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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winter Gardening: Phase One

Are you wondering how we "northern gardeners" make it through winter without "gardening"?

On her blog Edenmakers™, Shirley Bovshow asked, "Garden Coma: What will you do while your garden sleeps?"

I commented there about the four phases that I go through each year.

And I am pleased to report that phase one is done. I awoke this morning to see a white substance on some of the bare ground, a sure sign that even if phase one isn't done, it is time to move on to phase two anyway.

Do you know what that white substance it is?

No, it is not gypsum sprinkled on the ground to complete a secret end of the season ritual that involves paying homage to the rabbits to appease them so they will keep winter damage in the garden to a minimum.

But that was a good guess.

It's actually a snow and ice mixture, a wintry mix. Brrrr... just that phrase, 'wintry mix', leaves me cold.

So what is involved in phase one of winter gardening? In two words... Putting Away.

We put away or cover anything in the garden that would not survive snow, ice, snow and ice mixture, wintry mix, alternating freezing and thawing, or just plain cold weather. We definitely disconnect hoses and stow them where they won't freeze, and if we are going to keep a bird bath through the winter, we add a heater to keep it from freezing solid.

We also selectively cut back perennial flowers, pull out all the annuals, rake up fall leaves, and clean up the vegetable garden, all with the idea of leaving just enough in the garden for 'winter interest'.

You can see that behind the rabbit pictured above, I've left the some Sedum flowers for 'winter interest'. At least I've left them for now. If we get another nice day, and I feel a need to use my pruners, I might cut them back, too.

This 'winter interest' is in the eye of the beholder, I think. What is interesting to some gardeners in the winter just looks to others like someone didn't get around to cleaning up the garden. To be honest, we have to admit that sometimes 'winter interest' just looks like a bunch of dead branches. But most would agree that it is enhanced by a gentle snowfall.

I don't think anyone would think this is winter interest.

Under two brown tarps, I've stashed pots, benches, a table, five chairs and several 'garden ornaments', including a sundial and bird bath. This is why I think twice about some of the stuff people try to sell to put in the garden. What goes out in the spring, has to be put up in the fall. It can involve a lot of work, all that carrying out and carrying in, and it can take time, time I'd rather spend actually gardening.

I laugh at all the 'outdoor rooms' and impractical garden furniture I see on all those television makeover shows. Who has room to store all that stuff in the winter time? Or the time to completely put it away in the winter and get it out again in the spring? I try to think it through carefully before I buy something to put in the garden that has to be put away in the winter.

But I digress.

Phase one of winter gardening is now complete. Everything is put away. I've mowed the grass one final time, cut back what I plan to cut back, and now there is a bit of snow on the ground.

It's time to move on to phase two of winter gardening... a topic for a future post.


Related posts:

Embrace fall clean up for a happier life

Who's behind in their fall clean up: Five lessons

More fall clean up tips

Friday, November 28, 2008

You Might Be A Gardening Geek: Indoor Plants Edition

You might be an Indoor Plant Gardening Geek if…

You have a room in your house specifically for your plants. Bonus points if you also have a sink in that room to make it easier to water the plants. Double bonus points if there are so many plants in your house no one can tell which room is “just for the plants”.

You know what a “potting tidy” is. Bonus points if you have one and leave it out all the time.

Your most important holiday preparations involve potting up Amaryllis and Narcissus bulbs. Bonus points if you have given these as gifts to others, thinking they might enjoy growing them, too, even if there is no evidence of any plants in their houses.

You think that having indoor plants gives you the perfect excuse to wear your pruning holster with pruners around the house. Bonus points if you are wearing that holster right now.

You have kept at least one indoor plants alive for over twenty years. Bonus points if it is a night blooming cereus. (Oops, sorry, that might apply to just me.) Double bonus points if you think that keeping a plant for over 15 years means you have a long term relationship with it.

You keep a supply of potting soil on hand and have a good supply of empty pots, too, “just in case” you get a new plant. Bonus points if you have more than one bag of potting soil right now.

You keep your seed starting light stands up year around. (Wait, hold on that. That means you are a seed loving gardening geek. More on that in January, the official month for Garden Bloggers Seed Related Posts.)

You understand that indoor plants, beautiful as they can be, are not decorating accents, but require light, water, and nutrients to grow , and you are willing to rearrange everything else to give them the prime spots by all the windows.


If you aren’t an indoor plant gardening geek, you might still be a general all-around gardening geek.

Still not convinced you are one after checking that post? Then check out these posts for more clues:

General all-around gardening geek, part 2

Autumn clues

Halloween clues

Thanksgiving clues

Christmas clues

Valentine’s Day clues

Travel clues

Fourth of July clues

Olympic Games clues

Now who’s a gardening geek? And proud to be one!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful at May Dreams Gardens

There are many who are thankful here at May Dreams Gardens…

These pansies are thankful I remembered to water them. They are still sort of blooming in the front window box.

