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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jollys Garden Shoes Giveaway

I got a brand new pair of shoes the other day and I wore them to mow the grass within days of getting them.

Brand new shoes. I wore them to mow the grass.

And I didn’t even hear voices in my head telling me not to do it. I did it on purpose.

How else was I going to decide if I loved the Jollys Fashion Garden Shoes as much as I love my Jollys Classic Garden Shoes?

I am a long time fan of Jollys garden shoes.

I got my first pair of Jollys Classic Garden Shoes, upper left corner, about fifteen years ago, long before anyone ever thought about those plastic clogs with holes in them that start with a “C”. Sure, people made fun of them, just a little bit, but I didn’t care. They were, and are, comfortable, easy to slip on and off for quick trips or long trips out to the garden, and easy to clean. This first pair is nearly ready for retirement, having finally worn through a bit on the bottom. I think I’ll plant something in them.

I got the second pair, upper right corner, about ten years ago. They are always at the front door, ready to slip on as I head out to grab the paper in the morning or step out to do some watering. They are just as comfortable as the first pair. Did I mention the plaid insoles are removable, making it easy to remove them so you can clean the shoes with just soap and water?

I got the third pair, lower left corner, about five years ago. They live by the back door and are on my feet when I head out to the vegetable garden on a bright sunny morning, or just go out to walk around a bit in the evening. By the way, only the Jollys have plaid insoles. I can spot a pair of them a mile away just by seeing the insole.

Which brings me to the fourth pair, the Jollys Fashion Garden Shoes, lower right corner, sent to me by the people at to try out.

Turns out, that yes, I do like them as well as I like my “classics”. I mowed the lawn in them and they did great. They have a little extra tread on the bottom, which adds stability when walking through wet grass. I think they’ll be what I wear when I mow the grass from here on out.

I do like my Jollys garden shoes.

And now, thanks to the generosity of the people at, one lucky reader can win a free pair of Jollys garden shoes or clogs. Did I mention they also have gardening clogs? Winner can choose any style, any color, any size, and they have men’s and children’s sizes, too.

To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment by Tuesday, December 7 at 9 pm EST and tell us what kind of shoes you generally wear in the garden.

Winner will be chosen by random drawing.

Other details –

U.S. residents only, must be 18 years or older,
One entry per person.
Comment must be submitted by Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 9:00 pm EST.
Please be sure your comment will either lead me to your email address (via a blog) or put your email address in the comment (disguised something like indygardener at gmail dot com to keep scrapers and bots from picking it up).

Update December 7th

The random number was 19, which means the winner is Rose! Congratulations, Rose, and thank you to all who entered. Watch for more fun giveaways after the New Year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dr Hortfreud Tries Word Association

Hello, Carol!

Hi, Dr. Hortfreud.

I see that you’ve come for a final session this fall.

Yes, I mowed the lawn today, probably for the last time this season.

That’s good, Carol. Now let’s begin this session with a little word association. I’ll say a word or phrase and you say the first thing that comes to mind. Are you ready?

I guess so.

Okay. First word is “frosting”.

What was on the leaves this morning.

Not cake? Okay, let’s try another word. “Short.”

What the lawn should be going into winter.

I see. How about “winter”?

A good time for a gardener to rest up for spring.

Interesting. Let’s mix it up a bit. “Catalog.”


I’m starting see a definite trend here. How about “TV”.

There are not enough gardening shows on TV.

Let’s try one more word. “Inside.”

House plants.

Carol, are you ever not thinking about the garden and plants?

Is that a rhetorical question, Dr. Hortfreud, or do you really want an answer?

I'm not sure yet, Perhaps someone else can come up with a word that you don't associate with gardening.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When A Gardener Makes Christmas Ornaments

When a gardener makes Christmas ornaments at her sister's house after Thanksgiving dinner, she is pleased that the two main ingredients in the ornaments are of botanical interest - cinnamon (the inner bark of Cinnamomum sp. trees) and apple sauce (the mashed up fruit from the trees of Malus sp.).

While her niece mixes up the dough made from the cinnamon and applesauce, the gardener eyes all of the cookie cutters to be used to cut out the ornaments. Just as she is about to call "dibs" on the holly leaf shape...
One of her sisters automatically hands her the holly leaf shape.

Then the gardener spies the tree shaped cookie cutter and decides to make an ornament shaped like that.

Finally to show that it isn't always about the garden, the gardener picks the star shape, thinking about how the stars quietly shine over the garden each night, making for a tranquil setting on a cold winter's evening.

Once home, the gardener loves how the ornaments make whatever room they are in smell so nice and thinks maybe she should make some more.

So she searches high and low in her kitchen, sure that she owns some cookie cutters of her own and comes up with just one.
A watering can shape, still attached to its card, in a box.

When a gardener makes cinnamon-applesauce Christmas ornaments, apparently it is all about the garden, as it is with all her Christmas ornaments.


Cinnamon-Applesauce Ornaments - Mix equal parts ground cinnamon and applesauce (store-bought kind) and add in a little white glue, like Elmer's glue. Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick and cut out the shapes (garden shapes optional but highly desired). Punch out a hole for hanging using a straw. Add line details with a toothpick and sprinkle with glitter, if desired. Lay flat to dry on a drying rack of you have one, otherwise lay out on paper towels or paper plates. Later, file off any rough edges with a bit of sandpaper.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Gardener's Guide to Thanksgiving Day Dinner Conversation

Shlumbergera sp. (Thanksgiving Cactus)
For those of you who find yourself sitting at the Thanksgiving table next to your second cousin’s husband’s mother or your niece’s mother-in-law’s daughter or some other person who is equally welcome, but unknown to you until that very minute you sat down, I offer you…

A Gardener's Guide to Thanksgiving Day Dinner Conversation

also known as

Five Excellent Conversation Starters for Gardeners

1. Ask them if they know that sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes aren’t really all that closely related.

