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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Book Club May 2008 Virtual Meeting

Welcome to the May 2008 virtual meeting for the Garden Blogger’s Book Club.

For April and May the book selection was Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson. The alternate selection was any book written by Lawrence.

Is there any passtionate gardener or garden blogger who hasn’t heard of Elizabeth Lawrence? On the website dedicated to her, you can read a brief biography, see a layout of her gardens in Charlotte, NC and go on a virtual tour, which I encourage you to do so you can learn more about Elizabeth before reading the reviews and thoughts on her books.

And here are the reviews and thoughts:

Melissa at Garden Portraits

Gail at Clay and Limestone

Entangled at Tangled Branches: Cultivated

Pat at CommonWeeder

Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening

Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings

Don't miss Dee's post about actually visiting Elizabeth Lawrence's gardens in Charlotte, NC!

Annie at The Transplantable Rose

Old Roses at A Gardening Year

And various posts here at May Dreams Gardens which were inspired by Elizabeth Lawrence's writings. The topics included ground covers, your garden taking care of itself, and running out of room in your garden.

Plus, be sure to check out the Duke University Press blog post about the book club, too.

I could also link to all the Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day posts as inspired by Elizabeth Lawrence. A quote from one of her books that I read on a snowy February day, and her interest in knowing when various flowers bloomed in different areas, was the inspiration for creating the bloom day on the 15th of every month.

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

*****

I’ll end this virtual meeting post with a couple of questions for your consideration and comment.

Elizabeth Lawrence gardened in North Carolina and included information on the plants she grew. Is it worthwhile for gardeners from other regions of the country or other parts of the country to read her books if they can’t grow the same plants she had in her garden?

Many of Lawrence’s books and compilations of the columns she wrote for the Charlotte Observer can still be purchased new today. What do you think makes her so popular today, twenty plus years after her death?

*****

Thank you to those who joined in the book club this month. I’m still expecting a few more reviews and related posts in the next few days. When I find out about them, I’ll add them to this post.

And early next week, I’ll post about the book selection for June/July 2008!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ground Covers: Must Take Action

I can't remember a better spring for plant growth around here. As a result, much of the ground cover in my garden is very effectively covering the ground...

...and also covering some hostas, a row of daylilies, my favorite variegated phlox, and the blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bermudianum.

At least those are plants I've either seen trying to escape a ground cover around them or that I have looked for and found beneath some ground cover.

Who knows what other plants are struggling under the sedum and lamium, especially?

I'll find out when I pull out a bunch of it this weekend.
I'll free plants like this hosta, trapped beneath the ground cover.

And while I am out there, I'll deal with my old enemy, moneywort, Lysimachia nummularia My brain must have been numb when I planted it. WHAT was I thinking? I was thinking of course that I could control it. that I could keep it contained to grow just along the edge of the flower bed it was in. Wrong! I had to dig it all out a few years ago because it had gone too far. I thought I had gotten rid of it, but a sprig of it shows up now and again and has to be pulled.

And that is one of the pitfalls of ground covers. Once planted, can you ever really get rid of a ground cover completely? I think not. So BE CAREFUL about planting ground covers.

*****

By the way, I actually spent two summers in college working at two different nurseries, propagating ground covers. Yes, really, I did. That's where I learned to love these plants, I guess, and became very familiar with them. Most ground covers, not surprisingly, are easy to propagate from cuttings. They root readily. That's one thing characteristic that makes a plant a good ground cover.

Think about it...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ground Cover and Elizabeth Lawrence

What I like about the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence is that I can pick up one of her books like Beautiful at All Seasons edited by Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson and start reading anywhere and find myself nodding my head in agreement.

For example…

On ground cover, Lawrence wrote, “There are two difficulties with ground covers: first to get them to grow, and then to get them not to… Once established the ground cover begins to travel, and then it may travel too far. A plant that is hard to keep in bounds may give the gardener more trouble that it saves.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Last fall, I dug out all kinds of English Ivy (Hedera helix) from a foundation planting. The ivy had taken over and pretty much wiped out three Deutzia shrubs and made it nearly impossible to dig out and replace two Hypericums that had succumbed to a nasty infestation of bagworms. And having conquered that bed, the ivy was making its way at an alarming speed around the corner toward some barberries.

As I pulled all that ivy out…, wait, “pulled” is too mild a word… as I yanked, dug, and hacked that ivy out, I wondered what had possessed me to think that I, a mere gardener, could control that ivy.

Indeed why would any gardener in their right mind plant ground cover?

I found, as Lawrence noted, that ground cover can be hard to get started, then equally hard to control. She wrote in another column, “First there is the difficulty of getting the plants established, and once they cover the ground they are meant to cover, they are apt to be equally hard to restrain.”

She wrote further in both columns about ground cover plants she had used effectively, and though some of those she included might not be hardy in my garden, a few of them are. But reading about those plants not hardy in my garden doesn’t bother me because though she often wrote about specific plants, she also wrote a lot about gardening that I can apply to my own garden.

For example, her advice on preparing beds for planting ground covers is advice that any gardener can use. To sum it up, her advice was, “preparing the ground thoroughly before planting, and getting rid of all roots of Bermuda grass”.

