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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Reveals...

Don’t keep looking over your shoulder to see where Summer went! Fall is here and if you don’t pay attention to it, you are likely to run smack dab into that snow bank called Winter, wondering what happened to Fall.

Fall needs to be paid attention to. It's a season that reveals the character and form of a garden, as leaves fall from the trees and once flowering perennials transform themselves into brown stalks of “winter interest”. It’s the season that pulls back that curtain of greenery we’ve become accustomed to and shows us what is really going on in the garden.

And a lot has been going on in my garden. I noticed that enough leaves have fallen from the crabapple tree by the front walk to reveal a big “stinging insect” nest. I stood there and studied it for a few minutes to see if it was an active nest and noticed a few insects flying around it.
I would guess that it's a bald-faced hornet’s nest. Bald-faced hornets are actually “social wasps” like yellow jackets and paper wasps, but they are only social amongst themselves and don’t appreciate intruders like me getting too close.

The good news is that I wasn’t stung by any of these hornets, or at least haven’t been stung so far. In the past when I’ve been stung by paper wasps and yellow jackets it was when I was trying to get rid of them, so perhaps my good luck was in not finding this nest until the end of the season. Now I’m not even tempted to try any heroic efforts to get rid of the nest, knowing that the frost will likely finish off the hornets in a few weeks.

And while I wait for the first frost, I’ll be out in the garden, looking for more character and form and signs of what really went on here this summer. But I won’t just be standing around looking at hornet’s nests! There's too much to do for that kind of leisure activity, though you want to take a little time for it. Instead, I’ll be busy bringing in a few plants (this weekend), cutting back some perennials, because they aren’t as interesting in winter as some would want you to believe, but leaving other perennials standing because they provide food for the birds. I’ll also be putting away garden furniture, stowing hoses, planting bulbs, pulling weeds – always the weeds – and hopefully mowing the lawn a few more times.

This fall clean up in the garden is a routine I know well enough that I could do it with my eyes closed. But while I'm working in the garden, I’ll keep one eye open for more discoveries, like the hornet’s nest. And always I’ll be dreaming of the coming spring, of May, when the grass is green, the skies are blue, and the garden is all new again here in my garden, May Dreams Gardens.


I also found out today that I won 2009 Blotanical awards for Best Writing and Most Educational Garden Blog. Thank you to all who voted for me, and especially thank you to all who visit my blog and leave some of the nicest comments. Those comments are little rewards each and every day. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Garden Fairy Survey Results

Awhile back the Institute of Gardenetics Research and Other Work (iGROW) conducted a survey on the subject of garden fairies, asking one basic question:

Do you think garden fairies are real?

35% answered “Yes, but I’ve never seen one.”
9% answered “Yes, and I have seen one.”
16% answered “Yes, but I’ve only seen what they can do.”
18% answered “Maybe”.
22% answered “No”.

A clear majority, 60%, believe that garden fairies are real, even without seeing one.

Here's a sampling of the answers from those who chose to describe their interactions with garden fairies:

“They move things around while I am working in the garden and if I hold real still, I can hear their giggles in the breeze.”

“Just this year I checked my pickling cukes one evening... all I had were tiny... Then in the morning, as I bent to check the carrots in the next bed, I spied a few big picklers... 5 inchers and fat! The fairies! They were playing pranks on me!”

“I have no concrete evidence, only rumors and sneaking suspicions. But my garden is much more interesting with fairies than without, so I keep believing in them.”

“My tiny pots are moved about in the mornings. The wee furniture moved, ever so slightly... Cat is onto them too....”

“The fairies in my garden chase my indoor cat back inside when he escapes, they teach night school for all the critters who live here, and they sprinkle magical fairy dust on the plants that are struggling. They follow me around in the morning as I dead head and we have conversations.”

A total of 55 people participated in the survey. iGROW and I would like to thank them, whoever they are, for participating.

I just hope it wasn’t a bunch of garden fairies trying to skew the results in their favor…

Monday, September 28, 2009

Not So Perfect Mums

At a local greenhouse, they have a type of mum they’ve called “Not So Perfect” which is half the price of the “Perfect” mums.

They are just like the “Perfect” mums, except they are smaller, through no fault of the plant. Maybe they weren’t pinched back as they should have been, or were stuck on the end of a row, or didn’t get enough fertilizer and water at key points in their growth cycle.

I wouldn’t be afraid to buy some of these “Not So Perfect” mums. Added to a mixed fall planting, no one would notice they were “Not So Perfect”. Or if planted out in the garden, they are just as likely to end up as “Perfect” next year, as “Perfect” is to end up as ”Not So Perfect” next year.

There are plenty of “Perfect” mums for sale there, and they would make for a grand fall display.
But really, aren’t you more attracted to the “Not So Perfect” mums?

They are the fall equivalent of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, seeking the right owner, the right gardener, to buy them, care for them, and use them in such a way that no one notices their imperfections.

If you are fortunate enough to find some “Not So Perfect” mums for half-price, I recommend you buy a few of them, and then keep shopping at that same greenhouse for other plants because the presence of “Not So Perfect” says a lot about the owner, that she isn’t willing to charge full price for something that isn’t “Perfect”.

