Even More Room To Grow!

With so many little plants waiting for a new home, I decided I needed another new bed! But after last year's two-day hand digging adventure, I took Karen's advice and ordered up a sod cutter and tiller from Diamond Lake Rental. I roped Rebecca in as spotter/supervisor. The delivery guy, whose name I didn't get, let's call him "Joe," arrived promptly at 10 AM, but there was a problem. While my rental was for two hours, they needed to use the delivery truck on another job in around 45 minutes. With Rebecca still 15 minutes away, there was no way I was going to get the job done that quickly myself. Luckily, "Joe" said they decided back at the shop he would just bang out the "small job" for me at no additional charge! Woo-hoo!

While Karen said the sod cutter was not that hard to use once you got it started, the task looked quite a bit harder than I expected. "Joe" said tight turns are difficult to maneuver with the cutter, but he really did a good job, the circle and the curves came out very nice. Rebecca said we probably would not have been able to get such neat lines. After he cut the sod he was running short of time so we decided to just till the phase one section in the middle. That was the idea, but with time "Joe" couldn't get the tiller to dig in the hard soil.  He didn't have time to mess with it and said he'd take the tiller of the bill. He recommended we water the area some, break it up with my "Garden Claw" and call them back to get the tiller. I gave "Joe" $25 for his hard work. Check out the video of a professional at work with the cutter.

Here's the "small job" area before (panoramas made with PTgui):

And after Rebecca and I removed the sod:

And a lot of sod it was. Rebecca did warn me that grass is heavy, but I did not believe her. Now I do. We couldn't think of anything better to do with it at the time, so we piled it up on sheets of cardboard and covered with a tarp. I know the city won't take it. I'll have to sort it out. For now, out of sight, out of mind.

The area around the table and bench will be step-able ground covers, primarily creeping thyme, and mulch. I'll remove the stone pavers from the bed under the windows and re arrange the plants there. I don't want to put all the new plants in the new bed. I'll move and split things from the exiting beds-- some Karl Foerster grasses, Lady's Mantle, Heuchera 'Palace Purple', Siberian Iris and Moonbeam Coreopsis.

It in right side circle, I want a small tree with multi-season interest. I am leaning toward a tree-form 'Autumn Brilliance' Serviceberry which has Spring flowers, Summer berries and colorful Fall leaves.

Before all the planting starts, I need to kill and remove the remaining grass and weeds around the table and get a layer of Preen down before the new weeds get going. Good thing its a long weekend! Then there's the 55 feet of edging to pin down. I'll save that job for when my dad comes to visit in a few weeks. He can help me plant the tree as well.

The Tragedy of the Sawfly and Other Success Stories...

This post was going to be titled "The First Six Weeks of Spring," but recent events with my Northern Lights Azalea have caused the story of our early Spring to be pushed below the fold.

[Our top story tonight...]

On Sunday afternoon, while wandering the garden, I noticed my garden tour (2008) freebie azalea was starting to flower. The flowers were lovely, but it looked like the leaves were being devoured by something. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a couple of green worm-like things crawling on the remnants of a jagged leaf. Then I saw more of them and then more still! (There are at least two in the photo below.)

I wasn't sure what they were, but ran for the only weapon I could find-- Hot Pepper Wax. I doused the shrub in the spicy spray hoping to see the little worms explode. They didn't, but they didn't seem to like the stuff. I did a bit of research and confirmed they were not actually worms, but Azalea Sawflies. More research lead us to order some All Natural 3-in-1 Garden Insect Spray. A few hours later I went back out to see how the sawflies were faring only to find them generally happy and thinking about dinner. Again I drenched the shrub in Hot Pepper Wax.

After work the next day I checked back to find the fly larva continuing their campaign of destruction. I feared they would strip the plant of all its leaves before the garden insect spray arrived. Then it dawned on me... The active ingredient in the insect spray we ordered is rosemary oil which is the same active ingredient in the Bioganic Crawling Insect Killer we had in our kitchen cupboard! Well, I thought, that certainly should do to hold back the bugs until the garden spray arrives. Yet again I covered the plant. While the rosemary oil spray did not make them explode, they did seem the slow down and a few kind of curled up a bit. With the garden filled with the aroma of all natural bug killing oils, I felt confident my pretty little shrub was safe.

As I arrived home the next afternoon, my heart sank. The azalea leaves were completely brown! What had I done?

Only a few leaves are still green. I have no idea if they will be enough to sustain the poor thing through the rest of the season.

[We'll bring you further updates as they become available. And now back to the rest of today's headlines...]

Also in the pests department, the Eastern Tent Caterpillar population has exploded this year. There looked to be millions on the University campus, sometimes they would seem to rain from the trees. I even found half a dozen in my yard around the Ash tree, but haven't seen any tents. Please do not let them get established in my yard!!!

Speaking of the Ash tree, ours is at least 60 years old-- my neighbor can remember when it was planted. Being such a nice tree, I was very concerned about the discovery of emerald ash borer (EAB) in the Twin Cities. I had the tree treated by Rainbow Tree Care, something that will have to be repeated annually. The cost of ten years treatment is about the same as removal, but it would be another forty years before a replacement would be a nice.

Spring came early to Minneapolis this year. With no snow at all in March and unseasonably high temps in April gardens all over were weeks ahead of schedule. By the second week of April not only were all the usual early blooming flowers at their peak, over two weeks earlier than last year, Pasque flowers, species tulips and crocuses...

... but the Magnolia tree was in full bloom over three weeks early!

