The Impatient Gardener: June 2017

30 June 2017


How did it get to be the middle of summer? Ugh ... it's going too fast and needs to slow down!

The good part about this time of the year is that the major work in the garden is starting to wind down. That's actually sort of funny because of course I would prefer that to have been wrapped up weeks ago, but that's how it goes. 

Two tons of gravel were dumped in our driveway yesterday and the good part about that pile being smack dab in the middle of everything is that it forces me to get to it ASAP. That will be going in the paths of the circle garden and filling in a few holes in the path to the garage.

The first bloom on 'The Alnwick Rose' is just starting to open! I can't wait.

There are small surprises in the garden as well. The first Labyrinth dahlia is starting to open and, even better, the first David Austin rose is starting to bloom! I'm so excited to see the flowers and I just cross my fingers that they'll be amazing and fragrant.

So that's the garden update. Several of you have asked for a video garden tour so if the weather is cooperative I may do a quick one on Facebook Live tonight. I'll post a bit of warning on the Facebook page if that happens. 

Anyway ... here's the rest of what I'm digging from the internet this week. Just FYI, some of the links that follow are affiliate links; thanks for helping support this blog!

I love both of Linda's picks for new favorite plants in her garden. Can you even believe the colors in that Alstromeria?

I was thrilled to be a guest on the Root Simple podcast recently. Give it a listen here and check out the Root Simple blog (not to mention their great books). 

You know I love a good roundup, and especially this time of year I'm a rattan fan, so this was right up my alley.

You know how I love my Bahco hand pruners? Well, I've been cheating on them with this red hot number for a few weeks now. I've been waiting for the newness to wear off (I mean, new pruners are always so sharp and shiny that they always seem better) to do a proper review for you, but so far it's looking like the Bahcos are going to permanently end up in the "backup pruners" slot.

Cute garden markers? OK, maybe, but garden markers (which I'm about three years behind in updating in my garden) are more about function to me. I like the galvanized ones with a printed weatherproof tapes.

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29 June 2017


When I hear about structure in the garden, my mind immediately goes to what I consider the backbone of a garden design: trees, large shrubs and structures. These typically create the framework around which the rest of the garden falls into place.

But a relatively new-to-me plant has me rethinking the idea of where structure comes from in a garden. I don't know its name (and if you do, please enlighten me because I've been looking), but it's some kind of perennial allium. I received it as a small plant from a woman whose garden I visited a few years ago (she has a small annual plant sale) and I didn't notice it having particularly noticeable bulbs, although as an allium I'm sure it has some kind of bulb lurking under the soil. 

Here's what it looked like the first time I spotted it in her garden. 

There are a lot of plants in that photo but I don't even need to tell you which one I'm talking about because your eye is immediately drawn to it. 

Mine is obviously much smaller and is just starting to flower (bees seem to love, by the way). 

I'd say it's about 30 inches tall and it's thick, hollow blue stems are unlike anything else in my garden. What caught my attention the other day is that the stems have arranged themselves in a very artistic crossing pattern that is quite pleasing to my eye. 

But the architectural form of this plant makes it more than a focal point; it provides structure. I love loose, natural and even wild perennials that have a tendency to flop (but not too much, please) and go their own way, but without structure, they can look messy and out of control. Add in a structural element, like this strong-formed allium, and it all starts making sense.

In my garden, above, it's near the 'Orangeola' maple, which in itself provides structure, but to me, it's the allium that makes the structural statement. (And the bare spots you see are where the rabbits have done their worst.)

And I think you'll see it does the same elsewhere. You can barely see it in the photo below but I think this garden would be much less successful if it weren't there.

It's not the typical kind of plant one associates with structure, but there's no doubt that's what it provides. Sometimes you never know what a plant can do for your garden until it's there.

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27 June 2017


It's been a while since I updated you on the progress of the circle garden, but it's really coming along.

The brief history of this garden, which sits right by the front door, is that it was a weedy patch of dirt with a few perennials in it when we bought the house. I resurrected it as an oval garden divided into three segments, separated by curvy paths. It was a design that didn't work—I see that now—but for a brief time it wasn't terrible. Until it was. It needed a complete revamp and last fall I ripped it up and started from scratch.

