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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Big Green Leaf Day: Thoughts On Leaves

My garden is full of leaves right now, so I was delighted to get an email from Emma from The Nice Green Leaf about June 30th being a day to post about about our big green leaves.

Leaves are the backdrop and foundation of the garden. Without them, even the prettiest flower would seem naked and exposed. The flowers need the leaves. We need the leaves!

It's the leaves that keep the plant alive, that perform the miracle of photosynthesis that makes life possible on this planet Earth.

Leaves are fascinating and beautiful all on their own, even without flowers. I love my "Red Banana" Ensetta maurelii leaves, planted in containers by my backdoor. I think I should have a shirt tie-dyed to match.

Leaves tell us about what is going on with plants.

These red maple leaves are telling me that they could use a bit more nitrogen, or maybe a change in soil pH so they can better absorb the nitrogen already in the soil.

Leaves can grow very large very quickly.These grape leaves were barely there a month ago, and now they are truly big leaves, shading the grapes beneath. I read somewhere that you should prune out some of the leaves on grapes so the sun can get to the actual grapes and they'll ripen faster. Or something like that.

But I can't bring myself to cut these back.

Some leaves seem to say, "Reach out and touch me."I'm a big time leave toucher. I'm that person in the garden center who is reaching out to touch each plant as she walks by it. In fact, when I was in Austin this spring, I had to remind myself not to touch the leaves because many of the plants there were unfamiliar to me and might have had a bite or sting.

I would never voluntarily touch the leaves of this thistle.It just looks like a mean plant, doesn't it? It has issues, I'm sure of it and wonder what happened to it along the way to make it turn so 'mean'.

I like some leaves because they are fancy looking, likes this variegated Heliopsis.This is 'Loraine Sunshine' and she is blooming now, with yellow daisy-like blooms, but you hardly notice the flowers because of the fancy leaves.

Leaves are out there, exposed to all the elements. Rain, sun, hail, slugs, aphids and look at this a Japanese beetle, all seem to want a piece of the leaf.I hate the Japanese beetles. They have arrived right on schedule. This one, by the way, met with an untimely death in my garden. I hope, and plan, for others to meet the same fate.

Would you like to see the biggest leaf in my garden right now? It's this leaf on the spaghetti squash.That's big. I sowed the seeds for this on May 26th. A mere 35 days later, here is this big leaf. It's amazing.

Check out Emma's blog at Indyblogs to see who else is admiring their leaves for The Big Green Leaf Day.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

May Dreams Gardens Overtaken by Purslane

Not since Charles Dudley Warner wrote about purslane in his garden has there been a garden so infested with this weed as my very own vegetable garden here at May Dreams Gardens.

He said they "grow as if the devil is in them", and I believe that to be true. Every single raised bed in my garden was covered with this, what shall I call it, as 'weed' is too nice a word.

And wouldn't you know it, when the purslane was at its peak, an aunt and an uncle from out of town stopped by to see my garden.

How embarrassing! Caught with my purslane showing.

But not any more!

It was a beautiful day here at May Dreams Gardens

The garden shone in the morning sun, as did the purslane.

For those who are now wondering, what does purslane look like, here it is.This is no ordinary weed. This is a weed that embodies all that we hate about weeds. It grows quickly. If a piece of it is left laying on the soil, it readily roots again. The seeds last forever and germinate into the tiniest, nearly impossible to remove, seedlings.

To take back my garden, I carefully chose my weapons.All of these are fine weeders, useful for different situations. But for the purslane, I used a combination of the Cape Cod Weeder on the far left, and the five prong cultivator, third from the left.

Working through one bed at a time, I used the Cape Cod weeder to dig the purslane out with a digging/slicing motion, and then I cultivated the area with the five prong cultivator.

I attacked the purslane, I embraced weeding.

Doesn't this bed look much better?
It took most of the afternoon, with a few breaks, to clean out all the beds.But as you can see, I have taken back the garden! I am back in control and the purslane is in a trash bag, waiting to meet its fate not in the compost bin but at the local city incinerator.

And soon I'll reap the rewards of my labor and hard work.

There are blooms a-plenty in the garden... squash, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and the nasturtium pictured above. And to think that most of the garden was planted just a little over a month ago, on May 26.

Some say that time stands still in a garden. That may be true some days, but in a vegetable garden, time sometimes runs as though there is a frost coming in a few months.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Society Considers Invasive Plants

The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”) has been asked to consider a matter of great importance to all gardeners.

The following memo from the President of “the Society”, me, is to the attention of all members and other interested and interesting parties.

To All Members and Other Interested and Interesting Parties,

Greetings. As President and Secretary of “the Society”, I have been authorized to bring an important matter before all members, including those who recently joined by leaving a comment on the inaugural post of “the Society”.

What is decided regarding this matter could affect the sale and trade of certain plants for many generations, so it must be considered carefully. We take our responsibility quite seriously regarding leaving a legacy equal to or greater than that of those who gardened before us.

The matter is that some trades people have been selling Invasive Plants to unsuspecting, inexperienced gardeners and worse, some experienced gardeners have been giving inexperienced gardeners starts of these same plants without adequate admonishment and warnings.

These Invasive Plants include attractive plants with variegated leaves such as Bishop’s Goutweed, Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum', and Ribbon Grass, Phalaris arundinacea.