That’s the kind of person you want to buy your plants from!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Still Picking Green Beans and Other News From My Garden

The news from in and out of my garden..

I’m still picking green beans and it’s almost October.

These beans are from my third sowing of green beans this season. Using some seed I had left over, I planted four foot rows of the varieties ‘Provider’ and ‘Bountiful’ on August 2nd, both of which did well for me earlier in the season,and continued to do well for fall picking.

I also planted a row of ‘Roma II’ beans which were recommended for late season planting by Botanical Interests Seeds. It also did very well, and the flat, wide beans will be a nice change of pace after eating the other varieties most of the summer.

I was flattered to have my blog featured by the local garden columnist in The Indianapolis Star.

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, our local garden writer and co-author of The Indiana Gardener’s Guide wrote a very nice column about me and my blog and it was in the Saturday paper. As a long time reader, I was thrilled to meet her and talk about gardening and writing about gardening. If you’d like, but only if you really want to, you can read the Indianapolis Star version or go to her blog where she has posted it with pictures.

The upright Fuschia is blooming.

I purchased an upright Fuschia back in May and then almost immediately, it mysteriously didn’t get watered and dried up something terrible. I don’t know how that happens, as I’m usually a fairly attentive gardener.

I cut it back and there was one little green leaf, so I kept watering it all summer and now, it’s blooming! I might bring it inside for the winter and see if I can keep it alive until next spring. It seems to be a survivor, so maybe it will make it.

That reminds me that next weekend, I need to round up all the plants that won’t make it through a frost and decide which ones I want to bring inside for the winter to try to keep until spring. To keep spiders, pillbugs, millipedes, centipedes and other many-legged critters from coming in with them, I’ll repot the plants, even though Fall is generally not a good time to do that.

And that’s the news from here in my garden. What’s going on in yours?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Don't Settle for Four-Fifths of a Garden

I have a theory that most gardeners will eventually plant a few vegetables in their garden, even if it wasn’t part of their original plan, and many will find a sunny spot someplace for an actual vegetable garden.

They may start out with the idea that they want a garden with just flowers and trees and shrubs and may spend hours, days, if not years enjoying it through four of their fives senses - smell, sight, hearing, and touch. But according to my theory, they’ll figure out that a garden that appeals to four-fifths of their senses is not complete. They’ll have a nagging sense that something is missing. There’s nothing to taste! So eventually, even if they didn’t plan to grow vegetables in their garden, they’ll figure out how to add them later.

Fortunately, many gardeners realize right up front that they should grow vegetables, too, and plant them in their garden from the beginning, perhaps even picking out the best, sunniest spot for the vegetable garden first, and then designing the rest of the garden around it.

This past few days I’ve had the privilege of visiting two beautiful private gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina - the Rose Cottage in the historic near downtown district called Oakwood, pictured above, and pictured below, the garden of John Dilley and Willie Pilkington just down the road from the famous Plant Delights Nursery. I was delighted to find that both of these were not four-fifths of a garden, but complete gardens, with vegetable gardens incorporated into the garden design.

My theory holds true. Four-fifths of a garden is not enough.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Call A Tree Tonight!

Feeling a little nature deprived? No trees nearby to hug or sit under and enjoy the cool shade of their canopy?

Maybe calling a tree would help you feel better!

I spent a lovely late afternoon, early evening at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, North Carolina today surrounded by trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and all kinds of bees & butterflies, but still felt the need to call a tree because for the first time in my life, I had the number of a tree to call.

It was a flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, which turns out to be the state tree of North Carolina. By calling the tree, I heard about how the tree blooms in the spring before it leafs out and that the white “petals” are really bracts. Then in the fall the birds enjoy the red berries of this native tree.

The tree also clearly pronounced its name for me.

If I had its phone number, I would also call the Farkleberry, too, because I love that common name.
What a great way to learn about trees while spending time in a beautiful garden!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cure Bulb Buying Procrastination With An Impulse Purchase

There’s still hope if you haven’t ordered spring flowering bulbs!

For all the procrastinators who ignored my advice to order spring flowering bulbs way back in July, I’m sure the mail-order companies still have many, many bulbs for sale, if you are still planning to order some.

Or maybe you’ll always procrastinate about ordering bulbs online? Maybe it just isn’t the way you like to shop. Maybe you like to see the bulbs before you buy them. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

Well, good news! If my sampling of two garden centers is any indication, the garden centers have actual spring flowering bulbs for sale right now. “Now”, which is admittedly a concept many procrastinators don’t understand, you can overcome your procrastination with a little impulse buying, because you can actually pick out the bulbs you want. You can hold them in your hand. You can pick out the best one! You can buy them and take them home with no delay before your temptation to wait kicks in.