The rabbits are thankful that I am a poor trapper at best. I’ve also inadvertently created a few places for them to hide out for the winter. I’m sure they’ll find some tender branches to nibble on to let me know they are still around, in spite of our truce from earlier this spring.

The birds are thankful that I finally filled both bird feeders again and put out some suet cakes. I had to repair one of the feeders and remove a paper wasp nest from the other one after neglecting them late in the summer. But I’ve taken care of all of that now, and Chez May Dreams Gardens is open for winter business, serving the finest Black Oil Sunflower Seed to be found, once the birds finish off the cheap stuff I bought for summer time feeding.

The plants in the front are thankful that I found a mulch I liked and covered their roots with a nice, thick layer of it before the winter. The plants in the back will just have to tough it out through another winter, like they did last year. I’ll be thankful and appreciative if they do and promise to not fall behind in my mulching ever again. Really.

The raccoons are thankful, or ought to be, that I never caught them after they destroyed my sweet corn earlier this summer. I haven’t seen any evidence of them for several months, so I’m cautiously hopeful and thankful that they’ve moved on!

I’m thankful for another good year in the garden, with weather that was generally wonderful, except for August when it dried up on me and November 8th, when the temperature suddenly dropped, with no recovery so far back to “normal” temperatures.

I’m thankful for a good harvest, for the most part.

I’m also thankful for the opportunity this past spring to meet several of my favorite garden bloggers in person in Austin, and for the many people who come by my blog and leave nice, affirming comments.

And I’m always thankful for good health, a loving family, good friends, a great job, and the general good fortune that comes from being a gardener.

God Bless, and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Long Term Relationships with Indoor Plants

Some gardeners freely admit that they don’t grow indoor plants. They might occasionally buy a blooming indoor plant and take it home to enjoy for a few days, but once the bloom is gone, they toss the plant out. It’s a brief relationship at best.

But for some of us, growing indoor plants is a long term relationship. We have plants indoors that have been growing with us for 10 years, 20 years or longer!

Here are five indoor plants that I’ve had for at least 15 years.

Aloe vera. One year at a family reunion, an aunt brought starts of an Aloe plant that had belonged to my grandmother. “Would any one like one?” was all I heard, and I took one home.

It soon became several pots of Aloe, so I’ve shared starts with siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, anyone who wanted one. Right now, I’m down to one pot of this Aloe plant as it recovers from a nasty mealybug infestation. But soon enough, I’ll have more to share.

Clivia miniata. I talked my mom into getting this plant for me one year for Christmas, about 20 years ago. She ordered it by mail and kept it alive for me until Christmas day. (She's secretly proud of that, not being a gardener.)

I now have two divisions from that original plant, growing in the “quarantine room”, also known as the den, as they, too, recover from the mealybugs that invaded my indoor garden.

Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera sp. Who knows when I got this particular plant? I would guess it has been growing and blooming in my house for at least 15 years.

It’s getting a bit “thick stemmed”, so I took some cuttings from it a few weeks ago. If the mother plant dies, I’ll still have its white blooms to enjoy for many seasons to come.

Cactus. A friend gave me a start of this cactus with no name about 15 years ago. It’s almost a permanent fixture in the sunroom, growing through and around the wire shelf it sits on.

It’s not a plant I want to pick up and move around anyway, with those menacing pricklies. Occasionally a branch will drop off, and I’ll carefully stick it in some potting soil and give it away once it has rooted.

The Night Blooming Cereus. Need I say more about this one? This is Epiphyllum oxypetalum. I inherited it in 1987 when my Dad passed away. It was much smaller then, but I’ve let it grow and encouraged it along, and eventually repotted it in a larger container.

Now it “owns” the corner of the sunroom where it sits, too large to move outdoors in the summer where it might actually be happier and produce more blooms. I usually get one bloom a year, sometimes two, and that’s enough excitement for me. I’ve also got my aunt’s night bloomer and four starts of new plants as back up in case something should happen to this one.

There are a few other plants that I’m also having or starting long term relationships with. Some were acquired in the last year or so, others came into my life many years ago. They include:

Devil's Ivy, Pothos sp., 20 plus years
Star Flower, Stapelia sp., from Annie in Austin, first year
Swedish Ivy, Plectranthus australis, 3 plus years
Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera sp., orange and pink flowering, 1+ and ten years,
Purple Heart, Tradescantia pallida 'Purpurea', also from Annie in Austin, first year
Jewel Orchid, Ludisia discolor, 5 plus years.

What makes these good plants for a long term relationship?

Most are easy to care for, asking for very little other than some light, water, and a little bit of fertilizer now and then. They are also easy to propagate. If the original plant starts to decline, it’s easy to start new plants from divisions or cuttings. This also makes them easy to share!

