in which i believe tony avent when he says it is a myth that baptisias are hard to divide

part of me wants to say that it’s been unusually cool and rainy for the past several weeks and then i remember that no, actually, it is meant to be about this temperature (50’s and 60’s) with a liberal application of rain showers this time of year and it just hasn’t happened recently (3 years?  longer?  last year this time it had already hit 90 and baked most of my plants).

so i have decided to be methodical (or obsessive, whichever adjective you prefer) and to dedicate this welcome cool and rainy period to doing perennial upkeep chores like dividing and transplanting.

including (especially??) my baptisias.  much googling revealed that it is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that baptisias have huge gnarly roots that hate being divided but i found a naysayer in plant guru tony avent, who was quoted on a garden forum saying that is a total myth. i’m a contrarian so i went with that.  my “vanilla creme” produced many little shoots for me – my “lunar eclipse” reluctantly gave me two for the price of one – my “white knight” was completely uninterested in tony avent’s opinion.

friday 27 april:  2.2 miles; ~5500 steps
saturday 28 april:  5.2 miles; 12,151 steps

tick count: 1
number of times i was bleeding:  3
proof that there is a god and she wants me to be happy:  a pizza in the freezer for dinner (hallelujah)
proof that for every up there is a down:  i looked at my finished to-do list and man, it felt like a lot more work while i was doing it

sisyrinchium angustifolium
liatris spicata
echinacea “cheyenne spirit”
tiarella cordifolia
sanguinarea canadensis “rosea”
sanguinarea “multiplex”
cimicifuga “brunette”
hakenochloa “all gold”
burgundy lace fern
aruncus diocious
primula kisoana

germination report:
sanguinara canadensis “rosea” (!!!!!) from seed i collected last year
asclepias ovalifolia
asclepias viridis
asclepias tuberosa
asclepias exaltata
asclepias hirtella
asclepias purpurascens
asclepias syriaca
asclepias incarnata
asclepias verticillata
asclepias arenaria

wild senna
aslcepias incarnata “cinderella”
echinacea “pow wow white”
crooked stem aster


21 april 2017: an ode to my pickax

AKA the weekend in which i planted ALL OF THE THINGS. all of my birthday trees have arrived and are in the ground!

malus ‘lullabye’
malus ‘golden galaxy’
woodland combo of trillium, phlox, gallium odoratum and asclepias variegata…


which will hopefully grow in and eventually look more like this…
magnolia ‘purple star power’; magnolia ‘judy zuk; magnolia ‘kiki’s broom’
i also continued working on this shaded area…
…which is inspired by this grouping, from david culp’s ‘the layered garden’, of trillium lutea, lily-of-the-valley ‘golden slippers’, pulmonaria ‘silverado’ and dicentra gold hearts.

steps:  16,045
miles:  6.5


garden diary: 15 april 2017


friday:  9,354 steps/3.8 miles; 10 bags of manure
saturday:  13,374 steps/5.5 miles
sunday:  ~10,979 steps/~4.3 miles; i forgot my phone for part of the day

neviusia alabamensis have arrived, are laid out, divided and planted.  they are stoloniferous and just keep going so even though i ordered 5 plants, by the time i got everything open, sorted and pruned i ended up with 10.


i am underplanting them with heucheras, asters and violets for now, and putting some really, really tall Asclepias incarnata “Cinderella” behind them.

planted in the front yard woodland:

  • primula veris (x3)
  • dicentra “heart of gold” (x1)
  • hepatica americana (x8)
  • phlox divaricata (x5)

still needs work.  stay tuned for more updates on this breaking story.

planted in the front yard woodland:

  • trillium erectum
  • tiarella cordifolia
  • anemone quinquefolia
  • trillium sessile

two things here; a photo i saw on pinterest and an actual photo of this combo in the wild at bash-bish falls last spring.

from my notebook of unachievable dreams


  • amsonia
  • little bluestem grass
  • columbines
  • dodecatheon media
  • tradescantia
  • veronicastrum / culver’s root
  • rudbeckia triloba / brown-eyed susan

seeds sown:

  • phlox divaricata
  • primula japonica / primula kisoana
  • carex radiata “eastern star sedge”
  • marsh phlox
  • sisyrinchium angustifolium “blue-eyed grass” (and white variation)
  • sisyrinchium campestre “prairie blue-eyed grass” (and white variation)
  • iris versicolor “blue flag iris”
  • prairie violet
  • new england aster
  • tennesee coneflower
  • rudbeckia subtomentosa “sweet black eyed susan”
  • coreopsis palmata “prairie coreopsis”
  • ascelpias arenara “western sand milkweed”


  • japanese cherry blossoms
  • fruit trees blossomed
  • trilliums
  • ascelpias exaltata (in pots)
  • penstemon digitalis
  • phlox paniculata
  • peonies, peonies, peonies
  • monarda
  • sisyrinchium angustifolium
  • echinacea “cheyenne spirit”
  • yarrow
  • celandine poppy
  • corydalis
  • pulmonaria
  • redbuds (not yet in bloom but ready to pop)
  • baptisia (itty, bitty tiny shoots, but they’re there!)
  • blue flag iris
  • crested iris
  • brunnera
  • “molly the witch” species peony
  • astilbe

that feeling when all of your clothes are simply unbearable

yeah, it’s officially “big giant hat” season.


