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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Book Club January Meeting

Welcome to the January “virtual meeting” post of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club! Our current book is Dear Friend and Gardener by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd.

Set yourself up with a nice hot cup of tea and your favorite blogging snack food, and tell everyone to leave you alone for a bit so you can fully enjoy all the websites and reviews that were submitted.

Ready? Let’s call this meeting to order!

First, I’m going to briefly turn over the meeting to Entangled from Tangled Branches: Cultivated. At the end of her review post, she provided several interesting links to sites where you can learn more about Chatto, Lloyd, and Lloyd’s Great Dixter House and Garden. Check those out and then come back and read the reviews and posts submitted, presented here in alphabetical order by name.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings

Entangled at Tangled Branches: Cultivated

Gloria at Pollinators-Welcome

Jodi at Bloomingwriter

Kim (Blackswamp Girl) at A Study in Contrasts

Lisa at Greenbow

Nan at Letters from a Hill Farm

Old Roses at A Gardening Year

Pat at Commonweeder

Did I miss anyone? If you wrote a review and I missed it, it’s an oversight on my part, no slight intended, just let me know and I’ll add you.

Still reading the book and planning to write a review later? That’s fine, too. Once you’ve posted something, let me know and I’ll update the post with your link.

Thanks to all who joined in with reading and reviewing this book!

And now some club business…

February-March Selection

Now it’s time for the February-March selection, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan. It’s easy to join in this virtual book club. Read the book, post something about it on your blog, let me know about it via an email or comment, and then I’ll include a link to your review on the virtual meeting post on March 31st.

Opportunity to Host a Guest Post

Are you interested in hosting a guest post on your blog? Nightshade, Susan Wittig Albert’s 16th book in the China Bayles herbal mystery series, will be out in April and Susan is planning a blog tour to introduce it. Check out her blog tour website for more information and see how you might participate as a host blog.

If you aren’t familiar with these mysteries, check out Annie in Austin’s review of Thyme of Death, the first mystery in the series, which she posted for the August-September Garden Bloggers’ Book Club virtual meeting.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Questions on Garden Names, Time Capsules and Birthdays

Who has named their garden?

I posted late last summer about having a name for your garden and how to go about naming your garden. Has anyone since named their garden and posted about it? Or maybe your garden already had a name and you posted about it?

I'd love to read about what people call their gardens and how they came up with the names for them.

Who has put together a time capsule?

I posted later in the fall about burying a time capsule in your garden. The ground is quite frozen here in central Indiana, so now is not a good time to bury a time capsule, but I could certainly put one together to bury in the spring. I'm going to do it!

Who else is considering a time capsule for their garden and what will you be including? I need some ideas for mine!

Who buys themselves their own birthday presents?

Buying yourself a present or two for your birthday is a sure way to get something you really want. I was very good to myself for my birthday earlier this month, very good. I wanted to get myself something I would have forever and something fun, too. No, I did not buy myself a new hoe, but that's a good guess. Both of the items that I got relate to gardening, somewhat.

For the one item, I'd looking for some suggestions on good gardening video podcasts. I've not done much on the Internet with podcasts, but now that I have something to download them to and take them with me, I'm interested in them. Does anyone have any recommendations?

How long can a comment be?

I don't think there is a limit on length of comments, but your answers may be longer than you want to put into a comment. That's okay! Post answers on your own blog, then leave a comment here so we find you.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Crocus Watch Begins

Do you know where Spring first shows up in your garden?

Here at May Dreams Gardens, I'll find the first crocuses, the first sign of Spring, in this little microclimate by the front step, by my 'brain' rock.

This is on the south side of the house so I assume that the radiant heat that comes off the brick at night after the sun has warmed it all day helps to keep this little spot a few degrees warmer than out in the lawn where I have more crocuses planted.

I've seen crocuses bloom as early as January 27th in this spot, as they did last year and in 2002. In 2005, I first saw them on January 30th. In 2003, they didn't show up until February 9th. I don't even want to talk about how late they were in 2006 and for some reason, I didn't write in my garden journal when they showed up in 2004.

I say "they" and "crocuses" as though there is a whole colony of them in this spot. Actually, there are generally only one or two crocuses, purple ones, that show up here.

And to say they are blooming might be a little bit of a stretch. Generally, I see the buds and if the sun hits them just right, they might open a little.

But still, they are a sign of new life and bring a speck of color back to the garden. They remind me that flowers do bloom here, that it isn't always cold. And windy. And cold.

Every northern gardener should find where Spring starts in their garden and watch that spot.

I've been watching this spot for a few days now and so far... nothing. I guess it has been too cold. But it is early yet, we still have a lot of winter ahead of us.


You can now stay up to date on my crocus watch and other events at May Dreams Gardens by checking out my Twitter micro posts on the sidebar, down below the blog archives list. I don't know how long I'll keep it up, if it is a fad or useful, I'm just giving it a try.

Monday, January 28, 2008

An Evening at May Dreams Gardens

I like to walk through the garden in that last bit of daylight before the sun dips below the horizon. It's that time of the day when the garden isn't brightly lit by the sun, but there is still just enough light to see it.

One of my aunts used to refer to this time of day as the gloaming, when you see the garden in the glow of the setting sun.

And my favorite day of the week to do be out in the garden at this time is Sunday. In warmer weather, I can lie in the hammock and relax as the weekend comes to a close. I figure if chores and tasks and to do items aren't done by then, they should be set aside for another day. I prefer to use the last hours of the weekend to finally unwind before the week starts anew on Monday.

Because this Sunday was both a sunny day and a relatively warm day with temperatures in the high 30's, low 40's, I took advantage of the last bit of light to stroll around the garden to make sure all was well.

All seemed well until...

"I scared me up a rabbit."

He was lying where some Coreopsis grows, near the edge of the grape arbor. Here's his spot, or maybe her spot.
When the rabbit saw me, he took off running toward the vegetable garden. I chased after him and he turned and headed toward the neighbor's yard.

Let's just call this picture "Abstract of Bunny Running". It appears my bunny troubles are not behind me.

I wonder what this rabbit has been eating? I read somewhere that rabbits eat 90% grass and the other 10% of their diet is plants we don't want them to eat like beans, peas, strawberries, tomatoes, blueberries, lettuce, spinach, and pretty much anything I plant in the garden and don't cover with a cloth to keep them out.

If that is true, then one would think that I would never have to mow the back yard. But I do.

I guess I can't deny my rabbit problem and and it is time to prepare for my annual battle against them. Here's my plan...

- I'll set the live trap out early this spring to see if I can lure them in when they are really hungry. And I'll make sure the trap doors are tightly closed before I carry the bunnies away in it.

- I'm checking my supply of garden cloth to make sure I have enough to cover all the beds that I'll need to cover this spring.

- I'm going to get some more big containers of cayenne pepper. This seems to help some to keep the rabbits from eating the plants I can't cover.