They also include wild self-seeding and spreading plants like ox-eye daisies, perennial sweet peas, false sunflower, obedient plant (not!) and evening primrose, to name a few. And let us not forget mint, one of the most seductive and spreading of all plants. (When it is called ‘Chocolate Mint’, even Madame President lets it grow in her garden though she ought to take a hoe to it. Which reminds me that I still need to provide an explanation about why one would have a hoe in the house, such that certain superstitions around it need to be followed.)

Having witnessed for myself that such plants or seeds for same have been offered for sale or passed along, I willingly bring forward this matter for consideration by “the Society”.

Now before certain members, including at least one sister of the President, accuse the President, me, of passing along to them plants from the list above, let it be known that such plants were accurately described and suitable warnings given before any plant was dug up and passed along. Plus the code words of “take all you want” were spoken ahead of time, indicating that these plants would spread, invade, take over, and otherwise claim as much garden space as allowed or not allowed, as the case may be.

The questions before the membership at this time are:

Should we take action to discourage the sale of these plants, which is unnecessary, as many of these are readily available from many gardeners, or if they are to be sold that they be clearly labeled as “thugs” and placed in a separate area of the garden center?

Can we as members of “the Society” take an oath not to give starts of these invasive plants to other gardeners, unless they are adequately warned and still beg for them?

Current and potential members may weigh in on this important matter brought before the society by leaving a comment. If any current or potential members have other business for the Society to consider, please indicate such via a comment or email.

Thank you for giving this your utmost and immediate attention,
Carol, May Dreams Gardens
President,
The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”)

Void where prohibited.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cactus are Blooming at May Dreams Gardens

The foliage looks like Geranium, doesn't it, but what is that flower?

It's a flower most people wouldn't expect to see in a Zone 5 garden.

It's a cactus flower.

This is an Opuntia, Prickly Pear Cactus.

I was all 'big talk' about how I was going to cut these back earlier this spring. They were spreading and heading into the nearby Geraniums.

They are still spreading and mixing in with the Geraniums.

I am posting this picture to assure fellow garden bloggers that:

- I don't always follow through on what I say I am going to do, even if I proclaim it to the world on my blog. Though I try to do what I say I am going to do if I "proclaim" it.

- Not everything is all neat and tidy in my gardens. Far from it. I should have a big weeding class in my garden. I could invite all kinds of new gardeners over and show them the "proper" way to weed and use my own garden as their classroom. It would be a "hoe" lot of fun.

- Cactus does grow where it snows and gets cold.

Somehow, when experienced gardeners, like I think I might be at this point, post about things not going particularly according to plan or about not following through on cutting back plants at the proper time, it helps new gardeners feel better about their own gardens and gardening efforts.

I hope you new gardeners feel better now.

******

Vanillalotus is the lucky winner of the Ethel gardening gloves giveaway.

I asked Robin(Bumblebee), who was on Plurk at the same time I was, to choose a number between 1 and 40, and she chose 39. SuburbanGardener, aka Mr. McGregor's Daughter and RedDirtRambling aka Dee were also on that thread so they can vouch for the randomness of the pick.

For those who didn't win, you can still get 10% off an order of Ethel Gloves until July 22nd by using the discount code 'Maydreams'. Thank you to all who entered!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Plant Catalog Update

You know you are a gardening geek when you proclaim you are going to undertake a project to catalog all of the plants in your garden, AND you actually start on it and have something to show for your efforts.

I have 13 pages to show for my efforts, so far. “Thank you, thank you, waiting for applause to quiet down.”

Let me tell you more about how it is going.

To get started, I gathered up all the plant tags I could find, in drawers, in flower pots, in little stacks on shelves, hanging on a bulletin board in the garage. I gathered them from everywhere. It’s amazing how many places there are to put plant tags.

Then I cleaned the tags off and brought them all inside where I sorted them into different baskets, just like on those organizing shows on TV. The categories are based on locations in the garden, plus there is a basket for “these plants are dead” and one for “I don’t remember these plants, where are they?”

After sorting all the tags, I left them to age in the baskets by the fireplace hearth. This step is strictly optional. If you are following along, you can skip it and go right to the next step.

The next step was to decide what I wanted to record about each plant and write up some catalog pages. I did this late one night, and decided I would include type of plant (perennial, tree, shrub, vine, etc.), botanical name, variety, common name, when I bought/acquired it, where I bought/got it, how much I paid for it, where it is in the garden, and ‘notes’.

Finally, I was ready to write up a few catalog entries. I did this for several newly acquire perennials, not those aging in the baskets, since I knew most of the information for the new perennials. On each page I diligently recorded the information in my own handwriting and taped the plant tag to the page. Then I put these ten starter pages in a binder.

By the way, like most people, I don’t like my own handwriting. But for some reason, I think this catalog needs to be handwritten. I want to be able to take it out into the garden and add notes to the notes section.

The next morning, I looked at my catalog pages and decided that I did not like them.

What I didn’t like was that the information was there, but in a different order and place on each page. It didn’t feel right to me. It felt sloppy, like information was missing. If you are going to keep a plant catalog, it needs to be done right!

So I made up a catalog page form in MS Word, printed off 10 of them and re-did the pages I had done the night before. Much better! Now the information is on the same place on every page.

