harvesting hydrangeas.

Good morning, and welcome back to Sunday mornings in the garden!

Last winter I didn’t quite get to filling my window boxes for winter until mid-December.  I’d left all of my hydrangeas on the bushes up to that point.

Don’t get me wrong, I always leave lots of hydrangea blooms in place for winter interest and I don’t prune them off until early spring.

But I usually get some cut off the bush by early October for my winter window boxes.  I’m cutting myself a bunch of slack on that one for last year though.  If you’ll remember, I was in the midst of trying to deal with an increasingly unpleasant work environment and ultimately making the decision to retire early on November 30.  So last fall doesn’t count.

I did find that the hydrangeas had really lost all of their color by the time I got around to gathering them for my window boxes though, especially the Annabelles.  So this year I’m going to be more intentional about drying them for use later in winter arrangements.

I did a bit of online research and learned that the best time to harvest hydrangeas for drying is when the blooms are past their prime and starting to dry and/or change color on the bush.

That timing is going to be different for different varieties of hydrangeas because of their bloom times.  My Annabelle hydrangeas started blooming back at the end of June.  Their flowers went from white, to green and are beginning to show a bit of brown here and there.

That, combined with the fact that we’ll have roofers here in the coming weeks doing who knows how much damage to plants, made me decide to go ahead and harvest them a week or so ago.  Especially the ones in the cutting garden.

For those of you who may not already know, my cutting garden is out behind the carriage house.  You can’t see it from the rest of our yard.  Everything I grow there is meant to become a cut flower and it doesn’t matter how the garden itself looks.

You can see where the roofline of the lean-to is in the above photo, very close to that hydrangea.  It’s unlikely it will survive the new roof unscathed.

So, while I probably could have waited a couple more weeks to do this, there’s no time like the present … at least for the Annabelle’s.  I’ll continue to let the paniculatas color up a bit more before I cut any of them to dry.

There are probably tons of different methods for drying flowers, but let’s talk about the 4 most common ones.

First, you can hang them upside down in little bundles.  This works great with flowers like roses where the blooms will droop if you dry them upright.  For the most part, you don’t really need to worry about that with hydrangeas.

Second, you can use silica gel or powder.  That’s not really practical with hydrangeas since you have to completely surround the bloom with the silica, can you imagine how much silica I would need to dry all of these?

That leaves the two most popular ways to dry hydrangeas, with water and without water.

Basically the only difference between the two is whether or not you put a little water in the vessel you are drying them in.  Otherwise the technique is the same.  Cut your hydrangeas with a longish stem.  You can always shorten it later when you arrange the flowers, but you can’t add any stem back on.  Remove all of the leaves, and then place the stems upright in a container of some kind.  If you’re using water, only put a couple of inches of water in your container.  Next, place the container in a cool, dry location away from sunlight.  Once the water is gone, your hydrangeas should be dry.

I did a little experiment to see if there was a noticeable difference between the hydrangeas dried with water, and those without.  From what I’ve read, the water option allows the hydrangeas to dry out more gradually thus providing a better result.  So here we are a little over one week later.  The water is mostly gone from the jar with water, and here is a comparison of the dried blooms.

The difference is very subtle.  However, I was surprised to find that the hydrangeas dried without water kept just a little bit more of their green color.  But honestly, I don’t think it’s enough of a difference to matter.

In addition to the hydrangeas in the jars, I also tucked that entire basket full of cut hydrangeas into a dark corner of the carriage house to see what would happen with them.

And they look pretty darn good too.

Obviously this little experiment could be a one off.  Or maybe it’s just Annabelle hydrangeas that dry just as well without water as with water.  I think I’ll do a similar test with my Limelights after they develop some of their fall color and see how those turn out.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that one.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to having tons of beautiful dried hydrangeas to use in my winter window boxes.  How about you?  Do you dry any flowers from your garden?  Leave a comment and let us know.

perennials that bloom all summer.

Good morning gardeners!  Today’s ‘Sunday mornings in the garden’ post is going to be a short one because I’m sharing a rather short list of plants today; perennials with long bloom times.

While the upside to perennials is that they come back year after year (so you only have to buy them once to enjoy them for years), the downside is that most of them have a rather short bloom period.

As you know, my absolute favorite perennial flower in the garden is the peony.

And the bloom time for peonies is notoriously short, and made even shorter when we inevitably suffer a spell of hot, humid weather as soon as they open.

As you may remember, last year, in an attempt to extend peony season, I experimented with saving peony buds in the fridge and I had good success with that.  So much so that I did it again this year with even more peony buds.  And … um … well …

I didn’t follow my own instructions!  I wrapped these in a damp paper towel, and then put them in the Ziploc bag.  As you can see, they got moldy.  Last year I just put them directly in the Ziploc, no damp paper towel.  I’ll have to try again next year, with no damp towel!

Another of my favorites, lilacs, also have a pretty short bloom period.

And unfortunately, I don’t know any tricks for saving them for later.  In fact, I haven’t even found any tricks that work for making them last more than 1 or 2 days as cut flowers.  If you know of anything that works, leave a comment and let us know.

Roses are another of my favorites with a short bloom time.

However, I grow very few due to Japanese beetles. Those beetles just love roses!  I never had time for fussing with insect control in the past, so I took a few things out of my garden that the beetles loved including roses, a grape vine and some Virginia creeper.  I do have this one last pink shrub rose that was given to me at least 20 years ago or more.

