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Sunday, February 28, 2010

How to Soothe the Winter Weary Gardener

On this last day of February, our thoughts turn to gardening, as they always do. 

We sense it is coming. We can see it in the tiny green sprouts, imagine it in the breeze, hear it as the last of the snow melts on the roof and trickles down the downspouts.

It is Spring. 

But just pointing out these little signs of the slowly arriving Spring may not be enough to soothe the winter weary gardener.

May I suggest:

- Shake a packet of pea seeds within ear shot of the gardener.  That gentle rattling sound should remind them of  a baby's rattle or the beginnings of happy song that starts out slowly and picks up momentum as it continues, just like Spring. The rattling of the seeds distracts, excites, and  reminds the gardener that "as soon as the soil can be worked", they can be planting those peas.

- Repeat the phrase "as soon as the soil can be worked", "as soon as the soil can be worked", over and over.

- Give the gardener a copy of the book "Seeds: The Definitive Guide to Growing, History, and Lore" by Peter Loewer (Timber Press, $17.95) to read and study to learn more about seeds.

- Take the gardener to a garden show. The Indiana Flower and Patio Show starts March 13th!  The new Indiana Home and Flower show is this coming weekend, March 5 - 7.

- Buy the gardener a new hoe.  For no reason, just because she survived another winter.

That's how you should soothe the winter weary gardener.

(Do not under any circumstances shout "Look, there's a crocus!" if there is no crocus blooming, unless you have a packet of seeds to shake to calm the gardener down again.)

(Don't forget to leave a comment on the giveaway post to enter to win six packets of seeds from Nature's Crossroads and a Cobrahead hand weeder/cultivator. Deadline is Sunday, February 28th at 9:00 pm EST.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Who's Afraid Of The Big Ol' Rabbit?

An alert friend recently sent me information on the world’s largest rabbit, weighing 42 pounds.

Another equally alert friend, replied to the email with “We are going to need bigger spoons”.

With friends like those two...

Remember when I used spoons to keep rabbits out of the green beans?

I won’t say emphatically that spooning or forking the garden is what kept the rabbits out of the beans that year. I’ll just say that the rabbits didn’t bother my beans when the bean plants were surrounded by spoons.

I think this year I'll do it again, maybe with forks!

(Don't forget to leave a comment on the giveaway post to enter to win six packets of seeds from Nature's Crossroads and a Cobrahead hand weeder/cultivator. Deadline is Sunday, February 28th at 9:00 pm EST.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another Chance to Win Seeds AND A Cobrahead Hand Cultivator

Chase away your last lingering winter fears with a chance to win six packets of seeds from Nature’s Crossroads and a hand weeder/cultivator from Cobrahead!

Though winter seems like it will never end, we know it will! And then it will be spring and we will all wish we had some seeds and a Cobrahead to do some planting of early crops like peas, lettuce, spinach, and radishes.

I’ve got my seeds for these early spring crops! I’ve got my Cobrahead ready! Just as soon as it warms up, I’m going to take it out to the garden to dig out those early spring weeds and make a nice furrow for sowing my seeds from Nature’s Crossroads.

Now one lucky commenter will have their chance to win seeds and a Cobrahead and be ready, too.

To enter:

1. Go to the Nature’s Crossroads website, look around, and pick at least one seed variety you’d like to win.
2. Leave a comment telling us what you picked by 9:00 pm EST, Sunday, February 28th.

Gosh, that’s as easy as sowing peas is going to be in my raised bed vegetable garden!

After the deadline, I’ll pick a random number and count down that many comments to identify the winner of the six packets of seeds from Nature’s Crossroads (an Indiana company) AND a hand weeder from Cobrahead (a Wisconsin company).

Open to U.S. residents only. Please make sure you leave your email address in the comment or that it is on your blog so I can contact you if you win. You do not have to have a blog to enter. Email addresses can be left disguised along the lines of Indygardener AT G Mail dot Com and I’ll figure it out.

One entry per person! However, if you tweet about the contest with a link on Twitter, post about it on your blog, or note it on your Facebook page, you can add a second comment with a link for reference and double your chances of winning! (Maximum of two comments per person.)

Good luck to all!

(And for those who are interested and can make it to Indianapolis in mid-March, the Hoosier Gardener is giving away two tickets to the Indiana Flower and Patio Show which takes place March 13 – 21. Visit the Hoosier Gardener's blog by March 8th to leave a comment there to enter to win!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I Want In A Garden Design

I think I’m ready to meet with the garden designer now.

I've thought it all through and now I know what I want in a garden design.

I want a garden that leads you along from one section to another with good transitions, personal touches and lots of plants. I’ve defined these five “wants” as the garden elements of Wanderability, Placeness, Well-Plotted, Gardimacy, and Hortiful.

What else could a gardener want in her garden?

A pond? Oh, maybe. I’m ambivalent about ponds. I’ve seen some I like but I certainly don’t want to dig the hole for one. I also don’t want to worry about leaks in the pond liner. But a small pond might be nice if it was well-plotted and someone else did the digging.