Here’s a sample.


I’m not sure why I even wrote up a page for the Delphinium, as I hardly expect it to return next year. If it does, great, it's in the catalog! If it doesn’t, I’ll have to add a note to the catalog page for it and move it off to a section called “In Memoriam” or "I Tried" or something like that.

One other advantage of using the form is if I ever do decide to put the plant catalog into an MS Excel spreadsheet or simple database program, the information will be in the same order and place on each page, which will make that task much easier.

My goal is to do a few pages a week, while I’m watching TV, reading your blog, or just sitting around. Before I know it, I’ll have a nice May Dreams Gardens Catalog of Plants to remind me on cold winter days what is buried beneath the snow in my garden. I’ll also use it as a handy reference on the 15th of each month for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, in case I can’t remember the name or variety of something blooming in my garden.

Remembering plants that are blooming in the garden in January and February is not a problem, since there aren’t any, but May, June, July, even August can get pretty “florific” around here. The catalog will come in handy, no doubt.

If you are following along and are also planning to create your own plant catalog and would like a copy of my plant catalog form, drop me an email and I’ll send you the MS Word document as an attachment.

If you have suggestions on what else to include in my plant catalog, leave a comment, but don’t delay because ‘pages are being added daily’, at least weekly.

Or if you would just like to leave a comment to encourage me to keep going with this project and finish it this summer, go right ahead!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's Only A Number

Do you know what these numbers are? 81, 83, 78, 81, 81, 81, 80, 78, 81

How about these numbers? 36, 35, 32, 29, 17, 32, 36, 29, 26

Need a hint?

Here’s one: June and January

Still don’t know?

The first set of numbers is the high temperature here each day this past week or so, from June 16 – June 24. Sweet, huh?

Oh, yes, it’s been nice, pleasant, cool, energizing. Did I mention pleasant? The hydrangeas haven't even suffered from their usual afternoon droopiness. Ideal weather, really.

But I won’t gloat about my good fortune in the weather department, not just yet. I know many gardeners have struggled in this same time frame to keep plants watered in triple digit temperatures that zapped not only the plants but also their strength and desire to do anything but survive.

I know these same gardeners who are suffering in the heat now will be re-energized this winter, when it cools down in their gardens.

And I’ll be freezing inside, because that second set of numbers is the high temperature here each day this past winter from January 16 – January 24. Obviously, we don’t garden outdoors much at all in the wintertime around here. We don’t even have any flowers blooming outside in January.

Mostly we sit around and read seed catalogs, gardening books, and the blogs of those gardeners who are gardening in the dead of winter.

Maybe next January I should plan a trip to someplace warmer? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's An Infestation!

Following a certain self-imposed etiquette of garden blogging, I am putting the picture of the horrifying MAGNOLIA SCALE INFESTATION here at May Dreams Gardens at the end of this post. The picture of these dwarf Monarda is just a decoy picture.

I took the advice of the many who commented on my post about bees and wasps and resisted the impulse to use insect nets and jars to capture the wasps for a closer look.

Instead, I took the ‘safe’ route to figure out what was flying around my Star Magnolia. I stood a bit of a distance away, camera in hand, zoomed as much as it would zoom, and studied the situation.

It took me just a few minutes to determine the root cause of the wasp invasion.

Scale!

I am a little embarrassed, actually a lot embarrassed, about the extent of the scale infestation on my Star Magnolia. I should have done more to keep it from getting to this point.

I actually first saw the scale late last summer and sprayed the magnolia several times with a dormant oil spray. This seemed to kill of the scale, or at least the scale that was on there flaked off if you flicked it with your finger nails. So I thought the problem was solved.

You do know scale is an insect, right, in the same family as aphids, which means it has sucking mouth parts? It sits on the branches of the tree as an adult, protected by its hard shell, sucking the life out of the plant. In the process it secrets a sugary substance, called honeydew, which attracts all the bees, wasps, and flies which I found buzzing around the tree. Over time, a sooty black mold will cover the leaves, feeding off the honeydew.

It sounds awful, and it is.

When I realized I had not killed off the scale, I was going to spray the tree immediately with horticultural oil. But I checked some online sources to see if that was the right thing to do.

Turns out, spraying now would be a waste of time. I assume the oil wouldn’t penetrate and smother the scale, with their hard shells. I need to wait until fall. What I can do now is use a brush to scrub off a lot of the scale. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

The bloom on the magnolia is too pretty not try.


And now, you’ve been warned, the next picture is the scale itself.


I know, it's gross!

Don’t let this happen to your magnolia! Go out and check it for scale now!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gardening Gloves Boot Camp

I’ve been running a little ‘gardening gloves boot camp’ here at May Dreams Gardens, putting a new pair of gloves through various drills and exercises in the garden to see how well they hold up.

We’ll call this pair of gloves “Ethel” since they came here compliments of Ethel Gloves.

Right off, Ethel looked fancier than any pair of gloves I’ve ever tried. Oh my, such a fancy package! She was in a little burlap bag, in the pocket of a nice folder, inside a cardboard sleeve.

But, as with all new “recruits” here at May Dreams Gardens’ gardening gloves boot camp, all Ethel’s finery was quickly cast aside and I immediately started putting her through various drills and exercises.

