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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Rewards of a Garden

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn." Henry David Thoreau

When I see a new kind of bird in my garden, I feel as though it has paid me and my garden a great compliment with its presence. It chose my garden! I must have done something right in my choice of trees and shrubs, in adding bird feeders and bird baths.

When I spot a toad hiding in the damp shade beneath the hosta leaves, I feel honored that he (or she) has chosen my garden to make a home.

When I see a praying mantis, sitting on the edge of a leaf, I feel like it is nodding at me, affirming that I am doing the right thing in my garden by not spraying pesticides at the first sign of an aphid.

The bees buzz their compliments as well on my choice of flowers.

When a tomato ripens, a flower blooms, or the tree leaves change to their autumn colors, I feel as though each has given me its own reward for the time I spend laboring in my garden.

When the rabbits dart out from the strawberry bed.. well, let's not carry this rewards from nature analogy too far...

Like Henry David Thoreau, most of us truly delight in nature being in our gardens. The presence of all the creatures makes us secretly, or perhaps overtly, proud of our gardens, happy to have spent the hours working in it, often in solitude, to make it a place where all of them, birds, toads, bees, spider, insects, and yes, even rabbits, voles, snakes, and squirrels, delight in being.

If we were to wait for someone to come by and present us an award for our gardens, most of us would wait forever. Awards are few and far between, and subject to the rules and intepretations of others.

But when we plant a garden, a good garden, we've already received our award, a hundred times over, from all, both flora and fauna, who chose to dwell within it.

******

Many thanks to all who voted for me this fall for Blotanical awards and last spring for Mouse & Trowel awards. I am honored to receive them.

Without discrediting these awards, for they, too, have their place, I confess I am more honored by the comments and emails I receive on a daily basis in response to what I write about gardening.

Just like the birds, toads, bees, and even rabbits that become a part of my garden, your thoughts shared in the comments become a part of my blog, extend the conversations, and provide me with the true reward of blogging.

Thank you!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weedless Gardening

After seeing my sister’s garden this past weekend, I felt a little guilty about not finishing the book Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich, which is the current, and final, selection of the Garden Blogger’s Book Club.

My sister could use a little help to control the weeds that came up in her vegetable garden, “the minute her back was turned”.

I won’t show a picture. It’s not her garden’s finest hour, believe me. And she's family and I make it a practice never to show something 'bad' from a family members' garden.

Otherwise, they won't let me take any pictures of their gardens.

But here’s a picture of a weedy garden…
I don’t know where I got this picture, wink wink, but it isn’t one of my garden!

You can kind of see that there are some tomato plants in there. If you squint when you look at the picture, you can see them. And that bright green on the edge of the flower bed is basil, I think. (Who just now squinted to try to see those tomatoes? Show of hands.)

The rest are weeds. Weeds that took advantage, obviously, of getting a little light and a little air and a little rain.

Boom! They just take over, don't they?

I did look through Weedless Gardening enough to know that there is some good advice in it for minimizing weeds in the garden, hopefully to the point that a few minutes a day (or more depending on the size of your garden), should keep the weeds away. Yes, I think you would still need to embrace weeding, just not so much weeding. Now that would be nice!

Like others who have written similiar books, Reich outlines four key points that help support a weedless garden, and then goes more in depth on what to actually do based on his experience in his own garden.

1. Minimize soil disruption. (Don’t let those weed seeds see the light of day or breathe the air of life.)
2. Protect the soil surface. (Mulch)
3. Avoid soil compaction. (Don’t stomp around in your planting beds.)
4. Use drip irrigation. (Water the plants you planted, not all the potential weeds.)

I do think this is a good method, and one I want to try maybe as early as yet this fall. But it will still take time to prepare the new planting bed because even though I wouldn’t be tilling the soil, I would be covering it with newspapers and topping it with some kind of mulch. It’s the “topping it with some kind of mulch” that will take some time! And time requires a window of opportunity, a WOO, of more than an hour or two at a time.

Who doesn’t need more gardening WOO’s in their gardening life?

******

Did you catch that I wrote above that this is the final selection of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club?

That’s right, I’m shutting it down, packing it up, finishing it off. It’s time to move on.

We had some good times, didn’t we? Together we read books by Henry Mitchell, Elizabeth Lawrence and Katharine S. White, Karel Čapek, Felder Rushing, Charles Dudly Warner, various garden mystery writers, Eleanor Perènyi, Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd, Michael Pollan, Elizabeth Lawrence (again), and Robin Chotzinoff.

But it's the right time to move on. Many thanks to all who joined in. I hope you enjoyed the selections and through the book club you were encouraged to find and read GOOD gardening books. There are plenty out there, and I’m going to keep reading them and posting about them as time permits. (If you just had a thought that you'd like to try to keep the Garden Bloggers' Book Club going, send me an email, let's discuss.)

******

Now don’t get this confused with Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day! That is definitely not ending and will continue as long as I have a garden. I hope others will continue to join in as well, always on the 15th of the month, rain or shine, winter or summer. After all, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence.

I just wish we didn't have to have weeds, too.

(The mums pictured above have nothing to do with this post. I just thought today, of all days, is a good day to show some pretty, bright flowers on a blog post, and not just a weedy garden.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Crape Myrtles in Indiana!

How will southern gardeners react when they find out that we can grow Crape Myrtles here in Indiana?

I expect some might say, “No fair, you’ve already got lilacs!”

Others might say, “Good, you can have ‘em, never much cared for them anyway.”

Or maybe some would say, “Oh, good for you, they really do add some nice color to the summer and early fall garden.”

Regardless, ha! We can grow Crape Myrtles in Indiana!

I saw some the other day at Lowes.

Now, normally, just because a plant shows up at Lowes, I don’t assume it is good to plant it in my garden. But, my own sister has two Crape Myrtles growing quite well in her Indianapolis garden, so I wasn't all that surprised to see them at Lowes.

That’s one of her Crape Myrtles pictured above.

In case you think hers are just a fluke, or were a bit skeptical like I was, I also got an email recently from a reader in Michigan with pictures of Crape Myrtles growing “clear up there”!

Here are the ones I saw for sale at Lowes.


And here’s a picture of one growing near Coldwater, Michigan sent by reader, Stephen A. That area of Michigan is also zone 5, like Indiana.

Those I saw at Lowes were primarily Lagerstroemia indica, which surprised me because according to this Clemson University website, Lagerstroemia faurei is the more cold hardy species. Funny thing, too, on the Clemson website they are spelling the common name as Crapemyrtle, all one word, but in the web address they spelled it “crepe”. I know it isn’t “crepe”, but is it one word or two?

