Friday, October 31, 2008

Lost another tree

We lost a tree during the summer during one of those heavy thunderstorms that peppered August. It fell unnoticed for two days into our 'wooded lot' on the side of the house. But then, last weekend, during the overnight rainstorm, we lost another. Both of them were big Maples, the first a Nordic maple and the second an older maple of indeterminate heritage. Well as you can imagine, one, no big deal, but a second fall made me take a closer, more suspicious look at the big beautiful behemoths that ring our house.

In the front right on our property line, and right on the street we have an enormous maple that must be 100 years old if its a day, and from the front it looks fine, but from the back it is completely eaten away with rot, and is littered with huge mushrooms.

On the size bordering our neighbors we have three fifty+ year old Oaks and they seem ok, but I've heard Oaks indicate poor health first at the top, and if that's the case, we may be seeing early signs of decline. I'm not worrying about the Oaks yet though, they haven't dropped any big limbs while we've been here.

On the hill in the back, we've got several mid-size maples, and I'm sad to report none of them are particularly healthy. It could be their proximity to our septic tank (circa 1968 say no more). For the second one down, it could be that it was in a tight stand of trees and was weak due to weathering in a group. It could be it was their time. Or it could be it was infested with some bug. It could be all of the above.

I admit was already hot to chop down some trees to 'take back' a bit more usable space for our family, but now I'm thinking I should do it with an eye towards increasing the health of the trees that we keep. I'll keep you posted on what we end up doing.

I'm home for Halloween with the kids, but my eldest didn't want to miss the mask parade at daycare, so I need to go pick him up now that the festivities are coming to a close. Our festivities are just starting though... Happy Halloween everyone!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Holy Hydrangeas

So my sister, always generous with her plants and cuttings, has gifted me with a hydrangea. H. Paniculata Tardiva to be precise. Click this link to see more about the variety: In the first moments after our latest round of rains stopped, I was out and planting a number of plants that dear sister gave me. I plunked 'tardiva' in a shady spot next to the new deck where it will get morning sun, but will largely be in shade. That's what I understood hydrangeas wanted. Then I go online (after I've cleaned up and showered mind you...) and find that this bugger wants alot of sun. 'Several hours of sun actually...Crud. Alot of sun I do not have. Shade I have a-plenty. I might lit it lie where it is for the winter, but then again I might get adventurous and move it to a sunnier spot farther from the house. I'll keep you posted (pun intended).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Setting Seed

Two posts in two days - ok don't hyperventilate... I have to share that my sister has jumped on in to the blogosphere here at and has discussed her successess with starting from seed. I, on the other hand, have not been so brave. Yet. However, that is all about to change. I received the most recent Horticulture magazine e-newsletter. The pink and melon tones of carribean cocktail nasturtium called to me from their 'Plants we love' section, so much so that I just had to have them. See the article here: I immediately jumped over to Pine Hill Gardens ( and had to 'git me sum.' And so I did. I've shared the picture that started it all as lifted from (aren't they pretty?!) I'll keep you posted on my experience with ordering from Pine Hill Gardens as well as my foray into seed-ery. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Where did the summer go...?

I am a terrible blogger. There, I admit it.

I might even be a terrible gardener. During the summer, when I had a spare moment, it was after dark. As a result, I only just got back into my garden 3 weekends ago. When I did wade into it, the front border was more a weedgarden - the crabgrass had all but taken over. All I can say is Thank-god for hardy perennials and plant sales.
I can't blame my 8-month or four-year old for the neglect. Not this time. Why not? A woman who blogs on gardening not in her garden?? The answer: We built a deck. To be precise, I had very little to do with the actual building of it -- my husband did the heavy lifting -- 80 40-lb bags of concrete to be specific. And that with a bad back (understatement). Many others contributed as well - thanks go to Dad, brother and brother-in-law, for (at the very least) 6 4-foot posts dug, three lifts of that door in the photo below, and 800 lbs of construction detritus removed respectively. I stand by the "We" though, since without me to make sure our two little darlings did not, either, A) slice off a digit (or worse) on one of daddy's power tools, or B)stand too close to a swinging hammer, the deck would not have gotten done. I removed said offspring every weekend, almost all weekend, which was reflected by the garden. Here is what our back yard looked like before....

and what it looks like now...