But wait!  I went off on a tangent, this post is supposed to be about perennials with a long bloom time, not without one.

I’m tempted to start the list with panicle hydrangeas.

They definitely have a longer bloom time than peonies, lilacs and roses.  However, they only just started blooming in mid-August, so while they will continue to look amazing for the rest of the season, they missed most of the summer.

I do have a handful of perennials in my garden that bloom for a good portion of the growing season though, starting as early as May and continuing through the first frost.

Corydalis lutea is one of them.

This is a plant that I purchased at a garage sale not really knowing what it was.  Frankly, I don’t love yellow flowers.  But I let this one do its thing because it’s such a constant bloomer.  Mine starts blooming in late spring and it’s still blooming now.

You do have to be slightly cautious with this one as it self-seeds quite easily and will take over if you let it.  I pull out good sized chunks of it every year, and it is very easy to control that way.  It’s a great companion plant for hostas, and I have it growing in dappled sunlight.

Lamium Aureum is another perennial that blooms from May through frost.

I’ve even seen this one pop up through the snow with some flowers on it!

But I have to admit, I grow this ground cover for its foliage not for its flowers.  I don’t actually like the flowers, but I love the bright lime green leaves.

It’s another great companion for hostas as it will grow in full shade to part sun.

Another long blooming perennial that I purchased at a garage sale is Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’, sometimes called fern-leaf or fringed bleeding heart.

Unlike the more common varieties of bleeding heart that bloom in the spring and have pretty much died back to the ground by now, this variety blooms all summer.  As you can see, the flowers look slightly different (and aren’t as pretty, in my opinion) and so does the foliage.  The foliage is rather fern-like, hence the name.

The plant is much more compact that your typical bleeding heart, and it doesn’t get straggly and unkempt looking in late summer like the others.

This plant will also self-seed, although not quite as readily as the Corydalis, at least not in my garden.  I do have one volunteer plant that popped up in a spot where it doesn’t belong and I haven’t had the heart (pardon the pun) to pull it out yet.

Last on my long-blooming perennial list is Myosotis sylvatica, or Forget-me-not.

This is another ground cover that can lean towards invasive.  However, I have mine interplanted with a number of other ground covers, the Lamium, a varigated vinca vine and a very small sedum.  All of them tend to battle for dominance and so far no single plant has won out.

I do love those pretty little blue flowers.  But ‘little’ is the key word here.

An honorable mention goes to my new Roguchi clematis.

I just planted it back in May of this year, but it hasn’t quit flowering all summer and is still going strong.  I just have this one growing season to go by, but so far it seems to be a winner.  Once again, it’s not the most flamboyant of the clematis varieties, but I love that it has bloomed all summer.  I think the little purple and white bell shaped flowers are super sweet too.

One thing to note about the Roguchi is that it’s a non-vining clematis.  It won’t climb its way up a trellis on its own, but you can train it (which is what I have done).  Or you can let it spill over the sides of a retaining wall, or scramble through your perennial beds.

One thing all four of these plants have in common is that they aren’t terribly showy.  Perhaps that’s the trade off here, more subdued flowers in exchange for a much longer bloom time.

How about you?  Do you have any recommendations for perennials that will bloom all summer?  If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know.

show stopping hydrangeas.

Good morning from the garden!  Today I’m going to share my favorite flowering shrub, hydrangeas.

There are five main types of hydrangeas, so let me first mention the two that I don’t grow.

First up is hydrangea quercifolia or oakleaf hydrangeas.  Although some gardeners do attempt to grow this one in our zone 4b, it’s a tricky one.  They require hot, sunny summers in order to produce blooms and Minnesota doesn’t always provide that.  They also bloom on old wood, so getting them to bloom in our climate is challenging.  I’m not into tricky gardening, I prefer to grow plants that aren’t so finicky.

Next up is hydrangea petiolaris or climbing hydrangeas.  These will grow in zones 4 to 8, but also bloom on old wood.  I don’t really have a good spot for a climbing hydrangea, so I’ve never even attempted one.

Next up is a variety that I do actually grow, but not successfully.  Hydrangea macrophylla or mophead hydrangeas are absolutely gorgeous … when grown in the right climate.  These are those beautiful hydrangeas whose bloom color changes depending on the pH of the soil they are grown in.  When I visited the Jersey shore a few years back I saw lots of these and they were stunning.  Every bush was absolutely loaded with blooms.

Typically these hydrangeas do well in zones 6 – 9.  They bloom on old wood, so in other words if they die back to the ground every winter you’ll never get any flowers.  Ventnor City, New Jersey, where I took that photo, is a zone 7b.

So imagine my excitement when Minnesota’s Bailey Nurseries developed a macrophylla that bloomed on both old and new wood, the Endless Summer hydrangea.  Gardeners all across the north rushed out to buy these hydrangeas, including me and pretty much all of my gardening friends.  I initially planted two of them.  But their performance for me has been pretty sad.  I think 2016 was the best year for them and I got six or seven flowers that year.

And as you can see, the colors on my Endless Summer flowers weren’t nearly as spectacular as those Jersey hydrangeas.

