Deckscaping… outside is just another room in the house

OldDeck1.jpg

You know, I will confess something, and I won’t even be secretive about it. There is something I REALLY miss about my last house. Well, two things. One is I miss the old neighbors.  My biggest regret is I didn’t get to know them sooner, as I always enjoyed our “over the fence” chats about gardening, and I miss looking at their garden. It kept me going.

There’s something else I miss though. I miss my old deck. It was a plain ol’ rectangular sort of affair, but it had a large footprint, walls for privacy, and some pergolas on both sides which provided some shade and a cozy sense of being enclosed. We covered it with lights, and we sat outside in the evenings and drank wine, listened to the town noise, and chatted away.  I hung up a Hammock swing, and I could sit outside and plink away idly on a kalimba or ukulele.

OldDeck2.jpg

…okay, that’s enough reminiscing. Let’s face it, that old house’s kitchen was way too small. I had to dig up these old memories to sort of inspire myself.

 

20160621_062643.jpg
How it was about a week ago…

This house has a more complex deck, and maybe that is where we struggled. It has two, actually. One is on the back of the house, and it is large enough that we got a gazebo last year due to the insufferable amount of mosquitoes. We also put our bistro set here, which pretty much takes up the bulk of it. And I did not use the bistro set ONCE. It was too hard to sit here and eat while swatting at flies and mosquitoes. It was also just too hot to eat dinner, as this is the southern side of the house. Not pictured, there’s a long run along the side that steps down, and leads to the front of the house. The Canoe lives there for now.

The 2nd deck is the front of the house, and then wraps around and runs along the picture window (below it is our rock garden and bird city). Not much was here except my Hibiscus. The Deck then ends with a raised platform that is covered with a roof. The door to the kitchen is on this deck, and this is also where the BBQ grilling happens. But it’s all just not quite cozy or functional enough. So this week, I decided I would really change up the look so it gives a “wow, I want to be out here for the month of july!” feeling.

Now, I’m not a room designer. I just watch Marilyn Dennis. And what I learned is that I am getting on the right track, but I am missing a few key elements to cement it all together. Like putting things where you will use them and enjoy them.

20160626_202308.jpg
I have pots of basil everywhere. I feel like I could whip up a pesto at any time.

So I started with really scrubbing down the bistro set so it looked clean enough to actually eat on (but it sure beats being peppered with caterpillar poop in the last house). This year, I had to wipe a pile of yellowy pollen grime that overtook probably the whole province. But look now! I finally got it in place.

20160626_202328.jpgI tried it out after setting the table up. Aside from the umbrella causing me to need to shuffle the table further from the house (but also a necessity if you’re on this side before the sun passes over), it feels really nice to sit here. I could sit there and watch the chipmunk rob the bird feeder and pick away at my new lavender hedge. And you know, when he wasn’t doing that, he would sit on a rock in the rock garden and chirp INCESSANTLY. Of the two rodents that visit, I definitely find the squirrels to be less obtrusive and jerkish.

20160626_202237.jpgI also planted a tomato in a giant tomato tub (from Canadian Tire) which was WAY bigger than I think it needed to be. But hey, by the time I’m done planting things around the deck, there should be a planter at any given deck, there for you to pick at and have a snack. Someone told me about having a planter by the bbq so the cook can snack on them while grilling. I thought this seemed so ideal and fun I had to do it. I also still have a surplus of tomato plants from my roadside sale and I’m thinking it’s time to pull them and plant them instead of composting them.

20160626_202203.jpgAnd now, on the back deck, with the empty space made by the missing table, I shuffled my Heliotrope in the corner, and added a railing planter with some extra Hibiscus trionium and Petunias. (And the lesson I learned here is I need to pump them with more fertilizer as they grow so they don’t look so hungry in a cell pack). Right now, I like the space. I can put my laundry basket here, a chair maybe. When it comes time to have guests, there is room for chairs that the table took up, a place for people to stand and socialize, or just a place where the dog willingly chooses to lay and cook herself in the sun. Sometimes (in my perverse opinion) a little space feels good.

