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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Early Spring Vegetables, Memories of April

April ends with the first harvest from the vegetable garden.

This evening, I thinned out the lettuce and filled a bowl with the "thinnings", which included several kinds of lettuce plus some spinach. I also pulled a few tiny radishes and some onions to make my salad a little more complete.

So far, the bunnies haven't eaten any of my spring greens, but that's because I've been keeping row covers over the beds, not because they are following my rules.

Sometime soon, I'll have to be brave and remove the row covers so the peas can start to climb up the trellises. At that point, I'll sprinkle cayenne pepper on everything and maybe set a trap to catch a rabbit or two.

There were some weeds in my little four x four lettuce bed, so I used my new mini circlehoe to do the weeding.

It's resting in the lower left there on the edge of the raised bed. It did a great job! I'll post about it and my other two new circlehoes after the Garden Bloggers' Hoe Down.

Tonight, as April ends, it's time to look back on a great month.

April 2008 had a lot of highlights...

I got to go to the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, an event that I think changed the garden blogosphere for the better. I met the nicest gardeners in person and saw some great gardens, too.

My garden bloomed all over the place. The April weather was so good that nearly every spring flowering tree and shrub seemed to bloom to perfection, including the Star Magnolia, the crabapple, the redbud and my new Carolina Silverbell.

I got to mow the lawn six times!

I was nominated for six Mouse and Trowel awards for garden bloggers. (Voting continues on the Mouse and Trowel site until May 13th).

Over 100 gardeners posted about what was blooming in their gardens on the 15th for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

I got called a'rock star at the Spring Fling garden party' in an article in the Austin Statesman and was also quoted in the Peoria Star Journal earlier in the month.

The new compost tumbler is making compost in record time.

I added two new hoes to my hoe collection, plus two new hand hoes.

Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening unexpectedly sent me some snowdrops and a double flowering bloodroot.

Then Annie in Austin posted a YouTube video with a song she wrote just for May Dreams Gardens. I'll have to admit, I was a bit choked up listening to it the first time.

I'll always remember April 2008 as a great month for me, my garden, and my blog. Thank you from the deepest roots to the tallest trees to everyone who was a part of this month and its many activities and events.

Now my thoughts turn to May, traditionally my favorite month in the garden. I have much to look forward to.

The strawberries are blooming which means berries are in my future.
More lilacs will be blooming soon, including these Meyer Lilacs. Nearby, peonies will also bloom in May.
All year I dream of the days in May when the sun is warm, the skies are blue, the grass is green, and the garden is all new again.

May will be a busy month in the garden so I'll take some time off from work to weed, plant, and just be in my garden.

There will also be several special blogging events in May including the one time only Garden Bloggers Hoe Down on Saturday, May 3rd and the next Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on May 15th. Then at the end of the month, on the 31st, we will have the next virtual meeting of the Garden Bloggers' Book Club.

If May is half as good as April was, it wil be a great month in my garden. I hope it is a great month in your garden, too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

History of My Hoe Collection

Hoe week continues here at May Dreams Gardens with a history of sorts of my hoe collection.

How does someone end up with a collection of hoes?

How does anyone end up with a collection of anything?

How does anyone get the nerve to even tell anyone about all the hoes she has, to talk about them in public, to post about them on her blog?

And do my 21 hoes really constitute a “collection?

Perhaps a little history would be helpful to either guide others on how they can have a hoe collection or to serve as a warning that “this could happen to you”!

The Early Days

As with most collections (if that is what I have), I started out with one. One hoe.

If I recall correctly, it was an “American Standard” hoe, the hoe you are most likely to buy if you go to any hardware store in America looking for “a hoe”. When I bought it, I was living in an apartment with a patio garden that was about 10 feet x 10 feet, big enough that I decided I should have a hoe to hoe it up.

Then I moved to a house and started my first vegetable garden. One hoe was not going to be enough! I decided that I should get a second hoe, which I recall was a“Pointed American Hoe”. Is that so bad, to have two hoes?

I Discovered I Liked Hoes

And then my memory is all kind of fuzzy and I can’t remember what happened, but I woke up and I had a garage full of hoes, all kinds of hoes.

Well, that’s not exactly what happened. What happened, I suppose, was that I just took an interest in the different kinds of hoes that are offered and bought one, then another, then another, for quite a while. I liked trying them out to see what made them different and finding out if any one hoe was really better than another.

I soon found that I was seeking out hoes at hardware stores and garden centers, in catalogs and eventually online. If I found a hoe that wasn’t like one I already had, and it was reasonably priced, I bought it so I could try it out.

Eventually I ended up with so many hoes, that there was no turning back.

I Went Public With My Hoe Collection

Then I told my friends and coworkers about all my hoes, and even showed them a PowerPoint presentation featuring pictures of all the hoes. (Yes, if I may say so myself, the PowerPoint presentation, with my narration, is funny.)

About that time, I also started blogging and decided to really go public and post my hoe collection online. I suppose that everyday at least one person does some online search and discovers that yes, someone out there has a hoe collection!

I Added Antique Hoes

Along the way, I branched out into some antique hoes. Or rather, a friend of mine got me three old hoes from a friend of a friend, who was cleaning out an old barn. And then my aunt called me about a hoe she found when one of my uncle’s was cleaning out an old shed and I had to have it. It might well have been used by my great-grandfather!

That hoe, by the way, is the only hoe I actually keep in the house. It sits in a corner of my sunroom, in a place of honor. Every time I see it, I am reminded that I have ancestors who farmed, who gardened, who knew the importance of good tools to work the land, who would probably wonder about me and all the hoes I have to work the little bit of land that I have.

