pesticides, therefore I have not used chemical sprays or such to get rid of the weeds, instead preferring to hand dig them. This is not for everyone and if you use pesticides that is certainly your right, just be sure to read the label and follow instructions to the letter. So, fourth tip to a great lawn, remove weeds.

Another important chore for a great looking fescue lawn is to remove leaves in the fall. The warm season grasses are better equipped to deal with excess leaves since they run, but fescue will smother under leaves and debris and will not bounce back. Weeds will set in and you will be back at square one. Tip number five is to remove leaves from your lawn in the fall and compost.


The last tip is probably the most MOST important tip. It is also the easiest and simplest way to ensure you have a great looking lawn even if you don't follow the first four tips. Are you ready?! Mow your lawn properly and often. These two simple tasks are where most homeowners fail in their endeavors to have a good looking lawn. Even if they do all of the above it is all for naught if they don't mow properly. For fescue lawns it will mean mowing AT LEAST twice weekly from early March well into November. If you have a lawn person mowing your lawn, I understand it is VERY expensive to do so and you may not want to spring for an extra mowing, this would be the time to supplement the mowing with your own mowing. I can't stress this enough. In the past four years that I have been intensively gardening (since I retired from the Army), I have faithfully mowed my lawn at least twice a week with the exception of this past summer when my lawn finally turned completely brown and went dormant. In that case I only mowed about once a week. Fescue should never be mowed lower than 3 inches in the summer time. Additionally, you should never mow more than a third of the grass blade off at any one time. Therefore you need to mow the lawn when it has about an inch of new growth. This doesn't take long, especially if you fertilize and if we have plenty of rains. Even in the shade my lawn tends to grow quickly. For fescue, I do mow a little lower in March and April to encourage tillering. Once the weather starts getting hot though, the cutting heighth of the mower comes up. My lawn probably always seems like it needs to be cut but for fescue you truly want it long. The length helps to shade the grass roots and the soil. Sometimes weed seeds are not able to germinate because of the shade provided by long grass, additionally water is not lost as fast when the lawn is cut long. Now, for warm season grasses you can cut them much shorter but you still want to cut regularly and not let them get too long. Bermuda should probably be cut to a heighth of 1.5 inches or so. You can plan on cutting it when it reaches about 2 inches or so, keeping in mind that you do not want to cut off more than one third of the grass blade in any one cutting. When you cut your lawn frequently and properly, make sure you leave the grass blades on the lawn, they will quickly decompose and add much needed nitrogen to the soil. I recently heard or read somewhere that when you leave a season's worth of grass clippings on your lawn, it adds the equivalent of 1 pound of nitrogen to the soil! Now, if you don't cut properly and have gabs of grass, make sure you rake the grass clippings up for your compost so it does not smother the grass. This is not the proper way to mow and you will have many weeds and weak grass if you mow in this manner. The last and final tip of this very long post, is to cut your lawn frequently and in the correct manner prescribed for your type of grass.

If you follow these tips you will be sure to be the envy of the neighborhood (never a problem for me since most of my neighbors can't see my lawn-the way I like it!). Yes, lawn grasses take a lot of time, but it is worth it to have the beautifully maintained house with super curb appeal. Additionally, great lawns really set off the gardens. Believe it or not, in my yard even with all the gardens, the thing that takes the MOST amount of time and maintenance and money IS the lawn. That is one reason I try to take out lawn and put in gardens (hubby doesn''t agree-but then again, he does not maintain the yard-I do!). Lawn mowing, overseeding, fertilizing, raking, and weeding all take a tremendous amount of time and sometimes money, but lawns require it.

