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Thursday, April 30, 2009

On The Eve of May

There’s an annual beginning in every garden, a point in time that seems like the “new year’s day” for the garden, when the old is past and the new is welcomed in.

It’s a time when everything seems possible, and all our plans seem probable.

Would anyone care to guess when that is in my garden? I’ll give you a hint, we are on the eve of it today.


All day I dream of the…wait let me look at my blog header so I get this right… together now…

All day I dream of the days in May when the sun is warm, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the garden is all new again!

Every garden has a month of May. It might actually take place in March or April or June, but it happens at some point. When is it in your garden?

(Dwarf columbine, Aquilegia sp., blooms in the miniature garden, barely six inches tall.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Society Meets Again: What's In A Name and Dwarf Bearded Irises

Greetings to all members of the Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”)

Welcome to this special meeting of the Society, our ninth meeting, called by me, the self-appointed president. For new members, please feel free to acquaint yourself with the Society in general by reading previous Society meeting posts.

At today’s meeting, we have another Important Matter to consider, perhaps the most important matter here-to-for discussed. And then after we discuss this Important Matter, I, your Society president, will present a brief program on dwarf bearded irises.

Important Matter

As your president I have thought for some time that the Society name is a bit long and shall we say, unwieldy, perhaps even limiting for a membership that has interests in such a wide array of topics related to gardening. I therefore am presenting a motion to change the name of the Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition to a new name that offers both meaning and an easy to remember acronym.

After much consideration, contemplation and cogitation, I hereby move that the name of the Society be officially changed to “Blooming United Gardeners Society”, which can be referred to as BUGS or just “the Society”.

Please discuss this motion amongst yourselves via the comments, and don’t be shy about offering other suggestions. Following discussion, the name changing committee will decide if there should be a vote or if this motion will be automatically “so moved”.

A Brief Program on Dwarf Bearded Irises

Quite by accident, I now have four varieties of dwarf bearded irises growing in my garden. I deem them accidental because I never read about them and thought “I’ve got to have some of those”. Nor did I have someone draw up a garden plan and say “Right here you should plant dwarf bearded irises.”

Instead, I found myself at a local greenhouse, saw the dwarf irises blooming, and bought them.

The first time this happened, I bought Iris ‘Variegata’, which has variegated leaves and is not pictured because it is not currently blooming, and another variety called ‘Smart’.

I love the deep, dark purple color of ‘Smart’ in early spring.

Then the next year, I was back at the same greenhouse and bought two more dwarf irises, just because I thought they would go well with my first purchases.

This one is called ‘What Again’.
Many of you might have said "What Again?" when you saw that this was another Society post.

And here’s ‘Fireplace Embers’.
I guess that’s what a glowing fireplace ember would look like, as interpreted by an Iris.

I’ve not been to that greenhouse yet this spring, but I imagine I’ll be drawn there soon, perhaps this weekend, by forces I can’t control.

Once I’m there, I might see another dwarf bearded Iris or two and I might accidently buy them, too.

So far, these have been easy to care for. I’ve planted them and removed the spent blooms, and that’s about it. The nice thing about these irises is they don’t get top heavy and fall over and they seem to bloom earlier than bearded Iris.

Individual blooms only seem to last a day or two, so I try to deadhead them every few days. Once these irises finish blooming, you end up with a nice little clump of Iris foliage which blends in nicely with summer flowering perennials nearby.

I’ve not tried to divide these irises yet, but when I do, I'll probably divide them like I would other bearded irises, which is done in late summer. It looks like 'Smart' and maybe 'What Again' are big enough to divide this year.

This concludes this meeting of the Society. Please remember to weigh in on the name change motion via the comments.

Submitted by

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

President, The Society, perhaps formerly know as The Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition or SPPOTGWLS

(Update: Esteemed member Annie in Austin has added to the dwarf iris program with a special remembrance of irises she grew in her garden in Illinois. Thank you, Annie!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

There's A Daylily In There Somewhere

This daylily, Hemerocallis sp., was nearly overtaken by a large dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, thus requiring extraordinary procedures to eradicate the dandelion.

In other words, I had to perform a dandelionectomy, which is sometimes referred to as a taraxacumectomy by some high-brow haughtyculturists.

Some plants can withstand this procedure, while others can not. Fortunately many daylilies, including this ‘Stella d’Oro’ that I swore I was getting rid of but haven’t, can easily withstand a dandelionectomy.

Warning! This type of weeding is advanced in nature. It requires a bit more time than most weeding because it must be done “ex terra” which is Latin for “out of soil”

Here’s a rundown of how to do this procedure on daylilies.

First, dig up the entire daylily with the dandelion.

Then, using your bare (or gloved) hands, forcefully remove the dandelion from the daylily. This may result in extra daylily divisions, called "fans", so don't be alarmed if you end up with more daylily plants. In some cases, you may need a sharp knife to cut away the dandelion roots.

As you can see from this picture, I ended up with one dandelion, on the left, and three or four daylily divisions as a result of this dandelionectomy.

Once you’ve removed the dandelion by hand or by knife, toss it out, and then replant the daylily in the spot where it was dug up.

After the dandelionectomy, if you do have a few extra divisions of the daylily, plant these somewhere else in your garden, or give them to a friend.

Any questions?

Oh, by the way, if you want to dig and divide your daylilies, you can follow this same procedure, but skip the part about removing the dandelion. Just split up the daylily into separate "fans" and replant.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Letters to Gardening Friends, April 26, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

Greetings from my almost weeded garden!

What do you think of this daffodil picture I included?

