Category: gardening

Flowers and Fresh Veg

Visiting woodchucks, rabbits, a racoon and even a bear made gardening more difficult than usual this year. Still, on a sunny July day, it seems worth all the extra effort.

Lillies overlook the beans, squash and hydrangea.
Basil is easy to grow from seed.
Tomatillos are a new veg for me this year. Salsa Verde recipes, anyone?
Hydrangeas sport a deep blue because of my slightly acidic soil.
Lady Belle Sweet Peppers growing on the deck.
Zinnias hiding from rabbits in the pots of Swiss Chard.
The parsley usually lasts right up until snowfall.
Perennial flowers topped off with a hanging basket of marigolds and nasturtium.
Salad Bowl Lettuce doesn’t seem to mind the heat.
Potato flowers emerging from grow bags.
Boston Pickling Cucumbers are a New England favorite.
Tall Phlox and Scarlet Emperor Beans share a trellis.
Basil and marigolds used as companion plants with tomatoes.
Carolina Gold Tomatoes
Eggplant, Cosmos and Zinnias
Hoping my French Haricot Vert Beans are “woodchuck proof”!
Annuals grown from seed.
Green and Yellow Beans With Marigolds
Luckily, I Planted Extra Marigolds!

Now and Then

Even though it’s been a summer of extreme weather here in Central Massachusetts, most parts of the garden have thrived. Below, recent pictures are paired with those from late May, when the garden was first planted.

The pole beans are luxurious. The squash is holding its own, despite not being in full sun and hosting a mole that samples ground level fruits nightly.
Squash seedlings were barely visible in late May. Beans had yet to sprout.

Hard working Scarlet Emperor beans are on double duty attracting hummingbirds with jewel-like red blossoms and providing a screen from the road beyond. Additionally, the beans are tasty if picked when they are small.
The beans were planted in high planters as protection from hungry rabbits. Fortunately, rabbits have been few and far between during the past weeks.
The “Christmas tree” look of the heirloom Boston Pickling cucumber lends visual interest to the garden with its height and large leaves. A prolific grower, it is sprawling out on the ground in back of the “tree” as well.
Growing cucumbers vertically on bamboo canes makes harvesting produce much easier.
Eggplants that are ready to harvest are surrounded by marigolds for support. The plants cover the blue bucket they are growing in.
Marigold seedlings are barely visible in this picture. They bloomed so prolifically around the eggplant, I had to remove one to give the eggplant more room.
Kale has been continually harvested throughout the summer. Nasturtium and marigolds make good companion plants, as well as surrounding it with spots of edible color.
Lettuce (that had not germinated when this photograph was taken) was planted in between the kale. The kale provided shade for the lettuce during the hot July days.

How I Miss Them!

A mysterious bird disease is affecting the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states.

Birdbaths in my yard, usually a focal point for visiting birds, have been turned over at the urging of Massachusetts Wildlife officials. Although not yet reported in Massachusetts, a mysterious bird disease has affected many Southern and Mid-Atlantic states. Since late May there have been numerous reports of dying birds with swollen eyes and crusty discharge, as well as neurological problems. In lieu of the bright colors and uplifting energy our feathered friends provide, I offer these digitally altered photos, hoping the birds will be back flitting around my yard soon, and in good health.

Sparky, Marietta, Petite and Crackerjack

It’s marigold time in my garden.

I usually buy six-packs of marigold plants around Memorial Day. But last winter, dreaming of spring, I bought a set of four different types of marigold seeds. It turns out that four packages contain thousands of seeds. Now I have an explosion of color and texture weaving through the yard. And what a bargain! I have seeds left over to plant next year.
Sparky Mix Marigolds have wavy petals of orange, yellow, crimson, gold and bicolor. They are mid-sized, at around fourteen inches tall. These popular companion plants attract pollinators; they are “on duty” as a border around the squash garden.
As their name suggests, Dainty Marietta Marigolds are quite small, and known for the bright yellow petals with maroon centers. They have been the most difficult marigolds for me to nurture, but their delicate flowers are delightful.
Petite Mix Marigolds are only 8 to 10 inches in height, but they bloom in all colors. They are in containers around the yard, and used as annual borders. They are so abundant, that even if the rabbits find them, there is enough to share.
At three to four feet tall, the Crackerjack Marigolds are eye-catching, with large ruffles of yellow and orange blooms. They lend a festive feeling to the yard.

Hide and Seek

An Eastern Cottontail rabbit has arrived in my garden.

Knowing rabbits appear each summer, I protect my garden plants as much as possible. Still, many plants are within reach of curious furry friends.
Little feet and ears are hiding just behind the cucumber and basil plants. Tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, eggplants, beans, peppers, marigolds, calendulas and more are nearby–a veritable feast for a half-grown bunny.
It ventures out from its undercover safety, and surveys one side of the garden….
And then the other.
What will it choose?
Sweet, green clover left in the lawn just for rabbits.
Good choice, little bunny!

Books and Bee Balm

I grew up in a rural town in Western Massachusetts, where a large patch of bee balm featured prominently in our garden each summer. One day an elderly couple, complete strangers, stopped their car to ask my father what the fiery red blooms in the garden were.

