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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!


My wishes for you...
May 2009 be your best year yet, both in and out of the garden.
May you find time for all the gardening you've ever wanted to do.
May you have blooms not only for bloom day, but every day throughout the year.
And may you make peace with whatever rabbits dwell in your garden.
Let's all make 2009 the Year of the Garden!
Embrace the new year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Advice and Lessons from 2008

Like many others, I find myself reflecting back on 2008 during these last few days of December.

I had a lot of fun in 2008, much of it already recounted in my annual Christmas letter posted a few days ago.

I learned a lot, too.

My lessons started out in January, with some advice on gardening from the garden fairies here in my garden. I wonder if they will have more advice in 2009? I expect they will, and fairly soon, as they don’t have much else to do in January but give out advice.

Back in February, I recounted the lessons I learned from my Dad about growing tomatoes. I will always a be a ‘staker’ when it comes to tomatoes, but in 2009, I plan to see how the other half does it, by planting one bush variety of tomatoes and caging them.

In April, I left my garden, got on a plane, flew to Austin, Texas, and after three action-packed days spent with wonderful gardeners in and around beautiful gardens, I brought back a notebook full of new ideas for my own garden. I hope to bring back just as many ideas when I meet up with other garden bloggers in Chicago in 2009.

Then in May, I learned the gardening lessons from the hoes. I don’t care what anyone else says about hoes, these basic gardening tools really get to the root of the matter, when it comes to gardening and life. I plan to do a lot of hoeing in 2009.

In June, I learned the lessons of the peas. I can apply these to most anything I plant and be successful. And to think I just share them with everyone for free! I think applying these lessons to my planting in 2009 will make it my best garden ever, or at least that’s my plan!

All I learned about life, I learned from the weeds in July. Well, it’s not all I learned about life, but these are good lessons to apply in 2009.

I’m looking forward to the New Year, and I hope you are, too.

For all of us, may 2009 be our best year yet in the garden and may the lessons be easy to learn, but teach us a lot.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A New Old Hoe

Oh, the gifts we gardeners get for Christmas and birthdays!

We love pruners and pots and plants. Gardening books and calendars. And tools!

And they don’t even have to be new tools. They can be old, like this hoe.
It’s an old Asian hoe that my brother got me for Christmas.

As hoes go, it’s fairly heavy and has an interesting bend to it. You can tell by the way the blade is worn that it was used and sharpened quite a bit by someone, somewhere, for some time.

I can just imagine that perhaps it was used on a terraced slope in some far off place called Asia. Or maybe it was used in the rice fields of China?

Through this hoe, and others like it, we can connect with other gardeners from other times and imagine gardening in other places, even other centuries.

That’s what I like best about old gardening tools like this. They remind us that gardening has been going on since the beginning of time, and though we have many new fangled tools to use in our gardens, the basic tools like hoes, shovels, rakes and trowels have remained mostly unchanged over the centuries.

They are timeless, just like gardening.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Winter Walk Around the Garden

Come along with me for a walk around May Dreams Gardens, where the temperatures are above freezing today.

Over by the side of the house, there's a hole in the grass. Where does it lead? How deep is it? Who dug it?

Voles? Perhaps. I've had voles before and know how destructive they can be. I should explore this further, maybe tomorrow.

Nearby, tucked in an out of the way spot, the prickly pear cactus, Opuntia sp., displays the muted colors of Christmas.

These cactus will look worse before spring, but are quite hardy in my Zone 5 garden.

As I walk back toward the vegetable garden birds scatter from the feeders and fly up to the highest tree branches.I don't think they like having their morning brunch interrupted.

I did get a book on birds of Indiana for Christmas, so now I have no excuse for not figuring out what kinds of birds are coming to my garden. I'll have to look at this bird picture more closely to see what these birds are.

I don't need a book to identify this squirrel that has taken up residence near the vegetable garden.
Now I know where all those walnut tree seedlings that I found last spring in the garden came from! Go away, Mr. Squirrel, nothing to see or eat here!

It's too wet and cold to do much in the garden, other than walk around, but I did want to find a good place to mount all the components of my new weather station.I've put it together inside, and everything appears to be in good working order. It shows that the temperature is a balmy 70 degrees inside the house, with 39% humdity and no wind.

That's all very nice for this first amaryllis blooming the day after Christmas.
This is the lovely 'Green Goddess' purchased from Brent and Becky's Bulbs. It has two bloom stalks so I should have these blooms to enjoy for quite awhile.

Thanks for coming along on my walk. I hope you had a good holiday and can find some time to walk around your garden today. If you do, take us along with you!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from May Dreams Gardens


Merry Christmas!
Wishing everyone the best this season has to offer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Decking the Halls

It’s Christmas time and our thoughts turn to gardening.

