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Sunday, December 31, 2006

One Gardener's Resolutions for the New Year

I resolve…

To win my war against the rabbits who seem to outwit every plan and strategy I come up with to keep them out of the vegetable garden. I just know I am smarter than they are and THIS will be the year that I get a decent harvest of green beans before they eat all the plants. And because it is winter and all things now seem possible in the summer garden, I will throw all caution aside and again try to plant edible soybeans, a crop which so far the rabbits have devoured completely nearly as soon as the seedlings emerged. That’s how confident I am that I will keep this resolution.

To only buy seeds that I am completely (mostly) sure I will sow this spring. There is a certain magic in seeds, isn’t there? You hold that little seed in your hand and wonder what it can become, even in one season. I find that seeds are irresistible in the winter time. The seed catalogs are full of adjective-laden descriptions and touched up photos of the plants they are to become and you convince yourself that in your own garden you can grow them, and they will look as pictured and be as described, even if you don’t have quite the proper light, soil or climate for them. I’m not saying I have ever bought seeds for plants that clearly would be inappropriate for my zone 5 garden, just that it would be easy to get seduced by the descriptions and pictures in the catalogs and be tempted to do so.

To use all the vegetables that I grow in my garden and not let any of them end up in the compost bin or be left hanging on the vine when we get the first frost of fall. I will eat what I can, preserve some of it for winter eating, and give away what I can’t eat. And, I will try some new varieties of each type of vegetable that I grow because last year I tried a new tomato called “German Johnson” and loved it so much that I saved some seeds for this year. So, there must be other varieties of vegetables that I should try, that I might find to be better than the “tried and true” varieties I plant each year. Yes, I will experiment in my garden!

To leave a few areas of the garden a little less tended so the garden fairies and flower sprites have a place to sleep during the day, undisturbed. At least when the weeds grow faster than I can pull them, that will be my reason for those out of control areas in the garden, those little wild spots that always seem so difficult to tame.

To pick more flowers to bring inside to enjoy and to plant more annual flowers just for cutting. I can have fresh flowers inside every week in the summer, if I spend just a few minutes cutting them and bringing them inside. Why is it that I only want those cut flowers inside in the winter, when it costs money to have them?

To take advantage of any decent day, when I am not working, to spend some time gardening, even if that day is after Thanksgiving and before Easter, when my natural inclination is to think “the garden is closed due to winter”. There is much that can be done on warm winter days in the garden, especially weeding and mulching. And, no, I did not write this one because I feel guilty for not having spent some time this past month outside, when we had so many nice days, perfect for being outside and tending the garden. Okay, maybe a little bit guilty…

And I won’t refer to gardening as ‘working in the garden’ because how can it be ‘work’ if it is enjoyable? That’s just a bad habit, an unclear means of communicating. I think it scares off non-gardeners from wanting to try to garden, because too often we refer to it as ‘work’. Would one say ‘working at my loom’? No, the weaver would say ‘weaving at my loom’. It should not be ‘working on my painting’, it should just be ‘painting’. It should not be ‘working on my wood carving’, it is just ‘carving’. Therefore, I resolve there should be no ‘working in my gardens’, just ‘gardening’ or ‘tending to my gardens’.

To not buy a new hoe unless it is substantially different from any other hoes I have, unless it is an antique hoe, or maybe one that is just enough different from the others I have, or it is a hoe that comes highly recommended. But only under those conditions will I get a new hoe.

To give anyone who visits my gardens a start or two of some plants. I’ve greatly benefited from and enjoyed pass-along plants, and so I want to ‘plant it forward’ for other gardeners or would-be-gardeners who come through my garden gate this year. I have plenty of plants that I could spare a divide or two of or a cutting from.

To overall enjoy my gardens all year long, however they turn out.

What are your New Year's gardening resolutions?

Happy New Year from May Dreams Gardens

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club December Meeting

Welcome to the December meeting of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. We’ve all had a busy month of holiday preparations and celebrations interwoven with a few stolen moments in the garden due to warmer than usual weather (at least for some.)

But now it is time to fix a hot cup of tea and grab a few left over Christmas cookies and read through all the posts we have written about the December book selection, My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love edited by Jamaica Kincaid, or about our own favorite plants. To frame your reference for reading these entries, I encourage you to re-read Kincaid’s introduction, from which I quote the following (for those who didn’t have a chance to get a copy of the book or who have already returned their copy to the library):

“… I tried to arrange these essays and poems… in such a way as to give the illusion of a garden, a garden I would like (sometimes, only sometimes, feelings about a garden will change, too), a garden of words and images made of words, and flowers turned into words, and the words in turn making the flower, the plant, the bean (Maxine Kumin) whole.” … “At the end of it (the book), I hope the reader will have some satisfaction—not complete satisfaction, only some satisfaction. A garden, no matter how good it is, must never completely satisfy. The world as we know it, after all, began in a very good garden, a completely satisfying garden—Paradise—but after a while the owner and the occupants wanted more.”

I’ve have not arranged these thoughts, opinions and writings about this book or the bloggers’ favorite plants in any order, other than the order in which I received them or found them. As you read through them, please freely comment at each site.

