Every garden ought to have a water feature. Humans seem to be drawn by the calming sounds of water movement. I know that wildlife too, especially birds and insects appreciate easy access to water. As a certified wildlife habitat, our property provides essential water.
In addition to our 2500 gallon pond and waterfall, seen below, we added different water features on the property.
This ceramic birdbath from Walmart was a great choice for a side yard where I created a new native plant garden. I am severely allergic to mosquitoes, so I ordered a water wiggler to sit in the bowl and move the water, thus discouraging a breeding place for those blood-loving demons. The color was a perfect match too! The wiggler lasts all season on a single D battery!
A friend and I went garden shopping earlier in the summer and found this lovely copper birdbath and cat tail design. It’s original home was in the pollinator garden, the sunniest spot on our property.
I wanted to keep the water moving, so I took the water wiggler out of the birdbath to see how it would look in the copper bowl, but it was too big and overpowering. So I ordered a 3.5 watt solar fountain. They are sold everywhere and inexpensive. The solar fountain kit comes with several spray attachments, all were too powerful with the spray overshooting the birdbath. So we took the nozzles off and use it as a bubbler, which looks great. We add a little bit of water every other day.
As our pollinator plants grew taller, it obscured this fountain so we easily picked it up and moved it close to our front porch where we could enjoy it.
Our garden also considered the insects. I had a very shallow concrete birdbath and I added a layer of glass beads so butterflies and other pollinators can safely wade.
In the center of our full-sun pollinator garden we had bench, which because of the sun and heat, no one sat on. So I moved the bench across the stone path to an area that gets afternoon shade. And I cleared a spot for a taller water feature.
We had some extra square concrete block pavers. I took four and attempted to paint a compass inspired by University of Delaware colors. I spent about a half a day painting the compass design not realizing most of it would be covered by the base of the fountain!
We looked at many styled fountains. While am drawn to sleek Zen-type designs and love the real stone, we opted for a traditional 3-tiered design.
We settled on “Kiera” a teal blue ceramic glaze that holds 4.5 gallons of water. We wanted a self-contained fountain, rather than one which draws from a catch basin. As you can see it covers up most of my amateur compass!
I am pleased with the water sounds and hope it will attract birds!Listen:
Now, no matter where we are in the garden, we can listen to the sounds of water and watch the birds and insects benefitting from it too!
In March 2021 we had a very large, two-stump River Birch removed from our property. Its extended branches threatened our roof and deck.
When it was removed, I asked the tree removal service to leave the stump cut a little higher, as I had envisioned hollowing out the stump to serve as a plant container. That decision also saved us a couple of hundred dollars! We also kept behind three large stump cuttings, about 18” to 24” inches high.
On Instagram I saw a post from pshgardening that sprung me into action!
Thinking the stump would be significantly dried out in 15 months, we set about carving out one side of the stump. The cut area had hardened considerably and for quite a while it had stopped weeping.
We did our research after that difficult start. Advice: start research and watch videos before starting a project, not after! Live and learn!
When we reached the desired depth of about six inches, we drilled drainage holes from the side as seen below. We tested with a hose and water flowed freely through the holes we made.
This project took two to three hours. I am hoping the fully separated stump cuttings will be dryer, and easier to drill out. I love the look and it’s a different way to feature pretty annuals or as a focal point for a trailing perennial. I would assume the tree stump would provide winter insulation. I love using containers and have several terracotta, ceramic or stone types scattered about in my garden. While I have plastic and resin containers, they are made to look like pottery or stone. I am trying to cut down on any plastic in my garden. If you have a tree removed, consider repurposing the wood or the stump as natural and textural container in your garden.
As a three-time graduate of the University of Delaware, a 23-year staff member, a parent of an alumna and a newly trained UD Master Gardener, one great way to show my school pride is to add the blue and gold to my garden.
True blue is a difficult color to obtain in the garden. Besides the reliable blue macrophylla hydrangea, I’ve been able to add blue cornflower, caryopteris (a shrub), delphinium and a few lobelias to the landscape.
Using plants and accents, I am slowly building my #BlueHensForever tribute!
While other colors show off in my garden, tendrils of blue and gold are woven through with plants, containers, garden furniture and garden art, which I continue to incorporate into the landscape bit by bit —a little addition or two each year. All that’s missing was a UD Blue Hen garden flag! Most were very sport-oriented so I designed my own and found a company that will make them. I have 87 hydrangeas so I thought this was appropriate!
