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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rain, Rain

I didn't get anything done today in the garden because of all the rain we got. But, I'd prefer to get the rain now and not when I am on vacation. If it is going to rain while I am off work to garden, I'd prefer the rain fall between 10:00 PM and 3:00 AM, very softly, so that by the time I am ready to get started for the day, everything will have dried off enough for me to get some work done!

I also didn't get anything done inside because of all the rain we got. Well, at least I chose to blame it on the rain!

I've only had one gardening vacation be an almost complete washout. I think it was about 11 years ago, maybe 1995? I'm not sure how many years I've been taking off the first part of May to garden, but I'm going to guess I've done it since at least 1994, which would make this my 12th annual gardening vacation.

Check out the My Garden Pictures for a shrub flowering now in my yard that doesn't have white flowers!

4 Days until vacation...

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Recent Questions & Observations

Some recent questions and observations.

The bunny was sitting by the lilac tree when I came home this evening. So cute and picturesque to see a little tan bunny sitting amongst the tulips. Such a charming, pastoral scene! Nevertheless, I chased him around the front yard until he ran off. I'm sure he'll be back.

Someone at work asked me about transplanting tulips. I've not done this before, but I believe the best thing is to dig the bulbs right around the time the foliage has yellowed, store them in a cool, dry place over the summer and then replant in the fall when you would normally plant bulbs. I suppose if you don't have a cool, dry place to store bulbs over the summer, which I admit you might not have in Indiana, you might try to immediately re-plant the bulbs in their new location after you dig them up.

I thought my grapes might be goners, but they are starting to leave out some.

Someone asked how I keep track of all the plants I have. I tack most of the plant labels up on a bulletin board in my garage. I need to go through those labels and remove those that have not made it or have been banished (like moneywort and artemesia var. Oriental Limelight). I did try once to list all the plant species I have in a spreadsheet, but decided that was a bit too much. It's easier just to look at the bulletin board.

The snowball bush, Viburnum opulus "Sterile", is getting ready to bloom. It is just loaded with flower buds.

Friday, April 28, 2006


The last few days, in the evening, a big ol' fat rabbit has been sitting in the front yard, enjoying the grass and flowers. When I come out, he looks at me with those big black eyes as though I am the intruder! Me! The one who planted and cares for everything. Me! I stare right back and charge towards him, and he hops off. But I know he'll be back, and I know exactly where he will go to eat.

Yes, he will go the vegetable garden. And he will invite all his bunny friends to join him. And they will string up party lights and they will party and they will eat, and then eat some more.

Right now, there isn't too much to eat out there other than some lettuce and spinach. But as soon as I try to grow some green beans, the rabbits will eat every single young bean sprout off. Every single one! I have not had green beans from my garden in over 3 years, all because of the rabbits.

One year, I bought a 'rabbit proof' black plastic fencing designed specifically to keep out rabbits and put it around each raised bed that contained plants I wanted to protect. I am not kidding when I write that the rabbits chewed little doors and windows in the plastic fencing. I am not kidding! Then they went right in through their new doors and ate everything they could. I even wrote the fence company about it and they refunded my full purchase price!

I've also tried blood meal, cayenne pepper, and commercial rabbit repellent. Still they eat! I've tried to fence off the entire vegetable garden by stapling strips of hardware cloth to the bottom of the privacy fence so they can't get in that way, and putting up a temporary wire bunny fence across the front side of the garden. I later watched a rabbit jump over this fence to get into the garden. He jumped over the fence! One big, flying leap and he was going to town.

This year, I plan to cover the bean patch with horticultural fabric to keep the rabbits out at least long enough for the plants to get to a size where a little bunny nibbling won't hurt them. That's it, my last idea. I hope it works.

Anyone have any other ideas?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I get a lot of questions about lilacs as soon as they start to bloom in the spring. There must be something about the flowers and the scent of the flowers that people really like. Around here, I generally only see three types of lilacs; common lilac, Miss Kim lilac and Meyer lilac.

The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is an old-fashioned shrub, and the first of the lilacs to bloom in the spring. It gets rather large and gangling, and isn't a shrub I would put as a focal point in the landscape. I would mix it into a shrub border so that after it blooms, it will blend in and hopefully you won't notice that it will always get powdery mildew on the leaves. I have a white-flowering common lilac, and it is part of shrub border.

The Miss Kim lilac (Syringa patula 'Miss Kim') is a much better species to plant . It blooms a few weeks later than the common lilac. I think these work well as a foundation planting, as they also stay more compact than the common lilac, and don't get powerdy mildew on the leaves. I have 3 on the west side of my house that are about 5 feet high and very fragrant when blooming (See picture of American Standard Hoe, An Old Standby in My Garden Pictures to see what mine looked like in bloom last year).

The Meyer lilac (Syringa meyeri) is also a good lilac for a foundation planting, and grows to only about 3 feet tall. I also have some of these. I think the flowers have as much scent as the common lilac, and like the Miss Kim lilac, it blooms more in early to mid May, after the common lilac.

I also have a Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk') in the front yard. It is a small tree, and blooms with white flowers in early June.

