Search May Dreams Gardens

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In Other News... Winter Continues

Winter continues here at May Dreams Gardens.

The good news is that my Christmas cactus, which bloomed several weeks ago, provided me with a few bonus flowers this week.

It's funny, but I don't usually have orange flowers outside in my garden, except for a few ditch lilies that I have planted on the side of the house.

I planted the ditch lilies simply because someone gave them to me and they reminded me of driving down to my grandparents' house in the summer. I'd watch out the window as we passed by miles and miles of ditch lilies growing along the side of the road in... the ditches, of all places.

My orange-flowering Christmas cactus is a passalong plant, too. I'll take some cuttings from it this spring to pass along to others. Plant it forward, as they say.


I went out to the garden today and walked around in the melting snow.

Clearly, someone, or something, has also been out walking in the garden.


Maybe one, maybe two.

And where there are two rabbits, there might as well be a hundred rabbits.

I'm sure they are finding all kinds of succulent lower shrub branches to chew off. Go eat the henbit that is coming up, you rabbits, and leave the shrubs alone!

There, that ought to keep the rabbits under control while winter continues.


I surveyed the vegetable garden while I was outside looking at rabbit tracks.

It is clear to me that I must replace the raised beds. The trick will be to do it early enough in the spring so that I can still plant peas.

In other words, I must find that sliver of time when the ground is dry enough to work before St. Patrick's Day or risk not having a place to plant the peas, spinach, and lettuce when I normally do.

My Dad always seemed to find such a time in early spring, as I recall him tilling the garden, at least part of it, before he planted peas around March 17th.

In that sliver of time, I'll have someone pull out the old wood around the raised beds, rake the mulch out of the paths, pull out the landscape fabric in the paths, till the whole thing up, form the new beds and edge them with some kind of stone.

Yes, stone of some kind, I think, which will allow for curves, if I decide I want some, and which won't have to be replaced after a few years.

But before that gets done, I'll need to endure a few more winter storms, including one heading this way which is predicted to arrive late Monday or Tuesday and bring with it the most dreaded of all winter elements -- ice.

Winter continues...

Universal Gardening with Regional Plant Information

“I am often asked who these gardeners are whose letters I quote so frequently. They are just people who write to me because they are interested in the things I am interested in, and who send me notes of flowers and seasons. Some of them are well known, and some of them are unknown, some are specialists, and some are plain dirt gardeners like me. What matters is not who they are, but where they garden, for to be of any use information about plants must be regional.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence, Gardens in Winter.

In other words…

Well, there are no other words that could say it better, so I’ll leave it at that and go sit by my cozy fireplace, indoors, noting in my garden journal that there is still snow on my garden, and more to come, while other gardeners in other regions venture out to plant, prune, and dig in their gardens.

As universal as gardening is, information about plants must be regional.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Guide to Horti-guiding, Part 2

Let’s review.

Horti-guiding is when an Eccentric Gardening Guide (EGG*), also known as a horti-guide, takes a Less Experienced Gardener (LEG) under her (or his) wing and shows them how to garden.

The EGG (horti-guide) shows the LEG how to turn compost, screen compost, weed, edge, hoe, mulch, mow, etc. and then, and this is the best part, the EGG (horti-guide) allows the LEG to practice these new found skills in the EGG’s (horti-guide’s) garden.

Once the LEG finishes all the work learns these lessons, they may think they are ready to be an EGG, too, but they aren’t. They must first be taught some advanced gardening lessons, including:

- How to sit in the garden and enjoy it. (This assumes that the EGG (Horti-guide) has mastered this herself (or himself). It’s not easy! You may want to start with sitting for just five minutes before jumping up to pull a weed, deadhead a flower, or if you are a garden blogger, chasing after some bee, butterfly or metallic green insect trying to get a close up picture of it.)

- How to eat the first ripe tomato of the season, observing the proper rituals of the first tomato with appropriate reverence.

- How to deter rabbits with plastic cutlery.

- How to pronounce botanical names. (The secret, of course, is to pronounce the name with confidence and no one will correct you. They will simply think they were wrong, because you are just so confident in how you say it.)

- How to conquer any fear of insects or worms.

Once they’ve learned these lessons, the LEG should have a good start on their journey to becoming a good EGG.   But it is just a good start. It will still take years for the LEG to actually become an EGG, but the journey, the time, the lessons, the hard work, are all very much worth it.

Just ask any EGG.

*EGG is a dual use acronym. Some gardeners are simply Eccentric Gardening Geeks and do not wish to be Eccentric Gardening Guides. That's perfectly all right, but these EGGs (the geek ones) should remember that LEGs are watching them from afar and learning from them, nonetheless.  So really you can use EGG (the geek one) and EGG (the guide one) interchangeably.  And yes, of course, guides are geeks, too, so don't worry if you become an EGG, you don't have to give up being an EGG, and vice versa.  (These dual use acronyms are tricky, aren't they, sort of like trying to stand an egg, a real chicken egg, up on its pointy end.  Just don't try to do that with EGGs.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guide to Horti-guiding

Post reading instructions!

If you came here looking for the seed giveaway, please check out yesterday’s post.