The tag on the ones at Lowes mentioned them being “root hardy” which usually means the branches die back over the winter, and new branches come up from the roots in the spring. This is what Caryopteris and Buddleia do when we grow them here.

I asked my sister and she said that does cut hers back each year like a butterfly bush. Based on that, I wouldn’t expect any Crape Myrtles around here to become big trees or huge shrubs. But for gardeners who would be satisified to have a few Crape Myrtle blooms in their zone 5 garden, regardless of what size the plant grows to in one season, it might be worth the effort.

So what say you, southern gardeners, are you happy for us, that we can have Crape Myrtles in Indiana?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Third Grade And Gardening

Sometimes, when I multiply numbers in my head, I think back to my third grade teacher, Miss Milner.

Miss Milner made learning how to multiply a competition by giving anyone who could multiply all the combinations between zero and nine “in their heads”, in front of the class, a huge, bigger-than-I-had-ever-seen sucker.

Guess who got one? That’s right, I did. Funny thing, though, I don’t remember licking the sucker more than a few times. It must have been at least six inches across and I think I was disappointed that it really had no taste. It was probably pure sugar, but it was very colorful.

For whatever reason, Miss Milner did not teach us about how you can multiply plants by dividing them. That concept might have been a bit much for us third-graders to grasp as we memorized that “zero times any number is zero”, all the way up to “nine times nine equals 81”.

No, we didn’t learn much plant propagation in the third grade.

But she did give us a word puzzle-riddle-thingie to figure out. Here’s my garden version of it:

Tree is, but shrub isn’t.
Bloom is, but flower isn’t.


Do you know what "is" or "isn’t" from those two clues?

She didn’t use garden words when she presented it to us. It works with other words, too.

Truth be told, I don’t recall learning too much about gardening in the third grade. I don’t even know if when I was in the third grade anyone looked at me and thought "she’s going to be very interested in gardening when she grows up".

Looking at some of my artwork from that era, they might have suspected that I would someday be interested in… world travel? Alternative energy sources?

Or growing tulips?

My niece has just started teaching third grade this fall. I’m guessing she’s teaching those eight and nine year olds how to multiply and I know she’s teaching them a little about gardening.

Just look at this bulletin board from her classroom.
Plus, they have plants in the classroom to tend to, like the African violet pictured above.

She put the kids in charge of the plants to make sure they are watered weekly. It's just one of many responsibilities her students have, that she keeps track of on this bulletin board.

Some of these kids probably didn’t realize that plants need light and water to grow, but they are learning it now in the third grade.

Later in the spring, I’m pretty sure they’ll also be starting some seeds. Maybe one day, some of them will become gardeners and they’ll remember my niece, their third grade teacher, not only when they multiple numbers, but also when they tend their gardens.

I don’t know if that scares her a bit, to know she’s making an impression and teaching lessons that will last her students a lifetime, or if that motivates her to go back every day. I think it motivates her, and I’m proud of her for choosing teaching as her profession and for wanting to make a difference in these kids’ lives.

And I’m pleased she’s teaching some of those lessons with plants and gardening.

******

Did you figure out the word puzzle? Here are four more clues:

Grass is, lawn isn’t.
Peppers are, tomatoes aren’t.
Fall is, spring isn’t.
Bloggers are, journalists aren't.


Remember, we solved it in the third grade. Do you remember third grade?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mowing Is Like Dreaming

Mowing the grass is a like lot dreaming.

While mowing, a thousand and one thoughts occur to me. I solve problems. I come up with answers to questions that I hadn’t even thought to ask. I think through entire blog posts. I remember past events and wonder what the future holds.

Then just like when you wake up after dreaming and the dreams are soon forgotten if you don’t write them down, once the mower stops, I soon forget what I was thinking about, if I don’t write it down. Unfortunately, most of the time, I don’t write it down.

Fortunately, this last time I mowed the lawn, the 35th time this season, I thought to write down what I was thinking about. So without further ado, I was thinking about…

The third grade and my third grade teacher. My niece is now a third grade teacher. I’ll be posting soon about some very special things she is doing so that one day when her students are decades removed from third grade, they might remember the year they were in her class and what they learned about gardening.

The Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. I’ve decided it has run its course and so I’ll be bringing it to a graceful conclusion at the end this month. If you did happen to read the current selection, Weedless Gardening, and decide to post about it, let me know via an email or comment and I’ll include you in the final ‘virtual meeting’ wrap up post on or about September 30th. Please don’t confuse this with Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the 15th of the month. That will never end, as long as I’m blogging!

What I will post for next Father’s Day in June 2009. No hints, I want it to be a surprise, if I remember it. I think I will. I hope I do.

Blotanical awards. I was very flattered to be nominated in several categories, including Best U.S. Blog, Best Blog Design, Best Blog Writing, Most User Friendly Blog, Best Blog Post, Blotanist of the Year, and Blog of the Year. I offer a sincere thank you to those who nominated May Dreams Gardens! If you are registered with Blotanical, please go there to vote before this Sunday. (My name is Carol and I approve this message.)

What to post on the Examiner site. This time I posted five tips for buying shrubs.

How mowing is like dreaming.

I forget what else I thought about while going back and forth, diagonally this time, from southeast to northwest and northwest to southeast across the lawn. Back and forth, back and forth, occasionally going around a tree. Good exercise, good thinking, good times!

What do you think about when you are mowing?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Embrace The End of The Growing Season For A Happier Life

There are many signs that it is the end of the growing season in my garden.

The foxtails in the garden are taller than the tomato plants. In fact I’ve almost forgotten there are tomato plants in the vegetable garden because they are all falling down by their stakes, getting lost in the weeds. (Okay, there aren’t that many weeds out there, but the tomato plants are a mess.)

When I go into the big box stores and instinctively head to the “garden/seasonal” center, I run smack dab into a giant life size talking Santa statue, right next to a display of tulip bulbs marked down for “final clearance”.

The trees in the garden have all shed their leaves. I see the leaves on the ground and realize that once again, garden fairies aren’t going to come and magically take them away, so I rake them up or mow them to chop them up.

The frost is on the punkin”. This usually happens around the middle of October in my garden, but could happen sooner than that, or later than that. (I don’t really have any pumpkins and we don’t really say “punkin” in Indiana… okay sometimes we do when we are reciting this poem by Hoosier poet James Whticomb Riley).

Regardless of what signs you look for, there is going to be an end of the season for your garden, unless you live in the tropics.

It’s inevitable, so move on and…

Embrace the end of the growing season for a happier life.