  I pulled one of my Endless Summer plants out a couple of years ago, but I still have one in my back garden.  Last year I didn’t get any blooms at all on it, and so far I don’t see any this year either.  But hope springs eternal and I haven’t dug up that last one quite yet.  I have read that you can grow these in containers, bringing it into a sheltered area for the winter to prevent it from dying down to the ground.  Maybe I’ll dig mine up and try that.

Do any of you grow a macrophylla in zones 4 or 5?  And if so, have you had luck getting it to flower.  Leave a comment and let us know.

Next we have hydrangea aborescens or smooth (or wild) hydrangeas.  The most common, and more old fashioned, of these is the Annabelle hydrangea and I have two of them.  Mine started blooming back in early July (or maybe it was late June).  Here is one of them behind the fresh flowers cart …

The flowers on the aborescens are more rounded in shape than the paniculata (which we’ll talk about next), and they start off white and by this time (mid-August) they have aged to a green color.

They produce tons of flowers each year (they bloom on new wood), and they make great cut flowers.

However, they are less than ideal in the garden.  The stems tend to be weak and thus they flop when loaded down with big blooms.  I have an old brass bed frame supporting the Annabelle by our deck …

but I just allow the ones out back in the cut flower garden to flop away.  They can look quite bedraggled after a rain.

There is a new and improved version of the Annabelle called Incrediball that supposedly has stronger stems.  I have not grown that variety myself, but in a recent video Laura from Garden Answer mentioned that although the Incrediball is an improvement over the Annabelle, it still tends to flop a little.

In my opinion, why bother with that when you can grow my favorite variety, hydrangea paniculata or panicle hydrangeas?

Paniculatas are the most cold hardy of the hydrangeas and can be grown as far north as a zone 3.  They have more of a cone shaped flower (compared to the more rounded flowers of the Annabelle), and they bloom on new wood.  That means that in my zone 4b garden they are absolutely loaded with flowers every year no matter how harsh the winter may have been.

I grow four different varieties of paniculatas; the Limelight, the Little Lime, the Vanilla Strawberry and the Little Quick Fire.

As the names imply, the Little Lime and the Little Quick Fire are dwarf versions of Limelight and Quick Fire.  I put in one Little Quick Fire last summer, and another one this year, and so far, obviously, they are still pretty small at around 2′ tall.

The Little Quick Fire starts blooming a few weeks earlier than the Limelights, which may be a selling point for those who don’t want to wait until mid-August for some flowers.  But I have to admit that so far I’m not super impressed with this one.  The flowers on mine are rather small and dull compared to the Little Lime.  But maybe I just need to give them some time.  They also are mostly white so far with just a little tinge of pink.  I’m guessing that they don’t turn that ‘fire’ color until fall.

My Little Lime is at least 10 years old (or more) and although they are only supposed to get 4′ tall and wide, mine is easily as tall as I am (that’s 5’10”).

If you love the look of a Limelight, but don’t have space for a shrub that can get to be 8′ tall or more (my Limelights are about 9.5′ tall), a Little Lime is a great option.

We have a Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea out back next to the carriage house.  The flowers on this one start out white, and gradually turn pink.

I do like this one, and it is just as prolific a bloomer as the Limelight, but I haven’t kept up with the pruning and it’s looking a bit leggy.

Just a quick note on that, you should prune your paniculatas in late winter/early spring (it tends to be the very first garden task I tackle each year) by about 1/3 to promote strong new growth and larger flowers.  This is basically the only maintenance required for these plants.

But back to the Vanilla Strawberry, I was hoping for a gorgeous show of pink color on this hydrangea but it doesn’t start out with a bang, but rather slowly turn pink.  There is a new variety out this year called Berry White that I want to get my hands on.  It supposedly has stronger stems and deeper, richer color.

That being said, by early October the Vanilla Strawberry does look pretty spectacular …

I may have to do another Sunday morning post about how the colors of the paniculatas change into fall.  Because truly, if you think they look good now, just wait until October!

Finally we get to the star of the show, and my personal favorite, the Limelight.

There is definitely a reason this plant has become so popular.  It’s easy to grow, requires very little maintenance, is covered with blooms (if you’re giving it enough sun), and is basically a show-stopper.

We planted a pair of them in this spot next to our deck to provide additional privacy around our outdoor dining space and they’ve worked perfectly for that.

I love being able to enjoy my morning coffee with a backdrop of gorgeous flowers this time of year.

Another thing that I love about growing hydrangeas is that I can dry them for use in my winter window boxes.  I’m doing a little experimenting this year to figure out the best way to dry them and I’ll be sharing that soon so be sure to stay tuned!

I went to a garden party.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being invited to a really lovely garden party along with the other vendors at Reclaiming Beautiful, the shop where I sell on consignment in Stillwater, MN.

Everything was just so beautiful that I had to snap a few photos to share with you guys!

The party was held at David and Nancy’s house, and some of you may remember when I shared a tour of their home back in June 2020.  Back then, their gardens looked like this …

And now, a mere two years later, that area looks like this.

They’ve added a gravel patio and a lovely little cottage to that space.

Let’s start with the patio which you enter through this fabulous arch created from old doors.

It’s a really nice sized patio, and much of it is sheltered by a gorgeous tree.

And while some of the furnishings are more traditional patio pieces, like this seating area …

What really makes the space magical is the use of indoor furniture in an outdoor setting.

