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Perennial Bachelor Button

June 21st, 2017

Moving to Maine provided a few new to me plants in the garden. Some I welcomed, others I compost. Centaurea montana (aka mountain bluet or perennial bachelor button) was one I welcomed, at least for now. Typically, when adding a new plant variety to the garden, I plant it in my nursery bed in the main vegetable garden. This gives me a place to watch the growth habitats, easily monitor spread, and watch bloom time, color, and a few other things. After have a few disastrous things become weedy, invasive, or just be the wrong size, I decided this was the best way to introduce new things into my gardens.

There were two of these growing in a weedy semi-garden area by the driveway. One was dug up and transplanted to the nursery bed last summer. It’s grown nicely, bloomed beautifully this spring, and so far has behaved well in terms of spread (no seeding prolifically or rampant spreading yet).The plant is a bit floppy in this photo, which was taken after a rain. The plant is about 24 inches high by about 24 inches wide. I’m guessing this plant is one of the ones that does better in a less than perfect soil. Sometimes our garden soil is too good for some plants, which causes them to get a little floppy.

I have noticed no seedlings around the plant, here or in other places. This plant is also spreading slowly, which is another thing I’m happy about. After getting rid of a few thuggish plants (and currently trying to get rid of a few in this garden), I’m happy when plants are well behaved. This plant is reported to spread quickly in rich soils, but so far it’s not being overaggressive (at least not compared to some plants I’ve dealt with in the past). It’s probably doubled in size in the past year. Overall, it’s proving to be a decent plant. I’ll watch it for another season or two just to make sure it continues to be well-behaved and may move the other one to a less fertile area to see how it does in that area.

What new plants have you discovered recently?

Lovely Lupine

June 20th, 2017

Here in Maine lupines are very common, you’ll see scores of them blooming on hillside, by the road, and in gardens. Most of them are purple, with a few white and pink ones scattered in. My mom’s garden features a nice stand of lupine, she started them from seed a few years ago. When I was visiting last summer, I bought back dark pink lupine.

Not only are lupines lovely flowers to have in the garden, they’re beneficial as well. Lupines are leguminous and make nitrogen. Incorporating nitrogen fixing plants into our borders is one way to save money in the garden, we need less fertilizer if we have plants that provide it for other plants.

What’s blooming in your garden today?

Gardening is The Work

June 19th, 2017

“Maintenance is necessary and hugely satisfying work, in part because you become nature’s ally. And there’s no getting around the work. The willingness to put effort into your garden is at the heart of what it is to be a gardener. You know plenty about what it feels like when you put work into your garden in April and May, then let things slide a bit in June. Before you know it, the garden is a patch of weeds and your’e either in denial or disappointment. It doesn’t have to be that way if you plant wisely, start small, and build your confidence.”

Gordon Hayward in Tending Your Garden

This time of year gardening is more about weeding, pruning, cleaning, mulching, deadheading, and all the chores that make up gardening. Gardening after all is an active hobby. I enjoy the work of gardening, the hard work, the easy work, and the results of all that work. This past weekend I spent a lot of time working in the garden, or I should say gardening.

What’s your favorite activity that makes up gardening?

Quote of the Day: Joy Larkcom

June 18th, 2017

“There will be disappointments (when gardening). The glorious visions that are conjured up when sowing or planting don’t always materialize and the painful memories of failures lurk in my written records: ‘chamomile path engulfed by chickweed; cat scratched up lettuce seedlings; first cabbage lost to pigeons; drought causing slow pumpkin growth; ‘Treviso’ chicory disappeared. There are bound to be highs and lows: no garden can be beautiful all the time.”

Joy Larkcom in Creative Vegetable Gardening

For two years I have had a vision of what I wanted to create in the garden area below the living room windows. A mass planting of ‘Walkers Low’ catmint with lovely purple allium globes towering above it. I had seen a photo at one time of this and found it stunning.

Clearly my alliums are not towering above the catmint, in fact one is being smothered by it. The flowers are also the same color, which wasn’t the plan either. Perhaps the photo I saw used a lower catmint, the version that grows only a foot tall or so. Or perhaps the alliums grew to their normal height. My ‘Globemaster’ alliums are definitely not as tall as others I have seen, in fast they’re a full 8-12 inches shorter than the others I have seen. All-in-all, this ended up being a gardening disappointment.

The one on the edge is pretty tall, this is more what I was going for, but the other two aren’t even close to being tall enough. The one closer in is being swallowed up by the catmint (as you can see in the first photo of the post). In my opinion this is a waste of alliums. Alliums should be showstoppers in the garden, they’re so graphic and bold.

I’m certainly glad I didn’t buy a lot of alliums, I purchased only 3 bulbs to give it a try first. I may try a different type of allium in, one that has smaller flowers and one that is a different color of purple. These alliums won’t be lost, I love them, just not here. The bulbs will be fed, dug up, and then moved to a new spot in the garden where they can shine and be the showstopper they should be.

What gardening fails have you had this year? 

Friday Favorite: Creeping Thyme

June 16th, 2017

In Ohio I had a lot of varieties of creeping thyme, from the super micro variety that grows less than a centimeter tall, to the variety that’s about 6-8 inches tall. I started adding a few varieties to the potager and between the rocks by our front door. They are filling in nicely and providing a lot of interest, for both us and the pollinators.

One thing I love about thyme is that it thrives in difficult locations. The space between these rocks grew weeds and was a bit of an eyesore if not kept weeded or clipped. I figured thyme would be perfect to fill in and thrive in these difficult conditions. I have four different varieties in here so far, purple flowers, white flowers, wooly thyme, and a very low growing thyme was just planted in another section.

Thyme is a favorite plant of mine, I find that it seems to always be of great use in places other plants might not work. The fact that it blooms beautifully, comes in a wide variety of heights, bloom colors, and textures is another benefit. It spreads nicely (without becoming invasive) and divides very easily which means you can end up with lots of plants from one initial plant. When you add the food in provides for pollinators it rounds out as a perfect plant. If you don’t have any in your garden, try to find a spot to tuck one in. If you know a gardener that has some, ask them for a division.

I even planted a few of the taller varieties under the front porch door, it’s a weird spot and grows weeds. If it get enough sunlight, the thyme will love the dryness of this location. Later this summer I’ll post photos if it survives and thrives. At the moment it’s looking good and I have confidence it will be the perfect way to add something delightful where a problem existed, just like between these big rocks.

What’s your favorite hard working plant in the garden?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.