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Monday, July 21, 2014

Miniature Fairy Garden

Seems everywhere you look there are supplies for fairy gardens, articles on how to build one and websites selling miniature furniture. I've wanted to create a miniature fairy garden for quite some time but I just couldn't find the right spot in my garden for it. With two toddlers running around, I knew it had to be out of their reach, yet accessible for the older kids to enjoy it. While on my trip to Portland, I saw a container set among the garden filled with characters to create a setting. I knew this was my best option.

So I purchased a saucer container (it's main purpose is to sit under a pot for drainage) and some potting soil. Next, I took the children to the craft store and purchased a wooden bird house, some colored river rocks and a few miniature furnishings. While my daughter painted the bird house with outdoor paint, my son laid the rocks in the soil to create a "river." It was so much fun watching them work together to create the setting they desired for their little world. I found a few seedlings in the yard, dried flowers, some acorns and pieces of bark to add to it as well.

This is how it came out:


So very easy to do and a lot of fun too! 

Do you have a miniature garden? I am always looking for inspiration!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What's Blooming This Month? July 2014

It's Garden Blogger Bloom Day! On the 15th of each month, we garden bloggers like to show off what's blooming and growing in our gardens. Here on Long Island, zone 7, things are blooming all over and some still recovering from my sour mulch disaster. Read more about that here

Below are a few favorites from my garden this month:

Hemerocallis Purple d'Oro
This lovely purple daylily has a bright yellow center and crinkled edges on the petals. 

Thankfully these chartreuse colored coral bells are recovering from the mulch disaster. The wispy pink blooms held above the bright foliage brightens up this shady spot under the viburnum.

Courtesy of my four budding artists, I acquired some yard art for my garden and nestled them among the variegated Liriope. 

And these Annabelle hydrangeas are blooming so profusely this year! They look like big snowballs. 

Even though the flowers have faded from the viburnum shrubs, the red berries have started to take form and look like subtle flowers themselves. 

The Endless Summer hydrangeas were not too badly affected by this winter's bitter cold and are now pushing out beautiful blue blooms, some tinged with purple. 

My sea of Black-eyed Susans are on the cusp of blooming. 
I love their form contrast to the tall, wispy Russian Sage and color contrast to the bright pink Echinacea.

New this year: Echinacea 'Cherry Brandy'

More cheery Rudbeckias! 

So there you go! My garden in July. What's blooming in your garden? Do you have any of the same plants? I'd love to hear from you!

Many thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this month's GBBD! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sour Mulch and It's Devastating Effects

Four days before my husband and I were set to host a 40th birthday party in our backyard for 60 guests, I decided to get a delivery of fresh mulch to spruce things up a bit and get the yard looking in top shape. It was a hot and humid day when the truck arrived and the workers started to lay the mulch. About six hours later, I returned home to find 60% of my plants looking dead or burned and the mulch smelled more like vinegar than freshly composted wood chips. To say I was devastated is an understatement. All my hard work to nurture small plants, all the annuals I planted early enough to look established in preparation for the party, all my woody shrubs I planted 2 years ago that had finally started to take off... destroyed.


Here is a photo of the same spot taken the day before:

So what happened? At first I thought it was that the mulch was too hot and put down on too hot of a day. But after talking to a few professionals and doing some of my own research online, it was concluded that the mulch was sour, i.e. toxic. Though not common, it has been known to happen. Lucky me. 

According to an article on Cornell University's website, if not enough oxygen gets into the center of the mulch, it may become laden with toxic byproducts such as methanol, acetic acid, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gas. The mulch may become very acidic, with a pH in the range of 1.8-3.6 (properly composted organic material has a near neutral pH of 6.0-7.2). 

The symptoms of toxic mulch usually occur within 24 hours of application. The damage resembles that caused by drought, poor drainage, fertilizer burn or pesticide misapplication. Symptoms include yellowing of leaf edges, scorched-looking leaves, defoliation and/or plant death. 

Look at my beautiful Lady's Mantle below. The part that is brown and dead looking is the part of the plant that came in contact with the mulch and it's toxic fumes:

And the shade garden, that was so lush and full of life the day before:

Now looks like this:

The plants that suffered the most seem to be ones that were either sensitive, not-yet-fully-established (like the Coral Bells below), or annuals:


Interestingly, the Hostas didn't seem to be as affected as the Astilbe or Columbine.

The damage on the woody shrubs varied. But these Clethra look terrible now. Like the Hydrangeas, their leaves never even touched the mulch directly but were burned by the released gas:

Even the grass along the edges of the mulch got burned!


In the days that followed the mulch application, my landscaper took a sample to get tested. The pH of this mulch was 4.0 and had a high level of salt. Horrible stuff. I wished I had never got it and couldn't stand the sour smell it still had.

Again reading on Cornell's site, once the damage was done, there wasn't much to do and removing the mulch wouldn't do anything. But mentally, I needed some of it gone. I removed a lot of it around the patio and had the landscapers remove some more in some of the bigger beds. I trimmed off all the dead branches & leaves and replaced the dead annuals with new ones. Two weeks later, things seem to be doing ok now. Many things still do not look great, but the Hydrangeas are blooming and putting out new leaves, the Coral Bells have new leaf buds emerging and the grass is starting to green up again. I still may have to replace a few perennials that I'm trying to nurture back to health and I've had to fill in some holes with planters and annuals. But if nothing else, it's a lesson in plant resilience and letting go of things out of your control. That and... never do something like this last minute before a party!!