Then you can go on to tell them about how sweet potatoes are tuberous roots from the plant Ipomoea batatas which is in the Convolvulaceae family and regular white potatoes are from the plant Solanum tuberosum which is in the Solanaceae family. Then right when they are putting that big forkful of sweet potatoes in their mouth, you can announce that the morning glory is in the same family as the sweet potato. Ditto when they get ready to eat some mashed potatoes, only shout out “petunias!”

(If someone tries to one up you by saying that sweet potatoes are really yams, you can tell them that yams are really starchy tubers from the species Dioscorea in the Dioscoreaceae family and that none other than the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes people who label sweet potatoes as yams also label them “sweet potatoes”.)

2. Talk about which table scraps can go in the compost bins and which ones should be put in the trash.

If you aren’t sure about this one, study up a bit… basically any meat products go in the trash. Leftover sweet potatoes and their peelings can go in the compost bin. Do not tell them about how you have a worm composter inside because some people are touchy about discussing worms while they eat, as I’ve found out from past experience. Of course, if they are going after another helping of noodles, noodles that you want to eat, go ahead and talk about the worms to see if it ruins their appetite, leaving more noodles for you.

3. Ask them if they have planted all of their spring flower bulbs.

If they have, you can compare notes. If they haven’t, this is your opportunity to let them know that if they hurry, there is just a sliver of time left to plant some. (Adjust “sliver of time” for your region… that’s based on USDA Hardiness Zone 5). If you have planted all your bulbs, you can be a little smug, yes, even self-righteous about it. If you haven’t planted all your bulbs yet, then you might want to skip this topic.

4. Talk about all the Christmas cactus plants, Schlumbergera sp. formerly known as Zygocactus, that are showing up in the stores now.

Then rant a bit about how people seem to want to skip Thanksgiving and rush right into Christmas, even with their blooming plants. If you’d like, share with them the story of the Thanksgiving Thumper. This should be your most controversial subject, so tread lightly!

At this point, show them a picture of your cactus in bloom right now. (You did take a picture with you, right?) You can tell them how it blooms every year around Thanksgiving so therefore it is a Thanksgiving cactus, and you do nothing special to get it to bloom. Do not mention that you have two other Schlumbergera that aren’t blooming. One has white flowers, the other orange flowers, as far as you know. You aren’t sure which is which because, well, they aren’t blooming. If it comes up, just say the plants must be undecided on which holiday to bloom for, so they aren’t blooming at all.

5. Mention that yard work is a great way to burn off calories.

If Thanksgiving is actually at your house, see if you can round up a few guests for a rousing game of “Rake the Leaves”, which is so much better than some silly game of touch football or beach volleyball. After “Rake the Leaves”, if the lawn could use one more cutting before winter, mention you have four mowers in the garage and there will be mower races in the backyard for all who are interested, and then don’t serve dessert until after everyone has raked and mowed played their fair share of your fun lawn games.

Or if it is snowing, mention the big Troy-Bilt Snow Thrower giveaway. Hurry, giveaway ends here at 9:00 pm EST, drawing shortly thereafter.

Then you can end the conversation with everyone giving in to a little gardenalgia, telling stores and recounting memories of old gardens they have known.

Finally, don't forget, somewhere in the conversation work in a little holiday spirit and talk about what you are thankful for in your garden.

I hope this was helpful to all!

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Feel free to print this and take it with you to Thanksgiving Dinner as a reference guide. Keep it hidden under your napkin on your lap... no one will know!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday - Where There Are Flowers, There Are Insects

When I was studying horticulture in college, I was required to take a class in entomology.

Ick. Bugs.

It was a course I dreaded but the university decreed that I must learn about insects.

The professors who taught the course decreed that I must also have an insect collection to pass the class. However, they were sensitive to the seasons and only required you to collect 15 insects if you took the class in the spring semester, versus 40 insects in the fall semester.

Well, I was no fool! 15 is less than 40! I took the course in the spring semester.

But I was a bit of a fool because, as it turns out, there are fewer insects running around in the winter and early spring and so I was forced to collect some rather nasty looking insects that had made their way indoors for the winter, namely cockroaches and beetles.

But I digress with fond memories of my insect collection.

What I really discovered in that entomology class was that insects are fascinating, interesting, and not all bad. One of my classmates and I actually made up the acronym, E4I - Enthusiasm for Insects, because we were really surprised at how much fun we were having studying insects.

I enjoyed that class so much that I actually took a second entomology class as an elective -- "Insect Pests of Ornamental Plants" or something like that. It was a fun class, too, but I wish I had taken a class that I would call "Where There Are Flowers, There Are Insects".

It would be all about insects and their relationships with plants. We'd cover pollinators of all sorts and discuss how the flowers and insects help each other out. We'd talk about how insects can make themselves looks like parts of the plant to ward off other predatory insects. We'd go on field trips to observe the insects. It would be a popular course and no insect collection would be required.

Earlier this month, I got a brief glimpse of what fun a class like that would be when I heard Jim McCormac, author of Wild Ohio: The Best of Our Natural Heritage speak about "Bugs & Blooms: Their Intricate Relationships" at the INPAWS conference.

If you ever get a chance to hear Jim speak... go and do so. I'm confident no matter what he is speaking about, he'll sneak in a few pictures of insects on flowers and plants. Or check out his blog for info on some of his interesting discoveries and stories of plants and insects.

And so what is the tie-in here to Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone?

At the conference, there was quite a bit of discussion about planting the species of a native plant or wildflower versus a cultivated variety which might have different colored flowers or double flowers or some other changes that a gardener might appreciate.

But after hearing Jim talk about the close relationships between insects and plants, I am in favor of planting the species of native plants when possible, or at least avoiding those native varieties that have changed flower shapes and colors.

