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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Book Club June-July Virtual Meeting

Welcome to the June-July virtual meeting post for the Garden Bloggers Book Club. Our selection is My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner, which is also available on Google Books.

Find a comfortable place on your front porch, back deck, screened-in porch or wherever you like to sit and relax in the summer, and plan some time to immerse yourself in the nineteenth century world of Warner and his book My Summer in A Garden.

Let’s start with some background on Warner.

There’s a brief biography and picture at this link.

If you enjoy books written by Mark Twain, you might be interested in The Gilded Age, a book that was co-authored by Warner and Twain. They were neighbors for a time in Hartford, Connecticut and at this link, you can read an interview with Mark Twain when he was in Hartford in 1900 for Warner’s funeral.

I also found a picture of Warner’s residence in Hartford on eBay while looking for a picture of his garden.

That’s probably enough background, don’t you think? Let’s get on with the book reviews and reflections on the My Summer in a Garden. In the order received…

Nan at Letters From a Hill Farm

Lost Roses at Lost Roses, of all places

Bev at Bev’s Colorado Garden

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago

Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening

Kris at Blithewold

Jodi at Bloomingwriter

Annie at The Transplantable Rose

Entangled at Tangled Branches: Cultivated

Gloria at Pollinators-Welcome

OldRoses at A Gardener's Year

Thank you all for participating! If you have a post for My Summer in A Garden, please let me know, and I’ll add it to the list above. We have room for everyone.

Please also join us for the August-September selection, a garden mystery. You can read the garden mystery A Hoe Lot of Trouble: A Nina Quinn Mystery by Heather Webber, which is what I'll be reading. Or if you have another mystery you would prefer to read, that works, too. There are several different garden mystery series available, including the Nina Quinn series by Heather Webber, the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert, Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, the Abby Knight series by Kate Collins, the Louise Eldridge series by Ann Ripley and probably several others. If you don't see your favorite garden mystery listed here, let me know and we'll get it added to the list. And finally, if you don't want to read the same garden mystery, or any other garden mystery, you can participate by telling us about a real life mystery in your own garden.

See you later, I’m heading out to hoe up the vegetable garden.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Food From The Jungle

My aunt sent me an email Saturday titled "Food from the Jungle". Their garden does indeed look like a jungle.
They live in zone 6, so I think they are usually two weeks ahead me on blooms and frosts. I don't know how they even got in that garden to pick anything, but they did. Look at their harvest.

I thought my harvest on Sunday was pretty good, too. After all, I had to get an extra bowl for the beans and a second basket for the peppers.
But my harvest is sadly lacking in tomatoes. There are just a few smaller tomatoes and some cherry tomatoes down under those peppers. I had previously picked six or seven tomatoes and briefly thought when I took pictures of this harvest that I should get those tomatoes to add to the picture to make it look a bit more tomatoe-y and balanced. But it would be wrong to make my harvest appear like something it's not, just to compete with my aunt's harvest. After all, gardening isn't a competitive sport, is it? And I couldn't compete with that tomato harvest, anyway.

While I was out in my garden on Sunday, I saw the rabbit again. I was sweet and nice to Mr. Rabbit because it seemed he wasn't really affecting my harvest all that much. I've already picked ten bowls of green beans, more than I've picked in the last ten years combined! As long as I get plenty from my garden for ME and don't really know what I'm missing that the rabbit is eating, I'm happy to co-exist with it in my version of a garden jungle.

Which brings me to this evening. I went to the garden to check for tomatoes and found three that were ripe and ready to pick. They look good, don't they? The one on the lower left is my favorite variety 'German Johnson'.
But they are not good. The rabbit had been eating two of them.I caught him in the garden again this evening and scared him off before I realized he had been eating tomatoes. When I saw those half eaten tomatoes, I picked them with the intention of throwing them at the rabbit.

But I paused to think it through. If I threw the tomatoes, I'd probably miss and they would make a mess when they went splat on the fence. So I decided to chase the rabbit away. He ran the long way around the yard before he escaped, so I ran the long way, too. Yes, gardening is good aerobic exercise, especially when you chase after rabbits. (I just hope the neighbors weren't watching).

Then I took the two half eaten tomatoes and used them to bait my rabbit trap. If he likes tomatoes, let him eat them in the trap!

And this time when I catch him, and surely I will, he won't get away!

