Where have all the landscapes gone?   1 comment

IMG1331

My front landscape.
Curved beds, large perennial & shrub garden.

For the last 4 years, I’ve been working on my front landscape.  Trying to find that bed shape that’s just right…a shape that enhances the landscape, without overpowering it.  Something curvy, flowing, more organic.  No straight lines, please!  It’s not quite right, so I search for inspiration for the bed lines and replacement trees, for sick and overgrown trees.

I really seriously struggled with this.  I want my front garden & landscape to be inviting.  But I don’t want to look “over landscaped”.  I already have more perennials in my front yard than anyone in my neighborhood.  I don’t want to look like I’ve given up all grass.

So, a few times a week, I find myself out driving neighborhoods, to get some inspiration.  I mainly drive neighborhoods that look like mine… 10-15 year old, mass developed neighborhoods.  Well, guess what I’m finding?  NO ONE plants in their front yard.  Why?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the 7 shrubs and rock mulch, plus the 1-2 trees (as required by the city) are all well and good, but what happened to having an inviting front landscape?  A diverse planting of shrubs and perennials and annuals.  And lovely container pots.  Where did all the landscaping go?  I also noticed that trees are no longer sited in front of the home, rather off to the side.  It makes me wonder, as a kid, did these now-parents never get to climb a tree in their own front yard?

So, I set out to find something online.  Google, Houzz, Pinterest, back issues of mags.  The pickin’s are slim y’all!  Where are all the front landscapes?  There seemed to be plenty to chose from if you live on a small city lot, with a sidewalk out front where your home is only 25 feet from the curb.  But what about people like me… 1/3 acre, 50 foot setback, house barely differentiated from the next beige house.

So,  why has this become so difficult?  I can’t find ANY houses that have much more than a small island planting in their front yard.  Is it for the same reason that wonderful locally-owned garden centers like Linders are going by the wayside?

I accidentally turned into a 40 year old neighborhood last week.  What was this?  LANDSCAPES!!  Nicely maintained ones.  And it wasn’t a neighborhood where you’d expect people to have garden services.  These were owner-maintained yards.  I even saw a few people out working in their yards.  They were older than me, possibly retirement age.

Then it occurred to me.  Is it a generational thing?

So, who is buying all these new homes?  Oh, I get it now!  These homes are mostly being bought by 20- and 30-somethings.   Landscaping is not a big priority to that generation.  We know that HGTV doesn’t really do much “G” anymore.  These homes are 4-bedroom 2-story homes.  These homes were being bought by young families who have priorities that do not include maintaining a landscape.

I’m also working on a section of my back garden…completely reworking it.  So I decided to sell off a dozen or so mature clumps of daylilies.  I listed them on an online garage sale and to my surprise, 2 separate wonderfully nice 20-something ladies showed up to pick up their purchases.  I engaged both in a conversation about this very thing.  I applauded them for being young and being interested in gardening.  One told me NONE of her friends wanted anything to do with it.  They all lived in townhouses and had the requisite ONE hanging basket, that by now, is already dead from neglect.  She knows no one her age interested in landscaping. The other shared that her home came with a lot of plants she didn’t know what to do with, and I gave her some quick tutorials on dividing perennials of different kinds. I’m so thrilled they both have an interest.

What does this say for the landscapes of generations to come?  What does it say for true nurseries and garden centers?  Will they all be replaced by the limited offerings of what you can find at big-box stores so called “garden centers”?  Are these mass-produced homes going to give way to mass-produced gardens? Are we doomed to cookie-cutter landscapes that contain little more than a few Goldflame Spirea, Autumn Blaze Maple, and Stella d’Oro Daylilies? Oh, and lest we forget the occasional black-eyed susan.

It’s sad, really.  What can we do to get the younger generation to be more interested in gardening?  I know many of them want to plant veggies, but what about flowers? shrubs? true landscapes?

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Posted June 12, 2014 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Other Perennials, Shrubs, Trees

Cypress Mulch on Sale at Home Depot this weekend 3/31-4/4   Leave a comment

Since the most searched topic on this blog is Home Depot Mulch Sale, I decided to post that today, while at HD, I saw mulch:  $1.37/bag.  Folks, that’s half price!  And when you buy 100 bags each year, that’s a huge savings.  Now, how does this stack up to other sales?  Well, normally, it’s $2.75/bag.  Memorial weekend, it’s usually $2, same with July 4th.  Later in the season it drops down too, but generally, this is THE best sale around.

But, I have to caution you.  If you’re a perennial gardener, it’s a bit early to throw down mulch.  The soil still needs to warm up and the mulch will insulate it and keep it from being able to do so.  But there’s no reason why you can’t buy it and have it stacked on your driveway for 2 months like I did…no joke!

Check your local Home Depot ad here:

http://homedepot.shoplocal.com/homedepot/default.aspx?action=entryflash&

 

Posted March 31, 2012 by koskashostas in Hostas

Hostas love rain, NOT hail!   Leave a comment

This spring has been so slow getting started.  I guess it all evens out as compared to last year.  By this time last year, the lilacs were almost done blooming, but this year, they’re just getting started.

All the rain we’ve had this week means the hostas are mostly unfurled, but they usually take another month to come into their full glory.  Kruggerand has a HUGE leaf this year.  I’m guessing it’s 16″ across!

Last night, just as I was going to sleep, I was jolted awake by 40 seconds of hail.  I’m used to hail in August, but in May?  I haven’t walked the gardens yet this morning, but I did get out the binoculars.  Most everything looks ok… minor damage maybe.  Last year, on the Friday evening of the American Hosta Society Convention, I was visiting my friend Jim’s garden.  When I arrived, I asked about the 50-cent tour while the rain was light.  Jim said, “let’s go out in 10 minutes, the rain will have blown over by then.”  Well, he was right, but in that 10 minutes, a 15 second hail storm came… marble size.  Shredded the garden.  My heart broke for him.  So, trying to get back to sleep last night, I couldn’t help but think about my friend Jim.

This year, I’ve done 2 treatments for slugs.  I might throw down another on Monday after this batch of storms is done.

The rabbits have found entry thru my chicken wire… haven’t figured out where.  So, I guess I need to get out the stinky spray again.  ICK!

I need to also do some treatment for foliar nematodes.  I had upwards of 30 infected last year.  So I really need to start that experiment…figure out which chemical is going to be the winner.  I’m sure with as wet as this spring has been, nems will be out in full force again.

Posted May 22, 2011 by koskashostas in Hostas

16 days!   Leave a comment

that’s the difference between 2010 and 2011.

Last year, my yellow tulips started blooming on April 19th.  This year, it’ll start blooming tomorrow… May 5th!  That’s 16 days difference.

I do think that some of the other plants will be even further out than 16 days.  I suppose that all remains to be seen!

Posted May 4, 2011 by koskashostas in Hostas

Home Depot Cypress Mulch Sale again!   Leave a comment

Well, I need to mark my calendar.  Last year, Home Depot had mulch on sale this same weekend.

Normally, it’s $2.75 per 2cu ft bag.  Right now, it’s $1.37 thru Sunday.  Limit 20 per customer.  We went tonight around 7:00 and since they weren’t busy, the checker in the garden center let us have as many bags as we wanted.  Turned out to be 40 bags per trip, but Home Depot is only about 2½ miles from our house.

So, we’re stocked on mulch!

Now, how does this sale compare with other Home Depot mulch sales?  I watched last year and this was the best.  Hands down.  Even Memorial Weekend, it was $2.00 per bag!

Happy Mulching!

4/27 EDITED TO ADD:  I was at HD today and saw that mulch is on sale this weekend:  5 for $10.

Posted April 9, 2011 by koskashostas in Hostas

It’s gone!   Leave a comment

The snow, that is!  Yesterday morning, there was one last patch of snow left in our yard…. of all places, it was in my SUN GARDEN!  What’s up with that?

The next door neighbor still has a bit of snow in her yard, next to her ice rink.

But, now that the snow is gone, again, I have snow mold to deal with…and I’m conflicted with whether to leave it alone (as my neighbor did last year, with only slightly worse results) or rake it this weekend.  I also have vole trails…something I’ve never dealt with before.  I’m told that a poison called Tomcat works well.  And then, there’s the spring clean up of last year’s foliage…only some of which was removed last fall.

So there’s lots to do even before the planting season begins!

I’ve got about 35 hostas, plus a dozen other plants on order for spring delivery… hopefully the first week of May, but at the rate we’re going, it looks like I’ll have to delay that a week or two.

I was looking at the 2010 Bloom Schedule and saw that my Bleeding Hearts were in bloom on 4/21.  Well that is NOT going to happen this year!  There is no sign of them even starting to sprout!

The Alliums are several inches tall, so I might get to enjoy those by 5/3, which is when they were in bloom last year.

I hope to do a better job updating the bloom schedule this year.  The plants I added last year aren’t on there at all!

Happy Spring everyone!

Posted April 7, 2011 by koskashostas in Hostas

Ordering Hostas in the Winter   3 comments

Yup, there’s close to 3′ of snow on the ground here in Minnesota.  In our area, the KARE11 weather folk tell us this is the snowiest December on record.  Last year, we had this much snow on the ground at the end of winter.  So, what in the world am I doing thinking about hostas this winter?

Well, with the number of hostas in my collection mounting 400 different varieties, I’m finding that my local sources for quality hostas are getting fewer and further between.  So, I’m forced to look at ordering thru the mail.  This time of year, many of the larger mail-order hosta nurseries start posting their “New for 2011” lists.  I’ve got 20-25 I’m considering ordering for a May delivery.  Another local source I have has another 10 on hold for me.

I was supposed to be limiting myself next year, but I did create 2 new gardens.  Moving my heuchers, tiarellas and heucherellas to their own dedicated garden will mean room for about 30 hostas.  But with the dedicated space for these beauties, I’m sure I’ll be ordering a dozen or so new varieties!

So, that pretty much accounts for everything I plan on ordering.  Part of me is sad that I have to cut myself off, but I hope that by Memorial Weekend, I’ll be able to focus on enjoying being in my garden, rather than planting!

Posted December 27, 2010 by koskashostas in Hostas

Garden Clean Up   Leave a comment

We’ve had a couple inches of snow in the last 2 days… to my dismay.  I just wasn’t able to complete all the backyard (and front yard) task that I was hoping to complete prior to the snow.

