Category Archives: garden

Garden Report — August 30

It’s been hot and dry for much of the sum­mer. That’s hard on the plants and I know that I’m going to have to move some things that haven’t han­dled the heat well come fall.

Mean­while I’ve been replac­ing some of the things that we lost in last winter’s deep freeze.

Rose­mary is some­thing that I regard as hardy around here. It rarely suf­fers until the temps fall into the teens. Sin­gle dig­its are too cold so I lost three sprawl­ing rose­marys that lived at the back of the herb gar­den tum­bling down the rock wall. I replaced two of them.

trailing rosemary in the herb garden

trail­ing rose­mary in the herb gar­den

We also lost all of our cul­ti­vars of bud­dleia. Some of the wild­ings sur­vived but those have to be pulled out as they are now clasi­fied as inva­sive weeds. I can’t find any­more of the dark pur­ple one that I liked. sigh.

So in the place of the but­ter­fly bush that used to live in the cor­ner of the bed fac­ing the barn I put a smoke tree. Well actu­al­ly more of a shrub.

smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria)

smoke tree (Cot­i­nus cog­gy­gria)

There may not have been much rain recent­ly but the sprin­klers run every cou­ple of days. This is the result of leav­ing your Fel­cos in the buck­et next to the bird bath.

almost ruined

almost ruined

The nice thing about Fel­cos is that you can buy parts. I’ll refurb these over the win­ter. mean­while to sup­pli­ment my old­er (thrice refurbed) Fel­cos I bought a pair of Fiskars pruners.

little fiskar pruners slide nicely into your pocket.

lit­tle fiskar pruners slide nice­ly into your pock­et.

They have an inter­est­ing com­pound cut­ting action.

they fit well in my hands

they fit well in my hands

They are small­er and more agile that the Fel­cos. I don’t think they can han­dle as much of the brute force cut­ting work but they are sweet to use for dead­head­ing and oth­er more pre­cise tasks.

Not every­thing is suf­fer­ing in the heat. The lilies went nuts this year. The last of the Stargaz­ers are just now going over.

stargazer lilies

stargaz­er lilies

Garden Report — Sept 1

A cou­ple more notes from the gar­den.

The nico­tiana in the bird bath bed con­tin­ues to thrive. This dark pur­ple vari­ety can real­ly soak up the sun.

dark purple and smells lovely

dark pur­ple and smells love­ly

The last man stand­ing in the library bed has been moved to a new home on the oth­er side of the front door. Once the roundup has done it’s job the library bed will be turned over and mulched for the win­ter. It will be replant­ed int he spring.

the last man standing gets a new place to stand

the last man stand­ing gets a new place to stand

The mound­ing cypress has done so well that it will need a bit of a trim lat­er this fall. I’ll also have to do some­thing about the bad­ly bro­ken witch hazel seen peek­ing out from behind it.

Sungold Thread-Branch Cypress: Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera 'Sungold'

mound­ing cypress

Garden Report — October 10

I took advan­tage of one last day of fine weath­er to do a bunch of clean up and some late sea­son plant­i­ng.

This is what hap­pens if you for­get and leave the fel­cos on the wall of the gar­den bed. Damn. That’ll take a cou­ple of hours to put right.

rusty felcos

rusty fel­cos

We had a lot of dam­age from last win­ters hard, long freezes. I’d left a bunch of almost cer­tain­ly dead things in the gar­den in the hope that a few of them might recov­er or re-sprout from the roots. No joy. So the first order of busi­ness was to take out the dead things. Four “Dark Knight” but­ter­fly bush­es and a Kore­an Dog­wood are now on the brush pile. I also lost the Rose­marys that were climb­ing down the rock wall behind the herb bed.