Jenn at Garden Djinn

Tracy at Outside

Gloria at Pollinators-Welcome

Genie at The Inadvertent Gardener

Gloria at Pollinators-Welcome

Martha – Earth Girl at The Good Earth

Colleen at The Garden Online

Kim at A Study in Contrasts

Beverly at In My Backyard

Sissy at Got Serenity

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Tracy at Outside

Gloria at Pollinators-Welcome

Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening

Old Roses at A Gardening Year
Bill at Praire Point

Thank you all for participating in December, and I hope all can participate in January (even with all those seed catalogs to study!) Our book for January is Teaming with Microbes: A Gardeners Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. We are completely switching gears with this book, away from essays about gardens and gardening to a book that is meant to improve our understanding of the very foundation of the garden, the soil. Watch for future posts about how to participate, even if you can’t get a copy of the book to read, or it just isn’t your type of book.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club - Still Time for December!

What possible reason could you have for not joining us in our December “cyber-meeting” of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club? The official meeting post will be published late tomorrow or early on Saturday, with links to all the blogs with posts about either the book “My Favorite Plants: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love” edited by Jamaica Kincaid, or the blogger’s own favorite plant.

That’s right, a book club with an option to not even read the book! If you didn’t read the book, didn’t have enough time to collect your thoughts about the book to write about it, or didn’t like the book, you can simply post about your favorite plant and leave me a comment on my blog here, so I can find your post. Then I’ll include a link to your entry on the official meeting post.

And, if you can’t come up with the words to describe your favorite plant, you can simply post a picture of it.

So easy! We already have 10 posts, but this meeting is in cyper-space so we have room for everyone. Just comment here to let me know your post is ready to be included, and you are in!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Always Stay Alert

If you set out to find Christmas ornaments with a gardening theme, you would never find any like these that I ran across at Target earlier today. Christmas ornament designer haven't yet figured out that gardeners will buy anything gardening related, even if it is not specifically made for gardening purposes.

Here is a close up of the seed packet. Perfect for any gardener's Christmas tree!

This seed packet ornament reminds me that I have a nice stack of seed catalogs to browse through, including two (Burpee's and Select Seeds) that came in today's mail. Yes, even though Christmas is just past, and we still have several more months of winter, our thoughts turn to planning next year's vegetable garden and deciding what seeds to try this spring.
Here's hoping you might also find some gardening related ornaments when you aren't looking for them! Just stay alert while shopping!

My Favorite Plant

I’ll have to confess that I did not have time to read the December selection of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love edited by Jamaica Kincaid. And to make my confession a bit more honest, it isn’t so much that I didn’t have time to read it, because I did spend some time reading during the month, it was that I just did not find the book that engaging. I picked it up several times and scanned the table of contents and tried to pick a few essays that might interest me, and ended up reading only one chapter. It was the one on gourds by Katharine White.

So I am going to follow my own back up plan for those who didn’t have time or take time to read the book. I am posting about “my favorite plant”.

I’ve thought off and on throughout the month about what is my favorite plant. I can’t decide. I seem to have a mental block about choosing one, as though once I do, I’ll forever have to consider all other plants “second to this one”, the one I choose. I just can’t seem to bring myself to do that. So instead I made a list of “Plants I Would Take With Me If I Had To Move”.

Here is the list, in no special order

Peonies. I have some that my Dad had on the south side of our house growing up. Every spring he recruited us to pinch off the axillary flower buds so that the terminal flower bud would form a bigger flower. And he did get some big flowers that way, all soft pink and as big as softballs. Several years ago, during a big construction project, they had to dig on that side of the house, and I thought the peonies were dug up and tossed aside before I could get to them to save them. But, fortunately that next spring they came up, a little worse for the experience, but they were there. I dug up all I could, potted them up and then distributed them to my siblings for fall planting. Of course, I kept a few for myself!

Asters. My aunt gave me some asters when I moved into my first house and had my first real garden, and I’ve moved them twice since then. She said she got them from my Dad, and he had given her all he had because they were too floppy and messy for his taste. But I love them, because they bloom in late September when nearly everything else in the garden is done for the season. And they attract scores of butterflies, so that when I walk by the asters in the fall while mowing the grass, I am briefly surrounded by dozens of butterflies.

Lily of the Valley. Whenever I see Lily of the Valley in bloom, I am transported back in time to when we visited my grandmother every Sunday afternoon. She had a large bed of Lily of the Valley growing on the side of her house, and when they bloomed in the spring, we would pick all that we could and proudly present them to her and my mother.

Violets. See Lily of the Valley! They bloom at the same time, and we always managed to pick a few violets to go with the Lily of the Valley. Is there any more perfect bouquet of spring flowers than violets and Lily of the Valley? For this same reason, I always start my spring planting with the closely related violas, which I buy as soon as I see them in the garden center.

Hostas. I wouldn’t take all my hostas with me, but I would take the old-fashioned ones that actually bloom in August, living up to the name “August Lily”. I dug mine up from my brother & sister-in-law’s house. They gave them to me in a moment of weakness when they were desperate for me to drive my Mom to their house to baby-sit and I really wanted to stay home because it was spring and I wanted to plant the vegetable garden. But every gardener has her price, and I could not resist the offer! I took them all!

