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Friday, July 30, 2010

Making A Garden

If someone figured up that in your lifetime you would earn a million dollars and then gave you the million dollars at the beginning of your working life, how motivated would you be to learn to work and then to really work?

If someone gave you a garden all planted and pruned and weeded when you first started gardening, how motivated would you be to learn to garden and then to really garden?

In either case, I would guess most of us, if we are honest, would say "not very motivated".

We all realize at some point that no one is going to hand us a million dollars. We must work to earn our money one nickel at a time. But if we accumulate enough nickels or dimes or dollars over time, we will end up with wealth. (Though for most of us, it won't be a million dollars.)

The same is true with a garden. No one is going to turn over a complete garden to us. We must build our own gardens one seed, one plant, one path a time. But if we plant enough over time, we will end up with a garden. (Though for most of us it won't be fancy enough to be featured in a magazine or bring legions of people to our gate to see it.)

But starting it from the beginning and working on it a little bit each day, that's what makes it ours, whather it is wealth or a garden. We've earned it.

And would we have it any other way?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday: On The Brink Of Wild

We have reached the days of summer when we can catch a glimpse, if we squint into the glare of the hot sun, at what our gardens could become if we left them alone to fend for themselves.

Because we are leaving them alone, or at least I am.

Driven indoors on hot days when every dog, cat, and rabbit seeks out the shade from mid-morning on, I watch from the windows to see weeds take root and grow where I happily and hopefully cultivated my garden earlier in the spring.

The weeds grow relentlessly.

Thistle and morning glory. Prostrate spurge and false daisies. Foxtails and lamb’s quarters. And yes, even purslane.

They have their seasons like all flowers and these hot days of summer are their season.

It’s scary at times to think how during the hottest days of summer, we can let the garden go right to the brink of wild. It happens before we know it when it is so hot and humid. We skip a day or two or three in the garden, only running out for just a few minutes to gather a few tomatoes or some overgrown squash or to take some pictures of weeds. Then we turn around and look at the garden and see that it is on the edge, dangerously close to the brink of wild.

But I won’t let the garden go over that brink, that point of no return, or return only at great cost.

The temperatures will start to get cooler one day. The rains will come. And once again, I’ll be out in the garden pulling weeds, or at least chopping them down, making room for what I really want to see in my garden at this time of year.

It’s part of the cycle of my garden, and has been for years. I know how far I can let the garden go to the edge, to the brink, and still bring it back. It’s almost to that point now. In just a few more days, perhaps by the weekend, it ought to be right on that edge.

I’m not necessarily proud of this phase of the garden, but it is what it is and it always happens this way.

After a morning or two of weeding, and maybe an evening or two of pruning a few shrubs back, my garden should be back where I’d like it to be, away from the edge, that brink of wild and no return. It should be a place where all my weeds are wildflowers, where there is hope of a green lawn in the fall, too soon sprinkled with fallen leaves, and this year, where there is a fresh palette for the fall planting phase of my newly designed gardens.

And that pallet will hopefully be filled with a few wildflowers and other native plants, so I will have something other than weeds and words to share on Wildflower Wednesdays, hosted on the fourth Wednesday of every month by Gail at Clay and Limestone.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


When someone who knows me in that place called "the real world" asks me for the url for my blog, I think about what the most current blog post is before handing over the secret code to get to it.

Then I tell them "Let me know if I need to explain anything...".

Apparently, there are some things to explain, like this squash.
When I take it to work and offer it to any takers, I usually get some puzzled looks.

"How do you cook it?"
"Like summer squash."
"You mean zucchini."
"Did you grow any zucchini squash?"
"Just try this, you'll like it, I promise."

And they do like it.

I love the round squash and that is almost all that I grow anymore. It's very prolific and comes in light green ('Cue Ball'), dark green ('Eight Ball') and golden yellow ('One Ball'). There is also a mottled, more oblong variety called 'Ronde de Nice'. Oh, and another round squash called 'Tondo Scoro di Piacenza' that Leslie from Growing a Garden in Davis sent me some seeds for.

But forget the squash, what most people would like me to bring them are tomatoes. This year I'm growing a variety called 'Reisetomate'.

It looks like a bunch of little tomatoes all globbed together. You are supposed to tear the pieces off to eat individually, sort of like how you would peel off sections of an orange to eat it.