Will the amaryllis and paperwhites be in bloom on Christmas Day?

Will that poinsettia keep all its leaves just a few more days, the one we bought even after we swore we weren’t going to buy one this year?

Will there be a few gardening gifts under the tree on Christmas morning, like maybe a compost thermometer?

It’s curious how so many people who don’t have house plants or garden much at all during the rest of the year end up with so many plants inside at Christmas time.

They deck the halls with boughs of holly, gather around their Christmas trees, and decorate the mantles with holiday greenery. They buy poinsettias and Norfolk Island Pines and maybe even grow an amaryllis or a few paperwhites, or at least try to grow them if someone gives them one as a gift.

Several years ago I bought a copy of Decking the Halls: The Folklore and Traditions of Christmas Plants by Linda Allen. Each year around the holidays, when I unpack all the holiday decorations, I find this book neatly packed away with a few other Christmas books.

I usually end up reading through it during the season to remind myself of all the traditions behind these plants that are so intertwined with our holiday celebrations. One year, I even put it in my purse and took it to Christmas eve services to read before the service began. (In my defense, we had to get there way early to get a good seat!)

If you have an interest in why and how all these plants ended up being such a big part of what makes Christmas feel like “Christmas” to so many people, you might consider asking Santa to put a copy of this book under the Christmas tree, right beside that compost thermometer you asked for.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Society Has A Christmas Meeting

Members of the Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”) recently held a virtual Christmas party.

The meeting was called to order by me, the self-appointed president. During the brief business meeting, all voting members present in person (me) cast ballots for new officers.

It was unanimous that I should remain as president and secretary/treasurer for the coming year. I am pleased to accept this responsibility and will do my best.

The Society then got down to the business of celebrating the season.

First up was discussion about the weather, with members reporting both usual and unusual weather events.

Elizabeth showed stunning pictures of her white snow covered garden. All agreed it was most festive, but really, isn’t it always like that in Buffalo, except of course, in the summertime?

Kathy, always helpful, provided wonderful information on the benefits of snow as a warm blanket for everyone’s perennials and Mr. McGregor's Daughter talked about how long the winter has been already.

All the Austin garden bloggers were there, and could hardly contain themselves because they had real snow this year. They know that snow means moisture, and all of their gardens could use that. Pam and Diana were among several who showed us pictures.

Not to be out snowed, Jan in Louisana showed pictures of her recent snowfall as well.

At this point, everyone was getting a little antsy with all the snow and weather talk, so we turned our attention to the entertainment of the evening.

Frances led off with a riveting presentation of her yule log. In the interest of safety, other members stood ready with hoses and fire extinguishers, in case Frances got the idea to actually light the log, and not just the candle stuck in the hole made by the woodpecker.

We also looked over the beautiful amaryllis that Cindy from Houston has recently become obsessed with and Lancashire Rose told us all about robins and Christmas in England.

The Society then gathered around the piano to listen to Annie in Austin sing both of her Christmas songs. After a round of applause, it was story telling time.

First we heard Carolyn Gail tell the story of a most memorable Christmas in Alabama.

Being president and all, the group then politely listened to my Tale of the Christmas Cottontail, again, which makes the most sense if you also know the Story of the Halloween Hare. I also retold the story of the Christmas bell, which got everyone in the mood to share pictures of their gardening themed Christmas ornaments.

A few announcements were made. Robin(Bumblebee) reminded us about the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, Mary Ann provided a Christmas list for the beginning gardener, and I reviewed five handmade gifts for gardeners, should any members want to burn the midnight oil working in Santa’s workshop right up until the last minute.

Refreshments of cookies made by Mr. McGregor's daughter were finally served while Dee reminded us of the true meaning of the season.

The meeting was then adjourned with a personal note from the President wishing all a Merry Christmas and reminding everyone that it is way too soon to panic about seed orders, as we haven’t even completed Phase Two of Winter Gardening. There will be time enough in Phase Three of Winter Gardening to read cover to cover all the seed catalogs and browse all the seed company websites, and then order seeds.

And if we order early, there should be enough seeds for everyone. If not, I call dibs on any I want!!

Minutes* submitted by
Carol, President, SPPOTGWLS

*Should any members or other readers have corrections or additions to the minutes (perhaps I didn’t link to a holiday related blog post that would be of interest to all), please note those in the comments below.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Norfolk Island Pine Inspires Poetry


I recently won a Norfolk Island Pine tree, and it inspired me to write poetry!

Oh Norfolk Island Pine

Oh Norfolk Island Pine
Your beauty is so fine.

Would you like to be my tree
And celebrate Christmas with me?

