A DOSE OF FUN COLOR JUST FOR SUMMER

We've been enjoying the most amazing stretch of gorgeous summer weather here in southeastern Wisconsin. Save for the fact that we could really use some rain, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. We've been savoring every possible moment of it (I seriously try to soak it in and save it for a few months from now), taking walks on the beach, paddleboarding, gardening, dining alfresco and getting to a few small, fun projects that I've had on the brain for awhile.

Last year I showed you our new old-fashioned screen door (that is so fantastic, by the way). I painted it Benjamin Moore's Wythe Blue, a color that I'd been dying to use on something. Unfortunately the color, which is absolutely lovely in so many applications, fell a little flat in the glaring sun on our all-white house. 

So Saturday, I picked (at the hardware store, which is usually not the right thing to do) Benjamin Moore's Clearlake to update the paint job.

The new screen color: Clearlake, a (really) bright turquoise.

The whole job took me a total of about 30 minutes. I just took the screen off its hinges, washed it, sanded it very lightly, taped off the screens and applied two coats, with about two hours in between. Usually the recoat time is a lot longer but it was pretty warm out so it dried quickly. With extra dry time, I had the screen remounted by cocktail hour.

The old color: Wythe Blue, still one of my favorite paint colors, just a tad bland for this application, in my opinion.

I don't know if the color is perfect. It's bright, that's for sure, and I think it lends a punch of color that the house really needed. What I know is that it was so easy to change that I'm happy to live with bright turquoise for awhile and next summer, if I decide it's not right, I'll just change it again. You have to love that about paint.


HOW TO PRUNE A MEATBALL BOXWOOD

My affinity for meatball boxwoods is no secret. In my very informal garden, they are one of the few nods I give to formality and I like the structure they provide.

I usually prune boxwoods toward the end of June, but this year was a little behind weather-wise and then I left for awhile so I didn't get to them until this weekend. That's probably a tad on the late side, but I think they'll be OK. You want to prune them after the big flush of new growth, but not so late that the growth that is spurred by pruning doesn't have adequate time to harden off before winter.

I'm no master pruner, but my meatball technique gets better with practice. When I first started pruning boxwood, I would use a hand pruners and cut back to a leaf node, which is how you are supposed to do every other kind of pruning. That never led to a very nice look, though, so I switched to hedge shears, which look like giant scissors. Those are fine, but they lack a certainly ability to make detailed cuts. A couple years ago I switched to sheep shears. These are a hand killer, but give you so much more control over your cuts.



I now have four meatball boxwoods in the garden, the largest of which is probably 10 years old now. Here's what it looked like before pruning.

How to prune a meatball boxwood

When you prune shrubs, you're never supposed to go in at the bottom, shading the bottom branches, but I do it anyway. Boxwood are resilient and I so prefer a globe shape over a straight-sided dome. I do it entirely by eyeballing it; I'm not sure if there are other, more technical, ways to prune meatballs. I start but trimming a few inches in each hemisphere, all the way around the shrub, sort of dividing it into eighths. Then I add in another "band" of pruning horizontally along the top quarter. After that, I just fill in the gaps. I also use a hand pruner to cut out any dead wood (like in that bottom righthand corner).

There's a lot of standing back and looking at it from afar and from different angles and going back and snipping a little more. I don't take off a lot of material because I'm happy with the size of this shrub. I would guess I end up taking off about half of the new growth, and a little more in some areas (for instance, you can see the lighter green area in the front that for some reason grew more than other areas).

How to prune a meatball boxwood

And here's the finished meatball. It's not super tight, like some boxwoods at formal gardens, but it's too my liking. AfterI took this picture, I actually went back and took off a little more on that upper left hand corner because it felt like it was standing a little proud to me.

How to prune a meatball boxwood

And here's a little before and after gif to easily show the difference.

How to prune a meatball boxwood

What do you think about meatball plants? I know some people abhor them. I just can't help myself ... little round balls of plants make me happy.

FRIDAY FINDS

So happy to be bringing you some Friday Finds today. We have enjoyed the most perfect week of summer weather and although I've been flat out catching up on work, I've been taking every possible moment to soak up the summer goodness because I know how fleeting it is.

