FRIDAY FINDS

The rabbit struggles continue here. I have borrowed a few traps but the little buggers aren't big enough to set them off. They are absolutely decimating any annuals I've planted in the ground and it is getting so frustrating! Deer repellent seems to have no effect on them. If you have some proven ways to manage them, I'm all ears.

I had to take a break from gardening last weekend to give Odin a bath. This is a full half-day activity but the pay off is a clean, fluffy, good smelling dog. It's not often that I get a clean dog and a decent looking garden at the same time! By the way, those white alliums that you see in the foreground ('Mount Everest') are real winners. Going to have to add more of those.



I also got very late in planting in the vegetable garden, just planting many seeds in the last week. But I figure better late than never. I'll just have these crops later in the season.

Matt is clearly more on the ball than I am this year and his sweet pea pictures are to die for. My sweet peas are currently 8 inches tall.


I might do that cake thing, but this? Gimme a break. 

I look forward to each and every post from Deborah Silver this time of year, when her amazing container creations spill forth. Don't miss her latest post

Lastly, in case you missed my latest video, here it is. I was supposed to be in it, but as you'll see at the end, I had a bit of a miscalculation in trying to shoot it myself. Whoops.


Will you be spending time in the garden this weekend or are you into "relax" mode? Either way, I hope you have a great weekend and avoid some of the crazy weather that is popping up all over the country.


HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

It's an amazing time in the garden. Plants seem to be growing with reckless abandon and we are at that stage when things look lush but not overgrown. Every day something new is flowering, but plants still aren't battered by hot sun or too much slug damage, although with the amount of rain we've had it won't be long before they are as big as toads.

The circle garden is all planted and is really starting to come together.

Thanks to many, many hours in the garden last weekend, much of it is looking pretty good, but there are a few areas still waiting for their primary clean out and I hope to get to that later in the weekend.

It's nice though, because this is a lovely little sweet spot in early summer.

How's your garden this week?

I never noticed how blue this part of the garden was untilI took these pictures. I like it.

The Blue Kazoo Spireas are blooming and the blossoms are some of my favorite flowers. They are  delicate,  almost lacelike, and then they get sort of fuzzy looking as they open more.


The climbing hydrangea is just starting to bloom. It's looking great this year, certainly in part because of the mass amounts of rain we've had.

Already the planters are growing in nicely.

Oso Easy Parika rose is in full bloom and is one of those plants that calls you from across the garden.

The skinny patio bed is starting to fill in nicely.


My first herbaceous peonies bloomed this week. I know the whole world had peonies weeks ago, but here they are just starting.

Tuff stuff hydrangea is just blooming its head off. I'm so impressed with this plant.
This isn't at my house, but I had to share this picture of my mom's amazing fringe tree.

THE FASTEST & EASIEST WAY TO MAKE YOUR GARDEN LOOK BETTER

Hi friends! I just wanted to let you know that Troy-Bilt provided me with the tools I'm showing you in this post and compensated me for my time. Of course all opinions are my own.

You've seen these tips for quick cleanups of your house, right? Like the 5-minute thing where you know company is coming over so you quickly dump everything in a laundry basket to pick up?*

There is a gardening equivalent of this: The one thing you can do to make your garden look a million times better even if you don't have time to do anything else. What is this magic gardening trick, you ask? Edging.

I'm a fan of natural edges cut into grass to define beds because they are the easiest to keep looking neat and tidy and they keep the focus on what's in the garden, not what's surrounding it. (Seriously, don't even think about doing a rock edge without understanding the weeding frustration that comes with them.)

But they do need to be created and maintained. I've done this in many ways, with various levels of mechanical assistance. Most of my beds were originally defined with a flat headed spade and a lot of leg power. You can also use a half-moon edger for this. This works, but it's tiring. Then a few years ago I got an electric edger, which helped cut the edge. It was better than using a spade, but not particularly effective. But now I've found what I believe will be the last edging tool I ever need: a gas-powered edger.

This is a huge time saver, easily cutting hours off the manual method and at least half the time or more off the electric edger method.

