Monday, July 24, 2017

Ivy & Burt Take On The Backyard

Wouldn't it be nice to spend the summer doing nothing? To wile away the afternoons relaxing in the shade with a cool drink just watching the flowers grow? That's always my goal anyway, ha!

In daydreams it's easy to overlook the oppressive heat and humidity that sends every living thing scampering into the AC or the legions of voracious mosquitoes that hatch due to all the rain. I am grateful for many things but this summer it's air conditioning and screens (that keep those thirsty blood-suckers away so we can enjoy the outdoors when it's not too hot) at the top of my list.

This beautiful Mandevilla vine was one of the new plants at our local garden center this spring and it's added a lovely tropical vibe to the backyard. It's been pretty easy to grow and loves all the hot, rainy weather. Is it time to crack open the rum and drag out the Tiki mugs yet? I'm thinking a big old volcano bowl filled with a mai tai or better yet, a zombie . . that would go better with the mosquitoes!

Meanwhile, back in the realm of reality, some volunteer plants have gotten a little out of hand. How cheeky is this vine to have hitched itself to a spider's web? Then again, how big is that spider? Eeek! 

As lucky as we are to have a garden to enjoy, it's impossible to keep it looking good without tending to it's needs. At least this year Mother Nature has spared us the task of watering! With plenty of chores and projects to accomplish, sometimes there's no other choice but to slather on the sunscreen and get to work! Luckily, Burt and Ivy are always willing to lend a hand.

Burt supplies the muscle.

While Ivy tackles the vine. She's not afraid of spiders!

This summer we have been swamped with projects of one sort or another. Although it's nice to have problems fixed and projects completed, it doesn't always leave a lot of time for fun.

One of the big projects we are currently working on is a long overdue clean up and overhaul of the nether regions of the backyard, i.e. the area behind the garage. Our neighbors recently removed a huge Black Walnut tree that was bordering our property. It was poisoning the ground around it as well as keeping the whole area in such deep shade nothing would grow but weeds and privet.  

So now that it's gone we've got big plans for something fun and of course some flowers. Burt's been working diligently to redistribute a huge pile of dirt while Ivy gets rid of the weeds and hauls all the junk away. We hope it can be transformed into a place we can actually use, instead of just avoid!

Unfortunately, that's not going to happen in one day - but it's a start!
It's a very good thing that Burt can count on Ivy to haul away his tired bones.

I hope everyone is having a great summer. So how are your projects going?

Thanks for stopping by! 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Gene's Garden

It was three years ago today that I published the first post of this (sort of) gardening blog. So a little over a week ago when His Madness and I were visiting our friends, Gene and Laura I thought it was about time to photograph the garden that first inspired me to fill up my own backyard with plants!

There are many homes with lovely landscaping but Gene has managed to take it way beyond just enhancing architecture or creating curb appeal. He has created a lavish show on a huge scope.

Pouring over photos of English cottage gardens has always been one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. I never really gave any serious thought to creating one of my own because most of the plants in those gardens wouldn't be able to survive a Wisconsin winter. Then one day I noticed Gene's backyard had evolved into something out of a fairy tale! Even though his plants are completely different from the ones across the pond, the effect is the same. It all seems pretty obvious now. Duh!

It's easy to see that Gene has a deft hand at putting plants together and keeping them looking beautiful. (A blue sky would have made for better photos but there is something to be said for the soft lighting produced by clouds. As long as it doesn't start to rain in the middle of taking pictures!)

The bird population seemed to be very happy with the beautiful place they get to call home.
The half a dozen birdhouses (or more, I lost count) were teeming with new life.

There isn't the usual abundance of blooms because we were visiting at one of those in-between times when the spring perennials have ended and the summer ones are just beginning to flower. It will soon be a riot of purple, yellow and blue with a little orange thrown in for contrast. We'll be back.

I always forget to mention how great flowers smell!
The Mock Orange filled the whole backyard with it's wonderful sweet fragrance. 

The rain decided it couldn't hold off any longer as we were about to settle down at the table, so we settled for a great view of it from the garden room while we enjoyed a delicious brunch.

 Out on the front porch a shabby chic trellis looks perfect with the lace curtains in the living room.

Gene's has grown a huge patch of milkweed for the butterflies. The windmill belonged to Laura's parents and their initials are stenciled on the fan. I've always thought that was just the sweetest thing. They had a huge garden also and I got a lot of good advice from them over the years.

Here's Gene relaxing in the garden room after brunch. 

It's also where he paints. Doesn't this fairy look like she belongs in his garden?
An acquaintance commissioned him to paint this copy of a poster but to leave off the text.
It looks so much better than the original poster, I think he should keep it. 

One more flower, a Spiderwort. A pretty plant with a silly name, I couldn't leave it out!

Thanks to Gene and Laura for letting me photograph their beautiful garden.
I hope you enjoyed it and thank you for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Happy Summer Solstice!

It has been raining cats and dogs for most of June so it was great that the sun finally got to shine on the longest day of the year! It was surprisingly chilly too but that didn't matter. Summer is here!

After a short inspection of the backyard, Ivy and Burt settled on the bench to enjoy the sunshine and Ivy said, "So Burt, do you know what meteorologists call it when it rains ducks and chickens?"
To which Burt replied, "No, I haven't a clue!"

 Ivy answered, "fowl weather."

