Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Spring Gardening Post

One of the questions we get frequently asked is about where all the fresh flowers come from that we use throughout our home. During the winter months I usually just buy simple and inexpensive tulips and eucalyptus from Trader Joe's but then spring, summer and fall usually everything you see in our home is from our yard.

Before I start though I will give a couple of disclaimers - I definitely am not a gardening pro by any means, or even a seasoned gardener, this is just simply a post to answer some of the questions we get about what flowers we have in our yard and what we have learned along the way. Also, I completely understand that no matter how much you may love to garden or love flowers it's not always possible to plant them - we lived in a townhouse for five years where we weren't allowed to plant anything in our yard so I truly am grateful for and appreciate that at our current house we have a such a large space to plant so many different types of flowers.

Also, I would say to keep in mind that it is a lot of work. We weed almost every single day and I use a spray that I spray on the plants to keep the deer away about every two weeks however this time of year I spray some of my budding plants every couple of days and then I use miracle grow on just about everything (except the peonies) about every 1-2 weeks. I use the kind that just has the attachment you put on your hose and then you just replace the bottles as needed. I have one for the front yard hose and one for the back and just keep them on the hose all the time and just use the "water" option vs. the "feed" option on the rest of the days. We've used it for several years now and I love how easy it is and how well it works!  During hot stretches I water everything daily. This spring we had a ton of rain though so that did cut back considerably on how much I had to water (although it made the weeds grow like crazy so we've had to work extra hard on those - ha!)

All in all though, I have to say I generally find it very therapeutic and relaxing to work in the yard. I have always loved gardening and flowers - in fact, my very first job when I was in high school was at a local nursery/garden center. There's definitely times where it feels a little overwhelming (like when we've come back from vacation and all I can see are weeds - ha!) but all in all I love it and can honestly say if we move I will miss our yard more than our house.

We get asked quite often about bugs and how we keep the animals away. First, I honestly don't have a great answer for the bug question. It's never been a huge problem here (or at least so far anyway, although now that I am writing that it probably is going to become one -ha!) so it hasn't been anything that we've had to worry about or try to come up with solutions for at this point. I know a lot of people ask about how we keep the ants away when we cut the peonies and bring them in to the house and we really haven't done anything more than rinse them off a little bit but it's just never been much of a problem. Now that's not to say that I've never brought any bugs into the house with the flowers - I definitely have. But it's never been more than an occasional one here and there. Bugs, spiders, etc don't bother me so if I see one I just rinse it off or catch it.

Now deer on the other hand we have quite the problem with. As one of my friends recently put it, in the neighborhood we live in deer are basically lawn ornaments. Seriously, though, it's quite true. On any given day in our neighborhood we usually more than just a few deer. Several days a week we look out our window usually to see anywhere from 3-7 deer just hanging out in our yard. My girls absolutely LOVE them. I do like looking out my window and admiring them but I hate that they pretty much treat our yard like a candy shop - ha! The first two years we lived here I did not get one single hyndrangea blossom because they literally ate every single one. They also love the roses. For us, I'd definitely say the hydrangeas and roses are the two things they love the most and I learned the hard way the first year or two that if I didn't do something about it I would never get a single blossom. We tried a few all natural type things like putting hair clippings out and a few other things but didn't find they helped much so then I tried some different sprays. After trying several different ones I've found this one works the best. I usually pick mine up at Ace Hardware but it's easy to order it on Amazon too. However, we definitely have to spray much more often than it says to but that may just be because the deer are such a problem here. I usually spray about every other week although lately I have been spraying every couple of days on my plants that are budding - like my roses and hyndrageas. I have found the deer like them best right when they are budding. Once they bloom they don't bother them nearly as much. Now to warn you - this stuff smells AWFUL when you first spray it. In fact I always spray at a time when I can go right in and take a shower afterwards. Once it dries though, the smell completely disappears. I have found that usually takes a couple of hours for the smell to go away. What I just about always do it spray in the evening right before we go inside for the night and then by morning there is zero smell. But just be warned - it is truly disgusting smelling right when you spray it. Lola finds this particularly funny though and she loves helping spray. Other than deer we don't have too many other animal issues - we've had the occasional rabbit come through and eat some of the leaves off of things but now that we spray more regularly we haven't had that problem in quite a while.