At one garden center, they had the bulbs in bulk with little white bags to put them in. That sealed the deal for me. I bought some Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ just for old time’s sake because I remember shopping for bulbs that way with my Dad. We’d fill up bags with all kinds of tulips and crocuses and write on the outside what each one was. As I recall, he was more partial to the fancier tulips like the fringe and parrot varieties, and I just liked them all. But I digress…

So to all who have been procrastinating about buying bulbs, wondering if you should or shouldn’t get them, who to order them from if you do decide to get them, and if you’d even get them planted if you had them, get thee to a garden center and just buy some.

You can worry “later”, a timeframe most procrastinators embrace, about if you’ll actually get them planted. And when the time comes to plant, we all promise to remind you… Hortense Hoelove, Dr. Horfreud, and me. Even Thorn Goblinfly will pitch in!


In the interest of full disclosure, after I bought my little bag of Allium bulbs, the very helpful employee said I should watch for the bulbs to be half-price later in the season. I hesitate to tell some of you thrifty procrastinators this because it will give you an excuse to “wait”, a favorite activity of procrastinators, and limit your impulse purchases

But once the bulbs are half price, there should be no more excuses.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Late Green Beans

On this day of the Autumnal Equinox, which occurs at 5:18 EDT, what is the state of your vegetable garden? Choose one:

(a) I’m still picking a lot of vegetables from it and it will take a hard frost to knock it down.

(b) I’ve given up on it, pulled all the plants out and threw them on the compost pile. It’s just bare ground now.

(c) It’s doing pretty good. I’ve managed to pull out the non-producing plants, but I'm still picking peppers, a few tomatoes, a little bit of squash and a good crop of late sown green beans. Soon I also hope to pick some late lettuce and radishes.

(d) Vegetable garden? Is that what’s hidden under that tangle of morning glories, foxtails, and ragweed out back?

My garden is (c) and here’s the little bit that I picked yesterday in the last light of the last day of summer.

Missing from the harvest are the peppers. I chose to leave them for now, as I have no time to deal with them this week. But there are dozens of all kinds of peppers ready to be picked and I’ll pick them early next week.

The green beans are from a few rows of green beans sown on August 2nd. This is the first time in all my decades of growing vegetables that I’ve sown beans that late. But I had the seed and that space was open in the garden, so all it took was a few minutes to sow the seed and then 51 days of waiting. It was well worth it, as there will be more beans to pick probably right up until the first frost sometime in October.

Whenever I see my rows of green beans, whether earlier in summer or now in early fall, I still think about the rabbits that tormented me for so many years and wonder what happened to them. *Poof.* This year they are just gone. But when the rabbits were here, I could not sow a row of beans and leave it unprotected without them finding it and eating the newly emerged bean plants down to nubs.

I suppose I shouldn’t look for rabbits that clearly aren’t here, but I still wonder. Was it something I did? Something I said? Didn’t do? Or did they just disappear? If it turns out it was something I did, I’d love to know what it was so I can be sure and repeat it each year.

You don’t suppose it was those plastic spoons from last year, do you?

(On the question above, if you picked (a) and you live in zone 5, what is your secret? If you chose (b), please plant again next year, it's bound to be better. If you chose (d), get out there right now and clean up that mess. You are giving us vegetable gardeners a bad reputation. Plus, there could be some vegetables under those weeds, ready to be picked.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm Going To Be Rich!

I’m going to be rich!

While out and about at a few garden centers this past week, I found corms for Autumn Flowering Crocus, Crocus sativas.

Crocus sativas is none other than the source for saffron, the world’s most expense seasoning.

I bought a package of 15 corms to plant this fall which should be in bloom next fall and then I can begin the harvest and call my bank to get ready for my big deposit.

The saffron is actually the stigmas of the flowers. Each flower has three stigmas so I should be able to harvest 45 stigmas, assuming one bloom per corm. This means my first year’s yield will be approximately .003 ounces, since there are about 13,125 stigmas in an ounce. At $50 per ounce, my first year’s income will be…

Fifteen cents. One dime, one nickel.

Maybe I won’t call my bank just yet. The corms cost me $6.99, so I have a while to go before I make an actual profit. But according to the instructions on the package, these flower year after year and naturalize, so in no time at all…

I’m at least going to have a nice patch of fall crocuses to enjoy each year, which may in the end be of greater value than the stigmas they produce.

"Flowers... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Pansies

Pansies and violas are the bookends of the outdoor gardening season. I plant them first thing in the spring and last thing in the fall.

Wait, that’s not quite right…

Pansies are the genesis and exodus of the gardening season.

Hold that thought, I can do better than that…

Pansies bring a garden full circle, bridging Spring to Fall.

Hang on, here’s another attempt…

Pansies come into my garden with the tide of Spring, go out with the tide of Summer, and come back in with the tide of Fall.

Or maybe…

Pansies come in spring
They don’t like the summer time.
Fall welcomes them back.

I know it is hard to top that haiku, but I’m going to try…

Pansies are the perfect caterer of the garden; they arrive early in Spring to help get the garden party started, then step aside to let others enjoy the garden in summer, and later return in the Fall to help with clean up.

Is that enough or can you stand one more…

Spring into pansies at the beginning of the gardening season and then Fall back on them at the end of the gardening season.

