Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In Three Years - Part 1

Patience is a virtue, right?

We have bought an unfinished house here in the Boston area, but, of course, complications have arisen and it's taking longer than expected to finish it.  I am eager to get started with garden planning, but I am having trouble even picturing where things should go as the lot is not even completely graded yet.

So while I wait I am taking a look back at my last Red House Garden to remind myself how much the garden grew in just those three short years, and what I have to look forward to for the next house...


I started gardening in the front yard first.  In the beginning there were a few basic shrubs, one tree, and that's pretty much it.

Front Right Garden

Somewhat Before:
Three Abelias, a Nandina, and a 'Sky Pencil' Holly were put in by the builder here.  By this picture, taken early in the first summer after we moved in, I had already added in some stepping stones and other plants.

Late Winter
The front yard is where I have all of my early bulbs.  Daffodils start blooming in February here, followed in spring by Dutch Irises.

The crown jewel of this part of the garden in spring is my abundantly flowering Clematis 'Guernsey Cream'.

Then in summer comes the Lilies, Black-eyed Susan, yellow Gladioli and a couple other Clematis vines.  The Abelia shrubs also start blooming their little white flowers. 


Front Left Garden

More Nandinas, Abelias, and a Sky Pencil Holly were spaced around the front.  The builder's landscaper did pick very hardy plants - one can find these same plants around every parking lot in this area of NC.  (Mr. Red House thinks I'm subtle in my opinions of these plants..)

I left the basic shrubs, but we added stepping stones, a fence, and an arbor, along with other plants.  I must have planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs of various kinds and bloom times throughout the front yard.

I squeezed lots of plants in this corner of the garden - along with the daffodils, Black-eyed Susans, Gladioli, Salvia, Irises, Dahlias, Clematis vines, Inkberry Holly bushes, and one incredible 'Incrediball' Hydrangea were added.  Among others.

 In fall, the one tree the builder planted, an 'Autumn Blaze' Maple, turns a lovely shade of scarlet. I also planted Coreopsis and Gaillardia, which usually extend their blooms into fall. 


Mailbox Garden:
Mailboxes just beg to be surrounded by plants, don't they?  Initially the mailbox was surrounded by weeds hard-to-grow grass and sidewalk.  I eventually ripped that out (grass, not sidewalk), and put in a teeny-tiny garden.

More daffodils!  For summer, Salvia and Lantana take up the slack.

Not bad for just three years, right? 


Next post: before and after pics of the backyard..

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dear Mother-in-Law, Please Do Not Read This Post

The Common Garter Snake

Garter Snake
They rarely bite.
In fact, if captured, they are very likely to squirt a bad-smelling fluid on you.

And, as far as snakes go, they are quite shy.
They run when they see possible threats.
They were rather hard to even take a picture of.

A garter snake's primary prey are earthworms and amphibians.
Animals that eat garter snakes include hawks, crows, snapping turtles, large fish (such as bass and catfish), cats, dogs, and even bullfrogs.

The humble garter snake is even the Massachusetts's state reptile, thanks to former MA governor Mitt Romney and the efforts of a couple young boys.

shed garter snake skin
All of this information, however, is probably of no comfort to my Mother-in-law...

...who would probably be very upset to learn that at least three of them are living in her yard.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hidden Treasure

I was walking in the woods beyond the backyard fence in my in-laws' yard, when I stumbled upon something unusual half hidden under the ferns and trees.

Do you see them?  Look closer...

I had stumbled upon (thankfully figuratively and not literally) one our largest native orchids - Pink Lady's Slippers.

Four Lady's Slippers were in bloom, with colors ranging from the dark pink with vivid veining to a more delicate pale pink.

Lady's Slippers are treasured because they are hard to find.  Only a handful of nurseries sell them, if that - these beauties are notoriously hard to propagate or even transplant.  They only thrive under a certain conditions, which include loose, aerated soil high in organic matter, filtered sunlight and, in the case of these pink ones, very acidic soil.

They are also unusual in that Lady's Slipper seeds cannot germinate without a certain microscopic fungus found in the soil of oak or pine woods. The fungus is necessary in order to break open the seed and give it food and nutrients.

This orchid is fairly widespread, found throughout much of the Eastern United States.  They seem to be fairly common here in Massachusetts, but are endangered in a couple other states.

While Pink Lady's Slippers are long-lived, it takes several years for a plant to grow mature enough to bloom.  They are very susceptible to habitat loss, as they only grow in such a specific environment.  Because of that, and because it is so hard to transplant them, it is inadvisable to pick or move them unless they are in danger of being destroyed.

My in-laws have quite a nice patch of them behind their fence.  There are a lot of smaller plants, giving promises of future blooms.  My mother-in-law says that neighborhood kids sometimes cut through that area to get to the little pond nearby, and I saw a few leaves that looked bent and trampled, so we're keeping an eye on them.

We want this native treasure to keep growing.
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