Christmas Eve is tomorrow. All of my "to do's" are "ta done", I am enjoying the twinkling lights on our tree as well as the fire crackling in the fireplace. My favorite part of Christmas is the decorating. I keep things very simple, using greenery, twigs etc.. that I gather up from here and there at our place.
A selection of ornaments to trim the tree.
The finishing touch with Paperwhites that made their appearance at just the right time.
However you celebrate your holiday season, may it be filled with all that you wish and hope for.
One of the important items that should be in a cottage garden is an arbor. Arbors are a great visual point, add height and interest as well as create an instant "doorway" and path. I am fortunate to have many in my perennial beds. I have a mix of wooden ones as well as some steel ones. The steel ones were custom made (designed by my husband) and are incredibly sturdy not to mention heavy. When they arrived they had been sprayed with Rust-oleum. My first impulse was to have them powder coated before we put them up but that would have been very costly. So I had resigned myself to rust eventually taking over and decided that it would create a rustic touch to my cottage garden. About one year went by and I was not happy with what was happening to my beautiful arbors.
A visit to my favorite local family owned paint store helped me to solve my dilemma. I painted each of them first with a coat of red epoxy enamel primer, this is an automotive paint and is very different from regular paint. Once you apply it, it becomes thick and it is best if your first "brush" with the brush is the only one for that particular area. Once the arbors were completely coated in this primer they were sealed in something that had a resemblance to a latex coating.
The final step was painting the arbors with a black machine paint. This too was very different from regular house paint, not as thick as the red expoxy but dried very quickly. I used inexpensive brushes that I could just throw away for both types of paint as they became sticky after about 2 hours of use. Also, this is a painting project that needs to be done when it is not too hot out. All of that said, each arbor took me a total of 16 hours to paint completely. Last year I painted the steel gazebo that is in the center of my cutting garden (see earlier post; Cutting Garden Redo). It has held up beautifully. It sounds like a lot of work, but really it was more about time. My paint store assured me I will get about 10 years out of this paint. As I have so many different things to see to here at Tangled Gardens it will be nice not to have to re-visit the painting of the arbors and gazebo annually with a spray on type paint.
I am very pleased with the finished results and highly recommend this process to anyone trying to keep their beautiful black outdoor furniture or garden accents rust free.
Autumn did not disappoint this year. October brought us a lot of rain but it seemed to happen all at once and the rest of the days were bright and beautiful. This weekend seems to be the beginning of the end to our long autumn. Appropriate considering the holidays are right around the corner. As I was raking this past week I took a moment to savor my surroundings before mother nature changes things.
As I was distributing the leaves to a new location I noticed the mushrooms growing on the trunk of this tree. I find it very beautiful. Saying good bye to another beautiful fall while making plans for a new spring.
Cottage gardening can be very high maintenance if you are trying to achieve the wild yet tamed look. I have been so very busy with garden management in addition to "life" that I have seriously neglected my blog. I haven't even taken many pictures, blah! My baby trees (see earlier blog) require 6-7 hours of watering per week not including weeding and mole management. (soaker hose is not an option, I would need about 200 of them!) I am planning and planting my new 8 beds in front of the house, hopefully they will be fully planted this spring. I go through my beds watering, dead heading, weeding and once I have made it all the way around it is time to start over. With it being August now the weeds have quieted down and the dead heading is speeding up. Not complaining, just making my excuses. It is at the point now where I figure I will just start over next year with the things that I didn't stay on top of. Such is the life of a gardener. Thought I would share a few pics to let you know we are still here. Hope you enjoy!
Phlox paniculata, or more simply put, Tall Garden Phlox.
Truly on the list of "A Few of My Favorites". Phlox is a lovely, sweet old fashioned favorite that is simply a "must have" in the cottage garden. It's delicate blooms sit atop wiry stems forming an informal clump that stands about 18-24" tall (at least it is that way in my garden). I have it tucked here and there in the front edges of my perennial beds. I used to have it out in my cutting garden but decided that it would be happier in a cooler location.