Or how about…

Pansies are the appetizers of Spring, the first course of a garden dinner, and then return as the dessert of Fall, as the garden dinner winds down.

I can’t possibly end with that…

Pansies are a most welcome garden guest in both Spring and Fall.

It’s getting worse, isn’t it…

Like a slow moving train, the engine of pansies rolls into town every Spring, bringing behind it all the flowers of summer, and ending up with a caboose of more pansies for Fall.

Oh, I thought of one more…

Pansies are the sunrise of Spring in the garden and the sunset of Fall in the garden.

And finally, really, I promise…

Spring without pansies is like Lucy without Ethel and Fall without pansies is like Abbott without Costello.

I think that's all I've got...

Suffice it to say, I buy pansies every Spring as soon as I can find them for sale and plant them in containers to put on my front porch. I leave them far too long in the heat of summer and eventually around the Fourth of July holiday, I unceremoniously dump them into the compost bins. Then every Fall I seek out new pansies to once again plant in containers for the front porch. I’ll leave them on the porch until around Thanksgiving, before they, too, end up as compost.

What are your thoughts on pansies?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Did You Hear the One About the Toad Lilies?

Did you hear the one about the two toad lilies, Tricrytis sp., that hopped into my cart as a cruised very quickly through the big box hardware store?

True story, it happened just yesterday. I was kind of surprised, too, because I was moving fairly quickly up and down the aisles looking for pansies, even though I had just purchased pansies at a local greenhouse and had no plans to buy more. I was just curious to see if they had any and how much they were. Anyway, in spite of the speed at which I was moving, the toad lilies somehow still found my cart.

With one big hop, those two toad lilies set in motion a whole chain of events in my garden, as new plants often do.

First, I had to figure out where to plant them in my back yard, where shade is still a scarce commodity. I managed to find some shade, right where some tall sedum were flopped to the ground. It’s a bit sunnier than I’d like it to be, but just like a dieter who buys a size smaller because it won’t be long before she can wear that next smaller size, I decided to plant the toad lilies there anyway, hoping that by next summer there will be more shade in that spot.

Having picked my spot, I removed the tall sedum by cutting them back and then digging them out. I had already decided that those tall sedum plants were not doing well there because of the shade and should be removed, so having the toad lilies to plant just made me do it sooner rather than later. Yes, I cut them out while they were in full bloom. With bees on them. And I threw them onto the compost pile. I might have broken some kind of rule or maybe several rules by doing that but the two toad lilies were not to be denied their shade!

After I pulled out the tall sedum, I added a few scoops of good compost that I had harvested a few days earlier from my compost tumbler. It’s good to have some compost on hand because you never know, toad lilies might hop into your cart next.

I then proceeded to pull the first toad lily out of its pot and realized that I could probably divide it into three plants, which I proceeded to do using a special knife I bought just for dividing perennials. I love that knife and I love gardener’s math because we get to divide plants to multiply them! It’s sort of a riddle. How does dividing something give you more of it?

Then I planted up my now four toad lilies, watered them in well, and remulched that area.

The now three toad lilies are Tricyrtis ‘Taipei Silk’, sold as Arctic Orchid™ Toad lily,

And the one I didn’t divide is Tricyrtis ‘Blue Wonder’.
I also made up a slide show* to demonstrate what happened once I got the toad lilies home if you are more of a visual person.

Plus, it might come in handy if any toad lilies hop into your cart this fall!

*I used Picasa to create the slide show and upload it to YouTube. The pictures are a little fuzzier than I'd like, as are the title slides, but it was very easy to do.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hortotropism at the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge

You won’t find a definition for hortotropism in a dictionary, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

In fact, if you are a gardener and more than once you’ve struck up a conversation with a gardener you didn’t know, you know that hortotropism does exist.

It’s that natural inclination for gardeners to just start talking to one another about gardening.

I started talking to the gardener in the Old Mill Square in Pigeon Forge when I saw him out transplanting zinnias a few days ago.
Zinnia transplants in the fall? Yes, the gardener said he had read something in the Knoxville paper that if you sow zinnias in late August, they will bloom before the first frost. He said they probably wouldn’t get frost until early November. He wasn’t too sure he’d get bloom but he had the seeds so decided to try.

We also talked about the weather, as gardeners do. He wanted to know if we had leaves turning here in Indianapolis, and I said not really except for some of the trees that seem to be under stress anyway, particularly flowering pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) and Red Maples (Acer rubrum). In fact, though the leaves in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were for the most part still all green, I saw just one or two trees that were fully turned, and I thought they were Red Maples. He said their summer was cool and wet, like ours, so he expected the foliage color to be spectacular this fall.

I moved on after complimenting him on the plantings around the area he was responsible for but then a few minutes later when I walked back by, he asked me if tulips do well in Indianapolis.

We then discussed how in both locales most of the hybrid tulips are usually grown as annuals, since they don’t come back reliably the second year. I said I was switching to a lot of species tulips because of this. He didn’t care much for those because they were smaller, but mentioned he had an acre planted in daffodils, and we both agreed that those always seem to come back each spring.