If you are a less experienced gardener, looking to learn more about gardening, read no further.

If you are an experienced gardener, keep reading for a great idea.

Experienced gardeners… would you like to join me in becoming an Eccentric Gardening Guide (EGG) or Horti-guide? Here’s what you do…

As an EGG (Horti-guide), invite a Less Experienced Gardener (LEG) to your garden for a day or two or a week or until you are satisfied that all the work is done they have learned some of your tips and tricks of gardening.

Suggested activities that you as an EGG (Horti-guide) might engage your LEG in include:

Compost turning - As soon as your LEG arrives, hand them a pitchfork and show them how to turn a compost pile and then step back and observe as they turn your compost piles.

Compost harvesting - Once the LEG has conquered compost turning, they can move up to compost harvesting, how to scoop that good compost on to a compost sieve and work it through to reveal that black gold that’s been waiting all season to be harvested. I guarantee they will be wide-eyed with amazement at the richness that lies beneath all that garden refuse.

Mulching – The LEG will no doubt benefit from lessons about how to scoop up that mulch from the pile in your driveway or straight off the truck. You, the EGG (Horti-guide), can teach them how to maximize the load in the wheelbarrow while keeping it balanced so it doesn’t inadvertently tip over. Then you can show them how to carefully spread the mulch around the tender plants. Then it is practice time! Practice is an important part of the LEG’s education, necessary to allow them to one day become an EGG (Horti-guide) themselves. Let the LEG practice until the mulching is done.

Weed pulling – The LEG may balk at weeding, concerned they don’t know weeds from good plants. They also might be suspicious that you are just trying to get them to do the weeding in your garden. No matter – don’t let them skip this valuable lesson. Use your EGG (Horti-guide) stick, which can be an old hoe, to patiently point out weeds as the LEG kneels nearby weeding.

Once your LEG has finished compost turning and harvesting, mulching, and weed pulling you can move on to more advanced lessons, including hoeing, edging, digging, and mowing. But don’t let the LEG go on to the advanced lessons until these tasks their first lessons are finished. There are no short cuts on the path to becoming an EGG (Horti-guide) themselves.

Now, to be a good EGG (Horti-guide), you need to dress and act the part. Put on your best wide brim hat, greenest gardening t-shirt, those gardening pants still stained from the sap of the Amsonia. Strap on your Felco pruners in a holster and slip on your nicest gardening clogs. Speak lots of Hortish, and translate it for the LEG when necessary.

Then don’t forget, and this is very important -- grab your best most well-worn gardening gloves to show the LEG that you have done all that you are asking them to do. If they start to ask questions, deny that this is all some clever scheme you’ve come up with to get them to do the work in your garden.

Good luck, EGGs, and you LEGs who ignored the instructions at the beginning of this post and read this far, forget you saw this! Find an EGG and beg them to be your Horti-guide.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday: Win Seeds From Botanical Interests!

Updated 01/31/2011 -- The lucky winner is Jenna Z. If you didn't win and would like to try again, please visit Cold Climate Gardening where Kathy is also sponsoring a giveaway of seeds from Botanical Interests!


How about some free seeds to start off a year of wildflowers in your garden?

And a calendar beautifully illustrated with botanical drawings to count down the days until spring?

And a mouse pad to keep your mouse moving smoothly as you click around the web reading Wildflower Wednesday posts and looking for seeds?

How about it, indeed!

Botanical Interests is sponsoring this giveaway which features a calendar, a mouse pad, and two seed mixes that will no doubt delight you with many blooms through summer and fall.

The first seed mix, "Save the Bees", includes annual and perennial flowers and even some herbs chosen especially to attract bees and other pollinators.

The other seed mix, "Water-wise", includes annual and perennial flowers that are drought-tolerant and by the way, they'll attract bees and pollinators, too.

Using a seed mix is a great way start a wildflower garden, one that will provide enjoyment and surprises not only the first season of sowing, but for many seasons after that.

In addition to the two seed mixes offered in this giveaway,  Botanical Interests also offers several other seed mixes including the Songbird Mix, Bring Home the Butterflies Mix, Hummingbird Haven, and the very intriguing Fairy Meadow Mix. (Hmmm... a mix of flowers that attracts garden fairies? Very intriguing...)

It's easy to enter this giveaway! Just leave a comment below telling us about your favorite wildflower. That's it!

Enter by Monday, January 31st at 9 pm EST and maybe you'll start February with two free seed mixes, a calendar and a mouse pad. 

(Giveaway open to U.S. and Canadian residents, 18 years and older, one entry per person. Please include your email address in your comment (disguised along the lines of "name AT gmail dot com") or make sure your comment will lead me to a blog or website where I can find your email address.  Winner will be chosen by random drawing.)

(Wildflower Wednesdays is sponsored by Gail at Clay and Limestone. Visit her blog to find links to others who are joining in this once a month event promoting wildflowers in and out of the garden.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

When a Gardener Dreams in the Wintertime

When a gardener dreams in the wintertime...

She sees all the snow covering the garden,
And dreams of what lies beneath that snow, waiting to be discovered in the spring.

She looks over a picture of her hoe collection,
And dreams that in the spring the ground will be soft and easily worked.