Those double flowers and interesting new colors make look pretty to us, but they can create havoc for the insects.

(Update: I would be remiss not to mention that Jim also gave a presentation on goldenrod flowers (Solidago sp.). Someone asked him if goldenrods generally hybridize themselves in nature and he said not usually. I asked him later if he though the Short's Goldenrod (Solidago shortii) in my garden would produce viable seed. He was not sure, given the very specific location where it is found in nature, but said it would be interesting to find out if it does. I guess time will tell!)

Monday, November 22, 2010


Gardenalgia - n. 1. a hankering for the gardens of our past. 2. nostalgia for old gardens, old ways of gardening, well worn garden tools, heirloom plants, just like grandma had.

If I ever had the opportunity to own a garden center, I think I’d name it “Gardenalgia”. I'd sell products and plants that promoted the old ways of gardening, the good old ways of gardening that is. Not the DDT ways, the double-digging ways, the paint-the-tree-trunks-white ways.

I'd carry heirloom seeds, well-made tools, native plants, time-tested varieties. Down the aisles, you’d find wide-brimmed straw hats, classically shaped garden urns and planters and the classics of gardening books.

There would be room for new stuff, too, but only if it supported and promoted gardenalgia, and helped gardeners find those wonderful gardens of the past in their own gardens.

I suppose “Gardenalgia” wouldn't need to be an actual garden center. It could be a brand and that brand could only be put on something that had stood the test of time in the gardens of old.

But even if it isn’t a garden center or a brand, I like “gardenalgia” to describe that yearning we have to recreate the gardens of our past, to honor those who gardened before us by planting those plants we know they loved and caring for our gardens the way they cared for theirs.

See also Hortalgia, n. 1. a hankering for a specific plant from our past, also called plantalgia.

(Peonies above are from my Dad's garden and date back to 1960, making them at least a fifty year old variety, the kind of plant you'd find in a garden promoting gardenalgia.)

Troy-Bilt Snow Thrower Review Part 1 - Putting It Together

The Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP Snow Thrower arrived here at May Dreams Gardens late this morning.

It came on a big truck with a lift gate, sitting in a big red box on top of a wooden pallet. The driver carefully moved it on to the truck gate, lowered it on to the ground and set it in place in the garage.

Ta da!
 I'm ready for a big snow now!

Well, almost ready. First I had to unbox it and assemble it.

Step one, was to remove the staples from the top, fold down the flaps and remove the top.

Step two, I cut down the sides of the box to reveal the snow thrower. From there it was a matter of following the instructions to basically attach the chute to the thrower, which involved a rod, a couple of bolts, a cotter pin, some other kind a pin and some patience to make sure the holes were all lined up.

All that took me approximately 30 minutes, but I was taking my time and it took me a few minutes to get it lined up just so. I spent another 30 minutes cutting up all the cardboard to recycle.

Now I'm ready for the first big snow.
Well, almost ready. I need to read the instructions. This snow thrower has six forward speeds, two backward speeds, and levers for turning. After I've studied the manual, I'll add gas, start it up, and commence throwing snow just as soon as we get some of that fluffy white stuff.

I can hardly wait!

If you'd like to win your own snow thrower from Troy-Bilt, visit my official giveaway post and follow the instructions there to leave a comment to enter the giveaway. Deadline for entry is November 25, 2010, 9:00 pm EST.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Native Plants and Edible Landscapes

I was one of the last in line to have my copy of Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy signed by none other than Rosalind Creasy a few weeks ago on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. She had just given a talk at the Indianapolis Museum of Art about edible landscaping. Images of overflowing, abundant, colorful, taste tempting fruit and vegetable gardens ran through my mind, along with her encouraging, insightful words.

The previous day, I had attended an all day conference sponsored by the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS). Images of native plantings, striking in their natural beauty, attracting a variety of wildlife ranging from colorful insects to songful birds filled my mind.

The dichotomy! A native, edible landscape in Indiana would consist of… and I began to make a list of what I knew was native to Indiana and edible, too. Walnuts, pawpaws, tiny serviceberry berries and, oh yes, morel mushrooms if you can find those nearly mythical fungi in the springtime, and I’m sure lots of other plants that I don’t even realize are edible.

When it was finally my turn to have my book signed, I asked a question or rather said something along the lines of “I have a lot to think about this weekend, having attended a seminar all day yesterday about planting native plants in my garden, and now today being inspired by your talk about edible landscapes.”

Creasy had the perfect response. I paraphrase… Think of the benefit we are having on the environment when we grow and eat food that is as local as our own front or backyard. That means less food had to be shipped, railed, trucked, flown or carted from distant states and countries to our kitchens. And that, too, benefits our environment.

Native plants or edible landscapes? There is room for both in my garden.

 No, you can't have my book, but I encourage you to buy your own copy!

(And check out this review of Edible Lanscaping on Garden Rant. Leave a comment there by 9 pm EST tonight (Sunday, November 21) to enter their drawing for a free copy. Tell 'em Carol sent you!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Stowed Away For Winter

We northern gardeners do something that southern gardeners don’t do.

We put it all away.

Containers, pots, furniture, decorations, hoses… to have them last more than a season or two, we must put them away each fall, or at least stow them somewhere safe where they won’t get pelted with sleet or covered by snow.

Otherwise, winter would destroy it all.

In fact, figuring out where we would store something in the winter becomes a factor in deciding what to buy for the garden. At least, I think about it. That’s why when I see some of the stuff put into “garden rooms” in southern gardens, I just laugh. Where would I put all of it in the winter time?

I've stopped hauling stuff from the backyard around to the front to put it in the garage for the winter. That’s a lot of work, Plus, I ran out of room in the garage years ago. The garage is stuffed full year-round with all kinds of gardening tools and other gardening essentials that one might normally store in a shed or barn.

