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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Starlings Inspire A Blog Post

I'm having difficulty focusing today with the distraction of a carnival of starlings in my backyard.

They squawk and sing and fight with each other and then take flight anytime I try to go outside to get some better pictures.

At one of the feeders, the one that still has some seed in it, they line up and try to crowd each other out.

I haven't seen this many birds all together in the backyard in quite some time. (See all that snow... For some of my southern gardening friends who wonder how long the snow from Wednesday will be here, you can see from this picture, with snow still on top of the bird feeder four days after the snow storm, that the answer is "a long time".)

Over in the neighbor's garden, the starlings are huddled under a crabapple tree, no doubt picking it clean of any fruit still on it.They are in fact picking at anything that looks like a seed or berry within all the backyards that are within viewing distance of my backyard, the ravenous beasts. Some of them have huddled under a nearby spruce tree for warmth, perhaps also crowding out a bunny or two?

I know I shouldn't laugh at their antics because these aren't the best kinds of birds to attract to your garden. They are noisy and dirty, and fight with other birds, the "good" birds, and drive them away. I shouldn't encourage them!

Last year I was trying to attract birds to my garden, and got some good advice from Mary of Mary's View. (After seeing my pictures, you might also think that I would benefit from some advice from Mary on photographing birds, too.)

She advised me to buy good bird seed, which I did, and before long, I had some nice birds in my garden. The nice birds are just as fun to watch as these old starlings, perhaps better because there is less fighting! But right now, the feeders are full of cheap seed, and you can see how that's worked out.

I still contend that blogging is a lot like feeding the birds. (Hint, follow the link to a post from last January that you might enjoy if you missed it the first time around.) Good stuff attracts a good crowd, cheap stuff attracts, well, a cheap crowd, sort of like a bunch of starlings.

Let me know if you agree.

(P.S. The entire time I was writing this post, the starlings were loudly playing in my back yard, and now suddenly, all is quiet. They've left. Where have they gone? Will they be back? I'm going out the front door to get the mail. Send a search party for me if you don't hear from me in awhile. They might be out in front, waiting for me. After all, I called them "dirty birds"...)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow Now, But In Seven Weeks...

I was inexplicably drawn to the vegetable garden yesterday; I suppose to see how it looked under a foot of snow.

All the usual clich├ęs apply.

The snow is like a fluffy, thick, blanket.

It looks like Siberia.

It’s so white, and pure, and pristine, and quiet.

It’s cold.

When I see the garden like this, it is hard to imagine that in seven weeks or so, I’ll be planting peas, but I will be.

I used, of all things, a yard stick to measure how much snow had fallen in my yard.

After I took the picture, I wondered why I had chosen the dirtiest yard stick I have for this picture. It’s the yardstick I use to make short straight rows, actually depressions, in the garden when I’m sowing lettuce, radishes, spinach and other early spring crop seeds.

Did I mention I would be sowing them in about seven weeks?

Trudging through the snow out to the garden, I did not see any other tracks, just those I made myself.

I didn’t spend a lot of time out there because once you have snow coming up over your boots, it isn’t so fun to walk in it or lay down in it to make a snow angel. (Yes, I briefly considered making a snow angel because snow brings out the little kid in all of us, once we've shoveled the drive off and don't feel so trapped by it all.)

It feels very alone out there in the snowy garden, seeing no tracks, no movement to speak of. I don’t know where the rabbits are hiding, but this rabbit statue has nowhere to hide, and just provides another reminder of how deep the snow is.
Wherever the rabbits are, I hope they are safe, and preparing to move away. But I'll assume they aren’t going anywhere, so in seven weeks, when I sow the seeds for the early spring crops, I’ll also have to come up with some ways to keep the rabbits from eating them before I have a chance to.

In just seven weeks… I can wait seven more weeks. After all, I still need to order my seeds!


Congratulations to commenter number 20, Robbie, the lucky winner of six packets of seeds from Botanical Interests.

For all those who didn't win, I have good news! Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening is also hosting a seed giveaway, starting Friday, January 30th. Go there Friday and check it out! (If you go there before Friday, the link won't work, so wait until Friday!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Are You Staying In Shape for Spring?

The following is a public service announcement for all gardeners. Out of love and concern for all, I am repeating a post from a year ago. This is important information and some new readers may not have read it a year ago today.

Heed my warnings, pay attention to this post! Nothing less than your ability to garden in the spring is at stake here!


The problem for many gardeners, especially those of us who live where winter is winter, is an increase in GRTH symptoms at this time of year. Pronounced like “girth”, Gardeners Reduced Time with Horticulture (GRTH) is a malady whose primary symptom is ironically, an increase in the gardener’s weight.

For several months now, we northern gardeners have not been pushing lawn mowers, dragging hoses around, hoeing the gardens, raking leaves, or digging holes. At best, we may have shoveled snow a few times, but even that we’ve tried to make a more sedentary activity by using snow blowers or having the neighborhood kids do it.

Our primary winter-time gardening activities are studying seed catalogs, reading gardening books, browsing through countless back issues of garden-related magazines and posting on our garden blogs. These “activities” are really “sedentaries” and leave us sitting around quite a bit.

Thus we suffer from an increase in GRTH.

We have to be careful or we will wake up on the first wonderful spring morning, ready to just be gardeners for a day and realize that the symptoms of GRTH are preventing us from being the gardeners we want to be.

Until that first day of spring, some gardeners may refuse to believe that they are suffering from a huge case of GRTH. But on that first spring day, even they won’t be able to deny their GRTH symptoms because their favorite pants for gardening won’t fit.

We know there are ways to avoid a big fat GRTH attack, even cure it once you have it. And the way to avoid it and cure it are the same.

We need to exercise and watch what we eat.

That’s right, we sedentary northern gardeners need to get up off our couches and make sure we are exercising through the winter and eating right. We have to keep ourselves from getting GRTH by walking on treadmills, riding stationary bikes, lifting, bending… exercising.

Then when spring comes, we’ll be ready to go, all dressed up again in our favorite gardening pants.


