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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

The Good: Last year I fought a two-month battle with the currant sawfly. More specifically, I fought with its caterpillar-type larvae. This was the devastation they wrought. Who needs Agent Orange?

I didn’t really win the battle in that I didn’t get a single currant, but I did wind up with a few leaves on the two bushes in the end.

Return of the currant bush- July 2010

Because the wigglers were so destructive I had to cut the plants right back. I was pretty surprised that the bushes recovered. The darn bugs have two broods each spring, so I was watching into this July, rubbing off eggs and picking worms.

This spring I was actually able to kill adult flies. The weather was cold and this seem to slow them right down. I checked the plants twice a day for the eggs and eventually gave up rubbing off the eggs–I just pulled off the leaves.

I was much crueler with the wormies–I picked them off and fed them to the ants. (No pictures of the massacre.)

Currants set fruit on last year’s wood. There wasn’t much in the way of wood for this year, so we got a total of only 18 berries. But aren’t they beautiful?

Not sure what to do with 18 currants. Won’t make very big pie or a lot of jam. But we are optimistic for next year.

Return of the currant bush: July 2011

The Good: I often feel disappointed that the camera doesn’t capture the true colour of a plant. This pretty hydrangea serrata “Bluebird” is a sweet pink and looks great against the split leaf Japanese maple.  And I love the blue pots.

The Sluggly: Many people are calling this the summer that wasn’t. It has been grey and rainy for more than two months, though it looks like better days are ahead for our sailing trip (fingers crossed). I have been sweating about my veggy garden–the tomatoes in particular. They were purple with cold in late May and early June but were finally looking perky with healthy leaves, pretty blooms, and yes, fruit when school let out.

But too much rain…well, it’s like the damn slugs are falling from the sky. And then when they arrive they want to eat. And party with their bug friends.

So that was the end of those two tomatoes. The first two that looked like they might amount to something.  On to the kale. And during daylight, no less.

Sigh. Who’s your garden nemesis?

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The Wall

I keep saying how much we like our patio. It’s one of my favourite “rooms” in this house.  If this soggy July weather would pass I would spend a lot more time out there smelling the honeysuckle, listening to the birds, and admiring the wall.

This was the wall:The Wall.

It used to be the dirt-bottomed lean-to annex of the shed, but now, following Chris’s efforts last July, it’s the wall.  Very practical and a step up from the dirt-bottomed lean-to, but a bit boring. Not an eye-sore but in need of a little something.

After a bit of research and mess-making, this is the wall now:

(If you click on that image you’ll see what I mean by rain.)

Planning and Doing

I had thought of doing this, but discovered that it would be surprisingly expensive and fussy. Who knew old window frames were worth fifty bucks? Through June I kept my eyes open for a cheaper alternative.

I lucked into some wire containers at Winners–not on sale but reasonable from my point of view. And I snapped up some not-yet-scraggly bedding plants on sale. I did buy a bag of moss which was probably stupid since we have had so much rain that moss is growing on almost every outdoor surface. I got a two-for-one deal on the potting soil and had some left over landscape fabric.

I don’t have the during pictures which is probably a good thing since the whole process was a bit like making sausage. Moss first, landscape fabric next, then soil and plants. I did it in the kitchen. Messy. Much sweeping ensued. Did you know that pill bugs like sphagnum moss? They don’t move very quickly so I was able to herd them out the door without much drama.

Done!

One of the smaller baskets:

In case you are wondering….The impatiens above are Jambalaya Pink Blush.

Tuberous begonia: Non-Stop Bright Rose

I am pretty pleased with the result. The baskets get late afternoon sun and are thriving. I am thinking that even in the winter the baskets will look nice with some holly and fir branches.

Rain or not, the view is much improved.

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I have been puttering around the garden, energizer bunny style (but without the drum), pruning and moving plants. Some plants needed more light, some need less. Many have (had!) crowded, twisted branches. Some needed to be rescued from the chomping ivories of the deer, others from the slurping mouth parts tiny voracious bugs.

I am quite proud of resurrecting the currant bushes. Remember this and this?  A month and half later they look much more robust:

I will take some credit. I have checked the leaves every day for the rotters that did the damage in the first place: gooseberry sawflies. These villains keep attempting a comeback. The adults lay eggs in neat little rows on the undersides of the leaves. They look like little rice grains.The initial caterpillar nymphs make pinpricks in the leaves and just start stuffing their gobs.

Then they grow into larger, fatter, more voracious caterpillar-types.

Unless I get to them first!

I discovered a sad little hydrangea hidden among the cranesbill.

It gets pretty hot next to the concrete wall so the plant was pretty well cooked. It was nearly dead, in fact. I whacked it back and moved it, and crossed my fingers.

Looks hopeful for next year.

I now have three favourite gardening tools. First, these loppers. They are satisfying to use–I feel like a short, weakling lumberjack.

We have several large holly bushes taking over acreage. They are an invasive species here and seed easily. I can pull little seedlings by hand, but established bushes take more muscle. This monster was seven feet tall so I had to take it down branch by branch, then Chris tore the trunk out. We had to jump up and down on it to loosen it from the soil.

