The Impatient Gardener: May 2016

25 May 2016


Gardening is happening, people. That's the main reason for my absence so far this week. We've had amazing weather recently, but no mosquitos, so I've been gardening pretty much any time I'm not at work or sleeping and it's still light out. And I've been taking hardly any pictures. That's the problem when you really get in the zone: There is no time for picture taking or coming up with blog post ideas in your head.

The Lemony Lace elderberry was looking just perfect in the evening after a rain shower. I can't say enough about this great plant that has such amazing texture and color.
Despite all the time I've spent in the garden recently, it still looks pretty shabby. The weeds are flourishing and I'm trying not to add mulch this year (it's an expense I'd like to avoid if possible this year) so it's a constant fight right now. I did get the bed on the north side of the house divided in two with a mulch path and I'll show you that once I get it planted up a bit more. I'm happy with that change.

The 'Ann' magnolia I planted last year is blooming and looking lovely. I have 'Bluebird' clematis growing up it and frankly, it's a bit overwhelming for poor young 'Ann' so it will get a pretty aggressive pruning after it finishes flowering. It will be just fine with a bit of a chop although I'll sacrifice some flowers for next year. 
The annual garlic mustard weed nonsense continues. I've done pretty good staying on top of it this year, but white flowers (which means seeds) are starting to pop up on the perimeter of the property and I always feel bad about "sharing" that with my neighbors so I need to get out there and take care of that.

I've planted very few things so far because I'm waiting for the soil to warm up just a bit more before I start plunking annuals in the ground. Most are hardening off now and I hope to tackle some of that project over the long holiday weekend.

It's still too early to plant tomatoes here, but I did get some kale, celeriac and parsley in the ground (in addition to the things I direct sowed several weeks ago). I'm trying to have pretty veggie gardens this year, so I'm trying to space things more appropriately and maintain lines vs. my habit of plunking stuff in wherever in the past. And that's why I noticed something strange in one of the raised beds last night. There was a mound of soil that I know wasn't there the day before. When I went to investigate, I found feathers sticking out.

(WARNING: Pictures of parts of birds follow)

Hmmm, I don't remember planting that.


With hands fully gloved and tool in hand I started digging and I realized this thing was buried pretty deeply. It was big! I believe it was a chicken wing. The neighbors have (um ... had?) chickens so that makes some sense, but why in the world was it buried in my garden?

I did a little googling and apparently foxes are known to bury parts of their kill that they don't immediately consume to come back for later. There are at least a handful of foxes in our neighborhood (they are welcome residents because they keep a good handle on the rabbit and rodent population), so again, I'm guessing the culprit was a fox.

I didn't dig that hole.

I dispensed with the wing and smoothed my garden over last night. And then I came out this morning to find the celeriac a bit disturbed and a rather significant hole dug where the wing had been. Apparently whatever buried that wing did indeed come back looking for it. I so wish I had a trail camera to set up in the area. Now I wonder if he or she will be back again. I really hope this doesn't become a habit because gross, plus that's not going to be easy to grow veggies there.

That's the update from my garden. What's happening in yours? Isn't it fantastic to be consumed by gardening again?

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18 May 2016


Another mail order nursery review today but before we get to that, I wanted to share a couple photos of the serviceberry tree in bloom. the flowers are really only at peak for a day or two max so I take a photo of it every year. It's rather amazing to me that this tree was a gift from my mother-in-law the second year we had our house, which I think would make it 13 years ago.

The featured nursery today is Joy Creek Nursery, which was another place I'd not ordered from before. They are a small operation, which is the kind of place I prefer to order from when I'm looking for specialty plants like clematis. I've had great success with Silver Star Vinery in the past, but I got there too late this year and the plants I was interested in were sold out.

Joy Creek is apparently so small that they don't have a deal with the big shipping companies, so they charge you actual shipping plus a $4 handling and packing fee. They clearly stated this on their website and I emailed them ahead of time for an estimate for shipping which was close to right on. In the end, shipping was $33 plus the handling fee, so about the same as the cost of the plants.

The packing material on this one was newspapers and other recyclable material including a church bulletin. I love this kind of packing because it's such an insight into where your plants come from. It's a bit of a pain to recycle when it's all crumpled up but that is really picking a nit.