So here are three steps to making your garden look better, fast, without doing anything else.

1. EDGE IT

Edge your garden beds

To properly clean up a garden edge that already exists, you're going to need to cut a little bit of grass away. Don't worry, though, because odd are that your grass grew into your beds by that much in the last year. You can cut away as little sod as you like, so long as you are making a fresh cut or skirting just inside the existing edge. I find it hard to be precise enough to run the edge, so I think it's actually easier to cut a fresh edge.

I used the Troy-Bilt TB554 Gas Lawn Edger for this. I like it because it's compact enough to easily store in the garage or throw in the car (when your family finds out you have an edger you are invited over to "show them how it works" a lot), but there's enough weight to cut into the sod without hopping around, which is what the lightweight electric edger does. There are five blade adjustments and the directions tell you to step down gradually through the blade depths, but my soil is soft enough that I can go for full depth from the get-go.

Gas powered edger

It also has two other features that are very nice but I find myself not using in this circumstance. The first is the ability to bevel the edge in either direction, which gives a really nice look. The second is great for more typical homes in cities. The back wheel drops down, allowing the machine to stay above a street curb so you can edge right along it. If you think freshly edge gardens look great, you have no idea how much a crisp lawn edge along a sidewalk, driveway or curb can raise the bar.

Depending on how hard the soil is, you may have to work the machine back and forth a bit, but again, it just cut through my sod with no problem with me walking at a slow pace. The slow pace was fine for me because I like to be careful with the direction I'm heading when edging beds.

The blade is only on one side, so the direction you have to edge in is dictated by that. It's not a big deal, but if you're trying to line up with another garden at the end, you may want to paint a line with spray paint to make sure you have something to follow.

The edger definitely works better when the soil is a little dryer. That's not something we've had here for a long time as it seems to rain every day lately (when did Wisconsin get transported to Seattle?), but it will work on moist soil so long as it's not sodden. Don't even try to edge in that mess.

2. REMOVE THE CUT EDGE


Don't throw the spade away when you get a gas-powered edger! You still need it. After the edge is cut, go through with a spade and just pop the cut edge off. You could also do this with a trowel or soil knife on your knees, but why kneel when you can do this standing up with a spade?

I like to knock whatever soil I can off the edge before I collect it for composting. Because I was reshaping this bed slightly, I cut a wider edge in some places, so there was a little more sod to remove.

3. CLEAN IT UP


With the edge cut and the sod bits removed, all that's left is a little cleanup. Some soil is bound to end up in the grass and some grass clippings will end up in the trench you've created. The easiest way to deal with this is a blower. I'm starting to amass a bit of a collection of blowers, but there are at least two I can't live without and I think they compliment each other well.

For quick clean up, I love my battery operated Troy-Bilt TB4300 Handheld Blower. Press a button and it turns on. This is what I reach to when I'm done working in the yard for the day and I just need to do a quick run around on the patio and deck.

But bigger jobs require something else. There is a battery life issue to be concerned about with the handheld blower (about an hour with the "eco" mode and less with it on full-blast) and it can also get a little heavy when you use it that long. That's the same issue you'll have with a traditional gas-powered mower. That's where a backpack blower comes in handy. All the weight is carried on your back (and it's amazing how light it feels back there compared to waving your wrist all over the place), and the blower arm is very robot/jet-pack inspired. Basically it feels like you have a giant joystick in your hand. We have the Troy-Bilt TB4BP EC Backpack Gas Leaf Blower and I love it for bigger jobs. Mr. Much More Patient, who is a bit more than a foot taller than I am tells me he wishes it had a longer blower tube because he feels like it's too short for find-tuning blowing direction when he's using it.

After edging, I just blow all the bits back into place or out of the way. If you're edging along a sidewalk this will be even more important because some dirt is going to spray around during the edging process and you'll want to clean that up.





And that's it. Check out the difference in the before and after. I did nothing else other than edge. In some areas a chunk of weeds popped up when I went through with the spade, but as you can see there are plenty more weeds in there. If I had time, I could go through and pull or hoe out those weeds and then mulch the beds and this would be amazing looking. Note: Don't fill the entire trench with mulch. You'll lose that crisp edge and just create a place for grass and weeds to creep in.