It is okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to change your mind. If you can afford it, call in a pro. Or, like us, make your progress in baby steps, with a lot of head scratching and shuffling things around in between!
Over 20 years, as our tree canopy grew, I lost most of my flower garden, forcing me (my husband) to either cut down trees or (me) adapt to shade gardening. For the most part, I did the latter. The vast majority of my back yard is covered by a tree canopy of evergreens, conifers, and deciduous trees. On the positive side, many of my hydrangeas thrive. On the downside, my sun-loving perennials and annuals did not.
Years ago, we converted a sunny dog area, which was free from any vegetation into a raised bed area. That made sense. My husband decided he wanted to grow vegetables and we built six raised beds constructed out of concrete blocks. Functionally, it worked, but after the second year, the blocks shifted, the weeds found their way in, as did the groundhogs. Next year we had a haphazard chicken wire fence to protect treasured veggies from being consumed, but that addition prevented us from easily weeding.
In short, the area became a food-producing eyesore. All viewable from my living room window. I hated it and I wanted it all out. After years of nagging, and a compromise to consider growing some veggies in elevated trugs, I won my way and we tore out and sold off the concrete blocks. If we had built the raised beds correctly, they would still be where they are. But that’s another story!
By now I had really begun to pay attention to the lectures and workshops provided by Cooperative Extension. Extension agents, Master Gardeners, authors like our own UD professor Doug Tallamy, all emphasized the importance of developing areas for pollinators.
This side area area gets full sun. To the left of the above picture you can see two remaining raised beds which were removed in 2019. All this block was removed and the good soil contained inside was spread to the right of the paths.
Before we took down the raised beds, we experimented with a more permanent path leading from the side garage door into the main back yard. In the top left, two sections of split rail remained where a compost bin used to be. I was starting to experiment with pollinator plants.
We ditched the idea of the tightly fitted stone pathway, and moved them to the side, seen below on the right. This created a mulched foot path, but very unstable edging, a nightmare for navigating a hose. This area has no underground irrigation.
We decided we did not like the stones on the side of the path. They moved and I could not move the hose around easily. I began to research stone and gravel paths.
These stones were heavy! Both my husband and I are officially “seniors” and I keep forgetting I am not 30 or 40! Three days later my right hand was almost totally immobilized. We knew how to bend our knees to lift heavy stones, but I did not pay attention to my hands. I should have worn hand braces. I did afterwards! It took me a month for my right hand to heal.
We do not have an irrigation system on our property. Dragging a hose around is not fun! The green tripod, which a friend sold to me – an extra one she bought from Lowes, was a godsend. I’ve since bought another. I got rid of my heavy hoses and bought two of those lightweight, collapsible types to hook up to the tripod. Most, not all of the new plants in this area are native.
We also decided to take down our 21-year old split rail fence. It was coming down on its own anyway.
The area behind the bench (pictured above) still needs rehabilitating. We planted a redbud tree, not quite large enough to cast some shade over the bench. Behind it, a very sunny spot will be an area devoted to milkweed and taller native plants.
In the past two years, we redefined our large back yard into separate areas. Our pond, which we downsized, is the centerpiece of our no-mow, no-lawn back yard. Facing the pond to the right is our evolving deep shade garden, with a tent-type gazebo. To the left, our sunny pollinator garden. It is a rustic and wild-life friendly oasis. In the future, we plan to thin out some non-native trees and plant some red oaks and other native trees.
Among other things, my goal with this garden is to eliminate plastic and resin and stick to stone, wood and ceramic objects – natural as possible elements to contribute to a serene environment for humans and critters alike.
I’m not going too far out on a limb to say that 2020 has been a horrible year so far. Sickly, stressful, polarizing and divisive. Since March 13, 2020 I have worked from home and also had an opportunity to take temporary custody of my only grandchild, Hugo, who lives in NYC with his parents. There, at the epicenter of the pandemic, his parents felt their six and a half year old son might enjoy an extended visit in the southern Delaware countryside with “MiMa.” Both of us did our daily work virtually, and the extra time together concentrated on an outdoor classroom that included birdwatching and feeding, planting vegetables, planting and dividing flowers and learning about insects and pollinators. It was 11-weeks of that silver lining you hear so much about!
Working from home afforded me some extra time to water in the mornings, spend lunch time weeding, and when we were allowed to, visit some garden centers wearing masks.
