Weeds and Never-blooming Hydrangeas

It’s a challenge to find the “never-blooming” hydrangea in this photo. It’s there, just behind the large white rock in the center of the garden.
Never blooming hydrangea liberated from the weeds

This photo makes things clearer. Why do I call this the never blooming hydrangea? It’s a play on its name. This one and one you will see in a moment were sold as “ever blooming” hydrangeas.

Obviously, I don’t believe any hydrangea does that, but the idea was that it was supposed to bloom blue, turn purple and then turn green. Pretty neat. And yes, last year, they did. This year they took so long to leaf out that I thought they were dead. If appendicitis hadn’t intervened, they probably would already be compost.

Second never bloomer, before weeding

As you can see, I had quite a bit of weeding to do.

Spot for a new hydrangea

This spot in particular needs a lot of work. Can you see the new hose coiled up under the weeds? We’re still waiting for the repair person to fix the water spigot and siding from where the tree damaged it in March. He came out to look at it and never returned in the fine manner of pandemic repair folks.

Limelight prime in place

So I have done my work here. Now if we can get the water and siding repaired…..

New hydrangea by gazing ball

In fact, I have done my work all along this garden bed. I fear that I will be using watering cans for the foreseeable future, however. But, on the plus side, maybe that will keep the weeds down.

As for the never blooming hydrangeas, I am giving them one last chance in my office garden. It’s a bit of a microclimate there because the building is brick. If they don’t bloom next year, it’s off to the compost pile.


This container is no more

You may remember this container from a Wordless Wednesday in June. Luckily I have this photo because I came home from work one afternoon, stopped at the bottom of the driveway to get the mail and happened to glance up at my house.

Where the container had been–alongside the driveway (at least 2 feet off the driveway, mind you, a good safe distance from vehicles, I thought), there was just debris, soil and wilting plants. I couldn’t even recognize what had been there.

So I went up to the house, got gloves, my trash barrel and something to put the soil in and came back down to the spot where the planter had been.

I still don’t know what became of the planter. There was so little of it left–it was as if it simply imploded and disappeared.

I managed to salvage the verbena, the impatiens, the trailing sweet potato vine and perhaps the lantana. The jury is still out on whether that is going to survive. I don’t know what became of the marigolds. They probably imploded with the planter. The angelonia was a loss.

Do I know who did this? I have my suspicions but I can’t prove it. Obviously no one took responsibility. Whoever did it had to have known. I can only hope that, if I am correct, there are repercussions from their employer. No one should be permitted to recklessly destroy property.

Color in the Midsummer Garden

It’s late July. For most people, it’s really hot and dry–although lately, it is getting increasingly difficult to predict what the weather should be doing in a given season.

Despite that, most people do not want to be outside “gardening ” in mid-July. At this point, the gardens should be doing their best and we should be vacationing (maybe) or staycationing or just trying to stay cool. Unless you are harvesting vegetables or weeding ( because that chore never ends) by now the hard work of planting and pruning and staking and all the other springtime things that seem never-ending are done.

Why, then, is it so difficult to find gardens in bloom in mid-summer? I used to think that it was because everyone was on vacation and no one planted for this time. But that’s not really what happens here at least.

Midsummer color

What happens here is that most of us plant shrubs. You can see that in my wildlife garden, which has gotten even wilder this summer because my version of weeding has consisted of simply pruning the flowering heads off of anything that I could reach. And in this big garden, that wasn’t much.

But as you can see from this photo, much of this garden is shrubs. There are perennials–I can identify ferns, nepeta and pycnanthemum (mountain mint–and in true mint fashion, lots of it) from the photo.

And because shrubs generally bloom for shorter periods of time, that means it’s a little harder to get a whole summer of bloom by planting different shrubs. After all, they take a lot of space.

Southern border of wildlife garden

This, for example, is the southern border of the wildlife garden. It’s entirely self-sown hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon. Originally I left it to protect the garden from my neighbor’s assaults. His riding mower was always throwing grass into the garden and once his pesticide drift killed a shrub that had been gifted to me. This dense hedge has saved a lot of heartache.

Close up of flower

The flowers are also really attractive to both bees and hummingbirds. This is especially nice now that the container I planted for them has been demolished. But that is a story for another day.