I've decided to keep these for myself as my little secret because it will be easier than a) trying to explain what it is and b) trying to pronounce that German name.

I didn't dream I'd have to explain okra.
But as it turns out, there are some people who don't know what okra is, and still others, many others, who think okra is too slimy to eat. Frances of Fairegarden actually suggested that the best recipe for okra is to let the pods grow and dry on the plant and then use them to decorate fall wreaths.

Well, I never! Okra clearly needs its own public relations firm to help improve its image.

I'm only growing it so I have some to fry up to see if it tastes like the fried okra that I remember eating when we visited my southern Indiana grandparents in the summertime.

In their honor, all the vegetables displayed today are arranged on a dessert plate that was part of a set of plates my grandmothr purchased in 1953 to use at a dinner for her parents' 60th wedding anniversary.

I haven't fried the okra up quite yet, but I can explain why that is, too.

It is true what they say. You can just step down on your foot and sprain it. I never believed you could, but you can. I was sitting at my desk at work yesterday, intently working and doing what I do at work, and my foot went to sleep. When I got up, I didn't realize how dead asleep that foot was and stepped down on it very hard and very awkwardly. It didn't hurt at the time, but by the time I got home I could barely walk on it.

So rather than fry okra and fix my first ear of sweet corn, I iced my foot.

I had it checked out today and the good news is that it probably isn't broken, just sprained. The bad news is that it hurts to walk on the uneven lawn. But I hope with intensive ice therapy, I'll be back in mowing condition by Thursday, maybe Friday at the latest!

Is there anything else that needs explanation?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dear Friends and Gardeners July 26, 2010

A postcard from May Dreams Gardens

Dear Dee and Mary Ann and Gardening Friends Everywhere,

It’s been a busy week. Didn’t have much time to work in the garden. The weeds noticed and have grown faster than rabbits breed. But the garden is going well. Picked my first ears of sweet corn and finally got some cucumbers from my late sown hill of them. Peppers are coming on strong as are tomatoes, finally. No need to worry this summer that it will be hot enough for okra. Send recipes.

Carpe hortus,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not Every Lily Is A Lily

My garden is full of flowers that we call lilies. There are tiger lilies, blackberry lilies, August lilies, toad lilies, surprise lilies, rain lilies, and daylilies blooming today. But what's in a name?


That's what in a name.

These are not all lilies!

Can you tell which are truly lilies and which aren't?

Let's start off with this Tiger Lily.
Yes, this really is a lily, Lilium tigrinum. It is a lily because it is a member of the Liliaceae family of plants.

How about this daylily, Hemerocallis sp.?
It looks rather lily-like but looks can be deceiving! It isn't a lily at all!

It's a member of the Hemerocallidaceae family of plants.

To be fair to those who thought for sure this was a lily, you might just be "old-school". At one time, the daylily was included in the Liliaceae family.

But now that it is in the Hemerocallidaceae family, maybe we should call it a "hemi" as in "dayhemi". After all with tens of thousands of cultivars and hybrids, it has the "power" to suck in many gardeners who then plant hundreds of them in their gardens.

(I'll pause for you to consider how I've managed to use "hemi" and "power" in the same sentence on a gardening blog.)

Moving on...

How about this August lily, Hosta sp?
Surely, it is a lily!?

But guess what? Just like the daylilies, excuse me, dayhemies, the Hostas have also been moved out of the Liliaceae family. They are now in the Agavaceae family.

So this August Lily is not a lily at all! It's more closely related to agaves.

And here I didn't think I much cared for Agaves! Well, I still don't care for the plants in the genus Agave, but I do like plants in the genus Hosta.

How about this surprise lily, Lycoris squamigera?
Some people call these resurrection lilies and others call them nekkid ladies because they bloom without leaves. (By the way, we genteel garden bloggers spell "nekkid" that way on purpose so that we don't end up being read by people who are looking for something other than flowers.)

But surprise! I am now exposing these surprise lilies as a fraud of a lily! They are not lilies at all. They are in the family Amaryllidaceae and have more in common with the Amaryllis that bloomed last week in my house than they have in common with any lily.

And just so you know, the Rain Lily, Zephyranthes sp. seems to be yet another member of the Amaryllidaceae family impersonating a lily.

All these frauds!