I love looking at dream properties as much as the next person, but sometimes it's nice to see something in a more approachable size. Deborah Silver recently redid a small property that I think is really typical of a lot of yards. Here's her first post on it. I can't wait to see the "after."



http://www.houseofhawthornes.com/blueberry-crostata-galette-rustic-pie-recipe/
House of Hawthornes photo

This blueberry crostata from House of Hawthornes needs to be had by me.

Have you been following the massive driveway renovation project that Linda and Mark at Each Little World are undertaking? When I visited their beautiful gardens earlier this summer and Linda mentioned the project I had no idea just how vast the scale of the project was. It's worth a look to follow everything that goes into a really well planned out project.



http://www.homeologymodernvintage.com/wabi-sabi-mounted-staghorn-fern/
Homeology Modern Vintage photo

You know I love staghorn ferns (mostly from afar because they require a fair amount of attention that I rarely give houseplants). Check out Sarah's beautiful wabi sabi-inspired staghorn fern mounting.

Let's just say this style is not for me. What about you? Who's up for dyeing their armpit hair?

This is my summer jam. Would you believe I heard about this band on NPR and probably listened to this song 400 times on auto replay on my phone before it jumped out of my hands into the lake? Let that little ditty start of a great summer weekend for you!

On tap for me this weekend? A whole bunch of nothing. Leaving for our big sailing race is all-consuming so everything else in life is pushed aside leading up to that. Now that I'm home, I've got some serious gardening to do and I'm going out on the paddleboard for the first time this year if it kills me (and given the water temperature of Lake Michigan it just might). What's on your docket?

ABBONDONZA OF ANNUALS: A PEEK AT A FAVORITE GARDEN

God bless the cloud. When my phone took one bounce of the deck of the boat last week before plunging into the depths of Lake Michigan I had no idea what had all backed up to the cloud before it offed itself. Thankfully, upon returning home I found all of the photos I had taken on Mackinac Island safely delivered to my computer, so although I'll be having serious communication issues for a bit, at least my photos are safe.

I write about the gardens on Mackinac Island pretty much every year and although I didn't get to many of them, I did spent a fair amount of time wandering around one of my favorites at the Hotel Iroquois.

Mackinac Island garden 2015
The entrance garden, looking toward the street.

The garden is designed and maintained by Jack Barnwell Landscaping, which is located on the island and responsible for pretty much all of the flowers downtown as well as at many of the lavishly landscaped private gardens on the island.



The bulk of the garden is made of annuals, which comes as no surprise as its a Proven Winners Signature garden. There are some perennials that help create a framework of the garden.


Boxwood are accented with begonias in every bright color imaginable.
This shady corner by the entrance is one of my favorite spots in the garden. Ferns, lamium, hostas and a birch mingle nicely together. I'm quite taken with the lamium as a groundcover.
This is a bright garden. I'm not sure if such a colorful palette would work everywhere but it certainly works on Mackinac Island and definitely on this particular property. The natural palette here is the light blue of the Michigan sky, a darker blue of Lake Michigan, green grass and the white building, so the color is dynamic in this setting. The gardens flank the entrance to the Carriage House restaurant and wrap around the back where (at least when I go there), tables are set up on the grass for al fresco dining.

This garden is on the dining room side. There were tons of 'Meteor' verbena bonariensis in the beds, a new plant that I'm also trialing in my window box this year. So far it's my favorite new plant of the year and I absolutely love the look of it in these beds. 

The most beautiful outdoor dining chairs ever. I looked them up when I got home. For a cool $1,000 or so per chair, they too can be yours.
I've been talking a lot about Tiny Tuff Stuff hydrangea and there were several planted in the garden. Although they were in need of a little bit of deadheading, I wasn't as taken with them as I anticipated I would be.
Long planter boxes flank the edge of the water next to the ferry dock.



This container planting was a dark but cheery at the same time. 


Only on Mackinac Island are the gardens so magical that a cedar tree can literally grow out of a rock.


On the back side of the property, weigela is a beautiful backdrop for purple and red flowers.


The front of the hotel was mostly planted with dahlias.


Farther down the street, another restaurant had interesting window boxes (that I'm 99% sure were planted by Jack's crew). The were mostly intriguing to me because of the surprising addition of 'Summer Shandy' hops on the ends. I think it's a great idea for a different plant to bring a lime color to a box.



That's it for my annual review of some of the plantings on Mackinac Island. Here are some of my posts about the gardens on the island from past year (and most feature the Hotel Iroquois gardens so you can see how they change from year to year).


