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!

Hydrangea “pistachio”

I bought this little gem from Wayside Gardens, a well-known garden mail order catalog. It didn’t bloom the first year it was shipped, which I expected, and last year it just leafed out. This year, it has only grown a little bit, but I am happy that it produced a couple of blooms. I planted it in partial sun/shade and it receives mostly dappled afternoon sun. So far, it’s just a wee little shrub.

I am delighted.

About six inches across, it has a violet blue center, somewhat like a lacecap – not sure if this is a true lacecap, if so the surrounding petals are much more dominant. I love the color. No photo apps or filters, I am eager to watch this grow and continue to bloom. Most of my “pink” hydrangeas have turned blue.  How will it evolve as the blooms age? I am eager to see!

What kind of hydrangea is this?

Calling all experts!

I am not a hydrangea expert, just a big, big fan of them!

Three years ago, we took down some gangly, ugly and very spotty red tip shrubs and in their place, we planted a row of what we thought were white hydrangeas. At least that is what the labels said at Lowes, where we made a purchase and aligned them along a short stretch of split-rail fence.

fenceline of hydrangeas
My plans are to mark this area off with stone (wire grass is a problem here) and dress with mulch.

We thought we bought seven, identical white hydrangeas. Two at the far end turned out to be blue lacecaps. Not exactly my plan, but I don’t mind surprises. But the one closest to my garden gate has an altogether different look than any of my other hydrangeas.

The first year, my husband kept mowing it down so it never bloomed. Last year in 2012 it looked like this:

Pink at last! Well, sort of!
Pink at last! Well, sort of!

I was delighted to finally get a pink hydrangea. Sorta, kinda. The pink was very slight, not at all over powering. To my eye, it had a very vintage look and the pink played off well against the vanilla white background color. I loved the old-fashioned delicacy to the blooms. One might say it had even Victorian aesthetic

This year, 2013, the same hydrangea surfaced with a whole new look:

This is the same plant as above, and just as delicate, but now in shades of powder blue
This is the same plant as above, and just as delicate, but now in shades of powder blue

Can anyone comment on what variety of hydrangea this is (as Lowe’s label was way, way off)? Even though it isn’t white, I quite like the surprise and its evolving colors. My soil apparently has quite a bit of aluminum in it, as any pink or rose hydrangeas I have tried to grow have all converted over to blue, and these are my deepest, most stunning blues. It is much harder to turn blue into pink, as you must actually subtract aluminum from the soil. Adding acid or alkaline amendments to the soil really can’t change blue over to pink. I haven’t made any cuttings for indoors as I want it to continue to grow, but it is a variety I wouldn’t mind propagating.

I rather like my mystery plant!