In the meantime, while I wait for more tomatoes to ripen and for the rabbit to enter the trap, I'm going to see if my aunt will send me all their secrets of growing tomatoes, all of them. Varieties, fertilizer, watering, caging versus staking, starting from seed, all their secrets. It's my heritage! I want to know!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Don't Let Your Flowers Bloom Alone

I almost missed the blooming of the Resurrection Lilies.Luckily, I walked over to this side of the house while they were nearly at their peak. While I thought these were early this year, they are blooming almost exactly, to the day, on the same day they bloomed last year. I'm glad I got to see these now and not when they were all done blooming, because no flower in a garden should bloom and not be noticed.

I have been subconsciously, and maybe consciously, avoiding this side of the house because with the drought and the "ten year itch" that some gardens get, it has turned from "decent enough looking" to "down right embarrassing".

It is my garden of shame.
If you were to come over to see my garden, I would never take you back via this side garden. I don't have a picture to prove it, but trust me, the other side of the house is much, much better looking.

My excuse? This is where I planted some passalong plants that someone gave me when I moved into my house, and I just needed a place to put the plants until I figured out what I was going to do. Then for several years, it didn't look too bad, so I left it.

Now this HAS to be my fall project to clear this out and replant it as a proper garden. Hold me to that, insist on pictures later to prove that I did clean it up and replant!

In the meantime, though, don't you think the Resurrection Lilies (Lycoris squamigera) and the coneflowers are a good color match for the gray of my air conditioning unit?

Remember, don't let your flowers bloom alone! Go out and see them in your garden today, wherever they may be.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Summer in a Garden Thoughts

I first read My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner, the current selection of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, a few years ago.

I do agree with some earlier reviews that it takes a few pages to get used to the rhythm of the book and the “nineteenth century” English, along with the differences in how work (manual labor) and women were viewed in 1870. As I re-read sections of the book this summer, I soon recognized several often quoted passages, familiar to me now, and perhaps more interesting to me now because so many of them are related not just to gardening, but to hoes and hoeing.

From his chapter on the tenth week:

“In half an hour I can hoe myself right away from this world as we commonly see it, into a large place where there are no obstacles. What an occupation it is for thought! The mind broods like a hen on eggs. The trouble is, that you are not thinking about anything, but are really vegetating like the plants around you. I begin to know what the joy of the grape-vine is in running up the trellis, which is similar to that of the squirrel in running up a tree. We all have something in our nature that requires contact with the earth. In the solitude of garden-labor, one gets into a sort of communion with vegetable life, which makes the old mythology possible. For instance, I can believe that the dryads are plenty this summer: my garden is like an ash-heap. Almost all the moisture it has had in weeks has been the sweat of honesty industry.”

Shown by itself, I think there are a few gardeners who would be surprised to find out that this paragraph was written nearly 135 years ago. It shows why Warner’s book is not bound by the time period it was written in and is worth reading again.

Who among us, even without a hoe in hand, has not gotten lost in their garden, lost in thoughts of all types, not especially related to the garden itself, but to life in general? I have solved many problems and made many decisions in the garden with no particular effort to force myself to do so. You can lose both thought and time in a garden!

And at times it does seem possible that “the old mythology” is possible in the garden. For Warner that life was in the form of dryads (tree nymphs), and for me in the playful idea of garden fairies communing at night with the bunnies, planning how to trick me in my own garden.

Some might read the following paragraph and point it out to me especially.

“I need not add, that the care of a garden with this hoe becomes the merest pastime. I would not be without one for a single night. The only danger is, that you may rather make an idol of the hoe, and somewhat neglect your garden explaining it, and fooling with it.”

Really, it’s not necessary to discuss what it means to “make an idol of the hoe”. I think I have control over my hoe collection, and have it all in proper perspective. Really, I do.

Join the book club!

If you would like to join us for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, post your own review on your blog of the book selection, My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner, which is also available on Google Books, and send me a comment or email so I can include you in the book club post on July 31st. Or if you haven’t read the book, write up something about your own summer in your own garden, and I’ll include that. All are welcome!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Behold! Food!

When a gardener grows flowers, it is not expected that every flower be picked and put into a bouquet to be enjoyed outside the garden.

Even if the gardener has a cutting garden, it would be unusual for every single flower to be cut and brought inside to enjoy.

In fact, it is often seen as a good thing to actually let some flowers go to seed, which can provide food for the birds in the winter time. It is okay to let flowers fade and then deadhead them and throw the spent flowers in to the compost bin.