And the side view before (jeez, it almost looks like we had grass back there)...

...and after...

How did we get heyah from theyah? From the end of July until this past weekend we lived in a construction zone, but it was worth it. We extended our living area (during 2 seasons) by 300 square feet. We moved the gas grill from the front porch - with our cooking schedule on display to the neighborhood - to the relative privacy of the back yard. The living room is now opened up literally and figuratively, which expands the view of the Nashua river that we fell in love with when we bought the house. It changes (in a good way) the air flow when the door/windows are open. All in all, it brings our 1870s farmhouse into the 21st century. The bad news is, now I want more...changes, modernity, etc. We are talking about paint next year - but that's another post.

The deck also brings new gardening challenges. It's on the North side of the house so plants by the stairs (unless they are tall) will get little direct sunlight, but containers on the deck itself will get full sun for much of the day. Nevertheless, I can't wait to plant stuff out there!!! I bought some mums today, and while I'm not a huge fan of mums, they are dependable and colorful for the season. It also makes me want to move the playset, but that is another post too... Stay tuned, on my next post I will return to blogging about my lovelies that didn't get killed despite (in spite of?) my neglect.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rain, Rain and more rain

Its been raining off and on for 3 days now, which normally, I would love - water being good for the gardens and good for my water bill, but not this time; I'm on vacation.

Being a 2-working-parent household with small children, there is never enough time in the day, or weekend, for various bits of neglected housework, yardwork, or even self maintenance. I am often just getting going on a project when someone starts to cry...whine...or otherwise need my attention. Sometimes I just wish I had a day, hour, 15 minutes to myself -- house time, garden time, me time. Thats what this vacation was to be - catch up time. Now you should know that we aren't 'big' vacation people. We vacation at our house, and the kids still are too young to know that most people 'go' places during their vacation. I figure I have one more good year before my son discovers Disney is more than a store in a mall or a title before a movie. I am milking it.

I saw this vacation as a couple of solid days of 'if only' I had an hour time. Kids go to daycare - heck, I'm paying for it - and I can get some stuff DONE time! I was happily planning to use the first couple of days off (and I don't count the weekend - we still had the kids) to do some post maternity shopping and then get the neglected yardwork done - and since I enjoy yardwork - I saw this as goodness. Twisted I know. But so much for my plans. It has rained every day this week. A recap:

Monday I was on target: I went shopping at the mall sans children! I felt guilty that I was actually alone (see above; kids at daycare) for about 5 minutes. Then the shopping gene kicked in. I bought some clothes that don't have spit up blended into the fabric, some slacks that haven't been stretched out in the belly, and finally I picked up some non-mommy bras (Sorry I digress off my topic but really! This is big!) and some pretty underwear! My husband has just about forgotten that I can wear underwear that is neither white, cotton, nor hole-y. It started to rain in the afternoon, so no yardwork.

Tuesday morning I got my oil changed -- it had been 8500 miles since the last one - another casualty. Then in the afternoon the rain really kicked in, and I missed my weeding window. I had hoped to attack my weedgardens and actually spread some mulch in the afternoon - but no luck. I read a book instead and did laundry - and decided to actually put it away instead of perennially getting dressed from baskets.

Hoping the rain would abate Wednesday, I decided to delay the lake by a day.

Wednesday dawned raining. Crud. Balanced the checkbook (sorta - I'm 9.80 off). Hubby, also vacationing - had planned to start the construction this week, but that's another post - decided he had had enough waiting for good weather and weeded the worst of the gardens and mulched from the enormous pile of pepperell dpw mulch (see my earlier post) still sitting in my front yard in the drizzle. Amazingly he did manage to mulch several gardens before it really started to pour thanks to the remnants of hurricane Dolly.

