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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lawn Crisis has Passed

In my garden journal entry for today, I can write that I mowed the lawn for the first time this season. The lawn crisis has passed.

No, I did not get my mower back from its spring tune-up. They still have it. No, I did not borrow a mower, as no one I knew well enough to ask if I could borrow their mower had one that was in working order. No, I did not steal a mower!

I bought a spare mower. Not just any spare. A near bottom of the line basic push mower spare. Within 10 minutes of bringing it home, I had unboxed it, straightened out the handle, added the oil, added the gas, and set about mowing the front lawn.

Guess what? This spare isn't like my other mower. My other mower is a self-propelled, self-pacing mower. You push down on the handle and it purrs along at your walking pace. You merely guide it as it goes forward under its own power. The spare mower doesn't go anywhere unless you actually push it forward, with your own strength. I had forgotten what it was like to actually push a push mower.

I mowed both the front yard and the back yard. Wasn't it too wet to mow, with those morning thunderstorms and down pours, you ask? Well, yes, under normal conditions, it was too wet. But it was too tall not to mow it. So, I mowed because tall grass overrides wet ground. The good news is that the sound of my feet squishing through the wet lawn was drowned out by the sound of the mower and it was never actually raining while I was mowing.

I set the mower on its highest setting, and still in some places I was cutting off nearly six inches of grass. I am not exaggerating. This early warm spring has caused the grass to grow at near warp-speed.

I still expect to get my regular mower back Monday. And I'll pay almost as much for its tune up as I did for the spare mower. But I do love my regular mower, even more so now that I have a spare mower, so it is worth it to keep it in top running condition.

When I do get my mower back, I'll mow the grass again, this time on its normal setting, which is one notch lower than the highest setting. Then if the grass gets out of control (again), I can mow at the highest setting to get caught up.

But I hope to keep up with the lawn for the rest of the season and not have to mow again at the highest setting. And I hope that I only sparingly need to use the spare mower because the muscles in my arms, back, and legs are sore now from pushing it. I'm not sure, come morning, that I'll be able to move.

And I hope that I'm not the only gardener who likes to mow her lawn and gets all cranky if she can't mow it when it needs to be cut. Please tell me I'm not the only one!

Garden Bloggers' Book Club March Meeting

The Garden Bloggers’ Book Club meets again! We are on our fifth book and our fifth virtual meeting. Several bloggers have been faithfully participating since the beginning and I appreciate them doing so. Thank you!

For March, we’ve been reading The Gardener’s Year by Karel Čapek. Most of the participants this month posted about the book, but because we never want to exclude anyone who wants to participate but doesn’t have time to read the book, I offered that you could post about any book you’ve read about the “mind of the gardener” or how gardeners think, or your own thoughts on that topic, because that’s ultimately what this book is about, and it is funny, too.

Čapek is an unusual choice for us, but came highly recommended by several bloggers, primarily M Sinclair Stevens at Zathan Gardens . What makes this choice unusual is that Čapek is more widely known “as the most important author in Czechslovakia in the 1st half of the twentieth century” and for coining the word “robot”, not for writing a great little book about gardeners. There are several websites with information on Čapek, if you want more information on him, here’s a link to one of them.

Once you’ve gotten your fill of background information, refill you coffee mug or tea cup, sit back, and check out the reviews from all those who read the book or posted on a related topic:

Old Roses at A Gardening Year

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Annie at The Transplantable Rose

Genie at The Inadvertent Gardener

Jenn at Garden Djinn

M Sinclair Stevens at Zathan Gardens

Entangled at Tangled Branches: Cultivated

Kate Smudges in Earth, Paint and Life, new member!

Tracy at Outside

Vonlafin at Gardening with God

Gloria at Pollinators-welcome

New review from a new member added April 1st Anne at Grow This

And now, get out into the garden (if you can, its raining here as I post this) and be careful of those garden hoses!

Remember, we are going to go to a meeting every other month in the spring and summer. Our April-May selection is Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing. I’ve had this book for many years, but haven’t read it for awhile. It is one of those books you can skip around in, perfect for when it is busy in the garden. And if you get to the end of May and you couldn’t find the time to read the book, you can still participate by posting about your favorite passalong plant, either one you regularly give to others, or one you received from someone else.

