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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sweetspire Song and Dance

I like plants in the garden that do more than one thing. You know, like sing and dance. This is a picture of the Sweetspire today, all fall-y and reddish and one of the first shrubs or trees to really show fall leaf color.
And here it was in the spring, blooming in early mid June. It waited until a lot of the other showier shrubs like lilac and forsythia were done before it bloomed. It's not going to cause someone to slam on the brakes while driving by but does provide a nice bloom for a few weeks.

If you are looking for native shrubs, I can recommend this from my own experience. It doesn’t get more than 3 or 4 feet tall, will spread just as wide, has these pretty white hanging flowers in June (at least here in central Indiana zone 5) and maroon-red foliage in the fall. And because it doesn’t get THAT big, shearing or pruning is not required (or desired). How could you miss with this one?

This particular Sweetspire is Itea virginiana 'Henry's Garnet'. I’ve only occasionally cut off a few dead branches, but otherwise have not had to do anything to this shrub. It occurs naturally in wet areas, but mine is not in a particularly wet area, and seems to be doing fine. But, it would be a nice shrub if you have a wet area in the garden and need to fill it with something that offers some interest in late spring and then again in fall and won't have to be pruned or babied along.

That's it for now, I am heading out to do some fall clean up, mow the lawn (fun!) and generally see what other trouble I can get into in the garden.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Knot Garden Not Goin' Happen in My Garden

When I went to White River Gardens on Sunday, I spent some time looking at this knot garden and for a brief, fleeting moment had thoughts of actually attempting something like this in my own garden. Then I read a little sign that said they trim these shrubs every two weeks. I like the look, but I'm not ready to take it on. Seems like it could quickly get out of hand. Not to mention it isn't really the "style" of my gardens, if I have a style.

They have other areas of the garden that look more like this:

A little bit wild and uncontrolled. Sometimes I think my garden looks like this, but not too often. This is actually part of a section of the garden that is more naturalized (obviously). This is a water garden area and behind me was more of a prairie area.

White River Gardens isn't big as far as public gardens grow, but they've managed to fit a lot into it.

Garden Bloggers' Book Club - The List Grows

Our book club grows and we have some more books for consideration!

First, Gardener in Mexico is going to send a list of books upon return to Chacala. This is definitely a blog to visit when the snow is flying up north, with lots of bright, cheery tropical flowers.

Earth Girl and Nature Girl sent me their lists via comments. (Hey, Earth Girl is in Indiana like me, I’m going to add her to my list of Indiana garden bloggers!)

Nature Girl’s list includes:

Anatomy of a Rose by Sharman Apt Russell
Garden Poems...selected and edited by John Hollander (I think this is our first poetry book suggested!)
Night Gardening by E.L. Swann. (She’s really peaking my interest with this comment: “by far my favorite enchanting journey into a real and metaphorical garden! I've read it 3 times and posted about it "mid summer nite" back in June I think.”)

Earth Girl’s list with her comments includes:

"The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
Night Gardening by E.L. Swann (I'm stuffing the ballot box because it sounds so interesting.) Anything by Henry Mitchell (we are definitely going to have a least one book by Henry Mitchell!)
The Wild Braid (again because I want to read it.)
There was also a book about an Elizabethan lady who discovered gardening when forced to spend time in her country estate. I haven't read it but I understand it is a classic."

(Can anyone help identify what book this is?)

Myrtle Luma sent this list:

Dig by Meredith Kirton (great photographs).
Anything by Richard Mabey - Flora Britannica is fabulous.
Anything by Anna Pavord - The Naming of Names and the Tulip are both fabulous.
The Plant Hunters by Musgrave, Gardner, and Musgrave and
The Origin of Plant by Maggie Campbell-Culver

And here’s Blackswamp_Girl’s list with commentary on each

Planting Design: Gardens in Time and Space by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury (my all-time favorite gardening book so far in terms of turning my planning/thoughts around)
Dear Friend and Gardener the correspondence of Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto (haven't read it yet, but am fascinated because of the two personalities involved)
Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden Beth Chatto (only read excerpts of this so far at Borders, but this always intrigues me because of the thought and planning that went into the garden's construction)
Wild Fruits or Walden Henry David Thoreau (the former is a collection of unfinished essays published posthumously... and the latter needs no explanation but I haven't read it since high school and probably should again)

Earth Girl had a good idea… stuff the ballot box. I think I am counting 10 lists of books so far, so feel free to comment with your pitch for any of the books you’ve seen that you really, really think should be read by all of us! Or, let me know via a comment that you have a list for inclusion in a post on your blog or just list the books in a comment here.

Still plenty of time to suggest a book or two!

(Oh, and if you sent me a list prior to me posting this update and I've not included it here or on yesterday's blog posting, let me know!)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bonsai Advice?

I've been thinking about bonsai for a long time and considering whether I should branch out into this type of "gardening". Whenever there is a bonsai exhibit nearby I go to admire all the different types and dream about having some of my own bonsai trees. One of my favorite types are those that are in groups resembling little landscape scenes, like this one which I admired at the bonsai exhibit at White River Gardens on Sunday.

Here's another example of a bonsai landscape. This one even has moneywort plant with it, which somehow they manage to keep under control!

This is the sign for the bonsai which shows the owner and grower and the age of the plant, which in this case is 41 years! This one comes from a Cisterian monk, who seems to have been a well known bonsai grower. In fact, it appears that the monks at this monastery grow bonsai and sell supplies to help support themselves. I must investigate further.

Anyway, I digress... I was bound and determined that this time I would not just admire the bonsai, I would buy a tree to get started. Fortunately, the local bonsai club was selling some seedlings. They had three I was interested in, including Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and Trident Maple (Acer buergerianum).

I decided on the Trident Maple, pictured here because it has a lot of branching and they told me if you defoliate the tree in June, it will leaf out in again with smaller leaves.

Now that I have my seedling, my next step is to successfully overwinter it outside. I'll do some further reading, web-surfing and research on bonsai over the winter, and then in the spring, I'll hopefully know what my next step is. I think it will be to actually plant the seedling tree in a bonsai container. Then I'm going to need some help.

Does anyone have any advice on bonsai for me?

Garden Bloggers' Book Club - Suggestions So Far

Suggestions for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club are rolling in and we are getting quite a list with many good choices.

Here’s my original list, thrown together to get us started.

Mrs. Whaley and her Charleston Garden by Emily Whaley
The Old Farmer’s 2007 Almanac
Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perenyi
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis
One Man’s Garden by Henry Mitchell

And here is a list from Colleen, In the Garden Online

The Passionate Gardener by Rudolf Borchardt
Bird-by-Bird Gardening by Sally Roth
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields.
The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden by Stanley Kunitz
Beautiful Madness: One Man's Journey Through Other People's Gardens by James Dodson
The $64 Tomato by William Alexander (My sister, a non-blogger also suggested this one.)

Leslie at Growing A Garden in Davis came up with these suggestions

A Garden Story by Leon Whiteson,
Slug Tossing by Meg DesCamp,
Gardening in Eden by Arthur T. Vanderbilt,
Paths of Desire by Dominique Browning
Any of Henry Mitchell's books

Old Roses who’s blog is A Gardening Year, chimed in with these suggestions.

Tulipomania : The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused by Mike Dash
The American Gardener by William Cobbett
We Made A Garden by Margery Fish
An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter
Green Thoughts,
A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perenyi

John Curtin of Spade Work commented with this list…

Seeds of Change, Henry Hobhouse, (six plants that transformed mankind)
For Love of a Rose, Antonia Ridge (story of the creation of the Peace Rose at the end of WWII)Deep in the Green, Anne Raver (collection of her pieces appearing in New York Newsday and now The New York Times)

El, Fast Grow the Weeds, provided these suggestions:

At least 3 by Michael Pollan,
Anything by Wendell Berry,
The Secret Life of Plants from way back when.

In our virtual garden book club we have room for all, we won’t run out of food or coffee (because everyone provides their own refreshments) ,and you don’t have to worry about cleaning up the house for company if you happen to be the host of the month!

If you are a bit shy about coming up with a list of suggested books or want to wait until you see the list to decide if you want to “join”, that’s cool, too. You can join any time by posting your thoughts on whatever book-of-the-month we are all blogging about.

Oh, and if you have a list of suggested books on your blog that I’ve missed, let me know and I’ll visit to pick it up!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club Update

A quick update on the Garden Bloggers Book Club introduced yesterday in this post.

There is still plenty of time and plenty of room, so if you are interested, send a comment. I am currently collecting suggestions on books to read.

Any and all suggestions are welcome!

An Open Letter to My Lawn

Dear Lawn,

First let me say you know how proud I am of you. From the beginning of spring, you were the first lawn on the street to really green up and I was happy to bring out the lawn mower and give you a good cut. Remember how sharp the blade was back then, after I had it professionally sharpened?

Through most of the spring, I never minded that I had to mow you every 4 or 5 days, really I didn’t! We were exercising together, we were enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine. Even in the summer, because of the daylight savings time, I could mow later in the day and avoid all of that heat and we kept up our twice weekly time together. I even wrote a blog post about you, I was so happy and proud of how you looked.

And all summer, you never asked for extra water! You were content with whatever rain you got and never made me haul out all the hoses and sprinklers. Yes, there was that brief time in late August, early September where you really could have used some extra water, but you held on until the rains came again. I was so proud of you!

You still look great.

But I have to tell you, I am getting just a wee bit tired of all this mowing. Today, I had to mow you again, and I had just cut you on Sunday. That’s just two days! What is going on?

You knew you would get cut today, didn’t you? The sky was blue, the sun was shining, it was a perfect 72 degrees and you had grown so much in just two days. Then when I read that the weatherman thought it might start raining tomorrow, you knew you had me, that I would mow you.

I didn’t let you down, did I?

But, enough is enough. You need to start slowing down and put some more energy into your roots, and not the blades of grass. Really! It’s autumn now. I can’t keep up this schedule, I’ve got other things to do, other plants to tend to, garden chores that must be done before the snow flies. So, I wouldn’t mind, well I’d really like it, if you would at least slow down enough so I only have to mow you once a week until you are done around Thanksgiving.

Now, don’t be upset. I am proud of you, really I am, and I think you are by far the best lawn in the neighborhood, the envy of all. And I know you probably can't help yourself with this rain and cooler temperatures, which you so love. But, this winter, me and your lawn service guy are going to have a serious chat. I’m going to have to cut you back when it comes to the fertilizer. You’ve got to stop growing like this!

The one who mows you

Monday, September 25, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”. ~Cicero

Would anyone like to join me in a garden bloggers’ winter book club? I’ve read recently that a lot of garden bloggers, at least in the Northern hemisphere, are concerned they will run out of topics to write about this winter since they are not actively gardening outside. I think reading and sharing your thoughts on gardening related books may help you stay out of that topic rut!

(Okay, at this point in time, I can either suggest a club and get input on how it would work, or I’ll just say “I’m starting a garden bloggers’ book club, want to join, here’s how it works.)

Pause for me to think it through.

Okay, I’m starting a garden bloggers’ book club, who wants to join? I may get no one to join or one or a bunch to join. But, isn’t that how clubs start? Maybe just a few come along and then they invite a few and it gets going from there.

Here’s how it will work…

Via a post on your own gardening related blog, nominate one or more or a lot of gardening books that you have read and want to recommend to others to read, or that you plan to read this winter, and then add a comment to this post so I can find your list. My only suggestions on the books are to choose books still in print, written in English, and that are readily available either at a library or through a bookstore. Oh, and the book must relate to gardening in some form or fashion.

I’ll go through the recommendations, and determine the most often suggested books and add a post on my blog in a few weeks about the books that the online book club will read, and in which month. We'll go with most frequently suggested books. So, don’t worry that your list of books must be original. It should just be your list, what you want to read or recommend to others to read.

We also need a few garden bloggers to volunteer to be the “host” for a particular month. The host of the month will need to post an entry about the book on their blog at the beginning of the month to remind people which book to read. Then, sometime that month, each garden bloggers’ book club member should write their own post with their thoughts on the book and send a comment to the host to let them know about it. At the end of the month, the host will put together a post on their blog with a summary of the main thoughts from everyone with links back to the blogs of those who contributed.

And on it will go until spring when we will all be busy in the garden again and there will be no time to read and reflect on gardening books. At that point, maybe the Southern hemisphere can take over?

Should be easy, right? No dues, just read some books, write up a post about what you read, leave a comment for the host, and the host summarizes it all at the end of the month. Then we all comment on the final summary. And just like a real book club, if you aren’t interested in a particular book or don’t read the book, that’s fine, you can still “attend” by reading all the book posts of others and adding your own comments.

Another suggestion… to keep track of which blog posts relate to the book club, start the title with “Garden Bloggers’ Book Club”. (I googled “Garden Bloggers’ Book Club and got no related hits, so I don’t think this club exists, but if I am tromping on someone else’s idea, let me know.)

In case it is confusing, I’ll host the first month and work out the logistical issues that might come up. I’ll also add some info on my sidebar for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club related posts on my blog.

Here’s my list of books to start us off.

Mrs. Whaley and her Charleston Garden by Emily Whaley
The Old Farmer’s 2007 Almanac
Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perenyi
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis
One Man’s Garden by Henry Mitchell

So, if you would like to participate, send a comment to this post to let me know you are “joining” and also indicate if you are want to host a future month. Then put a post on your blog with your list of books and send me a comment when your list is ready. We’ll read the first book in November.

Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?” ~Frank Scully

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Be Not Afraid...

I sometimes find that some gardeners, especially newer gardeners, are a wee bit skittish about cutting back plants, lest they kill them.

In some cases, you do want to get rid of the plant, as in the case of these perennial sweet peas, Lathyrus latifolius, which I cut back to the ground on September 11th, less then two weeks ago. Look now at all that lovely new growth!

See, don't be afraid to cut plants back. Of course, do a little research to be sure it is a plant that can be cut back, and then if it is, do so. Do so like you mean it. No little trimmings and a nip here or there with your pruners. Be deliberate, be brave, be liberal in your cutting back. Many plants will come back after pruning with more vigor than you can imagine.

So, I guess I should not have been surprised to see these perennial sweet peas sprout back like this. Clearly, these sweet peas have not gotten the message that I am so sorry but they can't stay where I had them, they must go. The message they seem to have gotten from my cutting them back was "let's come back and make a go of it, strong than ever". It's a matter of survival for them. By pruning them back, I triggered all kinds of physiological changes in the plant, releases of different plant hormones, etc. that caused this to happen.

So I will need to resort to other means to get rid of these sweet peas. I can try to dig them out, but instead I will probably spray them with Perfectly Natural Weed and Grass Killer. Hopefully that will do the job on these perennial sweet peas.

Oh, I hate to think I am deliberately killing something called 'sweet', but dog gone it, it's not so sweet when it is all over the other plants in that particular spot. I promise, if the rain ever stops so the ground can dry out a little, and I can dig my new border, I will find a place for perennial sweet peas, because they are a wonderful addition to a garden. I promise!

Two answers to questions that might be asked:

I purchased the Perfectly Natural Weed and Grass Killer at WalMart. When I saw how well it worked, I went back and stocked up, because I knew by mid-July they would start stocking their "seasonal area" with Christmas merchandise, and stop carrying this. I refuse to call the "seasonal area" a "garden center" and I'm not going to admit that I look through there on occasion.

There are many good books on perennials and how to cut them back and manage them. One of the best I've found is The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques by Tracy DiSabato-Aust. I have an earlier edition and refer to it often. This newer edition would make a wonderful Christmas present for moi!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Three Varieties of Autumn Joy

Autumn Joy Sedum "Frosty Morn"

Autumn Joy Sedum, Passalong Plant Number 1

Autumn Joy Sedum, Passalong Plant Number 2

I have three different colors of Autumn Joy Sedum working in the garden right now. It's a good thing because a lot of other flowers and plants are starting to 'check out' for the season, their best days clearly behind them. I still have several flowers coming on including some mums and asters and toad lilies. I can't wait to see the little toad lilies.

And did I mention the trees? They still have lots of green leaves, but I'm seeing some hints of red, yellow, and orange starting to peek through.
Summer has just a few hours left and then we officially let Autumn show us what she can do with a garden.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Victorian Trimmings - The Garden Lady's House

I actually know where there is a garden that was featured in Country Gardens magazine, Fall 2003 edition.

So, if anyone thinks that those gardens are faked or staged, I can safely say that at least one of them actually exists. And in person, it is an impressive garden, even though I know that they probably did move around some of the garden ornaments, etc. to make some of the pictures just a little bit better.

The house and garden are in Crown Point, Indiana, about 165 miles north of me. I had to drive up there for work today and realized I would just be a few blocks from what I call "the garden lady's house" and so I made my co-worker traveling with me take a little detour to see the garden. It is on a corner lot, so you can see into the back yard as you drive by.

Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me, so I can only provide a picture of a fence that is typical of the fence in that garden, but not the actual fence. (Just setting the mood!)

I also can't seem to provide an Internet link to the article, "Victorian Trimmings" , but if you have the back issue of the magazine, the article and pictures start on page 76. Per the article, the owners are Christie and Garry Knesek who also have an antique shop in Crown Point called Old Green Shutters Antiques. Oh, and the 1st sentence of the article starts out "we had no plan whatsoever..."

I remember the first time I saw this garden, it was probably 5 0r so years ago and I was also traveling for work. We had taken a different route that time, and it took us by this house. I almost screamed 'stop the car' when I first saw the house and gardens, maybe I actually did. I know I wanted to jump out of the car and go talk to whoever was the gardener, but decided to stay 'on the job'.

Now, whenever I go to Crown Point, I always try to talk whichever co-worker I am with in to taking a slight detour to see this lovely, inspiring, Victorian style garden. It's just as nice as how it looks in the magazine, if not better!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

R-e-s-p-e-c-t and Rare Plants

Home gardeners are getting some respect! I read an article in the Wall Street Journal today entitled “Coming to Your Backyard: A Nearly Extinct Tree”.

The main point of the article is that that there is a movement to preserve rare plants by encouraging gardeners to grow them at home. Included in rare plants are heirloom plants that have nearly disappeared as gardeners switched to new hybrids and plants that are threatened in the wild due to land development or other changes in their environment.

The article went on to point out that by selling rare and heirloom plants, it discourages rogue plant hunters from harvesting these plants in the wild and it raises funds to help in conservation efforts. Typically, these types of plants are found in botanical gardens and nature preserves, but by extending their range into the home garden, if something happens to the plants in the wild, there is potentially another source for the plants. And that source could by your own back yard!

One of the new rare plants just being offered for sale is the Wollemi Pine, Wollemia nobilis, which is now for sale in the United States via The National Geographic Society. I was very intrigued, then found out that this plant is only hardy to 23 degrees, so I would have to grow it indoors with bright light. Shoot. I put a moratorium on buying new indoor plants because I am still battling a bit of a mealybug problem indoors. I certainly would not want to purchase a rare plant and then find it was all infested after a few days!

But, still, I am intrigued, and am going to need to do some research to see if there is a rare plant I can grow in my zone 5 garden, outdoors.

In the meantime, I’ve included a picture of my moth orchid (Phalaenopsis sp.) above, which has been blooming for about 10 weeks. It is not rare, and it isn’t unusual for these blooms to last that long. But, I’m showing it because it doesn’t seem to have mealybugs and I bet there are a lot of orchid gardeners who have or covet rare orchids for their gardens.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Orange Orb

A pumpkin peeking through the leaves. I love the color of this pumpkin. Now that's orange!

These pumpkins are also in my youngest sister's back yard. It's a 'giant' variety, but not the Atlantic Giant variety that produces those monstrous recording breaking pumpkins. Those pumpkins need acreage to allow the vines to grow and support over 1,000 pounds of pumpkin. And generally, I think those who are serious about going for a record, allow just one pumpkin to grow on a vine. The current record is 1,469 pounds. Will there be a 1,500 pound pumpkin this year?

I think it takes some real devotion and concentration to grow a giant record-breaking pumpkin. I admire gardeners who can have a singular focus like that, who are willing to do all that it takes to even get close to a record. They coddle their pumpkin all through the season. They walk the pumpkin patch to remove any competing fruit, to handpick any insects that dare attempt to attack, to make sure that all conditions are as perfect as they can make them to allow that pumpkin to grow so large.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Start of the Big Show

It's time for the next big show of the garden. The last hurrah, a final and hopefully, long curtain call before the very, very end.

Yesterday, our high temperature was 83. Today, our high was around 70, which was the temperature at 6:00 AM and then it went down from there as a cold front moved through and brought more rain. If we are to believe the 10 day forecast, we will not see temperatures above 70 until mid-next week. Time for a jacket!

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves, there are still at least 6 or so good weeks ahead before it gets really cold. And in this next 6 weeks, we are going to see some amazing colors, like the color of this aster pictured here.

For most of the spring and summer, asters are just one of those plants that is straggling and weedy, and I wonder why I put up with it. Not only does it not look all that great, it self sows itself pretty well.

But then as other plants begin to fade, ta-da, these lovely purple asters start to bloom. I've heard them referred to as Michaelmas Daisies because they generally reach their peak bloom around September 29th, which is Michaelmas or the Feast of St. Michael. And these blooms will soon be covered with all kinds of butterflies. It's an amazing display.

This is probably Aster novi-belgii. It's also a passalong plant that I got from my aunt, who said she got it from my dad, but I don't remember him growing these. I've hauled starts of this plant around to three different houses now, and I know two of my sisters have it in their gardens. (This picture, by the way, is actually from my younger sister's garden, not mine.)

This is just the start of the end, a whole new season to enjoy.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

New Flower Bed

I have a post lamp in my front yard which up until Saturday was in the grass by the front walk, with nothing around it. Not any more, now it is surrounded by a little flower bed. Here’s how I made my little flower bed…

First, I removed all the sod. That’s the first picture. I actually started Friday night about an hour before it got dark, but didn’t have the presence of mind to take a ‘before’ picture showing the lamp post in the grass.

To dig the sod up, I used a half moon edging shovel to slice through the sod I planned to cut out, sort of like how you would pre-cut a pan of brownies. Then using my Japanese hand-digging hoe, I got down on my hands and knees and dug out the sod, a section at a time. I am grateful I can still get down on my hands and knees, and more importantly, get back up. I only use this method for removing sod from small beds. If am going to create a big flower bed, I use a roto-tiller to break through all the sod.

Underneath the sod, I found some very nice top soil, so I didn’t have to do anything to amend the soil. The reason there was good top soil there, and not a bunch clay and rocks, is because when my builder said 9 years ago “I’m going to have to bring in some fill dirt”, I asked him what he meant by “fill dirt”. Turns out he meant the stuff that gets dug up when someone digs a basement. Uh, no, we couldn’t have that! I could just imagine how horrible that would be to dig in. So, I told him to skip the “fill dirt” and bring in some top soil, and I explained what I meant by “top soil”. And thus it came to be that I have some nice top soil to plant in.

So, once I had removed the sod, and lightly hoed up the ground, I edged my new bed with some “cobble stone” pavers which I had left over from other projects. I have used this same type of paver as an edging along most of my shrub borders and flower beds. The 2nd picture shows the new bed all edged up.

Finally, I got to do some planting. The fun part! I decided that I would not plant anything too permanent in this bed, to allow me an opportunity to put more “seasonal” plantings there, so I planted some Dendranthema grandiflorum (formerly known as Chrysanthemum) that I bought on Friday. I had purchased two nice big pots of these mums on a whim because they were only $2.99, and each pot had four plants in it. By dividing them up before I planted them, I ended up getting 8 plants for the price of 2! For six dollars! (When you get something that cheap, don’t you feel like you should say “six bucks!”)?

Yes, I know that mums are perennials, and technically, I should consider them ‘permanent’, but I may move them out later to make room for some tulip bulbs. And yes, I know technically tulips are ‘permanent’ too, but around here, they aren’t too reliable in coming back each year, so some people treat them as annuals.

Then after I mulched the entire bed, I gathered up 3 containers of plants from the back patio and set them around the post, along with a little statue of St. Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners. The largest pot, which has a purple-leaved sweet potato vine in it, along with some Cleome ‘Linde Armstrong’ (which is beyond its peak) helped to provide some height next to the lamp post. I thought the container of light green sedum provided a nice contrast to the purple leaves of the sweet potato vine. And the other container, which is partially hidden behind the sweet potato vine container, has some low, spreading coleus in it.

I think I’m all done with my little flower bed, at least for now, except I may add some pansies, if I find some I like, and maybe later I’ll add a pumpkin or two for fall decoration. Altogether, between Friday night and Saturday morning, I think it took me about 4 hours to create this little flower bed.

Now, I just need to figure out what to do with those spirea, Spirea bumalda ‘Lime Mound’, on the right, that are crowding out the sidewalk.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Sound of Water and A Secret Garden

"They", whoever they are, say that no garden is complete without a water feature or the sound of water.

On my front porch, I have the sound of water coming from this little fountain, which I purchased and installed earlier this spring. I have indeed enjoyed the bubbling sound of the water as I sit on the front porch in the evenings.

From the front porch I look out into this little planted area, which right now looks like a bit of a mess. It is a little triangular garden space with a brick wall on the east side, the front porch on the north side, and then a curved sidewalk leading from the driveway up to the front steps on the south/west sides. So, it gets primarily afternoon sun, though it is more shady now because of the large crabapple tree in the center of it.

I made one design flaw (just one?) when I planted this, and that is that I lined the sidewalk leading from the drive way up to the front porch with Spirea bumalda 'Lime Mound'. I like the lighter color of the foliage, which looks nice with the dark brick of my house. However, all lined up like that along the sidewalk, they look kind of dumb. However, they do hide what is inside this little planting bed when you are just walking by on the sidewalk, making it somewhat of a 'secret garden' best viewed from the porch.

I need to make a decision on the spirea to either take some of them out, cut them back by half to rejuvenate them a bit and control the size, or live with them 'as is' a while longer. They are 9 years old and "as advertised" do get to 2 - 3', more like 3'. I do trim them up a bit after their first big bloom of the season, and then they look like little balls of hacked up shrub for awhile, and then they come out of it and look pretty nice and rebloom, as they are doing now. Hmmm, I'm sure talking a lot about a plant that you can't really see in this picture. I'll have to take a picture later and show you 'the big design flaw' and maybe get some suggestions on what to do about it.

(Remember, I never claimed to be good at garden design, I am in it for the plants. However, I do want my gardens to look nice, and well-designed, regardless!)

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Picture

I decided to add a little picture to go with my blogger profile. I chose this one because it made me laugh. Other than I also mow my own lawn, this woman bears no resemblance to me, or my lawn mower. None whatsoever.

I found it on a seed catalog cover shown on this website about seed catalogs. The catalog was from 1910. You don't suppose women really wore white dresses with long sleeves to go out and mow the lawn in 1910, do you? Or were they just trying to make the cover of the seed catalog more attractive?


Look who took a little ride on my shoulder into the house. A young, little praying mantis. I'm sure she didn't want to be inside, once she got inside, so I scooped her up and put her back outside, where she belongs. There are still some aphids for her to eat out there.

Insects... another part of gardening. You have to learn to love them (well not love them, but respect them at least) and get along with them, especially, it seems, during this time of year.

Because if you jump and scream every time you see a little insect, you won't have much time to do the actual gardening. After all, bugs out number us, by a lot For every 1 pound of humans, there are 70 pounds of insects on this earth, according to this author.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Zone Busting Mimosa Style

This is the last of the bloom on a Mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin, which is hardy in zones 6 – 9.

No, I did not take a notion to leave town when the rain arrived and go south for a few days, find this tree and take pictures of it. This tree is actually in a yard around the corner from where my mom and sister live, in zone 5. I also drive by one every day on my way to work, also in zone 5

So, what’s up with these Mimosa trees? Are they hardy in zone 5? The answer is not really, but sometimes you can get one or more to make a go of it, especially if they are in a protected area or a microclimate that is even a few degrees warmer than other surrounding areas. These particular mimosas have been in this yard for several years, but I would guess they are not more than 10 or so feet high, and might be more appropriately described as large shrubs rather than trees. I think they occasionally do suffer some die back after particularly cold winters. We are probably fortunate that the tree isn’t all that vigorous here, as they are known to be a bit weedy and invasive in their own zones.

My dad was always trying to grow trees that were not known to be hardy in zone 5. Yes, he did try to grow a mimosa tree, digging one up from his parent’s zone 6a yard, where I assume they were a bit weedy and invasive, thus there were some to dig up. I think it only lived a year or two before dying back completely after one particularly cold winter.

His biggest success with an out of zone tree was actually with a Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, which is only hardy to zone 7. The tree eventually died, and never got quite as big as they grow them “down south”, but it did reach about 10 feet and managed to even flower before succumbing to a typical Indiana winter. I know where someone else is growing one, as well, which I drive by a couple of times a week, so he wasn’t the only one trying some “zone busting” in the garden. In fact, they are even trying to breed a Southern Magnolia that will be hardy up into zone 5. That’s what I would get, if I were going to get one.

My older sister has the "zone busting" disease. She has a crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia sp., that they bought while on vacation and she is trying to grow it in zone 5. Normally, you don't see them north of zone 6b, if even that far north. In her garden, I think the poor little myrtle has not gotten more than about 2 feet tall, even after several years.

Any one else having success with “zone busting” (that doesn’t involve hauling potted plants inside during the winter)?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On Preserving, Freezing, and Canning

I am feeling smug and happy to have some peppers put away for winter stews, chili, and casseroles. I must have spent all of an hour or so cutting up and freezing about 20 bell peppers, a dozen Anaheim peppers, and a couple of dozen jalapeno peppers. And look at my cherry tomatoes pictured here, still putting out the blooms, which hopefully means I’ll be harvesting a few of these every day until frost hits them.

I am mostly a “harvest and eat it all right away” kind of gardener, planting just enough, but not too much, so that I won’t feel like I need to do a lot of canning and freezing to keep the produce from going to waste. Actually, I’ve never really canned anything myself. I’ve been around when my mom did a little bit of canning, but otherwise, I’ve not experienced much of it. What would my grandmother say about that? I'd think she would have quite a bit to say about it. Here is what she wrote regarding their gardening and canning in the 1930’s on a farm in southern Indiana:

“We always had a big garden and would can lots of vegetables. The boys would pick lots of blackberries and some years we would can up to 400 quarts. We always canned around 225 to 250 quarters of peaches as Carl had an uncle… who had a big orchard. We would go down and pick about 10 to 12 bushels of peaches. Next day my Mom and Dad would come out to the farm to help. Everyone would sit on the front porch. The younger boys would sort and wash peaches; older boys would use a peach peeler. One would push the peach onto 3 prongs to hold it, the other would turn a crank and a knife revolving at a faster speed would peel the peach in about 2 seconds. My Mom and Dad and Grandpa would cut peaches in halves to remove the seed and cut off any spots. Loretta (their hired girl) and I would take the peaches and cook in an open kettle about 15 minutes and can and it was a continuous process. By evening we would have about 125 to 150 quarts canned and lined up on the cupboards. It usually took two days to can 200 to 250 quarts. We gave Mom and Dad part of them.

Later when it was time to freeze corn in summer to put in the locker in Dale (Indiana), my father’s sister, Aunt Margaret from Cincinnati, would always plan her visit so she could be there to help cut off corn. Again Mom and Dad, Grandpa, and all the boys would each have their certain job to do and we would freeze about 50 to 60 quarts in a day. We canned fruits, vegetables, pickles, jellies, etc. all summer, then when winter came, we canned meats both pork and beef to last all summer so during a year we usually canned 2,500 quarts.

We baked bread twice a week, then rolls, coffee cakes on Saturday. On Friday, we always baked several cakes. All this on the old coal stove which really heated up the kitchen and whole house in summer.

I never will forget around 1935, one day Carl brought home a can of food from the store. I thought it was almost a disgrace to buy canned food. That was a sign of a lazy housewife. I took the empty can way over in a field and buried it so no one would see it around my house.”

Written by Grandma M, 1982

Okay, I don’t feel so smug any more. I feel tired, and grateful that there is no shame in buying canned food any more. 2,500 quarts of food from the garden and farm every year!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Locally Grown = Good Daisies

I am very happy with my locally grown Gerber Daisies (Gerbera sp.). They’ve performed very well in two locations, on my patio (shown) and by the front steps. Both locations are in full sun, and the containers I put them in were a bit on the small size, so I would guess during the hottest days of the summer, they got a little dry before I could get home to water them.

They are still going strong as you can see from these two pictures taken today. I expect they will continue blooming until frost.

I have had Gerber Daisies before, but this is the best I’ve had. The difference? Maybe it is in the plants themselves and the care and selection of them before I bought them? I did not purchase these from a big box store. I bought these at a local greenhouse operated by a local farmer’s wife (S & K Produce? I’m never quite sure of the name, but it is east of Greenwood) and a near downtown greenhouse called Cit E Scapes, just south of downtown Indianapolis.

Yes, I bought Gerber Daisies at both places because they looked so nice I could not resist! I know there are other gardeners like me, who would have done the same thing. The fact that you already have "one of those" does not mean you can't buy another one and maybe one more, especially when you are buying plants in the spring for containers, and if you end up with too many plants, you just go get more containers! There really is no limit, right? As if it is even possible to have too many plants! Right?!

The tag with the daises I bought at Cit E Scapes indicated the plants were locally grown by K & B Greenhouse. I’ve included the tag below so you can see that “their Hoosier roots run deep” and "their plants love the Indiana climate". I would love to thank them and let them know how well these daisies did, but alas, my search on the Internet came up rather empty. So, to whoever they are, thanks for a great daisy!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Pepper Day and Good Bye Sweet Peas

I harvested this basketful of peppers this morning but will refrain from saying “Carol picked a peck of peppers” or anything along those lines. I will cut most of these up and freeze them for use in chili and casseroles later this winter. If I don’t, I will kick myself when I have to pay 99 cents for a green pepper at the grocery store this winter. The varieties include Jalapeno M, Sweet Banana, Anaheim, Valencia, California Wonder and Golden Summer.

I don’t mind freezing them because honestly, I don’t really like raw peppers, but I do like them as an ingredient in cooked dishes.
I also picked a half dozen tomatoes and a bunch of cherry tomatoes, but they weren’t as photogenic as the peppers. There are a lot of green tomatoes hanging on, so if it stays warm and the tomato plants don’t go kaput, I should have some tomatoes all the way up until the first frost. The tomato plants look very, very sad right now, with lots of brown leaves and the weight of all the green tomatoes is pulling down the stakes.

Today, by the way, is the 1st day of my “fall vacation” and I am planning to spend much of the week working in the garden. Today, under threat of rain most of the day, I cleaned up a good part of the perennial flower beds, and filled up 3 super sized trash bags with all the refuse. Remember, my compost bins are full, and besides, a lot of one bag is full of perennial sweet pea vines and seed pods which I do not want to compost, because the seeds would probably survive and sprout wherever I used that compost.

Yes, I decided that I was nuts to plant the perennial sweet peas where I had them, and so I began the 1st step of rooting it all out today. I will have to be vigilant in pulling up the seedlings that will sprout next spring, and I still need to dig up the “mother plant”, but I am well on my way to not having perennial sweet peas.

By the way, we did get about a quarter inch of rain last night, which was just enough to soften up the soil and make it easier for me to weed. For awhile I was weeding without gloves, but then I ran into a grass that had sharp razor like blades, so I was a good girl after that and wore gloves. I wish I knew the name of that grass, but I don’t. I just know (now) to be careful weeding it bare handed.

I also mowed the grass, again under threat of rain, and it did start to rain just as I finished, but that little bit of rain is over, and I’m waiting for the next round. We are supposed to get up to 3 inches of rain, and I hope we get about one-third of that. That would make things just about right by the end of the week, so I can do some more digging.

I do think on this 5th anniversary of 9/11, it was fitting that it was mostly overcast most of the day. I've seen several garden blogs with thoughts and reflections, here is one from a gardener who works near ground zero.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Apple Harvest

I ate my entire apple harvest this weekend.

On Saturday, I checked the two apples remaining on my little tree, and when I gently lifted one up to see if it was ready to harvest, it came off in my hand. That was my clue, I guess, that it was ready.

I took it inside, washed it, polished it, and sliced it up. I liked it. It was crisp and a bit tangy without being sour. I decided right then that I would not get rid of my tree, as I had thought about doing. The tag on the tree said it was a Red Delicious, which I don’t really like all that much, but I think it is more likely a McIntosh, so I’m keeping my tree.

On Sunday, I harvested the second apple, or actually, it harvested itself. When I went out to the garden, I found it on the ground, so I ate it, too.

That’s it, the entire harvest, eaten in one weekend. I guess I won’t be figuring out how well this particular variety of apple holds up in storage, at least not this year. I still may get a couple more dwarf apple trees, either this fall or this spring, but if I do, I’ll probably mail order them so I have more choices.

The picture of the apple isn’t all that flattering. Trust me, after I cleaned it up, it looked quite nice. I never sprayed the tree, so the apples did have a few spots on them. But that didn’t affect the flavor. A lot of people don't want to grow apples, because they think they have to spray them all the time. Not so, if you are willing to accept some imperfections.

Good Day in the Garden

Come sit with me on the patio, have an iced green tea and I’ll tell you about my good day in the garden.

First, I started out on the back patio. I weeded out a bunch of prostrate spurge, sedum and a few black-eyed susans that were growing up through the cracks in the paving bricks. I don’t know what the species is of this particular sedum that likes to grow up in the cracks all over the patio, but it is the one I featured in this blog article. I’m not too fussy about the patio and allow thyme and the sedum to grow up through the cracks most of the summer, but by fall ‘enough is enough’, and there are also weeds, so I have to clean it all up.

I also cleaned up and put away a few pots that I had shoved over to a corner this spring when I ran out of stuff to plant, and potted up some coleus that I am hoping to grow as topiaries, if they over winter okay in my sun room. Then to finish off the patio clean up, I hosed the whole area down.

While I was working in that area, I also weeded and tidied up my miniature hosta garden. I’ve got a few issues there with slugs or grasshoppers eating on a few of the plants. When a plant is miniature to begin with, something eating on it can devour it very quickly. This picture is of Hosta ‘Pandora’s Box’ which is flowering now.

Then, I cleaned up the front porch, and rearranged some of the containers. I threw out some impatiens that just sat there and did nothing all summer. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I’ve had problems before with impatiens and the common denominator seems to be where I bought the plants. (It couldn’t be me, right?) So, I’ve made a mental note to skip that particular nursery next year when I make my buying rounds.

I also cleaned up a little side bed between me and my neighbor that contains some hostas, daylilies, and a few other perennials and mulched it with cocoa bean hulls. The smell was delicious and for some reason I craved a chocolate bar when I was done.

Then to wrap up the day, I trimmed back the English Ivy. Remember it? It’s the same ivy I tried to get rid of last spring and posted about here and again here. I never did get rid of all of it. I believe that I will always have it in that bed, unless I decide to totally tear out all the shrubs that are there and basically start over. However, as a result of my radical pruning in the spring, the ivy actually doesn’t look too bad right now. I trimmed out another 2 bags full of it today which I’ll put out with the trash later this week. I won’t ever put it in the compost bins, because it could easily take root back there and then I’ll have a whole new “situation” to deal with. My advice today is don’t plant English ivy (Hedera helix) unless you are ready to commit to it forever. F-o-r-e-v-e-r.

Well, thanks for stopping by. Oh, one last thing. We need some rain! If it doesn’t start raining by sometime tomorrow, I’ll be pulling out all the sprinklers for the 1st time this season and giving everything a good soaking.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hoosier Gardeners?

I read Annie in Austin's latest blog entry and she lists about 9 different web sites/blogs that are for, about or written by Austin, Texas gardeners. I would have a hard time coming up with even half that many Hoosier gardening related blogs.

So, where are all the Indiana gardeners? I know I'm not the only one, there are a few others out there. How about some from Indianapolis? I recall one other blog from a gardener in Indianapolis, but I lost the url for it.

In case you don't know what a Hoosier is, it is what we call people from Indiana. I don't mind being called a Hoosier, just don't call me an Indiana Hoosier. That would imply that I'm a supporter of Indiana University, and I am not. I am a supportor of Purdue University, where we call ourselves boilermakers. Big difference, there!

Anyway, where are the Indianapolis or Indiana garden bloggers? If you are one of them, send me a comment and I'll compile a list. I know there are some out there!

Garden Clean Up - I Need a New Toy, I Mean Tool

I started some garden clean up this morning. This is a before picture. Over the last few weeks, as summer wound down, I have not been as active in the garden, so some of the weeds took advantage of that to grow a lot. It looks like a mess, but taking it one raised bed at a time, I was able to do a pretty good job of clean up in just a few hours this mornng.
This is a picture aftewards. It may not look that different, but I cleaned up beans, cucumber vines, zucchini and corn, which were clearly done this season. I left the peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and flowers.
I filled up the compost bins, so didn't have room for the corn stalks. I'm still thinking I may try to tie these stalks into a nice bundle to use as decoration on the front porch, along with a pumpkin or two (which I'll need to get from my sister hopefully), and maybe some mums or asters.
You can see that the compost bins are quite full now. Big weeds and lush bean plants will do that. Some years, I dig long trenches in the garden beds and bury some of the stuff I'd normally put in the compost bins. But, I miss out on a lot of good compost that way. So, I've just about convinced myself that I need a chipper shredder like this one. Wouldn't that be a nice garden toy, I mean tool, to have? Sure it would! I had a gas powered one but it was heavy, loud, and hard for me to start, so I sold it to my sister (with full disclosure!) This electric one looks like just exactly what I need!

Friday, September 08, 2006

More on Name Changes

For more information on botanical name changes, check out this article from Kew Gardens. You have to read an article that includes a sentence like: "There are even whisperings of threats to lump Mahonia into Berberis.

In this article, they note that Chrysanthemum was changed to Dendranthema. Are we to be without that crown jewel of the fall garden, mums? What should we call them? Emas?

Apparently not. According to this article, "they" restored the "florist's chrysanthemum" to the genus Chrysanthemum, because it was "economically important". What does that mean? Does that include regular garden mums?

Oh, bother.

I'm sticking with "mums", regardless of what they change the botanical name to, because a mum is a mum.

I've got a few mums blooming now; they actually started blooming a month or so ago. That's because I didn't trim them back around Memorial Day to make them bush out a little more before they set flower buds. I've included a picture of one above. I bought it from a co-worker who's daughter was selling them for a school fundraiser several years ago. Oddly enough, when someone's kid is selling plants or anything gardening related for a fundraiser, their parent always makes a beeline straight to my office.

I also have some starts of a mum I got from my aunt this spring. She got them from my grandmother, who wrote all the diaries. I am growing them in pots on the back patio and will plant them out soon, and maybe share some with my sisters.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

On the Alert for Name Changes

I have noticed some changes in botanical names over the years, but apparently didn’t get the announcements, so I am just discovering them along the way.

I think most gardeners figure out at some point that there is value in learning a plant’s botanical name because knowing that helps to ensure positive plant id, anywhere in the world. Even though some gardeners don't like botanical names and proclaim them pretentious, they know, deep down that there is value to them and it is worth learning them.

To make sure that a plant has only one official botanical name, there is actually an International Code of Botanical Nomenclature that can only be changed by the International Botanical Congress. And, to make sure they don’t rush into any botanical name changes, they only meet once every 6 years and require a 60% or greater majority to make a name change.

One of the changes I’ve noticed is with whole plant family’s name. When I first studied some plant taxonomy, we learned about the Pea Family, Leguminosae. You know, “the legumes”. Lovely family, pretty flowers, nice trees, flavorable beans, peanuts, nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots? What’s not to like? Well, apparently the name of the family was not to like. I got a new botany book this summer and discovered that this family has been renamed to Fabaceae! Now, I don’t normally go around to garden centers to ask “do you have any plants in the Leguminosae family for sale?”, so I think I can live with this change. The picture above is of my redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) with lots of seeds, and they look like flat pea pods, because it is a member of the Legum… excuse me... Fabaceae family. I put a picture below of this tree flowering in the spring. The flowers have that characteristic look of all flowers of the pea family.

Some name changes are probably for the better, like the botanical name for Sweet Autumn Clematis. It’s blooming all over right now, though I don’t have any in my garden. I generally see it in older gardens draped over other large shrubs or growing on a fence. I first learned it as Clematis maximowicziana, in a class where spelling counted. Ouch, that took some time to learn! Now, it is Clematis ternifolia. That I can learn to spell in a snap! Good name change.

And then some plant names get changed because, well, no one wants them in their family, I guess. Poison ivy used to be included in the Rhus genus, but it and some of its kind, like poison oak and poison sumac, were put in their own genus, Toxicodendron. Sometimes, you just can’t reform members of the family, so I guess the best thing to do is dis-inherit them and move on. There are some nice plants in the Rhus genus, mostly the sumacs, and now they don’t have to be associated with their bad cousins.

Any other botanical name changes I should know about, IBC?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Are You Ready for Some... Gardening?

Are you ready for some… gardening? How about fantasy gardening?

I read an article in the Indianapolis Star about how 37 million people will spend time each week during the football season managing their fantasy football teams. These millions of people form fantasy leagues, hold mock drafts to pick their players from the rosters of real NFL teams, and then each week use the real players’ statistics to figure out how their “teams” did.

So, if they can play fantasy sports team manager, how about gardeners playing fantasy gardener?

Gardeners could band together in fantasy garden clubs and pick their vegetable and flower seeds from a list of seeds provided by a fantasy garden program yet to be written. Then the gardeners can fantasy plant, fertilize, prune, harvest, basically “do” all the things they do in real gardening, but do it ‘virtually’ online, without getting dirty.

The fantasy gardening program would cause good or bad random events to occur and then figure out the impact (good or bad) and help tally up the harvest to see who manages to get the most out of their garden.

Random events could be hailstorms, insect infestations, droughts, rain, heat, frost, etc. As in the real world where we look at weather forecasts to try to figure out what is going to happen, in fantasy gardening some fantasy (and horror) weather forecasts would be provided in advance to give the gardeners a chance to decide if they need to virtually cover plants, provide supplemental watering, fertilize, harvest early, etc.

I did find a gardening video game, Plantasia, but that looks like a solitary, one person game. I’m talking about forming fantasy garden clubs to do fantasy gardening through a whole off season (November – February), competing with other gardeners for biggest pumpkin, earliest tomato, and all of that. And to make it really interesting, no one gets to fantasy garden in the hardiness zone in which they currently live. The program would assign you to another zone, so we can all learn to be a bit more sympathetic to the "zonal plights" of other gardeners.

Yes, there would be some aspects of fantasy gardening that we can’t overcome with any amount of programming. We won’t have any real vegetables to eat or flowers to smell. We won’t really get dirt under our fingernails, or enjoy the sun on our backs or gain the benefits of exercise from gardening. But, the fact that people who have fantasy football teams don’t really actually win games doesn’t stop them!

Who’s in? Sign up for your fantasy garden club today!

(After I wrote all of this, I decided to make sure I hadn't thought up someone else's idea, so I did a quick online search for "fantasy gardening". Sure enough, I got a hit, check it out here. It's not quite as elaborate as a full season of fantasy gardening, but it might be a start. )

(The picture above is slices from the tomato I featured yesterday. No fantasy tomato there. That’s a dinner plate full from one real tomato! Yum, it was very good on my BLT.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

One More Tomato Story

Just when I was starting to think about shutting down the vegetable garden and clearing out some of the raised beds that are clearly not going to give me more produce this year, I find this big beauty waiting for me.

Yes, there are some raised beds that are “done” and I’ll start clearing those out next week, but the tomato plants are still giving me some nice tomatoes.

Pause for a side note:

Okay, the next part of this blog may convince you that I am clearly over the edge with gardening, and maybe there was truth in this blog entry about rituals of the first tomato. I assure you, in that posting, I really was just making fun of myself and other gardeners and the fuss we sometimes make when we harvest the first real tomato out of the garden each year, as though we’ve never seen a tomato before. I don’t really do all that stuff… it’s a made up story… I repeat, a MADE UP STORY.

Continue discussion about my big tomato:

I will confess that with this big tomato, which I feel like I have waited all summer for, I did measure the circumference around the biggest part. Any guess? How about 16 inches? Yep, 16 inches around. According to the Guinness World Records, the smallest waist on a living adult is 15 inches. My tomato is bigger than this woman’s waist!

I also weighed my tomato. I don’t have any kitchen scales, so I tried to weigh it on my electronic bathroom scales and it didn’t register. So I did the only logical thing. I weighed myself. Then weighed myself holding the tomato. Any guesses on the weight. NO, not my weight, the weight of the tomato! How about a least a pound? Yep, I weighed a pound heavier holding the tomato.

The variety… Super Beefsteak, of course. How else would you get such a fine, big slicing tomato?

And what shall I do with this tomato? Make the perfect Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich. Okay it won’t be perfect, I’ll have to make some modifications to reduce the fat… turkey bacon, low-fat mayo. Plus I don’t bake so I’ll have store bought bread, and I don’t have any fresh lettuce from the garden, so I’ll have to use store bought lettuce. But the tomato slice, THAT will be Perfect.

Devil's Tongue

Cactus in my midwestern zone 5 garden. This is a prickly pear cactus, probably Opuntia humifusa or something close to that. These pictures are from when it was blooming in June. I did some research on it, and found out that one of it's common names is "Devil's Tongue". I can believe that for a name. Another common name is "Prickly Pear" cactus

A guy at work gave me this plant about 8 or 9 years ago. He said he always used pliers to handle it and he had some growing near his swimming pool. I can't believe he had it near where people might walk or step in their bare feet!

I once tried to handle it with thick leather garden gloves and the little pricklies all came through the gloves and into my hands. I tried to wash those gloves and could not get the pricklies out of them, so I had to toss them out. And I was picking those pricklies out of my hands for days. Another time, I was trimming some nearby lilacs and accidently backed into the cactus "just barely" and ended up with some pricklies in my ankle, through my socks. Ouch!

I planted these cactus in a little spot up by the side of the house where I am pretty sure no one will walk through them or touch them. I treat this is a "novelty plant" in my garden, just to surprise people and to show that cactus grows in more places than the desert.

Someone could also use this plant as the center piece of a theme garden planted with all types of plants that have the common name of Devil-something-or-other. (There's a future research project... to compile a list of such plants for such a garden.) I'm sure it would be an interesting garden of thorny and dangerous looking plants, because those are the type that generally end up with common names that include the word "devil".

I've also never seen this cactus at a garden center. I guess you just have to know someone who has some to get a start of it. Without too much effort, I've kept this contained to this one spot, and so at least for me, it is not invasive. But, when I originally posted this picture, I got this comment from a reader (Alice) in Australia:

"'Prickly Pear' was introduced to Australia in the early 1800s and by 1925 had covered 62 million acres of land in New South Wales and Queensland, and was spreading at the rate of more than half a million acres per year. It has been the most invasive plant ever introduced to Australia. I certainly wouldn't like to encounter it, not with those prickles"

So, it CAN be invasive in some places.

And, yes, it does survive through the winter here in Indiana.

(This is another post from my "hoe collection" blog. I am gradually moving over non-hoe related posts from that blog to here, so that all that is left on the other blog are the hoes.)

Monday, September 04, 2006


I'm always thinking about putting a water feature in the back yard and looking for ideas. How about this fountain for inspiration? This is one of several fountains in the historic sunken gardens at Garfield Park. The picture is from earlier this spring.

Maybe I should go with something a bit smaller, more in scale with the rest of my yard?

But, I'm not sure I could dig a hole quite this big and it would just take forever to fill it with the garden hose. Plus, it might be a bit more formal than the rest of the garden.

Oh, well, I'll keep looking!

(Files this under "humor", weak attempt, but an attempt.)