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Archive for the ‘Container gardening’ Category

A number of years ago, I took over a garden that was root bound.  No one could plant a garden there.  I had not intended to garden again once I left my gardens in New Hampshire.  It was time to admire other people’s gardens.  Or so I thought!

On arrival, I got involved with the Garden Committee here at Horizon House, continuing to the position of Chair. I really enjoyed that.  Then one of the gardeners came to me to indicate she could no longer dig in her garden because it was totally root-bound by the surrounding trees.  After checking that out, we moved her to another garden that was “diggable”.  But, what would we do with the one she  was leaving?

A's Garden

I figured I could deal with that, and volunteered to take it over.  I put in some large containers, which  I planted with succulents.  It worked.  I didn’t have to dig in the garden, and the succulents did not require a ton of care from me, so all was good.

And then, the inevitable happened.  Those encroaching roots began to impact the irrigation system.  We had a few broken pipes, and garden floods. That became expensive and of course, intolerable for Horizon House. The decision was made to dig up the trees.

What happened then was actually pretty nice.  It meant we got 5  or 6 new gardens!  And in the process…mine was dug up, as were all the impacted garden plots.  We got wonderful new soil!  AND I all of a sudden had a REAL garden!  I was IMG_8548both overjoyed and appalled.  So much for my garden-less sojourn. But, I had a garden again.  It was small.  It was manageable. It was mine…

So, the containers stayed at one end of the garden.  I took stones I had salvaged from my friend Judy’s garden.  Judy, an avid gardener, died much too early and I felt this was a way to keep her in my life and honor her.  They now weave (she was a wonderful weaver, as well as gardener) through my little patch.  IMG_8560After I placed those “bones”, I found the perfect (I hope!) perennials to plant around them.  Right now, I’m watering them while they grab hold, looking fresh and healthy. I am hopeful that as time goes on, they will need less care from me, and will bloom and grow forever!

So, there it is…my journey back to the soil.  I KNEW I could never be too far away from a garden.  It is my attachment to my mother who was a fabulous gardener.  It is my connection to Irene, my life long best friend in Connecticut.  (Irene gave me a cute little birdbath with a few hummingbirds flittering around it. You’ll see it in most of the pictures of the garden.) The stones are part and parcel of Judy.  It is also my new connection to the state of Washington, where the seasons are much more forgiving.  It is my umbilical cord to the world where I exist.  I want to leave this world a better place than when I entered it.  Between my family and my gardens, I hope I’ve done that!IMG_8613

 

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For the last 7 years or so, my Christmas Cactus have not bloomed, except when I had just purchased them…or when I first arrived from New Hampshire.  I was disappointed.

Those of you that know me, know that I’m not really an “indoor” plant kind of person…although I’m learning to be one here in Seattle, which is VERY different from New England.

So, what’s with the Christmas Cactus?  They put out lots of green growth.  I water them according to their needs…not too much!  They look pretty, all green and shiny, but around Christmas?  No flowers!

This year however, I did a few things differently, and I think “I’ve GOT it”!  As Chair of the Garden Committee (which I just gave up) I saw to it that a rack was put outside on one of the terraces for indoor plants, to be used by anyone in Horizon House who felt their plants would benefit from a summer outside.  I took advantage of that as well.  OUT went my Christmas Cacti!

I have to say that in both Connecticut and New Hampshire, I always put my indoor plants out under a tree for the summer.  (Are you paying attention?)  When we moved here, I didn’t have a spot to park them.  If I put them in my little garden plot, the snails would have eaten them alive! So, they stayed on my window sill, inside.  I didn’t have any closet, basement or garage to put them in for an “unlit”, “cooling” period.  ALL the lighting needs were ignored.  The other thing that was ignored was the temperature.  They had to be either inside or outside, and a rack was not available for me.  So, the plants looked healthy enough, but NO FLOWERS!

Enter the rack this past year.  I got it out in June, and removed it in Mid-October.  My Christmas Cactus loved it!  The temperature was correct, as was the light.  However, they still were not chilled enough to set buds.  Next year, I will request that the rack be left out until we’ve actually had a frost…perhaps sometime in November.

Then miraculously, an opportunity appeared.  We have a non-functioning air-conditioner in our bedroom window.  We finally had it covered…with a wooden box-like structure…A SHELF!  We turn the heat down at night and open the window by the air-conditioner.  When I put the plants on that air-conditioner shelf the cacti rejoiced and set buds!!!!