Okay, I think that covers it. Now finally onto the actual flowers! For some of them I know the exact name and will share those. Others I just know the general names. I will share photos I took of them outside and then used in our home so you can see how they look as a cut flower. I have stuck mostly with planting things that make nice cut flowers just because I love having flowers in the house as well as outside.

First we will start with our peonies. These are actually one of the few flowers that were here when we moved in. I was thrilled when we first looked at the house and they were almost ready to bloom! They are my favorite and we have continued to add more bulbs. Keep in mind that they will probably take 2-3 years from when you first plant the bulb to actually get them to flower. However, once they flower they are extremely low maintenance after that and will continue to bloom year after year. The most common problem people have with them is usually related to ants. However for some reason we have lucked out in that department so I don't have any advice to offer on that. Also we haven't had any need to stake ours because of the way they are clustered together. However I do usually clip the ones on the edge and bring them in before they get to weighty.

The white peonies were here when we moved in and this one is I think either a Charlie's White or Laura's Dessert peony.

and here they are in a vase on our porch:

Next up we have these beautiful pink peonies! Some were here when we moved and then we added some as well. I think this one is a Madame Jules Dessert Peony. 

and here are a few of them being used in the house:

And here are some darker pink peonies. There were some here and we added some of these as well. I think these ones are called Big Ben Peonies. 

And here they are as cut flowers throughout the house:

And here are some Single Peonies. These usually bloom first so I get to enjoy them and then as they are nearing their end the double ones usually start fully blooming.

And here is a photo of them as cut flowers:

And here is a look at what they look like in their patch in our front yard.  There's quite a few empty spots because I am always clipping them and bringing them into the house. Ha! 

Next up is Catmint. This is one of my favorites! It grows like crazy and is so light and airy feeling and I love the color of it! It's a perfect complement to just about any flower. Ours starts blooming in early May usually and is ridiculously easy to take care of. I just clip it back as necessary. So far it has been completely deer resistant. I have never sprayed any of our catmints and the deer have never touched them. It has worked so well that after planting our first three a while ago I added I think 5 or 6 more this spring. I highly recommend this one!

And although it probably isn't really a cut flower I think it makes a great filler to when mixed into an arrangement:

Next up we have lavender. These are a nice little addition to any space. They are easy to take care of and another one that has been completely deer resistant as well. I do find that they tend to look really pretty in the spring and not as pretty as the summer goes on (although cutting them back does help) but all in all they are a nice flower. I personally prefer the overall look a the catmint a little more.

Although I often cut lavender to add to arrangements I can't think of any specific photos of them off the top of my head  - this is the best I could come up with - you can see one stem in the top left.

Now onto the roses.  I've added more roses each year (I think we have about 15 or so now) and don't have pictures of all of them because they haven't all bloomed yet this year but here are a few (if I know their names I'll put them)

This one is the Coretta Scott King rose. It is a beautiful color and produces so many blooms! However the deer LOVE this one and if I don't spray on a regular basis I will wake up to just about all the buds being gone. Other than that though, I highly recommend this one. All three of ours hava done particularly well for us and I would say of all the roses we have it produces by far the most blooms (there are tons of them) but it also is the one the deer seem most attracted to so I would definitely keep that in mind. I know from experience that it can be quite disappointing to think you are going to get 30-40 blooms at once and then wake up to discover the deer have only left you two or three. Ha!

Some of the buds are lighter than others:

Then we have several other pink roses and some cream ones as well which I don't have photos of. But here are some of the more peachy colored ones - I think this one is particularly pretty!

We've got quite a few more different roses and I will try to add pictures of them here or in a follow up post later this summer as more of them bloom. Here are a few pictures of them in vases:

And now onto the hydranges. Although I would probably say peonies and lilacs are tied for first as my favorite flowers hydranges would most likely take second place. We added our first 8 bushes shortly after moving in and then have continued to add more each year. They are just so pretty! I think we have a total of 18 or so now. We have several different varieties which I will share some of below (they aren't all blooming yet though so some I will add in later this summer or do a follow up post when I can photograph them).

The deer love hydrangeas when they are just forming however I have found that once they actually bloom they don't usually bother them. The trick though is getting them to that point. It has been quite tricky for me and now I just spray them every couple of days which so far has been helping!

First up is endless summer. The color on these is absolutely beautiful and we've gotten so many blooms. We have three of these ones but I have spots where I'd like to add another three or four more bushes. The cost of plants does add up though,  and I've hit my quota for this spring so probably won't add them until next year. I absolutely love these ones. The nice thing is they produce so many blooms they still look full even when I cut some to bring inside and they continue to bloom all summer.

