Tag Archives: hosta

Mid July in the Backyard


Rose of Sharon, shot the morning of July 13, 2016. First flower of the season on this tall bush near the deck.

As I write this, another thunderstorm is rumbling through, bringing us more rain.

Like politics, gardening is local. South of here, they’re a bit parched. Here, the world is humid, warm, lush and green—it has not been a dry summer despite a few minor dry stretches. On the contrary, into mid July, rain has been pretty plentiful.

The dry “high summer” that sometimes arrives by RAGBRAI is not yet in sight. But some signs that summer is reaching is peak are around.

The Rose of Sharon is in bloom, a flower that I associated with late summer.

Anyway, when the sun was setting yesterday, and again this morning when it was shining before the rain clouds moved in, I shot some backyard pictures, sort of in praise of a green mid July in Iowa. I hope you like them.

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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.

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What’s New? A Garden and a Furnace …

the garden plan

The garden plan–edging bricks and purchased plants laid out.

Today, two nice gentlemen from a local plumbing and heating outfit arrived to replace our furnace.

It’s been OK for us for 10 years, but two years ago we had to have the blower serviced, and considered it a sign. The furnace that we had was the one which was installed when the house was built in the mid 1960s, so it was time for an update. It will take a few years, but the efficiency of the new one means that it will lower our heating bill enough for a not-outlandish payback time.

It should also give a boost to our AC, which will now have a new furnace blower to work with, and hopefully have a bit more effect as hot weather is again due.

Anyway, blog fans, the furnace is not all that was new. While they worked inside my basement, I worked in my backyard.

I’ve lost the battle of the front garden, for now. Earlier, I blogged about putting in a garden at the edge of the rocky area in front, but Audrey has vetoed the idea. She accuses me of wanting to eliminate all yard and turn our lot into a giant garden.

I suppose there is some basis for her attitude, although she describes the planned front garden as a “giant” excursion into the yard, which is not what I had in mind.

Be that as it may, she OK’d a new back garden in a corner of the yard by the chimney. There is an area there where grass doesn’t grow, and we planted bulbs last fall. So Tuesday night, we bought some edging bricks and plants at Menards, and as other men installed the new furnace, I put in a new garden.

I laid out the area. Then, I dug a little trench for each brick and pounded it into the ground. I left them only about halfway into the ground—I’ve used these edgers before. Not only do they sink a little with time, but there’s more useful in partitioning off a garden if they are not flush with the ground.

What did I plant? While, like the French police official in Casablanca, I rounded up the usual suspects. We purchased two pretty day lilies for the front, sunniest part. It’s really a mostly shady garden, but day lilies, while they do need sun, do seem to do well in partly shady areas.

We also bought what my pal Steve Haviland called on his garden blog a bush that is “beyond common.” A hydrangea. We have one blue one in our lower yard that stubbornly has not bloomed much, but this year is finally in flower. Both Audrey and I agreed that we liked the blue color and would not mind it in the upper garden.

We also bought a coral bell and a bugleweed. In spring, this area should have daffodils, crocus and tulips—it will be mildly sunny since the trees will not have leafed out. Then, later on, the lilies and hydrangea can bloom.

Audrey suggested getting some hostas, but we didn’t—yet, in the end, I did divide and installed some plants from our other gardens—another day lily, a native Iowa lily, and, for the shadiest back corner of this new garden, a fern, a hostal and some lily of the valley.

First, I dug up what little grass was in this spot. Then, I collected my donor plants from other gardens and from behind our fence (the fern and lily of the valley are back fence escapees from near our back garden, not actually form our gardens), then I planted. After that, I mulched and watered.

And when I was done, in the afternoon, surprise, surprise, so where the furnace guys.

The install, which was to take until 5, was wrapped up a little early. As was my garden.

The finished garden

The finished garden.

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New Summer, New Garden

The new garden, from the landing next to the front stoop. Lily of the valley and hostas on the left, bushes and redbud tree straight ahead.

Last year, it was the wall built by the neighbor that caused us to put in a new garden.

This year, I don’t have such an excuse, the garden was mostly our idea. To be fair, Wally did have an indirect influence on it—we had both cut out some overgrown evergreen bushes last year, and he noted that every 20 years or so you have to replace evergreen bushes by a house because they become overgrown.

Anyway, we had large evergreen bushes on the north side of our house. I liked them, but they were becoming ungainly huge, and seemed to be a type that did not respond well to trimming—just had dead stumps where I cut them back, did not form attractive new foliage the way a regular-leaved bush often does.

I am always a bit troubled by removing a mature plant (in fact, despite her hatred of the smell, Audrey is dithering right now about the pear trees—doesn’t want me to cut them down). If a plant is not causing problems, I would rather just let it go—particularly trees and bushes. But, our house came with several problematic patches of evergreen—one a gnarly short tree in back that we cut out when we added gardens back there (by “we” I mean the royal we, I cut it out, I guess I can say “we” because the boss approved).