There were some suc­cess­es though. The var­ie­gat­ed sage in this pic­ture was a mushy dis­as­ter in mid-Feb­ru­ary. It did quite nice­ly. I cut it back twice this sum­mer.

corner of the herb garden

cor­ner of the herb gar­den

On the oth­er hand the cen­ter of the laven­ders which had got­ten rank and spindly last sum­mer died out com­plete­ly. Leav­ing a nasty hole in my favorite bed.

big hole int he center of the lavender

big hole in the cen­ter of the laven­der

Not relat­ed to last winter’s deep freeze, these slen­der deutzias have nev­er been hap­py in the harsh glare that comes off the barn and shop, as well as the grav­eled work yard. Prefers Full Sun on the nurs­ery tag doesn’t always mean prefers to be baked dai­ly.

slender deutzia have not been happy in the harsh sun

slen­der deutzia have not been hap­py in the harsh sun

They now have a new home next to one of the Snake Bark Maples in the front yard. There’s still a fair amount of sun there but not the intense heat. I’ll see how they do next sum­mer.

hopefully the new location will be better

hope­ful­ly the new loca­tion will be bet­ter

The bed beside the garage on the front of the house has most of my damp lov­ing shade plants in it. (And most of my deer food — Hostas, eat­en to the ground again, sigh.) The grass and a stand of Siber­ian Iris­es have become seri­ous­ly over­grown. Both should have been divid­ed last year. This spring at the lat­est. It took both Jim and I and a lot of shov­el­ing and lev­er­ing to get these out.

Iris siberica 'Sparkling Rose' and Hakonechloa macra 'Albo-Striata'

seri­ous­ly over­grown grass and iris­es

We found this lit­tle sur­prise in among the iris foliage. I think they’re puff ball mush­rooms. I remem­ber eat­ing puff balls as a kid and being told that it was very hard to make a mis­take about what kind of mush­room you were pick­ing. I’m too chick­en to try it out with­out an expert along.

a little surprise in with the iris foliage

a lit­tle sur­prise in with the iris foliage

We also pulled out the ker­ria. It’s too rangy, and rank, and all sorts of nasty. There’s now a nice lit­tle rebloom­ing lilac in it’s spot. The tag says to 5′. Which would be about per­fect.

Syringa x 'Penda' Bloomerang Purple

a new lilac

We put one chunk of the grass back in where it had come out of, and put three clumps of iris across the back of the bed.

Here’s the bed all fin­ished. Too bad about the stumps of hostas lin­ing the front edge. Next week­end I’ll trim up the left over foliage on the iris­es. The grass I’ll leave — the leaves dry out and rat­tle nice­ly in the wind.

ta da

ta da

We took four more clumps of the iris and one of the grass and added them to the bed in front of the library. Next year I’ll try to get the peren­ni­als into this bed. It gets a nice 8 ear­ly hours of sun a day.

iris and grass in the library bed, bonus ladder and bouvier

iris and grass in the library bed, bonus lad­der and bou­vi­er

I can’t find the tag to iden­ti­fy this lit­tle fel­low. He’s lived in a cou­ple of spots in the gar­dens. Hope­ful­ly he’ll be hap­py here across the walk way from the Cypress

not sure what exactly

not sure what exact­ly

I picked up a cou­ple of new laven­ders to fill in the hole. An Eng­lish type for a change. They seem so small and help­less in there.

infill lavender

infill laven­der

We dropped the last chunk of the divid­ed grass onto the point of the bed that faces the barn. Behind it you can see the smoke tree that we put in a cou­ple of weeks ago.

another piece of the grass

anoth­er piece of the grass

In the same bed I added a black mon­do grass in the place of a long dead aza­lea. Right now it looks like black grass on black dirt but once it and the nan­d­i­nas next to it fill in a bit, the con­trast between the long black blades of the grass and small red gold leaves of the nan­d­i­na should be nice.

black mondo grass

black mon­do grass

Jim loves Japan­ese maples so we added one to our col­lec­tion. This mound­ing red cut-leaf should make a nice focal point out on the point of one of the beds by the porch.

mounding Japanese maple

mound­ing Japan­ese maple

The bird bath bed is still show­ing some evi­dence of sum­mer. The dut­sy miller still looks good and there are some pur­ple flow­ers on the nico­tinia.

still showing some summer color

still show­ing some sum­mer col­or

I am a total suck­er for the bright­ly pack­aged bulbs that begin to appear next to the check­out in the nurs­ery this time of year. The blank spot in this bed got a bag of mixed species tulips (30 bulbs) and a bag of dwarf iris (10 bulbs). No clue at to which species the tulips are — only that they are a “Nat­u­ral­iz­ing Blend” hope­ful­ly that means that they’ll come up more than a cou­ple of times.