But when a gardener grows vegetables? Behold! They have grown food. Food!

And once we have food out there in the garden, it is necessary to pick it and either eat it now or preserve it in some fashion to eat another day or give it to others to eat. It's food! The gardener can't let it go to seed on the vine. It's food! The gardener can't decide it is past it's prime and toss it into the compost bin. It's food!

And today, my table is loaded with food from the garden.
I gave away more zucchini at work today, and it was readily taken, so I probably should have taken more to give away. My zucchini has apparently not worn out its welcome at work.

I have not picked a lot of peppers yet, though there are peppers ready to be picked. I'm just not ready to deal with them and I know they will keep longer out in the garden, still growing. Once I pick them, growing ceases, and something not growing is starting the process of slowing rotting.

Truth be told, I don't really like peppers as a food eaten on its own. I do eat peppers cooked with other foods. But I don't cook that often, so I wonder each year why I plant as many peppers as I do. But a proper vegetable garden ought to have peppers in it, so I grow peppers.

Now I need to find enough people to take some peppers off my hands, at least until I get enough tomatoes to make salsa. Then I will use some of my own peppers.

All this talk of growing food in the garden and deciding what to do with all the food one grows reminds me of a quote from My Summer in A Garden by Charles Dudley Warner, taken a bit out of context...

"A garden is an awful responsiblity. You never know what you may be aiding to grow in it."

I've been aiding food to grow in my garden, and now that I have food, I feel a responsibility to use that food wisely and not waste it.

Behold! Food! It's an awful responsibility to make sure none of it goes to waste. How do you feel about the food you grow in your garden?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

He's Okay!

It's okay, the toad's okay, he'll be fine.

A few days ago, the toad was in an accident involving my foot. Since I hadn't see him in a few days, I thought he had gone off to die. I felt bad about it, but it was an accident.

And then I saw him again yesterday evening, and just like before, he paused long enough for me to give him a shower when I watered the nearby containers, then hopped away from me and my foot.

I also startled a rabbit yesterday when I went out the back door. He was eating something in my bed of hostas. Bad rabbit!

And over the weekend I saw a little meadow vole run across the patio. They are bad for the garden, too!

I hope that's all I find out there, but I suspect there are a lot of critters making a good living in my garden, right behind my back and sometimes right in front of me!

Who's living in your garden, right in front of you? Hopefully not rabbits or voles. Hopefully you have a garden full of toads and birds and other good critters!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hoe and Harvest Update from May Dreams Gardens

At first glance, you might think my new hoe is not a hoe, but I assure you it is. It has moving parts so I'm tempted to call it a hoeing machine or a hoeing contraption, but its primary purpose is to break the soil and chop down the weeds, which is what a hoe does, right? So it's a hoe.

Here it is... The "Ro-Ho Gardener".
Isn't that something? I got it from my former neighbor, the one who is moving after 45 years of living next door to where I grew up. I did an online search and didn't get any "hits" for the Ro-Ho and can't find another one for sale on eBay, so I think it is pretty unique.

I did get a few hits for the manufacturing company, but mostly for obituaries for people who worked there at one time.

So I'm not only very happy to add this to my hoe collection, I'm also pleased to put information about it on the world wide web, via this post, so if some other lucky gardener happens to find one or have one, they will get a "hit" if they search online for it, and maybe we can compare notes.

Here's the business end of it.
You push it forward through the soil (dirt, if you aren't fancy about your gardening talk) and the wheel with the teeth turns and chops down the weeds and then the tines in the back turn the soil (dirt) over. I can tell you that if you push this regularly through the garden, you'll get a good work out!

My neighbor first showed it to me at the same time he commented about some weeds in the garden I had planted over there. I got the hint and took a turn with this through that garden and can report it does a pretty good job knocking down weeds. I think he also knew that once I saw the Ro-Ho Gardener and tried it out, I would have to have it. He was right about that. We negotiated a bit, arrived at a fair price (the price he named), and now it's mine, part of my hoe collection.

Have you ever seen a hoeing contraption like it? Do you have one in your tool shed?

Here's what the weeds see right before the Ro-Ho Gardener chops them down.I'd sure be afraid if I were a weed and saw the Ro-Ho Gardener heading my way. It means business!