First, the fit. I put Ethel on my hands and was pleased with the fit. No gaps or wrinkles and no major restriction in hand motion.

But wearing a pretty pair of gloves to meander around the garden is one thing, working in them is quite another.

So we (me and the new gloves, "Ethel") got right to work transplanting several new perennials I had picked up on the way home from work that day. Usually, if I try to wear gloves while transplanting, at about the point when I am getting the plant out of the pot, I end up taking the gloves off and casting them aside.

But not with Ethel! She handled this task quite well, staying on my hands the whole time, though she did get a might dirty.

On to the next drill, weeding. How would she do with tough thistle plants? Or some small weeds, which is where most gloves fail. She did a fine job. I didn’t once feel the urge to tear the gloves off my hands while weeding and I was able to grasp the weeds to pull them out, both big weeds and small weeds.

Next, I tried deadheading. No problems here. I found it was very easy to cut back some spent blooms while wearing these gloves.

Maybe I could break her with watering? So I wore Ethel while watering all the container plants, and even though she got wet, she hung in there. I got wet, too, but that’s another story for another post.

Now that Ethel was dirty, wet and stained, I decide she was nearly ready to move on to the last exercise at gardening gloves boot camp. But first, she had to survive the washing machine.

So I tossed her in the washer with a load of jeans and she came out as good as new, still the same size, and ready for the last exercise, hoeing.

I have absolutely no use for a pair of gardening gloves that isn’t up to the task of hoeing in the vegetable garden. So early one morning, I put Ethel on my hands and picked up a hoe for this final test. I then spent the morning hoeing and weeding in the garden, and I kept the gloves on the entire time. As the temperatures warmed up, I did notice my hands were getting a little warm, but this would happen with any gloves worn on a hot day.

Ethel, having completed this final exercise quite well, graduated from my gardening gloves boot camp with high marks and a promotion to the top of the stack of gloves I use in the garden.

The one test I couldn’t perform in a few days was a longevity test. How long will Ethel gloves last under normal gardening condition? I don’t know, but I like these gloves well enough to wear them often enough that I’ll find out at some point.

I really do like these gloves.

*****

Would you like to try a pair of Ethel gloves for yourself?

You can enter a contest here to win a free pair of these women’s gardening gloves. Just visit the Ethel Gloves website to decide which style you like best and then leave a comment on this post indicating your preference by the deadline of Friday, June 27, 2008, 5:00 PM EDT.

The winner will be determined by a random number generator set to the number of comments received.

If you don’t win and think you might still like to try to garden with Ethel gloves, you can enter a code of ‘maydreams’ on their web site to get 10% off until July 22, 2008.

*****

Now, to conclude this gardening gloves boot camp, let’s march in unison back to our gardens, chanting as we go:

Left right, left right.

Gardening makes hands dir-ty
Ethel gloves keep hands dirt free.
Before you go and hug a tree
Leave a comment to win some for free.


Left right, left right.

If you don’t win, don’t despair
Use MayDreams, get 10% off there.
Then Ethel gloves you can wear
In your garden and everywhere.


Left right, left right…

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bees and Wasps

Like all gardeners should, I welcome pollinators to my garden.

The more bees I see around the flowers, the better I feel about the garden, and life in general. I never worry that a bee will sting me, and so far, they haven't.

But I have been stung by relatives of the bees. There was the unfortunate paper wasp incident of 2006 and then the attack of the German yellow jackets last fall.

So, here it is 2008 and I have another stinging insect situation to contend with.

Around a star magnolia planted next to the house on one corner, there seem to be dozens if not hundreds of flying insects with stingers. I've stood from a safe distance watching them, and to me they look like mud daubers. But when I read about mud daubers, they are described as solitary wasps.

So if they are solitary wasps, why would so many of them be flying in and around the star magnolia together?

Maybe they are hornets?

I keep trying to look inside the tree to see if I see a hornet's nest, but so far, I don't see anything like that.

So I've decided the only way to make a positive id and determine if I have a problem, is to capture one of these wasp things so I can take a good look at it, and maybe take it to a county extension agent to look at. All I need is a jar and I know I can reach up and grab one it, just like when I used to catch fireflies as a kid.

But when I mention this plan to others, they admonish me by saying "you'll get stung" or "haven't you been stung enough". Don't they think I've learned my lesson and will be careful?

I even tried to borrow an insect net from my nephews and niece and was informed by my ten year old niece that they didn't have one and they don't try to catch flying insects. Hmmm. Wonder why? I thought for sure I'd given them an insect net once as a gift? Was she deliberately keeping it from me?

But having no net won't stop me. Because I have to walk right by this star magnolia to mow the lawn, I really do want to find out what these wasps are.

At this point, you are probably expecting this post to end with the story of me getting stung trying to get one of these wasp into a jar.

No, I'm fine. It rained this evening so I couldn't go through with my plan. But I have a jar, and I'm just waiting for my opportunity. Wish me luck!

Singing the Blues or Reaching for the Stars?

One reason to have a garden blog is to find other kindred spirits who will understand, support, and cheer you on through whatever phase of gardening you are in.

Earlier this week, I thought I was in the phase of gardening, at least for this year, when all the newly acquired plants purchased in May were planted up. "All" I had to do for the rest of the summer was water, weed, deadhead, repeat, water, weed, deadhead, repeat.