Mountain mint

Speaking of pollinators, the mountain mint, while not much to look at, is very attractive to bees as well. That is specifically why I planted it (this not being the mountains, clearly it is not native for me. It is a mystery why it does so well in my clay soil–perhaps that is closer to its native range than I realize).

White snakeroot

Just out of range in the photo of the garden is this native which has just started blooming. Clearly it is attractive to bees. Native asters will follow in about a month to 6 weeks. So while I don’t have a lot of “planted” perennials, those that I do have are attractive to the wildlife and that’s why they stay.

As I am fond of saying, sometimes nature is a better gardener than I am!

Night Time Insects

Insect damage on basil

Well. Obviously something is loving these basil leaves besides me! And it’s basil, so there’s plenty for both of us–or for me and the hoards or whatever is chewing on this.

Conventional wisdom about damage like this–where you can clearly see chewed leaves but do not see the culprit causing the damage–is for you to wait until after dark and then to go outside with a flashlight or a headlamp (try not to scare the neighbors so that they don’t call the police) and see if you can identify your insect.

In my case, I am not going to do that. There are several reasons why I won’t. The first is that I have no intention of treating whatever I find, so why do I really care?

Next, I am not bothered by this–so again, why do I need to know?

Third, I am guessing that it is one of a couple of culprits. It could be earwigs, although I doubt they would make such big holes in my leaves.

It’s not likely slugs–no tell tale slime trails.

It’s most likely asiatic beetles, whose life span is about over–so no control is necessary. So it’s all good. And I can sleep in peace without creeping around in the dark looking for bugs.

Can Hydroponic Growing be Called Organic or Not?

Hydroponic garden

You remember my post from last Wednesday about my little “BLT” garden–all that was missing was the bacon, of course.

Interestingly enough, the New York Times published this article on the same day about hydroponic growers. It stated that there were several new and large hydroponic growers that had emerged during the pandemic, but that organic gardeners and chefs were scoffing at them because a true definition of “organic” began with soil and thus hydroponic gardening didn’t qualify.

Since I was reading this article at 5:00 a.m., that whole notion made my head hurt! First, to me, organic gardening might involve good soil health, but it does not begin there. It begins with an absence, so to speak–the absence of chemical or synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

While those products might be applied to soil, they are often applied solely to plants–and thus could also be used in hydroponic gardening as well. So hydroponic gardening could be done by avoiding these products–or not.

So I think that those that are insisting that organic gardening is all about the soil are over-simplifying the matter. One of the tenets of organic gardening is ‘”feed the soil and you feed the plant,” (and by that, they mean with things like compost and other organic elements, not with synthetic things).

But the beauty of the hydroponic system–at least in my brief experience–is that it’s quick and easy and therefore no “feeding” is necessary to get the plants up and grown. My lettuce is fully grown in about a month–and then I start over, if I want more. We’ll see about the tomatoes–they seem to be a longer producing crop. We’ll see if they’re going to need an organic fertilizer at some point.

This is the second time in a little more than a week I have written about divisiveness in the gardening world. It saddens me. Life is divisive enough. Surely, as gardeners, we should make more of an effort to get along.

How to Re-pot a Cactus

Cactus ready for re-potting

It’s funny the things you remember. In 10th grade English we had to give a speech. It was a “how-to” and I chose how to repot a cactus. I have no idea why. I was terrified of speaking in public then, even to my classmates. But I do remember that the teacher–whose name escapes me–liked that when I was explaining how to do the re-potting, I made eye contact with the class and actually looked around. I guess that was the true beginning of my garden speaking career.

Back then, conventional wisdom was that you wrapped the cactus in newspaper to protect yourself from thorns. These days, I have a few better tricks.

I started off using silicone pot holders which is great because they are impervious to everything. But they don’t make it that easy to grasp things. The empty spaces you see in the above pot were filled with small cacti. I am not sure that I would have been able to manipulate the potholders and the cactus in such tight spots.

Silicone coated tongs with cactus

So you see my latest choice–silicone coated tongs. And you can see that I have already used them to remove yet another of the cacti.

They’re perfect for gently grabbing the spiny things and relocating them where you need them to be. The only other implement I use is a spoon to transfer the soil around them and to pack it down around the cactus–because I obviously can’t do it with my fingers as I normally would.

Re-potted cactus

And here’s the finished product: two cactus in a much more size appropriate pot.