Thursday, September 24, 2015

How did I do?

West Virginia Department of Commerce

Happy Fall, Y’All from the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia! I can’t believe the gorgeous weather we’ve had all this week: cool mornings and lovely temps in the high 70’s.  Perfection.

When I look back over the summer to assess how far I’ve come in my new home,  I’m somewhat disappointed that I haven’t achieved very much by way of gardening. And yet I’m very pleased with the good attempt. I have to remind myself of the time and money spent scrubbing and painting every inch of my house, and buying all the things one needs to own a home.

My house is a small raised ranch. The inside is in excellent shape and as cute as it could be. The outside has very nice siding and really bad windows.
When I moved in, here is what the front looked like. You can see why I needed to put some type of porch on the house, which was a large expense for me, and before I spent money on any plants. This was necessary for not only the appearance but for safety precautions for myself and others.


Enter my kind and handy son-in-law and we put a simple wooden deck on. I stained it the red color because that is the color of my roof and my large deck in the back so it all coordinated. We put a new storm door on and I painted the trim. On the left are most of the shrubs I bought (see below) surrounding the French Lilac bush that was there. They are rather close together for now, but I wanted to get them in the ground before winter. On the right are two Knock Out rose bushes, and the little obelisk is harboring two clematis plants - one Jackmanii, a deep dark purple and the other a hot pink. I hope they will get large and intertwine and look beautiful as they climb up the house. I have to figure out how to make them live through the harsh winter we are being promised - again.

There are many things I want to do and I'll tell you about them in another post!

But I do want to show you one of my very favorite annuals - the Angel Wing Begonia. They somehow remind me of a heartier orchid growing tall stems with their flowers dangling off the tips, and looking so elegant. I love mine here with the little Impatiens "sport" that popped into the pot. It turns out to be my favorite color - the purple.                                   

So what do you do to protect your plants from winter or other harsh weather?  

I hope life is going well for you and I'll see you next time!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

See the pretty white butterflies...........argh!

Hello September! I always look at September as being the end of summer (even though temps have been in the low 90’s/high 80’s) and the end of gardening. Some may gasp and say, “What? There’s lots of gardening left to do.” Yes, I know.

My cynicism comes from the awful look of many of my plants. 
This is one of the many pots of beautiful impatiens I have on my deck. The colors I got are just gorgeous, especially the lavender ones which you don't find in the stores too often. I always throw in white flowers when I plant a mix together because they seem to make all the gorgeous colors "pop" (to use a hackneyed or over-used expression!). 

      Here is a large pot I filled with impatiens and a matching coleus, along with white vinca and a piece of woodland fern I stuck in the pot some years ago.  I just love how the impatiens flows over the side of the pot.

 AND here is the pot a few days - the next day? - later Well it shows how much the fern has actually grown.....
Another photo of the healthy pot. See that darling solar light (watering can I got at CVS when I took a trip to Fenwick Island Delaware this past Spring)

I’ve only really planted impatiens and coleus to any great extent. They have been my favorites forever. But the white flies/moths/whatever have done their dirty little deeds on the coleus plants and now they look sad.

Did you know that coleus was named the Annual of the Year by the National Gardening Association?

Trying to find out what's eating your plants is about the most difficult and frustrating part of gardening. The real problem is when one day you have gorgeous pots and the next day you have sticks like what happened in my pot above. When researching, there were so many options as to what might have 'et my coleus. But here's the thing: A lot of the suggestions were regarding those plants that were in the ground. These are in containers OFF the ground. Now, that doesn't mean that slugs are not in this large pot, because it has sat on the ground for the past five years up until this summer.  The creepy slimy crawlies can make their way right up through the dirt to munch on roots and leaves. I haven't seen slugs, but I have seen two things: webs, and there seems to be an over-abundance of white moth-like creatures flying around. I have a feeling these are the voracious little culprits.
Whitfely is a sucker of plant juices. I think the above plant (right next to my big pot) is a good example of sucking damage. What I don't get is how the critters damaged a huge coleus in one or two days, although I've seen tomato worms work this way.
Here's a great article on whitefly from the Master Gardener Program at the university of California Ventura County

Annie's Tips: If your plants are in pots on the ground, creepy crawlies can make their way through the drainage holes and up to attack the plants. Place your pots on saucers or something that will protect them from the critters!
I vow that next year I will win the battle of the predator that is sucking the life juices out of my flowers! How do you protect your plants?

Monday, August 31, 2015

The colors of the spirit

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.
                                            Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wowee…my favorite weather this week: A high of 90 each day, all week long. Ugh. The last batch of 90-degree temps we had was when I received and planted my Moonflowers. They made the trip with my daughter from South Central Pennsylvania and landed in a bucket of water for days because of the nasty hot weather. I finally braved the humidity and dug a hole in my concrete yard and plopped them in. Remember this?

As sad as they looked they had little green tips that said to me……….”Feeeeed me!" something right out of The Little House of Horrors. I fed them a gallon of water every day during that heat wave.