There is still time. Winter is still going strong. It’s not spring yet. Get on your treadmill, exercise, be ready!


There is also still time to enter to win some seeds! Leave a comment before Thursday, January 29th, 5:00 pm on the seed post from a few days ago to enter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Watering Can

I’ve wanted one from the first time I saw one in a catalog. A Haws watering can. Preferably green. Definitely metal. With the brass rose. No cheap plastic knock off’s, please.

This is the ultimate in watering cans.

To the non-gardener, it may not look any different from any other watering can.

But it is different. A gardener can tell that it is special, just like a golfer knows which putter is the top of the line or a fisherman knows about the ultimate in fishing poles.

It’s a design perfected in the late 1800’s, before spigots and hoses, from a time when water had to be carried to the plants. It’s well balanced and not as heavy to carry as one might imagine, even though it holds 2.4 gallons or 9 liters of water.

My family got it for me for my birthday. It was the only gift I suggested, if you call emailing one of them with the exact link to it “a suggestion”. And most of them were there when I opened it, curious about what was so special about this watering can.

There were ooh’s and aah’s as I opened the box and pulled it out.

Yet still they wondered what made it so special.

When I placed the brass rose on the spout, my youngest niece proclaimed I had it on upside down.
No, I explained I had it right. The holes go up so as you pour the water out, it’s like a fountain, and the water comes down like rainfall.

To show them, I took it outside for a test pour, even though it was in the low 20’s. My older sister and younger sister assisted so we could capture the moment forever on video.

Here it is for your enjoyment. I’m the one speaking first, spouting some odd gardening gobble-de-gook. Then my sisters chime in more rationally.

Now do you understand what is special about this watering can?

(Don't forget to leave a comment on the seed post before Thursday, January 29 at 5:00 pm EST to enter to win some free seeds!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gardening Geek: 50 and Over Edition

You might be a gardening geek 50 and over if…

You realize that a bucket list might be something other than a list of buckets you use around the garden. Bonus points if your other bucket list includes some flowers you still want to grow and some gardens you still want to see.

You think that “point and tell the young man where to dig” is an excellent method for digging holes or removing a bunch of sod, like Cindy at My Corner of Katy did. Ditto for spreading mulch. Bonus points if you have actually used this method.

You’ve spent so much time with your hands in the dirt that before you go to shake hands with someone, you automatically clap your hands together to knock the dirt off and then sneak in a quick wipe across your backside to make sure the dirt is really off your hands. (This is also known as the universal gardener’s hand shake… clap, clap, clap, wipe… now you are ready to shake hands with someone.) Bonus points if you actually tried this method as soon as you read this.

You’ve learned that the best time to plant a tree is 20, 30, or 40 years ago and you realize you really did plant some of your trees 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Bonus points for every tree over 20 years old that you’ve planted.

You check the medicine cabinet to make sure it is stocked with post-gardening medications for aches and pains before you head out to the garden for an afternoon of digging and hoeing. Bonus points if you just now thought, “Hey, I do need a new tube of Bengay® cream before spring.”

You buy a magnifying glass to read the fine print on the seed packets, but you tell everyone it is so you can get a closer look at the flowers and bugs. Bonus points if it is a nice, big magnifying glass and not a kid’s “Winnie the Pooh” version.

You think the person who invented the kneeling pad with the handles to help you get back up is an absolute genius. Bonus points if you have one of these and use it.

You find an old box of seeds in the potting shed from 20 years ago. Bonus points if you thought about testing the viability of the seeds because you’ve learned that money doesn’t grow on tree and gosh, seeds today cost a lot more now than they used to!

You understand that what’s old is new again so you still read your 1961 edition of “How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method”, edited by J. I. Rodale and staff, looking for new old ideas. Bonus points if you have more than five gardening books that were published more than 25 years ago. Double bonus points if you bought some of those books yourself when they were first published.

You wear a wide-brimmed hat in the garden to keep the sun off your face and neck and don’t give a darn how it looks. Bonus points if you have more than one such hat.

You are actually excited to qualify for membership in the Society for Gardeners Age 50 and Over. Bonus points if you got in on the first round of voting.

You realize it is no longer necessary to explain why someone as young as you are is so interested in gardening, but you are confident that you did all you could in the decades before you turned 50 to show that gardening is a great way of life for persons of all ages.

A gardener may confess her age, but she shouldn’t reveal how many points she scored on this little test of gardening geekiness!


You might also be a gardening geek in other ways, such as …

Original Post
More Clues
Fall Edition
Halloween Edition
Thanksgiving Edition
Christmas Edition
Valentine’s Day Edition
Travel Edition
Independence Day Edition
Olympic Edition
Indoor Plants Edition

Don't forget to leave a comment on the previous post to win some free seeds!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Chance To Win Free Seeds From Botanical Interests

Thanks to the generous people at Botanical Interests, you have a chance to win six packets of seeds!

Just leave a comment on this post before 5:00 PM EST on Thursday, January 29th and then sometime after 5:00 PM EST on January 29th, I’ll generate a random number, count down that many comments, and that person will be the lucky winner!

You can either choose to get the seeds shown above, or spend some time over the next few days browsing their website and picking six packets you’d like to have. They’ll ship the seeds to the winner on Monday, February 2, so have your choices ready in case you are the lucky once.

One comment per person, and please provide a link back to your blog where I can find contact info or leave contact info in your comment. (I suppose I ought to say 'void where prohibited', just in case.)


I’ve already received six packets of Botanical Interest seeds to sow this spring and opened one packet of seeds because every packet says “much more information inside this packet”. How could I resist? I opened a packet of Gourmet Baby Greens Mesclun seeds and was very impressed by all the information.

It really is the most information I’ve ever seen on a seed packet.

Now I’m trying to hold off opening the other packets until I’m ready to sow the seeds. Here’s what I’ve got:

Tomato Bush Ace (Lycopersicon lycopersicum) – I have always grown indeterminate tomato varieties that I train up stakes. I never cage tomatoes! But then I saw these determine, bush type tomatoes and thought, “why not try one, just to see how the other half grows”. The packet says “yields are exceptional for such a large tomato”. I can hardly wait to try them.

