Spirea: A Gardener's Guide

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm home sick from work today, so I thought I'd get some actual blogging done.  You could say I've been prepping this post for over two years, since that's how long I've been working on the three spireas in my backyard.

Spirea (a member of the rose family) are a deciduous, spring-flowering shrub native to the Northern Hemisphere.  It's been used in Southern gardens for over 100 years, and there are nearly 80 different species, with dozens of varieties in each species.  The most popular species here in the South seems to be the Vanhoutte Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei), also known as bridal wreath spirea.  I grow a variety of Spiraea thunbergii, which is pictured above.  It's the same species my grandmother grows, which is where my mother got the plants in the first place.  Spirea is a hardy shrub that is one of the first to flower out in the spring.  Spirea typically come in pink or white and vary in size based on the variety.  Dwarf varieties can grow as low as one foot, whereas others can grow upwards of 10 feet tall!

Planted about 25 to 30 years ago, when I moved in, my three plants hadn't been properly pruned in about 20 years and looked like this:

This photo was taken in spring 2010, and yes, that's a nine-foot privacy fence next to those plants.  They were huge, out of control, and completely blocking the view of the backyard from the patio.  This is what happens when spirea aren't properly cared for.  Additionally, as you can see, there is a gap in the flowers near the middle of the plant.  That's because spirea bloom on last year's growth, and in the center of the plant, the growth is much older than that.  The older canes put out leaves (sometimes) but no blossoms.  That's why when you prune, you need to take out about 1/3 of the old canes each year.  That way, you encourage new growth near the center of the plant and end up with full, snowy waterfalls each spring.  Very pretty!

In my case, however, the plants had been mishapened by some idiot who wrapped wire around the plants for an unknown reason.  The easiest, but most drastic, thing to do to rehab my plants was a hard prune.  A hard prune is when you go in with your lopers and hack the plant down almost to the ground (about 3-5 inches up) while it is dormant.  Not all plants can tolerate this method, as it is very traumatic to the plant.  Spirea, however, are a very resilient old plant and can.  Thus, in December of 2010, I hard pruned the plants.  My mother was convinced I'd killed them.  In March of 2011, however, this is what came up:

New baby canes!  And yes, that was all that was left of those massive plants pictured above.  You can see the thicker stubs that I chopped up in December.  Like I said above, spirea bloom on last year's growth.  This meant that for 2011, I didn't have any blooms on my plants (because I'd cut off all the growth from 2010).  This year, however, I have this:

Since I did a hard prune in 2010, I didn't prune this past winter, but in December 2012, I will be going in to the center of the plant and cutting out about 1/3 of the old canes.  This way, the plants will stay nice and healthy and full of blooms for years to come!

Do any of you grow spirea in your garden?  If so, don't you just love it?

New Work Skirt!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Love it!  It will look fantastic with several of my tops, as well as my yet to have been purchased crisp black button down.  Plus, it's a heavy cotton, meaning that although it's billed as three season by J. Crew, down here, I can totally get four seasons of wear out of it.  And I love that emerald green color.

a shopping we will go!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My mom and I went clothes shopping for her, but as usual, I came home with a few few goodies too!

LP Bowen in Chorus Girl - Fall 2011

Ralph Lauren Zabrina pumps in Polo Tan

Talbots Tamra Leather Turnlock Platform in Light Indigo Blue
(I discovered these on Classy Girls)

Very excited about all my acquisitions.  Did y'all come home with any loot this weekend?  I hope so!

my burfday's coming

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I just sent out my birthday invitations.  It's a little under a month away, but I just got an invitation for an event on March 9th, which was when I had planned to hold my dinner.  Since it seemed like people's calendars might be filling up, I figured I should get on it.  It's nothing too fancy shmancy, just a casual dinner at a local pizza place, but I'm really looking forward to it!

I'm also looking forward to a few new things.  I love my birthday because it lets me ask for/purchase things I wouldn't normally let myself get, like fun accessories from my favorite jewelry shop, Fornash.  Here are a few things I've got my eye on:

chocolat chaud

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What I wouldn't give to be back on Koolstraat in Brussels with a piping hot cup of this stuff:

It's cold here!  Brr!

Bulbs bulbs bulbs

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

If you've been following me for any length of time, you know I love flowers and gardening.  You also know my house was built in 1945.  Despite having been on this earth for 67 years, my yards (front and back) suck.  I've been tinkering with them since move in, rehabbing some of the plants my mother planted over 25 years ago that weren't cared for by the tenants that lived in the house over the past 20 years, and replacing some of the plants that were beyond help.

When putting together my garden, I want it to have an old Southern feel.  I want to capture the 67 years that the yards should have had.  That's why, instead of sea grasses and bonsai and other trendy, modern looking plants, I stick to the classics: azaleas, irises, roses, forsythia, crocuses, spirea, crepe myrtles, peonies...plants that are tried and true Southern performers.  Not only do they compliment the architecture of the house and the feel of the neighborhood, but they don't require as much attention as plants that aren't as well adapted to the climate.

