Game-Changer Bulb Planting Tool

Yay! I finally got my tulip bulbs planted!

This week I would like to share a helpful gardening tip with you! Awhile back, a fellow blogger mentioned a cool drill-bit for planting tulip bulbs. In turn, I mentioned it to my hubby. Next thing I knew, he was on Amazon ordering two garden auger bits that would fit his cordless drill. The bits arrived not many days later then just sat in the garage waiting.

Continue reading “Game-Changer Bulb Planting Tool”

‘Fall back’ is Garden Cleanout Time

Not all of the ideas I had for my garden this year actually happened, but each flowerbed had its time to shine. My job as a part-time baker has caused this old gal no small shortage in the energy department too. I typically think of several tasks I want to do in the garden on my way home from work, but most days I somehow end up in my comfy chair in the living room with my tired feet up.

I do try to get a few gardening tasks checked off my to-do list on my days off — even if it’s a finished task noticed by myself alone, it feels good to accomplish something. This weekend’s efforts resulted in many spent plants being cut back or pulled out and added to the city’s compost heap, several flowerpots emptied, and the front porch swept clean. I decided to be finished with covering plants whenever there is a frost warning and just let nature take its course. So I’ve been bringing a few of my favorite plants in before the killing frost so that I can attempt to overwinter them and replant them in the spring. A favorite pink pelargonium got scooped out of its summer pot and planted in its own pot. I doused it thoroughly with Neem oil and kept the digging on my 3-season porch before placing it on my kitchen windowsill for the winter. It must be happy because there are several new buds.

My pelargonium in its winter home, happily rewards my effort with a pink blossom

I also dug up quite a few of my spent peacock orchids (which I wrote about here) and am drying them out a bit before harvesting the rhizomes and storing them for the winter. I’ve never done that before, so am relying on YouTube tutorials for guidance . We’ll see how that goes.

Likewise, I dug up the rhizomes from a favorite calla lily my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. I’m going to make a valiant, Pinterest-inspired attempt to create some new divisions from the rhizomes. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I took some cuttings from several very happy Livingstone Daisies (a.k.a. ice-plants) which spent their summer spilling out of the pots on my front porch. I snipped a few of the best stems to water-root, but also scooped a healthy-looking clump out of one of the pots, trimmed it back, and repotted it in fresh potting soil, as I have read somewhere that it can be kept as a succulent houseplant. I gave that plant a dousing with Neem oil to kill any bugs attempting to hitch-hike their way into my house. After a few days of transition from the chilly outdoors to my slightly warmer porch, I brought it indoors and gave it a place of honor on a family room window-seat which receives a generous amount of indirect light. I wrote its name on a plant stake because I can never remember what it’s called.

Also coming in from the nippy outdoors were a few of my succulent groupings, a languishing sansevieria plant, and two plants given to me by Melinda, my friend who enjoys playing in the dirt in Louisiana: an ‘Angel Wing Begonia’ (a.k.a. porch begonia) and a plumeria.

My Sansevieria (a.k.a. ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’ or ‘snake plant’) got a little scorched during some extremely hot weather during its annual foray on the front porch. I dug it out of the pot it’s been in for years, teased the roots apart and salvaged a tiny bit of the original plant. I filled the pot with new potting soil, then added a few different varieties of Sansevieria I purchased at a local nursery to add some interest. It now resides in our ‘Gathering Room’ in a spot nearest an east-facing window, but also benefiting from indirect light from a nearby south-facing window. I am trying not to overwater it, as I am prone to do, and hoping it will reward me with vigorous growth.

My garden frog came in for the winter too…and look what he brought with him!

We set our clocks back one hour before going to bed Saturday night — a precursor to shortened gardening hours and the winter months ahead. That’s okay though. One of the blessings of living in Wisconsin is being able to tuck the flowerbeds under a blanket of snow for a winter’s nap and the gardener’s respite. It’s the season for thumbing through garden journals and seed catalogues in order to make plans for next year’s garden. But, before I get too cozy, I need to check one more thing off my to-do list:

Plant lots of tulip bulbs!

