I Like This – May 25, 2010

Tasks: Azalea Trimming

The previous owners planted a large series of geometric beds with azalea and juniper in the front garden long before we owned the property. Over the course of a year, these plantings can get quite shaggy. Typically I use the hedge trimmers on them, due to their geometric shapes and size. It isn’t the preferred method of pruning azaleas, but more of a “make do” arrangement.

Azalea Trimming - 1

The azaleas need to be trimmed after they bloom, but before they set new growth and buds for the next flowering season. Several times in the past, including last year, I have missed this window and been forced to wait another year before pruning. This makes the job more difficult, but it still has to be done.

We are slowly reworking all of these beds to change the character of the front yard The junipers inter-planted with the azaleas are all dying. As we remove them, I am either clearing the entire bed, as we did with the lavender bed in the foreground of the photos or “naturalizing” the beds by removing any juniper and a few of the azaleas and then letting the remaining azaleas grow into a more naturals shape and size.

Azalea Trimming - 2

I took advantage of a beautiful, cool day yesterday to work through these beds. It is hard to tell in the photo, since all the green blends together, but all the geometric beds are now neatly trimmed, except for a few stragglers along the bottom. These I will have to clean up by hand, one at a time. I was lucky to get some time yesterday, as this project really needed to be done before we leave on a trip to the UK in mid-June. I probably would have still been within my window of time, but the temperatures here were sure to be a lot hotter and make the job a lot more uncomfortable.

Finally, there are a series of large azaleas which grow against the front of the house. These have been spared the hedge trimmer and, to my eye, look much more appealing and natural in their habits. Still, they need to be pruned every so often, lest they consume the front of the house. I hand prune each of these plants, working to maintain a low, somewhat weeping habit. They seem to like this treatment as they never fail to bloom amazingly each year. That job will have to wait until we return from our trip, unfortunately.

Azalea Trimming - 4

Along with that job, I also hand prune the small (although growing larger) pines in the front garden. I describe it as “bonsai in place”. My goal is to keep them small and then prune them in a way that encourages a twisted/gnarled arrangement to the limbs. It seems to be working, so far, although right now they appear more like fuzzy pom-poms instead of the bonsai I prefer. This requires quit a bit of time, although I describe the process as particularly zen-like. I look, I think, I prune, look, think, prune and then repeat again and again until I have what I am looking for. I think this feeds my artistic sensibilities much as painting would.

Stay tuned here for more projects to come this summer!

Passiflora found along our walk today

Passiflora – Passion Flower – 4, originally uploaded by dewelch.

A neighbor has this extremely healthy set of Passiflora vines growing on a wall along the sidewalk. It never fails to put on a great show every year.

I Like This – May 18, 2010

What Gardens to see in the UK?

Planning for London and Cardiff
Image by dewelch via Flickr

My family is traveling to the south UK in mid-June and we are looking for some interesting side trips to take instead of spending our entire time in the The City.

I am interested in visiting some of the wonderful gardens to be found in the UK and wanted to ask you what you might recommend?

We are spending the first 3 days of our trip in Cardiff, so my wife can present a paper at the “Investigating Torchwood Conference held at the Atrium. After that, we are not decided yet on whether we will make a few stops across the south or head straight back to London. Friends have recommended visiting Bath and Oxford, so far.

We won’t be driving, but relying on the rail system, so sites near to the rail stations, or those with easy connections, are probably the best bet for us. Please let us know what you might recommend.

Also on this trip, I am looking to meet up with people and groups who might be interested in hearing about the topics that are the focus of my blogs and podcasts. These include gardening (of course), New Media and Podcasting and also careers and career planning. You’ll find links to all my other blogs and podcast on my home page. If you have a group that might be interested in a presentation, or even an informal meetup for dinner and drinks, please let me know. I don’t want to take up my entire vacation, but I love immersing myself in a new place and this seems a great way to do it.

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I Like This – May 11, 2010

Video: Transplanting Cast Iron Plant

Today, I was finally able to transplant 4 large Cast Iron Plants (Aspidistra elatior) that my landscape designer friend gave me a few weeks ago. They had sat in plastic compost bags with nothing but a little bit of water, but looked none the worse for wear. I think this points to why they are named Cast Iron Plant and also points out their hardiness, something that will be required in this particular part of my garden.

I am trying to “green up” things in the back garden, as it can look a little brown and dusty during the heat of Summer.


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Newly transplanted Cast Iron Plant

I took some time to finally transplant these Cast Iron Plants (Aspidistra elatior) I got from a landscape designer friend several weeks ago. Here are some pictures. Video coming soon!

Cast Iron Plant/Aspidistra elatior - 2 Cast Iron Plant/Aspidistra elatior - 1

Cast Iron Plant/Aspidistra elatior - 3

As always, click for a larger version

I Like This – May 4, 2010

Today: Purple Fountain Grass cleanup

Purple Fountain Grass Pennisetum setaceum in H...
Image via Wikipedia

It has been far longer than I really like to admit since I last trimmed up the purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) in the center of the front garden. I planted it years ago to fill in a a bed that once held a sizable pine tree that died soon after we moved into the house. It has thrived with little attention beyond raking out some dead stems and leaves.

The last few weeks, though, I have been frowning every time I pulled out of the driveway. It really needed some work. Finally, today, after doing 2 client calls, I took the time to clean it up. First, I picked up each plant (there are 4 in all) and brought it upright so I could get a better idea of the actual size of the clump. Due to some heavy shade conditions throughout the garden, all of the clumps had leaned towards the southwest, where the sun reaches under the large elm tree each day.

Next, I used my fingers to rake out any lose, dead growth on each plant, much like you would run your fingers through your hair. This brought out much of the obvious dead growth. Then I took my manual hedge trimmers and gave each plant a quick trim — quite a bit off the the top and a little off the sides. This allowed them to stand upright again, opened up the space between each plant and gave them some space to grow upwards.

The trouble with such care-free plants like grasses is that they are waaaaaay to easy to ignore. They are a perfect fit for my “benign neglect” garden, but I need to neaten them up each year to keep them healthy and nice looking.

I don’t have any picture to show for all my work today as I did it at the spur of the moment and by the time I finished it was too dark to take any pictures. I have included a generic picture from Wikipedia above to give you small idea what it looks like.

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