Sweet Corn Spring Treat (Zea mays var rugusa) – Who could resist trying a sweet corn that will be ready two weeks earlier than most other sweet corn? Apparently I can’t resist the idea of it. I'm sowing these in the garden just as soon as I think the last frost has occurred.

Sweet Pea ‘Fairytale Blend’ and Sweet Pea ‘High Scent’ (Lathyrus odoratus)– I love sweet peas and even though they do just okay in my garden, I keep growing them because whatever bloom I get is worth giving them a little bit of room and a small trellis to grow on. With these two varieties, I hope to get some nicely scented blooms and some good blooms for cutting.

Sunflower ‘Elves Blend’ (Helianthus annuus) – I think I’m attracted to flower varieties that include the words ‘fairy’, ‘elf’, or ‘sprite’ as part of the name. It implies to me that the plant will be smaller, but have some spunk to it. These sunflowers should top out at 16 – 24 inches tall but I’m not sure what size the flowers will be. I bet they noted that on the inside of the packet.

Remember, leave a comment to enter to win six packets of seeds from Botanical Interests! The seeds pictured above include:

- Sunflower Goldy Honeybear
- Poppy Peony Double Blend
- Calendula Zeolights
- Basil Dolce Vita Blend
- Carrot Carnival Blend
- Lettuce Valentine Mix

(Addendum: Seeds can only be shipped in the United States. My apologies for not noting this from the beginning.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Set Sail With Me On The Good Ship May Dreams

Come aboard the good ship May Dreams as we sail off to a desert island which will soon be populated with garden bloggers and their plants from all around, thanks to Shirl and her Desert Island Plant Challenge.

We each get to take just three flowering plants to the island.

Did you know that botanists estimate there are between 250,000 and 400,000 species of flowering plants? That’s a lot of plants to choose from to take to the island, so I think I’ll limit my choices by choosing only plants I actually have. Otherwise, I might be forever choosing.

First off, I’m going to have to take the Amarylis (Hippeastrum) ‘Blossom Peacock’ pictured above because it’s in full bloom right now.

I’d just feel too bad leaving it behind, since it bloomed so nicely for me in January.

I hope there is room for the night-blooming cereus (Ephiphyllum oxypatalum).I can’t leave it behind. I’ve had it for over twenty years, having inherited it from my father.

Now that I’ve crowded the ship with such a big plant, I’m going to go much smaller for my third and final choice, a woodland violet.
These are so sweet, tiny, and remind me of spring.

What? You say these are a weed in your garden? Well, so far in my garden they are a welcome little bloom and as long as they don’t get too out of control, I hope I always have a few blooming here and there.

If you’d like to join us on the island, fill your boat with your three plants and sail off to Shirl’s blog to leave a link and comment, then go see what are in some of the other boats as they dock with their three plants.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Letter of Application

January 21, 2009

Dear Membership Committee Chairperson,

Please consider this letter my official application for membership in the Society of Gardeners Age 50 and Over. (SGAFO)

I have worked, studied, and planned my entire life to be admitted to this Society and I now humbly, but excitedly, present myself before the membership committee on this day, my 50th birthday, asking for your consideration of my qualifications, which include:

An interest in all things horticultural, including plants, gardens, gardening tools, and gardening books.

A lifetime of gardening experience, beginning at age two when, according to family legend, I dipped my hands into a bag of fertilizer and continuing through the years as I gained decades of actual hands-on gardening experience in all seasons.

A gardening wardrobe that includes a wide brimmed hat for protection from the sun and three pairs of gardening clogs, bought and worn well before similar footwear became popular with non-gardeners.

An ongoing, perpetual term as president of the The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”), of which I am a founding member. In addition, I was once a member of an actual garden club, though that membership lapsed quite some time ago.

A learned ability to not scream like a little girl and run the other way when encountering insects in the garden. Instead, I look them square in the eye and determine if they are friend or foe. If foe, I willingly fight the battle against them, even with my bare hands. If friends, I leave them be.

A noticeable increase in the use of the phrase “I remember when”, when discussing matters of gardening, such as “I remember when my Dad bought tomato plants at a bait and tackle store because there were no garden centers in town”. Or, “I remember when I was studying horticulture in college, we didn’t have the Internet to look up information on plants.” Or, “I remember when I took ownership of the night-blooming cereus back in ’87, how I looked forward to it blooming under my watch.” (See bloom above).

I’ve also become very adept with sentences that start out with “back when”, as in “Back when I was a kid gardening…”

An appreciation for the finer gifts of gardening, including compost, rocks, and top soil.

In addition to the above qualifications, I can provide several letters of recommendation from family and friends, both gardening and non-gardening, attesting to my interest and practice of gardening.

I can also provide a copy of my birth certificate, should you find it hard to believe that someone as young as I am is actually qualified to be in your wonderful organization, the Society of Gardeners Age 50 and Over.

Let me close by saying I have the greatest respect and admiration for all the current and past members of this wonderful society, for their plant knowledge and growing experience, for their tenacity and sense of purpose when it comes to gardening. I would be pleased to be counted as one of you.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions, please let me know. I eagerly await a positive response.

Yours truly,
Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Monday, January 19, 2009

Two Words: Raised Beds

I have just two words of advice for anyone who wants to start growing vegetables for the first time.

Raised Beds.

I speak from experience having raised vegetables in a traditional garden plot and now in raised beds. Once the raised beds are set up, it is far easier to grow vegetables in them than in a traditional garden plot.

Spring prep? With a traditional garden plot, you have to wait for the perfect conditions when the ground is not too wet to get out and turn the soil over and prepare it for planting. You can either dig it by hand or use a roto-tiller; neither is as easy as it sounds. Then once the garden is dug up and smoothed over, you generally figure out where the rows will be and hill them up a bit, leaving paths in between them. Tired yet?