Once one of the most important plants in the perennial garden it lost favor after the 1940's through to the 1980's. It's popularity suffered when perennial gardening became regarded as old-fashioned and quaint. Considering what was going on in the 80's that hardly surprises me! It has made a comeback, thank goodness and has approximately 800 cultivars. My research tells me that Phlox thrives in a cool and sunny climate with well watered rich soil. (no shortage of water around here!) Powdery mildew can affect some plants depending upon their environment. While this is not fatal nor contagious it can be unsightly. Your best option is to plant something low in front of it to hide the foliage. I have not had to contend with powdery mildew on my Phlox as of yet.
I love seeing the purplish colored phlox in my perennial beds. It is romantic and old fashioned looking. Who can ask for anything more?
This particular bed is in front of our deck facing north into my back perennial beds. I wanted something that would fill the space so that the base of the deck would be hidden. Hidden it is! I knew when I planted the Bishops Weed that it was very aggressive, I felt I could manage that pretty easily as the bed is bordered by flagstone walkways so it would be confined in that respect. What I didn't count on however, was the prolific growth from my Ladys Mantle and Loosestrife. The war is truly on! The Loosestrife is growing in leaps and bounds, the Ladys Mantle has reseeded excessively even though I clipped all foliage before it went to seed last fall and dug up all early volunteers this spring. Oh, my. I have managed to get things under control for now. In this same bed I have 2 of the species hydrangea Hills of Snow as well as a La Traviata rose and a couple of peonies (that will have to be moved elsewhere this fall) and a few boxwoods dotted along. The Phlox that is planted closest to the flagstone edge will have to protected carefully. I love the look of this bed, it has a charming untended look to it. It will be our little secret that the carefree cottage style is low maintenance, when in fact it is exactly the opposite.
I may have mentioned before that we live in a neighborhood where everyone has 5 acres. One would think that this would be idyllic and peaceful. When we first bought the property 18 years ago, that's exactly what it was. So quiet and undisturbed. As in so many other areas that is no longer the case. We have million dollar homes to the east of us, whose owners hire landscape companies to keep their yards in order which involves multiple noisey machines going at the same time. We have neighbors to the back who have recently decided that the beautiful untouched back area of their 5 acres if the perfect place to tear around on their ATV (thankfully this doesn't happen often). To the east of us is a teenager (bless his creative spirit), who has put a band together and they practice in their garage. To the west of us is the worst possible situation. A dog kennel that houses 8 cocker spaniels. Let me say up front that I have nothing against these dogs, it is the owners I take issue with. Their kennel was built about 6 years ago and it faces our driveway and house. The poor dogs are locked up about 22 hours a day and they bark at me constantly out of sheer boredom. Due to this and the unpleasant interactions that have been taking place with our dogs and theirs along the fence line we have decided that enough is enough. Last week I planted 146 Thuja Green Giant seedlings. My research tells me that these grow 3 feet per year and are very hardy. In 3 years if all goes well they will be about 8 feet tall. They are lovely conical shaped evergreens that resemble those you would see in French Renaissance gardens. They should give us the privacy we desire and block out some of the noise surrounding us. Will keep you posted on their progress.
My husband is convinced he is the "demi-god" of fire. He is a master at starting and maintaining a fire regardless of it's size. He has even been known to restart a fire after a drizzle simply by "moving things around" with the backhoe. (yes, we have a backhoe, long story.) I am sure there are many of you who feel that it is unsound practice for the environment to burn. I completely understand. It is something we have had to do around here for 18 years considering the size of our property and the amount of debris from trees etc... Once my horses come home, burning will be cut down dramatically as we will have a very large compost bin, but there will always be a burn pile here at Tangled Gardens. Large limbs, fallen trees etc... we salvage and re-use what we can and the rest, well you know... The pics below are of what I expect to be the last of our huge piles. There were several tree stumps in the center from some diseased trees we had cut down a couple of years ago. The pile is now simply two charred stumps that may have to be buried. Just thought I would share something a little different.