The frames hanging from the tree are such a whimsical touch.

And how about that organ?

Don’t you just love that?!

You may be wondering how these pieces hold up outside, and so was I.  Nancy said she painted them with outdoor paint, and they get a fair amount of protection from that tree.  However, they do cover them if it’s going to really rain hard.  I didn’t ask, but I’m also guessing they will store them for the winter.  Although maybe not.  As Nancy explained, she paid very little for each piece so if something gets ruined, oh well.  I can just picture that organ draped with evergreen garland and lights sitting in a snowbank, can’t you?

The fact that all of this is in such an idyllic setting surrounded by fields of wildflowers is part of what makes it so magical as well.

When I first arrived there was even a doe and her fawn grazing nearby in a most picturesque fashion, although I imagine those deer are precisely why Nancy’s zinnia garden is completely enclosed in fencing.

OK, you’re all probably dying to get inside that little cottage, I know I was.

I’m afraid I was too busy snapping photos to get all of the details on how this little building came about, so I’m sorry about that.  But isn’t it gorgeous?

The details of the cupola and those star shaped vents are fantastic.  I love that it opens all the way up on one side.

Naturally Nancy has gone all out decorating the inside.

Here’s fellow vendor Amy testing out the furniture.

Looks comfy!

We did get a tour inside the house as well, but the light was going at that point and I only had my phone for photos rather than my camera, so I didn’t take any.  But I can refer you back to my original tour of Nancy’s home if you want to see that.

No garden party is complete without party favors!

Nancy sent each of us home with some of those pretty zinnias from her garden.

Isn’t her little card just so sweet?

That is a drawing of her house, and this is the card for her business, The Festooned Farmhouse.  She offers home and/or event styling.  You can also find Nancy on Instagram.  Be sure to check her out!

planter successes, and failures.

Good morning from the garden!

This morning I thought I would share my successes, and my failures, in this year’s planters.

In my garden I pretty much plant annuals in pots, and perennials in the ground.  There are a few exceptions to this rule here and there, but for the most part this is how I roll.  I’m working on changing that up a bit and maybe I’ll do more of that in the future, we’ll see.  But really, here in my zone 4b garden, asking perennials to survive the winter in a pot can be dicey.  The rule of thumb is that a plant must be hardy to 2 zones lower than your actual zone to survive the winter in a pot.  So as much as I loved all of those window boxes in Charleston with heuchera growing in them …

as a zone 4 – 9 plant, heuchera won’t survive the winter in a planter here.

And for those of you non-gardeners out there, I don’t mean that zone 2 plants will stay green and growing in a pot throughout the winter here.  They will still die back to the ‘ground’, but they have a better chance of coming back in the spring.

As for annuals in the ground, of course they will grow just as well in the ground here as in a pot.  Annuals only live for one growing season either way.  I just don’t have a lot of space in my garden beds to add in annuals, although this year I did make a couple of exceptions.

But back to the planters, let’s start out with the failures beginning with the planters on either side of the steps to our deck with the Eugenia topiary balls in the center.

It’s time for me to wake up and smell the coffee on this one.  We just don’t have enough sun in this spot for full sun annuals.  I had decided to give them one more try, this time making sure to feed them with a bloom boosting water soluble fertilizer (I used Miracle Grow Bloom Booster) on a regular basis.  However, I still got very few blooms on both the Snowstorm Giant Snowflake bacopa and the Superbena Violet Ice (both from Proven Winners).  They were lush and green and grew like weeds, but got very few flowers.  I did shear them both back a couple of weeks ago, but they still haven’t flushed back with flowers.

The Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo on the other hand gave me lots of blooms in these pots, but didn’t actually fill in at all.  I wasn’t expecting that.  Now granted, this petunia is meant to stay on the smaller side (hence the ‘mini’ part of its name).

I also planted the Mini Vista Indigo in my chicken feeder planter (on left in photo below), and it was the perfect plant for that planter because of its compact size.

There is only room for about 3″ of soil in that thing, so it’s impressive that these did as well as they did.

Now that I understand how the Mini Vista grows, I will plant it more strategically next year in spots where it won’t get crowded out by more vigorous growers.

Another failure for me this year was the lobelia that I planted at the end of May.  I purchased four of the Laguna Sky Blue lobelia (also Proven Winners) because it’s just so pretty.  I had given up on planting lobelia in the past because it has always died on me around mid-summer.  But theoretically this newer variety of lobelia is supposed to be “much more heat tolerant than past plants” (taken straight from the Proven Winners website).  But mine was all dead or nearly dead by the end of June.  Definitely no more lobelia for me.

As it died off I replaced it with other things, one of which I ended up really loving, and that was the gomphrena (the bright pink balls).

I’ve never grown this one before because I always thought it was kind of small and boring.  But now I’m realizing that it looks great mixed with other things.

I also think it could look kind of fab mixed in a garden bed around perennials to provide summer long color.

Another plant that replaced some of the lobelia was the Supertunia Vista Jazzberry.

It’s a gorgeous, bright, cool pink.  You’ll notice that it doesn’t have the name ‘mini’ in it, this plant grew much faster and larger than the mini vista.