If he grows daffodils as well as he grows coleus and caladiums, two plants he featured in many of the gardens around the Old Mill, it must be a spectacular spring display.
And that’s an example of hortotropism -- two gardeners who don’t know each other striking up a conversation about gardening, speaking a universal language of plants and weather, and all things gardening.

It is real, isn’t it! Do you have an example of hortotropism to help build a case for this previously unnamed horticultural phenomenon?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When A Gardener Visits The Smoky Mountains

When a gardener visits the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, she finds wildflowers blooming including this cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis. And she wishes she had gotten some seeds for these for fall sowing.

She walks on a trail and sees this paw-paw tree and thinks that her garden needs more shade.And she thinks about how the paw paw tree, Asimina triloba, is one that will grow in Indiana and that the fruit is supposed to taste like a banana so some people call it by its nickname of "Hoosier banana".

After a short hike, she gets in the car and drives up to Newfound Gap, which is at elevation of 5,046 feet.From there she can see North Carolina since she is standing on the state line between it and Tennessee. And she is reminded that she will be in North Carolina next week for another trip.

Leaving Newfound Gap, she gets back in the car to head further up the mountains to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the park with an elevation of 6,643 feet. It is a mere seven miles from Newfound Gap.

The gardener drives and drives some more and at one point wonders why she is driving downhill to get to a higher elevation. After about ten miles she begins to think that she might have missed a turn somewhere.

Eventually she sees signs for the Mountain Farm Museum and turns in there to see where she really is and what is there.
And she finds a picturesque setting with a log cabin and many outbuildings.

Once there she explores the farm a bit and lo and behold, she finds a vegetable garden.It's a little past its prime but its a garden none-the-less.

Then she goes inside the visitor's center there and talks to the park ranger who shows her on the map where she is and where she was and it turns out that she is a long way from Clingman's Dome. The park ranger says she is not the first person to miss that turn and end up at the farm.

So she gets back in the car and heads back to where she came from and eventually she finds Clingman's Dome.
At least she has found the parking for Clingman's Dome. By now it is well-past lunch time so she doesn't take the steep hike all the way to the actual top of Clingmans' Dome.

Instead she admires the wildflowers along the lower part of the walkway, including what she thinks might be the Wild Golden Glow, Rudbeckia laciniata. And she decides that the long way from Newfound Gap to Clingman's Dome via the Mountain Farm Museum is really the best way to go when you're a gardener because it means you get to see a garden along the way.


Many thanks to all who joined in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Fall is arriving all over the northern hemisphere which means for some gardeners, the garden is winding down. For others, it is a breath of cool air and a second gardening season is just beginning.

At the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the trees are for the most part still green, although here and there you can glimpse a tiny bit of color in a leaf or two. One of the "locals" told me he thought the fall color would be spectacular this year because of all the rain they've had this summer.

I'll miss the big tree show but will always remember... when a gardener visits the park, somehow she'll end up finding one of the few gardens there. It must be some kind of special internal compass that instead of pointing to N, north, it points to G, garden.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2009

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for September 2009.

Now that it is mid September, I'm starting to hear the tiny little whispers of Fall, which wants to make the garden its own.

It starts with a few mums, blooming near the front door. I do nothing to help these along, and for much of summer they are hidden behind some Black-eyed Susan's, Rudbeckia sp., which I recently cut back.

Out in the back yard, the tiny leaflets of the nearby Honey Locust Tree, Gleditsia triacanthos, are beginning to litter the lawn, each one carrying its own message that summer is more or less past.

I've resorted to calling all the tall Sedum in my garden just "tall Sedum" because the new botanical names are a bit confusing. This one may or may not be the variety sold as 'Autumn Joy'.

Somehow, in moving and transplanting these tall Sedum throughout the garden, I ended up with the lighter flowering variety interspersed with the one that may or may not be 'Autumn Joy'.
I think the light pink one is 'Frosty Morn, which is supposed to have variegated leaves but somewhere along the way, it lost its variegation. Some variegated varieties do that.

Out in the vegetable garden, I have green beans blooming, which is a first for my September garden.
This the third planting of bush beans and I hope to get a few beans before the whispers of Fall become cold shouts of frost.

Elsewhere in the vegetable garden the sunflowers are still blooming.
This is the variety 'Earthwalker', in colors that are perfect for fall. Nearby, but not pictured, the zinnias, marigolds, and nasturtiums are also still blooming.

In the side garden, the tiny white blooms of Purple Beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma 'Issai', were hardly worth mentioning earlier this summer, but now the purple berries add color to the early fall garden.This particular beautyberry is hardy to zone 5a.

I checked my bloom day post from last September and believe that this year's garden is further along than last year's garden by perhaps a week or so, except for the Colchicums which were blooming last year by the 15th but are "no-shows" so far this year.

I would expect these Michaelmas daisies to start blooming any day now.When they do, they'll be covered with bees and butterflies, all franatically trying to enjoy the last of the garden before the first frost, which hopefully happens after I pick the last of the green beans in the vegetable garden.

What's blooming in your garden in mid-September? Is Fall whispering its arrival where you are? I hope you’ll join us for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day this month and tell us about what's blooming now in your garden. All are welcome!