I ordered two clematis that came in gallon-sized pots and as I've come to learn about clematis, the most important thing is an abundance of telltale yellow roots coming out of the bottom of the pots, which these certainly had. In fact, when you get a small clematis, you are really supposed to put it in a container and grow it out there for a year or so until those roots come jumping out.

I was thrilled with the plants: 'Prince Charles' and 'Vinosa Violacea.' Both have been planted and are looking good.

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16 May 2016


The plant deliveries came fast and furious last week, which is somewhat funny since as recently as a month ago I hadn't anticipated ordering any mail order plants this year.

I discovered Arrowhead Alpines from a familiar source: Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden. I swear, reading that blog can get very expensive. I went there for one specific plant that I fell in love with: Hylomecon japonicum, a bright yellow member of the poppy family from Japan. (Read what Margaret says about it here, but hide your credit card first).

The thing with mail order plants is that it's always the shipping that kills you so this tends to lead to window shopping in order to make the shipping charges worth it. I also picked up a perennial sweet pea Lathyrus vernus and a Primula kisoana.

The box came in perfect shape with styrofoam peanuts as the packing material. I don't really love those because they seem to go everywhere, but they were used judiciously in this case.

Each plant was wrapped in paper as well.

The plants had shredded paper around the roots to keep the soil damp and protect the stems. It seems to have been a very effective packing method.

I also ordered 24 bare root Canadian gingers, which is a lovely little groundcover that I'm hoping to put everywhere I can in the woodland areas of the garden because even garlic mustard cannot foil it. These came in a damp but not wet peaty mix and area in great condition.

Everything came with a nice plant tag, which is so appreciated. I was very happy with this order and thrilled to have found a source for some really interesting plants that I'd never find locally.

Last week I shared my experience ordering from Digging Dog. My friend Linda inspired these posts with her series of mail order nursery reviews. You can read hers here:  Rare Find Nursery and Old House GardensPlants Delight Nursery, Odyssey Perennials and Far Reaches Farm.

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13 May 2016


Everything is running a little late this Friday, so here are some very late-in-the day Friday Finds for you.

How to create real alpine plant trough (without killing the plants).

Drawing in perspective was always difficult for me. M.C. Escher I am not. But I like this tutorial on how to draw your garden in perspective because it starts with a little cheat: Working off a photograph.

I'm starving right now, and I also happen to love dessert and love rhubarb so you KNOW that Heather's rhubarb upside down cake is going on the Friday Find list.

Speaking of food, I love pizza. That's why you'll never catch me eating this. Would you?

And if you missed it (because I posted it at literally 2 a.m.), catch the finished product of our bathroom remodel, sans countertop, which has not been sorted.

Busy weekend ahead here. I feel like I'm behind in the garden and for the first time I think I'd actually really like to hire someone to help me with the more unsavory tasks. I got a lot of good comments about this on the Facebook page, so weigh in over there or leave a comment letting me know how you'd feel about hiring someone to help you in the garden.

Have a great weekend!



Thanks for your patience on this. I got behind on all the last minute details and just couldn't finish this up in time to join the first wave of "big reveals" Thursday morning.

If you're wondering what all this is about, I joined the One Room Challenge, hosted semi-annually by Linda at Calling it Home and attempted to renovate our downstairs bathroom in just six weeks. It was the first room we planned to renovate when we bought the house and it turned out to be pretty much the last room we touched, mostly because it was just daunting.

And here's where it ended up.

To fully appreciate how far it has come, you have to remember what it looked like before. Highlights, or rather lowlights, include highly textured walls, pickled pink wood, a pink counter, weird shower insert, rope sink, shiny gold (not in a good way) hardware and, of course, a boob light.

By taking out the shower insert and tiling the shower up the ceiling and using a very low threshold shower pan, the room feels twice as big. 

Unfortunately the vanity top is not finished. If you recall, it was cut incorrectly and is too small for the vanity and the sink hole wasn't cut correctly. We've been waiting for another carrara marble remnant to become available but no luck so far.

