Wednesday, August 27, 2014


To the delight of my kids, Dewberry season is upon us!  In our backyard, Dewberries grow rampant in the open, sunny parts surrounding our detention pond.  Closely related to blackberries, these small berries are a little on the sour side, but still a delectable find to small children who like to roam the wild places and forage for food.

Swamp Dewberries
There are several different types of Dewberries, but in our yard we have Swamp Dewberries, Rubus hispidus.  Also called Bristly Dewberries or Swamp Blackberries, they are native to the Eastern half of the U.S. and Canada.  This Dewberry plant is a low-growing, trailing vine that is covered in prickly hairs and spreads to form a low groundcover.

As indicated by the name, the Swamp Dewberry likes swampy places.  They are frequently found on the edge of wetlands (such as my detention pond).  In early summer, the plants are covered in white flowers, small but pretty.

As with so many native berrying plants, Dewberries are beloved by wildlife.  Native bees use the leaves for nesting material, and the flowers attract many different kinds of bees, small butterflies, and other assorted creatures in search of pollen and nectar.

Honeybee on Dewberry flower
The berries that result from the pollinated flowers are an important source of food for a large variety of songbirds and gamebirds.  Small animals such as chipmunks, mice, and raccoons also eat Dewberries.  The leaves of the Dewberry plant are also eaten by rabbits and deer.

a tiny bee on the Dewberry flower
I honestly would not grow Dewberries in a garden setting, as it spreads quite rapidly and would become weedy and take over.  If one needed a groundcover for a large wild area, however, this would do the trick.  Dewberries are one of those pioneer plants that are first to reestablish after a fire or after an area has been cleared.  They prevent erosion of soil and establish conditions for other, larger plants to move in.

I am glad to have a lot of Dewberries in the backyard, however.  I like having plants for the enjoyment of wildlife, as well as for the enjoyment of two (sometimes wild) children!

Happy Wildflower Wednesday!  
To see native wildflowers growing in other bloggers' yards, visit Clay and Limestone's site.

Friday, August 15, 2014

An August Turn About the Front Gardens

It's been a nice, cool summer this year, and while that hasn't been so great for all my spicy pepper plants, the flowers are loving it.

In the front of the house, the Purple Coneflowers and Nicotiana are still going strong, and the Cosmos are starting to bloom.  The rockstar of the front garden right now, though, is my Hibiscus 'Cranberry Crush'.  Is it possible to outshine this?

'Cranberry Crush' Hibiscus
This Hibiscus is a hybrid cultivar.  Its parentage includes various hybrids of the native species H. moscheutos, H. coccineus, and H. laevis.  I absolutely love the billowy, cupped shape of the flowers, and the foliage is even quite pretty, with a reddish tint to the leaves.

On the other side of the driveway, though, my blue garden is trying it's best not to be outshone.  The blue Balloon Flower has been blooming nearly all summer long, and next to it is blooming some amazingly blue Salvia.  (The seed packet was labeled 'Sky Blue' Salvia, but I'm guessing it is the same as Salvia farinacea 'Victoria'.)  They look absolutely beautiful next to the 'Worcester Gold' Caryopteris with its contrasting golden leaves!

Sadly, the blue Salvia are so little that they really need a mass of plants to make more of an impact.  Very few of the seeds in the packet even germinated so I didn't get too many plants, but what can you say?  It was one of those impulse seed packet buys from a grocery store.  (You know we've all done it!) Thus the moral of the story is to stick with seeds from reputable dealers only...

Thankfully, my Balloon Flower has quite a presence!
In addition to working on the bed around my new red greenhouse, I've also been determined to do something this summer with the strip between the road and the sidewalk (known in the gardening world as 'the hellstrip') next to my mailbox.  I've planted some grasses, more Purple Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Nicotiana, and Yarrow there.  I can't wait until my plants get large enough to choke out all the weeds that have been constantly springing up!  (The weeds love this weather, too!)

I've also transplanted a few rocks that I found growing in my yard.  So far out of everything they seem to grow the best here, no matter the weather.  The rocks do quite fine with transplanting - the gardener, not so much.  It seems anytime I move rocks around my yard, it irritates the tendonitis in my wrists, so I am back to being good for a few weeks.

I hope all of your gardens are enjoying the summer weather as much as mine is!  For more of what's blooming in gardens around the world, check out Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day over at May Dreams Gardens blog.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My New Red House

Well, I didn't even realize, but last week marked the third anniversary of the Red House Garden blog!

I can't believe it was only three years ago that I started this blog, as so very much has happened since then. I was sure that I would be gardening there at my first Red House for many, many years, but life does always have a way of surprising you.  As most of you know, last spring we moved to the Boston area.  I was sad to move, and I missed North Carolina and my Red House.  However, a project has been in the works ever since we moved, and I think my three year Blogiversary is a great time to unveil it...

My new Red House!

Mr. Red House (in the effort to get me to move up to the cold North) promised me that if I moved, he would get a greenhouse.  I honestly thought it would be a couple more years before we would be able to get one, but Mr. Red House was determined.  (After this very long winter, he was probably very motivated to do anything to help his cabin-fevered wife regain her sanity.)  And of course, if we were going to have a greenhouse, we knew it just had to be red!

my red greenhouse
The project started as soon as all the snow had melted after winter.  As handy as Mr. Red House is, a greenhouse was a little too big for him, so after a lot of research he found a company in Maine that builds hobby greenhouses. We first had a couple guys come out and help build a base for the greenhouse.

Tubes were buried in each of the corners and filled with concrete in order to bolt the timbers in place and avoid the problem of frost heaving.