The Night-Blooming Cereus. This is a monster house plant, growing in a 20 inch pot, tied up to a 5 foot trellis in the corner of my sunroom. I’ve had it for nearly 20 years, and it is like a member of the family now, and so I would have to take it with me if I ever move. My Dad got a start of this plant from a family friend named Louisa who was from Czechoslovakia. When he had it, it was always an event when it bloomed, with neighbors gathered around to watch it. I try to make it an event when it blooms for me (all three times, so far!)

I have dozens of other plants I could include on my “must be moved if I ever move” list, but I’ll stop there. Many of those that I would list are what I consider “first generation” at least for me. I purchased them and assume I could purchase them again if I had to move.

But the ones I’ve listed here just wouldn’t be the same if they were ‘store bought’. I chose them not for their visual appeal, their flowers, the scent or their foliage. Like many gardeners, I chose those plants that I have a history with, that are part of my gardening experience, going back to childhood. They are plants that if I have them growing in my garden, wherever that might be, I could consider that place my home.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas without Plants - Never!

This is the last of my three amaryllis bulbs to bloom. Since I do not live in a place where these can live outside all year long, I tend to treat these as 'annuals' and don't try to get them to rebloom again.
However, this year, I think I will try to "summer these over" and see if I can get them to bloom close to Christmas time next year.
I celebrate Christmas with a lot of plants... paperwhites, amaryllis, poinsettas, Christmas trees, pine boughs, wreaths of evergreens, to name a few. Some are "fake" plants, I'll admit, but many are real. I think even non-gardeners would find Christmas much different without all the plants and the symbolism around those plants and how we use them.
Each year, I like to read a little book I picked up several years ago called "Decking the Halls" by Linda Allen. It is full of interesting stories about the traditions around plants like mistletoe, holly, evergreens and rosemary and how they came to be used by the Christians in celebrating Christmas. I find it all very interesting!
Speaking of traditions around plants, is anyone attempting to keep a yule log burning for the 12 days of Christmas?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas From May Dreams Gardens

Merry Christmas To All...

And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2: 4- 14

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Hoe, Hoe, Hoe

I took this picture last year, thinking it might make for a unique Christmas card. There were people at work who were egging me on. (They know about my hoes.) I didn't make a Christmas card with it, so decided that this will be my electronic Christmas card on my blog, at least for a few days. What do you think? How about that snowman garden statue? (Target!)

It really is starting to feel like Christmas. I'm finished with work for the year, unless they call me with some kind of emergency. I'm nearly finished with Christmas shopping. Now I enter into what I call the "free wheeling" shopping days, when I just browse around and if I see something someone might like, I get it. Now all my family and friends who read this are thinking, me, me, me! Please see something for me!

I've not commented on the weather in Indianapolis recently. It is unseasonably warm, like many other places. I did not have a chance to take advantage of the warm weather to do anything out in the garden, too much of my day job and everything else going on. Plus it rained. I'm still hoping some elves will do a few things for me. Today, I am going to go outside and see if I, too, have anything sprouting pre-maturely, like others I've read about.

Oh, I almost forgot, the inside of my Christmas card...

Hoe, hoe, hoe. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Garden Bloggers Book Club December Newsletter

And how is it going for everyone reading the December selection of the Garden Bloggers' Book Club? I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and time with family and friends.

For those who are new around here, or who are just getting caught up, our December selection is My Favorite Plant edited by Jamaica Kincaid. Remember, if you don’t have time to read the book, you can still participate by posting in December about your own favorite plant. The “meeting post” with links to all the entries I know about by then will come out around December 29th. Just leave me a comment when you have completed your post about the book or your favorite plant. (I'll confess at this point, my post contribution will be about my favorite plant!) I've already rounded up about 5 posts from different bloggers who have posted about the book or their favorite plant, but can accept an unlimited number.

Our motto for January is “Once you read a good book on soil, it will never be just “dirt” to you again” and the book selection is Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. If you can’t find a copy of the book at your local library or don’t want to actually buy it because it just isn’t your kind of gardening book, choose any book or article about soil, composting, or related topics to read and write a post about it in January.

And earlier we announced the February selection... Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White & Elizabeth Lawrence--A Friendship in Letters edited by Emily Herring Wilson. We had suggestions to read a book by Katharine S. White or Elizabeth Lawrence, and with this book, we can read writings by both authors.

Finally, now that it is officially winter, can spring be that far off? Hopefully not! If you have any suggestions for a March book, send them my way via a comment. Who knows, maybe you've been a good gardener this year and Santa Claus will bring you a new gardening book that would make a great selection for spring reading for all of us?

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

Hoe, hoe, hoe, and Merry Christmas to you, Santa. I’ve tried to be a good gardener this year, I really have, and I can explain any evidence to the contrary, or would at least like the opportunity to explain if, mistakenly, you have put me on the naughty list!

There are just a few items on my list.

