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

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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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11 March 2017

A Sick Rhododendron, Stolen Celosia and a Welcome Weed

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Seeding Celosia under Hanging Baskets at A Nest for All Seasons

When I start anything from seed, I try to mark the space with an upside down hanging basket (above). It reminds me NOT to weed there for a few weeks and gives the plants some protection when they do emerge. The basket is removed once the plants start to reach the wires. Inside this particular wire enclosure are some celosia seeds - stolen celosia. Last fall, our local nature center did a crafting with nature event (NOT related to my book...just a happy coincidence!) and we were able to make a variety of ornaments and such out of pinecones, seedheads and other plant bits. I made sure to make a little tussy mussy including some pretty celosia with seeds still attached.  Today, they found their home!

Sick Rhododendron with brown curling leaves at A Nest for All Seasons

In other garden news, I have a sad and maybe sick rhododendron (above). The leaves on several branches look like this:

Sick Rhododendron with brown curling leaves at A Nest for All Seasons

From what I have read, it might have just been a lack of water last year, as there were no obvious signs of pest or disease, but to be safe I trimmed off all branches with signs of these curling, brown leaves. This is a very mature rhododendron and there are several that line the creek, but this was the only one affected. While this is not the time of year to prune rhodies (you will take off the ready-to-bloom flower buds), I needed to get at this problem as soon as I saw it.

Fiskars Loppers Pruning Rhododendron

The impetus to action was a decent pair of loppers. For about 12 years I had been using a pair from Ollies and they were great for about 8 of those years until the metal handle cracked. They had served me very well (I daresay the most used tool in the shed?), but I had been using it with that metal handle broken for about 2 years now. Picture loppers on crutches and that is about the efficiency at which I was operating those old things. I can be incredibly cheap sometimes and really should have replaced it when it broke. When Fiskars asked if I would like to try their new line of pruning tools, well, the obvious answer was YES.

Fiskars Loppers

They REALLY are 3 times easier -- cuts like a hot knife through butter and I went up to trees the size of half dollars. I think it could have done more.

Link to Fiskars Loppers -- a ton of options for you!

Fiskars Loppers Pruning Rhododendron

 As we went back to the house, I was reminded of just how pretty a weed can be:
Bird’s Eye Speedwell (veronica persica)
Bird’s Eye Speedwell (veronica persica)
 Anywhere this "weed" wants to gallivant around the lawn, it is more than welcome.

In other news, I forgot to open the laying coop, and the hens had a little mini-battle to see who could lay their egg first today.

Buff Orpingtons Fighting to Lay an Egg

Reminds me of a girl's bathroom at a baseball game intermission. #henfight

Hope your spring is arriving in fits and starts like mine and you are getting OUT and enjoying it!

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09 March 2017

Year 3 ::: The Grasses Bed

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This post has been under construction for a good three years now...
Thanks to Fiskars for providing the pruning tools used in this job.

Starting in 2014:

Otherwise known as "chicken hunting land", this is the grasses bed.

Stonecrest Manor Grasses Bed Revival with Sedum Catmint Ornamental Grasses and Hydrangea

You might remember this particular bed from a post I did last fall -- READ IT HERE.
Stonecrest Manor Grasses Bed Revival with Sedum Catmint Ornamental Grasses and Hydrangea
These photos are from the spring after we moved in. Believe it or not, this bed was much much worse when we first bought the house. 
There are eight mature ornamental grass clumps that had grown wildly out of control along with a host of tough weeds, including weedy trees.

Stonecrest Manor Grasses Bed Revival with Sedum Catmint Ornamental Grasses and Hydrangea


We had the grasses trimmed (a yearly chore) and the entire bed sprayed to kill absolutely everything. Typically, I try to use organic methods and manual removal to control weeds, but this bed was simply too much to handle. Once sprayed, the bed was mulched and a few small plants went in.
Stonecrest Manor Grasses Bed Revival with Sedum Catmint Ornamental Grasses and Hydrangea
Fall 2016
Below is the bed from the other side where you can see the baby bits of green. In the corner are sedum cuttings that I rooted myself and then barely visible is some carex (a short, small grass) and soapwort (a native plant that will hang over the edge a bit). You might also see the bits of English Ivy along the edges and in between stones. I want to keep the ivy to soften the edges of the stone and as a treat for the sheep (they adore ivy). English ivy is used throughout the property and while it can be invasive, it really suits all the rock walls we have.