I've gone more formal with the design, although it has a bit of an odd twist to it. There are four outer quadrants and a center circle, each delineated with a chive "hedge", and each outer quandrant is divided into three sections with a boxwood in the center.

Each segment is mass planted with one plant. In the segment closest, there is rhubarb on the right, roses on the left and petunias in the front. On the opposite side, which is shadier, are Bobo hydrangeas, Hakonechloa 'All Gold' and Impatiens.

The center is simply planted with alyssum, Thai basil and new clematis, which are just starting to climb.

'HS Flame' dahlia provides great dark foliage, bright blooms and stays low enough that I shouldn't have to stake it.

I chose the plants with an aim to get lots of color spread throughout the garden, a ton of texture and a foliage element in each area. There is a combination of shrubs, perennials and annuals, so some plants will take a few years to really come into their own.

It's still early days for everything and I hope the annuals will fill in their areas appropriately, although I did have to go back and plant some purple sweet potato vine between the Impatiens as that area was definitely looking too sparse.

Even as new plants, the Bobo hydrangeas are absolutely covered in flowers.

New gravel will be added soon.

Egyptian walking onions are sort of an oddity, but for now they offer great texture in the garden.

The final step in this project is to fill in the paths with a decorative gray gravel. Right now the paths are just a limestone road base that I laid down in fall. I didn't want to put the gravel in until I was finished planting as the longer I can keep soil out of the gravel, the longer I'll be weed free there.

I made a video about the process. Check it out here.

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23 June 2017


The rabbit struggles continue here. I have borrowed a few traps but the little buggers aren't big enough to set them off. They are absolutely decimating any annuals I've planted in the ground and it is getting so frustrating! Deer repellent seems to have no effect on them. If you have some proven ways to manage them, I'm all ears.

I had to take a break from gardening last weekend to give Odin a bath. This is a full half-day activity but the pay off is a clean, fluffy, good smelling dog. It's not often that I get a clean dog and a decent looking garden at the same time! By the way, those white alliums that you see in the foreground ('Mount Everest') are real winners. Going to have to add more of those.

I also got very late in planting in the vegetable garden, just planting many seeds in the last week. But I figure better late than never. I'll just have these crops later in the season.

Matt is clearly more on the ball than I am this year and his sweet pea pictures are to die for. My sweet peas are currently 8 inches tall.

I might do that cake thing, but this? Gimme a break. 

I look forward to each and every post from Deborah Silver this time of year, when her amazing container creations spill forth. Don't miss her latest post

Lastly, in case you missed my latest video, here it is. I was supposed to be in it, but as you'll see at the end, I had a bit of a miscalculation in trying to shoot it myself. Whoops.

Will you be spending time in the garden this weekend or are you into "relax" mode? Either way, I hope you have a great weekend and avoid some of the crazy weather that is popping up all over the country.

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22 June 2017


It's an amazing time in the garden. Plants seem to be growing with reckless abandon and we are at that stage when things look lush but not overgrown. Every day something new is flowering, but plants still aren't battered by hot sun or too much slug damage, although with the amount of rain we've had it won't be long before they are as big as toads.

The circle garden is all planted and is really starting to come together.

Thanks to many, many hours in the garden last weekend, much of it is looking pretty good, but there are a few areas still waiting for their primary clean out and I hope to get to that later in the weekend.

It's nice though, because this is a lovely little sweet spot in early summer.

How's your garden this week?

I never noticed how blue this part of the garden was untilI took these pictures. I like it.

The Blue Kazoo Spireas are blooming and the blossoms are some of my favorite flowers. They are  delicate,  almost lacelike, and then they get sort of fuzzy looking as they open more.

The climbing hydrangea is just starting to bloom. It's looking great this year, certainly in part because of the mass amounts of rain we've had.

Already the planters are growing in nicely.

Oso Easy Parika rose is in full bloom and is one of those plants that calls you from across the garden.

The skinny patio bed is starting to fill in nicely.

My first herbaceous peonies bloomed this week. I know the whole world had peonies weeks ago, but here they are just starting.

Tuff stuff hydrangea is just blooming its head off. I'm so impressed with this plant.
This isn't at my house, but I had to share this picture of my mom's amazing fringe tree.

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20 June 2017


Hi friends! I just wanted to let you know that Troy-Bilt provided me with the tools I'm showing you in this post and compensated me for my time. Of course all opinions are my own.