(Final piece of club "business"... if I missed your review, I apologize! Please leave a comment and I'll add you ASAP. Ditto if you posted a review after I posted this "virtual meeting".)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Blooms and Lawn Update

Warm weather continues and I am convinced that we are about a week ahead of schedule on blooms and lawns.

I’m now calling my lawn a prairie, as it continues to grow and I continue to wait to get my mower back from the hardware store. I don’t want to bore anyone with the details, but I think my mower should be ready on Monday. When I called at 4:30 PM they said they were ‘working on it now’. But apparently that means it won’t be done until Monday. They must quit at 5:00 or something, and plan to leave my mower in a half-tuned state until Monday. But when I asked if I should just come Monday after work he said no, wait until they call me. They better call me on Monday!

I did attempt to try to borrow a mower from three different people. My sister’s mower is at the same hardware store mine is at, waiting for a tune up. Another friend’s mower hasn’t worked since last fall, and yet a third person tried to start theirs after I called and it wouldn’t start.

So I went out and trimmed around everything. Now my lawn is a trimmed up prairie. And we are expected stormy weather this weekend, so we should get some rain which will help the prairie grow even taller.

I did check out what is blooming today and compared it to my records. The serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora) is starting to bloom and it is a week ahead of when it bloomed last spring.
I think the grape hyacinths are also a week or so ahead of schedule.
The early tulips are starting to bloom. I just planted these last fall, so I don’t have records of previous years’ bloom time to compare to. I thought they'd be taller, however.
I think the Helleborus (Helleborus orientalis) are right on schedule.
They are a bit shy, so I had to coax one to show its face to the camera.
On the way home today, I heard the weatherman on the radio say that by late next week we could see a few snowflakes. We won’t get any accumulation, it won’t last long, but it will be cold.
Ah, spring!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What Would You Do With This Garden Space?

The benefit of having a gardening blog is soon you have a virtual world of like-minded, garden-minded generous souls who freely offer their opinions when you ask for them. Okay, I asked! My previous post about the shrubs I cut back has been out there for just a few hours and already the vote is 6 - 0, remove the shrubs or transplant them elsewhere, with one person abstaining.

I knew after I cut back the spiraea that I had opened up an area that has a lot of possibilities. I knew that I should just finish those shrubs off, and everyone, so far, has confirmed that.

Since several gardeners have also offered some ideas on what to do with this space, I thought I would post two more pictures to show the space from different angles to get some more ideas.

This is the view from the street. (See how tall the grass is? Don't talk about it! My mower is still at the shop, though when I called late this afternoon they gave me a glimmer of hope by telling me that mine is in the group they are working on now. Oh, please, lawn mower tuner uppers, please have mine done tomorrow. I'll pay double! Regardless of whether or not I get my mower tomorrow, I am going to trim everything and ACT like I'm getting ready to mow.)

Anyway, back to the view from the street. This area is open to the west and south. The garage wall faces west, the porch faces south, but the crabapple shades it some. Along the wall, there are several Fothergilla gardenii. You can't really see them in the picture, because they are just bare branches right now, but they are keepers. White "bottle brush" blooms in the spring, great fall color, dwarf, NEVER need trimming.

Also on that wall are two of three trellises that I tried to grow clematis on. One of the trellises fell down and is in the garage. I am ready to replace them and put something up there that is a little showier, a lot nicer. And the clematis never did that well. They tried to grow away from the wall probably due to the heat radiating off the brick and always got tangled up in the Fothergilla.

This is the view from the front step. In the center is a crabapple, Malus 'Guinzam', Guinevere Crab. Another keeper. Excellent spring bloom in late April. And then up by the porch are three Bird's Nest Spruce, Picea abies 'Pumila'. I think they should stay, too.

The rest of the plants... daffodils, a few tulips, some lily turf along the side walk, along with some sedum, and some daylilies by the Fothergilla are quite moveable.

So, there you have it. What would you do with this garden space?

(The picture of the pansies and violas doesn't really relate to the topic of this post, I just thought they were pretty, and a garden blog should have pretty pictures, especially when one is showing a garden space in need of renovation!)

I Cut Back Some Shrubs

There is something about this spring... In addition to widening my perennial bed along the back of the house, I've decided to cut these Spiraeas way back.They came out "poorly" last spring and I knew they needed something to rejuvenate them. Did you know that cutting back some shrubs like Spiraea rejuvenates them?

Here's the after picture. How did I do?
Yes, the shrubs are still there, cut all the way back to ground level.