I would like a little garden shed, but first you will have to have the elves sprinkle some magic dust on the homeowners’ association board to get them to change the covenants to allow for “outbuildings”. While I’m asking, please include running water and electricity with my new shed, and perhaps on the southern side, a glass lean-to where I can keep a few seedlings or over winter a plant or two. If you deliver it, I’ll do the landscaping around it.

I would also like a couple of areas dug up and ready for planting in the spring. Can the elves do this while you are delivering toys? You can drop them off and pick them up when they are done. I’ll leave the flood lights on for them and set out some refreshments. The ground isn’t frozen, so if it doesn’t rain too much the rest of this week, I think it would be okay to prepare these beds. I’d like them to focus on the east side of the back yard and don’t forget to have them add good compost to amend the soil.

I don’t want to get too greedy, but could you make sure Mother Nature provides just the right amount of rain for me in 2007? She did a pretty good job of that in 2006, but I have just a few suggestions to make 2007 even better. First, I am still planning a lot of gardening in May, so I’d prefer any rain during that month occur between midnight and 4:00 AM. Thereafter, there can be a few rainy days, but no washouts, please.

Please look around while you are here, and if there are some areas where you think I could use some more tulips or daffodils or anything spring-flowering, please go ahead and plant those for me, and surprise me this spring. I would love that!

And while we are talking about plants, I’d like some apple trees, some thornless raspberries and blackberries, and anything else you think I could use.

Finally, yes, I do think I need one more hoe. I’ve got my eye on one or two that aren’t like any I have already. I’ll have to get back with you on the specifics.



P.S. If my letter is too late for Christmas, remember my birthday is in January!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"In Dream Book What Is Smelling Onion" and Other Searches to Get Here

Earlier in the summer, I added a link to BlogFlux Mapstats on my website so that I could see where people came from who were looking at my two main blogs. Since I use the free version of Mapstats, I can only see the current day’s stats. And in those stats, I can also see the website the person came from if they linked to me from another site and also what search term they entered if they found me that way. (I can not, I repeat, I can not tell who someone is, so everyone is still anonymous to me!)

The search terms, especially, are interesting, so I tried out a few from the last few days to see for myself what came up.

Someone did a search on “Japanese digging knife”. Not such an unusual term, and it directed them to this post that I wrote earlier this summer about some of my sharp tools.

There was a search yesterday for “in dream book what is smelling onion”. Huh? I could not even begin to guess where that might lead someone, since I don’t remember posting too much about onions this past year. It led them to my post about what my grandparents grew in their vegetable gardens.

Yesterday, someone did a search for “caged fairies”. I had to go through about 8 screens of Google results before I found a link that took me to a search of all my sites about rabbits, with the first one being about caging the blueberries. I personally have never gone that far into Google trying to find something!

Someone else did a search for “furry insects”. That led me to my post on trying orchids, where I happened to also mention just a tiny little problem with mealybugs.

How about “rabbits chew Christmas lights”? Okay, I’ll bite (couldn’t resist). That search took me to the entire archives of November and if you page down all the way to November 21st, you’ll find a post where I mention rabbits chewing on plants all winter long.

“Write a book club newsletter”. That brought me to the November Garden Bloggers’ Book Club newsletter.

How about “rabbit jumped the fence”? That took me to the April archives. Somewhere in one of those posts I must have mentioned that I once saw a rabbit jump over a fence I installed to keep them out of my garden, because I did, I really did.

Try “Blogspot Vegetable Garden”… takes you to this post of about my vegetable garden.

Try “how to make big spider”… there is no way on my blog that I have included any instructions about how to make a big spider, but I did write about them here.

Try “winter garden images Indianapolis” entered by someone in Las Vegas, perhaps yearning for a good old-fashioned Hoosier winter? That took them right to my blog’s main page.

And for the Christmas season, apparently several people want to know about “Christmas Bell Story” as there were a couple of versions of that search. That took them to the story of the little bell we always hung on our Christmas tree as kids. I hope they enjoyed it!

And I made up this search: “new plant species pink flowers vine” and came to my post last April about a new plant.

I do wonder what people think about some of these items, how long they spend reading them, if they ever come back. They don’t often leave comments, so I’ll never know!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Seed Packets for Seeds and Seed Money

I think a few of my nieces might check in on my blog from time to time. I will tell them now to stop reading this one right now or they will not be surprised on Christmas!

Pictured above are some of the seed packets that I made this weekend to put "seed money" in for stocking stuffers. They are also just the right size for gift cards.

I use a Microsoft Powerpoint template that I found several years ago on the Internet. I modified it a bit to suit my needs and now can add text and clip art to customize these for any holiday or birthday. Once I have them designed how I want them, I just print, cut, fold, round the corners, and paste to create a gift fit for a gardener to give.

Here's the back of one...

One Easter, I made some up to put in baskets and put actual seeds in them instead of money, and included instructions on the back for how to plant the seeds. But for some reason, those were not nearly as popular as the ones with "seed money" in them, even though the seeds were some I had collected from my own garden. Kids these days....