there comes a time in every garden weekend where i absolutely detest my clothes.  i have a special pair of trousers i ordered from some outdoor place that fit like jeans but don’t rip at the knees and the pockets, and they are comfortable, and serviceable, and i simply and utterly hate them.  by this point in every weekend, they are dirty, they’re confining, i’m hot and icky and i feel like my skin is crawling.

today i took a stand:  to finish off my weekend i just strolled around in my favorite sweatpants and did the seed pots.


in which i deal with a lot of crap


extending some of the garden beds this year by a technique called “lasagna” or “back to eden” or “sheet” mulching, which is really just “pile all of the scraps, yard waste and chicken sh*t into a pile and wait for it to decompose over a bed of cardboard” mulching.


also preparing two new beds for my birthday crabapple trees.


garden diary: 7 april 2017


steps:  15,597 (6.6 miles)
compost temperature:  90*F (day 4)

  • dodecatheon
  • pulmonaria
  • primula:  japonica/veris
  • hepatica
  • bluebells
  • dutchman’s breeches
  • phlox divaricata

after a horrifying and demoralizing washout for thursday, took to the yard with a vengeance on friday and saturday.  because most of my plants are currently embryonic and in pots, i was free to not worry about planting and to think about yard chores.  i started by marking the areas of poor drainage in the backyard so that i could design beds and swales around them.  then, because the soil was so wet still, i took an edger along my marked areas.


this was fun for about 10 minutes and then my arms hurt, but i persevered mostly because it helped me stay warm…

i was also able to work on the willow arch, shoring it up after the ravages of the winter winds.


and when it got too cold and overcast even for me, i retreated inside to finish prepping the last of this year’s perennial seeds.


in which i try, flail and ultimately fail at math, algebra, and visualizing space in 2 and 3 dimensions…

IMG_0212.JPGwitness  my incredibly pathetic attempts to calculate how much wood i would need to build a compost bin within the greenhouse.

but oh, it gets better, because then i switched to trying to count concrete blocks (8x8x16), because they were cheaper and modular, and then i had to figure out length, width, and height…and still came up short on how many bricks i needed.


oh, no, i had an idea and now i am obsessed. (as one does.)

ok, i blame google.

i was looking up ways that i might be able to heat the greenhouse, ideally using solar or some other passive technology, because part of me is just not confident that hooking up a small heater to an extension cord won’t be an excuse for a massive fire.  short answer:  it’s hard.

less short answer:  compost, an ever-wonderous thing.

i came across a blog post from the (sadly now-defunct) hudson valley garden association were one of the members was heating her greenhouse using compost – even in the winter, even when compost materials collection would be hard.  she was using a combination of coffee grounds from her local starbucks and leaf litter collected in the fall and spring.  the result?  a few degrees’ warmth and, more importantly, an indoor “hot bed”, which more googling revealed to be an old victorian gardening technique which involved using the decomposition of materials to generate enough heat to start seeds or force bulbs even in the winter for a longer season.


oh, man, how much did my mind go into overdrive?  TOO MUCH.  it was impossible to concentrate on my “nikita” reruns for the rest of the day, and i think i tore apart my gardeners supply company catalogue thinking about raised beds and other sundries (so much for narrowing my shopping list).

my goal here would be simple, really:  generate enough bottom heat so that i can start all my bedding plants, including hundreds of cosmos, zinnias, etc, and save that precious few weeks in the spring for other stuff.  maybe force my dahlia tubers (because yes, obviously i ordered more of them).  that’s it.  relatively modest.

the greenhouse is 6×8 and currently has two tables in it.  i think i can build a bed under one of the tables, and i will move the other table outside for use as a potting bench during the summer.


in the end i’d like to have something like this:


though right now all i have is this, which is much less cool/effective/useful:


(the surface area/volume is so small that i probably won’t get any heat, so it’s back to the drawing board while i continue to hoard materials.)

also, this is the path to my greenhouse right now:


the current materials ratio:  approximately 2 parts UCG and 3 parts shredded hay (which means this batch, if it composts, will not be useable in the garden due to unkilled weed seeds from the hay), plus 1 cup, give or take, of high-nitrogen blood meal in an attempt to activate it like a straw bale garden.

maybe i should put a straw bale on the floor and treat the straw bale like a mini hotbed?

8 may 2016: continuing the woodland wildflower garden


over a couple of different weekends i have laid out and prepped (with black plastic for solarization) my woodland wildflower garden under a small copse of trees.


this was my first round, using the basic layout from my garden-planning book, and i added to it with some ‘dalmation creme’ foxgloves because why not? i also added, behind the trees as a sort of shrub hedge, several species peonies that are woodland suited. they have the greatest name ever: molly-the-witch. who wouldn’t want a peony named molly-the-witch? most of the time, it is a yellow flower, with occasional variations into the pink spectrum. perfect. i am going to underplant them with violets and geranium samboor.


here’s a better shot of the area, where i added several more combinations. the main one is a grouping of Trillium lutem with a border of heuchera and interplanted with lilies of the valley.  i saw this combination in david culp’s the layered garden and i have been obsessed with it.  i also plan to add pulmonaria, because i love those as well.  they are so interesting too look at and they have awesome foliage.

pulmonaria ‘opal’

finally, i bordered the whole shebang with a combination i found on pinterest:

japanese forest grass, sedum sieboldii, ladys-mantle