The Moonflowers rewarded me triumphantly with this below, and even with a flower. There’s another bud getting ready to bloom nearby. I know they will absolutely LOVE this weeks high temps and humidity (unlike their caregiver). I bring you this photo now because who knows if the sweet bloom will make it to tomorrow given the multitude of wildlife that cavorts throughout my yard. I think they party all night long. They're out there at 5:30AM when they think no one's watching....

It’s late in the season, so my Moonflowers really need to take off in order to make it through the winter. I think they are fairly cold hardy and will keep growing well into the Fall and early Winter depending on the temps, so maybe their will to live will guide them through. I'll make sure I mulch the living daylights out of them to give them half a chance.
Here's a photo of a large pot on my deck to add a little color to this post:
My favorite flowers are combined in this pot - impatiens, coleus and ferns. My new favorite flower are the white ones which for the life of me I can't remember their I love them because they aren't as messy as impatiens, are bigger, and have larger flowers. But I don't think they have as much of a variety of colors as impatiens. Notice my adorable watering can solar light I bought at CVS on a trip I took with a friend to Fenwick Island Delaware last April. Of course the flowers are blocking the solar unit so it's not glowing but when it does it's so cute!

Yesterday I attended my Master Gardener Harvest Banquet and received my pin from West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program. I am now a Certified WVU Master Gardener. What does this mean? It means that I took 30 hours of instruction, did about 30 hours volunteer work and 30 hours of further education for the past two years. Each year I need to do volunteer/educational hours (much less) to maintain my status. I have been telling all my friends I’m finally certified….and of course their response was “I could have told you that….”

Peace out. Stay dry or stay cool, whichever applies.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Now is the time to buy plants to fill in the empty spaces!

I am fortunate to have a son-in-law that just built a porch in front of my house. It is a simple wooden deck, and turned out very nice.
A gardener on a budget can get pretty overwhelmed at the thought of landscaping a home that has few plants!

Enter my Weirton K-Mart. I made the trip over to see if they put anything on sale. When I visited in the beginning of summer I was very impressed with the quantity, quality and variety of the plants they offered. But I couldn't buy anything because they were not in the budget and I wasn't ready to plant yet.

I must give kudos to K-Mart because they are the only commercial retailer in my town that takes good care of its plant stock  consistently  -  such as regular watering. Our Kroger's does a good job with a very limited quantity, though. They had a lot of help in early summer thanks to the weeks of rain we had. But I noticed the K-Mart staff watering on more than a few occasions. I won't even mention WalMart - it's such a shame. But I guess their strategy is to sell as much as possible as soon as the frost is gone and what ever happens to the rest of the plants happens.

When I made my trip last week to K-Mart to see what was on sale, I was thrilled to find that basic shrubs were marked down to 4 and 5 dollars apiece. I bought thirteen plants and they were in very good shape. My challenge now is to keep them healthy until planting time. And that won’t happen until I can figure out how to amend the soil in front of my house.

Here are some of the plants I got:

Girard's Pleasant White Azalea

Girard Roberta Azalea

Azalea "Johanna"

Crimson Pygmy Barberry "Nana"

Spiraea japonica "Goldmound"

Rhododendrons - "album" (white) and Catawba zembla (pink)

And finally I bought four of these:

spreading yews

One thing I was surprised about: All of the plants will take part (6 hours) to full sun. I always thought the yews were sun lovers, but the tag says part sun.  I have full sun for most of the day and I don't want to burn up the yews - or any of them. So the goal is to mulch heavily to keep the roots cool and moist. Any other ideas?

Now the challenge is to prepare the front garden soil and keep these plants alive while we appear to be undergoing a mini-drought. I got thirteen plants for under $60.00, so the NEXT challenge is to help them grow to their full beautiful potential!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Moonflower melodies

Did you ever see something that just resonated in your heart and you knew you must have them?

Years ago I visited my daughter Erin out in Eastern Pennsylvania and I walked around their new house and there was a huge stand of Moonflowers. I didn’t know what they were, of course. Their gigantic long tubular flowers were just so pretty. Even the ones that were beginning to unfurl have such a lovely swirling  pattern of their petals, making just seeing them something awesome to look at.

I took some home and have been trying to grow them for several years.
 Here is one I grew in a pot.

My Moonflowers are described as the genus Datura, species metel and is considered a perennial herb here in zone 6-10. I am in zone 6.  The name moonflower is applied to many kinds of flowers, by the way. 

But a perennial? I think this gets tricky. My daughter confirms this as her stand of moonflowers comes back every year saying that she believes they can grow from their roots (tap roots), but definitely from the seeds they drop, which doesn’t make them perennial. They have large spiny seed pods that crack open when ripe, spreading their seeds all over. The seeds are very hardy and can hibernate ( for years in the ground.

Something I learned when researching datura is that they are highly poisonous. The seeds and flowers have the toxin atromine, among others, in them. Don’t let animals or kids ingest these plants. They can make anyone very sick or even die. Well. I think I’ll do a post on “Are our everyday garden flowers poisonous?” I think we’ll be surprised, so stay tuned.