Our foul weather was ancient history once the sun came out. It was like a double shot of expresso! I chased this dragonfly around the garden with my camera for quite awhile before it took a break!  

There's not very many flowers blooming at the moment but a few roses have started to open.
The white roses tend to get lost in the sunshine and the blue and purple flowers blend into the green. Ivy rescued her Mandevilla blossom after the wind knocked over the trellis.

The bush that produces these pretty clusters of white roses is called Darlow's Enigma. I bought it because I needed another plant to get the free shipping on my nursery order and I liked the sound of it's name. It's turned out to be a fantastic choice. Not only is it one of only three roses in my backyard that survived the Polar Vortex, it also bloomed into December last year. It has a great fragrance, too.

A closer inspection is always in order . . .

because you'll never know what you might see lurking around the edges . . .

. . . or in the corners!

In another corner Burt is trying out his Gomez Addams impression for Ivy's amusement.

Thanks for visiting and Happy Summer everyone!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Soggy Days

Ivy and Burt are so happy you have stopped by for a visit! Most of the planting and garden chores are done so they are taking a break to enjoy the fruits of the season while our soggy backyard dries out. Summer has just so much to smile about!

Our weather's been alternating between blisteringly hot and lengthy deluges of biblical proportions, complete with non-stop thunder and lightning. All this excitement has been super beneficial to the plants and weeds, so much so that it's become hard to tell them apart! I'm going to need a machete.

A good soaking rain with lots of lightning was always a welcome site to the farmers in the community where I grew up. My Gram referred to them as "electrical storms". She and I would happily stand outdoors, under our south porch and enjoy the show. Probably not the safest thing to do but she lived to be ninety and I'm still here! Still not a good idea. When I went to college it came as quite a surprise to me to see my freshman roommate running for cover at the first clap of thunder.

My unbridled enthusiasm for storms isn't just about flashing lights and loud noises, although I do appreciate the show. It's the benefits to the plant life that really makes me happy. Plants need nitrogen to grow and 78% of our air is made up of it. Unfortunately, plants don't have a way to absorb it from the air. When a bolt of lightning rips across the sky it busts up the nitrogen molecules and some of those free nitrogen atoms combine with oxygen and form nitrates. Nitrates are a fantastic, all natural fertilizer and it gets carried to the ground in the rain which the plants can absorb through their root system. Free fertilizer and a good show all thanks to Mother Nature. Plus, it's less work for me!  

Obviously, apart from their many benefits, storms are not everyone' s cup of tea.
Rain without thunder and lightning can be sort of like tea without dessert for some of us.

 Lately we've either been cooped up inside a lot (with the AC due to the sweltering heat or taking cover from a torrential downpour) so His Madness took the opportunity to whip up this delicious tart! 

It turned out to be just the thing to turn a cup of tea into a party.

Pouring tea is one task His Madness takes very seriously! It always commands everyone's attention. 

Eventually the rain passed, the sky cleared, the sun came out and the neighbors dogs captured Spencer's attention. It was a lovely break but is it time to get back to work? 

Out in the backyard, the wind and rain has taken a quite a toll on this pink peony.

Luckily, there's still a few salvageable blooms and all of the other peony plants are fine.

Most of the flowers, like this Iris are just wet . . .

. . . while the old roses are already dry!

It looks like it's going to be way too wet to do anymore work in the garden today.
Poor Ivy will just be forced to spend the rest of the afternoon curled up with a good book and a kitty.

So, how do you feel about thunderstorms? 

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In Praise of Spring Perennials

Yikes! Where does the time go! Burt, Ivy and Kibitz have been exiled to the closet for most of the month of May while His Madness and I dealt with a troop of delivery people. We usually end up ruining our spring with some sort of home improvement project and this year was no exception. Past experiences have taught us that leaving skeletons in plain sight around the house can produce a lot of anxiety in some individuals and make the whole ordeal way more awkward than necessary. Luckily, the skeleton crew took it all in stride and at least two of them remained their cheerful selves.

Warmer weather is in the forecast and I'm pretty excited that it's finally going to be decent enough to plant all the flowers, herbs and veggies I've been stockpiling since the garden centers opened up. 

Rosemary is supposed to impart peace to the living and the dead. Since our next door neighbors voted for Trump, Ivy is going to plant this beautiful specimen by our garden gate. Hope it works!

It's been a very damp and chilly month here, which is normal. On the plus side, it didn't snow. 

The upside to crappy weather is that the blooms tend to last longer.

The downside is that it's too icky to spend much time outside.
It's a vicious circle but I suspect that I'd be uncomfortable with it any other way.

Yesterday, the cold and rain alternated with blue skies and sunshine - hourly!

So I ran out and took photos during the sunny times.

I'm always grateful for the perennials in my backyard. They survive the snow and cold as well as floods, hail, heat, the lawn mower, weeds and my neglect, to put on a beautiful springtime show. Whatever Mother Nature or the neighbor's dogs throw their way they pop up and bloom. There are a few no-shows now and then but for the most part they are reliable once they get established - where they want to be! Ha! They do wander around occasionally but that's a story or another blog post. 

So now it's time to fill up the window boxes, pots and planters.
They will fill in the bare spaces when the spring perennials coast for the summer.

Except for this one that's already occupied.

 The next project to tackle is cleaning up the patio and that's always full of surprises.

Thanks for stopping by!