A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: 2017

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18 May 2017

Spring Garden Tour

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Lavender on a Stone Wall in Pennsylvania

It has been a while since I've posted pictures of the garden, so today I thought I'd take you on a little tour. The lavender above is growing nicely in two large stone planting beds in front of the house - good drainage! I plan to plant more lavender along the edge with a bit of nepeta as well. I put in two plants of each last year to see how they got on, and it turns out they are both quite happy next to the stone. The front porch looks quite similar to last year since many of those pots overwintered indoors, but the hanging white Bacopa planters are new. They were had for a song because they had dried out at the store and were clearanced out. I babied them and now they are performing as well as ever.

Front Porch Classic Traditional with Black Rockers and White Bacopa Hanging Planter

The Iris are budding and one single bloom has popped open this week. These were here when we moved in and I have been dividing each year to add an identical border to the opposite side of the house/drive. I am about 50% of the way finished. The English Ivy was also here when we moved in and I have grown to love it in this contained space. I especially love the brighter, lime green foliage that emerges in spring. I do not, however, enjoy the weeds emerging in this bed :/

Iris and Ivy Along Stone Wall in Pennsylvania


Three ladders got a coat of paint for climbers along the pillars and there is that pretty catmint!

Nepeta Catmint on Stone Wall in PennsylvaniaDIY Ladders for Climbing Plants on Stucco Pillars Stone House

Front of the House:

This year, I also had our garden certified as a Wildlife Habitat.  I had wanted to do this for years, and when I finally went to do it, the rules had eased up a bit. 
I was a little sad that I didn't have to jump through as many hoops, but still proud that we have loads of wildlife happy with water, shelter and natural food sources!

Certified Wildlife Habitat Lawn Sign Plaque at A Nest for All Seasons

Sowing Seed in Thrift Store Mugs at A Nest for All Seasons
Many many seeds in containers of all sorts are still all over the place...

In Progress...


Plenty of new (to me!) plants are in the garden this year including old fashioned favorites like chamomile (above left) and "parlor maple" (Abutilon) from seed (in metal bucket...that has drainage holes!).

One area I am proud of this year is the new allium bed. Last year, this wall was a mess of poison ivy and housed a mulberry tree that the insurance company told us to chop down. We were happy to oblige as the tree wasn't producing much anymore. I laid out a plan, and with the help of Longfield Gardens, I planted a brand new perennial bed. The stars are DEFINITELY the alliums this year.


While the alliums are shining bright this year, they will be joined by more and more perennial showstoppers as the years go by. Those perennials are small and sleepy this year, but I can see their potential.  Along the base of each clump of allium, I have been putting in various "little bloomers" to help hide the ugly fading leaves on the allium bottoms. Pictured below right is perennial yellow alyssum, and I am also testing out a new Salvia (Blue Marvel)from Darwin Perennials and an annual purple bacopa that is *supposed* to reseed itself. (see far below left)





This bed also has six peony divisions from an old peony I found half hidden in the woods, 2 lilacs and several hydrangea bushes. The goal is for the alliums to "pop" out of mounds of perennials in butter yellow, creamy white, a deep aubergine and little pops of purple.


The Drive

Driveway with Planted Cracks

Perhaps the greatest trial gardening here is the driveway. We could just repave the whole thing, but I think winter driving would become a lot more treacherous. I see those cracks and envision beautiful manicured lines of green, but in practice I do not keep up with them enough.  SO. The plan this year has been to root out anything that grows UP or OUT and leave any *pretty* weeds that stay small and clump. Think veronica :)  So far, it is better than last year, but not good enough.  Will keep working...

On the other hand, the grasses bed (to the right of the driveway) is progressing along nicely. You might remember seeing a photo of it "before" when it was a mass of child sized weeds, including masses of poison ivy. (If you want to see the FULL before post, head on over right HERE).  We had the bed cleared and mulched, leaving only the ornamental grass clumps.

See the rest of the BEFORES at Stonecrest HERE

Once the bed was basically empty, I started adding in sun hungry plants that will complement the grasses. The main structure will be from 6 large hydrangeas, but I also found some heather on clearance and snapped up 4. I don't know much about heaths or heathers, but when we were in Scotland last year, the hills were full of them. Even in winter, they were fantastic. I even grabbed a few (seedless) stems to take home in my suitcase. They now hang from the beams in my kitchen and now their namesake has a place in the garden.
Heather at A Nest for All Seasons in the Grasses Bed

This little spot below had an evergreen that died a while back, so a heather and a sedum and some daffodil divisions nicely filled in the spot and reclaimed the little poison ivy patch that had formed there.  The heather will spread wide and the sedum will fill up in a rounded shape, giving structure to this awkward crumbling wall.

Heather and Sedum  at A Nest for All Seasons in the Grasses Bed

The Vegetables

Heirloom Pumpkins Seeded in Perennial Beds

I have planted pumpkins everywhere this year. There are plenty of holes in the landscape while perennials are getting established, so I am taking the opportunity to grow a bumper crop of heirloom pumpkins. Those plants in the background are daffodils splits -- hundreds of them now fill the front edge of the grasses bed and they shall siiiiing next spring!

