Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

Wow, it’s been almost a year since I posted about my attempt at propagating hydrangeas from cuttings. You’ve surely forgotten, so here’s a reminder: Grand Experiment, garden style.

I took 12 cuttings. Over the course of the year, I nursed them in the plastic box in my Florida room. Nursing is a relative term as all I had to do was water them a little every week or two. I ended up with 6 viable plants. I had labeled them with a pencil and they are unreadable. I think most or all of them are the Nikko Blue variety, now I am going to have to wait until they bloom (fingers-crossed) to confirm. Note to self, don’t use a pencil for the labels. Try a Sharpie next time. The labels are saturated and maybe if they dry out, the wording will reappear. We’ll see.


These first two came from my friend’s garden. She has several different varieties and I remember wanting to take cuttings from her white Annabelles (is that the name?) but as I recall, either I couldn’t reach them or the ground was too wet, or something. I think I ended up getting Nikko Blues from her, too.


The remaining 4 came from my plants. I thought I had lost the little one on the right just above, but after the original leaves fell off, it sprouted again. So I went ahead and potted it up with the others, it will just have to be the runt of the litter.

So, I’m pleased that we’ve gotten this far. One of the reasons I dragged my feet about potting them up last fall after they’d taken root, was I couldn’t find instructions on the internet about what to do next. I don’t really have a place to plant them in the ground yet (and I may just give them away) and I didn’t want them to sit outside in pots over the winter. I still have that cat and there’s no way I could keep the pots inside the house.

So I’ve placed all six of these in terra cotta pots so that they won’t easily tip over and placed them in the garden next to a Nikko Blue that is planted in the ground and doing well. I figure if the conditions are right for it, they should be good for these guys, too.

So my plastic box is empty, it’s time to do it again. This time, I’ll try for those Annabelles and some Oak Leafs.

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Gosh, I haven’t posted in a long, long time. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my genealogy software, updating family lines and fixing sources. I’m paying the price now for being lazy in my inputting in the past. And that’s way too boring to talk about on the blog.

So, what have I been up to otherwise? I decided to try to grow hydrangeas from cuttings. I’ve been researching the how-to of this online, finding that most articles and videos follow the same process but there isn’t just one I can point to that answered all my questions. So the procedure I followed is kind of a mashup of several of them.


Most of the how-tos I found advocate using a plastic bag to enclose your cuttings once planted, but they never say what kind of bag. Ziploc? grocery? produce? dry cleaners? The point is to create a greenhouse-like environment and I just couldn’t envision how any plastic bag I could come up with would be successful. Plus, I have a very curious cat. So when I found a video on the This Old House website that showed using a plastic container instead, I knew that would be my solution.

You can see in the photo above that I have two plastic containers. The smaller one is the first one I bought, thinking it would be deep enough for cuttings planted in a layer of potting soil. But once I actually cut the stems, I found that it wasn’t deep enough. Plus, I had saved a plastic multi-pot thingy from some plants I bought from the local nursery last year for this purpose and it was too big for the box. So I bought the other one which seemed too big but actually worked out quite well.

You’ll need some soil. I found many different ideas about what to use so I bought some organic potting soil. I think any basic soil would work or you could make your own with peat moss and perlite.

You’ll need rooting hormone powder, a pencil and pruning shears.

You’ll need a mister.


And don’t forget labeling sticks.


Ok, let’s go take some cuttings.

Select branches that didn’t have a flower this year. Not a problem at my house because none of my hydrangeas bloomed.

You’ll want a cutting that has a pair of leaves at the top. I don’t know how important it is, if at all, if they’re mature leaves because you’ll be cutting them in half anyway, but that’s what I looked for. Then count down two more leaf pairs and cut just above the leaf pair after that.



Do not:

Pruning-don't do

You don’t want to leave a stump on your stem. So here’s one cutting fresh off the shrub. Note that the topmost leaf pair is probably big enough that that I could have made the cutting shorter by one leaf node (in hind-sight).