So, until next Saturday when my post will hopefully include a report of all my tulip bulbs being planted, that’s my Six for this Saturday. To see other SOS posts, visit our host at  http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com.

Six on Saturday: Need More Color

My husband Wayne has been trying out a new hobby – flying a drone. So far he has been sticking close to home as he practices maneuvering his new toy. I asked him to take a few aerial photos of my gardens. One thing I noticed was that color is quite lacking in my fall garden. I have a few mums and asters to plant, so maybe that will help.

May be an image of tree and outdoors
An aerial view of my backyard…and my hubby, the drone navigator

While the gardens are a bit drab at the moment, I do have a few things which are looking quite pretty. Maybe you’ll remember the pots I planted (with a little help from a squirrel). My theory was correct. He stole the seed from another area and planted a sunflower seed in the middle of one of those pots. It ended up being ‘Teddy Bear’, a short and bushy variety, which sports a long-lasting golden yellow flower. I will probably plant more of them next year.

Here’s an update on Datura ‘Blackberry Swirl’. It’s still blooming in my garden and I’m still undecided as to whether I will keep it. The flower IS pretty spectacular, but it is an evening bloomer, so is rather ‘meh’ during daylight hours. This post explains my thoughts concerning the drawbacks of Datura. I did go ahead and snip off the seed pods so as to not invite more of the plants.

I planted quite a few peacock orchids earlier in the summer. They’re blooming now and quite lovely. The flower is rather demure, but the fragrance is incredibly beautiful, reminding me of jasmine. The flower isn’t an orchid at all – it belongs to the iris family. I plan to dig them up and store the corms for the winter to replant in late spring. Next year I will plant them in larger groupings, as I think they’ll make a bigger impact that way. If I plant more of them in the little flowerbed by the mailbox, the neighbors who pass by on their walks just might get a whiff of their perfume.

My garden does have a few areas which still have color. The clematis on the arbor that leads to the backyard is finished, but the phlox planted at its base is still strutting its stuff. The sedum in the foreground is still hosting parties for the bees and butterflies too.

One last photo of the shaded area beneath our locust tree. The color is courtesy of potted impatiens in my favorite shade of pink. I’m really happy with how this flowerbed turned out this year.

Next year I plan to plant up more pots to help layer my garden with color at various heights. I shared my thoughts about that plan with my husband. Next thing I knew I had a stack of pots and bags of potting soil in the garage. Yep, he totally supports my barefoot gardening endeavors.

That’s it for my Six on Saturday. Many thanks to our host, Jon the Propagator. It’s always a pleasure for me as a gardener to see what fellow gardening enthusiasts all around the world are doing in their respective garden spaces each week. I hope you’ll check it out and perhaps share your own six next week.

Datura ‘Black Currant Swirl’

I planted D. metel ‘Black Currant Swirl’ earlier this summer hoping that it would become a tall and showy feature in the middle of my late summer garden. One of its nicest features are its flowers – pretty bell or trumpet shaped flowers in super-swirly shades of purple and white. The flowers are up-facing, rather than pendulous like the more commonly known ‘Angel’s Trumpet,’ a cousin in the closely related brugmansia family.

So, what’s not to like about Datura?

Well, for one thing, the entire plant is poisonous – leaves, flowers, seeds and all. For another, this plant does not have a pleasant aroma. The tag said something about gardeners praising it for its “night-blooming beauty and fragrance”. I guess I’m not hanging out in the garden late enough in the evening to catch a whiff of its beauty or its purportedly sweet fragrance because, to me, it has the aroma of dirty sweat socks. (Trust me, I’m a mom and an expert at sniffing down that odor.)

This plant sprouts walnut-sized green balls with knobby purple spikes, each fruit containing hundreds of seeds. Very poisonous seeds, so I’ve read. I have also read that it’s wise to remove the seed pods before maturity because they tend to self-seed and can become invasive…and the seeds can be viable for years to come.

Oh, great! Just what I need – another “invasive” in my garden. Hold on a sec while I don a pair of gloves and head outside armed with my trusty snippers.