My daughter came out to visit recently and brought me a large bag filled with moonflowers. It was a week of temps in the 90's, so I immediately dunked them in a huge bucket of water. They perked up and I even had a beautiful bloom.
Sadly, I am a hot weather hater. My moonflowers were in the bucket for a long while because I just couldn't get out in the yard and dig dirt in the heat and humidty.

But finally I dug a hole and plopped them in it.
Yes they are sad looking, BUT! the very tips are new growth and if they can just get through the heat wave, they will make it. We are only now expecting a storm coming in tonight after probably two weeks, so I'm sure they'll take off. I give them a gallon of water everyday. I will build a fairly wide space around them with amended soil so that when - and if - they survive, the seeds will have a good environment in which to grow.

Finally, a friend gave me a “black” datura Fastuosa and I was blown away by its beautiful flower. 
                               Datura metel Fastuosa "Black Datura"
                          I just stuck the seedling I was given in a pot of pansies as you can see!

Oh I guess I just love these exotic ruffley , large and elegant plants and flowers! Try them out and let me know - do you have datura's - or moonflowers?

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Northern West Virginia Gardener

Here I am! It's a beautiful day in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia! The sun is shining, it's cool, and the birds are singing furiously! Or uproariously? Wow - they're just plain LOUD!

In the photo you can see my backyard in the summer. Except two still is a blank slate - but a peaceful one! See my Winter blank slate below.

I haven't been around for several reasons, primarily that I have not been able to do much gardening this season which I'll explain in later posts. I just wanted to talk with you about what I envision my blog - The Northern West Virginia Gardener - will be: Naturally I will share with you the exciting ventures I'll be having as I take my blank slate (as I call the yard of my new home which virtually has nothing but two trees and a very few growing things in it). I will be taking lots of photos and sharing the good ones. Heh heh. Oh - and this is all being done on a very low budget.

I don't know too many gardeners that aren't also in love with bird-watching. I'll be sharing my bird experiences. I have one going on right now. My yard sounds like an African jungle minus the roar of a mighty lion (rest in peace, dear Cecil). But I do have birds that sound like bleating cheetas. It's a real racket out there. I'll also mention the wildlife existing under my shed.

As a Master Gardener, I want to share horticulturally-interesting thoughts, ideas, science, trends and anything else that I think you, my fellow home gardener might find helpful.

I hope to share sights and sounds and organizations; gardens, both public and private not only indigenous to Northern West Virginia, but throughout the Tri-State area of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. I'll show anything interesting in my travels beyond, as I venture out to Eastern Pennsylvania to visit my daughter. Hopefully I'll venture further.......

I also will share my friends' gardening blogs such as Sue Link's The Northern New York Gardener and Christene Roy's The Great Wall of Lutz, where she does Florida gardening.

I'm looking forward to writing about gardening and nature in general and maybe a few other things.

I hope I can also give you a chuckle now and then, as well as food for thought, and hope you'll sign up to receive my posts, as well as tell all your gardening friends to check me out too!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Welcome to The Northern West Virginia Gardener!

Hello! I’m Ann Bailey. I am a retired Social Worker. I have a few things in life that I love, besides my family: gardening, quilting, and writing. Oh yes - and my two kitties, Holly and Noelle. I have lived the past five years with my daughter and her family, and I’ve decided to purchase my own home once again. After many months, I found the home that is just right for me. The best part of the whole thing is that I can see my daughter’s home outside my back window! This was a miracle to me that this house became available – right about the time I despaired at finding something that was just what I wanted – and needed. I have a very limited income so the miracle just keeps getting bigger and bigger!

I had a list of things when I went house-shopping. It would change as I saw each potential house – in other words, can I live without that particular thing on my list? But I asked myself: what are the things I want the MOST? The answer is a house that is as economical as possible; that has good windows and roof and is in good condition. AND – HAS A BIG YARD! The big yard was not negotiable. My little house has a big yard. My lot is about 65 by 150 feet, so I’m pretty happy with the size of my back yard. It certainly is one of the larger lots in the city I live in. There are lots that have a good footage, but right outside the back door a hill climbs straight up. I saw a lot of homes like that. Ideally, my yard would be flat, but it isn’t. It slopes, but thankfully it’s a gentle slope. My gently sloping yard heads in the direction of the gully my daughter’s house is in!

 I’m so excited about sharing with you my gardening adventures at my new home. I am located in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. To give you a reference point, this is about 45 minutes West of Pittsburgh PA, and ten minutes from Steubenville Ohio – the home of Jimmy Dean, for all you (much older) boomers out there!

So go ahead and sign up for my blog and see how my “blank slate” unfolds into a beautiful garden oasis – while on a VERY small budget!

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's a frozen canvas!

My frozen back yard!

"In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

-  Albert Camus

Hello! Not only is my new back yard a blank canvas, it's a FROZEN canvas! But I'm excited to share with you my adventures in gardening in Northern West Virginia!