Do you have any long term relationships with indoor plants?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time for Indoor Bulbs!

Already it is the week of Thanksgiving which means it is time for turkey, dressing, cranberry salad and...

Indoor Bulbs!

Thanksgiving week is when I traditionally pot up Amaryllis and Narcissus (paperwhites) bulbs for holiday blooming.

I'll admit that for the most part, I've treated these indoor bulbs as "disposable". I usually bought cheap bulbs at the store, planted them up, watched them bloom and then half-heartedly watered them until mid-summer when I finally tossed them out.

Now, before everyone gets all "What, you toss out perfectly good growing plants" on me, please remember that for several years, yes, years, I have been battling an awful, horrible mealybug infestation in my house. By spring, the amaryllis in particular always ended up with mealybugs stuck down in between the leaves, and it was nearly impossible to get rid of them without tossing out the plant. (It’s still a little bit embarrassing to write about it.)

But this year is going to be different! I believe I've finally gotten rid of the mealybugs. I think I’ll actually be able to keep the Amaryllis bulbs for more than one year.

That made it easy to succumb to the "gentle pressure" applied by Elizabeth of Gardening While Intoxicated to get some better bulbs for my indoor garden. She had been posting about bulbs and plurking about bulbs with messages like "Brent & Becky's Bulbs still have Narcissus - Grand Soleil d'Or, Carol”.

(Okay, she might not have posted/plurked my actual name, but I always felt as though she was talking directly to me. Sometimes on Plurk, she actually was.)

So I finally checked, and by golly, they did still have those Narcissus. And while looking around on their site, I found a couple of Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) I thought were pretty, '(Blossom Peacock' and 'Green Goddess’), and some Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis that looked nice, so I ordered them, too.

Click, click, click, it is so easy to order online!

Less than a week later, I had my bulbs. Thanks, Elizabeth!

Then I realized I really need THREE Amaryllis bulbs because I have three matching pots for Amaryllis and besides, everyone knows you should buy plants in odd numbers. So for that third Amaryllis, I thought I'd be real smart and frugal and just get another bulb at the big box store.

Can you guess which one of the bulbs above is from the big box store?

Correct, it is the one on the right. It's smaller, scarred, smaller. In a word, “disappointing”, at least compared to the other two bulbs. But I’ve got it, so I’ll plant it, and we’ll see how it grows and blooms compared to the other two… and find out if bigger is really better in the bulb world.

Is anyone else potting up Amaryllis or Narcissus this week?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Waiting and Garden Blogging

This morning while I sit and wait for the frost to burn off, I thought I'd answer a few questions about...

Garden blogging!

I'm waiting for the frost to burn off so I can mow the lawn one last time this season. Winter seems to have come on quite suddenly here in the midwest and points north, and so I've not been able to finish my fall clean up in the garden. But today promises temperatures in the mid 40's. That's perfect, or as perfect as we can expect, for garden clean up this year.

But back to garden blogging...

Jan from Thanks For 2 Day recently left a comment about what to do to respond to comments on your blog and how do you remember to go back to a blog to see if the blogger responded to your comment, anyway.

There are several options for comments and commenting, and no one best way.

You can read and enjoy comments left on your blog and do nothing more. Or you can read and enjoy them and then visit the blog of the person who left them and leave a comment on their blog. Everyone loves comments!

Or you can comment back on the same post with a response. If you regularly do this, then people might figure it out and get in the habit of going back and looking for the response. Might.

If it is a Blogger blog, you can subsribe to follow up comments and get an email for new comments, even if it isn't your blog. Then you would find out through an email if the blogger left you a response. But this can result in a lot of email if it is a post that is generating a lot of comments.

I used to try to answer individual comments in response to comments, but lately, I'm doing good to leave a comment at some point to address all the comments collectively. Now I'm leaning more toward visiting the blogs of those who comment to see what they've got going on and commenting there.

The other option, if you know the person who left the comment, is to email them back, which I've also done.

Now, there, doesn't that help clarify options on comments? What's your preference?

Speaking of comments, I got a comment from Kim/Blackswamp Girl at A Study In Contrast suggesting that I try Mister Linky for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Great idea! I've thought about doing it before but just needed that little push. Thanks, Kim.

But let's try it before the big day! I've installed a Mister Linky below so you can enter your name and blog url, and it will include you in a nice link list to whatever you have on your blog right now.

Let me know via comments how you like it.

Speaking of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I would like to thank everyone who posted about their blooms for November. There were a little over 90 bloggers who participated, that I know of, and for the first time, I wasn't able to visit all of them. I am hoping the link list will make it easier for me to do so in December.

