April Showers

I have lots of new changes and additions to our backyard habitat woodland garden this year! I love to tour the garden after a good rain. It’s April 15 with my iPhone in hand! Take a look!

I often enter the garden from our garage. It opens to a walkway that passes by some raised beds built with concrete blocks. We’re taking those down now as they’ve become uneven and unsightly. So this is the entrance that visitors rarely see, but I do! So I found this trellis, stained it and bought a clematis to grow. It covers a gas valve on the side of the house!
Directly opposite the new trellis is this lovely Lilac shrub, now about six years old and at least 6-7’high. It was a gift from a friend – a cutting! It took a while to really come into its own, but patience is now paying dividends!

Beyond the raised bed section is an old dog run that I converted over to a perennial, pollinator garden. This area is the only part of our backyard that received more than 4 hours of sun. Although I started out with different plants, most of what I admired from the Master Gardener demonstration garden, I am adding blue and yellow flowers to dominate (my UD Alma Mater colors). New this year are delphiniums seen lower left. Everything is coming up wonderfully. The two sections of split rail fence are vestiges of a dog run I had for my Great Dane who has since passed. Last year I added some climbers, and we added an arbor to distinguish this area from the main back yard.

Part of the full sun pollinator garden
Delphinium
We moved this bench from the main back yard. A pollinator needs a place to observe all the activity, right? Accented with my blue and gold theme!
We use a dolly/hand truck to move this giant pot into the garage for the winter. We’ve been able to overwinter this elephant ear now for three years. I planted blue, yellow and white container plants around the pot this week. Can’t wait for it to fill in and add more UD colors!
As we leave the pollinator garden to the main back yard, we set this arbor in last year. It is flanked by peppermint azaleas, now just coming into bloom. I have also planted Major Wheeler native honeysuckle to grow up on the arbor. It is starting to send out vines!
Looking back through the arbor to the pollinator garden in progress.

In the middle of the yard, we removed a very mature River Birch. We had four, now we have three. The tree was too close to the house. I could have opened a River Birch nursery, with all the seedlings that erupted inside our gutters alone! It also dumped a lot of debris into our medium-sized pond. I left the stump kind of high, as I thought I might carve out a bowl/splinter. Right now the stump is weeping profusely. The sugars from the sap are spilling over and turning colors. The removal has opened up quite a bit of sunlight now!

A $15 River Birch bought at Lowes ended up costing us $1885 to remove 17 years later! The area around the roots and the significant root gullies are quite soggy now but the hosta around the tree base are loving it.
This unknown cultivar macrophylla was one of my best performers. It grew under the River Birch so it got dappled afternoon sun. I am a little concerned that this year of additional sun might harm the hydrangea, so I added these parasols, designed for peonies. We will see how she does this June. I may have to plant a smaller tree to give this some additional shade.

Two years ago, we reduced our pond by half. We had koi, and herons, and then ugly nets to try to protect the koi, and ugly leaves collecting in the nets. The ugly wasn’t worth it. We found homes for the koi, removed the net, placed a bench under a Japanese re maple and now we are serenaded by bullfrogs. We added a second trellis/arbor to mark an entrance to our deep-shade section.

With the increased sunlight from the missing River Birch, we can now plant some flowering plants by the waterfall. I could never grow anything there due to the deep shade. It will be so rewarding to add color to this area now!

Lutyens bench by the pond
A second identical arbor marks a pathway to the shade garden which is not yet in its full splendor. To the right, we have a stone walkway to what we hope will be a permanent

One thing about a shade garden, and a pond, are mosquitos. They love me and I am highly allergic to them. It is hard to enjoy the backyard we’ve created. Although we are vigilant in preventing any standing water, and use mosquito dunks in the pond, they do well here. Unfortunate! So I’ve been nagging my husband for a screened gazebo. They are quite the investment. We are looking at $7 to 8K to get a 12 x 12 structure. With Covid last year and this year, we weren’t sure what would happen with our incomes, so we wanted to test out the concept before we commit.

