Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Gardening Page 4 of 6

A three-year garden recap

I have not been gardening long – we always rent and did not have the money or freedom to plant until we moved into our current rental in the summer of 2012. Our first gardening experience was this front yard beautification in the summer of 2013 (with help from professionals):

June 2013, front garden with cannas, lantana and a dwarf palm tree

Which, did surprisingly well the following year:

Summer 2014, Lantana

We have since learned some tough lessons from this garden – it is on the north side of the house and as you can see from the first picture, the part of the garden next to the house never gets any direct sun. Actually, except from June to August, 40% of the garden is in constant shade. In addition, the soil is cold and is heavy clay that never drains well. More plants died here than thrived, mostly during winter and because of rotten roots, including the cute palm tree and lantana (my personal favorite). We have since replaced half of what we originally planted. And this is what looks like a few days ago:

April 2016, front yard garden, Lilies, cannas, hibiscus, gardenia

We have since put down some rosemary bushes in the center of the yard where the palm tree used to be. Rosemary does not do well in clay soil but I have seen it as perennials here. So we are given it a try this year and hope it makes the center evergreen piece in this garden.

One success we had in this garden is hibiscus. We got the non-tropical ones and they overwinter very well. They actually do not mind saggy soil at all and really enjoy themselves at the sunny spot in this garden. They have been given generous and elegant big flowers whole summer throughout which attracted many butterflies. They do, however, attract beetles like crazy and definitely require daily attention to remove bugs and dead flowers for continuous bloom.

June 2015


April, 2016

We also enjoyed growing lily here which is actually in partial shade:

May, 2015
May, 2015

We got so many in such a short period of time so we gave them to everyone at my work and it made people so happy. Cannot wait for them to bloom again this year!

Our second garden is this little underplant area in the middle of our circular driveway:

June 2014, underplant in the driveway

Did not look so hot did it? But these plants are tough and just keep giving us surprises. It has been doing better and better each year and this is what it looks like last week:  

Much. Better. 🙂

We also tried to grow vegetables. yet so far it has not been going so well. We have many woodland critters who have been keeping a much closer eye on our fresh produce than we ever could. We have be successful with growing and producing cherry tomatoes (again, producing, not harvesting), and this year we decided to get our hands on peppers and cucumbers:

Summer 2015
April, 2016
April, 2016
April, 2016

If there is one thing gardening has taught me, is respect. Respect the plant, respect the nature. There is no other thing I could do but to provide what the plant need and to assist nature. That means be patient, be vigilance, be gentle, and be forgiving. 2016 has just started and we have already seen success and failure. We could not wait to see where 2016 takes us!

Succulent Explosion

I had a great weekend last week. Our two-year wedding anniversary was Saturday, and Sunday was hubby’s 33th birthday. I spent both mornings gardening while hubby spent these mornings in his favorite way – snoring in bed. 🙂 It was also cooler last weekend after a couple weeks of hot days, so all of our dogs were outside snoring next to my veggie pad. It was really no better way to spend my weekend mornings.


One thing I did was to re-pot and to fertilize my succulents. They finally started to grow faster and could use some encouragement. They were all from tiny cuttings – hubby ordered them online for me on V’day this year. And we were cheap so that we ordered the smallest cuttings. It takes forever for them to grow! Now I understand why big, gorgeous succulents cost – given how slow they grow, the price is totally justified.


These cuttings were also in bad shape when they came in – the package was delayed because of snow storms everywhere. Instead of five days, these cuttings were on road, in god-knows-where-probably-cold-temp for three weeks. They arrived super sad-looking, and most of them had their little leaves falling all over. I was also away from home when it was arrived, so hubby tried to “save” them by planting them in moist-control soil and totally over watered them – like treating a regular plant. But for succulent cuttings, it must have been a nightmare – Some of them had mold growing when I arrived home a few days later.


Fortunately they were strong little fighters. Except one, all of them survived. They grew very very slow though – After I move them onto fast-drain soil, it took them a couple weeks to dry out and maybe another month to have little root extending out. They have been in the same shallow pot for a good three months before they could stand without each other’s support by their little root. Then around late April, some of them finally put out a couple leaves here and there. It was so painful to watch since I am not a patient person.


I also noticed that even they were all succulent/cactus kind, they each required different amount of water and different degree of drainage. Each time I watered them, certain ones grew a bit all the suddenly, where some other ones seemed to sadden a bit. So separating them became a must. Around mid-May, I separated some of them and lined them up on the south-facing window sow at my work. Then it has been a trial-and-error kind of a couple months to figure out when amount of water each of them like.



My succulent grow so slowly probably because they are kept indoors. The building I work in is so over air-conditioned that I wear sweater most of the time. The “direct” sun beam is also filtered by energy-sufficient windows. Moreover, there is also no air flow near these pots, so the soil dry very slowly. Cold temp + slow dry soil + not much watering = slow growth.


Finally it is summer, the season that succulents are supposed to grow. They definitely stand taller, have new growth, and some of them even started to put more babies. Cannot wait to see how the fertilizer help them in the next a couple weeks!

Lily blooming

I am so thrilled that we got lily this year. We got our lily bulbs from my mother-in-law in the summer of 2014. She lived in Brooklyn at the time and she always maintained the best container garden in the neighborhood (you can see some of the pictures here). At the end of summer, she asked us to take the lily back to NC since they would not survive the winter in NY outside. We happily complied – lily is one of my favorite flowers. But I had no experience growing them and they look like such delicate flowers.

We ended up putting the lilies into the ground near our front door before winter came. It is at the north side of the house and only gets a few hours of sun each day. But we have such a deer problem so anything not directly outside of door had to be fenced in or deer-resistant. We also want to see the flowers when they bloom. The soil on the north side was very poor to begin with – it is clay mixed with big rocks and it was a low point of the yard so water sat there and it was literally a muddy pool in summer. But after we dug a drain system underground and and leveled the front yard with about a foot deep of good soil, we were be able to put some hardy plants here. I am pleasant to find out that lily is actually pretty hardy – just like other bulbs it not only survived last winter pretty well, but also multiplies just like other bulbs.

Our lily started putting flower bulbs at the beginning of June and they open very very slowly – one per week at the beginning. We kept the fresh flowers in our bedroom so we can smell them during our dreams.  It is such a sweet smell that I can never get enough of – can someone please make candle with lily smell?

But this weekend: look what happened! six lilies opened in just two days and we now have lilies in every room. 🙂

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