Speaking of December Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated suggested that we encourage those who live in the temperate zones to also show all the plants they have growing inside in December. Great idea! So, if you have foliage plants, plants you are trying to overwinter indoors, or plants you bought just to have something blooming, we'd love to see them on December 15th!

So here's the Mister Linky to try...

(Per Annie in Austin, if you don't see it and you are using Firefox, the browser may be blocking it... If you allow via the options, the form should appear.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

When a Gardener Reads the Newspaper

When a gardener reads the newspaper early in the morning and sees a sub-heading about ‘Top Mercury-Emitting Plants’…

She thinks…

There are plants that emit mercury!? Are any of these growing in my garden? How is this possible? I don’t remember this from when I studied horticulture in college.

Then she quickly realizes that they are talking about another kind of plants… power plants.
Oops, never mind…

On Saturdays, she likes to read the gardening column written by the local garden writer. If she misses it in the newspaper, she reads it later online.

Sometimes, when she reads something in the newspaper about gardening that she doesn't agree with, she takes umbrage!

She also laments that newspapers don’t provide very much space for columns and articles about gardening anymore. To console herself, she reaches for one of her books by Henry Mitchell or Elizabeth Lawrence and reads their collections of newspaper columns from “back in the day".

And then she’s even more thankful for gardening blogs, because without them, how would she know what gardeners are thinking about these days and what’s new in gardening?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Little Orange Watering Can

My little orange watering can doesn’t look like much of a watering can at first glance.

It’s small and rusty on the inside, with a few dents on the outside. But that’s okay because I don’t use it for watering plants.

I use it for remembering.

Like rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to make a wish, I can hold my little orange watering can and be magically transported back to another time and place, to my grandmother’s house in the late 1960’s.

It has this magical affect because this little orange watering can was once Grandma's watering can and around the time she passed away in 1972, someone gave it to me. Or maybe I saw it when my Mom and my aunt were cleaning out all the stuff Grandma had accumulated after living for 50 years in the same house, and I asked if I could have it.

Either way, given or taken, it came to be my little orange watering can.

My little orange watering can reminds me of African violets, because my Grandma had African violets, lined up in her dining room window. She probably never bought any of them, but instead rooted them from leaf cuttings she got from friends and relatives.

I used to have some African violets, too, but sadly, after years of battling a mealybug infestation, I finally had to take the drastic step of throwing them all out earlier this fall. I wouldn’t wish a mealybug infestation on my worst enemy!

Now that I think I’ve gotten rid of those little cottony beasts, I want to get some more African violets this winter, but not too many. But instead of buying them, I want to start my new African violets the old-fashioned way, from leaf cuttings, like my Grandma would have done. And maybe I’ll water them once or twice with my little orange watering can.

In addition to helping me remember to always have a few African violets, my little orange watering can also helps me remember the flowers and trees in my Grandma’s back yard. I remember the long ‘cigar like’ seed pods of the catalpa tree and wanting to always take some home with us. I remember overhearing Grandma talk about possibly getting into trouble because of the big ‘stink tree’ growing back by the alley, since it was supposedly illegal to knowingly grow them in the city.

I remember going to visit her on Sundays in the spring and picking bouquets of Lily of the Valley and wild violets, which she put in little vases on her dining room buffet. She had other flowers, too, like spiderworts, mums, and money plants, that were easily shared as passalong plants.

And I remember there was a large snowball bush in her back yard that was always white with large balls of blooms in the spring and some old fashioned spirea that bloomed by the front porch and a place in the back where there had once been a small fish pond…

Now do you see why I keep my little orange watering can?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Porch Chat: We Are A Lot Like Watering Cans

It’s a bit too cold to sit on the porch these days, so come on in and let’s talk about what we’ve learned about watering cans so far this week.

We now know that many gardeners have more then one watering can, and some gardeners actually collect them, as if they were hoes! You should take a quick virtual trip to Wisconsin to see Linda from Each Little World’s accounting of her watering cans then come right back!

We also now know the names of the various parts of watering cans, and when these vessels were first called ‘watering cans’ (1692, in case you've already forgotten).

Is there any more we can learn about watering cans?

Of course there is.

We can learn that there are several similarities between watering cans and gardeners!

Here are five things we have in common with watering can…

Watering cans come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, but all basically work the same way. Gardeners also come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, but all basically love working the soil, tending plants, and improving whatever little or big plot of land they garden on.

Watering cans, at least metal ones, will rust if old stagnant water is left in them.
Gardeners, too, grow rusty if they dwell on old, stagnant ideas.

Watering cans work best with a nice rose on the end of the spout to deliver the water in gentle drops.
Gardeners, too, can best share what they know with others if they do it gently, giving out advice in small doses.

Watering cans are often more cherished when they are old and have a certain aged patina to them.
Gardeners, too, are often (or should be) more respected after they’ve gardened for a few (or many) years.