Then last summer, I added a hoeing machine and another old hoe when my Mom/Sister’s neighbor moved away.

Where Does It End?

Collecting hoes isn’t like collecting state quarters or something that there is a finite number of, so there may be no end.

I suppose space and funds will limit me over time. But right now, I’m still adding new hoes to my collection and will added “selected” antique hoes if I find any that interest me, that I feel a connection to.

I do sometimes wonder if I am the only one who has this many hoes, or if I am just the only one with this many hoes who has posted them on the world wide web for everyone to see. It’s a big world out there, I bet there are other gardeners who have a lot of hoes.


When we have the Garden Bloggers’ Hoe Down on Saturday, I am looking forward to seeing all the different hoes that gardeners have, seeing who has the same kinds of hoes I have, and seeing who has different hoes that I’ve never seen.

Please post and be a part of it!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Introducing My 21st Hoe

Seeing my dwarf iris bloom this weekend kind of caught me by surprise. I went out into the back yard Saturday morning and there it was in all its purple glory.

I only have a few other bearded irises, and they won't start blooming for a few more weeks. That's why I was surprised to see this one blooming in April. In fact, those other irises don't even have any buds showing.

This dwarf iris is only a foot tall, if that, and has a nice iris scent.

Smelling it, I was reminded that when I visited the Natural Gardener during the Spring Fling earlier in April, I completely missed seeing their big iris display, planted for the American Iris Society Convention, held in Austin in mid-April.

Instead of looking at the iris or the butterfly garden, I was inside looking at...

the garden tools, including quite a few hoes.

I went through the display noting "have", "have", "don't have", "have", "have", "oh, I'd like that one", "have".

You get the idea, you know the story. I have 15 working hoes (bought new), five old hoes that are just for having, and one hoe head from a hoe my Dad had. Oh, and several hand hoes.

One of the hoes on display at the Natural Gardener that I didn't have was a Cobrahead Long-Handle. But thanks to the wonderful people at Cobrahead, now I do.

After I took the official picture of the new Cobrahead hoe for my hoe collection post, I put it into action to see if I liked it.

And I like it. The working end up of it is quite sharp, just like the short-handled version that I got for Christmas, which makes it very nice for cutting out weeds, especially in tight quarters.

It also did a good job breaking up the ground, which is one of the key features of a good hoe, though I'll admit if I had a big area to cultivate, I'd choose one of my other hoes with a larger head. But this one did a great job of making a nice long, fairly deep, furrow which will be good for planting beans and corn later this spring.

The smaller head on this hoe also makes it good for working in close quarters around plants. I used it to knock out quite a few weeds in one section of a perennial bed, and never missed and cut off a perennial by accident.

I can see myself of an evening, strolling around the garden with this hoe in hand, using it to cut out weeds that dared sprout behind my back in my vegetable garden or perennial border.

A lot of gardeners have commented that they don't think they need or want a hoe because they don't have a vegetable garden. For those gardeners, I would suggest a hoe like this one, with a sharp, smaller head to get around closely planted perennials.

"Hoes... they aren't just for vegetable gardens..."


It's all hoes all week here at May Dreams Gardens, leading up to the one time only Garden Bloggers' Hoe Down on Saturday, May 3rd.

To join in, post about your hoes (or rakes or shovels) on Saturday, then leave a comment on my hoe down post so we can find you. You know it will be fun and a good time for all!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend Wrap Up

What a difference a year can make in a garden and in a life.

Last year, this crabapple, Malus
'Guinevere' got frozen out and bloomed rather pathetically, almost painfully.

This year, she is back to her full glory and then some.

According to my records, she (it is okay to refer to a tree called Guinevere as a 'she') is blooming about a week later than normal, but that seems to be the case with other flowering trees and shrubs around here.

I took a lot of pictures of this crabapple today, but I'll spare you seeing all of them and just show you one more. Temperatures are supposed to drop over the next several days, but hopefully not to the point that we see heavy frost and a quick end to these flowers.


The Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina 'Arnold Pink') was also in full bloom today. This is one of the trees I said I would include on a Gardener's Life List of plants I want to have bloom in my garden. This tree, which I planted last fall, had more blooms than I expected, and I can just imagine it will get prettier every year as it continues to grow.

But there might be a problem.

Do you think it clashes with this Redbud (Cercis canadensis) planted about 20 feet away and blooming at the same time?No? Good, because I am keeping both of these trees for as long as they live.


This weekend almost felt like a "bonus" weekend, with several nice surprises.

Forecasts called for a cold, rainy weekend, or at least rain on Sunday. The forecasts seemed to be all wrong and so, since I believed what the weathermen said, the weather turned out to be a nice surprise. We didn't get any rain and the high temperature each day was in the 60's, so it was wonderful weather to work in the garden. I did some weeding, some trimming, and some mowing and cleaned up the garage in preparation for some time off in May to work in the garden.

The other nice surprise this weekend was to see my name in an article in the Austin Statesman about the Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling earlier this month. The article mentions that I live in rural Indiana, which isn't exactly right, though there is a pasture with horses grazing in it at the end of my street where it dead ends.
And I was also referred to as a 'rock star' in the article.
Hey, is it okay to add stuff to your Gardener's Life List that has already happened just so you can cross it off? "Get called a rock star at the spring fling". If it is, then, "check and done"! (Who else adds stuff to their lists after the fact so they can cross them off?)

Seriously, as I noted in a comment on Digging... Rock star? No, I'm just a lucky gardener who loves to garden and write about it and found some kindred spirits on the Internet who love the same things, and then I got to meet some of them in person.

And I am grateful for all the garden bloggers and readers who come back here every day or every week or whenever to read and comment and join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the virtual book club, and soon the Garden Bloggers' Hoe Down.