Anyway, I'd be happy to share this template, just put your address in a comment and I'll email it to you. (Protect your email address from spammers and bad people by including spaces, etc. and then I'll piece it back together). You do need Microsoft PowerPoint to use this template.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Easily Distracted

I heard it before I saw it. That sound that all gardeners recognize instantly. The sound of a potted plant falling to the floor. I turned around just as I heard the crash. In those first few seconds before I knew which plant had fallen, I thought "I hope that is one of those straggly coleus plants I am trying to overwinter inside." But it wasn't. It was the Zygopetalum orchid. The one that is blooming.

Then I hoped that the flower stem was not broken in the fall.

It was broken.

So now the orchid is a cut flower in a vase. It should still last awhile, though not as long as it would last if it was still attached to the plant.

I won't even show you the orchid in the vase. Just go here to remember how the orchid was when it first flowerd.

I somewhat blame the amaryllis that are blooming nearby, though clearly, I was the one who knocked the orchid off its stand. The reason I blame the amaryllis is because they look so nice and Christmas-y, that they captured my attention and I lost track of what was behind me, which was the orchid. See?

Not bad for a "bulb in a box" for $4. And nearby is this pinky-white amaryllis in bloom.

I'm enjoying these Christmas-y flowers, but I sure wish they hadn't distracted me like that!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tiny Christmas Decorations Just Showed Up

Back last summer, I planted a little garden of miniature plants including hostas and heucheras and posted that it was the perfect place for garden fairies to dwell. Then I provided some evidence that the fairies had found my little garden and moved right in. And, they put in a door to the inside of my house.

As you can see from the picture above, the fairies have found a few items around the house to decorate their little door for Christmas. Can you believe it? That's a tiny pine cone in the corner next to the door. Perhaps they borrowed that from a tree ornament? I think fairies are always borrowing little things here and there, how else can I explain when something turns up missing?

I have no idea what tiny gift I could put in those stockings!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Not My Favorite Plant

We've had a couple of blogger/gardeners post about My Favorite Plant, the December selection of the Garden Bloggers Book Club. I'll be publishing a round up of all the posts on December 29th.

Knowing that some have posted their reviews already leaves me just a wee bit concerned if I will have time to read the book, or will I have to resort to the "fall back plan" and post about my own favorite plant?

Then I think about what IS my favorite plant, and I can't decide.

So what have I done? I've come up with a whole genus of shrubs that I don't like... junipers (Juniperus) .

At lunch time through the week, I often walk by a row of junipers on my way to and from the nearby Starbucks . And I always think about how I don't like them as I pass by this display of junipers that stretches for half a block. When they were first planted, I checked the tags on them and they are Andorra Junipers . True to type, the foliage has turned a purplish color this fall, which isn't all that unattractive.

I do know that junipers come in all shapes and sizes from ground hugging to tall spires and everything in between. I know that many have a lighter, almost blue green foliage color not found in many other shrubs. I know some, like the Andorras, turn a nice purplish color in the winter.

But, I still don't like them.

I don't think they age gracefully. I know shrubs don't last forever, but it seems most junipers I've known have had to be removed at some point that I remember because they just got ugly and brown at the bottom or otherwise became an unsightly plant. If someone told me I was aging like a juniper, I'd be insulted!

And who doesn't end up with an itchy rash on their forearms after cutting out or trimming a juniper? I know I do.

So, I don't plant junipers in my own gardens and I don't recommend them to others. But someone does like them enough to have this whole website dedicated to them.

But enough of my negativity toward junipers. I need to turn my time and attention toward more positive activities like deciding what my favorite plant is so I will have something to post for the December Garden Blogger's Book Club by the end of the month.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Rain or Snow?

When we have warm rainy days like today during the winter, people go around saying "if it was colder outside and this was snow, we'd really have a mess on our hands". I checked a few web sites and it looks like opinions vary, but an inch of rain converts to about 6.5 - 10 inches of snow.
I am not much for this kind of speculation. When it is rain, it's not snow, and we can be thankful for that. I prefer rain to snow, except on Christmas day and maybe Christmas eve. And even on those days I prefer just enough snow for a white Christmas, but no snow on the roads, please.
Right now, oddly enough, we have a thunderstorm rolling through. And more rain. The rain is not unusual in December, but the thunder is.

Actually, snow and consistent cold would be better overall for the garden. Cold, then warm, then cold, then warm temperatures tend to cause a lot of intermittent freezing and thawing, and thus ground shifting, which can uproot perennials and other shallow rooted plants.

But every place has its challenges when it comes to gardening. We just learn to accept the challenges where we are and figure out over time how to overcome them.

Then we become somewhat "snobbish" and insist we would rather garden in no other place than right where we are. (Wouldn't that be quite an exchange amongst gardeners... who is gardening in the best place and why?)

I can't imagine gardening some place else other than where I'm at. It's all I know.

Except, I would convert Indianapolis to one hardiness zone warmer, to zone 6. This would give me some additional plants to work with. Not that I am bored with the plants available to zone 5 gardeners. It's just that sometimes when I'm looking through catalogs, everything is hardy just to zone 6 and thus just out of my reach.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Time to Rest!

