Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Staying Organized and Hitting My Marks

As we bid good-bye to April, I am keenly aware that the month of May will be a blur.

On Friday, I head to the airport in the wee hours of the morning to leave on a four-day trip to Rosedango, a weekend full of rose activities near Dallas, Texas.  I have been looking forward to this for months!  This is when I finally get to meet Anne Belovich in person ... she is one of my rose idols, and I am so excited.  (When you have a few minutes, you can see Anne's beautiful, inspiring garden through the photos of Carolyn Parker, HERE.)  

On Saturday, May 10, at 10am, I will be at Strange's on West Broad Street in Richmond to give a program about how to choose and care for roses.  It is free and open to the public.  Perhaps some of you local folks would like to come hear what I have to say?

The next weekend, May 17 & 18, is the Lucketts Spring Market.  I am working on preparations for this in between other things.  For example, this morning I made two more pillows out of the fabric that I dyed with chalk paint.

The hutch that the pillows are sitting on is another item that's destined for Lucketts.

Having a booth at Lucketts is a huge undertaking, and the effort needed to prepare will completely take over my life for at least the entire week beforehand ... considering there will certainly be finishing touches to things, and a LOT of pricing and loading to be done.  I am fairly well organized, and I'm good about writing things onto my To Do list (which is a mile long at this point), so I feel confident that things won't get too crazy.

I am leaving the next week and Memorial Day weekend open.  That is generally the beginning of full-bloom season for the roses.  Bloom season will probably be late this year, I think, by at least a week, maybe two.  It will be nice to have an unplanned week (if it stays that way) to work in the garden and get ready for Open Garden visitors.  (watch this space and the Hartwood Roses FB page for dates, posted as soon as I have a better idea of when the garden will be blooming.)

The next weekend is one that I have looked forward to since fall.  May 31 is the day of the Wine and Roses Open House at Monticello's Tufton Farm in Charlottesville.  This year, I am the rose speaker ... presenting a program on easy-care roses for Virginia gardens.  The event is free, with no registration required.  Plan to come see Tufton's beautiful gardens and, perhaps, learn a thing or two about how to grow roses in your own garden.  There will also be roses available for sale.

In order to keep all of this straight, and keep my sanity, I am having to be a total slave to my calendar.  By staying organized and working on things a little at a time when I have the opportunity, I hope that nothing during the month becomes a hair-raising emergency.  Wish me luck!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Turning My Attention to the Next Garden

My spring reclamation work in the rose gardens continues with a vengeance.  The current object of my attention is the mixed miniature rose border along the fence behind my greenhouse.  (This garden doesn't have a real name yet.  It seems like too much of an oxymoron to call it the Miniature Garden, when it's 11 feet wide and 150+ feet long.)

Now that I think about it, I may not have ever shown this garden to you.  It's relatively new, laid out and planted last summer.  I designed it to hold a little over a hundred roses that had been living in pots for longer than they should have.  There are Ramblers on the fence, Climbing Miniatures on tripods, classic Floribundas, and Hybrid Teas down the center, and Miniatures in the front.

June 2013.  Landscape fabric laid, potted roses arranged and ready to be planted.

One week later ... timber edging installed, roses planted, irrigation in place, mulch along the fence.

I got off to a great start with this garden, with the landscape fabric and timber edging in place and the roses all planted.  I lost steam, though, after I had it about half mulched.  A garden this large requires a LOT of mulch!  To be honest, I don't remember exactly why I stopped working on it.  

Fast forward to the present ... Just like I did in the English Garden, the first thing to do was deal with the weeds.  Fortunately, the weeds are not as widespread in this garden because most of it is already covered with landscape fabric.  I have a few miniature roses, though, that looked like this:

Let me show you my new favorite tool.  It was an impulse purchase a few weeks ago, catching my eye as I stood in the check-out line in Lowes garden department.  It cost about $10, if I remember correctly.  Worth its weight in gold, I assure you!

To use it, I pull the weeds back with my hand, chopping the soil line with the notched end of the tool, and the weeds come right out.

It only took a few minutes to turn that weedy mess into this:

Next step was to sprinkle some Preen on the bare soil and cover it with newspaper.

Then comes the mulch.  This is Truckload #4 ... brought to me this morning by my dear husband, while I was weeding.