With raised beds, the soil dries out faster in the spring, so on the first sunny day you can just whistle your way out to the garden, remove the few weeds that might have sprouted, rake smooth, and plant.

Summer care? With a traditional garden plot, there will come a time, generally around mid-summer, when you will stand there and look at the WHOLE garden and see that it is full of purslane and foxtail, crabgrass and false daisy. Weeds! You can’t even think where to start weeding, and so you abandon the garden to the weeds, venturing in only occasionally to see if perhaps under that morning glory vine you can find those pepper plants you lovingly grew from seed, carefully planted out in the spring, and then abandoned to the weeds.

With raised beds, there will still be weeds, but you can attack them one raised bed at a time and see real progress as you work.

Fall clean up? With a traditional garden plot, it seems like such a big job to clean up the garden that you often end up leaving everything, including your good intentions to clean up the garden, to the ravages of frost and snow so that in the spring, you have to first clear off the old tomato vines, pepper plants and corn stalks before you can dig it all up again. And if you do clean it all up in the fall, you still have to dig the garden up again in the spring.

With raised beds, you can clean up each bed as it winds down, top it off with some compost, and then in the spring, you can start planting again within minutes of deciding it is a perfect spring day to do so.

Another advantage of raised beds? You can start out with just one, perhaps only four feet wide and eight feet long, and then once you taste the success you’ll have growing vegetables in it, you can add more beds as time permits.

Eventually you’ll have a nice big garden and you’ll be growing all the vegetables you could ever eat, plus some extras for the neighbors, your co-workers, family, and perhaps a food pantry nearby.

Two words make it all possible… Raised Beds.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In Just Two Months...

In just two months, give or take, I’ll be out in the garden planting ‘Green Arrow’* peas and lettuce and onions.

It will be a beautiful early spring day when I get the wheelbarrow out of the garage, load it up with a rake, seeds, onion sets and row markers.

Then I’ll look over all the hoes, and pick out one, maybe two, to make nice straight furrows in whatever raised bed I choose for these early crops.

It will be just warm enough to wear a lightweight jacket as I kneel down and shake those pale green shriveled up pea seeds out of the seed packet into the palm of my hand…

Yes, it’s January and thoughts of planting this spring may be more of a dream right now, but there are just two more months before I’ll really be out in the garden, the currently frozen garden, planting seeds.

While I wait two more months to get out into the garden, there is plenty of winter gardening to do inside. I’ve got all kinds of stuff to do to prepare for spring. I’m going to be busy doing it all, too. This winter gardening can really wear a gardener out. And it is mentally challenging.

The most obvious and taxing winter gardening chore, the one staring me in the face saying “do it now” is the task of browsing through seed catalogs and ordering seeds.

Even though I’ll only order from two or three (or four, maybe five tops) seed companies, I look at all the catalogs I get, just in case there is something New! Unique! Horticultural Breakthrough! that I must have.

Then I get down to the serious business of listing all the seeds I want, followed by pruning the list back, then standing back and looking at it, then pruning it again. This first round of list pruning is based on how much space I have, or think I have, in the garden.

The second round of pruning the seed list is more like thinning out seedlings, as I work to get the list down to a reasonable amount to spend, or at least to an amount that I’m willing to spend. Whether that is really a reasonable amount or not probably depends on if you are a gardener or not.

There’s a lot of math involved in this part. Not just adding up prices and seeing dollar signs, but calculating space requirements and doing advanced computations to see if it will all fit in the garden.

Sometimes this part even involves a calculator and the use of Excel spreadsheets.

In the end, I also tap into my past experience and just guess and hope it will all work out.

It usually does.

There are other winter gardening chores I could be, should be, doing, but right now all my energy is focused on seeds and ordering what I need.

After all, in just two months, give or take, I’ll be planting peas!

*I only plant ‘Green Arrow’ peas. No other pea variety will do. I must have ‘Green Arrow’.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bloom Day List for January 2009

Thank you to all who participated in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for January!

Indoors, outdoors, and all around, even in January, there are a lot of blooms to be seen. Here's the entire list imported from Mr. Linky.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day Participants
1. joco
2. Gail
4. Heirloom Gardener
6. Dee
7. RobinL
8. Mr. McGregor\'s Daughter
9. Colleen--In the Garden Online
10. lancashire rose
11. Dave
12. Kerri
13. Frances
14. Birds \'n Such
15. carolyngail
16. entangled
17. Nancy Bond
18. Rose
19. susan harris
21. Racquel
22. Out of Doors
23. OutsideClyde
24. daniel Mount
25. Cannas and Bananas
26. Anneliese - CobraHead
27. Pam/Digging
28. Marie
29. Lisa at Greenbow
30. John Willis
31. Leslie
32. Sweet Bay
33. Kiss of Sun-Bonnie
35. Iris/Society Garlic
36. elizabeth
37. inadvertent farmer
38. Darla
39. Town Mouse and Country Mouse
40. Diana Kirby
41. Cold Climate Kathy
42. Sheryl Smith-Rodgers
43. Daphne\'s Dandelions
44. Jen
45. Mo
46. Mother Earth\'s Garden
47. Kanak
48. Lorene
49. commonweeder
50. Michelle Derviss
51. Robin/Garden Mentor
52. Linda Lehmusvirta
53. Kris at Blithewold
54. Cinj
55. Washington Gardener
56. Annie in Austin
57. chuck b.
58. Steve
59. Clatter Valley
60. Les
61. Molly at Life on Tiger Mountain
62. A Corner Garden
63. Michelle
64. Kathy and Skippy
65. Zanthan Gardens
66. Blunders with shoots, blossoms \'n roots
67. Diane
68. joey
69. Jean
70. Karen/Greenwalks
71. healingmagichands
72. Jessica at Snappy Garden Blog
73. AnneTanne
74. Dreamybee (Hawaii)
75. Tom\'s Green Thumb
76. Cheryl
77. VP
78. Jill-O
79. Arythrina/Metaphyta
80. MNGarden/Donna
81. Georgia/
82. Darcy at Bloomtown
83. Mary Beth/Cultivating Paradise
84. Lori
85. Layanee
86. Shirl
87. Catherine Kokoris
88. Hilery - So. Nevada
89. Michelle
90. Cynthia
91. kris at home (t.m.)
92. Country Gardener
93. The Gorham Garden
94. Idaho Gardener
95. Jan - Always Growing
96. Grace Peterson
97. totally inept balcony gardener
98. Cheryl in Austin
99. Debbi
100. Waterlilies
101. Nancy's Garden Spot, Houston
102. Shady Gardener
103. Pam
104. Kylee at Our Little Acre
105. Melanthia
106. fransorin
107. Beckie
108. Laura at Moomin Light
109. linda
110. debra
111. Randy
112. rosella
113. Kristy \'Greenthumb\' Guthrie
114. Deb
115. Marty Ross
116. Karen - An Artist\'s Garden
117. Robin at Getting Grounded
118. Chloe\'s Garden
119. Ewa in the Garden
120. Renee's Roots
121. Cindy, My Corner of Katy, Part 1
122. Cindy, My Corner of Katy, Part 2
123 Lydia Plunk
123 Chookie
124. Deirdre