The redbud, mainly, part of the new garden seem from the lawn.

And, this year, the evergreens in front went away. They put up a magnificent two-day epic battle, but a small electric chainsaw, limb saw and hedge clippers finally had their way.

When we (“we”—ha!) removed the bushes, I (or we) was (or were) amazed at the space that was left. The old bushes were over 5-feet in width, although they were shorter than that. There was a lot of garden room!

Although it’s on the north side of the house and thus shaded for parts of the year, during mid-summer there is a fair amount of sunlight on much of the patch. We (the real we, nothing funny about it) picked out some shady plants and some sun/shade plants for the spot. Audrey and I chose them on a whim at Menards for no particular reason other than we happened to be there to buy paint for other projects.

So, what did I put in the new garden?

The main feature is a redbud tree in the “far corner,” the part farthest from the house. It was the only redbud we saw at the store, but looks pretty good, and is more than 6-feet tall. As you can see, it’s much smaller than that height might suggest since it hasn’t spread out at all. We have two redbuds in back, but none in front, and redbuds stay small enough that there should be room for this tree in this spot.

Foilage of the new dogwood bush. The bush itself will also provide a bit of interest in winter, particuarly when it snows--it's called "red twig" becuase it has smooth red bark, a nice contrast to white snow.

I like dogwood bushes, and Cate noted that a variegated one had done well in a previous house she and Paulette had near Mount Mercy, so (despite arguments from Audrey who didn’t think it looked vigorous enough) one of the bushes is a “variegated red-twig dogwood.” We also agreed on a Black Knight Butterfly Bush, just because it looked and smelled nice (and it was Audrey’s favorite, a deal that helped me get the dogwood). Both of those bushes require some light, so I put them on the far north end of the garden—the more south one moves in the garden, the closer to the house and shadier it gets. In an area nearer the house, I planted two “ruby spice summersweet” bushes, which are labeled as shade friendly. I also moved two volunteer dwarf burning bushes which were further west in front, but really had no room to grow there.

Finally, right next to our front stoop, on the north side and around the corner on the west side, I planted some less original plants—an “autumn fern” in the shadiest spot, followed by three hostas (all three slightly different from each other, as you can see) and then some “donated” lily of the valley from our back gardens.

Black Knight Butterfly Bush. Pretty blue flowers that smell nice to humans, too. Note foot--promised in earlier blog post not to feature my feet, could crop it out but it snuck in ...

Since these photos were taken, I’ve added some more river rock (and probably will get another couple of bags). In addition, we will probably plant either one or two more rhododendron bushes—have two beside the front steps now and want to complete the line now that the evergreens have made way.

It occurs to me that rhododendrons are about the only evergreen we have left. When we first moved into the house, I cut out some overgrown evergreens on the east side and planted hostas there—primarily because the evergreen bushes were so large it was hard to get our back yard gate. After Wally’s construction of his wall made access even more difficult, I moved the hostas and made the area a walkway.

And, as noted earlier, the one evergreen tree in our back yard was eliminated several years ago.

The thing about evergreens is that they are space eaters. I like them, but have slowly been driven to eliminate the ones I have. Odd, how a gardener like me who enjoys crowdin

g plants comes to that conclusion. But I do.

Anyway, I love redbuds and hope this one on the north side manages to do OK. I have some hopes it will—there is a redbud on the north side of the Stello Hall wing of Warde Hall that is quite old and tall. Redbuds seem to do OK in semi-shady areas, the only question is what will the north winds do to this tree?

Nothing too bad, I hope. We’ll see.

Ruby Spice Summersweet bush, one of two I planted. Not sure what they will do, with the exception of the two volunteer dwarf burning bushes, the bushes are new to my gardens.

Sorry for cutting you out, evergreens. But, after several days of getting used to

it (today is Tuesday, I cut out the bushes Saturday and Sunday and planted Monday) I am liking the look of this new garden.

By the way, when we finish it off with a rhododendron or two, a volunteer maple will have to go.

It’s a bit more than a foot tall. It looks just like the one that I moved four years ago from the side of the house to the back yard—the one in back is about 12 feet tall now, so if this little tree isn’t eaten by deer or bunnies, it probably will grown quickly.

It’s a family tradition to move and plant volunteer maples, but I don’t want to moved it to our woods behind the fence because I’m trying to get cottonwood, oak and walnut going there, and maples manage to invade all on their own.  And I really have no spot at all for this maple.

If you want it, let me know soon.

Up for grabs-volunteer maple that had been hidden by evergreen bushes. Act fast, it will be coming up before week's end.

West side of front stoop, autumn fern and a new hosta.

Other two new hostas on the north, or front side, of front stoop, with lily of the valley in background.

Detail of redbud. Despite being gnarly, dwarfish trees, I like redbuds for leaves and pretty early spring pink flowers. Why red bud and not pink bud? No idea.

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