I scooped and toted and spread mulch until mid-afternoon ... laying a thick layer on the bare places on the landscape fabric, and a thin layer to refresh the areas that already had mulch from last year.  Stepping back as I finished for the day, I was very pleased with my progress.

That's about 60 feet of garden finished, 90 feet or so left to go.

I'm gonna need more mulch.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

This is What I Mean When I Say "Winter Damage"

Throughout the past few weeks, as I post here about the work that I am doing to reclaim my rose gardens from neglect and weeds, I have been referring to the damage that was done to the roses by the unusually cold winter weather that we had here in Virginia (and in a large part of the rest of the country, too, for that matter).  Here is a good example to illustrate "Winter Damage".

Our subject rose is 'Morning Mist', a lovely single shrub rose introduced by David Austin in 1996.  'Morning Mist' is planted in my English Garden and had grown into a lovely rounded shrub, approximately four feet high and three feet wide.

photo of 'Morning Mist' taken in my garden in 2011.

This is what the bush looked like last week, before I did anything to it.  Looks dead, doesn't it?

Almost everything you see in that photo IS dead.  Careful examination, though, revealed that there were new sprouts emerging from the base of the plant.  (This rose is own-root, not grafted, so whatever sprouts from it is the named variety, not an invading rootstock.)

Pruning was a simple matter of removing whatever was dead and leaving the live parts, and being especially careful not to break off the delicate new sprouts.  When I finished, there wasn't a whole lot of the last year's plant left.  (The 'tall' cane is about one foot high.  The others are a few inches long at most.)

The new shoots are strong and are growing well, so I have no doubt that 'Morning Mist' will soon regain its former size.  It should not have to struggle to do this, because it won't have to duke it out with weeds anymore.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Finishing What I Start

My English Garden is finished!  It took days longer than I anticipated, which makes the feeling of satisfaction at its completion so much sweeter.  I started this garden in the fall of 2010, laying it out and planting 36 David Austin roses.  Until now, the garden has never been totally finished ... now it has edging, and no weeds and a good layer of mulch ... finished!

I got out early yesterday morning, to take advantage of what was promising to be a beautiful, sunny, warm day.  The weatherguy's prediction was right on target ... it was gorgeous weather for working outside!

Look at that sky!  (part of my personal preparation for the work day was a thorough application of sunblock ... I sunburn really easily.)

In this photo, you can see that my truck is full of mulch, two cubic yards.  If you're counting, this is load #3 for the property so far this year.)

My process went the same as it did on previous days ... pull weeds, prune roses, lay landscape fabric, spread mulch.  Here are a couple of photos to remind you of where I left off last week:

Weeds, weeds, weeds!

Getting there.

After an long day's work yesterday, here is the After!

The new mulch will blend in with the rest after it's been rained on a time or two.

Most of the roses are so small, because this is all that was left alive on them after our unusually cold winter.

See that bench?  I moved it to this spot from another place on the property.  (Got it years ago, cheap, on Craig's List.)  I designed this garden to have a bench there, so I have a place to sit and enjoy the roses, and this one fits there perfectly.

Two yards of mulch fills the back of my truck.  After finishing the mulching in this garden yesterday afternoon, I had used about two-thirds of this latest load.

I absolutely adore my truck!

Shoveling mulch, pushing the wheelbarrow, bending and lifting and scooping and spreading mulch on the garden beds ... done correctly, this is great exercise.  This morning, my shoulders and upper arms are sore, and my thighs and butt are killing me.  (It's an extra added benefit to be sore in all the spots that need some improvement.)

After I spread the last wheelbarrow full of mulch, and I put my tools away, I took a few minutes to sit and appreciate my accomplishment, then I went off to take care of other things.  This morning, I will be back outside again ... working in the miniature garden that I built last year along the fence behind the greenhouse.  Maybe I can get the rest of the mulch out of my truck before it rains in the afternoon.  Wish me luck.

See you outside!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Way To Go, Winnie!

Please allow me to introduce to you the newest Therapy Dogs, Inc., certified member of Blue Grey Therapy Dogs ... our adorable little Ms. Winnie Pearl!

Notice that her tiny little tag says, "I am a Therapy Dog."

She passed the initial Therapy Dog test easily ... getting along with other dogs, allowing strangers to pet and hold her, walking nicely on a leash and taking commands.  She and I had then had to pass three observations in real-life situations on the weekends after the test:  one was at Petco, one was at a rehabilitation hospital, and one was at an Autism Awareness Day fair.  Winnie wagged her tail and begged for pets, even giving kisses to some of the strangers that she met.

