By Kyle McKean
Recently, we once again made the journey to Arkansas to visit P. Allen Smith’s beautiful Moss Mountain Farm for the 2013 Garden2Blog event. This time we brought Jacques Ferare, our VP of Product Development. A rose expert and true plantsman, I was excited to show him Allen’s amazing gardens, specifically the rose garden.
It was great to reconnect with our “old” friends and meet some new faces. While we often talk with Chris and Teresa at Rose Chat Radio, we’ve never actually met them. They are as passionate about roses in person as they are in their blogs! We also hung out with Kerry and talked about the pros and cons of container gardening with roses. We enjoyed discussing gardening and listening to everyone’s garden stories. This event is a perfect example of how gardening can bring people together — for real, in person — not just over the web.
Click on any photo to enlarge.
When it came time to give our presentation, we focused in on Drift® Roses, which were one of the hot topics of G2B2013. Jacques told the story of how this great groundcover rose came to be — from the beginning before we started to breed for improved habit and exceptional flower power, to how we introduced it, and how we see it working in gardens big and small. Allen had some great examples of how to use Drift and Knock Out roses.
Even in the melting heat, and with the distracting and always majestic view, our discussion held the bloggers attention. What a lively and passionate group! It’s always great to talk to gardeners — experts as well as novices — and hear what challenges they face. The event was filled with Allen’s favorite recipes and delightful blogger camaraderie. Until we meet again — happy gardening!
By Kyle McKean
With the recent whipping winds and cold snow we’ve just had, it’s hard to imagine the taste of a perfectly ripe, still-warm-from-the-sun tomato, but somehow that taste never leaves my memory. A juicy slice of tomato completely defines the feeling of summer for me. Earthy and fresh, wet and fragrant. It’s amazing how the smells of a season can completely transport you to a time or a place.
As I’ve been working in the garden these last few weekends, preparing it for spring planting, it’s hard to remember how the warm soil feels because the earth is still crunchy and a bit frozen. Pulling the last dried tendrils of cucumbers from a trellis makes it hard to envision the bright green plants weaving their way throughout the fencing. The shriveled, dried peppers that I find sprinkled in one bed are far from the vibrant, crisp fruit that will hang in a few months.
Anytime I spend in the garden, memories come rushing back. There is something so innocent about little bits of lettuce sprouting up while the air is still cold and it never ceases to amaze me when tiny melons start forming and peas begin to appear — the taste of each so raw and sweet. I can’t wait to hand my daughter, not yet two years old, the first bean that we determine is ready for picking. She’ll look at it curiously as if she’s asking, “Momma, can I really eat this?” I’ll nod back at her with a smile and watch as she experiences her first tastes of our garden. Crunchy and a bit bitter, but full of texture and memory to her young palette. What will she think of a warm slice of tomato or a moist piece of cantaloupe? Sure, she’s had these foods before, but not yet from our garden. These are the memories I look forward to making!
By Kyle McKean
Following the trend to “grow your own” coupled with a desire to provide my family with fresh, organic produce, a few years ago we designed and built a vegetable garden. Because my husband is a builder and he approaches everything with a blueprint and his tool bag, we couldn’t have had just a few simple beds and tomato cages. What could have been a simple weekend project quickly turned into a couple months of work. After clearing a 24’ x 36’ space at the back of our property, my husband insisted we fence everything in, build six 6’ x 6’ raised “box” style beds and install irrigation. I gave him a hard time because I thought this was overkill and I was anxious to transplant the tiny seedlings I had started and nurtured over the winter.
That summer when we experienced many 100°+ days and went through a drought, I was so thankful not to have to add watering to my long list of chores. Not only did we run irrigation into the center of each bed…
…but we connected the whole system to a three-zone timer! With a little programming, I had one less thing to worry about knowing that each zone would be perfectly watered before 6 a.m.
After a few years of learning as we go, we pause just before planting time to make any changes or adjustments. Last year, when my husband suggested building a “tomato steeple” I thought he had lost his mind! Surely this too would need to be sketched out and would take forever to build. Not even sure I understood what a “tomato steeple” was, I went along with it despite being worried that we didn’t have enough time to construct such a quirky sounding structure. As it turns out, a “tomato steeple” is a great idea and it looks pretty cool too.
The tomato steeple!
If you plant cherry tomatoes right along the edge of the wire fencing, they will grow up and hang through the mesh making for a tasty treat that is right at your fingertips.
My tomatoes are just getting started along the fence.
Another view of my tomato plants.
We’ll have lots of tomatoes this year!
As with many things in life, tending to a vegetable garden has proved to be a valuable earning experience. Some of the more notable things I’ve learned are:
- I don’t have the time or energy to start seeds inside (even though I devised what I thought was a pretty cool set up where my seed trays balanced on top of cookie cooling racks, which sat on top of our radiators).
- You’ll always have more zucchini than you know what to do with.
- Zucchini is a very versatile ingredient. See item #2 above.
- Tomatoes grow three times bigger than you expect
- Mint should be grown in a container. Always.
