Thursday, July 25, 2019

Christmas in May and then July, Sort of...

I can't remember where or when I stumbled across a blog post about making Christmas ornaments using dried flowers and leaves from the garden, but I saved it. It was time to give it a try. I like doing  projects, especially if it is tied to the garden. Giving credit due- here is the link to the post- 

The dough takes three ingredients
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup warm water

Simply mix the dry ingredients together in a saucepan, add water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan, it is time to take off the heat. After it cools a little bit gently knead the dough to get it to its doughy consistency.

Roll it out and use a cookie cutter to make your shaped ornament.  Use a pencil or straw to make a hole for your ribbon hanger. Bake at 200 F for about an hour, until dry or leave to dry overnight (high humidity areas would be better to oven bake)

Sounds easy doesn't it? Okay, time for a few lessons learned:
  • Sprinkle corn starch on the counter top before kneading
  • Roll it out to quite thin. How thin? About 1/8th of an inch thick.
  • Use a sharp edged cookie cutter- I used a drinking glass, didn't give a real clean cut.
  • Don't bake on parchment paper, it seems to hold moisture.

In May I went into the garden looking for items to use to make the ornaments. Newly emerged leaves on my Japanese maples were great! I especially like the red ones. I also had some small violets blooming then, so I plucked some blooms and leaves from them. I knew the leaves and flowers had to be small enough to fit on the ornament, so small was best. Bringing my harvest in, I carefully set them between two sheets of parchment paper. Weighing them down with a number of hardbound books, they sat on our dining room table for a few days. After a few days I checked on them, nice and dry! I moved the dried pressed leaves and blooms upstairs, where they could remain until it was time to make the dough and apply them. One of my daughters and son in laws come to stay for the majority of July, so I waited to do the rest with her.

Fast forward to July- we made the dough, rolled out the dough, cut the dough into ornament shape and dried them. It was time to gather the pressed leaves and Modge Podge, some brushes (sponge or bristle) and begin. Well, I knew I had brushes, SOMEWHERE. After looking in every spot they might have been, we let necessity be the Mother of Invention. I had some leftover foam from covering some chairs. That and a pair of scissors, voila, we had our 'brushes'. 

Directions tell you to paint a layer of Modge Podge on the ornament, arrange the pressed leaves/blooms on the ornament, then paint more Modge Podge over the surface, covering the leaf/bloom well.  Make sure not to cover your hole for the string/ribbon. Various flowers and leaves make a nice assortment. Like I said, the red Japanese maple leaves look great, they held their color well. I used some Hydrangea blooms, their color faded a bit but they are really nice too. I had a pair of tweezers to use to move the fragile dried leaves.  **On a side note- don't leave pressed/dried items on the table overnight....a roving kitten in the middle of the night will play havoc with your project.**

Red Japanese maple 
Viola walterii 'Silver Edge'

Green Japanese maple 
Here they all are, drying. It is milky looking when the Modge Podge is first applied, it does dry clear.  I bought the matte finish. You can experiment with whatever finishes you like. One of the sources I used also sprinkled silver glitter on the white dough. The world is your oyster, do what you think looks great.

Drying on the dryer overnight

The nice part of this project is you can collect and dry items from the garden all year long. Once dried they keep well. I think I will buy some metallic cord to use instead of the ribbon, but this is what I had on hand today. This was a fun quick project to do and like I said above, there are some lessons learned. The biggest is in the rolling thickness. If you have guide bands that slip on your rolling pin for rolling thickness, use them. I might try using a couple thick rubber bands on the rolling pin. Some of the ornaments cracked while drying- the Modge Podge and leaves hid those flaws a bit.
Would I do this with kids? I don't think so, there is a need for fine motor skills and an easy hand in painting the Modge Podge over the dried items. If you do this project, let me know how it worked for you. You can share photos on The Queen of Seaford Facebook page. Have fun!

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Another River Running Through My Yard

We all know that gardens are always in flux. Some plants survive, some thrive to the point of taking over and sometimes you just want to change things up. Last year we looked at our front yard and decided that buying sod every year was expensive and labor intensive to install on a regular basis. What's a gardener to do? (we all know---you make a new garden bed!) The wet winters and dogs running over wet grass made the lawn thin and excessively needy.

I had big plans, make a giant mulch bed in the front yard. I haven't measured the size of the area we were looking at making a new garden....let's just say it is a large area. Maybe I will go and measure it one of these days. 

We left a mower sized width of grass along the driveway and between the gardens. In the center of this new, massive garden is a Little Gem Magnolia with daylilies around it. Once the plan was hatched, mulch was needed. Lots of mulch. We had ten yards of mulch delivered.

Because we had some grass and a lot of weeds the plan was put cardboard or newspaper under the mulch as a weed block. Before you jump all over me, I have since read information from the Garden Professors about not using anything under mulch. Their recommendation is to just have a good layer of mulch (inches deep) and it will smother/block the weeds. Good information, just after the fact. 

