Garden update

You will recall that we left the front garden a little bare, though tilled:

Finally the big order from The Growers Exchange arrived, Friday afternoon.  This was a bit problematic, since once one unboxes these plants, one is supposed to let them sit out of direct sun for a day or two before planting them, but no longer than four days.  The problem was that 1) on Sunday I had to go to Duluth for the State STAR Student selection process, not getting home until Tuesday; and 2) it was going to rain on Sunday in any case.

I like Growers Exchange; they’re good people, and they have interesting plants.  But I ordered these plants in December and they were supposed to be here mid-March.  That worked for me because starting in late April I was going to be pretty much unavailable till June: the aforesaid State STAR Student process, followed by Euphoria build weekend — packing for Euphoria — Euphoria — unpack — pack for the Danube — cruise up the Danube for a week or so, past our beloved homeland of Hofvonstein — unpack from the Danube — pack for To The Moon burn — To The Moon.  On June 6 I expected to come up for air.

However, the plants arrived.  I unboxed them, sat them under the work table, watered them, and told them they had 24 hours to acclimate.

Late Saturday, when the sun was on the other side of the house, I popped those puppies into the earth:

There was also the privet hedge area, but I didn’t get a photo of that.  Maybe Tuesday when I get home…


You know how it is.  The front garden is getting ratty-looking and as a gift for Christmas you give your Lovely  First Wife a complete revamp of the area.

And then you get an email from The Growers Exchange offering 25% off an order for native cultivars, and then you see some interesting-looking herbs that you’ve only read about, and suddenly you’re looking at 50+ plants to get into the ground.

On Saturday I spent all day ripping out the zoysia grass from the planting areas where it had invaded, and then getting most of the plants into the ground.  (Half of them haven’t been shipped yet.)

That was oddly satisfying, plunging the blue-handled “weasel” contraption into the soil and wrenching it around so that the grass and weeds were loosened, then ripping them out.  I ended up with a huge pile of detritus on the curb.  A good gardener wouldn’t allow it to get that bad, of course.

So much grass.

And weeds (although most of the greenery above is actually surviving annuals).

Actually planting the plants takes no time at all of course.

Oooh, clean!

So what all did I plant?

Out front:

In the herb garden:

In the side garden, joining the monster cardoon:

Then there’s the area where we had the privet hedge/wisteria removed.  It’s ugly, and so I’ve decided to plant hardy, equally invasive flowers/herbs.

I’ll keep you posted as things develop.  In another year, we should be awash in herbs and flowers.  If I can remember what everything is for, I could become a regular apothecary.

Herb Garden!

As Wallace Stevens reminds us in his poetry, sometimes it’s necessary to scrape the garden clean and begin over.


This is pretty gross.

We see the remains of what was a lovely little space, but now it’s just overgrown with grass.  The dead tomato vine, the grotesque rose bush that would look at home in the Addams Family garden, the Dill Plant That Ate Newnan in its decay.

Time to start over.  The tomato vine is just trash; the rose bush hasn’t really even been putting out roses; and the DPTAN truly is in the way.  It pained me to do it, but I dug it up.

This was in January.  I then got down and pulled as much grass out of the area as I could.  It was a lot of grass.

This past weekend, I got to work.

All my areas cleared.  If you look at the lower left there, you will see a dill plant.  It volunteered to be there, so it’s on probation.  Otherwise, I have parsley, cilantro, thyme, tarragon, buttercrunch lettuce, romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach.  (Chives, oregano, and sage have survived.)  The vertical trench you see there is for sunflowers.  Now that the DPTAN is gone, I need some height.

Herbs planted.  The lettuces had to wait a day while the ants that had moved into that area fled or died.

Also planted in the front area are butterfly garden flowers (plus the sunflowers), and I have more herbs being delivered in a couple of weeks: angelica, vervain, valerian, catnip, lovage, hyssop, borage.  And of course, when it’s truly warm enough: ALL THE BASIL!!

Some of those are medicinal herbs, not culinary, and some of them are invasive and tall, so they will probably end up over where we took out the privet hedge.  Let them fight it out with the wisteria.

For those who will miss the DPTAN, I do have another offering.  Behold!

The Cardoon That Couldn’t Be Stopped.  (And there are actually two of them.)  This is my weird herb area, separate from my what-normal-people-cook-with garden, and it includes the cardoon, horehound, and lemon verbena.

I’ll keep you posted.


Yesterday, I tackled the Dill Plant That Ate Newnan again.



