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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chasing the Rose: A Book Review

In a far corner of my garden, tucked behind a spruce tree, and old pink rose grows rampantly. I give it little attention and mostly forget about it until I am often startled to see it blooming with abandon in early summer.

I got the rose from my aunt, not once, but twice. 

The first time she gave me a start of the rose, she said it was  from my great-grandmother's garden. I planted it in my first garden, happy to have a link to the past growing near my back door.

When I moved, I left the rose behind.  Two gardens later, I went back to my aunt and asked for another start of the rose.  When I mentioned its origin in my great-grandmother's garden, my aunt looked puzzled.  She had no such rose growing in her garden.  She explained that this rose was one growing on the property when she and my uncle moved into their house in the mid 1950's.  She said their city lot had once been part of a farm, and she just assumed the rose was one planted by the farmer's wife.

Whatever its origin, the pink rose grows without much fuss or bother on my part. Even after this past winter, one of the coldest winters on record, this rose had very little die back compared to the other roses in the garden.  And at the end of the season, its leaves are always still green, with no trace of black spot or other rose diseases.

I was reminded of my mysterious rose, which perhaps was once prized by a farmer's wife or my great-grandmother, when I read a review copy of Chasing the Rose:  An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside by Andrea di Robilant (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014).

di Robilant comes across a rose growing on his ancestral home in Italy and proceeds to try to find out its origin.  He takes us on a journey through history going back to Napolean and  through modern times with visits to several gardens. Along the way, we learn some history of roses and meet several rosarians.    

From the beginning, I'm pulled into this world of roses and the author's mystery.  It's a mystery I want to see him solve, and so I stayed with the book through the course of one afternoon and evening. 

Several days later, I'm still thinking about old roses, my rose and the question of what becomes of a garden when the gardener moves on or passes away.  What plants do I have growing in my garden that one day become another gardener's mystery?

I'm also thinking about di Robilant's book and how a story well-told leaves you with something to hold on to, even after you've finished reading it. You don't have to be obsessed with roses to enjoy this book. It has a universal appeal for anyone who values the past and enjoys the hunt for clues to solve a mystery.

I was happy to receive this review copy of Chasing the Rose and plan to pass it along to my good friend Dee, who grows many roses in her garden. I know she will enjoy this story.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ducks and Daffodils

I wanted something quick to post on my blog  because I was tired of seeing the picture of Tuesday's Tax Day Snow.  The weather has improved significantly and I no longer wished to be reminded of how cold it was just five days ago.

So at first light, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to find a few flowers to post about.

I snapped some pictures, moving around the garden in counterclockwise fashion, until I came to the garden border I call The Shrubbery. 

Something in that border caught my interest and I walked over to it, forgetting momentarily I was within five feet of the duck's nest under the spruce tree.

Mama Duck (she needs a name!) saw me and she was not pleased.  She hopped off her nest and started across the lawn in a huff.

"My bad, Mama Duck (she needs a name!).  I forgot about your nest. Go on back. I promise to leave it alone."

Then, after snapping a few pictures of the duck (she needs a name!) from a safe distance, I went about my business of taking flower pictures and she presumably went back to her nest.

The garden is picking up speed now,  no doubt spurred into action by the warmth and sunshine.  The daffodils are near peak of bloom and were not fazed by the Tax Day Snow.

I like these daffodils in the front garden. 

 But I like these even better.
Remind me if I decide to buy more daffodils to get the paler colors.  I like them better.

Also, remind me about the duck (she needs a name!) on her nest under the spruce tree. I keep forgetting she is there, and she doesn't like it when I forget and get too close.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener: Snow in Spring

Snow on the garden on April 15th
Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

It's been a few weeks since my last update for Dear Friend and Gardener, but in those few weeks there wasn't much to report.

However, the occasion of snow on April 15th seems like a reason to write and provide an update on my veg garden and share a few pictures. 

Whenever it snows when it shouldn't snow, I'm reminded of the passage from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

"Mr Avery said it was written on the Rosetta Stone that when children disobeyed their parents, smoked cigarettes and made war on each other, the seasons would change; Jem and I were burdened with the guilt of contributing to the aberrations of nature, thereby causing unhappiness to our neighbors and discomfort to ourselves."

If Mr. Avery was right about misbehaving children causing aberrations of nature then some kids have been very bad, given our colder than normal, snowier than normal, winter followed by snow and cold on April 15th.

But honestly, I feel lucky when I walk around my garden. I don't think I've lost too many plants to the harsh winter and yesterday's snow doesn't seem to have affected the daffodils and other spring blooms.
I took this picture this evening.  I do like these particular daffodils. I hope they'll stay blooming for a few more days until Easter.