Why fight the end of the season? I’ve seen some people attempt to cover their annuals and frost-tender plants in the fall the first time the weatherman says “frost”. They bring out old sheets, bedspreads, table cloths, and sometimes plastic sheeting, to carefully cover their plants. Again I ask why? Does it gain them an extra week? Maybe. A month? Rarely, unless it is an extremely early frost.

The idea of covering plants is to trap the heat that radiates up from the ground at night to hopefully raise the air temperature around the plants to a few degrees above freezing. So if the air temperature is going to fall much below freezing, even covering the plants won’t help, anyway.

I’ve seen people take a sheet or plastic trash bag and throw it over a small tree to protect it from frost, and then tie it closed right below where the branching stops, especially in the spring. Not only does the tree look like a ridiculous giant plastic covered lollipop, it isn't really protected from the frost. Why? No radiant heat.

By the way, be careful if you are using plastic sheeting to cover plants. It traps too much moisture, so should be removed promptly in the morning, provided the air temperature is above freezing once the sun is out. Also, if the plastic is left on during the day, heat can quickly build up under it and where the leaves touch the plastic, they can be scorched by too much heat directly on them.

Save yourself both time and worry and forget about covering plants in the fall.

Embrace the end of the growing season for a happier life.

Even after the first frost, there is still plenty of life in the garden. There will be flowers still blooming, like asters, mums, stonecrop, and pansies; leaves changing colors; and wildlife running back and forth in an entertaining manner eating seeds, nuts, and any fruit that falls to the ground.

In the vegetable garden, there can still be lettuce, spinach, radishes, and other cool season crops, just waiting to be eaten. And out in the compost bin? 'Mysterious processes' have made black gold, compost, ready to harvest. (Yes, the process of how compost happens is well known and understood, but it still seems mysterious and miraculous that such a process happens. Good thing, too, or we would be buried under plant debris by now.)

Embrace the end of the growing season for a happier life.

And should you think there is nothing to do in the garden at the end of the season… look around, you’ll find stuff to do, like fall clean up and preparing new planting beds.

It’s good to do some fall clean up, such as removing diseased plants and frost-blackened annuals, but don’t leave your garden clean swept at the end of the season, like you are closing up a summer cabin. Birds and beasts alike benefit from a bit of messiness in the garden, so do what you need to do to be happy and content, but leave some seed heads for the birds and some brush for the beasts.

And should the weather cooperate, the end of the growing season, fall, is a great time to prepare new planting beds for the spring.

Embrace the end of the growing season for a happier life.

*****

Other Embraces for a Happier Life

Embrace weeding
Embrace bugs
Embrace your weather
Embrace your soil
Embrace mowing
Embrace botanical names
Embrace never finished
Embrace garden journals
Embrace hard work
Embrace plants
Embrace the GADS


Monday, September 22, 2008

Memories of Green Hall

This fall, Pam/Digging is moving to a new garden, which is very exciting, but it means she is leaving her current garden, Green Hall, a garden that has a special place in the History of Garden Blogging.

It was at Green Hall that we gathered near the end of the first Garden Bloggers’ Spring Fling to rest, relax, socialize, and talk about gardening and garden blogging before our farewell dinner.

It was the perfect location, and Pam was the perfect hostess.

My first glimpse of Green Hall took place the day before that. Pulling up to the curb with MSS of Zanthan Gardens and Annie in Austin, I immediately recognized it.

The front yard garden with the fence, the agave, and the stone paving were all just like she had pictured them on her blog, imagine that! Near the front door were her pink and blue bluebonnets and one of her prized agaves, pictured above.

In the back, I saw Green Hall – the building, the lawnette, the blue bottle tree, the stock tank. It was wonderful to be there, finally!

Meeting Pam was like meeting an old friend
after reading one another’s blogs for so long and exchanging comments and emails. She’s the one who sent me the first invitation via email way back in December, and I quote, "...you've got to plan a visit! Why not come down for an early spring visit, let's say in March, before spring even comes to Indiana. That way you won't miss anything, and you'll get an early taste of springtime. I'm serious now...”

Yes, it turns out she was serious and she came up with the idea for the first of what is hopefully many Garden Bloggers’ Spring Flings.

It’s very exciting to move to a new garden. Pam will have new challenges, new plants, more space and apparently a different kind of soil.

I’ve moved to a new garden three times now, so I humbly offer this advice for Pam or anyone else moving to a new garden.

- Take along a few plants from your current garden, Pam, like those agaves, as if you would leave them behind. I saw some of the prices for those when I visited a few Austin garden centers. They are investments.

- Bring along all your fun garden ornaments, even the ones with faces.

- Start right away with a small gardening project, maybe around the entrance to the house, to make part of the garden "yours" from the beginning.

- Don't rush into any new major plantings or projects until you have had a chance to get a 'feel' for the garden. MSS said she spent almost a year observing her garden before she started making changes.

- Once you've gotten a feel for the garden, give it a name. Then, it is your garden, a specific place.

- Always remember that a new garden means new roots, new plants, new dirt, new spaces, new challenges, more fun!

I’m looking forward to seeing Pam's new garden, first through her blog and perhaps one day in person, and to following along as she makes this new garden her own. When she moves, I’m sure Pam will take along some plants and her garden decorations, along with many fond memories.

We'll take our memories with us, too.

Pam, best wishes for many blooms, bees, and birds in your new garden and thank you for sharing Green Hall with us and giving us such great memories there!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Drupes, Pods and Pomes

I went out in search of berries this morning, at the suggestion of Lisa from Greenbow Gardens.

In my search around the garden, I found some other 'seed carrying vessels' of interest.

These are dry drupes on my Carolina Silverbell, Halesia carolina 'Arnold Pink' .

Most drupes have a fleshy skin, like cherries, plums, and peaches. Usually there is just one seed inside, but there may be two or three seeds inside these dry drupes.

"Dry drupes".

I bet you didn't think you would be reading a sentence today with those two words combined in it! It sounds like what you might call someone to insult them... "you dry drupe, you, why I oughta ..."

Then I found these pods on my red bud tree, Cercis canadensis.This is a sure sign to me that this tree is in the pea family.

My neighbor has these crabapples all over her crabapple tree. These are technically called pome fruits.

Here are some much smaller pome fruits on my crabapple tree, Malus 'Guinevere'.The birds will eat these in no time.

I also looked for some pome fruits on my Serviceberry, but the birds had already eaten all of them. I wonder why they don't they call it a Servicepome?

These "seed carrying vessels" are on the Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis.I squeezed one and it had one seed inside and was all gushy. I think it must be a drupe. It's also quite poisonous. Yes, it's a poisoinous drupe in my garden.