The actual vegetable garden is down below the driveway on a flat patch of earth. It isn't the most beautiful sight from the back, but I needed to leave the back fence free for the sunlight that comes over the hill each morning. I am experimenting with different trellising ideas, hugelculture, soaker hose arrangement, and hay bale gardening this year. The jury is still out on all of them!

Pennsylvania Potager with Willow Fencing, Bean Teepee, Hugelculture and Hay Bale Gardening

Pennsylvania Potager with Willow Fencing, Bean Teepee, Hugelculture and Hay Bale Gardening

Potatoes from Sam's Club are growing magnificently, but the onions are just so-so. BOTH raspberry plants from Sam's went kaput. I learned my lesson.  I now have my eye on a Glencoe raspberry (it is purple!) and have one golden raspberry already in the ground. You can see on the right photo below that the hay bales are well rotted and lined with soaker hoses. (Find them HERE at Gilmour) You can see how I utilized the hoses with a rainbarrel last year RIGHT HERE. This year, I have plans to leave the rain barrel open, directing almost all of the soaker action to these hay bales. Again, the jury is still out!

Pennsylvania Potager with Willow Fencing, Bean Teepee, Hugelculture and Hay Bale GardeningPennsylvania Potager with Willow Fencing, Bean Teepee, Hugelculture and Hay Bale Gardening

Pennsylvania Potager with Willow Fencing, Bean Teepee, Hugelculture and Hay Bale Gardening

Tulip Tree Foliage at A Nest for All Seasons in the Stonecrest Hollow
Tulip Tree Foliage

The Hollow


Japanese Maple Foliage at A Nest for All Seasons in the Stonecrest Hollow
Japanese Maple Foliage
Arguably the best spot in spring is in the "hollow". Carved out of the side of a mini-mountain, the hollow is full of shade and always feels cool thanks to a small stream running through it. Though some curse the common rhododendron, I am of the school of thought that unless mature plants make you sick to your stomach, you leave them alone. It takes YEARS and years and years to get a nice, large rhododendron, so I love this trio of them down in the hollow, common though they may be.

I also rather like that purple-magenta against the dark red of the Japanese Maple (above). It tames it a bit and the shade here keeps the color a bit muted as well.

Rhododendron Classic Traditional Shade Garden in Pennsylvania

Today, I found a little something in the hollow I had never noticed before. A few letters carved into the rock of the stone seating area - RDF, the date it was built? and a cross. RDF are the original homeowners initials :)

Stonecrest HollowStonecrest Creek

Speaking of common, there are hostas all over the hollow and they are perfectly green 
and INTACT this time of year. I am sure the slugs will get to them, but for now, they are lovely.

Hosta Foliage at A Nest for All Seasons in the Stonecrest Hollow

Another fun little experiment in the hollow is training this wisteria to climb two "junk" trees that are coming from the same root system.  I planted the wisteria right in between the two trunks and I am hoping to have it climb both. If it kills the tree, that would be ok? Jury is out on this idea too. I DID make sure to choose a planting spot for the wisteria that is mowed on a weekly basis to keep it in bounds.

Wisteria Foliage at A Nest for All Seasons in the Stonecrest Hollow

...and the MOST beautiful bit...

...and she is really into curtsying lately :)



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17 May 2017

Boy Blogs

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Recently, I have been reading three blogs almost exclusively. They oddly happen to all be written by men.  It seems in the past, the large majority of my favorite gardening blogs were written by women, but this past month, the boys have won. I found them all by researching Latin plant names via Google search, so take from that what you will. Men are more concerned with correct names? In any case, I thought you might find these blogs as interesting as I have, so here is a quick introduction to three great garden blogs.

The Frustrated Gardener

I haven't quite figured out why he is frustrated, but his images are gorgeous. 
Plenty of detailed plant information and inspiring gardens on this UK blog!

Real Men Sow

I found this one (another UK blog, by the way) searching for 'potager' and most likely "Scottish Potager" because that is what my dreams are made of.  (Quite literally, I dream of Scottish Potagers...) Real Men Sow has a focus on allotments, but also has great, detailed plant information.

The Obsessive Neurotic Gardener

In divergence from the previous UK boys, this guy is a Jersey guy. He has a filthy mouth, but great information on the (mainly) perennials that he has growing in his personal garden. I dedicate my first Amsonia Hubrichtii purchase solely to John. 

Enjoy!!

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07 April 2017

A Split and a Stack, OH and Scotland

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When purchasing cheap perennials from big box stores, I tend to make a large split down the side of the rootball before planting.

'Winky Purple-White' Columbine
'Winky Purple-White' Columbine
A reputable nursery will tend to sell plants before their roots become completely bound, but the less expensive your plant is, 
the more problems might be lurking in the rootball.  Case in point, this cheap (but beautiful!!) columbine plant.