I was so excited when her registration and tag came in the mail the other day.  All she needed was a vest to complete her working ensemble.  The regular therapy dog vests are all WAY too big for her (even in the Extra Small size).  It took me a little while of trial and error to modify an existing tiny dog harness pattern, and I think it turned out really cute.  Pink camo fits Winnie's personality, and it should attract attention and can help start conversations.

Now that Winnie is official, she and I can begin our visits ... which will mostly be reading days with children at the local library, along with special events (like the Autism Fair we attended two weeks ago).  Today, she and I will be working the afternoon shift at the Greyhounds Rock booth at Fredericksburg Brewfest.  She won't be there as a therapy dog, but she will still work her adorable Chihuahua magic to help me separate the fair-goers from some of their money, with merchandise sales and donations ... all in the name of a good cause.

I adore this little dog!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

If Looks Could Kill

Ruby uses the dining room window as her spot from which to view the world.  (She is up there doing that right now, as a matter of fact.)  She perches with her back feet on the church pew below the window, her elbows on the windowsill, and she looks for bunnies and groundhogs and all other types of intruders.  

For the past few days, Maggie has been enjoying the same windowsill for afternoon sunbathing.  

I was fortunate to be sitting here with my iPad, so I could capture what happened yesterday while Maggie was snoozing in the sun and Ruby charged up there, thinking that she heard something in 'her' yard.

Maggie:  What do you think you're doing?  This is MY window now.

Ruby:  We can share.  I think there's a groundhog out there.

Ruby:  (snuffle, snuffle, snuffle)

Maggie:  (looks disgusted)

Ruby:  back to guard duty.

Maggie:  Stupid dog.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Quality Control Team

It rained all day yesterday.  Instead of doing what I had planned for the day (which would have involved hauling furniture in an open pick up truck), or working outside in the garden, I sat at the sewing machine for a little while and put together a slipcover for this ottoman that's been living in my stash.

You can see that it meets with Alice and Dorothy's exacting standards for quality and comfort.

I was going to paint the legs, but now I've decided not to.  Whoever buys this at the Lucketts Spring Market can paint them, or leave them the way they are.

(Note to self:  Gotta remember to wash and iron the cover before I take it to the market, in case folks are allergic.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Still Plugging Away ...

Two more days of work are behind me, as I rid the English Garden of weeds, lay landscape fabric, and put down a proper layer of mulch.  Progress came so easily for the first three days, and it has slowed considerably now.  Yesterday, I was working by myself and it was really warm, and there's no shade here to provide relief.  I got a little bit accomplished in the two hours that I worked, but not as much as I had hoped.

This is what the bed looked like when I quit for the day on Sunday.

This is a reminder of where I left off on Saturday.

Today, Monday, the temperature was in the 70s, the sky was cloudy, and there was a nice breeze blowing from the west.  It was perfect weather to make some serious progress ... but it was not to be.  I pulled some more weeds, pruned more roses, laid more landscape fabric, and ran out of mulch.  This is how it stands as of today.

Normally, I would just run to the mulch place and get some more.  Couldn't do that today, because I need my truck to be empty and clean on Tuesday (and maybe Wednesday, too) for something else.  Oh, well, I am determined to get this garden finished as soon as I can ... not going to let all the delays and interruptions dampen my resolve.  I keep telling myself that little progress is better than nothing.

More updates to come ... stay tuned.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Making Progress

Yesterday was Day #3 of working to reclaim my English Garden by the barn.  Great progress was made!

During Day #1 and #2, I was working by myself.  Day #3 was special because I had some help ... my sweet husband.  He pulled weeds and spread mulch, while I pulled weeds and laid landscape fabric.  We make a great team.

This shows our progress as we quit work for the day.  The center bed was completed on Day #1, and the outer left-hand bed on Days #2 and #3.

I will start working on the outer right-hand bed later this morning.

This photo is a pretty good example of the Before and the After.

For now, I prefer to focus on the lovely After.

The roses are so small because this is all the live wood that was left after I pruned off the parts that were killed by our unusually cold winter.  

