Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Icky Stickies

 A heat wave is hitting good ol' Wisconsin this week.  I know those of you who have this sort of weather all the time are thinking I'm being silly, complaining about 90 degree temperatures, but it's not a dry heat, oh, no, it's Go Outside and Watch Your Glasses Fog Up heat.  Every time I ventured outside this weekend I was walking around in a haze before my lenses cleared up. Then, of course, the weather people let you know that with the humidity factored in, the 'Feels Like' temperature is more like 103 degrees.  Oh, thanks, now I'm even more miserable. 

This is almost like January in July where I find myself nearly housebound.    I hate to admit it in print, but I prefer snow to extreme heat.  I really do.  Snow I can handle, you can shovel it.  Right now a thunderstorm is pounding the house with high winds and heavy rain, I'm just hoping the flying ice cubes they are also predicting are a bit of hype.  I guess I could shovel hail, too, but I'd really rather not, thank you very much.  The rain is a blessing, we can really use it, but WOW (that was a close lightning strike....!) the 4th of July is over, we don't need such an industrial light show.
Joel was out taking pictures and just came's the advance lightning at 10 pm tonight.
  And the mosquitoes!  OH, the mosquitoes....they are just in Mosquito Paradise with all this high humidity. The second you step outside you can hear them whining incessantly high up in the sky .  It's not a beautiful sound, unless, maybe, you're a bat.  We put up bat houses a few years back hoping to encourage them to help us out.  Maybe our bats are on Weight Watchers or something, or maybe they got so fat they can't fly, but they're not keeping up with their prey. 

We finally located a store that still had a supply of outdoor bug spray left on the shelves and tonight it was our plan to spray for the mosquitoes, but luckily we didn't get around to it.  If we had sprayed the yard earlier, it wouldn't have done any good since it's raining so hard now.  We don't normally have to resort to spraying the yard but this year is just as bad as last year, we have to or you just can't even stand still for a second without being bitten.  

Earlier this evening, I went out to take pictures of the garden.  I kind of had a feeling with this heat wave that storms might pop up and there might not be much to look at afterward.   If you can walk really, REALLY fast, you can almost keep ahead of the mosquitoes as we go on this just-before- sunset walk around the gardens  tonight.

 Here's the start of the Riverbed (my camera lens was fogging up from the humidity). 
 A little farther down the bed.  OH, goodness, keep moving, the Wisconsin State Bird is on the prowl in droves.
 Let's stand over here a little bit, there's a bit of a breeze.
Ok, we'll dash over to the head of the steps by the Quarry.  You can't see them very well, but there's a pair of new cast iron urns we bought on sale two weeks ago.  I also bought a hanging basket full of petunias at 75% off and tore them apart, cut them all back and plunked them in the urn.  I'll have to see about getting a better picture of them when they fill in.  The long, lanky stalks are all sprouting new leaves already.
 Here I took two new pictures of the urns this morning and they still don't show up very well, now the sun is too bright.  I can't win. 

We've bought a bunch of urns over the years.  The one that got us started was from a recycling center Carl's dad had found about 35 years ago.  Someone had brought this one in for scrap metal.  I'm so glad Carl's dad decided to rescue it and doubly glad when one day he decided to give it to us to put in the gardens. 
I was almost melted down for scrap. 
Like a potato chip, this urn led to more urns.  You know, I was looking at some nice, big pots for planting flowers in and was amazed at what they cost, even the plastic-y ones, the price was very high.  So when we come across these heavy cast iron urns on sale at our local greenhouse, we bought them since they weren't really much more expensive than the plastic/resin ones.  One thing's for certain, the cast iron ones will be around for our kids to inherit (if they want them)  If they ever break, Carl can fix 'em.
  This one has home-grown Red 'Avalanche' petunias, 'Jester' millet and various and assorted sun-tolerant coleus including my favorite one, 'Sedona' and a 'Diamond Frost' filler and an overwintered red geranium from two years ago. 

The planter below has dark purple coleus, some pink petunias, 'Red Rooster' grass, an overwintered pink geranium and a purple sweet potato vine.