I believe this is the prettiest daffodil I've seen all year, bar none! The best did bloom last as this is the end of the daffodils in my Zone 5b garden, another sign of the passing of this spring season.

Is it still spring? It was unseasonably warm, actually hot, yesterday and today, so it does all of a sudden feel very summer-like. I spent most of the weekend outside weeding, trimming, and mowing, which means that next weekend I can start mulching in earnest, though I will have to mow again, of course. The lawn is growing well this spring.

Out in the garden, the spring crops probably do not like the hot weather, but don’t seem to be suffering too much from it. We are supposed to be back to normal temps tomorrow or Tuesday, which means high temps in the upper 60’s. I think the spring crops will recover nicely and in a week or so, I’ll be picking lettuce. This seems to be pretty much on schedule with last year, when I also harvested lettuce, onions, and radishes on the last day of April.

Unless I build and use a cold frame, this seems about as early as I’ll harvest anything from my vegetable garden.

In other exciting, yet somewhat mundane news, I stopped by the local Lowes yesterday to get a new string trimmer and a reciprocating saw and noticed a lot of people buying frost tender annuals. They may be sorry they are planting so soon around here, as we are still likely to have frosts in May. In fact, I thought I learned in school, back in the day, that the first ten percent of frost tender annuals sold was considered “the fool’s crop” because many of those plants would be killed of by frost. It seems almost wrong to sell them this early!

Yet people are buying them, so I guess that's why they sell them now. But they won't be selling any to me this early; I wait until at least mid-May to buy and plant frost tender plants.

Thank you, Mary Ann, for the encouragement to get the reciprocating saw to use for pruning. I also noticed that Melissa from Zanthan Gardens got one and tweeted about it and I know Cindy from My Corner of Katy got one, as did Mr. McGregor’s Daughter. It must be the new thing to have. Dee, do you have a reciprocating saw for pruning?

I’ve got my eye on a big dead limb in the middle of my white blooming lilac to prune with my new saw, maybe later today. And my neighbor has some pruning she could use some help with, and my nephew and his wife just moved to a house with a tree that I want to prune. I bet I get all kinds of offers of trees and shrubs to prune once people find out how much I love to do it. Who knows what adventures I’ll have with this new saw!

Oh, and I promise I will be careful. Gloves, eye protection, full attention at all times when I am using the saw, and I will always be sure someone is nearby to assist me.

Well, that’s about it for today. When next I write you all a letter, it will be May. May! That’s a big month in my garden, did you know that? All year I dream of the days of May

Until next time,

Flowers and veggies for all,


P.S. Okay, I couldn't wait, so after I finished this letter, I tried out the reciprocating saw on the dead lilac branch. Where has this saw been all my life? I love it for pruning! Normally I would have cut this out by hand and it would have taken me awhile and worn me out. Not with this new saw! Lickety split and hardly any energy exerted on my part.

P.S.S. I was just out in the garden and saw that the strawberries are blooming.
Who else is growing strawberries? You know they taste better when you grow them yourself, don't you?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Summer Reading List: Part 1

Whew. Hot today! I was sweating like August out there while I mowed my lawn. It feels like summer, even though it’s spring. It is spring, isn’t it? I didn’t fall asleep and miss something like, May, June, and July, did I?

I didn’t? Good. Because I still have a lot of spring gardening to do, and I’m putting together my Summer Reading List.

I know it seems like I should really have a Winter Reading List since there’s virtually nothing to do in the garden through most of winter, but I don’t. I have a Summer Reading List because when we were kids, we always joined the library’s summer reading program the minute school was finished. So summertime equals reading time for me, regardless of how busy I am in the garden.

Besides, like most gardeners, I harbor illusions that once I get through spring and the flurry of weeding, mulching and planting, I will have nothing but time, quiet time, to relax in a hammock in my perfect summer garden and read a book or two or three while sipping on some iced tea.

Here’s what I’ve got on my list so far:

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf.

“This is the fascinating story of a small group of eighteenth-century naturalists who made Britain a nation of gardeners and the epicenter of horticultural and botanical expertise. It’s the story of a garden revolution that began in America.”

I like history and am envious of the amount of attention gardening gets in Great Britain, so this should be an enjoyable book to start my summer off with.

The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants by Jane S. Smith.

“The road from the nineteenth-century farm to twenty-first-century agribusiness is full of twists and turns, of course, but a good part of it passed straight through Luther Burbank’s garden. The Garden of Invention is a colorful and engrossing examination of the intersection of gardening, science, and business in the years between the Civil War and the Great Depression.”

I remember reading about Luther Burbank in elementary school, probably in the fifth grade. That was the year we had a science book that had four pictures on the cover, in a quadrant. The upper right picture was of the inside of a greenhouse. I stared at that picture all the time and thought how wonderful it would be to work in a greenhouse someday. (It would be hot, as I later found out.)

Flowers and Herbs of Early America by Lawrence Griffith and Barbara Temple Lombardi

“This book is a dazzling treat for armchair gardeners and for those who have visited and admired the famous gardens of Colonial Williamsburg. It is also an invaluable companion for twenty-first-century gardeners who will appreciate the specific advice of a master gardener on how to plan, choose appropriate species for, and maintain a beautiful, historic flower and herb garden.”

This one passed the “coffee table test” when I had my family over a few weeks ago for Easter. I left it out on the coffee table, and watched as my older sister, a brother-in-law and several others picked it up and slowly turned the pages of it, admiring all the full page color photographs of the flowers included in the book. In fact, my sister mentioned just “taking it”, because she’s been to Williamsburg several times and loves it there, and I’ve never been. Ha! Maybe after I read it, she can borrow it. Maybe.