When we were at a local "destination" garden last year we picked up 3 old window frames for a mere $5.00 a piece. Finally got around to stripping and sanding off the majority of the old paint, removed the old glass and my ever handy husband installed them on our "pavillion." This one is my favorite. I had it put near my wisteria thinking it would look lovely with the blooms dripping in front of it. I love the results and thought I would share this little outdoor "vignette." Hope you enjoy!
When my husband was trimming the apple tree in February one of the branches he cut down contained a hummingbird nest. I was fascinated and a little sad as I always am when nests are disturbed or fall out of the trees. I have never seen a hummingbird nest until now. I did some research and found some out some interesting facts and thought I would share them with you.
Hummingbirds like to build their nests in the "Y" of a tree or on crossed branches. It must be in a location that is protected from the elements as well as predators that we would not normally think of; snakes, ants etc... She will gather material that is soft like moss, bits of cotton, lint and leaf hairs. She will use spider web as a glue for the nest which while making it sturdy also allows it to stretch as the babies grow. It also makes repair work on the nest easier. When she gathers the spider web it will be all around her beak, chin and across her breast. She will press her body against the nest to transfer the spider web onto it. She will be very careful to make sure the nest is well camouflaged by insuring that the lighter parts are in the sun and the darker parts are in the shade. As she builds her nest she uses her body as a form by pressing it into the interior of the nest. She will also use her feet to stomp the materials into a nice compact shape.
The entire process takes her about 4 hours a day for approximately 6 days to complete requiring about 204 trips to and from the next gathering supplies.
I have always held a fascination for bird nests. They are so intricate, sturdy and delicate all at the same time. I have amassed quite a collection of nests that have fallen out of trees, most of them Robins nests. Some of them are quite elaborate. Now, I have a Hummingbirds nest to add to my collection.
I have had this Camellia for approximately 12 years. It has never given me more than 2 blooms each early spring, sometimes none at all. Sadly, I became resigned to it being just any other evergreen shrub. I have been pruning it back hard for the last 3 years just to keep it under control. This year I noticed it had multiple blooms, but again not hoping for much because in the past they would usually just drop off unopened. This year it has graced my garden with many lovely waxy pink blossoms. I have no idea what has caused it to make the change, I am just thrilled that it has.
Unfortunately, I am one of those who thinks that the basic vegetable garden is not a thing of beauty. It is simply a vegetable garden, laid out in the typical rows that are more common than not.
I see no reason why a vegetable garden can't be a thing of beauty as well as functional. Thus the potager (pronounced poh ta zhay), the kitchen garden or as they say in France, "le jardin potager". A relatively simple design that needs just a few key elements to make it stand out from the average vegetable garden.
A potager is a garden that combines both edibles and flowers. It can vary in size and shape and is typically walled in by the use of a fence, low wall or a border of bushes ie, boxwoods. This gives the vegetable garden a "room" effect, it is a destination unto itself. The potager is typically laid out with pathways and raised beds, there should be a focal point of some sort, maybe a water feature or a birdbath. Arbors with gates add a charming touch and enclose the garden even further. You can add a seating area as well, or maybe a charming table to set your tools on. All of these individual elements turn the average hard working vegetable garden into a charming potager where one can find respite and pleasure.
Below are a couple of pics of my potager that have been shown in earlier posts. Mine contains a birdhouse and a birdbath that is surrounded with sage. There are arbors at each end of the post and rail fence as well as gates. I love walking in there and closing the gate behind me, it takes me to another world. When I designed this vegetable garden I wasn't really thinking of a "potager", I just wanted it to have a cottage style and be a room of it's own. It was only later after researching "le jardin potager" that I realized that was what I actually had. Happy accident! Good Luck creating your own potager! I think you will find it fun and greatly rewarding.