Thank you all!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Embrace Weeding For A Happier Life

One of the secrets to being happy as a gardener is to embrace weeding.

No matter what kind of garden you have, as soon as you cultivate the earth and plant what you want to grow, the weeds will begin their quest to take over your garden.

Embrace weeding.

You will never finish weeding. The weeds are always out there sprouting and growing in the areas you think you have finished weeding. You might slow the weeds down a bit or even halt them temporarily, but eventually they come back. They always do.

Embrace weeding.


Make weeding a regular part of your routine during the growing season. Just as professional organizers advise people to spend some time each day picking up and decluttering to keep a house neat, you should plan to spend some time each day, or even every other day, weeding. It could be as little as 15 – 30 minutes of weeding, and it would still make a difference.

Of course, sometimes a house is too far gone with clutter so you have to spend some concentrated hours and days getting it back in order before the “maintenance decluttering” works. The same is true in gardens. If you have a garden that is more weeds than flowers, you will have to spend some concentrated time getting rid of the weeds and bringing order back to the garden before spending just a little time each day weeding makes a difference.

Embrace weeding.

Know your weeds. If you know which weeds are annuals, you’ll know those are the ones that you should pull before they set seed. For the perennial weeds, you should try to get as much of the root as possible.

But don’t fret if you don’t get all the root of a perennial weed. It’s just not possible. I advocate that you just keep pulling them as they show leaves and eventually, you’ll start to see less of them. And don’t let the perennial weeds set seed either. In fact, don't let any weeds flower and set seed if you can help it.

But if you have field bindweed in your garden, I’m sorry. Consider moving.

Embrace weeding.

Wear gloves when you weed. Finding a good pair of gloves that allow you to get a good grip on the weed is important because you want to protect your hands from weeds that fight back like stinging nettle, poison ivy, thistle, etc. If you can’t find such a pair of gloves, some gardeners have been known to cut off the thumb and index finger on a pair of gloves. Then at least they are protecting a part of their hands.

Embrace weeding.

Use good tools. Your hands are not the only tools to use for weeding. I have many kinds of weeding tools, including hand tools and hoes. Some are more useful than others and it is difficult to make absolute recommendations. I suggest you try some of the weeding tools yourself and see which ones work for you. Then when you find a weeding tool that you like, guard it with your life, it’s your friend in the garden.

The picture above shows one of my new weeding tools, a Cobrahead Short Handle that I got for Christmas. It’s next to a dwarf columbine, Aquilegia flabellata ‘Cameo Mixture’. I gave this tool a good work out today and I’m keeping it, guarding it with my life. It’s great for weeding.

I used it like a little hand hoe and roughed up a bunch of grass that’s growing where I didn’t want it, and it made it easier to pull out that grass. I also found it worked well getting up under dandelions and thistles so I could pull them out with a “reasonable” amount of the roots.

Embrace weeding.

Follow the shade and the rain. If your schedule allows for it, weed in the shade whenever you can, if the area you are weeding is indeed ever in shade. And we all know that weeding is easier right after a rain when the ground is wet, but not sopping wet. If you haven't had rain in awhile, water, then weed.

Embrace weeding.

You’ll be a happier gardener and have a happier life in the long run if you just accept weeding as something you will always be doing. So make the best of weeding, embrace it, and have some fun while you are doing it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mesmerized and Getting Ready for the Hoe Down

Is there a part of your garden that just has you mesmerized right now?

I always like the front of my house best around this time of year when this bed of tulips starts to bloom.

This first picture is how the tulips looked three days ago.

I think it helps to announce for anyone not paying attention that "Spring Has Arrived".

I took another picture of the tulips the day before yesterday.

I can't seem to stop taking pictures of these tulips.

Here's yesterday's picture.
I took that one in the evening, when it was cloudy. It started raining about 30 minutes later.

Then I took another picture this morning, right before I left for work.
The tulips were all closed up, not quite awake yet.

By the time I got home the tulips were all opened up and soaking up the sun.
I've contemplated a permanent planting in this bed, but then I wouldn't have these tulips to mesmerize me and announce to the world that spring has arrived. I wouldn't have neighbors drive by and holler out "gorgeous flowers".

How do I get such a big display of tulips each year?

By treating these as annual flowers. Yes, that's right. Once these are done blooming, I'll pull them out and put something else here for the summer. Then in the fall, I'll plant all new tulip bulbs in this bed.

It only takes a few hours, and I think it is well worth the effort.

Um, yes, I have in the past just tossed these spent tulips into the compost bin, but this year, I might plant them out in other spots and see how they come back next fall. Somehow, it seems less wasteful to do that.


Don't forget the Hoe Down coming on May 3rd!

Is everyone cleaning up their hoes and other garden tools for the virtual social event of spring?

I am! Tomorrow morning, I’m getting all my hoes out, cleaning them up, and taking their pictures for the upcoming Garden Bloggers’ Hoe Down.

There will be group hoe photos, posed hoe photos, hoe portraits, hoe action shots, all kinds of hoe pictures. I might even include some of the rakes.

Do you think the neighbors will notice all the hoes in my backyard? And me taking pictures of them? I guess if they do, I’ll invite them to bring their hoes over and join in the fun.

I hope you aren’t shy about taking pictures of your hoes in preparation for this one time only Garden Bloggers Hoe Down taking place on Saturday May 3rd.

It’s easy to participate. Just take pictures of your hoes (or rakes or shovels), and post them on your blog on Saturday, May 3rd. Then leave a comment on my Hoe Down post so we can find you and come visit your blog and see all your hoes (or rakes or shovels). That’s all there is to it. And to answer the most popular question in advance... if you don't have a hoe, any garden tool will do.