The red-flowered urn and the purple-flowered urn are right next to each other by the garage.  I went berserk this year and decided to make every urn in the yard a different color combination.  I know, they should match, it would look better, but life is short and I'm greedy and wanted all the pretty colors.  Sort of like 'Eat dessert first'.  That's a good motto, too.

I know matching plantings would be more restful and soothing to the eye and harmonious-- yes, I know that, but if there's one thing we get a lot of in Wisconsin, it's one uniform color for most of the year---a blanket of white for up to and beyond five months.  I get starved for color during that time, so when it comes to flowers, everything goes.

Remember those light shade pots perched on the old cast iron rollers from a junk yard?  These are our homemade urns.
There's one in April...still snow on the ground and looking very forlorn and well, ugly. 

Here's the same light shade in July.  See, it doesn't really matter what you use to plant stuff in, by mid-summer you can't really see what the flowers are growing in anyway.  These are home-grown 'Avalanche' and 'Opera Supreme Raspberry Ice' petunias.  I think there's four petunias in each pot along with 'Jester' millet and somewhere in there are a few lovely calla lilies from our good friend Jerry.  When they bloom, I'll be so excited because they are cream with purple throats.  I'll make sure to take a picture.  The 'Raspberry Ice' petunias are new to me this year and I'm really impressed with them.  I will definitely be planting more next year.

We think this one was maybe a cast iron ash tray back in the day?  It's a really neat plant stand now, given to us by Carl's wonderful Aunt Mary Ann.
The plastic pot perched on top of Carl's welded creation is coming along really well, too, and so are those gorgeous pink (unknown) lilies, too.  There are so many flowers here, and the scent is light and refreshing.

The hostas are coming into bloom: now here's a topic for debate:  many gardeners detest hosta blooms and remove them immediately before they flower.  Some gardeners leave the blooms to fade and then remove them and some gardeners let their hostas set seed and try to grow them on for new plants.  I was tempted to deadhead mine before they bloomed, but when I saw how many hummingbirds and honeybees were flocking to the blooms, I didn't have the heart to take them down anymore.  I'll let them finish flowering first.

I don't like deadheading very much, plus then there's the chance of spreading disease by using the same tool for cutting scapes if you don't sterilize every time you move to a new plant...I know, what a drag, but I usually sterilize my loppers with rubbing alcohol between plants.  It's probably not the best thing to use, but at least it's something in the war on hosta viruses.
Ernie earlier this morning, no clue what he looks like now after the storm.
We have so many memories tied up in the garden, I suspect every gardener does.  Above is a picture of Ernie the Urn this morning, enjoying some shade from the intense heat. We bought this urn last summer as an anniversary gift to each other.  Someone said it would make a marvelous fountain since it stands over 4' tall, and I agree, it would, but we're having such fun with it as a planter in the driveway where I never was able to plant anything that bloomed before.  Flowers don't like to grow in gravel very much (bet you knew that) but they do like Ernie.

We bought Ernie from our friend, Jan who owned a  greenhouse a few miles from us, the same place the smaller urns came from.   When our boys were little, we would make the rounds of the greenhouses just like we do now.  We met Jan shortly after he bought an older greenhouse after the previous owners sold when a tornado destroyed much of the business.  Joel and Dave were around ten and six years old and Jan would put them to work deadheading geraniums for him while we shopped.  When we left the greenhouse, each boy could take a geranium of his choice home with them.  I thought that was so generous of Jan, and the boys were pleased, too.

We went to his greenhouse several times every year, it was always a highlight of the planting season and as time went on, Jan perfected his ability to create something new with flowers the likes of which had never been seen around here before.   Jan was from Poland and his European gardening skills were evident in everything he designed.  He really brought imaginative style and finesse to our local gardening scene.  Every time we went to his greenhouse we were inspired.

Mayflower Greenhouse grew and so did Jan's reputation as an artist with plants.  He was a frequent guest on all the local TV stations during their garden segments and also on Wisconsin Gardener many, many times as a guest showing the newest and the best in gardening, especially container gardening.   Jan always remembered us, though, and  was one of the people instrumental in getting our garden featured on Wisconsin Gardener, too. 