Enjoy the video. I thought it fitting since cows also like grass, not to look at, but to chew! They do a great job of fertilizing the pasture too and I really enjoy my neighbor's cows out back of my garden. I have included a couple of pictures of my lawn grass. The first picture was taken in August 07 and even without watering you can see the grass (fescue) is a lovely shade of green! I do think the shade may help, but proper mowing is the biggest, simplest, easiest thing I do for my lawn. The second picture was taken in 2004 and the lawn was not quite where I wanted it to be. It was well on its way though after having been infested with 6 foot tall pokeweed and who knows what else just three years before. Like I have said before, gardening takes time and anyone who thinks they can create an ideal garden overnight either has an awful lot of money (then the garden only looks good for a short time because you still have to maintain it!) or is a bit naive about the nature of gardening.

in the garden....enjoying the green, cool, soft grass underfoot.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Plant of the Month-February 08


Hellebores are my choice for Plant of the Month for February. I know I already posted a picture of them before, and I hate reusing the same picture-so these are new pictures! I can cheat a little can't I?

Hellebores just have to be the choice for plant of the month. Not because they are beautiful and bloom at a time little else is blooming, but because they bloom for about five months! Yes, it is true. I have had these two hellebores, aka Helleborus x hybridis, in my garden for about two years. Last year they were still blooming in May and I just couldn't believe it. I don't know of any other perennial in middle Tennessee with such a long period of bloom.

When I first heard of hellebores was when the Perennial Plant Association chose it as their 2005 Plant of the Year. I knew I had to have some. I purchased some Christmas roses from mail order and promptly planted them. They never grew. Christmas rose is Helleborus niger, and is not the same as Helleborus x hybridis, aka Lenten Rose.

According to the Perennial Plant Society's website found at: http://www.perennialplant.org/ppy/39068%20PPA.pdf, hellebores known as lenten roses used to be called Helleborus orientalis. Until researching them I still referred to them by their former name. Oops.

Also, according to the Perennial Plant Association's website, hellebores should be grown in humus rich soil. Grown in the north, hellebores can probably withstand full sun and are drought tolerant. In the south they do best grown in the shade of deciduous trees. I have mine growing on the north side of my home within ten feet of a cedar tree. They share the space with heucheras, daffodils, arum italicum, and hydrangeas. I did not have to water the hellebores last summer at all. Though, to be fair, they may have received some water when I watered the adjacent 'Limelight' hydrangea. I just love these plants. Another benefit of the hellebore is that it is evergreen and deer don't seem to want to eat them. You want to cut back the foliage prior to it growing its flowers in late January to early February.

Propagation can be done from seed, though hellebores do hybridize freely, so the off spring may not look like the parent plant. When I purchased my potted hellebores off from the shelf at Wal-Mart, I looked very hard to find some with seeds. The more the better. I am anxiously awaiting baby hellebores and hope my three clumps grow very big. You can divide established clumps, but recovery time is long and is generally not recommended. I have not tried it and we all know how I like to divide. I am waiting for the seedlings as it seems most folks increase their inventory in this way.

The first two pictures are of different clumps of what looks to be the same type of plant. The third picture is of a different hellebore. I am not sure of the cultivar though I may have a tag somewhere. I purchased it from Hosta Haven (http://www.hesenergy.net/scotrust/) in Hopkinsville last fall. (Expect a post on Hosta Haven, but for now check out their website if you have never heard of Hosta Haven) The foliage of this last hellebore is unique in that it is finer cut and holds up better to the winter weather. I hope the flowers surprise me pleasantly by being different from the other two as well.

in the garden....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Perennial Plant Society and New Friends


Last night my friend Geri and I were treated to a REALLY awesome speaker's program on gardening with deer. I posted a little about Carolyn Hoyne earlier when I let you all know about ths month's program, so now is the follow-up. Not only is she a good gardener, but artist and speaker! She made the program fun for all and I could tell the crowd was impressed. I know I was!

I know SO many of you are living with deer in your garden, as does Carolyn-but she actually loves the deer. I found that quite odd coming from a gardener and landscape designer who gives this same talk professionally.