Not long after, a handful of Yellow Trumpet Daffodils saw fit to do more than just put up loads of leaves. But there was a smaller surprise for dafodills-- the diminutive Tête-à-Tête daffs were lovely (right)! I keep trying to plant tall daffs in hops to have lots of sunny yellow blooms around the garden, but I have yet to see more than half a dozen per year. I have officially given up on having daffs in the spot near the front of the house. Summer two years ago I re-dug the spot to see what happened to the second no-show batch of 25 bulbs only to find nothing there! My third try also resulted in nothing appearing in that spot. At least in other areas I get leaves. Maybe I should try some Tête-à-Tête daffs in that spot.

Other minor bulbs were also very nice this year. (But for some reason I did not get any good pictures of them.) I was happy to see my Chionodoxa, Siberian and striped squill all starting to spread under the apple tree! I plan on buying a bunch more althoughI have recently come to understand squill and the like are considered invasive in these parts! How can that be? The folks at MinnesotaWildflowers.info say:

... Sadly, the same traits that make it attractive as a garden plant (besides the vivid color) are also what make it invasive. Large colonies of squill can be seen in the eastern counties of the state, from Duluth to Rochester. There is even an infestation at the University of Minnesota St Paul campus, just a block away from the Bell Herbarium...

I think they are lovely. Where they see an "infestation", I see a nice sea of blue.

Photo taken from the Minnesota Wildflowers website.
© Dan Ondler taken in Oronoco, MN

I did find one squill growing under the Ash tree at least 30 feet away and another single one all the way on the other side if the house in the hosta bed... Hum.

By the third week in April, the darwin and other standard tulips were blooming all over. This is the second year for the darwins (top).

While mainly species and darwin tulips are the ones known for returning, I was pleasantly surprised to see one Greenland, three Queen of the Night, three Monsella (left) and three Angelique Tulips (right, no longer double) all returned. The Monsellas are back for their third year running and this is the second year for the Queen of the Nights (only 3 of 10 returned). On the other hand, the other two took a year to rest before returning this year.

I got a free Gladiator Allium Fall 2008 which was very interesting last year. Wanting more, but not wanting to pay $5+ a bulb, I found a great deal on 15 younger bulbs sold by EdensBlooms.com on eBay last Fall for around a dollar each. The old, full sized bulb has two stems in its second year with blooms around 5" across (foreground). I did not expect the young bulbs to bloom this year, but eleven out of 15 flowered with three inch blooms (background)!

Some other nice Spring blooms:


Barbara Harrington clematis

Bearded Iris, the first bloom of a big Fall planted patch.

Species Tulips


In a bit of cart-before-the-horse, I have a load of plants waiting for their home in the yet-to-be-dug new bed. There's a flat full of plants I got at the Friends School Plant Sale.

A bunch of recent bargains: a grab-bag of 40 lily bulbs from Brecks.com; two large bunches of bare-root Sweet Woodruff and Lamium from eBay; 60 "wild" daffodils, also from eBay; three varieties of Heuchera (Silver Scrolls, Venus and Tapestry),

20 plugs of Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' and 10 plugs of Sedum 'Red Carpet' from Premium Plant Plugs. The plugs are tiny-- 13/16" X 1 1/4", but the roots look great and the plants are a good size. And they were only $6 for 10! I transfered the Ajuga to five 4-packs to stretch their roots while waiting for their permanent home. In a few weeks they should be as big as the more expensive packs in the garden centers.

Not only that, but I am waiting for a box of several kinds of sedum coming got a big box of four kinds of sedum from my new trading buddy, Lily in Chicago! There's Sarmentosum, Kamtchasticum, Angelina and a big bunch of Dragon's Blood. She also sent me a few daffodils and a handful of green garlic plants. I "planted" about 60% of the sedu in a cardboard flat of dirt to wait with the others for the rumored new bed. I'll tuck the rest of them in around the existing beds this weekend. I repeated the process with most of the remaining Sweet Woodruff.

The waiting area is getting a little full... The cages are for their own protection.

[Finally tonight, a cute animal story...]

Last weekend I had a little company while I was out in the garden. I crept up to take a few pictures expecting he would run off, but he sat tight the entire time I was outside. He must trust me. I keep telling the rabbits to eat the dandelions, maybe this one will take my advice and earn his keep!

Planting 2010

It's Sunday, May 16 and I've been planting, weeding, cleaning and enjoying the sunshine for two days. Here are a few pictures of my progress.

I planted four tomato plants. The front two were given to me by Elleni and her Mom. They are Hillbilly heirloom. The one in the rear left is another heirloom, Mortgage Lifter, and on the right rear is a Big Boy.

I also planted two rows of beans, Blue Harvest Bush. Then one row of cucumbers, Muncher.  
My neighbors thinned some Daylilies, so I planted some around a small tree by the front curb and the others under a tree out back.

Elleni and Karen worked at the Friends School plant sale so I got seven varieties of flowers, from alyssum, balloon flowers, coreopsis, to two kinds of daylilies, foxglove and periwinkles. I also bought more alyssum from Mother Earth Garden and a realtor sent a packet of zinnia seeds so I have lots of stuff that will hopefully come up.

The hostas along the back are mature and will need to be divided this year. 

I went to Ace Hardware and got some red and yellow begonias plus white and purple petunias to make planters.

I put lights around the patio umbrella. It looks very festive at night.

The first rose of the season. I'd like to have more rose bushes, but probably not this year.

The front flower boxes have Painted Paradise impatiens combined with the foxglove.

Along the front curb are the last of the tulips. They were great this year. I planted purple and gold alyssum and Zamphir coreopsis along the front. 

The front of the house and Georgie supervising through the screen door.