The only thing left to do, I suppose, is to hang up some lights, put some off! Lanterns out and set up the music. I’m waiting for some impatiens to show up in garden centers so I can put something colorful and living in the gazebo.

I like it here already. I just have to remind myself that the planting launchpad is not here anymore, it’s at the greenhouse. Breaking old habits can be tough when you’re busy!

That’s it for the week. Hopefully you readers have also found your deck amid the plants in queue for garden. I’m still not quite there yet but small improvements made a huge impact on the overall feel of it. It’s still a little messy, but who has time to pick things up around the deck when there’s fresh weeds glaring at you and a hedge to plant? And if you don’t have any idea where to begin when creating an outdoor space on your deck, ask yourself:

What do I hate out here? (get rid of it or move it)
What would make me want to be out here? (water feature? A comfy chair? An offset umbrella to take the sun off?)
What do I want to do when I’m out here? (Read? Drink coffee before/after work? Sit n text? Take naps? Write blog posts? 😉 )

Now if I could only find time to sit down and enjoy it. Maybe in July. Hey, that’s coming right up! The break is near!

 

Advertisements

First Day of Summer

I’m late to post!  It has been a very busy weekend for us, we ventured to the city to visit dad for father’s day. There are many days I am so grateful to have inherited his energetic genetics, ambition to strive for projects (and perhaps take on more than one at a time). Much of what we do here is probably inspired either by nature or by nurture, from my dad. Thanks dad, for me being half like you!

Today is the Full Strawberry Moon. By god, if you didn’t plant your veggies by the last full moon (and lose them to the frost they were calling for TWICE last week) you prolly have them in now. I had to cover things twice, but we had no frost. Always better to be safe than sorry.
20160620_165342.jpgLast week was an incredibly dreary week. If it wasn’t for the Laburnum outside the kitchen window, I’m pretty sure I would still be in a sad puddle. It’s been cold and drizzly/rainy and I’ve been fighting off a cold (most likely due to indecisive weather). Midweek, I got to plant a few perennials in the Rhodo Forest (some Heucheras and a LOT of wood poppies, I may regret it, depending on how much I like them).  And! My Azalea ‘Flat White’ has finally bloomed! It’s a pretty clean colored cultivar.

20160620_165023.jpgI also planted a few new  things in the rock garden too. I added a Sage for the bees and some Dianthus to creep along the front of the bed.  We recently acquired some rocks from the neighbor’s house last week, and Manimal has been steadily towing them to our property where we used them to line the far side of the walkway leading down to the greenhouse. Now that it’s in place, and solid looking (and what an improvement visually!)  I’ll be sourcing some mulch to throw down, because I’m sick of seeing landscape fabric! (But realistically I see this being a fall or next year project). On the far side of the rocks, I’ll be planting my Lavender Hedge. And just edging along the Wild Forest, I think I may plant various Irises and daylilies, since they are so easy to collect, and delicious to look at.

20160613_100558.jpg20160620_165319.jpg

Just look at this purple one! Augh.

Now that flowers are beginning to come out and I’m catching up to the weeds, I’ve been welcoming several friends over for little garden tours. It has come a huge distance from before I moved here. I had originally found myself digging my toes in the soil ashamedly, apologetically, for the mess I didn’t have time to deal with due to moving and all that it implies. I’m so excited now, I have time to watch things bloom and set fruit, and see what works and what doesn’t from what I’ve planted last fall. Like the haskaps I planted last fall. They looked ratty! Now they are lush and gorgeous, and we tried our first Haskaps this year. Let’s just say they are no “honeyberry” whoever nicknamed those has a sick sense of humor. I laughed anyway.

So this is leading into the beginnings of summer, which means I have some new (and some repeated) tasks I usually tackle at this time of the month. Most of them involve succession seeding of different vegetables, like beans, peas, and carrots. And dear god, no more radishes. In my last garden, I felt blessed to have a radish fart in an entire row of failure. Here, there are so many radishes that slugs and other critters are beginning to take advantage of my lax picking.

20160620_165143.jpg
A strawberry salad with green onions and kale! Soon!!

