Evolving Meets the Big Bang

After my last post, I looked at my work at the mailbox and thought, “Gosh!  I wish I had remembered to plant more day lilies there.”  But it was too late, and I didn’t feel like starting over.   And besides, you cannot make a silk purse out of …well, you know.

The problem was that the mailbox itself was ugly, ugly.  I had encouraged (ie, nagged) my husband to replace it, and he would have..if it hadn’t been set in underground concrete that would have required a good deal of effort to dig up and replace. So, we learned to live with the one that came with the house – rusty and ugly as it was.

But, as Mother always cautioned us,  “Be careful what you wish for.  You might just get it.” Yes, our wish came true.  We now have a new mailbox and a new mailbox garden – courtesy of the milkman (yes, we still have a milkman) who backed over the old one with his new truck.

While the old mailbox didn’t fare well, the garden around it suffered more severe injuries.

I think the tire marks add an interesting touch.

But – all is well.  As of today, we have a new mailbox and a new garden that includes additional lilies, coreopsis, petunias and agastache.  It turns out my husband has been right all along.  It’s better to have your milk delivered.

My Evolving Mailbox Garden

I love mailbox gardens.  As I take my daily walk around the neighborhood, I marvel at the variety of plants and ornamentation my neighbors use for theirs.  Some gardens have actually expanded to the point that they fill half the front yard!  That’s the wonderful thing about these creations – they are highly visible, often in good sun, and can become addictive. We keep adding to them. If I could have no other flowers in the yard, I would absolutely need a garden at the mailbox.  Nothing welcomes you home as much as blooming flowers at the end of the drive.

I’ve tried many combinations over the years. Pansies and kale in the winter. Impatiens and other blooms for the summer. Petunias and begonias, annuals and perennials.  I’ve had vines, short flowers, tall flowers, and Swiss chard. Some of these combinations were very successful.  Others – not so much.

I like Asiatic lilies. They looked great in the garden center. And, they are so beautiful when in full bloom.The drawback is that they have a short blooming period. And then the somewhat awkward stems are around for a long time. Sometimes they don’t go completely dormant until winter.  Here in zone 7, we keep them in the ground over the winter – but then it’s hard to plant anything around them. That’s the reason these lilies are unevenly spaced.  The bulbs were moved around during subsequent plantings so that now they come up at random. I still have a couple left that will soon be blooming – and then hanging around until October.  I’ve decided that I am going to dig them up this year and plant them in a pot. Next year when they have finished blooming, I will put the pot away until the next spring.

I also love clematis vines.There are over 300 varieties of clematis, and I tried one of the more common varieties. In the summer months, several mailboxes in our neighborhood are covered with clematis blooms.  They grow best in cool, moist soil in full sun. My aunt always had this advice on clematis.  “Head in the sun. Feet in the shade.”

Mine grew beautifully in year one. Then it died at the end of the summer and never came back. I think it was due to our being away and its not getting enough water.  But I miss this plant and would love to have another.

The clematis wasn’t the only plant that didn’t make it through Atlanta’s hot summer. Since we are often away during August and September, the hottest months of the year, last year we added a simple irrigation system. The mailbox garden gets watered every other day for 20 minutes.

Last summer I decided on a yellow with purple theme.  I started with the basic perennials stella d’oro lilies and coreopsis (tickweed) for the perennials and purple butterfly pincushion flower and royal candles for other color. There is also one lonely tall purple plant that comes up each year as seen in this picture.

While last year’s garden looked good at first, the plants quit blooming, and the plot looked rather gloomy. I added petunias for color, but I wanted the lilies and coreopsis to bloom too!

I learned that in order to keep the lilies and coreopsis blooming, you have to dead head the flowers. So, now when the blooms die, I pick them off.  I do this on a daily basis So far, so good!

I guess a little fertilizer and plenty of water did the trick. This garden is something I enjoy coming home to.  I’ll add some purple petunias again this year, and enjoy these plants until the frost!

Okay – So This is Why I’m Late Starting the Gardening

It’s that time of year again!  I hear lawn mowers, leaf blowers and edgers around the neighborhood, as everyone beautifies their home.  When I go to Home Depot and Lowes, I see people coming out of the garden centers wheeling large carts of soil, fertilizer and flowers.

What have I done so far?  I’ve purchased three pots of ferns to hang off the front porch.

Just to make myself feel really guilty, I read my log of the work I had completed on the garden in March 2011. By this time last year I had:

  • Cut and trimmed ivy and mulched a new path in the back for a birdbath.
  • Purchased bird bath
  • We built steps into a pine island in the front.
  • Cleaned and trimmed oak leaf hydrangea.
  • Transplanted azalea bushes I picked up from neighbors.
  • Spread pine straw.

Work I have completed to date this year:

  • Ordered pine straw

Yes, I am behind.  But I have good reasons for getting a slow start this year.

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Woman With a Hoe

Once upon a time when Georgia 400 took you into the wilderness known as Alpharetta and cows grazed on the roadside of I-285 – where Best Buy now stands, there was a an old woman with a hoe. I know this because, as I exited GA 400 to get to work each morning, she would be hoeing the rows of small Christmas trees in front of her small old frame house.  She caught my attention, not just because she religiously tended trees that seemed to never grow, but also because her attire was decades past its prime.  Long dress, sun bonnet hat, long sleeves. She looked like The Old Woman that Lived in a Show, Old Mother Hubbard, or some other Mother Goose character. She did not look like an 80’s Lady. 

She was there every morning at 7:30  hoeing her small trees.   Maybe it wasn’t rain or shine, but it was certainly any time the weather was moderately tolerable.  She was working that rocky clay soil trying to coax those miniature trees into adults. It seemed futile as I watched her from season to season with those trees seeming to say at exactly the same size as they had been the year before.  She was a mystery.  Why was she trying to growing those?  To sell?  For fun?  Family tradition?  It gave her purpose?  I’ll never know.  For years I watched her – and then she was gone. Gone when they widened GA 400 and paved over her house and field of trees.

I sure hope these plants grow. I got them on sale at Michaels.

I think of her often as I try to coax plants to grow in this rocky clay. Now I understand what she was doing.  She knew that without continual hoeing and working the soil, this clay will become…well clay – hard as a baked terra cotta pot.  This week I took drastic action.  I dug up all the plants I had labored over for the past 7 months, tilled the plot, added soil enrichers and top soil, mixed it all up and then re-planted the plants.  whew….

I’m keeping my fingers crossed until spring hoping that these efforts will work magic.  I am envisioning a lush Eden where plants flourish, butterflies abound and the sound of songbirds fill the air.

I need a little fall color

It’s that in-between time here in Atlanta…not quite time to plant winter flowers, but the summer ones are really fading. Color!!!  I need color!

So, another trip to purchase plants.

After a couple of hours of work…We have fresh color!

Asters, red salvia and petunias.

They are still bllomming nicely.

And, for the shade…caladiums!

Dragon Wing Begonia

I have come to really appreciate this plant.  I had another dragon winged begonia on the deck, and it provided red flowers all summer long.  Besides that, it managed to survive the winter in the house.  I recently bought another one for the front steps since the area was beginning to look a little gray.  These blooms along with the coleus pictured here, make a welcoming entrance.