Wheaton Blue Hosta Virus X infected

I was indeed able to get most (all but about 5) of the hosta leaves cleaned out of the garden.  They filled a 65 gallon garbage can!  I was able to finish that on Friday, but I didn’t take the can to the front of the house (oops!).  Hubby was kind enough to bring it around for me today… thru 2 inches or so of snow!

I still want to get out and dig up an HVX infected Wheaton Blue.  Dr. Ben Lockhart of University of MN has done a lot of research on HVX and has (somewhat by accident) discovered that once hostas have flowered thru dormancy, there is a lesser/no chance of transmitting the virus.  So, unless the ground has frozen, it’s my intent to get that plant out of my garden next time I can get out there!

I also need to bring in a lot of my tools and some chemicals that seem to be littered throughout the yard.  I removed the pump from my water feature, I just need to bring it into the garage.  I wasn’t able to bet my tiny lilies planted, so I’ll bring those (and a couple other pots of perennials too) into the garage too.  I have a few other potted plants that need to come in too… a Japanese Maple and a hardy hibiscus too.

Bottom line:  I need one more day outside to finish my chores!

Posted November 14, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Hostas, Other Perennials

Recent Projects   2 comments

In October, my family went on our first vacation in several years.  We drove to Ohio, to my hometown and visited some old and new friends!  When I came back, I saw that about 95% of my hostas had all gone dormant and turned brown.  And we hadn’t even had a hard frost yet!

I did a few garden projects before I left….. I got the rocks removed from the garden out front that I’m going to start next spring.  Hubby had already disposed of a lot of leaves, so I hope there are enough to put onto this bed!  I like to give a new bed a good dose of organic material before planting.  The soil is really compacted and there are a lot of roots from the siberian pea shrub that was removed in the spring.  Even still, I may have to overwinter some pots in that bed.  I never got my tiny lilies planted.  And I have a few other perennials that I need to overwinter somewhere.

New Heuchera Bed (Brown) and Adjacent Path Extension (Black)

I also started my new heuchera bed out back.  I have 30 or so heuchera/tiarella/heucherella to transplant into the new bed in spring.  That will give me room for several of new hosta in the spring!  And it’s ‘prime real estate’…. so, some of the beauties that I’ve tucked away, just to stick ’em somewhere, will get to have a better more ‘feature’ spot.  I’m excited about that!  I’m also excited to have a dedicated spot for my heuchera (and friends) collection.  Right now, they’re scattered in 3 sections of my main garden.

This week, I hope to get out into my garden and remove all the dead hosta foliage.  Many people leave their hosta foliage, but because of a problem with foliar nematodes I experienced this year, I am choosing to remove mine so that any eggs that were laid in the leaves do not have a chance to overwinter near the plants.

Posted November 1, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Hostas

Same situation, different year.   Leave a comment

I’m wrapping up my 4th year of gardening in this yard.  Each year at this time, I end up having the same worry”

Where am I going to put these last few plants?

Ok, so ‘few’ is probably not the right word.  Since August 1, I’ve acquired about 15-18 hostas a handful of other perennials and 7-8 varieties of lily bulbs.

Today is a MAGNIFICENT October day in Minnesota.  It’s almost 80ºF today.  Last year on this day, we had several inches of snow.  While the little ones were sleeping, I went out and survey the situation and plant a few hostas.  I have most of them sitting on the spot where they’re to be planted, but I still have about 6 more that are going to need a spot.  In spring, this won’t be a problem since I’ll be starting a new garden out front.  Too bad the new bed isn’t prepped yet. 😦

Last year, I ended up digging a trench and plopping in about 10 hostas.  Once my new bed prep for the spring was done, they were dug up and placed in a more permanent home.  However, at this time, I don’t really have any good spots to do that with this year.  My only option would be to put them in a full sun area where I’m going to be digging up some lily bulbs for division.  I don’t like this option because this area does get a LOT of sun and I don’t know when I’ll be able to move these plants in the spring.
The other perennials I need to plant will go into the front garden as well, so maybe those would be ok in that full sun area out back.

UGH…. I hate that I put myself in this situation EVERY SINGLE YEAR!

Posted October 8, 2010 by koskashostas in Hostas, Other Perennials

It’s about time!   Leave a comment

I owe you an apology.  Yup, YOU!  I committed to updating my blog weekly.  And now it’s been months since I was here.  So, I guess I need to update you as to what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been back to work for about a month, so I guess that is kinda an excuse?

I’ve decided to make room for more hosta by taking the ones I have duplicates of and doubling them.  By doubling, I mean I’m taking 2 plants and planting them in the same hole.  Sometimes, this can make for some oval-shaped hosta, but I can usually overcome that by cutting one of the plants into individual divisions and placing those divisions all around the crown of the other plant.

I have a list of 25 more duplicates and of that list, I’ve doubled up several of them.  Others, I’m trading at my hosta swap group’s fall meeting.  In spring, I’ll be doubling 11 of them:  Captain Kirk, Cathedral Windows, Diamond Tiara, Emerald Tiara, Golden Tiara, Fragrant Bouquet, Krossa Regal, Minuteman, montana Aureomarginata, So Sweet, Sweet Home Chicago,

By mid summer I had also finished moving around hosta that are not in the best of spots aesthetically.  I’m now dealing with a dark hole.  I have 3 hosta, similar in color, that are all big and kinda blocking views of the hosta around them.  They are, Vim & Vigor, Krossa Regal and Blue Umbrellas.  So, I think I’m going to move 1 or 2 of them.  Turns out, I had Krossa Regal mislabeled as Blue Angel.  So, I moved Vim & Vigor.  The other 2 are still in their original spots, but will probably be relocated in the spring.

With doing that move, I also put together a section of Halcyon and its progeny:  Devon Green, Justine, June, Touch of Class, High Society, June Fever, May, Paradise Joyce, First Frost, Sleeping Beauty and probably a few others I’ve forgotten.  I really love how the colors are all so similar and there’s a real flow to the section.

I stopped my purchasing by mid July, with the exception of one order from the Hosta Library auction.  All 3 of those plants came from Naylor Creek Nursery and were nice plants with great roots: Fat Cat, Prestige & Promise and Luna Moth.  I’ve wanted Luna Moth all summer and hoped to get it from the AHS convention.  It went for something like $170 at the auction and wasn’t yet available from vendors (including Naylor Creek, at that time).  So, I was able to not spend anything more than the money I’d set aside for garden purchases.  I was very happy with that!

I’m ending the season with 380 named varieties, another 7 unnamed.  I am going to my fall hosta swap on Saturday and have arranged for another 12 new varieties to come into the garden.  So, I will end the season with 392 named varieties; 399 varieties including the unidentified; about 425 individual hostas.

I’ve developed quite an affinity for Heuchera/Tiarella/Heucherella’s too.  I have about 30 different varieties and 1 more coming in trade.  I am going to try and move them into their own little garden in the spring.  Right now, they’re separated into 3-4 sections and I would love to mix them up!

Grand Slam Showing Signs of Foliar Nematodes. Notice the browning streaks between the veins

My single biggest hurdle during this time of the season is the identification of 25+ hosta that have signs of being infected with foliar nematodes.  Hosta are commonly affected by several pests and diseases… in my case, I have had hosta virus X, slugs, rabbits and another yet-unidentified virus.  Last year, I noticed 1 hosta (Peace) with foliar nematodes, but didn’t do anything.  This year, in August, I started noticing that not only did Peace have them, but about a dozen more had them, including Grand Slam, as shown at the right.  About 90% of the ones I’ve identified with nems were purchased from a local private vendor.  When I found nems in Peace last year, I decided to ask the seller about it at the local Hosta Society meeting in February.  His response was something like this, “Well having hostas basically means you’re gonna have nematodes.  You can pull the hosta and pot it and put it in the sun for a couple years.  That should kill them.”  Well, at the time, I wasn’t that upset.  It was 1 plant.  Well, this year, having so many with nems and most of them being from him, I’m much more upset.  Given that I have so many plants from him in my garden, it miffs me that he wasn’t taking the situation very seriously in his growing area.  So, I’ve decided to no longer purchase plants from him unless I’m prepared to thoroughly quarantine them for years.  I don’t have a quarantine space, so I probably won’t be purchasing from him.  What upsets me most is that his negligence in treating for nems is basically what’s responsible for them being introduced into my garden.  So, I’ll be trying a couple of different techniques and chemicals to see which one will produce results in keeping the nems at bay.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that now that I have them, I’m going to always have them.  Kinda like slugs, I guess.

I’ll be removing foliage from all the hostas this year.  Last year I didn’t do it and while I don’t know that that necessarily contributed to their multiplication this year, I hated cleaning up the slime that the leaves make in the spring.  I’ll also have about 15 hosta that will need to be planted very soon too.

I’ve decided to start a hosta garden in front of my house too.  That spot is currently occupied with limestone rock mulch.  If  you have been reading my blog, then you’ve probably read this post talking about my disdain for use of rock as mulch in planting beds.  So, I’ve started removing the rock from this section.  Some friends are going to take it for use at their place.  Right now, the soil is so compacted and there’s no sign of earthworms.  So, this fall, I’ll chew up (with the lawn mower) all the leaves from our lawn and put it on top of this garden-to-be.  This will make it nice and ready for planting in the spring!   I figure it’ll give me room for 15-20 hostas.   This will give me room to move some of the hostas in the back that are either suffering from overcrowding and/or will need to be doubled up!

So, as you can see, my fall to-do list is getting long!  Better get to work!  Grab your shovel and come on over!

Posted September 17, 2010 by koskashostas in Hostas

Finished the new garden!   Leave a comment

Well… it was over a week ago now, but ya know, I’ve been busy at the National Hosta Convention!

Ok, so here’s the before.

Before

You may remember me talking about needing to amend the clay bed.  I had plans to finish this garden over Memorial weekend and was on my way, until I discovered it was mostly clay.  I rented a tiller and amended the soil on a Wednesday.  Planted 1/2 the hostas on Friday morning and started installing steps on Friday.  Hubby finished steps on Saturday morning while I planted the remaineder of the hostas and mulched.  I finished mulching just 15 minutes before guests showed up for backyard worship that Saturday night!

There are about 50 new varieties of hosta in this bed.  It gets a lot of sun, so these babies should be pretty happy and grow nicely!  I can’t wait for them to get big!

Posted June 29, 2010 by koskashostas in Hostas

A view I rarely stop to appreciate   1 comment

As I come around the side of the house by my garage, I usually have something in my hands and am watching my footing as I go down the hill (I have a walkout lot). So, I rarely have my head up to appreciate my garden.