And tonight I was a little afraid to look at the squash plants to see if I had more zucchini to harvest. I did. But I also suddenly have tomatoes! Isn't that the way it goes? We wait and wait and it seems like forever before we harvest the first big ripe tomato and then suddenly the tomatoes all start to ripen at once. The tomato in the lower right hand corner is a 'German Johnson', my favorite. I'll let it sit a day or so to further ripen and my-oh-my will it be good.

And I'll keep watching for the Perfect Tomato, and when I harvest one, and I know I will eventually, I'll pull out all the stops and rituals for it, so check back for that.

Wait, something is missing from my harvest trug.

I forgot to check the 'Cue Ball' squash. Yep, there were four more round zucchini squash.

I'm having a very good squash year.

How's your squash doing this year?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Please Verify I Am Not The Only One!

In my neighborhood, in my family, in my circle of friends and co-workers, I think I am the only one. Perhaps, hopefully, if I post about it, I'll find out that I am not the only one, after all.

Yes, I feel confident I am not alone in the garden blogging community in having more clay pots than one could ever use. And I can't seem to turn down an opportunity to get more old clay pots from others.

A few weekends ago, I laid claim to another stockpile of clay pots from my former neighbor, who was cleaning out his shed, preparing to move. I bought the whole lot of them without so much as counting them or seeing what assorted sizes were there. I just loaded them up and brought them home.

I don't generally buy new clay pots. I prefer old clay pots, the kind that have seen a few seasons and a few plants. Among the pots I got a few weeks ago, a few had writing on the side, identifying the plants that once grew in them.
I like that. It's a link to another gardener.

Even if I break a clay pot, and I've broken more than I'll admit, I keep the pieces to put in the bottoms of other pots.

I do have a lot of plastic pots, acquired with each new plant I buy. I don't feel the same way about these plastic pots as I do the clay pots. I usually put them in the recycle bin right away if they are the right kind of plastic. The rest of the assorted plastic pots are on a shelf and in a big box, ready to be used to pot up a cutting or two, or start some small bulbs in the spring.

And I have several of the light weight faux finish pots, which are becoming more popular, and cheaper, every year. I'll admit they are easy to work with, especially the big ones, and are easy to move around and usually look pretty nice.

But I still like clay pots the best.

How about you?

(Oh, and while you are telling me that I'm not the only one who has a lot of clay pots, why don't you tell me how many garden hoes you have? I can't seem to find anyone else with "more than a few" hoes!)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Book Club Mid-Summer Update

You all haven't forgotten about the Garden Bloggers' Book Club, have you?

Update on June-July Virtual Meeting Post

Our selection for June and July is the classic My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner.

If you couldn't get a copy of the book, there is a full version of the book on Google Books, where you can read it online or download it to a PDF.

And if you haven't read the book and still want to participate with a post for the virtual meeting, you can do so by posting about your own “summer in a garden”.

I'll publish the post of the June-July virtual meeting on July 31st, so post on either the book or the topic before then, and then send me a comment or email so I can find you and include a link to your post in the virtual meeting write-up.

August-September Selection

Several people have suggested that we read a garden mystery for the book club. All right, let's do that! Not to get too complicated, but there are three ways to participate.

You can read the garden mystery A Hoe Lot of Trouble: A Nina Quinn Mystery by Heather Webber, which is what I'll be reading. I was intrigued by the title, because you all know I have a lot of hoes, right? I blame Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening for bringing this book to my attention. (I could say that I am weak and can't resist anything related to hoes, but that could get mis-construed, couldn't it?)

Or if you have another mystery you would prefer to read, that works, too. There are several different garden mystery series available, including the Nina Quinn series by Heather Webber, the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert, Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, the Abby Knight series by Kate Collins, the Louise Eldridge series by Ann Ripley and probably several others. If you don't see your favorite garden mystery listed here, let me know and we'll get it added to the list.

And finally, if you don't want to read the same garden mystery, or any other garden mystery, you can participate by telling us about a real life mystery in your own garden.

The virtual meeting post for August-September will be published on September 30th, which seems like a long time from now, but time will go too quickly, I'm sure.

October Selection

No selection has been made for October, so send me your ideas. I try to select books that have universal appeal to gardeners, are easy to get either at the library or second-hand via Amazon and other outlets and aren't terribly long. Other than that, anything goes! Send me an email or leave me a comment with your ideas.

Thank you!