Sorry, enough of those. I just love them so much! Here is an image of them inside:

We also have some pretty soft pink ones:

and white ones:

 and this Let's Dance Starlight bush which is just about to bloom:

We have eight of these bombshell hydrangeas. The deer went crazy on them the first couple of years and I didn't get a single bloom. But this year it looks like we are going to get hundreds of blooms, (quite literally)! The plants have grown like crazy and are quite large. I have been spraying them every few days and so far it's looking hopeful! I'll post more pictures once they actually bloom as long as the deer don't have them for dinner before then! Ha! 

We also have a few others like some limelight ones that haven't bloomed yet but again I will either add pictures to this post as summer goes on or do a follow up post. 

And now we will move onto lantana. There was a bunch of orange lantana here when we moved in. I am not a huge fan of the color of it but quickly discovered the deer don't touch it and it is pretty much impossible to kill and completely maintenance free so I decided to plant some in some other colors that go better with the rest of what we've planted. 

Although I am not a huge fan of the orange lantana it does come in handy in the fall (although it blooms all summer and late into the fall) when I am looking for a touch of autumn in the house. I often cut it and use it throughout the house although I will say it's not the best smelling flower. It's not awful, but it doesn't smell good either.  However I love the wispy, light feeling of it and am excited this year to have some other colors to use as well! Here are some images of the orange lantana in the house last fall:

Two of my favorite flowers we have that I love but don't have pictures of outside (I can add one of them in later this summer but the other one will have to wait until next spring) but do have indoor photos of them are lilacs and the butterfly bush

First is up is the lilac. I am from a small town in New England where lilacs are pretty much everywhere! There is nothing quite like the smell of lilacs in the spring especially when there are tons of them all together! I planted three bushes last year and one this year. Two of the ones from last year are still quite small and I didn't get blossoms from yet (they are a different variety than the other one from last year). The other one from last year though has tripled in size and I got lots of beautiful lilacs this spring and the one I planted this year bloomed as well:

And then the butterfly bush. We have several of these, a couple of white ones and a couple of purple ones. Two of them had gotten so large we cut them back considerably this year but they are doing well. Similar to the lantana they are quite easy to take care of and the deer don't bother them at all. These usually start blooming in late June (if I'm remembering correctly from the last couple of years and based on how they look right now) and then usually bloom through the fall. Here are a few pictures of them as cut flowers in the house:

Now we will move on to the bearded iris. We have them in a couple of different colors. They are not my favorite but they are very pretty and deer resistant as well. They make a great cut flower and bloom early each year (usually in mid to late April through early May) which adds some nice color before all the other flowers start blooming. They have pretty much zero maintenance which makes them nice and easy.

I prefer this color to the ones above. And I love the delicate ruffled edge. 

We added some wisteria to our arbor last year and got some blooms this year. We also have jasmine on here as well but that hasn't quite bloomed yet so I will share images of that once it does.

You can sort of see the jasmine in bloom in this picture from last year. It's about to bloom in the next week or so again so I'll try to remember to update this with a better picture.

You can see the rhododendron (which was here when we moved) in full bloom in these pictures below.

And then we have some trees that have very pretty blossoms that I love cutting and using throughout the house like in these photos below. We have a couple of different flowering dogwood trees (a couple with white flowers and one with green ones) plus lots of Chinese Privet which I have heard is quite invasive and therefore not everyone is a big fan of it. However ours is in a great spot on the border of our property and I absolutely LOVE it!  And then a Hawthorne (which is also called a May-tree) which I love because it has beautiful white blossoms in the spring and then berries in the fall!

The Hawthorne tree has white blossoms in the spring and then berries in the fall which I love!

We also have some Japanese Maples and other Maples that make for great branches to cut in the fall to bring in some foliage. And we have several crepe myrtles which I love clipping branches from because the leaves are so pretty but I don't  use the flowers in the house because they don't make great cut flowers - they are so delicate and pretty much end up all over everything.

Also we've not had great luck with these so far - foxgloves, delphinium and stock. I am planning on giving the foxgloves another try at some point because I absolutely LOVE them. But so far the two different varieties I have tried have not done so well.

And I think that about covers it! I think this may be the longest post I have ever written - ha!

Have a wonderful rest of the week!

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