You've seen these tips for quick cleanups of your house, right? Like the 5-minute thing where you know company is coming over so you quickly dump everything in a laundry basket to pick up?*

There is a gardening equivalent of this: The one thing you can do to make your garden look a million times better even if you don't have time to do anything else. What is this magic gardening trick, you ask? Edging.

I'm a fan of natural edges cut into grass to define beds because they are the easiest to keep looking neat and tidy and they keep the focus on what's in the garden, not what's surrounding it. (Seriously, don't even think about doing a rock edge without understanding the weeding frustration that comes with them.)

But they do need to be created and maintained. I've done this in many ways, with various levels of mechanical assistance. Most of my beds were originally defined with a flat headed spade and a lot of leg power. You can also use a half-moon edger for this. This works, but it's tiring. Then a few years ago I got an electric edger, which helped cut the edge. It was better than using a spade, but not particularly effective. But now I've found what I believe will be the last edging tool I ever need: a gas-powered edger.

This is a huge time saver, easily cutting hours off the manual method and at least half the time or more off the electric edger method.

So here are three steps to making your garden look better, fast, without doing anything else.


Edge your garden beds

To properly clean up a garden edge that already exists, you're going to need to cut a little bit of grass away. Don't worry, though, because odd are that your grass grew into your beds by that much in the last year. You can cut away as little sod as you like, so long as you are making a fresh cut or skirting just inside the existing edge. I find it hard to be precise enough to run the edge, so I think it's actually easier to cut a fresh edge.

I used the Troy-Bilt TB554 Gas Lawn Edger for this. I like it because it's compact enough to easily store in the garage or throw in the car (when your family finds out you have an edger you are invited over to "show them how it works" a lot), but there's enough weight to cut into the sod without hopping around, which is what the lightweight electric edger does. There are five blade adjustments and the directions tell you to step down gradually through the blade depths, but my soil is soft enough that I can go for full depth from the get-go.

Gas powered edger

It also has two other features that are very nice but I find myself not using in this circumstance. The first is the ability to bevel the edge in either direction, which gives a really nice look. The second is great for more typical homes in cities. The back wheel drops down, allowing the machine to stay above a street curb so you can edge right along it. If you think freshly edge gardens look great, you have no idea how much a crisp lawn edge along a sidewalk, driveway or curb can raise the bar.

Depending on how hard the soil is, you may have to work the machine back and forth a bit, but again, it just cut through my sod with no problem with me walking at a slow pace. The slow pace was fine for me because I like to be careful with the direction I'm heading when edging beds.

The blade is only on one side, so the direction you have to edge in is dictated by that. It's not a big deal, but if you're trying to line up with another garden at the end, you may want to paint a line with spray paint to make sure you have something to follow.

The edger definitely works better when the soil is a little dryer. That's not something we've had here for a long time as it seems to rain every day lately (when did Wisconsin get transported to Seattle?), but it will work on moist soil so long as it's not sodden. Don't even try to edge in that mess.


Don't throw the spade away when you get a gas-powered edger! You still need it. After the edge is cut, go through with a spade and just pop the cut edge off. You could also do this with a trowel or soil knife on your knees, but why kneel when you can do this standing up with a spade?

I like to knock whatever soil I can off the edge before I collect it for composting. Because I was reshaping this bed slightly, I cut a wider edge in some places, so there was a little more sod to remove.


With the edge cut and the sod bits removed, all that's left is a little cleanup. Some soil is bound to end up in the grass and some grass clippings will end up in the trench you've created. The easiest way to deal with this is a blower. I'm starting to amass a bit of a collection of blowers, but there are at least two I can't live without and I think they compliment each other well.

For quick clean up, I love my battery operated Troy-Bilt TB4300 Handheld Blower. Press a button and it turns on. This is what I reach to when I'm done working in the yard for the day and I just need to do a quick run around on the patio and deck.

