Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In the Cottage Gardening State of Mind

Cottage gardening is an attitude, not a location.

When I read that sentiment about cottage gardening, I immediately identified with it.  As a busy mom, I tend to just plant the things I love and enjoy and then let the garden do its own thing.

Some describe a cottage garden as artful chaos, another sentiment I like. Chaos I have definitely nailed. Artful?  Well, as they say, art is in the eye of the beholder.  I try to at least keep colors somewhat harmonious.  (Matching colors is an art thing, right?)

'Spanish Eyes' Black-eyed Susan Vine growing on veggie garden fence
For some reason, when I call what I do 'cottage gardening', I feel a little less guilty about my lack of weeding this hot and droughty summer.  Weeds or no weeds, the bees and butterflies still come, which makes me happy.

Monarch butterfly on 'Miss Molly' butterfly bush
My goal is to have all of the garden plants fill in so fully that there isn't any room for the weeds to grow, another inclination right in line with the philosophy of cottage gardening.  (Though I have to admit that in certain areas the dense planting is going a little too well, and I have to keep pruning the cosmos so that visitors can reach the front door.  Cottage gardening bonus: I don't get any door-to-door salesmen!)

the plant gauntlet
There is definitely more weeding and pruning and editing to be done in the garden, which I am starting to do now that the weather has turned cooler.  But more than anything, I'm just enjoying the garden...

...which I think is definitely in line with the cottage gardening state of mind.

bumblebee on native Azure Blue Sage
Happy gardening!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Quest for the Best Tasting Tomato

"You have to grow Black Krims," a relative advised me.  "They are the best tasting tomatoes by far!"  Others disagreed, claiming that the award-winning Brandywines deserved the honor of top tomato.

Black Krim heirloom tomatoes
Both Black Krim and the Brandywines (of which there are several strains) are notable heirloom tomatoes, and both have won many accolades, but which was the best?  This summer I was on a quest to grow these tomatoes that I had heard so much about - and determine once and for all which was truly the top tasting tomato.

So which one won?

Which tomato was the best tasting, 
the cream of the crop, 
the king of the garden, 
all that and a bag of chips?

I don't know.

The *$&^! chipmunks ate every single one of the Brandywines.

Yes, you.
I managed to save some Black Krims and other types of tomatoes that I had in the greenhouse by putting up a screen door to keep the chipmunks out, but every. single. tomato that grew outside in the vegetable garden was a goner, which included every Brandywine I had.

half-eaten tomato
Likely thanks to the drought, the chipmunks went wild in the garden this year, even gobbling up all of my kids' favorite ground cherries while they were still green. (Aren't ground cherries supposed to be somewhat toxic until totally ripe?)  I tried putting pepper spray on the tomatoes and ground cherries, but either I couldn't keep up or my chipmunks have developed a liking for spicy food.

a chipmunk in what he thinks is his own personal ground cherry patch
I did eat some of the treasured Black Krims, and yes, they were amazingly delicious.  But can I say they are the absolute best tomato of all?

It looks like I will be on the quest yet again next summer to determine the answer to that question.

And here I thought squirrels were the worst.

Anyone else have a favorite type of tomato?
And maybe a really great recipe for chipmunk repellant?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Straggling in to the End of Summer

Here in Massachusetts we've been having a drought, so we were all so thankful to finally get some rain yesterday.

Hibiscus 'Cranberry Crush'
It's been so hot this summer that I've had trouble going out to the garden to weed.  (How did I use to garden down south in North Carolina?)  My garden is looking rather neglected.

Every summer I wonder why it is that the weeds thrive on heat and drought, while the plants we want throw up their hands and cry uncle.  Thankfully many of my plants are pretty drought tolerant - or at least the ones that aren't drought tolerant have died already so I don't notice them anymore.  (Sometimes it pays to have a short memory.)

Thank goodness for Purple Coneflowers and Cosmos!
The veggie garden has been a struggle this year.  The plants are doing fine, but I am not reaping the fruits of my labors.

half-eaten green tomato
The chipmunks, on the other hand, obviously feel like they are at an all-you-can-eat garden buffet.  They've eaten almost every tomato and ground cherry the garden has produced.

I no longer think chipmunks are cute.

At least the chipmunks don't like onions!
The snakes that used to live out behind our neighbor's house must have moved away as we've seen so many critters move in this summer in addition to the normal band of roving deer.  One rascally groundhog, a small horde of chipmunks, and two bunnies have settled in this year.  (I'm expecting around 100 little bunnies next year.)

But I've spotted a few beauties around the garden, too.

Clearwing Moth and Lantana
I always welcome the pollinators to the garden.

bee on Liatris
It is interesting how different years see rises in different populations of butterflies.  While I haven't seen a lot of butterflies in general this year, there have been a number of Swallowtail butterflies, especially Spicebush Swallowtails, which I am delighted by.

In other news, this past weekend marked five years since I started the Red House Garden blog.  I can't believe it's been five years already.

Happy gardening, everyone!

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