Finally, I arrived back to nearly where I started and found my beautyberry shrubs, Callicarpa dichotoma 'Issai' .I assume these are true berries, but you never know!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mealybugs!

After over four years of back and forth battles against mealybugs on my indoor plants, I took some drastic measures this week to eradicate, hopefully once and for all, this pestilence that has both plagued me and embarrassed me for over four years.

I’m not sure how or exactly when they arrived in my sunroom, but I suspect they came in on an African violet purchased from the non-defunct Frank’s Nursery & Crafts. (Remember good ol’ Frank’s? We’ll have to reminisce about them sometime soon.)

Over these last four, or maybe five years, I’ve battled back and forth with the mealybugs. They primarily attacked African violets, Clivia miniata, Aloe, and any amaryllis I brought into the house at Christmas time. I’ve wiped leaves, tossed plants, used organic sprays, cursed, and at times, tried to ignore them. Did you know that if you ignore them, they won’t go away?

This spring, I took all the Clivia outside, five pots worth shown on the wagon in the picture above. Yes, I put them outside for the summer, thinking, hoping, that the mealybugs would see a bigger, better world out there, and go away.

They did not see a better world and leave. They hunkered down, multiplied, started villages and towns, and I’m sure made plans for how they would take over once again when brought inside.

But I fixed their wagon!

This week, I threw out all of the African violets (moment of silence, but I am now a lot younger in African violet years). I did save one called ‘Merlot’ by taking some leaf cuttings from it, but tossed the actual plant. I had to, it had an interesting leaf.

I then rounded up all the Aloe and repotted the smallest starts, after cleaning them thoroughly.

And, I threw out all but two fans of the Clivia. Those two fans likewise were thoroughly cleaned, as best as I could clean them.

Then after thoroughly cleaning the sunroom, where these all live with my other houseplants, including the night-blooming Cereus, I moved them not back in there, but into another room in the house. There they will remain in isolation until I am sure, once and for all, that they are not infested with mealybugs.

What are mealybugs, anyway?

Short answer, nasty little insects with sucking mouth parts that like to suck the life out of my houseplants. That’s all you really need to know.

Here’s a picture of some on the Clivia.


Wish me luck, that once and for all, I’ve gotten rid of them in my house.

And learn from my experience. When you buy a new houseplant, carefully inspect it for mealybugs, which look like little cottony-masses. Look closely in all the “nooks and crannies” of the plant because they are good at hiding. Then, when you bring a new plant home, isolate it from other plants for a few weeks, just to be sure.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check the isolated plants to see if any mealybugs have reappeared overnight.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It Was Crowded in My Garden Today

You were all there, I swear you were.

As I was out and about in my garden today, trying to focus on one particular task, but actually following several paths at the same time, you were there.

You know what we call following several paths in the garden all at once, don’t you? Together now… GADS! As in… “Gads, I could get a lot more done if I would just focus a bit on one task at a time.”

You are asking how could this be, that you were in my garden, because you swear you were in your own garden, or at work, or anywhere but here.

Here’s how… you’ve joined in the garden blogging community, you’ve left comments with advice and encouragement, you’ve even shared actual plants with me, welcomed me to visit your garden, to eat at your table. You’ve shared your own garden with me on your own blog. That’s how you were in my garden today!

Now that there is an online community of gardeners, connected through a common bond of being plant obsessed, garden obsessed, and just plain gardening geeks, can we ever garden alone again, any of us?

I see my Stapelia or I can’t think of a plant name and I think of Annie in Austin who has an amazing grasp of botanical plant names and gave me a start of her Stapelia to bring back to May Dreams Gardens.

Out in the vegetable garden, the cilantro, of all things, reminds me of Zanthan Gardens, and MSS’s meadow, which was in its glory for the spring fling, filled with blooming cilantro. I see her long-standing blog and think “that’s how it’s done, that’s real garden blogging”. I never miss one of her posts.

Passing by the Swiss chard, which was fun to grow but I never did try to eat it, I feel a bit guilty because Robin(Bumblebee) sent me an email with an ‘easy’ recipe for cooking it in a pasta dish. Easy, I suppose, if you cook!

And those raised beds out there in my garden? I can only dream that they will look as nice as the ones that Lancashire Rose has in her Austin, Texas garden!

Did I mention that I grew some red impatiens in a metal tub, which isn’t exactly a stock tank, but I remember Pam/Digging’s stock tanks when I see it? One day, I might get a real one for my garden.

Who else was in my garden today? The Colchicums are still blooming nicely and they bring thoughts of Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening, the Colchicum Evangelist. If she had her way, we’d all have these beautiful and delightful fall flowers in our gardens.

This spring I planted more flowers that I thought would attract hummingbirds because I want to be like Mary at Mary’s View, who has given me some good advice on attracting birds, and Robin of Robin’s Nesting Place who both take amazing pictures of these fast moving birds. But I’m only half like them. I attracted the hummingbirds, which was great, but I can’t for the life of me take pictures like they do! Every time I see some hummingbirds, I think of them.

When I see squirrels, which isn’t too often, thankfully, I tell them to go home to Squirrelhaven were Mr. McGregor’s Daughter gardens. She must like them to give her garden that name.

When I see a “dirty little secret in my garden”, something I decide I won’t blog about, I think of Mary Ann in Idaho, and can just imagine her telling me to go for it. “Show ‘em what’s real” is her motto! And Dee from Red Dirt Ramblings would be right there, too, thinking that perhaps my dirty little secret is that there is only one small rose plant in my garden. “How could that be!”, she’d say.

And when I put away all my garden furniture and decorations for the winter, and then bring it all back out in the spring, I’ll remember Cindy at My Corner of Katy who had to put away all that and more before Hurricane Ike came through her garden last week. The few leaves that I had to clean up when the remnants of Ike blew through my garden are nothing compared to the mess she has to clean up.

See what I mean? Right now, I’m cleaning up my houseplants, trying to get rid of the mealybugs ONCE AND FOR ALL, and I think of Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated, (and Garden Rant) one of the few other garden bloggers who also admits to having houseplants, (like there is something wrong with us for having houseplants. THERE is not. Real gardeners have houseplants, you know that, don’t you?) and her response of sympathy in response to my posting about composting all my African Violets because I've decided that’s the only way to get rid of those little nasty beasties! Yes, I did that today. I had to. I’m desperate and those mealybugs hide in the African Violets. (Okay, I did keep one small variegated African Violet to take some leaf cuttings from, but the rest are compost.)


