Despite lots of raking by both Mark and me, there are still plenty of leaves that need our attention — especially after our windy weekend. But I decided to grab the camera before I reached for the rake. The brown needles below are from the Dawn Redwood tree.
Some seedpods are so pretty I am always glad to see them even though they signal the end of the growing season. These belong to the European Spindle Tree aka Euonymous europaeus 'Aldenhamensis' and have a pink outer layer with an orange seed hidden inside.
We still have a Burning Bush which is considered invasive. But we love its open shape and it is big enough that we can walk under it. Since it grows in a lot of shade it usually doesn't get that burning red color nor does it usually get too many seeds. This year seems to be an exception
One of the most dramatic of all seedpods: Carex grayii. These look like something from outer space and are quite a sight sticking up out of the snow in the winter when the foliage is all gone and the pods are dark brown.
I usually cut the dead flowers off of any Hostas that I've actually let bloom. But a few years ago a friend used these long stems covered in pods in fall flower arrangements and I thought they looked wonderful. I noticed that some of them dried more bluish and even a purply-brown color. I'm waiting to see if these keep the green color or fade to something new.
They appear to be fading to yellow this week.
Unknown Cimicifuga but they all go to seed in the most beautiful way.
Lilium martagon 'Claude Shride'
And the seed pod that will inundate my garden from now until Spring: the long velvety beans of the Locust trees
We could not have enjoyed a more lovely fall day today. We've passed the midway mark in October without a killing frost in the city and a high temperature of 68 degrees F this afternoon. So many locust leaves have fallen that they've obscured the paths, the grass and the pond. It's all one golden landscape. I swept the leaves off the deck and set up a work station at the table. Cleaned all my garden tools and now just have to sharpen and oil them.
Went through the garden gate at the top of the steps and gabbed with our neighbors who were out working on their side of the fence. Then Mark grilled a steak to take advantage of the weather. These garden shots were taken through the windows after I'd come in around 5 p.m.
When I went around closing some of the windows, I couldn't resist the shadows the trees outside our our bedroom windows were casting on the curtains that were billowing in the breeze.
Hope you were lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful day as well.
I started writing this post when we were prepping for our garden tours in June. But I think it's worth sharing since it is really about the fact that even garden hardscaping needs attention over time. Just as with plants, nothing is ever really finished in a garden.
We designed our pond with one corner lower by a half-inch than the rest of the perimeter. Essentially it directs the overflow in a big rainstorm to that spot where it pours over the edge and follows the natural drainage path on our property. We turned that necessity into a garden feature by digging out the drainage path and lining it with rocks to make a dry stream when it's not raining.
Over the course of 20 years the smaller rocks have become embedded in dirt from years of rainy pond overflow. So Mark got a truck-load of gravel to top it up again.
This necessitated multiple trips up and down a sloping path with loads of rocks which he then spread around using a rake. He smiled for the camera but it was a tough job and one that I did not help him with, other than keeping him supplied with water.
Proper tools and safety measures are in evidence here: the water and ear protectors when using the leaf blower to clean out the area before he began working. He gives me a hard time when I make a banana smoothie because the blender is so noisy he thinks I need ear protection even for that! He is very good about using protective gear.
In addition to topping up the rocks in the stream, Mark added more mid-size boulders to emphasize the stream edges. We also pulled out a bunch of German iris plants that no longer bloom because of too much shade. So we added pine needles to make a path that skirts the edge of the stream.
This shows the corner of the pond that allows for the overflow during rainstorms. It is not really obvious that the edge right there is a fraction lower, but this is the only spot where water ever overflows during storms. The moss on the far right of this image is growing on hard-packed clay soil in a fair amount of sun. I frequently walk on this moss instead of the adjacent stepping stones. It is very low and flat and just filled in of its own accord with no help from me.
The stream splits when it goes under the bridge.
This view shows an area in the foreground that is ready for some new ground cover plants. The small gray gravel is the wheelbarrow working path that crosses the stream over a limestone paver that was once a step in our state capitol building. The mulched area to the left is the former moss garden which I am just beginning to redesign and plant.
Now that there have been multiple rain storms since Mark reworked the stream, the dust has washed off the rocks and they aren't such a pale presence any more. Just a beautifully refreshed feature and one that I enjoy every time I cross the stream — which is pretty much multiple times every day!
We've had 1.27" of rain since yesterday afternoon. No high winds, no ghastly gushers. And yet is seems to have been enough to send another branch from the Honey Locust tree crashing down. It didn't make enough noise to wake us during the night despite it happening right outside our bedroom windows. The tree looks healthy enough and has had regular pruning so we're not sure how worried we should be.
The branch landed on the old fence which kept it from crashing into my understory trees and shrubs, like the Golden Shadows Dogwood which is just out of view on the left in the image below. It took out a fence board and is stuck in place with all the spreading branches and leaves on our neighbor's side of the fence. But I don't think it hurt their garden either.
