Monthly Archives: June 2012

FLOWER BED MAKEOVER

A recent visit to the garden of Margaret Roach (http://awaytogarden.com/) inspired me to makeover a flower bed. Margaret’s garden is all ornamental, a sometimes lively, sometimes subdued interplay of plant shapes with leaf textures and spots of color. My garden is mostly for eating, although I balance that functionality with rustic arbors, shrubbery (some of it edible and ornamental), and interplay of sight lines. And I do have a couple of flower beds.

My flower bed 10 years ago.

Looking at photos of one of my beds from years past highlighted for me just how much in need it was for a makeover.

The attack began on ‘Miss Kim’ lilac. She was supposed to be a dwarf lilac (a different species, Syringa patula, than the common lilac, S. vulgaris), and I suppose she is a dwarf, comparatively speaking. But she’d …

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GROW FRUIT NATURALLY

Every time I go near my apple and plum trees, I feel like my Nanking cherry, mulberry, pawpaw, and persimmon plants are laughing and flaunting their fruits at me. Nanking cherry and company are just a few of the fruits that I grow that require virtually no care.

Apples, on the other hand: If you wanted to come up with the most difficult fruit to grow east of the Rocky Mountains, it would be apple. Or plum, or apricot, peach, nectarine, or sweet cherry. The plants actually grow fine; getting fruit is another story. Organically grown fruit, that is.

Apple fruit, already damaged by plum curculio

The reason these common tree fruits are so difficult to grow around here is because of insect and disease problems (and, in the case of apricot, peach, and nectarine, winter cold and late spring frosts). …

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CARTS, DAME’S ROCKET, INVASIVES, & ROSES

A garden cart improves any garden, and I’m especially enjoying using my cart, now in its third decade of use. This cart has hauled hay, manure, weeds, and old vegetable plants to the compost bins, and finished compost from the bins to vegetable beds and fruit trees. It’s hauled stones for wall building and heavy locust posts that get notched and bolted together to become arbors and trellises.

Look closely: Hardware cloth in bed

A good cart has two heavy duty, bicycle-sized tires sitting just about midway across a sturdy plywood bed surrounded by three sturdy plywood walls. Tossed rocks, the scraping of a shovel, and an occasional jab with the pitchfork have eaten away that plywood over the years. Not anymore, and that’s why I’m especially enjoying using the cart.

A few months ago, I decided to replace the plywood …

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PRUNING A LILAC, DEALING WITH APHIDS

Who would look at a lilac bush, just leaves and flowers morphed to browning seed capsules, and even prune it this time of year? I would! Pruning a couple of months ago would have cut off many blossoms before they even unfolded. Pruning now, after enjoying the blossoms, is a way to keep the shrub shapely and queue up blossoms for next year. Next year’s flowers are formed on buds this summer so we can’t wait too long to prune or there won’t be enough time for the new flower buds to develop.

My lilac has suffered years of pruning neglect (quite an admission from the author of The Pruning Book, especially as relates to a plant that looks best with annual or at least biannual pruning). Every year my lilac has grown uglier and uglier, its flowers fewer and …

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BAMBOO & GARLIC GONE WILD

Bamboo is a plant that can strike up admiration as well as terror. Right now, my planting is leaning towards terror.

Most cold hardy bamboos are so-called running types for their ability to spread via underground runners. A few hardy bamboos behave like tropical bamboos, forming neat clumps whose spread is hardly noticeable. These cold-hardy temperate kinds (Fargesia spp.) have relatively thin canes that create picturesque, delicate-looking fountains of greenery. 

But 20 years ago I wanted (and still want) bamboo with robust canes thickening to an inch or more across, a bamboo on which can climb tomato or bean plants, that I can use for making trellises, even for eating. And the grove itself, with some pruning out of crowded canes, becomes a mysterious forest.

This spring’s new growth of bamboo towering above last year’s.

Yellow grove bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) is …

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