there will be species tulips and dwarf iris here in the spring

there will be species tulips and dwarf iris here in the spring

Rob­byn gave me a bunch of beard­ed iris rhi­zomes a cou­ple of weeks ago. I put them in this sun­ny well drained spot near the pas­ture. Close enough to the elec­tric fences that the deer might leave them alone long enough to bloom. Yup we have plen­ty of rocks.

misc bearded iris for the hill side

misc beard­ed iris for the hill side

It’s a good thing I fin­ished up yes­ter­day. This morn­ing it was below freez­ing. The irri­ga­tion sys­tem ran, this morn­ing. The leaves on the smoke tree have a nice sparkle to them, oops. No harm, no foul. The sys­tem is installed deeply enough that the occa­sion­al frosty morn­ing isn’t a prob­lem. We’ll emp­ty it next week­end. I just want­ed to be sure that the new plants got a lit­tle extra water for the a cou­ple of days.

the irrigationsystem ran this morning

the irri­ga­tion sys­tem ran this morn­ing

I also clipped off the last of the laven­der blooms yes­ter­day. I brought them inside to dry out. They’ll sit on the hearth and slow­ly get used as tin­der for the fires. The smell is won­der­ful.

ready for winter

ready for win­ter

Start­ing with this post you can see the botan­i­cal names and vari­ety names of the plants in the pic­tures by mou­s­ing over.

I keep the tags from the plants that I buy in ziplock bags by year so that I can go back and look up exact­ly what’s what. It was quite depress­ing to look through the tags while I was try­ing to con­firm the vari­ety name on the grass I divid­ed. I’ve put in tons of peren­ni­als, and they’ve almost all dis­ap­peared. Freezes, drought, deer and chick­ens all take a toll. No won­der I don’t enjoy gar­den­ing as much as I used to.

First Garden Report

Last fall we dug up and divid­ed a lot of over­grown plants. Among them a patch of iris so thick that it took a tree saw to hack it apart.

just start­ing to grow.

All eight sec­tions have begun to grown nice­ly. I’m not sure how much bloom we’ll get this year. They’re going to look great at the back of the garage and library beds.

Gardening at the End of February

It was a busy gar­den week­end here at Black Dog Farm. We start­ed with a trip to Mol­baks to take advan­tage of their 30% off bare-root and b&b trees and shrubs.

We start­ed with some­thing to go in front of the three cedars. The ear­ly white blooms of this mag­no­lia shrub will light­en up the dark cor­ner.

Magnolia stellata Royal Star

balled and burlapped mag­no­lia ready to go in

Dig­ging the hole for the mag­no­lia was lit­tle nerve wrack­ing. There are irri­ga­tion pipes every­where. This one isn’t actu­al­ly split — though all that water run­ning into the hole made us ner­vous for a cou­ple of min­utes.

oh dear

it’s not what it looks like

We added two oth­er shrubs to the front bed. Spireas have nice lit­tle white flow­ers ear­ly in the spring and the bright green foliage will make a nice back­drop for more col­or­ful flow­ers in the sum­mer.

Spirea thunbergii

bare root spirea

Spirea thunbergii

spireas in front of the oak-leaved ash­es

It was hard stick­ing to the bare-root sec­tion at the nurs­ery. I did pret­ty well, but I just had to have these lenten rose for the library win­dow.

Hellebore "Ivory Prince'

nice lenten rose

hellebore, grass, irises

lenten ros­es bloom­ing and iris start­ing grown

The last plant we bought (and we had to go back for it with the trail­er) was replace­ment for the Kore­an Dog­wood that froze out 2 years ago. Red­buds are a lot hardier. Jim liked the shape of this con­tort­ed weep­er.

Cercis canadensis "Covy" - Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud

weep­ing red­bud for the end of the rock wall

Cedrcis canadensis "Covey" Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud

fat red buds!