This is the third time I’ve done this since it sprang back from the freezing cold this winter.  It is irrepressible. And it’s trying to colonize the butterfly garden in front of it.

No lie, I had to get the pruner to cut through the stalks,  and the frondage I carried to the street weighed about 15-20 pounds.  I suppose I should dig the whole thing up, but I don’t have the heart.  All I can do is cut it back down so that the sprinkler can get to the rest of the garden.

If you ever need dill, you know where to find it.

More herbs!

Yesterday, another package arrived from The Growers Exchange:

Ignoring the scrawny citronella on the far left, there’s mullein and the acanthus-like cardoon, and in the back is the buddleia.

You will recall that previously I had purchased and planted new herbs, expanding the old herb garden.  (RIP, little borage, we hardly knew ye, and we certainly waited too long to ask Growers Exchange for a replacement…)

This batch includes two each of Buddleia, mullein, and cardoon, plus a freebie of citronella.

Mullein is one of those medieval medicinal plants, and it and the buddleia (aka butterfly bush) will go over at the side of the house where the privet hedge used to be.  They’re hardy and almost invasive, and that’s exactly what I need over there.

The cardoon, all of which is edible, will go in the new herb section. They tend to become invasive as well, so a) I’ll transplant new ones over to the hardy area; and b) I’ll start giving them away to you people, not that you’ve been any help with the Dill Plant That Ate Newnan.

New herbs

I post this photo for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I’ll be gone until next week Camping with the Hippies™, and I really ought to post something before I leave.

Secondly, this is a new section for the herb garden.  I’ve taken over what used to be a bed of day lilies until some landscaper or other —not me!— replaced it with nothing.  Ugh.

There are four plants in the picture.  At top is lemon verbena, which I have planted before.  It has a gorgeous smell.

At the bottom left is horehound, which I’ve never planted before.  It’s good for coughs, etc.

In the center is borage, which I have planted but it’s been a long time.  You can put it in salads—mild cucumber flavor—and its flowers are edible as well.  It repels insects from the garden, and it apparently self-seeds generously.

And the tiny little sprout above the shrub is bergamot, aka bee balm.  I’ve had it before for the flowers, and here’s what my source The Growers Exchange says about it:

Bergamot has a long history of use as a medicinal plant by many Native Americans, including the Blackfeet. The Blackfeet Indians used this hardy perennial in poultices to treat minor cuts and wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by gingivitis, as the plant contains high levels of a naturally occurring antiseptic, Thymol, which is found in many brand name mouthwashes. Traditionally used to ease bloating and digestion because of its carminative properties, as well as to treat headaches and fevers, Bee Balm makes a strong and slightly spicy tea, tasting of mint and oregano.

I post the photo because the horehound and borage are supposed to spread wildly, so in a couple of years this patch may look like the Dill Plant That Ate Newnan.

I ordered more from Growers Exchange, and in looking up all the plants to see how high they would get and how I might arrange them, I discovered that all of them are rapacious spreaders, perhaps even invasive.

But all of them (and the ones above) bloom and attract bees and butterflies, and that’s my main goal here.  Except for the cardoon (arriving soon). That’s for eatin’.

More little green things

Longtime readers may recall that I used to maintain a wonderful herb garden, but in recent years I curtailed it quite a lot, since I just wasn’t here in the summers.  Things would either go to seed or die from not enough watering, and it wasn’t worth the expense.

But since I am now at home, I find myself needing the parsley and the cilantro and the basil, and the expense has shifted to buying it in the grocery store and seeing much of it go to waste.

So here we are:


Several years ago one of us contracted with a yard service to keep everything edged.  They promptly covered up my brick edging and left it to ruin.  I have now uncovered the brick and even added to the path on the left so that we have an easier time getting to the garbage and recycling bins.  All the bricking got raised and leveled.

You will notice that the Dill Bush That Ate Newnan is back—and this is after freezing to death twice this year.  The other survivors are the parsley, chives, sage, and oregano.  And the lovage made it back!

New: basil, of course; cilantro (although I had a couple of plants emerging as reseeds); tarragon; thyme; a couple lettuces and some kale; a tomato plant; and a serrano pepper plant.  And catnip, which I’ve never planted before.

Around on the other side of the dill, I’m going to plant hummingbird/butterfly garden seeds and see what happens.  If it works, it will be fabulous.

Of course, it’s in the back of my head that there’s no better way to provoke the universe into finding you a fabulous summer job that will require you to be away from home than to make this commitment.