Carolyn has training in landscaping, and instead of trying to shoo the deer, she tries to garden with them. She looked around the forest and realized there was greenery in the forest where the deer lived, so why wouldn't there be greenery in your garden where the deer only visit occasionally?

Carolyn was most gracious in letting me snap a photograph of her and her husband for use on here. I really appreciated it! Carolyn tells me she is not a computer person-her husband is the big computer person. He told me that even though he is on the computer all the time he has NEVER read a blog, doesn't visit them, not interested. He said they can be too addicting. Here is the good part, I think both him and Carolyn will have to visit here to see this post and he even admitted as much! Who knows, he might even become a daily reader?!

Here is a list of Carolyn's deer resistant plants:

Deer Resistant Perennials
Achilea, aconitum, alchemilla, allium, anemone, anthemis, arisaema, artemisia, asarum, aristolochia, asclepias, astilbe, baptisia, belamcanda, bergenia, calamintha, caltha palustris, caryopteris, centaurea, convallaria, delphinium, dianthus, dicentra, digitalis, echinacea, echinops, epimedium, eupatorium, euphorbia, ferns, galium, gaillardia, gaura, ornamental grasses, helleborus, herbs-fuzzy, scented or pungent, hesperis, iris, lamiastrum, lamium, liatris, lychnis, mertensia, monarda, nepeta, paeonia, perovskia, physostegia, polygonum (Persicaria), pulmonaria, rheum, salvia, solidago, stachys, tanecetum, teucrium, thymus, verbascum, vinca, yucca

Deer Resistant Annuals
Begonia, dusty miller, datura, lantana, portulaca, purslane, salvia, verbena

Deer Resistant Shrubs
Berberis (Barberry), Buxus (Boxus), Hypericum (St. John's Wort), Kolkwitzia (Beautybush), Picea (Spruce), Potentilla, Spirea, Viburnum

Carolyn's Homemade Deer Deterrent
5 eggs (out of shell), 6 oz (3/4 c) hot sauce, 1 tsp liquid soap, some water.

Whirl in blender. Put in gallon container. Fill up with water. Shake. Let sit 5 days or more. Spray on plants.

Lola, a faithful commenter and reader, also sent me a deer deterrent recipe:

Fishy Homemade Deer Deterrent

3 tbls kelp, 1 c fish emulsion, 3 tbls liquid hand soap, 3 gal water.

Mix kelp, fish emulsion and soap in sprayer. Fill the (3 gal) sprayer to fill line with water. This smelly mixture will have to be reapplied every 7-10 days to ornamentals.

Hope these tricks and tips help you readers who have a deer or even a bunny problem. I am blessed here that I have neither, as are the deer because I would not be so nice as Carolyn. Thanks for a really good program Carolyn and PPS!

Another really wonderful part of the evening was meeting Gail, of http://clayandlimestone.blogspot.com/. Geri and I were running a bit late as the location was changed from its usual location. Though not far, in the dark in Bell Meade for some out of towners was DIFFICULT for us! So was getting home-too busy looking at the beautiful skyline of Nashville-sorry Geri!

Anyhow, Gail found me right away and we had a good time talking. I wished we could've talked much longer. I have blogged about the garden blogs before, but I really don't much about them and the blog community since this blog is published through an FTP on the Leaf's website. The fact this blog is published through an FTP on a local community website makes this blog, by its very nature a bit different. People visiting here will generally hear of it by word of mouth or by visiting the Leaf's homepage for information about the Clarksville area. Visiting most other garden blogs will start with a search for 'garden blogs', then you will select the one you are interested in based on your location, style of gardening, type of soil or whatever suits you! Once you visit one blog, you will usually find commenters there that you may want to visit as well. This is an easy process. There are literally thousands of GARDEN blogs all over the world and we all have the capability to talk to one another. (Can you say addicting?!) Of course you can't visit every single one nor comment on every single one, but it sure is nice to get other perspectives and ideas. I read about half a dozen each day, including the Tennessee garden bloggers, one in Indiana and a few others located around the country. Gail is very knowledgeable (YES! Lots of knowledge and ideas!) and it was good to get feedback from her and get her perspective on blogs in PERSON! Before too long we Tennessee garden bloggers will be quite a clan with folks like Dave at:http://thehomegarden.blogspot.com/, Craig at: http://harvistry.blogspot.com/ and Frances at: http://www.fairegarden.blogspot.com/ and others.