But here's the question. Do I really want them to grow back? I think planting them along the walkway like I did was poor design. They hid what was behind there, which isn't much as you can see, other than a few tulips and daffodils. But I think that could really be a nice garden area without the shrubs hiding everything planted there.

Now I need to decide if I really want the Spiraea to grow back. If I don't, I need to dig out the stumps before they have a chance to send up new growth. Because once they have new growth, I probably will not have the heart to take them out.

Decisions! Decisions! That's what spring gardening seems to be about. What lived? What died? What stays? What goes? How much to spend this year on the garden?

By the way, the answer to the last question is "we don't count how much we spend on the garden". Or if we do, we hide it in other budget categories... vegetable gardens go under "food", flower gardens are really "therapy", lawn mowers go under "exercise club", along with hoes, because hoeing can be hard work!

Feel free to weigh in on whether I should let the Spiraea grow back (I assume they will!) or proceed with removing the stumps. These were, are Spiraea x bumalda 'Limemound'.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Please Don't Ask Me About My Lawn!

No one is allowed to talk to me about mowing their lawn this spring.

No one is allowed to ask me if I’ve mowed my lawn for the first time this year or talk about mowing their lawn. And right now, I don’t even want to hear the sounds of my neighbors mowing their lawns.

Why? Because, I want to mow my lawn and my lawn desperately wants and needs me to mow it. But I can’t because I took my mower to the hardware store on March 12th for the pre-season replace-sparkplug-and-air-filter-sharpen-blade-make-sure-it-is-running-top-notch tune up and they aren’t done with it yet.

Admittedly, when I took the mower in, I knew they were running about 3 weeks behind, so I would not get it back until around April 2nd. However, I checked my garden records and determined that in all likelihood. I would not have to mow the lawn before then, or if I did, it would be just a few days later, no-big-deal.

What? You don’t keep records of when you mow your lawn? You know, people where I work don't either, oddly enough. But I know some of you reading this do. 'Fess up! I’ve been keeping garden records 'regularly' since 2001 and I’ve often referred back to them to see when flowers bloomed, when I planted different plants, and when I’ve mowed the grass.

Here’s my “first mow dates” for the past 6 years. It’s a riveting list!

2001- April 12th
2002- April 6th
2003- March 28th
2004- March 28th
2005- April 9th
2006- March 31st

See? I assumed if I got my mower back by April 2nd, it would be in plenty of time and I based that assumption on six years of lawn mowing history.

But I didn’t plan for this big warm-up and jump start of spring. My grass is tall, and getting taller. And some of the trees have really started to leaf out, like the Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’) shown above.

I casually called the hardware store last Friday to find out if they were running ahead of schedule. They were not. “Let’s see,” they said, “you brought your mower in on the 12th, we told you three weeks, it is still three weeks.”

I worked up the courage to call again today. I asked if it would be ready at the end of the week. “Perhaps”. Then I asked if it wasn’t going to be done by the end of the week, could I “furlough”it for 24 hours to cut the grass and then bring it right back and not lose my place in line? “That would be an inconvenience", they said. "We actually might have started on mowers brought on in the 11th or 12th today so you could possibly get it by the end of the week, but we can’t promise”.

That’s all I have to cling to right now, that I might get my mower back by the weekend.
Then I just hope it doesn’t rain.

So you understand now why no one is allowed to talk to me about mowing their lawns this spring, at least not until I've mowed my lawn for the first time.

And by the way, I think this lilac pictured below, Syringa vulgaris ‘White Angel’, is too far along, too. (Sorry that bud is a little blurry).

I, for one, am happy that the temperatures are falling back into the normal range for a while. 50's and 60's are fine with me. Maybe it will slow some of this spring down a bit. But it won't make the grass any shorter, so please don't ask me about my lawn. I'll let you know when I'm ready to talk about it again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Potting Soil Recipes?

What is your favorite potting soil recipe?

Several years ago, my sister gave her 3 daughters recipe file boxes for Christmas and asked everyone to write down their favorite recipes on those little recipe cards to put in their stockings.

I stewed for days, weeks, over what recipes I should share, primarily because I don’t have a bunch of recipes written down. (Yes, I cook from memory and taste! Actually that’s not entirely true or even remotely true. I just have no “family favorite” that everyone begs me to bring to family pitch-ins. I am more likely to be asked to bring the paper plates or something like that.)