But bigger jobs require something else. There is a battery life issue to be concerned about with the handheld blower (about an hour with the "eco" mode and less with it on full-blast) and it can also get a little heavy when you use it that long. That's the same issue you'll have with a traditional gas-powered mower. That's where a backpack blower comes in handy. All the weight is carried on your back (and it's amazing how light it feels back there compared to waving your wrist all over the place), and the blower arm is very robot/jet-pack inspired. Basically it feels like you have a giant joystick in your hand. We have the Troy-Bilt TB4BP EC Backpack Gas Leaf Blower and I love it for bigger jobs. Mr. Much More Patient, who is a bit more than a foot taller than I am tells me he wishes it had a longer blower tube because he feels like it's too short for find-tuning blowing direction when he's using it.

After edging, I just blow all the bits back into place or out of the way. If you're edging along a sidewalk this will be even more important because some dirt is going to spray around during the edging process and you'll want to clean that up.

And that's it. Check out the difference in the before and after. I did nothing else other than edge. In some areas a chunk of weeds popped up when I went through with the spade, but as you can see there are plenty more weeds in there. If I had time, I could go through and pull or hoe out those weeds and then mulch the beds and this would be amazing looking. Note: Don't fill the entire trench with mulch. You'll lose that crisp edge and just create a place for grass and weeds to creep in.

I get away with edging all my beds once a year and then neatening them up with a long-handled shears a couple times. Edging again fall would be even better, but sometimes you just don't have time for that. Just like sometimes you don't have time to weed the garden and deadhead flowers before your garden party. Edge it ... they'll never notice.

*Note about the laundry basket thing: I did this once and literally a year later I found a laundry basket shoved in the basement full of things I had been looking for since they went in that basket, so I don't actually recommend this.

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15 June 2017


As promised, last weekend I banged out all the container planting (save for three small containers on the front steps that I usually plant with whatever I have leftover). 

I like to show the starting point for my containers because they are all a little sparse. I think people who are new to creating container designs are disappointed if they don't look full and lush right from the get-go because that's what they see. But the average gardener doesn't have access to huge annuals. Plants are smaller and may not even have a flower on them yet. I always have to squint a little to imagine what it's going look like in a few weeks.

But that's the joy of annual containers: They start looking great quickly. In fact the challenge with containers is often keeping them from looking junglelike midway through the season (as evidenced by some of my containers in years past). 

Here's how everything turned out. I didn't include the window box in this post as I feel that deserves its own post. I also made a video of how they all came together that you can watch here or at the bottom of the post.


I put less in these containers than in the past and I think that's for the best. Frankly I think I was cramming too much in there and everything was a little hampered in its growth. Everything I've been told about the Cuphea suggests that hummingbirds go nuts for that plant so I thought I'd try to encourage them to come in close. So far no sightings, but it's pretty small still.

Mandevilla Lemon Coral sedum Superbena Dark Blue Cuphea Vermillionaire


This is a close copy of what I did here last year, but I liked it so much I didn't want to change it too much. I did have to replace the clematis as the others didn't make it through the winter. If I lose these again I will rethink using clematis as the climbers in this pot because obviously replacing them every year is not a great option.

Dichondra Silver Falls Infinity White impatiens • Plectranthus Silver Shield


These pots are new this year. You may recall the pots were cheap finds at the Restoration Outlet that I stained over the winter. I'm really happy to report that the stain is holding up great and I'm loving having these. For a long time I've felt that we were missing something near the entrance of the house.

I wanted to keep these simple. Between the circle garden, the annual planting along the house, the window box and everything else going on over there, it's a riot of  color and I thought something a little simpler might be nice.

The centerpiece is a white rose that I planted bare root several weeks ago. It won't get big this year, but I hope we get to see a few blooms at least. In the meantime, the "skirt" of gray and blue around it will be the star this year.

• 'Windermere' rose Licorice plant Lobelia Laguna Compact Blue with Eye


I must be on a gray kick this year because there is a lot of gray foliage showing up in my containers. I loved the 'Elegant Feather' I used in a few containers last year, but I also love cardoons. They get huge (even though they are tiny when planted), so they'll fill up most of this container, but I added in a few Superbells to make a "skirt" and I threw in some Verbena bonareinsis seedlings as well. They are tiny and I don't know how they'll fair but there's no harm in trying. If they grow, they'll get tall and provide some much-needed height there.

• Cardoon • Superbells Blue Moon Punch
• Verbena bonareinsis


The container by the front door (which we made, by the way) got a similar treatment. It's always a big of a leap of faith putting such a small plant as the cardoon in as the centerpiece, but I've had great luck with them before. In fact I worry it may cover the Gaura, but I'll just play it by ear if that happens.