One trick I use on all my lilacs (even the tree) to ensure good bloom the next year is to cut off all the old blooms. This forces the plant to put its energy into becoming a good, strong healthy plant, producing buds for next year, and not into producing seed for the next generation. It can be a bit tedious to do, but I think it is well worth the time.

I hadn't thought about all the lilacs I have, but I guess I do have quite a few!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dogwood Winter and the Almanac

My aunt sent me a note the other day and said they were having Dogwood Winter. I had not heard of this, but apparently it occurs some years when there is cold weather after it has warmed up, when the dogwoods are blooming.

Well, I guess that is what we are having now. After several warm, sunny days, now it is cold and damp and the dogwoods are in full bloom. I think the temperature only got to about 55 degrees today and the weathermen are predicting patches of light frost tonight. Definitely Dogwood Winter, but hopefully a mild one with no snow or anything hideously out of season like that. I did nothing in the garden after work other than water some pots of violas and fairy lilies on the porch. It was too cold!

I talked to at least one person today who said he planted his vegetable garden this past weekend... tomatoes and everything. I believe he will soon be re-purchasing and re-planting sometime soon! May 10th, May 10th, not until after May 10th, at the earliest.

The early pioneers and Indians knew to wait until AFTER the dogwoods bloomed to plant their crops. They also planted "by the moon". I've never paid that close attention to what phase the moon was in when I planted, but this year I might do that.

I looked up some information on the Farmer's Almanac web site, and it provides the following information for planting in May during the time I will be on vacation and working in the garden:

May 5-6-7-8-9 A barren period. Favorable for killing plant pests, cultivating or taking a short vacation. (My vacation starts on the 5th. Looks like I should spend these days preparing to plant, buying plants, and relaxing. This should not be too big of an issue because that's how things generally work out, anyway. First I buy, then I plant.)

May 10-11 Excellent time for planting corn, beans, peppers and other aboveground crops. Favorable time for sowing hay, fodder crops and grains. Plant flowers. (These will be two busy days for me, as I should be planting everything I buy in the 1st 5 days! Of course, I'll check the 10-day forecast to make sure there isn't a hint of a cold spell coming up before I plant.)

May 12-13 First day excellent for planting aboveground crops, starting seedbeds and planting leafy vegetables. Second day good for planting carrots, beets, onions, turnips and other root crops. Cabbage, lettuce and other leafy vegetables will do well. Plant seedbeds all days. (Two more busy days!)

May 14-15 Do no planting. (These are the last two days of my vacation. Hopefully, everything is planted by this time and I can spend time relaxing and surveying the results of my labor over the previous week.)

Yes, I think this schedule should work out well for me this year. Just pray it doesn't rain all the days I should be planting!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Progress on the Pestilence Plants

I made some good progress this evening on a couple of the plants that are on my list of aggressive, mis-behaving, gotta-get-them-out-of-the-garden plants. Using my Japanese hand digging hoe, I basically dug out most of the variegated artemesia and the money wort.

I feel pretty confident I can keep up with the artemesia, since it is an annual that comes up from self-sown seed each year. I can just pull out any plants that I didn't get today when I do other light weeding through the season.

I'm not so confident that I've taken care of the money wort to any great degree. Yes, I've cut out a lot of it, but it is a perennial, so I think it will continue to try to grow from the roots and small shoots that I likely did not get. I'll probably have to spend more time pulling it out as it continues to try to grow and basically just 'wear it out'. And, just to be sure it is really gone, I'll not plant anything in that area this year, so the new plants won't interfere with my continuing efforts to eradicate this plant. It will be a bit bare along that stretch of the garden, except for a couple of daylilies, but I'm going for the long-term, so waiting a year won't be a big issue.

(I threw all the money wort I dug up into the compost bin. Yes, I did think that if it doesn't fully compost, I could end up with it all over, wherever I use that compost. It's at least all in one of the three compost bins, so I'll have to work it out that that particular compost is not used for a long, long time until I am sure the money wort is really dead and fully composted.)

And yesterday, I pulled out as much of the Bishop's goutweed as I could, so I'm making progress there, as well. Again, this one is also a perennial, so I'm sure it isn't gone for good, as I know I didn't get all of it. I'll just continue to pull out any that sprouts and wear it out, too!

Finally, an update on the English ivy. I've not gotten back to it since early spring when I hacked out a lot of it. Bags full of it went into the trash. Yet, there is still a big tangle of roots and stems that will take more time to remove. Plus, on top of it all, the two larger shrubs in that bed, a variety of St. John's Wort (Hypericum), don't look all that great. I'm not sure I can rejuvenate them, so I may be removing them soon. If I do that, then I'll try to save the three deutzias if I can but basically remove everything from that bed (other than the Star Magnolia on the corner) get all the ivy out, add new topsoil and replant. A couple of days work, I think, but quite do-able without professional help. (I also had a Hypericum in another spot, and the same thing happened. A lot of it died out and it started to look bad, so I pulled it out, so I know I can do the same with the other two.)

Now, a lot of people think of shrubs as "permanent" plants and would be surprised that after nine years, I'd have to take any shrubs out and replant. I don't consider it a big issue. I got nine good years out of these shrubs. They may just have this bad habit of dying out as they get older.