I am always astonished when people say that they don't think animals have distinct personalities when they are born. Some people seem to think that we give them their personalities. I disagree with that. Even my chickens have their own personality. Sometimes a particular breed will behave very similarly but they are still each one unique. I have one rooster (Winston) who feels he is in charge and must assess my every move as I enter the run to feed them. Frequently, he becomes so concerned he spurs me. The first time that happened I was shocked at how fast and furious the action was. It literally took as much time as a blink of the eye. Of course each time he does this I make certain he knows he is not in charge of me by sending him away from me with the inside of my foot, gently but definitively. But now I am familiar with is posturing (puffing up and acting very protective) and have learned that he does not like it when I carry unfamiliar objects into the run. I have one little Polish (Violet) who is very independent and more often than not is off by herself digging holes. My Welsummer rooster is very fearful and does not like to interact with me at all, the Polish rooster is pretty laid back about it all. I adore my Welsummer hen (Dot), she is very friendly and is an only child in her "flock". My first ever chickens are my Americaunas. They are large and beautiful and have nice friendly personalities. The Panadasenca hens are all in a flurry and run in a crowd.
Sadly, very sadly, I had my first chicken loss yesterday. One of my Americaunas (Latte or Breve, I am not sure) pushed her way out of the run gate as I was going in. They have all started crowding at the gate and making it very difficult for me to get in without them getting out. She got herself in a frenzy and pushed her way out behind me. My two dogs of course were right on her. It was awful, but something that is a fact of life when you have chickens and dogs. There was nothing to do but hope for a quick end to her terror. My heart was and is broken. I do everything in my power to keep my chickens all safe and happy and now it is time to reevaluate how I enter the run with treats. Ho hum, life with animals is fraught with happiness and heartbreak.
Below is a pic from inside the coop, they are all very curious when I am in there cleaning and can't wait to come in and roll around in the newly fluffed up bedding.
As it is still officially mid winter there isn't a tremendous amount of activity going on in the gardens. However, it is the perfect time to see to the "winter tidy up". Around here that means quite a lot of heavy lifting and cleaning. Large limbs fall from the old trees, as well as multiple small branches, leftover leaves and the annual deep cleaning of the wooded areas on the property. It's amazing how much input Mother Nature has around here. I have given up the fight with the wild anemone that is here and there. It insists on being very present. Following are a couple of pics of the areas I have finished round one with. The ferns are all natural and it's anyones guess to how long they have existed. Each year I trim out all of the dead brown fronds and clean the leaves out of the center. One year my husband thought I should know that they all got along just fine without me doing all of that. Yes, they did, but did they look this good after being cleaned up? Hmmm... doubt it.
I have been using my current (albeit minimal) composting method for many years now. It has worked well during the winter & fall months. This spring we will be building three large compost bins that will accommodate the 100 lbs. of horse manure I am anticipating getting daily when I bring my horses home. To this I will add chicken manure, trimmings, weeds, produce etc... and will begin composting correctly and efficiently. But for now, I thought I would share with you my process at this point. It works and gives me nutrient rich soil for my vegetables. Once the garden has been cleared of its bounty and the left behinds, I begin turning the soil manually with a shovel. Once it is all turned under I add a layer of leaves and grass clippings in each bed and during the fall/winter months anything that my chickens won't eat goes into the beds. Throughout the week as I clean out my chicken coop I add their bedding and manure to my raised beds. At the end of January I begin turning the organic matter under (again with a shovel) and continue adding produce and chicken manure until the end of March. At this time I turn the beds every week so that the organic matter decomposes and is no longer identifiable when it comes time to plant in the spring. (usually just before Mothers Day). Below is a before and after pic. Happy Composting, whatever your method!
Gardening in the Pacific Northwest.
Passionate about the rambling tangled look of a cottage garden. I love to spend multiple hours making it all happen in my 50+ perennial beds (including 26 rows in a cutting garden), heirloom vegie and herb garden with a few fruit trees and berries.
Please follow me as I note my successes and set-backs in my gardening venture.