I’m Learning How to Grow Lilacs

white lilac flowersI look forward to seeing my hydrangeas grow and bloom this year, but first I will see the lilacs bloom. I don’t have very impressive lilac bushes, I will admit. The yard is very shady and I am not used to dealing with this type of plant. Lilacs don’t grow in Florida, where I lived for a long time. They thrive in US hardiness zones 3-7 and central Florida is in zone 9.

So I have been trying to help my Lilacs do better in the once-neglected yard of my newer house. The tall, gangly tree / bush at the corner of my house was tucked under a pine tree and hidden behind a piece of fence. Now the fence is gone, and so is the little pine. I’m hoping that now the lilac will get more sun and branch out and get bushy.

I know that it’s a good idea to trim off the flowers as they die and then leave the tree alone. Trimming too late will remove the blooms that set for the following year. Also do any pruning then too.

I recently learned something about pruning the suckers, or shoots that grow from the base of the shrub. I always thought I needed to remove them all so the main trunk would do better, but that is not so. I’ve read that only 2/3 of the suckers should be cut so the others can grow and fill in the shrub. I am going to try it.

My lilac flowers are dark purple. I don’t know if they are double blooms or not, but double bloom varieties are more fragrant. I counted a few big flowers at the top of my lilac tree last Spring. And although it didn’t have many, I could smell the fragrant flowers in that area of the yard. I don’t know if I should just buy a new bush and give up on the old one, or try to work with what I have.

Lavender, white, pink, purple and blue are the colors to be found among lilac varieties. President Lincoln is one of the popular blue flowering plants.

Where to Find Beautiful and FREE Nature Pictures

colored Easter eggs

Find this free image at Pixabay

Anyone needing to use some beautiful pictures of nature that are free, pay attention. There are many stock photo sites out there where you will find some awesome pictures that are supposedly “free”, but not all of them really are. In fact “royalty free images” will cost you something and you have to buy points in order to download them from the sites. It can be confusing.
I have nothing against purchasing someones photos or designs. The stock places carry a wide array of very usable items. Those people are trying to make a living selling their images, and who could blame them. I get very irritated when I find that someone has helped themself to one of my blog images. Some people are clueless when it comes to that sort of thing.

But there is a place where you can download beautiful images and it really will cost you nothing. That place is called Pixabay. The Pixabay people are quite picky when it comes to what photos they will approve. I’ve had many declined. I’m not surprised, as I am not a fabulous photographer. And after browsing the Pixabay site, I have seen that there are others who definitely are.

You’ll find lots of nature photos and splendid macros of insects and flowers. Also graphics and clipart which is generously offered. Seasons, mountains, buildings, wildlife and so much more will grab your attention. And they can be used commercially free of charge! (Not all images can be used this way because of trademarks / brands.)

I use Pixabay for my work, and whenever I need an image for a post that I don’t have myself. Pixabay is a relatively new site so they don’t always have what I am looking for, but people are contributing from all over the world, and the landscape photos are stunning.
They occasionally hold contests for contributors, and give out awards to the deserving. It might be a place you will enjoy visiting.

What I Learned From Fabric Pot Gardening

growing vegetables in fabric pots

Gardening in Fabric Pots

Last year I used these black fabric pots to plant vegetables in sunny locations in my small backyard. It was an experiment and I had no idea if anything would grow. But I needed a fairly easy alternative to digging up the grass.
These fabric pots are not very expensive and I would think that they can be reused. I’ll see when I dig them out to use this season. I like the fact that they can be set wherever there is sun, but then they can be taken down. The smaller ones (shown in my pictures) I used to grow potatoes and beans. I ended up with a bowlful of edible, but small, potatoes. The bag is really too small to get much of a potato crop. They would do better in the ground, but I don’t have the space.
I also grew green beans in two of the pots and I had loads of delicious beans! I will definitely try that again.
The larger holder is where I planted tomatoes along with basil, some herbs and radishes. (I have a photo of that one on this page.) The tomatoes got too large to stay upright and the “pot” wasn’t deep enough to hold a wire tomato cage. By the end of summer my tomatoes had fallen over from their own weight. I also had planted too many of them. I wouldn’t put tomatoes in the bags again.
I’m thinking a squash or zucchini plant may do well in a smaller pot and then it could drape over the sides and spread out. I always grow zucchini and even one plant takes up a lot of area in my little garden.
The larger bag might hold my cukes, carrots or beets. I guess it depends on what I decide to plant. When summer was over and the harvest was in, I emptied the pots and stuffed them under my deck. I am wondering if I could leave the dirt in the larger one next time. I don’t know how it would do over the winter.
If you want to try an easy way to grow something that can be moved from year to year, without digging up the ground, maybe a fabric pot would be right for you. For more ideas please read Discover the Benefits of Container Gardening by my friend Mike. It’s because of his page that I tried this! Thanks Mike!