Powered by... Mister Linky's Magical Widgets.

If you add your name later, I'll go back and export and update the list again so it is complete and no one is missed. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more blooms to check out!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2009

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for January 2009.

Here at May Dreams Gardens, snow and very cold temperatures in the teens and single digits ruled out the last hope for finding even a tiny frozen bloom outside. I didn’t have that much hope anyway, after many icy cold days in December.

But I went outside, just in case, and looked in a few places to see if perhaps there was a stray bloom on Vinca minor or a crocus leaf popping up by the front step.

Instead I found these snow-topped sedums, which for today I’m calling Snowdums. (Groan)

I also found out that snow doesn’t always conceal as it covers everything; sometimes it reveals what is really going on in the garden.
All those tracks in the snow tell me that rabbits or other critters did not simply pass through my back yard, they stopped to cavort and play a bit. Snow does bring out a playful sense in us, doesn’t it? At least it does right after we shovel off the drive, feed the birds, throw some ice melt on the front walk and check for closings of school, work, or a favorite activity.

Fortunately, I embrace house plants so I have a few blooms and buds inside where it is nice and warm.

Fading fast are the Christmas cactus and the first two Amaryllis that bloomed for the holidays. The faded blooms are still there only because I've been too lazy to cut them off.

Blooming now are the Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia milii, pictured above, and three pots of Oxalis regnellii triangularis. I can always count on Crown of Thorns for blooms any month of the year, which explains its other common name, Forever Flowers.

Budding up is what most of the blooming plants indoors are really doing right now. Instead of saying “you should have been here last week” , as many gardeners seem to do when giving tours of their gardens, I should say “you should really stick around another week or so to see the real bloom fest of January”.

Did you know that buds are hard to photograph inside? They kind of blur into the background. For that reason, I’m only posting a picture of the bud of Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) ‘Blossom Peacock’.

It’s a nice fat bud that ought to be in full bloom in about a week, give or take, maybe by Wednesday.

There are also buds on Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’, Jewel Orchid (Ludisia discolor), and another orchid (Stenosarcos Vanguard). I call it by the common name of Chicken Foot Orchid because that’s what the flower looks like to me.

And of course, I have a dozen hyacinths "on vase", which should make a wonderful display in February.

Now after seeing my few indoor blooms and buds, I really am ready to see what is blooming in other gardens in January. Please show me some blooms! Give me something to cling to until spring! Or commiserate with me if you are in a cold place, too. I'll even settle for pictures of blooms on upholstery, if that's what you've got.

It’s easy to participate in Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th and then come back here to leave your link in the Mister Linkey widget below along with a comment to entice us to come for a virtual visit.

Oh, and another reason to leave a comment? Mister Linky isn't being very cooperative this bloom day and doesn't seem to be showing up. I've sent an SOS to him, and hope for resolution soon.

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

Monday, January 12, 2009

I've Been Reading the Almanac

Perpetuating the myth that northern gardeners are just frittering away these winter days and nights reading seed catalogs and gardening books, I’ve been looking through the almanac, in particular The Old Farmer’s 2009 Almanac.

Here are some of my observations, with page numbers so you can follow along if you happen to have one of these handy.

Pg. 80. The map showing the general weather forecast for 2009 indicates that Indiana (and about half the United States) will be hot and dry this summer. No! Please let this not be the case! I fear drought more than locusts or pretty much anything else that could happen to my garden.

Pg. 202-203. The outdoor planting table indicates that the moon is favorable for planting peas from March 7th - 10th and again from March 26th – 31st. What about the traditional date for planting peas, March 17th? I’ll either have to risk planting with an unfavorable moon on the 17th or wait an extra nine days to plant peas on the 26th. Or, I might try to plant my peas on the 10th, depending on the soil temperature that day.

Pg. 229. According to the Frosts and Growing Seasons table, our last frost in Indianapolis is around April 17th. That’s not been my personal experience these last several years. I think that’s too soon. I prefer to use Mother’s Day, or about May 10th, as my frost free date. And to be safe, I usually wait until nearly Memorial Day to plant the most frost tender plants like tomatoes.

Pg. 232. I’m fascinated by the “Best Days” table, which is also based on the phases of the moon. According to this table, one of the best days to start a diet to GAIN weight was January 1st. Ha! Now you know why your diet, the one you faithfully started on the 1st, isn’t working. If your goal is to lose weight, a better day to start your diet is tomorrow, January 13th.

If, weather permitting, you want to get a jump on all those weeds, good days for that are at the end of January on the 30th and 31st. If the weather is nice enough, I just might go out and pull some henbit myself. Oh, wait, the ground will be frozen, most likely. Never mind. You southern gardeners, though, embrace weeding at the end of the month for all of us.

In the right climate, January 15th is supposed to be a good day to both plant and harvest below ground crops, get dental care and I’ll go out on a limb here and add post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden.