And there's still a big branch from the last storm stuck up in the tree. It had been hanging upside down but has now broken off and become wedged in the tree. We planned on waiting until everything goes dormant so we can get a ladder and an arborist to deal with the problem without harming everything that's currently growing there. This storm has not been as bad as predicted so far, but it looks like it may continue for most of the day. Keeping our fingers crossed!
Since it's Labor Day in the U.S. I thought I would look at the work of putting a flower arrangement together and write about the tools I use to do that. I'm guessing many of you have the same weapons in your arsenal, but perhaps you'll find a new idea or product here.
In addition to vases, I also have a selection of attractive containers to use when I just want to disguise a plastic pot. Wondering about those bits of white paper towels that you can see? I always put something between containers so I don't chip the edges when I stack them up and rudely shove them into this fully stuffed cupboard. (This cupboard is in the basement and still boasts its 1960s paint colors).
A few pieces from my massive stash of containers. These are all ceramic. One was made by my best friend from college, one came from my favorite antique shop before it closed, one belonged to my grandmother but most are by Midwestern potter friends.
For cutting flowers in the garden or while arranging them indoors, nothing beats Japanese Koshiji pruners. The pair I use in the garden have pink plastic wrapped around the handle so I can find them again when I set them down. The small clippers are by Fiskars. I have a number of Japanese flower holders (Kenzans), including this shaped one in the center of the tray.
There's a spiral flower holder that can also hold a candle in the center that was made in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in the 1950s. It's in its original box which is slowly falling apart. That odd green shape on the left is meant to hold a candle in an arrangement when you are using floral foam. It's upside down here; the sharp point gets stuck in the foam and the fat cup holds the candle.
I have a jar of smooth pebbles that I got at a nursery as well as two small boxes of black Mihama pebbles from Japan. I use them to hold stems in place in a vase or just scatter them across a table around a vase. There's a roll of fine green wire which I have rarely used as well as a box of tubes with rubber caps with a slit in them. They sometimes come on flowers that are delivered and I save them anytime I came across them. I use them to hide a flower in a quirky location where I can't fit a vase. I have dried moss and birds' eggs — anything that might come in handy to create an effect. But if you've been following my Monday vases, you may have noticed that I don't take advantage of all these nice tools and objects nearly as much as I might!
I am lucky to garden in a place where we have not had a serious drought for a while. In fact I planted my whole garden — which is half an acre — without ever putting in drip irrigation or really even thinking much about supplemental watering. We had outdoor faucets on the front and back of the house and up near the Tea House and that seemed enough. Usually it is. I just hook up a hose or two if we haven't had rain and the garden starts to get parched.
But I find I use watering cans more than hoses to irrigate seasonal containers or new plantings or seedlings. Over the years I've amassed a world of watering cans. I have two cans each that are of American, French, German, and British design and manufacture (from the top of the steps down). They all share certain qualities like being made of galvanized zinc. But a quick glance suggests their differences.
They all sport "roses" aka the removable sprinkler head but only the UK cans (below), made by Haws since 1886, have roses not only made of brass but that come in two different shapes and hole sizes for different tasks. The oval rose is a fine spray designed to water delicate seedlings.
Haws cans also come with a brass emblem so you know you have the real thing.
My pair of of German cans each sport the famous "flying bat" logo. Bat cans date to the 1930s; mine hold 7.5 TGL/liters (2 gallons) and 5 liters (1.32 gals.) I found both of these at antique fairs and they were not particularly expensive. I bought them a long time ago before such gardening objects became "cool," which is probably why they were reasonably priced. I went looking online for more information but only found people with Bat cans to sell — ranging from $145.00 to $245.00 for the next largest size, 10 liters.
The French cans have no identifying marks. I only know they are French because that's how they were identified when I purchased them. One is new (the one still bearing residue of the sales label) and the other is antique.
The French pair are the most decorative with the raised bands of stripes (above). The German pair are more restrained — perhaps a bit of Bauhaus influence?
The Haws can — their "professional" model — is the most elegant to my eye. It's clearly the product of a nation of gardeners and was introduced when most of the work of gardening was all done by hand. They are the perfect embodiment of William Morris' dictum: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."
Now look at the American cans. Functional — and the only can that does not have a rolled or curved handle for ease and comfort of carrying. I never use them as they hurt too much once you put water in them. And even these inelegant cans often sell for surprisingly high prices at flea markets and antique shops.
My Haws cans are a matched pair and hold two Imperial gallons (2.40 American gallons) which makes them heavy containers when full — about 24 pounds each. The tall neck keeps water from spilling out when you tip it to water with the roses. The long neck gives you an extra long reach. They are, by far, the most comfortable watering can to carry and use because of the two handles. I typically carry one can in each hand by the angled top bar. Yes, they're heavy but not uncomfortably so.
And I love the gentle spray they deliver!
