Thursday, October 31, 2013

my great grandmother's day lilies

I feel like my Chattanooga readers might be getting sick of my garden posts, but gardening in Chattanooga is part of living in Chattanooga, and I hope you can learn a little bit from me about what works (and what doesn't work) this area.

The plants that have done the best in my yard are by far the day lilies.  These aren't special hybridized day lilies, they are what I would call native ditch lilies.  These are the orange day lilies that you see along the roadside in the summer.  They can survive our hot summers, our sometimes cold winters, our wet years, and our droughts.  They prefer sun, but tolerate my shady front yard.  They even multiply on their own, and fill in so you don't have to weed.  All without any extra attention from us.

 Summer 2012

No one can remember when this day lily bed was planted, but it goes back as far as my uncle can remember, so easily somewhere in the 30 to 50 year range.  If my great grandmother was anything like my grandmother, these day lilies were actually collected from the ditches near her house over time. (My grandmother did the same thing with rocks.)  After my great-grandmother died, no one touched the day lilies.  Trees grew up around them, and they just kept growing and multiplying.  They bloomed when the house was vacant, and when the first tenants began renting the house.

Summer 2012

When I moved in, two years ago, they were the plants I counted on my first summer. This year they bloomed, but didn't bloom well.  The reason was this: they were beyond over crowded.

Summer 2013

So after who knows how many years of growing on their own, I decided this fall was time to divide the day lilies.  I was nervous before we started, because about 3 weeks earlier, the day lily bed was mowed over by a rogue landscaping crew.  At first I was upset (they mowed down my wildflowers right before they bloomed), but with the day lilies, I think it worked to my advantage.  When they were transplanted, the leaves were shorter, therefor less energy is required to keep the plants alive.

Here is process for transplanting day lilies:
  1. Dig out a clump with a shovel, and shake out the dirt.  The roots are fairly shallow, so you don't have to go down too far, but a shovel works better than  trowel.
  2. With the dirt out of the way, the bulbs can be pulled apart by hand.  If that is too much trouble, you can take a sharp knife, and cut the clump into smaller sections.  You're not going to kill them.  Promise.
  3. (optional)  Amend the soil.  My soil was pretty spent, so I added mushroom compost and soil conditioner to the bed so that the mixture was 1/3 by volume soil, mushroom compost, and soil conditioner.
  4. Replant, leaving 10-12 inches between the plants or small clusters of plants.  The leaves grow up, and then mound down, so you won't see the space in between.  
  5. Water.  Give everything a good soak so that the roots can establish themselves.  Continue to water carefully until estabolished.
  6. (optional) Mulch. They will survive without it, but whether its traditional mulch, leaves, or grass clippings, mulch helps retain moisture, and keeps out the weeds.
Spacing small clumps of day lilies about a full hand's width apart, I ended up putting less than a quarter of the day lilies back into the day lily bed.  All of the plants were immediately happier than they had been before.  They perked right up, and since it is fall, I only worried about keeping them watered for about 2 weeks.  This past weekend I mulched the bed, and we are now good to go.  

Fall 2013

You may be asking what I did with the rest of the day lilies?? I created another bed at the edge of the woods, put some near my roses, and gave about 50 plants to a co-worker.  This weekend we are celebrating my grandmother's 90th birthday, and I am giving some away as favors.  I have about 250 plants left, and they will be potted up or kept in plastic bags while they are dormant this winter.  Hopefully I can find happy homes for them next spring.  If you're interested, let me know!

Fall 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

mini shade garden

The string of creative names continues.  Not too far from my "Shade Garden" is an area that I am calling, for lack of better words, "Mini Shade Garden".  It's less than 1/4 the size of the "Shade Garden," and is basically a triangle in front of a large Hemlock.

The kennel wire around the tree is leftover from my blackberry fence, and my thoughts are to wrap it around the tree, and plant a flowering vine at the base.

I wanted the focal point of this garden to be a hydrangea, and if you read my blog yesterday, then you won't be surprised to know that a few weeks ago I begrudgingly added an Oak Leaf Hydrangea.

It's a tiny stick now, but as it matures, it should spread to a 6 foot shrub.  We'll see.

Also in the Mini Shade Garden:
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Native Columbine
  • No ivy.  This is an area that we pulled the ivy out by hand. 
Both the Lilly of the Valley and the Native Columbine are known to spread, so I planted both to see which wins out Darwin style.

Friday, October 25, 2013

shade garden - close ups

I want to keep track of how fast things grow and fill out, so I took these pictures of the plants in the Shade Garden right after they were moved.  The idea is I can look back at them this spring before I move on to other areas, and see what my spacing / density needs to be.

The hydrangea with the best chance
This hydrangea may not make it.

Center section of Hearts-A-Bursting

Holly - moved 1 week before 1st frost
Little Brown Jugs


shade garden

One day, maybe, I'll come up with creative names for my gardens.  Today is not that day.  Today the best name I can come up with for the area that my mom and I have been working on is "Shade Garden".  It's a horrible name.  All of my gardens are in the shade.  "Shade Garden" in no way distinguishes this part of my yard from any other.  The important part is not the name, but the fact that it's finished.