So those are the first three books I plan to read and review this summer. Anyone else putting together a summer reading list? What other books should I consider?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Around My Garden This Week

Around my garden, the blood root, Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex', finally bloomed its best earlier this week.Already these blooms are gone. I did some reading on them and found out that the seeds of the blood root are spread around by ants, a process called myrmecochory.

If you can figure out how to pronounce myrmecochory, you can make it your new word for the day and impress all your friends. An example sentence might be "I'm as busy as an ant performing myrmechochry". Context would be if you were moving a lot of stuff around. Or something like that.

The crabapple, Malus 'Guinevere' has dark pink buds that open to white flowers.
'Guinevere' never shows signs of disease, keeps her foliage a beautiful dark green all summer, and rarely produces any actual crabapples. I can and do recommend this variety to others.

Now, this is a tulip!I don't know the name of this double-flowering tulip, but it reminds me of peonies in bloom. It's planted near a Korean Spice Viburnum, V. carlesii, which I declare to be one of the most fragrant flowers of spring, other than lilacs of course. Remind me to plant many, many more double-flowering tulips this fall. In fact, I think I might actually order some now, and then forget about them until they show up on my doorstop this fall.

This weekend, I'm looking forward to seeing once again the blooms of the silverbell, Halesia carolina 'Arnold's Pink'. This morning, I'm going to stop by the Starbucks near where I work, the one that is going to close its doors for good today, and pick up a load of coffee grounds for my little silverbell to help acidify the soil around it. It likes acidic soil and the soil around here is not naturally acidic.

Then I plan to weed, mulch, finish the last of the garden clean up and begin planning for my Gardening Vacation, which starts in two weeks.

That's a little bit of what's going on around my garden this week and my plan for the weekend. What's yours?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Session With Dr. Hortfreud

A recent session with Dr. Hortfreud...

Carol, I see that you haven’t removed the sod by the fence and dug up that new bed. What happened?

Well, I was all set to do it, I really was. I even had a co-worker lined up who was going to split the cost of a sod cutter and cut out all the sod in exchange for getting to take it all to his yard. We even agreed on a date to do it.

That sounds like a good deal, but you didn’t do it. Why not? Did it rain?

Well, no, it didn't rain, exactly. There was some family stuff that came up.

Really, I heard about that but thought your family said to go ahead anyway.

Yes, they said that but I decided the right thing to do was wait.

So why aren’t you doing it now?

I’m afraid I won’t have time to plant it once I dig it up because there are so many other things I should be doing in the garden, like weeding, re-mulching the paths in the vegetable garden, mowing, and harvesting compost.

Yes, I heard you spent most of Saturday harvesting compost. Is that true?


Hmmmm… you might be obsessed with compost, but we’ll talk about that later. Let’s explore further why you have resisted digging up the area by the fence. If you dug it up now do you know what you’d plant there?

Not exactly.

What? You don’t have a plan? What were you going to do, just dig it up and wait for divine inspiration? Why don’t you hire a landscape architect to come up with a plan for you?

I think I’m too cheap to do that.

Carol, I’ve seen your hoe collection and know how much you paid for some of those hoes. You are not that cheap.

Well, maybe I’m afraid of large planting beds? Isn’t there a name for that, like kiposphobia, since “kipos” is Greek for “garden”? Or maybe it is megaloskiposphobia, the fear of large gardens?

That sounds like some of those phobias you made up. We’ll address that later, too. I can’t solve all your issues in one session.

This garden therapy sounds like it is going to be expensive.

I’ll put you on a payment plan. Now, we need to get to the root cause of whatever is keeping you from digging up that area. If it is just that you don’t know what to do with that bed once you’ve removed the sod, what would be a good first step?

To come up with a design?

Yes, good! Now we are getting somewhere! Oh, sorry. Times up. For our next session I want you to be ready to discuss three ways to get a design for that area.

Okay, thank you Dr. Hortfreud. I’ll bring my ideas to my next session, I promise.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Can You Garden Without Composting?

Can you garden without composting?

I’ve heard rumors of gardeners who don’t have compost bins. I’m not sure what they do with all the trimmings and leaves and weeds that every garden produces if they don’t have compost bins.

Perhaps that’s just something some gardeners don’t want to talk about. Sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” as they put it all in bags and send it out with the trash.

Guess what? I haven’t always done the best job of composting everything that comes out of my garden. But over the years, I’ve learned and reformed and now I do a pretty good job with it. I’ve got all kinds of composting going on…

Compost bins – check! I have three 3’ x 3’ bins, the minimum size you can have and still get enough heat built up for good composting action. I spent most of Saturday this past weekend cleaning them out.

Compost tumbler – check! I have one. I fill it, tumble it, and then harvest from it a few times a season

Chipper shredder – check! I have two, both are electric. I got one a few years ago, and it does a good job of chipping plant debris into tiny pieces. Then I got a chipper this spring to review, and it also does a good job, though it doesn’t chip as finely as the other one, but has the wonderful collection bin.

Compost sieve – check! I made one out of half inch hardware cloth and scraps of wood. It fits perfectly over my wheelbarrow. I throw a few shovelfuls of compost from the bins or the tumbler on to the screen and then push it all through with my gloved hand. What doesn’t go through the screen goes back into the compost bin. What ends up in the wheelbarrow is black gold!