She counts her stacks and shelves of gardening books scattered throughout the house,

And dreams of the days of summer when she is too busy in the garden to give them even a passing thought.

When she sees a little pot of irises blooming inside,
She dreams of the dozens of irises that should be blooming in her garden in early March.

And as she browses through stacks of seed catalogs,

She dreams of eating a warm tomato, ripened in the sun.

Finally, when a gardener dreams in the wintertime....

She really does dream of the days of May.
And begins to count the days.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Indiana Gardening, the Magazine, has Arrived!

Exciting news for all gardeners in Indiana!

The new magazine Indiana Gardening, published by State by State Gardening, has arrived!  Check your local bookstores where magazines are sold to get your own copy. (Hint:  look for it with other regional magazines which is where I found it at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore).

Published six times a year, it's all about gardening in Indiana.

You won't find a lovely main article in this magazine about the Ten Best Camellias for Your Garden. They aren't hardy in Indiana! Instead you'll find "The Four Season Garden" written by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, The Hoosier Gardener. It's full of information about shrubs and perennials that provide four seasons of interest in a Midwestern garden.

You also won't find regional updates for far off warm climates like Florida and California.  Instead you'll find regional updates for northeast Indiana, northwest Indiana, central Indiana and southern Indiana with specific information that you can use in your garden without wondering if it applies to you.

Nor will you find profiles of gardens that feature cactus and sagebrush and can never be replicated here in Indiana. Instead, you'll read about gardens that could be just down the street or around the corner from you, as is the case with the garden profile in this first issue written by yours truly, me.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love many national magazines and I even love those British magazines on the occasions when I find one and splurge a bit to buy it. They show how universal gardening really is and offer many great articles and insights on gardens, gardening, and gardeners.

But it sure is nice to read an entire magazine and not wonder if something you read applies to your climate.

If you are in Indiana, or live in a neighboring state close to the state line, run out now to get this first issue. Then subscribe to it so it is delivered to your mailbox six times a year. With your subscription, you will also get a 10% discount card good at many garden centers from "state line to state line".  I figured with the amount I usually spend at a couple of the garden centers offering the discount, I'll be able recoup my subscription cost with that discount card well before Mother's Day.

Don't wait... get thee to the bookstore today to buy the first issue, then send in the subscription card.

"You might be a gardening geek in Indiana, and a smart one at that, if you subscribe to Indiana Gardening." 

(And if you don't live in Indiana, don't despair, you can get your own local gardening information in many other magazines published by State by State Gardening.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

New Crop Announcement at May Dreams Gardens

Broom corn seed packet
Did you know that in addition to the first five secrets to achieving happiness in your garden that I wrote about last winter around this time, and the additional five secrets that I wrote about later in the year, that I have discovered another 20 secrets?

But forget I wrote that.

The only secret I am revealing on this, my second anniversary of joining SGAFO, is the new crop I’m growing in the vegetable garden this summer.

Without further delay, taunting, or teasing…

It’s broom corn!

And the five ten questions you might have about this choice:

Did you know that broom corn is not edible? Yes.

Have you ever wanted to grow broom corn before, is this some fulfillment of a lifelong goal? No.

Why do you want to grow it now? See page 4 of the Botanical Interests seed catalog.

What if I didn’t get the Botanical Interests seed catalog? They have some information about broom corn online, but the whole story is in the catalog. Suffice it to say that in 1781, Thomas Jefferson listed broom corn as one of the most important crops of the time.  Ben Franklin actually  found some seeds for broom corn on a hat brush from England in 1725 and was the first to grow broom corn on this side of the big pond. Now that I know all this, I had to add "grow broom corn" to my gardener's life list.  One thinks about their gardener's life list a lot on any anniversary of joining SGAFO.

Won’t the broom corn take up a lot of room in the vegetable garden? I actually may plant it somewhere else in the garden, as a backdrop to flowers. We’ll see.

What will you use the broom corn for? That depends on how much I grow. I might end up just letting the garden fairies use the seed heads to make their own brooms. Wait, that’s a dumb idea… garden fairies aren’t that tidy. I’ll at least make a whisk broom.

Is broom corn really corn? No, broom corn is really a sorghum. But corn and sorghum are both in the Poaceae family of plants.

Will you still grow corn? Yes, I am still going to grow some sweet corn.

Are you really old enough to be in SGAFO? Yes, but I am a young member.

When will you reveal the other 20 secrets? It’s kind of late. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Society Meets: A Grand and Glorious Annoucement

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

I, your self-appointed Society president for life, would like to start off with sincerest and deepest apologies for so much time passing since our last meeting way back in June.

But now it is a new year, giving us the opportunity to start fresh with a clean slate, or as we gardeners like to say, "with a freshly hoed, nicely raked, ready-for-planting garden border", and let bygones by bygones, or as we gardeners like to say “let that rot into something good in the compost bin”.

I originally planned to use this latest meeting update to make a grand and glorious announcement about what new vegetable I will be planting in this year’s garden. But fortunately or unfortunately, I fell into a rabbit hole looking for information on the garden writer, Ida D. Bennett who wrote The Flower Garden in 1903 and The Vegetable Garden in 1909, plus several other books. This simply left me with no time to prepare my grand and glorious announcement.