'Winky Purple-White' Columbine
'Winky Purple-White' Columbine

I am adding columbine to the allium border to help cover up the naked legs and floppy leaves of said alliums. (Curious about the alliums? Read about the whole planting scheme HERE!) I also plan to add in the nicely foliaged nepeta and some sedum splits to help with the naked issue.  In later years, perhaps some David Austin roses and peonies will be added to this space.  One can dream, right?


 It is going to pretty....just give it time...this is the awkward teenager year of this little bed.

Back to the split though...

West County Gloves Columbine

When I get these root bound plants, I tend to split them straight down the sides.  I first cut gently into the root ball with a trowel or soil knife and then use my hands to gently pry the sections apart. This method breaks up the roots going in circles around the edges of the pot AND (bonus!) will sometimes result in two plants from one container, doubling your plant value.  Once planted, those roots can grow OUT into the soil instead of continuing in circles around the root ball.

If you are a gardener like me, this time of year is both exhilarating and slightly infuriating. Spring is basically here, and on some days it seems perhaps summer would like to make an appearance, while on others snow still seems to threaten.  This is NOT THE TIME FOR PLANTING TOMATOES.  ...and yet, I want to.

I should be moving more carts of chicken bedding to the compost pile, weeding while the weeds are young and starting to divide those clumps of daffodils that have gotten so dense they barely bloom anymore.  It seems those chores have become chores and ALL I WANT TO DO IS PLANT TOMATOES.  I resist however, and instead make plans and read books when I cannot stomach the thought of another load of manure.

Of course, when not IN the garden in spring, I am reading about it...

Good Soil by Tina Raman, Ewa-Marie Rundquist and Justine LagacheGood Soil by Tina Raman, Ewa-Marie Rundquist and Justine Lagache

Good Soil by Tina Raman, Ewa-Marie Rundquist and Justine LagacheGood Soil by Tina Raman, Ewa-Marie Rundquist and Justine Lagache

Good Soil by Tina Raman, Ewa-Marie Rundquist and Justine Lagache is a BEAUTIFUL new book that is full of information. Charts galore and easy to find, detailed reference pages are scattered throughout the book. The author is Swedish, so it is interesting to read a slightly difference viewpoint on soil - the "nutrients that can be found in offal, the sea, fire, rocks, rubbish and of course, dung heaps." It sounds so much nicer in her words, doesn't it? I also appreciate the dives into chemistry, biology, history and even philosophy whist discussing the basic foundation of ANY garden - GOOD SOIL.  

Another plus? Matte finish pages -- it might seem like a small details, but they feel so good while flipping through and I bet my buy vs. browse percentage of matte vs. glossy books is probably 50% higher.

Another good reference for both experienced AND brand new gardeners is Fresh From the Garden by John Whitman. The book is organized by plant and can be read straight through, but also used as a reference when deciding WHAT to plant (once it is time of course....NO TOMATOES YET!) 

Fresh From the Garden by John  WhitmanFresh From the Garden by John  Whitman

Fresh From the Garden by John  WhitmanFresh From the Garden by John  Whitman

 This is actually the fourth book in a series by Whitman on cold climate gardening.  The others have focused on roses, perennials and small shrubs and trees.  THIS book is focused on vegetables, berries and herbs (you know the stuff I WANT TO PLANT RIGHT NOW but probably shouldn't quuuuiiiite yet.)

On the stack is also a sweet children's book called The Children's Garden by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierr Morgan. Illustrated with colorful paintings, this charming picture book features a diverse group of children connecting to food through hands-on outdoor activity.  This is a fantastic book to read to school children before planting a school garden or just to get them excited about good food!


 Rounding out my current stack includes the novel sitting at my bedside: "Lady of the Glen" (which is not nearly so raunchy as it sounds) and a little book called Meditation for Daily Stress by Michel Pascal. The concept is to focus on (or meditate on) a specific item for specific stresses.



For example -- The Horizon to calm, straighten, clear a racing brain or A Wave to deal with difficult people and interactions. Yes, it sounds hokey at first, but I am enjoying reading a bit more deeply into the practice of meditation and considering how yoga and meditation can coexist with a Christian worldview.  I have been practicing yoga for several years now, but have recently experimented with "hot" yoga (vinyasa), Iyengar and power yoga.  I just bought a Groupon for Bikram Yoga (SCARY!) and am super curious about aerial yoga as well. I like the challenge of a mind/body exercise that is accessible from childhood through old age and find the calming (and sweaty!) pratice of vinyasa invigorating.

Back to Lady of the Glen though....THIS is where the story takes place -- Glencoe, Scotland.

Glencoe, Scotland

More to come on our trip last year to Scotland, but let me just say Glencoe is the sort
of place you think exists only in movies, but THEN THERE YOU ARE and it is breathtaking.

Glencoe Scotland

It has been 6 months since we went to Scotland, and I still haven't quite found the words to do it justice.

Let me just say that like Claire, WE ARE GOING BACK.


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