- As much as it pains me to admit it, sometimes my husband is right about certain things. Sometimes.
- At the end of a long hard day, sipping a fresh mojito while taking in all the scents and sounds of the garden makes everything good again.
Strawberries are on the way!
I’m looking forward to watching the garden grow this year especially now that I have a daughter to share it with. I can’t wait for her to taste her first strawberry and smell the fresh herbs. I long for the taste of garlic-laden pesto, spicy arugula and juicy cantaloupe. Wait. That gives me an idea. I wonder if we have room for a “cantaloupe coupola”?!
By Kyle McKean
I don’t consider myself a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but over the last few years, I’ve really enjoyed learning about plants. I’ve learned that although plants can sound very complicated and overwhelming, there are really a few basic things that you need to know and follow. Plants that need full sun should be planted in a very sunny spot. Plants that need shade should be planted in a very shady spot. And finally, make sure you choose plants for the right location. Easy, right? I know, but these very basic principles can make or break your success in the garden.
We moved into our home in May of 2007. It’s a modest colonial farmhouse on a half-acre that borders a sprawling cornfield. We were so busy unpacking, starting new jobs and getting settled, that I didn’t spend too much time paying attention to the existing landscaping. The following summer, after we had some time to get to know the plants, we made some big changes. With some apprehension, we pulled out a lovely perennial garden that hugged the curve of our driveway. The previous owners had selected nice plants, but hadn’t accounted for how big they would eventually get. A Butterfly Bush had grown so big that it scraped our cars every time we left the house and the few ornamental grasses had grown so big that they impeded the path leading up to the backdoor. By the end of the season, our cars had crushed the floppy stalks of sedum and the wispy remains of coreopsis. It was sad, but it had to go.
We removed the garden, re-located some plants to other parts of our property and made nice with the neighbors by giving them a wheelbarrow full of bulbs. In the interest of time, we leveled the ground and planted some good old-fashioned grass. Very boring, but with plans to eventually re-do the slowly rotting back porch stairs and convert the landing into a much needed mudroom, it would have to do.
Five years later, we have grand hopes to finally build the mudroom this spring. Between our busy jobs, the general craziness of our life, a ten year old step-son and a six month-old daughter, two dogs and one cat, we hope to squeeze it in sometime between when the daffodils bloom and when my Knock Out® roses finally fade in late fall! The grassy patch will get a well-deserved facelift as well. When we lay down some pavers, I plan to start a container garden for all of my herbs. It will be nice to come home to the smell of rosemary, basil, and mint, which I’m pretty sure, won’t scratch my car.
By Kyle McKean
The area in the front of our house is 100% shade. There is a spot where grass refuses to grow, moss builds up on the trees and the flagstone path is forever speckled with algae. Not even one ounce of sunlight! Two old Azaleas flank the front entrance. They are worn, tired and look like giant bonsai Azaleas. They are planted in basic rectangular beds — one is filled with a dense cover of periwinkle (Vinca minor). Over the years, I made it my mission to learn about shade plants. I was determined to bring some color to this wet and lifeless spot.
I’ve planted several shade-loving perennials in the beds. My absolute favorite is a Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia var. collina ‘Springwood’) that explodes into bloom every spring. I look forward to it every year and am consistently amazed by it’s flower power. Also a favorite is a bright, chartreuse green Coral Bells (Heuchera villosa ‘Citronelle’) that can be spotted all the way from the road! I’ve also planted some Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and several kinds of Hosta for added texture and color. I love the way dew and raindrops sit suspended on Hosta leaves, creating what I call a “Zen garden moment.” I planted a few spriglets (that is a word, right?!) of a variegated Vinca which was quick to take root and began to establish as a ground cover. Around the corner is a thick covering of Pachysandra and some impressive Fiddlehead ferns, which unfurl in such a tender way — another “Zen garden moment” for me. A few Epimedium ‘Alabaster’ plants tucked in here and there and I was really starting to like my little shade garden. Then came Irene.
My weeping cherry tree just says "spring" to me - I could not resist sharing some pictures of it!
One of the costliest hurricanes on record in the Northeastern United States, Hurricane Irene made landfall at my house in Southeastern Pennsylvania in the wee hours on August 28th, 2011. My family, including my 2-week old daughter (she had already weathered a rare East Coast Earthquake just five days prior!), and our three pets hunkered down in the basement to ride out the storm. A sleepless night, one flooded basement, a leaking kitchen ceiling and two downed trees later, we survived.
The next morning we walked the property and surveyed the damage. An ancient Norway Maple (previously chosen by the residents of our little country town as the nicest tree on our winding back road) that once stood tall and proud in our front lawn had dropped several limbs. A handsome White Pine also succumbed to the heavy winds of Irene. It took weeks to get a tree company to come out, but when they did, they informed us that both trees had to be removed. With great sadness, we said goodbye to both trees. We cringed and shuddered with every “zing” of the chainsaw. Within hours, my Zen shade garden suddenly turned into a glaring sunny spot packed with all the wrong plants. I’m going to wait to see what happens this spring before I panic about totally losing the little bit of garden sanity that I had.