RUNTRAILS' 2020 JOURNAL

 

  

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly feeding on Miss Huff lantana flowers in our yard

 

   
 
 
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  PLAYIN' IN THE DIRT UPDATE, AS GARDENING
  BECOMES THERAPY IN A CHAOTIC YEAR

SATURDAY, AUGUST 29

 
"Horticultural therapy is about becoming completely engrossed in the activity at hand, whether   
it's watering your indoor plants or tending to a sprawling backyard garden. It's similar to
losing yourself in a hard workout or a complicated recipe -- for a moment, that
inner stream of worries, fears, and pressures is silenced."
 
~ page from the Bloomscape website,
"How Horticultural Therapy is Getting Us Through 2020"
 
 

I've been practicing horticultural therapy my entire life, whether I knew it or not! It just became more clear during the COVID pandemic that doesn't seem like it will ever end.

I mentioned in my introductory entry -- which was more like a summary of 2020 since I wrote it in October -- that Jim and I have been affected less by the pandemic than many people because we are retired (didn't have jobs to lose), aren't RVing all over the continent any more, don't do a lot of socializing anyway, and are quite content to stay at home with our three lovable Labrador retrievers in our small but comfortable house with a beautiful yard that we've worked hard to create.


Dapper Don among the columbines and bearded iris (4-8-20)

But I still worry about us catching the virus and one or both of us ending up temporarily incapacitated or dead. And I am concerned about the economic effects of the pandemic and how that might affect our financial future.

Getting engrossed in watering a dozen indoor plants, as mentioned in the quote above, isn't something I've mindfully practiced but it's very easy to get lost in tending to our sprawling backyard garden. Even mundane tasks like weeding or deadheading roses -- there's a lot of both activities! -- soothe my soul and make me forget the stressful things I can't control, at least for a little while.


Our Yokame cherry tree starts flowering in mid-February
and again with fewer blooms in late summer.  (3-20-20)

One of my favorite gardening activities is taking photos of beautiful flowers, colorful leaves, and interesting critters in our yard and sharing them online with others via this website and Facebook. Some of my dog friends are also gardeners and it's fun to see their photos, too.

We started out with a mostly bare back yard when we bought this half-acre property in spring of 2017. We began transforming it immediately, and added a large island of trees and shrubs to the front yard in 2018. The last two years have involved more maintenance than new additions.


Redbud tree, azaleas, and forsythia blooming in the back yard 3-20-20.
Rosemary and oregano are growing in the foreground.

I'd love to report that everything I've planted has flourished but that's not the reality for me or for most gardeners!

There is a lot of trial and error. Some shrubs, trees, and perennials have died and been replaced by others. Fortunately, many more have exceeded my expectations in their speed of growth and length of blooms.


What began with a gift of some seeds of columbines from a neighbor three years ago
has resulted in a large bed of beautiful flowers in several colors.  (3-27-20)

This entry will include some of my favorite 2020 spring and summer scenes in our yard, including some that may surprise you. I deliberately seek beauty and uniqueness during every walk in nature, whether it's on a hike in the woods or just in my own back yard.

The butterfly in the lantana flowers in the header on each page is an example. Even puppy Don is mesmerized by all the butterflies flitting around the lantanas in the summer:


Spicebush or black swallowtail butterfly in Miss Huff lantana blooms  (8-29-20)


Don watches for butterflies in the lantana bushes.  (8-12-20)

Because I have so many photos of Drift and Knockout roses that I want to share, I will do a separate entry on them.

MORE SPRING SCENES

The first flowers to bloom in our yard each spring include forsythia bushes, redbud, Anna apple, and Yokame cherry trees, Lorapetalum AKA Chinese fringe flower shrubs, daffodils, and narcissus.


The former homeowners planted Lorapetalum shrubs on either side
of the front yard and they have grown quite large.  (3-20-20)

Two years ago I planted a small Lorapetalum in the back yard. Even after moving it once, it has grown to seven feet tall already! This is one sprawling branch intermingling with new leaves on a nearby tree:

Although Lorapetalum has the most flowers in February and March, it retains some blooms throughout the year and even in winter. I've got photos from previous winters with flowers peaking out through snow on the branches.

So Lorapetalum/Chinese Fringe Flower is one of my garden successes. I planted one more this fall in the back yard between two sections of roses to hopefully give us a little more privacy after the neighbors cut down a bunch of trees along the fence line.