Moving forward we used tons of cardboard, mountains of newspaper and still ran out. We had help with the mulch from our kids who came to visit last July. With their help the mountain of mulch was spread. Hallelujah!

Liebling was a great help
 Fast forward to this year. I planted three Japanese maples last fall-one Red Dragon, a Butterfly, and Green Viridis. Also added three Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey' and a Cryptomeria globosa 'Nana'. Found a few abelia in the garden that needed moved- think they might be Abelia grandiflora 'Rose Creek'- so what better place to move them than this huge new space?

I brought a birdbath home from my Mom's house. In front of the birdbath I planted some Agastache 'Blue Boa', Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising', Stokesia laevis (Stokes Aster) and other plants for pollinators. The maples were doing well, the flowers were thriving but there was a problem with the garden...........WASHOUT. Some Liriope and an Amaryllis were added to try and slow the water flow. They didn't. 

With every rain we had a trail of mulch running downhill through the grass. Not happy. I had scooped/raked up mulch multiple times. Something needed to be done. You see some rocks in the photo above. I didn't grab a before photo but the mulch was still in the grass so it is a good example. The rocks that I have had leftover from other projects are all in the lower part of the yard. Our property is on a good slope. Moving enough rocks was going to be a lot of work just hauling them up the last part of the hill.
My great plan was that my lovely assistant (daughter Rachel) and I would load up the rocks into the cart that attaches to the lawn tractor. My husband just needed to drive the tractor to the bottom of the yard, wait for us to fill the cart, then drive the tractor back up to the front yard. 

Me mud splattered
Rachel muddy from rock hauling
 Well, the yard was wet, the lower the yard, the wetter the yard. We pushed and pushed the tractor to get it moving and got sprayed with lots and lots of mud. Yay. Plan B was to take the tractor through the woods in our wooded lot where we had a path cut. Well, that only worked part way. We got my garden wagon and the wheelbarrow and moved three or four loads each out of the cart until the lawn tractor could make it up the rest of the way. Spreading the rocks went pretty well. Making the new dry creek bed curve gently through the garden, following the washout area, was not as hard as bringing the rocks uphill!

View from the top of the hill
We are due to get more rain sometime in the next few days. Cross your fingers!  I want the "river" to be slowed and the water diverted as to not move the mulch. 

View from the bottom of the hill
 Speaking of mulch, that's the next project...more mulch. We are battling nut sedge and Bermuda grass popping up in the garden, especially where the mulch had gotten washed out or thinned. Weed control is an ongoing challenge.

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Why Fling? Reflections from Denver

After having come home from the latest Garden Bloggers Fling I have been trying to sort out the best way to share this wonderful experience. Do I share garden by garden? Do I do an overview of the whole experience? Do I pick styles of gardens? Favorite blooms? Sometimes it is overwhelming to wrap your head around the Fling, it is so packed with gardens, it is hard to process all that you saw.

Some might ask what the heck is a Garden Bloggers Fling. Fair question. A Garden Bloggers Fling is a gathering of 80+ garden bloggers from all across the States, Canada, and a few from the UK. We are hosted by a fellow garden blogger team in their city and tour private and public gardens. The time of year is dependent on the location. Last year was Texas, we went early, in May. This year we went to Denver and it was mid-June.

What draws me to come back year after year? The bloggers! We gather into buses. The conversations fly... catching up with each other, making new friends, what gardens did you like best, and everything else under the sun!

Meals are another opportunity to chat.
Lunch at Denver Botanic Garden

Lunch at Boulder's Dushanbe Teahouse in the rose garden 
Dinner in town 

After of course, when we are dog tired but aren't ready for the night to end, we gather in the hotel-
Downstairs in the bar lobby area

Upstairs on the 27th floor restaurant with a view of the sunset and city
Sunset over Denver
Our farewells are full of hugs and promises to come to next year's Fling. Breakfast out before we go our separate ways is peppered with lots of laughs.
I cherish the bloggers I have gotten to know over the years. There are no strangers, only friends you don't know yet. Want to be a part of this group? Do you write a garden blog? Is it older than six months? Have you posted in the last year at least once? All guidelines are here. Come and commune with your people, your tribe, your kindred spirits.
More posts in the upcoming weeks from Denver's Fling. I leave you with one of the many gorgeous views of the mountains.

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wildflower Wednesday- Orchids

This is a quick addendum to my previous post on Crane-fly Orchids, back in July.  This native ephemeral plant has those beautiful green basal leaves that are present in the winter and then a flower stalk in the summer. Well, this week while walking through the shade garden I noticed a spent flower stalk.

Tipularia discolor

Difficult to photograph with a cell phone, the automatic focus function has a hard time focusing on the slender stalk.  I persevered and was able to get a couple shots. Here is the best. Look at all those seed pods! I believe we will have a nice stand of Tipularia discolor, Crane-fly Orchid for years to come. 

Be sure to stop by Gail's blog for Wildflower Wednesday.