Oh Norfolk Island Pine
Your beauty is so fine.

If I load you down with lights
Will you be able to stay upright?

Oh Norfolk Island Pine
Your beauty is so fine.

After all the holidays
Will you continue to amaze?

Oh Norfolk Island Pine
Your beauty is so fine.

You’ve inspired this bad poetry
How did you get this out of me?

Oh Norfolk Island Pine
Your beauty is so fine.

*****

I won this tree at work and immediately had several questions about it thrown at me by my co-workers.

Here are my answers…

Yes, I’ll get it to grow. It likes the same relative temperatures that I do, and I’ll water it like a regular house plant. I’ll also provide it with some direct sunlight in the sunroom where it will get both morning and afternoon sun. The biggest challenge will be to keep the humidity around it on the high side. I can do that by misting it and possible setting the pot on a bed of wet rocks.

No, I will not plant it outside. It isn’t hardy here, not by a long shot. Having to provide this answer just points out that many people don’t really ‘see’ all the plants around them. Otherwise they would have noticed that there are no Norfolk Island Pines growing outside in Indiana, or really anywhere where there might be a frost.

Araucaria heterophylla. Surprisingly, no one actually asked me the botanical name of this plant but I’m providing it as an answer anyway because some people like to know stuff like this.

And the final answer…

No one really understands why this particular tree inspires bad poetry. Researchers are still coming up it with hypotheses, testing them, and going through the data.

Those researchers might appreciate this bit of data, a Haiku I just wrote.

Norfolk Island Pine
Tree for Christmas holiday
That grows year around.

Can you write something worse?

*****

Other Christmas related posts:

Annual Christmas Letter From May Dreams Gardens

The Tale of the Christmas Cottontail

You Might Be A Gardening Geek: Christmas Edition

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Annual Christmas Letter from May Dreams Gardens


Dear Santa,

I’ve been very good this year. If you also think so, I’d like a compost thermomet…

Oops, wrong letter...

Dear Friends and Family in the Garden and out of the Garden,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from May Dreams Gardens!

It seems like it was just a year ago that I wrote my first annual holiday letter for my blog. And what a good year it has been.

First there was the end of winter, when I obsessed over the first bloom in the garden, a tiny crocus. I posted so much about it that I probably should have renamed my blog temporarily to Crocus Dreams Gardens.

Then once the crocuses really started to bloom and were joined by the daffodils, early tulips, and tiny little irises, I flew down to Austin, Texas, for the first Garden Bloggers’ Spring Fling. That sure surprised my friends and family, and me, too, as I don’t normally take off and go places like that.

(We garden bloggers all had great fun that weekend and plan to meet again in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the weekend of May 29 – 31, 2009.)

Nearly as soon as I got back from Texas, it started to get really busy in the garden, beginning with the first lawn mowing of the season and continuing right up to the last lawn mowing of the season.

In between, I planted the vegetable garden, battled the rabbits, won some blogging awards, got called a rock star, confessed that I might be a bit of an eccentric gardener and posted faithfully every month for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Oh, and Annie in Austin wrote a song about my garden!

What else happened this past year?

Well, there was the first (and probably only) Garden Bloggers’ Hoe Down. That was loads of good clean fun with hoes of all sizes, shapes, and ages.

And all year I kept telling everyone to embrace stuff, stuff they didn’t like. It started with weeds. Then there were insects, botanical names… whatever I thought someone might not like, I told them to embrace it!

At this point, I ought to embrace the end of this letter. I told myself to keep it short, sweet and simple, like a Twitter tweet.

Gads, I’ve just gone on and on from topic to topic, haven’t I?

So I’ll wrap this letter up with these wishes and hopes for all…

I hope that the Christmas Cottontail hops off Santa’s sleigh and visits your garden on Christmas Eve, to ensure a good show of spring blooms.

I hope that 2009 is your best year yet in the garden, with abundant blooms, bountiful harvests, blue skies, and plenty of rain.

And I hope that you’ll always find delight and joy in your garden and all that grows there.

If you ever come around here looking for me, I’ll probably be in my own garden, thinking of all the friends I’ve made through garden blogging, watching out for those garden fairies, planning the next meeting of the Society, and thinking of more things for everyone to embrace.

Yours in gardening and holiday joy,

Carol
May Dreams Gardens, December 2008

P.S. I almost forgot to mention one of the highlights of the vegetable garden, the WUT, which led me to introduce my first video on this blog! Isn't it amazing what growing tomatoes causes otherwise normal people to do?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tree-weeds

Do you know what you call tree seedlings that come up all over the garden?

Tree-weeds.

Yes, they are weeds. But there are some gardeners who get all “funny” about pulling tree seedlings as weeds, especially if the ‘seedling’ gets big enough that it won’t pull out easily and it’s a nice tree like a redbud, Cercis canadensis.