But what about the Toad Lilies, Tricyrtis hirta?
Thank goodness, we can trust the toad lilies because they are in the Liliaceae family.

But can we trust them? The toad lilies aren't supposed to bloom until late September at the earliest, but they are blooming now. Just what are they up to? I don't trust them. Someone ought to hop to it on that question and find out what's going on with these early blooming toad lilies.

Finally, what about the blackberry lily, Belamcanda chinensis?
Can we trust it as being in the Liliaceae family, since it bears the common name of Lily?

No, it is no lily at all! It is in the Iridaceae family. In fact, some sources indicate that those who name plants have changed the blackberry lily's botanical name to...

Iris domestica!

Maybe we should learn to call this flower a blackberry iris?

So what have we learned from all these faux lilies?

- That the world of common plant names is full of deception and intrigue? Well, yes, we did learn that.

- That plant taxonomists like to make up new plant families just to make it all more interesting? I don't think they do it to make it more interesting, per se. I think they do it more to disambiguate the plant world. (I've been itching to use the word "disambiguate" on my blog for days now. And yes, I'm stretching the meaning of the word just a little bit.)

- That Carol has many lily like flowers blooming right now? Yes, that is true.

- That a rose may be a rose but a lily may not always be a lily?

Wait, a rose may not be a rose, if you consider the Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus. It is not in the Rosaceae family at all. It's in the Malvaceae family...

I'll stop there before I fall head first into the abyss of plant taxonomy and lose every reader I've ever had.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Souvenirs from Buffalo: New Weeders

Have you ever stopped at a garden center with seventy plus other fanatical gardeners?

It's fun to watch how they scatter about. Some head over to look at statues and other garden ornaments. Others immediately start looking over the tables and rows of plants

And a few head over to that little corner behind the knick knacks and doodads to see what garden tools are offered for sale.

With the garden bloggers, I can always count on Anneliese from Cobrahead joining me in looking at the tools. We always look for the most excellent Cobrahead weeders first because it's a sign of a good garden center when they are selling Cobrahead weeders.

I can also count on someone shouting out "Hey, Carol, look at the hoes", if I don't make it over to the garden tool corner right away.

So it was at Lockwoods Greenhouses, one of our many stops for Buffa10 in Buffalo, NY. They had some garden tools, not a lot, but what they had were very good, and very well-made, tools.

Right away I recognized the Cape Cod Weeder, pictured on the left above. I used to have one and I loved it. I loved it so much that the garden fairies took it from me one day just to torment me. I haven't seen it in over a year, so decided to replace it with a brand new one.

I was sure that as soon as I brought the new Cape Cod Weeder home and started using it, the garden fairies would return my first one by leaving it out someplace in the garden where I couldn't miss it. Then they'd wait behind some shrubs for me to say something like, "There it is! How's come I couldn't find it before?"

"How's come" is because it wasn't really lost... (and "how's come" because we sometimes say that in Indiana).

But I digress. Next to the Cape Cod Weeder above is my new Disc Weeder. It was hanging next to the Cape Cod Weeders looking all shiny and sharp, and I'd never seen one before. So I bought it, too.

I love using both of them. They are very well made by De Wit Gardening Tools in the Netherlands and should last me for decades, as long as I keep an eye on them and don't let the garden fairies take them.

And if they don't last for some reason, they are "guaranteed a lifetime".
One of the secrets to achieving happiness in the garden is to buy good tools, and with these two good tools added to my gardening tool shed, I'm sure to find all kinds of new happiness in my garden.

It was fun to watch all the garden bloggers get back on the bus with their bags of plants and gardening doodads, and me with my two new weeders - the perfect souvenirs to always remember the hospitality of everyone in Buffalo and the horto-raderie* of all the garden bloggers!

*Horto-raderie is that special camaraderie that gardeners share with one another, based on a common love of plants and gardening.

As The Garden Design Continues...

As the garden design continues…

This week, the garden designer sent me a map of the backyard with the provisional names of each garden area noted on it, and a bulleted list of the ideas and suggestions she has for each of these garden areas.

I now get to mull over the ideas and send her back comments and questions.

The reason she named each area of the garden is so that as we talk through the design, we will know which area we are referring to.