Worm composter – check! I purchased a worm composter a month or so ago at the Indiana Flower & Patio Show, and got the worms about two weeks ago. I’ve got it set up in my sunroom, which sort of horrifies some people, but I like to horrify people sometimes with what I do for my garden. Already, I can see the worms are getting settled in and doing their thing. I’ve even noticed some worm castings in the bottom tray.

Compost Thermometer – check! I recently purchased a compost thermometer because I want to see how hot my compost piles get in the summer time. It’s not so much that I’m planning to alter the proportions of green and brown plant material, it’s more a curiosity thing. Though once I see what the temperature of one of the piles is, I don’t know what I might do with that information.

I probably have broken a few rules of composting.

I don’t turn my piles regularly. I just pile on whatever I have and then periodically harvest what’s in the bottom.

I don’t worry about the proportions of green and brown plant material. I just pile on what I have and hope for the best.

I don’t water down the piles. I just wait for the rain.

I don’t buy any additives to speed up composting. I just add a few shovels of good garden soil when I start a pile, and whatever organisms are in that soil, that’s what gets the composting going.

I don’t always chop up every branch I throw in the bins. I just wait longer for them to break down.

I sometimes end up digging a big trench in the fall and burying some stuff because I’ve run out of room in the compost bins.

Yet, in spite of my sloppy composting techniques, I can report that I always get compost and my compost bins never smell. And I’ve never had problems with mice or rats, either, though I think some squirrels have gotten in there before and buried some black walnuts.

Somehow it all works and compost happens.

The May Dreams Gardens Compost Picture Gallery

This is a "in progress" view of cleaning out the bins last Saturday.
You can see the sieve on top of the wheelbarrow, and the three bins, and a pile of compost on the raised bed.

This is what the bins look like after I finished harvesting the "good stuff". The first bin is now empty, the second bin is about one-third full and the last bin has room on top for more, too.

My sister-who-doesn't-garden once told me that the compost isn't much to look at. She was right, so I use this bamboo screening to keep it hidden, but still accessible. That "sign" is really a tool rest I made, by the way.

This is my latest venture into composting, the worm composter.
I'm still working on the first tray, as you can see, or rather the worms are still working on the first tray, with two more trays to add over time. Go, worms, go!

My compost never smells, thank you very much, but I can't say the same for this Korean Spice Viburnum, V. carlesii.

It smells wonderful! Go now and plant this shrub somewhere in your garden where you will walk by it all the time in the spring, if you live in zones 4 - 7. You will be so happy when it blooms.

Just as happy as you are when you harvest good, dark, rich compost from your own compost bins.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Letters to Gardening Friends, April 19, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

Spring greetings from May Dreams Gardens. Finally, finally, we had a beautiful day, weather-wise, and lucky me it was yesterday when I was off from work. I was able to spend the entire day working in the garden. Guess what I did?

I harvested compost from my compost bins. Normally I harvest compost in the fall, but for some reason, not sure what reason, I didn’t do it last fall. I just piled on more and left it over the winter. That meant that this spring all three bins were full, plus the compost tumbler, so I didn’t have any place to put all the weeds that I need to pull around here.

It was quite an undertaking and took me the better part of the day, but I’m glad I did it. I had enough compost to add to the raised beds in the vegetable garden and to spread around most of the flower beds. I’ll probably write a post about compost because it is something that a lot of newer gardeners seem to have questions about. I think people try to make it too complicated.

So now that I have room in my compost bins, I can really get going on the weeding. I can embrace weeding! I have a lot of it to do, especially in the paths of the garden. But I can do that bits at a time and get it done eventually. I won’t need that big gardening WOO like I needed for turning and harvesting the compost.

Then when I’m done with the weeding, I need to get more mulch for the paths. This was something else I skipped last year, and I learned my lesson on that, too. I need to add some mulch to the paths every year or pay the price in weeding.

Sure sounds like there are lots of “I need to” going on here, doesn’t it? I guess that’s true of every garden in the spring.

I did enjoy seeing my apple tree in bloom this weekend, pictured above. (I took that picture with my new camera, by the way.)

I planted the apple tree in the middle of the garden several years ago and so far have picked a grand total of two apples from it. Last year it didn’t bloom at all, and the year before that, 2007, the blooms were frozen out. This spring it looks like it is trying to make up for lost time and I’m hopeful to beat the record harvest of two apples with a few more than that later this summer. I think it is a ‘Red Delicious’ variety, not my favorite, but it was what the garden center had when I decided I needed to plant an apple tree there.

My early spring crops are also doing well, too, and no, I haven’t covered them yet to keep the rabbits from getting them. I need to thin out the lettuce first. Plus, really, I haven’t seen any rabbits, so maybe they have left my garden for good?

Inside, I need to pot up the tomato and pepper plants into bigger pots, as they are getting tall and lanky and we are still a month or so from being able to plant them out into the garden.

See… more “need to” stuff… I should close this letter before I think of more!

Flowers and Veggies to all,

P.S. Dee, I need to get your advice on roses. The front of my house faces south and there is an area under my den window that I think is big enough for about three roses. The space is about six feet long by four feet wide. I’ve had some Potentilla shrubs there but I cut them back hard earlier this spring and don’t like how they are coming out of it. Do you have any recommendations for some roses that will work there in Zone 5b? With the window there, I’d like to keep them below three feet or so, and of course, I want them to bloom continuously with no diseases.

Garden Fairies Guest Post: New Camera!

Welcome to May Dreams Gardens, where the Gardener, Carol, bought a new camera. We garden fairies decided to share some of the images because normally Carol doesn't include a lot of pictures in her posts.