There! I’m back. The surgery has been performed.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not sure I like this plant as a whole. I had such great expectations it would become a show-stopping centerpiece in my front yard’s most visible flowerbed.

Our two person jury is at an impasse. My husband really likes it. He thinks its cool and wants us to keep it. Me? Well, maybe it’ll grow on me, but I think it’s just ‘kinda meh’ and taking up valuable garden real estate . I’m thinking I’d be happier with another hibiscus strutting its late summer stuff in that spot.

‘Tie Dye’ Hibiscus (rose mallow) growing by the front door

Any thoughts or suggestions from my fellow gardeners?

Sorry, only five photos this week, but that’s it for my Six on Saturday. If you are a gardener (or just like to play in the dirt), you should really pop on over to our Six on Saturday host Jon’s blog “The Propagator”. You’ll find all sorts of gardens to tour with just a click, lots of inspiration, and collective wisdom from gardeners around the world – each sharing six things from their garden on Saturdays (unless they’re perpetually late bloggers like me).

Six on Saturday: Flower Partners

Let me invite you to join me for my ‘Six on Saturday’ writing challenge and a glimpse of my late summer flower garden.


“Some say that a garden just grows from seeds, but we think it grows from trying and failing and trying again. A garden is hard work, but so is most of the good, important stuff in life.”
― Joanna Gaines, We Are the Gardeners

Gardening does involve a good bit of trying and failing; I’ve had a bit of both this year. My garden is like a classroom, and I will confess that I am a bit of a YouTube junkie when it comes to learning about gardening. Early this summer I watched several Garden Obsessions videos from Proven Winners and was inspired by this video to grab three empty pots from the garage, fill ’em with soil, add some slow-release fertilizer, and choose three plants for each.

Pot #1: My Favorite

The first plant I chose from a local nursery was a beautiful coleus. I had admired some grown in pots at my workplace and just knew I would have to plant some this year. I thought a purple flower would pair up nicely with the chartreuse of the coleus, so chose Proven Winners’ Angelface Blue Angelonia, described on the tag as a summer snapdragon which should achieve a height of 18-30″. I also purchased a Fantasia Pelargonium (geranium) called ‘Summer Sizzle’ to add a punch of hot pink.

(Just noticed in the photo that the bunnies have been busy snapping off coleus on the right. Wascally Wabbits!!)

Pot #2: Pretty in Pink

This pot features another Proven Winners plant. It’s a Supertunia Mini Vista Pink Star. It looks so sweet spilling over the edges of the pot. This petunia hasn’t gone all leggy on me and is a self-cleaner, not requiring pinching and deadheading. I paired it with an annual Hawaiian Punch hibiscus, which is a truly dreamy shade of pink with a magenta throat. Deadheading (removing faded blooms) the hibiscus does promote new blooms, so it does require a little bit of fuss and bother, but totally worth it.

Pot #3: A Little Help from my Friend

Sticking with my purple, pink and green color scheme, I planted this third pot with a bit of lavender for the purple and Pentas Bee Bright Pink for the pink. Instead of purchasing another plant, I decided to dig up a little something from my garden to use as a filler – some sort of heuchera. It looks like I needn’t have worried about a third plant, as a squirrel chose to plant a sunflower smack-dab in the middle of the pot. The squirrel probably stole the seed from my birdfeeder, but I’m really hoping he procured one of the seeds from the little plot of sunflowers I planted which met their demise earlier this summer (story a bit further down in this post). We shall see. Anyway, this pot makes me smile every day.

A Walk in the Park

It’s not my garden, but I took a walk in a park I found near my work place (I’ll post about that later), and absolutely adored this sweet pairing in the park’s glorious meadow.

The Upside and Downside of Sunflowers

I set out this summer to plant these sunflowers here and there dotted throughout my existing flowerbeds. You can read about my great expectations for that garden here: Year of the Sunflower. Well, none of those seeds made it past the dinner table of my yard’s resident bunnies. I wrote about their late night marauding in an update you’ll find here.