Around the end of the month, I will be starting more kale from seed to transplant later on in the cold frame for late fall/winter sowings. One thing I can tell you from what I’ve learned from greenhouse veggie gardening thus far, it’s challenging to grow some varieties in the heat. I planted lettuce in the greenhouse late april and it hasn’t even grown to an inch in size. Outdoors, I planted Lettuce 3 weeks after the indoor stuff, and it is nearly harvestable. So in the same vein, Kale is also not growing quite as vigorously in the greenhouse as it is outside. That means I’ll probably just focus on the hot stuff in the summer like my tomatoes, peppers, and so far, carrots are doing okay. There will definitely be a different angle next year for cold frame/raised bed crop planning.

 

I’m scrambling to get all the rest of my plantings on the Launch Pad planted before the hot part of summer. I really want to devote a good portion of it to just maintenance, chill out, read and do other things, like have a life like other humans. And maybe have a lot of bonfires. I have vivid fantasies of a deck filled with lush herbs, the smell of Heliotrope in the air, sitting in the gazebo reading a book with a glass of wine at dusk, the vintage patio lights…crickets… the whole nine. I think I can swing it! But I definitely need to find some time to do a little deckscaping, make it feel like an outdoor room. I think that’s what I’m really gonna tackle this week, once I unload to launch pad. I need to find a place to relax.

Oh, and one more notable thing. Deerflies are now in full bothersome swing. We had a blast smacking them off eachother at Dayjob today. The Deerfly tests begin this week.

And that’s about it for the week. Can’t talk, gotta get the decks ready for Canada Day!

 

20160620_165400.jpg
Let’s end it off with Edith Bosley. Pretty thing!

Beauty Shots (No mantises)

You might remember me mentioning, a while ago, that I had bought a preying mantis ootheca back in, oh, April? Well, I sat it in the V of a branch in a container, and set it in the windowsill, ensuring the sphagnum moss on the bottom of the container would stay moist to maintain a comfortable hatching humidity. Yes, I checked it every day, anxious to see something more than what I got last time (which was 2, yes 2 and they disappeared).

Well, midway through vacation, I discover my house-sitting friend has come in to a container FILLED with mantises. They had hatched in my absence! I would like to say she did very well, went the extra mile to ensure their comfort until I got hope, considering she isn’t really a bug person.

So I came home, admired them, and noticed that they had begun to cannibalize eachother. Because they do that if there’s no food. They become food. This just wouldn’t do. So I did what I was planning to do all along anyway. I brought them into my greenhouse (the mini crystal) and opened the top. At first, it was a fun, playful affair of letting them crawl on my fingers and guide them onto my plants. And then, it got old quickly, because let’s face it, there were at least a  couple hundred of them to release. I set the container on the floor of the greenhouse, and allowed them to exit at their leisure. Some continued to eat eachother, others perched patiently on my plants.

Aaaaaaaand that’s the end of the story.

Wait…what? Yeah, that’s it. I can’t find them. They’re all gone, vanished, poof. My mantises all disappeared. Or perhaps they perished. Or maybe they are quietly hidden in the greenhouse weeds, eating, waiting, molting. One day, maybe I’ll find one.

Or not. The lesson to be learned today is that you can’t control nature. It doesn’t go where you want. I sometimes forget that in gardening, you can sort of pin things where you want them, but with insects, I have no idea. I just hope one day, one survived. We shall see.

20160502_172932
The size of an ant in this photo.

That was terribly depressing, wasn’t it? How about I offer you a consolation of BEAUTY SHOTS in the garden? It has been a beautiful week! I’ll share a few sights. One day, I have a dream to be able to have something nice enough to not stand so close to it. Like, a full view of a garden. But not on this day.

20160608_170137.jpg

 

Crab spiders live in my greenhouse, apparently. I found this one perched on a ficus I am currently experimenting with on scale treatments (nothing terribly noxious for spiders and beneficials). After the writing spiders, this one is definitely one of my favorites.