I like that she considers the garden names “provisional” because I will likely change them along the way. For example, the garden area she now calls “East Perennial Border” could be renamed something like… well a name doesn’t come to mind right now. But a name will come to me, eventually. I just don’t want to wait too long to rename a garden area and in the meantime get used to calling it something like “East Perennial Border” so that by the time I come up with another name, I have to call it whatever name I come up with followed by “Formerly Known as East Perennial Border” to keep everything straight.

At one point in reading through her current list of suggestions, I literally wanted to slap myself upside the head and say out loud, “Now why didn’t I think of that”.

As you come into the backyard and round the corner by the sunroom, there will be a garden area under the sunroom window and six or seven feet across the way, there is another garden which is currently referred to as the “West Perennial Border”. You pass between these two garden areas to get to the rest of the garden. The garden designer suggested using the same plants in each area so it seems like you are walking through one garden versus walking through two disconnected gardens.

What a concept. It would never have occurred to me. But it is exactly the right thing to do there.

She also suggested that I prune up another viburnum, this rather large Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’ also known by the old-fashioned name “Snowball Bush”.

I peaked under all those branches to see what was under there and saw that it is going to require some major pruning with the reciprocating saw, loppers, hand pruners, the “whole nine yards” as they say. It’s a mess of suckers and shoots and branches.

Should I do it? It is, after all, hiding the compost tumbler in the vegetable garden behind there somewhere.

But I had so much fun pruning up another viburnum that she suggested I prune and loved how it turned out that I think I’ll give it a go… just as soon as it isn’t so hot and humid out there.

And that’s how the garden design continues…

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dear Friends and Gardeners July 19, 2010

Dear Dee and Mary Ann and Gardening Friends Everywhere,

I'm very late with my letter this week, having just returned from a few days in Chicago. I had hoped to post something Monday evening after getting there, but I could not get a good Internet connection in my hotel room. Oh well, such is life.

Before I left, I checked the garden and picked all the squash that was ready to be picked and gave all the tomatoes a good once over to check for tomato hornworms.

I did notice this 'Pink Ponderosa' tomato with a just a tiny blush of color on it and thought it might be ready to pick when I got back.
And sure enough, it was.
As you can see it almost split in half on me, no doubt from the rain that I heard we got while I was gone.

The first big tomato of the season has a special taste, doesn't it? I can tell you that this one did, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating every bite of it. It also reminded me of a post I wrote nearly four years ago about The Ritual of the First Tomato.

What should probably concern me about that post is that some people, including a few of my sisters, thought that I actually did all those rituals that I wrote about it.

Ah, yes, I am happy to be the family's eccentric gardener, at your service! Maybe I do those rituals, maybe I don't! A gardener never tells all her secrets...

Anyway, I should also have some sweet corn to pick in a few days, and there is still some squash and plenty of green beans to pick, and of course, lots of weeds to pull.

That should keep me busy for awhile as I patiently wait for the first eggplant, which just started to bloom late last week. I included a picture of the bloom above. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, especially when it is fried.

I hope your gardens are doing well through the heat of the summer.

Carpe hortus from your eccentric gardening friend,


P.S. Here's how my garden looked last Sunday.
I think it looks a bit weedy and unkempt. I hope to fix it up this weekend, but think it is going to be hot again, so maybe not.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rare Goldenrod Blooms In My Garden Today

Short's Goldenrod, Solidago shortii, is now blooming in my garden.

Many people looking at it might say "so what", perhaps stifle a yawn and wonder why this is such a big deal.

One bloom spike. Goldenrod. Kind of a weed to some. "That's nice", they might say and then want to move along with a "what else have you got?"

Well how about I have blooming in my garden one of the rarest plants in the world?


Every plant geek would be all over that. "Where, where? Lemme see!"

Well, look again at Short's Goldenrod and you are seeing one of the rarest plants in the world.

Thanks to the generous horticulturists at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Brian Jorg and Steve Foltz, attendees of the Garden Writers Association Region III meeting earlier this spring each got a couple of seedlings of this rare goldenrod to take home to our own gardens.

If you would like to know more about S. shortii, the Center for Plant Conservation has a plant profile for it on the web and the Nature Conservancy has a nice write up about it, too.

You can also see pictures of a large stand of it growing at the Cincinnati Zoo on Foltz's website,

Or stop by May Dreams Garden and see it.

Solidago shortii.

One of the rarest plants in the world.