My best source for flowers is my sweet granny.  About two years ago, she gave me tons of daffodils and irises from her garden, which she's been keeping since the 1960s.  She, in turn, got those flowers from friends and family, as well as bulb catalogues.  Some varieties are new, but others are old fashioned plants. I blogged about the irises in particular last year.

Adding to my bulb collection is something I love doing.  Today in class, instead of paying 100% attention to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct I ordered some bulbs from Old House Gardens (yeah, yeah, but it was three hours of "Thou Shalt Not"s - girlfriend was about to lose it, y'all).  Come April, I'll be the happy owner of:

Ola Kala Iris - Introduced in 1949

Madame Chereau - Introduced 1844 (!)
"The Most Sought After Iris of the 19th Century"

Autumn Red - Introduced 1941

Black Falcon - Introduced 1941

I'm really excited to be adding these classic beauties to my garden and I can't wait for April to come so I can pop these babies in the ground.  I won't get to enjoy them until next year, because they ship to me while dormant, but I'm really looking forward to them.  I think they'll compliment the existing varieties from my granny (which I'm still trying to identify).

Indian Chief (?) - 1929

What's new in your gardens?  I love looking at photos!  Share with me!

cupcake sliders

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I went to an old fashioned, girls' night sleepover last night.  The birthday girl and I share a love of terrible food - Dixie Cafe, mini hamburgers, perhaps even Taco Bell.  All those delicious foods that you are embarrassed to admit that you like.  So what better food to take to the sleepover than 24 cupcakes masquerading as mini hamburgers, a.k.a. sliders?  Want to make these yourself?  They're crazy easy and really fun looking.  Plus they're cheap - this whole venture cost me less than $20.

1 box yellow cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic Yellow)
1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Devil's Food)
Sesame seeds (find them in the spice/baking aisle)
Shredded coconut (also in the baking aisle)
Green liquid food coloring
Cocktail toothpicks - the ones with the little flags
Squeezable red and yellow frosting, 1 tube of each
Eggs - I used 6 (3 for each), but check the back of your cake mix box.
Vegetable Oil

1.  Bake the yellow cupcakes according to the directions on the box.  Don't use cupcake liners.  Instead, spray the cupcake tin with oil to allow for easy removal.  
2.  After removing from the oven, sprinkle your sesame seeds on top.  The heat will help them stick.
3.  Let them cool for about 10 minutes and then remove them from the tin.
4.  Cut the cupcakes in half and set them aside.  You've just made your buns.
5.  Bake the chocolate cupcakes according to the directions on the box.  Again, don't use cupcake liners and spray oil instead.
6.  While the "meat patties" are baking, pour some coconut shavings into a bowl and dye them.  I added one drop at a time and stirred with a fork (mostly because all my spoons were dirty), mixing the food coloring and the coconut until I got the color I wanted.  I think I used probably four or five drops.
7.  Remove the "meat patties" from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the tin.
8.  Cut them in half.  The tops are the best to use, since they look the most like grilled beef, but if some of your tops are too large for your buns (I ran into this problem), you can cheat and use the bottom halves of some of the smaller cupcakes as well.  Just eyeball it.
9.  Now you're ready to build your cupcakes!

10.  Place a "meat patty" on top of a "bun" and squeeze the red and yellow frosting onto the patty for ketchup and mustard.

11. Sprinkle the "lettuce" on top, making sure to get enough around the edges so it can be seen from the side.

12.  Top with a bun and skewer the "slider" with a frilly toothpick.  Voila!  You've got yourself a cupcake slider.

Easy, right?  People couldn't get over how realistic they looked.  Happy baking!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Out of all the hands I see everyday, these are my favorites:

"Hands" was yesterday's theme, but since I won't be taking the photo of today's theme - "Stranger" - until tonight, and I hadn't yet posted "Hands", I figured I'd do it today.

I'm making those hamburger cupcakes that have been making the rounds on Pinterest tonight for a friend's birthday party.  It's an old fashioned, middle school sleepover, complete with sleeping bags and frozen bras.  Can't wait.  I'll post a how-to with photos later, either today (if I finish making them before having to dash out the door) or tomorrow.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

laissez les bon temps rouler.  je suis prĂȘte.


And although this isn't my "photo a day" photo, I still think it's nifty.  I downloaded some new photo apps for my phone and I really had fun playing around.

These are my leftover Bertie Botts beans from Harry Potter World - rotten egg, black pepper, earthworm, sausage, and vomit.  The rotten egg doesn't taste that bad, but man, that vomit was hard to swallow.

My View Today

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I get bored really easily, and I felt like a new, sleek blog design was in order for upcoming spring.  Hope y'all like it; I do.

I've decided to participate in Twitter's February Photo a Day.  I wouldn't have known about it except for Faye at Fayesbook.  I know it's a Twitter thing, but not all of y'all follow me on Twitter, and well, I love photos. So get ready for a month of photos.  Maybe I'll extend this.  I know there's a 365 photos challenge thing, but I'm a little late for that.  Oh well.  Baby steps, right?  And what better month to take a baby step into than the shortest month?

My crocuses have popped up again.  Remember them from last year?  And I spied my neighbor's daffodils in bloom already!  Mine haven't even sprouted.  Hmph.  My hyacinths are sending up stalks, though.  Yay flowers!