I get away with edging all my beds once a year and then neatening them up with a long-handled shears a couple times. Edging again fall would be even better, but sometimes you just don't have time for that. Just like sometimes you don't have time to weed the garden and deadhead flowers before your garden party. Edge it ... they'll never notice.


*Note about the laundry basket thing: I did this once and literally a year later I found a laundry basket shoved in the basement full of things I had been looking for since they went in that basket, so I don't actually recommend this.

HOW THIS YEAR'S CONTAINERS CAME TOGETHER

As promised, last weekend I banged out all the container planting (save for three small containers on the front steps that I usually plant with whatever I have leftover). 

I like to show the starting point for my containers because they are all a little sparse. I think people who are new to creating container designs are disappointed if they don't look full and lush right from the get-go because that's what they see. But the average gardener doesn't have access to huge annuals. Plants are smaller and may not even have a flower on them yet. I always have to squint a little to imagine what it's going look like in a few weeks.

But that's the joy of annual containers: They start looking great quickly. In fact the challenge with containers is often keeping them from looking junglelike midway through the season (as evidenced by some of my containers in years past). 

Here's how everything turned out. I didn't include the window box in this post as I feel that deserves its own post. I also made a video of how they all came together that you can watch here or at the bottom of the post.

DECK CONTAINERS

I put less in these containers than in the past and I think that's for the best. Frankly I think I was cramming too much in there and everything was a little hampered in its growth. Everything I've been told about the Cuphea suggests that hummingbirds go nuts for that plant so I thought I'd try to encourage them to come in close. So far no sightings, but it's pretty small still.





Mandevilla Lemon Coral sedum Superbena Dark Blue Cuphea Vermillionaire


GARAGE 'TROUGH'

This is a close copy of what I did here last year, but I liked it so much I didn't want to change it too much. I did have to replace the clematis as the others didn't make it through the winter. If I lose these again I will rethink using clematis as the climbers in this pot because obviously replacing them every year is not a great option.










Dichondra Silver Falls Infinity White impatiens • Plectranthus Silver Shield


DRIVEWAY CONTAINERS

These pots are new this year. You may recall the pots were cheap finds at the Restoration Outlet that I stained over the winter. I'm really happy to report that the stain is holding up great and I'm loving having these. For a long time I've felt that we were missing something near the entrance of the house.

I wanted to keep these simple. Between the circle garden, the annual planting along the house, the window box and everything else going on over there, it's a riot of  color and I thought something a little simpler might be nice.

The centerpiece is a white rose that I planted bare root several weeks ago. It won't get big this year, but I hope we get to see a few blooms at least. In the meantime, the "skirt" of gray and blue around it will be the star this year.



• 'Windermere' rose Licorice plant Lobelia Laguna Compact Blue with Eye


GARDEN URN

I must be on a gray kick this year because there is a lot of gray foliage showing up in my containers. I loved the 'Elegant Feather' I used in a few containers last year, but I also love cardoons. They get huge (even though they are tiny when planted), so they'll fill up most of this container, but I added in a few Superbells to make a "skirt" and I threw in some Verbena bonareinsis seedlings as well. They are tiny and I don't know how they'll fair but there's no harm in trying. If they grow, they'll get tall and provide some much-needed height there.



• Cardoon • Superbells Blue Moon Punch
• Verbena bonareinsis

FRONT DOOR POT

The container by the front door (which we made, by the way) got a similar treatment. It's always a big of a leap of faith putting such a small plant as the cardoon in as the centerpiece, but I've had great luck with them before. In fact I worry it may cover the Gaura, but I'll just play it by ear if that happens.



• Cardoon • Dichondra Silver Falls Supertunia Bordeaux Gaura Karalee Petite Pink Ipomoea Sweet Caroline Bewitched After Dark • Verbena seedlings


Here's how they all came together.


You can be sure I'll keep you updated on how everything is looking as the season progresses. In the meantime, how are your container plantings looking?
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