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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gardening on Paper

Finally, I have a drawing of the basic shape of the vegetable garden so I can figure out how I want to lay out the raised beds.

The drawing not only reveals the isosceles trapezoid shape of the garden...
... it also reveals that I am no artist.

For those interested... a little orientation. If you think you might glaze over reading this next part, you can skip it.

There is a giant boulder in the garden that is too large for anyone to move. I've noted its approximate location and size on the drawing and labeled it "giant boulder".

The entrance to the garden is an opening that is about eight feet, maybe nine feet wide. That's the opening that will be framed by some kind of gate. On the east side (right side as you look at the drawing), there is a viburnum, Viburnum carlesii, a grape arbor with three posts, and another larger viburnum, Viburnum opulus 'Sterile'. On the other side of the opening, I'll mirror that line up, but will plant raspberries instead of grapes.

This weekend I trimmed back the grape vines. I do that every spring. I also ordered some bare-root raspberry plants. I might have jumped the gun on those raspberries, but I can pot them up and let them grow on for a bit until I'm ready to plant them.

The west, north, and east sides of the garden are surrounded by a six foot high privacy fence. On the west side (left side of the drawing), there is a gate that swings out from the garden into a neighbor's back yard. I think of it as an emergency exit and rarely open it.

I'm planning to place the compost bins on the east side of the garden along the privacy fence. There, they'll be partially hidden and won't be the first thing people see when they walk into this garden.

There are also a couple of Clematis vines along the north fence. I moved them there, along with trellises for them to grow on, last spring when I was moving plants around to make way for the garden design changes. Some friends have suggested that if I want to plant apple trees, I should plant espaliered apple trees along that fence.

Now the fun begins... gardening on paper... where my hoe is a pencil and my rake is an eraser.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Geometry of the Vegetable Garden

Harvest from the vegetable garden
A few answers to some questions about my vegetable garden.

How big is it?

Follow along and I’ll tell you how big it is.

For those who studied geometry “some time ago”, a refresher on shapes…

My vegetable garden is four-sided, so it is technically a quadrilateral, which is what any four-sided shape is called. (Are you starting to get a little nervous that there might be a quiz, like in school?)

Because two sides of the garden, the north side and the south side, are parallel, my quadrilateral shaped garden is technically a trapezoid. Because the other two sides, which aren't parallel, are the same length, it is actually an isosceles trapezoid. If I remember high school geometry correctly, I think the sum of the four interior angles should be 360 degrees, but I won’t swear to that.

So what is the area, in square feet, of an isosceles trapezoid, given that the two parallel sides are approximately 50’ and 67’ and the other two sides, which are not parallel, are about 23’ feet each? (I use “approximately” and “about” deliberately because I measured quickly which means I could measure again and end up with completely slightly different measurements.)

Get out your protractors, slide rulers, and scientific calculators!

Or figure out the answer the way I did.

There is a rectangle within that isosceles trapezoid that is 23’ x 50’, approximately, which is 1,150 square feet.

That leaves two triangles, one on each end of the garden that if you put them together to form another rectangle, that rectangle would be about 23’ x 8’, roughly, maybe, am I thinking about this in the right way? That’s about another 174 square feet, which I’ll round to 175 square feet.

Add that 175 square feet to the 1,150 square feet of the other rectangle and you have 1,325 square feet of vegetable garden space.

That’s a nice size for a vegetable garden, if I do say so myself.

If I lay out the garden with some thought, hopefully over half of it will be raised beds and not paths, giving me at least 650 square feet of planting area. Previously, I had 492 square feet of planting area.

What about that apple tree in the center of the garden?

Why did I plant that apple tree there? It made sense at the time to plant it in the approximate center of the garden, but now that I see the clean slate that I have, the apple tree seems to be in the way. I don’t like it there, and it has never produced any decent apples.

It’s time to invoke one of the secrets to achieving happiness in your garden, the first secret.

Do you remember what it is?

Grow the plants you love.

(Aren’t you all lucky I’m not making you take a quiz?)

I don’t love that apple tree or the variety of apples it should produce.

Don’t look. Turn your head if you are squeamish.

It will take just a few minutes to cut down that little apple tree with my reciprocating saw.

Then the entire 1,325 square feet, give or take, of vegetable garden space will truly be a clean slate.

(We garden fairies just added this picture to this post.  Why Carol didn't include it, we'll never know!)
By the way, Dr. Hortfreud says that this garden is .030417 acres... in other words 3% of an acre. That makes it seem very tiny. It's all relative, she says.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Clean Slate Garden

The potter has her lump of clay. The sculptor has his chunk of marble.