Yesterday, I felt I had waited long enough, and I brought the two cactus’ that had set buds, out to the living room window sill.  There’s another one on the “cold shelf”, but it is an Easter Cactus, and I can’t expect it to flower for a few more months.  It will remain there until it set’s buds, for SURE!

At any rate, when they tell you that Christmas Cactus (and Easter Cactus) need a cold and dark period in order to bloom, BELIEVE THEM!

I continue to learn.  Gardening inside sure is different!

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It’s a question I often hear, and often answer as simply as I can, usually after asking a few questions.

  1. Is it an orchid that has just decided it doesn’t want to bloom in the next year or two???  (and you don’t care to wait!)
  2. Whatever kind of plant it is, is there anyone you know who might want to adopt your plant?
  3. Is the plant diseased or buggy?
  4. Are you willing to WORK on it, or are you DONE with it?

After we talk about those possibilities, we then go on to a possible solution.

#1-There are a few people here at Horizon House who will “adopt” spent orchids and bring them back to flower. What they do with them at that point is unknown!

#2-Would a neighbor, or family member like to have it?

#3-If it is diseased or buggy, it should go “down the shoot” into the garbage.  Put it in a plastic (or paper) bag and into the garbage.  It is neither recyclable, NOR compostable.

#4-If it’s just beyond your interest or appears to be dying a natural death, or you can’t find an adoptive “parent” for it, here’s what you can do.

If the plant is small, and in fairly good condition, put it on the shelf in the Service Room.  Perhaps someone on your floor will take a liking to it.  OR maybe the person who empties the trash may know someone who would like it.

If no one takes it…or it’s beyond help…

Allow the plant to dry out.  Take a large, PAPER grocery bag, dump the plant (with it’s soil) into the bag WITHOUT the pot.  Close up the bag and put it (carefully sealed) in the compost container in the Service Room on your floor.  If it is too large for that, bring it to the Potting Room on B-2 and put the bag into the compost container there.

Just so you know, this is perfect compost!  It is living (or having once been alive) material.  compost-handSoil is exactly what compost will become, and is a needed part of the composting process.

The pot remaining, if you don’t have a use for it, can be washed out, and put into the recycling bin.  If it’s a pretty one, consider Monday Market!

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I hope this answers your questions.  Happy Gardening, inside or outside!!!

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The irises are LOVELY right now.  Some of them are VERY heavy and really need to be propped up.  There are a few that have had their tops nibbled off by some critter, or crow perhaps.  Oh, well!

As you can see by the pictures I took this morning as I cruised through the Horizon House gardens, those irises are really showing off!

 

I went from deck to deck, to see all the majesty our gardeners have wrought.  If you haven’t gone down to look, you really should!

The C deck even has some veggies, with our little friend Peter in it’s midst!

The D Level gardens are popping as well!  And the bees are happy!

Going onto the Secret Garden, there are always surprises to be found!

What do you think?  Are the gardens ready for “June In Our Gardens”?

In June the Garden Committee gives a SPECIAL invitation for everyone to visit the gardens.  Every day, we will have tours, activities, lectures, trips, parties, lunches brought to enjoy together, and just a jolly time outside.  The Garden Committee hopes you’ll participate and join us for as many activities as you can.

Remember we not only garden for us, we garden for YOU!

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Ah, yes!  Here they come…shoots, buds, flowers, and gardeners out snipping, digging, watering and just enjoying life in our gardens here at Horizon House!

Louise A. was out the other morning taking some lovely photos that I will share with you here.  They are ALL from our gardens, Level C, Level D and of course, the Secret Garden!  Go outside and enjoy them all!

 

My little succulent (mostly) garden thrives as well.  I give it a little watering when I’m down there, but don’t really worry too much about it.  It tolerates drought just fine!  Lucky for me, I guess.  IMG_7478

What does appear necessary to accomplish is some “dead-heading”.  The daffodils and even some tulips are beginning to look a bit bedraggled.  With bulbs it’s important to allow the leaves to feed the bulbs for next years blooms.  So, when you dead-head them, place your snipper down as low to the ground on the STEM that HOLDS THE FLOWER, and snip there.  Leave the surrounding leaves!  This is one of the reasons many gardeners plant their bulbs amidst other plants that come after and do a good job of hiding the gradually retreating bulb leaves.  As they turn brown, they too can be removed if you’d like.  Here’s a link to the University of Maryland Extension Service article about bulbs and their care, as well as dead-heading.

The other evening the Conservation Committee here at Horizon House hosted Dr. David Montgomery.  He spoke about his new book “Growing a Revolution:Bringing our Soil Back to Life”.  It was a wonderful program.  We all learned a lot.  It can even apply to our little garden plots here.