Gail was a very good sport in letting me take her picture with my friend Geri. That is her to the right of Geri. Geri was an even bigger sport because she does not like her picture taken. You all have heard me talk about her many times before because we garden well together and have become really good friends throughout the past few years. You will hear about her again. I have also featured pictures of her garden on here-so not only are you seeing my garden, you are also seeing hers-and she doesn't even need a blog-seems a little unfair I am doing all the work! Now you have a face to go with the name. These two ladies are good gardeners and it was an awesome night for not only the program but for old friends and new friends too!

P.S. Geri DOES read this blog (though not each day-shame on you!), but I doubt she will ever comment as she is SO not a fan of computers. But I expect we will all get to know Gail and Dave even better as time goes on, because they comment frequently. Both Gail and I are looking forward to meeting Dave next month if the situation dictates.

in the garden....

Freecycle and Concrete

Here is yet another plug for Freecycle. I have posted about this organization before, but love it so much I want to be sure to get the word out. As of February 19th, there are 2373 members subscribing to this group's emails in the Clarksville area. That is quite a few folks. I have been a member for about one year, and love it! Let me explain.




Freecycle is a Yahoo Mail Group and the Clarksville Club web page can be found at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClarksvilleTNFreecycle/ There are groups all over the world. It's purpose and primary intent is to keep unwanted items out of the dump. On the converse side, if you have a need for something you think someone might have just laying around, like broken concrete, then you can post a "Wanted" ad and ask for it. All posting is done anonymously and is moderated by local Clarksville members.

I recently posted I wanted some broken concrete. You would not believe how MUCH ends up out here at Bi-County. I have even gone to Bi-County to ask if I could have it, but laws forbid such a thing from happening in the landfill industry.

Matthew, a really nice guy who lives off from HWY 41A responded. He was the same man who posted an offer for PVC pipe last fall. I was the recipient of a lot of PVC pipe to be used somehow in my garden. Already knowing Matthew made things easier for Mr. Fix-it and I to pick up some of the broken aggregate concrete he had in a huge pile by his house. Thanks Matthew and family!

The second picture shows all of the concrete laid out where it is to be dug into the ground. This particular area of my yard is sloped, and just happens to be Mr. Fix'it's 'driveway' to his garage, seen in the background. The concrete stabilizes the soil, helps reduce run off flow, and helped me to level this area out.

Broken concrete really does work well in the garden. I love my path around my deck leading to the side gate (last picture). This area is in full shade and doesn't grow grass well, but is now stable and decorative and I don't have to get muddy walking in the garden. I am hoping for the same effect on Mr. Fix-it's 'driveway' to his garage. I couldn't have done it without the generosity of Matthew and all the other freecyclers who have gifted my garden with their 'junk'. You know what they say, "One man's trash is another woman's treasure". Or something like that!


in the garden....

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Treehouses

Treehouses are a great garden feature. I don't even think you need to have children in the house to have a treehouse. You need only be a kid at heart! Here are two examples of treehouses. I will let the treehouse owners themselves talk about their treehouses. Thanks Dawn with Peaches and Skeeter!

Skeeter:

As children, my siblings and I would have loved a nice tree house like this one. We had to settle for the ones we made from scrap wood, cardboard, or whatever we could scavenge. We referred to the homemade scrap houses as Forts!

Some times when a neighbors child comes over to visit, they will go up into the house and play a bit....