The fabric for the roman blind was not what I intended to use originally but that didn't seem quite right. I ended up looking for something with a hand-printed look and in the middle of a mad internet search I found just that in Australia and just a few days later, freshly printed fabric from halfway around the world was on my doorstep. Like I do about once a year, I pulled out the sewing machine, tried to remember how to work it and sewed that baby up, saving somewhere in the neighborhood of $130, which was the going price I found to have someone make a custom roman blind. I was fairly impressed with myself, particularly given that I literally sewed THROUGH my finger when I took a machine sewing class in summer school in 7th grade.

To find out more specifics about how this project all went, check out previous weeks here:

(Some affiliate links may be used)

Floor tile: Fluid marmara marble 6x18 honed

Wall tile: Daltile Rittenhouse Square 3x6 in Kohler White (K101)
Wall accent tile: Bardiglio marble piano tile (discontinued but this is similar)
Shower base: Kohler Ballast
Trim and ceiling paint: BM White Heron
Wall paint: BM Pebble Beach
Vanity: My design, semi-DIY constructed
Vanity paint: BM Hale Navy
Vanity light: Fiona Big Sconce custom painted
Spray paint : Montana Gold in navy (for vanity sconce)
Roman shade: DIY with this fabric

Please take a moment to check out all of the other guest participants in the One Room Challenge as well as the featured bloggers.

Thanks for following along!

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12 May 2016


If you've been following the renovation of our downstairs bathroom through the One Room Challenge, you probably came here today expecting to see the final product. And I'm here to tell you that you just have to sit tight.

I've never been a great "finisher" and that really came out in this project as I was frantically finishing the roman blind I made last night and trying to put on the drawer pulls, and managing to drill a hole through my beautiful drawer IN THE WRONG PLACE!

So that's when I realized that rather than rush this, I better do it right and not mess up anything else. I hope to get the final post up late tonight or tomorrow at the latest.

In the meantime, here's a sneak peek. Please check back later. Thanks!

10 May 2016


My friend Linda over at Each Little World has been doing an excellent series on mail order plant purchases this spring and it inspired me to do the same.

My first mail order plants arrived last week Friday from Digging Dog nursery. I don't think I've ordered from them in the past, but they have excellent reviews on Garden Watchdog, which I routinely consult before buying from a nursery for the first time.

When I opened the box and saw that the plants were packed in shredded paper I immediately do what I do with all such boxes: took the whole enchilada over to the compost pile. I just open these boxes on top of the pile so the shredded paper goes immediately into its final resting place.

All of the plants were nicely nestled in the paper, plastic bags around the pots to help keep them moist. My invoice and the planting information was right on top of the box so no digging was needed. Each bag of plants (not necessarily each plant) had a great plastic printed label, which I really appreciate so I don't have to make a plant label right away.

Before I go on, I should add that I had placed my order online but one of the items I wanted wasn't going to be available for another month so I opted to cancel it. Then I ended up added a clematis and the very nice folks there called me to confirm they had gotten the addition and all was well. A-plus for customer service on that one.

I'll admit that the size of the plants was somewhat underwhelming, but I think it's fairly typical for what you can expect from mail order nursery. All are extremely healthy with oodles of roots in those little pots. So many roots, in fact, that I need to get them in the ground or potted into something bigger ASAP.

If there's any disappointment, it's with Clematis viticella 'Alba Luxurians' ($17.50). It's really tiny and I'm not loving that because there are clematis nurseries that send huge plants these days. On the other hand, Digging Dog clearly explains their sizing on their website so it's not like I didn't know it was going to be a little smaller than other clematises that I've ordered and they were one of the few nurseries that actually had it in stock.

I also ordered Hakonechloa macra 'Nicolas' ($8.50 each) and Sanguisorba officinalis 'Red Thunder' ($7.75 each). My main frustration is that when I ordered that Hakonechloa I'm positive I had a specific place in mind for it and now I can't remember where that was.

Check out Linda's mail order reviews of Plant Delights Nursery, Odyssey Perennials and Far Reaches Farm. I'm enjoying this series so much that I can't wait to see what Linda gets next!

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09 May 2016


We spent part of the weekend in Chicago for a function we were attending Saturday night. I can't seem to sleep well in hotels, no matter how comfortable they may be, so when I woke up at 6 a.m. I figured I would get some coffee, get ready and head over to nearby Millennium Park to check out the gardens. I consider Millennium Park to be up there with the best public works projects in history, on par with Central Park, and I visit it every time I get to Chicago.