Watering cans need to be refilled with water when they run dry.
Gardeners, too, need to be refilled when they run dry of ideas by reading good gardening books and magazines, sharing ideas with other gardeners and reading good gardening blogs.

And that's how we as gardeners are a lot like watering cans. With this knowledge, can our lives ever be the same again?

"It's but little good you'll do, a watering the last year's crop.” - George Elliot

Monday, November 17, 2008

Watering Can Roses and Other Parts

According to William Bryant Logan in "The Tool Book",

"The watering can looks like an ancient tool, but the first mention of it in the Oxford English Dictionary dates only from 1692. More than a decade later, a garden writer was still compelled to explain just what the tool was: "It imitates the rain falling from the Heavens," he noted. "When being bended down it spouts forth water thro' a thousand holes, in a sort of Head that's made to it.""

Can you imagine having to be told how to use a watering can? Now over 300 years later, I think most of us gardeners "get it" when it comes to watering cans and based on the ongoing watering can census, we aren't shy about owning more than one.

We also know that the "Head that's made to it" is actually called a "rose".

What are the other parts of a watering can called?

I could not find a reference to name the various parts of a watering can, so I decided to provide a diagram with all the parts labeled.

Spout, spout brace, carrying handle, pouring handle, cover, vessel... yawn, that all seems pretty obvious and boring. And those part names don't really seem to go with the idea of a 'rose', the true business end of a watering can.

So finding no other references to explain watering cans any differently, I've decided to take some liberties, and name the parts of a watering can so they'll match "rose".Now we have:

Xylem, instead of spout for the part the water flows through.

Root instead of brace, because a root really braces a plant in the ground.

Tendril instead of carrying handle and limb instead of pouring handle.

Canopy instead of cover.


Melon instead of vessel.

What do you think? Do you think these watering can part names have staying power, or should we just stick with "rose" and leave the other parts unnamed?

Or do you perhaps wonder if this is going to be a long winter, if my idle time is going to be used to come up with posts like this one, where I'm suggesting we rename everything? (Well, not everything, just the parts of a watering can... so far.)

And where did the name "rose" come from anyway?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"The Society" Considers Watering Cans

Dear Esteemed and Potential Members of the Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”),

It has occurred to me, your President, that it is high time a census of the gardening world was conducted to find out just how many watering cans some gardeners have.

I recently took a tour around my garden, sunroom, garage, great room, kitchen, etc. and determined that I have approximately four watering cans that I actually use for watering, and approximately… well I’m not sure how many others there are, that sit around, perhaps hoping to be used one day. That’s why a census is needed.

Which reminds me that I need to fill those watering cans I do use and water the plants that are now indoors and those that are still on the porch. There is always something to do in the garden, isn’t there?


As I reflected on the watering can, one of the greatest gardening inventions of all time (the hoe being the greatest), and all the various forms and sizes there are, I also began to see that there are images of watering cans all around me, on pictures, pillows, and even a pair of socks.

Therefore I, as President, decree that this special census be undertaken so as to ascertain how many watering cans other members of the Society have, if for no other reason than to confirm that I am not alone in having more than one watering can around the garden and house and desiring to have a few more, ‘just in case’.

Unfortunately, the Society has no funds to appropriate to hire actual watering can census takers, so each member is asked to honestly and without delay complete their own census and report in on their numbers to me, your self-proclaimed President. This reporting can be by whatever means is most convenient for the members, including email, comment, or your own blog post.

I shall complete my own census in the next day or so, wanting to take a little extra time to ensure as accurate a count as possible.

Yours truly,
President of the Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”)
Head Gardener at May Dreams Gardens

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2008

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for November 2008.

Here in my zone 5 garden, it is definitely almost winter, but a few foxgloves, Digitalis purpurea, haven't gotten the message and are hanging on. Shhh... let's not tell them, or any garden fairies sleeping nearby, that this growing season is over.

I haven't quite faced the end of the season, either, as shown by these container plants that I've left until the bitter end.

That bitter end will probably come tomorrow for these flowers, or maybe next week. Or definitely the day after Thanksgiving when I start to put up Christmas decorations. Maybe.

I'm definitely leaving this bird's nest alone. I'm pretty sure it's a robin's nest and it won't be used again, but I like seeing it there, so there it will stay.

I'm always happy when I find birds' nests in the trees after the leaves fall off. It makes me feel like I'm doing something right in my garden, if the birds choose my trees and big shrubs to build their nests in.

Oh, were we supposed to talk about our blooms on bloom day? Sorry about that. Gads, sometimes I get distracted.

Along with the foxglove, there are lots of sedum blooms in the garden.Most are pretty dry now and have turned to various shades of brown and deep purple. I'll leave these for winter interest. They look good with snow on them.