Have I showed you my bottle trees before?  (there are two of them, though I only photographed one.)  I bought the metal tree part at a garden show years ago.  I originally had them full of blue wine bottles, but that was too heavy for the frame.  To reduce the weight, I changed them to 'flowers' with blue wine bottles surrounded by green beer bottles.

If the remaining bed in this garden progresses like the others, I have two more days of work ahead of me.  It is so rewarding to see what the garden looks like now, and to realize that it represents the first time that this three-year-old garden has ever been truly clear of weeds and prepped for the coming season.  I know that some weeds will certainly reemerge, and I am going to try to get on a routine of dealing with them on a regular basis while they are small.

Happy Sunday, Everyone.  I plan to spend mine enjoying the sunshine, working in the garden.  

Friday, April 11, 2014


Earlier this week, I received what is probably my last order of roses from Vintage Gardens.  Old rose enthusiasts know Vintage as the source of so many rare and  wonderful roses ... including many of the roses that I treasure in my own garden.  Vintage is in the final stages of closing its operations, which began in 1983.  

The box that I received contained two roses.

This one is 'Frances Ashton' (1937), a dark pink, single Hybrid Tea that I have wanted for a long, long time.

This one is a climber, 'W. Freeland Kendrick' (1920) ... new to me, and I am excited to see what it will do in the garden.

These little baby own-root roses, in their band-sized pots, will be big roses by the end of the season.

I get sad when I think of not having Vintage and their wonderful roses available for sale.  They are not closed yet, though.  There are still some great selections left in their inventory ... give them a look and see if there are any that you are tempted to order for your garden.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Our weather this week here in beautiful Hartwood, Virginia, has been absolutely perfect!  Sunny, breezy, warm-but-not-too-warm.  Forsythia and Daffodils are in full bloom.

The photo is a clump of heritage double daffodils in our front garden, glowing in the sunshine and waving in the breeze.  It does my soul good to have flowers in the yard, after such a long, cold, snowy winter.

I have been working to whip my English Garden into shape ... two days at it so far, and at least two more left to go.  Weeding, pruning, mulching.  Used up the first truckload of mulch, and I have a refill ready to go when I get back to it tomorrow morning.

I am tired, but it's a good type of tired ... the kind that comes from hard work doing something that I love to do.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Using Chalk Paint to Dye Fabric

I got a wild hare idea yesterday, to try what I have read online about using chalk paint to dye fabric.  With two colors of paint in hand, Primer Red and Graphite, and some chunks of prewashed cotton dropcloth, I got to work.

There's not an exact proportion of paint to water to use for dying fabric.  I poured a small splash of paint into a large mixing bowl.  I added hot tap water to the paint, mixing it with a whisk, till the mixture was the consistency that I thought it should be ... really watery.  (next time, I will probably see what happens if I use even less paint.)

I didn't think about this becoming a blog post, so I was a little late with the photos of the process.  The photo above shows the last piece of fabric that I dunked into the dye, and the mess that this made in my kitchen sink.  I didn't soak the fabric ... I just squished it into the solution in the mixing bowl, making sure that there was dye all over the fabric, wrung it out, put it back into the bowl and squished it into the dye again, wrung it out really well, and set it aside.  Then I used Soft Scrub to clean the sink.

Since this was an experiment, I wanted to see if the dyed fabric would end up being colorfast and machine washable ... so I tossed them into my washer (front loader) and washed them on the Delicate setting with a small amount of detergent.  I thoroughly expected to find that the dye completely washed out when I checked it after the wash cycle, but it didn't!  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I really liked the colors.  After a spin through the dryer, I was ready to get to work making something ... throw pillows.

This is the design that I came up with ... graphite for the background, with natural and Primer Red strips appliqued onto it.  I tore the strips and fringed them, to add some texture and a bit of rustic interest to the design.

As always, at least one of the cats comes to help.  In this case, it was Dorothy ... checking my sewing machine to make sure that it was in good working order after its tune up at the repair shop last month.

Here is how the pillow cover turned out.

The cording around the edge adds a nice finishing touch ... and I installed a zipper on the back.  (Envelope closures and ties are quicker to construct, but a zipper makes for a much nicer pillow.)

Here we have the finished product!

I love how this turned out.  I learned that I really like the colors that resulted from using chalk paint to dye the fabric, and I am anxious to see what I get when I use other colors of paint.  This pillow and its mate (I made two of them at the same time) will go into the heap of things that are destined for the Lucketts Spring Market in May.

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