Sep 12, 2018

Fall Planting

It's early fall. We're home from vacation, Oliver is back in school, the temperatures are cooling as the days are growing shorter. It's time for me to take all my photos, all my notes from the garden this past spring and summer and put ideas into action for next year. I spent a lot of time last year moving things around, breaking things apart and using what we had. This year it's now time to mix things up and fill in the gaps with new things to add visual interest and more variety.

Here's my garden to-do list for September:
  • Mailbox garden: moody blues veronica (the spiky kind)
  • Front garden bed by stairs: creeping phlox
  • Shade garden: coral huechera, black huechera, purple huechera for visual interest and color 
  • Need to add on to the sunny right garden bed: 3 tall perennials (black eyed susans, echinachea, delphinium) , 6 short ones (2 phlox, 2 hardy geraniums, bergen's veronica (creeping kind), butterfly scabiosa) to fill in the gaps
  • Under dogwood: add aster, creeping phlox
  • Under fringe tree: add aster, creeping phlox 
  • Under crepe myrtle tree: add firewitch dianthus
  • Add more tulip bulbs all over for spring
  • Need to fill in iris area, I'm starting with 3 more 
  • Add a few lupines in the back by fence to fill in tall gaps (lots of blanks there)
  • Transplant another anenome piece to the left bed (between asparagus and blackberry)
  • Move the unhappy astilbe over to left bed in a shady spot under the tree

Lots of color and new textures! And these will span different seasons as well. Phlox, tulips, irises and lupines in the spring. Veronica, geraniums, scabiosa, dianthus, black eyed susans and echinachea in the summer and into the fall when the asters will bloom.

Notes for October:
  1. Mark where I want the dahlias to go next year so there won't be any guess work next spring (I am going to use stakes)
  2. Sort the dahlia bulbs by short and tall into two bags so I don't have to guess next spring (this was a big mistake throwing them all in two big bags unmarked.

Notes for next spring:
  1. Consider another honeysuckle for the pergola (like this pink one), I really like the one climbing up the obelisk and some can grow 20 feet tall
  2. Plant more alyssum - it was a great filler!
  3. Start 2 blanket flowers from seed for front yard 
  4. Start 1 butterfly weed for backyard (left side)
  5. Start 2 new black eyed susan vines for next year - they aren't blooming this year but I really like the green vines for the trellis.

For the pots:
  • The petunias and dianthus did great in the backyard and in the bigger pots, but they did terrible in the rail boxes out front 
  • The snapdragons, coleus and polka dot plants also did amazing this year everywhere
  • The alyssum filled in nicely everywhere but became leggy in the pots
  • The calibrachoa did terrible and all died from blight within 2 weeks
  • These pretty orange flowers I had started off great but lost all their leaves halfway through
  • The dahlias did surprisingly well in pots - can definitely do again 

Sep 10, 2018

Cape Cod

We went on our annual trip to Cape Cod, and this year was extra special because my sister got married in Wellfleet! The wedding was beautiful, my sister was gorgeous and I was very happy to be her maid of honor (or is it matron of honor?). The wedding took place at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall with a tent in the back - we ate amazing food (it was catered by Mac's) and danced the night away.

After a long weekend in Wellfleet, we went down to Chatham for our annual family vacation, back in our favorite rental house. The beach was beautiful, the weather was gloriously warm and sunny the whole time. We played mini golf with the kids, went kayaking, ate ridiculous amounts of fresh fish, swam in the ocean every day (and the water was unusually warm too), got rainbow shave ice from our favorite place, collected sea shells, took walks, spotted seals and crabs, played a million games of catch with balls and frisbees. Oliver crushed everyone in stratego and monopoly repeatedly.

It went by way too fast. Every year when we go up I feel like we're coming home and when we leave my heart aches a bit. It's my favorite way to say goodbye to summer (my favorite season), being up in Cape Cod definitely takes the sting out of the changing of the seasons.

Aug 29, 2018

August Garden

This has been a terrible summer weather-wise. Way too much rain, too much humidity. Our backyard is a swamp and there are a million mosquitoes everywhere. The garden has not fared well either. It was like a switch flipped at the end of July - everything went from beautiful and healthy to dead or blight ridden.

And then there's Morgan. Morgan Mayhem, living up to her name. No matter how many barriers I put up, no matter how many times I fix the deer netting, she is a whirlwind of destruction and chaos. Digging up the black plastic. Digging holes in the beds and flinging dirt everywhere. Killing one tomato plant. Ripping down half my giant basil (don't worry, I made a huge batch of pesto that night). I've given up. I'm out of netting, and what's the point? She's just going to rip it up anyway. She knocks down all the barriers. She's broken the gate. I have lost the battle this summer. And since the garden is doing so terribly anyways... it's not worth the battle. I'm waving the white flag.