When the temperature outside falls to single digits, as it did last week, I disconnect from any outdoor gardening because it is cold out there, and even with the warmest of clothing and good gloves, hats, etc., you feel that kind of cold, right to your very core.

Then the temperature rebounds up to the low 50’s as it did this weekend, and I start to think maybe there is some additional garden work I can sneak in before the temperature falls again. After all, when outside temperature is in the low 50’s, a good sweatshirt, jeans and a hat is all you need and you can comfortably work for hours outdoors.

With all the temperature swings, it can be a confusing time of seasonal change, for gardeners and plants, too. But as much as it is confusing here, where everything is now essentially dormant, it sounds like it is worse if you garden further south, where plants are not yet dormant. Plunging temperatures “down there” may mean a quick scramble to protect tender plants, knowing that the next week, all could be normal and the plants will be fine again.

I’m used to the complete dormancy of winter, and actually think I prefer it at this point. I like the period of rest between December and the beginning of March. I can sit back, relax, and just tend to a few indoor plants, plan my garden for next year, and maybe read a good book or two about gardening to get some new ideas.

So, I resisted the urge to do anything outside in the garden yesterday. Instead, I went to the White River Gardens to see the poinsettia and model train display. The picture above is one of the many different kinds of poinsettia they had on display. Unfortunately, they didn't label the plants, so I don't know the name of this one. I just thought it was a nice one.
My plan to fight these seasonal, daily temperature swings? I’m going to pretend it is cold every day from now until March, even if it isn’t. I don’t know how the southern gardeners keep going, nearly year around, like they do. When do they rest?

Three Bells for My Garden

When I posted the other day about the special Christmas bell that my youngest sister stole from the rest of us, oops, I mean took one Christmas at my mother’s invitation (she’s kind of sensitive about my claiming she stole them), my older sister commented that “she had the three bells”. Argh! I had almost forgotten about the three bells, because I think she keeps them hidden from me.

Once upon a time, lovely children played in a back yard surrounded by a typical 1960’s chain link fence with one gate, the gate to freedom! On it hung three brass bells. I wonder if my mom thought she would catch us leaving the yard if she heard the bells ring? Did she know we were quite adept at climbing right over that fence? No gate kept us in.

Anyway, one day I asked my mom where those bells were, thinking, innocently, that they would be lovely to have in my own garden, in some form or fashion. She didn’t know where they were.

Turns out, my older sister took them. I don’t recall a family discussion about who should have these bells, whether they should be split up or kept together. No recollection of anything civilized like that.

So, Sunday I was going to my sister’s house and I called before I left and asked, “Can I see the bells today?” And she was very gracious and had the bells out when I got there. I got to see them, ring them, touch them, take pictures of them, and covet them. (See the picture of them above).

Then one of my nieces got nervous about me taking the bells, I guess, and took them away, back to whatever secret hiding place they have for them. I tried to talk my youngest niece into “putting the bells in my purse”, but she was having none of it, being the daughter of the one who has the Christmas bell, and thus just a bit suspicious of my motives.

I also offered my sister another family heirloom I have in exchange for the bells. It’s an older heirloom that goes back to our great-grandmother. I think the bells are a more recent addition, so I thought this was more than a fair trade. I wasn’t just trying to get the bells for nothing! She turned me down.

Unlike the Christmas bell, I have yet to find a set of these bells any place. If I do, I’m buying them and hanging them in my garden someplace, or putting them on my own gate.

By the way, the fact that I would put these bells outside is one of the excuses, I mean reasons, I mean rationalizations, that my sister has for keeping the bells. She keeps them inside where they will be safer. Plus she has three daughters, and I assume one day she’ll give them each one of the bells to have for their own.
So, my garden remains "bell-less" until I find some that are like these. No other bells will do!

(Update on the Christmas bells… I put in my 1st ever bid on eBay for a set of Christmas bells, just like the set I already had, but I was outbid, and dropped out. I’m not sure what I was going to do with a 2nd set, but for a minimum bid of $4.99, I thought I’d figure it out later. The sellers had a nice comment about how they had purchased the bells at Arth drugs in Lafayette, Indiana in 1956 for 79 cents and so I decided they must be Purdue graduates or at least from Indiana, like me.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Green Thumb Sunday - Red and Pink

Poinsettias at the White River Gardens, Indianapolis. No painted plants there, thank goodness!

Green Thumb Sunday

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Even I'm Decorated for Christmas

My new profile picture for the Christmas season... or it will be if I can get Beta Blogger to accept it!

Blogging and Letter Writing

I am way ahead of myself reading the February book selection for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White & Elizabeth Lawrence--A Friendship in Letters (Paperback) edited by Emily Herring Wilson. I really must open the book and begin reading some of the entries in My Favorite Plant edited by Jamaica Kincaid, because that is the December book and we already have one post about it!

But I can’t seem to help myself. I have discovered that I love to read books like this, letters back and forth between two people, not originally written for publication. It’s a more personal writing style and you get a better sense of the writers, the time they were living in, the environment around them.

Another such book is 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, a book of letters between a writer in New York and a bookseller in London. Their letters span nearly 20 years and you can sense their deepening friendship and increasing respect for each other through the years as you read the letters, even though they never met in person.