Not to mention I manage to keep a car and truck in the garage all year long.

I stow most of the garden stuff under tarps on the back patio, if it can stand the cold weather if it is kept dry. It’s not terribly attractive and always reminds me of Jed Clampitt’s truck loaded up to go to Californy, but it works for me and saves me both time and effort.

With everything now stowed under tarps on the back patio, I’m in pretty good shape when it comes to winter readiness. All the bulbs are planted, too. There are some perennials that could still be cut back, but if I don’t get around to doing that, “no biggie” as they say. It would just mean more seeds for the birds to eat this winter, and more seedlings for me to weed out, or giveaway, this spring.  In other words, if it snowed tomorrow, I wouldn’t freak out.

So bring on winter. It’s going to happen. I’m ready.

Almost ready. The Troy-Bilt snow thrower is being delivered on Monday. Once I get that, then I’m really ready. If you want to win a snow thrower, enter the giveaway by November 25th at 9:00 pm EST by leaving a comment on that post.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dear Hortense Hoelove: Does This Drought Make Me Look Fat?

Dear Hortense Hoelove,

I think the drought made me gain weight. I used to mow the lawn at least once a week for exercise and then when it stopped raining, I didn't mow for two months. Plus, it was so danged hot out that I didn't try to go outside and move around. Gosh, chocolate tastes good in the summer time, and during fall days, too.

Never Bend Over With Your Bum Toward the Street

Dear Bum,

And what is your question? Hortense recommends you begin your winter exercise program immediately!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Let it Snow - A Troy-Bilt Sponsored Snow Thrower Giveaway!

I remember snow.

White, soft, glistening in the sunlight like diamond dust.

Serene, silent, muffling the sounds of the garden.

It covers the garden, hiding it, blanketing it with comforting insulation. It reveals the faint foot prints of rabbits, the scratch of the birds huddled under a spruce tree, the trail of a gardener walking about for no reason in particular, except to see the beauty of a wintry scene.

I remember snow.

Thickly spread on the driveway that is just a bit too steep.

Heavy, wet, hard to move snow.

It traps me inside, waiting for someone, or spring, to dig me out. I begin to dig with a snow shovel. I blow snow off the drive with a small snow blower, then watch helplessly as the snow plow whizzes by, dumping a Mt. Everest high pile of snow at the foot of the drive. I begin to dig again.

But this year, let it snow! This year, Troy-Bilt will be sending me the Storm 3090 XP snow thrower to scale my wintry Mt. Everest at the foot of the drive and in exchange I’ll tell you all about it in a future blog post. Let it snow! I’ll be ready.

Troy-Bilt Storm 3090 XP Snow Thrower

Would you like to win a snow conquering snow thrower from Troy-Bilt? Troy-Bilt is sponsoring a giveaway of either the Storm 3090 XP 2-stage snow thrower or the Flurry 1400 for one lucky winner, your choice!

Troy-Bilt Flurry 1400

To enter the drawing, leave a comment below telling us about your favorite snow memory and make sure it either links to your blog where I can find your email or include your email in the comment. (You may disguise your email so it isn't picked up by another computer, along the lines of indygarder at gmail dot com and I'll figure it out.)

Do you want to increase your chances of winning?

Tweet this contest by copying and tweeting “Enter to win a Troy-Bilt snow thrower on @Indygardener blog " and then enter your name a second time by leaving another comment.


If you have a Kindle reader, sign up for a free 14-day trial subscription to the May Dreams Gardens blog and enter your name again by leaving another comment.

That’s a maximum of 3 entries per person. Don’t even think of cheating and entering multiple times without doing the above, or you will be disqualified!

All entries must be submitted by 9 pm EST, Thursday, November 25, 2010. The winner will be chosen shortly after that from all entries by using a random number drawing. I will notify the winner via email and then announce the winner in an update to this post.

This giveaway is open to US residents only; must be over 18 years old to enter. Winner will choose which snow thrower they want. If the winner is uncertain about which one will work best for their conditions, Troy-Bilt will be happy to suggest one based on location, amount of average snow, length of driveway, etc.

Let it snow!

(Update 11/18, for those who left your email in the Simply-Linked widget, rest assured I have it. I removed the widget because it did not work consistently. Your entry is your comment.)

Update 11/25
- We have a winner! It is commenter number 43, "Aunt Tina". Congrats, Aunt Tina!

For those who didn't win, there are three other blogs still hosting a giveaway for a Troy-Bilt Snow thrower until Dec. 2nd, 2010. Please visit them to enter again!

Our Little Acre

Garden Girl

Gardening Know How

Good luck to all on another chance to win!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wrapping Up the Secrets to Achieving Happiness In Your Garden

Finally, I had discovered all the secrets to achieving happiness in your garden, including the sixth through tenth secrets.

After I found the tenth and final secret, I felt as though I could relax. No longer would I have to pick up every stray piece of paper to see if a secret was written on it, or read between the lines in magazines, or examine every object I found for signs of something scrawled on it.

Winter was arriving and I would have time to review each one carefully. Now I would have time to reflect on them and take them to heart.

Plan your garden

Feed the soil

Strive for balance

Ask for Help

Change your garden (if you don't like it)

After a few days of rest, I returned to the old garden shed, where I had placed all the secrets one at a time as I found each of them. My plan was to write the secrets in the same book in which I had written the first five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden.

I wanted the secrets to be safe, to be available, to be found by future gardeners.

But when I stepped into the shed, lit only by the light that came in through the dusty windows, I was shocked to see that the book was missing! It wasn’t on the potting bench where I had left it. I searched the shed, looking behind stacks of clay pots, moving aside barrels of potting soil, peering into the dark corners, to see if I could find the book.

But instead of the book I found a note on which someone had written, “We’ve taken the book to have it rebound and will return it in the spring with all seven new secrets written in it.”

