Monday, May 28, 2018

A Garden of a Certain Age

Mature landscape gardens can be a lot like some women of a certain age - they require a whole lot of maintenance to keep looking good. At almost 14 years old, that's where my garden is - high maintenance. I guess that makes me its stylist chore girl, trying to keep up the garden's image.
I haven't posted for almost a month, but after days of working in the garden as well as a few dedicated to my antique mall booth spaces, May has simply been a flash. In the spirit of keeping my garden journal, allow me to note some of  my landscape's recent mini makeover procedures, which may or may not sound like a mature woman's beauty routines and maintenance. Caution: photos ahead!

Thankfully, a good haircut late last fall throughout the garden allowed for things to start growing out without much need for attention until late April.
Late April - Anemones and Lilac Bush in Bloom (limelight Hydrangea in background)
Like a tattoo eyeliner, the steel edging around the landscape beds keeps a permanent boundary and definition in the garden. This was an investment well worth its money several years ago.
Fresh cut lawn, mid-May: Azaleas, Knockout Roses, Irises in Bloom
The first flush of knockout roses were simultaneous with the azaleas and irises blooming, around mid-May, and glowed much as a mature woman might when complimented on her appearance.
Knockout Roses Trained Upward, Irises (small ground plants are dwarf butterfly bushes)
Like bushy eyebrows, the yellow irises were flopping over this year and had to be staked. My iris patch looks like one big unibrow, and needs to be thinned out and transplanted leftward, to better define the area and balance the three knockout roses trained on trellises.
Yellow irises had to be staked this year with weight of blooms
Like wild hairs growing in places never before seen, the azaleas also need a good plucking now that the blooms are spent.
Azaleas in Bloom
Like lipstick that bleeds into the lip lines on a mouth, there are plants behind the azaleas that can't even be seen, just needing a defined line in front.
Behind Azaleas: Mountain Bluet, Snowflake Viburnum, Clematis on Tuteur
Poppies passed along from a sister have had free reign as to how they've spread for the past few years, but they've taken to growing in and among the tree form butterfly bush bases, much like keratosis randomly shows up on skin.
Poppies: Bud, Bloom, Seed Head
Like using creams and even the knife to get rid of pesky skin problems, the photo below shows one section of the east landscape bed where I've dug, divided, transplanted, weeded, and worked relentlessly to set things right. Some areas were like thinning hair while others overgrown, where a few years of inattention led to an age-worn and waning area of the garden. Wild violets are like malignant moles on the skin of my landscape beds, spreading and killing out healthy plants ever so subtly through the years. I am on a mission to take back my garden, one section at a time!
East Landscape Bed: Divided & Transplanted Salvia, Black-eyed Susans, Poppies (late May)
Continuing the efforts I'd begun last year on the opposite landscape bed where I transplanted coneflowers among the salvia, sedum and weeping cedar Atlas, this year I divided and transplanted more black-eyed Susans that were being snuffed out primarily by weeds. Getting rid of wild violets is like coloring gray hair roots - one strand at a time.
West Landscape Bed: Divided & Transplanted Black-eyed Susans, Asiatic Lilies (late May)
I had Asiatic lilies beneath my bird feeder on the eastern bed for several years...until the rabbits or moles ate them. Pictured below, these are now blooming after a couple weeks in the ground. Like a woman jilted, they were left on the curb by a neighbor who just upgraded their outdoor space, probably for some new, trophy plants. I rescued these, and they'll shine like bright nail polish to accent the purple salvia just before the pink coneflowers start blooming in this bed. Like using an eyelash enhancer in an attempt to make the area appear lush, I've planted two types of zinnia seeds among the coneflowers and salvia. Does that stuff really work? Only time will tell.
Asiatic Lilies Rescued from Neighbor's Trash
In front of our magnolia tree in one of the front landscape beds, the knockout roses are sculpted in a nice, curvy shape, unlike moi.
Knockout Roses in Arc in front of Magnolia
Just behind the roses is where my original Lord Baltimore hibiscus plantings are. These are high, high maintenance perennials that require staking throughout June in order to put on the best showing. I have decided to nip and tuck those babies this year! Instead, my focus will be on trying another vine for the trellis arch. Years of success with growing mandevilla until last summer when squirrels nibbled them almost daily left me scouring for products to do battle with. Seems even cayenne pepper didn't deter the squirrels.
Area Behind Arc of Roses, Magnolia: Transplanted Seedling Vine, Raked, Mulched (late May)
Garden Gate Path with Hyacinth Bean Vine Seedlings Planted at Base
I'm trying my luck with hyacinth bean vines (and a few other plants grown from root or seeds). In the two photos above, if you look closely, you can see the bean vine transplants at the base of the trellis arch. All the things I've started in pots seem to be doing pretty well in just two weeks time.
Seed Starts for 2018
Climbing roses in the courtyard are still bearing lots of blooms, and are host to nests in two of the three shown. Like a mother whose children have failed to launch, they seem to be a safe haven for the "kids" every year. The lavender is doing well, and I've already harvested a bouquet for drying.
Courtyard Climbing Roses, Lavender Underplantings
The only container planters I've created this year so far are also in the courtyard. I like the change I made this year, mixing a braided hibiscus as the thriller, with asparagus fern and lantana to fill and spill beneath. I hope they'll do well in the full sun, tropical-like space.
Courtyard Containers: Hibiscus Tree Form with Asparagus Fern, Lantana Underplantings
And just like a high-maintenance woman of a certain age who started getting work done, this garden is relentless in the list of improvements it seems to still want. The area shown below is the far back corner where I planted more Lord Baltimore hibiscus. I will stake these, as they are real head turners later in summer from both the street (seen at fence in the background) and alley (behind the brick wall surrounding them). As you can also see, the wild violets are having their way at the base, but not for long!
Next Area of Work: Weeding Wild Violets Beneath Perennial Hibiscus, Staking Hibiscus
For the holiday, I'm taking a short break from all the mulching and weeding, digging, dividing and transplanting.
The Edge of Mulch Work in Progress 
My clematis and buttercups began blooming this Memorial Day weekend, as if to dress for the occasion.
Memorial Weekend Blooming Clematis
Memorial Weekend Blooming Buttercups