• Cardoon • Dichondra Silver Falls Supertunia Bordeaux Gaura Karalee Petite Pink Ipomoea Sweet Caroline Bewitched After Dark • Verbena seedlings

Here's how they all came together.

You can be sure I'll keep you updated on how everything is looking as the season progresses. In the meantime, how are your container plantings looking?

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14 June 2017


Sometimes you think you've seen it all in your garden. This is our 15th summer in our house so I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on the comings and goings in our yard. But this year I've been presented with an issue I've not faced before.

Rabbits. Many, many rabbits. Last night I identified them in five sizes: X-small (teeny, tiny, just barely hopping cuties) through X-large (rather worse for the wear moms, or so I'm thinking). I did this within five minutes, because that's how much time passed before I saw all sizes and more than 10 of them. This, folks, is a problem.

The X-Large, Large and Medium sizes of rabbits currently residing in my yard enjoying an evening nibble near the bird feeder. 

While we've had the occasional rabbit, especially several years ago when I'd find the occasional nest, it has been at least five years since I've seen a single rabbit in our yard. We've had a very healthy fox population in our neighborhood, not to mention hawks, owls, coyotes and more, that I assume took care of the issue.

Mr. Much More Patient saw a fox the other morning but that's the first sighting of the year and the neighbor reported they found a dead fox on their property last week. This not good.

Whatever the reason, the rabbits are a concern. I've been able to minimize the damage by being vigilant with deer/rabbit spray, but I know this is a system that is bound to fail. At some point they'll either stop caring about the spray or I'll forget to reapply to new growth or wait too long after a heavy rain to spray again.

The enormous hairy dog who sheds liberally around the yard, pees even more liberally and chases and barks at a lot of critters seems to have zero effect on the rabbit population. I've not been able to find where they are nesting or hiding, but every time I turn around another one seems to be hiding under a hosta. Last night three micro-bunnies shot out from under a 'June' hosta at a blistering pace but I lost them when they hid under a globe spruce.

So as much as I hate these critters, and as much as I wish some predator would come along and solve my problem for me, I can't personally hurt them. I realize that is a little ridiculous and comes down to semantics, but I can't personally harm them. So does anyone have any suggestions for me on how to get rid of this rabbit issue without a fence, BB gun or a rent-a-fox?

I'm all ears.

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12 June 2017


Hey friends! This post is sponsored by Troy-Bilt, who sent me a mower to review and paid me for my time. But you know all opinions are my own. As are all the weeds in my lawn. 

I've come to accept that I'll never have the perfect lawn. There will always be weeds in it and it will never feel like a pillow under my bare feet. Because we choose not to use synthetic herbicides and fertilizers, maintaining a pristine yard is more challenging.

But that doesn't mean we don't like a nice looking lawn. We overseed when necessary, fertilize at appropriate times with an organic fertilizer, repair bare spots, hand pull bad weeds where we can (dandelions are at the top of the hit list), make sure to keep the mower blade high enough that we're not scalping the lawn, water on rare occasion if absolutely necessary, mulch clippings onto the lawn and trim edges to make everything look neat.

I want a good looking lawn when I look at it from the patio. Get in close and you'll see lots of clover, a bit of moss in some spots and various other less-than-perfect areas. From the long-view though, it looks pretty good, especially after it has recently been cut.

I have huge respect for people who love their lawns. I'm an admirer of gardens and gardening and to me, lawns are part of that. But for my life, I need a good looking lawn that is maybe a bit (or a lot) shy of perfect. And I need it to look that way without a lot of effort.

I accomplish this level of looks-good-from-the-patio through a bit of work in the spring. This is when the holes are patched, thatch is raked up, big weeds are pulled and, a week or so before Memorial Day, the lawn is fertilized with Milorganite. I also do a very simple form of relieving compaction in frequently traveled areas by sticking my garden fork in and rocking it back and forth (over and over again). Then I spread a thin layer of sifted compost over the top and reseed.

I like a good walk-behind mower for quick mowing just around the house. And this one will pretty much pull you around the yard. All you have to do is steer.