They convince themselves that maybe where that tree seedling sprouted would be the perfect place for another tree. And wouldn’t it be fun to have a tree in the garden that grew right there from a tiny seed?

Or maybe they try to transplant those tree seedlings to someplace else in the garden, merely because Mother Nature has provided them with a free tree.

Either way, enough of that kind of thinking and pretty soon, it’s not a garden anymore. It’s a mess.

There are, of course, some tree seedlings, like mulberries and cottonwoods, that every gardener recognizes as weeds, no matter how big and tree-like those seedlings get.

I pull out a lot of mulberry and cottonwood seedlings in my garden. The seeds come a long way to get here because there are no mature trees nearby. But I still pull the seedlings out when I find them. I show no mercy. I don't blink. I don't hestitate.

The mulberry seeds, Morus sp., usually hitch a ride to my garden in the gut of a bird. The bird eats the mulberry seed, flies to my garden and then poos a few droppings with the seed still intact in them somewhere where I don't want a mulberry tree to grow. Those droppings, by the way, stain whatever they land on purple. Then wherever that dropping landed, that freshly scarified mulberry seed sprouts and grows, taking root in even the tiniest bit of dirt.

Somehow, the mulberry leaves tend to blend in to their surroundings until the little tree seedling is a big tree seedling and I’ve got to get a shovel or pick axe to dig it out. When I’m feeling lazy, I sometimes just cut those mulberry tree weeds down to the ground, but they always re-sprout. Always. There are some that I cut down weekly throughout the summer.

The cottonwoods, Populus deltoides, are just as weedy as mulberries. Those seeds ride in on the wind from who knows where, wrapped up in their fluffy cotton-y covering, fall gently to the ground, and then germinate. I have no idea where the nearest cottonwood tree is, but I bet on any given day I can find a cottonwood tree seedling somewhere in my garden.

I’m in a battle with these tree seedlings and what’s at stake is the very survival of my garden as a garden and not a wild space. They want to take over, and I won’t let them. I pull the little ones, dig out those that won’t pull out easily, and keep cutting back those that thought they were going to make it.

It’s my garden, my design (such as it is) and I’m only going to let the trees grow where I plant them!

(Why am I writing about these tree-weeds now? I was reminded of them when I saw all the seed pods hanging from the redbud tree, which I included in my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post for this month. Thank you to everyone who posted about their blooms on the 15th. I'm still working my way down the Mr. Linky list to visit and see what everyone has, or doesn't have, blooming. Eventually I hope to read all the bloom day posts!)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day December 2008

The dark days of December seem even darker with no snow cover on the ground and day after day of cloudy skies. I went out to the garden in search of blooms for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and found mostly the ghosts of summer past.

There are some dried up seed heads from hydrangeas, sedums, and coneflowers and a row of zinnias that I havn’t pulled out yet.

Several trees still have seed pods hanging from them, reminding us that months ago in a memory called spring, these were blooming, too.
Now you can see why in December, many of us focus more on what we have blooming indoors, and often go out of our way to have indoor blooms.

In my sunroom, I have a few blooms.

My white flowering Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera sp., started to bloom a few days ago, on the same schedule as last year.

The Bouvardia I bought before Thanksgiving likewise has a few white blooms left on it.

I also planted Narcissus and Amaryllis bulbs which have all sprouted but none are blooming yet.

To add more color inside, even when plants aren't blooming, I'm branching out in my plant choices by acquiring some colorful plants like these newly sprouted Oxalis.


And by January, the colorful jewel orchids, which I highlighted in a post a few days ago, should be blooming as well.

What’s blooming in your garden or house? I would love to go on a virtual tour of your garden on this dreary December day, either indoors or outdoors, and see flowers blooming somewhere!

It’s easy to participate in Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Just post about what is blooming in your garden today, then leave a link on the Mr Linky widget below, along with a comment, so we can find you and come for a visit to see!

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Gardening: Phase Three

Although Phase Three of Winter Gardening doesn’t officially start until after the New Year begins, it’s good to know about it now, so that planning for it can take place here in the midst of Phase Two.

Phase Three is all about Chilling Out, both literally and figuratively. It takes place in January and early February when we can and will have some of the coldest days of the winter.

Other than occasionally walking around outside and muttering about how cold it is, the only gardening that really goes on during this Phase Three of Winter Gardening is taking place inside and in our own imaginations.

You would think we would relax and do something else other than gardening or thinking about gardening for awhile, knowing there is nothing we can do in the garden, but that’s not as easy to do as you might think.