Spring is also when some of the new tree leaves are very pretty:


Heart-shaped Forest Pansy redbud leaves  (3-31-20)


Bloodgood Japanese maple leaves and seeds (4-1-20)

Above and below:  very slow-growing Lace-leaf Viridis Japanese maple tree;
the leaves turn gold, then orange, in the fall.   (3-27-20)

While I'm talking about trees, this is the first yard where we've had a tulip tree. It is quite tall and drops these interesting flowers/seeds in April:

It's easy to see how the tree gets its common name!

ENCORE & OTHER AZALEAS

By mid-March most of the azaleas are also blooming. They really shine in April. We started off with just sun-tolerant Encores in the front and back, then later added a couple more traditional shade-loving varieties in the back yard.

We have several dozen Encore azaleas in about twenty different colors, mostly white, salmon, and various shades of pink.

These are re-blooming azaleas, hence the name. Their main flower shows are in the spring and fall but most of them produce some flowers in the summer, too. From March to December there are at least a few azaleas blooming in our yard. Encores are slow to grow but retain most of their leaves in the winter, which is desirable.


Autumn Twist  (4-8-20)


Autumn Cheer  (4-8-20)


Autumn Chiffon  (4-8-20)


Autumn coral  (4-8-20)


Autumn Sunburst  (4-8-20)


Autumn Ivory  (4-8-20)

I have not had the best success with Encore azaleas, despite following all the planting and care instructions for them. I buy them only at Pike Nursery, a local garden chain that guarantees all of its shrubs and trees for life. That way I can get refunds for the ones that die.

I'm at the point now where I just replace dead Encores with something else or leave spots empty as others (eventually) fill in the space. I do love them when they thrive, and they don't require much maintenance except fertilizing and water in dry periods.

Two years ago I planted eight George Lindsey Tabor azaleas and three Hilda Niblett azaleas in the treed area of the back yard. Both varieties prefer shade and bloom just once for a few weeks in the spring. They retain their leaves in the winter and grow a little faster than Encore azaleas.


Tabors can get 6-8 feet tall, so I put all those near the back fence.  (3-31-20)


Hilda Niblett azaleas are low-growing; I planted them in front of some hydrangeas. I love their
delicate pink flowers. I'd like more, but haven't found any locally since planting these. (5-1-20)

Since I mentioned the hydrangeas, I'll put this photo of flower clusters that I photographed at the end of May right here.

This is a very common variety of deciduous hydrangea that grows well in many parts of the United States. The previous owners planted five of them in the woods. The one that gets the most sun has grown the largest and has the most flowers. They all bloom for two or three months:

SPIDORWORT

I consider these perennial flowers to be a success since none have died since being planted in 2017.

All seven clumps have grown larger, although not big enough to justify dividing yet, and bloom from April to November. They've required absolutely no maintenance except watering during a drought. We had excess rain this year so I didn't have to water them more than a couple times.

We have three leaf/flower color combinations:

 

 

 

VIBURNUM

The first spring (2017) we lived here I planted two Summer Snowflake virbunum shrubs about ten feet apart in the back yard, and one Spirit viburnum nearby. They are a resounding success.

The Snowflakes, however, are over-achievers! I didn't realize they'd get so tall so fast -- 8-10 feet already. The tag for these says average mature height is 6-8 feet. I'm hoping the one in front doesn't get any taller. I marked both Summer Snowflakes in the next picture with red dots:

The tag says the average mature width of Summer Snowflake is 8-10 feet but you can see in the photo that ours are considerably taller than wider so far. That photo is from April 8.

Summer Snowflakes have large, flat flower clusters that last several months in the spring and summer:

They drop their leaves in winter but have ornamental red fruit.

Spirit viburnums look much different. Their leaves are evergreen and they reportedly get only 4-5 feet tall and wide. You can see ours to the left of the taller Snowflake viburnum two photos above. By fall it was almost six feet tall. 

Spirit's flowers are completely different, too. This photo is from 2019 but the tiny clusters of flowers were the same this year:

When Spirit's flowers are done blooming in late summer their red stems and clusters of nubs add contrast to the dark green leaves through the fall and winter months.

BEARDED IRIS

Five of the six bearded irises I planted in spring of 2017 are re-bloomers. All have their first bloom in April or May, then bloom again sometime in the summer or fall.

I showed two of the blue colors in a photo with puppy Don near the top of this page. That was taken April 8. Both of those irises bloomed again in late summer. Here is another one of the re-bloomers, Pink Attraction, in June:

 

The irises have multiplied but not enough to be divided yet.

Continued on the next page . . . lots more flower photos and a couple of visiting critters!

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

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2020 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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