We’re still play­ing catch up with reha­bil­i­tat­ing the trees that were improp­er­ly plant­ed 6 years ago. So far we’ve had two die. This cedar is doing okay but look at those roots, aren’t roots sup­posed to grown down?

badly planted weeping alaska cedar

roots are sup­posed to grown down not out

The Black Dog Ivan. What can I say…


ivan was super­vis­ing

Things are start­ing to get going. This fat old peony is send­ing up it’s shoots. They’re so red! They’re also brit­tle.


fat roots, lit­tle shoots

Last Octo­ber I fell for one of those mixed bags of spring bulbs. In this case retic­u­lat­ed iris and some unnamed species tulip. There were 25 or 30 bulbs (I think) I’ve seen three iris­es and 2 tulips. Bloody deer. Chewed them all off. I’ve nev­er had much faith in deer repel­lents but I’m des­per­ate enough to start throw­ing away mon­ey 😉

reticulated iris

a bit fad­ed now

tiny tulips


I also did some ear­ly trim­ming in the herb gar­den. The rose­mary may have sur­vived the win­ter. I can’t tell yet. One of the things I cleaned out was the wash­tub that holds the clothes line post and the mint. Hun­dreds of tiny mint plants.


tiny mint plants

Also com­ing up are the lilies. Time to put out slug bait.

Asiatic Lilties

start­ing to appear — lilies

asiatic lily

amaz­ing that this will be 4 feet tall by august.

I’m hop­ing for anoth­er dry week­end, there’s a lot of plant­i­ng to do!

Gardening Report — March 14

Last week­end the front bed with the cedars in it got new shrubs.

Con­tin­u­ing the theme of hap­py flow­er­ing shrubs and brood­ing conifers that we start­ed with the cedars and the (now gone) bud­dleias we’ve added more hap­py and more brood­ing.

the weeping cedar bed got shrubs
the weep­ing cedar bed got shrubs

Start­ing with the hap­py, a flow­er­ing cur­rant. I’ve seen this plant on both the lists of -plants that birds like- and the lists of -plants that deer don’t like-. We shall see. The shock­ing cerise of the flow­ers is a nice stun­ner — at the far edge of the bed.

Ribes sanguineum 'King Edward VII', King Edward VII flowering currant

flow­er­ing cur­rant, shock­ing cerise

And now a lit­tle gloom. Okay, maybe not so gloomy. This lit­tle White Cedar cul­ti­var has a love­ly fluffy, bun­ny look up close.

Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Heather Bun'

Heather Bun, what a ter­ri­ble name.

Con­trast­ing nice­ly in form is this whip­cord West­ern Red Cedar. It’s an Iseli intro­duc­tion. I’m always hap­py to see that they’re still in busi­ness and still devel­op­ing  inter­est­ing plants.

Thujja plica 'Whipcord'/Whipcord Western Red Cedar

whip­cord west­ern red cedar

Also along the back of the bed there’s a white flow­er­ing quince. I know, I know, flow­er­ing quinces are sup­posed to be that red-orange col­or. But this one is so pret­ty… I also like how well the wrecked, stick-fig­ure angu­lar­i­ty of the this par­tic­u­lar one is already devel­oped. (I’ll plant one of the prop­er­ly col­ored ones down by the farm sign, I promise.)

Chaenomeles x superba 'Jet Trail'

flow­er­ing quince — Jet Trail

These creamy flower clus­ters were irre­sistible.

Chaenomeles x superba 'Jet Trail'

close up of the flower clus­ters

There are three of the­ses lit­tle red twig dog­woods. The var­ie­gat­ed leaves will con­trast nice­ly with the green wrinkly cur­rant leaves behind them.

Cornus alba 'Bailhalo', Ivory Halo dogwood

nice shrub dog­wood with ivory edges leaves

The oth­er gloomies. Two nice­ly col­ored conifers. The juniper in the front will have a pur­plish cast dur­ing the win­ter, the yew in the back will be some­what bronze. Both will head more toward full green in the sum­mer.

Juniperus horizontalis 'Youngstown', Youngstown Andorra juniper and Taxus b. 'Repandens', Spreading English yew

just being to lose it’s win­ter pur­ple

Now I just have to be patient. And dili­gent with the deer repel­lent.