There are seed catalogs to read! Yes, I start reading the seed catalogs right after the last of the holiday decorations are put away. As the catalogs arrive, I might glance through them, but then I set them aside until January, the official beginning of Seed Exploration and Examination Days (SEED)

There are hyacinth bulbs to force! Yes, I put some hyacinth bulbs in the back of my refrigerator in the fall, sometime during Phase One. (Oops, sorry if didn’t remind you to do this back then). In early January, I pull the bulbs out, fill the hyacinth vases with water, and then set the bulbs on top and watch and wait for them to bloom sometime in February.

There are house plants to tend to! Yes, I get enamored with house plants about this time. I trim them a little, rotate them so they’ll grow evenly, and occasionally acquire a few new ones.

There are garden plans to make! Yes, I think about what I’m going to do in the garden as soon as it warms up. I plan out flower beds, vegetable gardens, all kinds of gardens. Some of them I actually plant in the spring, others remain ideas for years and years.

There are books and blogs and articles to read! Yes, I hope to get a few new gardening books for Christmas, assuming I’ve been good this year, and I’ll keep up with blog reading and writing. At some point, I’ll drag out the gardening magazines I’ve barely had time to read during the year and read them more thoroughly.

It all sounds wonderful and dreamy, doesn’t it, my fellow gardeners of the south who have much to do in your gardens in January. It really is a time for rest, a time for chilling out, a time for garden planning and dreaming.

But about half-way through, we start to long for that final phase of winter gardening, Phase Four. More on that later…

(If it warms up tomorrow, I’ll be pulling out those pansies pictured above. The snow melted but the cold weather finished these pansies off.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Orchid Bud, Bloom Day Update

Why is it that I can never remember the common name of this orchid?

I can remember Ludisia discolor, its botanical name, but I can’t remember its common name of jewel orchid. I always want to call it a velvet orchid, because its leaves look like velvet to me.

I remember for awhile that this is a jewel orchid by repeating it over and over and over.

Jewel orchid.
Jewel orchid.
Jewel orchid.

Then I read about them and invariably, someone mentions their ‘velvety leaves’ and I’m right back to thinking of them as velvet orchids.

I’m going to stick with Ludisia discolor because for some reason, I can remember that.

This is an easy orchid to grow. Mine has been growing for years in a mix of bark and peat in a west window. I water it with the same frequency as my other house plants, which is maybe a bit more often than I water most other orchids. If it gets too dry, some of the lower leaves dry up.

My velvet jewel orchid is just now starting to form flower buds, like it does every year at this time. I’ll see the blooms sometime in January, hopefully in time for the January bloom day post, but definitely not by the 15th of this month for the December bloom day post.

Is everyone getting ready for their December Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post? For those who are new to this, I’ll repeat the rules here.

Wait, there are no rules.

That’s one of the secrets of bloom day, or any Internet meme. Keep it simple and don’t have a bunch of complicated rules

All you need to do to participate in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is post about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month, or thereabouts, depending on your personal schedule. Then leave a comment on my bloom day post so we can find your blog and check out what is blooming in your garden.

I know that ‘no rules’ makes some people a little apprehensive. But really, no rules is the rule.

To further convince you there really aren't a bunch of rules, I offer these guidelines in the form of questions and answers.

When nothing is blooming in my garden, can I post about other aspects of my garden that I find attractive? Yes, of course you can!

Do I have to list botanical names? No, of course not. In fact, if you don’t know the botanical name of a flowering plant, and you want to find out what it is, post a picture of it for bloom day and ask for help identifying it. I bet someone will know and leave you a nice comment with the name.

Do I have to list every bloom? No, it’s your choice to list as many or as few blooms as you’d like to share.

Can I include plants blooming indoors? Yes. We'd love to see what you have blooming indoors. You can even post about indoor plants that aren't blooming!

Should I include a picture of my hoe? Only if you have a nice one or you missed the garden bloggers’ hoe down and need a reason to post a picture of it. However, I think having a nice hoe you want to share with everyone is reason enough for a separate post.

My bloom post will be up early on the 15th, and as promised, this month we will use Mr. Linky to make it easier to leave a link to your post. And remember, it is finally winter here at May Dreams Gardens, so I’m really anxious to see some posts of gardens where there are still blooms, any blooms, even one bloom!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Tale of the Christmas Cottontail

Have you heard the tale of the Christmas Cottontail?

On Christmas Eve, a tiny little bunny known as the Christmas Cottontail rides along with Santa Claus as he travels around the world delivering toys and gifts to all the good girls and boys.

A relative of the sweet little Easter Bunny and the devious Halloween Hare, the Christmas Cottontail was discovered by Santa Claus on one of the earliest Christmas Eve’s when Santa found him half-starved munching on some carrots that someone had left out for the reindeer.