I also used the Jazzberry to replace some failures in our mailbox planter.  We share a mailbox post with our neighbor, nnK, and she added planters to either side of the mailboxes a while back.  I replaced the one on my side with … what else? … a rusty old toolbox, although you can barely see it right now.

We started out the season with the lemon coral sedum (left), a bright pink new guinea impatien, a small dahlia, and the purple scaevola on the end.  As you can see, the impatien and the dahlia didn’t make it.  Well, actually, I pulled out the dahlia to put in the Jazzberry.  The impatien is still in there but it has been totally overtaken by the Jazzberry.

Aside from the mailbox, in general all of my pots with flowering annuals in them look kind of scraggly at this point.  I probably should have been shearing them all back on a more regular basis.

I’m not going to feel at all bad about pulling all of these out and replacing them with some fall flowers in September.

But this brings me to the real successes of 2022, the non-flowering annuals that I grow for their colorful foliage like coleus, caladium, oxalis, and sweet potato vine.

I shared my guest bed planter with you guys recently, and that was only planted up back at the end of July so maybe it’s not a great example of how these plants look great all season.

And in fact, I did have a bit of a fail with the caladium at first.  It doesn’t like the cold, and we had some cold nights in late spring.  They weren’t below freezing, but they were in the 40’s and the caladium I had already put out in pots died back to the ground.  It came back eventually, but it took a 4 to 6 weeks before it looked good.

But it looks fantastic now …

That’s one of my favorite combinations; it’s Molten Lava oxalis with a red caladium (sorry, didn’t retain a name on that one).

I also had planted this pretty pink and white caladium surrounded by pale pink impatiens.

Although that caladium initially died back, it came back strong and now this is one of my favorite combos.

I have one more caladium planter that I planted later in the season after the pansies that were in this urn started looking really pathetic.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson about waiting until warmer weather to plant caladium.  By the way, for those of you who suffer from deer problems, caladium is deer resistant.

Coleus can also be susceptible to cold weather, but not quite as bad as the caladium, and it’s also deer resistant.  I filled my front window box with several varieties of coleus this year including Colorblaze Velveteen, Colorblaze Strawberry Drop and Wasabi.

The Wasabi totally tried to take over.  I’ve pinched it back hard several times this summer.

I’ve combined the coleus with some black sweet potato vine, some more of that lemon coral sedum, some Shadow Dancers ‘Marcia’ fuchsia, and some Charmed Wine oxalis.

That oxalis is really fighting for some space (the dark one on the right end).

You know, when you can get constant, consistent color like this out of a plant that requires almost no work (except for pinching it back a few times), it’s hard to argue with it.

I also had superb results with sweet potato vines this year.

When the Japanese beetles became abundant in our area about a decade ago, they were devouring these.  I had quit planting them for a few years.  But I’ve gradually added them back and now the beetles seem to leave them alone.  I’m not sure if that’s the result of improvements made in the plant varieties, or because I seem to have fewer of the beetles lately (although they did a number on my ferns again this year).

One other planter success worth mentioning is my herb garden.

It was definitely as success as far as growing the herbs, but a little bit of a fail in that I rarely remember to actually cook with them!

I’m planning to take a stab at attempting to save some of my annuals over the winter this year including the caladium, the oxalis and the Eugenia topiary balls … and maybe even some of those herb plants.  Now that I’m retired, I should be able to find the time to care for them.  I’ll try to remember to share some ‘Sunday mornings in the garden’ posts about that process.

So, how about you?  Did you have any failures or success stories from your planters this year?  Or do you have any tips on overwintering some of these annuals?  If so, be sure to share them in a comment!

so. many. hostas.

Welcome back to Sunday morning in the garden, grab some coffee and let’s talk about hostas.

I know some gardeners turn their noses up at hostas because they are just too easy.  And while I agree that just planting a row of them spaced 5′ apart in a foundation garden with rocks around them can be pretty unimaginative, there are also plenty of amazing ways to use them in a garden.

Not only that, but there are also countless varieties to choose from.  There are very small hostas … like the baby blue eyes that I just purchased for my fairy garden …

and very big hostas, like Sum & Substance or Empress Wu which can grow 4′ tall and 6′ wide.

There are also lots of different leaf textures.  Shiny, matte, puckered, smooth, or curly like this Stiletto.

I love the ones with really puckered leaves, they remind me of the seersucker fabric that my mom used to make summer clothes for me.

The shape of hosta leaves can be more rounded, like the one above, or more pointy like the leaves on this Lakeside Dragonfly

Some hostas may have an upright growth habit with more vertical stems …

while others grow in a lower mound with their stems more horizontal to the ground.

Let’s talk about color for a minute too.  My sister always corrects me when I call a hosta ‘blue’ by telling me they are green.  Sure, all hostas are technically green but in the gardening world some shades of green have more blue in them …

and some have more yellow like this Sun Power hosta.

and some have what is considered ‘white’ in them also.

The colors of some varieties of hosta can vary depending on how much sunlight they get.  I find that this May hosta is much more yellow if it gets more sunshine (and isn’t it gorgeous next to the dark purple of that Purple Palace Heuchera?).

However, in a full shade situation the color is much more subtle.

If you’re planning to plant a vibrant, bright yellow hosta, make sure it gets a little morning sunshine to bring out that bright color.  I just planted three of these Sunset Grooves hostas and I hope they get enough sun where I put them to maintain this gorgeous color.