Does anyone else read the almanac or use the information in it to plan to do things, like planting, by the phases of the moon?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Memorable Sentence for a Memorable Weekend

A memorable weekend deserves a memorable thought.

And I’ve thought of a thought to use on my blog that probably shouldn’t be written, but I’m about to post it anyway.

It’s like having a plant you know you shouldn’t plant in your garden for any number of reasons… invasive; not suited to your climate; no room for it… but you plant it anyway.

There may be regrets. But still… the temptation…

Here it is…

A gardener should branch out, see what takes root and forms a new shoot, because it may perhaps flower and bear fruit, which could contain the seed of an idea, that if allowed to germinate, might lead the gardener beyond their own little patch of dirt into a greater garden where more ideas can be sown, which, once sprouted, could become a vine that if followed to its end, might lead to more riches than a compost bin bears in the fall.

Can you fit more “garden-y’ words into a sentence like that? I challenge you to come up with your own atrocious garden-y thought.

(Hey, it’s winter, what else is a gardener to do?)


It’s been a fun weekend, starting with reading about Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day in The Austin Statesman. Many thanks to Renee Studebaker for “putting us in the paper” and spreading the word.

Then Elizabeth “forced” me to submit me to even more questions about bloom day for a post on Garden Rant. I loved all the comments, especially the one that recognized my “eccentric brilliance”.

Seriously, thank you to all who left many compliments and kind thoughts in the comments on Garden Rant, and thank you to both Renee and Elizabeth for the articles/posts.

Does anyone need me to remind them that Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is coming up this Thursday, the 15th?


Did you want to read that garden-y thought again while you think of your own? Here it is…

A gardener should branch out, see what takes root and forms a new shoot, because it may perhaps flower and bear fruit, which could contain the seed of an idea, that if allowed to germinate, might lead the gardener beyond their own little patch of dirt into a greater garden where more ideas can be sown, which, once sprouted, could become a vine that if followed to its end, might lead to more riches than a compost bin bears in the fall.

If you come up with a similiar thought, let me know. Mine contains about 14 garden-y words. (Gardener, branch, root, shoot, flower, fruit, seed, germinate, dirt, garden, sown, sprouted, vine, compost).

Shoot, I didn't include 'hoe' in that sentence!


I promise to return to regular blog posts, perhaps with actual information that another gardener might use, in the near future.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Seed Packet Review - Botanical Interests

January 10th and winter continues. We are still about 9 weeks away from being able to sow any seeds in the garden.

But this has not kept me from getting six packets of seeds from Botancial Interests Seeds to try in my garden this year.

The first thing I noticed about their seed packets, in addition to the beautiful paintings of the flowers and vegetables on each of them, is the amount of information they have managed to get on one packet of seeds.

They put information on the front and back of the packet, as you might expect, and they also printed information on the inside of the packet.

These have got to be the most informative seed packets I’ve ever seen, and yes, I have seen a lot of seed packets in my gardening days.

And, every packet, even the vegetable seeds, includes the botanical name! Even the vegetable seeds.

In a comment on my recent post about Temporary Botanical Names, MSS from Zanthan Gardens asked why we don’t use botanical names for vegetables. My short answer is probably because most people don’t know them. But with seeds from Botanical Interests, we can learn them!

Using this wonderful botanical name information on the seed packets, let me just say that I’m excited about the Lactuca sativa seeds that I’ll be sowing in early spring, the Lycopersicon lycopersicum seeds that will hopefully be the beginning of a new adventure in tomato growing and the Zea mays var rugosa seeds that may give me bragging rights for the earliest sweet corn.

(For what it's worth, I don't generally think it is a good idea to use botanical names when talking or writing about common vegetables, I just think it's fun to know what those names are.)

They also included on the outside of the seed packet other information you would hope would be there, including common name and variety, weight, price, whether or not the seeds are organic, description of the variety, when to sow outside (or inside or both), how to sow, days to emerge, depth to sow, spacing within a row, and spacing of rows.

They seem to have thought of everything in the design of these packets because there is also the unexpected feature of a section of the packet that you can cut out to make a label.

And did I mention they also put the name of the artist for the botanical illustration on the packet?

Even though it’s going to be awhile before I can sow seeds outside, I opened up the Lactuca sativa seed packet to take a look at the additional information inside.

Wow… they've packed the inside with several paragraphs of good information and stuff that is helpful and just plain fun to know. Stuff like plant family, where native, hardiness info, more descriptions and general information about the plant, special sowing and germination instructions, optimal growing conditions, and when and how to harvest (for vegetables).

There is also a drawing of what the seedling looks like and a place to record the date you sowed the seeds, that ends up on the back of the cut out label, along with biographical information about the artist who painted the illustration on the front of the packet.

I’ve gotten seed packets before that literally included a one line instruction like “sow outside 3 – 4 weeks before last frost”. Because I’ve sown seeds since I was a kid, and most of the time I know how to sow them, I've gotten by on this little bit of information.

But someone new to gardening or seed sowing might need or like a bit more information. They’ll find all the information they’d ever need, and then some, on packets of Botanical Interest Seeds.

Oh, and by the way, Lactuca sativa is Lettuce. The packet I got from Botanical Interests is Mesclun, Gourmet Baby Greens. According to the packet it contains 18% Black Seeded Simpson, 16% Buttercrunch, 17% Green Salad Bowl, 17% Lola Rossa, 17% Red Oakleaf, and 17% Rough d’Haver.

I’m going to sow some of this lettuce mix in a container near the back door just as soon as it starts to warm up around here, or March 17th, whichever comes first.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Winter Gardening: Phase Four

The fourth and final phase of winter gardening will be upon us before we know it, if we can just hang on.

If you are not familiar with these four phases of winter gardening for us northern gardeners, a quick review…

Phase one is all about Putting Away all that ‘stuff’ in the garden that won’t withstand the vagaries of winter weather. I started this phase a little too late this past fall and was out there in the already cold weather trying to put two large brown tarps over chairs, benches, tables, pots, etc. Twice since then I’ve had to go out and fasten down the tarps again or risk them sailing across the garden.