- I'm considering planting onion sets around every raised bed. I've heard that rabbits won't cross a row of onions. Does anyone know if this is true?

In case you are wondering, I am not considering getting a dog or an outdoor cat, fencing in the garden or using any foul smelling commercial products.

But I am open to other suggestions.

Now, guess what I did last night to keep the rabbit from coming back and laying in that spot? No! Not that! I just kicked it all around and messed it up good. It seemed to work because I checked this evening and the rabbit hasn't been back to that spot nor did I find him or any other rabbits anywhere else in the garden.

Take that rabbit, I mean business this year!

GBBC February-March Book Selection

The polls have closed, the readers have spoken.

Second Nature: A Gardener's Education by Michael Pollan is the Garden Bloggers' Book Club selection for February-March.

Don't delay, pull this one off your shelf, get it from the library or order it at your favorite bookstore. You won't want to miss being a part of reading and sharing about this one!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

GRTH: A Gardener's Wintertime Malady

The problem for many gardeners, especially those of us who live where winter is winter, is an increase in GRTH symptoms at this time of year. Pronounced like “girth”, Gardeners Reduced Time with Horticulture (GRTH) is a malady whose primary symptom is ironically, an increase in the gardener’s weight.

For several months now, we northern gardeners have not been pushing lawn mowers, dragging hoses around, hoeing the gardens, raking leaves, or digging holes. At best, we may have shoveled snow a few times, but even that we’ve tried to make a more sedentary activity by using snow blowers or having the neighborhood kids do it.

Our primary winter-time gardening activities are studying seed catalogs, reading gardening books, browsing through countless back issues of garden-related magazines and posting on our garden blogs. These “activities” are really “sedentaries” and leave us sitting around quite a bit.

Thus we suffer from an increase in GRTH.

We have to be careful or we will wake up on the first wonderful spring morning, ready to just be gardeners for a day and realize that the symptoms of GRTH are preventing us from being the gardeners we want to be.

Until that first day of spring, some gardeners may refuse to believe that they are suffering from a huge case of GRTH. But on that first spring day, even they won’t be able to deny their GRTH symptoms because their favorite pants for gardening won’t fit.

We know there are ways to avoid a big fat GRTH attack, even cure it once you have it. And the way to avoid it and cure it are the same.

We need to exercise and watch what we eat.

That’s right, we sedentary northern gardeners need to get up off our couches and make sure we are exercising through the winter and eating right. We have to keep ourselves from getting GRTH by walking on treadmills, riding stationary bikes, lifting, bending… exercising.

Then when spring comes, we’ll be ready to go, all dressed up again in our favorite gardening pants.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

GBBC: Three Passages I Enjoyed

Last year, members of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club seemed to thoroughly enjoy reading Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White & Elizabeth Lawrence--A Friendship in Letters so when someone suggested we might also like Dear Friend and Gardener by Beth Chatto and Christopoher Lloyd, a book of letters between these two distinguished British gardeners and authors, I was happy it was chosen in a survey to be the December-January selection.

The first thing I realized when I started to read Dear Friend and Gardener is that the letters were written with the authors knowing they would be published in a book and the letters go back and forth for just a year. This is quite different from the letters between White and Lawrence, which go back and forth over several decades, written with no thought that they might be published.

I was a little bit disappointed and wondered if the letters might seem contrived or forced. But fortunately, they aren't. They seem, not surprisingly, like long letters between two old friends.

I enjoyed reading this book, starting back in November and nearly finishing it this weekend. Through it I learned quite a bit about not only the gardens, but also the lives, of these two authors.

There were several passages along the way that I enjoyed re-reading a few times because of how they captured some universal truths about gardeners. I decided to share a few of them as my contribution to the virtual club meeting.

From Chatto to Lloyd, Saturday 2 November:

“…I have met a regular visitor to the garden enjoying the same scene, and she remarked what we all know, that many people cannot find interest or pleasure in leaves for their own sake. She said she had sometimes brought visitors who could not see the point of it. This underlines the point: we only take in what interests us, what can be linked to previous experience or knowledge. When offered plants at the nursery how many people say, ‘But what sort of flower does it have?’ no matter how beautiful the plant itself might be.”

I immediately thought of some friends of mine, who will ask me to go with them to a garden center to help them pick out some plants. We’ll look at all the perennials and shrubs and the question is always “so what does it do?” And I usually reply, “it does that” and point to it sitting there in its pot maybe just showing us its leaves. Can’t plants just be leaves? Must they all perform with flowers, fall colors, interesting fruit?

From Chatto to Lloyd, Sunday 25 May:

“…We mostly have too many responsibilities at home to go wandering, but I am aware that I miss opportunities of gaining new experiences and knowledge if I never leave home.”

There are more than a few gardeners, I suspect, who have to be convinced to leave their gardens, especially in the spring, summer, or fall. There is so much to plant and water, and mow and harvest. But we should all leave our gardens once in a while to see what is beyond our own garden gate. We’ll be better for it and the new ideas we bring back will be like a fertilizer infusing new life into our gardens. So, who is planning a trip to Austin this spring?

From Chatto to Lloyd, Sunday 15 June:

“I love white foxgloves, lighting up the garden like church candelabras, carrying the eye deep into dim recesses, self-sown, in drifts or singly. Each year I fret when they are in flower – should I be planting more in strategic places for next year? Sometimes we get round to it, but more often than not, left to themselves, they make a better job of what we might have done.”

This makes me think about how much “interference” a garden really needs from the gardener. At one time, haven’t we all be on our hands and knees weeding through a flower bed, when we come across not just weed seedlings, which I think we can all pull without a second thought, but perennial seedlings. We pause. We think about that seedling. “Is that a good spot for that flower to grow?” “Should I transplant that elsewhere in the garden instead of composting it?” “Was this plant just meant to be right there where it sprouted?” What do you do when you encounter such a seedling?


This Garden Bloggers’ Book Club is an easy book club to join, with three options this month. Option 1 is to read the book selection and post a review or thoughts about it on your own blog, as I have. Or if you don’t have time to read the book, option 2 is to post a review about any book by Christopher Lloyd or Beth Chatto. Or you can choose option 3 to post something on the topic of “what I’ve learned from corresponding with other gardeners”.

Then once you’ve posted your contribution, let me know via an email or comment, so I can find your post. Then when I post the virtual meeting post on January 31st, I’ll include a link to your blog post. It’s that easy.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get a cup of hot tea and finish reading the book while you head over to the right side bar and vote for the book you'd like for the February-March selection.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Garden Journal Entries

You can tell a lot about gardeners by reading their garden journals.

Are they bumblebees or ants in their approach to gardening? What do they grow? What climate do they live in?

Are they recorders of details and facts? Or are they observers of feelings and thoughts?

What do these garden journal entries tell you about the gardener who wrote them?

May 20, 2002: High 55, Low 40. Still record cold, 4th frost warning in a row. Mowed grass. Watered all pots to help protect from frost.

