The Growing Season

Front2Today I thought I’d share how the front flower bed and rain gardens are looking this season.  The perennials from previous plantings have slowly been coming in and I’ve added a few new items as well to get the front beds going for the season, although like most other things around here, it’s a work in progress. (On that note, pretend you don’t see that crazy hose situation going on in the foreground there.  Our expandable hose bit the dust last season and unfortunately we haven’t figured out a good system for storing the long hoses we replaced it with just yet so they stay coiled in this pile for daily use for now.)

The first thing that showed up was this amazing allium, which sprouted and then produced a long stalk with a odd shaped bud at the top.  At first I thought an alien had taken up residence in my flower bed, but thanks to the local garden group I was able to identify it and enjoy watching it blossom.



We moved the rain barrel out of the small corner next to the garage so it can be used in the backyard with a gutter so the space needed a bit of rearranging.  I filled the void from the rain barrel with white iris from my mother-in-law’s garden that I brought back when we picked up Brinley and added some phlox between that and the hosta that has come back much better than it did last year.  The phlox is doing quite well and has doubled in size since I planted it, so I’m pretty sure it’s happy there.  I’m also loving the metal hearts I added on the wall, which will look even better when the plants grow up and fill some of the empty space below them.

None of the previous plantings on the other side of the walkway came back so I took the opportunity to try something new – an anemone and a sea pink armeria.  The armeria reminds me of a Dr. Seuss plant, but hasn’t rebloomed since I deadheaded spent blooms, so I might need to find a better spot for it.


The anemone is doing very well, although upon closer inspection last night I noticed aphids so I’ll have to address that.  It’s been a horrible season for pests so I’m checking out every DIY remedy available online.


I moved our little wooden moose statute into the corner to hide a cable that comes out of the garage wall until the plants grow in and do that on their own.  In the opposite corner next to the porch, I paired this metal sphere and piece of driftwood for a fun little garden vignette.


There are more spheres on the far end of the bed on the other side of the porch.  This space got several new plants including daisies, lupine, yarrow and day lilies transplanted from my mother-in-law’s garden.


The daisies got a little wild as they started to grow in so I used some of rusty cement stakes to create a little support system for them.  I’m hoping they go to seed at the end of the season and self-sow an even bigger crop next year.


Mr. Frog found a nice little resting spot next to a big piece of driftwood in the back of the bed.  He’s sorely in need of a paint job but I think I’ll let him be this season and address that next year since I love his colors in this spot.


I filled the whiskey barrels on the stoop with dusty miller and purple alyssum, which has been slowly growing in.  Beyond that there is white alyssum in wire and burlap pots on each side on the first step, with purple daisies in rustic metal pails on the top step.  Those extra pots you spot hanging out on the porch are awaiting new homes in the gifted garden along the side of the house.  Before that can happen I need to weed that bed and make a bit of room for them.


The rain garden is coming along quite well, and without much effort on my part, which is my kind of garden.  I moved the tall obelisk we got at the Great Junk Hunt last year to this space for some height at the back of the garden and really like it here.  I plan to transplant a lilac in the gifted garden to that same spot at the end of the season so it has more room to spread out, which will hide a large section of the tire wall. 🙂


The clematis on either side of the garden weren’t growing in to cover the tire wall as I’d hoped so I decided to give them a bit of guidance with temporary tape.  One side is looking fairly lush and seems to have adapted well, but the other side is still a bit sparse.  I may add a third and forth clematis along the back wall next year if I don’t see much growth by then.



The chives I planted out here at the end of last season when cleaning out the garden box are doing well and have actually bloomed.


The mint from our herb planter last year is also coming in quickly.


This mystery plant in the front of the garden is growing quite rapidly, but I haven’t been able to confirm what it is just yet.


I was surprised to discover the vinca vine I planted when we first did the rain garden had come back in after it showed little signs of life last summer.  Next to it the spikewell is quite lush although it hasn’t shown any buds yet.


The water iris are slowly growing, but I’m thinking they may not bloom again this year.