Today, I had my head up and this is what I saw:

Posted June 15, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Hostas, Lawn, Other Perennials

What a contrast!   Leave a comment

With Spring coming to a quick close in only a few short weeks, I figured I’d better get hopping on my SPRING TO-DO LIST.  One of the remaining items was to plant my new garden, so I set out to complete it over Memorial Weekend.  Very do-able.  By Friday afternoon, I had it all laid out, potted plants placed right where they were to be planted.

That evening, I started planting.  STOMP!  The shovel was driven into the ground for the first of many times that night.  ROCK, STOMP, ROCK STOMP.  I was in all the way down.  I lift out the dirt and repeat 3-4 more times to make a nice 12-15″ wide hole.  What’s that tan color?  Hmm.  I didn’t think much of it till I got to one section of the garden where that tan color was all the way thru the hole and made the soil hard.  I’d planted that half of the garden before I realized that I’d been planting in clay.  The next day, I posted to my GardenWeb friends who confirmed it.  I had clay.  They suggested amending the entire bed (not just each planting hole, before proceeding with planting.  Though I was pissed that I wouldn’t finish my projected by the end of the long weekend, I did heed their advice and suspended planting.

Fast forward 4 days and shift 50 feet.

Last year, as I was clearing out some sod for a small garden expansion, I needed someplace to “dispose” of the small pieces of sod. We don’t really have a good spot to dump, so we kinda made one. It’s the furthest back corner of the shade garden… seen above behind the garden flag.

Well, for the last couple weeks, I’ve been asking hubby to build me a small 90º retaining wall behind the pile (at the corner of our lot), so I could move the soil around to plant in and basically have a mild slope up to the back corner of our lot. Well, we decided that once I spread out that soil, it probably wouldn’t be very tall and once the soil settled, it’d be even shallower. So, we could probably build whatever wall we wanted from logs we had lying around.

Well, I decided to get out and start moving the soil around and I was THRILLED with what I found! Despite the deep shade, the remaining grass and roots had decomposed and had made soft, fluffy, BLACK soil that was loaded with earthworms! I was so excited to plant in it that I decided to just pile the few logs on the back corner up against the fence posts.  The bed is, at most, 18″ high at the highest in the back corner and over time, it’ll settle by maybe as much as half.

I planted a few of my new acquisitions, including Ebb Tide as the focal piece at the top of the garden. It’ll be nice and tall at the back. And for screening, I’m planting 3 Annabelle Hydrangea that I got on sale this week!

Once I’m done planting it, I’ll post an after pic.

Thursday, I went and got some horse manure compost so I could continue working with the clay-ey bed. And tonight, I started to double-dig to mix the compost and existing clay soil.  That’s incredibly hard work.  Not so much for the back, but for the shoulders and wrists.  In 90 minutes, I might have gotten 10% done.  At that rate, assuming I could actually continue at that pace, it’d take 15 hours to ready the soil for planting!  I need to get my hands on a tiller!

I hope the rain this weekend doesn’t damper those efforts.

I’ve also been slowly planting the front bed.  Sedums Matrona and Purple Emperor, Heuchera Green Spice and Stoplight, Catmint, Daylily Rosy Returns…. all are in.  On deck are Penstemon Husker Red and a few varieties of Shasta Daisy.  Pics to follow!

Posted June 4, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Hostas

Home Depot-Cypress Mulch on Sale this Memorial Weekend   Leave a comment

I get lots and lots of search-engine traffic for people looking for mulch to be on sale at Home Depot.

In the Twin Cities, cypress mulch is indeed on sale 5 for $10… Starting the Thursday before Memorial Day.  Regular price, $2.75.

Scott’s Naturescapes is $3.88… I’m not sure if that’s regular price or not.

If you’re outside the Twin Cities, you can view your local Home Depot’s ad thru their website.

Posted May 26, 2010 by koskashostas in Uncategorized

What a difference 15 days make!   6 comments

Ok, you don’t have to scroll down very far to see that 15 days ago, hubby and I were out on the Saturday night before Mother’s Day to cover my hostas.  We had FROST and I have damage on my hostas to prove it.

Fast forward to today.  The official high temperature was 95ºF.  That shatters the official record for the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, which was set in the year 1875 at 88ºF.

What does this mean for plants?  First:  NO PLANTING.  PERIOD!!!!  It’s too hot to plant–It’s just way too stressful for the plants.  And if you’re like me, with several plants waiting for their permanent home, the best thing you can do is to put them in a shady spot and water them in the morning…. SOAK THOSE BABIES.  Check them in the evening and consider watering them again.  Same thing for your baskets of annuals.  2 waterings a day is definitely in order.

For your plants with homes in the ground, hopefully, you’ve come into this heat stretch having watered them deeply and having a good layer of mulch on top.  Keep up with watering…. in the early morning hours…  Once it gets really hot, you’ll lose more moisture to evaporation that way.  DEEP SOAKING is best.  You really want those roots that are a foot down to be able to take up that water.  This is also the best way to keep your lawn happy.

Now, your lawn.  If you’re like most of America, you think you need to run your sprinklers daily for 20-30 minutes.  WRONG!  This does not allow the water to penetrate deeply into the soil.  If the water penetrates only 1″, guess what, that’s where the roots of your lawn will live.  And that means a weak lawn, highly susceptible to heat stress.  Instead, water 1-2 times a week so that that water penetrates 4″ or more into the soil.  This allows the roots to go deep in search of moisture… thus creating a healthier, more resilient lawn.  Generally, it’s recommended your lawn receive 1″ or more of water per week… more in the hot times.  Want to figure out how much you’re giving your thirsty lawn?  Tuna cans or other shallow cups/cans with straight (not angled) are a great way to check.  Place them throughout the lawn.  This will show you how much water is making it to the lawn.  It does not, however, show you how much is evaporating, especially if you’re watering during the warmer times of the day.

MOST IMPORTANTLY:  DO NOT APPLY FERTILIZER WHEN IT’S THIS HOT.    It’s too stressful on the plants/lawn.

Posted May 24, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Hostas, Other Perennials

Hosta Virus X (HVX)   Leave a comment

At a recent meeting of the Minnesota Hosta Society, while doing some prep work for the upcoming National Convention for the American Hosta Society (hosted in the twin cities this year:  http://www.StarsOfTheNorth.net), I was having a discussion with some other members.  Somehow the discussion of Hosta Virus X (HVX) came up.  There were about 4 people in this conversation, and 2 of them had NEVER HEARD of HVX.

I was FLOORED!

This is one of the FIRST subjects I encountered when I started my journey into hostaholism.  Now, granted, I am very involved in a couple of forums that are dedicated to the subject of hostas.  Nonetheless, I couldn’t believe how many people in a group dedicated to the love of hosta still have not yet made themselves aware of this.

Before I get into how to detect if you have HVX in your garden, I want to tell you just HOW common this is.  In Mark Zilis book, “The Hostapedia” that finally came out in 2009, there are several pictures of hosta that clearly have HVX and Zilis mentions these.  Even more alarming, these hostas have actually been REGISTERED!  There are thousands of varieties of hosta and some of the named varieties are infected.  ALARMING!

Blue Cadet w/HVX

How do I know if my hostas are sick?
There are a couple of tell-tale signs of the virus:  Ink bleed at the veins, mottling where it’s not supposed to be, tissue degradation and “wrinkly” tissue where it’s not supposed to be.  The pic to the right is from my own garden in 2009.  I purchased this plant from a smallish nursery in Farmington.  It’d been in my garden since 2007 and showed no signs of the virus until last year.  It was immediately removed and destroyed.

How do hosta GET the virus?
MOST of the time, it happens at propagation.  Most hostas sold in nurseries are derived from tissue culture.  The essence of TC is that a mother plant is stimulated to produce lots and lots of baby plants.  Those baby plants are eventually planted and grow up.  IF the mother plant has the virus, then the babies have it.  PERIOD.  Even if you cannot see it.  IF YOU SEE NOTHING ELSE IN THIS POST: if you’re shopping and you see one infected plant in a batch of a particular variety, you can BET thee entire batch is ALL infected.  They were likely derived from the same mother plant.  You should alert the nursery manager to the potential infection and ask that the plants be removed from sale till they’re tested.  There is a BIG chance that the clerks and even the managers at a nursery or big box store are not going to have a clue what you’re talking about and won’t even remotely listen to you.  This is a good indication of whether your hosta dollars are better spent elsewhere in an establishment that is well aware of this disease and how to keep it at bay, or test for it.
This is not the only way it is transmitted, though.  It is transmitted thru the sap of the plant…. either the foliage or the roots.  If you’re out digging and pierce the root of an infected plant, your shovel is now carrying the virus.  If you then dig another hosta with the same shovel without having disinfected, you’ve likely transmitted the virus.

HVX Infected Plant

HVX Leaf


How do I know for sure if my plant is infected?
There are tests strips that can be used to diagnose HVX.  They’re about $1 each.  Just google “HVX test strips”.

Will HVX kill my hostas or other plants?
No.  But the danger in keeping what is sometimes a “cool lookin’ hosta” in your garden is that it you can inadvertently infect your tools or hands with the infected sap and it will get transmitted to another of your hostas.  It is not known to infect any plants other than hosta.

What do I do if my hostas are sick?
Plain a simple:  Careful removal and destruction. HOSTAS CANNOT BE CURED OF VIRUS X, EVEN IF IT STOPS SHOWING SYMPTOMS OF IT.  First, wrap the foliage in a bag–don’t cut it, as it will infect your tool–just wrap it up.  When digging a sick plant, take out as wide a root ball as possible.  The idea is to try to not pierce any roots.  DO NOT THROW THE HOSTA INTO THE COMPOST PILE–THROW IT INTO THE GARBAGE (NOT YOUR LAWN WASTE, AS THAT IS COMPOSTED) OR BURN IT. It is usually recommended to not plant another hosta in that hole for an entire year.  A way around that is to plant a potted hosta into the hole or, another suitable plant like a Heuchera, Tiarella, or Heucherellla.