April 22, 2003: High 54, Low 36. Fothergill, Kerria in bloom. Bird nest in crabapple

May 1, 2002: High 66, Low 49. Spring has arrived today! I can hear the birds calling each other in the trees. The sun is bright, the sky is a light blue and the columbine are blooming in brilliant shades of maroon, pink, purple, and blue. The entire garden seems to call out to me to abandon all else and be only a gardener today. Welcome, Spring!

May 7, 2005: High: 70, Low 50. I sat in a lotus position in the center of the garden, meditating on the newly mown grass until I was at one with the chiggers. Went inside afterwards and spent time looking up "chigger bites" on the Internet. I won't do that again!

So which entries are from my garden journal?

I'll confess that I haven't always kept a garden journal, and I'm not one to count my blog as my garden journal, though certainly through my blog I can look back over two years and get a good idea of what's been going on in my garden.

I started my current garden journal on January 1, 2001, and have faithfully recorded something on "most" days.

I say "most" days because there are some days that are blank with only the temperatures written down.

But that's okay because it is my garden journal and it suits my purpose.

What's in my journal? Dates of first harvests, first blooms, and major weather events like frosts and rain and heavy snows. Records of when I mowed the grass or planted something new. The daily high and low temperatures. And tucked in the back are my seed lists going back to 1999.

It's full of trivial items that are of no importance to anyone else. My penmanship is poor on some entries, and after eight years of using the same journal, the pages are getting a little smudged with dirt.

But if the house caught fire, I think I'd grab my garden journal on the way out, from the spot on the kitchen counter where it always is.

Maybe one day someone will look at my garden journal and try to guess what kind of gardener I was, in the same way that we read my grandmother's short daily diary entries from 81 years ago and try to guess what her life was like. But I don't write entries with that in mind; I just fill the pages with information that I think I'd like to keep track of from year to year.

So have you figured out which of the above entries are from my garden journal? What's in your garden journal?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mid Winter Garden Bloggers' Book Club Newsletter

Welcome to the mid winter edition of the Garden Bloggers Book Club Newsletter!

December-January Selection, Time to Post

The time is near to finish up your post for the January-December book selection, Dear Friend and Gardener by Beth Chatto and Chrisopher Lloyd. I'll post the 'virtual meeting' post on January 31st, so your deadline is 'anytime before then'.

If you are feeling crunched for time or decided earlier not to read this book, you can still join in the book club by posting a review of any book by Chatto or Lloyd or post on the topic ‘what I’ve learned by corresponding with other gardeners’.

I'm pretty liberal about what I'll accept for 'correspondence', going so far as to suggest that even reading and commenting on other gardeners' blogs counts, to remove every last excuse anyone might have for not joining in the book club with a post.

When you’ve posted your review or something on the topic suggested, let me know so I can find you and add a link to your post to the virtual meeting post.

Thank you to those who have posted reviews so far.

February-March Book Club Selection

I've been reminded that it's time to announce the February-March book selection. After much thought I've decided that...

I can't decide without polling 'club members'.

Are you a club member? Yes, you are if you have ever posted for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club, haven't posted before but made it your New Years' resolution to join us this year, or you are reading this post and think it sounds like fun to participate.

I've narrowed down the choices to:

Mrs. Greenthumbs by Cassandra Danz

Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart

Second Nature: A Gardener's Education by Michael Pollan

Or if none of these books appeal to you, leave a comment and tell me what you are reading right now that think every gardener should read.

Cast your vote before Saturday night on the poll on the right hand sidebar to let us know your choice for the February-March selection.

By doing it with a poll instead of a survey via a link, you can see which book is leading the way, and do some lobbying for your choice if it isn't winning.

Ready, set, take the poll.

Then go finish up your post for the December-January selection.

Happy Garden Book Reading!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sometimes, You Need To Be The Ant

On my recent post about Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome (GADS), Annie in Austin commented that she liked the “advice to go with the flow, acting less like ants glued to a task and a trail, and more like bumblebees among the hollyhocks, appreciating every blossom.”

What a perfect analogy for GADS. And with her own follow up post, Embrace the GADS, Annie showed us how even when you are bouncing around the garden like a bumblebee amongst the hollyhocks, a lot does get done and new discoveries are made.

After all, even the bumblebee goes back to the hive with pollen at the end of the day.

We rallied. “Embrace the GADS!” Be the bumblebee! Be the Bee. Be.

But now the ants would like to have their say.

Sometimes it’s good, perhaps desirable, to be “glued to a task and a trail” like the ant.

When I rebuilt a retaining wall along the foundation of my house, it was good to be purposeful and ant-like to get the job done. Working quickly and without distraction, I was able to tear out and rebuild the wall in an afternoon.

When MSS at Zanthan Gardens was recently claiming her share of the Christmas tree mulch in Austin, she was being more like the ant than the bumblebee. She wanted to get her share and there were many other ants, I mean gardeners, working that same pile.

And I bet when Pam/digging preps her garden for a reception for the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, she’ll be more like an ant than a bumblebee.

Yes, sometimes it is good to be the ant, to follow through on the task, to stay on the trail.

If you are more inclined to be like the bumblebee, here are some tips on help you be like an ant, especially when you have a big project to complete in the garden

Visualize and plan your work from start to finish before you get started. If you have a big project to do in the garden, like planting a newly dug flower bed, think through from start to finish what you need to do. This will help remind you of the tools, supplies and plants you’ll need before you even get started.

Take all the tools and supplies you need with you to wherever you are working in the garden. By having your hoes, rakes, shovels, pruners, trowels, and supplies right there, you won’ have to go back and forth to your garden shed or garage, facing temptation along the way to take care of this or that little task. It’s easy to revert to being the bumblebee again when you see a lot of little things to do in the garden.

Keep a supply of gardening essentials on hand. Just like good cooks keep their kitchens well stocked with the basics that go into most recipes (so I’ve heard), gardeners should keep basic supplies on hand, too. By having a stash of potting soil, peat moss, top soil, compost, organic fertilizers, basic clay pots, etc. you won’t have to go to the garden center before you do even the smallest project. This will help you avoid too many GAD$ attacks, which can be damaging to your wallet.

Eliminate distractions you can before you can get started on a big project. It may seem counterproductive at first, but giving in to a little GADS activity before you start a big project can help you focus on that big project. It’s like cleaning off the kitchen counters before you start cooking (so I've heard).

Plan for breaks at key ‘milestones’ of your garden project. You can stay on the ant trail longer if you stay hydrated, rest every once in a while, and make sure to apply sunscreen more than once, especially if you sweat. (Sweat? Oh, yeah, even that fancy gardener in the white dress in my profile picture can work up a good sweat.)

Reward yourself at the end of the project. It’s not good to always be the ant. Be the bumblebee again, or better yet, be like a butterfly. Sit and relax and admire your completed project. Spend time just enjoying your garden.