I know there are other books of letters, some between gardeners. I just ordered a used copy of A Year in Our Gardens: Letters by Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy. I solemnly promise NOT to read it until I have read through the December book club selection and the January book club selection (Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis).

As I was thinking about this style of writing, letters between two people, I wondered if letter writing be combined with blogging? I could write a blog entry as a letter, but without it being a letter to someone specific, it would seem contrived. And would there be a response back, in the same sense that people wrote letters back and forth to one another? How could that be done in a blogging world? I think it could be done in two ways… through one blog by giving someone else the right to also post or through two blogs linked.

Would you like a blogging pen pal? Someone specifically to exchange letters with, published on a letter sharing blog? Letters would be done as I described above, either in two blogs linked or through one blog. These would not be daily letters, but letters exchanged when there is something to write about, or when time has passed and it is just time to write a letter back, like when letter writers had to wait on the US mail and wrote their letters out by hand. The difference is we would publish the letters on the web for others to also read.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hide the Bell in the Christmas Tree

Gather around all, I’m going to tell you the story of the Christmas bell, even though it doesn’t directly (or even indirectly) relate all that much to gardening.

Once upon a time, in the 1960’s, when there were only four stations on television and holiday movies had to be watched when the networks aired them, there were five children who grew more and more anxious each day for the arrival of Christmas. They would sit around their living room and gaze at the decorated Christmas tree, wondering what it would look like on Christmas morning after Santa came and brought all their presents.

To pass the time, because back then there seemed to be extra time to pass, the children came up with a game called “Hide the Bell in The Christmas Tree”. For amongst all the ornaments on the tree, there was a tiny white porcelain bell, decorated with a little blue candle, a spring of holly and the words “Merry Christmas” written in shiny gold. It was no more than an inch tall and all the children loved the bell as their favorite ornament.

The rules of “Hide the Bell in The Christmas Tree” were simple. One child would hide the bell somewhere in the tree and then the others would try to find it. Then whoever found it got to hide it for the next round. And so it would go for what seemed like hours, but was probably 15 minutes at best.

Fast forward several decades. The children are all grown up with Christmas trees and living rooms of their own. They have all gathered for Christmas and their mother has told them they can each take an ornament from the tree to have as their own.

The four older children each took a special ornament, but left the bell alone. They would not even consider the thought of taking that bell for their very own. But not the youngest sibling. She marched up to the tree, and in one last, final round of “Hide the Bell in the Christmas Tree’, found the bell and took it for her own.

The older ones were shocked. Cries of protest were heard. “You can’t take the bell!” “No fair!” “Leave that there!” “Mom didn’t mean to include the bell!” But, the protests went unheeded, and she kept the bell. She kept the bell.

Then one day, the middle daughter was browsing through an antique store, looking at a display of old Christmas decorations, when suddenly she saw a box of one dozen white porcelain bells. And two of them were EXACTLY like the family bell. She could not believe it! Without hesitation, she bought them. She called her sister. “Can you get the bell and describe it for me", even though she knew she had found not one, but two bells like THE bell.

And they were the same! Such a find! Such joy she had over her unbelievable, improbable find at the antique store. She taunted her sister. “Ha! Now I have two of the bells and 10 others as well.” To which her sister responded, “But I have the original bell.”

But does she? The bells are nearly exactly alike, so they could easily be switched, couldn’t they? And would she notice? How well does she really know that bell? Well enough to spot it in an antique store like her older, wiser sister?

Now the grown children can play “Who Has the Real Bell” while they wait for Christmas!

Top of the box

All 12 bells

Bottom of the box

The End

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Garden Bloggers' Book Club - February Book Selection!

If I counted correctly, we had 12 bloggers and one gardening group member from LibraryThing post one or more articles related to our first book, The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell. I think that’s pretty good for our first month as an online book club. A big thank you to everyone who participated and for all the suggestions on books to read.

(Late breaking news... I've been alerted to one more post about Henry Mitchell, this one from the Bookish Gardener in Wisconsin.)

And now the announcement of the book for February! For those who want to plan ahead, the February selection is Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White & Elizabeth Lawrence--A Friendship in Letters edited by Emily Herring Wilson. I just got this book and have begun to read it, and I am hooked. We had suggestions to read a book by Katharine S. White or Elizabeth Lawrence, and with this book, we can read writings by both authors.

For those just catching up, our December selection is My Favorite Plant edited by Jamaica Kincaid. Remember if you don’t have time to read the book, you can still participate by posting one or more times in December about your own favorite plant. (See how flexible we are, you don’t even have to read the book to participate in December). The “meeting post” with links to all the entries I know about by then will come out around December 29th. Just leave me a comment when you have completed your post about the book or your favorite plant.

For January, the book selection is Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. 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, please choose any book or article about soil, composting, or related topics to read and write a post about it in January. Our motto for January is “Once you read a good book on soil, it will never be just “dirt” to you again”.

And thank you to Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening for setting up a Garden Bloggers’ Book Club section on her Amazon storefront. You can find all the books selected there, ready for easy purchase.

Remember, we welcome any and all and everyone at any time.