A lawn? Yes! I still want some lawn. Goodness gracious. Where has everyone been? I don’t want to give up mowing the lawn. Plus it adds some wanderabilty to the garden.

A vegetable garden? Of course. In every garden I’ve had, the first thing I did was figure out where the vegetable garden would be, and then I planned out the rest all of the other “placeness” in the garden.

A miniature garden? Yes, and I have one now, full of gardimacy. I assume it will stay where it is, but if a design called for it to be moved, I’d be wiling to sneak out in broad daylight some day and move it while the garden fairies were sleeping.

Perennials, trees, shrubs, containers, annuals? Yes, all of these. I’d like my garden to be hortiful, absolutely. Oddly enough, I don’t seem to have any ornamental grasses in my garden. At least right now I don’t, not since I removed the invasive ribbon (or was it zebra?) grass and that tough as wire Japanese blood grass.

Colors? Yes. But not much red. I should go through the new book The Gardener’s Color Palette by Tom Fischer, photographs by Clive Nichols (Timber Press, $12.95)* and mark the colors I like the best. Hmmm. Maybe I should go through all my gardening books and magazines and mark the pictures of gardens that I like the most? Or not. I'll just explain what I want.

Oh, and how could I forget the five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden? My garden design needs to incorporate all five of those secrets.

I think I’m ready to meet the garden designer now.

*(I received a free copy of this book to review. I haven't had a chance to do that just yet, what with sitting around thinking about garden design and secrets to happiness in the garden and looking out the window wondering when the snow would melt because I really haven't done any gardening since winter set in, about the week of Thanksgiving, and yes, that's been three months ago.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Garden Design Elements: Hortiful

Not for me are those minimalist gardens, with hardscapes occasionally punctuated with a plant or two. I want my gardens to be full of plants.

I want to be able to walk amongst the flowers in my garden and find bouquets of blooms ready to be cut.

I want to go out to the vegetable garden and find enough fresh produce to make a summer evening’s supper.

I want to walk down the path and be able to reach out and touch the plants as I walk along.

I want to smell the sweet scent of ripening grapes and pick apples that are as crisp as an autumn morning.

If I have all this, I have the fifth garden design element in my garden, summed up in one word – hortiful.

(Yes, I did. I came up with another word not in the dictionary. After coming up with the other four non-dictionary words to describe the other garden design elements, I felt the pressure to do it. Fortunately, “hortiful” came to me when I was thinking of something totally unrelated to gardening. And yes, I do understand that regular readers are pausing right now at the very idea that I had a thought not related to gardening. Or did I? Because I did happen to think of the word “hortiful” when I wasn’t consciously thinking of gardening. But I digress…)

When I tell someone I’m looking for a hortiful garden, I should clarify that I’m not really looking for a jungle with tangles of branches and an understory that requires you to hack it all back with a machete just to get through it.

I’m simply looking for an abundance of plants, well-placed, that I can know and love.

I want to know each plant in my garden and I’m not afraid to have a large variety of plants. In fact I would prefer that! I want to be able to experiment a bit, to feel free to buy a new plant or two or three and have a place for it in the garden.

I don’t want to worry about seedlings that show up or if a plant or two disappears on me, as they are sometimes prone to do. I understand that a garden is always changing, that it is a living entity. It won’t be the same year to year, seasons to season, day to day, or even hour to hour. It will never be finished, at least for me. I’m a gardener. I know I’ll always be planting, pruning, digging, and replacing plants, within the framework of the garden design. I’m fine with all of that, because that’s part of having a garden full of plants, a garden that is hortiful.

That’s what the garden design element “hortiful” means to me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Garden Design Elements: Gardimacy

When I walk through a garden, I like to see the little details that give a hint of the gardener who tends that garden. In fact I love the little details that gardeners put into their gardens that show that they know their gardens intimately.

These little touches may not even be noticeable to the casual observer, but they give the garden a more personal feel once you see them or they are pointed out to you. They may simply be meaningful items that the gardener placed throughout the garden or special plants that the gardener enjoys growing, no matter where they garden.

I refer to this garden design element as “gardimacy”, the intimacy that one finds in a garden lovingly tended by a gardener. (Yes, I could just call it intimacy, but having made up words to describe the other three garden design elements of wanderability, placeness, and well-plotted, I decided I should make up a word for this element, too. The fifth garden design element may actually be a real word, but I make no promises about that.)

In my garden, there are some examples of this intimacy already. Underneath a nearby red maple tree, I’ve placed what to some would just look like a flat-topped rock. But I know it is part of the foundation for the original house that my ancestors built when they settled in Indiana generations ago. I must incorporate that rock into any garden design I work with, and will take it with me should I ever move away from my current garden.

Another example of intimacy is found in the plants that grow in the garden, plants that have a story to go with them, plants like Kalimeris pinnatifida ‘Hortensis’, pictured above, also known as the Oxford Orphanage Plant. I planted it because of how it relates to one of my favorite garden writers, Elizabeth Lawrence.

And of course, there are all the passalong plants in most gardens, each with a story of the gardener who passed along those plants.