One last thought, if you are going to do a lot of gardening, invest in good tools. I can't even begin to tell you how helpful it was to have that Japanese hand digging hoe this evening. I'm not sure I could have accomplished all I did without it. (See My Garden Pictures for a picture of this marvelous garden wonder of a tool.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sweet Peas and a New Passalong Plant

I am adding to my list of plants that easily get out of hand the perennial sweet pea, Lathyrus latifolius. I am trying to contain this plant, or shall I say plants, to just one spot in my perennial garden, but naturally, it has other ideas. I pulled quite a few seedlings of it out today, hopefully enough to keep it contained for another year. I like the flowers, so I guess it is worthwhile to spend some time "cleaning up after it" in the spring.

I also got a new passalong plant from my sister today. It's a hosta with gigantic leaves, variety unknown. I divided it into three plants. One went back into the original hole, one was transplanted to a location in their backyard by their gazebo and the other came home with me and got a place in a special planting bed where it will be the only hosta, a true focal point.

See My Garden Pictures for two of my favorite hand tools. Both were used quite extensively today!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fairy Lilies and Money Wort

I worked in the garden this afternoon and evening. One of the tasks I completed was to plant several pots of Fairy Lilies. This is a not-too-good picture of some I had a few years ago. From this small pot, I've saved bulbs year-to-year so that today I had enough bulbs for three good sized pots, and I put a lot in each one. The genus is Zephyranthes. These are also called Rain Lilies, but I prefer to call them Fairy Lilies. One of the great things about many plants is they reward you for growing them by multiplying and giving you more. However, this can sometimes but not so good...

Another chore I completed was to attack the money wort with Round Up. (See post titled "So much daylight (and progress, too!)" for more about this pestilence that I allowed into my garden). I think this is the only way I will get rid of it, because it has spread so much. I may lose a few other plants in the process, but I must get rid of this pestilence. I think it has overtaken and swallowed up some other plants, anyway. (Normally, I don't use a lot of chemicals. However, Round Up is just so effective for situations like this one. But, I never use it around my vegetable garden.)

Finally, I've started bringing more pots out of the garage and setting them around in the approximate locations where I will put them after I plant flowers in them. I have just 11 days until I begin my May Planting Vacation!

See the "My Garden Pictures" link for a few more pictures around the garden, or click here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

An Opinion on Mulch

Somehow, in a conversation with a co-worker, he confessed that he no longer "did mulch". I wasn't quite sure what he meant. Was he letting the ground go bare? No! He had "mulched" with rocks, specifically lava rock. The permanent mulch!

I humbly submit that rocks are not mulch, rocks are loose paving. Show me a garden with rocks for mulch, and watch me run the other way, fast! When you have rocks, it is difficult to replant anything where those rocks are. And, no matter how hard you try, the rocks end up outside of the bed and in the grass.

And rocks are so permanent! Just ask my sister. She lives in the family homestead. Back in the 70's, before you could order truckloads of organic mulch, the "fashion" was to put rocks around all the landscape beds. So, that's what my Dad did. He ordered a big load of rocks and had all of us "kids" help him spread it around the shrubs around the house. Now, my sister is dealing with these rocks. She can hardly plant anything because of the rocks. And, over time, the rocks have shifted around and thinned in some spots, and spread into the grass.

There is one bed in front by the sidewalk to the front door where they tried to dig the rocks out so they could plant some new shrubs. They didn't know where to put the rocks, so they hauled them over to another side of the house and dumped them. It seemed like no matter how deep they dug, they kept running into more rocks. Finally, they just gave up and planted as best they could. Then one spring, my sister got tired of looking at the those old rocks. So, she ordered up some hardwood mulch and just put it on top of the rocks. It looks good, and is more the style of today's gardens, but we all know that beneath that mulch are rocks, and more rocks.

We had a neighbor around the corner, and this woman bought some of rocks that were really white and shiny, almost like marble chips. She put them in a bed with a path in it that led up to her front door. The path wasn't really a concrete sidewalk, but a bunch of gray stepping stones. She put up a sign to ask people to "please don't walk on the rocks". I guess she didn't want them to get dirty or get kicked around unnecessarily. I can only imagine what she did to keep the leaves off in the fall, so there would be no organic matter build up or dirt in with her white rocks.

Anyway, that's just my opinion that rocks aren't mulch. I know others like to use rocks, and that's fine with me. I just find them to be too permanent. I prefer cypress mulch around my shrubs and trees, and cocoa hull mulch or compost from the compost bins around my perennials and vegetables, but that's just me.

(Don't get me started on mulch made out of old tires that are cut into little pieces and dyed to look like cypress mulch!)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Something New Every Day

What I like about spring is there is something new in the garden every day. As early spring flowers like crocuses and daffodils fade, the tulips start to bloom. When the forsythia drops all its blossoms, lilacs are ready to make their big showing for the year. And, after the blooms fade on the service berry, the crabapples and redbuds take (and demand!) center stage.

And not to be out done, or so it seems, are all the weeds calling out to be pulled or else!

I've posted a few more pictures. Click the "My Garden Pictures" link on the right or click here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mushroom Hunting

I got a note from my Aunt Susie that they had tried some early mushroom hunting, but didn't have much luck. They plan to try again this weekend, and hope to find enough for a meal. I wrote the following note a couple of years ago about when we "kids" used to go mushroom hunting. It's a bit long, but I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s the story of how we learned to hunt for mushrooms…

Spring meant a trip to a place called “Bob’s Farm” to hunt for mushrooms. Bob’s Farm was a few acres of farmland and a wood lot located east of Rocklane, Indiana owned by a neighbor down the street. When the weather would start to warm up, well before it got too hot, Dad would call Bob and ask if we could go out to his farm to hunt for mushrooms.

We would all pile into the car for the trip to the farm, each one of us armed with the main essential piece of equipment for hunting mushrooms, a paper bag. We drove out to a place called Rocklane. Rocklane was mostly a white church at a crossroads in the country. There we would turn south and head down the road for a few more miles. Soon we would see off in the distance a stand of trees, which we knew of as “Bob’s Farm”. Dad would pull into the dirt lane and drive back toward the woods. The amount of rain that spring would dictate how far back we could drive down the lane. Some years, we didn’t get much further than just pulling off the road. Other years, we were able to go pretty far back to the corner of the woods.

Once we arrived, our first order of business was to find the other essential piece of mushroom hunting equipment, a good stick which could be used to poke around the ground and move the leaves and other debris aside as we conducted our search. Then we would split up into pairs and begin our walk through the woods, carefully watching where we stepped. No one wanted to walk right over a mushroom and have someone behind them spot it! We swung our sticks back and forth along the ground as we walked, moving decaying leaves out of the way, looking for the mushrooms. Since the ground was still brown with fallen leaves, and so were the mushrooms, we didn’t often find them. We looked in places Dad said they might be found. Maybe they would be hidden under a stand of may apples, whose leaves shaded the ground like umbrellas. Perhaps we would find them near a fallen log or at the base of a certain type of tree.

Then someone would cry out “I found one” and we would all head in their direction. Dad would inspect the finding and if it was a morel mushroom, we would carefully pick it and place it in a bag. That spot then became a place where mushrooms were likely to be found, so we would fan out from there and continue our search. At the end of the hunt, we checked our bags to see what we had. Some years, we wouldn’t find any mushrooms, and might come back from the hunt with only a few wild violets we dug for our own yard. Or we would spend more time knocking over ’puff balls’ than we would spend hunting mushrooms, fascinated by the cloud of spores they released. Other years, we would return home triumphant with a small portion of morel mushrooms. Once we tried to carefully dig around a location where we had found a mushroom, and transplant it to our own back yard, back in the corner under the beech tree, in hopes that we would start our own patch of mushrooms. But the next spring, no mushrooms came up.

As soon as we came home, Dad carefully cleaned the mushrooms we found, and after coating them with a little egg and rolling them in flour, fried them up in some butter or margarine. Food for the Hoosier soul! We all tried them, though Dad didn’t want us to eat them if we didn’t like them. That would leave more for him. Then later he would call Grandpa and Grandma and find out if any of his brothers or sister had been mushroom hunting. Some of them were quite good at finding mushrooms, but wouldn’t reveal where they found them. A good mushroom hunter will not readily reveal where they found their biggest and best morel mushrooms, for fear that others would get there first the next year. One year it was reported that Dad’s brother Darrell found dozens and dozens of mushrooms, which he fried up and ate in one sitting. Such a stomachache he had afterwards!

Here are some helpful hints for hunting morel mushrooms.

Make sure you take along a paper bag and a good poking stick. You want to have a big bag so it looks like you are expecting to find a lot of mushrooms.

Choose a day when the weather is starting to consistently warm up, but before it gets too hot. Perhaps sometime in April, when you see violets starting to bloom or find a stand of may apples in the woods in full leaf, but before too much has sprouted in the woods. (It may take years to figure out the optimal time to hunt for mushrooms!)

Walk carefully through the woods, moving aside dead leaves with your stick as you go, always looking for the sponge shaped mushrooms.

When you find a mushroom, if it is of good size, carefully pick it and place it in your bag. Continue until you have a bag full or tire out with few or no mushrooms (there is no guarantee of finding any mushrooms on your first hunt or any hunt after that).

If you find a good stand of mushrooms, take just a few and keep the site a secret. You don’t want to tell others about the site and then return the next year to the same spot only to find out that someone beat you to it.

When the hunt is over, carefully clean the mushrooms by soaking in cold water, draining and re-soaking the mushrooms several times until the water comes out clean.

Heat up some butter or margarine in a small frying pan, dip the mushrooms in beaten egg and then coat with flour or cracker crumbs and carefully place in the frying pan. Turn mushrooms several times so they fry evenly on all sides. Remove the fried mushrooms, drain excess butter by placing on several layers of paper towels, then eat and enjoy.

Not all mushrooms are edible, and many wild mushrooms are quite poisonous, even deadly. Don’t eat any mushrooms that you aren’t sure are morel mushrooms. The good news is that morel mushrooms have a unique shape, like a piece of sponge, and there are no deadly mushrooms that look like them. (See picture on My Garden Pictures)

Happy Hunting!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Orange Flowers & the Internet

A colleague at work said his wife was working on a garden with all orange flowers. To figure out what to plant, he looked at a book of perennials and tried to find the orange flowering plants that were hardy in zone 5 and were not noted to be aggressive or spreading. I did a quick Internet search on "Orange Flowers" and within a few seconds came up with a good article on orange flowering plants in the magazine Garden Gate and shared that link with him

Garden Gate is one of my favorite magazines. They have no advertising and the articles are generally useful. The article I found is at this link, Orange Flowers, in case anyone else is interested in planting a monochromatic orange garden.

I think the Internet has really changed how people garden (amongst other things). There are so many seed and plant sources that are now just a few keystrokes away that before were either unknown or only regionally known. On the Internet I can find nearly anything I want, which could be dangerous, as I have no fear of ordering live plants to be delivered in a box right to my front door (or handmade stainless steel gardening tools from the Netherlands).

Miscellaneous Notes:

My crabapple tree and fothergilla shrubs are both starting to bloom, which is right on schedule.

The grass is really taking off. I mowed the grass on Thursday, and could have mowed again yesterday, but waited until this evening. With daylight savings time, I was able to eat dinner, and then mow and still have plenty of daylight left over.

My new lemon tree had a few blossoms open up in the last day or so. The fragrance is sweet and almost overpowering, but nice!

The procrastination season of gardening is over. I need to get busy on weeding and the last of the perennial clean up. Yesterday when everyone was over for Easter, I offered that they could each weed a small section and we'd have the whole place taken care of "in no time at all". No takers this year. We'll see about next year!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Passalong Plants - The Night Blooming Cereus

I thought I would comment on some of the "passalong plants" that I have. These are plants given to me by others. Generally, I got plants that were prolific in the giver's garden, and so they are equally prolific in my garden.

The number one plant on my list is not prolific, it is a big, awkward, house plant. It is a "night blooming cereus", more specifically Epiphyllum oxypetalum. I got mine from Dad, who got his start from Louisa Valentine, who was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia. (Though I doubt the plant came from there!)

I've never seen one for sale at the local garden center or discount store, so I assume that the best way to get one is to get a start from someone who has one. Though, with the internet, I'm sure you could find one quickly enough. The name 'night blooming cereus" comes from the fact that the flower opens up and then fades away, all in one night. (Yes, like the flower in the Dennis the Menace movie.)

I waited 13 years before mine bloomed, then it bloomed two years in a row. The bloom is large, maybe 6 inches across, white and very fragrant. It is almost too fragrant for the sunroom where I have mine. The scent was almost overpowering inside.

After it bloomed twice, I had to re-pot it because it was all top heavy and the pot kept toppling over. It hasn't bloomed since. I believe it likes to be fairly pot-bound before it blooms. Mine is now in a 20 inch pot on the floor, with a five foot trellis to support it, so it may take some time before it is pot bound again and blooms again. It's a big mess of a plant but it's special to me, so I will continue to devote a large part of the sunroom to it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Spring has sprung

Suddenly, everything is green. It truly is spring! Check out My Garden Pictures for some pictures I took this evening of more plants blooming in my yard.

I was at Walmart earlier and they are pushing the season a bit. They have geraniums, tomato plants, pepper plants, and other frost sensitive plants for sale. It is easy to get caught up on a warm day like today, thinking that all the cold weather is behind us, so its time to get planting.

However, our average frost free date is May 10th, which is still a few weeks away. The weather can change quickly! Be careful. Wait!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tulips, Is it too Late?

Today's question was... is it too late to plant bulbs? As in bulbs for tulips and daffodils. Uh, yes, it is too late, unless you are planning for next year, and then it is too early. I'm astonished by that question, but I suppose if one never gardened, and didn't really pay attention to when certain garden items appeared in the stores, one might not know about planting spring-flowering bulbs in the fall.

(I worked one spring eons ago at Furrow Building Materials. I was asked at least once a day where the tulip bulbs were. I wanted to reply they were in the past, as in last fall. Astonishing!)

This past fall I planted daffodils to add to those I have planted through the years. I find that daffodils are quite reliable and return year after year. I also planted tulips around the trees in the front yard. I find that tulips are not reliable from year to year and can disappear with no reason. So, I tend to think of them as annuals, and anything that comes up the 2nd year or subsequent years is a nice bonus. I'm told this is an unfortunate characteristic of a lot of the newer varieties of tulips, and that if I planted older varieties, I might not have this problem of them disappearing from the landscape.

I am planning to plant hostas around the the tulips and I believe over time, I'll have some nice hosta beds around the trees and the tulips will just fade away.

Monday, April 10, 2006

About the Hoe Pictures

So, one of my sisters looked at the pictures of all the hoes (see link "My Garden Pictures") and asked "why does one gardener need all those hoes and what are they for and why did you pose them for pictures"?

All good questions.

Why does on gardener need all these hoes? I'm not sure I can show "need" for each and every one of the hoes, but can any of us really show need for all that we possess? For some reason, when I see a hoe that is different than any I have already, I want to get it to add to what some would now call a hoe collection.

What are they for? They are all essentially for the same thing, to break up the ground and cut out weeds. But each one works in a slightly different way. It's like a wood worker, who has many different saws. Each one cuts wood, but in a slightly different way and the wood worker knows about the differences. But, to a non-woodworker, the cuts probably all seem the same. Well, that is sort of how it is with each of these hoes, they each work in a slightly different way and yes, one hoe might do most of the job, but hey, it's fun to have all these different types.

Why did you pose them for pictures? For fun! Actually, we have some very intense days at work in late May when we have to develop the budget for the next year. It's sort of like trying to pour a gallon of milk into a pint jar without spilling any. An impossible task. Some of my co-workers had heard that I owned a lot of hoes, but couldn't quite understand why, because they were really only familiar with the basic hoe that you see in discount stores. So, last year I took pictures of my hoes and made a little PowerPoint show of them, both to break the tension on a budget work day and to educate them on all the hoes. They were certainly enlightened on the fascinating world of garden hoes. They also gave me some good ideas on more hoe pictures to take, some of which I will post later on.

So, that's the story of the hoe pictures. Aren't you glad someone asked?!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Better Late than Not At All

I finally sowed seeds for early cool season vegetables today, including lettuce, mesclun, radishes, spinach, and peas, and planted white and yellow onion sets. Sounds like the makings of a good salad! I think this is just about the latest that I've gotten started with the cool season vegetables, at least the latest in the last 6 years since I have been keeping records. First it was cold, then it rained, then it was cold, then it rained. But today was beautiful. Clear blue skies, slightly cool, the best conditions for working outside.

The only reason I was able to plant today was because of the raised beds. I don' t have to till them up in the spring. I just use a digging fork to turn over the soil, rake it out, and then start planting. Also, since the beds are raised, they tend to dry out faster than a normal vegetable garden, and so I can get into them much sooner after a lot of rain. Without the raised beds, I would probably still not be working in the garden, with all the rain we've had. (See previous post for how I made these raised beds.)

I also planted my new strawberries this afternoon in one of the raised beds. I was pleased with how the crowns I got in the mail looked. Very healthy and fresh.

But, before I did any planting, I spent a good hour pulling out all the ground ivy that was growing in the mulched paths around the raised beds. There was a lot of it, and it was already flowering, so I wanted to get it pulled out before it set seed. Too bad there is no market for it and it isn't edible, since I had a bumper crop of it.

Still a lot to do, but it can't all be done in a day.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Postal Delivery

I love it when a box shows up at my door step with "Perishable - Live Plants" printed on the outside. I received such a box yesterday! In it were several items I had ordered in January including...

  • Meyer Lemon Tree, Improved. I saw this in the Park's Seed catalog and remembered seeing one on a garden show. It is a dwarf lemon tree that produces full-sized lemons, and it will live happily as a potted plant. Mine came in a 1 gallon container and is about two feet high and has a couple of little tiny lemons on it, though I'm not sure they will make it through the trauma of shipping and repotting. I am now looking for the perfect pot for my new lemon tree.
  • Blueberries - I got 3 Sunshine Blue blueberry plants to put in one of the raised garden beds, where I can control the soil pH. Blueberries like acid soil.
  • Strawberries - Last fall I ripped out the strawberries I had because they were a no-name variety I had picked up at Frank's several years ago. They were the scrawniest little berries. This new variety is called Ever Red, and is an everbearing strawberry. I chose everbearing instead of June bearing because I didn't want to be over loaded with strawberries once a year. I'd like to have a few berries to pick throughout the summer.
  • Cannas - I chose two varieties that are good as potted plants. One has a striped leaf with yellow flowers. The other has red flowers, but is a dwarf variety. I plan to start these soon, along with a couple of Elephant ear bulbs I bought a few weeks ago.

Activity is definitely increasing in the garden. Tomorrow, I plan to "finally" plant the early vegetable crops. It seems so late to start these, but the weather has not cooperated.

Check out the link "My Garden Plants" under links on the right for some new pictures.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Garden Blogs as reported by CNN

A co-worker, who knows I have a garden blog, but doesn't know the url for it, said he thought of me when he read a story on yesterday about garden blogs.

He doesn't know the url for my blog because I've given it out very sparingly at work. Do I really want people from work to know that much about my gardening life? Not that it is a secret, or anything like that. It could hardly be a secret that I garden.

We hired a temporary tech writer at work last fall and he was in my office not more than 5 minutes when he asked "how is your garden?". I thought for sure someone had told him "be sure and ask about her garden" to get on my good side. Nope, he said he figured it out from my office decor. Surprisingly to some, I have no plants in my office. It is an interior office, and the poor plants would be in the dark all weekend, so I've never brought any in. I have some garden related knick knacks on my desk, but honestly that's about it. Yes, the calendar on the wall is garden-related and there is a little cross stitch picture on the wall that says "I'd rather be gardening". Oh, and occasionally in the summer, I bring in a bouquet of flowers from my garden... daisies or zinnias or whatever is blooming at the time I think about cutting some flowers for my office. Really, not too much gardening related decor!

Anyway, apparently I'm not the only one who has a blog about her garden. I'll have to check out these other blogs to see what the buzz is about!

(Only 27 days until "Gardening Vacation 2006" starts. )

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Today's Question... Sprouts!

Where do bean sprouts come from? This was another horticultural question posed to me the other day. I laughed. I thought it was obvious that bean sprouts are the barely germinated seeds of beans. You can sprout a lot of different seeds like alfalfa and broccoli and many other kinds of vegetables and grains. The seeds are moistened and sprouted and then used in salads, oriental dishes, etc. Just so obvious by looking at them!

But then I got to thinking… Brussel sprouts aren’t germinated seeds, are they? They are a vegetable that grows in the leaf axils of the plant and look like little cabbages. Technically, I think they are axillary buds. So maybe it isn't so obvious where bean sprouts come from!

I’ve never grown Brussel sprouts, because I don’t like them. Plus, I’ve found that cabbage and broccoli, and I presume the closely related Brussel sprouts, are some of the “buggiest” vegetables you can grow. No matter how much you rinse and soak home-grown broccoli, you still find at least one little green worm still snuggled down in there. Gross!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Blooming List

Flowers blooming in my gardens as of today:

Star Flowers
Star Magnolia
Hellebores (Lenten Rose)
Grape Hyacinths
Ground Ivy and Chickweed (ha!)

So much daylight (and progress, too!)

Yesterday, I wasn't quite sure about daylight savings time. I didn't bounce right out of bed in the morning, since my usual wake up time of 5:30 was by my body clock 4:30. That's early, even for me. Then, it was cold and damp and very unfriendly outside most of the day, so I didn't even think about working out in the yard after work.

But today, I think this daylight savings time is a good idea. I didn't have as much trouble getting up (though it was still dark when I got up and when I left for work). When I got home, I had time to eat, and then still do a couple of hours worth of garden clean up. We should have done this daylight savings time thing a long time ago!

I made some good progress on cleaning up the perennials. I've set aside my work on the ivy bed for the time being, even though I am a long way from getting rid of all the ivy. I decided I should work on other clean up and then come back around to the ivy. It will wait.

Now that the perennials are mostly cleaned up and cut back, I need to turn my attention to weeding. I've got some "issues" with grass that has crept into the flower beds and with some plants I put in that have mis-behaved on me. I'm almost embarrassed to list these problem plants, because some one will say "I told you so" or " you should have known better". Here's the list of the worst:

1. Moneywort. I'm not sure of the correct botanical name or if this is even the correct common name. I just now this forms a thick carpet of leaves and chokes out everything around it that isn't of any size. I am sure there is a place for this plant, but that place is not in a perennial border. I am going to try to dig this out, but I may have to resort to digging out the perennials around that area that I want to keep and then killing this off with Round Up.

2. Variegated Artemisia. I like variegated varieties of plants. Normally, I would not plant an annual Artemisia, especially one that grows 3 - 4 feet tall and self sows all over the place. But, IT HAD VARIEGATED LEAVES. It had variegated leaves. Need I say more. I think this one is manageable, if I am diligent about ripping out the seedlings that I don't want.

3. Zebra grass. Someone gave me this grass. It is pretty, a nice light green with white striping. However, there are a couple of areas where it has spread too far. I'm going to have to cut it out where I don't want it and do it soon before it gets of any size.

4. Blood grass. Someone gave me this grass, too. It is also pretty, green with red tips. I think I just have it in the wrong place. I want to cut it out from where it is and move it, probably somewhere near the zebra grass so they can fight it out. The problem is that this grass is VERY difficult to pull out and the leaves are a bit sharp, so you have to wear a good, thick pair of gloves when you mess with it, or you will cut yourself. I think I will have to dig out all of this grass, and then replace the soil in that spot.

5. Ivy. Enough written about this already.

6. Tansy. It self sows like crazy. I've not planted it for at least 7 or 8 years and I've not let any go to seed, that I know of, for at least 6 years, and I'm still pulling this out in a few spots, but it is for the most part 'contained' and manageable at this point.

7. Snow-in-summer. This one isn't a big problem, because it pulls out easily enough, but I do need to do some work to contain it a bit in a few spots.

8. Variegated goutweed. Aegpodium podagraria var. variegatum. Nice fancy soundling Latin name, isn't it? I also dug this one up from someone else's garden. I had forgotten how well it spreads in good soil. It is choking out the vinca that I would rather have, so I'm going to have to get forceful with this one, too. It won't pull out easily, I'll have to dig it out. (IT HAS VARIEGATED LEAVES!)

And, I have a few weeds that I need to take care of, in addition to the grass. Most common is ground ivy, which is growing in few spots in some of the flower beds, plus there is a lot in the raised bed vegetable garden paths. A close second to ground ivy is chickweed, which is a problem in just a few spots.

That's 10 rogue plants I need to deal with. Wish me luck and with a few more sunny, long evenings, I'll have it under control.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Daylight Savings Time

Here I sit, 8:00 PM on this first day of daylight savings time, and it is still quite light outside.

This daylight savings time is going to take some getting used to. I’ve been programmed to come home from work and rush around to finish any gardening chores that I decide need to be done, often holding off dinner until dusk or later. Now, I can come home from work, eat, and still have oodles of time to work around in the garden, or just sit and watch the sunset. I can remember when we were growing up, we did observe daylight savings time, but it ended at some point in the 70’s. My best guess is that it ended after 1972, when an amendment to the Uniform Time Act of 1966 “extended the option not to observe DST to areas lying in separate time zones but contained within the same state.” Indiana obviously exercised that option sometime shortly after 1972.

So, what does this mean for the plants? Do four o’clocks become five o’clocks? By the way, four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) are very easy plants to grow. In Zone 5, we treat them as annuals, but they self-sow reliably, so once you plant them, you’ll have some every year. You can also harvest the seeds, which are fairly large and black, and easy to keep. Further south, these are grown as perennials. They can withstand pretty much any conditions. Mine grow on the east side of the house, near a dryer vent. I virtually ignore them most of the time, except when they are blooming!

And what about daylilies? Do they have to put in extra duty to keep blooming an extra hour for us? There is a daylily nursery near here. Maybe I’ll stop in and ask them how they plan to adapt, and adapt their plants, to daylight savings time.

Oh, wait, I get it, the plants don’t know time, so they will still just do their thing, and it will be ME who has to do all the adjusting!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

New Plant!

I have a new plant in my garden. This isn’t just any new plant, this is a NEW plant. I’ve been quiet about it until now as I didn’t want to get too excited about it. When I say new plant, I mean a NEW plant.

This all started late last summer. I was doing some clean up around my compost bins when I ran across a viney weed that I didn’t recognize at all. It had these curious light pink to rose colored little flowers all along it that had a sweet smell to them. At first I thought perhaps it was a type of honeysuckle, but I looked that up and compared some pictures and I was pretty sure it wasn’t a type of honeysuckle. Nor could I match it to any weeds in an identification guide for weeds that I had from college.

So, I contacted the Marion County Extension Service for assistance in identifying this weed. They walked me through a guide they had, but we could not come up with a name for the plant. They asked me to send a sample to them, which I did. I didn’t think about it much after that, until they called about 10 days later. They had been unable to identify my plant, but like me they were interested to know what it was because of the unusual pink flowers. They asked me to send another sample of the plant to a plant taxonomist at Purdue, which I did later that week.

Now I was getting quite curious about what this weed might be! Well, a few weeks after I mailed the sample to Purdue, I got call back from the plant taxonomist. (FYI, plant taxonomists are experts at identifying and determining the names of plants, what plant family they are in, etc.) This plant taxonomist, who turned out to have been a teaching assistant in a plant taxonomy class I took at Purdue my junior year, told me he had concluded that my plant was a member of the Erica family, Ericacea, but beyond that, he was stumped. He asked a few more questions about where I had found the vine and then said he was sending the sample to the Dept. of Agriculture for further analysis.

At this point, I was getting pretty excited and more curious, since no one knew what this plant was. This had obviously gone further than I had expected. I honestly thought I would get an answer from the extension service, and then when it went to Purdue, I was sure they would know. Now, my plant sample was in the hands of the Dept. of Agriculture.

I heard no more of this through the winter, until earlier this week, when I got a phone call from the Dept. of Agriculture. The gentleman I spoke to asked me more questions about where I had found the plant, etc. Basically, to make a long story short, they have concluded that this vine that I found growing by my compost bins is a NEW plant species that so far had not been identified and named!!

I asked how this new plant could be found in a place like Indiana, which is well-populated and well-explored and you would think that all plant species in this area were found and identified hundreds of years ago. Generally, new plants are found in far off places where civilization hasn’t been.

They hypothesized that since I found the vine growing around my compost bin, that perhaps the seed of the plant had come in from soil from a plant purchased at a garden center or that perhaps the seed came in with some peat moss. Peat moss comes from old bogs, which are naturally acidic, and there are often members of the Ericacea family growing near these, since this family of plants generally prefers acid soil. They had concluded that my plant is in the Ericacea family, so tend to go more with the peat moss theory. They think perhaps that some ancient seed came in with the peat moss, and that the moisture and conditions around the compost bins provided just the right environment for it to sprout and begin to grow. (Yes, seed can remain viable for a long time if the conditions are right.)

Now, if that isn’t exciting enough, the really exciting part is that because this vine has been identified as a new plant species, and I discovered it, I get to name it. I get to name it! This is a once in a lifetime, beyond my wildest gardening dreams, event. Generally, the genus name for the plant is based on the person who discovers it. I am considering Caroljeania. What do you think? The species name usually describes something about the plant, such as “giganteum” if it is a big plant. I am consider “binei”, since it was found near the compost bins, which would make it… Caroljeania binei. How does that sound?

A representative from the Dept. of Agriculture and someone from Purdue will be coming out in a few weeks to do a more extensive check around the compost bins and look at the vine again (which I believe to be a perennial plant since it is still there and is starting to show some buds this spring). They will take an official specimen to put in their archives and then they will announce the new plant in the Journal of Plant Taxonomy sometime later this summer. They will also send me an official certificate with the name of the plant and an original botanical drawing of it. I am so excited; I can’t believe this vine decided to grow by my compost bin in my own little back yard!

Oh, there is one other idea I have for a name for this new plant. How does “Aprilphools didifoolu” grab you!?