Fabric Bag Gardening in a Small Backyard

small backyard

Small backyard space

Having a small backyard means facing some challenges when planning a garden. Throw in tall trees bordering the property taking away sunny patches, and it adds to headache. That is why I tried my hand at fabric bag / pot gardening.
My backyard is small and narrow. The picture I’ve added is one I took before I closed on my house. The slider was taped off so one would try to go out where there were no steps. Who would? Anyway… those are the old, wooden steps sitting out back at the edge of my small backyard. Although I have an acre of land, the usable part of my backyard stops right there. So the space I can use now (with a small deck that I added) is long and narrow with spotty areas of good sun.
Last summer I had planned to dig up a couple of new areas back there that tend to get pretty good sunshine, but that is so much work. I really didn’t want to have to dig and then add amendments and all that. Plus I didn’t have the time. I needed an alternative to the traditional way of gardening. So I decided to try container gardening.  But instead of regular pots I used fabric bags, in various sizes, filled with good dirt.
black fabric raised bed large bag
This large fabric bag held tomatoes, basil, radishes and some herbs. There was no digging involved, but I did buy a truckload of good loam and had to wheelbarrow it over to fill the bag. I planted my small seedlings and they took off.
I also used smaller fabric bags to plant potatoes, green beans, and carrots. I learned a few things from using these bags, and some things I will do differently this season, but all in all I was happy with them.
I wondered if I could save the bags and re-use them, so we’ll see how well they hold up when I try that this spring.

Bloomstruck is the New Purple Hydrangea For 2014

purple hydrangea flowers

Bloomstruck is Purple

There is a new Endless Summer hydrangea variety and it’s purple, or violet.  It’s called Bloomstruck. I’ve added a link to the name so you can see a picture of the actual plant. My photo here is of a blue bloom which I turned purple in my graphic program. But it looks similar to how the Bloomstruck variety may appear.

Endless Summer is a popular type of hydrangea to grow as it blooms profusely. It’s small enough in size to put the plant into a pot, or find a good space in the yard to plant hydrangeas to add lots of beautiful color. For most people the Endless Summer plant means blue flowers. I have a bush that is only two years old and it has amazingly pretty blue flowers in summer. I also have the Blushing Bride variety which is white. But these macrophylla plants have flower colors that will change according to the type of soil - it’s pH- used to grow them. And that includes this new Bloomstruck variety. It is shown as violet / purple, but the site also says that the flower color could be “rose-pink” or “blue”.

I don’t think I will be adding this one to my yard as I have run out of places to put perennials and I have enough hydrangeas at the moment. If you decide to try this one out I’d love to hear how you like it.

I Want Some Dandelions!

dandelion seed headIn my area of the country (New Hampshire) there are no signs of spring, let alone dandelions! It’s mid-March and the temps have barely been out of the 20′s lately. A lot of snow still covers the ground and it’s frozen solid. Only the little melted circle over the septic tank gives me a view of brown earth. It’s one reason this blog has been stagnant – nothing much happening here!

But lately I am thinking a lot about dandelions. They are something people mostly consider to be an annoyance. Those white heads explode in the wind and spread their dreaded seeds all over the place. Even though my lawn is quite hideous, I usually dig up the dandelions and add them to a compost pile (when they are yellow, not white). When I was a kid my dad once offered my sister and I a penny or nickel (can’t remember- it was the 60′s) for each one we picked from the yard. We happily ran all over our huge yard gathering the yellow flowers so they wouldn’t turn white and reproduce. I guess that is one way to remove them, and keep kids busy at the same time.

I’ve changed my outlook toward this yellow flowering weed. Why? Because I have been drinking dandelion tea from the health food store, over the winter, and it’s good. So I wondered if I could possibly make it myself. After searching online for advice, it appears it’s easy to DIY.
Apparently tea can be made from the flower, leaves and roots of the plant. The tea bags I bought are made from the root, and that is the part I think I need most. It’s good for the kidneys and I have recently been diagnosed with kidney disease. So I am very interested.
It will be a few months before dandelions begin to grow in my yard, but I am getting ready to try out some new tea recipes. This year I can’t wait to see those yellow flowers in my yard.
Once I do some experimenting with this, I will post my results, either here or on a new blog (which I am presently considering). But first the snow has to go away! One thing at a time.

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