But the large clumps of iris that came from our friend’s yard in Seward have finally started blooming!  In fact almost every plant has several blooms opening on it!


The other two lilacs that were at the back of the garden have been relocated to either side of the garden so they have room to establish and spread out without crowding each other.  I still need to clean up the areas around them but at least they have their own space now.



The lambs ear from my mother-in-law’s garden survived the winter after transplant and has grown taller, so I’m hopeful it will continue to grow and create more shoots.


Here’s the view from the driveway of the whole scene.  The pile of rocks in the foreground are headed for our new rock garden and there are small batches of ground cover along the front that will eventually grow in to cover the slope.


Between the house and the rain garden lies the raspberry patch, which is coming along nicely.  I pruned back the dead branches to encourage the new branches to produce which worked well since we have lush growth on the stalks and numerous white buds on each plant so we’re on track for a bountiful harvest.

We also added a haskap bush in front of the raspberries.  Haskaps are similar to blue berries, but are better suited for our climate.  Hopefully we’ll harvest those to accompany the raspberries in our summer time desserts.


The hubs also rigged up the big water tank you see in the background to gravity feed the soaker hose in the raspberry patch, which has been super convenient on the occasional hot sunny day.  I’ve decided to let the fireweed that’s encroaching on the raspberry patch be for now since both are fairly dominant and should fight each other out.  Plus it blocks out the ferns and other undergrowth that would like to spread out from the woods just beyond and if something going to spread I’d rather have fireweed than a thorny Nuka Rose!

Hopefully I’ll get the gifted garden in shape soon and can share that as well, along with the finished rock garden around the back deck. Stay tuned for those updates and a few other little projects in between. 🙂


A Garden Update

I’ve been planning to share a little update on my Gifted Garden and Rain Garden for a week or so now, but by the time I edited the photos I took to share things had changed some more.  So before that can happen again, let’s get to it.  First up is the Rain Garden, which looked pretty dismal for weeks even when the warmer temps arrived.  Then one day I was driving up the driveway and noticed a good amount of green had suddenly appeared.  Upon closer inspection I saw that 90% of what I’d planted last season is coming back in, which makes me pretty darn happy.  And now that the cat mint has returned Luna is quite happy as well!


I mean like seriously happy.  As in she won’t leave the poor plant alone!  She’s in love with the darn thing!


Even a robin on the branch above the garden can’t tear her attention away for more than a glance through the leaves!



But I digress…. Elsewhere in the garden, the iris that I rid my friend’s lawn of are growing tall and strong.  I haven’t seen any buds yet, but they didn’t have any last year either since they spent most of the season sitting in clumps in a pot waiting for a permanent home.  I’m excited to find out what color they will be.  I’m betting it’s purple like the wild iris around Alaska, but I’d be happy with any color if they just bloom.


Three of the freebie Craigslist lilacs are showing small signs of life with some new leaves, although two are still just bare twigs.  I’ll let them be until the end of the summer before I give up on them.  They have a mystery neighbor that popped up.  I’m thinking it’s yellow yarrow, since the leaves look very similar to the other yellow yarrow I have a few feet away, but we’ll see what it grows up to be when the small yellow bud at it’s top develops.



Another mystery arrival is this grouping of spouts.  It’s in the area where I had mint last year and the leaves look about right for that, so I’m guessing that’s what it is.  For now I’m going to leave it alone and see what we get.


The clematis on either side of the garden are showing momentum after looking dead for months and are even touting a few blooms.  One is certainly bigger than the other, but hopefully they will both take over the tires and provide a lovely natural background for the garden over the next few years.



One of the vincas from the box store came back and is even flowering already.  The other didn’t fair so well.  At first I thought the green was new growth, but it’s been the same for a while now so I’m classifying it as a gonner.  I haven’t decided what to replace it with yet, so for now it can hold the space.



The water iris are slower growing than the other iris, but hopefully they’ll provide some pretty yellow blooms this season.