I've had worse years for tomatoes - their robust health in July set the stage for plenty of fruit. However, the weather in August has caused a lot of the tomatoes to literally rot on the vine. Soft spots, mold, pests... and now the plants are wilting from blight. We have been able to enjoy plenty of delicious tomatoes, I even made a good sized batch of freezer marinara... but at the same time, it's pretty tragic to have to throw so many away.

Herbs, Beans, Greens

This is my only bed that's doing well. The herbs are unbothered by the weather. The rosemary is a decent size (and I'm using it), the oregano is a monster, the basil was enormous (until Morgan smashed it) and it's still quite big, the thyme is doing mostly well. The swiss chard keeps coming back no matter how much of it we eat. The vine spinach is very tall and has lots of leaves we're eating (the flavor is very similar to baby spinach - it's nice!). The beans don't want to share the tower at all and are trying to take over the entire thing despite my efforts to trim it back.


Everything here is dead. Cucumber vines, melon vines, squash vines, pumpkin vines. The blight hit hard and everything withered fast. We did get a bunch of cucumbers, 2 melons, 6 butternut squash... but no pumpkins.


You know thing are bad when even the zinnias aren't doing as well as usual! They are usually about 5 feet tall by now with a million blooms. The stalks are short, falling over with lots of blight spots on the leaves.  I am getting bouquets of flowers (pretty bouquets!) but it's about half of normal. The heirloom flower mix is a mixed bag - some things are doing really well, some things aren't. I don't think I'll do it again but it's been interesting to mix in something new.

At least the butterflies are happy...

Aug 13, 2018

Shells, coral and rocks - oh my!

A few weeks ago, we went with Mike's side of the family on a cruise in the Caribbean. It was amazing. There were 16 of us, the kids had a great time with their cousins and all the adventures and we got to experience some truly beautiful places. Jumping off a catamaran into the aqua waters of Sint Maarten, snorkeling in Magen's bay in St. Thomas, swimming with sting rays in the Bahamas.

And of course, now we have a whole new vacation collection of shells, coral and rocks.

Our family's favorite souvenirs always seem to be shells, rocks and maps. I didn't find any good maps on our cruiser-centric shopping trips (apparently everyone wants duty-free designer duds, booze and jewelry?), but we did find a lot of great shells and coral bits washed up on the beaches.

It was beautiful, so beautiful!

No better way to remember the beautiful beaches. It's been a long time since Mike and I were in the Caribbean and I think I'm more enchanted than ever with the colors of the water. (Aqua is my favorite color after all...)

Aug 9, 2018

Living Room Bookcases Part 2 + New Rug!

It's silly how long it's taken me to share pictures of our updated living room - we've had this finished for over 6 months...

Mike finished the "built in" bookcase in the living room by installing the final section across the sun room doors (see part 1 here). We purchased one of the narrow Billy bookcases from IKEA that was the perfect width for the top of the door frame to the ceiling molding.Installed on its side, it had to be cut down to fit the space between the tall bookcases. Mike measured from the center out so that the middle stability shelf was centered over the doors. Cutting it down was easily done, assembling the bookcase was fairly straightforward as well - Mike just had to drill new holes and everything came together easily.

To get the shelf flush with the door frame and bookshelves, Mike added a backboard of spare wood (drilled into the studs in the wall). From there he attached the assembled shortened bookcase with heavy duty brackets used for decking. It's REALLY sturdy - we could probably use the bookcase as a pull-up bar now (but we won't test it).

Originally we were going to put molding across the front, but when we did a test piece, it didn't look right. It actually looks better without. We didn't add molding around the sides of the bookcases either because our walls aren't straight and the molding highlighted how wonky they are.

My favorite things in this house are the things that look like they've always been there, and this is one of those things. I can't imagine going back to how it was before with shorter dark bookcases without lighting - this is so much better. The height really accentuates are tall ceilings.

Also, we can't forget our new(ish) rug! We finally put down the new rug about a month before Morgan joined our family. The intense pattern camouflages a lot, which is key with two young kids and a puppy. Plus the price (amazon prime day deal from last summer) can't be beat. This rug is 8 x 10 instead of the 5x7 rug we used to have in here (that Georgia ruined and we threw away when she was having all her problems). The size is a much better fit for this room. And it's so soft and thick and comfortable to sit on. The boys love relaxing on it or playing on it. The pattern hides everything. And the colors work surprisingly well in the room.