New poll! Are you mostly an ant, a bumblebee or a butterfly gardener? Participate in the poll on the sidebar to the right.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gardening Competitions

I’m amazed at the number of opportunities that gardeners have to compete against each other. County fairs, state fairs, rose-daylily-orchid-name-the-flower shows, pumpkin weigh offs and more allow gardeners to compete for the most perfect, prettiest, biggest, tallest, tastiest, smallest of any number of flowers, vegetables, fruits, and plants.

Yet, the paradox of gardeners is that after competing to win that blue ribbon or certificate or maybe just some bragging rights, the winning gardener will often turn right around and offer cuttings, seeds, tips and techniques, and other help to fellow gardeners who will use those offerings to compete against them in the next competition.

When I think of friendly competition, I think of gardeners!

Here at May Dreams Gardens, I’ve hosted a few “friendly competitions”, most often when I think I’ve grown a real winner, of course.

Last summer, I posted that I had grown the “tiniest tomato” and soon several others got into the spirit of competition until Chigiy at Gardeners Anonymous beat us all with her currant tomatoes.
Then in a comment, she offered to send me some of the seeds from her winning tomatoes.

See what I mean? We gardeners like to compete, but we like to help others compete with us.


I can not come up with a logical reason. Maybe it can’t really be explained.

I’m just happy that gardeners are willing to share with other gardeners not just plants and seeds, but knowledge gained from experience and observation, from their own failures and successes in both the garden and in life.

Now, who would like to join me in a few friendly gardening competitions this summer? Would you like those competitions to be announced in advance or just to pop up periodically on my blog like this one...

Who has a prettier, fancier, more exotic looking flower than my night blooming cereus?

No, it isn't blooming right now, that picture above is from this past fall. Right now is its more or less dormant time. I give it very little water and no fertilizer in the winter. I let it get pot-bound as that is one of the secrets to getting it to bloom when you grow it entirely indoors.

See what I mean. I just helped others compete with me to get their indoor grown night blooming cereus to bloom. We gardeners just can't help ourselves from helping others.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Shopping Form of GADS - GAD$

A friend wanted to buy me something for my birthday.

How about a new bird feeder?

Off we went to the local Lowes, because there is no Wild Birds Unlimited store on my side of town, and I found a very nice cedar bird feeder to buy. And some more black oil sunflower seed. And a bluebird nesting box. And a booklet on bluebirds. And some plastic plant labels, two kinds.

“This is embarrassing”, my friend remarked, “no one buys bluebird stuff for the garden when it is ten degrees outside”.

But I pointed out that they have the items for sale, so surely they don’t mind when people actually buy them.

Sure enough, the cashier saw what we were buying and made a remark. “Are you starting to think about gardening again?”

Again, nice cashier lady? I rarely stop thinking about gardening. But she asked it in a very nice way, so I didn’t mind the question.

Then she offered some advice about feeding bluebirds and where I could buy mealworms for them.

Mealworms? I have to buy mealworms for the bluebirds? What have I gotten myself into now?

I know what I’ve gotten myself into. I’ve gotten myself into a new aspect of gardening because I also suffer from the shopping form of Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome, known as GAD$.

This has happened before. I know the symptoms. You walk in to a garden center or store or nursery looking for a specific item or plant and leave the proud owner of some new plant or garden related item that until the moment you saw it, you had no idea you needed it.

A few summers ago, I went to a local hosta and daylily nursery, just to look, because they have beautiful display gardens. I ended up going back to buy some miniature hostas. They were so cute! And then I had to have some miniature accessories for my new miniature hosta garden, and some other companion plants and more miniature hostas.

I didn’t leave my house that morning intent on buying miniature hostas and planting a miniature garden, but when I saw those tiny hostas, I had a full-fledged attack of GAD$.

Nor did I dream of trying to get bluebirds to nest in my garden this spring when I went out in search of a bird feeder. Yep. It was just another attack of GAD$

But just like the other form of this syndrome, GADS, I don’t try to fight it. I just go with it because I usually end up with some new aspect of gardening to try, that I might never have thought of otherwise.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gardening 1959 Style

After some intense bidding at an estate auction many years ago, a co-worker became the proud owner of a box of old issues of Horticulture magazine for a final bid of one dollar.

She brought the magazines in to work and offered to give me a set from any year I wanted.

I chose 1959.

Every once in a while, I look through these old magazines and read an article or two to find out what gardening was like in the middle of the twentieth century.

For one thing, they paid less for their gardening magazines in 1959. Mrs. John L. Pope of Acton, Indiana, whose address label is still on the cover of the magazines, paid 35 cents for an issue, four dollars for an entire year's subscription. Each issue was around 54 - 60 pages, a little over half of what we get today in Horticulture magazine.

A look at the table of contents from the January issue reveals some of the topics of the day.

- Dwarf Mistletoe Threatens Spruce
- Plant Patents
- Centranthus ruber
- Pre-Germination for Better Results
- The Pygmy Annuals
- Double Petunias from Seed
- Grow Endive
- A Place for the Birds
- What's New in Tuberous Begonias
- Rhododendrons
- Try the Nut Trees
- Ferns Can Be Easy

and more. (click to enlarge)

There is a lot of advertising in the magazine, much of it from companies still in business today. Other ads are from companies long gone, or at least I don't recognize them.

Of course, all of the prices were considerably less than what we pay today for our plants and seeds.

You could go on a garden tour of the British Isles for $1,291, all inclusive. This was no two week tour. This was for a 41 day tour led by Prof. Chas. L. Thayer, fomer head of the Dept. of Floriculture, University of Massachusetts, sailing on the RMS Queen Elizabeth, leaving May 13. Stops included South England, Chelsea Flower Show in London, the lake country, midlands, Wales, South and North Ireland and Scotland.
Unfortunately, I'm 49 years too late for this tour and besides, that is right in the middle of the peak gardening season here at May Dreams Gardens.

If travel wasn't in your budget in 1959, Burpee Seeds offered a 'get acquainted' package of seven flower seed packets, a two dollar value, for just one dollar.

Or for one dollar you could get three giant Ballerina begonias from the Inter-State Nurseries.

There aren't too many pictures of people in these magazines from 1959 and most of the pictures are in black and white. The few people pictured are mostly in ads, and they were quite dressed up compared to how we generally dress for gardening, or anything, today.

The man pictured in this ad for a garden tractor looks a little like Ward Cleaver from the TV series, "Leave it to Beaver". That's quite a nice hat.

But it isn't quite as nice as the hat this 'lady gardener' is wearing in this ad.
She seems quite dressed up for spraying chemicals in her garden while smelling a rose. At least she is protecting her hands with a good pair of gloves. Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" wasn't published until 1962, so the use of a variety of pesticides seemed more commonly accepted in the 1950's. Fortunately, or hopefully, we garden with far fewer chemicals today and women don't dress up like that to garden.