It ought to be a good time, so don’t miss out!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Starting a Gardener's Life List

Is there such a thing as a Gardener’s Life List?

I know that birders keep life lists of all the birds they see and those they want to see. They get very excited when they get to add a new bird to their list or cross off a bird they were hoping to see.

There are also general life lists which some people write up to set goals for what they want to do before a certain age or just in general.

These lists are full of different adventures like “see the Indianapolis 500 race in person” (check), “attend an NBA game at Conseco Fieldhouse” (check), or “have dinner at the top of the John Hancock building in Chicago” (check).

So why shouldn’t a gardener keep a life list?

I’ve searched online and can not find reference to a Gardener’s Life List, so maybe I’ll just make up my own.

It might include:

Plants I have grown that bloomed in my garden.

Plants I want to grow in my garden and see the blooms of.

Plants I have seen in other gardens, in bloom.

Plants I want to see in other gardens, in bloom.

Gardens I have seen.

Gardens I want to see.

I wouldn't try to include every plant I’ve ever grown or every plant I’ve ever seen. That would make the list unmanageable. I’d limit my lists to the plants and gardens that are of most interest to me.

For example, I would include Lilacs under “Plants I have grown that bloomed in my garden”.

If you live where Lilacs don’t grow, you would definitely want to put them on your list of “Plants I want to see in other gardens, in bloom”. If you didn’t, then I will have failed in my mission to make you want to see and smell the bloom of the lilac.

Today the first lilacs are starting to bloom here at May Dreams Gardens and they smell like… lilacs. They make us forget all about the cold and snow of winter.

On my list of “Plants I want to grow in my garden and see the blooms of”, I would definitely include the Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina ‘Arnold Pink’)

And then tomorrow or this weekend, when it is finally in full bloom, I could move it to the list of "Plants I have grown that bloomed in my garden", a dream fulfilled.

Under “Plants I have seen in other gardens, in bloom”, I would include Texas bluebonnets because I saw them blooming in several gardens and public spaces when I went to Austin for the Spring Fling. I could also include the rare tiger orchid that I saw a year or so ago in a nearby conservatory.

For “Plants I want to see in other gardens, in bloom” I might include azaleas in South Carolina in the spring, even though I’ve seen azaleas in bloom. I assume ‘down south’ they would be spectacular.

For "Gardens I have seen", I could include Thomas Jefferson’s Gardens at Monticello, along with those of Annie in Austin, MSS at Zanthan Gardens, and Pam/Digging, three of the famous Austin garden bloggers.

For "Gardens I want to see", I could start with George Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon. And maybe I would put some gardens in England on that list?

Yes, if I can keep it to manageable length, a Gardener’s Life List might be just the thing to have. It would be another type of garden journal, about a lifetime of gardening and seeing gardens and special blooms and not about the minutiae of what goes on in my own garden day to day, year to year.

Any suggestions on what else I might include on my Gardener's Life List?

What would you put on your list?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Waltz in the Garden

Every gardener soon learns how to do the Waltz in the Garden.

It begins innocently enough with a trip to the garden center, perhaps just to get a few bags of top soil or a hose end sprayer. We tell ourselves we won’t look at the plants, there’s no time really.

Then we arrive at the garden center, perhaps at the same time as a new shipment of plants or maybe just at the time when all the watering has been done and so the plants look fresh, and eager, and oh so pretty.

As we scurry through the garden center to get to the potting soil, we are thinking about how we will not look at the plants, we will not look at the plants, WE WILL NOT LOOK AT THE PLANTS… and then we see it.

Our eyes might lock in on the bloom or our heart jumps at the variegation of the foliage. We move closer. We check the tag.

We lose our will power, our objective thinking. We will buy that plant.

But do we have a place to plant it?

Such a question is too practical to ask or even answer at this point. It is too nice of a plant to pass up. We’ve never seen one like it before. We will rationalize about all the many places it could go, or if no spot comes to mind, we will convince ourselves that we will find a place to plant it once we get it home.

We do what we have to do.

We buy the plant and take it home, perhaps forgetting about the top soil, or whatever reason we had for going to the garden center in the first place.

And then we begin the Waltz in the Garden.

We carry the new plant from place to place looking for the perfect place to plant it. It may be a short waltz, if we find the right spot quickly. Or the waltz may turn into a wild polka as we find the perfect spot, but find it occupied by another plant. So we move that plant and maybe several other plants in succession to make a space for our new plant.

Then the planting part of the waltz begins. We set the plant down, twirl it this way and twirl it that way until we are satisfied that indeed it is in the right spot and we have the best side of the plant, the front, facing the way we want it.

We dig a nice hole, perhaps with a trowel for a small perennial plant, or maybe with a shovel if we had the nerve to ask a tree to dance the waltz without knowing exactly where we might plant it.

And the waltz concludes with a pat, pat, pat as we tamp the soil gently around the base of the plant and water it in well.
Have you danced a Waltz in the Garden with a new plant?

Or have you lived with the regret of leaving the perfect plant behind at the garden center, gone home to dance alone, and then returned for the plant, only to find out that it gave up waiting for you and left with another gardener?

Don’t let that happen to you! If you find a plant and fall in love with it, buy it and take it home right away. You will always find a little spot in your garden to dance the Waltz in the Garden with a plant you love.

Blooming in my garden today, pictured above, another double tulip, a passalong Bleeding Heart from my sister who does not garden, and a bed of tulips by the front walkway.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The only proclamations for Earth Day in my garden were made by more flowers blooming and birds singing in the trees.

The first of the viburnums is in full bloom today!

If you want to forget that odd, slightly bad smell of the flowering pears (Pyrus calleryana), stick your nose in the bloom of this Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii).

