concrete stepping stones with leaf impressions that match the perennials along the shade garden path
concrete stepping stones with leaf impressions that match the perennials along the shade garden path


centurea 'black sprite'
centurea ‘black sprite’

‘BLACK SPRITE’ has an intriguing spidery black bloom on a familiar old-fashioned easy to grow perennial.

Centaurea montana ‘Black Sprite’

This is a new patented variety that was discovered from an anomaly of the Centaurea montana ‘Black Widow’ which is not patented. There are a couple of other new varieties in the group also, they are ‘Amethyst Dream’ – which has large, royal purple flowers and ‘Amethyst in Snow’ – which has pure white blooms with a deep royal purple center. I have all three new varieties in our garden as well as the old familiar blue one. I find the ‘black sprite’ to be the most interesting.

Many gardeners are familiar with the old blue Bachelor’s Button.
This cultivar looks the same until it blooms with it’s very unique flower.

Hardy to zone 3 (-40* f) – zone 9


Foliage: Gray green leaves with tiny, silvery hairs.

Flowers: medium-sized, silky black, spidery blooms in May & June
Height: about 18”
Width: about 24” (I find that these gain some height then slumps, it looks a little lazy, and could take up more space than this.
Light: These are in full sun – partial sun in my garden. The full sun plants are better bloomers.
Water: They can go pretty dry between waterings.
Soil: normal, sandy or clay
Critters: These are deer and rabbit resistant. In really wet weather, slugs find them mildly interesting.
Special care notes: I should (but have forgotten to) prune them lightly before the blooms appear to keep them from the slumping.
How to use in the garden: Beds, borders, as an accent, containers, cut flowers
Imagine how great they would look massed!

Be smart – STAY IN THE ZONE – the USDA plant hardiness zone!

$  Be Smart – STAY IN THE ZONE – the USDA zone!  $

the plant zonesmall

A cautionary tale… I’m a plant collector.  There…  I said it.    My criteria is simple… if I don’t already have it, I probably want it, if I do already have it, I may need another for another place.  We collectors all seem to find things that we ‘need’ in our gardens, even if they push the limits of our ‘zone’.

Last summer we bought several expensive zone 7 perennials.  We live in zone 6.  Unfortunately,  no amount of wishing, hoping, dreaming, or even mulching can coax that zone 7  plant through the sustained 8 degrees f during a winter cold snap.

It  just makes good sense to buy what will thrive in your area.   Save yourself the worry and aggravation as well as the cash.  Learn from our mistakes.  Be realistic when selecting treasures for your botanical collection.

Buy what will grow and thrive where you live.

In the mean time, we will continue looking  for any signs of life, a little sprout, just a small crack in the earth, anything to give us hope of returning zone 7 botanical treasures.  So far there has just been the disappointment of the empty spaces where we might as well have just planted cash,  since it doesnt grow either.

course,   If they don’t come back, I guess we will just have to go shopping for more plants to fill those spaces.  This time I’ll take my own advise and stay within my ‘zonal limits’.

Wonder what your ‘safety’ USDA zone is?

here’s a link to the site:

Chicken Coop Evaluation – In Search of the perfect chicken coop…

chicken coop, wire mesh grate side view, the chickens enjoy the mountain view out of the 4 skylights on the other side of the roof.

here’s a link to the original posting that explains the plan with photographs.  I believe it’s fair the call it ‘one of a kind’

What’s been good,  What needs improvement

lets start with the good first: 

  • this new coop is a fortress, here has not been a single incidence of predator invasion… all chicks are alive.
  • the deep litter method of keeping maintaining the pen has been a total success!  It’s so easy to maintain and has produced some very nice compost!   More about that later.
  • It’s great having it located closer to the house and as part of the kitchen garden, I take them kitchen scraps when I go out to pick herbs.  They also get whatever weeds I pull while working in the garden.
  • Gravel path is terrific, No Mud. 
  • The living succulent roof does a great job mitigating the temperatures, whether hot or cold.
  • all chickens are have been dry, healthy and apparently happy.

what will be improved upon:

  • my husband will be building a new feeder, it’s currently in the design process. It will be space efficient, be easy to fill with at least 40 lbs of feed, it will keep the food dry and deliver the feed into a trough that will help to reduce the waste of the very pricey organic non gmo feed.  It will also have a window so we will know when feed is getting low.
  • We need to improve the watering system, it must be easier to keep clean and fill.
  • We will plumb a water hydrant in the coop area
  • We will put in power for overhead lighting as well as plug recepticles
  • We are designing a gutter type system for fodder.  This was they can have better access to greens during the winter when the days are short and we can’t always let them out to graze. (We must keep them confined for their own protection)
  • We will also improve their perching possibilities.  They really like to sit on the perch and look out the windows

With all these changes, we will have the nearly perfect coop for our situation.Image