My hydrangeas (currently 63 and counting) did not get the news 2020 was off to a poor start. I started seeing early indications that this would be a bumper year for hydrangeas. The best ever in my memory.
In my ever-shadier woodland backyard setting, I have lost the opportunity to flower garden. But this year, my husband and I took out three of our five concrete block raised beds (they worked but were unsightly) and used the area to create a pollinator garden. It is still a work in progress.
In the pollinator garden is an assortment of natives and non-natives. Echinacea, nepta (catmint) garden phlox “jeana”, various beebalm, senna, coreopsis, gaillardia, pink and purple Veronica speedwell, salvias, Shasta daisies, fennel, milkweed, butterfly weed (Asclepias), yarrow, false sea thrift (armería), stokesia, lavender, rosemary, cornflower, pokeweed, h.paniculata “Bobo”, solidago “Wichita Mountains”, drumstick alliums, and others.
Near Boothbay on Maine’s mid-coast is the fabulous Maine Botanical Garden. Having been to the town of Boothbay in 2017, which resulted in a day of extended shopping, my husband wasn’t too keen to return to the town in our 2019 visit. And while he loves our garden, I don’t place him in the garden tourist aficionado category. Nevertheless, I convinced him to accompany me on my first visit to this famed garden. We traveled down a lot of curvy roads to get there.
He loved it. He didn’t stop talking about it. It will be on our must-see list next time we visit, which we hope to do in 2022.
Beside my addiction to gardening and taking photos of what I and other people grow, I am also enthralled with mobile device photography apps!
I found this nifty little number called Tangledfx (effects) and it’s the best $2 I have ever spent. I have been disappointed with many photo apps, but not this one.
Behold my original lacecap hydrangea taken in my backyard, which looks lovely on its own
Then I tried one of TangledFX’s filters, I think this is called Swirl. Kind of has a Van Gogh effect:
This one renders a stained glass look. It can be produced with white or black edges.
This one is a little more delicate than the Van Gogh (not the effect’s real name )
And this last sample I will show today is very ethereal. In the mood for a Fairy Garden? Waiting for Tinkerbell!
There are about 16 “presets” with the app. They add varying degrees of fibers, strokes, swirls and outlines. Some will make your photographs look like a cartoon or an expensive woodcut.
My garden, my flower, my photo—I feel I can take a lot of the credit, but with some help from TangledFX, the potential for some amazing pictures emerge. I could see these made into logos, or if printed on high quality paper, framed as very nice gifts.
You’re bound to see some more examples. Like any obsession, well, one has to be obsessed! Next to my Waterlogue app, this photo app has to be my all time favorite for botanicals. But it works pretty good on animals too:
I love the way they look and I think they would be an amazing addition to a George Harrison-themed garden.
Her work is quite intricate. Given the volume I think I will need, I may try to do something myself, perhaps with larger stones, and maybe take as inspiration from some of the items directly linked to George- his hand painted home Kinfauns, his colorful Mini Cooper and his Fender Stratocaster, ca. Magical Mystery Tour.
I have some shady areas where I haven’t been too successful growing anything with vivid color. Adding various sizes and colors of some Sixties stones might be just the answer!
It is a great honor to be asked to take photos of one of my favorite annual events, the Sussex County (Delaware) Master Gardener Open House. Their beautiful demonstration garden just happens to be located directly in back of my office and I even have a window so I can look out!
The garden has many interesting niches and surprising little things peeking out of corners and unusual places. The demonstration garden is actually open all year long, and the public is welcome to stroll through the clearly marked plantings any time of the day, but a few times a year, the Master Gardeners have planned events, which allow the public to not only tour the garden, but have informal, friendly chats with Master Gardeners.
Like most gardeners I know, the Master Gardeners are a generous and humble lot. This is their passion and they love to share it. Not everyone is an expert in everything. Each Master Gardener brings his or her own talent to the table…or raised bed. Some are into veggies, others native Delware plants, children’s gardens, hostas, hydrangeas, garden photography. You name it! We have someone who knows their garden subject matter. Together, it all homogenizes into a poetry of color, nutrition, affection for all things fora and fauna. In Delaware, Master Gardeners are selected, trained and supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University. Delaware has a lot to be proud of with these tireless and talented volunteers. What a treasure we have!
Here’s a photo set of pictures taken today at their premiere annual event.