Seven new secrets? But I had only found five…

Oh, will this madness never end?!

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, Thank You to all who participated in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day yesterday. I am grateful for each person who joins in, who shares their garden, who gives me ideas of new plants to include in my own garden. I encourage everyone to review the link list and look for people you don’t know and head off to virtually visit their gardens. You will find gardens from across the United States and around the world, all with at least one thing in common -- a passionate gardener.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2010

Welcome to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for November 2010!

Act III, Scene 3 in my garden. The play is nearly over for this season. The flowers, who are the actors in this drama of seasons, are just barely hanging on, waiting for the final curtain to fall.

They have switched from the bright colors of Act II, Summer, to the muted, faded colors of Act III, Fall.

They barely whisper their lines now, standing off to the side so that briefly, the brightly colored fall foliage can shout from center stage, before it, too, performs a final scene, falling down on stage, to be swept off by a gust of winter winds, marking the beginning of Act IV and the end of the play.

In other words, there is not much to show in my November garden. The only plant I could honestly say is actually still blooming is the Aromatic Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’.

Even the rose pictured above, Rosa ‘Radsunny’, isn’t really blooming right now. It is more frozen in time and will wait in that state for the winter snows to finally knock it down.

Everything else is merely seed heads including the Tall Sedum, Hylotelephium telephium.

I still laugh when I think of one of the common names of this plant – Witch's Moneybags. I look at the flowers and can not imagine where that name came from.

Another plant that I will leave the seed heads on this winter is Short’s Goldenrod, Solidago shortii.

I have no idea if this seed will be viable, but I hope that it is and that the plants produces dozens of seedlings, which I will gladly share with anyone who wants to grow this beautiful, rare goldenrod in their garden.

It is wise to never reach an ending without a new beginning. Thus it is fitting that as I wandered the garden in search of the last blooms before the final curtain call of the season, I found these sprouts of what will surely be some of the first blooms next spring, when we begin again with Act I, "Spring, A New Season".


What's blooming in your garden on this fine November day? I hope you'll join in for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day by posting about what's blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month.

It's easy to participate! Just post about what's blooming in your garden, leave a comment below to tell us a little about what we'll find in your November garden, then leave a link to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget below so we can find you.

All are welcome to participate!

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Achieving Happiness In Your Garden: The Tenth Secet

Once upon a time, I was sitting on a bench on my porch, thinking about the various flowers and vegetables and trees and shrubs that I had planted over the years when suddenly a bunny came up to me and began to speak.

“Carol, what do you think of your garden?”

I was speechless. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Rabbits don’t talk!

But the rabbit, unfazed, followed up with an answer to his own question.

“I think you think it is nice enough, but there are parts you would like to change.”

Still speechless, I barely managed to nod my head in agreement.

The rabbit continued.

“You should take heed of the tenth secret for achieving happiness in your garden.”

Then he hopped off and disappeared beneath a large shrub.

The tenth secret? I was just getting over the shock of a talking rabbit when I realized I didn’t know the tenth secret. What was it? Where would I find it? When would I find it?

Just then I looked down and realized that the rabbit had left a tiny envelope labeled “The Tenth Secret”. I opened it like it was announcement of an Academy Award and read the message inside.

“The tenth secret for achieving happiness in your garden is to change your garden if you don’t like it.”

Change your garden?

Of course. As with the other secrets I had found, it was deceptively simple but made perfect sense.

If you don’t like your garden as it is, change it.

Are the flower borders too narrow? Change them by making them wider.

Is there a sickly tree marring the view from your favorite window? Change the view by cutting down the tree.

Are there flowers in the garden that you just don’t like? Maybe they were planted by a previous gardener, or maybe you keep seeing flowers at the garden center that you like better than those you have. Change out the flowers by digging up what you don’t like to pass on to another gardener who will love them.

Do you have nice plants but just don't like where they are planted? If they aren't too big, change their locations by (gasp) digging them up and moving them someplace else.

Life and the seasons are too short to keep tending your garden the same way year after year if you aren’t happy with how it is. Change your garden if you don’t like it.

My mind raced. I felt almost dizzy with excitement. That rabbit was right. I did want to change my garden, and I wanted to get started right away.

But first I put that tenth secret back in the envelope, knowing it would be difficult at times to follow, but that it, like all of the secrets, would help me achieve happiness in my garden. Then I carefully placed it in the old garden shed beside the book of the first five secrets I had discovered so long ago.

Change your garden if you don’t like it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Achieving Happiness In Your Garden: The Ninth Secret

Wouldn’t you know it! I was digging a hole to plant a new shrub when I hit a big ol’ rock. I not only heard that clank and “thud” when the shovel hit the rock, but felt the shovel vibrate at the same time.


I spent the next hour or so trying to dig the rock out, wondering all the while why I didn’t just plant the shrub a foot over to avoid the rock. But that rock was taking up the perfect spot for that shrub and I was determined.

After realizing it wasn’t going to be that easy to dig the rock out, I went to the garage to get a crow bar to pry it out. Then I remembered that I didn’t own a crow bar. I briefly surveyed the wall where all the hoes were hung and wondered if one of those hoes was strong enough to use instead of a crow bar. What was I thinking? I would never abuse a hoe like that.

Instead, I hopped in my car, drove down to the hardware store, and bought a crowbar.

By the time I got home, it was nearly dark, so I gave up on the rock for the day. But first thing that next morning, I headed out with my new crow bar.

After another hour or so, I managed to move the rock all of five inches, but that was just enough to notice a little metal box buried under the edge of the rock. While carefully holding the rock up with the crow bar, I kicked the box out from under the rock with such force that the box opened up to reveal yet another folded up piece of paper inside.

With hands shaking, I carefully unfolded the paper and read what someone had so carefully written on it.

“The ninth secret to achieving happiness in the garden is to ask for help.”