It's easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what's blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and then leave a link in the "Mr. Linky" widget below along with a comment so we can find you and visit your garden to see what you have blooming.

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

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Raise your hand if you have at least one plant in your garden with roots in garden blogging.

In my own garden, I recently purchased and planted three perennials that I would not have found out about if it were not for garden blogging.

The first one, pictured here is calamint, Calamintha nepeta supsp. nepeta, which I first saw as a nicely rounded plant, not yet in bloom, growing in the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park. I visited that garden this spring with other garden bloggers attending the Chicago Spring Fling. My calamint is just a wee tiny little plant right now but I look forward to the summer when it is a nicely rounded shape without having to prune it.

I also planted the Oxford Orphanage Plant, Kalimeris pinnatifida ‘Hortensis’, also called the Double Flowering Japanese Aster. Why did I seek out this plant for my garden?

Because I read a post by Allen Bush on the Human Flower Project blog/website about how the garden designer/writer Elizabeth Lawrence gave him a start of this plant as a passalong plant when he visited her garden in 1982. That’s a good reason!

Finally, I planted Salvia ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ because of all the Salvia blooming in the Lurie Garden this spring. It’s not one of the varieties they had planted, but it was one that the nursery that I ordered the other plants from had so I got it.

Still on order are some spring flowering bulbs that I saw blooming at the Chicago Spring Fling, including Quamash, Camassia leichtlinii ‘Blue Danube’, and more ornamental onions, Allium. They should arrive with some other bulbs for species tulips and all kinds of bulbs for indoor forcing that I read about on Elizabeth L’s, blog, Gardening While Intoxicated. And if there is still time this fall, I'd like to find some of those new Igloo Mums that the Hoosier Gardener wrote about.

Previously, I've purchased spider type daylilies after reading about them on Red Dirt Ramblings and Clematis ‘Rooguchi’ which I found out about via a bloom day post from Blackswamp Girl and had to have for my garden. In fact, most Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Days when I read all the posts of what’s growing in everyone’s gardens, I end up noting one or two or more flowers that I want to grow in my garden.

Some I end up planting, others I don’t. Those that I do plant will be forever linked to garden blogging and garden bloggers as blogalongs*, in much the same way that flowers passed along to me by other gardeners are forever linked to them as passalongs.

Does anyone else have any blogalongs in their gardens?

* Blogalongs (BLOG-a-longs) –
1. Noun., plants discovered by reading garden blogs.
2. Adj. as is in blogalong plants

(If you've actually gotten some plants through garden blogging; those are called blogalong passalongs. I've gratefully received a Stapelia from Annie in Austin, Colchicums and a double-flowering blood root from Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening, Oxblood lilies, Rhodophiala bifida, from MSS at Zanthan Gardens and double-flowering tulips from Elizabeth via Garden Rant.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fall is Floppy Time in My Garden

For someone who is known to be a little bit of a stickler when it comes to staking my tomatoes, I am quite lax when it comes to staking or providing support for other plants in the garden.

In fact, the only plants other than the tomatoes and the pole beans that I've provided support for are the few clematis I have and a variegated climbing honeysuckle. All other plants must be self-supporting!

Sometimes this stance on self-supporting works out and sometimes it doesn't.

I have several large viburnum including this Viburnum dentatum 'Synnestvedt' which is sold as 'Chicago Lustre®'.

Most of these larger shrubs don't need any support but this one has a few low branches that start to lean out in late spring and are nearly horizontal by the end of summer. This winter they'll return to the upright position, so I leave them alone. By the way, I encourage everyone to plant larger shrubs if you have the room. The birds love the berries and the shelter that the large shrubs provide and they help hide fences and compost tumblers and all kinds of unsightly stuff that ends up in a garden.

Out in the perennial border, this tall sedum, Hylotelephium spectabile, variety unknown, is upright, as are the asters behind it.
But just just a few feet away, this tall sedum is all floppy.Gosh that plant looks tired.

To increase the odds that a perennial plant like tall sedum or asters will stay upright without staking or other support, some gardeners cut them back by about half in mid spring, which encourages branching and overall stockier growing. I cut back my asters, but don't cut back the tall sedum.

I actually don't mind the floppy plants. They might say "lazy gardener can't provide some decent support for her plants" to some people. But to me they just say... "floppy time, can't touch this"!

So the question is, do you try support every plant that flops over in your garden, or do you leave them be?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hortense Hoelove Answers More Gardening Questions

Hortense Hoelove provides advice to the plant-lorn amongst us, those who are struggling with their plant and garden relationships.

Dear Hortense,

Do you ever push the zone limit? If so, ever have luck with plants not for your zone?


Dear Darla,

Pushing the zone limit is always a bit risky, but sometimes just planting a plant that is hardy in your zone is risky, too. Think about all that can happen. Insect infestations, plant diseases, flood, drought, too much sun, too little sun. A bad winter, a cold spring, an early fall. And then there are meadow voles, deer, rabbits, chipmunks and who knows what else that might just decide that your newly planted plant is their perfect lunch.