The artist has his clean canvas. The writer has her blank sheet of paper.

And the gardener?

The gardener has her cleared plot of land.

I had a landscaping crew clear out the vegetable garden today.

The rotted boards around the raised beds? Gone.

The bent and broken tomato stakes? Gone.

The piles of refuse on top of the compost bins? Gone.

I am literally and figuratively back to "square one" in my raised bed vegetable garden.

Later this week, I plan to lay out new garden beds, keeping in mind the "keyhole concept", which I read about  in Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. This was the book the garden designer left on my bench out front on one of her visits to my garden last spring.

I had hoped to rearrange the raised beds last fall, but the drought left the ground dry and hard and almost unworkable. Since then we've had snow and rain, and now it is spring and the garden is indeed all new again, a clean slate... literally.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Garden Fairies Guest Post: Again!

Scilla bifolia 'Rosea'
Garden fairies here. Again!

Honestly, we garden fairies are thinking that this blog would fall to pieces without us stepping in to carry the load while Carol is off doing who knows what here at May Dreams Gardens.

Who knows what? Let us tell you, there is an awful lot of activity going on around here.

We garden fairies are a bit concerned by it all, we've gotta say, because we like things to be fairly calm, serene, and well, a tad bit, no make that a whole lot lazy. After all, we are garden fairies.

Yesterday, Carol was out in the veggie garden talking to a guy who was taking measurements and all. Then he left and Bam! Through the gate she came with a wheelbarrow, digging fork, perennial spade and a regular spade. As usual, her Felco pruners were in a holster clipped to her jeans.

We garden fairies were a bit perturbed, after all it was getting on to mid-morning and we were all just dozing off! Anyway, Carol doesn't think one bit about our safety and security, she just starts digging like a fiend. Like a mad woman! She was digging up all those perennials that she moved back here to the vegetable garden last spring.

Then she moved them back to some of the new perennial borders. Honestly! We garden fairies never saw such a commotion and ruckus.

We gathered ourselves together and decided that the veggie garden is no longer safe, so we've packed up our petals and leaves, acorns and walnut shells, and other bits and pieces that we've gathered from the garden over the years and moved ourselves last night to the bed where the Helleborus are blooming.

Aren't they pretty?
We garden fairies think so!

Anyway, we garden fairies will keep a watch out and let everyone know what happens next, that is if it doesn't interfere with our sleeping and being lazy and all. Honestly, we garden fairies are carrying this blog!

Submitted by:
Thorn Goblinfly
Chief scribe and garden fairy at May Dreams Gardens

(Note from Carol: Tomorrow a landscape crew is coming to remove the rotted boards holding up the raised beds in the vegetable garden, pull out the landscape fabric under the paths, clean out the compost bins, and then rake the whole garden smooth. When they leave, I'll have a clean slate for the vegetable garden. I plan to rearrange the beds and then finally plant my peas and all. I'm excited!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Loudon's Rules of Horticulture

Before I become too engrossed in spring gardening activities, (if it is possible to become too engrossed in gardening, and I don't think it is) may I present one more treasure that I brought up from the rabbit hole of old gardening books.

Loudon's Rules of Horticulture

(Who is Loudon? I believe he is John Claudius Loudon, a Scottish horticulturist from the early 1800’s.)

Without further ado, and restraining from adding my own comments, I present.

Loudon’s Rules of Horticulture

(Do these rules apply yet today? Well for the most part, though I think we are less diligent in picking bugs off plants – see rule no. 7.)

Here now for your enjoyment and education, I present

Loudon’s Rules of Horticulture

(Is this the last treasure for this season from that rabbit hole of old gardening books? No, I still have quite a bit of information to share about Ida Dandridge Bennett.)

And now, the latest in an occasional series of gleanings from old gardening books, I present.

Loudon’s Rules of Horticulture

Oops, I forgot to note that I got these rules from The Horticulturist's Rule-Book by L. H. Bailey (1895)

Finally, as promised, advertised, and promoted...

Loudon’s Rules of Horticulture

1 Perform every operation in the proper season and in the best manner.

2 Complete every operation consecutively.

3 Never if possible perform one operation in such a manner as to render another necessary.

4 When called off from any operation leave your work and tools in an orderly manner.

5 In leaving off work make a temporary finish and clean your tools and carry them to the tool house.

6 Never do that in the garden or hothouses which can be equally well done in the reserve ground or in the back sheds.

7 Never pass a weed or an insect without pulling it up or taking it off unless time forbid.

8 In gathering a crop take away the useless as well as the useful parts.

9 Let no plant ripen seeds unless they are wanted for some purpose useful or ornamental and remove all parts which are in a state of decay.