Now blooming in my garden.

(Please note that the areas where Short's Goldenrod have been found in Kentucky and Indiana are protected areas. The horticulturists at the Cincinnati Zoo are working with others to preserve these native stands of Short's goldenrod and also make this plant available to others, which is why they have a nice stand of it growing at the zoo and were able to provide seedlings to us this spring.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dr. Hortfreud Returns for An Intervention For Purslane

Hot enough for you, Carol?

Hello Dr. Hortfreud! I didn’t expect to see you today since I’m staying inside where it is cool.

Well, there’s something I think you need to talk through so I decided to pop in for in impromptu intervention. You don’t mind, do you?

I guess it sort of depends on what the intervention is all about…

Carol, I’ll get right to it. I’ve noticed you’ve got a little flat of Sedum ternatum growing on your patio.

Oh, yes. Do you like that? I got a little pot of it from a local nursery and decided to go all retro and root some cuttings of it to make it go further.

Why is that retro, Carol? Never mind the answer, we’ll talk about that later. What I wanted to point out is how much the Sedum ternatum looks like your weed nemesis, purslane, Portulaca oleracea.

It does? Well, I guess it does a little bit. But really they are from two completely different plant families. Sedum is from the Crassulaceae family and purslane is from the Portulcaceae family. Any similarities have to be purely coincidental!

Coincidental, Carol? Are you sure? I’m getting the idea that maybe you don’t hate purslane as much as you profess to. Are you ready to eat some of it? It is very nutritious, they say.

Oh, no! I’m not going to eat any purslane. You can’t make me, even as part of my therapy! I’m going to pull it out by its roots wherever I see it growing in my garden and throw it in the trash.

Well, that could take awhile. I see you once again have a lot of it growing everywhere, especially in the vegetable garden.

Gosh, Dr. Hortfreud, didn’t you notice how hot it has been?

Yes, I have indeed noticed the heat. But that’s no excuse not to explore these issues you have.

I have issues?

Yes. Now, let’s get back to this sedum. Why again did you make cuttings?

Because my garden designer said we would be planting groundcover plants around the honey locust in the back, and that’s a big area to cover. Look how nicely it grows at the art museum.

Oh, I see. Well, maybe you could plant some purslane around the tree. You seem to have a knack for growing it.

Dr. Hortfreud! Purslane is a weed. I’m going to stick with Sedum ternatum and whatever else I can find that I like to use as a groundcover.

Well, Carol, I think you like purslane, but you can do as you please… as usual.

Thanks, Dr. Hortfreud. I have just one question.

Yes, what is it?

Are you charging me for this intervention?

Of course.

Oh well, in that case I better switch from pulling out purslane the weed and start harvesting purslane the crop. Rumor has it that it is going for $4 a pound in the big city.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hortense Hoelove Makes A Surprise Friday Appearance

Hortense Hoelove makes a special appearance on a hot Friday afternoon to answer more questions about gardening, gardeners, gardens, and everything related.

Dear Hortense Hoelove,

Do you ever feel like someone is watching you while you garden?

Eye-lean Gardener

Dear Eye-lean,

Watching, as in this sunflower that was watching me in my sister's garden? I think it is saying "Take me to your leader." Or do you mean watching as in garden fairies, rabbits, and birds watching you? Either way, the answer is that of course, something is always watching you while you are gardening. And listening, too. So dress nice for the garden and try not to say bad words in the garden, either. The garden fairies especially are very sensitive about foul languauge.

I'm watching, too,

Dear Hortense,

What is the proper way to support tomatoes? My sister was using cages and one of them fell over. I've enclosed a picture so you can see the cage that fell over. Next to it are some stakes that are nice and upright.
Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Dear Carol,

Sometimes when I write to you, it is like I am writing to myself. How is that? Anyway, you and I both know that staking is the proper way to support tomato vines. We also know that you grew up learning how to stake tomatoes so I can't  for the life of me understand why your sister would even try caging. However, from the picture it looks like she also staked some tomatoe vines, so she's not a hopeless cause.


Dear Hortense Hoelove,

Can you explaining gardening to me?