Sticking out in the middle are lines for power and water.  After the base was done, I stained it red, and then the greenhouse was ready to be built!

The greenhouse company built the pieces for the greenhouse in their factory up in Maine, and then they assembled them in our backyard.  The assembly only took a couple of days.

Of course, my new Red House needed a garden around it!  Needless to say, my garden budget is shot for the next few years, however, I've still managed to start a garden around it using plants grown from seeds and pass-a-long plants from other gardeners. (Gardeners are some of the nicest bunch, don't you think?)

I am beyond excited about my new greenhouse.  I think we all know where I am going to spend this coming winter... 

Do you think I can plug a coffee maker in here?
And since I can start my seeds in the greenhouse, I'm sure my parents and other visitors will be very glad they won't have to share our guest room with hordes of seedlings and grow lights anymore :)

Some of you have wondered why I didn't change the name of my blog, and this is why - I knew we would eventually have some sort of Red House again. 
(And I'm so very excited to have it before the next winter hits!)

Happy Gardening from the new Red House Garden!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Swamp Verbena

Out behind our house we have a detention pond.  Being a detention pond, as opposed to a retention pond, sometimes there's several inches of standing water in it, while other times it's dry.  Lots of people probably think of this as unusable space, but I see it as potential for something I'd love to have in my garden - a meadow!

It doesn't know it yet, but this detention pond is going to be a meadow.
Right now it's not really quite my ideal meadow (or as Mr. Red House calls it, my 'mud-dow', since it's usually muddy there.)  It's mostly full of cattails, ferns, and grasses;  however the large majority of flowering plants in the pond are comprised of the terribly invasive Purple Loosestrife.

the beautiful, but highly invasive Purple Loosestrife
On the upside there are some Goldenrods and Asters in my meadow/muddow, and I've even spotted some Joe-Pye Weed and Common Milkweed growing wild on the banks.  Then last week I saw this:

Swamp Verbena, or Verbena hastata, is a nice, native perennial that likes, well, swampy areas (if you couldn't tell from the name.)  It likes full or partial sun and grows between 2 to 5 feet tall.  The sunnier the site, the taller it gets. It is supposed to be a great substitute for invasive species like Purple Loosestrife since it likes similar conditions. (Hurry up, little Verbena!  So far the Loosestrife is winning!)

Swamp Verbena flowers
Swamp Verbena is also known as Blue Verbena, Blue Vervain, and Simpler's Joy.  Why the nickname 'Simpler's Joy', you wonder?  (I also wondered!)  Apparently back in the day this plant was very easy for Simplers - aka Herbalists - to sell, since people used it as a folk remedy for quite a number of ailments.  (There is a similar Verbena native to Europe with the same nickname that was thought to cure all sorts of stuff, as well as have supernatural properties.)

When the little flowers get old, they fall, making little purple piles on the leaves.
This native plant is great for wildlife.  The flowers attract a number of bees, including Bumblebees and the specialized Verbena bee (Calliopsis subgenus Verbenapis), and birds eat its seeds.  It is also a host for the Verbena Moth and the Common Buckeye butterfly.

I think by itself Swamp Verbena is kind of a funny-looking plant with all its little candlesticks of flowers, but I'll bet it would look great in a mass at the back of a border...

...or en masse in a meadow!

See other native wildflowers over at the site Clay and Limestone for Wildflower Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Around the July Garden

Well, my garden is still quite new, so it's still working on filling out. Back in June the Salvia and Alliums bloomed and looked marvelous, but then petered out, so between that and the raggedy-looking spring bulb leaves, my garden looked quite sad.  But thankfully some plants have finally come to a summer garden rescue...

Purple Coneflowers!

'Magnus' Purple Coneflower
The Purple Coneflowers, Bachelor Buttons, Nicotiana, Alyssum, and 'The Fairy' Rose have all started blooming, making it look like there is, indeed, a deliberate garden in the front yard again.

The plantings in the whiskey barrels up by the driveway are doing quite well.  In fact, Mr. Red House thought that the Nicotiana in the barrels looked like weeds, they grew so big.

My 'weedy' flowers and my 'flowering' lawn
I had to explain that, yes, normally only weeds do grow that big in my garden, but these containers have a special magic quality called 'good dirt'.  

my other whiskey barrel with slightly smaller Nicotianas
On the side yard, the Daylilies are blooming.

I have a nice lot of Daylilies sprinkled around the edges of my yard, thanks to other gardeners who were more than happy to have me dig out some of their extras.

'Ditch Lilies' brightening up the edge of my patch of woods
The native Culver's Root I planted last fall is also starting to bloom.  I thought I had gotten a pink blooming variety... but apparently not.

Culver's Root
(Veronicastrum Virginicum)
In the same bed, I had a plant growing that I didn't remember planting. (Since it's a new garden, I actually still usually remember most of what I've planted.)  It kept growing and getting taller, and I kept racking my brain as to what it was.  Finally, these appeared:

Surprise, I planted Balloon Flower last year!

Of course, the big thing this year has been the new Veggie Garden.  We've been eating tons of Snow Peas, but I am eagerly awaiting the first Tomatoes.

unripe heirloom 'Chocolate Pear' Tomatoes
Tomatillos, carrots, leeks, eggplant, and zucchini are all doing their thing, albeit slowly for this impatient gardener and kitchen master (mistress?).  I'm hungry just thinking about it!

Zucchini blossoms
And that's what's going on in my new Red House Garden.  Not too shabby for a brand new baby garden, right?  It will grow..

sweet-smelling Scentsation Mix Nicotiana 
To see what else is growing in the gardens of garden bloggers around the world, visit Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens blog site.

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