But then I stopped at a local garden center, looking for one plant, just one, to fill in where I had dug up the Five Leaf Aralia. Four days later, having visited three garden centers and one grocery story, I have aquired another dozen or 15 or so plants.

And I still haven't found the one plant I'm looking for.

Above is the latest purchase, some plants I found sitting in front of the local grocery story. The white and blue flowering plants are dwarf Delphnium, 'Summer Blues' and 'Summer Stars'.

By golly, even if I can't get those tall spires of Delphinium flowers to grow in my garden, maybe I can be successful with these little mounds of Delphiniums? Hope springs eternal in the garden. I never knew these dwarf Delphiniums even existed until yesterday.

The pink flowers are Phlox 'Swizzle'. I bought it because it was the only one, and I thought it needed a good home.

The good news is I've kept up with planting all my newly acquired plants, except for these three, which I will plant today.

The other good news is I still haven't found the plant I am looking for, so I have a good reason to stop at still more garden centers to try to find it.

Ah, summer. If we aren't singing the blues over the weather or just how things are turning out, we are reaching for the stars, buying up plants and trying to extend that planting season, hoping it doesn't turn all hot and dry too soon.

I'm reaching for the stars right now, how about you?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blooms and Books

Blooms

Do you know how to get Delphiniums to bloom in your garden?

I've always wanted to have Delphiniums in my perennial border with tall spires of blooms in all shades of blue reaching for the sky.

I had moderate success a dozen or so years ago, but after a season of bloom, the delphiniums always disappeared from the garden.

Last year, I did some research and decided to try some Foerster hybrids. I purchased seeds, sowed them indoors and ended up with several nice little delphinium seedlings. Then one day I put the seedlings outside and while my back was turned, something ate them and they were no more.

Like any gardener, I watered the remaining pots of dirt for awhile, but no miracle sprouts came back and I temporarily gave up on my delphinium dreams.

But we don't give up on our gardening dreams that easily, do we? No! This spring I sowed more delphinium seeds and planted the seedlings out into the garden last week. I don't know if they'll make it, but I am hopeful.

In the meantime, I've discovered the secret to getting delphiniums to bloom in my garden.

Books

How's your summer reading program going? I hope that the June-July selection of the Garden Blogger's Book Club, People with Dirty Hands: The Passion for Gardening by Robin Chotzinoff, is at the top of your stack of books to read.

If you are still considering whether to get a copy, Robin commented the other day:

"I am so excited that people are going to read this 10+-year-old book that I wish I could send all of you a drywall bucket full of aged rabbit poop, which I consider to be the best compost of all. Seriously, this is great for me. If you have any trouble finding the book, contact me through my blogsite and I can send you one, cheap and signed."
Yes, you can contact Robin via her blog, People With Dirty Hands, and she'll hook you up with the book, cheap and signed!

Then to participate in the book club, just read the book and write a post about your thoughts on it, what struck you as funny, what parts you identified with, or anything else related that you think of.

Or, you can go with "door number 2" which is to read one of the following books about specific passions for gardening and write a related post.

Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening by Aurelia Scott

Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy by Eric Hansen

Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

Or if you want to participate in the book club without ever reading a book, you can do so by writing a post about someone you think has a passion for gardening. It could be someone you look up to and admire for their passion for gardening, or a gardener who helped you be a better gardener or a mysterious gardener that you haven’t really met, but you’ve seen their garden and wonder what they are like. Or contact your favorite garden blogger and interview them via email and write a post about that.

If you’ve been thinking about joining in the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, this is the perfect time to do so, with so many ways to do it. Don't make me beg!

I'll post the virtual club meeting post on July 31st with links to everyone's related book review or gardener interview, but you can post whenever you'd like before then. You don't have to wait until July 31st. Just let me know via a comment or email when you do post, so I can visit your blog and get the link.


Mystery Bloom

Over on Plurk, I commented that I bought a plant that the people at the greenhouse didn't know much about, except it was from Australia and they called it "Joey". Can anyone help identify it?

I just hope it isn't some roadside weed over in Australia, but is a nice cultivated flower. At least it is going to be a nice cultivated flower in my garden, growing in this pot. I hope.

The flowers kind of remind me of clover, but they are much bigger. The foliage is smooth and so far there is just that rosette of leaves with the bloom stalk coming up out of it.

Leave a comment if you know what it is. (Update! This is Ptilotus exalatus, "Joey". Thank you, Molly, for the link.)


And by now you are dying to know the secret to getting delphiniums to bloom in your garden, aren't you?

I'm not telling this secret to just anyone, and I bet you know what it is and you've done it yourself.

The secret is...

Buy the plant already blooming!

(Ducking now, running for cover, please no throwing the garden produce at the garden blogger!)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Preparing for Midsummer Night's Eve

It’s time to prepare for midsummer night’s eve in the garden, a night of celebration for all of the garden fairies.

Here at May Dreams Gardens, midsummer night’s eve takes place the night of the summer solstice which this year is June 20th (Friday!) at 7:59 PM EDT.

This is the biggest night of the year for not only the garden fairies, but also the elves, sprites and other beings that inhabit the garden. For them, it’s like having all of our holidays rolled into one!