Along the way, though, I managed to pull two or three other people down into that rabbit hole, or rather they jumped in, being kindred spirits who seem to enjoy exploring and mining for information as much as I do.

Really, if you have not been down in a rabbit hole lately, you should go find one and jump in, as it can turn into quite an adventure and you will find that time passes all too quickly down in that hole.  And isn't it nice when time passes quickly while we are waiting for spring?

Exploring a rabbit hole is almost like digging in the gardening. You never know what interesting rocks or buried treasure you will find when you dig, making it an adventure anytime you grab a hoe or spade and head out to the garden.  Plus, when you dig, you bring up to the light all kinds of seeds, some that you see, most that you don't. Who knows which of those seeds will sprout and become something good?

Anyway, collectively we, those of us who went down into that rabbit hole, have come up with some real treasures  of information on Ida D. Bennett, which I will pull together and share with all as soon as time allows.

But in the meantime, I must not lose sight of my responsibilities to the membership of the Society, and my duties as President to make this virtual garden club worthy of your time and attention, but not let it take up too much of your time, which I know could be spent in the garden or reading some other blog posts which may offer far more useful information.

Regretfully, though, we are now out of time, so I will have to delay the grand and glorious announcement of the new vegetable I will be growing this summer and write about it in a future blog post. My sincerest and deepest apologies for allowing you to read this far only to find out that there is no real information here.  Rabbit holes are like that sometimes, too, you get to the end and come out with nothing. But that next rabbit hole, or that next blog post... it might be the mother lode of information. 

Thank you for your understanding,


Current and Always President, SPPOTGWLS
May Dreams Gardens

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When a Gardener Plays Cards

When a gardener plays cards...

She likes to use this deck of cards which features a different wildflower on every card.

 That way, everyone can learn about wildflowers while they play.  Hey, is four aces a good hand?

Later, she switches to these cards with different trees on all of them.

This doesn't look like a very good hand but maybe the numbers have some other meaning?
When she plays with these cards featuring seed packets on the backs of the cards...

she is reminded that she hasn't ordered her seeds yet and January is almost half over. She tries not to panic and puts on her best poker face and acts real cool and nonchalant when anyone asks her if she has purchased her seeds yet.

But instead of ordering seeds, she spends time searching online to find card games with a garden theme and finds games named Frog, Tractor, and Dig a Hole, which are sort of garden-y but not really.

Then she looks at the cards in her hand and thinks about how the spades are for digging, the clubs look like clover leaves, the hearts remind her that she loves gardening, and the diamonds would only be useful if she could sell them off to buy more plants.

Finally, when a gardener plays cards, she also remembers that the same advice that applies to playing poker, also applies to gardening.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guide to Post Holiday Poinsettia Care

It’s mid January. We’ve  reached the point where nothing of the holidays remains except a few extra pounds from all the goodies we ate and, of course, the poinsettias.

Opinions vary on what to do with poinsettias after the holidays. Fortunately, as with much of gardening, there are choices and no choice is really the wrong choice.

Here are five choices for post-holiday poinsettia care.

You can continue to water and nurture the poinsettia through the winter. In the spring, cut it back to encourage new growth and let it continue to grow on through the summer. In the fall, you can begin the process of providing the poinsettia with the exact light requirements necessary for it to flower again by placing it in complete darkness every single day for at least 12 hours. At some point, you will forget to move it to its daily dark location, which will screw it up for blooming. When that happens, you throw it away.


You can continue to water and nurture the poinsettia through the winter. In the spring, cut it back to encourage new growth, then set it outside for the summer. In the fall, you will forget to bring it back in before the first frost which will darn near kill it off. When that happens, you throw it away.


You can continue to water and nurture the poinsettia through the winter. In the spring, when you get out some decorations for Easter, you’ll realize that the red poinsettia is clashing with all those pastel spring colors. When that happens, you throw it away.


You can continue to water and nurture the poinsettia for the first part of winter until one day you discover that you forgot to water it and most of the leaves have curled up and dropped off, and are now littering the floor around the plant. When that happens, you throw it away.


You can finish reading this post and take a critical look at your poinsettia which you now realize you are eventually going to throw away. You listen to that voice inside you that keeps saying “but it is a plant and it is alive”. Then you listen to that other voice inside you that says “hey, this is a chance to do something earlier than you need to rather than later”. And that message is louder than the other message. When that happens, you throw it away.*

Again, no choice is the wrong choice. All these choices are good choices. It all comes down to how much mileage you want to get out of the poinsettia before you throw it away, and what color it is.

*If you feel guilty throwing away a perfectly good plant, you can throw it on the compost pile where it can give to a greater cause… the entire garden. If you don’t have a compost pile, you can use the poinsettias you are throwing away as a reason to start one.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Further Down In The Rabbit Hole

Down, down, down, I ventured into the rabbit hole. One search led to another, as I typed in terms like “Ida D. Bennett” and “Ida Dandridge Bennett”. Along the way, I encountered Annie in Austin, who has joined me in the search down in this rabbit hole to find out more about this garden writer.

