Tag Archives: gardens

A Quick Dig In Two Gardens Closes Fall Planting

The hosta roots, unpacked, before  planting.

The hosta roots, unpacked, before planting.

There is some fall work to do in the yards and gardens, and I’m so busy at this time of year that I have fallen behind. A few limbs on the young tulip tree are growing too directly towards the house and need some tender axe therapy, for example.

Raking has fallen by the wayside, and leaves are constantly being tracked into the house.

There are several bushes by my deck that my wife and I have agreed will be cut out before spring—but probably not before Christmas break.

Anyway, despite the late semester rush, and consequent work-filled weekends, I did finish the fall planting today. As I wrote earlier, we had ordered a lot of fall bulbs this year, and the order was split between our yard and the yards of two daughters.

One part of the bulb order, however, didn’t come until this week. We have a front garden where I cut out some overgrown evergreen bushes two years ago. The middle space of that looked sparse, and my wife and I agreed that, since the garden is on the north side of the house and shady, it would be a nice spot for some hostas.

Now, I know a lot of you out there don’t plant hostas. They are not what you could call uncommon plants. And given enough time in the wrong place, and they can be a stubborn plant that can get out of control.

A picture from http://www.kvbwholesale.com/product/Bressingham_Blue_Hosta, the site were we ordered this plant. This is what we should see in spring.

A picture from http://www.kvbwholesale.com/product/Bressingham_Blue_Hosta, the site were we ordered this plant. This is what we should see in spring.

But, I like hostas, partly because so many of my gardens are shady and not a lot of plans do well in them, but hostas do, and partly because I like both their leaves and their small white or purple flowers.

So we ordered some Bressingham Blue hostas from K.van Bourgondien, the Ohio bulb company that we got the rest of the bulbs from.

I’m not sure why the hostas arrived so long after the other bulbs, which were planted in late October. And we’ve had some very cold nights—I was a bit worried about what the ground would be like to dig in. Fortunately, it was wet and warm today, and the ground was fine to work with.

So, assisted by two grandchildren, I planted the hostas today. As planned, three went in the front garden to fill it in a bit, and three others went into the newish back garden by the chimney. There were only supposed to be five root groups, but either a piece had broken off one or a worker at the warehouse tossed in a tiny one too small to count, because we actually had six.

My wife shot this photo of a grandson and granddaughter helping me plant hostas in the back garden.

My wife shot this photo of a grandson and granddaughter helping me plant hostas in the back garden.

The hosta roots are supposed to be dormant and are to come back in spring. In the past, we’ve usually just bought hostas at local garden centers and put in plants during the growing season. That approach has worked well, and the only reason we did a fall planting this year was that we wanted this particular plant just because it looks a bit different from the green or green-and-white hostas that we have now.

There’s much gardening yet to be done, including a mountain of raking—and when I’ll get it done, I don’t know. But at least the bulbs and roots are buried, and that gives me additional incentive to look forward with anticipation to the new spring next year.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Planting Hundreds of Fall Bulbs

Garden hole

A hole in my garden, with tulip and daffodil bulbs ready to be covered. There were many such holes today.

Well, those bulbs came in the nick of time.

While I was on campus Wednesday giving a makeup midterm exam, one of my daughters sent me a text to  let me know that several big boxes of flower bulbs had arrived at my house. (Said daughter was dropping off a nice surprise, some yummy pumpkin cinnamon rolls with homemade cream cheese frosting.)

And today, we (two of my daughters and I) divided up the bulbs (the two daughters are getting some) and I planted. And planted. And planted. We had several varieties of daffodils and tulips, some grape hyacinth, Spanish bluebells, etc. I’m most excited by some Echinacea. I have many purple coneflowers, but this is a mix of some other colors. Tristan helped me plant them in the garden by the chimney and pear tree. I hope they come up.

Other than that, it was a long process of digging holes and planting. I had to Google some bulbs to learn how deep to plant them. We made one error-buying one kind of flower that is “out of zone,” that isn’t usually hardy this far north. I planted them right up against the foundation of the house and up against the rock wall in the lower garden—I’m hoping those spaces will be warm enough for these flowers to survive.

In the end, I was digging some daffodil graves. Just creating holes and chucking in as many bulbs as I could.

That will, I hope, create attractive clusters in the spring.

That’s what’s great about planting fall bulbs. It makes you anxiously await spring, which, knock on wood, should have some new pretty colors.

I originally thought we would plant all the bulbs in all three yards today. That was crazy, because, in fact, planting just in my gardens took all day, almost until dark. So there are still two sets of flowers yet to plant.

Well, wonderful. More places that should look better next spring.


My shovel. That and my trowel got a lot of use today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tune for Tuesday: A Song to Cut Down Trees To

I spent much of this warm summer day at my daughter’s house, cutting down trees. Now, as you might expect, that’s not a natural activity for CR Garden Joe—we had five mature trees in our yard when we moved in, and now have more than 30 trees thanks to my obsession with all things tree.

But this yard and garden were overdone with rogue volunteer trees—maples and walnuts and mulberries against the foundation or growing through a garden. So, out they came. What song mood does that put me in? Well …. Since I was a teen in the the ‘70s and do indeed have several Jethro Tull albums:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Beauty of the Winter Garden

Cone flower.

Cone flower seeds in side garden.

It’s about 4 on one of the shortest days of the year, getting dusky outside although there is a pretty pink sunshine in the trees.

From here on out, the amount of daylight will slowly rise, and even though the coldest part of deep winter is ahead, that promises a future spring.