Ask for help?

Of course, ask for help!

Many a gardener derives some satisfaction in doing all the gardening in their gardens by themselves. They never ask anyone for assistance. They are proud of the fact that no one else has ever planted anything in their garden except for them.

But doing it all alone can be so limiting.

Have you ever passed up a shrub at the nursery because it was in a bigger container than you thought you could manage? Ask for help. Many nurseries will not only deliver the plant, they’ll plant it, too, for a modest fee.

Have you ever looked at your garden and wondered if there were better plants out there? Ask for help. Ask other gardeners to suggest different plants, to help you expand your planting palette.

Have you ever wandered around your garden and felt like it wasn’t quite right, that it could flow better? Ask for help. Hire a garden designer to help with a design. Or invite other gardeners to come and make suggestions for changes.

Have you ever stood in the middle of your garden and not known what to do next? When should you prune? When should you plant? What are the names of some of these plants? Ask for help. Pay a garden coach to spend a few hours helping you sort out a good “to do” list for your garden or hook up with other gardeners who can help you out.

Have you ever just had some work to do in the garden, like removing a big rock, that you just weren’t strong enough to do alone? Ask for help. There are people who are stronger than you who could do twice the work in half the time.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness and it doesn’t mean you give up control of your garden.  Asking for help is a sign that you understand that your garden shouldn’t be limited by your personal strength, your ability to do design, your knowledge of plants or your understanding of plant care.

And asking for help doesn't mean always having to pay for help.  You can offer to help others and in turn, they will help you.

Ask for help.

Like many of the other secrets to achieving happiness in your garden, this one seemed to make so much sense.

As usual, after reading the secret, I took it to the old garden shed and left it on the potting bench next to the other secrets.  I most definitely wanted to share my secrets with anyone who asked about them

As I quietly left the shed, I remembered that there were five new secrets and I had now found only four of them. I couldn't help but wonder, "What was that last secret and where would I find it?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Achieving Happiness In Your Garden: The Eighth Secret

I had worked so hard in the garden that day, starting early when the first rays of sunlight were slowly inching their way above the horizon and finishing hours later as the light faded over the opposite horizon. Weeding, planting, deadheading, harvesting, mowing, hoeing. I got a lot done

I also wore myself out and looked a mess, as they say. Mud on my knees, grass stains on my shirt, dirt and perhaps a blister or two on my hands, but I had a smile on my face.

It was a good day in the garden. And I was a good kind of tired.

After gathering up the last of the harvest and throwing some tools on the wheelbarrow to take back to the old garden shed, I took a moment to sit on a nearby bench and reflect on the general state of the garden.

It was then that I heard that sickening, snapping noise that wood makes when it cracks suddenly. Oops, had the bench finally given way under my weight?

I looked down next to where I was sitting and noticed that one of the wooden slats of the bench seat had indeed cracked. And where it cracked, I found a neatly folded piece of paper.

I reached down and gently picked up the paper, unfolded it and gasped audibly as I read…

“The eighth secret to achieving happiness in your garden is to strive for balance.”

Strive for balance.

Strive for balance?

It seemed a bit vague, but then, reflecting on it, it made perfect sense.

In a healthy, balanced garden, good and bad insects balance each other out, so there is no need to panic at the first sign of insects.

The tomato hornworms get eaten by birds or attacked by parasitic wasps. Aphids are eaten by lady bugs. Butterflies find nectar and a place to lay their eggs. The praying mantis waits silently for her prey. A cicada killing wasp attacks her victim in mid air.

Amongst a variety of flowers, a host of different pollinators gather pollen.

In a healthy, balanced garden, gardeners don’t freak out and reach for a can of bug spray every time they see an insect. They know that healthy gardens, planted with a wide variety of plants, support all kinds of insects, good and bad, in a delicate balance. They know that randomly spraying poisons whenever they see a few insects can upset that balance.

And they know that the best way to control bad insects in a garden is to find that balance that brings in the predators of those insects, including good or beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife.

Strive for balance.  Yes, it made perfect sense.

After I put away my tools that day, I took that neatly folded piece of paper with the eighth secret and placed it next to book of the first five secrets.

Just two more secrets to go…

When and where would I find them?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Achieving Happiness in Your Garden: The Seventh Secret

Earlier this summer, my sister called to tell me that they while cleaning out the attic, they found an old box labeled “gardening stuff”.

“Would you like to come over and take a peak inside to see if there is anything in there that you want?”

She barely had a chance to finish asking me before I jumped into my car and headed to her house, the very house we all had grown up in. “What could be in that box”, I wondered? I thought we had cleared out the attic years ago, before my sister and her family took over the house. How could there still be a box left in the attic labeled “gardening stuff”, that we hadn’t already found?

What was in that box?

Soon enough, I would find out. I pulled up to the house, jumped out of the car and met my sister on the driveway. She pointed to a pile of junk from the attic which included the small, cardboard box with “gardening stuff” scrawled on the side. "There it is", she said.

She hadn’t even opened it yet.

Feeling a bit like Geraldo Riviera without the television crew, I ripped the tape off the top of the box, and slowly opened the flaps to reveal its contents. Inside, buried in a nest of old, yellowed newspapers was an ancient looking green, metal canister of Ra-pid-Gro fertilizer.

A little disappointed, I picked up the canister. It was then that I noticed that someone had scratched a big "X" through the words “Ra-pid-Gro” and below it had scrawled a message. I could barely make it out.

“The seventh secret to achieving happiness in your garden is to feed the soil.”

Feed the soil.

Of course!

Feed the soil, and then the soil will feed your plants.

And what does soil like to eat? Not Ra-pid-Gro. The soil, or rather the organisms in the soil that range from billions of microscopic organisms to earthworms and insects, likes to eat organic material. Very simply put, the organisms in the soil break the organic material down into the elements that plants need to grow.