Then once I’ve dealt with this mealybug problem, I’ve got to get back outside and prepare some new places to plant. I ordered a new shrub clematis because I have one with white flowers, but Kim, Blackswamp Girl, at Study in Contrast, has one with blue flowers that she posted about one bloom day, and I loved it, so I ordered one like it. I'll think of her when it blooms.

See what I mean? Leslie, Layanee, Frances, Lisa, Gail, Margaret, you were all there, too. (My garden fairies would like to have a word with your frogboys, Margaret!)

I could go on and on (and on and on) down through everyone else whose blog feed I subscribe to on my Google Reader. You were there, too, all of you!

Yes, welcome to the garden blogging community… you’ll never garden alone again! I promise!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Beauty and A Beast In My Garden

Here's the beauty... my beautyberry has berries!

I first saw a Beautyberry on Pam's Digging blog and thought, "How pretty, but shoot, it probably isn't hardy in garden."

And I was right. She grows Callicarpa americana, hardy to USDA hardiness Zone 6. I'm in Zone 5b.

But then I found Callicarpa dichotoma 'Issai' last fall. It's hardy to Zone 5a.

It's done very well so far. First, it survived last summer in a container in a garden center/nursery. Then I bought it and it rode in the back of my truck down the highway, with the wind whipping it around. (Well, it really didn't whip around that much, but it sounds better to embellish the story a bit, and 'tis the season to embellish stories, being as it is an election year.) Then it survived the winter. Then it grew with nothing extra from me. No extra water, fertilizer or mulch. Then it bloomed, tiny little white, insignificant blooms. Then, berries!

I'm keeping it.

And here's the beast.
This is Sedum 'Frosty Morn', one of my bloom day flowers. Nice blooms, but the plant doesn't seem quite strong enough to hold them up. (I mentioned in my bloom day post that it had gotten all floppy but didn't show a picture of what "floppy" looked like.) I'm going to leave it alone because these succulent-like stems tend to break off easily if you try to move them too much.

In fact, I'm a bit surprised some of the stems haven't broken off under the weight of the flowers.

Still, all in all, these Sedums are good fall flowers. I'm on the look out now for a couple of other varieties, including 'Purple Emporer' and 'Iceberg'.

Next year (when my garden will be perfect, because it is always perfect 'next year'), I'll watch this particular variety more closely and if it starts to look like it is going to get all floppy on me, I'll give it some support. Some years, they don't flop. I guess it depends on how much rain they get, and how tall they grow. (Oh my, I can't believe I wrote that obvious statement, next thing you know I'll be writing stuff like "when is the best time to pull a weed? As soon as you see it.")

Monday, September 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - September 2008

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day here at May Dreams Gardens!

What a mess August has made of my September blooms! Well, it isn't all of August's fault, some of the blame lies with the first two weeks of September, too.

Oh, and June and July have to own up to what they did, too. And just yesterday Hurricane Ike, or what was left of it, came through and tried to blow everything away.

Here's what happened...

I mostly remember this summer as starting out very wet in June, then being very comfortable and enjoyable in July with moderate temperatures and rain when we needed it. Then in mid-August, the rain disappeared and didn't return until this past week.

I've never seen plants dry up so quickly and the lawn seemed to go dormant almost overnight.

My excuse theory for why the plants dried up so quickly is that they got all lazy with the plentiful rain in June and July and didn't grow any deep roots looking for water. The water was always right there. Right there at the surface.

Then when the rain stopped and the water wasn't right there in the first few inches of dirt, the plants had no deep roots to go after deeper reserves of moisture and therefore just dried up.

What do you think of that excuse theory? Let that be a lesson to all on what happens to lazy plants, and people, too.

But now the rain has returned and the plants are growing and flowering again, so all is not lost and I have high hopes for fall.

The Verbena bonariensis pictured above has been blooming for a few weeks. I generally let it self sow a bit and come up here and there in the garden becomes it blooms late when not a lot of other new blooms are around.

I'll have to remember that the August "lilies" (Hosta) provide a good show in September, too.

And they still have a sweet scent to them!

Notice that the lawn has turned green again? It was very tan a week or so ago before we got some rain.

I have sedum (Stonecrop) all over the place, partly because it is an easy plant to dig and divide in the spring and I keep moving it around, dividing it each time.
This is probably a Sedum telephium, variety unknown, or possibly Sedum spectabile. Or it could be Hylotelephium telephium or Hylotelephium spectabile, which are the new botanical names for these sedums. Or we could go with the other common name, Witch's Moneybags. I don't remember where I got it or how it came to be in my garden, but I like the dark rosy pink blooms.

Nearby is Sedum erythrostictum 'Frosty Morn'.This is supposed to have variegated leaves, but it has mostly reverted back to plain green. And it has gotten all floppy this fall, whereas the other variety has not. I suppose, by the way, that like the other sedum, this one, too, could have a new botanical name. Let's just call it 'Frosty Morn'.

My best blooms this month are these Colchicums. Where have these been my entire gardening life? Thank you to Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening for sending them to me last fall.

I especially like how they come up through the sedum groundcover. It makes it less obvious that there is no foliage, just flowers.

And now the nearly complete list of blooms...(subject to updating!)

Stonecrop Sedum (see above)
Variegated False Dragon's Head (Physostegia virginiana 'Variegata')
Chrysanthemums (they have a new botanical name, too, Dendranthema morifolium)Shasta daisies (just a few)
Marigolds
Zinnias
Impatiens
August Lilies (a passalong Hosta)
Veronica bonariensis
Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum 'Aureum')
Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)
Chocolate Mint
Spirea 'Limemound'
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer'
Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva'
Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro'
Tall Phlox, white, pink, white with pink center (Phlox paniculata)
Potentilla fruticosa
Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes)

What's blooming in your garden? I'd love to have you join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. It's easy to particpate. Just post on your blog about your mid-September blooms and then come here and leave a comment so we can find you.

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wind at May Dreams Gardens

It's amazing, sometimes, that the leaves don't all get blown out of the trees when the wind blows like this.



But the leaves are hanging on, not yet ready to change colors, to fall off the trees, to admit that this growing season is coming to an end.

Hang in there, leaves, once this wind blows through, we still have at least four weeks, maybe a good six weeks or more, until the killing frost!

Hang in there, blooms, I still need to take a few more pictures for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day tomorrow.

Hang in there, grape vine, I still might pick some of your grapes and make some jam...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Rain Lilies Are Blooming

The last four weeks have been as dry as any four weeks that I can remember for quite some time. Well, at least since last summer's moderate drought.