I also love my secateurs, especially now that Chris has given them a tune up. They feel great in my hand. Again, I feel like a pro using them.

Finally, I love this rake. Chris bought it for me so I could clean up the piles of branches that were accumulating in the yard as the result of my zealous pruning. And with all the Douglas fir in the yard, it will help with the endless pine cone gathering. Note the drywall dust on the handle–it’s everywhere.

The rakings go to the trailer, which goes to the yard waste pile at the dump, which becomes compost, which we will buy back eventually, which will go to our yard.

Which leads me to the “lose some”. In a very shady spot in the garden, a pretty pink mallow was struggling for some sun. I moved it to the hot spot that the hydrangea was in…with sad results.

So I whacked it back, and we will just wait and see. Hoping for a little currant bush good luck.

Do you get the feeling that there is a garden god who monitors your level of green thumb arrogance and takes you down a notch when you get a wee bit cocky? Do you have a plant resurrection tale? Or have you battled bugs and won? Do tell! I’d love to hear your war stories.

And thanks for reading. 🙂

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I discovered the macro setting on my camera, so I apologize in advance for any headaches I may cause. It’s just a phase. Please forgive.

These double poppies have self-seeded in several beds. The foliage is a lovely dusty grey-green, but the heads are so big that they make the whole plant tips over onto the grass. Still, pretty fabulous colour.

So luscious.

This hydrangea is taller than I am and looks quite fit. I think it’s a mophead.

The bloom turns pink as it matures.

This lavender is at least a metre across and is more purple than this picture shows. It needs a pruning, but I am a bit afraid of ruining it.

Alstroemeria has popped up in a variety of places, including between the patio stones. It’s quite cheery, but I need to watch it, apparently, as it can become a garden thug.

And now for the audience participation portion of this post.  Do you recognize these next three flowers? I haven’t made it easy as I have focused on the blooms. But you are smart, dear reader, and I know you’ll do just fine.

Contestant #1

Contestant #2

Contestant #3

Does anyone look familiar?

I wrote earlier about the sad condition of the two currant  bushes.

Mum was right, these guys are tough. I whacked them back into sticks.

Taa daa! Obviously these guys are determined to survive so I can make jam.

Here is another unexpected discovery: meet Rupert the Sad Scarecrow. He’s about a foot tall and was under the lavender when I found him, hatless. And armless.

But worse,  Rupert suffers from really big feet-itis. I have to find the perfect place in the garden for him.


Maybe we need to plant some sunflowers.

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Robins in the Wisteria

Along the back of the house we have a spectacular wisteria vine stretching 6 metres over the dining room window and kitchen door. We missed the height of its purple, drooping blooms this year, but we will enjoy the extra cooling shade it provides all summer. The vine needs pruning and propping, but that will have to wait until the current tenants move out. The robin family are unexpected but welcome squatters.

We first noticed mum when she was eyeballing us from the gutter. She had been making a few alarm calls earlier in the week but we hadn’t put it together until Nelson noticed the nest.


It’s tucked under the eves but is easy to see when you are standing at the kitchen door.

She is very patient and sits absolutely still.

As far as we can tell there are two fuzzy little chicks in the nest. They are well trained, though: not a peep out of them, nor did they stretch their necks out to danger when I slowly took a peek. We will have to watch when they fledge so neither dog gets any big ideas about rescuing them.

ps. I neglected to add the names of the birds (given by Charlotte and Nelson): mother is Cheryl, father is Drizzle, baby girl is Beth, and boy is Micheal. Because they just are.

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Tough and Cheap

The plants in the yard look very healthy and I attribute that to the great soil that Marilee cultivated and enriched. Considering how much rain we’ve had in the last six weeks though, it’s amazing the whole place hasn’t turned to compost.

We have arrived just in time to enjoy some nice irises. I love the black falls on this one:

I wonder if these irises will be a bit brighter if they get more sun:


Maybe they’d perk up next to these purple ones:

So now to the problem children of the garden: two very sad, virtually bald currant bushes. They have lots of fruit but no leaves with the exception of the tips of the branches. Those leaves are contorted and puckered, and hold little globs of aphids carefully tended by ant friends.

They look pretty sad:

I am trying to figure out what did the munching. There are black crusty things hanging from munched up leaf bits, so what ever did the majority of the work seems to have gone on to the next stage of its life cycle. I saw one caterpillar like this currant worm and one sluggy guy like this pear sawfly. I also saw little flies that could have been this guy (bad) or this guy (good). I noticed wasps hanging around the tops of the plants and I hope they were having a good meal on the various pests destroying the bushes.

I squished the caterpillars and slugs I found, but I think I may be too late to rescue these bushes. I won’t be using a pesticide–not even insecticidal soap–as I think there are plenty of beneficials in the garden…so what to do?

I talked to my mum about this situation because I remember there were currant bushes along the front of her house. I thought she and Dad dealt a round of nasty bug infestations in the currants at some point. She couldn’t remember it but  said, “Currants are tough and cheap.”  Hmmm.

I am going to cut both bushes back heavily, dispose of the branches in the garbage (not the compost), and see what happens. Who knows? If they die I may replace them, and if they live and produce currants next year, well, I will do a happy dance and make currant jam.

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