Taking pity on the poor bunny, Santa took him back to the North Pole and named him the Christmas Cottontail.

Over the next spring, summer, and fall, Santa and his gardening elves trained the bunny how to properly scatter seeds and plant bulbs in the flick of a whisker so he could keep up with Santa as he delivered toys and gifts.

So now every year, the Christmas Cottontail checks his list of good gardeners and bad gardeners, packs his seeds and bulbs, and flies off with Santa Claus and his reindeer.

At the good gardeners’ houses, he scatters the seeds and plants the bulbs to bloom at Easter time. At the bad gardeners' houses, he stays in the sleigh and waits for Santa.

At every house he looks for carrots left for the reindeer and sneaks a bite or two for himself and then gives the rest to the reindeer.

Gardeners then have to wait until spring to find out if the Christmas Cottontail visited their garden on Christmas Eve. If there are blooms in early spring it means the gardener was good and the Christmas Cottontail worked his magic. If there are no blooms in the springtime, it means the Christmas Cottontail decided the gardener was bad and stayed in the sleigh.

I advise you not to take the visit of the Christmas Cottontail too lightly. If he doesn’t leave you any seeds or bulbs at Christmas time, there is the possibility that the Easter Bunny won’t see any blooms and stop by in the spring. That means you won’t have any candy in your garden to leave for the Halloween Hare, which means there could be trouble in the fall.

To stop this vicious cycle, and to make sure that you are treated well by the Easter Bunny, the Halloween Hare, and the Christmas Cottontail, I recommend you just be good, for goodness sake. You have just a few weeks to make amends for any bad behavior this year!

And never forget that our actions today can affect our spring garden in the future, in more ways than we realize.

(The picture above is not the Christmas Cottontail, it’s just one of many tree ornaments I have that have a bunny theme, to go along with all those with a gardening theme. You’d have to be pretty quick and wait up very late on Christmas Eve to even have a chance of seeing and photographing the Christmas Cottontail.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Putting Some Hoe in Your Holidays

What better way to put that “hoe” in the holidays than giving a hoe or some hoe related items to your favorite gardener or yourself?

I think any gardener would be delighted to find one of these hoe items under their Christmas tree...

A Cobrahead Hoe. I was so good last year that Santa got me a short-handled Cobrahead Hoe for Christmas and now I don’t know how I gardened with it. It’s perfect for weeding, digging, and furrowing. (You know, furrowing. As in making a nice straight furrow to plant some seeds in.) There’s also a long-handled Cobrahead Hoe, which is a little harder to wrap and hide under a tree.

A Circle Hoe. This is a great hoe for the vegetable garden or really any garden spot where you want to chop down the weeds, without disturbing the roots of the plants you want to keep or moving the soil around too much. This hoe also comes in long handled and short handled versions.

Hoe Calendar. For those gardeners who really do not believe they need a hoe to garden or already have some good hoes, how about a Hoe Calendar? This particular version offers a different hoe each month, perfect for hanging in the garden shed, kitchen or office.

Hoe and Other Gardening Tools Christmas Tree Ornaments. Nothing says “I’m a gardener” like hanging miniature gardening tools on your Christmas tree, including a tiny hoe. These tools would also look good on a wreath, in any season.

West Country Gloves (for Hoeing). These gloves look like they would be perfect for hoeing, which, as some of us know, can be hard on your hands. (Dear Santa, I’ve been very good and kept up with all my hoeing this year, for the most part. I would like a green pair in “medium” if I am still on your “good” list and you still are trying to think of something to get me for Christmas. Love, Carol)

Hoe Hoe Hoe! I’m at the end of the row on this one. I hope, whether it is a hoe or something else, that every gardener gets a hoe-lot of good stuff for the hoe-lidays!

Hoe!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

First Snow at May Dreams Gardens

At first, the snow came down in soft, slow flurries, seeming to be in no particular hurry as each snow flake drifted down to land gently somewhere on the garden.

(I know it makes no sense for "flurries" to be slow, but they were slow.)

Then as the winds picked up, the snow fell quickly, snowflakes clumped together, as though it was terribly important to cover the bleakness of the late fall garden with a fresh coat of white snow as fast as possible.

The forecast called for “a dusting to an inch of accumulation”. I didn’t measure it, but I would guess this first snowfall on my garden on Saturday, December 6th was close to inch.

The day after the snow, I took the opportunity to see who else has been in my garden.

I found some bird tracks.
But you know I was looking for rabbit tracks, which I didn’t find. Ha! Where are they? I’ll find them eventually. This isn’t the last snowfall of the season, and they can’t hide forever. Eventually they have to venture out to find something to eat.

