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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gardening Books

I'll confess that in addition to buying lots of seeds and plants and gardening tools, I also have a habit of buying books on gardening. Some of the books I really enjoy and refer back to on several occasions. Others I look through once and never seem to touch again.

I should be more disciplined and check out the library first before I click my way through Amazon and buy a book. I have on occasion stopped myself from purchasing a book and waited a few days to make sure I really wanted it, but not always! At least now I am checking for good used (or even new) copies from resellers. That saves me some money! For some books that I read about and then decide I want, this is the only way I can get them, since they are out of print. Such is the case for a new book, "On Gardening" by Helen Dillon.

I heard Helen Dillon speak at the symposium earlier in February, and decided I should have her book. However it was out of print or only available from Amazon UK . Luckily one of the secondary sellers had it, so I got it. It just arrived today and I can't wait to dig in and start reading it. I think I will enjoy it more because I've heard the author speak, so as I read it, I'll hear her voice (which is a nice Irish accent). (Hearing the author speak and thus knowing what their voice sounds like can also backfire. I once had a management book that I liked, but then I heard the author speak and I could read it no more. All I heard was this "good ol' boy" talking in my head!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Getting Ready for Spring

I took the lawn mower to the hardware store this evening after work so they could service it and have it back to me in time for the 1st spring mowing. It's probably still 6 - 8 weeks before I need to mow, but I wanted to get my mower in ahead of the spring rush and make sure I get it back in plenty of time. I also need to find a new weed trimmer. For some reason, I can't find one I like!

Procrastination, by the way, is not wise in gardening. For instance, I've not yet sown the viola seeds, and I fear it is too late to get some sizable plants before the stores start to have them. At this point, I may just wait and buy plants. You can lose a whole season through procrastination.

However, I need to think seriously about starting peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes this coming weekend (or may be next weekend?)!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hyacinth blooms are done

I cleaned out all of the hyacinth vases today. Most of the hyacinths bloomed, and I enjoyed having the color and scent in the house, even for a short time. I also tried to force crocuses, but I don't think I let them cool enough before I planted them. As they say, "next year". (I had purchased all these bulbs rather late in the year, so didn't have time for proper cooling, although if I had taken the time, perhaps I'd have blooms, just later on).

I've going through the seed catalogs again, even though I think I have all seeds I need or want for spring. I need to be careful or I might go overboard!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Gardening Symposium!

I took the day off of work and went to a gardening symposium sponsored by Horticulture magazine and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. There were four speakers: Nancy Dillon, Carol Reese, Vincent Simione, and Rob Procter. Apparently, they've been having these symposiums for several years, at least every other year, and I didn't know about it! The reason I knew about it this time was I received a flyer in the mail.

I enjoyed the program, but did think about how my non-gardening friends and co-workers would find it odd to spend a day listening to 4 different people talk about gardening and show their slides of various gardens and plants. I imagined they would roll their eyes upon hearing someone say "they are doing a lot of interesting things with witch hazels these days". The overall topic was "Color in the Garden".

I was a bit surprised to see that each speaker used ACTUAL SLIDES for their presentations. As in slides on a carousel with a slide projector. And the slides didn't always start out in focus so someone had to fiddle with them. At least they didn't have any slides in upside down! They really should switch to digital cameras and PowerPoint slides. (Although I suspect they have digital cameras, and then get the slides made from the digital pictures, which seems odd.) Okay enough critique of the technology.

Helen is from Ireland, and has a beautiful, small garden in the city, Dublin I think. I was inspired to think that in a space about the size of my backyard, she has created a beautiful garden with no lawn. She also admitted that she tears out what isn't working and replants areas. I looked up her books on Amazon when I got home, and ended up buying a used copy of one of them from a reseller.

Carol is from Mississippi, now living in Tennesee. A far different accent than Helen. She talked a lot about tropical plants in the garden and had quite a sense of humor. I liked her style and willingness to make fun of herself and gardening & go out on a limb with both her plants and her humor. I liked that she takes black plastic pots that nursery plants come in and paints them to make attractive containers on a low budget.

Vincent was from Long Island. He talked after lunch and admitted up front he wasn't as funny as Carol or Helen. He went through an alphabetical listing of flowering shrubs. I was pleased that I already had several on the list, including Deutzia. I did decide while he talked that I am going to pull out all the *(\!&^@ English ivy that I planted in the bed with the Deutzia and give the Deutzia some room to grow. That's something I can do anytime the weather cooperates.