In 1959, 'Ivory Fashion' made its debut as an All-American Award winning rose. I don't believe I've ever seen or even heard of this variety of rose, advertised at the time as an "exciting new creation". At least one rose grower overseas is offering it now, "bringing it back from obscurity". It was described as a floribunda with big 4 inch flowers, ivory petals with gold stamens, fragrant, and blooming continuously to frost. You could buy one plant for $2.75 or three for $7.20 from Jackson & Perkins Co.

Throughout the various articles and advertisements in these issues from 1959, there are many flower varieties listed that no longer exist today, or at best would be hard to find, but the basic practices and principles of gardening still seem much the same.

These quotes from some of the articles could have been written today.

From January 1959, " the time!", a list of what to do in the garden.

"While cold and snow reign outside, there is much to do indoors to keep occupied, particularly if the house-plant collection is varied. There are yellow leaves to remove and faded flowers, too. Weekly inspection of the plants to catch insect pests and diseases as they appear pays off in the end, for it is simpler to keep plants healthy than to revive sickly ones."

From March 1959, "Plant Summer Bulbs for Mass Effect" by Paul E. Frese, White Plains, New York:

"It takes more than one tree to make a forest. The same principle is true, to a degree, in a flower garden. Whereas some plants have individual character and beauty, others are most effective in groups so that the massed color of their leaves or flowers becomes an important element in the landscape."

From July 1959, "Gloxinias" by F. Wallace Patch, Framingham Centre, Mass.

"If you have a dash of the creator in you (and what true gardener hasn't?), growing plants from seed is always more satisfying than trying for a head start with bulbs, roots, or cuttings."

It's fun to look back to see 'how it was' occasionally, to remind ourselves about what is the same and what is quite different. Now I'm looking forward to this spring in my own garden, "the best one yet" at least on paper and in my mind, and hopefully in reality.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome - Do You Have It?

Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome (GADS) is a common affliction amongst gardeners. Whenever I post about it, I get a few comments from others saying they have it, too.

You might have GADS if you’ve ever gone out into your garden to do one thing, maybe something simple like dump a basket of plant trimmings into the compost bin, and you see something that needs attention, like a big weed that needs to be pulled, and you think, “Gads, I need to pull that weed.”

Then you pull that weed and see something else to be done, like maybe there are some zinnias that call out to be cut to be brought inside. “Gads, those are so pretty.” So you go get your pruners and cut the zinnias and bring them inside and find a vase for them. Then you see out of the corner of your eye that the house plants need some water. “Gads, I had better water those house plants.”

You find your watering can, fill it with water, water the house plants and some of the water gets on the floor. That leads you to decide to go ahead and clean up the entire floor. By then it is night time and there isn’t enough day light to go back out to the garden to do what you had started to do in the first place.

The next day you go outside and you see that the bushel basket of trimmings you were going to take out to the compost bin yesterday is still sitting right next to where you pulled that big weed. You think, “Gads, I need to dump that in the compost bin.”

You’ve come full circle through an attack of GADS.

I assure you that you can have attacks of GADS even in the winter when all your gardening is indoors. How do I know? See that picture above of the plastic tub of trimmings from the day I repotted the aloe plants? Let’s just say it took a few days for me to get back to it and take it out to the compost bin.


There are no cures that I know of but here are some suggestions to maintain focus in the garden.

Set aside time for puttering in your garden. Flit about from task to task and do whatever you think needs to be done, but don’t start any big projects. Yes, basically you are setting aside time to just enjoy a full-fledged GADS attack on your garden. Enjoy it! Set no expectations, just go for it.

Likewise, set aside time for the big projects in your garden. Put on the blinders and focus in on finishing the project. Easier said than done, but with some practice, you can do it.

Always take your pruners with you when you go out in the garden, or have them nearby in your sunroom in the winter time. This way, if you see something that needs to be snipped or cut back, you can do it right away. You won’t have to go back for your pruners and encounter three or four other distractions on your path to and from wherever your pruners are. It helps to have a holster to keep your pruners at your side.

Put tools away when you are done with them. If you don’t know where “home” is for the pruners, for example, you can spend a lot of time on negative GADS activities, like looking for them. “Gads, where did I put those pruners?” And while you are looking for whatever tool you need, you’ll encounter numerous other distractions to feed your GADS.

Carry around a little notebook and pencil with you when you are in the garden and write down new “gads, I need to do that” tasks when you think of them and then do them later. No, fellow garden bloggers and family members, I do not do this! This is for really obsessive compulsive people, who, come to think of it, probably don’t have GADS to begin with anyway.

But even if you don’t carry a little notebook into the garden with you, if you have an extreme case of GADS, you might find it useful to make a list of what you want to do before you go out into the garden. Then when you get distracted, and you know you will, you can refer back to the list to remind yourself about what you should have been doing in the first place.

My favorite way to overcome GADS? I don’t try to fight it anymore. I just go with the flow of GADS, and see where it leads me. Try it. It’s kind of fun to see where you end up!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pick a Post Friday: "Turnips" Win

Brought to you by popular vote, tonight’s “pick a post” is about turnips.

Brassica rapa. The common turnip. Why have I never tried to grow turnips in my garden? I’m an experienced gardener; I’m getting ready to start my 21st vegetable garden this spring. It seems odd that I’ve never tried to grow turnips.

I blame my Dad. He never grew turnips. I think. I’m pretty sure. I don’t remember him harvesting turnips from his garden and I don’t remember eating turnips when I was growing up. I don’t remember turning my nose up at cooked turnips or raw turnips or turnip greens. I just don’t remember turnips being part of my childhood or a part of my gardening heritage.

In general, I find that my vegetable garden is much like my Dad’s in terms of what I grow. Lots of tomatoes, some peppers, eggplant, green beans. He grew cucumbers and squash, so do I. Peas? Oh, I aspire to grow peas like he grew. Lettuce, spinach, radish, green onions. Just like my Dad.

I know what my Dad grew in his garden not because he kept a garden journal, he didn’t, and not because I was out there helping him plant it all, though I was.

I remember because I have his last batch of seeds.

That’s what’s in this box.

Dad’s last season of seeds. That’s where I got the seeds from 1986, though most of the seeds in the box are from 1987.

I refer to it to remind myself what he planted that I don’t. There are kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli and Swiss chard seeds in there, and I never grow those.

But there are no turnip seeds in the box and I don’t remember him growing turnips, so I’m pretty sure he didn’t grow turnips.

But all day I’ve been thinking about turnips. I went to a Scottish restaurant last night, the only one in the city that I know of, and my shepherd’s pie was served with sides of “neeps and tatties” which is mashed turnips and mashed potatoes.

Call me the adventurous eater. No, I did not try the haggis or Scotch eggs, but I ate all the neeps and I really liked them.

So now I’ve decided to get some turnip seeds and give them a try. I can have some turnip greens and sliced raw turnips in the spring and then in the fall, harvest turnips to cook and mash.

Who else is trying something new in their vegetable garden this year? If you aren’t, you should!