And on the other hand, if you plant a beautiful blue hosta make sure it is mostly in shade to avoid scorching the leaves.

There’s nothing more disappointing than buying a gorgeously colored hosta from the nursery, and then planting it in your garden only to find that the color has totally faded.  So pay attention to the light requirements when deciding what hosta is right for you.

Hostas can have solid colored leaves or beautifully variegated leaves like those on this variety called June.

That’s one of my all time favorites, FYI.

Here in my shady, zone 4b garden I find hostas are exceptionally easy to grow.  They don’t require much maintenance during the growing season other than cutting off the flower stalks.  I cut off the spindly, less attractive flowers right away, but I leave the bigger, prettier flowers until they are spent.  I have noticed that the bees really love the hosta flowers, so if you like to attract pollinators hostas are a good choice for the shade.

As I was reminded this spring, one downside to hostas is that they can be very susceptible to hail damage.


Coincidentally, two of my favorite garden vloggers, Garden Answer and Linda Vater both recently mentioned that they struggle to grow hostas.  Both live in hot, dry climates and find that their hostas burn out in the heat.  Garden Answer is planning to replace hostas with plants more suitable to her climate, like Brunnera.  Linda Vater mentioned that she’ll only grow hostas in containers now.

All I can say is, finally, something I can grow in zone 4b that gardeners in warmer climates find difficult!  I must say that usually it is the other way around.  There are all kinds of plants that simply won’t survive our harsh winters.

How about you?  Can you grow hostas successfully in your garden?  Leave a comment and let me know.

the potting bench.

First, an update on Wednesday’s post about the green table.  Shortly after publishing that post I realized that I didn’t want to part with the table.  If I could solve its weight problem, and put some casters on it to make it more mobile, it really would provide the perfect neutral surface for staging photos of small items outdoors.

After flipping the table over, I realized that a lot of the weight was coming from some heavy wood pieces that were attached underneath to allow you to slide the table apart and add a leaf in the middle.  Since I no longer even have the leaf, I could just remove those.  I also realized that the table had once had casters and thus already had the sockets in place to hold them.  I found 4 matching casters in my stash and just had to add them.

And just like that, my problems with the table were solved and now I’ll be hanging onto it.

Do you guys remember back in May 2021 when I contemplated putting a primitive sort of cupboard in front of the carriage house?

At the time I thought it would be a convenient spot for a potting bench, but those who commented on that post almost universally voted against it.

And P.S., after taking that photo above I realized I had the cupboard upside down.  Ooops.

Anyway, I didn’t put the cupboard in that spot, obviously, since I now have my fabulous repurposed guest bed planter there.

And FYI, the Fresh Flower Market sign that was there has moved up to the deck.

But I tucked that cupboard away for a rainy day, and although we haven’t had very many rainy days this summer, I’ve now given it a whole new look so that it can serve as the potting bench inside the potting shed.

Let’s start at the beginning.  First up I had Ken add those large casters to the bottom.  It makes it easier to move it around when necessary, plus I felt like the piece needed to be elevated somehow.  Casters worked perfectly for that.

Next up, after my usual prep of cleaning and scuff sanding, I painted the outside in a mix of 3 different shades of white milk paint.  I was trying to use up colors that I already had on hand.  I had Homestead House Sturbridge White (which was too stark white), Fusion’s London Fog (which was too creamy), and Homestead House Stone Fence (which would have been perfect on its own, but I didn’t have enough of it).  Between the three of them, I came up with a shade of white that was just right.

I got quite a bit of chipping with the milk paint on the top of the cabinet.

But none on the front.  Mostly likely something was spilled on the top in its former life, and that substance resisted the paint.  But I’m OK with that.  I like chippy paint.  After sanding well and vacuuming away any loose paint, I sealed the milk paint with two coats of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat.  That will help seal any chipping paint, and I can easily wipe the top down when it gets dirty.

Today’s q tip:  Always seal chippy milk paint with a clear coat before trying to add transfers over it.  Otherwise the transfer will pull off your paint, rather than the transfer sticking to your surface.

Next up I added some I.O.D. transfers to the front doors.

I used all of their Botanist’s Journal transfer (a section on either end) and then filled in the middle with some of their Ladies in Waiting transfer.

  I felt like these graphics were perfect for a potting bench!

I have to mention here that once again I ordered the I.O.D. transfers from The Painted Heirloom.  I ordered them on Saturday, and received them on Monday!  I was super impressed by the speedy turn around.  I’ve ordered from Vonda a few times and have always had great results.

Once the transfers were applied, I sanded lightly over them with 220 grit paper to distress them and give them a more faded appearance.  Then I sealed them with another coat of flat clear coat.

You may also have noticed by now that I removed the original round wooden door closure thingie from the cabinet.  I didn’t like the look of it.  Instead I added magnetic closures to each door to keep them shut, and I put some knobs in holes that were already there.

These knobs came from Hobby Lobby, but I purchased them a long time ago so I’m not sure if they still have them.

I debated whether or not to paint the inside of the cupboard.  Since I was keeping it for myself, I considered taking the easy way out and leaving it alone.  But I knew it would look great painted in Dixie Belle’s Gravel Road.  I love using this warm, dark grey inside cupboards.

There’s lots of space inside this cupboard for storing extra clay pots and other gardening supplies.