The Iroquois Hotel garden is always a stop on the Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island every year. Jack Barnwell also takes attendees on tours of some of his most impressive private gardens as well. I've not attended but one of these years I absolutely must.

And I leave you with the very last picture ever taken on my phone, snapped just minutes before it took the big plunge, looking back after passing under the Mackinac Bridge.



GARDEN TRIAGE

If it ever seems like your garden changes very slowly, just leave it for a couple weeks in the middle of summer and see what it looks like when you get back.

Although I do this (rarely for this long, however) every year, it never ceases to amaze me how much the garden changes in what seems like a short period of time. Of course the average temperature increased by about 15 degrees and we had several good rainfalls while I was gone, so it was optimal growing conditions.

That means that I came home to a pretty overgrown situation. Fortunately I got home with a couple hours of gardening time left in the day (laundry can wait), so I was able to deal with the most dire situations. It was garden triage time.

Weeds have grown amazingly well and lots of plants need deadheading, but that is part of more finely tuned gardening. What I needed to do was quickly assess the areas that were most in need of assistance.

The cardoon was badly in need of water but it will perk up.

The first task was watering. Because of the rain, most of the garden was well hydrated, but the beds alongside the house and the containers were in desperate need of a drink. We have great dogsitters who do their best when it comes to the garden but I want them to focus on the dogs. And Mr. Much More Patient, who made a brief stop home last week, apparently does not follow the head gardener's very explicit watering instructions.

The cardoon was a droopy mess, as were the verbena in the large container by the front door. The cardoon will be fine, but I may have to prune out the floppy verbena. No worries, it will send up new flowers in no time.

The dahlias alongside the house were very unhappy. I gave them all big drinks and they perked up but I hate to stress a plant that should be focusing on flowering.

The dahlia in back was droopy and unhappy and the nasturtiums are attempting to take over the world.
In other areas of the garden, the immediate danger to some plants was not related to hydration, rather smothering from other runaway growers. Garden triage is no time for delicate pruning. I just went in there and hacked away the offending parts of plants. I will go back later to neaten that up, but for now a hack will do.
How did a weed get that big, that quickly?

More nasturtiums staging a garden coup, but the castor bean plants are doing really well and I love them.
The window box, which was dry as a bone, is a total mess. After it gets rehydrated I'll have to do some reassessing.
There's nothing neat about this kind of gardening. There's no time to grab the wheelbarrow to collect prunings and pullings. I just made piles around the garden and I'll go back later to clean up.

Speaking of coups, the goji berry plants are completely out of control. And there's  poppy. There are so many random poppies around!
Anyone need some parsley?
Official pea tester.
In the vegetable garden, which is not receiving the bulk of my attention this year and is worse for it, it's a little wild. I enjoyed eating the first peas (yes, I'm just now getting peas) as did my canine assistant, Rita. The parsley is insane and I hacked at that without even trying to save any of it. There was just no time for that. There's plenty for me and the rest of the town to eat.


The tomatoes have serious issues. I have a single cordon system going, but most of the tomatoes grew 18 inches or more while I was gone, so the system has gone to pieces. Not sure what I'm going to do to straighten that situation out but it definitely requires some attention.


There are a lot of good things happening in the garden as well. The chive hedge, which I cut back right before I left, is already regrown and looking great.


The sweet peas are starting to bloom and they are so lovely!


'Niobe' clematis looks great.


The circle garden is pretty nutty, but I think this picture shows that sometimes a riot of color can work out just fine.


The garden will require many hours of work over the next week or so and that's OK, I missed my time there. Being away from the garden is a good way to realize just how important those mini gardening sessions that occur when you're drinking your coffee or a cocktail really are.


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See more of what's happening in gardens online here.


STAY TUNED

I had posts planned for you this week and in fact all set to go, but Murphy's Law has made itself known and I dropped my phone with everything on it (including a ton of photos of beautiful gardens that I can only hope backed up to the cloud first) right into Lake Michigan. Almost directly under the Mackinac Bridge, actually. 

Anyway, I'll be back on Monday. For now, I leave you with a foggy photo of Frankfort, Michigan, which is my location this morning, although not for long. 

WHEN THE GARDENER LEAVES THE GARDEN


I'm leaving my garden for almost two weeks. It's a bittersweet time to be away as I want to savor every bloom and new leaf and change and mentally bottle it to be conjured up come January.