(By the way, snow isn't blue like that. You know that. I know that. I took that picture in the shade and it just came out blue.)

I’ve captured the snowfall in two videos for your viewing pleasure.

This first video is of the snow falling. Please excuse that humming noise, I don’t know what that was, perhaps it was an overzealous neighbor using a snow blower for this little pittance of snow. Snow makes no noise as it falls.



This second video is of the raised bed vegetable garden this bright, sunny morning after the snow. You can hear the crunch of my footsteps through the frozen snow.

When you walk through fresh fallen snow, there is no sound. But the next day, it's frozen up a bit so it crunches underfoot.

All of this snow should be gone by Tuesday, when the high temperature should be close to 50 F. But soon enough, it will snow again, and we'll repeat this cycle of snow and thaw, snow and thaw, until the final spring thaw.

*****

This post is part of the Garden Bloggers’ First Snowfall Project hosted by Nancy Bond. Thank you, Nancy, for this opportunity to share the first snowfall at May Dreams Gardens

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Cut Flowers, Potted Plants or Forced Bulbs

Snow flurries fly outside, but inside, there are new sprouts coming up from the Oxalis bulbs that I planted up on November 25th.

These first little leaves showed up while I was gone for a few days, proving once again that a watched plant rarely sprouts. Ignore it for a few days and something will happen.

So far, just two of ten Oxalis bulbs have sprouted, but I think I see a third one breaking through.

I'm confident all ten will sprout.

The Bouvardia that I bought on impulse on November 25th is still blooming.

These had just arrived at the store the day I was shopping. I caught a whiff of the sweet scented flowers, and, well, you all know how they end up in your shopping cart before you know it.

The first shoots of the narcissus bulbs, potted up on November 29th, are also starting to peak out from the brown sheaths surrounding them.
All I need now are some cut flowers, and I’ll have a little bit of everything a good indoor winter garden can offer.

Which do you prefer in the winter to bring bloom into your life when the garden is dormant? Cut flowers, blooming plants or bulbs for forcing?

Have you decided? Don't read further until you've decided on your preference because what you choose has great signficance and meaning.

Ready?

Here’s the meaning of your choices, according to no one but me.

If you prefer cut flowers, you like immediate gratification but aren’t interested in a long-term commitment. However, if you tend to keep the cut flowers after they’ve dried up, you may be conflicted and really want a long-term plant relationship.

If you prefer to buy potted blooming plants, you like immediate gratification, but are willing to also invest a long-term commitment. You are optimistic that once your blooming plant becomes a foliage plant, you have the skills or maybe just the good luck needed to get it to flower again.

If you prefer bulbs for forcing, you are patient and a nurturer and are willing to wait for the gratification of a blooming plant. You are in this plant relationship for the long haul. You have confidence that if you provide the light, soil, and water, the plant will reward you with a bloom.

If you prefer all three, you are a gardener.

Which did you prefer?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

WInter Gardening: Phase Two

Now that it is December, I have begun, in earnest, Phase Two of Winter Gardening.

To the casual observer, this phase, which I call “Settling In”, looks a lot like a bear hibernating, as far as gardening goes. Sometimes it’s hard to see any activity at all.

But there are actually several activities that a gardener must attend to in Phase Two.

First, I make sure that my gardens are tastefully decorated for Christmas. This includes a few strands of light, a wreath or two, perhaps some swags of evergreen, and whatever other adornments of good taste I might have. No garish displays for my garden!

Once that is all set up, or perhaps before, I like to pot up several amaryllis and narcissus bulbs. These should then bloom shortly before the holidays or shortly after the holidays or sometime in January. I’ve never timed these quite right, so I don’t count on them for holiday decorations. I just like to grow them.

Last year, the narcissus pictured above bloomed on January 10th, which is about the time we move into Phase Three of winter gardening. But I digress, this post is about Phase Two.

Like many gardeners, I don’t especially like to grow poinsettias. Truth be told, few gardeners actual ‘grow’ poinsettias, in the sense of getting them to flower again. Like everyone else, if we buy them, we buy them already in flower and when we grow tired of them, we toss them in the compost bin. Admit it! You’ve done that, too.

I actually have several live poinsettias from last year which I put outside when it warmed up in the spring. This fall, I repotted them with some Diamond Frost® Euphorbia and brought them inside. I’ve not even attempted to give them the light adjustments they need to flower, so I’m sure they’ll be nice and green for Christmas.

Hey, let’s start a new trend… Green Poinsettias!

Why not? They unfortunately sell them in every other color imaginable at this time of year.

I think the green poinsettias would look quite nice with the red poinsettias that I have, which are a lovely pair of silk poinsettias, yes, silk poinsettias, that I bought on clearance years ago. Don’t judge! They look real enough that sometimes I think they should be watered.

