Sunny, clear and a tiny bit cooler and drier today. What a relief after what seems like weeks of rain and overcast. Decided this morning to try making some stepping stones. I bought two very cheap ($1 each) oil drain pans at the Dollar Tree last week. They are just the right size/depth to make round stones. Mixed up about a half-bag (30 lbs) of mortar mix and poured it into one of the pans (coated the pan with cooking spray first). Then I pressed a big heavily veined hosta leaf into the wet mortar. I'm hoping that will leave a pretty imprint. I had a little mortar left over, so tried making one of those concrete leafs...put another hosta leaf on a bed of sand to support it (in a small tub), then spread the mortar over the leaf. We'll see how that works. I also had enough to pour a tiny heart mold and another slightly bigger heart mold (the tiny one is an old jello mold, the bigger one is from a plastic lined Valentine's candy box). I did the candy box mold during the winter and it came out beautifully. I'm trying to get my nerve up to make a silicone mold using silicone caulk mixed with corn starch. My hope is to make smallish molds of various objects, hearts, sea shells, etc. and then be able to pour mortar into them. The resulting "things" I'm hoping to use as ornamental "objets" set into concrete pathways.
I guess it will be a couple of days at least before I know if any of this mortar stuff worked! In the meantime, I'm thinking of digging out the grass in the area in front of the garden shed that I've already marked out for paving. I have several bags of concrete mix standing by and it might be a good time to try to get at least 2 walkmaker pavers poured. I'd like to start making a little progress on projects that have been on hold all summer because of the weather! I can also use the dirt I dig out to backfill around the Pond Circle beds. I redid the rick-rack brick edging around the beds there last year and now that the dirt has settled, some of the bricks are leaning.
More of the same....rain, overcast, weeds. I put in another few hours around the Pond Circle yesterday and I am still not completely finished...I'd like to lift out a few more ferns to move into the Asian Garden and possibly into the little Jungle Cliff garden. Moved a total of 6 ferns into the stumpery. Also a couple of small hostas that a friend gave me, and a big bunch of miniature comfrey that had spilled over onto the Pond Circle Path. I'd like to get that started as a blanketing groundcover on the approach to the stumpery, which now is just mulched over and barren.
I was about to call it quits after dumping a final wheelbarrow load of weeds in the woodland area when some tangles of dead wild cucumber vine caught my eye. Wild cucumber has been a real plague this summer with all the rain. It is forming dense curtains that go waaaaayyy up into some of the trees. The woodland area segues into the Pine Row (Pine Gap now that so many trees are gone!). A couple weeks ago, I pulled down a lot of the vine from a small honey locust that I planted there to take the place of a dead pine. The locust is growing great despite the shade from the cucumber, but I did not want the weight of the vines to mess up the young tree. Anyways. Pulled down the dead stuff and then realized the township had mowed the verge and it was a mess of chopped up, half cut blackberries, etc. So. you know how it goes. "Well, while I'm here I might as well...." About 2 hours later, I'd managed to clear out a really nice stretch of the Pine Gap, uncovering most of what I'd planted last year: forsythia, a dogwood, black eyed susans, yucca, a euonymous, etc. Fortunately, even with the draping cucumber vines and the tangle of blackberries, everything is doing very well and looking good. I'll need to get back in there in a week or two (hopefully we'll have a dry spell by then!) and spritz a little Roundup around...I'm seeing poison ivy rearing it's ugly head. I'm also going to have to get in there with saw/loppers and actually start pruning/shaping/limbing up some of the young trees that I put in a couple years ago. After this long wet, hot summer, they more than doubled in size and need a little "training" to get them into a nice shape. Very pleased.