Finally, early that Christmas morning, I realized I did have one recipe to share, and so I wrote it out on the three recipe cards, one for each niece, and stuck them in their stockings.

I feel confident that they all remember which recipe I gave them because it was for my potting soil mix. Not just any potting soil recipe, this was my super-secret, highly-perfected, with carefully-measured-out-ingredients recipe for potting soil. Or something like that.

And here it is for everyone:


40 lb. bag of Top Soil or Organic Peat. This is the rich, dark stuff.
Sphagnum Peat Moss

Dump the top soil into a wheel barrow large enough to hold the entire contents of the bag and allow room for mixing. Add in a couple of scoops of vermiculite and a couple of scoops of perlite. Cover the whole thing with some sphagnum peat moss (an amount about equal to the perlite and vermiculite combined, maybe a little more). Mix together with a small shovel or large trowel.

Now after reviewing my recipe, I've decided that it needs to be updated. There are environmental concerns about using sphagnum peat moss, since this is not a renewable resource, and there are also various concerns about vermiculite that may or may not be valid. So I may need to drop these ingredients and substitute something else.

Does anyone have any suggestions? What did they do in the old days before you could buy a 40 lb. bag of top soil? What’s your potting soil recipe? Or do you buy ready made potting soil? If ready made, what brand do you like the best? If you have too much info about your favorite potting soil to put in a comment, write a post and let me know about it so I can check it out!

Is It A Forsythia Miracle?

Is it a Forsythia miracle? Can plants read your mind? Did this shrub know I had numbered its days?

The Forsythia I posted about yesterday that has never bloomed, Forsythia x intermedia 'Arnold Dwarf', has bloomed. It has bloomed!

It's rather sparse in blooming, and certainly does not compare to the 'Gold Tide' Forsythia in the front, but those are definitely blooms.
It's so easy to rip out a non-performing plant, but now? Is it reading my mind? Is this enough bloom to justify keeping it? Was I just too inpatient? Will it get better each year?

I definitely need to weed the grass out around it, but then, should I keep it?

Decisions made must be rethought! New evidence has presented itself.

Nah, I think I'll still pull these out. It's still a dog. I just wanted you all to know it had bloomed, finally, so if you want to get one and wait, oh, say, 10 years for blooms, go for it. Or if you want these, let me know.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Tale of Two Forsythia Shrubs

Gather round to hear the tale of two Forsythia shrubs.

Here's the first Forsythia, Forsythia 'Gold Tide'. Isn't that a bright yellow? This shrub has been a star performer in the front garden since the first spring after I planted it. I've never been disappointed by its bright yellow display, which comes at just the right time to add a little 'sunshine' in the spring.

I readily recommend this Forsythia to anyone looking for a shrub that forms a nice mound that is about four feet x four feet and provides a spot of brighness in the early spring.

Here's the second Forysthia, Forsythia x intermedia 'Arnold Dwarf'. I can not recommend this Forsythia to anyone. After 8 or 9 years, it has never bloomed. The tag, which I still have, proclaims "Bright Yellow Spring Blooms!". Really? When? Under what conditions? The tag also has a picture that shows just green leaves. That should have been a clue, but I didn't pick up on it. And I had to buy not one, but three of these "garden dogs".

The problem is that the 'Gold Tide' Forsythia is starting to crowd out a nearby Oriental spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Green Knight’). So, once it finishes blooming, I am going to carefully dig it out and replant it someplace. It's too good not to try to save. And with the way it suckers, I'm fairly confident that it will survive. I just have to figure out where to move it to. I might just move it to the other side of the window where it is now, but that means I also have to transplant a small "Flower Carpet" white rose. And depending on where I move that, well, there could be a lot of movement in the garden if I'm not careful!

Here's a close up of the flowers of the 'Gold Tide' Forsythia.
Now, that's YELLOW.

I'll also be removing the 'Arnold Dwarf' Forsythia this spring, though I won't be waiting for it to bloom first (since it has never bloomed) and I won't be transplanting it anywhere. I'll be hacking it out by any means necessary! I just hope I can get enough of the roots out to keep it from returning on me.

One other interesting fact about these two different Forsythia is where I bought them. The 'Gold Tide' was purchased at an independent nursery. The 'Arnold Dwarf' came from a big box hardware store that has a name that starts with "L" and ends with "s". You don't suppose that it was mismarked, or a dog that the wholesaler was trying to unload? Nah, that would be wrong.

