Sep 14, 2017

Cape Cod

Our annual family trip to Cape Cod was moved and shortened to accommodate Oliver's new school schedule and kindergarten, but we crammed a lot of great things into a week. Beach time, swimming in the pool, kayaking, hiking, shopping, ice cream, shave ice, fresh seafood. Quality time with our extended family. We stayed in a new location on the other side of town - new places to explore. It was beautiful as always.

The beaches had small cliffs above them, huge dunes and wooded areas to walk through with trails - it was really lovely and scenic.





















The beaches didn't have a lot of sea shells. We found a few good ones at low tide in these mud flats, but really the beaches were full of cool rocks.

We found several cool rock specimens to display.  Oliver said he thinks the white ones are diamonds.


 I'm partial to the colorful ones with pink and purple in them.


Sep 11, 2017

The Highlight Reel: Best of Spring & Summer

We've had a few crazy weeks around here. The last week in August we were on vacation in Cape Cod (it was wonderful!) and then last week we started several reorganization projects (like the playroom!), unpacked, Oliver started kindergarten, our regular nanny returned, we've juggled crazy work schedules. I have so much to  once I've caught up!

One thing I've been meaning to share are a few highlights from the past few months. Things have been so fine lately, spring and summer were really good to us. The days were long and warm, we spent lots of time outside. Everything all lush and green, the flowers blooming. There's so much to celebrate and enjoy. Our life has continued to be chaotic and a bit challenging (like Georgia's health declining, a pipe bursting in our kitchen, etc.) but it's been so full of happy things too. I love this time of year.

Some of my favorite highlights...

Matthew turned one!




Oliver celebrated his 5th birthday with a Justice League themed triple layer vanilla cake. It wasn't my best cake design but Justice League logos are really hard to do in frosting. At least it tasted good.




The boys had their birthday party at the zoo (it was a massive combined party because I couldn't handle doing two parties a month apart, so we did one big party in between both of theirs). We had a face painter and it was awesome.




We've gone to our favorite NJ beach. We went to Baltimore for a family wedding and took the boys to the National Aquarium. We've gone to the zoo multiple times. We went to the pool at least three times a week. We celebrated the Fourth of July with a parade, sparklers, fireworks and a BBQ. The kids play in our backyard with each other and friends, the swings and sprinklers get heavy use. We go to the playground. We've caught fireflies at dusk. Made s'mores. I putter in the garden almost every day for at least a few minutes. We take walks. Visit friends' pools. The boys take bike rides with the bike trailer.

It's been good.





Catching fireflies


























Aug 31, 2017

Fall Transplant Plans & Gardening updates

All Summer I’ve been taking notes in the garden beds - what’s working, what’s not. Overall things are great - so many flowers, so lush and green. Most of the plants have reached maturity and with the mulching work I’ve done this year, our yard looks better than ever. However… while some things are doing great where they are, some things are struggling and need to be transplanted. Then empty spaces where things need to be filled in need flowers instead of weeds.

We will need a wait a few more weeks to implement these changes, but I have a big day (or big days!) of gardening planned when the weather cools down. Not only do I want to move the things that are not working, I also want to take this opportunity to redesign the garden space a little bit. When we put things in, it was just to make the garden beds bigger, longer - get things green! But it looks haphazard, especially where things are just planted in a row, like next to like next to like.

Here's what our yard currently looks like in panoramic form (things are curved due to the way the phone takes a panoramic, BUT it was the only way to get all the plants in).

The right side (starting on the patio and moving back):





The strip of garden between the patio and driveway:

The left side of the yard moving back:




Below is the most detailed drawing of our yard and garden beds I’ve ever done. I used photos, took notes and created a true garden layout (vs. the estimated layouts of the past). I needed this to be accurate so I could make a real, functioning redesign plan.

This is how everything is currently laid out (it’s animated with labels so you can see what’s what):

If the animations is giving you a headache you can click on the thumbnails here:


And now for the redesign plans. To start, I want to tackle what’s not working:

  1. I need to move the rhubarb. I planted it when the redbud tree was small when there was plenty of sun. Fast forward 7 years and the tree is much bigger and the rhubarb is in full shade and miserable. I want to put it by the blueberry bushes where we have a long block of day lilies (which will be moved around).
  2. I need to move the hydrangea too, it hasn’t bloomed in years because it doesn’t get enough sun under the red bud either. I think this would be nice over by the peonies (and will replace one of the peonies that will be transplanted elsewhere to make room).
  3. I need to move the delphiniums, they like full sun and are unhappy in the shade here and I think they would be happier by the irises (and the relocated hydrangea).
  4. The strawberries are completely miserable and barely alive next to the peonies. There are very few left. I need to start over somewhere else in a sunny spot without other plants towering over them. I think a new little bed next to the garage, exclusively for strawberries with a low fence for protection will work well. They don’t need a ton of space so I can do something long and narrow here.
  5. The asparagus is thriving...which is why I need to move it! I planted it without doing my research (you’d think I would know better by now!), thinking it was a short plant (like what we eat), not a giant fern monster that grows 6 feet tall. It looks TERRIBLE here, crowding everything else out and I think it would work much better next to the blackberry bush between the fence and driveway. It can grow tall and spread out over there and is stronger than the violets that won’t stop taking over.
  6. I would also like to move what’s left of the mint to near the asparagus along the fence. The raspberries are thriving in this bed and crowding them out. I’m hoping they might thrive again over here.
  7. My irises didn’t bloom this year. It might be weather related (they don’t like late spring frosts), but they might also be feeling crowded. They’ve been here long enough that it’s time for me to dig them up, split the rizomes and spread them out a bit.
  8. Out front my butterfly weed is being trampled by the bullies and being pushed out. I moved it once in an attempt to save it, but I think it’s just going to need to move to the backyard where it will have more space. And attract butterflies to where we spend more time!


Then there are improvements I want to make for the overall look and feel of the garden, now that I have a true sense of what the mature plants look like and better understand what I’m working with.

  1. There’s a narrow strip of grass between the redbud tree bed and the garden bed along the fence, and then another grass strip between the fig tree garden beds. I want to mulch these over and by doing so, give the garden along the fence a more interesting organic curve shape in this area. Under the redbud tree there will be plenty of empty space with the hydrangea, rhubarb and delphiniums gone. I would like to break up the fence line of hostas and astilbe, move around the purple flowers, and take some bleeding heart to put in the shade here since all these are shade friendly plants. I want to build things up here in a varied and pleasing way.
  2. The small bed between the driveway and patio (where the pergola trellis is) needs more filling in with perennials - I have been putting annuals and dahlias in here, but it’s just not filling in the way I’ve always envisioned. I’d like to split some hardy plants I know can grow just about anywhere and try them in this space. I just need to leave room for another vine eventually - the tall clematis I had here (one tall, one short) died twice from blight (a disease called clematis rot). So another year I have to replace it with something else that’s a little more disease resistant but also grows tall but not too aggressively… anyone have any suggestions? Every time I think I’ve found a new option I learn something bad about it (like it will destroy the siding on the house, drop a million seed pods, damage the patio, take over the world…).
  3. Where the asparagus was (in front of the quince, next to the crepe myrtle and the deck), I want to fill in the bare spot with some very low flowers that don’t grow too tall. I have an echinacea out front I can split and put here to start.
  4. The biggest cosmetic changes (the rest of all that red text in the diagram below!) is really just rearranging the lines of plants (astilbe, hostas, lilies, peonies) to break up the like-with-like planting I did (when I planted everything in haste without any plan).
  5. Out front, while I’m moving around all these astilbe plants, I’d also like to break up some of front yard astilbe too because it’s all the same pink. Somehow when we broke the plants apart the first time (we had no idea what was what color because it was fall and we moved in after they bloomed) we ended up with all red in the backyard and all pink up front. So I would like to move some of this pink to the back and some of the red to the front to mix up the colors.
  6. Lastly, I’m adding two new things to the garden for variety and color - a black eyed susan and another echinacea. I really like how they grow and bloom and we don’t have enough late summer bloomers. I think I’m utilizing our existing plants quite well in this plan. The new plants are also a nice reward for all this work!


Did you get all that? Hah! I barely did and I’ve been going over it in my head for days. Taking pictures, updating the diagram. Here’s the layout of this plan for fall - all of the names in black are things that are staying put. Anything in red is something that will be moved around (and/or split up and moved). Purple are the new plants. There’s a lot of red in this diagram but I think it’s really going to improve the overall look and feel of the garden!


Thumbnails:


Hopefully this will make a big difference in a couple of years. I know it will take time for all the split plants to fill in. This summer I filled in a lot of bare patches with dahlia bulbs and a few annuals. Next summer I’m hoping to do the same and use the dahlias again to fill in bare spots while the split plants take shape and grow. I’m sure in a couple more years I’ll be clamoring for more plants when the new bare spots become apparent.