Hydrangea cutting

In one of the how-to videos I found the lady just stripped off the lower leaves by hand but all the rest showed people using pruning shears or scissors. The leaf nodes are where the new roots are going to sprout from, hopefully. I didn’t cut the leaves off flush with the stem, I aimed for about a quarter inch from the stem. I don’t know how important this is.

Where to trim cutting

You’re going to want to make a horizontal cut of the topmost leaves. This just leaves more room in your container. You don’t need the whole leaf. You can see that some of my cuttings are longer than others.

Hydrangea cuttings after trimming

Next step not shown, is to fill your pots with the soil and poke a hole for the cutting with the pencil.

Now, dip your cutting in water

Dip cutting in water

and then in the rooting powder. Shake off the excess. (Every how-to I found said not to dip directly into the powder container as it could spread disease. With the exception of one video where the lady just defied current wisdom and did it anyway. Or maybe she didn’t know any better. To be on the safe side, put some in a separate container where it won’t blow away if you’re doing this outside and discard the leftover powder, don’t put it back in the original container.)

Dip cutting in rooting hormone powder

Poke the cutting into the hole you made with the pencil and tamp down the soil around it.

Cuttings in pot

Label the cuttings with the variety if you know it or at least the color of the flowers, if you know that. You could also put the date you planted if you think that’s necessary. I just marked the date on my calendar.

Cuttings in pot with labels

Here are my cuttings in the bottom of the container. Not shown here, I went to a friend’s house later in the day and took some cuttings from her plants (hey, I was on a roll) but I had to buy little plastic pots for those. They fit perfectly in this container with the others.

Cuttings in plastic container

Before you put the top on, mist the soil generously around each cutting. Here is the finished greenhouse in my sun room. It’s got great light and the cat can’t get into it. My plan was to mist the cuttings every day, but after a few days there was still condensation on the container, so I decided I’d wait and only mist once a week, unless it dried out sooner.

Finished "greenhouse"

In 6 weeks I’ll test for roots by gently tugging on the cutting. If there’s resistance, there are roots and I’ll cheer for success! I don’t expect every one of them to make it, which is why I took so many cuttings. Increases my odds.

After that, I’ll repot them in a larger container and move them outside. I have to come up with a strategy for that step because we have squirrels that would delight in digging them all up. I’m thinking I’ll either buy a cold frame or get my husband to make one for me. That should protect the baby hydrangeas and they may be big enough by next spring to plant in the ground.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I still have that smaller plastic container and I may try looting my friend’s plants again (she has different varieties than I have) for shorter cuttings that only have one leaf node which would fit in the box better and I’ll see if the cuttings have to have two leaf nodes in the dirt to be successful or if one will suffice.

Watch this space for periodic updates!


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A Quick Garden Tour

I love surveying my garden in the early morning. I’d say mine skews more heavily to spring blooming plants, but I do have some things blooming now, now that the azaleas and rhodies have finished.

I love, love, love day lilies. But my back yard is getting too shady for all the blooms my plants have the potential for. We limbed up most all of our oaks last fall in an effort to reduce the shade on the grass, but that hasn’t been enough. As much of a tree hugger as I am, I would like to remove some of them to let more sun in, but wow, that is so expensive. Also, my next-door-neighbor’s yard has mature oaks that are blocking a lot of sunlight on that side of the property. If I could, I’d remove her trees.

Despite my efforts to preserve the variety names, I’m afraid this one is lost. Isn’t it beautiful?

IMG_1368 IMG_1369

A friend gave me some of her run-of-the-mill orange “ditch lilies” as she calls them, a few years ago. They’ve done well and filled out the space I planted them in. They are blooming well right now. No pictures today as they all closed up over night and the new ones haven’t opened yet. But you know them, I’m sure. They grow wild everywhere around here.

We had a surprise freeze in late-April, right after what’s supposed to be our last frost date. I think it played havoc with my Nikko Blue hydrangeas, as all 8 of the plants along our driveway fence are smaller than normal and not one single bloom on any of them. They are in full shade and don’t bloom very profusely anyway, but this is downright sad. The foliage looks nice and healthy, though. I have one plant at the house, which gets more sun and usually does very well. It, too, is smaller than usual but does have a few small blooms. Over the years, a couple of low branches managed to attach themselves to the ground and have rooted. I cut the smaller one off a few weeks ago and potted it up. The other one is quite a bit larger and I’ll have to look around for a place to put it. Maybe it’ll fit somewhere in the front where there’s more light.