At the same time, summer is about much more than just gardening and it's time to do some summer stuff.

Any success in the perennial garden has come at the expense of the vegetable garden so I don't expect to miss much there, other than my first pea and probably the first zucchini (you know it's a weird year when those two things start producing at the same time).

In my last-minute rush to get out the door I took a few steps to make sure the garden looks as good as possible when I return.


Even though some of the nepeta was still looking great, I cut off those beautiful flowers. The crown will regrow and probably be full and lush by the time I'm back and a second blooming will follow.


The plants look a little sparse but I won't have to see them.

In fact, when I cut it back, new growth was already coming up in the crown.

The chine hedge in the circle garden also got a haircut. The plants should have several inches of fresh new growth by the time I get back.

There will be plenty of unsavory gardening tasks to attend to when I get home. Weeds know when the gardener is away and they always flourish. Even though I'm not spending a ton of time in the garden these days, a little bit of weeding here and there helps a lot.

The dogsitters will water the containers and Mr. Much More Patient will be home intermittently and he has been briefed on some garden tasks.

I'll miss my garden. Maybe even enough to be excited about the weeding that awaits

NEW YEAR, NEW PLANTS

Every year I have the good fortune of growing several new plants, some provided for me to trial and others that I seek out and purchase because I NEED them. Since the garden is finally filling out, I thought it would be a good time to show you some of the interesting new plants I'm growing this year.

It's always funny to me how a plant can sneak up on you. When I unpacked Bidens 'Campfire' from my box of Proven Winners trial plants I was underwhelmed. I grew Bidens 'Goldilocks Rocks' several years ago and it wasn't my favorite, but I admit to being a bit turned off by really gold-color yellow flowers sometimes. The flowers on 'Campfire' are a red-orange mix (far more orange than they are coming off in this photo) and I love them with the combination of the dark-foliage dahlias ('David Howard'). Bidens has a great, sort of floppy nature with very thin stems that make is look sort of ethereal. I have to say, so far I like this plant enough to seek it out every year for the border. (It should be available in nurseries next year.)


I'm a big fan of mandevillas, so when Big Bad Flower sent me a new garden mandevilla that only grows to 12 to 18 inches, I was intrigued. Sun Parasol Garden Crimson mandevilla has what I consider to be perfectly red flowers. They are neither blueish, nor orangeish and not at all pink. They are true, bold, beautiful red. I combined it in a pot with dwarf sweet peas that I grew from seed (another first-time plant for me that I will definitely be growing again). Right now I think the sweet peas are winning a little, so I need to thin them a touch to make more room for the mandevilla, but all in all I love the combination.


I doubt this rose is very new, but it's new to me and I'm in love. Last year I swore off roses because I was so sick of all the problems with them. Well, sawfly larvae got them again this, but I was able to manage the population so there is still some foliage left, and last week I was rewarded with my first bloom from 'Autumn Sunset' climbing rose. It's a peachy yellow that fades to very light yellow, and much peachier, but what I love the most is the absolutely heavenly scent. This is what I've been waiting for in a rose. I pray to all the gardening gods that I can make this climber take off because I'm so in love with it I desperately want it to take over the front of the house.


I don't think you can really tell from the photo, but 'Silver Hearts' brunnera is truly silver. I'm not kidding and I didn't even think such a thing was possible, but it is shiny, metallic silver. The leaves are quite large and substantial, too, so if this makes it through a few winters I think this could be an absolute star in the shade garden.


Proven Winners comes up with new Superbells every year, and this year they sent me 'Holy Moly,' a hot pink and yellow combo. I'll be honest here, striped flowers aren't my favorite, but as you can see it is growing great and looks bright and cheerful along with Sunsatia Nemesia on the front steps.


Tuff Stuff hydrangea, sent to me by Proven Winners, doesn't look like much now, but it is growing really well and looks really healthy. There's a lot riding on this hydrangea, which I love the photos of, but like most northern gardeners, I'm skeptical of the bud hardiness on it because it blooms on old wood and I've been down that road and burned before. Tuff Stuff was bred to have much better stem and bud hardiness so time will tell. This one will get to 24 to 36 inches tall, but it has a baby brother (this is a male hydrangea, in my estimation) that gets to half that size. If this guy does well, I will seriously consider adding several Tiny Tuff Stuff hydrangeas to the front of the border.


What's new in your garden this summer?