Fairy posts are kind of complicated to put together, by the way, which is why we don't post very often. Some of us are typing, some are dictating, others are on the look out for Carol. But we managed to put together a decent post while she was sleeping off a long day in the garden.

Here goes...

Some of the common lilacs are starting to bloom.

We like to have parties around the lilacs in the spring, just because they smell so good.

Another fun place is under the flowering crabapple.When all the petals fall, we gather them up to make fancy party skirts. A garden fairy can never have too many party clothes.

This is Bleeding Heart.When a boy garden fairy wishes to propose to a girl garden fairy, he presents her with a bleeding heart bloom. Last year this didn't bloom very well, so it is good to see more blooms on it this year.

We are really watching the buds on this Carolina Silverbell.When these bloom, we like to steal a few for party hats. Did we mention how often we garden fairies like to party?

Be careful around the Vinca.After a long night of partying, you might find a garden fairy or two snuggled down under this ground cover, "sleeping it off", so to speak.

The star flowers are another fairy favorite.Come to think of it, all flowers are fairy favorites!

We really like these parrot-type tulipes.This is another good place to hide during the day.

Carol took a lot of other pictures, but some of them are of compost and boring stuff like that. We'll let her write those posts!

Oh, by the way, Carol's new camera is a Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS "point and shoot", and it's green.

Posted by the Garden Fairies at May Dreams Gardens.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Is Your Garden Nagging You?

Are there times when your garden seems to be nagging you?

When you step outside, do you feel like every planting bed and every plant cries out for attention.

Weed me! Water me! Fertilize me!

Mow me, trim me, mulch me!

Dig here, hoe there, rake everywhere! Prune that, deadhead this, lop off that. Move a plant over there, plant two plants over here, and dig and divide those three plants over there!

When we get really busy and just don’t have enough time for gardening, the nagging seems to get louder and louder. It gets to the point where you feel like every sunny hour you should be out in the garden, quieting things down a bit, tending to all those plants crying for attention. You almost wish for a rainy day, so you can just ignore the nagging for awhile without feeling guilty or worrying that someone will come by and hear the nagging, too, and wonder why you don’t do something about it.

Fortunately there are some ways to keep a garden from nagging you. Here are five of them.

Mulch to control weeds and conserve water. Mulching is one of those gardening activities that takes some time initially, but once done, it really does help control weeds and conserve moisture so you don’t have to weed and water all the time.

Plant reliably hardy tree, shrubs and perennials. When you try to grow plants that are not suitable for your hardiness zone, or grow water loving plants in dry environments, they take more time in general to care for them, to baby them along.

Avoid planting aggressive plants or self sowing flowers. There’s nothing that seems like a greater waste of time than weeding out something you knowingly planted in the garden because you convinced yourself that you could control it. If you inherited a garden with self-sowing flowers or just fell in love with some and couldn’t help yourself, be diligent about dead heading.

Hire out some of the gardening to be done. I know it is shocking that I would suggest this, having done all my own gardening. But sometimes there just isn’t time to get it all done. If that’s your situation, figure out what you really don’t like to do in the garden, maybe it is remulching beds or unbelievably, mowing, and hire someone else to do that for you.

Size the garden to match the resources that you have to give to it. This may mean that you hold off digging up new beds until you have the current beds under control. Or maybe you’ll plant fewer containers. How big of a garden you can keep from nagging you will vary depending on your life circumstances, age, ability, and how much of what you have, your resources of both time and money, you want to put into the garden.

The point is, we are Not Always Gardening, and have to plan accordingly, to keep the nagging down to some manageable list of what really needs to be done in the garden.

After all, we don’t want the nagging to drown out the other sounds of a garden, like that of the double flowering blood root, Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’ which finally opened up, almost, when the sun came out today.

Can you hear it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2009

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for April 2009!

Chin up, fellow gardener!

Finally, after looking down at blooms for the better part of Spring, because that’s where the early spring blooms are... way down at ground level... we can finally look up and see some trees and shrubs starting to bloom.

I think they are blooming earlier this year, and they are, but last year, I thought they were all blooming late.

For example, the crabapple, Malus ‘Guinevere’ pictured above looks like it would just need one good sunny day and it would be in full bloom. Last year, it didn’t bloom until April 24th.

This Korean Spice Viburnum, Viburnum carlesii, is already blooming back by the vegetable garden.

Yes, it smells wonderful, like a spring flower should. Last year it didn’t reach this point until April 22nd.

Elsewhere in the neighbors’ gardens, flowering pears, Pyrus calleryana, are actually finishing up their blooming. Last year, they were just getting going around bloom day.

Instead of a pear tree, I planted a serviceberry, Amelanchier sp., for spring blooms. It’s just starting to bloom now.Last year, guess what? It didn’t bloom until around April 19th.

I also think my Carolina silverbell, Halesia carolina 'Arnold Pink’ will bloom a few days earlier than April 23rd, which is when it bloomed last year.

All this early blooming and lack of good gardening WOO’s recently has me feeling like spring is just rushing itself a little too much, and I’d like it to slow down just a bit.

But that’s not likely to happen, just because I want it to happen, so I’ll take the blooms as they come, as fast as they come, and enjoy them as long as they are here. Too soon, these spring blooms will disappear for another year.

What else is blooming here at May Dreams Gardens?

At eye level…

Red bud (Cercis canadensis)
Red maple (Acer rubrum) (just finishing up)
Forsythia ‘Gold Tide’ (nearly done) and ‘Show Off’ (though it was kind of a dud compared to last year).

And the trees and shrubs I mentioned above.