More and more of the pines and blue spruce seem to be failing in that double row that we planted soon after we moved here. It was meant as a windbreak and it did a good job for many years, but our area is experiencing some sort of blight that is killing off a lot of the blue spruce (fortunately, some seem immune) and also for many years we've been gradually losing the pines to another blight. All in all, it was a bad choice to plant monocultures like this and so now I'm gradually filling in the gaps with a mixed planting of various trees and shrubs. I plan to take down at least 3 more of the blue spruce this winter; that will open up a nice area for some dogwoods, alder, and viburnums. At first, when the first of the really big pines started to give up the ghost, we panicked and called in a crew to cut them down and remove them. It cost a fortune and made a big mess. Now, I've decided to let nature take it's course. I've got 2 totally dead pines and I'm leaving them stand. Bit by bit, their limbs are coming down and I'm sure the day will come some wintertime when I find them toppled. Since they are in a "wild" area and there's no chance of them snagging any powerlines or falling on a roadway, I think this is the best way to go. In the meantime, I keep the area as neat as possible and continue to plant their replacements. The spruce are another matter...they're in the "inner row" and are much smaller (very tall and very skinny) so I can easily get them down by myself and open up more planting room. At first I felt really bad about all this, but over the past few years I've actually started to appreciate the process. Because that's what it is: a process. As big trees die, little trees and other species get their chance.
We've received a little more than 6 inches of rain over the weekend...yesterday and today were overcast but dry, but we're supposed to see 2-4 more inches by Thursday from that hurricane off the coast. It's sort of par for the course this summer. It has got to be one of the wettest on record.
Spent a long morning working on the Pond Circle Garden, which is a mature area and thankfully doesn't need a whole lot of fussing. Just needed a good tidy and I'd like to start dividing and moving some things around, especially the ferns and brunnella. The worst job there is keeping the brick path and the mulched path around the pond weeded. I must have cleared those paths 4 times this summer (usually only needs a good weeding once a summer, then a mid-summer spritz with roundup). It's been too wet to use the roundup (which I use very sparingly anyways) and the wood chip mulch that I put down there last fall is completely gone....composted away. I got the mulched path weeded and I'll need to buy some of that beauty mulch in the spring to get a good weedproof coating. As for the bricks, I'm sick of trying to weed that so I cleaned up the worst and it'll just have to stay that way until the weather gets dry.
I guess it's this endless overcast, which normally I'm fine with, but the past few days I've had no energy or enthusiasm for the garden. I let things go and everything seems so "out of bounds" now. But I am making progress and I shouldn't complain. I got the shears out and opened up/widened the path into the woodland area...that took about 10 minutes and what an improvement...Now I can get thru there without getting soaked. The driveway bed looks great...I popped in a big pot of dahlias to give some color and they're looking good. I don't know what happened to the deep purple and the "pumpkin pie" colored dahlias I bought last year...I don't know whether they did not survive the winter storage or if they are some of the smaller plants that I have in the south border that are growing like crazy but don't have any buds because the groundhog munched them. I'm hoping the latter.
Had "one of those" mornings. I got out the bills for the month and felt very virtuous, writing out 7 checks, licking envelopes, running them all out to the mailbox. Then, I opened my desk drawer to get something and saw THE NEW CHECKBOOKS and realized I'd just written all 7 checks on my old, now-defunct checkbook that I was sure I had tossed when our bank merged and we all got new account numbers. *LOL* Had to run out, retrieve the mail, slit open all the envelopes, destroy the checks, write new one, tape up the envelopes. Thank goodness the only check I'd written out that actually went out was to my mechanic last week. I ran right up to the garage and told him what happened and gave him good check. I'm going to slammed with a fine/fee for that bounced check, but at least it was only one. If I hadn't caught those 7 others...oh my good lord.... $$$$
Heavy rain this morning, supposed to continue throughout the day. I have sorted out my seed bag and decided to start some of the perennials that I have. I have to confess: I totally blew it with the annual flowers this year. I have dozens of packets of seeds that were never opened. I'll have to do better next spring. I think one thing I need to do is definitely note down WHERE I want annuals to be planted so I'm not running around thinking "I don't have room there! I don't think they'd work there!" One scheme I really should implement this fall is to put up permanent supports for morning glories off the deck. Then all I'll need to do is run strings when I plant them.
I think it might be a nice day to try out my greenhouse as a sort of "garden playhouse" for me. The thought of being in there snug and dry while it's pouring rain is rather enchanting. I've got a lot of things I could do in there!