My Bluebird hydrangea is doing great! At least that’s one consolation. The flowers are truly blue.



I was surprised to find this Astilbe peeking out from some azaleas. I had planted two of these next to the azaleas when they were new and everything was small. I didn’t see them last year, and assumed they’d gotten crowded out. Nice to see one has survived! I probably should move it…


This end of a flower bed is under our cherry tree. There are several varieties of Hosta, a Korean Spice Viburnum (which never blooms because it’s in shade, but I took that into consideration when I planted it, I just wanted something to fill in) and this Autumn fern. I think it’s an Autumn fern, maybe it’s a Japanese painted fern. If I’d known it was going to get this large, I would have moved it back toward the fence. But maybe it’s doing this well because of where it is. There is a little tiny fern back behind it that is barely hanging on, I’d better move it before I lose it altogether.


And, last but not least, John had to replace his Chuck Hayes gardenia because we lost the old one (and another one) to the late freeze. He keeps hoping the old one will come back, but the green leaves it still has are sickly looking and are turning brown. It’s a goner.


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One of the newly-planted azaleas has a bloom. Looks like something’s been eating on it, but since blooming season for this variety is long over, this was a pleasant surprise! The plants are doing well and I can’t wait for next spring’s display.


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Fidos After 5

I stopped by Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on my way home from work tonight. Normally the gardens close at 5pm, but during the summer, they stay open until 9pm on Thursdays as “Flowers After 5” and once or twice allow dogs as “Fidos After 5.” Tonight was Fidos night. I intended to use my macro lens on the butterflies, but found the exhibit was closed. So I concentrated on the Fidos. It was a really beautiful night to be in the gardens.

This is Penelope (Penny), a 10-year-old Maltese.

This is Petey, an English Setter. His owner was on the phone and couldn’t chat.

This is Evie (born on Christmas Eve), a 6.5 year-old Westie. I love Westies.

Old friends meet again.

A gaggle of Shelties.

This is Audacity, an Australian Shepherd.

This is Parker, another Australian Shepherd. Parker and Audacity are friends of the shelties as evidenced by the previous picture.

This is Stanley, a 3-year-old Schnoodle. This is what Joey would look like if we didn’t have him groomed in the Schnauzer tradition. Although he carries into the house all kinds of leaves and other detritus, we prefer that look to Stanley’s.

OK, I had to shoot some other things as well. I had heard there was a snake around and sure enough, there it was.

Couldn’t pass up some flowers.



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I have this whole bank of Nikko Blue hydrangeas which I absolutely love, love, love. My plan was to try and duplicate the garden of Penny McHenry, founder of the American Hydrangea Society. Years ago, there was an article and photo spread of this women’s garden, aptly named “Hydrangea Heaven” in Southern Living magazine. Honestly, as I remember it, the pictures in the magazine were much better than what’s on the website. It was so inspiring. But anyway, I haven’t achieved that level of excellence, maybe some day. If I ever get to visit Atlanta, her garden will be on my list to see, if possible.

But I digress.

One of these is not like the other:

I planted these years ago and they’ve always been blue. This flower is the only one that is pink. Every other one on that bush is blue. I might understand it a little better if the whole bush were pink, but to my knowledge we haven’t put any chemicals around there that would change the acidity/alkalinity of the soil.



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My friend Suzanne asked to see pictures from my garden. We didn’t spend all day in the yard yesterday, but we did get a few things done.

I deadheaded the hydrangeas and a rhododendron and azalea that had some dead limbs. We planted a hydrangea that should have gone in the ground a few years ago. It had been in the ground at one time and was nibbled on by a bunny. It’s been near death several times since. Hopefully it’s big enough to survive any untoward bunny advances this year. It came from a plant I gave my friend Susan. She gave me a cutting from it. It’s a dark pink and neither one of us remembers the name of the variety, so we’ve always called it the “Kaspar Hydrangea.” I don’t see any flower buds on it, so it may be next year before it will put on a show.