How do I prevent HVX?
The best thing you can do to prevent HVX in your own garden is to never allow it to come in.  This means buying stock from only VERY reputable nurseries.  2 well-known and well-respected Twin Cities nursery chains have BOTH sold me infected plants.  This doesn’t stop me from buying there, it just makes me aware that infected plants can be found almost everywhere.  I have also purchased infected plants at a big box home improvement store (the orange one).  I know of only 1 (of course, there may be more) nursery that sells online that actually tests their stock.
The other thing you can do is alert nursery staff to its possible presence.  But, like I said before, do not be in the slightest bit surprised if it falls on deaf ears.  A phone call to their store manager and corporate are probably both a good idea.  It doesn’t hurt to toss around the title of the State Agricultural department as their inspectors are the ones responsible for diseases.

Now that I’ve removed my sick hosta, how do I disinfect my tools?
A forum friend of mine who is a nursery owner and very well educated on HVX says this:
[…] a lot of people will tell you to bleach tools, but bleach isn’t strong enough to kill HVX. Instead use something like Lysol that is specifically labeled to kill viruses (bleach kills bacteria well, but not viruses). Lysol will kill most tough viruses after a 10 minute soak, though dirt needs to be rinsed off tools first. HVX can survive for weeks on tools and can survive months if not years in the soil where a virused hosta was once planted.
I use a foaming lysol spray, wipe down tools really well with paper towels, then spray again and let them sit for 10 minutes or longer. I’m using Lysol I.C. Foaming Spray plus IC concentrate and you can buy it at janitorial and hospital supply places, sometimes even office supply places. For larger tools, like shovels and forks I am using a concentrate that mixes 1/2 oz per gallon. Just follow the directions given on the bottle.
Another great product is quat/alcohol wipes like Sanicart wipes. These can be used easily on tools to both clean and disinfect.
I’m just going by what hospitals use to disinfect, and know that they have never used bleach so I’ve never recommended it either. Years ago I thought ammonia would work, which it likely did since I cleaned tools so thoroughly, plus used spray bottles of rubbing alcohol on them, but it is the quaternary ammonia that you want to actually make a virus inactive. Hopefully Dr. Lockhart’s latest research will confirm this since HVX isn’t specifically listed on the Lysol bottles. Unfortunately HVX is highly stable outside the cell which is why it can be so contagious.
A dip in bleach is highly unlikely to do the trick.

In closing.  HVX doesn’t have to be a big downer.  It’s something that you should be aware of and something you should educate yourself about.  When you know how to handle it, you just do what you need to do and move on.  Just like when YOU get a virus, you ride it out and go on.  The difference is, hosta cannot be cured of it.  If you’ve read this entire post, then this subject must concern you on some level.  I recommend you read about HVX at the hosta library:  http://www.hostalibrary.org/firstlook/HVX.htm   .  And when you’re done there, start googling!  The more familiar you are with what it can look like, the better  equipped you are to spot it in your garden.

Posted May 18, 2010 by koskashostas in Hostas

Landscape Rock + Black Plastic Weed liner = BAD CHOICE   5 comments

I moved to Minnesota in 1999 and I noticed that most houses did this rock mulch thing…  I get it…. cuts down on weeds, gives a clean appearance and doesn’t need refreshing  like  wood mulches.

But, I have to say, my tune  has TOTALLY changed.

Yes, it’s generally effective for keeping weeds at bay, but it requires tons and tons of rock and it’s not foolproof.  The weeds will get thru the spots where the landscape staples pierce the black plastic.  But beyond that, it’s terrible.

So what happens if you want to plant something?  First, understand that soil is alive.  But when you put plastic over it, and cover that with 50 lbs of rock on a square foot of ground, you’re smothering the ground.  No oxygen, no moisture = NO LIFE.  So, 3 years after you put down the plastic, don’t be surprised when you find no earthworms or other bugs cuz they can’t live there either.  So, what makes you think a shrub or perennial would want to live there?  You want to cut a hole the size of the pot the plant came in so you minimize the amount of non-plastic area to minimize weeds.  Well, guess what?  Only that area is going to get oxygen and moisture.  The roots are not going to want to expand past the width of the hole.  The weeds and grass are going to rush to that hole and now your plant is going to have MORE than its fair share of weeds!

Now, I’m going to stop preaching and give you a REAL LIFE example from my OWN experience:

The daylily story.
2 years ago, I planted 6 daylilies (Rosy Returns) in that terrible rock mulch that the previous owners put ALL THE WAY around the house.  I figured they could handle it.  Well, even THEY hated being planted there.

I noticed very little growth from them in the last 2 years and when I pulled them out, I could see why.  I could see that the hole I cut for them into the black plastic weed barrier was only about the width of a 1 gallon pot.  So, there was nowhere for new growth to go.  When I dug them up, I could see new fans trying to pop thru, but couldn’t.  The roots hadn’t wandered much past the width of the cut plastic.

What floored me was the extent of the grass infestation.  The bluegrass/quackgrass had traveled 12 inches from the lawn to get thru to the daylily holes.  And there were sections of grass that were nearly as big as the daylily.  Pulling this grass was pointless… the roots were NOT coming up!

So, when I took out the daylilies, I washed most of the soil off so I could see where the grass roots were and get them removed.  There were some grass roots that were encircling the plants and nearly choking the daylily roots. Some of those roots were almost as thick as drinking straws.

My goodness, that was a lot of work for those little plants!  But, now I can see that if I intend to plant anything in the areas where the previous owner loaded tons and tons of limestone on top of  2 layers of black plastic, I am going to have to remove all of that junk to allow the soil to breath and re-acclimate to LIFE!

Posted May 15, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Other Perennials, Shrubs, Weeds

Rainy Days   2 comments

Well, in the period of a week, we had over 2.5″ of rain.  Good for the plants, but MAN were we tired of being stuck inside!  When the rain finally stopped on Thursday afternoon, my camera and I went out to see what we could find:

Heuchera ‘Caramel’

Lady’s Mantle

Hosta ‘Split Milk’ (I love the irony on this pic)

Hosta ‘June’

Hosta ‘Grand Slam’

and one more I can’t remember what the name of:

Posted May 15, 2010 by koskashostas in Hostas, Other Perennials

After 2 months of unreal weather….   Leave a comment

SNOW was in the forecast for the Twin Cities for Saturday night/Sunday morning (Happy Mother’s Day to ME!)

I was pretty upset about it.  99% of my hostas are up… at least the tips, anyway, and many are fully leafed out.  Snow won’t kill my hosta, but it sure will make ’em look terrible.  After spending the afternoon with hubby’s stepmother and father, we came home and covered the hostas with over 700′ of landscape fabric.  (In my opinion, this is one of it’s only good uses.  It’s NOT a good idea for weed prevention.  I digress).  We used

The temp dropped down to 31.4ºF on our back porch right by the deck.  And I’m sure it was cooler in the garden.

Only 1 hosta shows signs of frost damage, but I cannot attribute that necessarily to THIS cold snap.  So, I feel like it was worth the effort.

Crisis averted.

Updated 5/21:  Crisis SORTA averted.  More hosta are showing signs of frost damage.  Several are showing translucent spots.  They are harmless, but ugly.  If you have them, don’t worry.  Leave the leaves growing on the plant as they are mostly still green and are still sending energy into the roots of the plant.

Posted May 10, 2010 by koskashostas in Hostas

What a Weird Spring   Leave a comment

Well, spring thaw happened about a month ahead of time.

March proved to have NO SNOW…. first time in recorded history in MN.

Perennials coming out of the ground before the end of March.  This is just weird stuff!  This seems more like Ohio, where I grew up.

April is acting a bit more like normal…. the whole “April Showers bring May flowers” adage comes to mind.  Speaking of showers… we’ve already had two showers that included hail.  It’s not usually til the late summer that we see hail.  I do hope that this is not a sign of things to come and hostas and hail are not an alliteration I like very much.

Diablo Ninebark Planted in Front Landscape

I did get my new tree planted out front yesterday, just in time for the rain to come.  It was a bit of a challenge since the hole is still littered with roots from the previous occupant of said hole.  I had to sit on the side of the hole with pruners to cut out roots!  The tree seems so diminutive right now, but I think it will really stand out when it’s fully leafed out with its dark burgundy foliage.  I’m sorry it’s hard to see in this pic, but I’m sure I’ll be posting more pics of the front yard as the season progresses!

July 7, 2009 lots of lilies

Yesterday, I also decided to divide  some Asiatic Lilies.  About 2½ years ago, in an effort to prepare the front raised bed, I hastily put 4-6 kinds of lilies all in one big hole.  It was cold and I just needed to get them into the ground.  Now that they’ve grown and multiplied, I needed to divide and separate them by variety.  This is not the ideal time to do that since the stems coming from the bulbs are rather fragile.  I did manage to get them removed and divided, but I do still need to replant them.  Now, the ground is too wet to replant them.  I’ll likely have to just pot them up till the ground dries.  You can see this bunch of lilies in the pic on the left.  They’re just left of the sundial.  The lilies on the right of the sundial, a variety  called Cancun, will need to be divided in the fall.

Posted April 15, 2010 by koskashostas in Other Perennials, Trees

YAY! Mulch sale at The Home Depot   4 comments

I’m picking up bags of mulch like a mad woman!
Home Depot is having a sale this weekend… Cypress mulch buy one get one free. It’s limit 20 and only while supplies last.
So, I have picked up 40 bags so far and am hoping to pick up at least 60 tomorrow.
$1.37 each is way too irresistible!

EDITED TO ADD:  This particular post is getting a lot of activity via searches.  So, I thought I’d tell ya that the last 3 years, Home Depot has had Cypress mulch on sale over Memorial weekend… For each of these years, it’s been about $2 per bag.  No guarantees that it’ll be like that this year, but something to think about as you plan for this Memorial weekend!

Posted April 10, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Uncategorized

Hideous Weed   Leave a comment

What is this?

I’m having some major weed issues.  And THIS>>>
is the culprit.  I’ve had it since I moved in here in 2006.  When I started the hosta beds, I got rid of a lot of it.  The neighbors, who do not take care of their landscape, have a large spread of it….I’m guessing 10 feet long by 6 feet wide.  And since they aren’t doing anything with their landscape, it’s not important to them.  You can see what a wide stretch of this stuff there is if you look at the banner pic above.  It’s that clearing right behind my hose reel.

I really hate when someone else’s problem becomes my problem.  Because this weed spreads by runners, it runs into my hosta bed.  I have some of this stuff growing right up in the middle of hostas.

On one of the Gardenweb forums I’m on, I’m told that this is called “Motherwort”.  It is a cousin to Mint, which many know is nearly impossible to control  It doesn’t respond to RoundUp, beyond just burning the leaves in the spots where it hits.  Pulling isn’t terribly effective since if I leave any roots behind, they will send out more runners and more plants.