Thankfully, they didn’t get into one of the raised beds where I had planted a packet of Livingston ‘Little Dorrit’ sunflower seeds, planted on the south-facing side of the first raised bed, since it was supposed to attain a height of 2-4′. Its packet declares “Little Dorrit produces a large, rich yellow head with a deep chocolate center. The large, green foliage accents the shorter stems and brilliant blooms.”

It ended up being closer to the 4′ prediction in height and did not disappoint in its beauty.


Well, that’s it for now. My Six on Saturday. Now, let’s see yours!

Upcycled Firewood Ring in the Garden

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

~Margaret Atwood

Encore Tulip and Daffodil Performance

Last fall I planted some “late” season tulips and daffodils. While not all of them seem to have bloomed, many have, so I am blessed with an encore performance of mostly white or pale yellow flowers (not planned). The delicate beauty of the various shades of white and yellow stands in lovely contrast to the riot of color I had going on over the past few weeks – almost like a different garden. To add to the beauty, I have some of the flowerbeds edged in various succulents, which are looking pretty impressive filling in the front row and edges.

Continue reading “Upcycled Firewood Ring in the Garden”

Hand a (Grand)Kid a Camera

Having grown up a few states away from my own grandparents, I vividly recall those long “summer vacation” trips from Wisconsin to Ohio and West Virginia…and back. Three sweaty siblings elbowing each other in the backseat of our sedan in the years before our family car had air-conditioning. I loved seeing my grandparents, but the trip, not so much. Memories of that once a year trip make me feel particularly blessed to have our daughter Beth and her family living about ten minutes away from us and able to stop by often.

Continue reading “Hand a (Grand)Kid a Camera”

Raindrops on Roses

We’ve been in rainy Louisiana this week enjoying more than “raindrops on roses,” but also enjoying whiskers on kittens (four cats) and the playful antics of three dogs (sometimes five) in the home of our friends and gracious hosts, Don and Melinda. Our little vacation started out sunny and beautiful, but most of the week has been more than a little wet…

yet still beautiful, as these photos of Melinda’s garden will prove.

A beautiful ‘Porch Begonia’ (aka: Angel Wing begonia)
Raindrops on roses
A gorgeous orchid bloomed on the last day of our vacation

The rain hasn’t dampened our quiet fellowship. Together we have enjoyed Melinda’s amazing cooking (she truly loves to cook), a never-ending tea-time, the challenge of putting together two 1,000-piece puzzles, or our time spent binge-watching episodes of British tv’s “Pie in the Sky” and “Rosemary and Thyme” trying to see who can figure out whodunit before the detectives. Oh, and I must not forget the menagerie of critters!

As wonderful as every single minute of our vacation was, it was nice to pull up into our driveway tonight and be welcomed by lovely daffodils and tulips.

Our lovely “welcome home”

Thank you to Jon the Propagator for hosting this fun, around-the-world garden tour each week.

When ‘Great Expectations’ Happen

If my great expectations of gardening goals were met at all this week, it was through no effort of my own, but by the loving efforts of my dear husband. I had two projects in mind and he took care of one of them for me. It had been my desire to rake the flowerbed on the east side of our home and clean up a winter’s worth of birdseed hulls from underneath my bird-feeding station. The later was quite handily accomplished by my husband, who also took the time to relocate that feeding station to a spot a little further away from the fountain.

Continue reading “When ‘Great Expectations’ Happen”

Garden ‘Great Expectations’

I have been re-reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations this week. I remember reading it many moons ago when I was in junior high school. As a teen, I struggled with getting into the story. Truth be told, I didn’t put much effort into reading for comprehension and enjoyment. Well, I’m thoroughly into it this time through. Though it has absolutely nothing to do with gardening, I just love the title of the book and have found myself viewing my garden through the lens of great expectations.

Nothing show-stopping happening in my garden this week, but the snow has melted and there are definitely some great expectations and emerging signs of beauty to come…and a whole lot of grunt work needed to tidy up the flowerbeds.

Continue reading “Garden ‘Great Expectations’”
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