But as a gardener, I don’t think about all that when I choose a plant, and I’ll bet you don’t either. I plant, do my best to take care of the plant and assume it will grow and flower and thrive in my garden. And yes, to answer your question, sometimes I end up with a plant or two that is supposedly only hardy to zone 6, when I’m zone 5b. When that happens, I just try to find a sheltered spot, plant my zone challenged plant, and hope we don’t have a winter like that one in 1994 when the temperature dropped to -27.

Yours truly,

When I look at pictures of crocus in the snow, I am reminded that winter is coming, but so is spring.

Dear Hortense,

When the landscaper planted my holly they were loaded with red berries. But since then they no longer produce berries. What have I done wrong?

Baffled in BG,

Dear Barb,

First, get it out of you head that you did something wrong. You did nothing wrong but your landscaper probably made one critical mistake. Holly plants, Ilex sp.,are dioecious plants, which means that the plant has either female flowers or male flowers, but not both. Only the female flowering plants produce berries. But they can’t produce berries without the pollen from the male flowers, which are on another plant. Your landscaper probably planted only female plants, or if they planted a male plant, it is too far from the female plants for pollination to occur.

If you still have the plant tag, take it back to the garden center and ask them to sell you a male flowering holly of the same type and then plant it somewhere near the female holly, within at least 10 – 12 feet or closer. Then you should have plenty of holly with berries to cut for Christmas decorations or just to enjoy each year.

Happy Holly-days,

The red berries of Viburnum carlesii. It's not dioecious, so you only need one to have berries.

Dear Hortense,

Do you really need a hoe to garden?

Yours truly,
C.D. Warner

Dear C.D.

I get this question all the time. The answer is no, you don’t need a hoe to garden. But if you try gardening with a hoe, you may never want to garden without one again.

Hortense Hoelove

A hoe in the garden on a sunny day.

If you have a question for Dear Hortense, just leave it in the comments or send an email!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Penny the Vole

Notice of Eviction

To: Microtus pennsylvanicus aka Meadow Vole aka “Penny the Vole”

From: The Gardener/Landlord at May Dreams Gardens

Re: Notice of Eviction

Effective immediately, “Penny the Vole” and all related and unrelated members of her family who have taken up residence in the perennial border at May Dreams Gardens are ordered to vacate the premise. Failure to move by midnight on September 10, 2009 to the meadow where the street dead ends will result in a forced removal and other dire consequences. All burrows and tunnels will no longer be safe at that time.


I had hoped that the hole in the ground in the perennial border led to a secret underground garden fairy hideaway. I was in denial. I knew it was voles. We had met before when they tried to destroy my garden several years ago. They were a worthy adversary, as I recall.

This evening I finally embraced the reality of the situation when I caught sight of the actual resident and confirmed it was a common meadow vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus. Voles seem so small and harmless, but they are as harmless as a rabbit in the garden, which means that they can not stay, at least not in my garden.

They feed on grasses, sedges, roots, and some insects and in the winter they can chew on the bark of trees. Of course, they probably avoid nutsedge and thistle. If they ate just those, they could stay. I would even pay them. 

But then there is all that tunneling just below the surface. It disrupts the plants, like this balloon flower, Platycodon grandiflorus.

I like to think that with balance, even pests like these meadow voles can stay in a garden in limited numbers so they cause minimal damage. But I don’t see the balance in this situation, so I’ll add the balance myself.

One of the voles is hiding in this clump of Lamb’s Ear, Stachys byzantina.

I saw it run in there when I was weeding, brewing, stewing, contemplating how to get rid of them. I tried to get it to come out for a picture. It wouldn't. “Go ahead. Hide for now, Penny the Vole, I’m still going to balance your equation.”

It is best to not ask too many questions about my plans for the “eviction process”,  for how I will bring balance back to nature in my garden. I’m not even sure myself what my plan is. I’m still working on the overall strategy. But I will have a plan. I will balance out the garden. I will replant the balloon flower.

I will prevail in this new battle to save my garden.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

09-09-09 In The Garden

Today is the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year of this century, and as usual, our thoughts turn to gardening.

There are some interesting aspects to the number 9; some are curious, some are odd, and some are just too scary or way off topic for a lovely gardening blog. In fact if my garden sounded like the Beatle’s recording of Revolution 9, I think I’d move.

Fortunately, it doesn’t!

To commemorate this unusual date of 09-09-09, here are nine “to do” items that you might do to ensure your garden is “dressed to the nines” for Fall.

1. Weed. Always the weeding! They are always out there, hiding, lurking, storing up energy for winter. They love your garden best, don’t they? Pull those weeds out. Don’t let them set seed, don’t let them grow even deeper roots.

2. Mulch. Is there ever a “done” to mulching? My garden always seems to need mulch somewhere. Perhaps that is because I never seem to get it mulched all at once in the spring like some people do. So I’m scouting areas of the garden that could use a good measure of mulch going into fall and winter.