We noticed that Jan had the big plant urn in inventory for quite some time; could have been as early as 2006.  Finally he decided to start marking it down and we'd keep looking at it and scratching our heads.   We'd  bought the smaller matching urns a few years earlier, and always drooled over the Big One but the price was out of our budget.  Finally, it was marked down over 60% and we splurged. 

When we came into the greenhouse that Sunday afternoon in July 2010, Jan said, "I knew you would buy it eventually."

He personally helped us load the urn  (took all three of us as Ernie is a Big Boy, well over 250+ pounds) and we sat on our trailer for awhile afterward just chatting.  It was the longest I had ever seen Jan sit still in all the years I'd known him.  It was a hot afternoon and almost closing time, so he wasn't in much of a hurry for once and we had a nice visit that day.

Little did we know it would be the last time we would visit with Jan.  He passed away in April 2011 of a sudden heart attack. When I heard the news, it was a shock.  Such a vibrant, inventive man who had some of the most cutting-edge garden ideas we've ever seen, it just didn't seem possible he was gone. We had just talked about heading over to Mayflower for the first time this year when we heard the news of his passing.   That's why we have to savor every moment in life, right?

Jan always said you should  fill a container with a Thriller, a Spiller and a Filler. 
Ernie in 2010
 Every time I walk by Ernie the Urn, I think of Jan wistfully and smile. 

 I really didn't have time to frame my shots carefully the last few times I've been out taking pictures because of the mosquitoes.  Above is a badly backlit Korean maple with a hosta in full bloom...would you look at the flower scapes on the hosta?  I'm going to be deadheading for ages.
Annabelle hydrangea is really loaded with huge flowers this year, too.  So far it hasn't needed staking.
 I went through the Egress Gate and immediately picked up a whole new herd of mosquitoes who were just waiting for me in the cool shade at the start of the Woodland Bed.
I took one quick shot of the pathway behind me after going through the gate....whine, whine, whine resounding in my ears...argh.....RUN!
I didn't stop to take any pictures in the Hosta Bed, good grief, I didn't want to become anemic.  This is a flower planter made of an odd type of styrofoam I have on the end of the driveway.  It looks like cast iron, but it's not...and I wonder if it it's blown out on the road right now after the heavy wind we just had?  I'll have to check.  (The storm passed tonight as I was typing this leaving us with some heavy wind and rain, but no hail, thank goodness!)
 Carl was out with the dogs and Screech Kitty by the Something Else & Pachyberm beds when I ran back out of the shade to escape the swarm.  He thought something big was chasing me. Well, it was a big bunch of mosquitoes.  Truly it was.
Just a random shot of the Pachyberm.
The Trumpet Vine is really in full bloom Sunday morning.
Just before noon it was already over 90 degrees.  Carl was hauling some hoses so I could start watering.  The air was so thick you could almost chew it.  Such humidity!  Looks like we got about a half inch of rain tonight, so I didn't need to water after all.  Though the storm was fierce, there was no cold front involved and the weather is supposed to remain the same hot and steamy mix for at least another week.

The daylilies are just getting a good start, so if there's any left after the storm tonight, I'll take some pictures tomorrow.  Here's a sneak peek:

This one is from a friend of ours who hybridizes day lilies....this one didn't make his cut, can you imagine?  I love it!
 Here's another one....the bud count and flower size is amazing on this plant now going into its third year.
Love the pattern on this one, too.

I'll have to see how many of the lilies survived the storm, too.
Tomorrow will be another Icky Sticky Day!


Missy said...

Your garden is obviously enjoying the weather even if you aren't Karen. It's looking magnificent.
Mozzies and heat are a fact of life here. We just spray ourselves to stop them biting and try to ignore them.

The urns are great too. I will have to remember Jan's advice and try to create some here.

Sue said...

Your gardens are spectacular--it's a shame the mosquitoes won't let you enjoy them. I used to live in NW IL, and remember how bad they could get (five skeeters with ONE hand slap!). Try the "Deep Woods Off"--works quite well!

Tufa Girl said...

I have been watching your weather in anticipation of the big trip and noticed all the stormy weather recently. I don't mind the heat but the humidity is the only thing we do not have at the moment since there is not a cloud in the sky.