It was so dry that until this evening, the last time I had to got to mow the lawn was four weeks ago, on August 15th.

But now the rain has returned, the rain lilies are blooming, and the grass has recovered, so I'm back to in the mowing business, having just mowed for the 32nd time this season. That's still six more times than at this time last year!

These rain lilies (Zephyranthes) aren't winter hardy here in USDA hardiness zone 5, so I grow them in pots on my front porch. There the only "rain" they get is from me watering them. In spite of that, they really do bloom best when it has recently rained. How do they know? It must be the humidity.

Once it gets frosty cold, I'll move the pots of rain lilies into the garage, where it never quite freezes but can get cold, and forget about them until spring. Then when spring arrives, I'll bring them back out and start watering.

Every few years, I dig the bulbs out of the pots and repot them in new soil. I always end up with extra bulbs when I do this, which are nice to passalong to others.

Someone left me a comment the other day asking about what to do with rain lily bulbs they had recently purchased, since they are also in zone 5. I assume the bulbs have been in a package all spring and summer, so I would probably pot them up right now and get them growing, even if I had to bring them inside for awhile to grow a bit longer. Then I'd gradually taper off watering and let them go dormant until spring.

Anyone have any other ideas?

*****

I'm glad these rain lilies are blooming because the other affect of the last four weeks of dry weather has been a reduced amount of bloom around here.

But that isn't going to keep me from posting about what little bloom I have on the 15th for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I hope YOU will also join me in sharing what you have in bloom, regardless of what kind of weather you've had, and I know many garden bloggers have had quite challenging weather this summer.

It's been hot and dry in many places like Texas and Oklahoma. Here in Indiana we had a very wet June and July followed by a month of virtually no rain. And those along the gulf coast have been hammered with hurricanes.

In spite of it all, I'm sure there are still blooms in most gardens, maybe not a lot of blooms, but blooms none the less. Whether your blooms are all dried up or sopping wet, please share them with us on the 15th by posting about them on your blog and then leaving a comment on my bloom day post so we can find you and come visit to see your blooms.

All are welcome to participate, whether for the first time or the twentieth time, which is how many times you will have posted if you have participated since the first bloom day on February 15th, 2007. Someone check my math!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Embrace Plants for a Happier Life

It is with great pride that I introduce d'Artagnan, my college-attending niece's new plant.

It's a Madagascar Dragon Tree, Dracaena marginata, and "he", as my niece refers to this plant, now lives on her windowsill in a college dorm in the midwest along with her terrarium and some herbs. (Culinary herbs, readers, culinary herbs.)

My niece is taking a horticulture class at this college, the same college I attended to actually study horticulture. She's not studying horticulture, though, she's a pre-pharmacy, soon to be pharmacy student who decided a horticulture class would make her aunt (me) proud of her be a fun elective.

Her professor told them on the first day that many pharmacy students take this particular class as an elective, and so she tries to make it fun and stress-free because she has noticed that pharmacy students are often stressed out.

Hopefully, through this class, which also involves arranging flowers and propagating plants, my neice will learn that gardening is a great stress reliever and that having plants around you makes for a happier life in general.

Indeed my advice to her and all my nieces and nephews and basically anyone else I come into contact with is "embrace plants for a happier life".

I'll admit, though, that they don't have to embrace plants quite as much as I do to have a happier life. In fact, my level of "plant embrace" might even scare them a bit. I should tell them more often that even a little embrace with a few plants is beneficial.

My niece will soon have a lot of plants to embrace, more than she can fit on her windowsill. She noted in her email to that they practiced plant propagation today and so she's expecting to soon have a braided benjamin fig, a lipstick plant, a creeping jerry, a wandering jew, a jelly bean succulent, a christmas cactus, a heart vine succulent, a snake plant, an african violet, and some other plants she can't remember.

Goodness, her professor must think they are going to be really stressed out, to need all those plants!

But that's okay, I'll bet her older sister, who just started teaching the third grade this fall, would take a few of those plants for her classroom to help relieve her stress. Actually, she wants to have plants in her classroom because she can teach the students how to be responsible by giving them the job of watering the plants. Right now, though, she only has one plant, so if the students are too diligent and responsible about watering, the poor plant is going to drown.

I'd give her some of my extra plants, but I've still got a darn mealybug problem, and I don't want to infect the one other plant she has. I've got to take care of that mealybug problem once and for all. It's embarrassing and stressful not to be able to give starts of my houseplants to anyone.

I'm happy that my nieces are learning to care for houseplants, to embrace plants for a happier life. I think plants do help lower your stress level and just generally make a room more "homey". If I had more time, I could probably even find some bonafide research references to prove it, but since most of the people who read this blog have already embraced plants, and know the benefits of doing so, I don't think I need to.

So please give a big "garden bloggers" hello to d'Artagnon, and let's hope he and all those other plants do indeed help my niece with stress-management and convince her that no matter what she does in life, she'll have a happier life if plants are a part of it.

(I do also realize that since I've posted about my niece's new plant, I'm going to be in trouble if I don't also post at some point about my nephew's budding interest in bonsai, or other family plant goings on. Family members, I'm happy to do so, I just need a picture!)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Guilty of Using "Garden" with no Evidence of Gardening

"Has the jury reached a verdict?"

Yes, we have Your Honor.

We, the jury, find the cable channel HGTV guilty of using the word “Garden” in its name without having adequate programming related to gardening.

"Do you have any recommendations on sentencing?"

We do, your honor. We give the defendant, HGTV, two choices.

Our first choice is for them to earn back the “G” in HGTV by adding more programs of the quality of A Gardener’s Diary and broadcasting these shows at times other than 7:00 AM EDT on Thursday mornings.

The other choice is for them to remove the “G” from HGTV and become HTV.

"We thank the jury for its service, including Idaho Gardener, National Gardener, Mr. McGregor’s Daughter, My Corner of Katy, New Sprout, Red Dirt Rambling, and Garden Rant."

If there are others who wish to join the jury in this unanimous verdict, they may be do so by leaving a comment below or posting their verdict on their own blog.

Jury dismissed.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Someone Oughta!

There's a whole lot of "someone oughta" going on around my garden these days.

The days are decidedly cooler and nighttime temperatures are dropping to around that 50 F mark tonight.

So, someone oughta get going around here because before I know it, the weatherman is going to start throwing around the dreaded "F" word, frost, and I won't be ready.

Someone oughta pick these peppers and give them away or cut 'em up to freeze for chili in the winter time. Nothing warms you like chili in the winter that's warmed up by your own homegrown jalapeno peppers.

Someone oughta replant this perennial!