I just substitute bluegrass for Bermuda grass and that advice applies to me, too.

I know, because I’ve ended up with bluegrass in my ground cover and it is nearly impossible to weed out. In fact, I believe that the degree of difficulty of weeding in ground cover is many times greater than weeding in areas without ground cover.

At least that’s been my experience.

But still I love ground cover! I love how it looks under plants, hides bare stems and softens the edges of the bricks I have around some beds. I love the look of the Vinca minor, pictured above, when it blooms in the spring.

So I'm going to keep planting ground covers and enjoying them. But hopefully, I won't have to resort to removing any, like I had to remove the ivy.

*****

I hope you have the opportunity to read some of the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence, a passionate plantswoman, gardener, and writer, who wrote about the plants and gardens she loved, and freely gave gardening advice to the many who enjoyed her books, faithfully read her columns in the Charlotte Observer newspaper, exchanged letters with her or visited her gardens in Charlotte, NC.

*****

It is nearly time for the next "virtual meeting " post for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. To participate, just read something by Elizabeth Lawrence like the book selection Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond with Elizabeth Lawrence, edited by Ann L. Armstrong and Lindie Wilson, or any of her books, and post a book review, your own insights on her writings, your favorite quotes, etc. on your blog before May 31st.

Then let me know via a comment or email about your post and I’ll include a link to it in a book club “virtual meeting” post to be posted late on May 31st. All are welcome to participate!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Pretty Bloom Goes A Long Way...

A pretty bloom goes a long way toward making the gardener forget the plant that bears it.

At least that's true in my garden.

I’ve been threatening to cut down my mockorange (Philadelphus ‘Buckleys Quill’) shrub, but then it blooms and I think “Oh, isn’t that pretty, I’ll wait to cut that down until after it blooms. Maybe I’ll do that in the fall.”

Then fall comes and I don’t do it, and then spring comes and I’m too busy. Then it blooms and I repeat the process. So I live with this ‘Charlie Brown’ shrub for fifty weeks of the year because of two weeks of bloom.


The lilac, at least the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, is another shrub that gives us two weeks of heavenly scented fragrant blooms. The rest of the year? It’s a big ugly shrub. We should expect that with a botanical name like “vulgaris.” Mine needs to have some other shrubs planted around it to camouflage it. I'm working on that, don't rush me!

By the way, there are other lilacs that you can plant that don’t look like dogs when they aren't blooming. May I recommend Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ or S. meyeri? You’ll like them, I promise.

My night-blooming cereus is also a plant that only a few could love when it’s not in bloom.

It’s all stems.But the bloom is an event and I think it is worth having this plant “own” a corner of my sunroom for that once a year, or if I’m lucky, twice a year bloom.Yes, you can "oh and ah" over it, because it is pretty, very pretty, "other worldy pretty".

If the bloom wasn't so pretty, why would I put up with my big night-bloomer plant for years before it got all pot bound and started blooming annually on a regular basis (if two years in a row is a 'regular' basis).

Some people think the peony plant is an eyesore once the beautiful bloom is gone.

I don’t agree that it’s an eyesore, if you remember to deadhead the spent blooms once they’ve started to turn brown.

(Note how I have cleverly figured out a way to post some more pictures of my peonies?)

Yes, I admit I have some scraggly looking plants in a few places in my garden, but about the time I have a WOO (window of opportunity) to cut one of them out, it blooms.

And I would never cut down a blooming plant. Would you?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Peonies

Did someone comment that it would be okay if I posted more pictures of my peonies? That’s good, because I fully intend to.

Did you know that the peony (Paeonia) is the state flower of Indiana? Yes, even though the peony isn’t a native flower, (it’s from Asia) the Indiana General Assembly voted in 1957 to make it the state flower. Before that, from 1931 to 1957, the state flower was the zinnia. The zinnia is also not native to this area of the country, so being a native flower clearly isn’t a requirement to be the state flower in Indiana.

I think the reason the peony is our state flower is because nearly every old farm or house has some peonies blooming in the yard. It’s a very long lasting perennial and it’s easy to dig and divide and share with others in the fall.

I suspect that most farmers and gardeners got their peonies (or “piney’s” as some old-timers call them, or "pennies" as others incorrectly call them) in the same way that Elizabeth Lawrence got many of her plants, by divisions sold for pennies (pun intended?) or just exchanged from one farmer or gardener to another. (You are reading something by Elizabeth Lawrence and planning to post about it for the Garden Bloggers Book Club virtural meeting on May 31st, aren’t you?)

My favorite peony is the unnamed variety that my Dad grew in his garden. I rescued them about six years ago and planted them in my garden. It’s the peony you are about to see pictures of below. I do have some store bought peonies, too, but they are slower in blooming, and to me they aren’t as pretty as these. One is white, the other dark pink and they don’t have as many petals as this one I got from my Dad’s stand of peonies.

My personal, unbiased opinion is that these peonies are particularly big and beautiful this year, probably because we’ve had plenty of rain and a cool spring.