This year, I wanted the garden to be ready so the fairies would enjoy themselves with song, spirits, and dance, and not with evil mischief. Not that I’ve noticed much evil mischief around the garden, but you can’t be too careful with garden fairies.

I started my preparations with the miniature garden.

First I moved the Heuchera ‘Petite Fairy Pearls’, featured in my bloom day post. It was a bit too big and overpowering in the front of this garden, so I dug it up and moved it to another flower bed. Yes, I dug it up and moved it, potentially stunting it. But it was just in the wrong place, so I had to do it.

Plus I needed a place to plant two new plants, some Stepables® found on sale at a local garden center. Since this garden is often in the shade, I chose Veronica repens ‘Sunshine’ and Irish Moss, Sagina subulata. Please don’t tell me they are voracious spreaders!

Actually, tell me if they are voracious spreaders before it is too late.

I finished off the miniature garden by adding a few decorative elements and giving it a good watering.

By the way, the miniature garden is a real “ego boosting” garden. You can plant in it, weed in it, rearrange garden ornaments, water it, do anything you want to it, in no time at all. Then you can step back and say “Wow, I finished up this whole garden this evening.”

In fact, I’m going to start my catalog of all my garden plants with the plants in the miniature garden.

Anyway, once the miniature garden was ready, I checked around the rest of the garden to see that all was ready for the garden fairies.

This year, I have a container of Lantana, just in case one of those Texas garden fairies snuck back to Indiana with me when I was down there for the garden bloggers spring fling.
After all, Annie in Austin gave me two passalong plants to take back with me to my garden and there just might have been a wee creature hiding under a leaf. And I just remembered that now I can say thank you to Annie without worrying that it will kill the plants! Thank you, Annie!

Speaking of thank you’s, I can also now thank Frances at Faire Garden for the passalong plants she brought with her to the spring fling and freely distributed. Thank you, Frances!

There are several other kinds of flowers blooming in the garden now that the garden fairies should like. Many are bell-shaped, which are their favorite kind of flowers. These include several different hostas, like the one in the miniature garden pictured above, lots of daylilies, and a shrub clematis. There are also plenty of vining clematis and the first blooms are opening on the Shasta daisies. They’ll glow in the light of the moon.

It should be a glorious night here at May Dreams Gardens. Even Thorn Goblinfly might be out there looking for a garden fairy or two.

I know both Annie and Frances will be preparing their gardens for midsummer night’s eve. What special preparations are you making in your garden for this summer celebration?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Go Get Your Shovel!

Go get your shovel! Do you think that plant is going to survive where it is if you just leave it there?

Yes, sometimes leaving a plant alone that isn't doing well, isn't the thing to do. If a plant is clearly not thriving, it may be necessary to dig it up and move it to a new location or pot it up and give it some extra care until it has recovered from whatever was bothering it.

I've decided to pot up this Variegated Five Leaf Aralia, Acanthopanax sieboldianus 'Variegatus', because it certainly isn't doing well where it was. In the container, I can give it better care. I'll feed it, water it regularly and attend to its spirtual needs.

Spiritual needs, you ask? There are two ways to go with a plant's spiritual needs. You can show your 'softer' side by talking nicely to the plant, encouraging it to grow, touching its leaves. (But be careful with the aralia, it does have thorns).

Or you can try a little 'tough love' and order the plant to do better. Tell it in no uncertain terms that it is time to start growing or it's off to the compost bin, and then point dramatically to wherever your compost bins are.

I've decided to show my softer side with the aralia.

Look at the nice pot I put it in.I'm almost embarrased to admit that this lovely clay pot was in the garage full of pieces of other broken clay pots. It's too nice for that!

So how do you know if you should dig up a plant or leave it alone?

- If it looks like the plant is clearly not thriving and is likely to die where it is, take a chance and move it or pot it up to give it more care.

- If you are planning a construction project or some other major renovation, and the plant must be moved because it is in the way, go ahead and move it, if you can manage whatever size the plant is.

- If the plant has grown too large for the space it is in, and can be safely dug up and divided to make more plants, do that, but it is best to do it in early spring or fall. Not June, July or August.

When you dig up a plant that isn't doing well, look for reasons why it isn't growing. Does it have a good root system? Do you see signs of disease or insect investation? Was the soil where it was poor soil, too wet, too dry, too hard? Try to correct those conditions before you replant.

If the plant is diseased, I'd toss it in the trash. You probably don't want to mess with whatever chemical cure there is for the disease, in your home garden, nor do you want to risk having the disease spread to your other plants.

Any other advice, fellow gardeners, on digging plants, especially in the summertime?

Oh, and now that I've dug up the aralia, I have a bare spot in my perennial border.I think I'll visit a garden center or two tomorrow and see if I can find a perennial or two or three or a dozen, to plant in this spot.

Any suggestions? It's good soil there, mostly full sun, and the plant will be well-cared for and loved by me.

It's Like Sitting on the Porch Chatting

Did you ever gather with a group of gardeners, knowing they were all gardeners, and just start chatting about gardening?

Multiple conversations go on at once and you join in some and just listen to others. Or maybe you start up a new topic.

Plurking is kind of like that. You wander over to the Plurk site and see what people you are following as designated friends are talking about, and add your thoughts in ongoing threads. Or you start up a new topic and maybe someone will add something to it, all in 140 characters or less.