Because I've written before on this blog about my Forsythia that will not bloom, my dear, sweet older sister sent me a picture of her Forsythia in bloom today. Wasn't that nice of her? In her email she wrote, "I know your forsythia does not bloom, here's a picture of mine".

Ha! Only my 'Arnold Dwarf' Forsythia isn't blooming. I think my other Forsythia, 'Gold Tide' beats her Forysthia any day. What do others think? Page up to see that bright yellow globe of a shrub at my house. Or look here at her fairly ordinary, yawn, common Forsythia.

And she also sent me another picture, if you don't mind one more picture of some crocuses. I will concede that this is a very lovely scene with crocuses at her house. She'd better watch out, though. Next time I'm at her house, that angel just might disappear and one just like it will end up at my house!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Daffy Ol' Rabbits!

Why do the rabbits do this? Why do they chew off the flower and then leave it lying on the ground!? Luckily for this flower, I found it and brought it in and put it in a vase. Otherwise, it would have been wasted outside.

Outside... where it is like summertime right now. Too hot, too fast, if you ask me. I think the plants are in a panic now with the sudden warm temperatures as buds, blooms, and leaves are popping out all over the place, literally overnight it seems.

I'd like for a bit of a cool down please, let's do this whole spring thing gradually, shall we? I get into a tizzy, too, when it is warm like this! I'm not ready! I can't keep up!

The Gardener's Year

Did you ever meet someone for the first time, and within a few minutes found out they were also a gardener, and then soon you were engaged in conversation, comparing notes on what you grow, suggesting plants to try, nurseries to shop at, and techniques for pruning? And the other people with you were soon looking from you to the other person, not believing that until that conversation, you really didn’t know each other.

Reading The Gardener’s Year by Karel Capek, the March selection of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, was somewhat like that for me. I found myself nodding my head and laughing at some of his observations about the gardener and the gardener’s state of mind. And I’m a bit amazed that he wrote this book nearly eighty years ago.

Some of the quotes that I really enjoyed…

“…until it has been tamed a hose is an extraordinarily evasive and dangerous beast…”

Who among us has not been attacked by our "beastly garden hoses" at some time or another? Doesn’t it seem odd that after 80 years, we still have not figured out how to make a garden hose that doesn’t at some point give us, the gardeners, a good soaking instead of the plants?

“The gardener’s autumn begins in March, with the first faded snowdrop.”

How can that be? But it is true. We always think of the gardening year as beginning in March, or if we are lucky February. And as each bloom has its season, we are one day closer to the end of the season. But we do love those days when we see the first snowdrop, the first crocus, then daffodils, tulips, lilacs, peonies, and on until the last of the toad lilies succumbs to the killing frost.

“Well, then, in April, the gardener is a man who, with fading plant in his hand, runs around his little garden twenty times looking for an inch of soil where nothing is growing.”

Some gardeners are addicted to plants, and the lack of a cleared spot of ground does not stop us from buying a plant we really want or accepting a passalong plant we’ve coveted and finally get. We’ll eventually figure out someplace to put the plant, or start a new flower bed in its honor, but in the meantime, we may have to set up little nursery holding areas to keep the plants alive until their permanent homes, their one inch of soil, can be found.

And finally,

“The right, the best is in front of us. Each successive year will add growth and beauty. Thank God again we shall be one year further on!”

One year further on, my trees are a little taller, my shrubs a little wider, and I imagine that I’ll have fewer weeds, better harvests, brighter flowers, and no trouble with rabbits. This book reminded me how optimistic gardeners are.

It also reminded me that in spite of all the changes in how we live and what we do and what we have, gardening is still gardening. It’s still about the plants and the soil, and trying to tame a bit of ground. And gardeners, and a gardener’s state of mind, really haven’t changed all that much in nearly 80 years.

If you are also participating in the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club this month, leave me a comment when you have posted your thoughts on the book so I can include you in the official club post, which will come out on March 31st. All are welcome!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring Flowers and Villains

The spring show continues and every day there is something new in the center stage of the garden. The crocuses that were so exciting to see just 10 days ago are nearly all gone and now the daffodils are marching in to take their place. These are some miniature daffodils growing in a perennial bed in the back along with chickweed and henbit.

The morning has started out gray and now the sun is starting to come out. But even if the sun shines for awhile before the next rain, the ground is so saturated from two days of rain that there is very little that can be done outside.