These flowers smell like... spring. Fresh, floral, not too heavy, just good old fashioned flower smell.

This viburnum is a good deciduous shrub for any garden around here, topping out at around five feet or so with good green foliage all summer long that turns to red and burgundy colors in the fall.

Maybe I should make a proclamation that everyone should plant a viburnum of some kind in their garden? It is such a wonderful, diverse genus of shrubs, that surely every gardener can find one that they like that will work in their garden. I've "limited" myself, so far, to five different species of Virburnms, eight shrubs, total. I think. And I reserve the right to buy more if I find others that I like.

On the tulip front, those red tulips that I proclaimed I didn't like are starting to remind me of peonies. I hereby proclaim that any flower that reminds me of peonies gets to stay in my garden.

The red tulips are part of a mix and a pretty festive one at that.
I also remembered earlier today when I got an email from Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated / Garden Rant asking for some pictures of them, that these were the tulips she graciously sent me last fall to try out. So much for garden journals and plant labels to help keep track of flowers.

I hereby proclaim Thank You to Elizabeth for sending me these tulip bulbs. I'm going to leave them alone and then see if they come back next spring.

And if they do come back and bloom, I hereby further proclaim that if I post about them again and proclaim that I just don't like red flowers, someone should remind me where these came from.

Thank you, I am done proclaiming.

I hope all had a good Earth Day.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Eagerly Anticipating the Lilacs

After the long winter, I am eagerly awaiting the lilac blooms this spring.

Last spring the lilacs had an off year, due to some unexpected winter weather in April. The cold weather froze out many of the flower buds, and though we did get a few blooms, it was short of spectacular and not worth writing home about.

But this year, I am expecting spectacular.

Starting with the common lilacs and ending with my Japanese tree lilac, I should have nearly six weeks of lilac blooms.

First to bloom in late April will be the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris. This is an old-fashioned shrub which gets rather large and is what most people think of when they think of lilacs.

The common lilac is best planted in a mixed shrub border so that later on when all the leaves have powdery mildew on them, and they will, it won’t be such an eyesore.

The buds pictured above are on a common lilac in my neighbor’s side yard, just across the property line from my yard, so I get to enjoy it too. I also have a white-flowering common lilac, part of a shrub border, or it will be once I plant some more shrubs around it.

Sometime around mid-May, my Miss Kim lilacs, Syringa patula 'Miss Kim', will be in full bloom. They are more compact than the common lilac and top out at between five and six feet. I have three along the side of my house as a foundation planting where there are no windows to block.

'Miss Kim' lilacs are extremely fragrant when blooming and because they bloom around Mother’s Day, I usually take a bouquet of them to my Mom.

Also around mid-May, the Meyer lilac, Syringa meyeri, starts to bloom and is also quite fragrant. It is also a good lilac for a foundation planting, especially near a window, because it stays around three feet tall without pruning. When it is blooming, open the nearby window and let the smell come in to your house!

Finally, in late May or early June, my Japanese Tree Lilac, Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk', will bloom. It is a small tree with white flowers and is a surprise to most people when they see it blooming. They always ask “what’s that?” because it isn’t a very common tree. But I don’t see why it shouldn’t be!

With my white flowering common lilac, four ‘Miss Kim’ lilacs, three Meyer lilacs plus a Japanese tree lilac and my neighbor’s ‘borrowed’ lilac, I have a full complement of lilacs and thought I was pretty much done planting lilacs.

Then my aunt sent me a note asking me about a ‘Lincoln Lilac’, which I believe is the blue flowering lilac, Syringa vulgaris ‘President Lincoln’. She had read at one time that to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln in 2009, the Master Gardeners were going to plant one of these lilacs at every elementary school in the state.

While I could not find information on that project, I did become intrigued with this particular variety of lilac and decided that I should have one to plant in my own garden to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Lincoln.

After all, my ancestors lived near Abraham Lincoln where he grew up in southern Indiana and were friends of the Lincoln family. In fact, David Turnham, my great-great-great-grandfather, loaned Lincoln the Revised Laws of Indiana to read in 1827.

Perhaps reading about these laws awakened Lincoln’s interest in studying law and going into politics?

I tell people this story to point out that you never know how you might influence someone when you loan them a book, have a meaningful conversation with them, or plant the seeds of an idea in their mind.

You, yes you, might influence someone in some small, positive way, someone who is destined to go on to do great things.

So freely share your books, ideas, and insights with others, and then, if you garden where lilacs grow, go plant a lilac this spring. You won’t regret either action.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Setting Up Day at May Dreams Gardens

More signs of spring were noted today. The serviceberries (Amelanchier sp.) are now blooming, joining the flowering pears which are also in full bloom.

I think the serviceberry is a nice substitute for flowering pear. It blooms about the same time, but without that odd, unpleasant smell.

It won't get as big as a flowering pear tree, but offers good fall foliage and berries for the birds to eat. Most often it is grown as a large multi-trunked shrub (or a small multi-trunked tree) but you can find it grown as a single trunked tree, which is what I have in my garden.

Another sign of spring continuing is when everyone gets out their patio furniture, flower pots, and other garden decoration that they stored away for winter.

Last fall, when I posted about putting everything away for the winter, several people commented wondering why we do that. It is a lot of work!

We do it because if we didn't, a lot of "stuff" would be ruined by the winter weather, or at least not last as long. It is not so much that everything gets cold, it is that it gets wet, freezes, then thaws, then freezes and thaws and this process ruins a lot of garden decorations, furniture and especially clay pots.

So we put it all away in the winter, and then bring it out again in the spring once it feels like we won't have any more terrible freezes. Or at least we should.