We've got a dozen or more garden bloggers on Plurk now, and have plurked on topics such as tomato staking, weeding, blogging, weather, mowing, hoeing. You name the topic. Sometimes with multiple threads started, the pace is quick, but not too fast that you can't enjoy it.

Why don't you join us and try it out? It takes a little getting used to, is a bit addictive, and requires some willpower not to let it eat up your whole evening, but it's fun in it's own way.

What's to lose, except maybe an hour or two?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Put Down That Shovel!

Put down that shovel! Move away from that plant!

You were going to move it again, weren't you? You just don't like where it is. You have decided that another plant would look better where that one is planted, so you'll just casually move that plant to make room for the new one?

Or maybe you just didn't think it through when you planted it in the first place, and now the plant is over crowded or maybe it clashes with other nearby plants.

For whatever reason, you have your shovel in hand and you are ready to just dig up a plant and move it.

Wait! Look at what can happen!

I speak from experience that a plant moved too often can be stunted and fail to reach its potential in any reasonable timeframe.

Would you like examples?

This is supposed to be a really large leaf hosta, one I got from my sister two years ago.

It doesn't look like much now, does it?

I originally planted it where I now have the miniature garden. When I decided I wanted this miniature garden in this spot instead of the big hosta, I dug up the hosta and put it in a container, and made it live in that container through the winter. Then I transplanted it to its current location last year, and there it sits. Oh, it's a tiny bit bigger than last year, but it is not even close to how big it was when I brought it home.

I've heard that some hostas can take up to six years to recover from transplanting before they reach their mature size.

And while I wait for this one to stop pouting over my obvious disregard for its needs, I have this gap in my hosta border. This hosta is supposed to be a big focal point in the center, toward the back.

Still not convinced?

This next example may cause you to never again dig up a plant and move it.

This is my Five Leaf Variegated Aralia, Acanthopanax sieboldianus 'Variegatus'It's about four inches tall and I've had it for at least nine or ten years.

I swear I've only moved it twice, at most three times.

But those moves have really stunted it. When I bought this, my neighbor was with me and she bought one, too, which I planted for her and we left it in where it was originally planted.

Here's what hers looks like today.I know, that's quite a difference! And I've gone over there to help her trim up shrubs and personally cut this back a lot because it is so much bigger than mine.

I'm actually thinking of digging mine up one more time and making a bonsai out of it. I've always wanted a bonsai plant.

Or maybe I should put it in this dish garden with the dwarf spirea, Spiraea japonica 'Golden Elf'?
Now are you convinced that moving your plants around all the time isn't good for them? Think before you plant!

- Is the plant going to get the right light where you are going to plant it?

- Will it have enough room to grow to mature size?

- Is it compatible with the plants around it, requiring relatively the same amount of water, same type of soil?

- Are you just planting it in that spot because you are tired of waltzing around the garden with it?

If you do decide to dig up a plant and move it, consider...

- Is this the right time of the year to be moving a plant?

- Do you have a really good reason to dig it up, such as you are doing to divide it up or pass it along to another gardener, who can now say thank you for it?

- Are you willing to risk stunting its growth for who knows how long?

Put down that shovel, and think about it before you move that plant again.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition

The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”) was recently formed and held their first meeting.

Members present included the founder, me, who has appointed herself President and Secretary.

The following minutes were recorded by the Secretary (me):

Carol, May Dreams Gardens, (me, again) was admonished for making up some old-time gardening superstition that was not based on any old time lore when she posted about orienting beans east/west when planting them. However, because she also posted about other known gardening wisdom, no sanctions were called for.

But, the society would like an explanation at some future time as to why she would have hoes in her house.

Based on comments received on the previous post about gardening superstitions, the Society sensed that some gardeners would like to do away with the long-standing superstition that thanking someone for giving them a passalong plant will cause it to not grow in the recipient’s garden. “It’s hard not to say thank you” says Pam/Digging, a potential member of the Society.

While the Society would like it known that just because something is hard to do is not a good reason not to do it, they are willing to consider a change to this superstition so that gardeners can thank each other for passalong plants without fear of killing the plants. In fact, the President of the Society (me) noted that she has thanked people for passalong plants without realizing it, with no ill effects.

By comment below, potential Society members (anyone) should indicate if they are in favor of changing this or would like to leave it as is. The official Book of Old Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore and Superstition will then be updated accordingly.

The Society then entertained a motion to adopt a new garden superstition offered by Annie in Austin,

“If you are planning to have people come over and look at your garden, do NOT speak the date of the visit aloud. If you do, the roses and daylilies will hear your plan and stubbornly bloom the day before and the day after but they will not open while the guests are there.”

The only current member (me) believes this to be valid superstition, as her Tiger Lilies, Hemerocallis fulva, pictured above, were not blooming on the day before bloom day, when she had to get her Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post up (as the hostess of bloom day) and so she ordered the wild daylilies not to bloom on the 15th as she recorded on her post that they were not blooming. But they bloomed anyway on the 15th, thus making a liar out of her. This proves that plants can hear us and do as they as please.

All in favor of this new superstition may indicate such agreement via a comment and if the motion is approved, this wisdom will be added to the Book of Old Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore and Superstition.

After discussion about how many bloom day posts the President (me) needs to view and comment on and exclamations about all the beautiful flowers blooming every where in June, the meeting was adjourned.

