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Archive for July, 2011

A trellis of cucumbers and squash.

Boy has it been HOT – too hot to work in the garden unless you work early in the morning or later in the evening! Luckily, our vegetable garden doesn’t seem to mind the oppressive heat and is growing and producing well. As always I have probably over-planted. So far we’ve been inundated with cucumbers, squash, and beans. That means lots of pickles – I hope my family and friends never get tired of them!

Rattlesnake beans have climbed to the top of the pole supports. The bush beans in the foreground have been producing well.

Rattlesnake beans have climbed to the top of the pole supports. The bush beans in the foreground have been producing well but have been attacked by bean beetles.

The beans are really producing well. I froze 19 quart bags yesterday and there are many more on the way. The unfortunate thing was that after I took all the bags down to the freezer, I realized that I hadn’t saved any out for dinner! Oh well, I’m sure there are already more that need to be picked and we had (still have) a ton of squash that we needed to eat anyway. I’m so glad that my daughter has decided that squash is one of her favorite summer vegetables!

Despite the hot and humid weather, rain has been very scarce lately. The afternoon thunderstorms have passed us by and the fields are beginning to become very dry. I find it very  interesting to watch how the field corn reacts to the dry conditions and hot sun. In the morning on my way to work, the leaves are fairly flat and arching so that much of the leaf surface is exposed to the sun and humid morning air. By the time I drive home in the evening, all the leaves are curled and oriented straight up limiting their exposure to the hot afternoon sun and reducing water loss from the leaves. Clever – sort of reminiscent of how the rhododendron leaves cope with freezing temperatures.

A developing cantaloupe stays clean as it grows on the mulch of straw.

A developing cantaloupe stays clean as it grows on the mulch of straw.

Our vegetable garden is not suffering from the dry conditions because it is mostly mulched with straw and when it needs it, we can water. The straw mulch has really helped with moisture retention in the soil and even with this dry weather, we haven’t had to do much supplemental watering. The mulch has also been great for weed control, although I wish I had put it on a little thicker because weeds are beginning to pop up here and there – but these are easy enough to pull up.

Last night the dry spell was finally broken (at least at our house) with some strong winds and a heavy downpour which eventually eased into a fairly gentle rain. We only got ¼” but every little bit helps.

I had been meaning to go out and take some pictures of the vegetable garden but things have been so busy lately with the Daylily & Wine Festival and then I was in Ohio most of last week at a wonderful field trip and conference at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Campus in Marysville, Ohio. Boy, talk about hot and humid but it was very interesting and I learned a lot.

My corn was flattened by the wind and rain but Eric's three sisters corn was still standing tall.

My corn was flattened by the wind and rain but Eric's three sisters corn which is about 10 days older than mine was still standing tall.

Anyway, this morning on my way to work, I stopped at the garden to take some pictures and found to my disappointment that most of my corn had blown over in the storm. Luckily, the corn in Eric’s three sister’s garden was still standing straight and tall – perhaps the beans helped anchor it down. Oh well, such is life. It’s not the first time this has happened to me – it seems to happen every year to some degree. Well at least we’ll get corn from the three sister’s garden and more beans, and more squash … Yikes – I think we’ll need a bigger freezer!

I figured my corn was a goner for this year (fuel for the compost pile) but I got a lovely surprise in my inbox this afternoon – a picture of all my corn standing up straight again! Eric had pulled all the corn stalks upright and supported each row using poles and twine.

What a nice guy!

Eric wove baler twine attached to a pole at each end of  the short rows to support the corn stalks.

Eric attached baler twine to a pole at one end of the row, wove it through the corn stalks, and attached it to a pole at the other end.

All back to "normal".

Standing tall again!

Next time – the success of the three sister’s garden!

Happy Gardening – try to stay cool!