I’ve spent all morning looking for a means to control or eradicate it.  From what I can tell, it’s going to either require several doses of liquid herbicide… some say vinegar, some say bleach, some say ammonia ~AND/OR~ covering with black plastic and mulch, to smother it from water and light.

Here’s the big problem… For the most part, they’re not mine.  I get a plant here or there, but I do not have the big mess of them.  I need to figure out a way to get rid of this weed working WITH my neighbors.  This may not be too easy since it’s the same neighbors who we just had to deal with about the tree.

Just a small section of the weed in my neighbor's garden:Motherwort Weed

Posted April 9, 2010 by koskashostas in Weeds

THE Tree is GONE!   Leave a comment

Going....

YAY!  Today, I had that nasty tree removed and I’m SO happy to see it GONE!

There’s quite a story behind it.  As you know, the neighbor’s, with whom we share the tree, were not willing to have their portion of the tree removed.  My portion was a large trunk about 26″ across.  They that 3 trunks, about 8-10″ across, (suckers, not properly pruned about 15-20 years ago–visible in the 2nd pic… the shoots that are at a really terrible angle).  I had about 4 tree companies come out and they all had differing opinions about whether removing my trunk would cause damage to their trunks, even in the long term.

When the neighbors called to express their concern about the tree removal, they suggested we might chat with the city of Lakeville Forester.  He came out on Friday and told us that he thought that if our portion of the tree was to be removed, down to a stump about 3 feet tall, it should not cause detriment to their stumps.  He said we could have it cut to accommodate a garden planter.  And went to the neighbors to share with them the plan.  Mrs. Neighbor told the Forester that they didn’t care what we did on our side of the property line.

... Going

So, today, Minnesota Tree Experts came and had the tree down and gone within 2 hours.  They gave us an excellent bid and were accommodating  of my perennial garden below.  Hopefully when those heavy logs came out of the tree, there wasn’t any damage to the developing plants below.  We’ll only know once the hostas come up in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m happy the tree is gone.  It’ll give my garden a whole lot more light!… but not so much my hostas burn out…. HOPEFULLY!

GONE!

Posted April 8, 2010 by koskashostas in Trees

I hope you had a great Easter!   Leave a comment

…. I did.  There’s something special about garden chat with someone who loves it as much as you.  We spent Easter afternoon with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her family.  She did a big hardscape project last year and is excited to get planting this year.  And she wants to re-do some of her front gardens.  So, we were talking about planting ideas.

It’s just so nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

For my front garden, you know I have the plan done, but I still need to “plug in” a few more plants.  Their locations are identified, but I’ve not yet decided on what will go in those spots!   I’m delaying for a couple reasons.  I need to see what is going to come back.

But I’m happy to have at least identified and purchased the focal point tree… the Diablo Ninebark!

Posted April 5, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Other Perennials

My new PLAN!   1 comment

Ok, lemme start by saying that I am UBER excited about today!

I went to the Fabulous Fronts Landscape Design Workshop at Gerten’s this morning.  It was $65 for 2 hours.  I’m guessing there were about 20-25 people in the class and 4 senior landscape designers.  We were sent our homework about 10 days ago.  We were asked to draw, to scale, our front landscape (or lack thereof for some people).  Each designer was assigned a row of workshop participants to  advise.  In my row, there were a total of 6 people, but 2 sets of couples, so really just 4 designs.

The designer made rounds… about 4…. to each of us.  First, she started with bedding and hardscape lines, second-shrubs, third-perennials, fourth-wrap up.

So, I walked away with a ready-to-execute full garden plan for the front of my yard!  Normally, Gerten’s charges $75+ for design work.  This seminar was a fabulous option for me, cuz I never wanted to give up control in doing the design.  So, I basically had a coach for 2 hours!

I’m super super excited about my plan.  I don’t think I’ll execute it all this year as it could get a bit spendy.  I’m going to re-use a lot of what I have already, but there are a lot of new shrubs and those will get expensive really quick, if I cannot find them on sale.   I’ll be starting a new perennial bed out front, so I’ll be moving a lot of my perennials to that bed.

Diablo Ninebark Tree

Remember the weeping siberian peashrub that bit it in the spring thaw?  I’ve finally decided on its replacement. It’s a Diablo Ninebark TREE form. When I first heard of this tree, I assumed that it was a Diablo that had been grafted onto a standard.  This is NOT the case here! This is a 1″ thick trunk with all the other shoots pruned away so that it will form a tree.  It has exfoliating bark and is very interesting.  It’ll grow to no more than 10 feet tall, but it can take hard pruning to keep it at its current 5 feet tall.

I particularly like this choice because I’m trying to keep the front garden within a planting color scheme.  It’ll be dark red/purple with lime green and blue-grey.  So, this was really my only and best choice to have the dark purple foliage.  I’ll post pics after it has been planted!

I also wanted to share with you a blessing I received this week.  My friend Deb, from church, once told me she loved lilacs.  Well, I’d planned to remove a couple of lilacs that were not blooming, due to being in the shade.  I immediately thought of Deb and shot an email out to her and her hubby, Tom.  She was a little anxious about accepting them since she had no gardening experience (she had to buy her first garden shovel to plant them!).  So, I delivered them to her yesterday, Good Friday.  She was shocked at their size … 6-7′ tall.  I gave her some coaching on how to plant them and loaned her a book on shrubs.  She was so grateful.  I really think *I* received the blessing here.  I’m always so glad to pass along garden plants that no longer have an appropriate home in my garden.  I can’t wait for Tom & Deb to tel me that the lilacs are doing great and that they’ve bloomed in their new home!

Posted April 3, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Other Perennials, Shrubs

What’s the saying about fences and neighbors?   Leave a comment

… good fences make good neighbors, right?  What about bad trees?

I have fantastic neighbors.  I’ve blogged about them before.

Now I’m in a bit of a quandry.  Remember the box elder tree on the rear property line?  Box Elder’s are ugly trees.  They generally have a less-than-pleasing form, they send up a LOT of suckers, they grow fast, die hard and in the process, drop a lot of dead wood and attract those nasty box elder bugs.  (Incidentally, box elder bugs DO NOT HARM HOSTA or any other plants.  You may find their eggs on plants, but they are harmless… just annoying!)

This very much describes one of the two box elders on our property line.  We would like to remove the entire tree and would have paid the whole bill to do so.  However, our neighbors to the rear are not interested in having their portion removed.  Mind ya, I have a HUGE trunk on my side… probably 2′ in diameter, if not more.  Dead wood is constantly falling from the tree.  The neighbor has 3 smallish trunks, 10″ or so, overhanging their yard, and at a very very shallow angle (meaning, they’re close to the ground).  I’m fairly certain that since these 3 trunks emerge from the ground and are quite a bit smaller than my trunk, they were, at one time, suckers that were not properly attended to.  When our land was farmland, it probably didn’t matter.  But they really should have been cut off when the land was developed for subdivision… I digress….

My tree guy says the tree is unhealthy.  The neighbors have had people out who say it’s fine, since it has buds all the way to the top.  Clearly, they’re unaware that trees with seriously decaying wood can still produce a lot of leaves.

Anyway, because they’re not interested in removing their portion of the tree, that means that now I have to change my plan.  I cannot do anything that would cause harm to their portion of the tree.   So, I certainly cannot ground the stump (which would prevent suckering) and now I wonder if I can even take out my trunk.

I have to make a decision about this tree within the next few days or it will damage my hostas once they start to emerge.  I wasn’t expecting the ground to be thawed so early!

Posted March 30, 2010 by koskashostas in Trees

And I Opened up my eyes and saw the Signs ….. of Spring   Leave a comment

3" tall Allium

What an amazing season.  Starting this blog, I find that I am more conscious of documenting what’s going on in the gardens.  I know, the whole blogging thing is still a novelty to me, so maybe it won’t be as exciting in 4 months, but hey, I’m still “diggin it”.

Budding Rose

Today is a gorgeous day in Minnesota … sunny and in the 50’s.  So, I took my camera out to start finding Spring’s little gifts.  I’m amazed that given that it’s late March, there are already some plants popping out of the ground.  I see bulbs like Tulips and Allium (see right) and perennials like daylilies and lady’s mantle already showing their green.  And the trees are budding, as are the roses.  I guess I have never really taken the time to look at the roses before they started to actually show leaves, so today when I was out photographing, I loved seeing the tiny little signs of life coming out.

I also saw some leaves on a mallow and on a sedum.

We had a bid on removing the big Box Elder tree in the backyard.  The bid was reasonable and we’ve talked with our rear neighbors about whether they would be willing to share in the cost.  They’re considering what they want to do.  The arborist who gave us the bid said that the tree was very unhealthy and we really should consider complete removal.  The trunk on our side of the property line is at least 8 feet around.  And there have been multiple large branches fall from the tree, as evidenced by the unhealed wounds.  The biggest worry I have about having the tree removed right now is that the ground is soft, and it is likely that my hosta bed will be damaged by the workers and/or limbs as they come down.  I’m just not sure what we should do at this point.

Posted March 30, 2010 by koskashostas in Other Perennials

2009 Garden…a passion or a chore…. and losing my edge.   1 comment

Hi again!  If this is your first visit to my blog, I’m still telling the story of how it all began.  This is the 4th AND LAST post on that topic, so you may want to scroll down and read the first three, just to get up to speed!

2009 was a tough year for me.  In January, I was offered a job in the mortgage industry…I had previously spent over 10 years in the real estate and mortgage industry before becoming a full time mom in 2006.  But, of course, since then, the industry crashed and honestly, with all the downsizing and changes, I didn’t think there were any jobs to be had.  So, when God placed this job in my lap, when I really wasn’t looking, I decided to listen to God.  By June, I’d reduced work to just half days.  This did help me find time to garden, but it was less than ideal to work all morning and have to garden in the heat of the day.  I quickly began to resent my garden.  In May, it was 115 bags of cypress mulch.  In June, it was the weeding and planting.  In July, it was the slugs.  In August, it was the squirrels eating my garden hoses.  I was not enjoying working or my garden.