Dear Anonymous,

Explain gardening? Well, you see... there are these living organisms called plants... and there are these people, who call themselves gardeners, and they like to organize the plants into a space they call a garden. Then when they've organized the plants they have, they go to these places called garden centers and buy more plants to organize. Sometimes the plants don't stay as organized as the gardener would like, so the gardeners get out these tools they call gardening tools and then they prune, trim, snip, pull, hoe, rake, dig, tie up, etc. to get the plants to do as they want in these gardens. And sometimes plants try to enter these gardens uninvited - the gardeners call those plants "weeds" - and it makes the gardeners have to work to get rid of them. Many gardeners try to attract wildlife to these gardens they've organized, but then they get all mad and irritated if the wildlife eat some of the organized plants and not the weeds. Much of the time, the gardeners are hot, sweaty, dirty and tired from gardening in their gardens, but they swear they are having a great time. No one understands it completely, but there are those like Dr. Hortfreud who are studying gardeners to try to make sense of it all. And that's gardening.

From Her Own Garden,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2010

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for July 2010!

Today’s featured flowers are new to my garden this year. I planted most of them either earlier this spring or late last year, well after last year’s July bloom day.

They include Clematis heracleifolia, with its tiny blue flowers. This shrub clematis is still in its nursery container, patiently waiting for me to find a long term home for it. And I will, before the snow flies.

I’m also enjoying Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta.
No one is going to make a big fuss over this calamint’s tiny white blooms, but they will or should make a fuss over the soft, minty fragrance. This one is bedded out in the vegetable garden waiting for a more permanent home in the new garden design. I can not resist touching it and smelling it every time I walk by it.

Also out in the vegetable garden, the okra is starting to flower.

I’m just a tiny bit north of where okra would be happiest, but I’m trying it anyway. I’ve yet to harvest any okra, but I do think the flowers are pretty.

Hey, how did that tomato picture end up on a bloom day post? I apologize, sometimes others (garden fairies) log on and mess with my posts.

By the way, that’s my first ripe tomato, ‘Stupice’, right before I ate it.

Anyway, I also have lots of coneflowers, tall phlox, lilies, daylilies, blackeyed susans, balloon flowers, hydrangeas, beautyberries, hairy alumroots, roses, panicum, and hostas blooming in my garden, including these mini hostas.

(I apologize for flaunting part of my collection of mini hostas. Everyone went nuts over them at Buffa10 when we saw them growing in and around the Shadrack's garden and many talked about starting their own collections. I currently have about ten different mini hostas, mostly growing in containers. I couldn't resist showing a few of them in bloom, along with that rogue impatiens seedling in there. I need to pull that out!)

Moving along...

Missing from the garden, thankfully, after several years of pulling it out are the false or ox-eye sunflowers, Heliopsis helianthoides, that seemed to be everywhere in 2007. If I ever decide I want them again, I’ll just let the variegated Heliopsis ‘Loraine Sunshine’ sow herself all over the garden as she likes to do.

Then I’ll have plenty for myself and anyone else who wants them.

Finally, one of the surprises of the month is that at least one toad lily, Tricyrtis sp., is blooming.
It really should be the last plant to flower in my garden in late September/early October.

Every summer it seems like there is a flower that blooms ahead of its turn or well after its turn. In 2008, it was a white double-flowering columbine flowering rather late.

And that’s why I like to keep this monthly record of what’s blooming in my garden, because it is never quite the same from year to year. I add new flowers and pull other flowers out, and the flowers themselves can sometimes bloom early or late. I have no control!

What’s blooming in your garden today?

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Window Ledge at Hope Blooms

While in Buffalo, NY for Buffa10, I posted a little piece on water features and received an email  from one of many of Buffalo’s excellent gardeners, inviting me to see his garden and water feature, which was located across the street from our hotel.

Christopher Voltz wrote,

“I have a garden “Hope Blooms” at The Victorian which has been on Garden Walk Buffalo for six or seven years and featured in A&U (Arts & Understanding) Magazine. It is also one of the featured Open Gardens for the First Annual National Garden Festival.

I built an interesting water feature in this backyard garden – a small pond and waterfall - from old bricks and stone we salvaged during the renovation of this 1854 home. It is humble but, I think at least, fitting for the setting.

The garden is called Hope Blooms as it is a garden by and for those living with HIV/AIDS – as opposed to a memorial garden.

If you are staying at the Embassy Suites in the Avant, the garden is almost right across the street at 200 South Elmwood Avenue behind what we call “The Victorian”. “We” are AIDS Community Services of WNY, and my real job is Director of Marketing and Special Projects for the agency.