There aren’t a lot of references to Bennett on the Internet, but down in that rabbit hole, if you go deep enough, there are still some tidbits to be found. Going off in different directions, Annie and I have managed to piece together quite a bit of information about Ida D. Bennett, the author of several gardening books, including The Flower Garden (1903).

One of the most fascinating references to Ida D. Bennett that I've found so far is in a letter from Katharine S. White to Elizabeth Lawrence, referencing a column Lawrence had written on Bennett.

It took me just a few minutes to pull Through the Garden Gate, a compilation of columns written by Lawrence, off my book shelf, flip to the index, and go right to the column she wrote.

What a coincidence! In July 1959, one of my favorite garden writers, Elizabeth Lawrence, wrote an entire column about Ida D. Bennett. Lawrence, as it turns out, also did not know much about Bennett but did speculate about her personal life in her column. In August 1966, Lawrence also references Bennett in another column about bedding out annuals, along with garden writers E. A. Bowles and William Robinson.

Funny thing about these rabbit holes. There are twists and turns that can take you off in one direction and then another, sometimes leading to a goldmine of information, other times dragging you through a quagmire of questions, but always enticing you deeper into the rabbit hole, until you almost forget what you are there for.

I’m coming out of this rabbit hole for awhile, with a bag of information on Bennett and some questions, too. I’ll combine what I have with whatever Annie in Austin found and also see if commenter “T”, who lives in Bennett's home town of Coldwater, Michigan and belongs to their local garden club, comes up with anything from the local library. Then I’ll write it all up so that if someday someone else picks up one of Bennett’s books and decides to find out more about her, they will find the information we’ve found all in one place.

While that may not give them the same thrill of going down into the rabbit hole, it should save them time, which can be used to go find another rabbit hole that has yet to be explored. What connections will they find there between what they are looking for and what they already have?

One wonders.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2011

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for January 2011! Here in central Indiana, my USDA hardiness zone 5 garden is snow-covered and cold.

I made a half-hearted attempt to look outside for something of interest by opening the door and looking outside. Brrr… it is as cold as it looks. But it’s okay, this snow is not unexpected – we usually have snow in January. In fact if we didn’t have snow, we would wonder why not.

So we just deal with it and turn our attentions inside.

In my inside garden, a passalong Christmas cactus with orange blooms started blooming a week or so ago.

It’s past its prime, but in January “a bloom is a bloom”.

Some years I have amaryllis blooms in mid-January, but this year I just have buds.

Work with me here to imagine this blooming right now.

I’m also going to force hyacinth bulbs to bloom, but they are still chilling in the refrigerator. I plan to get then out this weekend and hope they’ll be blooming in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I’m reading a few gardening books and browsing through seed catalogs, watching out for rabbit holes and imagining a garden in May when the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the garden is all new again, and filled with blooms of all colors, with bunnies playfully jumping around in the shade, while overhead the birds sing a song that lures me out to the garden early and makes me want to stay until dusk.

Oh, wait, where am I? Oh, right. January. Not the bloomingest month in the garden, but it is still worthwhile to record whatever is blooming, nonetheless.

What’s blooming in your garden on this fine January day? Join in for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and show us!

It’s easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and then come back here to leave your link in the Mister Linky widget below along with a comment to entice us to come for a virtual visit.

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ida D. Bennett

I bought “The Flower Garden” by Ida D. Bennett on impulse from a bookseller who had set up shop for the weekend at the local mall. It was one of three old gardening books I bought that day, nearly 10 years ago.

After flipping through the books for a bit, I put them on a shelf, and for the most part, forgot about them.

Then a little over a week ago, I pulled “The Flower Garden” off the shelf and have now fallen head first down a wintry rabbit hole looking for the answer to “Who was Ida D. Bennett”?

There is very little information on her that is readily available online.

Since my time and resources are limited, I’m posting what I do know, and will add to this as I find out more or if anyone else comes forward with information.

Ida Dandridge Bennett was born in 1860 and died in 1925

According to the census records Annie in Austin found and left in a comment on my first post quoting Bennett, her parents were from New York, but she lived in Michigan and showed up in several census records for Coldwater, Michigan, where she lived with her parents and siblings, then with her widowed mother and then in 1920 as “head of household”. Annie also discovered that in 1903, Bennett invented and patented a removable window-shelf for a window garden.

Through Google Books, I found the following books written by Bennett:

The Flower Garden: A Manual for the Amateur Gardener”. The copy I have is part of a series of books called “The Garden Library” and was published in 1910 by Doubleday, Page, and Company, New York. There also appears to be an earlier edition published in 1903 by McClure, Phillips and Co., and a later edition called “Flower Growing” published in 1924 by Doubleday

The Vegetable Garden: A Manual for the Amateur Gardener”, also part of “The Garden Library” series of books, published in 1908 by Doubleday, Page, and Company, New York.

The Busy Woman’s Garden Book” published by Small, Maynard & Company, 1920.

The Making of a Flower Garden” published by Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, 1919.

Dreer’s Hints on the Growing of Bulbs”, co-authored with Henry A Dreer and published by Dreer, who seems to be from Philadelphia (714-716 Chestnut Street).