But after that, the lawn is pretty much on its own for summer. The sum total of the time I'm willing to spend it on during the high season is a weekly mowing and trimming. And I like to get it done quickly. Often that means we only mow the areas closest to the house. Or sometimes the weekend gets away from us and we need to do a quickly cleanup before company comes over. That's when a good walk-behind mower is best. We have the big Horse XP tractor for when we're doing the whole enchilada, but that's overkill for a quick job.

Troy-Bilt recently sent me the TB490 XP self-propelled mower to test. It has all of the bells and whistles you'd expect on a mower like this (bagging, mulching or blowing ability; hose rinse connection; easy pull start, etc.) but I'll it shines in its versatility. It has front-wheel drive (good for maneuverability), rear-wheel drive (good for our varying terrain) and all-wheel drive (for the best of both) and you can easily switch among the different modes with the hand controls. See how those rear wheels are big? That means that when it's in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, this baby has some get up and go, to the point where it can take you a little off guard when you first try it (not in a dangerous way, but in a lace-up-your-tennies kind of way).

What I'm getting at here is that this thing will pull you around the yard if you want it to. Meaning all you have to do is steer. It's the ultimate in lazy-man's mowing, which I think you'll see is right up my alley.

You can check out a quick video review I did of it on YouTube.

Most people I know strive for great looking lawns, and if you enjoy taking care of a lawn, I think attempting to achieve the perfect lawn is a noble exercise. But I think it's OK to strive for a pretty good lawn too. In fact, I'm perfecting the good-enough lawn. Come see my green weeds. I bet you can't spot them from the patio, especially if I get a drink your hand first.

I have great news for you! Troy-Bilt has offered to give one of my readers a $100 Lowe's gift card! Use it to pick up a new mower, buy more plants or whatever you might be needing. How about picking up something great for Father's Day. (P.S. I don't think you'll get the card in time for Father's Day, but I'll pick a winner on Friday so you can at least go shopping!)


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09 June 2017


What a crazy week here. So much that was supposed to get done, didn't. Work was nuts, the garden needs attention and there is this little voice in the back of my head that keeps whispering, "Hurry up and get on with summer."

This is standard operating procedure for this time of year for me and so many other people. There's nothing to do but to just do your best. So this week, that meant that a lot of blog posts that should have been just weren't. Hopefully next week I'll be able to catch you up on all of it. What I can guarantee you is that there will be a giveaway next week that you won't want to miss (that's me dangling a carrot).

I'm facing what is probably my busiest weekend in the garden of the entire year. Having finally amassed all of the plants I need for various containers, those will all be done (14, at last count). And then there's tons of other planting that will happen to. I'm hoping that by the end of the weekend the dozens (possibly hundreds, but I'm not about to count) of plants sitting in my driveway will be in their summer homes. In part because it just needs to happen but also because we're due for a hot weekend (80s in June here is not the norm) and I'm spending a lot of time just watering all those plants. I have some really cool ideas for plantings so I can't wait to show you.

Just some of the plants looking for homes in my garden.

It's been awhile since we've done a Friday Finds, so let's get on with it, shall we?

I have a love-hate relationship with this plant. I've decided to love its foliage but never its leaves.

Here's a roundup of some interesting outdoor dining tables. I like to eat outside as soon as the weather  and mosquitos allow it, but I just cannot get behind the idea of an outdoor dining set (which we'll use for about three months of the year) costing more than an indoor table and chairs.

I want a dutch door so badly, but someone tell me how this functions if you live in a place with bugs, because I don't get it.

I snapped a picture of the 'Guernsey Cream' clematis the other night (isn't it great that we can be in the garden until after 8:30?) and it was positively glowing.

Do yourself a favor and grab a coffee or a cocktail and spend some time reading this beautiful and well-written article. It is an amazing story of a life and a death, one that involves, a small way, the love of a garden. And grab a tissue.

Good stuff in the latest GardenFork podcast: Mushroom growing, good router info and a bit on drones (which I have a decidedly uneasy view of).

And lastly, a favor to ask of you. As you might have noticed I've been trying to do more videos. Figuring out filming them and editing them has been a huge learning curve, but if you're like me, you're forgiving of these things if there's something in the video worth watching. I've been uploading them to my YouTube channel (here's the latest one) and Facebook, but here's the deal: I can't get a "real" URL on YouTube until I get 100 subscribers. If you wouldn't mind popping over there and subscribing to my channel you could save me from the terrible multi-character-slash-random-numbers URL my channel is currently saddled with. Thank you!

