Thursday, June 30, 2011

My garden....warts and all....

There have been so many changes and disasters in the garden this year.  The weather has been much cooler and wetter than normal.  Not nearly enough sun for the plants in the backyard but more than enough water for the plants in the shade garden which don't get a lot of rain due to trees.  I'm going to take you on a tour of our garden, explain our plantings and share with you what works and what doesn't.  Please keep in mind what works for us in Central Illinois may not work for you in other places.

If you drive up our driveway and get out of your car, this is what you see first.  The potting bench is in progress, my husband just started it last week.  It's been seven years coming.  There is a large shelf inside behind sliding doors made of lattice.  The sink that was removed from our kitchen is in the left side so I can put potting soil in it.  There is a shelf along the back for small pots and our old dishwasher utensil basket hangs on the side for tools.  This area is gravel.  There are three steps down, a brick walkway and then five steps up to our deck.  The three steps are where I fell and broke my wrist several years ago.  The wood was wet and covered with algae; I stepped on the top one, my foot went out and the wrist on the hand I tried to break my fall with actually broke.  I also had a hairline fracture in my coccyx.  My husband used a sandpaper like material that's used on boats to cover the steps so that wouldn't happen again.  If you turn to the left before going up on the deck, you will find our shade garden and on the right is the first of our 55 gallon rain barrels that I use to water the shade garden with.

This garden along the side of the deck and the gazebo is filled with Coral Bells, Astilbe, Brunnera, several types of ferns, wild geraniums, bleeding hearts and some great art.  There is a cement bench in the corner and stepping stones to it.  This area gets some daylight before noon but is completely in the shade after twelve AM.

As you round the gazebo, you get your first glimpse of the pond.  It's a two tier pond, the lower bowl is 10 feet across and two to three feet deep.  The upper pond is six feet across and only one foot deep.  We keep tropical plants in the upper bowl to help filter the water.  There is a skimmer in the lower pond which filters water, pipes that transport the water around the lower bowl and up to the upper waterfall which also contains filters.  Our water is crystal clear but I do start a UV light in the upper pond early in the season to keep algae growth down.  We have lots of fish in the pond which we feed once in a while; they get their food from the larvae and bugs that live in the pond.  We have toads, bullfrogs and tree frogs that breed in both ponds.  This year we had a bumper crop of tiny toads that are now 1/4" long; they're every where we step.  We've had more tree frogs this year than any previous year; maybe we had something to do with that.  Sometimes the bullfrogs get so big we have to transport them to a local marsh area.  Once I opened up our skimmer to check the basket and found a huge bullfrog with two legs sticking out of his mouth.  He had caught one of the smaller frogs.  We eventually caught him and transported him to a Ducks Unlimited pond down by the river.  He's probably eating Great Blue Herons by now.  Our ponds are surrounded by phlox, iris, cone flowers, maltese cross, zebra grass, stokesia, ground cover, peonies, Joe Pye Weed, black eyed susan, heliopsis, Russian Sage, Butterfly Weed, Columbine, Amsonia, Bellflower, and weeds, lots of weeds.
This is the shed that my husband built to house his John Deere.  The deck was added for my daughter's wedding.  The glider which badly needs repainting is one of my favorite places to sit in the afternoon when the sun passes the shed.  The post on the right side has part of his deceased mother's trumpet vine that is being trained as a tree.  Next to that is the first of our gardens anchored by one half of an arch built with two very old wooden extension ladders and a new ladder built for the top.  My Chinese Wisteria is in the process of covering it.  To the right of the arch is our second backyard garden bed.

The first bed contains Chives, Zebra Grass, Liatrus, Bellflower, Iris, Black Eyed Susans, Day Lilies, and Dill.  We plant dill everywhere so the butterfly caterpillars have something to eat and my husband, the photographer, has something to take pictures of.  All of our flower beds have solar lights in them.
This is the second half of the same bed.  The egret made of stone and metal was purchased at the Chicago Flower Show from a company in Minnesota.  They make all kinds of birds out of rock and metal and since we love birds, we now have three of them.  The bird will be easier to see if you double click on the picture and blow it up.

Tomorrow, I will take you across the backyard.  We have many more gardens, bird houses and garden pests to share with you.  This year we've been invaded by what we think might be a virus that caused many of our huge blue spruces to loose the bottom third of their needles.  We have been unable to find someone who knows what the virus or how to treat it.  We have two white pines that were sprayed for disease so late that they might not survive.  The Japanese beetles have eaten most of the new buds on the Chinese Wisteria.  We do have traps out and I go out at least twice a day to knock the beetles into a pail of soapy water.  We hate to spray with insect killers because they are indiscriminate.  They will kill a Monarch Butterfly as fast as a Japanese Beetle.  Luckily in a few weeks, the beetles will be gone and actually, this year we have not been hit as badly as last year.  We've had some other sad moments this year but many happy ones also.  Last night as I was checking my e-mail, I looked out my window to see a magnificent coyote across the street.  He/she was gorgeous and looked like he'd/she'd been eating well in the neighborhood.  We have rabbits to spare so I wish him/her luck.  This morning my husband went out to get the paper and saw a fox walking down the road.  He actually asked me if the coyote I saw last night could have been a fox.  It made me angry for a minute.  I'm not an expert by any means but I think I can tell the difference between a fox and a coyote.  And the deer have been into the garden so badly this year we've had to take some protective measures I will talk about tomorrow.


  1. Wow Cindy, your place is beautiful!!! How do you find time to craft with all the work involved in taking care of all this?! : )

  2. Does your husband travel and build sheds? My DH doesn't understand building and I have a very difficult time getting a 2 by level by myself. Your garden would be so much fun to visit.