I realize I only posted the "Pick a Post Friday" poll for a few hours. When or if I do that again, I'll provide more time to vote and maybe some hints as to what the topics are really about.

Here are the official results:

Turnips - 6 votes
My New Houseplant - 4 votes
A New Hoe Quote - 4 votes
Attack of GADS - Indoors - 5 votes

Not exactly a landslide for turnips, but a win is a win! Watch for "Attack of GADS - Indoors" in the very near future and the other two topics at some other time.

Pick a Post Friday

Several gardening related topics are swirling around in the compost bin of my mind. I could go in many directions, so I'm designating this as "Pick a Post Friday" also known as "Carol tries out the new polling feature of Blogger".

To the right, over there, you should find a "Pick a Post" poll with suggestions for the topic of my next post. I really am thinking about all those topics. Feel free to vote, or not, and later I'll see what the results are and that will be my post topic for "Pick a Post Friday".

Don't delay, you only have a few hours to vote.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bold Repotting to Clean Up a Big Mess

Through some bold repotting, I've cleaned up a big mess in my sunroom, a mess which has nagged at me for quite some time.

It's still embarrasing to admit. I had mealybugs and I've had them for a long time.

I don't know where the mealybugs came from. One day they were just there. They could have come in on a new plant or perhaps they saw me as I walked by a plant display in a store, and hitched a ride on my coat to my sun room.

Regardless of how they came to be in my sun room, I could no longer deny they were there. Over time, they would attack various plants, and I'd swing into action to get rid of them. I even lost a few plants along the way that were just too weak to survive these sap sucking pests.

But finally, I managed to contain them so that they were primarily on my aloe plants.

These are not just any aloe plants, or I would have tossed them out and bought new ones. These were aloe plants that came from an aloe plant my grandmother had, so they had to be saved.

So a few weeks ago, I took matters into my own hands and decided that only a bold move on my part would rid me of these buggers, once and for all. I would have to repot the aloe.

The first thing I did was pull all the aloe out of the pots.

Do not click on the picture to try to see the mealybugs, you'll embarrass me for having "unclean plants", even though I don't think it was my fault.

Then I cut away the the bigger, older stems of aloe and those that were housing the most mealybugs, which left me with these cuttings.I let the cuttings soak in the sink a bit while I took the pots they were in to another sink in the garaged and scrubbed them out.

These are the cuttings I threw out.
Or rather, this is what I threw out into the compost bin. I doubt those mealybugs will survive outside in the winter time. Death by freezing! I rid myself of mealybugs.

And here are my newly potted up aloe plants. After over a week, there are no signs of mealybugs, so I hereby declare victory. I won! Let's all do the Crazy Plant Lady Happy Plant Dance. Or, if you prefer, and I do, let's all go out and buy ourselves a new house plant to celebrate.

By the way, because of my bold repotting, I now have five pots of aloe instead of three. But I'll end up with just one pot of aloe, or maybe three.

The two 'pretty pots' up front actually belong to my 'sister who does not garden'. I had potted up some aloe for her in those pots years ago and she put them in her sunroom which has better light than mine (no fair!). They grew like mad and kept falling over from being top heavy, so she brought them back to me to thin out and repot. Then when they were here, the mealybugs moved in, so I couldn't give them back.

She's never asked about them since she brought them back to me, so I bet I'll get to keep those.

The two smaller pots on each side of the bigger pot in the back are for my two other sisters. They'll each want an aloe plant, once they read this post and realize that I still have Grandma's Aloe Plant. Just watch the comments and you'll see.

Finally, if you remember nothing else from this post, I'll hope you'll remember that sometimes a plant problem or any problem, requires a bold move or decisive action to solve it. Once solved, you can end up with more than you had before.

So what's bugging your plants? Be bold, take care of it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Feeding Birds and Blogging

Chez May Dreams Gardens, my new and improved bird café, has seen business steadily increase in the last few days. Management, acting on the advice of several bird feeding consultants, improved the menu by filling the feeder with Black Oil Sunflower Seed (BOSS).

Yes, the birds are again feasting at my feeder and bringing their friends.

It started off as a trickle, just a few tracks in the snow of one bird checking out the situation.

Then more birds showed up.While they haven’t eaten an entire feeder’s worth of BOSS yet, I’m sure it won’t be long before I’ll need a new bag of seed.

In many ways, feeding birds is a lot like blogging.

You have to have ‘the good stuff’ to attract the birds. They won’t consume just any old seed. The same is true with blog readers. They are more likely to spend some time reading your posts if you have “good stuff’.

It takes awhile for birds to find a feeder that interests them, and it takes awhile for readers to find blogs that interest them. You can’t just load up the feeder and expect the birds to show up within minutes or even hours or days. Nor can you post blog content and expect readers to show up right away.

If the feeders are empty most of the time or full of old, molded seed, the birds lose interest. The same is true with blog readers. You have to publish new posts with fresh content occasionally; maybe not daily, but often enough to keep readers interested enough to come back.

If one bird finds your feeder and likes it, somehow they seem to get the word out to other birds and soon you have more than one bird coming to your feeder. If one reader finds your blog and likes it, they’ll likely tell someone else about it and soon you’ll have several readers visit your blog each day.

Birds don’t like to have their pictures taken and will fly away if you get too aggressive in trying to figure out who they are. Most days, you won’t know who visited your bird feeder; you just hope they found something they liked there.

Likewise, some blog readers don’t like to be seen or make their presence known with a comment; they just want to enjoy the post and then move on to the next one. Most days you won’t know who came by and read your blog, but you hope they enjoyed whatever you posted.

Here are some of the visitors who came to my bird feeder today.

This little bird had the feeder all to himself.

A female cardinal (one of the few birds I can identify) came around and another bird is patiently waiting for an 'open seat'.

The female cardinal must have told the male cardinal about the menu change, and he came to see if the seed was as good as she said it was.

Wow, word must be getting around about the new menu at Chez May Dreams Gardens.
And now I wonder who came and visited my blog today? I hope they liked what they found here!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January

Just in time for January's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, winter has returned to central Indiana. Would anyone like to go out there and see what's blooming? It's cold, snowy, cold, gray, cold, and cold.

But we aren't complaining because this is what we expect in January, not those unseasonably warm days we had ten days or so ago. We don't start really complaining about the weather until at least Valentine's day.

January is one of the reasons we have indoor plants, especially those that flower. It just lifts your spirits to come in from the cold, take off those shackles of a winter coat and find something blooming indoors.

In my sunroom, I have paperwhites and poinsettias still blooming, along with this Jewel Orchid, Ludisia discolor. This isn't a big splashy orchid bloom but it has always bloomed in January for me, with very little care.

Elsewhere, I have an orchid still in bud (Stenosarcos ‘Vanguard’) and a Christmas cactus with just a few blooms hanging on.

Did I mention how cold January can be? This picture is from Sunday.
When I walked out to the mailbox to get the newspaper, it was lightly raining. Within 30 minutes, we had snow showers and a light coating of snow on everything.