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Number Three - Fragrance in the Winter Garden

The third and final post in the Fragrance in the Winter Garden series includes two shrubs. First is one of our native Witchhazel, Hamamelis vernalis or Ozark Witchhazel. I have ordered a number of  these Witchhazel from Missouri Department of Conservation over the past few years. You order them in bundles of ten bare-rooted seedlings. I have planted them all over the property --most have survived but few have bloomed. One day I hope to share photos of a large shrub, full of fragrant spicy clove blooms.  Be sure to check out the link for the Department of Conservation, the seedlings are a nice size and a great price. 

The second shrub I have included in this winter fragrance round-up is Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans. Tea Olive blooms multiple times during the year, this is not its only nor its heaviest bloom period but it is appreciated at this time of year. 

This photo below shows the cluster of tiny white blooms on a bare stem. This shrub for some unknown reason lost all its leaves, bloomed heavily, leafed out again, then died. When it had its first leaf drop I thought for sure it was voles eating the roots because this shrub variety has few pests or disease issues. Sadly it was not the case, so it is still a mystery.

These tiny white blooms are hard to photograph. The fragrance has been equated to Fruit Loops cereal-- kind of funny.  Mature size can be 10- 15 feet tall and wide. It can handle part shade to full sun.  Deer leave this shrub alone, another bonus in my garden.

I have seen some pruned up to be a small tree and others a full shrub. It is quite adaptable to pruning.  This one by our shed is well over the gutter line of the roof on the shed. You can see it behind the Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'. It is one of seven Osmanthus fragrans in my garden and the largest. It gets more water than some but not as much as others....hard to tell why this one is doing so well.

Thanks for stopping by to see what's fragrant in my garden. Do you have fragrant blooms this time of year in your garden?

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

More Fragrance in the Winter Garden

This is the second in my series of Fragrance in the Winter Garden. This past fall and early winter I haven't been in my garden as often as usual. A couple days ago I went out, camera in hand to see how things were doing and get reacquainted with my garden. I was so thrilled to see so many plants in bloom. There are a number of winter bloomers that do quite well in my zone 7b/8a garden.
This post showcases Edgeworthia chrysantha. Its common name is Paperbush plant. It reliably blooms from January through March and yes, is incredibly fragrant.
This deciduous shrub is native to China. The inner bark is used to make quality paper, hence the name. While my focus for this post is the fragrant blooms, its leaves that emerge in the spring are noteworthy as well. These oblong leaves are large, up to 5 inches long and a couple inches wide, are fuzzy and deer resistant. With the large canopy of leaves in the growing season I get a micro-climate under the Edgeworthia for ferns, hosta, Hellebore, and other shade loving plants.

The fuzzy umbelliferous flowers have up to 40 tubular florets, white on the outside and sunny yellow inside, visible once open. These flower buds form in the late summer, undetected because of the large leaves. After a few frosts and the leaves fall off the buds are quite apparent. Before the flowers open one might say the fuzzy buds look like pussy toes.

Once the whole bush is in full bloom, the entire yard is filled with its fragrance. The shrubs are hardy zones 7- 10. They can take direct sun but do better when protected from hot afternoon sun. Edgeworthia is said to get between 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. I am finding that to be pretty accurate. It does put up a lot of suckers at the base of the shrub. These suckers can be dug up and shared with friends.

One side of my house has four full sized Edgeworthia and the fragrance that wafts from these beauties makes sitting on the deck enjoyable, even on a chilly day.

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Fragrance in the Winter Garden

Do you have blooms in your winter garden? Those of us who live in the moderate climates can have blooms AND fragrance. In the next few posts I will share some of my reliable favorites. The first one is Prunus mume 'Hokkai-bungo', a Japanese flowering apricot. It blooms January through February, though I have had a few buds open in December.

The first one I saw was in a friend's garden. Hers was in bloom and I was sold! You can read about my visit here. These double blooms are dark pink-red and have a spicy cinnamon fragrance. The fragrance really fills the air when all the blooms are open. Mine is planted by the driveway so I can enjoy both the blooms and fragrance. It is so nice to have something blooming in January.

Hokkai-bungo grows to 15 to 20 feet at maturity and is hardy to zone 6. My tree is still young and is about 7 or 8 feet tall. Many Prunus are used as Bonsai trees. As this tree ages its growth pattern is said to be gnarly with dark bark. 

I have read this tree produces edible apricot fruits but the fruit is reportedly quite sour and often pickled. As I only have one tree I am not sure that mine will fruit. I can't find information on whether it needs a second tree to cross pollinate to produce fruit.

Prunus is susceptible to freezes. The bark will split and crack causing stress to the tree.  I know mine has some bark peeling, I hope it is minor and will not cause it to die. I am keeping an eye on it. Watch for more posts in the coming years as this flowering apricot fills the front part of my garden.

Stay tuned for more posts on fragrant plants in the winter garden.

Look at all those buds ready to pop

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.