I feel like at this point we won't have any terrible freezes so I decided that today would be the day to get everything out again, thus making it Setting Up Day here in my garden.

While doing this, I noted some universal truths about this whole process of putting it all away for the winter and then getting it all out and setting up again in the spring. And I thought of a few tips to pass along.

The first universal truth is that if you put it all away 'dirty', it comes back out that way. Whether it is stowed away in the garage or a shed or stacked up in one corner of the patio and covered with a tarp, "as it is put away, so it shall remain when brought out again".

The tip is to clean everything before you put it away. I need to remember that in the fall but somehow I forget it, or it is too cold or there is some other good reason at the time to just put it away "as is".

The second universal truth is that the further you haul something to store it, the more likely it is that it will break in the transporting process. I've broken at least one rather large clay pot when it rolled off the cart I was using to transport it. I still have the broken pieces in the garage because the pieces are really big, like the pot was, so I'm trying to think of something clever or artsy to make with them.

The tip is to store everything as close to where it goes as you can. I store the furniture and clay pots that go on the back patio under a big tarp in a corner of the patio where it is partially sheltered by the house. Everything gets cold, but it doesn't get wet, so it does alright getting through the winter.

The third universal truth is that hose end sprayers will not work in the spring after being stored in the winter. I don't know if it is by design or a material flaw, but it is rare that a hose end sprayer that was working when you put it away, still works in the spring when you get it back out.

The tip is to be very careful trying out hose end sprayers in the spring, as they will likely spray out all over everything when you first turn on the hose. And by everything, I mean you.

Setting Up Day is also a day to test yourself. Do you still have the strength to set out what you put away a mere five or six months agao?

I am happy to report that I was still able to carry the purble bench out to the vegetable garden.
This made me feel very strong.

I'm not finished with all the set up, but got a good start on it today. There is now a place to sit on out on the patio and this bench to sit on in the garden. What more do I need?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bloom Day Week Wrap Up

Now that Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for April is past, some of my flowers, like these woodland violets, have decided to really bloom.

And having been to every Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post that is out there, I can emphatically say that many gardeners have flowers really blooming right now.

I really did try to visit every bloom day post and leave a comment. If you posted for bloom day, and I didn't leave a comment on your blog post, please let me know. I either goofed up leaving the comment (highly probable), or I inadvertently skipped a comment.

Also, there won't be a separately posted link list to all the bloom day posts like last month. MSS at Zanthan Gardens left a comment that convinced me not to do it. She said that she likes to use the comments so she can see the bloom day posts "in context". It didn't take much to convince me to abandon the link list idea because there were well over 100 bloggers who posted about their blooms on the 15th. Thanks, MSS, and thank you to everyone who joined us this month. Yes, we'll do it again on May 15th.

If, by chance, you were waiting for a link list before you went around to visit the other bloom day posts, you can still find them all by going to the comments on my bloom day post and following the trail to each blog.

Buried in those bloom day comments, by the way, is a comment from The Garden Monkey letting me know that I've been nominated for a Fork'n Monkey award for "Most Interesting Self-Portrait". Someone nominated me for it because they think I have a "far fetched gardening outfit" in my blogger profile picture. I don't know if it is far fetched, but it is fetching, don't you think?

To vote, as near as I can tell, you just go to the post and leave a comment on my behalf before May 16th.

And while you are in a voting mood, don't forget that voting is underway for the Mouse and Trowel awards. You can go to that site and vote until May 13th.

In other news here at May Dreams Gardens, the tulips are finally starting to bloom.

Here are some tulips in the front that I like.

And here are some tulips in the back that I don't like.
Too red, too double, too something. I have no recollection of planting these. I must have been in a gardening induced trance or I got some mis-labeled tulips. Or maybe the garden fairies, led by Thorn Goblinfly, planted them?

Most of the time, if I plant out a bed of tulips like I did in front, I pull them out when they are done blooming and plant something else there for the summer. But when I plant clumps of tulips here and there, like I apparently did with these double-red tulips, I leave them alone and if they come up the next year, great, more tulips.

But I don't really want to see these tulips again next year, so I think I'm going to pull them up when they are done and compost them. Wouldn't you?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Enjoy Flowering Pear Trees From Afar

The Flowering Pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) are blooming all over the city, especially in newer neighborhoods like mine. What's not to love about a tree that has such beautiful white flowers in the early spring. Really, they bloom before the lilacs around here!

Everyone plants them, and in some neighborhoods, the developers even require that every homeowner plant them along the curb.

Truly, it is a beautiful sight to see a row of flowering pear trees blooming in the spring.

They can take your breath away.

But not in a good way.

They can take your breath away because the flowers don't smell good.

Have you ever smelled the flowers? How would you describe that smell? It's not exactly a stench, but it sure isn't a fragrance. It is more like a smell.

It's almost like the smell of something odd burning, but not quite that.

In some ways, the flowers smell like maybe you stepped in something that you wished you hadn't stepped in. But that's not quite right either.

Maybe it is more like someone is grilling out some kind of mystery meat? Yes, that's what it smells like to me. Grilling mystery meat.

Admittedly, it's not likely that the smell will make you physically sick, but it definitely isn't a pleasant floral smell. It makes me wonder what kind of insects the tree is trying to attract to pollinate it.

Besides the smell, there are some other things that people should know before they plant flowering pear trees in their gardens.

First, varieties can vary quite a bit, so plant a named variety, and make sure it is a good one. Different varieties have different shapes.

My neighbor on one side has a flowering pear tree with a rounded shape.

I don't know if you can tell in the picture, but they have also tried to stake it because it leans to one side. I notice a lot of the flowering pear trees leaning, so that must also be a fairly common problem with them.