Have you ever seen such a poor job of planting? It's not deep enough, not watered enough and not mulched enough. In my defense...

This perennial came in a one gallon plastic pot, but clearly within that pot it was growing primarily in a smaller peat pot. I thought I had planted it deep enough, but that peat pot sticking up is a problem. It will 'wick away' the moisture around the plant, for one thing.

I had almost given this plant up for dead, but that little bit of green means it is still alive. But it will never make it through the winter if I leave it like this. I need to dig it up, replant it just a bit deeper, MULCH it, and then water it well and continue to water it until at least the first frost.

Someone oughta finish off this sunflower seed head.
Then when the birds have done their part, I need to cut it down and chip it up for the compost bin. I always leave my sunflowers for the birds to eat. I like to watch them hanging upside down to pick out the seeds.

Yep, there's a whole lotta oughta going on around here. Guess I oughta get to it.

(Update: Cosmo is right! I oughta link to the very nice interview that Sue of The Balcony Gardener asked me to do. If you think you oughta now more about me, check it out!)

Monday, September 08, 2008

I'm Sleeping Better Now That I've Ordered Bulbs

Please select the most correct answer:

What should you do now that it is after Labor Day?

a) Stop wearing white shoes and carrying a white purse.

b) Finally plant those annual flowers that you purchased in May.

c) Go to the big box store and discover that the garden center is now a gigantic Halloween store with Christmas decor on the shelves.

d) Buy spring flowering bulbs.

If you answered A, what are you doing here looking for fashion advice?

If you answered B, the Society of Procrastinating Gardeners would like to invite you to join their club, just as soon as they get around to organizing themselves and sending out their next batch of invitations.

If you answered C, you've just learned that big box stores don't really have garden centers. That's just an illusion of spring and early summer. They have "seasonal centers" and think that the gardening season is over now that it is past Labor Day. Get thee to a real garden center where real gardeners shop!

If you answered D, you are correct! It is time to buy spring flowering bulbs, before the good ones are all sold out.

I just placed my first order this past weekend for some "minor" bulbs, some species tulips, and a species iris. Shortly after I hit "send" on that order, I thought of more bulbs I want to get, so there will be a second order.

Before you buy your bulbs, check out my suggestions on Examiner.com for some different early spring flowering "minor" bulbs to buy, to get you out of your Crocus rut.

Then you can sleep better, too, knowing you will get the spring flowering bulbs you want, not what is left over at the store after Halloween.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Signs of a Real Gardener

For the first time in quite a while, some real gardening took place here at May Dreams Gardens.

Yes, real gardening, not just watering and wishing for rain, which is what I think I did for most of August. I can't rightly recall much else that I did, other than harvest some tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and green beans.

But now it is September, and I'm back to doing real gardening and being a real gardener again. It's like returning home after a long trip.

Real gardeners like to do more than water. We also like to weed, deadhead flowers, prune, plant, and mulch.

We also love to discover new blooms like this Colchicum, which I found blooming in my garden today. It's a passalong plant!

One day late last summer, a package from none other than Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening showed up in my mailbox. It contained five Colchicum bulbs, which I immediately planted.

Nothing happened last fall, but this spring the foliage came up right on schedule, and now at least one flower has bloomed. Hopefully there will be a few more blooms in the next week or so, in time for me to include them in my September Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post on the 15th.

Real gardeners also enjoy harvesting produce from their vegetable gardens.

My tomato and pepper plants are slowing down a bit, especially after I didn't water them much in August, but there are still some "good pickin's" out there in the garden.

There is something else real gardeners do, but before I tell you about it, I should warn you that there is a picture coming up of some webworms I found in my crabapple tree. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already seen them.

If you don't follow my Twitters or haven't seen the picture, I'm just warning you, it isn't a pretty sight.

You've been warned.


It will be a test to see if you are a real gardener if you can look at this picture without your skin crawling.


I'm going slow here with lots of white space so you can prepare yourself or avert your eyes, your choice.



Are you ready?


There they are.

Real gardeners know what to do when they encounter these beasts out in the garden feasting on their trees and other plants.

In fact, one sign that you are a real gardener is if you can calmly cut this branch off to remove the webworms, study them a bit, while holding the cut off branch in your hand, and then toss them into the trash or put them by the bird feeder for the birds to eat.

And then you also kill a nest of yellow jackets found in the same tree, without getting stung.

Real gardeners area also delighted to find a bird's nest in the same tree.
And of course, a real gardener leaves it alone.

What are other signs of real gardeners?

Over in that mysterious place called Plurk, several of us gardeners were discussing this. In a spirited discussion, as spirited as you can get with each message being only 140 characters long, we discussed...

Real gardeners don't wear fake fingernails. It would be a waste of money! (This one might be a bit controversial, feel free to discuss in the comments.)

Real gardeners have more garden hoes than panty hose! (In fact, real gardeners use old panty hose to tie up tomatoes and other plants in the garden.)

Real gardeners spend more on their plants than they do their clothes. (They may also actually buy clothes just to garden in.)

and...

Real gardeners buy shoes specifically for gardening, and don't just wear their worn out sneakers. (I prefer Jolly's, personally, and Muck shoes.)

Real gardeners think first of gardening tools when someone starts talking about hoes!

So how do you measure up as a real gardener?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Porch Chat: Confessions About My Gardening

It’s a lovely Friday evening here at May Dreams Gardens. Come sit on the bench on my porch for a minute or two, because I’ve got some confessing to do.

All set? Need a cold drink before we start? Here we go...

I confess that I have been just a tiny bit lax on some of my gardening chores this summer.

In particular, I confess I’ve been somewhat lackadaisical about mulching.

So how much mulching did I do? Well, I had three or four bags of hardwood mulch left over from when I quit mulching last fall, so earlier this spring, I dumped that mulch in a few key areas.

After that, I sort of, kind of, actually never had a good WOO (window of opportunity) for mulching. And when it got all dry in August, some of the plants suffered for lack of mulch.

So this fall, it’s time to mulch, mulch, mulch in a big way. Otherwise, some of the perennials will heave themselves out of the ground in protest when we have all that freezing and thawing over this winter. It won’t be a pretty sight.

I confess I also haven’t gotten around to harvesting very many grapes.

So how many grapes have I picked? Well, I picked two or three bunches the other day to take to a co-worker who had a hankering for some good ‘Concord’ grapes. He said he ate them seeds and all.

Not me! When I eat them, I spit the seeds out in a very lady-like fashion, of course, and only outside.

So this weekend, I’ve got to pick some grapes and make some jam. Otherwise, all those grapes will just “go to the birds”. But again, I need a pretty good WOO to get this done.