It seems so peaceful.

And it would be peaceful if it were not for the villain of the garden. I caught him in action this morning, running across the vegetable garden.
He is in the center there, do you see him? This one rabbit is ready to turn my lovely spring show into a house of horrors. I must catch him and remove him!

Yes, I will be setting out my live trap today in hopes of catching me a big, fat rabbit! I hope!
And please, don't leave a comment telling me that this might not be the only rabbit out there. I have to believe it is the only villain, or go mad thinking about what more than one rabbit could eat in my garden!

Update... shhh... quiet, there's the trap. Don't make any sudden noises or movements... I've set it with some dried up blueberries to lure the rabbit in. What do you think? Am I going to catch a rabbit today?


Friday, March 23, 2007

Colleen Announces Mouse & Trowel Awards!

Colleen at In the Garden Online has started the first Mouse & Trowel awards for garden blogs. Visit her site to get all the details on what to do to nominate your favorite garden blogs in a variety of categories. Nominations are due by April 13th. Thanks, Colleen, it is about time that garden bloggers got some recognition!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Introducing My New Hoe

What could be better than to be greeted with a new hoe when you get home? You tell me! Yes, I'll admit a new bloom gives a new hoe a run for the money, but it's always nice to find a new hoe waiting for you on your front porch when you get home from a long day of work.

And just how is a hoe shipped? Wrapped in plastic with some extra protection for the hoe head and the end of the handle. I wonder what the delivery man thought when he delivered this to me, or if he is so used to delivering hoes to all the good gardeners in the world, it was no big deal?

Anyway, I present my new hoe, a DeWit Stirrup Hoe from Tierra Garden.

I took my new hoe, handmade in the Netherlands, for a "test spin" last night and it's a keeper. I can see where this will be a good hoe for weeding in the garden. With the open stirrup design, I'll be able to cut through weeds without really moving all the soil in the process. Soon I'll be adding this hoe to my official "collection post" once I take a more suitable picture (portrait) of my new hoe with a better background.

Now, let's talk about hoes for a minute and why a gardener would have so many hoes. Not counting some antique hoes that I don't actually use, I now have 14 hoes, 15 if you count my hand digging hoe. I realize that is maybe 13 more hoes than most gardeners have.

Was I raised in a family with a lot of gardening tools? No, my Dad was really a "one hoe" gardener, who also had one shovel, one rake, and one trowel. But he had several leaf rakes, because he wanted to put us all to work helping with that fall chore! I believe I actually bought him his second hoe for Father's Day one year right after I had graduated from college. The handle on that hoe broke, but I still have the hoe head, hanging in my garage.

Who knew there were so many different types of hoes? A lot of people, gardeners included, don't realize how many different types of hoes there are, until they look at some of the specialty gardening tool catalogs. But, fellow gardeners, once you see all the different types of hoes, don't you want to try them out to see how well they work or don't work, and find out for yourself if one is really better than the others? What if one of them truly is "the one" that's perfect for you and how you garden? You'll never find out if you don't try them out.

Do I use all these hoes? Ummm, some more than others. I probably use the hand digging hoe the most. After that, I would group the other hoes into three categories... those I use a lot, those I use for special situations, and those I tried but don't really like that well.

Do I ever get rid of my older hoes? No, it never crossed my mind to get rid of any of my hoes. Even those I don't use that often might come in handy for some special garden work in the future.

What do I call my hoe collection? I've been thinking about that. If a fleet is a bunch of cars, and a flock is a bunch of geese, what does one call a collection of hoes? (I'm accepting only clean answers to that question!)

If you have more questions about my collection or a specific hoe, feel free to ask. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It All Happens So Fast

These spring flowers all seem to flower so fast, once they start to flower! One almost forgets through the winter how quickly "spring" happens once we have a few nice days. These flowers were not blooming yesterday!

Here are the first daffodils, some little miniatures near the base of a tree in the front. I noticed them as soon as I drove up to my house late this afternoon. In fact, I noticed them before I saw that my new hoe had been delivered.
Then when I went outside to see what else was going on, I saw these daffodils. Maybe they were the first daffodils?
And the periwinkle, Vinca minor, is starting to bloom as well. I found these when I was finishing up the expansion of my flower bed along the back of the house.
And these buds shown last week...
Are now these flowers...
Previously, Annie in Austin commented that these might be Chionodoxa, Glory of the Snow. Can anyone confirm that now that they are blooming?