At ground level…

Woodland violets, (Viola sp.)
Periwinkle (Vinca minor)
Species Tulips (Tulipa sp.)
Hybrid Tulips
Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis)
Hyacinth (nearly done)
Glory of the Snow (just a few left) (Chionodoxia sp.)
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)
Star Flowers (Ipheion uniflorum)
Striped Squill (just a few left) (Puschkinia scilloides)
Lenten Roses (Helleborus orientalis)
Pansies and violas (of course!!)
And probably a few other spring flowers that I think are probably out there, but it is too cold, overcast, and damp to spend much time looking for them.

Some weeds…

(Notice that violets are NOT on my weed list!)

And though it isn’t quite blooming for bloom day, I can’t finish without showing off the bud of a double-flowering blood root, Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex', a passalong plant from Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening.
Like the crabapple above, it will surely bloom when the sun comes out again. Did I mention it has been cold and cloudy these last two days?

And that’s bloom day here at May Dreams Gardens!

What’s blooming in your garden today?

We welcome everyone to join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day whether this is your first time or your 27th time, whether you have a garden blog or some other kind of blog.

It’s easy to join in. Just post on your own blog about what's blooming in your garden right now, outdoors or indoors. You can include pictures, lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms.

Then leave a comment and put your name and a link back to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget below, so we know where to find your blog and can visit to see and read about your bloom day blooms.

And like last month, once you’ve added your name to the list, please come back and visit and comment on a few of the blogs listed before and after you. Bloom day is a great way to find new blogs and bloggers’ gardens! I'll try to visit as many as I can, too.

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pansies In The Early Spring Garden: A Tiny Rant

Don’t skip planting pansies in your early spring garden!

Don’t listen to those people who say pansies are short-lived, melting quickly in the heat of summer. That doesn’t matter!

What matters is that pansies provide a beautiful display in the spring, whether planted en masse in a container or two or three, bedded out in the garden, or combined with tulips and other spring flowering plants.

Don’t skip planting pansies in your early spring garden!

If you don’t have any pansies, go buy some now while there is still time to enjoy them. I believe that some gardeners are disappointed in pansies because they buy them too late in the spring and don’t get to enjoy them for as long as they think they should. I buy mine just as soon as I see them for sale in March and put them in containers that I keep just for them. Then when I plant the summer annuals, I don’t feel like I have to evict the pansies to make room for them.

Don’t skip planting pansies in your early spring garden!

Some gardeners are afraid that the weather in the spring will be too cold for pansies. Not so! I’ve had potted pansies survive temperatures as low as the teens. They look pretty pathetic and cold that next morning but as soon as the sun hits them and warms them up, they come out of it looking as good as before.

Don’t skip planting pansies in your early spring garden!

They come in colors that are perfect for spring… all shades of purples, pinks, yellows, whites, and blues. You can find pansies in pastel colors for a soft, delicate display or bright colors for a big punch of color to offset the drabness of the late winter/early spring garden.

Don’t skip planting pansies in your early spring garden!

They are easy to care for, whether planted in containers or bedded out. Just keep them watered and plant them where they get a bit of sun. You can expect them to look decent until it gets consistently hot in the garden, which is around the end of June here in my Zone 5b garden.

Don’t skip planting pansies in your early spring garden!

For variety, I also plant the violas, which have smaller flowers than pansies. They require the same basic care and look great in small containers or inter-planted with tulips and other spring flowering bulbs.

Don’t skip planting pansies in your early spring garden!

It’s very therapeutic after the long winter to have your hands in the dirt, finally planting something. Why not plant something that provides instant color, like oh, I don't know, something like... Pansies?

Don’t skip planting pansies in your early spring garden!

Thank you to Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated for her post on pansies, the “proven losers” she called them, which inspired this mini rant on the virtues of pansies.

And don’t even think about skipping Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. It’s coming up quick on Wednesday, April 15th.

It’s easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th and then leave your link and a comment on my bloom day post. That’s it! All are welcome to participate and show us your pansies, and any other blooms you have in your April garden.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Letters to Gardening Friends, April 12, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

Easter Greetings from May Dreams Gardens.

What a beautiful day we had in central Indiana. We had a bit of frost in the morning, but ended up with clear blue skies and temperatures warming up to the mid-fifties by early afternoon.

I had my family over for lunch and the big annual egg hunt. I think there were 21 people here. We had a great egg hunt and all the hunters went home with bags full of candy and money and other goodies. As you can see from the picture, many of the eggs are pretty easy to find, but others are pretty well hidden, like this egg in the hellebores.

I usually find one or two eggs later in the spring, and of course, I hope there is an egg out there in the fall for the Halloween Hare to find. Ha ha.

Out in the vegetable garden, not much has changed, or appears that different from a week ago. All the spring crops are sown and the first crops have germinated and the second crops must still be “thinking” about it because I don’t see any seedlings for them yet.

In the flower beds, I have the usual spring flowers blooming. I’ll report more on those for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the 15th. (I can’t believe that is in just three days).

All over the garden, I need to weed, and weed, and weed some more. I tried to get some of my nieces and nephews interested in that today, but it was “no go”. They saw right through my tactic!

Inside, I finally got some worms for the new worm composter on Wednesday when I wasn’t expecting them. I thought I’d get an email that they had shipped but they just showed up one afternoon. The email I was expecting showed up this morning, four days after I got them!

The box was kind of wedged in the mailbox, so it took me a few minutes to “wiggle the red wigglers out of there”, and then I rushed around to get the bin all set up. I hadn’t done that yet, either, because I was waiting on the email to let me know they were coming. It was sort of like coming home and finding some house guests that you thought were coming next week sitting on your front step waiting on you.