Wednesday afternoon, and I get a call from daycare, my son is running a temp and has been 'emotional' all day - read: clingy. Hubby volunteers to get the champ home. Fast forward a half hour; my son has upchucked 4x at daycare and his fever has spiked to 102.

So this is where I am; Wednesday night with a sick kid, rain predicted for Thursday and no gardening of note accomplished, vacation more than half gone. Monday morning work yawning like a black hole...

Oh well. Looking back, I did get alot done - just not in the garden. On the bright side, there will always be weeds to pull - even if I had gotten to it, there would just be more next week. Isn't that what August is about? Now the weatherchannel is predicting the return of sun accompanied by hot and humid on Friday -- so we'll head off we go to the lake (baby boy is asking for food already, so he's in recovery) - early in the morning. So it really is all good, after all, nothing can be that bad when you're wearing pretty new undies.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beach Party Baby

So this weekend my sister threw our first annual 'Birthday in July' party. What's this? Well to explain, 4 of 5 siblings (yes I am Irish Catholic) has a birthday either in late December or January, and then to top it off I married someone with a birthday in December, my children are January and February birthdays and my nephew is a January baby - phew! That's alot. And as someone whose birthday is in late December, I can attest first hand; no one wants to have a birthday party after all those holiday and new years events. Everyone is simply burned out on food and fun. So for a few years we've been talking about having a single party to celebrate all those birthdays, and now my sister actually made good on it.

Swampgardener rented the Gardener Pavilion at Devereaux Beach in Marblehead for $50 bucks from 3-6. What a deal! For that bargain price you've got a family friendly beach with close parking, a boardwalk perfect for lugging gear, babystrollers and soothing hot feet, and a playground right on the beach to entertain the kids that get bored at the ocean (my son!). Here's a pic of the park (below). Keep in mind that parking for all but the townies on the weekend is $10 bucks - unless you rent one of two pavillions for a 3 hour block. Then parking is free. We actually got there and were told the lots were full, we mentioned we were with the party at the beach and got let into the lot. Do the math; bring in 5 cars and you break even. Even with carpooling - we still had around 5 cars for about 25 people.

There are hibachis on site, so you bring your coals and lighter fluid and you're cookin'... literally. Now there's no public drinking in Mass and Devereaux beach is no exception, but we had some...ahem...punch...that was not to be sampled by the chillens' that put just the right glow on the day...and us.

This was also baby girl's first trip to the beach. It's guaranteed to be the first of many, as a beach day is one of my favorite ways to spend a summer day either with or without kids in tow. She was great, got passed around the family, didn't fuss too much and even managed to sleep for a little bit too. To top it off she only got one mouthful of sand for the whole event. That is what I call a successful beach day.

A snap of my guys at the beach punctuates the beauty of the day.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Plant and replant/Blooming July 6th 2008

Without my son clamoring for our attention, as he was happily off for the better part of the weekend to his grandparents lakeside retreat, my husband and I set to work on some long neglected yardwork (Yes this was our holiday wknd -- we're twisted I know). Hubby loves to use weed-b-gone (no herbicide free zone here -- I know, I know) and was in his glory this weekend, alhough I did ban the spraybottle from the borders. In between her naps, we brought the baby out to watch mum and dad work weeding, mowing and trimming the lawn, spreading mulch and trimming back the verge. Since we live on nearly an acre of what was kindly labeled by the realtor as a wooded lot, but in reality was a vision of what the world looked like when the pilgrims came, very - shall we say - natural, trimming is a neverending battle, but that's another post.

In the midst of these chores, I did manage to find homes for the climbing roses (at the mailbox, in front of the house by the porch and front of the barn/garage) and two syringa sensation lilacs that I got on sale from WG in their end of season B1G2 free - yes thats right - 3 for the price of one. I gave one to my neighbor, who is a huge fan of lilacs, she was thrilled. The other two went to the back of my front border, as it will be a few years before they get tall enough to be a nuisance.