Through Google Books, I also found several magazine articles written by Bennett on a variety of topics including “The Value of Summer Mulch”, “Annuals for Edging” and “The Care of House Plants In Winter”.

In a history of Branch County, Michigan, they noted, “Miss Ida Bennett has been writing regularly for several magazines since 1895. Among them are: The Woman's Home Companion, American Homes and Gardens, Indoors and Out, Town and Country, Ladies' Home Journal, and Suburban Life. In 1893 she wrote "The Flower Garden, A Handbook of Practical Garden Lore," which was published by McClure, Phillips & Co., of New York, as a book of 282 pages with numerous illustrations."

And that is the extent of what I know about Ida D. Bennett.

I’m almost afraid to look at one of the other books I bought that day, “Garden Planning” by W. S. Rogers, also part of The Garden Library, published in 1912 by Doubleday, Page, and Company.

Let’s see, a quick search shows his name is William Snow. He appears to be from England…

I'll stop there.

Even though it's winter, there is only so much time for falling down into rabbit holes, so I’m choosing carefully which rabbit holes I fall into.

(Note that I don't know for certain that the woman in the photograph above is Ida D. Bennett, but that woman is in several of the pictures in the book, The Flower Garden.)

(If anyone else finds out anything about Ida D. Bennett, feel free to email me with the info and the source and I'll add it to this post.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ida D. Bennett: The Vegetable Garden - Scared or Seduced

I'm still thinking about books by Ida D. Bennett.

In addition to The Flower Garden (1903, 1910), she also wrote a book called The Vegetable Garden (1909).

Even though I don't own this particular book, yet, I can browse through it online thanks to Google Books.

The first few sentences of Chapter One bring to mind the old saying, "What's old is new again". Bennett wrote in the very first sentence,

"Recent legislation has focused public attention in no small degree upon the subject of pure food. Just what goes into the composition of the food we eat is becoming more and more a matter of inquiry by the consumer."

And over 100 years later, people are still starting vegetable gardens because of concern about what goes into or on the food sold in the grocery stores.

Further more...

"Much of the garden stuff offered in the open market or peddled from door to door was gathered the day before or even earlier and hauled long distances in an uncovered wagon over a dusty road and we all know of what the dust of the road is composed, afterward to lie exhibited on open stalls in markets or in front of stores exposed to the flies or the attentions of every passing dog - and the benches are seldom above high water mark - and the unspeakable dust and filth of the streets."

Well, if that didn't convince people to grow their own vegetables, Bennett went on to write...

"There are no vegetables like those which come wet with the morning dew from one's own garden to grace the breakfast table with the toothsome crispness of the scarlet radish or the fresh coolness of lettuce."

Which brings to mind the question... would you rather be scared into growing your own vegetables or seduced into growing your vegetables?

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Letter from My Therapist, Dr. Hortfreud

Dear Carol,

How is your winter going so far? I hope you had a restful holiday and that in between working and whatever else it is you do to wile away the hours of winter, you are finding some time to think about the garden this spring.  

Remember our last therapy session, late last fall? I believe it was on a Friday shortly after Thanksgiving. You came home from work late in the afternoon and in a matter of an hour, managed to put some Christmas lights on the crabapple tree out front, then cut back, and chip and shred, three of the six ‘October Skies’ asters along the sidewalk.

When we met that day, you talked quite a bit about your grand plans for the garden, especially the vegetable garden.

I’m writing to remind you of those plans and the action items we listed for you to take this winter. Please take those actions now so that when we meet again in mid-March for the sowing of peas, you won’t be all whiny about not following through on those plans, or following through too late.

If you don’t take action, you’ll regret it, and I’ll be disappointed in you as well because we made such good progress in our therapy sessions in the garden last year.

Promise me you’ll make some calls?

The rotted boards around those raised beds in the vegetable garden aren’t going to magically un-rot over the winter. You know that. We’ve gone over that. If you want some help with replacing them, you need to call early so that you can get the help lined up before everyone gets busy.

I’ll check in on you in a few weeks to make sure you’ve made those calls and also find out how your seed catalog therapy is going. I assume you’ll need my help deciding which seeds to order. You always do. Plus, we can discuss that new crop you’ve decided to grow. It sounds intriguing!

In the meantime, please know my fees have not changed for this year and I’ll be available whenever you need me. Just start gardening, or thinking of plants, and I’ll be there.

Your therapist,

Dr. V. Q. Hortfreud, HD (Doctor of Hortotherapy)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

They're Here

They’re here.

The squirrels.

They’re here.

I saw them a few weeks ago scampering across the edge of the roof and decided to ignore them. I choose not to recall my brother’s stories of squirrels getting into his attic and chewing on electrical wires. Zap! Serves them right.

My brother lives in a wooded area and I live and garden on a former farm field. He should have squirrels, I should not.

But I do.

There’s no denying them on the bird feeder or posing on top of the post from which the bird feeder hangs.
 They must have come from the woods behind the houses across the streets. I imagine they had a meeting and decided to take their chances, to leave the woods, make their way through the large expanse of lawn and then across the asphalt street to my house where there is a bird feeder.

