Thinning Out

Wire to the garage

We have an overplanted corner spot in our yard. It’s between the house and the garage, and gets a nice amount of light, not too much and not too little. The previous owners cleared it out and planted two Japanese Maple trees, two rhododendrons, and two azaleas all in that one small space. (They also planted a mass of early spring bulbs, which I love love love when February and March come around.) Unfortunately, the 2 and 2 and 2 plantings have grown so much they overwhelm the spot! All thrived and have crowded each other practically to death! The two rhododendrons at the back suffered the most. So we put “thin out that area” on our project list, which will also include removing one of the Japanese Maples which was planted way too close to the house.

The task of thinning out that area got moved up on our priority list this week when my husband discovered that the electrical wire from the house to the old detached garage was buried [illegally] behind the two rhododendrons. So he had to dig that wire out, and then rewire the garage correctly. Big job!

As a result, the two rhododendrons are gone now. We didn’t try to relocate them because they looked so awful after being crowded into the back of that space. The azaleas will stay where they are, and will do much better this year by having more space and air around them! We still can’t quite bring ourselves to remove the Maple that is planted way too close to the house. Perhaps next week. But the space looks so much better cleared out, and will end up being a very nice flower bed beneath the one tree when the project is complete. Overplanting mistakes are very easy to make, so thinning things out is good!


Goodbye to the Sunflower Garden

sunflower heads

This week we said goodbye to our sunflower garden. In June, we planted Sunspot Sunflowers in the sunny patch of ground on the other side of our little garage and along the alleyway and sidewalk.  Inspired by the photographs of sunflower fields in France, (we watch the Tour de France every summer, and those shots of bicycles and sunflower fields were my inspiration) we planted masses of seeds. The next door neighbor cautioned us that we were planting them too close together and that the plants would compete for nutrients, but we massed them together anyway and our Sunflower Garden was glorious. Neighbors walking by stopped to take photographs or to ask questions about what kind of sunflowers we had planted. The garden brought us many compliments and many pleasant conversations with neighbors we hadn’t met before.

But this week it was time to prepare that garden for winter. The flowers were spent, with heads bent over in woe, “mourning the end of summer”, as my friend described them. Time to clear them out. I cut off the heads and put them in paper bags to dry for the winter and then started pulling sunflowers. I didn’t count how many were growing in our mini-field, but it took me three days to complete the job.

Next, we will till the ground and plant a winter cover crop like we did last winter, only this time we will plant Austrian Winter Peas to enrich the soil. When Spring comes, we will build and plant our Butterfly Garden there. My dream is to create a butterfly garden that can be an official certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.

This summer of sunflowers was a wonderful gardening experience!


Making Progress

My daughter and I are making progress on our “quick and easy” flower bed project started last week. After some lovely rain on the weekend, the dirt was slightly easier to dig in when we got back to the project yesterday. We used the tiller to grind up the dirt a little deeper (so rocky!), and then we added compost and some top soil so that it was all well-blended. Our next-door neighbor has been watching us work this project, and she came over and offered us some of the compost she had just picked up for her own garden. “Take as much as you like,” she said so generously! We were thrilled to add some of her excellent new compost to the bed, and then we planted the three Hebes we had chosen. I was delighted with how easy it was to plant in that bed now. All that very hard work was worth it!

Today, we are going to the nursery to pick up the rest of the flowers for the project. We’ll be so excited to have the project all planted!

A New Project

My daughter and I started a new gardening project this week. Gardening is completely new to her, but she’s got a wonderful design sense and is excited about creating some new and beautiful garden spaces while she is living with us temporarily. We picked a “simple” and “quick” project to start with — putting in a small flower bed on one side of the walkway to the front porch. We could do it on our own, probably in one afternoon…just clear off the sod, dig down a bit, mix in some compost to enrich the soil, plant our beautiful new plant choices…

Well…it hasn’t turned out to be the quick and easy project we had hoped for! We were successful at removing the sod, thanks to our sweet little roto-tiller the husband bought last spring.

But then, when we started digging, we ran into some problems. First, it’s been such a dry hot summer (following a very dry winter/spring in this area) the soil was baked and compacted, making it very difficult force a shovel into it and turn it over. Second, the soil was full of rocks. Mostly little rocks, but big enough to make it very difficult to dig. Then, to add to our misery, we discovered a buried electrical system for some old lighting fixtures that once lined that walkway. That required the husband-who-has-electrical-experience to get involved.

Husband thought it would be a quick and easy fix. But when he tried to remove the electrical system, he discovered it had been installed in concrete, too much work to remove. So we decided to save it and install some new walkway lights there. That would be nice. Daughter and I rearranged the plans for where to place the different plants we chose, and went back to digging. We are very slowly making progress.

Isn’t this a typical gardening story, though? Gardening is always an adventure! I just keep saying to myself, and to my daughter, that we are going to be very proud of that little flower bed when we finally get it planted, and very proud of ourselves for accomplishing this “quick and easy” project.

A Big Job


Cooler temperatures! Today’s big gardening job: pruning one our two Cherry trees. They haven’t been pruned since we moved in, and they were badly in need of being topped. So much of the fruit in June was just too high up on the tree to be harvested. A terrible waste! Husband read all the information he could find on pruning cherry trees, checked with the Oregon State Extension Service online information, and decided he was ready to tackle the job. It took all morning to prune one of the trees, but we were able to get the limbs and branches cut up and packed into the green recycle bin before the truck came to pick it up. We are tired tonight, but very glad to have one tree done.

July in the Sunflower Garden

An update today on the progress of our Sunflower Garden…

Starting a Sunflower Garden

Today, Hubby cleared the last of our “Crimson Clover Garden” and prepared the ground for planting the Dwarf Sunspot Sunflower seeds we bought from Silver Falls Seed Company. It will [hopefully] be our ‘mini field’ of sunflowers before too long. We’re planting it in that sunny patch of ground between our driveway/garage and the alleyway that runs behind our house. It used to be a wilderness of weeds. Now it has become our “whimsy garden.”


Our Crimson Clover Garden

Crimson Clover Field

Inspired by the gorgeous Crimson Clover fields that surround much of our town, we bought a bag of Crimson Clover seed to plant in the empty garden area next to the garage. It is the future site of my Butterfly Garden, but since we’re not quite ready to build that garden, we decided to try planting the clover as a “cover crop” to enrich the soil.

We cleared our “mini-field” and prepared it for planting in November. It was very late in the season, but we remembered the advice of our salty old gardening neighbor, Mr. Cahoon, (“half of what you plant will die, but half will live!) and decided to give it a try. We broadcast the seeds just before a series of rainstorms moved into our area, and we saw immediate results! The seeds sprouted almost at once and just continued to amaze us with their growth over the winter months.

And then spring came and we knew we were going to have a beautiful mini-field of clover for our bees and the neighborhood to enjoy!


New Birdhouse

For Christmas, our daughter gave us a new birdhouse. It took us awhile to figure out where we wanted to put it in our yard, but we finally decided to install it on a tall pole in the corner of our side yard, near the [overgrown] hedges and in a place that we can watch from our kitchen garden window. So Hubby got busy and finished this quick project this morning.  I’d also love to plant a climbing flower of some kind to cover the pole and provide cooling greenery and perching places for whichever birds decide to make this home.