This is why happy gardeners make compost and covet their farm neighbor’s composted manures, why they don’t put their leaves out at the curb in the fall, why they leave grass clippings on their lawns. They know this is what feeds the soil, which in turn feeds the plants.

In the past, it was a common, popular, and accepted practice to mix a little Ra-pid-Gro or other liquid fertilizer in some water and douse the plants with it on a regular basis. The plants responded, too, by perking right up as though someone had given them a shot of caffeine. But without good soil, and the healthy mix of nutrients that the soil provided for the plants, the plants didn’t last long without needing yet another shot of Ra-pid-Gro. They were soon addicted to the stuff.

But plants grown in good soil don’t need a shot of Ra-pid-Gro to grow well. The healthy, well-fed soil provides all the nutrients that most plants need.

Feed the soil.

I knew this to be true, and was pleased to learn it was one of the secrets to achieving happiness in the garden.

I thanked my sister for thinking of me when she found that box labeled “gardening stuff” and took the canister home with me. Once I was back in my own garden, I placed the canister on a shelf in the old garden shed as a reminder of the seventh secret....

Feed the soil.

Then I began to wonder again. What would the eighth secret be and when and where would I find it?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Achieving Happiness In Your Garden: The Sixth Secret

I'll admit I was excited when I learned that there were several more secrets to achieving happiness in your garden other than first five secrets I had discovered so long ago. I was on high alert. I wanted to find these new secrets, wherever they were and whatever they were, as fast I could grow radishes in the springtime.

Every day as I tended the garden, I looked for stray scraps of paper that might have a secret written on them. I turned over rocks to see if a secret might be hidden beneath one of them. I searched for ribbons sticking out from who knows where that when pulled might be connected to a tiny, hidden package containing a secret.

But any bits of paper turned out to be trash, the loose rocks were merely hiding pill bugs, and there were no stray ribbons that I could find, except for one that seemed to be woven expertly into a robin’s nest.

I despaired of ever finding that next secret.

Then one day I put on an old pair of gardening gloves, a pair I had worn often and nearly worn out, and the palm of my hand started to itch. At first I thought maybe a spider had taken up residence inside the glove and had bitten me when I put it on. But when I yanked off the glove, there was no spider. Inside the glove, though, there was a tag that I had never noticed or felt before. I could just barely make out some very faded words on it.

“Could this be the sixth secret to achieving happiness in the garden,” I asked myself?

And indeed it could be, and it was. With tiny, funny little handwriting, the kind you might expect garden fairies to have, someone had written, “The sixth secret to achieving happiness in your garden is to plan your garden”.

Plan your garden!

It made perfect sense.

Plan your garden.

A garden without a plan is like a big, unorganized crowd, milling about, making a lot of noise, wondering what to do, who’s in charge, where they should go. Time is wasted; effort is wasted! It looks like a mess, and it is a mess. No one in the crowd is all that happy and no one wants to go near the crowd for fear of being sucked in.

In a garden without a plan, the plants are just planted willy-nilly wherever there happens to be a bare spot of dirt, and the results are chaotic. The plants are wasted, and time and effort are wasted trying to plant more plants amidst all the other mis-placed plants. The unplanned garden looks like a mess, and it probably is a mess. No one is happy in this kind of garden, including the gardener.

But with a plan, you bring a bit of order to the garden. You figure out in advance which plants go where, where focal points should be, and generally how you want the garden to look and feel. With that figured out, you are less likely to waste time and money with the wrong plants or with the right plants in the wrong places.

You can garden more confidently with a good plan, knowing that the end result will not be a mess, but a garden.

A garden plan doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Some gardeners can come up with their own plans, a general framework for their garden, and end up with very pleasing gardens. The plan can be as simple as, “we’ll put the vegetable garden here in the sun, a long perennial border over there, and plant a shade garden near the pine grove".

Other gardeners may prefer to work with a garden designer or landscape architect to develop more detailed plans to follow when planting.

Plan your garden.

How simply those three words sounded to me, and how true I knew them to be. After memorizing the message, I went around to the old garden shed and carefully laid that pair of garden gloves next to the book containing the first five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden.

Once I had discovered all five new gardening secrets, I planned to write them in the book so all the secrets would be in one place and available to any gardener who sought them out.

Plan your garden.

Knowing the sixth secret, I could now begin the search for the seventh secret.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Five More Secrets To Achieving Happiness In Your Garden

I have discovered five more secrets to achieving happiness in your garden.

One evening earlier this fall, I was sitting in the quiet of the garden lazily looking at nothing in particular when I noticed an odd plant tag sticking up out of the ground.

It wasn’t anywhere near a plant.

Had I planted something there that had disappeared? Was there a dormant root, a seed perhaps, buried near that plant tag?

Curious, I knelt down by the tag and read it slowly.

“There are five more secrets to achieving happiness in your garden.”

I was startled! I thought there were only five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden and I had already discovered them all several years ago. To learn there were five more secrets…

Well, truth be told, it didn’t happen quite that way.

One day this past summer, I was picking green beans in the garden, tossing them into my big orange bowl that I always use when I pick green beans. Suddenly, I was startled by a little baby bunny resting in between the rows of green bean plants.

I nearly touched the bunny before I saw it, because it didn’t dart off as most rabbits do when I get near them.

Instead it sat there calmly, looked right at me, and then slowly got up and hopped away. When I looked down to where it had been sitting, I saw a slip of paper, about the size of a seed packet.

In fact, I thought it was a seed packet until I picked it up and read, “There are five more secrets to achieving happiness in your garden.”

Truth be told, that's not exactly what happened, either.

Let's just say that I once thought there were just five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden. Then I learned there were five more secrets.

Fortunately, once I realized that there were these five additional secrets, I discovered all of them in a short period of time this past growing season.