I confess I didn’t embrace weeding sometimes for weeks on end.

So how weedy did it get? It was embarrassing at times how many weeds I had growing. I think I’ve gotten caught up on most of the weeding, with just a few areas to attend to, like the back yard garden.

So before anyone goes around to the back garden, I need to get serious about weeding and make sure there are none of those great big weeds that like to announce to everyone, “the gardener around here is lazy and left us weeds to grow big like this”.

Instead, if there are just a few tiny weeds in the garden, you would hopefully only here a whisper of, “she’s a good weeder, so us little weeds have to stay tiny and quiet or she’ll find us and pull us”. Yes, that’s what you want your weeds to say.

I think that’s enough confessing for one session. I feel much better about all this now, having brought it out into the open. Now I best get up off the bench and start getting at some of this “gardening” around here and just be thankful that I didn’t have a SOGI, Someone of Garden Importance, come visit me while I was letting things go in the garden.

Oh wait, I just thought of one other confession! I confess I’ve done all the talking in our little porch chat. Forgive me! Do you have anything about your gardening to confess?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Color of Hope

Finally, finally, after a dry August, it rained in Indianapolis today, nearly an inch on my garden.

It feels like it was just in the knick of time. My lawn was an even tan throughout, so tan and dry and dormant that I had started to water it this past weekend. And then I noticed some of the shrubs I planted this spring looked like they had been hit by a blow torch. So I watered them, too.

And as perennial flowers wilted for lack of water, I watered them, too.

I know some gardeners, especially in places like Texas, have suffered through a long summer of drought and record heat. They are probably thinking right now, “What? You’re complaining after just one month of no rain?”

In some ways, I think this dry month after three months of plentiful amounts of rainfall, was harder on the plants. The plants were spoiled through May, June, July. They didn’t have to grow roots too deep to get to water. It was always there! Right there!

The plants got lazy.

That’s why when August came and the rain stopped, the plants went into shock. They wilted. They mourned the lack of water.

But finally today it rained.

And now I’m seeing hints of green in my once tan lawn.

Green is the color of hope, of life, of renewal. It’s almost like a new spring.

Except we know that with shorter days and soon cooler temperatures, it isn’t spring, it’s fall. The green will not last forever. We know that plants are already starting to change, to slow down and stop the growth and renewal of leaves and buds and focus more on root growth, to prepare for winter.

That’s why fall is good for planting. All that root growth makes the trees and shrubs stronger, more able to withstand periods of drought, like this past August.

So as the grass turns green once again, it gives me hope. Now I’m ready to dig and mulch and plant again.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A New "Personal Best" Gigantic Leaf

No, I did not have sense enough to move those hanging vinca vines out of the way when I took a picture of my gigantic Red Banana leaf. Thanks for noticing.

This gigantic leaf is a new "personal best" for me in the "big leaf" category. It's my Red Banana, Ensete maurelii.

Normally, I would have planted elephant ears, Colocasia esculentum, in the pots where I planted these. But on impulse, I snatched up the banana plants instead, not realizing how big the leaves would get, or that it would lead to this personal best.

This particular leaf is about 31 inches from top to bottom.

And it's about 14 inches across.
Yes, that picture is upside down, thanks for noticing, but that's how I had to turn it so the numbers on the yard stick would be right side up.

It was a tough evening with the camera.

This Red Banana isn't a native plant around here (you noticed that, too?) but I still think it counts as my personal best for big leaves.

I've noticed that whenever I write about one of the earliest, latest, tiniest, ugliest, or whatever-est in my garden, people assume I'm competitive about my gardening.

Not so! I just like to keep records of stuff like this.

So, do you want to see one of the tiniest leaves in my garden?

How about this little... wait right there, I need to go look it up...

It's Veronica repens 'Sunshine' and it's in my miniature garden where I've placed all the smallest plants in my garden.

If this isn't the tiniest leaf in my garden, it has to be pretty close to it.

By the way, the red banana leaf also wins the prize for "reddest" leaf in the garden.
Any 'ests' in your garden?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Embrace Hard Work For A Happier Life

Would we be happier as gardeners if someone else did all the digging, planting, weeding, watering, hoeing, and mulching in our gardens?

What would life be like if all we had to do was pick out the plants, tell the nice worker where to plant the plants, and then flit about the garden in the cool evening admiring the lovely garden “we” made.

Now don’t rush to leave a comment and say “Yes, I’d be so much happier if someone else did all the hard work in my garden!”

I wouldn’t believe you, if you are a gardener.

I don’t know of any gardeners who really want someone else to do the work, even though they might occasionally lament after a long day of gardening that it would be nice to have someone else do the actual hard work part of gardening.

Yes, there is some work we are not capable of doing on our own, and for that we find someone stronger and more able-bodied to help us. But most gardeners I know really do like to do as much of the work in their gardens as they are able to do.

Of course there are many wonderful and very fine people who like to have gardens to enjoy, and do have someone do all the work, but they wouldn’t call themselves gardeners. It’s not a bad thing or a serious character flaw, it just means they aren’t gardeners. We should encourage these non-gardening people to have gardens anyway, as more than one gardener has managed to make a good living providing them with the pleasant surroundings of a beautiful garden.

(My sister-who-does-not-garden is one of those non-gardeners. But she managed to keep alive the beautiful Fusion Impatiens pictured above. I planted them up for her this spring and all she had to do was water them. Looks like she kept up her end of the deal and they look great.)

But for the rest of us, the gardeners, we really are happier with our gardens when we do most of the gardening ourselves. We mix our own blood, sweat, and occasional tears with the dirt of the garden, making it truly our own. And at the end of the day, we can walk about the garden in the cool evening, tired, admiring what a lovely garden we have truly made.

We call a lot of the activities of gardening ‘work’ because it is truly hard work. Plain ol’ hard work. The kind of work that leaves you sore, and hot, and tired. But we embrace it, because it makes us happy to do this gardening.

And on this Labor Day holiday, we not only embrace hard work, we also say thank you to all the workers who embrace hard work every day. They help make it possible for us to lead the lives we lead today. To all those workers who build the equipment, grow the plants, pack the supplies, make the tools, sell the plants, and otherwise help us all to embrace gardening in a way that gives us time to enjoy the gardens we create, we say thank you.

Yes, embrace hard work for a happier life!

*****

Other Embraces for a Happier Life

Embrace weeding
Embrace bugs
Embrace your weather
Embrace your soil
Embrace mowing
Embrace botanical names
Embrace never finished
Embrace garden journals