I appreciate everyone who has participated in the book club in the past and look forward to YOUR participation whether you are a first time contributor or have joined for each book. Thank you for your participation.

If you haven't heard about the book club or haven't paid much attention to it and now want to participate, you can go the Garden Bloggers Book Club blog for links to all the previous posts of meetings and updates to get an idea of what it is about. All are welcome to participate!

I'm still deciding myself whether to post about the book or about my own summer in a garden which has been spent in the vegetable garden. That's tonight's harvest pictured above. Did you notice that ear of sweet corn? I picked it, and I shouldn't have. It wasn't quite ready. I don't want to talk about it. Divert your eyes from it and look at all those beans!

Wet or Dry - You Choose

If you were given a choice, would you choose "too dry" or "too wet" in the garden?

Is it better to garden around the raindrops, dashing about when the rain finally stops, working in the mud with giant rain-gorged slugs looking over your shoulder?

Or is it better to spend all of one's time in the garden watering the plants, making potentially landscape-changing decisions when you choose which plants will get water and which will just have to tough it out?

The first answer most of us come up with is probably "neither, give me just enough rain for my region". But that is not one of the choices today.

Last year, I got rain when I needed rain in my own gardens and will always remember 2006 as a good year for rain.

This year, as most know, here in the midwest of the United States it is "too dry". Not "full-out drought dry", yet, just too dry. I've had to spend considerable "gardening time" setting up sprinklers and making sure key plants got enough water.

But there are gardeners in places like Texas (of all places!) and Great Britain who are dealing with too much rain, flooding rains in some places.

Unfortunately, we don't get a choice on the weather, we just have to deal with the weather we get as best we can. As Charles Dudley Warner, author of My Summer in a Garden, the June-July selection of the Garden Bloggers' Book Club said, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."

For my container plantings, I choose the amount of water they get and for the most part, they get the same amount of water each year because I water them daily, unless it rains that day. The picture above is of my pineapple lily, in a container, well-watered, and starting to bloom.

When it doesn't rain, I water the vegetable garden once a week with an oscillating sprinkler. I have one that is just the right size to water the whole garden from one place, at one time.

Other plants, like these candy lilies, are right by the patio where I water the containers, so I've been watering them fairly often, too.

For other perennials, shrubs, trees, and yes, even the lawn, I water mostly when I see signs of severe wilting or stress due to lack of water, paying closer attention to those perennials that were divided and replanted this spring. I sometimes wonder why I regularly water the plants in containers, when at the end of the year, most of them will end up in the compost bin, and don't water plants that I expect to return in full glory again next spring.

And everytime I hear the weatherman say that there is rain coming in a few days, I try to hold off watering, hoping that the upcoming rain will be the rain that catches us up to more normal amounts of rainfall. So far, they haven't caught us up, but there is always that next cloud coming from the west that might!

So, back to the original question, if you could choose to do something about the weather, and the two choices were "too wet" or "too dry", which would you choose?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

First Big Tomato

Cherry tomatoes picked and eaten in the garden are the warm-up act and early tomatoes like ‘Oregon Spring’ are teasers of the main attraction, the star of the vegetable garden, the first BIG tomato of the season.

The star of the garden was ready this morning, all reddish-orange and ripe for picking. The variety was ‘Indy’, a new hybrid tomato, that according to the garden center ad I read, “everyone was talking about”. I was reading the ad when I was vulnerable and needed a few new tomato plants because the rabbits had eaten off some of my grown-from-seed tomato plants. If everyone was talking about it, I should have one. So I bought one to try and it turned out to be the first big tomato in my garden this year.

I went out early in this morning and lovingly picked my ‘Indy’ tomato after taking one more picture of it on the vine. Then I carefully carried it inside, where I sliced it and ate it as part of my breakfast.

How was it, you ask?

I did an Internet search earlier this morning to find out more about this variety, ‘Indy’, which beat out my beloved heirloom ‘German Johnson’ as the first tomato of the season. When I found out that it was originally bred for the commercial industry, my expectations of what this tomato would taste like were immediately lowered. And my opinion of the garden center who advertised it and sold it to me was lowered as well.

It is an average tasting tomato. Actually, ‘Oregon Spring’ tasted a lot better, more like a real home grown tomato. I’m just glad I didn’t go through an entire first tomato ritual for 'Indy'. I’ll save that for my first ‘German Johnson’ tomato. Hopefully one of those will ripen soon!