So that's my evening.... new flowers blooming, a new hoe, the completion of the expansion of my flower bed along the back of the house, and a lot of weeding. It is all too much for one post, so I'll just post about the flowers today. Tomorrow we are expecting spring showers, so I'll have time for a proper post about my new hoe. because don't you agree that a new hoe deserves it's own post?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Springtime: Time for Hoes and Hoses

Spring arrived here this evening at 8:07 PM EST. At precisely that time, I went outside to water my pansies and violas, just as the sun was setting over the horizon. What better way to welcome spring than to steal a few minutes of the last of the sunlight to tend to my spring flowers?

I was concerned that the nozzle on the hose was starting to leak so I held it out away from me as I turned on the water so if it did spray out water where it shouldn’t, I wouldn’t get soaked. I reached down, turned the water on slowly and… and nothing came out from the nozzle.

Momentarily I thought, hey, great, the hose nozzle is fine, what was I afraid was going to happen?

Then I realized that water was spraying out from someplace all down into my garden clogs. Since it was nearly dark I could not really see what the problem was, so I quickly turned off the water. Upon investigation, I found that the hose had completely split in to two pieces about three feet from the end!

At that moment I felt exactly like I had the hose described by Karel Capek in The Gardener’s Year when he wrote, “One would think that watering a little garden is quite a simple thing, especially if one has a hose. It will soon be clear until it has been tamed a hose is an extraordinary evasive and dangerous beast…”

Dangerous beast, indeed. I’ve never had one break like that, but this is the first coiled garden hose I’ve had, and it is several years old. I guess over time, the plastic just got brittle and it broke in half. Now I not only need a new nozzle, I need a new hose.

And I’m also getting a new hoe this spring! Can you believe it? I found a hoe unlike any other hoe I have, and so I ordered it up. A little present from me to me for surviving another Midwest winter. It should arrive on my doorstep any day now… I can hardly wait to try it out.

Ah, yes, spring. Time for new hoses and new hoes!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Book Club March Newsletter

On this eve of spring, I bring you the March edition of the “newsletter” for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club.

The March Selection:

In addition to finally getting out into the garden a few times this month (so far), I’ve been reading the March book club selection, The Gardener’s Year by Karel Capek. I hope others have also had time to read it, even while time spent gardening starts to increase. I’ll be posting the official “club post” on March 31st with links to all the reviews and commentaries.

And because we don’t want to exclude anyone who wants to participate, even if they haven’t read the book, we always offer a related topic to post about. This time you can post about any book you’ve read about the “mind of the gardener” or how gardeners think, or your own thoughts on that topic, because that’s ultimately what this book is about, and it is funny, too. All I need is a comment or email to let me know you’ve posted something for the “club meeting”, so I can be sure to include a link to your post on the official “club post” at the end of the month.

The April-May Selection:

As we all get busier in the garden, there seems to be less time for reading books. But at the same time, isn’t there always time to read a good book, especially about gardening? So to continue through the busy gardening months, we’ll go to a book every two months for awhile starting in April. For April AND May, we selected Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing. I’ve had this book for many years, but haven’t read it for awhile. It is also one of those books you can skip around in, perfect for when it is busy in the garden. And if you just simply can’t find the time to read the book this spring, you can just post about your favorite passalong plant, either one you regularly give to others, or one you received from someone else.

The June-July Selection:

That brings us to the June-July selection, which is not yet chosen, but we still have plenty of time to chose. I’ve had a few bloggers suggest that we read some fiction that has a gardener/gardening theme. Any suggestions on a good fiction book to read? Or any suggestions on any book that you have read and you would just love to have everyone else read it, too? If so, send a comment with your ideas.


I just wanted to say thank you to those who have been joining in and reading and posting for this online garden book club whether for one month or several months. I hink it's much more enjoyable to read a book knowing that others are also reading it, and are sharing their thoughts about it. So, if you haven't posted yet for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club, why not do so this month? The more the merrier, and it is the Internet, so we have room for everyone!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday - Blue

Is blue really that difficult to photograph with digital cameras? 'Back in the day', when people used film in their cameras, whenever someone showed slides or pictures of a blue flower they would always preface it by saying that the camera didn't do justice to the blue of the flower.

I'm not sure that's true any more. I took a picture of this pansy earlier today and I think it turned out pretty good. When I compare the picture on my screen to the real thing, it is pretty close. Not exact, but close. The real flower has just a wee bit more of a purplish caste to it.