Rosemary said...

Karen not only spectacular gardens but planters too..... all look fantastic. but the work to water, water, water let alone all the other work.
I am with you re the heat and humidity bad enough we spend so much time in the house in the winter but to hide in the house in mid afternoon of summer ,which I do can't take the hear it is not making me happy. We finally got a 5 minute rain the first for the month of July. Dry and brown here , trying to keep garden and trees at least alive.

Alison said...

We used to get a alot of heat and mosquitoes in New England too, when I lived there. I don't miss having to work out in the gardens in that heat, but my tomatoes would like just a taste of it. You should visit Seattle some time in the summer, to get away from the heat!

It's great that you have Ernie to remind you of Jan. It sounds like he was a really interesting guy.

The gardens and your other urns all look wonderful!

Beyond My Garden said...

Your garden looks good. I especially am drawn to paths. Thanks for taking me along through the humid evening.

Barbara Rosenzweig said...

Your garden is just fabulous!! - I especially love the lilies. I have no idea how you manage to maintain it all so beautifully!

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your kind comments about my artwork.

I'm your new follower.


Peonies & Magnolias said...

I do love strolling your gardens through your pictures. Everything is so beautiful and I love all your urns. They are spectacular. We can relate to the mosquitoes and we also have chiggers. If one doesn't get you the other will for sure. Hot and humid we will be this week, back to high 90s. Hope your heat wave ends soon. Have a great week.


Lona said...

I loved strolling through your garden with you today. Of course I was in doors where it was cool and no mosquitoes. LOL! I always just sigh when I see those planters of yours. I just love them. Now I am one of those who like hosta blooms so I always wait until after they bloom too.The mass planting of pink lilies is so beautiful. Try to stay cool this week.

Tufa Girl said...

Karen, compared to where I am now ... when we get to MN/WI I will definitely be in your neck of the woods. Leaving here 8/1 but that is the only thing we have planned (which is driving the Type A part of me crazy).

El Gaucho said...

When our local weather forecaster used the word "Steamy" to describe the impending warm/humid spell I actually laughed out loud and thought "Is it really going to be so bad that it'll be steamy?" Yes, yes it most certainly will be. Lesson learned. And Holy Buckets has it been nasty hot and humid, but the plants sure love it.

Sandy said...

Karen.. your garden is as lovely as ever.. but this year it's special! Are you sure you don't have a team of gardeners hiding in the bushes when your out there with your camera? I wish mine would grow as yours does but then I live in Hot ucky Florida and only tropical will grow here... thanks for your visit today and I must say the photo of the lightening you put up made my hair stand tall...
So glad your doing well...

africanaussie said...

Oh I could wander through your garden forever (and it seems to go on forever) Georgous! so many colorful flowers,and all your urns are overflowing with color - I must remember that design tip you shared - it certainly works for you. While you are covered with snow it will be our turn for the heat, humidity and mozzies. Your garden seems to be loving it!

Beth said...

Karen, Did I tell you that I LOVE your header photo? Oh my, is it it ever gorgeous! Joel captured a beautiful sky shot, glad he is ok, glad you got some much-needed rain. I enjoyed my garden tour, Karen, and your many garden rooms. The river bed looks so manicured. Beautiful! Love the area where the pretty pink lilies are blooming and your urns are great! Annabelle looks great and I like the egress gate (too bad the skeeties were waiting for you!!!)
Hugs, Beth

Gatsbys Gardens said...


Your gardens are gorgeous! I love the unexpected combinations in your urns. I can see that you try to do something different than the norm. We would make a great team doing planters!

This weather, high close to 100 in the next few days means a fried garden.


Pam's English Garden said...

Dear Karen, Your gardens are gorgeous and your urns are magnificent! I am in awe! I heard on the TV that the mosquitoes are much worse this year than ever. Fortunately, I am an early riser, or nothing would be done in my garden -- it is at its most comfortable at sunrise. P. x

Jester said...

WOW so many incredible looking urns! and I LOVE Carls metal creation!!!!! that is one mighty pretty speciman! You guys do such beautiful work together, areyou sure you don't have a barn full of helpers????