Rob is from Denver. He was actually the only speaker I had heard of prior to the symposium. He was very entertaining and had some EYE POPPING pictures of his rather small garden in Denver. He uses pots, a hundred or hundreds of them and over winters a lot of tropicals. I decided that I would try to grow some more tropicals and see if I could over winter them successfully. I really laughed when someone asked him about a striking magenta flower in one of his pictures and he said something along the lines of "I'm not telling you, only I can have it, and you can't have it", doing a very good impression of a snobby gardener. FYI, it was Dianthus giganteus.

'Tis evening now, and regardless of taking the day off, I do have some work items to catch up on before tomorrow. Why didn't I think to take tomorrow off and have FOUR DAY WEEKEND!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Day After Tomorrow

"The day after tomorrow"... always a good time to start a new project or take care of something big. It's almost better than "tomorrow" because it implies you might do a bit of planning before you get started.

"The day after tomorrow" I'll be taking off from work and going to an all day 'gardening symposium'. This is the 1st time I've signed up for one of these types of programs. I have no idea what to expect, but the day goes from 8:45 - 4:00 with 4 different speakers, so I have high expectations. Yes, I know that this is probably just as much about the speakers selling books, but I'm just looking forward to thinking about gardening all day long!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Thinking about gardening

The weather is still a bit odd. We essentially had just on and off dustings of snow over the weekend. But 10 miles further south, they got 5 inches and there was a big white out on the interstate that was blamed for a 20 car pile up on Saturday. And, on the east coast, they've been hammered by a record-setting blizzard.

But, it's not too soon to think about gardening. I need to get on with a few 'tasks'. I am once again going to attempt to start some violas indoors. I've tried in the past, and my timing has never been right. I end up with very small plants when the garden centers get their first flats in, and I always end up buying some and abandoning my babies. This year it will be different (because isn't every year different when it comes to gardening?) I think I'll start the violas in a few days. Hopefully, then, by late March, I'll have some nice little plants to put in pots on the front porch.

I also need to create a spreadsheet listing all the seeds I've purchased so far so I can make sure I have everything I want (need!) and have a good idea of when I need to start some seeds, and how many seedlings I want to end up with come spring. I've also used a spreadsheet to plot out the vegetable garden, and that has worked well.

Finally, I feel a need to use these last remaining weeks of winter to get caught up reading the many magazines I get on gardening.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Garden rest and planning

Early February... hard to believe that we are still (or just) two months or more away from the first mowing of the season. Two months more to plan, to get the lawn mower serviced, to figure out how to make this upcoming growing season 'the best ever'. That's the best thing about gardening in a zone where there is clearly a winter, a dormant time, a time for rest. You get a fresh start every spring. It's like a new sheet of paper, a blank slate.

I'm already thinking about "finally" putting in a new shrub border along the east side of my back yard. Right now, the grass just runs up to the fence and it is blah, blah, blah. There are a few trees on that side, so I want to make the border wide enough to incorporate the trees into it. I also want to have some space to plant some more perennials, using the shrubs and trees as back drop. I'm considering if I want to use my own tiller to work this all up, or splurge on a landscaper to at least do the "heavy lifting".

I also know that I want to include a red horsechestnut tree in this new area. I think they are unusual, and have a nice flower color that you don't see a lot in the spring. I'm always ready to plant something different!

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Finally, January and warm temperatures are gone and February is here and we have some snow. Not a lot of snow, but a few inches. And we have some wind, the kind that cuts through even the warmest coat. Glorious winter! I want to have this kind of weather, because I think it helps in the spring.

We appreciate spring more when we've been cold and have felt the icy wind on our faces. We appreciate spring when coats seem to weigh more and more with each day of winter and we realize, mid-February, that it takes a lot of energy and effort to live comfortably in the winter when there is snow, and ice, and wind!

I think snow and ice, and freezing and thawing improves the soil structure, hastens the break down of old plant matter, and kills off insects that thought they might just winter over. I imagine that the bugs in places like Florida and Hawaii get so big because they never die off in the cold! When I look outside and see the snow cover, I'm delighted to think about what is going on underneath that snow.

I think that many of the trees, shrubs, bulbs, etc. need the cold to rest and rejuvenate. And gardeners need it, too. Winter is a time to rest, read, and plan for spring. When it is warm outside, like it was warm in January, gardeners are tempted to go and do some of the clean up that they didn't quite finish in the fall. I fought that tempation, and I am the better for it! (Besides, I need to store up all the energy I can because I know there will still be a few snowfalls and I'm sure I'll have to clean off the drive way a few more times before spring).

Happy Winter!