Gardimacy is really about seeing the gardener through the garden, because the garden reflects back the taste and life of the gardener. It overall makes you look closer at the garden, makes you want to kneel down and get closer to see even the tiniest plants. Done well, it compels you to pause and study the garden, just to see those details, to understand the gardener as much as the garden.

That's why if you really want to see and understand all of the intimate details of a garden design, you would, of course, want to see the garden with the gardener. Then she could point out some of those little details, and you could understand the gardimacy, the intimacy of a garden personally well-tended by a gardener.

That’s what the garden design element of “gardimacy” means to me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Garden Design Elements: Well-Plotted

A good mystery book, really any good book, takes you slowly through the plot, leaving clues throughout on how the book will end. At times you think you’ve got it all figured out and feel certain you know whodunit or how the story will end and then the author adds a little twist that you didn’t expect.

When you reach the end of the book, you are sorry to read those last words because it was a “good read”. You want to go back through it a second time because now you know how all the pieces, those clues and plot twists, relate. You want to figure out how the author managed to keep you engaged throughout the whole book, eagerly turning page after page to see what came next.

That’s how I want my garden to be… a bit of a mystery as you walk through it, with various twists and turns and surprises, but when you’ve seen it all, you are ready to see it again, with a new insight into how it all related.

I call this garden design element: Well Plotted

As people wander the paths of my garden, going from place to place, I want the garden to slowly reveal itself, to have a good overall plot with smooth transitions from place to place, bed to bed, garden to garden. I want people to think they know what’s just around the next curve, but when they get there, it isn’t what they expected. I want to have some surprises in the garden, but not in a jarring “jack in the box” kind of way so that they are startled and afraid to go on. The surprises should be more of "I didn't expect that, but I like it".

I want people to be pleasantly delighted to see what’s hiding around on the other side of the flower bed, hidden perhaps by some other plants that drew their attention first.

I don't want my garden to be the size of a big thick book like Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, so big that people wonder if they could ever see it all. I hope my garden is more like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, a multi-layered story, with interesting characters (plants), a sense of its own placeness and well-plotted.

Well-plotted, like a good story, that’s what I want my garden to be. It needs a good beginning to draw you in, with intrigue, mystery and good characters (plants) to keep you interested throughout. And then it should finish with a good ending so that when you leave the garden you leave with a sense that it was a good read, a good garden, one you'd like to visit again.

That’s what the garden element of Well-Plotted means to me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Garden Design Elements: Placeness

“Where you going?’ as we like to say around here. Wandering around a garden following paths is fine to do, but eventually we want to get someplace in the garden.

We want our gardens to have places to pause for a moment or two, destinations to arrive at, and focal points that we are drawn to.

I call this element of garden design “placeness”, another word that I can’t quite find in the dictionary.

I want to wander through the garden, but have some places to pause, where maybe there is a bench to sit and rest a minute or an hour, in a spot that offers a view of the garden that I might not see if I just kept walking around the garden.

Of course, these rest stops in the garden need to be in dappled shade, and magically, regardless of weather, there is always a little table set up with a pitcher of iced green tea with ice cubes that never melt, some drinking glasses ready to be filled, and a plate of cookies.

I want to see that just up the path there is a focal point, maybe a statue of a rabbit or a piece of garden sculpture made out of various old hoes and rakes, though not my current collection of hoes. But I definitely want a place where my rabbit statue can be a focal point. It deserves it after being left out in the cold of winter, buried in snow.

I want to be drawn toward a bed of flowers and feel my step quicken as I get closer because I can’t wait to look at and smell each individual flower.

I want to have destinations in my garden so I can announce to no one in particular that I’m heading out to the Vegetable Garden. Or I’m working in the Miniature Garden. Or I’m going to go sit and read by The Pond. (Destinations are always capitalized, by the way.)

This brings up the question of sizing a garden to fit the time and resources you have to maintain it so that you do have time to go sit and read by the pond, one of the keys to achieving happiness in your garden. My garden design must incorporate the five keys to achieving happiness in your garden! But I digress…

I want to be able to tell someone to go by the Grape Arbor because that’s where I think the garden fairies sleep during the day, and they will know how to get to that place.

Yes, my garden needs to have places in it that are distinct from each other but blended by transitions so they relate to each other.

That’s what the garden element of “placeness” means to me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Garden Design Elements: Wanderability

Did you ever walk into a garden and somehow you just knew where to wander? The placement of the planting beds, the lure of any focal points, even the way the birds flew, drew you into the garden. As you wandered through, you felt like the garden was gradually revealing itself to you, guiding you on where to walk.

I call that element of garden design* “wanderability” or perhaps it is ‘strollability”? (I don’t know why those words aren’t in the dictionary.)

In either case, I would like a garden that is easy to wander through, that in some places presents a very distinct path to purposely walk down, but in other areas presents a blurred path, one that is more subtle but that still leads you through the garden or out onto a bit of lawn.

Easy enough, right?

To be wanderable (another word that somehow the dictionary writers missed), I think the garden shouldn’t have a bunch of right angles to walk around, unless it is a raised bed vegetable garden, which is usually accepted as being full of paths with right angles.