You Smell it Before You See It

As soon as I walked into the sun room this evening to close the blinds, I could smell that something was different, something had changed. Sure enough, my Zygopetalum orchid is now blooming. That's it pictured above, in all its glory. This is the second time this orchid has bloomed for me, the first time was last year on December 23rd. I purchased it in early January 2003 in bloom and then it took two years before it bloomed again. But now I think it will probably bloom every year around this time.

On November 20, just two weeks ago, it was just some buds, as shown below.

And it has a strong smell. I would not want to have too many of these blooming at once in the same room because the scent would be overpowering and give me a headache. One is plenty.

The next orchid getting read to bloom is the Jewel Orchid (Ludisia discolor), which is now full of buds. It won't have a smell, but that's okay, it will just be nice to have something else blooming in the dead of winter.

And these blooms should last several weeks!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rescue the Amaryllis - We Will Need a Plan

The other day while out shopping, I ran across a shelf of amaryllis bulbs marked 25% off. These were those amaryllis bulbs that are packaged in boxes made of felt, which I assume was meant to provide for a nicer touch if you are giving the bulb away as a gift.

The reason the retailer had marked them down was because they were all either blooming or had bloomed. Yes, they had bloomed without benefit of water, sufficient light or even being potted up.

These amaryllis blooming like this also showed me again that ANYONE can successfully grow an amaryllis. They will grow regardless of care. So if you know someone who swears they have a black thumb and any plant they try to grow dies, an amaryllis bulb would make a nice gift to prove them wrong. And, if they can’t grow an amaryllis, then I guess their thumb is really black.

It is too late for the amaryllis bulbs I saw on Saturday, but if we all hurry, perhaps we can rescue those that are still on the store shelves, begging to be let out of their boxes so they can bloom? We will need a plan...

Garden Bloggers' Book Club - One More Post for November

In case you haven’t seen it, I’d like to draw your attention to one more post about The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell. Remember, as a virtual club, we don’t really have a concept of “late” or “missed the meeting” just because the main post was a few days ago.

So, if you haven’t already read it, you should head on over to A Study in Contrast to read what Blackswamp Girl wrote.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Green Thumb Sunday - First Holiday Bloom

Green Thumb Sunday

First bloom on the Paperwhites (Narcissus). The bulbs were planted on November 11th in a bed of gravel.

Please Don't Water the Poinsettias

Buds, we have flower buds here at May Dreams Gardens. Some of the narcissus and all of the amaryllis are in full bud. And, the Zygopetalum orchid has big fat buds on one large flower spike, and the Jewel Orchid (Ludisia discolor) has several flower buds it. Plus, my white flowering Christmas cactus is blooming.

It’s not exactly tropical paradise or the same as living in a warm Florida climate, but it is enough plant life to tide me over until spring. And when all these buds are in full bloom, I’ll have some nice flowers to admire.

I also have put up my Christmas tree and set out my Christmas decorations. Someone at work asked me if my tree is real or fake. I actually prefer the term “artificial”, which it is. “Fake” sounds like I am trying to fool everyone into thinking my tree is real, and I am not doing that. It is definitely artificial and I don’t try to scent the air with a pine spray or anything like that. Anyway, she was surprised that I didn’t get a real tree.

Then I blew her mind when I said my poinsettia plants are silk plants. That’s right, silk. I bought them on sale after the holidays years ago because they were $2.50 each and I thought they looked pretty darn real. I told my co-worker they look so real I have to remind myself not to water them. That’s how real they look.

And with all these hideous painted poinsettia plants for sale now, I’d say my silk “traditional” poinsettia plants look more real every year.

I saw some of those painted poinsettia plants at a store yesterday. They are not for me. I’m sure for those who don’t decorate with traditional red & green colors, those painted monstrosities, I mean plants, are a dream come true. Otherwise, why would the growers go to the trouble and expense to provide those painted purple and blue and gold poinsettias?

Somewhere along the way, I’m sure I’ll spot a poinsettia plant that stands out and catches my eye and says “buy me”, and I’ll buy it. Last year, I bought one called ‘Strawberries ‘N’ Cream”. It was a smaller plant and had pink and cream blooms. I still have it, but it is “just a green plant” in the sunroom because I didn’t attempt to give it the right amount of night/day to force it to bloom again.

There are two locations on my side of town with poinsettias on display, including new varieties, so it is on my ever-growing list to go and check those out. And then I’ll stop at the same greenhouse where I bought “Strawberries ‘N’ Cream” and having just seen all those poinsettia plants, I know I’ll find one there that I have to have.

In the meantime, the picture above is one of my fake, I mean artificial, poinsettia plants. Anyone else willing to confess, as a gardener, that their Christmas tree and poinsettias are artificial?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Plain, Plain Blogger

I have been decorating for Christmas and have many garden related/Christmas related items to share. But Blogger isn't quite working for me. I get an error on the web page when I try to create or edit posts, so I can't add pictures or links or italics or bolding or nothing!

Is anyone else having problems?

UPDATE: Thank you for the tip to hit "refresh", that seems to have taken care of the problem for me.