Saturday, June 30, 2018

Fortress of Plantitude

Another spring, another project here at the Red House Garden!  I was lamenting that our fenced-in gardens were in the backyard, while our sunnier front yard was open to the feasting of the critters.  My husband was lamenting the patch of lawn in the front yard that was compacted and not doing well...

Time to tear up some lawn and build a critter-proof garden instead!  But, being in our front yard, we wanted to build something extra pretty.

Our idea was to build a garden that looked almost like a gazebo, but with an open roof.  We hit the drawing board, and this was what we came up with.

octagonal fenced-in garden
We had thought to build this during spring break, not realizing just how ambitious a project this was.  It ended up taking about a month to build the bulk of it.

We first built our octagonal base in the driveway.

Then came marking, digging, and filling with a paver base sand to stabilize our base.  (A little child labor was very useful, too, as you can see.)

Then we built the middle base.

Lots of leveling.

We covered the bottom with wire hardware cloth to keep voles and groundhogs from digging underneath.

4x4 posts were attached at the corners with metal brackets.

Lots of pieces of wood were cut to form the sides.

At this point, our neighbors started coming around, wondering what in the world we were doing.

Time to build the roof!

Lifting the roof up was quite an adventure.

Much trigonometry was done to find all the angles and lengths to cut throughout this entire project.  I wish I had written and kept all of the math in an organized fashion so someone could recreate it more easily if they wanted to.

Black landscaping fabric was stapled to the inside of the garden to make sure that soil did not seep out through any gaps.

The garden was filled with soil, and then black wire fencing was rolled out and stapled to the inside of the posts to deter the groundhogs and deer.

A little more paint, some bags of stone for the floor in the middle, a door, and viola!

octagonal garden
Now we just need a good name for our new fenced-in octagonal garden.
The gazebo garden?  The Octagon?  Fortress of Plantitude?

Any ideas?

Happy planting!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Easy Care Gladiola

Showy gladiolas elicit strong opinions from gardeners, as they are diva plants in the garden.  Some love their dramatic, tall spikes of bold colors, while others (such as the well-known English gardener Alan Titchmarsh) hate them with a passion.  I personally like gladiolas and enjoy their showiness - but on the other hand, I hate how much work they take.  I have to stake each one in the summer so they don't fall over from their top-heavy blooms, and I have to dig them up for the winter, as they are not usually hardy in my zone.

I don't like gladiolas that much.

Thankfully there are other, easier-going types of gladiolas.  They may not be as showy as those dramatic divas, but neither do they act like it.  They are the smaller, hardier glads, such as the species Byzantine Gladiolus (Gladiolus communis ssp Byzanthinus), which I have in my garden.

Byzantine Gladioli
Native to the Mediterranean area, this gladiolus grows to 2 or 3 feet tall and doesn't need to be staked. It is also hardy up to zone 5, so I don't have to dig them up the fall.  Even those gardeners that say they don't like glads appreciate the gracefulness of this one, which more closely resembles a wildflower than a showy diva.

Sometimes known as Sword Lily, Jacob's Ladder, or Turkish flag, Byzantine gladioli corms (similar to bulbs) are usually planted in fall and bloom their bright magenta flowers at the end of spring through early summer.  They like full sun and well-drained soil, though they will tolerate part shade and even heavy clay if in a dryer area.  Over time they multiply to form nice stands of flowers that I've seen the hummingbirds enjoy.

stands of Byzantine gladioli next to Geranium sanguineum
According to Old House Gardens, less hardy imposters are sometimes sold under the name of Byzantine gladiolus, so you do have to buy them from a reputable source.  (I've always bought mine from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.)  I've grown this gladioli in both North Carolina and up here in Massachusetts and have had great success with it.  I just plant the corms in fall and let them do their thing.

Beautiful gladiolas with little care from me?
That's a winner!

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