3. Edge. At night, while you sleep, your lawn creeps just a little further in to that flower bed you so carefully edged in the spring. I advise you to sleep with one eye open and to try to edge a bit before it gets really cold out there. Show your lawn that you mean business and you aren't going to let it take over your flower beds.

4. Plant. Don’t give up gardening now! We all know fall is a good time to plant, so go buy some new plants and plant them. In this economy, I’ll bet your local garden center would appreciate the business, too. And a bonus is they probably won’t be that busy and will have time to answer your questions and show you the best plants they have.

5. Deadhead. It’s a balancing act out there in the garden. Should you leave the seed heads of perennials like Rudbeckia sp., Monarda sp., and Echinacea sp. for the birds to eat and to provide winter interest? Or should you deadhead them to avoid having them self sow all over the garden? Decide what you want for your garden and deadhead as you wish.

6. Order. It’s time to order bulbs for spring flowers. You know it is. Even the procrastinators are ordering their bulbs. Well, some of them are, others will just happen to see some bulbs at the big box store one day and buy a few on impulse. Those same people may or may not even plant those bulbs. Don’t be them. Order some bulbs now before the bulb companies are sold out of the bulbs you really want. Or get thee to your local garden center and check their bulb displays and buy some to plant later this fall.

7. Seed. You’d better hurry because fall is the best time to overseed your lawn. Here in my zone 5 garden, September 15th is usually the last day to sow grass seed and still give it time to germinate and get established before it gets really cold and the lawn goes dormant. Hey, isn’t September 15th also the next Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day? Why, yes it is!

8. Accessorize. I’m not referring to tacky Halloween decorations! Now is a good time to find some of those big containers and other garden d├ęcor items marked down for clearance at the end of the season. It wouldn’t hurt to go to the garden center and just look around, would it? Ha! We’re gardeners! We stop at the garden center at our own pocketbook’s risk knowing we’ll find something we have to have that we didn’t know about five minutes before we got there. Like bulbs (see above). But go anyway.

9. Enjoy. Yes, I know what Henry Mitchell wrote about Fall*, but it’s still good to take time to enjoy your garden in all seasons, including Fall. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a garden? To indulge our weeding compulsions?

And that’s nine things to do in the garden on the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year of this century.

*What Henry Mitchell wrote about Fall

“… but fall--not spring—is the great planting season for woody things. If, in other words, you had thought of lolling in the warm weekends admiring the chrysanthemums and the dogwoods turning red, congratulating yourself perhaps that the weeds are losing heart, let me cheerfully remind you that you should be exhausted (not lolling) since this is the busiest of all the garden seasons. When you are not planting bulbs, digging up bindweed roots, rooting out pokeweed, soaking bamboo, there are still other tasks. Thousands of them. You are terribly behind. The very idea of just sitting about in the sun!”

Monday, September 07, 2009

You Might Be A Gardening Geek: Cleaning Edition

You might be a gardening geek when it comes to cleaning if…

When someone mentions cleaning up the garden you run off to look for your best gardening gloves so you don’t miss out on all the fun, but if someone mentions cleaning the house, you run off to hide wherever it is that you last left those gloves.

You don’t see dust on the end tables for weeks on end until a mischievous garden fairy can write “clean me” in it, but when you see dust on a house plant, you immediately find a damp cloth to clean the plant. Bonus points if it is a really big plant and you lug it to the shower to hose it off occasionally.

You wouldn’t dream of only mowing half the lawn and then leaving the mower out for several days right where you left off, but you often, generally, sometimes vacuum half the house and then leave the vacuum cleaner in the middle of a room for a few days before you finish vacuuming the rest of the house. Bonus points if the reason you stopped vacuuming was because you noticed the rain had stopped and you had to get out to the garden.

You have a sign somewhere in your house that says something like “Sorry about the house, I garden” to explain why there are always little bits of leaves on the floor that you bring in from the garden on your shoes but can never find time to sweep up.

You have to get a rake out to clean up the leaves that fall off some of the houseplants onto the carpet. Bonus points if you blogged about indoor raking. Oops, did I really do that?

You are tempted to hire someone to clean for you but would rather just live with a slightly unkempt house so you can use that money to buy plants.

The only time you seem to get around to mopping the floors is when you get distracted while watering house plants and end up accidently watering the floor.

Thirty minutes of cleaning seems like an eternity but thirty minutes in the garden seems like a good start to a great day.

You think nothing of working in the garden all day to the point of sheer exhaustion with sweat streaming down your face but when you are inside cleaning you convince yourself that you deserve a break when the first bead of sweat shows up on your brow.

And finally, you might be a gardening geek when it comes to cleaning if…

You have more hoes than brooms, vacuum cleaners, and sweepers combined. Bonus points if you have ever taken your vacuum cleaner outside to take a picture of it to post on your blog.

Management here at May Dreams Gardens has asked me to issue the following disclaimer:

Based on the above list, it would seem that Carol’s house is not a very clean place. Actually, by adopting a clean as you go approach, the inside of the house never gets all that dirty that a few minutes of cleaning doesn’t get it back in pretty good shape. Thank you.


Other Gardening Geek Posts include…

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
Over 50 Edition
Weather Edition
Seed Edition