But they could be even bigger if I had removed the side buds a few weeks ago. My Dad always removed the side buds on his peonies so just the main flower bud on a stem bloomed. He showed us how to do it so we could help. As a result, he’d have peony blooms as big as our heads for us to take to our teachers.

And some years we would cut the peonies to take with us when we visited our grandparents on Memorial Day weekend. Then we’d tour through several different old cemeteries and leave some peonies at the gravesites of greats and great-greats and great-great-greats while getting a lesson on our family history.

Now that you know a bit about the history of my peonies, I hope you’ll stay just a minute or two longer and see some more pictures of them.

A peony bud about to open.

A group of peonies at various stages of opening.

A peony in my hand to show you how big the flowers are.

A peony in the rain this evening.

A peony yesterday morning.

A peony mid-afternoon yesterday.

A peony in the evening yesterday.

Thanks for 'staying' with this post long enough to enjoy my peonies. I'm just sorry you can't smell them, too.

Peony for your thoughts?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Vegetable Garden Update: Counting Strawberries

There it is, all planted up, my 21st vegetable garden.

I've learned a lot since I planted my first vegetable garden back in 1987. A lot. But there are times I still feel like there is a lot more to learn.

And there are times when I feel like ignoring what I've learned and trying something different.

This year I went against all I was taught about crop rotation and spread everything throughout the garden. No more do I have a bed of peppers, they are spread out over four different beds. Tomatoes? I have fourteen varieties and I think they are in six different beds. I spread the eggplant out in several beds, too.

And there are squash hills from one end of the garden to the other.

Yes, I know that for crop rotation, this is not good. But I'm doing it anyway. It's too late to stop me or try to talk me out of it. I've planted.

We'll see how it goes. Already I've figured out that this doesn't make it very easy to put row covers over some crops to keep the rabbits out, so instead of doing that, I've sprinkled everthing with ground cayenne pepper.

I'm sure the rabbits were laughing when the wind switched directions on me and I got a face full of that cayenne pepper. My, that does burn your eyes.

*****

What got me really going this morning and out early to finish up the vegetable garden planting was the threat of rain. Turns out, I do better, as do many people, when I feel like there is no more time and IT HAS TO BE DONE. Get out of the way! Grab the hoes and get to gardening! And I did. I worked steadily in the garden for nearly six hours planting vegetables, annuals, perennials and a few shrubs.

I only stopped because we had a brief shower and after looking at the weather radar, I thought the rain might go on for awhile. But it didn't, so I quit unnecessarily before I was done, and I still have a few things to plant after work this week.

*****

In between planting, I took breaks and photographed the peonies.
I could have sat there and looked at them all day but I had work to do! No time!

And I could post 50 pictures of them this evening, but you don't have that much time either. Or do you? If you do, let me know, I have dozens of peony pictures I could share.

*****

When I wasn't looking at the peonies, I was very busy in the vegetable garden. I had to pull these 'German Giant' radishes because they had "bolted' and sent up flower stalks. They never did form good roots. But I don't think it is a problem with this variety, I think I planted them at that wrong time. The moon phase was all wrong for root crops the day I planted them, as it turns out.

Just to see if that was really the reason, I'm going to try sowing seeds for this variety again on a day the almanac says is good for below ground crops, which is the 27th, 28th or 29th of May.

By the way, I didn't pay attention to the almanac when I planted today. The above ground crops should next be planted on June 5th or 6th, according to the almanac, but I didn't want to wait that long. We'll see what happens. If I have total crop failures, at I least have a good excuse.

*****

I am pleased to report that there won't be a crop failure of the strawberries. If the bunnies will stop nesting in the strawberries, I think I'll have a bumper crop. I'll have the "good problem" of having too many strawberries. But I'll deal with it. I'm sure I can give some away or learn how to make strawberry jam.

But don't send me those jam recipes just yet, as you know what they say...

"Never count your strawberries before they ripen".

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gardening WOO

Do you have enough Gardening WOO's?

It’s hard to come by sometimes, this WOO, so it's important to take advantage of it when you get it.

What is Gardening WOO?

Gardening WOO, or Window of Opportunity, is a time when all the forces around you are aligned so that you can spend some quality time working in your garden, without interruption.

When you have a good WOO, you must be ready, with tools sharpened and supplies and plants purchased, so that you can take full advantage of the WOO presented to you by the universe.

Some people make it more complicated to find good WOO’s for gardening because not only do they need to have all other obligations satisfied plus good weather, but it also has to be the right phase of the moon for planting.

Do you plant by the phases of the moon? I don’t usually. It seems too complicated and so far it doesn’t seem to make much difference, as far as I can tell. However, I did have some radishes that didn’t really form good, round radishes, so maybe the moon phase was the problem?

Checking my almanac, it appears that the 16th of March of this year when I sowed the spring crops, including radishes, was good for ABOVE ground crops, and the 24th and 25th would have been better for planting BELOW ground crops.

I really did have a whole bunch of ‘German Giant’ radishes, sown on March 16th, that didn't form a single nice round, globe shaped root and now they are flowering. I guess I planted them on the wrong day, based on the moon phases. Drats!