“Hope Blooms” is my weekend volunteer project. Our clients inspired me to put in this garden. Every week I am able to bring fresh bouquets in to our client service areas and you would think we were giving out winning lottery tickets. There is something therapeutic about fresh flowers.”

On Sunday morning, I walked over to the garden with Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings and Gail of Clay and Limestone and met Chris, sitting by the entrance to the garden, reading the paper. He warmly welcomed us and gave us a grand tour of the garden and a peek inside The Victorian.

We saw blooms…

And butterflies…

And the water feature…

More blooms...

And some garden gloves and string hanging on a window grate.

With some tools on the window ledge below.

Chris laughed when we pointed them out and said that some people told him he should put those away when the garden is on tour.

But I liked them there. Seeing them brought back memories of how my Dad also kept a trowel, his pruners, and maybe some string on the window ledge above the hose spigot, within easy reach anytime he was outside.

Maybe I’ll do the same in my garden - keep a few tools on the window ledge - to remind me of the garden I grew up in, and now Hope Blooms, one of many beautiful gardens in Buffalo, New York.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dear Friends and Gardeners July 12, 2010

Dear Dee and Mary Ann and Gardening Friends Everywhere,

Wasn’t Buffa10 just about the most fun you’ve had as a garden blogger?

I got home yesterday well before dark, just in time to see that a tomato hornworm had devoured most of a pepper plant. I’ve never had a hornworm eat a pepper plant, but I guess they do, especially if they want something a little spicier than a tomato plant. (Insert laughter here.)

Fortunately, this morning I found the hornworm on a nearby tomato plant - probably wanted something more mild for breakfast. (Insert laughter here.)

He (or she) then met with an untimely death.

Other gardeners have suggested I put the hornworms out in the open so birds can find them and eat them, rather than doing with them what I do with them, but this morning I just didn’t want to take my chances. I’ll spare you the details of how I, a mild-mannered grower of vegetables, did such a thing as clip off the branch where the hornworm was, fling it to the ground, cover it with dirt and stomp on it. The dirt helps to keep your shoes clean, by the way. Anyway, I won’t go over those details. (Insert evil laughter here.)

Then I saw that some critter has eaten off nearly an entire row of sunflowers, leaving just the tallest ones. Who eats sunflower plants? It’s not a trick question. The answer is… rabbits!! And here I thought they were gone.

And in my little grouping of container plantings under the honeylocust tree I saw that most likely a chipmunk devoured an entire double-flowering impatien. I’ll spare you a picture of the carnage. You can just imagine it. Nothing is left of the plant.

Well, bring on those chipmunks, rabbits, and hornworms. I’m feeling quite rested and re-invigorated after spending these past few days seeing so many inspiring gardens in Buffalo and rubbing elbows with so many other garden bloggers. Bring on those pests, both the six-legged and four-legged kind! I’m ready to take them down, one and all. My garden! I will defend it! (Insert raised fist here.)

Other than those issues, the garden got along okay without me. This morning I picked green beans and squash, including a great big ‘Cue Ball’ squash that had to be sacrificed to the compost bins due to its size. I also noted the first blush of red on the ‘Stupice’ tomato variety. It won’t be long now before I have some ripe tomatoes to brag about!

I swear I had the harvest in a basket to take a picture of it, like I usually do, but when I uploaded the pictures I took, this is the only one of the harvest.

(Insert picture here of my harvest trug sitting all by itself in the middle of the patio. I ran out of picture storage on Google/Picasa/Blogger! Can you imagine? But I bought more so I should be good to go tomorrow and will definitely be good to go for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on the 15th... that's this Thursday.)

(Wait, I tweeted that picture earlier so you can see it on on Twitter!)

(And here it is... )

It shows the relative size of the new patio. It is about 30 feet wide and 21 feet to the tip of the curved edge. I love it and am still amazed when I open the back door to step outside that it is my patio.

That’s pretty much it from my garden. I think now it is time for a nap, for me to close my eyes and strategize on how I will outwit the critters who want to eat in my garden before I do.

Carpe hortus!