The other day I took another picture of something blue... my blue jeans after an hour or so of being on my knees digging out sod. Everyone knows what color blue jeans are. What do you think, how did I do photographing my jeans? Did I capture the blue?

Now don't be shocked by the mud on my knees. I know I'm not the only one who gets this dirty in the garden. Am I?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Renovation of a Flower Bed... And Peas Sown!

When I went out to get the newspaper very early this morning, I realized that it was quite cold and the violas and pansies got their first experience of below freezing temperatures. But by mid morning, with the sun shining on them, they were fine again. That's what I like about these flowers, their resiliency when it comes to below freezing temperatures. I don't know why we refer to weak, scared people as "pansies". Call me a pansy any day! They are tough flowers.

Yesterday after I planted all the pansies and violas, I did some more digging to enlarge my perennial bed along the patio and backside of the house. Here's a picture to show how far I got on Friday.

Then earlier this afternoon I did a litte bit more sod removal, and now I am nearly done. I do need to extend the downspout drainage pipe a bit, and I think the inside curve isn't going to be good for mowing around, so I need to fix that. But it won't take too long to finish, perhaps another hour or so.

Then once all the different perennials start sprouting, I'll dig them out, add some compost and replant in my bigger beds.
I do agree that the inset of the patio calls for a manmade structure of some kind but I'm not sure what it will be. I need to think about it and look around because whatever it is, it will bring some style to the garden. Should I go with something classical? Whimsical? Country-cal?

Oh, and did I mention I planted peas today? St. Patrick's Day is a traditional day for planting peas, so I went for it, even though I don't think it got above 50 degrees. I also sowed lettuce, spinach, beets, and radish, and I planted onion sets.
Guess which bed I planted? Yes, the one covered with white cloth, where the tomatoes were last year. I am using the cloth covering to try to give the seeds a chance to germinate and grow a bit before the rabbits get to them. I know the rabbits are still there. I scared one out of the nearby Forsythia shrubs the other day. (The Forsythia that haven't bloomed in 9 years!) While I was out there today happily sowing my seeds, I felt "watched" by little black rabbit eyes lurking under a nearby shrub. Or maybe it was the garden fairies, watching to see if I would leave my gloves on the ground again? Last year, I "lost" some gloves somewhere in that garden area. They were green (naturally) and I looked all over for them, but never found them. I thought I might find them after I cleaned up the garden last fall, but I didn't and I still can't find them. So you tell me, what could have happened to them?

Friday, March 16, 2007

March Madness

It's time for March Madness here at May Dreams Gardens! Generally, when people talk about March Madness they are talking about the NCAA basketball tournament. But I'm talking about pansies and violas! That's right! Pansies and Violas!

I start to look for pansies and violas in the garden centers as soon as March comes around. Last Friday, I found some at Lowes but I just didn't like the looks of them. They seemed too pot bound, so I didn't get them.

So I went looking again today and struck gold (and purple)! I found most of these at a local greenhouse called Court's Yard and Greenhouse (formerly Boston Greenhouse). The owner raised them all herself and they are some of the biggest pansies I've seen for a while. And the colors of the flowers are so clear!

I also picked up some more violas (light purple and yellow) at Lowes because I love the violas, more than the pansies. They are my favorite flower, I think. (I'm always a little relunctant to name a favorite flower, but if you were to force me to name one, I would pick violas.) In the picture above you can see that I've planted a pot of mostly pansies with a few violas around the edges and put it by the post. Then up by the steps, I have three shallow pots stuffed with violas.
Below is a tulip shaped concrete planter someone gave me. I crammed three pansies in it.

And this is my window box with pansies and violas. I did not change out the moss but will do that in May when I replant it with summer annuals.

Did I mention how much I love the violas, especially? As these pots fill out, I'll be taking lots more pictures because... I love violas!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two More Blooms!

I found two more flowers blooming (budding) when I got home and it is still the 15th, so I am adding a special post for them.Striped Crocuses! They came up out of nowhere, it seems.

Some kind of flowering squill (Scilla), I think. If someone recognizes these as something else, let me know. I don't have a record of them.

And, also out of nowhere I have tulips sprouting up all over the place. Must have been that rain we had last night and this morning? Or was it the two days of above average temperatures? Regardless... two more blooms!!