Phase two is all about Settling In and enjoying the holidays. The holidays were just grand here at May Dreams Gardens and after I showed off my new hoe and set up my new weather station in a manner that will get it through the winter until I can do it properly in the spring, I actually painted my kitchen and breakfast area. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment to have that project finally finished after I had foolishly started doing it during the height of gardening season. Everyone told me to wait, that I wouldn’t get it done as long as there was gardening to be done, and they were right.

Phase three is currently going on and is all about Chilling Out. It’s about seed catalogs and indoor plants, forcing bulbs and dreaming of the garden and how it is going to be the best ever this year. Because it is.

Up next is Phase four of winter gardening which is all about Surviving It.

As winter drags on, we complete our seed orders, watch the forced blooms fade, and realize our house plants really don’t need all that much attention.

We look out the window hoping it won’t snow or ice up, again.

We’ve placed the snow blower in the ‘ready position’ in place of the lawn mower, and we spend more time with snow shovels than with hoes.

We notice our winter coat weighs a ton, and the scarf and gloves we’ve been wearing almost daily really could stand to be washed, again.

We wait. We wait some more. We look out the window. We sigh. We read the garden blogs of southern gardeners and want to see our gardens in bloom again, too.

And then one day, a crocus will bloom.

And then a tiny dwarf iris will add some color, like the Iris danfordiae pictured above, which bloomed in my garden last year on March 14th.

Then we’ll be on our way again, excited for spring. And looking back, it won’t seem like winter took that long, after all. We will have made it through all the holidays, another birthday, another Ground Hog Day, another Presidents Day. We will have survived the winter, all four phases, and soon…

We’ll be outside gardening again!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Using Temporary Botanical Names

A friend of mine, who knows not a whit about gardening, often likes to test my knowledge of plants by pointing at a tree or shrub or flower and asking “What’s that?”

Then I fire back with the botanical and common name of the plant.

Then she says, “You could be making that up and I’d never know!”

What? How could anyone think that I would make up botanical names?

Well, I might find it helpful to have a few temporary botanical names to use in those situations where I don’t know the actual botanical name of the plant.

It would sound better than “blah blah blah”, smarter than “uh uh uh”, and merely serve as a place holder of sorts until I had a chance to either remember the real botanical name or look it up. No harm done!

I can think of several temporary genus names that would be useful…

Forgetia, pronounced “for-get-ia”. Use this genus name along with an appropriate descriptive species name when you have honestly forgotten the botanical name and are going to have to spend some time searching online or looking in reference books trying to jog your memory to remember it.

For example, Forgetia rosea might be a plant with a pink flower. Or Forgetia giantosa might be the biggest plant in your garden, the one you can’t believe you can’t remember the botanical name for.

Lookupsia, pronounced “loo-kup-sia”. Use this temporary genus name when you know you’ve recorded the name of the plant in your garden journal or a garden catalog and you just need a minute to go in and look it up. Again, you can combine it with any descriptive species name so it sounds more complete.

For example, Lookupsia orchida is a good temporary name for that hardy orchid you planted last spring, the one that you can’t remember the name of and have to look up each time someone asks you about it. (Coincidentally pictured above, it has the actual botanical name of Bletilla striata.)

Neverknewia, pronounced “nev-a-new-ia”. Use this genus name if you took over an existing garden and it includes plants that you never knew the name of to begin with. Or use it for that plant you just had to buy from the garden center, even though it had no label and you had no idea what it was. (Shame on you for buying it, by the way, it could have been invasive or maybe a weed that grew in the pot after the plant actually for sale died!)

Eventually, some other gardener will come along and ask you what is, you’ll say "Neverknewia plantsia" in a soft little voice, and then she or he will politely correct you saying, “Really, it looks more like a rose to me.” And at that very moment you can drop the temporary botanical name and call it by its real botanical name, Rosa (or whatever it turns out to be).

Weedisia, pronounced “wee-de-sia”. Use this genus name when someone asks you the name of something you are pretty sure is a weed you should have pulled. Then when the other person isn’t looking or has left your garden, pull that darn weed. And absolutely, even if they beg, do not dig and divide it and give it to them as a passalong plant.

For example, Weedisia prolifica would probably work for most weeds, because they are usually prolific.

Now if you think all these temporary botanical names are just foolishness and want to know how to avoid being in situations where you feel you need to use one of them, I have one suggestion…

Embrace plant labels!

You don’t have to stick the label right next to the plant in the garden to embrace it. In fact, I would prefer you didn’t unless you are running a botanical garden. But do keep your plant labels for future reference.

Suggestions on what to do with the labels include:

- Put them in a plant catalog of all the plants in your garden.

- Keep them in envelopes, with one envelope for each garden bed or area of the garden.

- Scan them into your computer and then save the images online, filed by garden bed or uploaded to a special blog with one entry per plant.

-Hang them on bulletin boards in your garden shed or garage.

Or come up with your own method.

You might still have to use the genus name Lookupsia as a temporary place holder, but at least you know you will be able to find the botanical name when you need it.

Embrace plant labels for a happier life!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ritual of Seed Catalog Reading and Ordering

My stack of seed catalogs seems to grow each time I go out to the mailbox.

Burpee, Jung Seeds & Plants, Territorial Seed Company, Select Seeds, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Thompson & Morgan, Totally Tomatoes, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, Miller Nurseries, Gurney’s, R.H. Shumway… have all arrived.

Park’s, Vermont Bean Seed, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Henry Fields, and probably a few others that I’ve forgotten about, are no doubt on their way to my mailbox and will arrive any day now.

How do these seed companies find me? I don’t order from all of them. Who could? But year after year, they faithfully send me their catalogs.

And year after year, I faithfully go through a ritual of sorts of seed catalog reading and ordering.

First I go through the catalogs that I know I will order from, reading them cover to cover, marking, circling, and tagging everything I want, everything I need. Then I’ll glance through the catalogs I don’t plan to order from ‘just in case’ they have something different that I must have.