Other remnants of bloom in the garden include Hydrangeas, mums, Hydrangeas, coneflower seed heads, Aster seeds heads and a few old roses on my one small carpet rose.

I should really trim back the asters or I'll be 'busting my aster' pulling out aster seedlings in the spring. I'll do that maybe tomorrow or next week, or definitely by the day after Thankskgiving.

For some reason, late in the year, once it gets cold and dreary out, it seems like a lot of 'procrastination' blooms in my garden. How about in yours? Do you need help identifying it? If so, let me know sometime and maybe I'll help determine if it is growing in your garden. It's hard to get good a picture of 'procrastination', but I know it blooms in my late season garden.

One other plant that is growing in my garden that is worth a mention are the Lenten Roses, Helleborus sp.

While much of the garden is turning tan or brown as it goes dormant, Helleborus will stay dark green all through the winter.When everything else looks dull and lifeless, this spot of green will remind me that spring is "just" around the corner.

What's blooming in your garden in mid-November for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day? We would love to have you post on your blog about your blooms today and then leave a comment here, so we can find you and come for a 'virtual garden visit'.


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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Five Hoe Questions Answered

It's hard to believe, but yes, really, there are aspects of my hoe collection that you might not know about it, that I now feel compelled to reveal.

(If you are new around here and are scratching your head wondering about this "hoe collection", well, check it out now, and then come back for the rest of the post.)

Here are five more questions about the hoe collection, answered as honestly as I can answer them.

What do you do with all the hoes in the winter time?

Winter is a time of rest here in my zone 5 garden, so the hoes just hang around in the garage, mostly, waiting for spring and their chance to get out and go to work again.

Are there some hoes that you don’t really use?

Oh, yes. A couple of my hoes are pretty worthless in my garden and so I don’t use them. But I don’t talk much about that, as I don’t want one hoe to seem like it is better than the others, though I think it’s obvious I have a few favorites.

How often do you hoe in the summertime?

A gardener never tells all! And the weeds know if they talk, they’ll meet the business end of a hoe pretty quickly. Let’s just say that I hoe when I need to.

Will there be another Garden Bloggers’ Hoe Down next spring?

I think that the hoe down was a once in a blogging lifetime event, so we probably won’t do it again. But stay tuned, as there may be another special spring-time blog posting party. Think “lawn mowers”.

Do you still hope to get some more hoes?

Yes. I never thought I’d end up with as many hoes as I have, but there will always be room for one more. If you ever see a new hoe for sale that you don’t think is a part of my hoe collection, let me know so I can check it out. I’m always interested in the latest and greatest in hoes!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy Do Nothing in the Garden Day

I declare November 12th to be Do Nothing in the Garden Day.

Because I still have a lot of garden clean up to do, I've been feeling pressure to get out there in whatever daylight is left when I get home from work, no matter how bad the weather is, and do something, anything, to prepare for winter.

(And did I whine about mention that it has been cold and dreary this last week?)

Well, enough of that. There is enough pressure in life to do this or that or something else without adding to it yourself.

So I give myself, and you, permission to do nothing in the garden on this special day I've designated.

I send gardeners everywhere greetings on this Do Nothing in the Garden Day.

Happy Do Nothing in the Garden Day!

I hope you enjoy it and I can't wait to hear what "nothing" others did.

Then after I enjoy this special day, I'm going to need some "Get a Lot Done in the Garden" days, plus a day to take pictures of whatever blooms are brave enough to hang on for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on the 15th.

But I'll think about that later. I don't want to spoil my Do Nothing in the Garden Day with thoughts of how much I still need to do in the garden before winter really arrives.

Happy Do Nothing in the Garden Day!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Foolish Flower!

Foolish flower! It’s November! It shouldn’t be blooming now.

I bet I know what happened. Last weekend and early last week, it was darn right warm for November, with high temperatures in the lower 70’s some days. So a few flowers bloomed, like this lilac, probably just checking it out to see if it was safe to do so.

It wasn’t! November has “corrected” itself, and returned to its normal temperatures. And the normal temperatures are cold, with low temps in the lower 30’s and highs in the lower 50’s.

November really is the “gateway to winter” here in Indianapolis.

It is in November that our percentage of sunshine drops to 41%, whereas in October it was 65%. Not until March will we have at least a 50% chance of sunshine each day.

It is in November that we are likely to get our first measurable snowfall of the year.

It is in November that we gardeners realize that the gardening season is over, at least outdoors. (Or it should be over, but some of us haven’t quite finished the cleaning up and putting away that must be done in the fall, so we will be doing that in the cold).

But don’t despair for us northern gardeners, we find ways to keep gardening alive in the winter.

We get Amaryllis bulbs and grow them for holiday bloom.

We force bulbs like Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) and Hyacinths to bloom indoors. I like for these to bloom after the holidays.