The front porch even got a bit of a makeover. The doors have been moisturized with Diana's wood salve. That stuff is simply amazing. If you haven't seen the testimonials, check out that link and get some!
Front Porch Memorial Day 2018
Like I said, my Zone 7a garden is mature and, like some women of a certain age, it requires a lot of maintenance just to look good. I sure hope she carries herself well at a few garden parties she plans to attend this week. What about you and your garden? How's your beauty maintenance coming along lately?

(A special thanks to readers of Kathryn's The Dedicated House Sunday Showcase for this post meriting being featured!)
Rita C. at Panoply

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Grand Cayman Vacation Photo Journal

I mentioned taking a little break in my last post, and we just returned a week ago from our favorite destination, Grand Cayman, BWI. This post is a photo journal of our week-long stay on the island, which is nearly 450 miles south of Miami, 100 miles south of Cuba. 
Here was the comparative forecast for the days we left Charleston to what we were expecting in George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands.
We flew via a Charlotte connection on a pre-dawn flight out of Charleston.
We arrived on island around 12:30 pm Cayman time (they are in the Eastern time zone as we are, but do not observe daylight savings time). Our adult kids (two daughters, 2 sons-in-law) traveled with us. One son-in-law was brave enough to rent a van and drive us all on the "wrong" side, navigating the newest, four-lane highway completed in recent years. "Give Way" (Yield) on the roundabouts felt like a roller coaster ride to us all!
After arrival and lunch, the kids went to the grocery store once we checked in to our condo. Sundays are closed for shopping in Grand Cayman, and that's important to know when traveling there!
We stayed in a 3 bedroom, 3 bath condo that was perfectly accommodating for all, with a ground floor walk out at the near center of Seven Mile Beach. The view above was our daytime view for the week, the view below was our evening view for Cayman sunsets. The days and nights are nearly equal at 12 hours each in Grand Cayman, and darkness settles in around 7pm each night.
A panoramic shot of the property on which we stayed.
We lazed and we snorkeled in the Caribbean sea waters just in front of our condo. We enjoyed seeing sea life such as sea turtles, barracuda, scorpion fish, spotted eel, flounder, and many more common species on small coral structures just within 200 yards of the shore in front of us.
Five of six of us are PADI scuba certified, and diving was the main reason for going back to Grand Cayman. Even though I've been diving since 1999 (Mr. P. even longer), we took a refresher course since we hadn't dived in four years. The day before flying, we had Chinese take-out, and my fortune cookie had this message:
My fortune was appropriate, as I have a healthy respect and fear of scuba diving and the physics involved. However, we enjoyed each underwater trip without issues, exploring everything from the sheer wall drop of the island's volcanic topography, to a shipwreck on the sand floor, its coral structures, and the variety of aquatic life. The sea temperature was approximately 82°, cool enough to feel refreshing when getting in, but warm enough not to be chilled when underwater for nearly 50 minutes at a time when scuba diving (although I still wear a 3mm wetsuit). A highlight for us was spotting a huge, spotted eagle ray along with many other Caribbean sea life and coral structures while diving.
Two-tank morning dives (one to nearly 100' deep, the second a shallow dive to no more than 60-65' deep) left afternoons for logging dive notes, rinsing equipment, and lazing away the time. It's a life I could get used to!
The guys settled right in to the Caribbean lifestyle of relaxing.
Even my daughter, who is the Executive Director of the city's FestivALL, changed hats and became the INactivity Director after a few days of email and work exchanges.
We had a late afternoon rain shower for about twenty minutes on one day, but the resulting clouds that evening were quite showy. We spotted a camel in the sky. 😉
Every day's a holiday and every night's a Saturday night while on vacation, and there's no better place to have 5 o'clock somewhere than Grand Cayman. We enjoyed dinners in and out, both together and separately as couples. Our last night was dinner together at Camana Bay's Brooklyn restaurant.
Each morning, Mr. P. & I walked Seven Mile Beach, either northward.....
...or southward, and sometimes we'd walk both ways.
On our last day, we left the condo around 10am, but not before a last walk on the beach.
We left Charleston at 35°, and pretty much arrived home to same temperature a week later, at 38°, leaving the consistent tropical weather behind. It has warmed up here - finally - and now we are under the pollen blankets that much of the deeper South has recently experienced.
Is it any wonder why I made this my screensaver on both my phone and desktop? Sigh.........
Until our next trip........

Rita C. at Panoply

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