I’ll get bleary eyed reading all the descriptions and looking at all the pictures in these catalogs. I’ll find plants that I know will make my garden the best it has ever been, that I won’t be able to garden, to live, without.

I’ll also look for my ‘tried and true’ varieties of flowers and vegetables that I must grow every year, or my garden will be incomplete.

Then I’ll figure out that all that I’ve marked and chosen is way more than I could possible grow in my current garden. I’ll briefly consider the option of turning my entire backyard into a kitchen garden (why not?) before I whittle my seed list down to the basics, and then add in a few new varieties to try before going online and filling out my orders.

I’ve been reading seed catalogs this way for years, decades actually, except the part about going online to order the actual seeds. (Remember I started gardening at a very young age.) ‘Back in the day’, I used to help my Dad go through the Burpee seed catalog. After we had agreed on the varieties to get, I’d fill out the order form and we’d mail it off in plenty of time to get the tomato seeds so he could start them inside as early as February.

I still look forward to the arrival of the seed catalogs and spending time reading through all of them. It’s a time when I can imagine a near perfect garden, a big garden, filled with vegetables and scented with flowers. I can see my garden already starting to take form in the markings and notes in my seed catalogs.

It really is going to be one of my best ever!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Hyacinths "On Vase"

Another ritual of winter gardening has been completed here at May Dreams Gardens. This morning, I got out the hyacinth vases, filled them with water and placed a chilled hyacinth bulb on top of each one.

Then I placed them on the window sill where they will soon develop roots and shoots. Then just about the time we are despairing that spring will ever get here, they’ll be in bloom. I have ten lined up all in a row, guaranteed to provide enough scent to give me a good-sized headache.

I can hardly wait.

As with most aspects of gardening, there is more than one way to force hyacinths.

I buy the bulbs in the fall and put them in a bag in the back of the refrigerator to chill for a few months until, oh, about now.

Elizabeth from Gardening While Intoxicated buys her bulbs about the same time, but puts them on the vases and then chills them in her cellar, “on vase”. (She also forces way more bulbs then I do, way more.)

Either way seems to work, but when you chill the bulbs in the refrigerator, there is the risk that the bulbs will mold. If I had a cold cellar, I might prefer chilling “on vase”. (I like that phrase “on vase”)

Fortunately, this year, none of my bulbs molded, and I had five left over after setting up eleven vases with bulbs “on vase”.

I think I’ll try to force the left over bulbs in a pot with dirt. I have the bulbs, I have enough pots, and I always have potting soil on hand, so I have nothing to lose by trying, except maybe a little time.

But it’s time I’ll be spending with my hands in the dirt, so I don’t mind. We are, after all, just starting phase 3 of winter gardening, so there isn’t much I can be do outside in the real dirt.

If all goes well with the hyacinths, I should start to see roots in a few weeks, and have hyacinths blooming “on vase” by mid February, just in time for the start of my third year of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

Is anyone else forcing hyacinths “on vase”?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Winter Smiles

"Sweeter yet than dream or song of Summer or Spring are Winter's sometimes smiles."*

Winter sometimes smiles around here with...

... the simple blooms of Oxalis, growing in my sunroom.

... a sunny day,

... the emergence of the slender leaves of crocus and snow drops,

... the still green leaves of the hellebores,

... a new gardening book.

The mailman recently brought me Gardens in Winter by Elizabeth Lawrence. With this delivery, I now have all the books Elizabeth wrote, except for one, plus the all the published compilations of her newspaper columns.

The one book I don't have is Lob's Wood. I have it on order, and hope to have it soon. Before last week, I never found a copy of it for less than $95, but now it appears that a secondary seller on has it for $20. But, they haven't sent it yet, so I won't count it as mine until it is safely on my doorstep.

Even though Eliz. Lawrence wrote about gardening from the perspective of her North Carolina climate and I garden two zones away in Indiana, I still enjoy her books. I like her style of writing and how she connected with gardeners across the country, keeping up coorespondence with many of them through letters and occasional visits.

She wrote in Gardens in Winter,

"I am often asked who these gardeners are whose letters I quote so frequently. They are just people who write to me because they are interested in the things I am interested in, and who send me notes of flowers and seasons. Some of them are well known, and some are plain dirt gardeners like me. What matters is not who they are but where they garden; for to be of any use, information about plants must be regional."

Many garden bloggers, upon reading her books or columns, comment that had she been living today, Elizabeth Lawrence would most definitely have a garden blog and be in the "thick of it all" in the garden blogosphere.

We will never really know, but can be happy that she left us with several books and hundreds of newspaper columns full of her opinions, thoughts, questions, and observations about plants and gardening.

In the intro to Gardens in Winter, Elizabeth wrote,

"I never did care for fair-weather gardeners. Standing behind glass doors, they look out at the cold ground and leafless branches, and exclaim, "How beautiful this must be in spring!"

How beautiful it is now, I want to cry --as if a lavender wash was laid on the boles of the pine trees, and the pale trunks of the Oriental magnolias, on the purple bricks around the pool, the red earth, the amber gravel, and fawn-colored stone, drawing them all together in a series of related tones.

How beautiful it is when the pattern of the garden becomes clear again, when no leaves blur the long straight line or gentle curve, or the restful circle laid on the square, where levels are sharply defined, and intervals between steps have the rhythm of falling water, when hidden nests are revealed, distant tree tops unveiled and lost vistas regained."

This month, you'll find me mostly inside reading this book and browsing through seed catalogs. But I'll venture outside often to look for these "winter's sometimes smiles". I don't want to be mistaken for a "fair weather gardener", I want to strive to be a "plain dirt gardener"!

And I want to appreciate the winter for what it brings, and not let it pass by as simply a long yearning for spring.

Visit Sweet Home and Garden Chicago for other posts with poetry or quotes today for Garden Bloggers Muse Day!

*Coventry Patmore, Selected Poems, edited by Derek Patmore (London, The Grey Walls Press, 1948)