But elsewhere in the garden there should be no intersection that looks like it presents four choices on which direction to walk. That would always remind me of the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz and the Scarecrow without a brain. I would always imagine the Scarecrow hanging on a post at the intersection pointing in first one direction and then another direction, indecisively trying to direct people on where to go in the garden.

The garden should decide! I think you should be able to enjoy a lovely evening garden stroll just before the sun disappears, in the last light of day, the glooming, with the garden paths leading you along so that you can be lost in thought. You shouldn’t encounter a place where you have to decide “go left, go right, go straight, or turnaround”. Why? Because every day we have to make a thousand decisions. Big decisions, little decisions, fast decisions or well thought out decisions. When we are walking in the garden, let the garden decide for us.

That’s what the garden design element of wanderability means to me.

*I should note that these five garden design elements that I'm posting about are what I am looking for in a garden. I do not have training or experience in garden design, landscape design or any design. In college, I avoided the design classes in favor of classes in floriculture, woody ornamentals, insect pests of ornamental plants, herbaceous ornamentals, plant taxonomy... subjects like that. Oh, wait, I did take a class in floral design just for fun, and it was fun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Do You Want In A Garden Design

I’ve decided to consult with a garden designer to work out some issues that I have in my garden, mainly that it lacks a cohesive design.

(No, Dr. Hortfreud can not work on these design issues because she foolishly or deliberately avoided all the design classes she could while getting her horticulture degree.)

I say I recently decided, but truth be told, I’ve been thinking about garden design and getting some help with a garden design for a long time. But first one thing and then another stopped me from doing anything about it. Finally, I banished “first one thing and then another” from my mind and the garden and took the initial step earlier this week.

After asking around a bit, I picked a garden designer I thought would create the kind of design I'd like, who would be willing to work with a gardener (versus a homeowner who just wants their yard to look "nice"). On Sunday, I sent off an email to introduce myself and ask her to meet with me to discuss her design and installation services.

I held nothing back in my email to her! I told her about my garden, my habit of buying “one of’ plants and planting them wherever there seemed to be a bare batch of ground, as long as it looked like the plants behind them would be taller and those in front would be shorter. I also mentioned that I form emotional attachments to some of my plants. Don’t we all?

I wrote that I wanted to work with a garden designer who thinks it is a good idea to devote a third of the back yard to vegetables, knows what a copse is (and can design one), and understands that I will continue to buy “one of” plants and want to plant them in the garden without compromising whatever garden design I’m working with.

I gave her all the background I thought necessary, even suggesting that I was willing to remove or move plants that might get in the way of a good garden design. (After I deal with any emotional plant attachment issues.) I bared my gardening soul in that email, but stopped just short of mentioning the hoe collection and how many garden fairies I think are out there wandering around the garden. I wanted her to reply to my email, not run away.

And she replied. Turns out she bought the same variety of melon seeds that I did for the same reasons. I think that’s a good sign.

The next step is to meet and look around the garden and discuss the services she can offer. I’m sure when she sees the garden as it is now, or how it will be when we meet, she’ll have a few more specific questions about what I want in a garden design, other than a vegetable garden, a copse, and the ability to plant whatever I want and not ruin the design.

I’ve given that question - “what do you want in your garden design” - some thought and came up with five elements that I’ll be looking for. Unlike the five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden which were revealed to me gradually over several years, these five elements of a garden design came to me suddenly.

I wrote them down so I wouldn't forget them, but I did so in the dark with a pen that was stingy with its ink because the five elements came to mind right before I fell asleep one night.

Now I just need to decipher what I wrote...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Day After The Day After

The day after the day after bloom day...

Thank you to everyone who posted about their blooms, or lack of blooms as the case may be, for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I wish I had more time to read every post - there are 127 listed so far - but that is a daunting task these days! But I do read all the comments and can tell you without a doubt...

This winter has been like no other, and is certainly not like last winter.

Nearly all of us have fewer blooms than last year at this time, are growing weary of this winter, and are counting the days until Spring.

Well, the "growing weary of winter" and "counting the days until Spring" is right on schedule this winter; it's the fewer blooms this is different from last year.

While you are lamenting your lack of blooms and counting those days until Spring, how about visiting a few bloom day posts and discovering some new fellow "gardeners in bloom"? You can do this by going back to the bloom day post, finding your name on the Mr. Linky Widget, and then visiting the two blogs listed before you and the two listed after you. Or just pick out a few names you don't recognize and visit those blogs. You never know who or what you will discover in doing this for a few minutes. Many of the blogs that I now follow regularly I found through bloom day posts.


If all goes according to plan, I should be sowing peas in my garden one month from today, on March 17th. In four weeks. Just 28 days to go. With my garden currently buried in nearly ten inches of snow, this seems almost laughable, implausible, ridiculous, over-optimistic, senseless, naive.

But I know that Spring is just around the corner and I'm making plans for it. Big Plans. New Plans. Mysterious Plans. Plans to be revealed as they are... planned. I'm conjuring up Dr. Hortfreud, Hortense Hoelove, and Thorn Goblinfly to weigh in on some very big plans for my garden. Plans...

Stay tuned...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2010

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for February 2010!