You can also see how we're living with our old couch from when we first moved in (it lived in our sun room/playroom for a long time until we got rid of our newer but almost-ruined Crate & Barrel couch last summer). We will probably keep this one here for another year or so, until Morgan is out of her puppy phase and the boys are that much older. Right now this poor couch is taking a beating in chocolate milk spills, muddy paws, and chewed corners. It's a very comfortable couch for sitting and it's actually a GREAT couch for napping (seriously it's probably the best napping couch of my whole life)... but this couch also drives me crazy. The cushions NEVER stay put. They are always sliding forward at an uncomfortable angle, even with the cover on it. And it's a pain to constantly put back together 10 times a day when back cushions have to be pulled up while the bottom ones pushed in, the covers re-tucked, everything re-shifted and I feel like I'm doing acrobatics. I LIKE that the cushion covers are removable for washing, but I wish they didn't slide around so easily. We also need more seating in here - I still have my eye on a modular IKEA sectional with removable covers as our next couch (even if the purchase date keeps moving into the future).

Aug 2, 2018

Garden beds: Peak of Summer Assessment

It's July! I always think of July as the gardening peak of the year. The perennials are now at about full size for the year, the spring plants are still around (even if some are wilting). It's the ideal time to assess what I've done right and what I need to fix.

Overall I'm really happy with this results. I last shared an update in the Spring. Things filled in better than I had hoped in certain places, and in others I will definitely need to fill in. I made a few mistakes, but most things are easily rectified. Such as below - I planted some  annuals from seed not realizing how tall they would be (they are taller than the echinacea), but since they are annuals I will just skip them next year.

The alyssum, transplanted from spring seed sprouts in the raised bed garden where it self-germinated from last year has done really well. It's filled in the front areas where we need low flowers beautifully. I'm hoping they will continue to self-seed and germinate in the future, but if not I can always plant new seeds or add in more low perennials. The 2 blanket flowers I also grew from seed are also doing great. The butterfly weed is filling in so nicely (and is so easy to grow from seed!), we have 3 blooming in different spots and I just love the orange flowers.

The most glaring spot is here (marked by the trellis below), also mentioned in the spring, around the irises/delphiniums/hydrangea. The irises need a little more variation in color (since the pink and yellow didn't survive) and I think that will help fill in between the irises and delphinium (which died back completely after blooming... hopefully it's not dead-dead and just gone for the season?). There's also a big gap between the delphinium and the hydrangea. The hydrangea should get bigger in the next year or two (since it was split and transplanted here and needs to reestablish itself), but there will still be a gap. We need something tall here. I have a tall pink echinachea up front I could split. Or maybe another black eyed susan? Lupine? More delphiniums?

I also have a gap in the shade garden here (in the photo towards the right between the hostas). I'm thinking a big root geranium or salvia, something to break things up with something different. Nothing too tall, but the empty wedge goes all the way back to the fence.

The astilbe here is very unhappy - it's the sickly yellow thing in the center of the photo below. I think it's getting too much sun. I'm going to dig it up this fall and move it to another spot in the yard where hopefully it will be a little happier and get more shade. However this will leave a gap here and it will need something.

Another mistake I made this year is with dahlia bulbs, an example of which you can see next to the astilbe above. Last Fall when I dug them up I just threw them all together for storage (in paper bags in the basement) and so this spring I had no idea what was what. This of course has led to having tall dahlias where I needed short ones (like above) and short ones where I needed tall ones. In October I have to be more organized and make two groups - tall and short - so next year I can plant them better.

The original anenome plant that's spawned all the other pink anenomes in our yard is a monster yet again despite constantly cutting it back. Seriously those buds are 6/6.5 feet high. It's ridiculous and beautiful. Even though we're in the peak of summer I've attempted to transplant a chunk of it over by the blackberries to give the other flowers more room. It might not take, being so hot, but the alternative was just throwing some of it away when I trimmed it back so there's no loss. I can always transplant another chunk in the fall.

So my fall plans:
- Separate tall dahlias from short for winter storage
- Move astilbe that's miserable
- Fill in gaps with 3 sun-loving plants, 1 shade plant
- Add a couple more short perennials (this might wait until spring, depending)
- Move a couple more anenome transplants to the fence by blackberries
- Add a couple more irises (for variety, from spring notes)
- Add more tulip bulbs (from spring notes)