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Colorful Spirea spill over a chair in the "Milepost Garden"Two weeks ago, we took a trip up to Vermont for a week long visit with my family. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate very well – it was cool (which was nice) but rained every day except one day! On that one dry day, I went to my sister’s to have a tour around her beautiful gardens. You may remember my post from last August when I wrote about Leslie’s amazing gardens.

Ligularia 'The Rocket' combines well with the native ferns around the pond.

Ligularia 'The Rocket' combines well with the native ferns around the pond.

She doesn’t have a lot of sun because her property is mostly wooded – like ours in Virginia. I love it and so does she but at times, it makes gardening a challenge – especially vegetable gardening.

Leslie’s gardens are absolutely spectacular this year, especially the hosta and the Ligularia. Both of these wonderful shade plants really thrived in the cool weather. Her beautiful hybrid mountain laurels were still in bloom and created a striking backdrop for the hosta in one of her gardens.

Colorful mountain laurel blooms stand out behind a large hosta clump.

Colorful mountain laurel blooms stand out behind a large hosta clump.

To give depth and texture to her gardens, she has incorporated lots of plants with big bold leaves like Ligularia, Rodgersia, Bergenia, and of course a wide variety of hosta.

In addition, she has interspersed Cimicifuga with its tall bottle brush blooms, Kirengeshoma with colorful late blooming yellow bell flowers, and Astilbe which provides a splash of color through most of the summer.

It’s truly amazing how you can create a colorful, interesting shade garden using mostly hosta. The diversity of hosta foliage is one of its most valuable attributes.

Andre was one of the founding members of the American Hosta Society back in 1968 and he told me that at that time, there were only about 18 hosta species and cultivars in the general trade. Now there are well over 2000 named varieties!

Clumps of hosta are reflected in the still water of the pond.

Clumps of hosta are reflected in the still water of the pond.

The leaves can be all shades of green, blue-green, powder blue, gold, and many are variegated with gold, white, chartreuse, or even a combination of these. The wide range in foliage texture also makes hosta really unique. Leaves can range from silky smooth to heavily corrugated to deeply veined. I have no idea how many different varieties of hosta Leslie has in her gardens but there are a lot!

Hosta 'On Stage' has striking variegation.

Hosta 'On Stage' has striking variegation.

A sunny area around the pond is planted with Telekia, Rudbeckia, and Geraniums

A sunny area around the pond is planted with Telekia, Rudbeckia, and Geraniums

She does have some sun gardens and these are filled with Rudbeckia, Telekia, Sedum, geraniums, daylilies, Gaillardia, Achillea, Salvia, ornamental grasses, and loads more. Annuals are sprinkled here and there to provide continuous splashes of color throughout the season. So beautiful!

Leslie’s vegetable garden is planted in a long raised bed that backs up against a rock outcrop that has a perennial bed above it. Because her sunny areas are limited, she grows tomatoes in upside down tomato bags suspended from 4×4 posts sunk into one of her perennial beds.

Upside down tomato bags hang from a sturdy post in a sun garden.

Upside down tomato bags hang from a sturdy post in a sun garden.

There are also a few large containers with tomato plants placed right in the sunny perennial garden. She has created some cool tepee trellises for her peas using PVC pipe and twine – very clever!

Leslie's vegetable garden

Leslie's vegetable garden

Sometimes you just have to think outside the box when faced with challenging gardening conditions and Leslie has become a master at that!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

A beautiful border of different varieties of hosta.

A beautiful border of different varieties of hosta.

Alchemilla (Lady's Mantle) and Oenothera make a beautiful ground cover on a hillside.

The blue green foliage and chartreuse flowers of Alchemilla (Lady's Mantle) and the bright yellow blooms of Oenothera make a beautiful ground cover on a hillside.

Looking up from the pond to the pagoda and surrounding gardens.

Looking up from the pond to the pagoda and surrounding gardens.

A quiet place in the garden is surrounded by blooming Aruncus.

A quiet place in the garden is surrounded by blooming Aruncus.

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