In my USDA Hardiness Zone 5b garden, I find that once again, on the 15th of February the garden is buried in snow. This is how it was for that first bloom day in 2007.

But in other years, including 2008 and 2009, I have had blooms outside in mid-February, in this very spot that is currently buried in snow. But this is not one of those other years. This is a new year, a year that so far brings a hodge-podge of indoor blooms and a snow covered garden.

Most of the forced bulbs indoors are well past their prime, including hyacinths, amaryllis and paperwhites (Narcissus). This is the last of the Narcissus blooms, hanging on for dear life with a poinsettia still glowing red behind it.
I’ll keep watering that poinsettia and then plant it outside this summer in one of the containers for a bit of foliage, but won’t bother trying to bring it back inside in the fall.

There are other errant blooms here and there indoors, including still lingering blooms on the Jewel Orchid, Ludisia discolor, a few odd re-blooms on the Christmas cactus, and the ever present pink flowers of the Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia sp.

Perhaps the most interesting bloom is on an African violet, Saintpaulia ‘Merlot’. Its blooms do not open like most African violets, but stay closed, making them look almost like a papery pea-type bloom.
Thia African violet is also striking for its leaves which are called “bustled”. They are very slightly variegated as well and would be perfect for the Foliage Follow up meme on the 16th hosted by Pam at Digging.

Finally, where some snow has melted near a fence, these daffodil sprouts give me hope that I will have blooms outdoors well in time for the next bloom day in March.
What’s blooming in your garden? We would love to have you join in for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. It’s easy to participate and all are invited! Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and put your name and the url to your post on the Mr. Linky widget below. Then leave a comment to tell us what you have waiting for us to see so we can pay you a virtual visit!

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

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Another Chance or Two

Another chance is all we can ask for sometimes.

Would you like another chance to win some free seeds from Botanical Interests? Yes? Then head over to Dee's blog, Red Dirt Ramblings, and enter to win six packets of seeds and a book on family gardening. Even if you don't have kids, you should still enter because you can surely find some kids to garden with! Enter by Saturday, Feb. 20 at Midnight CST.


Would you like another chance to join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day? Do you know about Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day?

Every month on the 15th, I encourage you to go out to your garden to see what is blooming, post about it, then leave a comment on my bloom day post so we can find your bloom day post. Then we can all virtually visit your garden to see what blooms you have.

For those who would like another chance to begin "at the beginning", this next bloom day post on February 15th marks the beginning of the "bloom day year", and begins the fourth year of this garden bloggers' meme. Gosh, three years since the first bloom day post, already?

All are welcome and encouraged to join in! And don't assume you have nothing to share because it is February and you are buried in snow. You might be surprised if you go have a look-see. I've already pre-scouted my garden outside and inside for blooms. Yes, outside in the snow, and I did find a few "plant activities" of interest. Plus I have an interesting bloom indoors, pictured above. Any guesses as to what it is?


I sort of didn't fill up the bird feeders this past week. But I filled them up earlier today. I wonder if the birds will give me another chance and come back to eat the black oil sunflower seeds I left for them.


Winter really is about another chance for us temperate climate gardeners. Under the snow, the garden is being transformed, once again. It's becoming a clean slate for spring.

It's preparing itself to give us another chance to plan and plant the garden of our dreams. And shouldn't we always take advantage of another chance?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Seed Update

I finished ordering all my seeds for this season last night. Altogether I purchased…

Well, a gardener never tells!

However, it appears that to date I haven’t purchased as many seeds as I did last year.

But there is still snow on the ground and plenty of time to buy more seeds. When, or I suppose if, I decide I need more seeds, I think I’ll buy them at one of the local garden centers.

I do need to make a list of all the seeds I have and carry it with it at all times. Then when, or if, I’m suddenly overcome with the urge to buy more sweet pea seeds, for example, I can check my list and see that I’ve purchased four, oops, five varieties of sweet peas already.

Which reminds me! Dog gone it. I didn’t order any cantaloupe seeds. Last season I had a great harvest from two cantaloupe plants that I bought on impulse to fill in one last spot in the garden. Since I generally think it is pointless to buy a plant for something you can easily start from seed, I decided to buy some seeds for cantaloupe this year.

Oh wait, check that. I did buy cantaloupe seeds. I purchased ‘Hearts of Gold’ from Nature’s Crossroads. They describe it as, “this classic Midwest melon ruled the markets of the 1930’s. Fruit has a small seed cavity with aromatic juicy sweet flesh. Fruit normally weights 2 – 3 lbs with two or three per vine.”

They had me at “ruled the markets of the 1930’s”. It immediately conjured up images of my Dad and uncles growing up on a southwestern Indiana farm, where surely the kitchen garden had several hills of melons.

They also noted on the package that it contains at least 25 seeds with a 90% germination rate which means that I have more melon seeds than I need for my garden. I wonder if I have a sister or two who would like a few seeds to grow some old fashioned melons in their gardens?

I really do need to make up that seed list so that I know what I have for this season.


Reminder… don’t forget to leave a comment on yesterday’s post to enter the drawing to win six packets of seeds from Botanical Interests and the book, Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs by Jim Wilson. You have until Friday, February 12, 2010 at 9 pm EST to enter! Hurry! See yesterday’s post for all the details.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Start A Garden With This Book and Seed Giveaway!