Now, don’t feel all sad for me and my average first big tomato. There are still a lot of good things happening here at May Dreams Gardens.

Look at this harvest from yesterday. All those beans! And cucumbers! And peppers and squash!
Did I mention all the green beans?

And I won a contest on another garden blog and was “interviewed” afterwards, check it out here at Leave Me Alone, I’m Digging. Thanks, David, for the contest and interview.

And I have a lot of green tomatoes that will ripen before you know it!

Friday, July 20, 2007

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Earlier this spring, I was at Lowes with my youngest sister and my nephew and I saw a packet of seeds for Atlantic Giant pumpkins. I've always wanted to try to grow a ginormous pumpkin, but I just don't have that kind of space in my garden. Those vines can grow everywhere and won't be contained to one raised bed.

So, I grabbed the packet of five seeds and said to my sister, "Will you grow these in your garden?" "Hey", I said to my nephew-who-is-five, "how would you like to grow a pumpkin that is as big as you are?"

My sister responded, "Sure!" My nephew thought it would be fun and laughed at the idea of it.

I felt a little evil about it, knowing how big the vine would get, but brushed those thoughts aside.

How exciting this would be! My sister would have the sprawling pumpkin vines all over and I would get to occasionally visit "my" pumpkins and see how big they were getting. I realized that we wouldn't grow any record breaking sized pumpkins, but we should get some big ones. And I keep saying "we" because after all, I bought the seeds!

Yes, I was all smug about how she would have the big pumpkin vine to contend with and I would have my nice neat vegetable garden with the freshly mulched paths, everything weeded, all the plants more or less staying in their own raised beds. I like some vegetation to spill out along the sides of the beds, but not so much that they block a path through the garden. That picture above is of the pumpkin vines about 3 weeks ago in my sister's garden, freely growing wherever they wanted to grow, heading out toward her lawn.

Did I mention I planted a two hills of spaghetti squash in my own garden?

When I ordered the seeds for spaghetti squash last winter, I was only thinking that I love spaghetti squash and decided I should grow some. I gave no thought to what size vine it would be. I knew it would be a bigger vine, but I thought I could keep it in one raised bed.

I was wrong. I have as many spaghetti squash vines taking over my garden as my sister has pumpkin vines taking over her garden.

Now I go out to my garden and I think about my sister's pumpkins and realize that what goes around, comes around.

Next year I might just give in and grow my own pumpkins.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Resuming Normal Gardening Activities

Now that the night bloomer (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) has bloomed, it's time to get back to normal and resume mid-summer gardening activities. As noted, the flower lasts just one night, and by the next day it's closed and wilting.

One of the commenters on the bloom post yesterday, Robin(Bumblebee), asked why a bloom like that would only last a single night. I don't know, but if someone does know, please comment with the answer, as it is a good question.

I'm just happy to have one bloom for one night, but where these are grown outside year around, they can have dozens of blooms at the same time, which would be quite a sight.

Last night while this was blooming I didn't do much else in the garden, other than the necessary watering of container plantings, as I didn't want to get caught up in something, lose track of time, and miss the event. I suffer a bit from Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome, GADS, so I have to be careful when total focus is called for.

I didn't even go out to the vegetable garden to check for more produce. I violated my rule about checking the zucchini squash EVERY DAY.

Guess what I found this evening in the vegetable garden?

Zucchini, more zucchini. 'Ambassador', 'Gold Rush', 'Gold Bar' and 'Cue Ball', all there. All big. Most of these are going straight to work tomorrow and all my co-workers who say "if you ever have any extra zucchini..." will be taking these off my hands. I might just get to work earlier than normal and leave these on their desks and act all innocent if they ask me if I know where they came from.

There was another surprise out in the garden this evening.

The first tomato that is not a cherry tomato. I've greatly enlarged it here as it is a bit underwhelming in size, being about the size of a ping pong ball. This is not the kind of first tomato for which one invokes a ritual or plans a Festival of the First Tomato around. It's an early variety called 'Oregon Spring'. It feels almost 'not right' to count this as my first tomato of 2007. If I do count it, it will be a tie with my first tomato from last year, also picked on July 19th. But that was a nice big Brandywine.

I am glad, in a way, that I didn't go out to the vegetable garden yesterday evening because if I had found this first tomato on the same day the night bloomer was blooming, it would have been too much gardening excitement for one day. I would have really been torn on what to focus on. Each event happens just once a year and deserves total focus.