The speedwell in the back of the garden has some dense growth, so I’m thinking it won’t spread much this season.  The Aluetian speedwell I put around the front of the garden has some pretty delicate purple flowers, but is a slow grower. I planned for it to be a ground cover on the hillside leading to the garden but if it doesn’t pick up the pace by mid season I’ll be looking for something else for next season.



The ornamental onion, yellow lily and campanula are all showing good starts.  I’m thinking they will hit their stride when the warm weather returns next week and start to really fill out.




The columbine has a good amount of growth but no signs of flowers yet.  I don’t remember if this one is yellow or purple, but either would be nice.


In front of the columbine is a forget-me-knot, that I ironically forgot about.  I think this one came from some seeds I got at one of the holiday weekend giveaways at the box store and let sprout in the little cup they came home in before planting just to give it a shot.  Maybe it will continue to surprise me and spread a bit to come back next season even more.


The thing I’m most excited about in this garden is the lady slipper orchid that I acquired on our trip up the Alcan last year.  It seemed to go dormant soon after I got it home, although it had been on the road for several days at that point so I thought it wouldn’t come back.  I’m so glad it proved me wrong and surprised me!


I remember planting things on the hillside above the rain garden, but for the life of me can’t remember what they were.  Some were bought and others were freebies, but I wrote them all off when the builder’s contractor came to do our final grade and bulldozed them even AFTER we’d told him not to go in this area… sigh.  But they’ve poked back up without any water or feed from me so I’m thinking they are my kind of plant. Feel free to leave ideas in the comments below if you think you know what they are! 🙂



Ok Luna, are you ready to leave your cat mint and head over to the other garden?  I’ll take that as a no.  Well, you know where to find me….


Over in the gifted garden there are small signs of life.  In the corner near the back door I replaced something that didn’t come back with a hydrangea and finished off the far corner that never got any plants last year with a lilac.  Both are from local nurseries so I’m pretty confident that they will establish and come back year after year.  This is the first hydrangea I’ve ever had so I’m excited to watch it grow, especially after seeing 5 buds on it the other day!  The lilac had a bud on it when I bought it – hence the reason I picked this one over the others – so we should get some color out of it this year.GardenView




When I went to plant the lilac I found something strange just under the surface.


You guessed it.  That’s one of the dogs’ balls!  Apparently someone decided to bury it here for safekeeping at some point!  Kids….jeesh!


Although some of what I was gifted didn’t return, what has is showing good  signs that it will stick around for the long haul.  GardenYellow




The wild geranium is doing the best out of all the returning gifted plants, and is covered in tiny buds!  Although it’s native cousins in the surrounding woods already have sporadic blooms, it looks like the special attention this one gets will result in multiple blooms!



Now if I can just keep the momma moose and her yearling calf who have been frequenting the easement near the back yard away from my unfenced sprouts I stand a chance of having a pretty yard this summer!  For something so big they sure do blend in well!  Luckily, the dogs tend to keep them at a distance, but that’s only so efficient for things outside the fence.  Wish me luck!



At Last!

Remember forever ago when I told you about our plan to install a rain garden? Well it’s finally done! After months of delays waiting for the ground to thaw, our lot to be graded and uncooperative work schedules we put in the last of the plants and mulch this past weekend. Here’s a recap of the process from the beginning.

The free tires we had delivered while the house was still under construction last fall were already covered over with snow when we moved in back in December, so they remained where they had been dropped until spring.   Luna enjoyed them as a lookout spot during this time.


Once the ground thawed, I arranged them into a semi-circle shape to act as the retaining wall at the back of the garden. We placed large rocks from around the property into the center of tires to keep the wall from shifting.



As the garden started to take shape, I quickly realized that using individual bags of soil and compost I’d purchased wasn’t going to be efficient, so I decided to order a delivery of top soil mix. Unfortunately, I had to wait for the builder to do our final grade, which was rescheduled several times and finally happened a few days before our road trip. This provided the required ‘dip’ to the area between the driveway and the garden so that water runoff will be directed toward the garden and pool there to be absorbed.