Bird feeder. Not squirrel feeder. Don’t they know the difference?

Apparently not, or the difference doesn’t matter to them. It is food, and they are hungry.

Sciurus carolinensis, the gray squirrels.

They’re here.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Odds and Ends About Tools From Ida D. Bennett

I'm still plowing through the pages of The Flower Garden: A Manual for the Amateur Gardener by Ida D. Bennett (1910) and like a gardener who has stumbled across something while hoeing and stops to see what it is, I have paused to take a closer look at  chapter 23, "A Chapter of Odds and Ends".

(Excellent use of plowing and hoeing in that sentence, don't you think?)

In this chapter, Ms. Bennett provides a little bit of advice on gardening tools.

 "There is always the tendency among beginners to overload with the paraphernalia of their calling, whatever it may be."

I feel the need to point out to those who have just now recalled that I have a hoe collection, that I acquired the hoe collection over many years, even decades, and did not buy all those hoes as a beginning gardener. Ms. Bennett was surely not referring to a hoe collection when she wrote that!

"When the first enthusiasm passes, and one becomes a careful and successful worker, all that is superfluous is gradually dropped, and one realizes that it is brains and not tools that make the successful gardener."

In other words, just putting a hoe in someone's hands and sending them out to a plot of ground doesn't mean they'll become a successful gardener. We all would agree that it does take a bit more than tools to become a gardener.

Now, for the list of tools she recommends...

"A hotbed, a cold-frame or two, a work-table in some convenient place, a trowel, wheel-barrow, spade, pitchfork, rake, hoe, a few yards of stout cord, a hatchet to sharpen stakes, a watering pot, rubber sprinkler, rubber gloves, a good supply of pots and wire-netting, and a couple of good mole-traps cover the real necessities."

Times have changed. I'm not sure many of us would now include a hatchet, or mole-traps, or wire-netting on a list of necessities for the gardener. Plus, I know that many gardeners do not own a hoe. Others don't have a pitchfork. Who has hotbeds and cold-frames these days, or even knows what they are?

"Incidentals, such as wire-sieves, lath-screens, trellises, and the like, may be made as they are required."

I've never made my own lath-screens or trellises, but I did once make my own compost sieve which fits quite neatly over my wheelbarrow, making it easy to screen the compost into the wheelbarrow.

In the book, there is a picture of a woman showing someone how to sift loam through a sieve (see above). It is is one of several from the book that all feature the same woman, with a long skirt, protectors on her sleeves and a man's tie.

Is that our Ida D. Bennett?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

More 100 Year Old Advice from Ida D. Bennett

I've been continuing to read bits and pieces of The Flower Garden by Ida D. Bennett, published in 1910.

After I posted Bennett's seed buying advice, the genealogy detective gardener, Annie in Austin, did some searches and found some more information about our Ms. Bennett:

" ... looks like she was a Michigan girl (although her parents were born in New York State). She shows up on several US Census records for Michigan, living at 480 Grand Street in Coldwater, first with her parents & siblings, later with widowed mother, and last one I found was in 1920 as 'Head of Household', occupation entered as writer for magazines. And very cool - in 1903 Ida invented and patented a removable window-shelf for window gardens! Bet we would have liked her."

Yes, Annie, I do like her and I like that she included "A Chapter of Don'ts", chapter 24, in her book, The Flower Garden.

Some of these "don'ts" are still useful today, I think. See if you agree...

"Don't try to follow all the advice that is offered you; make up your mind what you want to do an go steadily ahead. If you fail you will know how, and why, which is in itself a distinct gain. It is a good rule never to take the advice of an unsuccessful person, no matter how reasonable it sounds. Distrust garrulous advice; the gardener with real knowledge is not inclined to force advice on others."

"Don't be cast down be adverse criticism unless your judgment tells you it is deserved. The person who "knows it all" is never so much at home as in some one else's flower-garden, where the principal labour may be done with the tongue."

Did you catch that last sentence? Know anyone who likes to come to your garden and tell you what you should be doing, but never offers to pick up a hoe and help you do it?

Don't be too deeply impressed with the sudden friendship at gardening time of the woman who has managed to get along without your society all winter. Don't be imposed upon by the chronic plant-beggar, but suggest to her that you will be glad to lend your catalogues..."

You mean someone might pretend to like me to get plants from me?

Don't, on the other hand, be lacking in generosity of the right sort. Flowers may be given to rich and poor alike, and carry no hint of obligation, or unfitness."

To that I say, yes, and I would add that the most generous people I know are gardeners.

Don't be too greatly cast down by failures; they have their uses.  One failure, if it sets you to studying out the cause and remedy, is worth a dozen haphazard successes.

Though, I'll admit, I like to have at least a dozen haphazard successes for each failure.

Don't try to work in unsuitable clothing. Easy, broad, solid shoes -- not any old run-down pair-- should be considered as essential as a spade, or rake, and skirts that clear the instep, and hang comfortably.

I'll skip the skirt advice, but she's right about shoes. When someone actually buys a new pair of shoes just to wear in the garden, that's the day they finally admit to themselves that they really are a gardener.

