Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer & Sunflowers

Living room arrangement of sunflowers grown at Pine Green
Summer has managed to slow us down a bit, especially as far as yardwork, although we're still managing to put in several hours of work per week maintaining the yard. A couple of months ago I decided to create an experimental "garden" space (as opposed to landscape) on the east side of the property in front of the parking area. We'll likely rotate through various plants throughout the year, but I decided to start by planting a variety of sunflower seeds:

Young sunflowers (foreground) - May 21, 2012
They grew quickly and densely. I decided not to thin them, and although not as big, sturdy, and bold as I might have hoped, they put on a pretty good show:
Sunflowers near their peak in July 2012

We've also been trying to figure out the best low maintenance solution for the chimney's fountain and pond. The water tends to get green with algae quickly; algaecide is limited in effectiveness, and chlorine is too harsh for the pump system we have. So last week, inspired by one of our neighbors, as well as my experiences in lake management, we decided to experiment in converting it to a "living" system by cleaning the fountain thoroughly then adding a water lily and a submersed plant called coontail:

Lily on the right; coontail more difficult to see on the left (underwater)
Lily's flower

Fountain with plantings
The hope is the lily will provide shade, reducing sunlight available for algae to photosynthesize, and the coontail will compete for nutrients in the water as it grows, keeping algae in check. We shall see how well it works in practice.

Other than that, one rainy weekend we repainted the living room and dining room - a subtle change but a nice improvement. We've also added some new lighting and window treatments. I've spent a lot of time outside over the past several weeks working on creating rain gardens to reduce the exposure of the garage and house to runoff. The rain gardens are mainly planted with muhly grass, since it is both drought and flood tolerant. Hopefully it will have some pink plumes in the fall so I'm waiting until then to post some photos. Other newer plantings include cassia, plumbago, lantana, pumpkins, and beautyberry - the latter being a successful transplant from some I gathered in the wild at my parents' farm.

Reid has also diligently been working on converting the playhouse to a personal art studio - he'll be doing a "guest blog" entry on that and more in the future.

And I'm slowly working on re-insulating the attic and starting to gather my thoughts on perhaps getting the house and accessory buildings re-roofed this fall or winter.

Summer has finally brought about some good rains, a richness to the landscape, and a bit of an urban oasis for birds and plenty of other wildlife. As for me, I'm spending more time inside, looking forward to some cooler temperatures in a few months, and crossing my fingers that my pumpkins actually manage to fruit in the fall.


  1. Kelly, I have a serious sunflower obsession and LOVE what you've done with them. We have no space for a garden but just last weekend Paul brought one home in a pot. Your garden is like a Tuscan retreat - gorgeous!