Enjoy being outside!  And Gardeners-HAVE A BLAST!

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Know your Horticultural Zone.  Find it here!

  • Bring home some wonderful blooming flowers to enjoy around the house!
  • Be sure to fertilize that poinsettia.IMG_7112
  • Check your stored bulbs to be sure they’re not being eaten by mice.
  • Remove bulbs to be forced, from cold storage. Put them in a cool place until they begin to sprout, then bring them into the place you want to have them bloom.images.duckduckgo
  • This is a good time to buy summer blooming bulbs.
  • When your bulbs begin to sprout, give them a bit of fertilizer and scratch it into the soil.
  • If you want to get spring blooming plants, like creeping phlox, look for the ones in bloom so you’re sure to get the color you want!
  • Start seeds inside.
  • Begonias can be started directly in the garden.
  • Use maples as a guide.  When they start sending out leaves, the soil should be good for planting!
  • Don’t plant in mud!
  • Divide Perennials, and remember to water the new plantings if spring rains don’t materialize.
  • You can plant gladiola images.duckduckgoa few  every two weeks (up until July) to guarantee summer long bloom.
  • Once the soil has begun warming (remember the maples), get those veggie seeds & crops in the ground.
  • This is a good time to send in a soil sample for testing.
  • If you have a lawn, now would be the time to send the mower in for a tune-up.
  • Fruit trees should be pruned of dead and diseased branches. Check a reference book and give them a general pruning as well.
  • Keep your pruning shears away from spring blooming trees and shrubs, except to snip a few for inside forcing! (Although you should certainly remove dead and diseased branches.) Some good forcing candidates are: cherry, apple, dogwood and forsythia.  Just remember that whatever you cut off now will not be blooming in a few months!
  • Cut back woody perennials like artemesia, lavender and russian sage to about 6 inches from the ground.
  • Prune roses by removing old, damaged, diseased, and unproductive canes.  You can bring bush roses back to a foot or so tall, and shrub roses to three feet.img_2212
  • Talk about pruning shears…sharpen and clean them before using.

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I’ve had a few folks ask about a calendar of “what to do when” in the garden.  I have to be a little picky here, as I’m really writing this blog for those who live at Horizon House (a Retirement facility) with raised garden beds…no big expanses, trees or large shrubs.  This means that some chores are adjusted in such a way as to fit our needs.  However, ALL of these are useful for ANY gardener in the Pacific Northwest.  I will try to post one of these for every month as we go forward.  If it appears that they are either too “simplistic” or too “all encompassing”, please bear with me, and fit them to YOUR own needs!   I hope you find them useful, no matter how large or small your piece of Eden!

JANUARY

  • Some folks cut off the spent christmas tree boughs and lay them on top of flower beds to add extra protection, from errant snow or even low temperatures.
  • Do you have anything that’s stored away…like tubers of any sort?  Bulbs, veggies (potatoes, etc.)  Check them and toss any mushy ones into the compost.
  • Don’t forget the birds.  images.duckduckgoEspecially here in the PNW where little hummingbirds spend the winter.  There aren’t many blossoms for them to tap…offer them some sugar water.  (4 part’s water to 1 part sugar.  Bring to a boil, and cool.  It will keep nicely in the refrigerator.)
  • This might be a good time to start a Gardening Journal.  You can use a notebook, a calendar, or even a published gardening journal you buy at the bookstore.
  • Had any early storms?  Pick up and dispose of debris.
  • Turn your indoor plants every week or so in order to keep their growth even, as they will grow toward the sun.
  • While you’re at it be sure to constantly check those indoor plants for insects and give them a soapy, bubble bath if you find any!
  • Check your fruit trees (and actually ANY trees) and cut out the “water sprouts”.  They are new growth that points STRAIGHT up.  They will only block air and sunshine, and are totally non-productive.  Remember when you prune to get as close to the trunk as you can without cutting into it.  The wound will heal by itself.  No need to paint it with anything, as that may actually impede the healing process.
  • It’s a good time to clean up your tools.  A good method is to have a small pail filled with sand to which you’ve added some old oil.  Then you can plunge your shovels, spades and trowels in to clean off the old dirt, and coat them with oil at the same time!
  • It’s a good time to take your shears, pruners (and lawn mowers if you have such a thing) in to be sharpened!  Then they’ll be ready in the spring.
  • For goodness sakes, enjoy your gardening catalogs and use them to plan next years garden!  Order stuff now, they will be sent at the proper planting time, and at least you know you’ll GET what you want!
  • Stay active!

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