And they are, in no particular order…

To be revealed as I discovered them, one at a time.

(You really didn't think I was going to list all five secrets at once, did you?)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I love to plant the little bulbs...

I love to plant the little bulbs, especially now that I’ve realized how useful my rockery trowel is for planting them. I plunge the trowel into the ground, push it forward a bit and then as I pull it out, I drop a little bulb in behind it, pull it the rest of the way out and then scrape any dirt off the trowel back into the hole.

The rhythm of planting starts slowly.

Plunge, push, pull, drop, pull, scrape.
Plunge, push, pull, drop, pull, scrape,
Plunge, push, pull, drop, pull, scrape.

Repeat a hundred or more times, maybe two hundred or three hundred or a thousand times to plant the bulbs and soon the rhythm quickens and you can think not so much about planting bulbs but about…

Spring, and how pretty the spring flowers will be… tiny jonquils, Spanish blue bells, star flowers, and even little species tulips.

Plunge, push, pull, drop, pull, scrape.

Past seasons, decades ago, when I used to go with my Dad to the garden center to buy bulbs, mostly tulips and crocuses. We’d pick the bulbs out of the bins and put them in white paper sacks, writing the name of the variety on the outside. Then invariably when we planted them, it would be a cold, raw, fall day.

Plunge, push, pull, drop, pull, scrape.

My aunt, who passed away this past week. She loved to garden and in addition to her husband, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, it should be noted that she left behind a garden she tended for 60 plus years. Her garden will bloom again in the spring, filled with decades of flowers.

Plunge, push, pull, drop, pull, scrape.

Native plants. I went to the INPAWS annual conference yesterday, on "Conserving Biodiversity with Native Plants". I took notes, bought books, and left with a winter’s worth of ideas to ponder.

Plunge, push, pull, drop, pull, scrape.

How pretty a day it is today. How many more days will we have like this one before winter arrives? I hope we have a few more because I have one more order of bulbs coming and a thousand more thoughts to think while planting them.

Plunge, push, pull, drop, pull, scrape.

I love to plant the little bulbs...

Friday, November 05, 2010

Fragrant Sumac Redeems Itself In My Garden

I sometimes wonder if the neighbors think I’m growing poison ivy on the side of my house. “Leaves of three, let it be.”

This is Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-low’, Fragrant Sumac. It has leaves of three that turn this lovely red color in the fall, just like poison ivy.

But it isn’t poison ivy, it is Fragrant Sumac, and this particular variety only grows about two feet tall, but spreads nicely. I used to be ambivalent about it. I bought it because I wanted a nice plant in the spot where it is, that wouldn’t get too tall, and this is what the garden center had.

The garden designer would like me to move it to another spot, where she thinks I will like it better. At first, I didn’t want to because this is far from a favorite plant of mine.

But then it turned all pretty and red this fall, so I’m going to move it after all, to the other side of the house.

Fragrant Sumac is a member of the Cashew family, Anacardiaceae, along with cashews, pistachios (which I love), and poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, which used to be called Rhus radicans, until it got kicked out of the Rhus genus for bad behavior.

Another good thing about Fragrant Sumac is it is a native plant. I know the birds like it to hide in and amongst those branches. The birds might also like to eat the fruit of the fragrant sumac, which is technically called a drupe, but I’ve never seen fruit on the one I have. This is probably because R. aromatica is dioecious, with female and male flowers on separate plants. I suspect this one is a female. In fact, I wonder if all of the ‘Gro-low’ Fragrant Sumacs are females. If asexually propagated, I would assume that to be the case.

But even with insignificant looking flowers and no fruit, it is still worth keeping around for that fall foliage.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

There Are Days....

There are days when you should just hang your shovel up, put the wheelbarrow back in the garage, and go inside to water houseplants.

There are days when everywhere you dig to plant bulbs seems like the wrong place to dig. There are roots in the way. Or you keep hitting rocks. Many rocks. Too many rocks. Where did all these rocks come from?

There are days when you dig up bulbs from previous years, which is not what you want to do when you are planting more bulbs.

There are days when it is just better to sit and think, to look and contemplate and not try to dig, to follow the advice of Elizabeth Lawrence, "Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn."

There are days...

May those days be few and far between for you.

May those days pass quickly and take with them their roots and rocks.

May those days be filled with colorful leaves, to remind you of the beauty of the garden in all seasons.

May those days never keep you from gardening.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Guest Post from the Garden Fairies: Winter is Coming

Garden fairies here. We thought we'd post some of our thoughts about fall clean up in the garden

Fall clean up? We are garden fairies! We don't believe in fall clean in the garden!

Oh, sure, we do some gathering of stuff. We like to collect the last of the rose petals to make an assortment of garden fairy things. We like to scrounge up pretty leaves, too.

But one of our absolute favorite things to do is go around to all the self-sowing flowers that are in the garden and collect as many seeds as we can. Then, later, after Carol finally cuts those flowers back and thinks she won't have little seedlings popping up all over the garden in the spring, we sneak back out with our seeds and sow them all over.

We look for the oddest places to sow them, too, places where she won't even see them until they are in bloom, or places where she will have trouble getting to them to pull them out.

Sometimes we put them in places where we think it would be nice to have those flowers, and Carol lets them grow on there. We like those plants the best as it affirms that we garden fairies do know a thing or two about gardening!  We are wise ones.

Anyway, if Carol is going to do any garden clean up or finish planting all those bulbs - we hear she ordered a lot of bulbs this year - she'd better get out here. It isn't getting any warmer! Winter's coming!

Winter's coming? What? We garden fairies need to get moving, too, so we'll end this post now and go out and work in the garden today, or tomorrow, or ...

What are we thinking, we are garden fairies! We don't do work if we can help it.

Thorn Goblinfly
Chief garden fairy blogger at May Dreams Gardens