What's on your agenda for the weekend? Is this an insanely busy time in the garden for you like it is for me?

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07 June 2017


As you know, I've been working on the circle garden. I've not showed you much progress lately, but I hope to finish up the planting this weekend and I'll be able to show you some real progress.

I have, however been planting bits of it, including the first thing that went in: a centerpiece boxwood in each section.

Almost immediately, they started declining instead of thriving. The foliage turned brown, there was no noticeable new growth and they may have actually been getting smaller.

What killed my boxwood?
Boxwoods in various stages of ill health after I dug them up. They were just planted a few weeks ago.

So I went through all the usual checks in my head: Did I water enough? Was there something wrong with the soil? Was there a cold snap that affected them?

And nothing added up.

And then one morning the mystery was solved.

Want to take a guess as to what was going on?

I'll give you a hint. Here's the culprit.

Odin showing off his "handiwork." 

Yep. It appears that Odin, who is funny, usually cute (although he's badly in need of a bath and trim at the moment), good-natured and generally a very good dog, had been helping with the watering of my boxwood. And from what I can find online, it's not unusual for dogs to have this kind of attraction to boxwood.

Odin, like all our dogs, has been trained to stay out of the garden, but that only works when it looks like a garden. Since the boxwoods went in first, I think to Odin that looked like a bathroom surrounded by soil. Now that there are other plants growing there I've not noticed him even venturing close to the area.

So, as much as it pained me (boxwoods are not cheap), I went out and bought four new boxwoods and replaced them all. I'm putting so much work into this garden this year that I just won't be able to stand looking at half dead boxwoods there.

There's hope for the original boxwoods. I think they'll probably come back, but it will be quite a while. I've replanted them elsewhere in the yard for now.

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03 June 2017


I grow an apple tree smack dab in the middle of the main part the garden, in one of the most noticeable places. It's on one of the very dwarf root stocks so it won't get huge and it has a somewhat wonky shape, as I think is somewhat common in apples.

Apple blossoms are the prettiest.

Almost every person who has seen my garden has commented on it, and often not in a good way. 

"Oh. An apple tree! Right there!"

"Is that really an apple tree?"

"Are you planning to move that apple tree?"

I know. It's sort of weird. We're used to seeing apple trees growing in a segregated area with other fruit trees or on the periphery of an ornamental garden. It's unusual to have one planted as a focal point.

I'll tell you why I put that tree where I did:
  1. I was a nice sunny spot. Honestly, it was a practical decision.
  2. I needed some height in that spot but I wanted something airy that wouldn't create a wall.
  3. I think it's beautiful both in flower and when it's fruiting.
And most of all ...


The apple tree in full bloom and glaring morning sun.

I've learned so much about gardening since I first stuck my shovel in the ground here 15 years ago, but I've also learned a little something about human psychology: Everyone will not love every garden. No matter what I've done in my garden, someone (usually a neighbor because not lot of other people see it) will make one of those comments. You know the ones: They all sound nice, and many of them are, but some have that little twist to them. Or they use the word "interesting" which rarely means interesting. 

gala apples
A few of last year's apples.

That used to bother me. I used start questioning what I was doing. You know what I do now? Nothing. I don't care. 

This revelation probably came as much through my experience as a gardener as it did through life experience (aka getting older) and gaining more confidence in general, but I realized a few years ago that I don't care what anyone else thinks about my garden. That's not to say that I'm not interested in other people's opinions, particularly those of other gardeners, but they don't unilaterally determine what will happen in my garden as they might have a few years ago. I've written about how having my friend Linda and her husband Mark stop by for a quick tour was one of the best things I've done for my garden because it allowed me to see my garden through different eyes. 

The apple tree is in full bloom right now, and I dare you to show me a tree with blossoms as pretty as apple blossoms, particularly when they are right in your face. When the blooms fade, shiny green foliage will be the star (along with the clematis I grow up the tree), and then hopefully apples will dot the branches. To me, it really has all season appeal.

You might not think so. You might not ever aspire to have an apple tree in the middle of your garden. That's OK. It's your garden.

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