I swung over to the Lurie Garden first, as I've not ever seen it at this time of year. I was shocked by how far ahead all the plants are from what we're seeing by us, even though we are only about 90 miles north of Chicago. As you probably know, famed dutch designer Piet Oudolf designed the Lurie Garden in his typical natural, almost meadowlike style. If you ever needed to learn the lesson of the value of planting en masse, the Lurie Garden is the place to do it.

Baptisia is such a good plant. It looks great even shooting out of the ground.
Prairie Smoke is a native geum that I really can't believe I don't have in my garden.
I had to look this plant up. It's actually a bulb called Quamash 'Blue Danube.'
If anyone recognizes this plant, let me know. Lower growing mounding habit with leaves similar in size to Lady's Mantle. 
After a swing through the Lurie, I went over to Maggie Daley park, where the trees were in full bloom and looking so beautiful.

The beds in Maggie Daley were chock-a-block with this lovely dimuniative butter yellow daffodil planted in huge swaths. Entirely charming.

As I walked back to the hotel I took in all the fabulous plantings on the street. Huge planters overflowing with brightly colored tulips made me swoon enough to want to try to plant tulips again, deer be damned.

We got home early enough on Sunday for me to spend a good amount of time in the garden. Although there are no pictures to prove it, I got all the beds on the east side of the house weeded (again) and edged and as anyone who has read this blog long enough knows, nothing makes me happier than a sharply edged garden bed. Lots of work to be done elsewhere but at least some of the garden is looking decent.

How was your weekend in the garden?


05 May 2016


When I thought about joining the One Room Challenge I thought six weeks was a tight timeline, but not so bad. Yet here we are in Week 5 and I think it's safe to say five weeks have never flown by so quickly. Catch up on Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4 if you missed any of the scintillating action.

I get obsessed with details when it comes to renovation projects. For me, the devil really is in the details. They are the little things that make me really love a room. So I thought I'd share a few of the details going into our bathroom renovation today. Links to sources are at the bottom. Some of them may be affiliate links; thanks for your support!

I knew I wanted the light over the mirror to match somewhat closely the navy of the vanity (Benjamin Moore Hale Navy). It was available in blue or black and I figured I'd give the blue a try, because I'd have to paint the black one for sure. As you can see below, it came a beautiful blue, but not one that would work with the Hale Navy (kindly ignore my painting sweatshirt), so I spray painted it with my new favorite spray paint (available in so many great colors): Montana Gold in the navy color.

For the ceiling light I opted for another mother of pearl fixture. With mother of pearl lights in the hallway outside the bathroom, the nearby office and the mother of pearl backsplash in the kitchen, I figured I might as well extend what seems to have become a theme.

When we did the big renovation several years ago we started switching all the doorknobs in the house to glass. Some of them are knobs I salvaged from my grandmother's house, which was built around the same time as ours and was torn down several years ago (it was on the verge of falling over a bluff into the lake). I was able to find new versions in the same style as the original knobs, so they are mixed throughout the house. This is a modern day one, but I do love them.

I got a little splurge happy when I bought lucent and chrome accessories for the bathroom to complement the glass doorknobs. I got a robe hook, towel bar and toilet paper holder all for a price I regret, especially since I've since learned you can find them elsewhere for much less.

We had the electrician move the outlet down to tuck around the corner of the vanity, and it was money well spent.

Mr. Much More Patient picked out the faucet and requested the heated floor. Who am I to argue with two small requests?

 Instead of a big handle, we had a fixed knob put on the shower door to avoid encroaching on the small amount of room. It works great and I like the clean look.

The shower fixtures are pretty simple. I love the cross handles so whether they go with anything else or not, I got them.

And lastly, how good is that shower seat? It's either a very small seat or a little bit larger shaving ledge, but either way, I love how the floor tile looks on it and I think it does a great job tying it all in together.

The big reveal is next week, ready or not!

Vanity light
Spray paint
Ceiling light
Glass doorknobs
Lucite bathroom accessories
Shower valve trims

Don't forget to check out the progress at all of the guest participants in the One Room Challenge and the featured bloggers as well. 

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