P.S. I forgot to mention that I can see the silks on the little ears of corn. Hopefully, I won’t end up with raccoons in the garden trying to get to my corn before I do. I’ve got my hands full as it is with chipmunks, hornworms and rabbits. I don’t need raccoons, too.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Postmark Garden Bloggers' Summer Camp

Postmark: Garden Bloggers' Summer Camp, Buffalo, New York
July 11, 2010

Dear Family,

Hello to all from Garden Bloggers Summer Camp, also known as Buffa10. I am having a great time and can’t believe it is almost over. Whew! The activities just never seemed to stop!

Yesterday was quite a day. We all got to see a demonstration garden with all kinds of annuals and perennials being grown – get this – just to see how they would grow up here in this climate. It was at a place called the Erie Basin Marina Test Gardens.

When we got there, we all got some little flags so that we could mark our favorite ones. I sure had a hard time deciding but picked this one as one of my four favorites.
It’s a pretty black and gold petunia that reminds me of my alma mater Purdue’s school colors. I thought they might call it ‘Boilermaker Pete’ or something clever like that but I think they are calling it ‘Petunia Phantom’.

I guess that’s a good name, too.  I think it should be available Spring 2011.

While I was at the demonstration gardens admiring the flowers, I turned around and saw a big ship and a lighthouse.
Turns out that I was right on the shore of the Erie Canal that flows into Lake Erie. Another inspiration for a water feature, but probably a bit big for my garden.

After everyone voted with their flags for their favorite flowers, we got back on the bus (did I mention we were on a really nice touring bus?) and drove over to the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Garden. They had a big conservatory there that was full of all kinds of tropical plants.

It was so big I could only take a picture of part of it.

Then we got back on the bus and drove out a ways to a place called Lockwood's Greenhouses. They had a nice lunch for us there and we got to stroll through their retail garden center and see some of the greenhouses, too.

Now, don’t be surprised, but I bought myself a DeWit Cape Cod Weeder and a DeWit Disc Weeder while I was there. I needed a new Cape Cod Weeder on account of the garden fairies stole mine. And I just thought the Disc Weeder was cool looking.

So after we all had finished seeing the greenhouses and buying neat plants and other stuff that people swore they couldn’t find in their hometown garden centers, we got back on the bus and went to see the gardens of Mike and Kathy Shadrack. That’s where I took that self portrait above, in a gazing ball in their beautiful gardens.

Turns out, and I didn’t quite know this until we got there, that Mike Shadrack has written several books on hostas and is quite a fan of miniature hostas. In fact, he and his wife have a new book coming out this fall, The Book of Little Hostas, that is all about miniature hostas.

And get this! The Shadracks know the owners of Soules Garden back home, which as you know is where I’ve bought many a miniature hosta. They said to tell them “Hi” and that they should visit sometime because they haven’t been to the Shadrack's garden, ever.

I can hardly wait to get back and gloat about tell them about seeing the Shadrack’s amazing gardens.

Goodness, this letter is getting long. There is a lot more to tell everyone about Garden Bloggers’ Summer Camp, also know as Buffa10, but I’ll wait until I get home to do so.

But I've got to say before I close that our camp counselors, Elizabeth and Jim, have been outstanding. They really came up with some great gardens for us to see. And the food they've picked for our meals... well, let's just say I might need to go to another kind of camp later, if you get my drift, to work off some of those calories. Delicious!

Anyway, you can plan on me going to “camp” again next summer because Garden Bloggers’ Summer Camp is a great place to meet new gardening friends and talk about gardening pretty much non-stop. Fun!

Love to all from GBSC!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Redefining Quintessential Buffalo

Buffalo, New York. The quintessential snow storm city, forever pictured in the minds of out-of-towners as a place where snow is ever present.  Forget about all of that!

Now it's Buffalo, New York.  The quintessential gardening city, forever pictured in the minds of gardeners and other people as a place where gardens are everywhere. Remember it that way!

From exuberant plantings of perennials and annuals in that strip of ground between the sidewalk and the street...

To the serenity of a Japanese garden...

From a quiet corner set up as a perfect spot to read and while away the hours on a summer afternoon...

To a vegetable garden growing in containers...

Whatever kind of garden you are looking for, you'll find it in Buffalo, and you'll likely find gardens you weren't looking for and fall in love with gardening for the first time, or maybe fall in love with gardening for the one millionth time.

Buffalo, New York. The quintessential gardening city.