However, the lettuce and spinach that I sowed on that same day did great! It's one of my best ever lettuce and spinach crops, due in part to the cool spring we’ve had, but also maybe because I planted them, accidently, on a good day to plant above ground crops, based on the phase of the moon.

But now I don’t hold out much hope for my other root crops like turnips and beets, also sown on March 16th.

*****

I did have a WOO today for gardening, but didn’t quite finish planting everything, which was my plan. But the garden is weeded, hoed, raked and ready for me to plant, when I get another WOO.

So if there is a WOO tomorrow before it rains, I’ll commence planting. If not, well, it looks like the 27th – 29th of May 5th and 6th of June are better days to plant above ground plants, according to the almanac, and I should have some WOO’s in the evenings on those days, after work. But I don't want to wait that long.

And I should have some WOO's to enjoy the peonies which are just now starting to open as the 'Miss Kim' lilacs are fading.
I guess the peonies know this is their WOO to take center stage in the garden.

My wish for you is that you have all the Gardening WOO’s that you’ll need to plant all your plants this spring, and that they occur in the right phase of the moon for whatever you want to do.

By the way, the only activity the almanac lists as good to do tomorrow, the 26th, is “castrate animals”. I’ll pass on that, and just take my chances planting above ground plants...

The Greatest Spectacle in Gardening

What is the greatest spectacle in gardening?

Here in Indianapolis, we have the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500, taking place on a beautiful day, a day that is also perfect for gardening and enjoying gardens if you aren’t attending the race.

A day that is perfect for the peonies to begin to open up.

In honor of the race, I present my current list of the some of The Greatest Spectacles in Gardening, in no particular order, other than the order I thought of them.

* A group of dedicated blogging gardeners meeting up at the Spring Fling in Austin, Texas in early April to visit gardens and talk about gardening and blogging.

* A gardener madly planting on the last weekend of spring, as she prepares for summer.

* Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and the 100 plus gardeners who posted for it these past few months to show off what is blooming in their gardens on the 15th of each month.

* A gardener center full of eager gardeners on the first nice day of spring or on the last day of the Chelsea Flower Show.

* The look on a gardener’s face when they experience any of the Great Experiences of Gardening, first hand.

* A gardener at the end of a long day of gardening, covered with dirt from head to toe.

* A middle-aged gardener chase a rabbit from one side of the garden to the other, trying to get the rabbit to leave and never come back.

What do you think is the greatest spectacle in gardening?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Garden All Out and Get Everything Done

It's time to finish all the spring planting!

This weekend I'm going to be busy in the garden, hoeing, planting, weeding, and generally finishing up anything that should be done in the spring.

The garden blitz begins at dawn.

This year, I promised myself that there would be no half flats of flowers not planted, left to languish on the patio for the summer. This year, I'm planting every single plant I bought.

And I'm even going to plant the old fashioned rose that I started from cuttings from my aunt's garden, that has been living in a four inch pot on the patio for almost two years.

It's time, it's Memorial Day weekend. The unofficial beginning of summer. The big weekend in Indianapolis.

My goal is to garden all out and get everything done so that on Sunday I can be ready to sit, relax, and reflect on my spring at May Dream Gardens by the time Jim Nabors steps up to the microphone to Sing 'Back Home Again in Indiana' at the Indianapolis 500 race. And then I'l listen to the version Annie in Austin wrote for May Dreams Gardens.

I'll also take care of that bunny's nest in my strawberry patch. I checked it last night and it appears that the Mama may have moved the baby bunnies to another location as the nest is empty, except for two babies that did not appear to survive. I'll give them a nice burial, unless some other critter has come along and taken care of them for me.

That's life in the garden, it sometimes doesn't turn out the way we would like it to.

And just between us, when I first found the nest with what I thought were countless baby rabbits in it, I could have easily taken care of the matter right then, if you know what I mean, but I didn't have the heart to do it. DON'T tell anyone what a 'softie' I am, or the rabbits will come from miles around to live here. And I don't need that!

What I need is for the weathermen to come through on their promises of sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's this weekend. Then I can finish my spring planting!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What If Your Garden Took Care Of Itself

What would happen if you left your garden alone to care for itself?

I've been reading and pondering more of the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence, and in a 1965 column in the Charlotte Observer, she wrote,

"My garden is planned to take care of itself and every year I try to see that it makes fewer demands, but fall planting must be done regularly if there is to be any real show in the spring."

I wholeheartedly agree that fall planting makes for a great show in the spring, but I'm still thinking about how to plan a garden so it will 'take care of itself' and each year make fewer demands on my time.

Looking around my own garden, I feel like it is a bit of an adolescent and a poorly behaved one at that, which so far can not be left on its own.

Just look at some of what it is doing...

Whenever I turn my back, the thistle weeds like the one above sprout up everywhere and if left alone, they would be four feet tall by August.

The Lamb's Ear is spreading through several areas, and would start looking quite unruly if I didn't cut back those big flower stalks regularly.


This snow in summer is taking over more and more.By the way, I know that I have a Baptisia on the far left, but I have forgotten the name of the plant that the snow in summer is actually overtaking in the center there.

The sedum is encroaching on these daylilies.Hey, that's my first daylily bloom this year! Get back away from that plant, you spreading sedum thug.