After the meeting, the members (me) enjoyed another bowl of fresh strawberries brought to the meeting by the President/Secretary (me, again). Let the minutes reflect they were delicious.

If any potential members have other business for the Society to consider, please indicate such via a comment or email.

Minutes submitted by:
Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2008

Welcome to May Dreams Gardens, home of Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, the place to leave a comment if you've also posted about what is blooming in your garden on this 15th day of June.

Comparing what is blooming in gardens across the U.S. and around the world once a month has given many of us a broader view of gardening and helped us to better understand what it's like to garden in other climates. It has also increased the size of our "wish" lists of new plants!

For those of us who have been posting about our blooms since the first bloom day in February 2007, we now have an online record of when flowers bloom in our gardens, so we can compare this year 's bloom list to last year's list.

I've done that and I can confirm that my garden continues to be a week or so behind in blooms compared to last year.

But I still have plenty of flowers, including the sweet pea shown above. That's 'Old Spice' and it smells just as pretty as it looks.

In my miniature fairy garden, Heuchera 'Petite Fairy Pearls' is putting on a grand show for such a small plant.
There are also a couple of little hostas starting to bloom in this fairy garden, but the dwarf meadow rue, blooming last year at this time, hasn't bloomed yet.

I found this white columbine, hiding in front of some tiger lilies on the east side of the house.Last year the tiger lilies were also blooming on the 15th, but this year, they are still buds. I don't know where the white columbine came from, as this is late for them to bloom around here. I didn't plant it, it's like a ghost.

Here's a new plant I added last year to counteract all the yellow and gold colored flowers in my garden. It's Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' Yes, it is related to the fuzzy gray-leaved Lamb's ear, Stachys byzantina. I'd show you some of those Lamb's ear blooms, but I always cut them off to keep the plant from getting all floppy.

New this spring are these pretty blues flowers, Veronica spicata 'Royal Candles' Behind it is the variegated Heliopsis 'Lorraine Sunshine', which is under strict orders not to re-seed all over the place. Half of its seedlings aren't variegated, they are just plain old False Sunflower.

The Beard-tongue is putting on a good show, although I thought the stems were redder last year. This is Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' To the right you can see a few of the hot pink blooms of Rose Campion, Lychnis sp.

One of the plants that seems to like all the rain we've been getting is the 'Endless Summer' Hydrangea.
You can see that I don't so anything to the soil to try to get these flowers to turn blue.

Across the way is this shrub clematis Clematis integrefolia 'Alba'. I have to give it some support to keep it from flopping all over, but otherwise it is a relatively easy plant to grow.

This clematis definitely needs support.I think it is 'Comtesse de Bouchard' and it has taken me a few years to get it to grow and flower consistently.

Out in the vegetable garden, the nasturtiums are blooming, but I wish the tomatoes were further along and blooming like they were last year at this time.
With no blooms on my tomato plants out in the garden, I'm not counting on breaking any records for any early tomato, unless I count this Micro Tom tomato in a container on my patio.
I'll have to move quickly when this one ripens or the garden fairies will beat me to it.

Here's a list of everything in bloom right now.

Alchemilla mollis – Lady’s Mantle
Allium – variety unknown but it is a late bloomer
Anthemis tinctoria ‘Kelwayi’ – Golden Marquerite Daisy
Chamaemilum nobile – Chamomile or it would be if I hadn't cut it all back!
Clematis integrefolia ‘Alba’ – Shrub Clematis
Clematis sp. – probably 'Comtesse de Bouchard'
Coreopsis lanceolata - Lance leaf Coreopsis, started from seed
Geranium sp. - a pass along plant
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Karmina'
Hemerocallis – 'Stella D’Oro' - I have too many of these - boring!
Heuchera ‘Petite Pearl Fairy’ – Coral Bells
Hosta – several blooming, varieties sadly not known or are all mixed up
Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’
Lamium maculatum ‘Aureum’ – Spotted Nettle
Lychnis coronaria – Rose Campion
Nasturtium - several varieties
Oenothera tetragona ‘Sunspot’ – Variegated Evening Primrose
Potentilla fruticosa ‘McKay’s White’- as much bloom as I've ever seen on these
Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'
Rosa – White Flower Carpet
Sedum sp. – various ground covers, some with white flowers, some with yellow flowers
Spiraea sp. – variety unknown but has white flowers
Spiraea x bumulda ‘Crispa’ – Cutleaf Spirea
Spiraea x bumulda ‘Monhub’ – Limemound Spirea
Spiraea japonica 'Golden Elf' - A true miniature
Stachys byzantina – Lamb’s Ear (but I usually cut off the blooms)
Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' - Betony
Sweet Peas 'Old Spice'
Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk' - Japanese Tree Lilac
Thymus - Thyme
Tradescantia - Spiderwort, shades of blues and purples
Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' - Golden Spiderwort
Veronica 'Fairytale'
Veronica repens 'Sunshine'
Veronica spicata 'Royal Candles' - Spike Speedwell
Viburnum dentatum 'Synnestvedt' - Chicago Lustre Arrowwood Viburnum

What’s blooming in your garden in mid-June? 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. Be sure to leave a link to your blog in your comment text.

No special invitations needed. All are welcome to participate!

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