As Cicero is quoted as saying, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

I would add that if you have a vegetable garden and a book about how to grow vegetables, then you have all that you need to at least enjoy some delicious produce that you grew yourself. Wouldn’t everyone like that?

If you think you would, then this special giveaway is just for you!

For the “library”, I am giving away one copy of Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs by Jim Wilson, photographed by Walter Chandoha (Creative Homeowner, $16.95), the book I reviewed yesterday.

For the “garden” part of the giveaway, Botanical Interests has graciously offered to provide six packets of seeds, winner’s choice.

That’s right… a book and seeds!

You can read all about growing vegetables, and then with six varieties of seeds and maybe a few tomato and pepper plants from your local garden center, you’ll have a great start on your own vegetable garden, even if you are a beginner.

You could grow one of my favorite green beans, ‘Contender’. When you pick and snap those beans, they will be so crisp, you won’t believe it.

Near the beans you could plant a little row of radishes, maybe the variety ‘Cherry Belle’. In a matter of a few weeks, there will be some radishes ready to harvest and you’ll get your first taste of eating from your own garden.

I’d also recommend you grow some summer squash, like ‘Black Beauty’ zucchini. Then you can know the thrill of giving away some of your produce because no one person can keep up with a hill or two of summer squash when it starts to produce.

To decorate your garden, I think you should definitely include some flowers. May I suggest ‘Mammoth Russian‘ sunflowers, ‘Crackerjack’ marigolds, and ‘Cut and Come Again’ zinnias? The sunflowers will wow you with how fast and tall they grow, plus the birds will enjoy the seeds. The zinnias will be excellent for cutting for your own bouquets, and the marigolds will add some color to the garden.

Or you can pick any other seeds you’d like, if you are the lucky winner of the book Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs and the six packets of seeds from Botanical Interests.

To enter, just leave a comment below by Friday, February 12, 2010, 9:00 PM EST and tell us a little about your experience growing your own vegetables, fruits or herbs.

One entry per person! However, if you tweet about the contest on Twitter, post about it on your blog, or note it on your Facebook page, you can add a second comment with a link for reference and double your chances of winning!  (Maximum of two comments per person.)

You do not have to be a new gardener to enter! Any gardener or wanna-be gardener can enter to win.

After Friday, I’ll pick one lucky winner through a random drawing. The winner will be notified via email, so please make sure your comment links back to a blog where I can find your email address or include your email address in your comment or send me an email to tell me you've entered. The book will be sent via Amazon by me, and Botanical Interests will send you your seeds.

Good luck to all!

(Please note we can only ship to US residents.)

**Update February 12th, 9:30 PM EST**
The random number generator returned 11 to me, so the 11th commenter, Caroline, is our lucky winner. Congrats to Caroline! Everyone else, stay tuned for other opportunities to win more seeds and other great prizes here and elsewhere around the garden blogosphere!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs: A Book Review

The answer to the question is Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits, and Herb by Jim Wilson, photographed by Walter Chandoha (Creative Homeowner, $16.95)

The question is what book will I recommend the next time someone tells me they would like to grow their own vegetables.

Does everyone remember Jim Wilson from the Victory Garden South at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia? Sure we do! I loved watching the PBS series, The Victory Garden, every Saturday back in the 1980’s (and before) and especially liked when they segued from Boston down to Georgia to see what Jim was growing.

He was always growing something exciting, or at least it seemed exciting the way he talked about it. I loved how he walked around the gardens sampling all kinds of vegetables and raving about how good they were. I still remember him picking an ear of sweet corn, maybe in his garden or maybe in one of the many gardens he visited, cutting off a few kernels with his pocket knife and eating them right there. He probably said something like, “My goodness that is sweet. No butter needed for this corn. That is one sweet ear of corn”. It looked and sounded so good that I wanted to grow corn like that!

Now with this book, it’s like Jim, and Walter, are walking us through the garden telling us once again how to grow our own produce. In an easy to read style, through words and pictures, they provide all the information you need to be successful growing your own vegetables, fruits, and herbs. As Jim noted at the beginning, he wants people to have success their first year growing vegetables, to avoid “the disappointment and downright failure that often comes with the first attempts at cultivating produce”. Jim knows, we all know, that if that first garden is a flop, many people will give up and never try again. So he and Walter came out of what he refers to as “blissful retirement” to write this book at a time when he felt we needed good, practical information about growing our own vegetables and fruits.

Through this book, Jim Wilson, is teaching us in his own style how to be successful growing a vegetable garden. And Walter Chandoha is tempting us through his photographs to grow vegetables we swear we don’t even like, but decide we’ll grow them anyway, just because they look so good in those pictures.

This is the book I’m going to recommend to anyone who tells me they finally want to grow their own vegetables and asks me how to get started. This is the book I’m going to pull off the shelf when I have a question about something I want to grow in my own vegetable garden. This is the book I’m going to read and enjoy whenever I feel a need for some gardening advice for myself.