We read and re-read seed catalogs and make all kinds of lists of seeds we want to get for spring.

We watch over our houseplants and hope one or two will bloom, giving us something to post for bloom day on the 15th of each month.

We open up bags of potting soil and breath deeply of the earthy odor and then stick our hands in it and feel the texture of the dirt.

We buy candles scented like cut grass and burn those on cold winter nights.

We read gardening books and magazines and dream of warm days. We try to remember what warm days are like. Brrrrr...

We read the blogs of southern gardeners who are still planting and working outside in their gardens and leave little comments like "Oh, I wish I could be outside gardening right now". (But we are really programmed to have this rest period, so just ignore those comments. We don't mean it. We are enjoying our rest, at least from now until after the New Year. Then we start to go a little stir crazy.)

See, there is a lot of ‘gardening’ we can still do in the winter! So don’t despair for us. This happens every year, we’ll be okay.

Really…Who really wants to be outside on days like this?

(By the way, I made up two of the above things we northern gardeners do in the winter, can you guess which two?)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Embrace Sitting In Your Garden For A Happier Life

Why do you garden, if not to create a garden?

I know for many of us, the gardening activities are enjoyable, regardless of the results, although we all want the results to be a nice garden.

We like to plant, to prune, to mow, to haul wheelbarrows of compost about the garden. We don’t mind getting a bit dirty, sweating, feeling physically tired after a good day of gardening. We even put up with the occasional stings, scrapes, and cuts that every gardener inevitably ends up with after a few hours, or a few minutes, in the garden.

But we are missing out if we don’t sit in our gardens and just enjoy them as we would someone else’s garden, without thinking about what we should be doing to make it a better garden.

Yes, here it comes…

Embrace sitting in your garden for a happier life.

But how do we get over the idea that we should be “doing” all the time, and embrace the idea of sitting and relaxing in our gardens. Well, we talk to other gardeners and find out how they do it.

Or read the comments on the Theory of Garden Seating for some ideas, including these five ideas to encourage sitting in your own garden.

Don’t plop the bench or seat right out in the open.

From Annie in Austin: “…benches are more likely to be used when they have something behind the back to give a sense of security - a building, a wall, a hedge or fence.”

Make sure the seating is comfortable to sit in.

From Lori: “…extra-comfy seating would keep me from leaping up and puttering, like, say, a hammock under a sturdy vine-covered pergola.”

Take something to do with you when you are out there sitting in your garden.

From Lisa at Greenbow: “...take your journal with you. I can actually sit there if I have my journal. That way I can make lists which makes me sit longer before I tackle the list”

Put the seating in the garden where there is other activity going on.

From MA: “One of my favorite seats is under a tree, in the middle of a garden, so you can watch all the birds and butterflies and bees being, all up close and personal. When done right, its magic!”

Put the seating where there is something to focus on besides the entire garden.

From MSS at Zanthan Gardens: “I can stare at the goldfish for hours. We have moved seats next to the pond and can actually sit there and read a book glancing up from time to time at the fish. As long as I don't extend my gaze to the larger garden, I have at last found a place of peace.”

Embrace sitting in your garden for a happier life.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Theory of Garden Seating

We read and hear all the time about how important it is to have a place to sit in the garden.

So we dutifully go out and get some outdoor chairs and benches for the garden.

We read further that the seating should be placed where someone is likely to want to sit and rest a bit, preferably in the shade and where there is a good view of the garden.

So we scurry about the garden going from corner to corner, from one end to the other, looking around at each place where there might be room for a bench or a few chairs, trying to decide “is this a good place to sit?”

Finally, we choose places that seem like good rest spots, set up our benches and chairs, and sit in them for a minute to make sure they really do offer good views of the garden.

Then we get up and proceed about the business of weeding, pruning, watering, etc., never to return and actually sit in those places again.

May I have a show of hands if this seems to remind you of anyone you know? Is this what you do in your garden?

My personal theory, based on years of observing my own behavior, is that most gardeners spend very little time actually sitting in their own gardens.

Or, if they do sit in their gardens, it is far from a relaxing experience. After all, if they are sitting where they have a good view of the garden, they are also sitting where they will notice all the weeding, pruning, and watering that needs to be done.

So after a jittery few minutes of sitting and looking at the garden, the urge becomes too overwhelming, and the gardener has to get up and pull that weed, prune back that errant branch or get some water for that plant that looks like it will surely die in the next five minutes if it doesn’t get some water!

Am I right? How much time do you spend sitting in your garden?

(Do you know when a gardener can relax in a garden?
When it isn’t their garden, of course. )

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

In The Fall, Red Rules in My Garden

Do you plan for fall color in your garden?

I have so much red in my garden right now, that I'm going to claim I planned it that way! Who would know otherwise?