I bought my pair of Haws cans in NYC in 1998 when Mark and I were there celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. I got them at the Smith and Hawken store when they sold only the best of garden equipment from around the world. They cost $75.00 each which was a fortune to us. But we haven't been back to NYC since then and Smith and Hawken is long gone. So I consider them a great buy and a wonderful memento of the trip and our anniversary. Today one Haws can like mine costs $157.00 on the Haws website. Shipping is free for purchases over $50.00, so there's that.
It's not that bad a deal when you consider that White Flower Farm is selling them for $179.00 and they cost $168.00 at Terrain, and shipping appears to be extra. The price is pretty outrageous for a watering can. And yet, having used my Haws for almost twenty years now, I'd probably be willing to pay it I love them so much. They're always the ones I reach for first; the others usually just look pretty sitting in a spot in the garden where I don't want people to walk!
When Mark built the Tea House, he made the main entrance in the traditional Japanese style as much as possible. That means a low — very low — door that you have to almost crawl through to enter. Samurai had to leave their swords outside and humble themselves to enter such a space. While I am not averse to humbling myself in the cause of art, I requested a second door that we could walk through upright.
We could never have a proper step up or any kind of defined path to this door until the electric and water lines (Projects 1 and 2) got buried, since they had to go under this area. Once that was done Mark could finish the entrance on this side of the Tea House. He'd set aside stone to use a long time ago. But there was no actual design even though we'd looked at ideas and talked about it.
Since there were an uneven number of pieces of stone and they were of differing lengths, an asymmetrical path seemed like the obvious answer. Until I looked at it, walked on it and decided I didn't like it now that Mark had set all the stones. I hated to complain at this stage of a job, but I knew it would bother me forever if it was left the way it was.
So the poor guy redid it.
Now the stones all go in one direction which makes it a bit more formal. But the edges of the path and the length of each section are not even thus making it more informal and, I suppose you could say, asymmetrical. This is a tight space to fit a defined path since it has to go to the door around the curve of the upper pool.
But this final iteration is much more comfortable to walk on letting the visitor move as they wish rather than following the zig zag original design. Mark may have other ideas and plans but as far as I'm concerned, the Tea House is now complete.
Pitch black by 6:30 p.m. as Mark was getting ready to go to a photo lecture. Once the wind and rain kicked in it was clear he wasn't going anywhere. I kept expecting the tornado sirens to go off but they didn't. We pulled the curtains just in case something hit the windows. I always figure that will slow down shattered glass from flying into the room. Lost power shortly after 7 p.m. Sat and read with flashlights and a big lantern that lit the room surprisingly well.
But the storm kept drawing us to the windows to marvel at the intensity of the wind and the wildly blowing and twisting trees in the garden. The pond was overflowing into the dry stream mechanism to handle such events. But the water flowing through it was the highest it's been in many years. Once it all calmed down around 9:30 p.m. Mark took the lantern and walked around a bit to see if there was any major damage.
Here's what it looked like this morning. One of our many bunnies briefly joined me for a look at all the twigs and small debris that's scattered all over the garden.
We got 4.32 inches (10.97 centimeters) of rain in not much more than two hours. It was blowing against the house so that you could hardly see out some of the windows. It was enough rain that it started coming in the basement right in the area where we have artwork stored — which meant a lot of things were moved around by flashlight. With no power we couldn't use the shop vac to keep on top of the seepage.
Here's the Lilium henryi that looked so nice in my Wordless Wednesday post. Not sure if they will straighten up on their own. I am guessing the answer is no. My huge Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is all splayed out from the center and I am sure it will have to be tied up for the rest of the season. Luckily most plants and shrubs suffered little permanent damage despite some pretty big branches coming down on them.
Most of the branches that came down were from our Honey Locust trees. One in particular lost a good chunk of a limb. It also left a damaged limb that will likely need an arborist to remove. But I am thrilled that it missed our 'Golden Shadows' Dogwood. Here's the same branch looking down from the back side of the Tea House along the west side fence. This branch is too big to move without doing some cutting which Mark is about to do as soon as he finishes mopping up the basement. The garden certainly needed the rain even if the basement didn't, so I'm not complaining. It could have been much worse.
This is Project No. 2 that Mark finished in June: Moving the water line across the area outside the Tea House and setting up a more accessible and useful hook up. The picture below shows the work on the trench for the electric line. Going off to the left you can see the start of a trench that will go over to the fence and provide multiple faucets.
Between the two projects Mark figures he dug about 25 feet of trench. Again, not a glamorous job but one that I'm very thankful for. The new setup has three faucets. That means I can attach hoses that go off in opposite directions should we have a really droughty period.
I typically only water newly planted things. Once plants, trees and shrubs have settled in they are on their own. Most years we have enough rainfall in southern Wisconsin that additional watering is never needed. These days I'm much more conscious about using drought-tolerant plants as well.
But I must say that I love having a faucet at the right height for watering cans so I can easily take care of the potted plants in this part of the garden. And it finally means that those annoying eyesores of unfinished pipes are no longer on view in one of the main focal points of the garden.
Only one more job remains before this area can be called finished: Project No. 3.