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Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Gardener's Christmas Present

This year, for Christmas, my husband got me a tractor scoot from Gardener's Supply Company. It wasn't a random choice on his part -- he asked what I wanted and I told him!

Today I got a chance to try it out and I love it!

It features a tractor style seat, which swivels, pneumatic tires, an area underneath the seat to hold tools etc and a basket on the front which you can put a bucket in to hold mulch, plants, trash/weeds etc.

I've been having knee problems this year, which has made gardening somewhat difficult, but this little tractor scoot really helps me out, as you can see below.

Today's task was cutting back all the tropical milkweed which had frozen back. I was able to trim it back to healthy green stems about 8 inches tall and it's already putting out new leaf buds.

I also did some weeding and mulching.  There were several zillion milkweed seedlings in this bed, along with the crepe myrtle and the established milkweed.  I don't have room for them all so most of them got dug in and mulched over.

If they manage to come back up, I'll take that as a sign I was meant to have more milkweed.

Tomorrow, after we take our Christmas lights down, I'll work in the front flowerbed. It needs some serious tidying up!

I wish you all a safe and Happy New Year.  I'll see you in 2012, when I'll be out in the garden again!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas All!

 We always love decorating the house for Christmas but last year, for the first time since I can remember, I didn't have a Christmas tree.  

The reason was the four kittens we had taken in, along with their mother, in the summer of 2009. They had shown, while they were still out in the garden, that they loved climbing trees.  In addition, when we brought them inside, within a few days Jester had tried to climb the silk ficus tree in the bedroom, with the result that the whole thing toppled over.

We could only imagine what would happen to a Christmas tree.

And then, of course, you only have to Google "cat in Christmas tree" to see our concerns.

Well this year we decided one year without a tree was enough and that perhaps they had matured enough (and perhaps learned from the ficus incident that these indoor trees couldn't be trusted to stay upright) so we thought we'd put up a small tree this year.  By placing it on a table we hoped to discourage investigation and climbing.

Naturally Jester, the class clown, was first to investigate but two feet stayed on the ground at all times.

And, after sniffing at it for a while, they decided it was boring and went back to wrestling on the kitchen floor or chasing each other up and down the cat tree and all was well with the Christmas tree for a couple of days.

Then came the morning when I heard crrrrraaaaaaash! from the living room and heard the sound of cats zooming in all directions.

Bandit, seen here, looked at me with a "I didn't touch it, honest!" look.  

The suspected culprit, the aforementioned Jester, was shaking in the far corner of the room.  

We surmise he had been patting at the tree and got a claw caught in the wiring for the lights and, when he pulled his paw out, pulled the tree down with it. Poor little guy was obviously spooked.

I decided to give it another try so we stood the tree back up (secured this time with velcro so it won't be so easy to knock over) and put the ornaments back on.

This morning the tree is still standing and the cats are showing no interest. Fingers crossed it makes it through the Holiday!

I wish each and every one of you the very best of the Holiday Season and look forward to a wonderful New Year.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Requiem for a Garden

We've had a couple of nights of hard frost recently and yesterday I was finally able to take a tour around the garden.  It was depressing, to say the least.  I know things will brighten up again in spring, but I thought I'd share the sad sight with you.

In the front garden the sweet potato vine is now brown mush.

 In the back, the milkweed which were blooming up until last week are now shriveled up.

 On the plus side, with their dying breaths, they let loose a zillion more seeds! (To add to the zillion or so seedlings poking up through the mulch and in the lawn all around them)

 The Dallas lantana, that until a week or so ago were providing sustenance to Buckeyes and Gulf Fritillaries, are now history.

 The Trop-Canna froze back, like they did last year.  I think all I need to do with these is cut them back and they will come back next year.  I may have move them in to a bigger pot at some point though, this one looks pretty cramped in this pot.

 Even the crepe myrtle suffered freeze damage.  

The only spot of color are the pansies I put in at Thanksgiving.  Hopefully they will continue to bloom until spring.

Now I have a question for you -- seeing all this devastation around the garden, I'm itching to get out there and start tidying up.  But I'm wondering how much is too much.  

Should I rip the dead milkweed out of the ground to let the seedlings take their place, or should I cut them back look forward to new growth in the spring?

What about the lantana? Does it put out new growth after freezing back, or is it gone for good? 

Any and all advice will be appreciated.    

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The New Island Bed

 If you were to believe my husband's Facebook posts regarding our fledgling island bed in the back garden, you would think that I had stood over him with a whip as he lugged 500 two-ton rocks round to the back garden, and then filled the resulting bed with enough dirt to fill the Grand Canyon.

Luckily we share the same sense of humor!

In reality, we purchased 30 shoebox-sized blocks from Lowe's, each weighing maybe 15 lbs. So yes, there was a little muscle involved, but it felt good to be outside and doing something during the Thanksgiving week.

The plan was to create an island bed connecting the two tree saplings we have planted. 

We started out by laying a soaker hose to get the basic shape. Then, since we were going to be using the "lasagna method" we cut and laid out sheets of brown paper over the existing grass.

Then we started laying the stones out, following the shape we had chosen with the soaker hose.

We soaked the paper down and laid bricks in strategic places to keep the paper from blowing away before we were finished, then we left it for a few days.

We finished up the basic bed yesterday, by purchasing 12 bags of Organic Choice garden soil, again from Lowe's. This was what my husband referred to as  "enough dirt to fill the Grand Canyon." Wouldn't he have been shocked if I had had a truck load of dirt delivered and dumped on the driveway, as I briefly considered doing!

Of course, 12 bags is just the start.  We brought them in, opened them and spread the soil over the paper in the bed and soaked everything down again.

Here's what the bed looks like now.

 During the course of the winter, we'll bring in some more soil, add some compost from our composter and add a layer of mulch.  The plan is to build up the center of the bed, while not burying the trees already in the ground at each end of the bed.

By spring it should be ready for planting.

After we had finished up with the soil and gone in for a shower, I discovered a little extra bonus that I hadn't thought about before:

We'll have a lovely view of the bed from our bedroom window.

The cats should enjoy it too, as they sit on the little window shelf we put in for them, and watch the birds and butterflies.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.