The second activity in Phase Two of Winter Gardening is my favorite. Like gardeners everywhere, I torment present my non-gardening friends and families with a “gift suggestion list” which includes a few things for the garden, many of which are available only from online sources.

Secretly, I think they love to get me all these things for gardening because they know I’ll really use them and enjoy them. I can just imagine the plotting and planning, the bartering and scheming amongst them all as they try to be the one who gets me a new hoe for Christmas!

But this year I don’t have any hoes on my list. Though if someone were to recommend a hoe I don’t already have, I might be tempted to add it.

I did put on my list a compost thermometer, a couple of specific gardening books, some pots made of recycled material and a “garden theme” calendar. Typical stuff that any gardener would like to have, right?

The third activity in Phase Two of Winter Gardening is to take an occasional walk about the garden, just to check on how things are freezing up out there. I’ll also be checking the compost tumbler to see how it does in this cold weather, and giving it a spin or two, if it will still spin when it is below freezing. Geez, it would be nice to have a compost thermometer to see how hot it gets in there, wouldn’t it?

I’ll also be on the look out in Phase Two to make sure I didn’t leave anything out in the garden that should have been put away for the winter in Phase One of winter gardening.

Phase Two, “Settling In”, will last pretty much through the New Year, at which point we will be ready to enter into Phase Three of the four phases of winter gardening.

See, broken down into phases, winter gardening so far isn’t too bad, is it?

I’ll post about Phase Three in a few days.

****

Winter Gardening: Phase One (in case you missed it.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Birds In My Garden

If this blog was about birds, I’d be in trouble.

My typical posts would be something like…

Oh, look, a bird at my feeder.

Oh, look, a bird eating off the ground, it must be a morning dove. Or is it a mourning dove? Or a pigeon?

Oh, look, a bird’s nest in my tree. I wonder what kind of bird nested there?

Oh, look, a flock of birds just landed in my tree. I wonder what kind of birds they are. Is it a type of bird I want in my garden? Or a bunch of starlings?

And so on.

I’ll admit, I don’t know enough about birds, or as much as I think I should know. Like most gardeners, I try to attract birds to my garden and feel validated when one chooses my garden as a place to nest and eat.

I put out bird feeders for the birds, and am happy to buy birdseed for them. (Although, I've never grown a bird from birdseed, just weeds.)

But I’m a bit suspicious when a bunch of birds are pecking at the lawn. I take this as a sign that I have grubs of some kind, or rather, my lawn has grubs of some kind, although how the birds would know that, I’m not sure.

Perhaps they just randomly peck at the ground until they find one? If there are a lot of grubs, it would be worthwhile for them to do that. If there aren’t a lot of grubs, I think it would take more energy to peck at the ground all day in hopes of finding a grub as the grub would provide them.

Therefore, when I see a lot of birds pecking at my lawn, I think there must be a lot of grubs just below the surface, feeding on the roots of the grass. (Plus I read somewhere about this being a sign of grubs).

I know enough about birds to let sunflowers, coneflowers and other such flowers go to seed so the birds will have something to eat. And I know that large shrubs, like many Viburnums, provide both shelter and food for them.

I’ve let birds nest on the curves of the downspouts, even though some bumblebees, or something related, once moved into one such nest, creating a potentially stinging situation for me. (No, I didn’t get stung removing that nest, but I could’ve gotten stung, and regular readers know I've been stung before, a couple of times, because getting stung is an event to blog about and warn others about.)

And I once let a robin nest in a wreath hanging on my front porch.

Every time I went out the front door, that ol’ robin would fly off and squawk at me from the edge of the roof, where she sat watching her nest until I was out of her sight. I soon learned to not leave by the front door. (See, I can be trained by birds!)

To reward me for my kindness of leaving the nest alone, all the baby birds left a huge mess on the porch when they learned to fly away, if you know what I mean, a mess I had to clean up with lots of water and a scrub brush. I liked it better when they nested in a nearby crabapple tree, though the mama robin still squawked at me whenever I used the front walk.

I guess I do know a little about birds, just not what kinds of birds are visiting my garden, unless they are robins, cardinals, or gold finches (yellow finches?). I think I need a good bird reference book to help me identify them. Maybe it should be one that just has birds of Indiana in it, so I don't get confused with too many choices when I try to identify the birds that visit my humble little garden?

Or maybe I should get some ‘bird flash cards’ to study in the evenings?

How did everyone else learn how to identify birds? (And yes, it seems to me that everyone else knows how to identify birds, except me!)


I think I have Bird Information and Reference Deficiency Syndrome... B.I.R.D.S
(I couldn't stop myself from coming up with another acronym.)