Still Raining (damn it)

Yup, it’s still rain­ing. Three bloody weeks of the driz­zle falling down my neck.

I took advan­tage of a half hour break last week­end and went for a lit­tle ram­ble about the place. Here are some pics.

The red­bud is final­ly bloom­ing and has a few ten­der look­ing leaves. (And some of these shots are sil­ly and arty.)

arty shot of the redbud blooming

red­bud blooms

another redbud shot

look­ing over the pas­ture

There are a cou­ple of new things in the gar­den beds but this rainy cool weath­er isn’t doing most of the plants any favors.

The lit­tle lilac has bloomed. I’m not sure if the mot­tling on the leaves is sup­posed to be there. Hmm.

everblooming lilac

the odd lit­tle lilac that I put in last fall

And a bonus in the herb gar­den, or rather mixed in with the lilies next to the herb gar­den. Self-seed­ed cilantro.

self seeded cilantro

won’t need to buy any cilantro

I’ve spent some time in the woods recent­ly check­ing on coy­ote activ­i­ty. Last week­end I took my cam­era with me and got these four shots of spring.

vine maple blooming on the edge of the forest.

vine maple bloom­ing

douglas fir branches tipped with new growth

the for­est is char­treuse!

wild honey suckle blossoms

hon­ey suck­le is a weed but it’s so pret­ty

deer trail leading onto the forest

one of the deer trails

Our next project is to fin­ish installing our new hot tub. Right now it’s just sit­ting on the con­crete pad in the mid­dle of the dirt and grav­el.  It’ll be nicer when there’s a door where the win­dows are now and there’s a nice deck sur­round­ing it. Doesn’t mat­ter real­ly we use it a lot already.

hot tub on a pad but no deck

wait­ing for improve­ments

Pray for sun, we’re los­ing our minds out here.

New Glass

We spent a lit­tle time down at the expen­sive toy store ear­li­er this week­end. We came away with two new-to-us lens­es.

The first is rather dull — it’s a straight across replace­ment for the 70 – 300 that we already had. The new one has VR, Nikon’s image stabilization/vibration reduc­tion pack­age. The longer the lens the more I appre­ci­ate VR.

The sec­ond lens is a bit more inter­est­ing. A 12 – 14 f4 aspher­i­cal. (Tok­i­na.) We bought it because I want a wider lens for get­ting good shots of the crowd­ed nar­row streets and aisles in Mex­i­co. So that I can get things like these pic­tures of the road to the farm.

heading down the road

our road

I’m con­sid­er­ing using this one on the new Black­dog and Mag­pie web­site design. Doing some thing with a ver­ti­cal image on the left side rather than the total­ly pre­dictable head­er image.

the road outta here

look­ing down the road from the pas­ture

If you know my back­yard well you’ll be able to see the amount of squash­ing in this pic­ture. It’s actu­al­ly a long way from the rock pile to the edge of the saw buck. You can also tell that the hood doesn’t fit  per­fect­ly and that at 12mm there’s some inter­fer­ence with the edges of the image. Oh well, I’ll have to see what I can do about it.

the rock pile never gets smaller

the back side of the work yard

The oth­er rea­son for get­ting a nice fat round lens is to be able to take good land­scape pic­tures. Admit­ted­ly about the only thing we have around there this fall is green but it’s nice crisp detailed green.

green and lush even in late summer

why yes, we have a few ferns

And some more green things.

shiny leaves

more foliage, up close this time

But best of all is the abil­i­ty to get close and shal­low on those days when the lilies look good but the patio fur­ni­ture is a lit­tle dingy.

that's hot

the last of the Stargaz­er lilies for this year

In this morning’s exper­i­ment­ing I found that the cam­era con­sis­tent­ly over expos­es shots if I let it have too much say in the expo­sure, espe­cial­ly if I let it choose a shut­ter speed. A lit­tle care in shoot­ing and a  lit­tle nudge in Light­room and I get those love­ly water drops on the lily… hap­py.

This time next week I’ll be writ­ing the first of the posts from Oax­a­ca and the Mex­i­can bicen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tions. Can’t wait!