Is that a hosta in the Lamium or Lamium out of control in the hosta garden? Note to self. This weekend, cut back that Lamium and give that hosta some room.

These daisies, left to their own devices, are taking over this perennial border.This is after I weeded out a bunch of the daisies earlier this spring. Obviously I need to be more liberal with my weeding of these ox-eye daisies, just as soon as they finish blooming.

And spiderwort? Don't get me started, but when I'm not watching over the garden, the spiderwort seedlings come up all over the place.

I do like to think that the lilacs bloom so fully because after the bloom is finished, I cut back all the spent blooms before seeds are formed.It does take a few hours to 'deadhead' the lilacs, but I think it is well worth it to get more bloom each spring.

Clearly, my adolescent, misbehaving garden still needs me, which is nice because I still need it. I wouldn't know what to do if there wasn't some weeding, planting, pruning, whacking back and other "ing" tasks to do each spring, throughout the summer and into the fall.

But I recognize that over time, it would be nice to have the garden be a little more 'responsible' for at least some of its care. So while I'm out there caring for it this weekend, I'll ponder how to make it a little more self-reliant and a little less demanding.

What would happen if you left your garden alone to care for itself?

****

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Peace and Harmony at May Dreams Gardens

There is peace and harmony at May Dreams Gardens this evening.

For some reason, the rabbits are not eating my lettuce, spinach or pea vines, even though I’ve left them uncovered for several weeks, with no deterrents like cayenne pepper sprinkled all around.

What is the reason?

Is it the row of onions planted at the entrance to the garden?

I’ve heard rabbits will stay away from onions but I really don’t think it’s that because I’ve planted onions every spring.

Is it the rules I wrote for the rabbits? Did they get the message? I don’t really think that is it, either, because rabbits aren’t all that smart, are they?

Maybe my neighbors are trapping them? I did see a rabbit the other day but that’s the first one I’ve seen for several weeks. If my neighbors are trapping some of the rabbits, that’s wonderful and I’d like to thank them.

Whatever the reason, I’m enjoying a certain harmonious feeling, seeing the vegetable garden grow without watching it disappear from rabbits eating it.

The peas I planted on March 16th, left alone by the rabbits, are finally starting to bloom.
I haven’t planted anything else in the garden since I planted the early spring vegetables on March 16th so for a few days earlier this week, I was concerned that I was behind.

But then I checked my garden journal and reminded myself that everything is on schedule. Or at least no further behind than previous years.

Last year, I planted up most of the vegetable garden on May 21st (one year ago today).

In 2007, I also planted on May 21st and finished up on May 23rd.

In 2006, I again planted everything on May 21st.

Guess what day I planted on in 2005? Yes, May 21st.

But guess what day I planted in 2004? No, not May 21st. I planted on May 17th and 18th. And in 2003, I planted on May 16th and 17th.

I don’t really want to talk about 2002, but I should because it serves as a warning to all gardeners. That year, I planted the garden up on May 15th. Oh, I was so ahead of the game that year! Then we had a cold spell with frost warnings starting on May 17th, and on the morning of May 19th, we had a record low of 32 F and it zapped all the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. I did not replant until May 27th.

In 2001, I was really throwing all caution to the wind, and planted the vegetable garden on May 9th. That year, I lost everything to frost on May 13th.

There’s a warning and a lesson in this for all gardeners.

The warning is don’t be in a big rush to plant your garden too close to your average frost free date. It’s an average date. You need to watch the weather and make sure it has “settled” a bit, with consistent warm temperatures before you plant.

This year, we've had cool temperatures all week, and though we haven't had any frosts or even frost warnings, I’m fine with waiting to finish planting the vegetable garden.

The lesson is to keep a garden journal. By looking at my garden journal and reviewing what I’ve done in the past, I can assure myself that I am not planting all that late this year. I can be at peace with my decision to wait to plant the rest of the vegetable garden this coming weekend.

And now, excuse me, but I’m heading out to look at the few vegetables I do have growing, and to marvel at how the rabbits have left them alone.

Twenty minutes later...

I have returned from looking at my vegetables and strawberries. Apparently, a peaceful, harmonious garden like May Dreams Gardens is a wonderful place for Mrs. Rabbit to give birth to all her baby bunnies.


Yes, in my strawberry patch. Baby bunnies… very young... soon they will be hungry… the peace and harmony in my garden may not last long...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Embrace Your Weather For A Happier Life

Threatening skies over my garden this evening.

The weatherman said this morning that we have had at least some rain on 16 of the 20 days of May so far. I thought he sounded a bit too excited about this. And then the newscasters and the weatherman chattered back and forth about the challenge of finding periods of time with no rain when it is dry enough to the mow the lawns. The lawns are growing fast with all the rain and I've been mowing mine twice a week.

And last year at this time we were hearing whispers of drought.

I’d rather have the rain.

But the good news for gardeners and everyone else around central Indiana is that we should have a dry Memorial Day holiday weekend, at least through Sunday, which is all the weathermen will say right now.

That would be nice because we like for all the thousands of people who come to Indianapolis for the race on Sunday to enjoy perfect weather and leave with the impression that Indianapolis is a great place… because it is.