Forgot to mention my big score! Earlier in the week I saw a post for a 90-gallon rigid pond liner on Freecycle. I replied, but got no answer, so thought I did not get it. Then, a few days later, the woman emailed me and said it was mine. I drove out within the hour to collect it. Very nice, very deep sort of kidney shaped pond. There is a very small crack in the bottom (pinhole) but that is definitely patchable with some glue. She was getting rid of it because her koi had outgrown it. (I saw them: I'm sorry, but I think huge koi are a bit creepy and these were monsters. She had three of them, each at least 18 inches long, huge beasts. She said they had started to leap out of the small pond and she was afraid they'd flop into the grass and die. I'd be more afraid they'd flop out and eat a small dog. *shudder*)
I am not exactly sure where this pond will go, but definitely in the Dark Garden. I know that I'll never be able to dig a hole deep enough to completely sink it into the ground, not with the limestone ridges that run north-south across my property. So I'm working on an idea. I think I'll dig down as far as I possibly can, then once I have the hole dug and pond set into it, build up a sort of raised bed wall around it. Like the kidney shaped pond, set into the middle of a raised bed surrounded by a circular rock wall. Then, back fill all around the pond with soil so I have basically a pond, with a bed around it. I think this is a workable idea because I want to position the pond where I want, not where I can squeeze it in. I've had to "fudge" other things in the past, digging a hole, hitting rock, moving over, digging another hole, hitting rock...in the end, a lot of times, where I wanted something to go and where it actually ended up were two completely different things. I don't want to do that with this large pond, especially not in the Dark Garden, where I'm really working toward a certain "look" and the area is sort of small.
Hazy, Hot and Humid continues. Woke up today (Friday) to thunderstorm and light rain. It is so steamy! There's no working outside in this.
I ordered 100 snowdrops and a dozen foxtail lilies (Eremus), and that's it for me and bulb order this fall. I've got to dig up an area under the pear tree (always one of those "problem spots") and there are tons of crocus and mini daffs in there that need dividing. I'm still not sure what to plant in there...it's just one of those spots where the soil isn't good, I can't seem to get rid of the couch grass, it slopes, I suspect it's over a limestone fissure because no matter how much organic matter I work in and how much water I put on it, it's never well watered. Nothing really thrives there. I remember when we first moved here, there was a big blackish spot near there that I assumed was the remnants of a bonfire (this was an apple orchard at one time). Iris and tawny daylilies do ok here, so I guess that's what I'll concentrate on.
Disappointing Thursday. I got my morning housework done and thought I'd take a trip up to Orrstown to visit Lurgan's nursery, which is sort of South Central PA's best kept secret. It's a really nice, huge greenhouse/nursery with lots of great stuff; it's run by an Amish family, so no web presence. Drove almost the whole way up there (about an hour's drive), and got to a detour. Followed detour, figuring it would loop back to 997 and I'd be ok. My golly, it went on for miles and miles, veering east across the top of the county. When I realized I was heading for Shippensburg, I thought, well, that's it. Turned around and came home. I'll need to check the map, but I really thought there would be a cross road that would get me back on 997 North long before that. I'm not familiar with that section so did not want to go "exploring". Oh well, I was hoping to maybe get a couple of mini water lilies (they have some nice aquatic plants). I guess it can wait til spring.
Pain Clinic: R had an appt at a local pain clinic. He went in with a firm diagnosis from his surgeon and his urologist of hernia nerve entrapment syndrome following hernia surgery with mesh. He came out with a diagnosis of basically "bad back." Which of course opens up huge vistas of possible (and expensive, billed to Medicare) treatments. Total fraud and I am reporting this. They tried to sell him a back brace, xrays, and (!!??)) A LazyBoy recliner...all billable to Medicare. He came out with a prescription for the same pain meds that our family doctor prescribed. He said nobody touched him, did not weigh/measure him, did not take his pulse, blood pressure, etc. and did not even ask him to "bend this way, bend that way" which you'd kind of expect if a doctor thinks you have back problems?? I had my doubts about this place when we walked in, packed with people who were I'm sorry to sound snobbish "unsavory". He declined a return visit.