To be honest, it’s not likely that I’ll do much actual potting in the shed.  It will really be utilized more for storage of gardening supplies and possibly the occasional flower arranging.

I tend to plant up most of my larger pots where they sit.  Most of them get rather heavy once they are full of dirt and plants.

With the completion of the potting bench, I pretty much have all of the pieces completed for my potting shed makeover.

But now I’m stuck.  I really should re-paint the interior of the shed, but … well … I’m not looking forward to that task.  I’m struggling with lack of motivation to get that done.  We’ll see if I get to it before the end of summer.

In the meantime, I’m cutting myself some slack (the benefit of being your own boss) and working on a few toolboxes (such as the one I shared at the beginning of this post) instead.  So stay tuned for that.

So tell me, which version do you prefer?  ‘Before’ (and upside down) or ‘after’?

a homeless table.

I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but gosh, time flies doesn’t it?  I could have sworn that I restyled the photo cottage last summer, but turns out it was actually back in 2020.

At that time I was going back to making the shed into a ‘summer house’ and I didn’t want to actually spend any money on it, so I used things I had on hand including an old farmhouse table.

This is an old, super heavy table that I’ve had for quite a few years.  I used to use it for display at my carriage house occasional sales.

Before placing it in the ‘summer house’, I repainted the table base in Dixie Belle’s Kudzu 

and gave the top a fresh coat of Fusion’s Liming Wax.

  Even after two years in the shed it still looks great.

But now that I want to turn the space back into a potting shed, the table needs to make way for a potting bench.  So I pulled it out of there.

Then I had a little fun staging it in the garden as a spot for making notes in my garden journal.

I searched high and low for a garden journal that I liked earlier this summer and didn’t have any luck.  However, my sister will attest to the fact that I had some rather picky requirements for it.  It had to be spiral, it had to have lots of space for making notes, it had to have a pretty cover, etc., etc.  I dragged her to various shops where I hemmed and hawed over the possibilities.  Eventually I ended up going with a 18 month planner that I found at Barnes & Noble.

This will get me through next summer anyway.  I mainly want to keep track of what I’ve planted where, and when.

OK, so I don’t actually sit in this spot to write in my garden journal …

but maybe I should!  It seems ideal for such things.

If this table were slightly more portable, I’d keep it on hand simply as a photo prop.  It provides a nice blank surface for staging smaller pieces, like toolboxes or product photos.

(that’s a little ‘foreshadowing’ for an upcoming post)

Maybe I should look into adding casters to the table so I could more easily wheel it around.  I don’t know, even with wheels, this table is a bit heavy for me to be man-handling it around all the time.

But for now, this table is homeless.  So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to list it here on the blog for local sale and if someone snatches it up, great.  And if it doesn’t sell, well, I think I’ll continue to use it for photo shoots.

If interested in the table, be sure to check my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details.

a leafy green garden chair.

First up, I’ve drawn Deb’s name at random to win my 15 minutes of fame giveaway.  I know there are a few of you Deb’s out there, but I have been in contact with the Deb that won and she knows who she is (sorry other Deb’s!).

Continuing on with my theme of ‘projects for me’ … wait, that sounds so selfish, doesn’t it?  Me, me, me.  As a reminder, since my furniture isn’t selling so hot these days, I’m focusing my energy on finishing up items that I’ve wanted to refurbish for my own home instead of items to sell.  Some of these things have been hanging out in my carriage house for years just waiting for their moment to shine.

I finally have time to get to them!

So, one of the things I’m working on is a refresh of my photo cottage a.k.a. summer house a.k.a. potting shed.  Yep, it has been called all of those things over the years, most recently it was the photo cottage.

If you’ve been with me since way back, you’ll remember that I restyled this shed in my back yard into the ‘photo cottage’ in 2014.  My plan was to create a space where I could stage all of my furniture photos.

As it turned out, it wasn’t really suited for that.  The space wasn’t quite big enough, and at certain times of the day sunlight reflecting off the nearby red carriage house turns the lighting decidedly pink.  So a few years back I gave up on the photo cottage and lately I have been mainly using it as storage.

That led to my decision to go ahead and turn it back into a potting shed.  I’m working on a couple of pieces that will make their new home in the potting shed starting with an old wicker chair.

While considering what I wanted in the space, I knew I wanted some sort of chair in that corner shown above.  The chair in that photo has since been moved into my Q branch and is actually the chair I’m sitting in as I’m typing this.  I really like it in this space, so I needed a replacement for the potting shed.  I started surfing Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for suitable chairs and didn’t find much in my price range (super cheap) that I liked.  I did find an old, beat up wicker chair that was a possible candidate, but then I remembered!  I already had an old, beat up wicker chair upstairs in the carriage house.

Does it sometimes seem like the upstairs of my carriage house is this magical space that I can continuously pull fabulous pieces out of?  Sort of like pulling a rabbit out of a magician’s hat?

Anyway, I had this chair up there.

Way, way back I had Ken add casters to the legs on this chair and I used it as my desk chair before I gave the Q Branch a makeover and it still looked like this …

In case you’re curious, the added casters were a bit of a disaster.  Drilling the holes in the legs required for the casters ended up compromising their integrity (never a good thing), and they didn’t hold up to a lot of rolling around.