Before we get any further, let's talk about hydrangeas, and specifically Oak Leaf Hydrangeas.  I have a love hate relationship with hydrangeas.  When I moved into my house, I decided that I wanted to include as many 'old-fashioned' plants as possible.  Hydrangeas qualify. They've been around forever.  They're shrubs, so they're good habitats for critters, and I do love nature.  They also bloom, which is plus when you're dealing with shade, and they make good cut flowers.  That's a lot of positives. This is what I don't like:
  1. Hydrangeas are trendy right now, and I'm not the kind of person who follows trends. 
  2. Blue hydrangeas make me think of trailer parks.  (You can say that when you grew up near trailer parks.  And I'm not the only one who things so, so don't judge me alone.) There's nothing wrong with trailer parks, but they've never been my aspiration or inspiration.  
  3. I hate their foliage almost as much as I hate iris foliage.  Plants only bloom part of the year, so for me, what you're looking at most of the time is important.  When Oak Leaf Hydrangeas aren't blooming, they look like they're trying to be trees, but their leaves got fat instead, and they grew out instead of up.

So you can guess what the first plants to go into the "Shade Garden" were.  Oak Leaf Hydrangeas.  They grow very well here, and as such, I have access to almost an unlimited supply of free Oak Leaf Hydrangeas. Free always wins.

OK, back to the story of the newly named "Shade Garden."

So last summer we got out the Round-Up, and went to war with the ivy behind my shed.  It was a hot and dry summer, and after two applications ivy was gone.  Last fall we blew leaves into this area to help with the mulch, and the ivy stayed away. Hallelujah! There was an azalea, a holly, some huckleberries, and a few Hearts-A-Burstin in this spot, so the foundation of a garden was there, it just didn't look like anything yet.  It was a mess, but I called it natural and didn't loose any sleep over it.

Fast forward to about a month ago.  My house was finally painted, and it was time to make my yard as spiffy as my house.  The area behind my freshly painted shed needed to go from 'area where the ivy used to be' to some type of garden.  'Garden' being an area with things that bloom and laid out in a way that you can see said blooms.

I'm a big fan of plants that have grown with little or no attention over the course of the past 20 years, so I decided to keep everything that was growing in this area, but move it around so that the tall things were in the back, and the short things in the front. I also brought in 2 baby Oak Leaf Hydrangeas from my parent's house, and a mix of hostas from my house and my parent's house to add blooms.  It was a very sophisticated plan.

The end result is that I have something that resembles a garden.

Or should I say, looks like a garden after I label everything, and you don't have to play Where's Waldo to find the plants.

Since I forgot to take a before picture, imagine all the plants clustered together around the azalea and the small tree up front. We moved everything back and out, with the exception of the azalea. (I was scared I would kill if we tried to dig it up.)  Now that we're finished, you can actually see the azalea, and since the holly is no longer on top of it, both plants should do better.  The hydrangeas have plenty of room to fill out, and the Hearts-A-Bursting & huckleberries should look nice in swaths in the back.  You can see everything, and it still looks natural.  In the spring it should look like a garden.  Mission accomplished.

This post has close ups of the plants we moved.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Garden Update

If you're reading this post, I just want to say thank you.  I have fallen back into my inconsistant nonexistant blogger habits, and if you've stuck with me through it, I really appreciate it.

So in the past month or so I haven't been out and about around Chattanooga much (I missed Southern Brewers Festival, the Tennessee Whiskey Festival, AND Wine Over Water), but a lot has been happening on the home front. Outside my house, inside my house, and all over the yard.  Here's a rundown of projects we've been working on, and I'll go into detail about each one in the coming weeks.
  1. My house is painted!  You may have noticed that my house itself has been absent from my garden pictures thus far.  That's because the paint was peeling and falling off the back of the house.  The house is now painted, and we are at the cleaning up after my painter stage of the project.  It looks SO much better.
  2. My living room has gotten an unexpected remodel.  What started with painting the back of my built in cabinets turned into new crown molding, work on my ceiling, and a whole lot of painting.
  3. I now have an area that shall henceforth be known as 'the woodland garden' 'the shade garden'.  We have turned one random azalea and a few volunteer plants in the woods into an area that has a some structure (the tall plants are now in the back) but is appropriately disheveled for my liking.
  4. My day lilies can breathe!  The only significant flower bed that existed when I moved into my great grand mother's house was a row of day lilies that might be older than I am.  While you think that might be pretty, (and they were) you have to remember that day lilies multiply, and these were way past over crowded.  Side note: if anyone wants day lilies, PLEASE let me know, I still have hundreds!  I'm not even kidding.
  5. We've also done some work in the gardens around the kitchen and the driveway.  Some of it has been general maintenance, and some of it has involved transplanting.
Believe it or not, you're looking at around 50 day lily plants. 
They were extremely overcrowded

It actually has been a lot of work, but the weather is nice, and it's a good time of year to be working outside.  I know it will pay dividends this spring, when I can show you pictures that will actually include my house!
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