Though I might talk about the weather, even whine a bit about it, I’ve learned that one of the secrets to being a happier gardener is to embrace your weather, because we can’t change the weather where we are, whatever it is. It is what it is. It will change when it wants to. Once we accept that, we can move on to more important things like learning how to garden with the weather we have.

Some suggestions for embracing your weather:

Choose plants that are hardy in your climate. It’s a lot of work to protect plants that aren’t quite hardy enough for your climate and it can be heartbreaking and wallet-breaking to lose such a plant when you forget to protect it from your normal weather.

Choose plants that can live with the amount of rain you are likely to get. Sometimes supplemental watering is needed in any garden, but it is best to avoid those plants that rely on it for survival.

Don’t push the seasons. If you live where there is winter and spring frosts, figure out when your frost-free date generally is and wait until after that date to plant frost tender annuals and vegetable plants. I consider my frost free date to be May 10th, but I have experienced frost as late as May 25th. I know from experience that people are more likely to forgive you for wearing white before Memorial Day than frost-tender plants are likely to forgive you for planting them when you can still have a frost.

Don’t wait around for bad weather. Some gardeners let the threat of bad weather keep them from going out and working in the garden. Stop waiting. That’s a good way to lose valuable time to work in the garden. With today’s weather radar technology, we can get a pretty good idea of when it might start raining, so unless it is actually raining, get out there and get to work. You’ll get a lot done.

Celebrate the rain. Even in the desert, rain is needed at some point for plants to live. I personally would prefer too much rain, short of flooding, than having to deal with the slow death of plants due to drought. I try not to complain about the rain.

Realize that no one’s weather is perfect. Every gardener deals with weather issues… hot, dry, wet, cold, snow, ice, hail, winds, it’s always something. If you really can’t stand the weather where you garden, consider moving, but remember you are probably just trading one weather problem for another.

So embrace whatever weather you have and work with it in your garden. You’ll have a happier life for doing so, at least in your garden.

Prickly pear cactus is hardy in Zone 5!


Because we have cold winters, we get to have lilacs!


Embrace your weather for a happier life.


Related posts: embrace insects for a happier life and embrace weeding for a happier life

Monday, May 19, 2008

Are You Running Out Of Room in Your Garden?

Oxalis adenophylla

Have you ever run out of room for new plants in your garden? Or have you just not had the kind of location the plant really needed? I suspect it is a common problem amongst gardeners.

Elizabeth Lawrence wrote in an August 18, 1957 column for the Charlotte Observer...

“This year I indulged in a bulb of the celebrated N. ‘Kings Court’, which is considered the best yellow trumpet for exhibitions. I had been watching it since 1948, when it was fifteen dollars, and for the first time it was down to my price, a dollar and a half. But the saddest thing happened. There are no longer choice spots left in my garden for choice flowers, and I had to put N. ‘Kings Court’ in the background. And then, with everything in bloom at once, I couldn’t find it. When at last I tracked it down, under the Japanese apricot (Prunus mume), the flowers were all faded. And now I shall have to wait.”

When I’m out buying new plants, I think I have plenty of room for them, but when I get home, I find myself doing that waltz around the garden trying to figure out where to stick the new plant.

Mine is not always a space problem as much as it is choosing the right spot the first time.

Wait, I do have a space problem when it comes to shade-loving plants. I don’t have enough shade on my suburban lot, yet. This lack of shade ensures I am attracted to hostas, astilbes and other shade loving plants when I'm at the garden center. I still buy these shade loving plants, but I end up putting short ones behind tall ones, planting some too close together, or worse, planting them in part sun locations where they suffer a bit. And yes, I’ve misplaced a few along the way, and outright lost some of them.

But I do have room for sun loving plants.

Last fall, I was looking for a place to plant Oxalis adenophylla bulbs, which are pretty small as plants go, and I ended up planting them in places where you have to look to find them among other foliage and groundcovers. In fact, I had to look around for quite awhile before I finally found them.

That’s too bad, because they have a pretty bloom. So I’ll be moving them to a more suitable location at some point. The big decision is… move them now when they have foliage or wait and dig up the bulbs in the fall and move them then.

If I wait to dig up the bulbs, I probably won’t find them or I'll forget about them, so I think I’ll move them now with foliage. They’ll be perfect in the miniature garden, with all my other miniature plants.

Do you have any misplaced flowers hiding in your garden?

*****

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.

You can look at the virtual meeting post from March 31st to get a general idea of how the book club works.

I hope you’ll join me in reading some of Elizabeth Lawrence’s writings before the end of the month. Many gardeners who have read her writings agree that if she were alive today, Lawrence would likely be a garden blogger!

If you post a review, please let me know via a comment or email, so I can find it and include it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Great Experiences of Gardening

It seems fitting that on the last day of my gardening holiday, the lilacs should bloom. As I worked around the yard, carrying newly purchased plants from the front porch to the back patio, I made it a point to walk on the side of the house where the lilacs bloom so I could smell them over and over again.

This has been an outstanding year for lilac blooms, one of the best that I can remember.