Out in the veg garden, the peas are up and growing.
I should really start covering these with white cloth before the rabbits discover them and munch down the entire row. While I'm doing that I might as well cover the next bed over because the lettuce, radish, spinach, and Swiss chard have all germinated and are also a favorite food of the rabbits.

I really wish the rabbits would eat thistle plants. I had a lot of thistle weeds last year and this spring they are popping up all over the place.  Thistle is one plant I wish the winter cold had killed off, but no such luck. I see weeding in my future. Lots of weeding.

While I'm on the downer subject of weeds, I might as well tell you the other bad news.  I think all my tomato and pepper seedlings are kaput. I'm not sure if it was the soil I used, but the seedlings just never looked right when they started to grow their first sets of true leaves, which are smaller than usual. Fertilizing them didn't seem to help at all. I may have given them an overdose.  Poor little seedlings.  I'm giving them another week and if they don't come out of it, they'll start new lives as compost and I'll just buy my pepper and tomato plants.

I have a few other updates to share,  about ducks and potatoes and blueberries, but I'll save those for another letter another time.

I look forward to hearing about your gardens now.

Hortifically,
Carol

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2014

Violets grown from seed, blooming on the 13th
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for April 2014.  Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, I think spring is running just a little bit behind previous years.

Not only is spring running a bit behind, but she's putting on a pretty good impression of winter this week.

Yes, indeed. After providing us with a few days in the upper 70's, causing all of us gardeners to go rushing outside to mulch and prune and survey the damage the horrible winter wrought upon our gardens, spring has decided to impersonate winter for a few fun filled days.

I see from Twitter and Facebook that gardeners across the US are gearing up for this cold. Some are covering plants and blooms. Others, like me, are leaving the garden to its own devices to figure out how to survive freezing temperatures.

After all, many of the spring blooms, like those on this hellebore, are used to surviving a chill or two.
And if the blooms aren't tough enough to survive the cold, well, there are far too many to attempt to cover them up for a night or two.  Plus, my garden and I survived the awfulest (is that a word?) April ever back in 2007 (Aught Seven!). This little cold spell ain't nothing compared to that!

Anyway, before I gave the garden a pat and a kiss and wished it good luck, I ran out for a few minutes, braving a heavy mist and temps in the lower 40's (Fahrenheit),  to check out some of the blooms.

Out in front, the windflowers, an Anemone of some kind, were closing up their blooms to protect them from the cold.
They were prettier yesterday when they were fully open.

Some grape hyacinths were blooming, too.
Though, it's hard to tell if Muscari blooms are open or closed.

The same is true of their pink counterparts in the back garden.
These pink Muscari are blooming in the same garden border as my 'Chestnut Flower' hyacinths which are so pretty I gave them their own post on Sunday.  You didn't see that post? Go check it out. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

On Sunday, before the weather turned, I picked a big bouquet of daffodils to enjoy indoors. I left these stoplight yellow ones outside.
I'll admit these are not my favorite daffodils. I probably got them in a big bag of mixed daffodils back when quantity was more important to me than quality.

In my later, more discriminating plant buying days, I acquired this little Narcissus.
It has a name, but I'm not quite remembering it at the moment.


I also have some passalong plants blooming in the garden, which deserve special mention.

Leslie of Growing a Garden in Davis gave me some bulbs for Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum. I don't know when they bloom in her California garden, but here they bloom in April.

Jo Ellen, the Hoosier Gardener, gave me some starts of  Virginia bluebells, Mertensis virginica, a few  years ago.
They aren't quite blooming, but there is enough color there for me to include them as blooms on this bloom day.

What else is blooming? Thanks for asking.  Forsythia, the Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata), Spring Starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum) and some little violets, pictured above, that I grew from seed a few years back.

What isn't blooming that was blooming at this mid point of April in past years? Thanks for asking.  The common lilacs, my crabapple tree, and  flowering pear trees in the neighbors' yards plus some tulips come to mind as blooming by now in past years.  We are behind!

Anyway, the next 24 - 48 hours will tell a tale about this spring. If we can get through this last bit of cold, I think we'll be in good shape.

How is spring treating your garden? Are your blooms early, late or right on time? Are you in the midst of a cold spell? Tell us!

It’s easy to join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Just post on your own blog about what's blooming in your garden right now, outdoors or indoors. You can include pictures, lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms.

Then leave a comment and put your name and a link back to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget below, so we know where to find your blog and can visit you virtually and read about your bloom day blooms.

We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence