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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club November Wrap Up

The nice thing about an online book club as compared to one that meets in real-time is that you can run it in “virtual time”, so that if one or two people participate later on, they can still be part of the fun.

In real-time, if El and Bill had shown up yesterday and today at my doorstep, I would have had to say, “um, sorry, the club met on Friday”. Instead I get to say “Great, happy to have a few more people along for the fun!”

So, if you haven’t read all the reviews and opinions and write ups from fellow garden bloggers on the book, The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell, you can go back to the original “club meeting” post and get yourself caught up. Then check out El’s post and Bill’s post for some different perspectives on the book.

You should also go back if you read the original club meeting post early on because I also “snuck in” a post from Old Roses after originally publishing it. And I ran across something else I wrote based on something I read in “Earthman” that you might be interested in if you haven’t read it already.

That’s it I think. I really do thank all for participating. It has been fun to first read a gardening book, second share thoughts on the book with everyone, and finally, read what others think.

On to December. The book selection is “My Favorite Plant” edited by Jamaica Kincaid. Even if you don’t have time to read the book, you can still participate by writing a post about your own favorite plant, let me know via a comment you’ve done so, and then I’ll publish a wrap up post with links to all posts on December 30th or thereabouts.

A Brief Interruption of This Garden Blog to Talk About Rain

I know precisely when it started to rain this morning. At the exact moment when I pulled into a parking spot at work and put my car in Park. At that precise moment, the rain suddenly came down in a huge deluge as though a month’s worth of rain was all trying to come down at once. From a pure “cause & effect” standpoint, I might have believed that the mere act of me putting the car in park caused the rain, so close together were these two events.

“Shoot,” I thought, “If I had not stopped at Starbucks to get an iced green tea, I’d be in the building now instead of outside in my car trying to figure out how to get inside without getting soaked”.

Well, I did make it inside, and I did get wet, but not too wet. It has continued to rain all day, and it is still raining. Since I put away my rain gauge when I put away other garden ornaments, I don’t know how much it has rained here. But I know it’s a lot. Bucketfuls (or is that Bucketsful?)

And, naturally, the weatherman on the evening news did not tell us how much rain we got. He said things like “This is a very interesting storm”, and “It’s not behaving as we expected”. I wish they would just admit that they didn’t get the forecast quite right. We are not going to get nearly as much snow tomorrow as they had forecasted. It all went to the north of us.

And, believe it or not, they had a reporter standing by the side of the road talking about how the roads are wet and there is some standing water in some places, so be careful. As though we’ve never seen rain before. I think they scheduled her to “work the sidelines” during this, our first winter storm, and decided to go ahead with her investigative, on site reporting on wet roads, in spite of it not being as wintry as they thought it might be.

They also provided a link to a web site which shows where the priority snow removal routes are in the city with another link to the current road conditions. When I checked the current road conditions, I found interesting, but useless, information for March 21, 2006. Hmmm, seems as though if there is enough rain to have a reporter standing by the side of the road reporting on it, they would have updated this all important web site to let us know the roads are wet.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Remain Strong

I listened to the weather forecast on the way home. They used the word “crashing” to describe how the temperature will change late Thursday to early Friday. As in “crashing down from the mid 60’s to the low to mid 30’s". That kind of alarmist reporting should really not be allowed. They should simply state the forecast. “Temperatures will change from highs in the 60’s to highs in the 30’s”. See, doesn’t that sound better, more normal? Like it happens all the time.

And we were warned to expect rain on Thursday with thunderstorms, maybe up to two inches of rain, and it will all turn to a winter mix on Friday. Nice.

As we all know, a wintry mix is the worst. I’d rather it be cold enough to just snow. A wintry mix is rain… and maybe some sleet… and maybe some snow… and possibly some accumulating snow… and ice. Bring out the salt trucks, please.

The temperatures will hover right around freezing, which means sometimes the roads will be just wet, and sometimes the roads will be icy and at night the roads could just look wet, but be icy. The one factor we have going for us is that the ground still is quite warm so any snow “should” melt quickly. That's my hope. I still need to get some gas for the snowblower.

And the good news in all this? I have the garden clean up done to the point that if I don’t do anything else until spring, it will be okay. And, I’ve finished putting up my outdoor Christmas lights.

I’ve included a photo below of a large evergreen that I put lights on. I’ll admit it is poor picture at best, that’s why it isn’t at the top of this post. (I need to review the camera instructions for tips on taking night pictures!)

But I’m proud of how I was able to put lights on it, without a ladder. When I first planted this Oriental spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Green Knight’), I could stand on the ground and put one string of lights on it and be done. Then it grew so that I had to use a ladder and 2 strands of lights. Then this year, I had to use a hook on a long pole to put the lights on the top of the tree, and I used 3 strands of lights. I probably could have used more lights but that’s all the instructions said to plug in together, and I like to follow the instructions when it comes to electrical things.

The other thing you can see in this picture is the forsythia (Gold Tide Forsythia, Forsythia x 'Courtasol'). that is going to have to be taken out because it is crowding out the spruce. I wrote about that before in this post. Henry Mitchell, himself, speaking through one of his gardening columns, has convinced me it is the right thing to do… this spring… after we are done with wintry mixes… and once it has one more chance to bloom in all its glory. It will be so bright and yellow and cheerful when it does bloom that I will have to Remain Strong in my resolve to move it, as I know it will try to convince me to let it stay. It will probably bloom better and brighter than it ever has. I know it will. Remain Strong.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

When Life Hands You Lemons, Grow Narcissus

A few miscellaneous Tuesday updates.

Regarding the hand hoe, I was pleased to receive a comment from Mr. De Wit of the De Wit hand tool company indicating that my hand hoe is indeed a De Wit brand hand hoe. He also provided information on the Tierra Company of Jasper, Indiana as a source for these tools in this area. I checked out the Tierra Company website, and they have all kinds of tools for gardeners, including several different hand hoes. My same disclaimer, I can’t vouch for this online merchant, having not ordered from them, but I do know I have one very fine hand hoe!

It was a nice surprise to receive Mr. De Wit's comment, and it just goes to show, you never do really know who is reading your blog and who will surprise you with a comment.

Regarding the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, I am still finding some reviews on various blogs, so it isn’t tool late to write something up if you read The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell, and send me a comment to let me know about it. I’ll do a wrap up post at the end of the week. I was so sad to get to the end of the book that I decided to get his other two books of garden columns, Henry Mitchell on Gardening and One Man’s Garden. That ought to tied me over for the winter. Oh, I’ll still be reading the December Garden Bloggers’ Book Club selection, My Favorite Plants edited by Jamaica Kincaid, but in between I’ll read more of Henry Mitchell’s columns. And remember, if you don’t have time to read the December selection, you can still participate by just posting something about your favorite plant, if you can pick just one. I personally am having a little trouble narrowing down my choice of one favorite plant.

I have noticed some chatter here and there on several blogs about buying books used from Amazon or other favorite sources. I’ve ordered a lot of used (and new) books through the secondary sellers on Amazon and only once had a problem. And that seller immediately took care of it. So overall, I’ve been pleased with buying books this way at generally a much lower price. In fact, I always check the secondary sellers to get the best deal.

In other gardening news, I am saddened to report that I’ve had some misfortune in the sunroom. My Meyer lemon tree had ONE lemon on it, and it was just starting to turn yellow at the top. I was already dreaming about how to use it. One little glass of lemonade? Perhaps mixed in with some guacamole? Maybe sliced and served with iced tea? But, it is not to be. This evening I found the lemon laying on the soil, dropped from the tree before its time. Does anyone have an idea of what to do with an unripe lemon?

But, as you can see in the picture above, the narcissus are coming along nicely, and I should hope to have blooms in a few weeks. The amaryllis are also growing well, and they, too, should be blooming “before I know it”.

So I am not in complete despair over the lemon, just a little disappointed. Hopefully it will bloom again in the spring and I’ll maybe have another lemon (or two) next winter.

And for those of you who just had to see the lone lemon ‘cut down in its prime’, here’s a picture of it, too.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chippers Don't Like Dogbane

Blue Star Dogbane blooming last May 5th in my garden. The high temperature on that day was 67 degrees. I bet we got close to that temperature today.

We’ve been enjoying unseasonably warm and mild days over the past week, and are expecting a few more such days early in the week. Then on Wednesday or Thursday or Friday, depending on which weather forecast you look at, the weather will change dramatically. Instead of a high temperature in the mid 60’s like we had today, by Friday the high temperature will be in the low 30’s and we will likely see some snow.

When it gets warm like this, I always remember the stories I read when I was younger about the pioneer children. It would be unseasonably warm so they would walk to their little one room school house with no coats or scarves or mittens. And then without warning, a blizzard would blow in, seemingly out of no where, leaving them all stranded and huddled together to try to stay warm and alive until the pioneer dads made it through to rescue them.

I hope we don’t have a blizzard later this week. I only remember two blizzards in central Indiana. One for sure blizzard was in January 1978 and the other was in December 2004, right before Christmas. I’m not sure if the December 2004 snow was officially a blizzard, but it was bad and snowy, especially south of here. When we have snow like that around Christmas, it really messes up the plans of the last-minute shoppers (if they have any plans at all).

I was not a shopper this weekend. I did some online shopping but didn’t attempt to go out early Friday to join in all the Black Friday madness. Instead, I took advantage of these past few days to clean up the garden. I chipped and shredded quite a bit. Most everything shredded fine except the Blue Star dogbane (Amsonia tabernaemontana). I put it through the chute and noticed that the chipper would grab it and pull it through. I hadn’t noticed that with any other debris, so I thought “Hmmm… the chipper really loves dogbane”. Then the chipper stopped. It turns out that the chipper did not love dogbane after all. There must be some strong fibers in those branches because instead of being chopped up, the fibers in the branches were wound up tight around the cutting blade, causing it to stop. It took me a few minutes to cut all that loose. Yes, everyone, I unplugged the chipper before I attempted to free up the blade, and I wore gloves.

I also mowed the grass today, potentially for the last time this season. We shall see and hope. The latest I’ve had to mow is December 1st. Yes, I have records of events in the garden, don’t you? Oh, you don’t consider mowing an event? Well, you should at least consider the first and last mowing as events. It’s easy to know when the first mowing occurs, but the last? That’s why I keep records of all the times I mow, because until several weeks have passed, you don’t really know that the last time was the last time.

Yes, I took full advantage of this warm day, because we don't usually have this kind of weather at the end of November. In addition to finishing up the garden cleanup and mowing, I also put up most of my outside Christmas lights.

I wonder what the temperature will be when I take those lights down on New Year’s Day?
Have a great week.

Green Thumb Sunday - Season's Colors

Green Thumb Sunday

Join Green Thumb Sunday
Red and green and silver-y. The Cranesbill (Geranium sp.) with Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum) showing seasonal colors.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hand Digging Hoe - Found it!

Awhile back in the spring, I posted on my “hoe collection” blog that one of my two favorite gardening tools was the hand digging hoe, also known as a Japanese hand digging hoe. Here’s a link to that original post.

Since then, I’ve received a few comments from people who are looking to buy such a fine hand hoe. So periodically, I’ve done some online searches to find a source, since Smith & Hawken, where I bought mine, does not seem to carry them anymore. Until this weekend, I’ve always come up empty-handed in my searches.

I tried again on Friday by doing a Google search for “hand digging hoe” and was surprised to find that the 1st site listed was the above mentioned blog post. The sixth site listed was this post about how I used my hand digging hoe this spring to weed out some pestilence plants that I knew better than to plant, but planted anyway. And then on the next page was a reference to this posting about how I used my hand digging hoe to remove sod for a new flower bed this fall.

Clearly, I love this tool, since I've written about using it so often, so I searched a little further to find someone who sells them.

Drum roll, please. I think I’ve found them at I’m delighted! I’ve purchased several of the Sneeboer hand tools through Lee Valley and have not been disappointed. The hand digging hoe is not directly linkable, so go to the Sneeboer web site, then select “hand tools”, then “hand hoe”. There are two to choose from depending on if you are right handed or left handed.

As garden tools go, this is clearly not your $1.99 hand tool, but if it is like the rest of the Sneeboer tools, it will be well-made, and I would expect it to last your gardening life. It’s an investment that will ensure happiness through many hours of laborious grubbing out of sod, weeds, etc. Once you have a hand-digging hoe and use it, you will wonder how you managed without it.

Like our beloved Felco pruners, a hand digging hoe like this will change your life.

Maybe if you are good and finish your end of season gardening chores, Santa Claus will bring you one for Christmas!
(Note, I have not ordered from the Sneeboer site, so can't vouch for it, but I have used their tools and they are well-made.)
(Update Sunday: I also found a hand digging hoe available on this web site. It is a DeWit brand tool. I have another gardening tool (a trowel) that is the DeWit brand, and it is also well made. Again, I can't vouch for the merchant, but can say this is the hoe!)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club November Meeting

Welcome to the first meeting of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. You will want to make yourself a nice hot cup of tea, or pour a steaming mug of coffee, or top off your wine glass at this time. You’re at a club meeting now, so don’t expect this to be a five minute drive-by session. There is much to read and discuss about our 1st book, The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell and many links to click on. You will want to go to each blog post about Henry and his book, to read, savor, ponder, and if you haven’t done so already, comment on it, so plan to spend some time.

But first, to set the stage. I’ve prepared some snacks and desserts for us to enjoy while we discuss the book. Normally, I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve gone all out for our 1st meeting. Our menu includes… okay at this point I was going to put in some links to some delicious appetizers and snacks, but this is a “link-y” enough post, so just imagine that you have come to my house and I’ve prepared all your favorites, because I am a good hostess.

And by doing some “googling” before you all got here, I have found this background information on Henry Mitchell, which you may find interesting and helpful to know before we begin the discussion (and which will lead you to many more links on information about Henry and his books), and these many posts from The Bookish Gardener, who has been reading Henry’s books for several years.

So, are you ready to begin discussing the book? Wait, just one more thing, remember that whenever and wherever gardeners meet, everyone always ends up outside for just a few minutes to see what the host gardener is up to. And because this is a virtual meeting, I can show you my garden in any season I want and in multiple seasons at the same time. It doesn’t have to be November in zone 5 today. We’ll go around by the side of the house and through the gate to the back gardens. We’ll wander further back to see the vegetable garden, (in May and August, no less) and pass by the lilacs along the way. Don’t those lilacs just smell heavenly? And guess what? Just in time for the meeting, the night bloomer has bloomed.

Enough of the greetings, background information, small talk, and garden tour, I think everyone is here, and has their drink in hand and a plate of snacks and desserts, so let’s all gather around and share our thoughts on The Essential Earthman. Who would like to go first?

Genie? One of our newer gardeners with a particular interest in growing tomatoes. I would guess if she hadn’t moved to Iowa, started a garden, and started a blog, she wouldn’t have had occasion to read this book. She is planning to heed Henry’s advice on leaving fruit grower to the professionals and found common ground in how Henry budgeted for his garden.
Genie went through the library to get her book, but Old Roses had quite an experience buying her copy. She was sure before she read the book that she wasn't going to like it, but none the less, she read the book and... well, go to her blog to see what she thought of it!

The Earth Girl (has she a name?) is one of my fellow Hoosier gardener-bloggers. I am now waiting for her to figure out how to grow delphiniums in Indiana, so she can teach me all the tricks. For as she quotes from Henry: "Whenever humans garden magnificently, there are magnificent heartbreaks." And trying to grow delphiniums can lead to heartbreak! The other heartbreak she discusses is the Hooker’s Orchids which have vanished from the gardens at the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site in northwest Indiana where Earth Girl tends the gardens. So sad to hear of the extinction of another wildflower.

Yes, we are all nodding our heads up and down in agreement, I can see.

Now we’ll move on to Colleen in Michigan. She reflects on the cycle of life and posted this quote for us: “It soon becomes clear to the gardener, who has probably started out to achieve a certain bloom, that the cycle of life in the plant is a good bit more enjoyable than the bloom itself." And like many of us, she had not read any of Henry Mitchell until joining this book club, and provided these first impressions.

Okay, now it is my turn. I’ve had The Essential Earthman in my own personal library for several years, but had not yet read it. While I generally don’t keep track of where and when I purchase books, I found a receipt in my copy of the book which indicates I may have purchased it in 1999 while on vacation in North Carolina. To now know that such a treasure was on my shelf, and I was not aware… well, it is just a bit embarrassing.

So, I started reading, in the fall, when I thought I would have plenty of time. And the first thing I read was this:

“… but fall--not spring—is the great planting season for woody things. If, in other words, you had thought of lolling in the warm weekends admiring the chrysanthemums and the dogwoods turning red, congratulating yourself perhaps that the weeds are losing heart, let me cheerfully remind you that you should be exhausted (not lolling) since this is the busiest of all the garden seasons. When you are not planting bulbs, digging up bindweed roots, rooting out pokeweed, soaking bamboo, there are still other tasks. Thousands of them. You are terribly behind. The very idea of just sitting about in the sun!”

What a timely lecture, and I was hooked and I knew I had to read more. Then I got lost in all the plants he wrote about, and expressed some disagreements on Henry recommending Lombardy Poplars. Then I was convinced after reading about his adventures with growing iris from seed that I must do the same.

Tracy didn’t get lost in all the plants as she was thinking about garden design as she read the book. "Plan with severe formality, then plant informally within these formal bounds, and nature will tend to the rest, provided you correct your errors as you notice them.” Tracy says she is still going to follow her own heart and ideas when it comes to garden design. I agree when she says that Henry would like that she is going to approach it that way, her own way.

So many good quotes in this book! Where to stop? Kathy from New York discusses how “eminently quotable” Henry is. Kathy loves a good quote (as you can see from her blog) and she tries to explain what makes a quote “quotable”. With The Essential Earthman, where does ones stop quoting? And it is interesting that different club members were struck by different quotes or passages from the book.

Gloria in Chicago found herself nodding in agreement on much of what she read. Like many of us, she had not read the book, and found out about a new plant she would like to try to grow that she didn’t think she could grow in Chicago. She leaves us with this quote from Henry: "because there is no such thing as dullness when the gardener is going full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes, as it were."

Kasmira had the opportunity to read The Essential Earthman while on vacation. Kasmira, see the quote above about how busy fall is in the garden and we wonder how you had time for a vacation! But at least reading this book has helped you think about how to balance out all that red in your garden.

Speaking of changing some things in their garden as a result of reading this book, Windy added some thoughts on the forum at LibraryThing, including that she will be planting more irises as a result of reading the book.

And, remember when we all had quite a discussion over at Garden Rant on the relevance of Henry Mitchell? And their earlier post about Henry? Regarding his writing about too many specific plants, he had this to say: "A fellow reproaches me for mentioning too many plants he's never heard of and not enough of the ones he has. Marigold, marigold, marigold. So much for that."

Finally, we are going to give Annie in Austin the last word, to wrap up our meeting. After all, when she wrote a comment somewhere along the way that she used Henry Michell’s books as a way to reward herself for getting her laundry done (“If I do two more loads of laundry, I can read two chapters of Henry Mitchell.”), it convinced at least me that this would be a good book to start out the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. She wrote about hoping that Henry’s words would “be like oxygen for those who still want genuine, experimental, personal, overreaching, messy, ridiculous gardens”.

That is just the kind of quote a publisher would put on the back cover of a book to convince all of us to buy that book, isn’t it? Thanks, Annie, for that insight and for reminding us that today (November 24) was Henry Mitchell’s birthday, making this the perfect day to have this first “meeting”.

I hope all enjoyed reading this book, and reading what other garden bloggers had to say about it. I am just happy to have finally discovered Henry Mitchell, and am delighted to know there are more of his books to read. I’ve already got them on order!

So with that, our first meeting is over. For December our book is My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love edited by Jamaica Kincaid. I know December is a busy month, so if you can’t find time to read the book, you can still participate by posting about your favorite plant sometime between now and December 24th and sending me a link to it. Then we’ll have another “virtual meeting” sometime after Christmas.

Now it is time for all to leave, as this is a beautiful day in central Indiana, and I want to go outside to do some more garden clean up and put up holiday decorations.

Thanks for participating! (And if you weren't able to "join us" with a post of your own, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, or post something on your blog and leave us a comment on how to get to it.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hoes - Immoral? Huh?

For my hoe collection from my wonderful sister-in-law. Rest assured, my hoe collection is completely moral!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Orchids in Bloom and Bud

I continue in my quest to convince everyone that orchids are “easy” houseplants and really require no more maintenance than any other houseplant. In fact, I think they actually prefer less fussing around!

Here is an orchid blooming now in my sunroom. I bought this several years ago and it is now blooming annually at about this time. I don’t know the variety but believe this is a Dendrobium sp. orchid. (Comment if you believe otherwise).

And look at this orchid in bud. This is a Zygopetalum sp. When it blooms, it will fill my sunroom with a heavy tropical flower scent. I can’t wait!
I promise that I do nothing special to these orchids. Water, light, some light fertilizer. Really that's all. In fact, I water them less frequently than I do other houseplants.
And bonus points for you if you noticed that the sun is shining through the windows in these pictures taken yesterday. The sun has been shining all week and we are promised it will continue to be sunny for several more days. A rare treat for November in the midwest. And it is perfect weather for continuing garden clean up or putting up outdoor holiday decorations. We are blessed, indeed!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Influential and Gardeners, Too

In Atlantic Monthly, they did a feature on the top 100 most influential figures in American history.

The famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead was the 49th person listed. He gave us city parks like Central Park in New York City and created grand estates like the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

Other gardeners on the list include #2 George Washington and #3 Thomas Jefferson. Both took solace in their gardens in between doing great and lofty things like running a new country and drafting the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson, especially, took much pride in his gardens, and is quotable for many comments related to the virtues of tending the earth. My favorite Jefferson related quote is:

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” (1811)

I wonder which other influential Americans were gardeners at heart?

Free the Blueberries!

My little blueberries, caged up for the winter. I had to do it to keep the rabbits away. The blueberries look so trapped, but where were they going to go, anyway? Those &$%^ rabbits chew and nibble on plants ALL winter long. Go away, rabbits, g-o a-w-a-y!

(Ummm. yes, in the lower right, those are some glad corns I pulled up and just left there. Now I, ummm, need to get those inside or they will be goners, if they aren't done for already. Such disrepect I've show to the common gladiolus! I wouldn't be surprised if I have a glad revolt on my hands next summer and no blooms as a result.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club November Newsletter

Greetings, and welcome to the November Edition of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club Newsletter.

A gentle reminder of the November “meeting”.

I’d like to get all your blog posts about The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell rounded up by this Thursday (yes, Thanksgiving in the United States), so I can publish a post on Friday, November 24th with links to all of them. As noted by Annie in Austin, November 24th was Henry’s birthday, so it seems like the right day to “meet” via posting a blog entry with links to everyone’s posts. I’ve heard from Kathy of Cold Climate Gardening, The Good Earth, Genie the Inadvertent Gardener, and The Transportable Rose, Annie in Austin that their posts are published and ready. I think there are a few other postings about Henry and his book around about on the blogosphere, including my own. If you’ve posted and I didn’t list you here, send me a comment to let me know.

(Noted added... Okay, we are a club with relaxed rules. If Thanksgiving break was when you had planned to read the book, that's okay. You can post your thoughts later, and we will do another big post again at the end of the month so everyone is included. I wouldn't want anyone to not read this great book because of some deadline that is totally made up!)

December Selection

Most clubs take it kind of easy in December, don’t they? So much going on, it is a good month to just visit and exchange Christmas goodies and share memories of past meetings. But how do you do that with a fairly new “virtual” online club that doesn’t even meet via a chat but communicates through posts and occasional questions on the gardening group forum at LibraryThing, set up by Kathy of Cold Climate Gardening?

Well, we’ll just make it a more relaxed month via our book selection and “post assignment”.

So, without further fanfare or build up, the December book selection is “My Favorite Plant” edited by Jamaica Kincaid. The subtitle tells all about what we can expect inside. “Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love”. Many garden writers and writers who just love gardening have contributed. I recognized some of the contributors, others I didn’t, so I am looking forward to reading this book because it may also lead me to find other writers that I might enjoy reading more of, who might not otherwise have crossed my garden path.

But maybe you are concerned that you will just have no time to read during all the holidays, or didn’t have time to read The Essential Earthman and feel you missed out on November? Or maybe you can’t get this book, or are just looking for an excuse to not post for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club in December? If so, you will be delighted that I’ve worked it out so there is really no excuse for not participating! You can still participate in the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club by just writing a post about your favorite plant sometime during the month of December and sending me a link for the round up posting at the end of the month. We all have our favorite plants, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to write about yours, should it?

January Selection

Once December is behind us and we have nothing to do but browse through seed catalogs and make resolutions about how much better we will be at tending our gardens if spring will just hurry up, it is time to read a more serious book, one that will help us all become better gardeners, no matter where we live and garden. We’ll start with the very foundation of our gardens, the soil. With that in mind, the January selection is Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.

And we are all about flexibility in this virtual garden book club, so if you can’t find a copy of that book at your local library or don’t want to actually buy it because it just isn’t your kind of gardening book, you may choose any book or article about soil, composting, or related topics to read and write a post about it in January. Won’t that be fun? Once you read a good book on soil, it will never be just “dirt” to you again.

February Selection

We are on a roll here with advance information for all the winter reading, so I’ll continue on. Our February selection is “nearly selected” but I’d like your input. I would like to read another garden essayist and have narrowed the choice down to Katherine White or Elizabeth Lawrence. Does anyone have an opinion on one or the other? Or should it just be the book of letters between them? Send me your thoughts and I will try to finalize this one soon, so you can put it on your Christmas wish list if you don’t already have it.

March Selection

March is still a bit open and up in the air, so there is plenty of time to provide more input. What book(s) have you put on your wish list? What topics do you think we should explore? All ideas are welcome; send them via comments!

That’s it for the November Newsletter of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

The Hunt for a New Pair of Gardening Clogs

I’m not a big footwear person. When it comes to my regular day time office environment work, I have 3, maybe 4, pairs of shoes that I wear… black, navy, brown. I am definitely not one of those people who look for a new pair of shoes every time they buy something new to wear. If none of the shoes I have match, well, I’m just not going to wear that outfit.
But when it comes to gardening, I have 5 different pairs of shoes/boots that I wear for different occasions.

From left to right…

I keep the blue gardening clogs at the front door. I wear them when I am going out the front way to water plants on the front porch, get the newspaper, or just check out what’s going on in the front yard.

I wear the old hiking boots when I am going to do something like roto-till and I feel I need more foot protection. I’ve had those boots the longest of any of my footwear. Does anyone recall when brown hiking boots with red laces and Vibram soles were the height of fashion? We sometimes called them “waffle stompers” because of the waffle like foot print they left behind. If you do remember them, then if I tell you I got those boots my freshman year in college, you’ll be able to do some basic math and figure out my approximate age. (And please don’t do the math and then comment that you are younger than my boots… that wouldn’t be nice, now would it?)

The third pair of shoes from the left is another pair of clogs. These green clogs are newer than the blue clogs. See, they still have the stickers inside them. I think I’ve had them for about 5 or 6 years, and the blue clogs for a dozen or so years. I keep the green clogs at the back door, and slip into them when I am heading out back to the garden or to water the containers on the patio or just want to walk around outside after work to see what’s going on.

I’ve learned from experience that having TWO pairs of clogs, one pair at the back door and the other pair at the front door, saves and protects the carpeting in between. With just one pair, the clogs are never at the door where you need them. And then you end up putting them on and trying to walk through the house to the other door, thinking if you walk quickly or tip-toe maybe nothing will get on the carpet. It never works. Life is just easier with two pairs of clogs!

The next pair of shoes is from The Muck Boot Company and are called Mucksters. They are waterproof like the clogs, but are also insulated so they keep your feet warm. Yet they still breathe so your feet don’t get sweaty-wet. I wear these shoes when I am working around in wet grass or in the cold, especially in early spring and fall. My feet stay nice and dry and the shoes are quite comfortable (as are the clogs!)

The final pair of shoes are my mowing shoes. I generally retire a pair of sneakers from “regular” use once a year or so, and they take on new life as mowing shoes.

So those are the shoes I garden in. Fascinating stuff, huh? Well, the main reason I’ve shown you my shoes and told you what I wear them for is because I am facing a CLOG CRISIS and could use some help.

My crisis is that the blue clogs are finally wearing through on the bottom and I want to… no, I need to replace them. But, I’ve come up with nothing in my Internet and catalog searches. I must have the clogs with the plaid insert, no other will do! I did come across some on the Gardeners’ Supply website, but they are sold out of my size and don’t expect to get any more. Does anyone know of another source for these clogs? Or is there another clog someone can recommend? And please don’t recommend clogs with holes in them or with flowers all over them. These will be working clogs.

Whoever helps me find these clogs, I’ll owe you a favor. Maybe I’ll link to your blog and write a whole post about how wonderful you are!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Green Thumb Sunday - Premier Entry

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Viburnum lantana 'Mohican' - Mohican Wayfaring Tree, Fall Foliage mid-November in my backyard. An excellent large spring flowering shrub, providing cover for birds.

Drilling for Minor Bulbs

Saturday afternoon, I planted some minor bulbs I purchased at various times in various stores. Like many plant purchases, these bulbs just sort of end up in my shopping cart. The bulbs included Puschkinia libanotica (Striped Squill), Allium and Dutch Iris.

I’ve found the best tool for planting smaller bulbs is an electric drill with a wood borer, or spade bit, on it. You can easily drill a hole for the bulb in small tight spaces or around ground cover without disturbing nearby plants. You can see in the picture above that I have a new bit on the drill and beside it is an old bit I used a few years ago. It is amazing how worn a bit gets when you use it for planting.

This particular worn bit was the one I used to plant crocuses in my lawn. I got the big idea to do that one year and so ordered up 800 assorted crocus corms. Then I proceeded to spend an afternoon on my hands and knees planting them. I’d drill about 10 holes at a time, plop a crocus corm in each hole, then fill the holes with top soil.

I’m sure more than a few neighbors wondered what I was doing. Perhaps they thought I was trying to aerate the lawn by hand?

That first spring after I planted them, the crocuses all came up and were a nice bit of color in early March. My primary “lessons learned” was I wished I had not used yellow crocus because from a distance they looked too much like dandelions.

I added a few more crocuses the next year, but did notice that fewer of the original crocus came up the second year. And still fewer in the third year. I think the problem was that I had to mow off the foliage before it was fully mature, so there wasn’t time for the new corms to form.

Those first crocus were planted about six years ago, and the last time I added any crocus was about three years ago. I’ll watch with interest this spring to see how many (or how few) come up and bloom again.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Repeat Bloom From the Violets

I noticed the other day that some of the violets were blooming again. How nice! I always like it when spring flowering plants provide a few repeat blooms in the fall.

I love violets in the garden. Violets are one of the 1st plants I remember planting as a kid. When we went mushroom hunting with my Dad in a place we called Bob’s Wood, sometimes we would just come back with a clump or two of woodland violets to plant. That was okay with me, I wasn’t all that wild about the morel mushrooms anyway. I was more interested in just walking through the woods, looking at the plants, and digging up some violets.

In fact, I am pretty sure that the violets in my garden are some I transplanted from those we transplanted to our house after one of our mushroom hunting trips. That makes these in my garden a highly desired passalong plant and not a weed. Can you believe it? Some people think woodland violets are weeds!

I go nuts on Saturdays when I am driving around running errands, listening to a call in program on gardening. People call in and ask how to kill the violets in their yard. And the retired extension agent tells them it will be tough to do, and then proceeds to run through a litany of chemicals that will do the trick and not kill the grass. I always answer back “why would you want to kill the violets!” One of these days I’m going to call in…

One of my favorite violets is the variegated leaf violet, Viola mandshurica ‘Fuji Dawn’. I grew some from seed several years ago. They lasted a few years and then one spring they didn’t come back, probably because it got too cold in the winter. They are really only hardy to zone 6 and I am in zone 5, so I knew they wouldn’t last forever, if even a year, but I tried anyway.

I will try again this spring, and look for a more protected area in the garden.

Quick Spider Update

Earlier, I had posted about BIG spiders that were in my sister's backyard. Today, she tells me they found a spider just like those, only smaller, in the house. My aunt and others warned her they would want to come inside as soon as it got cold.

Her son put it on a piece of paper and put it back outside. (Geez, I hope it came in from outside and hasn't always been living in the house!)

That spider is lucky he went into their house. At my house, he'd be in the bottom of a sweeper bag right now.

What do you do when BIG spiders get into your house?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What About Peppers?

Yesterday in writing about my grandparent's gardens, I focused on the two things they didn't grow, broccoli and cauliflower.

Would anyone like to know what they did grow? Well, practically everything they ate. (Yes, it was a farm, so they also had pigs, chickens, and cattle, which they butchered themselves, but we'll not go into that since this blog is about gardening.)

Here's a list of fruits, berries, and nuts.

(They bought their peaches.)

Here's a list of vegetables...

Corn (generally grown out in a field and not in one of the gardens)
Lima Beans
Watermelon (grown out by the woods)

That might not be a complete list, but that's what we discussed the other night. It occurred to me that my uncle never mentioned peppers. I'm assuming they grew bell peppers and maybe hot peppers. (Like those from my garden this summer, pictured above).

In fact, I remember my grandfather ate a hot pepper (maybe an Anaheim?) every day... a piece in the morning, a piece at lunch and a piece with dinner.

We were also going to talk about the flowers on the farm, but didn't have time. I am curious about a flower my aunt told me that my great-grandfather grew, which had a horrible smell. According to my uncle, that's why he grew it, because of the smell. I guess he thought it was funny to have such a flower. The only clue I have as to what it might have been is that it was a kind of lily.

Hmmm, what could that flower be? And if I find out what it was, I'm not saying I'd grow it to see how bad the smell really was, I'm just curious. Okay, yes, if I figure out what the flower was, I'd probably grow it once, just to smell it. Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Garden Family History

I’m always interested to hear what kinds of gardens my grandparents had, so I was happy to have one of my uncles call me out of the blue to meet him for some dinner and garden talk. He had come up to the “big city” for business and had an evening free.

He went through an extensive list of vegetables grown on the family farm, along with an equally impressive list of fruits, nuts, and berries. They grew almost everything they ate, all of it canned and preserved as it was harvested.

Curiously, they didn’t grow any broccoli or cauliflower. My uncle found that a bit odd as well, and wasn’t sure why they didn’t grow these two vegetables. I know why I don’t try to grow them anymore. It’s the worms. No matter what I do (short of using chemicals), I’ve always found those little green worms on any broccoli I’ve tried to grow. And no matter how long I soak the broccoli in salt water to force the worms out of the broccoli, I still find at least one worm when I go to eat it. Gross. Just gross. So I don’t grow broccoli.

The other vegetable I was surprised that they did grow was kohlrabi. I always assumed this was something my Dad started to grow as a new vegetable to try out. Now I have to think about it differently, as an “old German vegetable” that my grandparents grew every year.

To complete the picture of the gardens, orchards, berry patches, and fields on the family farm, I need for one of my uncles or aunt or someone to draw up a diagram showing how the farm was laid out. Then I can add it to the family history. (If any of them are reading this, please have it done before Christmas. Ha Ha. Thank you.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Like Transplanting Your Garden

I've converted to beta Blogger. This gave me a chance to clean up this blog and my Grandma's diary blog. I still have three smaller, less often used blogs to fully convert, but I'll save that for another day.

Converting to beta Blogger is sort of like digging up a flower garden, and then putting it all back, if you choose to update your template and take advantage of the 'drag and drop' features of the new version. In the process, you can rearrange or just weed out some of the clutter that can collect on your sidebar.

Alert Annie in Austin did notice that comments I made on other Blogger blogs prior to converting to the beta version no longer link back to my Blogger profile, but new comments, made after the conversion, do link back.

If you notice anything wacky about my blog since I've converted or a link that doesn't work, let me know!

Oh, and I guess when I have some time, I'll go back and label some of my past entries to make it easier to find them by categories. I'll definitely have a label for Hoes!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Even Plants Rush the Season...

I looked at the high/low temperatures recorded for yesterday and was surprised to find that the high temperature was actually in the low 40’s, not low the 50’s as I had guessed. So, I think I did pretty good dressing for the weather since I was comfortable working outside nearly all afternoon.

One thing I didn’t get done yesterday was pot up two more amaryllis bulbs. Earlier in the day, I made a quick run into another “big box” store and nearly ran into their display of $3.96 Amaryllis bulbs in a box. Okay, yes, I admit it, I was looking for them, so it wasn't all that hard to "run into them".

Four dollars, though. Now were talking. Guaranteed to bloom, says so right on the box. So, plop, plop, I put a red one and a pink and white one in my cart. That gives me three for the season. That’s enough. I’m potting them up this evening.

It’s especially enough because on Saturday, I bought 30 Narcissus (Paperwhites) for forcing. This time I was at a warehouse store, and they had all their bulbs near the back of the store, all $6 a box. I could have bought 80 tulips or 120 crocuses or whatever for $6 a box. And, believe you me, I was tempted, because I don’t know what the stores do with the bulbs they don’t sell. Do they send them back and someone grows them? Do they throw them away? I considered it almost a rescue mission to buy those Narcissus.

And look, one of my “Christmas Cactus”, pictured above, (Zygocactus sp. now Schlumbergera sp.) is getting ready to bloom, just in time for Thanksgiving. To be fair, many of these plants are bred to bloom around Thanksgiving, and this may be one of those. Also, I don’t do anything special to get this to bloom. I don’t lower the temperature or make sure it is in total darkness for 14 hours a day or whatever. I just let it go to do its thing. And it blooms every year.

But, I call it a Christmas Cactus and when it is blooming early like this it reminds me how much we rush the season. We get all frantic to put up all the Christmas decorations, buy presents, plan parties, send out cards. Rush, rush, rush.

In all this rush, which seems to start earlier and earlier every year, Thanksgiving becomes almost a forgotten holiday, and it is one of the best holidays in my opinion. It is a nice time to relax and enjoy a good meal with family and friends. Of course, my sister who will host us all for the day might not find it all that relaxing, but I do.

The only thing I'm rushing around to do right now is plant a few more bulbs outside, which I had forgotten about until this morning when I saw them in the garage. Gads, I need a few more decent days to work outside (and at least one good day right after Thanksgiving to put up Christmas decorations outside).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Little Joe, Big Bill, Fred, and George

I had the whole outdoors to myself this afternoon. Everyone else, it seemed, was attending or watching The Game. Sure, it’s fun to watch a football team that seems to make history with every game, but priorities, people, priorities!

Today was a nice day to work outside. I would guess once the sun came out, the temperature might have reached the low 50’s. I can work comfortably in this type of weather with the right clothes. It is true what they say about dressing in layers. T-shirt, thermal shirt and hooded sweatshirt jacket on top. Long underwear, jeans, and thick socks on the bottom. Leather garden gloves for my hands. I didn’t even know it was cold outside.

I started off by mowing the grass. My neighbor from Arizona stopped me to ask if this would be the last time to mow and when should he lower his blade? Well, it won’t be the last time to mow, but we are getting close. And today I did drop the blade about half an inch in anticipation of only mowing a few more times. According to my records, the latest I’ve had to mow the grass is December 1.

I just love mowing the grass in the fall. The leaves make a nice cracking sound as they are chopped up by the mower and the wet, decaying leaves have that rich, earthy scent about them. Plus, the brisk, cool air really is refreshing. I will miss mowing once I’m done for the season. I really will.

Guess what I did after I mowed the grass? If you guessed that I got out the chipper shredder to do some more garden clean up, you’d be right. I chopped up two wheelbarrow’s full of trimmings, primarily from perennials.

I still have more garden clean up I can do, and I’ll keep at it as long as there are days like today when I’m not at work. But I’ve reached the point where if we had a big snow tomorrow or no more good days to work outside, it would not be a disaster.

It feels good to get to this point, yes it does. And speaking of snow, I also got the snow blower started today, so if (when) we do get some snow, I think I’m ready.

Finally, I did not run into any friends of Little Joe, Big Bill, Fred or George. I was happy about that! Who are they? They are the slugs pictured in yesterday’s post. In case you missed my sister’s comment to the post about the slugs, that’s what her kids named the ones they found a few days ago.

Happy Fall Gardening, all!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ought to be a Policy

My neice and nephews were playing in their backyard the other day and found some "creatures" which they tried to keep as new pets. They captured them, named them, played with them, and then asked their mother if I would want them for my garden.

I've put a picture of "them" below (the creatures, not the kids) so you can see what they offered to give me. I can hear them now. "I wonder if Aunt Carol will want these for her garden?" No. No, no, no.

What are they? They are gigantic slugs, at least gigantic for this area. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but some of those slugs are nearly 3 inches long. I'm not sure what will happen to them once the weather really gets cold and the ground freezes, but I am pretty sure they don't migrate south. In fact, as I think about it, I know very little about the lifecycle of the slug. Where, oh, where do they overwinter? I assume under mulch and plant debris? Wouldn't they just freeze solid above ground?

Regardless, I'm not adopting them as pets for the garden, so my neice and nephew let them go. I'm sure they "scurried off" as fast as a slug can go, after spending a few hours on a paper plate with three kids hanging over them, poking them, talking about them, and naming them.

And, by the way, the reason the kids were playing outside late in the afternoon was because we had a brief "Indian Summer" around here. High on Thursday - 69, and on Friday? 72. And what did I do? I worked. I could not even get out of work early enough to get home to do anything in the yard before dark. There ought to be laws or at least company policies that cover days like those!

"We hereby declare that if during November (or February or March), the temperature is above 65 and it is even partly sunny, all indoor work must cease and all meetings cancelled so that employees can attend to their gardens for a minimum of three hours prior to dusk."

Yes, there ought to be a policy.

Here are the slugs ...

(See their little sluggy shadows? It really was a sunny day!)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thinking About Shrub Borders and What H.M. Wrote

In regards to a shrub border, Henry Mitchell wrote the following in The Essential Earthman

“It is not possible, by the way, to achieve a richly textured effect that will last indefinitely. Plants grow. If your young hollies are twenty feet apart and you fill in with other things, the time will come when something has to yield. You may have to move a large azalea, or saw down an old mahonia, or chop out the viburnum. This is obvious, but always comes as an outrageous surprise to the gardener, as I well know. On the other hand, I do not see much sense in planting stuff at the proper distance for a fine effect fifty years from now. Such plantings will come to perfect maturity just in time for some jerk to bulldoze the place to sell french fries on."

After reading that, I felt slightly vindicated, or at least a little less guilty, regarding several areas in my own shrub borders where, after nearly 10 years, some shrubs seem a bit too close to one another. Like many gardeners, I originally planted the shrubs with some spacing to allow for growth, but not as far apart as maybe I should have or could have. I planted for more immediate good looks.

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking that I may have to choose a few shrubs to selectively remove to solve some of these quite apparent overcrowding problem. But I couldn’t bring myself to the point of actually choosing and cutting out any particular shrub.

But Mr. Mitchell has helped me immensely with what he wrote about the shrub border.

I can now tell everyone that I planted the shrubs with spacing to make for a nice border for the 1st 10 years, but now it is time to selectively remove a few shrubs to allow those that are left to have room to grow to their full potential. Yes, it is all part of my plan.

First to go will be two of three mockoranges (Philadelphus ‘Buckley’s Quill’) that I planted in a space that really should have just one it. Mockoranges in general are not well shaped shrubs, and planting three close together doesn’t change that. On either side of the mockoranges are some viburnums, which could also use some of the extra space that I’ll create by removing these two shrubs.

Then I need to address a troubling area that I’m sure all the neighbors see and point out as they drive by. On the corner of the house, far enough out that it will be years before it interferes with the house, I’ve planted a Chinese spruce, Picea orientalis ‘Green Knight’, as a nice specimen tree. However, next to it, I planted a Gold Tide Forsythia (Forsythia x 'Courtasol'). The Forsythia did exactly as advertised, and has spread wider than it is tall. So this past summer, to ensure that the spruce (the more expensive of the two plants by far) could continue to grow without interference, I had to cut back the Forsythia, and now it doesn’t look too good.

I actually think I’ll be able to transplant the Forsythia and not lose it completely. I just have to figure out where there is another place to plant it. Wait, I know, I have an idea. I’ll finally dig a shrub border along the fence where I’ve been meaning to add one for years and then put the forsythia there! Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

Thank you, Henry, for giving me some good ideas and putting the good sense in my head to remove shrubs that are overcrowded.

(Garden Bloggers’ Book Club members… if you have posted some thoughts after reading The Essential Earthman, let me know!)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two Nice Gardening Surprises

I had two nice gardening surprises today. The first actually happened yesterday, but I am counting it for today, because I actually got the canna rhizomes today.

A colleague at work asked me last week about digging up cannas. I explained what he should do and then also commented that he was bound to dig up waaaayyyy more rhizomes than what he had planted, so if he found he had more than he needed for next year, I could, um, take a few off his hands.

I even told him about how I had so many cannas one year that I actually sold some of the extras at a garage sale. (They went quick!) And then later I was trying to remember how it was that I could go from having so many cannas that I sold some at a garage sale, to having just one that I bought and grew this past summer in a container on the back patio. I think, if I recall correctly, I ended up moving at a time when I had to leave them behind. Yes, let’s go with that…

Anyway he brought me some cannas yesterday, but I didn't have a chance to get them before I left. So today we transferred the nice big box of canna rhizomes from his trunk to my trunk. They are now laid out on some newspaper in the garage to cure for a few days before I put them in some bags with a bit of peat moss. I don’t want to dry them out too much, but want them to be “surface dry” so they don’t get moldy. I'll store them in the garage which should be the right temperature for keeping them through the winter.

Now I can mull around for a few months where to plant some old-fashioned red cannas.

The other nice gardening surprise today was that on the way home I stopped at an office supply store and just down the way from where I parked I saw a sign that read “Harvest Moon Hydroponic…. What? There is a new gardening store like that on my way home and I didn’t know about it? I was pressed for time and didn’t go in, but I drove by real slow to check it out. Then when I got home I looked it up on the Internet. Yes, there is a Harvest Moon Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening Supplies store on my way home from work.

I must be careful, especially at this time of year, not to get too close to that store if I am in a weakened state or feel like I need to buy myself something. I could end up with something like this, which could result in a very expensive salad!

Monday, November 06, 2006

New Approach to Amaryllis

I'm changing what I do with amaryllis this year. Normally, I buy one or a couple or three amaryllis bulbs-in-a-box but don't really get them started until after Christmas. Then I am enjoying the blooms in late January. Not sure why I waited like that to get the bulbs started, I just did.

This year, starting yesterday, I think I'll buy an amaryllis a week at the grocery store and pot it up right away so I'll have continous bloom in about four weeks, all the way through the holidays and beyond. For the most part the amaryllis-bulbs-in-a-box are $5 and you can spend that on a bag of chips anymore, or so it seems.

I'll admit, in spite of the fact that you can keep amaryllis going from year to year and get rebloom, I don't tend to bother doing that. One of my problems this year was that dog-gone mealybug infestation in my sun room. They were very attracted to the amaryllis, so I tossed the amaryllis out earlier this summer once they were obviously infested. Until that happened, I really was going to try to get mine to rebloom this year, I swear.

And how was it I came to buy an amaryllis yesterday? I was led by my shopping cart straight to the display and one jumped in my cart! I know that happens to others, too. You end up with something in your cart, maybe a plant, maybe chocolates, maybe a new gardening tool, and you can't really explain it. There are just forces at work that can't be explained, right?

The particular amaryllis that jumped into my cart yesterday was "Minerva" a red with a white center. Next week I hope a red one jumps into my cart, then the following week a pretty pink one or a white one, and maybe if I am lucky a double one will hop in.

I do know that the ones I am buying for $5 will generally have one flower stem, not the 2 - 3 that one gets with a larger bulb. That's okay by me. I know what I'm getting and it is enough for me. I am not a big amaryllis aficionado, I just like to have a few blooms around the holidays, during the winter, when nothing outside is blooming.

Anyone else starting some amaryllis bulbs now?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Try Orchids

Don’t tell anyone, but I think some of the easier houseplants to grow inside are orchids. This is one starting to bloom in my sun room now. It is “Lava Burst” and I’ve had it for several years. From what I can recall, it blooms every 6 months or so. And I don’t do anything special to get it to bloom.

Why are the orchids easier? Well first off, I can neglect watering and they seem to be fine with that. I don’t water them every week. I water them once every 10 to 14 days or so. I think they actually prefer to dry out a bit between watering.
They also don’t seem to be quite as susceptible to insects, at least not in my sunroom. I have written before that I have a bit of a mealybug problem in my sunroom. Those little cottony masses of tiny, furry insects are driving me crazy trying to control them on aloe, African violets, and Kaffir Lilies. But the orchids? For whatever reason, I’m not finding any mealybugs on them, or the night blooming cereus. I guess I am fortunate in that regard because I think the mealybugs could easily infest the orchids. I think one reason they don’t is most of the time I water the orchids in a sink and give the leaves a good washing off at the same time.

I honestly give my orchids no special attention. Though I’ve read some books on orchid care where they discuss at great length the optimal temperatures and light conditions for different genus of orchids, I don’t pay much attention to them. I have no means to provide any special environmental conditions. The orchids just have to make a go of it in the sunroom, which tends to be a few degrees cooler than the rest of the house in the winter, and just a few degrees warmer than the rest of the house in the summer. And the orchids are all pretty much sitting by a north window, but get some light from the east and west windows throughout the day.

Perhaps this lack of attention to specific details keeps some of the orchids from reliably blooming, but that just makes it all the more exciting when they do bloom!

I know people can go crazy over orchids and go to great lengths in terms of time and money to find new orchids or breed orchids. I have just a few orchids, acquired here and there along the way, so I haven’t gone crazy with them. But if you decide to try an orchid or two, you should know that some people just really connect with these mysterious plants, succumbing to a condition known as “orchid fever” and it could take over your life.

But, in spite of this risk, if you are one of those gardeners who hasn’t done well with houseplants, give orchids a try!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tulips, Blueberries, and Rabbits

I planted some tulip bulbs earlier today. Since nothing else was in the flower bed, especially after I removed the mums I had planted there earlier this fall, I was able to just dig out the whole area. This is a quick way to plant bulbs. I am hoping for a good display of tulips in all shades of pastel colors for 4 – 6 weeks or longer this spring.

And while I was doing some more garden clean up, I discovered that a rabbit or two might have been nibbling on my little blueberry shrubs. I just planted these shrubs earlier this spring, so they are still a bit small. They won’t last long if the rabbits eat much more of them. So, I made some little wire cages for the blueberries, which should make it darn near impossible for the rabbits to do any nibbling on them. That should get them through the winter, at least.

What really makes me mad about the rabbits nibbling on the blueberries is that they leave whole stems lying around. This makes me think the rabbits don’t really like the blueberry shrubs, they were just tasting them! That’s got to stop, RIGHT NOW.

Any rabbit who decides to chew off a branch of anything in my garden is hereby ORDERED to just go ahead and eat it. Don't leave it lying around for me to find.

(Note, for anyone who also reads my Grandma's Diaries... It is having some database issues and I can't update it at this time. Once the problem is fixed, I will catch up the postings there.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bulbs and Bulb Vases

I wasn’t going to buy any bulbs this fall because I wasn’t sure if I had any place to plant them. Then I added the new flower bed by the lamp post, and now I have a place to plant some bulbs. So, I have about 120 tulip bulbs to plant there, which should be a decent showing.

I’ll probably treat these tulip bulbs as annuals and pull them out after they’ve all bloomed. I got a variety of early and mid season tulips, so I should have blooms for a month or longer this spring.

While I was buying the tulip bulbs, I also picked up some allium and Japanese iris bulbs to add in here and there. And this year, I remembered to get hyacinth bulbs to force in my hyacinth vases. I’m cooling those bulbs in the back of the refrigerator now and will pull them out right after the New Year.

I’ve acquired quite a few hyacinth vases over the years, some were gifts, others I bought on clearance after Christmas or just because the vase wasn’t plain, clear glass. Several years ago, I bought my sisters and sister-in-law each a hyacinth vase kit complete with bulb for Christmas. Three of the four were able to put water in the vase and the bulb on top and get a nice hyacinth bloom. However one, who shall not be called out on the Internet, showed me her vase and bulb in April and asked why it had done nothing. You know why she didn’t get it to bloom? She put the bulb in upside down.

One more story about using special vases for forcing bulbs. Years ago, I saw an amaryllis vase and had to have it. The idea was the same as for hyacinth. Put water in the vase, set the amaryllis bulb on top and wait for it to bloom. It worked out pretty well for a few weeks; then when the amaryllis started to bloom, it kept falling over. I should have known better, because I always have to stake amaryllis bulbs when I grow them in pots. The amaryllis wasn’t going to miraculously stay upright without support in the vase, and I couldn’t figure out how to support it without stakes.

Last year I went to a greenhouse to get hyacinth bulbs and they were also selling the amaryllis vases as a “new” novelty item. I told the sales person what happened when I tried it, and she looked a bit horrified. Maybe she envisioned gardeners bringing back all those vases when their amaryllis flopped over.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November - First Month for the Garden Bloggers Book Club

It’s November! Time to get out your copy of The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell and join the Garden Bloggers Book Club. I don’t want to be the department of redundancy department with too many reminders about this, but in case you are new here, check out the post links that I’ve parked on the blog, Garden Bloggers Book Club, for all the details on how to participate.

All are welcome!

Several people have posted some comments already, which is great. Old Roses posted about her saga of actually trying to get the book. Over at Garden Rant, Susan added in some of her thoughts, and Gloria posted some thoughts as well. And I added some posts, too, like this one.

I’m sure there are a few others who’ve posted about the book, forgive me for not including a reference here. I’d be happy to add a link here if you will send me a comment to let me know I missed you.

For all, there is still plenty of time, 30 days in fact, to read, reflect, and write a post or two with your thoughts on the The Essential Earthman, then send me a comment to let me know about your post. At the end of the month, I’ll post with links to all of the various blog posts with thoughts on the book. (Hopefully, I won’t miss anyone!)

Oh, and I almost forgot, Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening got me into cataloging my books at LibraryThing by starting up a group for gardeners there. I checked this evening and there are already 16 members. I’m Indygardener over there. (Get it, Indy gardener from Indiana, or maybe it is short for “Independent Gardener”?). She also suggested that we use the group forum there to initiate discussion on our books each month. I am watching for her to post the 1st thought-provoking question. This will also offer a way for non-bloggers to add their thoughts and I’m sure it will result in some lively discussion. (We might also have a forum on GardenWeb, I’m waiting to hear back on that.)

And, before you know it, in about two weeks, I’ll be updating everyone on the book selection for December. I’ve been looking for a book that is fairly light reading, since December can be a busy month. I’ve got one in mind, but if you have an idea, send it along.

As Kathy noted on her blog, only 54 days until Christmas! DO NOT PANIC! There is still garden clean up to do! (At least I still have a lot of clean up to do.)