But here’s how the year went.  In April, we decided it was time to install irrigation.  Dean, at one point, expressed interest in doing it himself.  I always thought he was nuts…. it’d take him all summer to accomplish what a pro could do in 1 day!  The bids I had gotten last summer were coming in way over what we wanted to spend.  We just couldn’t spend that, so we had discussed doing just the front lawn to start.  We called one other company who came out and was able to do the job for a little over half the other 2 bids and scheduled us the next week!  The company?  Hedlund Irrigation.  They’re mainly in the southern twin cities.  We also had them run an extra spigot to the back of my hosta garden.  A good decision for my sanity, but a bad decision for my hoses.  I chose to leave them out on timers so the gardens could get extra soakings, as needed.  Turns out, the squirrels chose to make them into their own personal water fountains, with a few chomps.  By August, EVERY hose we owned had either been mended or thrown out.  I regretted the decision to not put the garden into the irrigation plan.  I wanted to install drip irrigation, but it turned out that the squirrels also at that tubing as well.  The irrigation made a huge difference in our lawn, almost immediately!  We should have done this years ago!

Fairly early in the season, I lost my edge….by that, I mean I decided to go “edgeless”.  This means that, in large part, I was doing away with black plastic edging and going with a more cut edge look.  This is where the grass is cut sharply at the edge and a 6″ trench is left, which keeps the grass roots from migrating into the mulch.  And the mulch falls into the trench to keep it from migrating into the lawn.

In June, I had my first Photobook printed of my garden.  A Photobook/Storybook is usually a hard cover book that is created in a custom way.  For instance, I wanted mine to be all about the story of my garden.  Kind of a retrospective on how it had gotten to that point.  Since I sell Creative Memories, I knew I wanted to use our Storybook Creator Plus software to do this.  The book is about 25 pages.  All the photos were taken by me and all the text written by me.  It even includes a list of the different hosta cultivars in my collection.  I LOVE sharing this book and the software!

June 2009 My haul from Venero Gardens

I’m on a hosta gardening forum on Gardenweb.com.  I love this forum as I can learn all about how other people are doing with their garden.  I’m a relative newbie, at just 4 years in my garden, plus a few years at previous houses.  And on GardenWeb, there are some gardeners who’ve been in their some homes for decades and have hostas that old.  Amazing!  On this forum, while what is offered is often called “support”, it’s more like co-dependency or enabling of a habit.  It seems about 3-4 times a season, someone will post that they’re in need of a 12 step program to get over their addition to hosta.  ANYWAY, I digress.  What you may not know is that the Twin Cities is a bit of a hosta hotbed.  Many hybridizers live here and there are several good nurseries that specialize in hosta.  I’ve got several hosta friends who suggested a couple of great nurseries to visit.  One was Venero Gardens in Excelsior MN.  What an amazing place.  Gorgeous show gardens and lovely plants available for sale.  They’re all dug for you, while you wait, so you take home field-grown plants, not plants grown in potting medium their whole lives.  I picked up nigricens Elatior, Blue Ice, Sum of All, Aspen Gold, Piedmont Gold, Lucy Vitols, Geisha, Golden Sculpture, Lakeside San Kao, montana, Blue Jay, Aspen Gold, Blue Umbrellas.

At the encouragement of my fellow forum members, I also joined the Minnesota Hosta Society and went on tour of 4 twin cities gardens in late June.  It was amazing to see these beautiful creations.  And thank you to all the people who opened up their gardens to us on that raining Saturday morning.

June 2009 steppers added on path

Also in late June, I added steppers in the path between the playset and garden.  These were pretty inexpensive, but it was time consuming to dig a hole for each one, fill it with sand and level it.  Why so much work?  Cuz the darn things weren’t even thickness.  I plan to allow the Creeping Jenny to fill in around them.

Mia shows friend Hannah the new "wadder fow ten"

In July, Dean and I started construction on a small water feature.   It’s not completely done, as it looses water-as is plainly evident by the moisture on the front of the bricks.  I plan on finding the source of the leak early this year.
July starts out in living color.  The sun garden is really full of life this time of year.  My favorite of the sun garden is an Asiatic Lily called ‘Cancun’.  It’s a deep orange with a golden yellow throat.  It is absolutely stunning!  I wish I had an up close picture from my garden, but I do not.  http://www.perennialnursery.com/catalog/lily-cancun.html Also in bloom are Salvia May Night and most of the daylilies.  Russian Sage, hidden behind the right spruce, is also coming into bloom.  My plans for 2010 are to line the back corner of the garden to screen out my neighbors’ garden.  There are a couple of lilacs in the shady part of my garden that are no longer blooming.  So, I plan to move them back here.  The tall shrubs you see kitty-corner to our lot are also lilacs, so I thought it’d be nice to have some continuity.  I did get a little over zealous with a pair of loppers and took out too much of the hydrangea bush shown here in front of my neighbors’ blue shed.  I accidentally took out the branch that is the tallest part of the tree, shown here.  I don’t know if it’ll thicken back up to a nice shape or not.

Oh yeah, the garden widening started in 2008 went great!  The area of the hosta garden that I widened was a perfect planting environment.  The grass was sufficiently dead after a couple of applications of RoundUp.  On the dead grass, I spread out chewed up leaves.  Thank you Ken for the suggestions.  I didn’t have enough leaves to do the sun garden in the same way, so all that sod was busted by hand, by Dean, me and a couple of teenage boys from church.  Sod bustin’ is HARD WORK.  From now on, I’m using Ken’s method!

2009 Front Garden Raised Bed

Bearded Iris

For the front yard, I was finally able to do something with that raised bed.   Prior to 2009, I had a few plants in this garden.  Those included a couple Filupendula (meadowsweet), some bearded iris, a Tiger Eyes Sumac and some Allium.  All those stayed put.  I wanted to have an instantly full look to the garden, so I figured I’d buy more than I need and then thin them out, when I’m ready to do more landscaping.  I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I was hoping to come up with a purple and lime green theme.  So I took one of my favorite perennial reference books to Linder’s and found a staff member who seemed to know what she was talking about.  I picked out a few varieties that seemed interesting and she nixed some of them right away siting that they’d already seen several returns for bad performance on those varieties.  I started with 2 sedums… one is a variegated lime & cream, the other is a deep purple.  I also picked up a Chocolate Eupatorium (Snakeroot), which, by season’s end was a 3′ tall and wide globe form.  GORGEOUS!  But way bigger than I expected in just 1 year, so it dwarfed about 3 other plants, including that green sedum!  In front of that Eupatorium, I have a gorgeous Japanese Hokone Grass called Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola‘.  This combo is STUNNING!  I also have a pink mallow that had the most gorgeous blooms most of the summer that I can only describe as being like crepe paper… translucent!  The Coreopsis Creme Brulee was also lovely, with its delicate texture.  I cannot seem to recall the other plants I used, but I am certain there were at least 3 more.  I was quite pleased with the overall look of the garden, but I will have to remove at least 4 of the plants as overcrowding became a big issue by the end of the season…which, like I stated, I knew would happen!

You may remember me writing about the south side of our house.  It starts out a gradual slope, leading into a more severe slope.  The previous owners made an attempt to tame the slope by nesting round stepping stones into the rock mulch.  Problem is the steppers weren’t level and always felt a little dangerous.  Since a few people have fallen on them, we finally got around to leveling them.  We removed the steppers and rock, pulled back the landscape fabric and leveled each stone and created a very very gradual set of steps… each one being only 2½ inches tall, the thickness of the stepper.  We needed a few extras, but that was ok, since there were about 7 we wanted to remove from the lawn that led from our back door to the pad in the middle of the yard.  At the point where the yard gets steeper, there is a set of steps.  Very uncomfortable steps that have an 8″ rise and only a 10-12″ tread.  At some point, I’d like to just have that whole slope regraded and a more suitable hardscape put in.

At the top of the south side of the garden, that Dwarf Alberta Spruce finally gave up on life.  In never “came back” after the winter, so I decided to remove it all together, in favor of something a bit more forgiving.  I replaced it with a Dwarf Arctic Blue Willow ‘Nana’, also known as Salix Purpurea ‘Nana’, if you’re into Latin nomenclature.   One of the neighbors has one and it does great.  So, this will give some nice fullness to this section of the garden.  When I planted it in June, it was about 2½ feet.  By the end of the season, it was 4 feet.   I gave mine a big haircut.  My neighbor does the same thing and hers regularly gets up to about 5 feet.

Have you figured out that I am never satisfied with good enough?  After leveling the steppers, I was trying to figure out a way to add steps to get from where the stairs land down another 3 feet to the grade of the backyard.  In that process, I took a good look at that slope and realized it has never really grown grass very well, so, WHERE’S MY ROUNDUP?  Time to kill some grass and start a new bed!  Since the weather was starting to cool, it took a bit longer to kill off this grass, but I did get it edged in the manner I talked about above.  Then, after the leaves fell and we were able to grind them down into a fine mulch, I spread them on top of the bed.  We took all the leaves from our lawn and blew them onto our patio.  I ran the mower over them for an hour or more (there were a lot of leaves!) and had perfect leaf mulch!  And in the spring, I’ll have another perfect bed to plant in!  Just in time for the 2010 American Hosta Society national convention here in the Twin Cities!

Posted March 25, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Hostas

2008-Huge leaps forward!   Leave a comment

Hi again!  If this is your first visit to my blog, I’m still telling the story of how it all began.  This is the 3rd post on that topic, so you may want to scroll down and read the first and second one, just to get up to speed!  And there’s only 1 more “backstory” post after this!

Well, the 2008 season started with two very huge blessings.

May 2008 Playset installation

Our neighbors to the south mentioned they were going to upgrade their playset and were planning to give away their current set on Freecycle.  I asked them to let hubby and me talk about it, that we may want it for the kiddo, since our plans were not to put one in for till 2009.  We ended up taking advantage of the blessing at our doorstep and moved the set into our yard (all of 30′ from its previous home) in mid May.  Our neighbor to the north, Kelli, had also mentioned they were considering removing their playset, so I asked her if she’d be willing to sell us her pea gravel.  She wasn’t willing to sell it to us.  She was only willing to GIVE it to us, if we’d remove it.  So we did!  By Memorial Weekend, the new play area was nicely nestled into the landscape.  And our total investment was just in the weed fabric and edging… oh, and paying our teenage friend Matt, to help Dean with the shoveling and wheelbarrow work!  Thanks again neighbors!  Our daughter now has a playset that is integrated into the landscape, and we’d have it no other way!

Golden Creeping Jenny around step stones

We left a 3′ wide path between the playset area and the gardens and set out to make it look more like a path.  Enter the RoundUp…. killing off the grass was the first part.  I also decided to plant some Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea‘. Common name : Golden Creeping Jenny.  It’s an ornamental form of the dreaded lawn weed.  So, needless to say, it stays well away from the grass!  It can also take mild foot traffic and is great for light shade.