Stonecrest Manor Grasses Bed Revival with Sedum Catmint Ornamental Grasses and Hydrangea
Fall 2016, ivy, sedum starts and grasses visible
Below is the view coming up the driveway: 

My plan is to use deep reddish sedum, hydrangea blooms that fade to a dusky red
 and Russian sage or catmint to complement the mature red bushes to the right of the driveway.
Stonecrest Manor Grasses Bed Revival with Sedum Catmint Ornamental Grasses and Hydrangea
Colors in the grasses bed will complement reds on the right of the driveway.
Stonecrest Manor Grasses Bed Revival with Sedum Catmint Ornamental Grasses and Hydrangea
Stone wall to be softened with sedums and catmint.
Eventually, I would also like to focus on this bed in springtime. At the moment, it will be a bunch of greens and show off once fall comes. 
A host of daffodils might be in the works for next year all along the edges of the wall.

March 2017


The daffodils have arrived! 

I was able to split big clumps of daffodils to fill in all along between the rock wall and grasses right as the daffodils were getting ready to bud. A week later and they have all perked up and some have started blooming. Daffodils are one of those tough-as-nails plants that can be transplanted almost any time of year (save the dead of winter). Don't let people warn you that they can ONLY be moved in the fall (when you have forgotten where they ARE!). I move them in early spring because I can SEE all the clumps and many will go ahead and bloom for me.  Case in point:

The grasses got a haircut:

These pruners are also in the new Fiskars line of pruning tools. They squeeze in an almost twisting motion instead of straight, making them easier for long periods and for those with arthritis.  Eight giant clumps of grass though and I had a blister :/ I didn't want to wait for the chainsaw though, so hand pruning it was!

It isn't the prettiest with a few still saggy daffodil clumps and shaved grasses, BUT this bed is coming along. 

Here is my "final" plan:

The bushes on either side of the grasses are large Annabelle hydrangeas (you can see where they are below by the yellow flags
and the last addition planned for this summer is lavender and maybe catmint along the edges and little filler clumps of bunny tail grasses by seed.

It is coming along!

Moral of the story...gardening takes YEARS and there are still days (or seasons) when it is still ugly.

Worth it?  I say YES!

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03 March 2017

All lined up like soldiers...

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In the spirit of spring cleaning, this year's mantra seems to be "get it on the wall!"  
There have been more nail holes punched into walls this week then there have been since we first moved in
and everything is falling into a place like a line of soldiers queuing up for battle.

This is the back stairway from the kitchen to the upstairs and it had this nasty little closet in the wall.

I should have taken a 'before', but imagine walls with various colors and some green moldy carpeting on the bottom. Various animals might have lived here at some point? In any case, some paint, some nails and an afternoon later and everything was clean, organized and up on the wall!

While I was working on this hallway, I also redid a little collection of black and whites. (top left photo below on instagram)

My favorite part are a couple led candles that turn on and off automatically and light up this dark little corner of the house at night. Makes it cozy!

Next on the list? Garden tools!

Fiskars sent some of the new pruning tools they are bringing to the market for me to try out.
They are beautiful and of course useful, so they are added to the "orange" wall:

She is beautiful too and hanging out with me in the garage so she got her picture taken:
Buff Orpington Chickens at Stonecrest Manor at A Nest for All Seasons
Buff Orpington Chickens at Stonecrest Manor at A Nest for All Seasons

 The place where I normally store tools in the basement is out of the way and tools tend to start accumulating in the garage as the gardening season wears on. So it only makes sense that I make some room for them there...but on the wall so that we can still actually park a car in the garage. Our oldest came up with the layout and installed all the nails (for some $$$ of course) and did a superb job, don't you think?

This is the "green" wall on the other side of the garage are all of the digging/raking tools (mostly all Ames tools). 

In the kitchen, hooks went up in the rafters for botanicals I scavenged for in the Scottish countryside while we were there
 (the BEST kind of souvenir in my opinion!) and more hooks went in to prepare for flower drying in the coming season.

Amy Renea at A Nest for All Seasons Stonecrest Kitchen with SCottish Botanicals

A few pictures that I have been meaning to hang went UP...

...and I breathe a sigh of calm until the next spring wave of organizing and cleaning fever sets in!

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