Yet, even as the gardens are asleep, I like the quiet beauty of the ghosts of last year’s plant.

Here are a few winter garden images from today, Dec. 23, 2011.


Hydrangia bush--the kind Mary hides herself in during "It's a Wonderful LIfe," but not in Iowa in December ...


Even with all the pretty organe fading away, the lantern on a lantern plant looks intersting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Christmas 2010 Snow Scenes


I didn't get the framing right, but was lucky to catch the focus and I still like this image.

As noted before, there’s no need to dream of a White Christmas in 2010 in Iowa.

While Audrey took a quick nap, I went outside to try to capture some snow photos. This picture post is the result.  I’m not sure it worked all that well–it’s hard to photograph snow and the biggest problem I have with my digital minicam is that it doesn’t let me control the focus.  Still, although it was hard to get it to focus on the head of a coneflower, I think I got some nice snow pictures, but you can comment and let me know if you agree.

Lilac in snow

This is one of the few "inside" shots out the office window in my home--snow on a lilac bush. Background is backyard snow. I like the plain view this photo shows.

Why does ice seem so pretty when it’s mixed with dust and puffed with air to form delicate six-sided crystals? I got a bit chilly taking these and worried a bit about keeping my Kodak dry, but all in all, I think it worked out.  Click on an image to see it bigger, and then click “back” to see more, I’ll finish this post with dozens of snow photo, a total of 20 images, just to celebrate the beauty of snow on this fine Christmas day!

Once again, Merry Christmas from snowy Iowa.

Lilac on chimney

One of my favs in this big group. Lilac with chimney stones as background.

Lilac and snow

Again, a nice lilac image. Can't have too many flower photos! Even when the flowers are long gone.


Next series is crabapples--like the contrast of red and white snow. Squirrel has not managed to reach them all yet ...


An even better one, I think. Crabapple in backyard.

Maple bark

Now, a more abstract phase--snow on maple bark


Clothesline in back with snow "waves"


Clothesline again, looking west instead of east


I like the way the aging wood of the fence contrast with snow, and the way the snow overhangs the top of the fence

Plant hook and fence

One of our plant hooks and the top of the fence

Fence again

Final fence post--closeup of snow wave

Plant hook

OK, the fence is still h ere, but I think this is a photo of the hook ...


We meant to take this swing down before winter, did not get done ...

Road Crud

Looks like an interesting mineral--is really just road snow crud crusted in a van wheel well


Woods in snow

Woods and stream bed south of our back fence (looking over fence, actually)


Fern in front in snow

Dogwood leaves

Dogwood leaves with snow--first of a few dogwood photos

Dogwood leaf

Dogwood leaf--took some time to get the camera to focus ...

Dogwood again

Dogwood leaves buried in snow


And the final photo--number 20--again a coneflower, better framing

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The tree temptations of spring …

I have a lot of grading that I must attend to—that’s part of the price you pay for teaching writing courses.

But today Audrey and I purchased two apple trees. We had two small hawthorns in the backyard, attractive trees from what I’ve read, but they have thorns and we have one grandchild and more on the way. Thorny trees and grandkids don’t seem like a good mix in the yard, so the hawthorns have come out and two apples have taken their place.

I counted one time how many trees we have in our ¼ acre regular-sized yard. The census:

Full-size mature trees:
2 Ashes (the city’s trees, they’re doomed, I know)
3 Oaks (red, I think, some native oak species)
1 soft maple

Others trees (actually, trees that we have planted since moving into the house in 2001):
1 soft maple (child of mature tree)
1 native oak (child of oak trees)
1 pin oak.
1 tulip tree.
2 trees of unknown origin, called “golden” something. Got in a package to 10 trees, their id is iffy.
6 crabapple trees
3 redbud trees
2 dogwood trees
1 cottonwood tree
1 red maple
1 weeping cherry
1 flowering plum

OK, so we’re tree crazy. It’s no wonder our yard is too shady for a vegetable garden.

I also sometimes plant trees in the streambed behind our house—mostly because the trees back there are predominantly ash, and when they all die I would rather that area not be without trees. It’s a vain effort, the deer love the salad garden I lay out for them each spring. One of the hawthorn has been put in the deer buffet (the other put in the front yare where it should not interfere much with play).

I know people who don’t have many trees, but I don’t really understand them. Sure, trees mean you have to rake, but who wants to be inside on a crisp sunny autumn day and why pay hundreds of dollars to join a gym and the eschew free exercise?

I’ve noticed lots of interesting things about the trees. Cottonwoods, which seem to grow everywhere, are hard for me to transplant. The deer eat the volunteer walnuts and oaks that I put in back, but they don’t need to bother with the cottonwoods—they die all on their own. I do have a 3-foot tall one in the yard that seems to be coming back in it’s 3rd year, so it is possible—but I have probably planted 100 cottonwoods over the years in back, with zero trees to show.

The tulip tree is a curiosity. It and the pin oak were part of the same 10-tree Arbor Foundation pack. Both look happy and healthy, but the oak is under 2 feet tall and the tuplip tree is over 8 feet tall. Interesting, I would think in the long run the oak will be a bigger, and longer-lived, tree.

I’ve also always been lucky with redbuds—have planted them where we’ve lived. My mother wanted redbuds and we planted them in the yard of the house at 7th Avenue South in Clinton, but the tops always died and the roots would send up new shoots each spring. We have one taller redbud that is blooming well, and two smaller that aren’t of “bloom” size yet, but they are both around 4 feet and I expect may bloom next spring.

Anyway, back to the grading. But somehow it’s easier to do with some new trees in the yard …


Filed under Uncategorized