Thank you, Jim Wilson and Walter Chandoha, for coming out of retirement to collaborate on this wonderful book, Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs.

(Yes, indeed, I did get my copy from the publisher for free, but that didn’t affect my review, I promise!)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Vocabulary List For Gardeners

Oh, the fun of gardening! We learn so much when we start gardening, like the botanical names of plants and some specialized words used to describe various aspects of the horticultural world. Some of the specialized words haven't quite made it to the dictionary yet, so I've listed them here for reference...

Blogalong: Noun. A plant you learned about through garden blogging and planted in your own garden. If the plant was given to you by another blogger, it is a blogalong passalong.

Forgetia: Noun. One of several temporary botanical names which are useful until the actual botanical name of the plant can be discovered.

Gads: Noun. The inclination of some gardeners to bounce around from one garden task to another in a seemingly disconnected or unplanned fashion. Can also be a verb, gadsing, as in “gadsing about the garden…” It originally started out as an acronym, GADS, Gardeners Attention Distraction Syndrome.

Gardenetics: Noun. The study of gardening and genetics combined, particularly when it relates to the study to determine if the genetics of gardeners is different from that of the general population.

Haughtyculturist: Noun. A snooty horticulturist. First used in the book  Of Flowers and a Village by Wilfrid Blunt. It is not a compliment to be called a haughtyculturist!

Hortonnection: Noun. Short for horticultural connection. This refers to the garden-y connections that gardeners have with one another, making us more connected than the general population is. In other words, I’m more likely to know some of the same gardeners that other gardeners know, without knowing that they know them, too, because we are all gardeners.

Hortothesis: Noun. Any hypothesis that relates to horticulture or gardening.

Hortotropism: Noun. The phenomenon of attraction between gardeners, often noticed in social settings. Over time, gardeners will find each other in a group of people and gradually isolate themselves from the rest of the group to discuss all manner of important topics like “what is your signature squash”, “do you believe compost tea is that beneficial”, or “how do you pronounce Clematis”.

Paradeisosphobia: Noun. The fear of gardens. The fear of gardening is kipourikosphobia, by the way.

If you discover other new words I should add to this list, please let me know.

And don't forget there is another post with acronyms related to garden blogging, which may also be useful. Let me know if there are any updates for it, too.

Now, go study for your quiz!

Super Bowl Sunday and Our Thoughts Turn To Gardening

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and our thoughts turn to gardening, as they always do.

For those who truly do live in their garden 24 x 7, the Super Bowl is the National Football League’s championship game. Approximately 100 million people, give or take, will be watching it this evening. This year, the two teams playing for the trophy are the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints.

It goes without saying that everyone here at May Dreams Gardens and in all of Indiana will be cheering for the Indianapolis Colts. However, it is my understanding that “everyone” outside of Indiana thinks it would be nice if the Saints won because it would be good for New Orleans. Whatever. Fortunately, the Super Bowl championship is not decided by public opinion but by the players playing the game. Go, Colts!

Meanwhile, here in Indianapolis, we have a very picturesque snow cover, temperatures hovering in the teens and a bright BLUE sky (Go Colts!) It is the perfect day to make a big pot of chili, using all kinds of peppers that were grown in your own garden, harvested last summer, cleaned, cut up, and frozen for just this occasion. Then while thinking about how good those peppers grown in your own garden make that chili taste, you can look through all your seed catalogs at all the pepper varieties available and order your seeds for this summer’s garden, anticipating that maybe your team will make it all the way to the Super Bowl next year.

And while you are browsing through those seed catalogs, you can also take the time to pick out some blue and white flowers to grow, because blue and white are the team colors for the Colts (Go Colts!) and today those are your favorite colors. But be careful because you don’t want your garden to be too monochromatic next summer.

Occasionally, while looking at the seed catalogs and seed websites, be sure to glance up and watch a bit of the game and all those expensive commercials they’ll be showing, and cheer on your favorite team (Go Colts!) Then when you gather with co-workers tomorrow morning, you’ll have something to talk about other than gardening, although your thoughts will turn to gardening again, soon enough. They always do.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Hortothesis: Seeds and Snow

The Institute for Gardenetics Research and Other Works (iGROW)* would like to conduct a study to determine if the quantity of vegetable and flower seeds purchased by gardeners goes up when there is snow on the ground.

The hypothesis, or rather hortothesis*, which is what we call a hypothesis related to gardening, is that when their gardens are buried under snow and activities of gardening are severely limited, gardeners will order more seeds to satisfy their need to feel connected to their gardens.

To research this hortothesis, I will of course need money to pay for my time and effort. I would use this money to survey gardeners and gather data from seed companies to compare to various weather records. Then I’d ponder on the data while I was gardening in my own garden, to see if I can prove the hortothesis.

If I could prove it, then seed companies could use the information to adjust staffing and sales projections based on the amount of snowfall. If I can not prove it, then that would be okay, too. I would have at least had the opportunity to garden while being paid to ponder on it.

I suspect, however, that most seed companies have limited funds to invest in this type of research, so I will have to rely on free resources, such as blog posts like this one, to gather gardeners’ feedback via comments. And I will have to ponder on my own time in the garden as well. That's okay, too. I'd do it for the good of all gardeners everywhere.