20160608_171946There we go, NOW we are in the full splendor of the Laburnum (Golden Chain Tree). But I promise you I STILL cannot do it justice with my camera. This thing is just absolutely alive, it really glows so brightly that it almost brightens up the dining room. I’ve never seen one quite as big as this one. Its hardiness zone is just a little sketchy. Some can grow it, if it’s sheltered enough. Mine is nestled between the house and a very large maple. After flowering, it’s an overall softly textured tree with greenish bark.

 

20160610_114205One of the existing perennials I’ve cultivated in the rock garden, Alchemilla mollis. This one got a major tidy up. It’s sort of boring for some until you appreciate it after a rainfall, as the water beads on the leaves.  At some point over the fall/winter, I stuffed a little snail decoration in the garden. The resulting image followed after it fully leafed out. I’m definitely not moving my snail. It’s so creepy and endearing.

 

20160610_115324.jpgWhen I cleaned Bird City garden back in march, I was just scooping up dead leaves and trimming hollow flower stems from last year. It really seemed like nothing was coming. Well, since then it has exploded massively into a really lush patch of foliage, and dainty flowers dotting throughout. I am actually really pleased with the look of it and I probably won’t alter it unless to keep runners/seedlings in check. I am not 100% familiar with these varieties (shout it out if you know) but I believe these to be a type of thistle. As for the pink tufts, no clue. There are some small white Anemones also dotting throughout, further along the driveway, and peonies! Later, you will find tall Phlox, and really beautiful cultivars with pink/fuchsia marbled flowers.

 

I always wanted poppies when I was young and fresh into my journey of gardening. Well, they are now with me!

20160610_115057

That’s all I have for today. Next week I wish to be happy to report I am going to be finished mulching/composting around my gardens, but right now I’m battling a bit of a cold and it has been a watery-eyed battle to tap this entry out. I must relax. Relax with a book in my lap, if I must. Tch, okay, I’ll be outside as soon as I don’t need a kleenex stopper in my nose. Happy Monday!

Early-mid June agenda

 

20160605_152525
Criminals often visit the crime scene after the crime has been done.  He chewed the rope off the nyjer feeder the DAY we filled it. Now there is a mess, and we need to fix the feeder. You jerk!!

Guess what I’ve acquired in the last month? UNCOMMON ORCHIDS!  I ordered a few online with a friend and I’m enjoying the novelty of something that ISN’T Phalaenopsis! (okay, that’s s bit rude to the others… I also had a Dendrobium and a Cattleya previous to these newbies) Now I have quite a selection to enjoy, and hopefully not kill. So the new varieties I collected are a Brassidium, a Vanilla, a Renanthera, and a Bulbophyllum. None of these are blooming just yet, by the way. But when they do, you’ll hear all about it.

Many people rely on the full moon in June for their tender plantings. Some gardeners say full moon in may. I don’t know who to believe but chances are, it’s just about time for planting anyway, if you haven’t already done it. Of course, you know we live in a wildly unpredictable province. Frost happens unexpectedly, and we all scramble outside to cover our tomatoes. What temperature is your soil? Ever stick a thermometer in there and just check? The warmer it is, the better your plants will thrive once they get planted.  You don’t need to follow suit, but I’ve already planted my tomatoes and peppers. Weeks ago. I’m a gambler. The total? 12 peppers and 28 tomatoes. That’s just outside. Inside, there will be even more peppers and a couple of tomatoes, all colors, shapes and sizes.  Everything is ready to grow on its own before my next grand adventure to my (gardener’s disneyland) greenhouse inspirational mission in Montreal. I’m going to really visually pick and prod everything I can in their tropical greenhouses (don’t worry, I definitely understand “ne touche pas!”). Anyhow, the vegetable garden has been taking up a huge chunk of my personal time as of late. I’ve already planted 2 rounds of beans. I planted my first lot on May 23rd, and then my 2nd batch on the 4th. I’ve planted my cucumbers and cucamelon, which I am feeling slight trepidation over due to mixed and semi-disappointed reviews…plus it isn’t sprouting as quickly as the cucumber. I’m getting excited as I watch the lettuce explode in growth (leave em alone, slugs!!) and the strawberries are about to bloom.