This is a 12 x 12 Alvantor tent. It is not perfect, but under $400 – a big difference that $8,000! We bought it in September and kept it up until early November and then tucked it away. The top is not waterproof, so we have to tend to it immediately after a rain storm. It is not what I want, but right now, we can sit out and see and listen to the waterfalls, the wind chimes and enjoy a glass of wine, mosquito free. We are going to try a different flooring this year. I am still not giving up on a cedar-type gazebo!!

Fall 2020
Hot waterblue lobelia in the shade garden
Cultivating a carpet of moss on the shady side
In another month, ferns, hosta, and other shade loving plants will fill in all this brown.
Hydrangea quercifolia “Alice” first spring in the ground. Purchased at Willey’s Farm in Townsend, Delaware
Part of the shade path. About 30% filled in
Columbine Aquilegia “Songbird Bluebird”
Dianthus Bleeding Heart
Merritt’s Supreme in partial shade. I covered it during our late frost last week. It seems to be doing okay!
Viburnum in the shade garden. Freshly washed with rain, the aroma is supreme!

Sussex County Delaware Master Gardeners’ Open House

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!

20130713-195554.jpgThe 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.

Enjoying a summer slurpee
Enjoying a summer slurpee

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.

2013 Open House

Baby the rain must fall

Get out your rain slicker, grab your camera and enjoy the garden!

In Delaware, June 2013 has produced record rainfall. Makes going out to the garden a bit of an annoyance, but don’t let a few (okay, a lot) of raindrops deter you from enjoying what you love!  After a rain event, your garden is particularly beautiful.

The addition of freshly-laid raindrops adds a sparkle and glimmer to vegetation and provides a new appreciation for how all the elements work in concert!  This afternoon, we had one of those downpours that arrived sandwiched between sunny blue skies. Perfect petal posing conditions! Now if I could only capture that rainbow!

I have taken my fair share of straight on flower portraits. I submitted hundreds to the new HGTVGarden website and suggested about 20 or so for consideration as their “pic of the week.” But it was a chance photo of rosebush leaves, adorned only by recent raindrops, that earned the editors’ attention and me a $100 prize, which I immediately spent at a local garden store!  This was the photo:

Rain drops on rose leaves
Rain drops on rose leaves

This afternoon, once I saw the sun peep out, I made a dash and took these photos. I used a 85mm micro lens, but I could have easily used my kit lens (55mm-200mm)  and zoom in from a distance, using the flower setting. I get very good results using a shallow depth of field and stepping back from the subject and zooming to 200mm focal length. Certainly, a micro or macro helps! Most importantly, experiment when you photograph your garden. Take photos at different times of the day. A bright sunny day at noon is not necessarily the best condition for nature photography. Vary your angle and don’t be afraid to get close…or wet!

Here are the photos from today. The raindrops add the sparkle and interest on what might otherwise be an ordinary flower photo!

Knock out rose bloom past its prime gets some additional visual energy with raindrops
Knock out rose bloom past its prime gets some additional visual energy with raindrops

A red maple leaf intercepts the rain
A red maple leaf intercepts the rain

Thirsty lace cap hydrangea drinks up all it can!
Thirsty lace cap hydrangea drinks up all it can!

A raindrop dangles on a delicate coral belle
A raindrop dangles on a delicate coral belle

A Knock Out rosebud is bathed in June rain
A Knock Out rosebud is bathed in June rain

Oak leaf hydrangea blooms glisten in water and white!
Oak leaf hydrangea blooms glisten in water and white!

A bay laurel leaf has thrived in this rainy June month
A bay laurel leaf has thrived in this rainy June month

A violet lacecap hydrangea dances in the rain
A violet lacecap hydrangea dances in the rain

Heavy rains can knock off the blooms of a Knock Out rose bush, but this blooming bud looks beautiful in water beads
Heavy rains can knock off the blooms of a Knock Out rose bush, but this blooming bud looks beautiful in water beads