Do you believe my hortothesis is correct? Is there snow on the ground where you are and will it cause you to buy more seeds?

*I made up iGROW.
**I made up hortothesis, too.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I've Got Seeds!

I’ve got seeds!

Take that Mr. Winter! You can huff and puff and blow your snow around. You can be cold and miserable and throw those icy paths before me. Give me your best shot and I’m positive I’ll remain standing because…

I’ve got seeds!

Like a kid with trading cards, I shuffle the seed packets from one hand to another. I lay them out on the table and look them over. I sort them by type and I admire the art on each package. I go to bed dreaming of the garden because...

I’ve got seeds!

When people ask if I’m ready for spring, I can be emphatic in my answer. I am ready for the sowing days because…

I’ve got seeds!


Yes, Dr. Hortfreud?

Aren’t you being a little over exuberant about your seeds?

What do you mean?

Well, from what I can see you have about half of the seeds you normally buy each year.

Oh, that’s because I need to order more seeds.

So should you really be shouting “I’ve got seeds” while jumping up and down like a garden fairy who just discovered the first violet bloom of spring?

Well, technically, I guess not. I guess I should really be saying…

I’ve got some seeds!

And I promise myself I’ll order the rest of the seeds I need this weekend.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

House Plant Census at May Dreams Gardens

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter has organized a house plant census so I have dutifully counted up my indoor plants, including various hyacinth and narcissus bulbs.

Included in my collection of house plants are some treasured plants that I have had for 23 plus years.

The night blooming cereus, which I believe to be Epiphyllum oxypetalum, was entrusted to my care in 1987. Prior to that, I estimate that my Dad had it for 15 years, so it has been “in the family” for going on 38 years. That is a long time in house plant years.

A house plant year*, by the way, is equivalent to three outdoor plant years, so in outdoor plant years, the night bloomer is 114 years old. She’s a venerable old lady of a plant and deserves all of the space she takes up in the sun room. Equally as old is a smaller night bloomer that I acquired from my aunt a few years ago.

My aloe vera plant has been around in one pot or another, and often in multiple pots, for the better part of 25 years. The original plant came from my aunt and uncle, who got a start from my grandmother, who got one from her mother. Mine had mealybugs once, but I managed to eradicate those cottony-nasties and saved the aloe. What a scare that was.

My pothos plants, two of them, harken back to 1987. I’m not one to let a pothos vine continue to grow so that you can wrap it around the room three times or do anything crazy like that. Every spring, I whack ‘em back and stick a few cuttings from the trimmings back in the pots so there is always new growth.** I do this with a lot of my house plants, including the aloe.

Other plants that should be mentioned for their longevity under my care include a Christmas cactus, a real cactus, pictured above, which I refer to as ponytail cactus, but it could be something else, and my Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia sp., which is always blooming. That cactus, by the way, has been in that pot for 15 years or longer. It has grow up and around and through that wire shelf so that it can not be moved. I guess it has taken its own kind of “root” in that spot.

All together, I counted 47 house plants and bulbs growing in my house for this census. I do not have a large collection of house plants, by most measures, but if you add up the ages of the plants and how long I’ve personally had them or their cuttings under my care, I think I have a rather old collection.

*I made that part up about “house plant years”.

**Many gardeners claim it is more difficult to keep house plants alive than outdoor plants, but I don’t think that is true. One of the secrets to the longevity of some of my plants, other than the night bloomer, is to take cuttings of them to root before the original plant starts to decline. Then I have a back up young plant ready to take over if the original plant should die on me.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hortense Hoelove Answers Groundhog Day Questions

Dear Hortense Hoelove,

Do you believe in the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil? Isn’t he the greatest weather forecaster of all time? Doesn’t he deserve his own website and all that media coverage? Even grown men dress in tuxedos and make various proclamations on Groundhog Day because Phil is so important.

Hibernating in Pennsylvania,
P. Phil

Dear P. Phil,

Hmmm, your letter seems a bit suspicious, so I’m not going to comment on all your questions. I will note that no matter whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not on Groundhog Day, Carol will be planting her peas on March 17th.


Dear Hortense,

Do you know when spring will arrive in Indianapolis?

Waiting in Indy,
Thorn Goblinfly

Dear Thorn,

You know it doesn’t really matter when spring arrives in Indianapolis, because Carol will plant her peas on March 17th.


Dear Ms. Hoelove,

Do you take much stock in planting by the phases of the moon?

Over the Moon with Gardening

Dear Over the Moon,

I take stock in anything that helps the garden grow better. I hear rumors that Carol is going to try planting by the phases of the moon this year. It’s just a good thing that the moon phase is favorable for planting peas on March 17th because we would never hear the end of it if she couldn’t plant her peas on that day.


Dear Hortense,

Will the answer to every question on Groundhog Day be that Carol is planting her peas on March 17th?


Dear Patrick,

It is Groundhog Day, isn't it? And isn't Groundhog Day known for being a day for repetition? With that, I'll leave you with the thought that Carol is planting her peas on March 17th.

Hortense Hoelove