My neighbor on the other side has a flowering pear with a nice cylinder shape.
This particular one is 'Cleveland'. I helped the neighbor buy it, that's how I know. I think it is a good variety.

Second, know before you plant that these trees are fast growers and so are generally weak wooded and likely to lose a limb or split in two if a big storm hits them the wrong way.

Third, don't expect a flowering pear tree to last more than 25 years or so. It is not a tree that ages gracefully. I think most reputable nurseries will tell you this. If you plant one, just plan for its eventual replacement if you plan to stay with your current garden for that long.

But even knowing all this about the flowering pear trees, you still might want to plant one or two of them because they are beautiful blooming trees in the spring.

But also plant some hyacinths nearby. Why?

Because you'll want to go take a big whiff of hyacinth blooms after you've smelled the flowering pear tree blooms, just to clear your nose and replace that bad smell with a good smell.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vegetable Garden Update: One Month Later

The peas have sprouted in the garden, along with all the other early spring vegetables I sowed back on March 16th. The vegetable garden is right on schedule after one month.

Even though the seeds have all sprouted, or especially because the seeds have all sprouted, I'm still keeping the row covers on everything except the onions. There are rabbits out there!
The onions are that little sliver of green in the first bed that is covered. Fortunately, rabbits don't like onions, so they are safe to leave in the open.

Further back, you can see the new compost tumbler. I've been turning it every few days and tonight I opened it up to see what was going on inside.

Composting was going on inside it. It was hot in there, hotter than the open compost piles next to it.

Elsewhere in the garden, Mr. Rabbit was enjoying the lovely evening. I think he looks kind of fat, or does the camera just make everyone look heavier? Where has he been eating? What has he been eating? I'd like to live in a state of denial and think that he is eating at the neighbor's and just coming here to May Dreams Gardens to smell the flowers.

On the right in that picture you can see that the lilac is leafing out quite nicely. I believe and predict that this is going to be an outstanding year for lilac blooms, as long as we don't have any days like last April when it was cold, below freezing night after night.

On the left, barely visible, is a Viburnum which has not leafed out at all. Sometimes as soon as people see one shrub leaf out, they assume any other shrub that hasn't leafed out is dead. Not true!

Each shrub 'breaks dormancy' in its own time. If you think a shrub is dead and not dormant, try to bend a branch and if it snaps and is all dry, it's probably dead. If it bends without breaking, it is probably just not ready to leaf out yet.

Gardeners have to be patient. We might think spring is all frantic and hurry up, especially when we start to see leaves and lilac buds, but really, a lot of it is slow and steady.

I'll remind myself of that as I start running around here at May Dreams Gardens like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, thinking of everything I want to do right now, suffering from an acute attack of GADS.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Overwhelmed, In A Good Way

Spring time can be overwhelming for a gardener. New buds, new blooms, new leaves, and new sprouts all shout out to the gardener "It's spring! Get busy!"

And so we get busy! Digging, pruning, planting, cleaning up, and blogging about it all.

Everyday, there is something new in my garden to see, to do, to watch for. And each day gets warmer. I love spring!

Do you know what else is overwhelming for a blogging gardener like me?

When nearly 100 other garden bloggers join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and post about what's blooming in their gardens on the 15th of the month.

I have learned so much about what gardening is like in other climates through all the bloom day posts. I know how beautiful central Texas is this time of year and that there is still snow on the ground in Wisconsin. I know that it's not just central Indiana experiencing a slower spring, blooms are slow in Chicago, too.

Thank you to everyone who posted for bloom day yesterday! I've visited about half of the blogs and will continue down the list to visit each one, until I've been to all of them. Then later in the week I'll post the-last-ever link list (unless someone has an easier method to create a list with links) to make it easier for others to visit these blogs, too, without going through all the comments.

Yes, we'll have another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on May 15th, my favorite month of the year, and each month thereafter as long as people continue to join in. If you missed posting yesterday, but want to join us in April anyway, no problem, just post now and let me know via a comment so I can find you.

And I hope in between this month's and next month's bloom days, many of you will join in for a one time event, the Garden Bloggers' Hoe Down on May 3rd, a great chance to show off your hoes or any garden tools you have. And yes, rakes are also invited.

But that's not all that overwhelms me.

I am also overwhelmed by being nominated for six Mouse and Trowel garden blogging awards, including Innovation in Garden Blogging, Garden Blogger You'd Most Like As A Neighbor, Post of the Year for the post on GADS, Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome, Best Writing in a Garden Blog, Best North American Garden Blog, and Garden Blog of the Year.

I would like to thank all those who nominated me, truly I am at a loss for words on this one. Overwhelmed. Please head over to the Mouse and Trowel website between now and May 13th to vote for your favorites in all the categories.

Thank you all for making this week, this spring, a very memorable one for me and May Dreams Gardens!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2008

Welcome to April 2008's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens.

I have news to report on the flowers this year.

They are late. Or at least they are later than last year.

By comparing the blooms today with those from a year ago, I can emphatically state that this year's April blooms are lagging behind last year's April blooms by a week or more in my garden.

All the Forsythia are still in full bloom, including my new one, 'Show Off', planted last fall. Last year by mid-April, they were finished blooming.

'Show Off' isn't very big yet, but I can tell already that it is a bloomer, as advertised. In a few more years, when it gets a little bigger, it will be a stunning blooming shrub. And guess where it is planted?

Over on the utility side of the house. It won't be that viewable from the street, but it will probably glow and be viewable from airplanes passing overhead.

The violets are starting to bloom.

Last year we had near record cold weather in early April which stopped the violets from blooming early and froze out quite a few other blooms. Some gardeners consider these weeds, but I don't. I let them grow here and there and wherever they want, within reason.