The top soil was delivered soon after we returned home, but conflicting schedules didn’t allow me to get back to the garden until several weeks later, when the hubs and I mixed in the sand and compost before spreading everything out to fill the space. There were a few spots where the tires didn’t line up just right, so we filled those with large rocks to keep the dirt and subsequent water from escaping.



Bacardi and her siblings ‘helped’ throughout this process… BHelping

We decided this was an appropriate opportunity to spread Sangria’s ashes, so we scattered her throughout the soil before planting. I also gathered a variety of rocks to create stone cairns in memory of other special pets either of us had lost. In addition to one for Sangria there is one for the hub’s dog Kenai, our previous cat Kitty Meow and my goats Daisy, Rosy and Quincy.







Next I laid out all the plants I’d purchased and collected over the last few months to decide what should go where. Once I was happy with the arrangement I set to planting, filling in the empty areas with spring bulbs.  I had also purchased mulch to top the garden, but ran out and couldn’t find more of the same kind so late in the season.



Another few weeks passed and I found cedar mulch at the hardware store, so I purchased enough to finish the empty spaces and sprinkle over top of the other mulch so they’d blend together. Most of the annuals I’d planted had already died off, so I replaced them with perennials I’d purchased at a Master Gardener plant sale.  I also added a clemantis on either side of the garden against the retaining wall so it will attach to the tires and cover them as it grows.  Then I planted Aleutian Speedwell along the front edge of the garden. In time it should spread and act as a ground cover for the slope into the garden – part of my agreement with the hubs that the backyard will be the only landscaping that requires mowing.


As I planted, the hubs and kiddos watched from the lawn mower parked nearby. We rescued both the mower and that cool trailer attached to it from someone who planned to take it to the landfill! Both needed a little work, but it’s been super handy to have them for projects around the yard.


Once I was finished, the hubs loaded the dogs up in the utility trailer and drove them back up to the house so I could get some kiddo free shots of the finished garden. We placed our bargain bench off to the side so there’s a spot to sit and reminisce next to what I’m now calling our Memorial Rain Garden. Eventually I’ll create a paver pad for the bench along with a pathway down the hillside to it, since I plan to fill the rest of the area around the garden with local ground covers that will spread.


Here’s the view from the house, where you can see how it is situated in the low spot to collect the run off from the driveway. View

And I’m happy to see that we’ve had an increase in “good insects” like this butterfly since we’ve started planting!


Broken Ground

At last we have broken ground on our new home!!  That’s what’s kept me so busy and unable to post regularly last week.  It sure is a lot of fun picking out all the details, but it takes a lot of time, especially when you’re working within a budget. 🙂

So here’s a little look at the progress thus far.  This is the view heading toward our property.  This is where the pavement ends.  We are still two more bends in the road away.  Notice all the fireweed lining the road?  Some of that is gonna end up in my garden!


And here’s the driveway from in front of the house.  Yes that is a slight bit of a mountain view through the trees!  Something I hadn’t expected, but absolutely love!


Here’s the foundation thus far from the front corner of the garage.


And from the side.  With the well going in just beyond.


This is the yard on the side of the garage.  The septic system will go here, so some of this will be filled in before construction is finished.  The rest will be filled in at some point later by us to make it more usable.  I’m thinking some of this area, possibly closer to the driveway, may end up being used for my rain garden due to the natural slope.


A little more mountain view from the back corner!
I’m thinking I’m going to need a bench out front to enjoy that!


This will be the view out the back of the house for now.
We will clear a bit more to create a yard for the dogs next summer.


Here is the view from the area near the well.  I love that you can just barely see the edge of the neighbor’s driveway, but not the neighbors themselves!  And that means they can’t see us either! Just how we planned it!


The view from the front of the house.  The pink flags on the trees are the property line.  But the lot next door is the same size as ours so it’s likely that when it sells and is built on the owners will build farther forward so we won’t really see them either.


And the best view of all.. our well hitting water at 135′!  Read more about that on my photography blog.

10Stay tuned.  There will be more pictures as things progress!