Forget that I don't really like red flowers. In the fall, red rules in my garden.

This first red shrub is Viburnum carlesii, the Korean Spice Viburnum. I actually got it because of the fragrant spring blooms, without thought to the fall color, so this is a happy red surprise!

In the backyard, the Red Maple, Acer rubrum, is a perfect red right now.

I've already noted that I don't know if this is 'October Glory' or 'Autumn Blaze'. But if I were a betting gardener, I would go with 'Autumn Blaze' because this is far redder than the Red Maple in front. (This would also mean that I did NOT do something ridiculous like plant them in alphabetical order from front to back to remember which was which.)

Here's a close up of the foliage of that maple.
That's red.

Another red shrub in my garden is the native Sweetspire, Itea virgiania 'Henry's Garnet'. Like the Korean Spice Viburnum, the Sweetspire also has good spring blooms.

Over at the neighbor's house, this flowering dogwood, Cornus sp., complements the red in my garden.
I always think of the writer Henry Mitchell when I stop to admire this small tree in the fall. There's no time in the fall, as he noted, to be 'lolling' around admiring the dogwoods turning red. There is way too much work to be done in the garden for that!

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, there are some Burning Bush shrubs, Euonymus alatus 'Compacta'.Thanks to search engines, the post I wrote called 'The Truth About Burning Bush' is the most read post on my blog.

Even my wheelbarrow, standing ready to assist in fall clean up, is red.
Me and my wheelbarrow go back a few years, 20 years to be precise. It sure has hauled a lot without complaining. Other than needing a new tire a few years back, it hasn't asked for much in return other than a dry place to rest in the winter and an occasionally hosing out.

What color dominates in your garden today?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Embrace Garden Blogging for a Happier Life

This is the 1,000th post on my blog.

Who could have imagined where this walk down the garden blogging path would take me, and take many of us garden bloggers?

I started this blog “officially” on September 26, 2004. In my first blog post, I wrote about wanting to mow the lawn and about deciding what to put in my empty terrarium. I am still writing about mowing the lawn and my terrarium is still empty, showing that maybe not much has changed since that first post.

Well, some things have changed. I did start slowly with the blog. In fact, sometime before that first post, I actually started another blog but ended up deleting it. I guess I didn’t like it. It was like a plant you just have to have in your garden, but once you plant it, you decide you don’t like it after all, so you rip it out and toss it aside.

And at first I wasn’t very consistent in posting on my blog. Through 2004 and 2005, I posted a grand total of nine times. But something must have happened in January 2006, because from that point forward, I started posting more frequently and now here I am writing this 1,000th post.

In between post one and post 1,000, a lot has happened on my blog and in real life. I don’t know what I thought would happen once I started my blog, but I can tell you I was and am still surprised by all the good things that have come from garden blogging.

That’s why today, on the occasion of this 1,000th post, I encourage all gardeners to embrace garden blogging for a happier life. Why?

You’ll connect with other gardeners who are as passionate and enthralled with gardening as you are.

You’ll get answers to some of life’s greatest gardening questions from other garden bloggers.

You’ll be encouraged by others in your gardening endeavors, be they a few plants in a humble container or a massive estate garden covering acres of land.

You’ll feel less self-conscious about being a gardening geek or just a tiny bit eccentric with your gardening, when you find out through garden blogs that others are the same way, or nearly so.

You’ll have a more enriching gardening experience because of new friendships with other gardeners, friendships that transcend geography and cyperspace.

You’ll increase your overall understanding of the plant world as you see what blooms from month to month in different parts of the world.

You’ll be able to put your own challenges of location, climate, and soil into perspective as you read about the challenges that other gardeners face where they garden.

You’ll discover that there really are garden fairies and some very nice gardeners out there, too.

I would like to thank all the garden bloggers and others who have stopped by here at May Dreams Gardens, leaving comments and emails along the way that were always encouraging, helpful and supportive through all the seasons of this blog.

May all your flowers bloom when you need them most and may your own garden sustain you for years to come!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

It's Still a Beautiful World

Days like today, with clear blue skies and warm temperatures, make us forget that winter is closer than spring.

We get in an awful big hurry late in the fall, trying to clean everything up and stow it away before the snow flies.

But we shouldn't get in too big of a hurry. There's still time. Or at least I hope there is still time, as I'm taking some time to just sit and relax even though I'm not done with fall clean up!

You can see, though, that I have cleaned off most of the front porch. It looks a little bare, and the two containers of still blooming flowers don't match. But that's alright with me. I'm not big into "matchy-matchy" flowers.

Later on, I'm going to head over to the blog Sweet Home and Garden Chicago to find out who has posted for the November Garden Bloggers' Muse Day and read some poetry tonight.

Won't you join me, starting with this classic?


-- written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s --
A poet and lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.