A friend invited us into her garden a couple of years ago to dig up whatever we wanted of her hostas and ditch lilies. The hostas have been in a pot ever since, so John divided them up and we planted them in a bed in the front.

They don’t look like much now, it’ll be at least a year or two before they show up in pictures. We have a new resident bunny and I hope he/she doesn’t like to nibble on the tender shoots of just-planted hosta. We have enough problems with voles who tunnel underneath and eat all the roots.

If  you remember this post and this one, I’m happy to report that this year the oak-leaf is a good 3-1/2 to 4 feet tall. I think the bunny won’t get it this time.

We went to Colesville Nursery in Ashland and bought 12 “Madame Butterfly” azaleas:

They will go in front of and in between each of these pine trees at the back of our yard:

We have this variety in other parts of the garden and we love it for it’s tall growth pattern. This one in front of the garage is probably seven feet tall:

It’s a very pale lavender:

Other things blooming right now:


The viburnum is nearly done:

Wild strawberries that came up out of nowhere last year and are spreading all over now:

Spanish hyacinth:

Solomon’s Seal:

Due to the warm winter we had, this Gerbera daisy survived from last year:

Bearded iris with azalea in the background:

Lenten rose:

One of these days, I’m going to get a good shot of the hawk that visits from time to time:

That’s it for this weekend. We went to Strange’s Garden center today and bought our yearly annuals for the deck. We also bought a big bougainvillea and now don’t know what to do with it. It’s too big for the shepherd’s hook we planned it for. Stay tuned.

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Back in 2009 I posted about the trials and tribulations of growing an oak leaf hydrangea that I had been given as a newly-rooted stem:

Oak leaf hydrangea

I’m happy to say that I think the curse has been lifted! This year the plant is bushy and full and blooming!

I’m hopeful that this is only the beginning of a happy and healthy plant.


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I was out dead-heading the columbine this morning when I lifted the peony leaves and found these:


Wild Strawberries

Mmmm, wild strawberries.


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My neighbor

Let me tell you about my neighbor, Sarah. Not blonde, but completely ditsy.

Last year, this hibiscus came up from seed in our side yard, outside the back gate. This isn’t an area that I normally visit, about all that’s on that side of the house are the air conditioning units. The gate to the backyard is pretty rickity and there’s not much reason to use it. So I wouldn’t have planted anything here deliberately, but it was pretty so I cultivated it.


A few weeks ago I was out in the front yard, watering or pulling weeds or admiring my oak leaf hydrangea (which I do frequently) and Sarah was over in her yard watering her garden alongside my fence on “that” side of the house. She called me over to chat.

I was expecting to see this, because I’d taken this photo just a few weeks before. It had several flower buds on it and I was happy that it had come back from last year:


Instead I saw a hole where the plant had been. My first thought was that voles had gotten to it, but there would have been evidence of the damaged foliage laying around. There was nothing.

I shrieked, what happened? Sarah said, in her nonchalant, truthful as a child, way, “Oh I pulled it up. I thought it was a weed and I thought you were waiting for me to pull it, so I did.” Never mind that it was clearly on my side of the property line. Never mind that I would never want her to pull weeds for me. When I told her it was a hibiscus, she was shocked. She likes to garden and she knows what they are, but she didn’t know there are perennial versions (or at least “winter hardy”).

She had the good sense to be very embarrassed and insisted on replacing it. And I was very willing to let her do that. I told her the flowers were white and to make sure she didn’t get an annual variety.

Sure enough, the next week she had bought a plant (I stole the tag so that she wouldn’t throw it out, I save them. Good thing I did because she told me later that she didn’t even know there was a tag. See what I mean?) And the week after that she planted it.

John and I have been watering it daily through all these triple-digit heat waves we’ve been having. Yesterday I was rewarded with the first bloom. And there are many more buds on it.

It’s not the same variety as the one she pulled up, but this is just as pretty. The flower is bigger than the original too.


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