I’ll write later about how the worms are doing, but so far, I think I have everything set up right and they are settling in to their new home, out in the sun room. Don’t tell anyone, but one of them did get loose and I found him about ten feet from the bin, dead. Let that be a lesson to the other worms. Stay in the bin where there is food and shelter!

And now I need to end this letter and take a little bitty nap. I’m tired, having gotten up early for church and then having everyone over for lunch and the egg hunt. Next week I hope to have more to report on the vegetable garden other than “seedlings are growing”.

Between now and then…

Flower and veggies to all,

P.S. I still haven’t covered the early spring crops with row covers. I haven’t seen any rabbits around, so I keep hoping there are no rabbits. But I know I should cover the seedlings anyway, or maybe I’ll set up a fortress made with plastic forks, because the rabbits are surely out there. I bought 600 plastic forks the other day and have at least 560 left over after lunch today.

But realistically, I’ll probably get the row cover out later this week after I thin the lettuce a bit and use that instead of my fortress method. The “plastic cutlery fortresses” do look a little bit odd and always have to be explained. Plus, I don’t know how well they really work. I just know the spoons around the green beans seemed to help keep the rabbits away last summer.

This is the sixth letter in a weekly series of letters that I’m exchanging with. Dee from Red Dirt Ramblings in Oklahoma (zone 7b) and Mary Ann, the Idaho Gardener in Idaho (zone 6) to highlight the differences and similarities in how we garden and grow vegetables.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hoped For Visit From The Easter Bunny

This weekend, we begin the Easter season with a much anticipated visit to our gardens by none other than the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny’s visit is pivotal in the yearly cycle of the garden.

The stage was set back in December, at Christmas time, when the Christmas Cottontail visited gardens on Christmas Eve and hopefully scattered seeds and planted bulbs to bloom at Easter time.

Until the light and warmth of spring coaxes a few plants to bloom, we gardeners really never know for sure if the Christmas Cottontail decided to honor our gardens in those dark winter days, or if we got skipped for being bad.

Whew, it is good to see those blooms this spring! I have tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, bleeding heart, violets, vinca, and dandelions blooming now, so I think I might have ended up on the “good list”. The Christmas Cottontail, who is known for a great sense of humor, always sows seeds for a few of dandelions just to remind us that as good as we think we are, we could be better.

Now that I see flowers in bloom in my garden, I feel confident that the Easter Bunny, who we know brings the best candy to gardens with flowers, will visit early Sunday morning.

Later in the afternoon on Easter, I’ll be hosting a big egg hunt in my backyard with all my nieces and nephews participating, so I hope that the Easter Bunny plans to hide a lot of plastic eggs full of candy and money here at May Dreams Gardens. We need enough for everyone to find a basketful, yet still leave a few eggs full of candy hidden in the garden to be found later by the Halloween Hare.

This leftover candy is important because we all know that when the Halloween Hare visits our gardens in late fall, he can wreak havoc and cause all kinds of mischief if he doesn’t find candy left over from Easter! He also likes to see a few late blooming flowers, and not just mums. The good news is that ol’ Hare isn’t that smart and will take Halloween candy if there is no Easter candy left. So I’m not too worried about all the eggs being found because I can always scatter around a few pieces of Halloween candy when the time comes.

These three bunnies, the Christmas Cottontail, the Easter Bunny, and the Halloween Hare, teach us that there is cause and effect, that we should take care of our gardens, and be as good as we can be. They show us that there is a cycle to life and joy to be found in all seasons, especially Spring time and Easter time.

And with Spring’s arrival, we can put last year’s garden behind us and begin again with a new season.

I hope all are visited by a very generous Easter Bunny this weekend, and have a glorious Easter Sunday and season!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Society Considers Issues Of Identity

Greetings to all members of the Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Old-Time Gardening Wisdom, Lore, and Superstition (SPPOTGWLS or “the Society”)

Once again, we, the Society, have an issue of importance to consider, discuss, and debate while we wait for Spring to win its annual battle with the last huffing and puffing of Old Man Winter. Around here, that could be in the next few days, just in time for Easter.

Goodness, we don’t have much time, so we will dispense with the usual formalities of taking attendance, reading the old minutes from the last Society meeting, and reviewing the treasurer’s report. Trust me, as the self-proclaimed president, secretary and treasurer, when I tell you that all is in order with the Society’s business.

Let’s get right to the issue at hand, shall we?

Fellow members, have you ever noticed that some plants suffer from an identity crisis?

I noticed it when a saw the first blooms of the grape hyacinths (Muscari sp.). “Grape” hyacinth? Clearly these blooms have nothing to do with grapes. Nor do cherry tomatoes have anything to do with cherries. And don’t get me started on banana figs, which aren’t bananas at all!

But much as we are concerned with these plant identity crisis examples, and I’m sure there are more of them, and as much as we would like to help sort them out, we have no time, because we have a greater issue to consider.

It has come to the attention of the Society that some members are at a loss with how to describe themselves as a gardener. They have an identity crisis when pressed to put an adjective in front of “gardener”. No one adjective seems quite right.

“Experienced” creates expectations of omniscience related to all things about gardening and plants. Invariably someone will ask some obscure question and when you don’t know the answer they think “Ah ha! She (he) is not so experienced after all!”

“Old” sounds, well, old.

“New” sounds new. Plus “new” should not be used by any gardener who has gone through at least a complete set of seasons.

“Vegetable”? When you have a vegetable garden, it’s tempting to just call yourself a “vegetable gardener”, but this leaves out everything else that a gardener who grows vegetables is likely to have.