For the record, I have picked a couple of cherry tomatoes every day since about last Friday, so if I count this little tomato-ette as the first tomato, maybe I should lower all my standards and count those cherry tomatoes instead. That would make July 13th the date of my first tomato for this year.

What would you do?

While you think about it, I'm going to go ahead and eat my 'Oregon Spring' tomato.

Update: The 'Oregon Spring' tomato was actually pretty good. It had a nice tomato-y taste for an early variety. That makes me lean toward counting it as the first tomato, though I didn't go through any elaborate rituals or ceremonies when I ate it. I'll have to do that later for the first 'big' tomato.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Magical Night Update: A Special Bloom Event

A magical night at May Dreams Gardens. The night blooming cereus, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, bloomed, going from a bud to a fully open flower in just a few hours.

7:00 p.m.

8:00 p.m.

8:30 p.m.

9:00 p.m.

9:21 p.m.

9:31 p.m.

9:41 p.m.

9:43 p.m.

10:05 p.m.

10:23 p.m.

Holding it in my hand to show the overall size of the flower.

Some questions and answers about the Queen of the Night, the night-bloomer.

Does it have a scent? Yes, the scent is fairly strong, especially indoors. It is an earthy, sweet, slightly pungent scent. It isn't unpleasant, but it is strong and after awhile it would give me a headache if I stayed in the sunroom with it.

Can you actually see it open? It opens relatively quickly and I suppose if you stood there at the right time, for long enough, you would see some movement. I think you can see a noticeable difference between 9:41 and 9:43 in the pictures above, which should give you an idea of how quickly it does open, once it starts to open.

Where did you get your night blooming cereus? It was my Dad's and after he passed away, I took possession of it. I have now had it for 20 years, and he probably had it for 10 years before that. He grew it from a cutting off a plant owned by a couple who played bridge with my parents. I don't know where they got their plant.

How long does the flower last? Just one night. By morning, the flower will be hanging limp and wilted.

Enjoy, and good night!

Flowers really do intoxicate me. ~Vita Sackville-West

Magical Night at May Dreams Gardens

Tonight, the night bloomer is blooming.In just a few hours it will be fully opened, for one magical evening.

Update to follow...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Never Give Up!

Patience in the garden is one thing, persistence is quite another.

Patience is about waiting, persistence is about not giving up.

Last summer, I lamented that I could not get a decent harvest of green beans. I think I picked one bowlful before the pathetic little bunny eaten bean plants died off. And it didn't help that the beans were also attacked by Mexican bean beetles, which pretty much finished them off. Prior years were even worse for my beans.

But I persisted, I did not give up. I adjusted. I tried new methods to keep the rabbits away.

And I have been rewarded.

Tonight I picked two more messes of green beans.

That brings my total bean pickings to four messes. (What do you call a bowlful of beans? I call them a "mess of beans".)

Last year wasn't all that great a year for cucumbers, either. But I planted them again this spring and tonight I picked two dozen cucumbers from my little four feet by four feet patch of cucumber plants.

You just can't give up when you're gardening. There is always next year, another way, a different variety to try. The slate gets wiped clean each spring, why not try again?

Which brings me to the night blooming cereus.
It's still a bud, still not blooming.

I could have tossed this plant out years ago. It's not all that attractive as a house plant (some would say that's an understatement); it's big and awkward with stems going every which way.

It bloomed last year, but prior to that it last bloomed in 2001 and also in 2000. And I think it bloomed in 1986, but I don't have records that far back, so I'm not sure. I've learned that the secret to getting these to bloom, as house plants, is to let them get pot bound, don't fertilize them, and don't give them all kinds of water.

I think the reason it didn't bloom from 2001 to 2006 was because I repotted it to a larger pot in 2001, so it was no longer so pot bound. I had to repot it because the container it was in was too small and the plant was top heavy and kept falling over.

So I put it in a really big container and added an arbor to support it. It no longer toppled over, but it was content to just exist and grow for five more years before it bloomed again last year.

The fact that it is going to bloom again this year gives me hope that it will bloom annually from this point forward. But it has looked like a bud about ready to bloom for the last four days. I'm losing my patience with it, and want it to bloom NOW!

The bloom is my reward not only for patience, but for persistence in figuring out the care that this plant needs to encourage it to bloom.

How have you been rewarded for persistence in gardening?