Of course, finding homes for these full sun plants was a job in and of itself. It made me rethink a location or two. As a result of the rethinking, I moved three shasta daisy plants that I had only just planted this spring, as well as some siberian iris that I moved last fall. Both sets of plants were doing ok where they were, but could do better. Given that I had a wet spot under a leaky gutter that would suit little but the Sib. iris - there they went. The daisy suffered late blooming for being behind a few other plants (tall mums and more shasta daisy) so they got their own space and should be happier for the move next year. They are drooping now, but are a hardy bunch and should survive.

Finally, I cut back most of the bearded iris amidst the weeding frenzy, and now feel comfortable posting a picture of the front border garden. The daylillies are about to pop, and so it isn't yet at peak, but at least its green (above).

The front yard (Southfacing) I'm nearly satisfied with - but the great/terrible thing about gardening is that you're never quite finished, and on our property there's always... the backyard (insert sinister theme music here)....

Our property backs up to the Nashua River, and though we've tamed about 50% of our property (formerly the wooded lot) since we moved in, the rest (the West and Northwest portion) is still very much wooded. Someday I will go after the other 50% - create paths, points of interest on the way down to the water. It is a lovely view. I have posted a picture to prove it from a kayak float last September.

Until next time, here's whats blooming this week:

Orange daylilies -- most of them popped this week, the yellow just popped yesterday.
Coreopsis verticulata and ...
Shasta daisies - all - in full bloom.
Clematis ... just set bloom this week.
The echinecea just began to pop - next week the front gardens should be in full bloom.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Dipping my toes in the water - rose water that is...

We've been in our home since March of 2006, and I've been steadily increasing my gardens from a neglected square of scorched earth left by the previous owners to going on seven 'rooms' of perennial gardens. I've had some successes - daylily - and some failures - a lovely fire orange azalea that I'm still hoping to save. And this year I've decided to dip my toes in the rose-water. Yes, I'm going to attempt to grow roses in my decidedly quirky zone 5b landscape. I waited until the end of season sales from the catalogs to make my purchases, so they probably won't bloom this year, but there is always next year.

So what am I trying? Two varieties purchased from Wayside Gardens; Rose Climbing Night Owl PPAF pictured above (picture from a cached wayside gardens site), and Rose Moonlight . My thought was the variation in the colors, dark purple and cream respectively, would be interesting.

I'm still trying to figure out what I'll displace, as the full sun spots are all currently engaged with plants. Longer term, I know at least the climber will go by the - to be built - deck out back. Until it's built, it wouldn't be a good idea to plant things there, construction and all. Well, I can dream that there will be construction soon. We did after all buy the double patio door/venting sidelights today. So I suppose we will do something out back even if it is just to prop up the beautiful door and say - oh how nice that will be when it's installed... But I digress.

Truthfully I didn't realize that climbers would take up so much space. I bought three of each plant. Now I need to find them homes. As I type they are soaking in water - in preparation for planting tomorrow - they are going in somewhere. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pepperell Compost

Pepperell compost is the best deal going, $10/yd of bark mulch infused with shall we matter...from the Pepperell water treatment plant and delivered (within Pepperell)for the bargain price of only $15 bucks.

This stuff will make even the most black thumb managed garden burst with health... But... isn't there always a but? Last year after composting my gardens I had random corn growing in my flower garden and I did not plant corn. I hope I don't have to explain that to you.

My sister in Swampscott even shoveled some into trash bags and carted it off in her minivan to her garden. She may be more obsessed with her garden than I am

Call the water dept for details, here's the link

my blog

This, my first foray into blogging, will discuss/contemplate/rant on topics such as working full time, raising children and gardening (while doing both). I'm a 35-year old (eeek) Mom raising two children in a small Massachusetts town on the MA/NH border. I don't begin to suggest that the topics will be equally distributed over the these categories. I like my job, am in love with my children, but as my husband and neighbors will attest, I may just be obsessed with gardening.

Local Nurseries I've used