And finally,

"Don't fail to take some good floral magazines, they are helpful in many ways, and keep you in touch with what other workers are doing."

The 21st century version of that advice, 100 years later...

"Don't fail to take up with some good garden bloggers, they are helpful in many ways..."

Thank you, Ida D. Bennett, for some good advice and good reading on a cold wintry night.

(Oh, the flower pictured above is a passalong Christmas cactus given to me several years ago.  Remember that other rule, don't thank people when they give you plants, or the plants won't grow. Instead say something like "I'll give it great care...") 

(More information on Ida D. Bennett. I've determined she was born in 1860 and died in 1925. Her middle name was Dandridge.)

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

100 Year Old Seed Buying Warnings For Today

Gather round. The fire is slowing burning down, the last embers fading, leaving just enough light for me to make out the writing in an old gardening book, The Flower Garden – A Manual for the Amateur Gardener by Ida D. Bennett.

Illustrated and published by Doubleday, Page & Company in 1910, it is one of several books that make up The Garden Library.

What use could such a book be to us, 100 years later?

Let’s read it and see…

Buying seeds is largely a matter of experience. So glowing are the descriptions sent out in the numerous catalogues that one may easily be led into ordering many worthless novelties, and many desirable ones for which there is neither room nor sufficient knowledge of their wants to grow them successfully. Cheap collections, where one is requested to send ten cents for a catalogue and twelve packages of seeds, are worst of all.” (Intro to Chapter Five, “Purchasing of Seeds”)

My goodness, not much has changed in 100 years.

Gardeners are still easily led into ordering worthless flower novelties, and vegetables, too, based on descriptions that are nothing less than glowing.

We still order more seeds to grow more plants than we could ever hope to have room for in our gardens.

And of course we order seeds for plants when we lack “sufficient knowledge of their wants to grow them successfully”.

So if nothing has changed in 100 years, will it ever change for us?

Will we always have to be warned that many of the seeds we buy, to put it bluntly, will be wasted because they either don’t live up to their descriptions, or we don’t have room for them, or we have no idea how to grow some of the plants, if we even get the seed to germinate?


But after 100 years, gardeners are not likely to change. We will continue to enjoy our traditional seed buying ways, ordering seeds based on emotions, falling for descriptions we know are pushed to the edge of truthfulness, ignoring the actual size of our gardens, unconcerned that we may fail at germinating the seeds and growing the plants to maturity.

Seeds are like dreams, some come true and some don’t. We always want to have dreams, and we always want to have seeds, too. ~ 

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Matter of Perspective

Come along with me, across the frozen field, to a place called Spring.

When you look at this picture what is your first thought?

a) What a tranquil winter scene! Those deer look so peaceful ambling across the frozen field.

b) Oh dear! Is our deer fencing high enough? What have they just eaten in my garden?!

c) I really do need to start looking at seed catalogs and place a few seed orders.

I suppose what you think when you first look at this picture all depends on if you have a deer problem in and around your garden. Fortunately, I do not have any deer in or near my garden, so I see a tranquil winter scene.

Now, if this was a picture of rabbits crossing a field… I might look at it differently.

To each her/his own perspective in life and in gardening…

Thank you to my friend and co-worker who sent me this picture.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Potting Tidy

Do you know the proper name for this?

The proper name for it is "Potting Tidy".

I love having a potting tidy because it makes the whole business of potting up plants neater than say, laying out some newspapers and dumping potting soil on the papers.

Really, potting soil on newspapers? How very uncivilized. You are gardening, not trying to make a mess. Do the right thing and get yourself a potting tidy.

A potting tidy makes potting up plants indoors a positively pleasant proposition.

Not to mention how fun it is to say "potting tidy" around other gardeners and it is especially fun to throw out the phase "potting today" when talking with non-gardeners. Try it. You'll see.

Potting tidy -- as much fun to say as it is to have.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Who Will Remember?

Who will remember that shortly after midnight on January 1, 2011, it poured down rain and it was hard to distinguish the sounds of thunder from the sounds of fireworks being shot off by people in the next neighborhood south of here, across the creek?

Who will remember that though December 2010 was one of the snowiest Decembers in a long time, by January 1, 2011, all the snow was gone?

Who will remember when I got those starts of an orange-blooming Christmas cactus from a co-worker and rooted them?

Who will remember that on January 1, 1926, my grandmother started her diary by writing,

“Of course this is the day for resolutions so will try to make this diary less a chronicle of work done and more of the development of the children and also will try to keep it up to date and not let it slide a week or then fill in forgetting some of the most interesting things. But it really is a task, this keeping a diary. I have so many tasks that have to be done that if I am not in the mood for writing, or get too tired, it is so easy to let this slide as no one is going to make me keep it. However Gilbert gave me this little book for my birthday and I want to keep it to read over in my old age and recall these days when my family is young and so interesting and pesky!”

Who will remember my entry in my brand new 10 year garden journal for January 1, 2011?

“Rained around midnight. Hard to tell thunder from fireworks shot of by people south of here across the creek. All the snow of December is gone. The orange blooming Christmas cactus has buds on it, will be the first time to bloom for me."

Who will remember?