With the light snow and cold, I don't believe I'll find anything blooming outside, in fact I'm certain I won't.

But I'd love to see who does have plants blooming outside this fine January day.

Please join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day by posting on your own blog about whatever is blooming in your garden, whether indoors or outdoors, and then leave a comment here to let us know you've posted something so we can 'visit' and see for ourselves.

And should you have nothing blooming today outdoors or indoors, post about that. It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and you don't want to be left out!

“We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

For many of us, this is our twelfth Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post, bringing us full circle through an entire year in our gardens. I'd like to offer special thanks to those who have posted about their blooms every month. Thank you! It's been a pleasure to visit all your blogs and see your gardens throughout the year.

Yes, I'm going to continue Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day through this coming year, because I want to compare last year to this year, month by month. I hope many of you will join me!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


My confidence in the hyacinth bulbs providing good blooms is raised by the presence of roots which have developed over the last week. It didn’t take long for the bulbs, pre-chilled for many weeks, to ‘know’ that now was the time to grow roots.

Without good roots, most plants will not survive long; they are just tumbleweeds, aimlessly going wherever the wind sends them.

People are like that, too. We all need good roots, the roots of a strong value system, the support of family and friends, a sense of belonging someplace. With good roots, we have the confidence to branch out and try new things, to experiment, to at least try. Without them, we are often aimless and disconnected, like tumbleweeds.

Plants with strong roots stay anchored, yet the roots give them the strength to grow and branch out, to withstand the winds and rains that might come their way.

We, too, have a chance to grow and extend ourselves beyond what we think we can do, to try new things and go new place, to withstand challenges and setbacks, if we have strong roots to support us.

Once rooted, we should extend ourselves byond our garden gates to see what else we can do, to find out how far we can go. We just might be surprised.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Feeding the Birds at May Dreams Gardens

There have not been that many birds dining at 'Chez May Dreams Gardens' this winter. This feeder has been half full of the same seed for over a month.I left a comment on Mary's View lamenting that the birds weren't eating regularly at my feeder. Mary always has birds at her feeders, so many that sometimes they seem to be lined up waiting to get the the feeders, just like people line up to eat at the best restaurant in town.

Then Mary sent me a nice email wondering what could possibly be wrong here at May Dreams Gardens and I confessed I thought part of the problem was "cheap seed". She told me to go buy some BOSS, Black Oil Sunflower Seed, and try that in the feeder.

So that's what I did because that's what Mary feeds her birds and she always has a lot of them.
While I was out there, I noticed some daffodils poking up through the mulch.Seeing these sprouts slowed me down from cleaning out and refilling the feeder because of my GADS (Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome). Gads, I had to go around and look to see if any other bulbs were coming up. I didn't see any others, just these daffodils. I also looked for blooms for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Yes, I looked for blooms outside in Zone 5 in January. It was a nice, sunny, brisk day and you just never know.

Where were we? Oh, yes, better feed for my bird feeder.

In this age of instant gratification, I had hoped that the birds would see me with my new bag of BOSS and come circling around, land on my shoulders and tweet little songs of thanks to me, while I cleaned out and refilled the feeder.

I did hear some birds singing and tweeting, but I didn't see any, so I think they might have been off in this big pine tree in the neighbor's yard behind me.

But I also saw evidence that birds have been in my garden.

Mary did tell me that it might take a few days for the birds to find my newly filled feeders, so I've resigned myself to waiting.And waiting some more.
No birds yet. Hopefully soon the birds will be dining again at Chez May Dreams Gardens, and I'll have some bird pictures to share. Then I'll be writing about how much all this BOSS is costing me.

But it will be worth it because a garden without birds is like a blog without comments. It just ain't right.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Grape Jam, Kitchen Scales and Big Tomatoes

Oh my heavens, I discovered an old post a few days ago and realized that last year I did write and publish some resolutions for the new year.

I could barely bring myself to read them, sure that I had probably failed on all most of them. Then tonight I finally looked at them and decided that I did pretty good. Good on some, not so good on others, but pretty good overall.

One of the resolutions was to use up all the produce from the garden and not leave any hanging on the vine to be zapped by the inevitable killing frost.

I’m pretty proud of how I did on this one, especially how I used up my grapes.

As the bunches of grapes ripened in late August, I had sort of hoped that the birds would get to them before I did because there were so many of them. But they didn’t, so I picked big bunches of grapes and made my first ever batch of grape jam.

My, was it good! I surprised myself with how good it was.

In a way, the jam was a happy accident. As I was squeezing all the pulp out of the grapes, I realized the recipe called for five pounds of grapes. Five pounds? How do you figure out how much is “five pounds” when you don’t have a kitchen scales?

Do you know what I did? Yes, that’s exactly what I did. I weighed myself holding an empty bowl. Then I weighed myself with grapes in the bowl, adding more grapes until I was five pounds heavier.

Close enough! It worked. The jam was delicious and a good consistency. I’ve had some on my toast every morning since I made it and just finished the last jar of it a few days ago.

I hope now I am rewarded with more grapes this year so I can make some more jam. And this time the jam will be even better because I’ve got some new kitchen scales to use to figure out how much is five pounds.

Now what else to do with those scales? I know! I can weigh my big tomatoes so I can accurately brag about just how big they really are!

Anyone want to join me in a little friendly competition to see who can grow the 'Biggest Tomato of 2008'? I thought I'd ask now so when you buy your tomato seeds, you can get a variety or two that might produce a really big tomato, big enough to try to beat me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bloom Day, Book Club and Seeds

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is just around the corner. If you are thinking that you’ll skip it because after all, it’s January, here are five reasons to join in.

5. If you live someplace where you actually have flowers blooming in your garden in January, this is your chance to flaunt your blooms to all of us living through real winter.

4. It gives you a perfect excuse, as if you need one, to buy yourself a couple of flowering houseplants, maybe some orchids, if you don’t have any blooms outdoors.

3. This could be your easiest post ever if you have no blooms outdoors, none indoors and don’t plan to buy any flowering house plants.

2. It gives you a chance to show everyone you meant it when you made a New Years resolution to stop procrastinating and post on your blog more regularly.

1. If you are new to garden blogging, Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a great way to introduce yourself and share about what’s in your garden, even in January.

So pick a reason, any reason, and join me for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on January 15th by posting on your blog what is blooming in your garden, outdoors or indoors, and then leave a comment on my Bloom Day post so we can find you. It is that easy.

Garden Bloggers’ Book Club

Before the holidays it seemed like I had a lot of time to read the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club December-January selection, Dear Friend and Gardener by Beth Chatto and Chrisopher Lloyd, but now I’m going to have to pedal fast to finish the book and post a review by January 31, when I’ll post the ‘virtual meeting’ post with links to all the reviews written.