Because of the extensive planting I’d done the season before and the bunnies who live under the neighbors shed, once the snow was gone, chose to protect my investment and enclosed the entire back garden, aka Hosta Buffet with 2′ tall chicken wire.  I left it on till the new growth had a chance to harden off and was no longer appetizing to the fuzzy critters.  This is a practice I still do today.  Last year, the fence stayed up well into June, just to be sure, since there are some hosta that don’t emerge till June.  After that, I just used a few doses of Liquid Fence after that.  Man does that stuff STINK!

Also, you may remember that over the winter, our friends came and chopped down an evergreen for a Christmas tree.  So, in mid may, we had the stump from that tree, as well as 8 other stumps ground down when we had the big maple trimmed.  Then in early June, we leveled off the stump hole with soil and laid the sod.  You can see that the picture from 2009 that’s in the blog’s banner (top of the page) still has a section of discolored sod from the patch job.

At the end of 2007, I had hastily planted a couple dozen  tender young tissue culture (TC) hostas in the ground, so they’d overwinter outdoors.  I’d also haphazardly planted several other hosta that now needed to be located in a more permanent home.  So, out they came and were placed in a more pleasing manner.  And during spring thaw, I discovered that there was an area of the garden particularly prone to erosion.   It was right next to the big storm drain.  So, I made the decision to exclude that area from the garden.  Again, I was thinking I’d do the whole dry-stream thing.

Hosta NICU

This led to the start of the little and sick area of the garden, I sometimes call the NICU.  Plants that are too small to put into the bigger garden get put into this smaller garden.  All the TC’s from last fall were located here, as well as other plants that didn’t seem to fare well over the winter.  This new NICU is directly behind the playset in the former location of the firepit.

In late June, I expanded the sun garden a bit too.  I wanted it to have more of a feel of framing the yard.  So, it came forward about 5 feet and perennials were moved in.    Many of them were the daylilies from the front of the yard, as well as some Asiatic Lilies, Artemesia and the Sundial I’d purchased for Dean on our honeymoon!  The panoramic photo below shows a tape line for the proposed expansion.  It was fairly close to that.

So, by the end of 2008, I had a fairly good hosta collection… 183 different varieties, plus some unnamed ones.  In total, well over 200 individual hosta plants.  I’d also amassed a small collection of Heuchera (Coral Bells), Tiarella (Foam Flower) and Heucherella (Foamy Bells, a cross).  I love the variation in color and that they like similar conditions to the hosta I’ve planted.

June 2008 Most of these panoramics are taken from our 2nd story guest room. It seems higher since we live in a 2 story with rear walkout basement. So the window is actually 3 stories up from the backyard grade.

At the end of 2008, I made the decision to further widen the middle section of the hosta bed by about 3′ and also the sun garden, to include the spruce on the right side of the yard.  I started some of this widening this fall.  I ended up killing the lawn with RoundUp and then in November, spreading out the mulched leaves on top of the dead grass.  This suggestion was made by a fellow gardener in Michigan.  The funny thing is that this new expansion required that I re-incorporate that area prone to erosion back into the garden.    See how it turned out in the 2009 update!

June 2008 Metal Arbor with Knockout Roses

Fall 2008 Front Yard

Again, a few things happened in the front.  I did put in some Annabelle hydrangea in the bed where the potentilla were.  The hydrangea needed lots of water to get established, but they seem happy now.  This was also the first year I’d made a concerted effort to use annuals in pots for some color!  Speaking of color, check out how amazing the arbor looks.  This is just to the left of the driveway as you pull in.  In June, it’s covered in fuchsia colored Knockout Rose blooms.  Yes, the rose canes have to be hand twined thru the arbor.  And from August to frost, the arbor is covered in Blue Morning Glory blooms! (see right).  I also extended the rock mulch all the way down the left side of the driveway and over to the mailbox.  That grass never grew well and was always plagued by weeds.  We didn’t need to order one bit of rock.  Remember, the previous owners had spread multiple tons of it.  We just had to thin out another bed!  As you enter the side yard on the south, kinda behind that arbor is a Dwarf Alberta Spruce that has always suffered a lot of tip burn on the south side.  It also seems that the top was dying/dead.  In an effort to cut back the dead spots, I turned it into a spiral topiary.  This only prolonged its life for a short time.

Siberian Iris

The south side of our house, of course, gets full sun, all day.  It’s also our main path from our front yard to our back  yard.  The previous owners had put in a wooden arbor with more knockout roses on it.  It’s hard enough for me to keep up with the metal arbor arbor, shown above, so I opted to remove the wooden one and the accompanying roses and gave them all to a rosarian from my mom’s club who was happy to take it all!  Under the arbor were 2 huge clumps of Siberian Iris that are stunning when in bloom in June.  When not in bloom, they are just nice large clumps of a grass-like folliage… though a little stiffer.  And between those… a HUGE Mockorange shrub.  It was over 8 feet tall last year.  In 2008, in hopes to remove it, I cut it way back  to like 10″ tall.  It grew back up to the 8′ by 2009.  Mind you, these 3 huge plants were under and arbor!

Posted March 23, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Hostas

2010 Spring Cleanup begins   Leave a comment

I’m kind of excited to write this post as it is truly my first post that is more like a garden journal.

The last week has been exciting.  Spring has sprung very early this year in Minnesota.  3-4 weeks early to be precise!  Normally, March is the snowiest month of the year here.  But I honestly do not think I’ve seen a single flake this month!  Last weekend, we had a couple of days in the 60’s and a lot of thawing occurred.  Where there used to be 2-3′ of snow on the ground, there was nothing left except for a copious amount of SNOW MOLD and a broken ornamental shrub in a prominent spot.

Snow mold

What’s snow mold, you ask? Well, imagine a sticky icky slimy spider web all over your lawn.  In general, it causes little damage.  Most of the time, it just comes in small round spots.  But this year, given the way our snow came so quickly in the fall, the snow mold was all over probably 95% of the lawn.  It tends to compact down the blades of the lawn so that sun and water cannot penetrate it and therefore, the new green blades of grass cannot get thru.  What’s the remedy?  Rake the whole darn lawn to make the blades of grass stand up.  This has been a big chore as the thick snow pack made for a very compacted.  I’m about 80% done.  A lot of what is left is still a bit wet.  Our neighbors to the north had an ice rink in their backyard and it’s thawing into our yard, since we are the lower point with the storm drain.  So, I’ll have to wait till that area dries out.  If you decide to do this, please please please wait until your lawn is dry!  NOT SQUISHY! Some folks say it’s fine to leave it alone, but we chose to rake.  Incidentally, our neighbor (the one with the rink) did NOT rake and their lawn did just fine.

It’s pretty normal this time of year for us to be in a thaw and usually we have a flooded backyard.  But with all the warm weather we’ve had, it means that the ground has thawed already.  I know that at least 6-12 inches of the ground is thawed since I’ve penetrated at least that far in different parts of the yard.  It’s been so warm and nice that the tulips and allium hare already started popping up from the front garden.  In fact, last fall, I neglected to plant about a dozen new allium bulbs.  They were overwintered in the garage and lo and behold, they’ve also started to sprout.  So, I planted them on Sunday.  Hopefully, they’ll bloom too!  I love allium blooms in June, but maybe we’ll even see them in May this year!

Split Pea Shrub

Another major happening this last week was the removal of the one shrub in the front landscape that I intended to keep.  It was a  Weeping Siberian Pea Shrub Caragana arborescens ‘Pendula’ .  This really upset me.  Turns out that the 3 feet of snow that was piled around it really was frozen to the weeping branches of the shrub and when we had the big thaw a couple weeks ago, it pulled the branches down and split them all away from the graft.  Yes, it’s a bad location for a grafted weeper, like this one, but it was truly the conversation piece of my front garden.  One of our friends knows he has found our house when he sees that shrub!  So, I made the decision that instead of trying to save it, I’d just take it out, since it inhabits such a prominent spot.  And I’m glad I did.  When I cut off the branches to remove the shrub, I found that a lot of the innards were already rotting.  not a good sign for the future.  So, it was a good decision to remove the shrub.
Planting a hanging basket at Pahl'sA couple weeks ago, even before it got warm, we went as a family to Pahl’s Market.  Each spring, they host “Moss Basket Days” where you can plant your own custom moss hanging basket.  The plants are super tiny when planted.  Pahl’s then grows it for you in their greenhouse and you pick it up  on Mother’s Day weekend in May.  This is our second year doing the project and Mia really enjoys it.  She loves to dig in the dirt and really did a good job planting the flowers.  This year, I went on ProvenWinners.com website to look up recipes for beautiful baskets and am happy with the purple, fuchsia and yellow combination I chose.  I can’t wait to see how it turns out in May!

A couple of things that are still on my spring to-do list.

  • Replace the Pea Shrub up front as part of a larger plan that I will do at the….
  • Gerten’s Garden Design Workshop… Fabulous Fronts.  I’ve wanted to have a planting plan done by Gerten’s for a long time as the design done for my neighbor isgreat.  The control freak in me was afraid to let go of control of that process, so the workshop should be a great  way for me to utilize their designers without giving up control.
  • Remove and possibly re-locate a couple of lilacs that aren’t getting enough sun.  They’re in my hosta garden and they haven’t bloomed in 2 years.  So, I’m either going to relocate them to my sun garden, or allow them to go live in someone else’s yard.
  • Plant 1-3 trees in the far back corner of  the sun garden.  These won’t cast much shade on the garden, since they’ll be at the north end of my lot.  They’d really be more to screen out the neighbors.

    or just this branch?

    Remove this tree?