The red maple (Acer rubrum) is still blooming.
By this time last year, the bloom on the red maple had long faded, and the red bud (Cercis canadensis) had already finished blooming, too. But this year the red bud is just starting to bud out, so I didn't take a picture of it for today's post.

Closer to the ground, patches of Grape Hyacinth (Muscari sp.) seem to be about on schedule.

But the tulips are far, far behind last year and are just starting to show some buds, whereas last year in mid April they were in full bloom.
Did you notice that someone, let's call him Mr. Rabbit, has been eating the foliage on the tulips?

But even though many flowers that would normally be blooming now aren't yet blooming, I can still rely on the Helleborus to put on a nice show in early spring.
These blooms will hang on for quite a while. I think it is a good year for hellebores, overall, and this is the best this one has ever looked.

In some ways, a slower spring is nice for a change. Everything will bloom in its time, and there is going to be more time to enjoy the later blooms that are taking their sweet time.

And as the weather turns warmer, I can watch to see if the blooms catch up.

Here is a list of blooms in my garden today.

Forsythia 'Gold Tide'
Forsythia 'Show Off'
Star Magnolia Magnolia stellata
Red Maple, Acer rubrum

Daffodils, full size and dwarf (these were long gone last year at this time)
Iris reticulata (just one flower left)
Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxia)
Pansies and violas
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)
Star Flowers (Ipheion uniflorum)
Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
Striped Squill (Puschkinia scilloides)
Lenten Roses (Helleborus orientalis) pinkish-rose, and white

Woodland violets

What's blooming in your garden today? Are your blooms early or late this year?

Join us for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day by posting pictures on your blog or even just writing about what's blooming in your garden today. Then leave a comment here so we can find you, visit your blog, and make a fuss over your flowers. And if you don't have a blog or the time to write a post, leave your list in a comment here. All are welcome and encouraged to participate!

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

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Be: A Challenge

How many of us can just “be” in our gardens?

When was the last time you sat down and relaxed in your garden and just enjoyed it, without making a mental list of all the pruning, watering, and planting you were going to do as soon as you got up from your chair or bench?

Elizabeth Lawrence wrote in a January 1, 1961 column in the Charlotte Observer, “… I added a new resolution to the old promises to get behind my garden sins; the new one is to take time to enjoy my garden. It has been a long time since I sat in it with a book that I didn’t read, and never gave a thought to weeds or watering or plants overgrown by other plants. I have always found it hard to reconcile a resolution to do nothing with one to do everything and do it ahead of time, but I used to find it easy to put my sins and negligence out of my mind. This year, I am going to try to recover the talent for leaving things undone…”

As the prime gardening season gets ready to take off here in the Midwest, many of us are reviewing our own gardening resolutions and goals set back in January, reminding ourselves of our grand and glorious plans for this year’s garden. And most of our plans involve us doing things in our gardens.

Okay, maybe we have already long forgotten those resolutions and goals set in the dark, cold days of winter. We realize now in the brighter light of spring the realities of actually following through with some of them and have adjusted them slightly or a lot, or even abandoned them outright.

But it is still early spring, at least in my garden, and the real beginning of the gardening season. I think now is a better time to set some goals and make resolutions for gardening and the garden.

One of my goals will be to spend some time just being in my garden without thinking about what I need to be doing in my garden.

I challenge you to do the same, to make it a goal to spend some time sitting in your garden, enjoying it and doing nothing and thinking of nothing that needs to be done in the garden.

Spending time just being in other gardens doesn't count. It was easy to be in the Taniguchi Oriental Garden at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, pictured above in early April, far way from my own garden. I easily enjoyed it and thought of nothing else but what a beautiful garden it is.

Try that in your own garden... Just “be” in your garden, and leave a few things undone.

It may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your garden, but it may be the most enjoyable thing you’ve ever done, too.


The quote above is from the book Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson, chosen to be the April-May selection of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club.

All are welcome to join the book club by reading this book or any book by Elizabeth Lawrence and then posting a book review, your own insights on her writings, etc. on your blog before May 31st. Then I’ll publish a “virtual meeting” post on May 31st with links to all the relevant posts.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rabbit Issues & Bloom Day Reminder

Rabbit Issues!

There is evidence that rabbits are still in and around my garden, in spite of the rules I’ve written for them to follow.

I’ve found rabbit droppings in the lawn and there are tulip and crocus leaves clearly eaten by the rabbits. And if that isn’t enough proof, I’ve seen actual rabbits scurrying away as I unexpectedly enter the garden or come around a corner of the house.

My older sister suggested that I might be subconsciously welcoming, even luring, the rabbits to my garden.

How so? I believe I'm innocent. I'm not trying to encourage the rabbits!

But she noted as evidence this rabbit shaped planter that I planted with violas and set out early in the spring.

And this little bunny who sits by the front door, year around.
But if having a little bunny by the front door says “welcome” to the rabbits and lures them to my garden, then why wouldn’t I also have some flying pigs around here?
Because this flying pig is always by the front door, too.

In the back garden, there is just a small rabbit ornament.
It’s hardly noticeable!

But look at my new boot scraper.
There were several different styles of boot scrapers where I bought this. But I chose the one with the rabbits.

Why is that?

Maybe I AM subconsciously trying to lure rabbits to my garden? But why would I do that?


It's almost time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

The next Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is just around the corner on Tuesday, April 15th.

Get your taxes done this weekend so that you can relax and enjoy taking pictures of all the blooms in your garden and post them on your blog on Tuesday. Then leave a comment here on my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post to provide us with "directions" on how to visit your garden virtually to see what you have blooming in April.

All are welcome!

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