If you are feeling crunched for time or decided earlier not to read this book, you can still join in by posting a review of any book by Chatto or Lloyd or post on the topic ‘what I’ve learned by corresponding with other gardeners’. And yes, reading and commenting on other gardeners' blogs counts as correspondence.

When you’ve posted your review or something on the topic suggested, let me know so I can find you and add a link to your post to the virtual meeting post.

In a few weeks, it will also be time to announce the February-March selection. If you have suggestions on books to read for this virtual book club, let me know via a comment or email note.

Where does the time go?

Seed Update

I ordered my first batch of seeds tonight. It was so easy and so fun and now I can relax because I’ve ordered some seeds.

These were mostly the ‘tried and true’ vegetable varieties that I like and plant each year, plus a few new varieties to try and some annual, direct sow flowers.

I was a little confused because there was a French green bean variety marked in my catalog that I don’t remember marking. But, nonetheless, I ordered it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Odd Weather, Old Seed Catalogs and a Quiz

Who else thought those warm days earlier this week were more creepy than welcome? It just wasn't right. Unusual record breaking warm weather in January messes with your mind and makes you think you are behind because you haven't ordered your seeds yet.

I, for one, am relieved to see the return of more winter-like temperatures. Now I can happily continue with my seed obsessing, indoor plant messing ways for many more weeks, without thinking I've got to get outside to take advantage of warm weather.

After spending my life in zone 5, I am just not programmed to spend time outside in the garden in January.

I'm programmed to look at seed catalogs and make lists, long lists, of what family and friends can get me for my birthday.

So, how about a quiz to see if you have learned anything from my previous posts on old seeds and seed catalogs?

It's just one question.

Why do I have a 1976 Burpee Seed Catalog?

a) Because I have an extensive seed catalog collection and I am about to reveal how extensive it is in this post.

b) Because 1976 was the year I was born and my Mom and Dad just knew I'd be a gardener and would like to have this catalog.

c) Because it is from the bicenntenial year and I thought it would be neat to keep it.

d) Because it is from the 100th anniversary year of Burpee Seeds, and I knew that one day Burpee would be sold and become part of a big corporation and we would all reminisce about the days when Burpee was the seed catalog choice of every home gardener.

Please write down your answer before continuing so you can grade yourself. We'll use the honor system.

The correct answer is...

c) Because it is from the bicenntenial year and I thought it would be neat to keep it. If you picked this answer, give yourself one point.

Let's review why the other answers are incorrect.

a) I do not have an extensive seed catalog collection. Actually, truth be told, I recycle all the seed catalogs in the spring, except the one or two that I order from. I keep those for reference for awhile longer and then recycle them later on. But, given the big box of old seeds I posted about, if you guessed this was the answer, I can see why so give yourself half a point.

b) Really, you thought I was born in 1976? That's awfully nice of you but not quite true. Hints of my true age abound on this blog. And while I don't think my parents knew the year I was born that I was destined to be a gardener, I think they saw signs of my interest in gardening at a fairly early age. If you picked this one, give yourself two points for thinking I was that young.

d) No one can predict the future, but I suspect I am not the only gardener who remembers the old Burpee seed catalogs and ordered a fair number of seeds from them 'back in the day'. Even today, I can't resist looking through the Burpee seed catalog and remembering how I used to read it cover to cover and help my Dad pick out seeds to order. I don't order from it anymore because I know that Burpee seeds are available at many big box stores at a discount. For old times sake I'll look through those racks in the store and pick up a few packets of zinnias or sunflowers or other direct-sow annuals. Give yourself zero points for this answer, unless you also were a big fan of the old Burpee seed catalogs, then give yourself one-fourth of a point.

Tonight I flipped through the pages of the 1976 catalog.

In 1976, the Big Girl hybrid tomato was 'new and exclusive' and a packet of seed set you back 75 cents.

I couldn't find the Big Girl tomato in the 2008 catalog. She seems to have been tossed aside for newer varieties and re-discovered heirloom varieties. I guess the new-ness and exclusive-ness of a variety doesn't last forever.

So how did you do on the quiz?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Those Austin Garden Bloggers!

Once upon a time, a garden blogger in Australia, Stuart, set up a garden blog directory called Blotanical. Included in the directory is “My Plot” where gardeners can tell others a little about themselves.

One day I decided that I should update My Plot.

My Favorite Plant? I like all the plants of the kingdom Plantae. Are you familiar with that kingdom? It’s pretty much all the flowering plants, so it was just another way for a gardening geek to say “all of them” or undecided, though I am most partial to the subkingdom Tracheobionta, the vascular plants.

I proceeded to fill in the rest of the information.

Tools in my garden shed? Hoes, lots of hoes.

I live for this season? May! Spring! That was too easy.

Garden to see before I die? I had to think about that one. I’ve seen pictures of lovely English gardens and if it weren’t for the 'flying over the ocean' part that is necessary to get to them, I’d love to see some of them someday.

But I'm not into flying over the ocean, so instead I chose some gardens closer to home, at least on the same continent. I wrote…

“All those gardens of the Austin garden bloggers.”

Shortly thereafter, Pam/Digging, who is one of those Austin garden bloggers, read my plot answers and sent me an email note. “Girl, you’ve got to come for a visit. We’d show you a good time.”

I reply that if life events or work reasons ever take me near Austin, I’ll be sure and call ahead.

Then Pam started to plan a second get together for the Austin garden bloggers for this spring and came up with a big idea, an idea as big as Texas.

Why not plan a garden bloggers get together and invite everyone?

A few emails bounced around amongst some garden bloggers near and far and excitement grew. Yes, it’s a great idea, Pam!

So Pam, with help from Melissa at Zanthan Gardens, Diana of Sharing Nature’s Garden and Bonnie of Kiss of Sun planned out the first ever Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, taking place the first weekend in April in Austin, Texas.

And now I’m planning to do one of my least favorite things, fly, to do one of my most favorite things, meet with other gardeners to see gardens and talk gardening all day long.

The list of garden bloggers planning to attend the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling is growing. Are you on the list yet?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Old Seeds, Call Out For Old Seeds


I went through another box of old seeds, a box that I keep in the garage, and I found a seed packet from 1986.

I think that’s the oldest seed packet I have. It pre-dates my first vegetable garden by one year, so it must be some seeds that my Dad had. There are still some seeds in the packet, lettuce seeds if you are wondering, a variety imaginatively called ‘Salad Mix’ from the Fredonia Seed Company.

The rest of the seed packets in the box are from 1987, the year I planted my first vegetable garden.
I've sure learned a lot about vegetable gardening since I planted that first garden in 1987. My garden today looks nothing like that first garden.

Let's see, those 1987 seeds are... fingers and toes, back to fingers... 21 years old. Now how could that be? This spring I will be planting my 21st vegetable garden. I wish now I had better records of those earlier gardens!

Hey, who are you calling an old gardener!? I was very young when I planted that first garden, very young.

Anyway, who has seeds older than my 1986 seeds? What's the story behind them?