  • Trim or remove a problem tree.  It’s a Box Elder and it had a big branch fall from it within a few weeks of us moving in in 2006.  The remaining limb is at a bad angle and has a terribly ugly scar from the fallen branch.  And it’s not the only ugly spot.  There are at least 2 others.  And it is a box elder, so it’s short lived and it attracts the nasty box elder bugs.  It’s a matter of time before we’ll have to be completely removed.  So, why the debate?  It’s not completely our tree.  It’s on the property line.  Ideally, I’d love it if the rear neighbors would share in the cost of the removal of the entire tree.  One of the cons of removing the tree is that it screens a lot of the view of our rear neighbors.  This may not be as much an issue as I think as it looks like a maple that’s in front of the box elder may offer similar screening.  See pics to the right.
  • Mulch.  I thought that after I got my beds in, I might be able to get away with only mulching every other year, but so far, that hasn’t been the case.  Maybe this year I’ll be able to get away with “fluffing”?
  • New Garden

    NEW GARDEN!  Last fall, I started a new garden.  Grass was killed with RoundUp and I edged the garden.  It should be all ready for planting since after the grass was dead, I shredded (more like pulverized) all the autumn leaves from the lawn and dumped them onto the bed.  Of course, once pulverized, it only gave me about an inch or so of organic matter, but that’s certainly better than nothing and definitely better than sending them to the lawn waste!  I’m guessing the garden is about 200 square feet and is closer to the house  than any other part of my hosta garden.  This garden also gets a lot of mid-day sun.  I’m guessing I’ll move some of the hostas from the NICU into this garden, if they’ve grown enough, but a majority of what I want to plant here will come from the American Hosta Society national convention being held here in the twin cities in June.

  • Have Hedlund Irrigation come out and add a couple heads to our sprinkler system.  After trying to water the garden with hoses and drip irrigation last year and losing both to the dang tree rats (squirrels), I’m going to give in and add those 2 heads.
  • Pressure Wash the 2 patios, plus the deck and re-stain the deck

So spring has sprung and so have I!  Hopefully, next week the weather will be nice.  I normal do daycare for a 1 year old, but she’s on spring break next week with her mommy (a teacher).  Perhaps Mia and I can spend lots of time outdoors next week!

Posted March 21, 2010 by koskashostas in Lawn

2006 and 2007 … when it all started   2 comments

Hi again!  If this is your first visit to my blog, I’m still telling the story of how it all began.  This is the 2nd post on that topic, so you may want to scroll down and read the first one, just to get up to speed!

Again, in 2006, we moved in in May.  I was pregnant.  Mia was born in July.  I had a c-section and was nursing.  NO WAY was I gardening.  I can only remember thinking how much I hated that patio in the middle of the yard and the two gardens flanking it.  I knew THOSE HAD TO GO!   If for little other reason than they visually divided the backyard.   And in the front yard…. right by the front door… 2 plants I despise.  Potentilla and arborvitae.  All looking ratty.  Those had to go too!  And there was something else that had to go, but my dear husband was the instigator of THAT mess!  One Saturday in early September 2006, Dean disappeared…. and I remember it was a cool weekend, cuz when I stepped onto the deck to find him, it was chilly.  He was digging a hole in the back of the lot, where I’d planned on putting my perennial bed. And what was it for?  A FIREPIT.  We had a 2 month old BABY and he was digging a hole for her to fall into!  And for her to crack her head open… a lining of non-fire-rated concrete block leftover from the retaining walls.  We had never even remotely discussed having a firepit dug into the ground.  And I had just bought a portable fire bowl.  OH I WAS PISSED!!!!  I told him to take out the bricks and fill it back in.  He said he’d already spread out the dirt and was not going to fill it in.  I left that argument for later…

1st Stage-May 2007 the terrible gardens flanking the patio, the tree placement and the firepit.

Enter May 2007.  I remember the day vividly.  We were almost done with our basement finishing project.  Our flooring guy was over laying vinyl and waiting for the glue to set up.  We were out on the patio (no the despised one, the one adjacent to the house off the walkout basement), having a soda when I asked his opinion of the patio.  He agreed, it was a dumb choice.  THAT MOMENT, I went and got a shovel and started edging the new garden.  My intent was to move the hostas from the gardens flanking the pad to the area where grass wouldn’t grow.  It was along the left (south) side of our property line and about 5′ wide and just needed to be edged and mulched.  No biggie.  I was thinking, small garden.  Later this year or next year, I’ll expand it to the corner.  NOPE!  I started it right away!  I had only some minor help from a couple of teenagers from church who needed to earn money for the summer.  They helped clean up the area, move dirt, dig in the edging (before I found out about the kind that goes in with staples), bust sod from where it didn’t belong, lay sod in the old gardens, move bags of mulch, move retaining wall block and other odd jobs.  Actually, they did a lot of odd jobs that are better suited for a teenager’s back than mine or Dean’s!

In fact, by the time Mia’s birthday party rolled around in July, I had gone all the way to the corner and was nearly halfway across the back property line.  And I had even killed off the grass, mulched and planted some shrubs in the NW corner of the yard… the only potential I had for a sun garden.

July 2007 - Shade garden goes about ½ way across back property line

I took a couple  weeks off after that, but then picked right back up, using RoundUp to kill the grass along back property line, that would allow the two gardens to meet up.  I had been thinking that since the area where I’d just planted often flooded during spring thaw and heavy rains, I should do a dry creekbed type design that would lead to the storm drain in this back garden.  That never happened, though sometimes I wish it had!  I also extended the bed on the left side a bit too.  Before expansion, it did not encompass the 3 lilac bushes and did not meet up with the neighbors’ bed.  Afterward, the transition to the neighbors’ bed was very smooth and looks great.

Cherry Tree Removed

In June, we also removed the Cherry Tree that was in the middle of the back yard.  We wanted sod to have a chance to get well rooted by Mia’s party.  The reason the area is so big is that when I was killing the grass after removing the stump, I was using RoundUp on a windy day.  Need I say more?  The other tree in the middle of the yard that was a problem, was offered to our friends, the Schindlers, who like to cut their own tree for Christmas.  That fall, once the leaves had fallen, we removed about 5 other trees that were part of the original windbreak.  The were spindly and ugly anyway.

So, by the end of 2007, the garden extended all the way across the 100′ back property line and was 10-15′ deep.  It extended forward about 40-50′ forward on the left side (south) and about 10-15′ forward on the right (north).  It basically did not frame the north end of the yard at that point.

And oh, the firepit.  By September, once we’d had a couple houseguests who sided with me on the issue, AND with Mia about to start walking, Dean agreed that it was not safe.  I went and dug out the bricks and we filled it in.  I’m not against the idea of a recessed firepit, but not in that location and not with those bricks nor that design.  And he’d not done any drainage.  It would have been a nasty pond after spring thaw or a good rain!  He’d put it smack-dab in an area that floods!

Out front, very little was done.  There were 3 shrubs by the front walk that had to go.  2 yellow potentillas and a globe arborvitae.  Since we have no gutters, and these were right on the drip line, they’d never look good.  Couple that with my utter disdain for potentialla and boom.  They were OUTTA THERE!!!  The daylilies stayed put.

Posted March 21, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design, Hostas, Lawn, Other Perennials

I never thought I had anything to blog about…   Leave a comment

A year or two ago, I thought to myself, “hey, what’s the point of me blogging?  So someone else can read the ramblings that go on in my head?  What, the ones that come out of my mouth aren’t enough?” But then, recently, I was thinking, “Gardening season is starting, so I should keep some sort of log of what happens.” In the past, I have not been successful with this since the task of writing in a journal seemed too daunting.

And then, I thought about the several dozen people I know who are into gardening and like to talk about it.  So, it only seemed natural to combine my need to document the happenings of my garden with my desire to keep in touch with my gardening friends.

And so, a Blog is born… Koska’s Hostas.  No, I do not have ONLY hostas, but they FAR outweigh the number of other plants I have.  The only plant I think that would be more prolific in my garden would be blades of grass.  But then again, my goal is that my GARDEN does not have grass!

I’m striving to continue to build a lovely landscape that is about more than just plants.  This is an ongoing quest, as the previous owners have made some poor decisions in the way they “landscaped” this house.  When we moved in during the Spring of 2006, I was very pregnant with Mia.  So, absolutely nothing was done besides mowing grass and putting a few daylilies in, that were moved from our old house. In fact, I was too pregnant to dig these in myself.  Bending did not bode well on my tummy!

I WISH that I had taken a true “before” photo of our backyard.  There was probably 1/4 of it that was too shaded to grow grass.  Trees were placed in bad locations; there was a mound of builder’s sand in the middle of the yard.  And then, the thorn in my side…. the 11’x11′ patio that was about 25′ from the south property line and 50′ from the back.  It relates to nothing else in the landscape.  All I could ever say to myself was, “What were the previous owners thinking?”  Upon meeting my neighbor Kelli to the north (as opposed to Kelley to the south), I learned that the intent of this square patio was for a gazebo… I’m guessing one of those portable canvas numbers.  But it was still so illy placed.  And even worse, they’d flanked it with 2 “gardens” that were ugly and it cut off the left third of the yard.  In fact, my mother-in-law assumed that the edge of the pad was the property line since there was a tree line, the patio, the two gardens to the top and bottom of the patio and a mound of sand.   And those trees…6-7  in line with that patio… one of them was a 40′ tall Silver Maple with 9 trunks, right in front of the landing point of our deck stairs!  Clearly, it was apparent, our property was the windbreak when our lot was farmland.   And 2 more of trees, in the worst possible locations.  I could tell that the previous owners, an older couple, had tried to copy the landscaping that Kelli had done and place trees in similar locations.  But in our yard, the only thing they accomplished was breaking up the “play area” in an un-usable way.  So, seeing the mess that the Cherry tree left behind in 2006, it was the first to go in 2007.  Here’s the even worse part.  We found out that the illy placed trees were put in to help the house sell!… I guess no one took into account that a 4 bedroom, 2 Story home would likely sell to a family who would probably want room to play!

The front of the  house and foundation plantings weren’t too bad.  The previous owners, had put in a lot of modular retaining wall brick and countless tons of limestone mulch that goes all the way around the house!  It’s literally only divided by the driveway!  In some places, we’ve found it to be 8″ or more thick!  The north side of the house is rarely viewed (except by Kelli), so we’ve done nothing except trim those shrubs as necessary.  Out front, we did little, except put those daylilies in the raised bed… we did that primarily cuz there were no other available beds.  Since it was mid May when we moved in and the previous owners kept annuals in the bed, it was yet unplanted for the year.  So, in the daylilies salvaged from our old house went!  No real order to them.  They ended up staying in this spot for over 2 years, since there was no sunny spot available for them, until 2008.  The south side of our house has a step-stone walkway on a slope.  The stones were also sloped and always felt dangerous.  At least 3 adults have fallen on these stones or the 4 very steep concrete block steps the stones lead to.

So, that’s a background on how our landscape adventures began.    The next post will be how the actual work began!

Posted March 18, 2010 by koskashostas in Garden Design