I think lilacs are one of the great experiences of gardening where the winters get cold enough for them to live. In a way, it is a reason for living where there are cold winters.

So what are great experiences of gardening? They are those events that make even a busy gardener, one who moves about the garden purposely and quickly trying to get everything done, stop for a moment to enjoy the experience.

Here's what makes me stop and enjoy the experience. I wish all gardeners (and other people, too) could experience these things:

1.The taste of a home-grown tomato, still warm from the sun, eaten while standing in the garden.

2. The sweetness of an ear of sweet corn, grown in your own garden and cooked within minutes of being picked.

3, Fresh peas from the garden.

4. Fresh anything from you own garden.

5. The smell of lilacs in the spring.

6. Living and staying someplace long enough to sit in the shade of a tree you planted yourself.

7. Watching a night-blooming cereus bloom on a hot summer night.

8. The silence of a garden completely blanketed in snow.

9. Seeing a flower bloom in the snow.

10. Getting a special passalong plant from a friend or family member, a plant that has a history of being passed along and isn’t one of those invasive, ‘take all you want’ kind of plants.

What experiences would you add to this list?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Shopping for Plants

Supposedly, you should never go grocery shopping when you are hungry because you are likely to buy more food than you need.

And you are supposed to write up a grocery list while you are still at home and then stick to it at the grocery store to avoid over spending.

Please note that these "rules of shopping" do not apply to shopping for plants.

First of all, after a long winter, your appetite and hunger for new plants can't be satisfied until you go shopping for them.

And lists? It's fine to have a list for the "staples" of the garden that you might need, like tomato plants, but it is pretty limiting to stick to a list when you don't know what new and exciting plants you'll find at the garden center.

What a fuddy-duddy of a gardener you would be if you saw a plant that was different, that you'd never seen before, that you wanted, and then you checked your 'list' to see if it was on it. And then seeing that it wasn't on your list, you didn't get it.

Of course it wouldn't be on your list, you didn't know about it until just that minute when you saw it. But that shouldn't stop you from getting that plant you just fell in love with.

(Disclaimer here... what might stop you from getting a new plant is if you know absolutely nothing about it, such as is it invasive, how big will it get, is it really hardy in your area, etc. If you know nothing about a plant, ask some questions before you buy, and the more expensive the plant, the more questions you should ask. When my sister sees a plant she likes but knows nothing about, she calls me. If I don't know anything about the plant, I look it up in one of my books or on the Internet, while she is on the phone, and then tell her yes or no. Sometimes it is "yes, and get one for me, too". Sometimes, unfortunately it is "no absolutely not, and don't come whining to me when that plant takes over your backyard." You might set up a system like that with one of your siblings or a gardening friend when you are out shopping for plants...)


The Exotic Impatien, 'Glow Improved', pictured above was a plant I didn't know about until I saw it at one of my favorite places to buy plants. I was there on Thursday and they did not have these plants. Then I stopped by on Friday afternoon to get just a few more plants for some containers and there they were. Yes, they had just gotten them in. Yes, I should have one or two or three. Yes, I got some.

Which reminds me that they say you should limit your visits to the grocery store to avoid impulse purchases. I do the opposite with garden centers. I like to stop by frequently, especially in the spring, because they might have some new plants that they didn't have the last time I was there. And I wouldn't want to miss out on them.

So my advice is don't shop for plants like you shop for groceries. Give in to your inner gardener and splurge a bit at the garden centers. After all, spring comes only once a year.

*****

For those living around Indianapolis, one of my favorite places to shop for annuals and perennials is a local greenhouse called Court's Yard and Greenhouse. Courtney, the owner, grows a lot of what she sells with the help of her mom and what she doesn't grow, she gets from other local growers. They are located at 609 W. Epler Ave, across the street from Adrian Orchard and during the month of May, they are usually open from 8 AM to 8 PM. If you go, tell them you found out about them from this blog.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Thank You

What a day yesterday was here at May Dreams Gardens. I'll be putting a big green star next to it in my garden journal so I won't forget in years to come the feeling of gratitude for all the good things that happened on May 15, 2008.

I am thrilled and grateful to be the recipient of five Mouse & Trowel Awards for Innovation in Garden Blogging, Garden Blogger You'd Most Like as Your Neighbor, Garden Blog Post of the Year, Best North American Garden Blog, and Garden Blog of the Year.

Thank you to Colleen at In the Garden Online for organizing this awards event once again. Congratulations to all the other winners, too, and thank you to everyone who was a part of the voting.

At the risk of you all hearing the orchestra in the background signaling "get on with it", I'll just leave it at that and not go on and on about how grateful I am and start listing all the bloggers who have given me inspiration through their own blogs, wonderful comments, and behind the scenes advice via email. I won't start talking about April 2008 again and all the fun many of us had meeting one another in person. Or go on about how many mis-steps I took in the beginning when I was starting this blog, at one time actually deleting it and restarting it. It would be a long post of gratitude and thank you's if I tried to include everyone and thank them properly and it might get kind of mushy. (I don't do mushy very well.)

So I'll just say a simple Thank You to all who read, comment and support me here at May Dreams Gardens.