This year I also attended the Rare & Unusual plant sale at Annapolis Royal. As always, it`s a great show of different nurseries selling their most uncommon wares. This year seemed more intense, as there was a countdown before the ropes dropped around the vendor area, and for a brief moment, I,too wondered if I was going to be trampled? Well, I didn’t this time, but I certainly often felt like I fell underfoot as gardeners sort of indignantly tell me to EXCUSE them. HEY! I might be short, but I’m shopping too!! Anyway, it was all in good spirit. And hey! I took home a Ginkgo ‘Jade Butterflies’, a Sciadopitys verticillata, a white Azalea, some beautiful cultivars of Streptocarpus, a small Saxifraga, a Male Fern, and a White Azalea. It’s a thrilling shopping adventure, the prices are fair, and if you ever get an opportunity to get out to Annapolis Royal for this event, do it!

So yeah, May/June is always the gathering of things to plant, I get very excited about buying. But I’ve been a really good girl this year, and all of my acquisitions, both bought, and gardener-shared have been getting planted pronto! I want to get everything in and enjoyed by July. I’d like to just do minor weeding and some deadheading, and hopefully a little relaxation, as I rarely stop lately.

20160606_192850.jpg
Nothing is finer than a freshly weeded and mulched garden. Ahhh isn’t that better?!

I also did up a couple of planters already for the summer months. I’m in love with Heliotrope. I want to have it everywhere that I breathe. If you haven’t tried this annual, you’ve got to put some in a place where you will smell it. Yum! It looks good with some Lobularia, and you could also put some sort of red spiller in there like a Pomegranate Punch Calibrachoa.

I’ve got a few more little projects on the side for my tropicals. I’m still pushing to have a fair selection of things to sell in the fall for tropicals, so I’ve been repotting, potting up and dividing a few things that need it. In a year or so I should have a pretty impressive crop of cacti to sell.  I may choose to do something special with them, since my personal aim is to create horticultural curios.

Looking back, I think about how incredible it is just how vast a property feels in the dead of winter. You feel vulnerable and exposed. Now, I feel the opposite. I feel cozy, buffered, and comforted by the amount of green being pushed out all around me. I try to put the thoughts of ticks aside, but I haven’t found one on me yet. Oh, and the worst thing to discover as of yesterday? It’s officially deerfly season. Mark that on your calendar. I know I do, I am fairly wary of insects with vendettas. I’ll be doing some different experiments to see what will keep these winged arseholes away, and report my findings in July.

I spent the weekend weeding, adding compost, and mulching to some of the more established beds. The deck looks MUCH cleaner and I feel less angry whenever I turn my gaze to it. There’s still a good amount of weeding to do, but once the mulch is down, I feel as though I can move on to things that require more attention…

…like the rock garden! Which I am quickly filling up with many things which I’ve been both receiving as divisions from orchid friend, and a few impulse buys. It’s starting to look like something. However, it’s still a nasty looking garden, and it would be almost morally wrong to mulch it.

In the Rhodo forest, more things have been getting added in (with minor wildlife edits, as I found someone decided to pull an Astilbe out of the ground at the mouth of the forest). I know I have a very considerate and attentive husband when I come home to find an Edith Bosley Rhododendron on my doorstep, one of the varieties I LOVE, and yeah, I’ve only talked about her for years, but he remembered, and now she’s mine!

20160606_192909.jpg
Major signs of stress are becoming apparent.

And the Goutweed garden? Ugh. I’m still working on that. Up until about 5 days ago, I would have said it was bomb proof, but it’s beginning to stress. I try to just keep my chin up. After all, when I look up, I see a golden chain tree in equisite bloom.

 

 

 

20160606_192922.jpg
Not even in its full splendor yet…

 

That’s all this week. Looking back, I’d have to say this is possibly my favorite time of the year. Rhodos all blooming, days getting warmer, lush, fresh grass, and plant sales everywhere!

Next week I will tell you about the Mantises… (it’s not a happy ending, or perhaps it’s not an ending?) and  I’ll also share some pictures from around the garden in the last little while. Happy Monday!