Our cats came to us as strays from the woods and would seek shelter in the tree-house before we took them into the house. Cheetah rode out a horrible storm one day in the tree-house as I watched from the house through binoculars while crying because I could not help her. The storm was too brutal, then once we had a break in the storm, I ran to get her and she and Sheba has been inside this house with us ever since!

Dawn with Peaches:


I'd like to think the treehouse has become a conversation piece in our yard. It was a fresh idea both Jack and I weren't sure we could pull it off. It is made with leftover tree slab, and even though I was thoughtful enough to panel the interior walls, (afraid the bees would hive in the cracks of the slab) my kids were not happy with the spiders it housed.

We have done entertaining in the form of barbeques, mostly for the softball team our company sponsored. It was funny, one player, who was about 6 1/2 ft tall, skinny and ALWAYS pulled any contact with a softball-to the left, foul. He went out of his way to ask Zack to show him the 'clubhouse'. When they were both in the treehouse, seemed like seconds, we all hear a animated voice say "I need electricity and a TV and I'll be all set." Everyone laughed. This guy never gave up.

Another time is about winter storage, I'd put Zaks golf clubs and bag in the treehouse for storage. We had picked up a set from a boy scout yard sale. Apparently a persevering squirrel found the white sweat pad an appealing bed blanket. The squirrel had no problem getting the towel down from the treehouse, but going back up the tree was a different story. I watched the little guy wave the surrender flag for about a hour until he finally gave up! It was funny, as the towel was bigger than him.

This treehouse we built for our kids would have been a dream come true for me when I was young.

in the garden....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Where Have All the Leaves Gone?


We all know 2007 was NOT a good year for gardening. Fewer flowers, dead plants, fewer leaves to rake...What is so bad about fewer leaves to rake you ask? For me, it means fewer leaves in the garden as a mulch. I had to go somewhere else to get leaves and what a haul! Ten plus bags of beautiful maple, oak and bradford pear tree leaves-already in a great state of decomposition.

Since the leaves are already bagged and Mr. Fix-it brought them in his handy white truck, I feel like I have been shopping or just received a lovely gift. My friend Geri is short leaves so I may just have transport some of these bags of leaves over to the other side of the county to her home to make her feel like she just got a great gift too!

She primarily puts leaves in her compost bin, whereas I use mine as mulch over newspapers, then if I have any leftover I put them in the compost. Normally, with over 50 deciduous trees in my yard, you would think I have had more than enough leaves to spread around. This year I either used all the leaves very effectively, or there were less of them. I am thinking mainly there are much fewer leaves to go around.

When the big freeze came and took away all the new growth last April, it severely impacted all trees and especially deciduous trees. Once the initial set of leaves were frozen and died, the tree had to grow new leaves. These new leaves appeared to be much smaller than the first batch. The tree canopy was not as thick and there were probably fewer leaves. (though I didn't count them!)

Let's hope this spring is not a repeat of last spring. Contrary to popular opinion we really do NOT want an early spring. The late freeze in April of last year was not the problem, as late freezes are common and the average date of last frost in this area is around April 15th. No, the problem WAS an early spring. The weather warmed up rather quickly and stayed warm for about three weeks in March of last year. This led the trees into mistakenly thinking spring had sprung and out came the new growth and leaves. Weather like the warm March is not a usual occurrance. Late freezes are and we all know the consequences. So, I know I will not be a popular person, but let's not hope for an early and prolonged warm up prior to April of this year, then when that late freeze comes our trees will be not be harmed and we will have a full crop of leaves next fall-for more raking, mulching and composting!

in the garden....happily spreading some much needed bags of leaves-not sure if Geri is going to get any or not!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wisteria: The Hungry Chinese Vine

One of my good friends and faithful reader of this blog from the beginning (and commenter) purchased a home a little over one year ago. The home is absolutely beautiful and apparently the people who sold my friend the home, were gardeners. What a bonus for my friend. One of the plants the previous homeowners planted was Wisteria sinensis, aka Chinese Wisteria.