And many thanks (I know the music is gettting louder) to all who posted about what is blooming in their gardens yesterday. I'm still working my way through the comments, virtually visiting each person who took the time to upload their photos, hunt up botanical names, and share their gardens through their blogs. I'll get to everyone eventually but, right now...

The sun is shining after a rainy week during my gardening holiday, and I have a porch full of annuals, perennials, and even some new shrubs waiting to be planted, so you'll understand if it takes me a little longer to get around to visiting your blog to read your bloom day post. I'll get there as soon as I can.

Now the music is very loud, the sun is bright, and I can smell those lilacs as they start to open, so let me just say one more time...

Thank You for your votes, your support, your wonderful comments, the link love, your participation in bloom day and the book club, and our shared love of gardening.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2008

If there is one word to describe my garden this mid-May of 2008, it is anticipation.

It seems like I am anticipating more flowers that will soon be blooming than I am experiencing flowers in bloom right now.

In fact, when I look back at my May 2007 Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post, I confirm my suspicion that many flowers ARE blooming a little later this year.

But I do have some flowers in bloom here at May Dreams Gardens, if you'd like to see a few of them. Above is a picture of 'Blue Tower' columbine, a nice double flowering columbine that I grew from seed years ago. I also have a pink version called 'Pink Tower'.

The blue dogbane is blooming, more or less on scheduleIt's probably the bluest flower in my garden, in any season.

Hey, how did a picture of the vegetable garden sneak in here?There isn't much to see right now in the vegetable garden, but you can tell I am anticipating planting it soon, maybe this weekend, maybe next weekend. It is one of the last things I plant in the spring as I want to be sure there will be no more frost after I plant my precious tomato seedlings out there.

The tulip bed out front still has some color in it.It's interesting how this was a big mix of colors earlier and now just the purple shades are left.

Nearby, Snow-in-Summer is making a nice show, though it isn't summer yet!Once this is done blooming, it is a bit of a scraggly plant, so I cut it back hard, and it still comes back every spring.

I was hoping the peonies would be blooming for bloom day but they are all still tight buds.I'll post pictures of these later when they do bloom.

And while the Syringa meyeri are blooming on the other side of the fence right now, these 'Miss Kim' lilacs are still just buds like the peonies.When these start blooming, I might just drag a chair out there next to them and sit a spell breathing in the sweet smell of lilacs.

Now some lists, for all you record keeping types out there....

First the buds. Many of these plants were in full bloom at this time last year, but this year, they are still buds.

Allium karataviense
Lilac (Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’)
Blue False Indigo (Baptisia, ‘Purple Smoke’)
Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bermudianum)
Creeping Veronica (Veronica repens ‘Sunshine’)
False Forget-me-Not (Brunnera macrophylla)
Grapes
Japanese Iris
Spiderwort (Tradescantia ‘Blue and Gold’)
Spiderworts in various shades of purple (Tradescantia virginiana)
White Solitary clematis (Clematis integrefolia ‘Alba’, a shrub type clematis, but it does need support)
Woodbine Variegated Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera periclymenum ‘Harlequin’)
Coral Bells (Heuchera ‘Petite Pearl Fancy’)
Geraniums (Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Karmina’ and ‘Biokovo’)
Mockorange (Philadelphus ‘Buckley’s Quill’)
Peonies (passalong plants from my Dad and a friend at work, plus one I bought called ‘Shirley Temple’)
White Flower Carpet Rose
Spirea ‘Limemound’
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
Daylily (‘Stella d’Oro’)

All buds!

Just starting to bloom

Daisies (probably Ox-Eye Daises, Leucanthemum vulgare)
Geranium (Passalong plant from my sister, variety unknown, but they are pretty)
Chamomile
Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum ‘Aureum')

Actually in bloom

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis, a passalong plant from one of my sisters)
Drumstick Allium
Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens)
Blue Dogbane (Amsonia tabernaemontana)
Chives
Snowball Bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’)
Lilac (Syringa meyeri)
Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Miniature Iris ‘Smart’, plus ‘Flaming Embers’, newly purchased
Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)
Strawberries
Variegated Kerria (Kerria japonica ‘Picta’)
Columbine (Aquilegia ‘Tower Blue’ and ‘Tower Pink’, plus Aquilegia canadensis)
False forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla)
Thyme (growing up in the cracks between the bricks of the patio)

Still blooming from April

Lenten Rose (Helleborus x orientalis)
Tulips, mostly the purple ones

Last year by mid-May, my peas were blooming, but not this year. No blooms yet on the peas, so I suspect I'll be harvesting them later than last year, too.

On the bright side, the best is yet to come here at May Dreams Gardens, with so many flowers still just buds.

Is anyone else noticing that spring is taking its sweet time passing through?

Nothing wrong with that as it is a favorite time in the garden for many of us. Soon enough summer will be here and we’ll all be complaining about how hot it is and wishing for more rain than we’ll likely get. (Hey, aren't they already doing that in Austin?)

What’s blooming in your garden in mid-May? We would love to have you join us for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. It’s easy to join in. Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden, then leave a comment here so we can find your blog and come and virtually visit your garden and see your flowers.

No special invitations needed. All are welcome to participate!

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