So, I removed the casters, glued a broken leg, and then gave the chair a fresh paint job using Rustoleum spray paint in Leafy Green.

I typically use spray paint on wicker because it’s so much easier to get in all the grooves with spray.

Next I reupholstered the plywood seat by adding 4 layers of batting and some fill first, then covering that with an old scrap of vintage floral bark cloth that I had in my stash.

The scrap I had was just the right size for this seat, so it felt meant to be.  I know I’m taking a step back to my old shabby chic days with this piece, but that’s OK.  I’m putting it in my potting shed, I can choose whatever makes me happy for in there … and this does.

Now, I will admit, this chair is pretty beat up.

But I don’t care.  It just gives it more character.  It shows that this chair has lived a full life, and it’s continuing to serve a purpose even if it’s showing its age a little … sort of a metaphor for my own life.

Here’s one last photo that I’m sharing specifically for Honoré who asked to see a wider photo of the carriage house with my new guest bed sign/planter in front of it.

I’m not sure if that gives you the full effect you were looking for, but there it is.

So, the chair is done and next up I’m working on a potting bench sort of piece for the shed.  I’ve got it painted but am waiting for some transfers that I ordered to finish it off.  So stay tuned for that one!

an onion by any other name.

Since quite a few of you liked the idea of Sunday mornings in the garden, I’m going to give regular Sunday garden posts a go.  So grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk onions.  I bet you didn’t think I’d start out with onions!

True, the Allium genus includes onions, leeks, garlic and chives …

I’m sure most of you are familiar with your basic chives.  I love cutting them fresh to sprinkle on baked potatoes, and recently Mr. Q added them to an omelet he made for our dinner.  But they aren’t a particularly pretty plant, are they?

Instead, I want to share ornamental Alliums with you today, and they are a pretty plant … and more importantly a really cool flower.

I had been gardening for quite some time before I discovered ornamental Alliums.  But now that I have, I absolutely love them.

I grow two types of ornamental Alliums, those that are planted as bulbs in the fall and those that are herbaceous and have a large root ball (and you can plant them any time in the growing season).

The bulb Alliums have foliage that comes up in early spring, produces the flowers, and then dies back to the ground after flowering.  Sort of like a tulip or daffodil.  In my zone 4b garden, these Alliums bloom in late May to early June and by now there is no trace of the plant left in the garden … unless I have left the flower stalks in place to dry.

Just in case that photo is confusing to some, none of the green plants around those dried flower stalks are the Allium, those are other plants.

Once dried, which usually just takes a few weeks, I pull the Allium flowers out and store them until late fall when I use them in my winter floral arrangements (much like the Astilbe that I mentioned last week).

The bulb Alliums are fantastic for intermixing with other perennials that will bush out after the Alliums are done and fill in the space around them.  I have mine planted with peonies, hostas and iris.

I have had great success with my bulb Alliums, the only maintenance they really require is removing the foliage once it dies back which is pretty effortless.  Most of mine are planted in partial sun, which seems to be working fine, but they can handle full sun.  And actually, I have some success with the bulb form in spots under deciduous trees where they get more sun until the trees leaf out.  Mine have been multiplying over the years, but I wouldn’t consider them invasive in any way.  In addition, much like my sister, deer don’t particularly care for onions, so that’s a plus for me as well.

I didn’t keep track of what variety of Allium bulbs I planted years ago, but I suspect they are Purple Sensation, which is fairly common.

In addition to that fabulous purple, bulb Alliums can also be found in white, yellow, pink, burgundy, and blue.  They also come in a variety of heights from 8″ tall all the way up to a whopping 50″ tall, and with bloom times from late spring to early summer.

So if you plan right, you can have bulb Alliums blooming for a month or more.

You can find Allium bulbs for sale in late summer to early autumn along with the tulips and daffodils, but in my experience there isn’t a great variety to choose from at most DIY stores (like Home Depot or Menards).  There are usually a few more options at nurseries, but even they don’t seem to have a great selection.

For that reason, I went online and ordered some more unique varieties to plant this fall.  I’ll try to keep you posted on that process, whether or not I like the place I ordered from (Longfield Gardens, and FYI I borrowed that graphic above from them as well), how well they grow over the next year, etc.

That brings me to the herbaceous Alliums, and these are blooming this week in my garden.

I have three varieties of the herbaceous form.  The one above is one that I purchased at a garage sale, and therefore I have no idea what it is.  I suspect it may be Millennium.  It has a lovely pale purple flower, and a nice compact form.

I recently planted two more varieties, Windy City

and Serendipity from Proven Winners …

This type of Allium plant grows more like chives, in a clump with foliage that stays green all season.  They tend to be shorter and with much smaller flowers than the more showy bulb Alliums.  Serendipity will get 15 – 20″ tall, Windy City will get 15 – 17″ tall.

I just planted the Serendipity Allium this week (I found it at Home Depot), and it doesn’t look too spectacular just yet.

Eventually it should look like this …

Of course, time will tell if these two newer Alliums will do well in my garden, but I’m optimistic about them.

How about you?  Do you grow Alliums?  And if so, do you have any specific recommendations for the rest of us?  Or maybe a favorite variety?  And if you don’t grow Alliums, have I convinced you to throw a few bulbs in the ground this fall and give them a try?  Leave a comment and let us know.