This vine is not a vine for the faint of heart. Do not plant it unless you are very fierce and ready to do battle not in the rink, but in the garden with an equally ferocious set of pruners. The pruners need to be very heavy and well made because you will use them weekly all throughout the growing season. So get ready because contrary to public opinion, kudzu is not the only vine that is eating the south. Just travel down to Florida and look at all of the beautiful flowers of wisteria twining through the trees everywhere there is a spot of dirt. Yes, it certainly is beautiful-in someone else's garden or along a roadside, but not in my garden.

My friend learned from her neighbor this particular vine was only two years old. Two years old and about 20 feet tall and maybe as wide. Obviously it liked the area it was planted in as it literally took over. The vine damaged the lovely arbor and trellis it was trained to grow upon. Boards were literally ripped off the trellis and who knows what else would have been ripped off had the vine been left to grow. But alas, its fate was sealed when my friend and her husband cut the neck of the beast AND used a chain and truck to pull the roots out, at least partially.

I agree, wisteria is stunning when it is bloom. It grows fast and quickly provides much needed shade when grown on an arbor such as in this situation, but I do not recommend planting this vine close to a house or on an arbor such as this. A better wisteria for this arbor would've been Wisteria frutescens, aka American Wisteria. This particular wisteria is native and is not as invasive as the Chinese wisteria. It will be more manageable for the homeowner. A good variety which was widely available last year, not sure about this year, is 'Amethyst Falls'.

If you simply must have a wisteria and the Chinese variety is the only one available here are some simple tips I use in my garden. Yes, I not only have a Chinese wisteria, I have TWO of them. Had I known better, I may have chosen the American variety over the Chinese variety (the only one available at the time). I say may because one of my tips helps me to control my wisteria and I am not sure American wisteria would've stood up to the tip. It probably would but we'll never know now since I have already planted the Chinese variety.

It is not a tip I would generally recommend because the old adage, "The right plant in the right place" is still the best advice you can adhere to as a gardener. But what if you are a plant collector and just have to have a wisteria-regardless of the type or consequences? Well, what I have done is plant my wisteria in a less than ideal location. My wisteria does not get full sun, thus it does not grow rampantly. This is not the right way to garden, but it is how I garden sometimes. Do not say Tina recommended buying a plant and planting it in a less than ideal situation because I will deny it forever. That is not what I am saying. But, if you must have a plant no matter what, think of innovative ways to control it and maximize its beauty and strengths in your garden. Not only are my Chinese wisteria growing in part shade, but they are growing on a very sturdy arbor away from anything the wisteria may try to climb and tear apart. And they actually haven't done much of anything so far, so how smart am I? Not very.

You see, if you really want wisteria, then pick an ideal location for it and plant it. The previous homeowners of my friend's house did not pick the right spot or the right plant for the spot even though the growing conditions were favorable. In this case they should have either:

a. planted the American variety on the their house, or

b. planted the Chinese variety far away from the house and trees, on a sturdy, sturdy arbor made from 6x6's and 2x4s, not 2x4s and 1x2s. That will never work.


I am not sure what my friend will plant to replace the wisteria, but perhaps the American variety 'Amethyst Falls' might be good? Or maybe a grape vine? One she can contol with judicial pruning. I think my pick for the arbor if I had such an arbor overhead, would be either a grape vine or a climbing rose, such as 'Zephirine Drouhin'. The Zephirine Drouhin is an extremely fragrant climbing rose which repeat blooms, and is nearly thornless. The pinkish red flowers would contrast nicely with the white of the arbor. Another excellent vine which would grow great on the arbor, is the clematis. Clematis would do well and not absolutely take over the arbor and definitely won't damage the arbor. There are many colors to choose from including: reds, purples, whites, pinks and a mixture of all of the colors.

So, the next time you want to plant a wisteria, or any vine, make sure you have the right situation for the plant and know what you are planting. There are alternatives to almost every single plant you could possibly want to grow.

in the garden....