“It’s bee balm, a perennial. Would you like some?”

He dug up a clump for the pair to take to their summer home at the edge of town.

A few days later, the couple reappeared with a box of children’s books. They were retired teachers, who had noticed my siblings and me playing in the yard.

“We have collected so many books over the years, and since we are retired, we don’t need them. Would your children like some?” they asked my father.

That summer, and for many summers thereafter, the couple brought boxes of books of a variety of genres. Some were almost new; some were gently worn. Each box was a thoughtful gift.

The sight of bee balm might bring thoughts of insects, bright flower petals in a salad, or perhaps herbal tea to most people.

But me? I simply think of books.

Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are especially attracted to bee balm, which is a member of the mint family. Monarda, bergamot, horsemint, and oswego tea are other names for this plant. It has many uses, being found in everything form skin salves to digestive teas to salad toppers.
Bee balm getting ready to bloom.
The blooming time for bee balm is July through late summer. Cutting back the blooms as they finish flowering will encourage regrowth and extend the blooming period.
A Silver Spotted Skipper butterfly visits.
Although bee balm likes sun, it tolerates partial shade, as shown here growing in a mix of ferns and Queen Anne’s Lace.
Vigorous bursts of bee balm contrast with the calm of the apple tree in my yard. Time to sit in the shade and enjoy a book!

Yellow Celebration

A coat of paint on one small structure can sometimes uplift a whole yard.

A coat of paint on one small structure can often uplift a a whole yard.
A fresh coat of yellow paint on the backyard hut led me to consider the many shades of yellow vegetation to be found throughout the yard.
A coat of paint on one single structure can sometimes change a whole area.
The yellow stair rail extends the color theme. Queen Anne’s lace, orange daylilies, and red bee balm pop out against the bright backdrop with white accents.
Queen Anne’s lace seems to float on a yellow wall.
A lemon yellow daylily remains vibrant after yet another shower.
Erin Lea lilies show ruffled yellow petals tinged with brown.
Stella d’Oro daylilies, white yarrow and rose campion contrast with the cobalt blue birdbath.
Amber and gold-toned calendulas are companion plants throughout the vegetable gardens.
The blue chair lends a “primary colors” touch to this area.
Erin Lea daylily.
Purple D’Oro lily with a buttery yellow center.
Pineapple yellow non-stop begonia with blue hydrangea in the background.
One final touch: a mint green ladder hung on the back wall lightens up the shady side of the hut, and provides a year round color contrast.

Orange You Glad…

An extravaganza of orange in my garden.

…that there are easy to grow flowers?
I planted Pacific Beauty Calendula seeds in early April, and they survived a Spring snowstorm.
Orange Ton Asiatic Lily
The Asiatic Lilies started as one plant a few years back, and expand every year without my help.
Common or Orange Daylily
Just to to stop those orange daylilies!

Peony Present

My neighbor, a fellow plant enthusiast, appeared in my garden yesterday with this gorgeous peony bouquet. What an exquisite gift for me and my garden!

During the pandemic, neighbors have been walking by my yard more frequently than in years past. This has offered us all opportunities for friendly chats and shared interests, making the year much more pleasurable.

A Yard For People and Rabbits

I expect the rabbits to appear in my yard for “Summer Vacation” any day now.
High raised beds keep the bunnies out of the Spring greens. However, they are welcome to all the lawn clover they desire.
New fencing around the pole beans and squash means the beans are off-limits to rabbits this year, as well. Sometimes they pick at the hostas nearby, and that is acceptable to me.
Tall pots encase my favorite red-blossomed Scarlet Emperor beans. The wild bleeding hearts next to the pots are plentiful, though.
Removable fencing keeps the largest vegetable bed protected, but with easy access for me.
Grow bags keep the Yukon Gold and Early Red potatoes safe. However, the clover and wild daisies left in between the bags are available for munching.
Wild strawberries are everywhere in the yard. The rabbits can eat their fill!
The cold frame provides great protection from both weather and critters in three seasons.
Kale is safe in a small enclosed garden on the edge of the woods.
Time to get some fencing around this cucumber and nasturtium tripod. If you have heard that rabbits don’t like nasturtium, don’t believe it!
The rabbits have ignored the tomatoes in previous years. Plenty of Solomon’s Seal nearby to eat instead.
Garlic has not caught the rabbit’s fancy, either. But will they go for the lettuce purposely planted among it? Stay tuned…
Hopefully, this blue bucket will protect the eggplant. Wild Strawberry is nearby as an alternate selection.
Thank goodness the blueberry bush is out of reach! Alas, the birds are drawn to it like magnets.
A restful area for both people and critters.
One final touch added after the garden is planted.
Wishing you wonderful times outdoors this season!

Ancient Irises

Iris means “rainbow” in Greek.

In Greek mythology, the goddess Iris carried messages from heaven to earth on the arc of the rainbow. Beautiful flowers appeared wherever she set foot on the ground.

Irises in a rainbow of colors are blooming in my garden this week!