“Master”? Yes, that works for some, but may require an explanation as to how one becomes such a gardener.

“Hoe”? I really don’t think anyone wants to be called a “hoe gardener”.

Other adjectives that come to mind to help gardeners establish a better identity include “avid”, “dirt”, and “organic”. Or you could go with climate descriptors like “tropical”, “cold climate”, and “desert”. Or the type of flower you grow if it is roses or orchids.

But really, gardening is one of the most varied, exciting obsessions hobbies that one can have, so creating an identity as a gardener with one adjective just may not be possible. Therefore, I hereby will enter into the Society by-laws that gardeners should feel free to use as many adjectives as needed to create a proper identity for themselves.

And as the President, I’ve decided to go first in describing myself as a gardener.

I am a typical, avid, hoe-collecting, seed-sowing, composting, lawn-mowing, flower growing, experienced, weather-obsessed, blogging, dirt gardener.

Dang, I wasn’t going to talk about the weather again!

I now turn it over to the members of the Society to signify their attendance at the meeting via a comment and to note how they would identify themselves as a “gardener”.

Humbly submitted by:

Current President, SPPOTGWLS
May Dreams Gardens

P.S. The grape hyacinths have started to bloom, as pictured above.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Weather Free Post: Five Weather Thoughts I Won't Be Sharing

This post is “weather free”. I will not mention freezing temperatures in April, rainy days, cloudiness, hail, rain, sleet, snow or weather obsessed gardening geeks.

In fact, here are five weather related thoughts that I will not be including:

1. The apple tree looks to be just a few days away from blooming. Last year it didn’t bloom at all and the year before the blooms were frozen out in one of the worst Aprils, weather-wise, that I can remember. According to, if we can get through tonight, we might be okay, as far as freezing temperatures go.

2. The species tulips, which were all fully open on Saturday and early Sunday, were all closed up this evening.
Perhaps this is their reaction to cold weather, to close up, but it was also partly cloudy, so maybe there just wasn’t enough sun for them to bother opening today?

3. I’m still not getting an accurate temperature reading from my weather station ever since I moved the whole thing out to the vegetable garden. I need to work on shading the thermometer better.

4. The Japanese tree lilac, Syringa reticulata, is nearly leafed out and is probably the one tree or shrub that if it gets below freezing for too long tonight, will look punked out for the rest of the year. Every other plant has either tiny leaves and buds, or just buds, and should be okay. The one exception is a white flowering lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which come to think of it, has also leafed out quite a bit. It might suffer a bit if it gets too cold for too long.

5. I’d always heard that Magnolias around here usually give you one good bloom year about every four years. The other years, the blooms get frozen out. Last year the Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata was spectacular, but didn’t start blooming until early April. This year it bloomed about two weeks earlier and also looked great. Now that all the petals have dropped, I’m not too concerned about it freezing out this spring.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weather-free post and that your own garden is giving you more joy than worry even as frost and freeze threaten many of us!

Monday, April 06, 2009

You Might Be A Gardening Geek: Weather Edition

There sure is a lot of talk about the weather amongst gardeners, even though we know that talking about the weather won’t change it. In fact, many of us live in a place where everyone says “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change”. We say that all the time here in Indiana.

But knowing we can’t change the weather doesn’t stop us from watching weather forecasts, thinking about the weather, worrying about the weather, and comparing weather notes with one another, not only door to door, but state to state and country to country.

Yes, many of us are weather obsessed gardening geeks.

You, too, might be a weather obsessed Gardening Geek if…

You have a rain gauge in the garden and regularly check it after every rain. Bonus points if you have more than one rain gauge and compare the amounts in each. Double bonus points if you have a weather station that measures rain to the hundredth of an inch.

You have a weather station to track all the weather data for your garden. Bonus points if you report data from your weather station to a local weather authority.

When a late freeze in the spring or early frost in the fall are imminent, you think it is okay to actually remove blankets from your own bed to cover the plants. Bonus points if you have purchased coverings just for your plants.

During a hailstorm, you’ve considered running out to the garden with an umbrella to protect your prize winning hostas. Subtract all bonus points if you’ve actually done this! It’s okay to think about it doing it, but not to actually do it. It’s dangerous to be out in a hailstorm.

You know not only your USDA hardiness zone, but also the expected last freeze and first frost dates for your area. Bonus points if even knowing this information, you've lost a plant or two due to a late freeze or frost.

You write down the high and low temperature each day in your ten year garden journal. Bonus points if you get the temperatures from your own weather station.

You buy an almanac every year so you can check out the weather information. Bonus points if you consult the almanac before making gardening plans.

You try to watch all the local news broadcasts so you can hear what each weather forecaster says about the weather. Then you try to figure out who is the most accurate. Bonus points if the The Weather Channel logo is burned into the screen of your TV because you’ve watched it non-stop since that bad spring of 2007!

And finally, you might be a weather obsessed gardening geek if…

You tweet about your weather on Twitter. Bonus points if you also read tweets about other gardener’s weather and reply back.


If you aren’t a weather obsessed gardening geek, you might still be a general all-around gardening geek or some other kind of gardening geek. Check out these clues:

General all-around gardening geek, part 2

Fall clues

Halloween clues

Thanksgiving clues

Christmas clues

Valentine’s Day clues

Travel clues

Fourth of July clues

Olympic Games clues

Indoor Plant clues

Over 50 clues

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

(The hellebore pictured above has nothing to do with the weather, other than frost and freeze won’t bother it. I just thought it was pretty.)