(I would have made it a complete ten list of rules. Hmmmm… what should that tenth rule be?)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Forbs in a Matrix

Forb n. A broad-leaved herb other than a grass, especially one growing in a field, prairie, or meadow.


I met with the garden designer and the hort enabler Monday evening to go over plant lists and plans for three areas of my garden that will be planted up in mid-April.

I’ve named one of the garden areas “August Dream Garden” because it is a “high summer garden” designed to peak in August – September. We’ll be planting many native prairie-type wildflowers in that area.

Slowly, the garden designer went down the list of plants… Aster, Rudbeckia, Liatris, Helenium, Vernonia, Eupatorium, Phlox, Solidago, Helianthus, Boltonia, plus a grass Schizachyrium scoparium.

She paused a few times as we reviewed the list to check to see if I would poo-poo any of the choices. You see, the garden designer and the hort enabler know I have a few plant prejudices, or as I like to call them, "likes and dislikes". (Don't judge, so do you!) They've discussed them with me.

Dr. Hortfreud and I have analyzed them, too, as I am sincerely and diligently working through my sometimes pre-conceived notions on some plants, trying my best to set them aside for the greater good of the overall garden. Well, all except one plant that I took off the list.

No, it was not the grass, Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium. According to the garden designer the grass is “the matrix in which all the other forbs will be growing”.

“The matrix in which all the other forbs will be growing”... I loved that sentence and made sure to write it down. That’s what a prairie is, flowers amongst grasses, forbs in a matrix, a lovely wildflower garden that will shine in the waning, lazy days of summer.

I’m looking forward to everything being planted, the forbs, the grasses, well, everything except the one plant I took off the list.

(This post is also in honor of Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone.)

(The picture above is of the wildflower I took off the list of plants for August Dream Garden. In that picture, it is growing up out of the compost bin. I'm sure it will still show up in my garden here and there. When it does, and it always does, I might relent and transplant a few of them to the new high summer garden. But I refuse to buy it.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Loudon's Rules of Horticulture, Rule No. 7

And I quote from Garden-Making: Suggestions for the Utilization of Home Grounds by Liberty Hyde Bailey (1898),

Persons who follow the entertaining writings of Mr. A. B. Tarryer (a pseudonym for a well-known experimenter) in “American Garden,” a few years back, will recall the great variety of implements which he advised for the purpose of extirpating his hereditary foes, the weeds.”

That's all it took to send me down yet another rabbit hole in search of the real identity for this A. B. Tarryer, the pseudonym for a well-known experimenter.

Along the way, I found American Gardening, Vol 11, with a series of “Tarrytown Letters”, written by the mysterious A. B. Tarryer. Volume 11, published in 1890, contains the Tarrytown Letters numbered III through XIII. I presume that the Tarrytown Letters numbered I and II are in American Gardening Vol 10, which I can not find anywhere online.

I glanced through most of the letters that were online, but found no obvious clues as to the identity of the mysterious A. B. Tarryer.

I took a side trip through the history of the village of Tarrytown, which is a real town on the Hudson River in New York, population currently around 11,000. I found out that Mark Twain briefly lived in Tarrytown around 1902, but I suspect he is not the mystery writer because he didn't live there for very long, and his brief stay was well after the letters were written.

For awhile, I focused my search for A. B. Tarryer on General Howard Carroll and later on Captain William Casey, who both built large mansions in Tarrytown in the 1880’s. But I could find nothing substantial to connect them to the letters. In fact I admit I may well be off base even thinking that the letters have anything to do with the village.

Why this search? Because when one has a “great variety of implements which he advised for the purpose of extirpating his hereditary foes, the weeds”, it can only mean one thing…


It’s a bit much to get into, but suffice it to say that on the pages of American Gardening, Vol 11, I found this interesting drawing.
Apparently, it was actually Mrs. Tarryer who had a penchant for hoes and other implements used for extirpating our hereditary foes, the weeds.

Somewhere between here and there, I also read a reference in a Tarrytown Letter to someone named Loudon. Was this the real identity of the elusive A. B. Tarryer?

A quick search for Loudon lead me to The Horticulturist’s Rule-Book: A Compendium of Useful Information for Fruit-Growers, Truck-Gardeners, Florists and Others by L. H. Bailey (1889, Garden Publishing Co, New York).

See there ARE rules for horticulturists (fruit-growers, truck-gardeners, florists and others)!

In fact, an entire chapter of this book is devoted to Loudon’s Rules of Horticulture.

We should take particular note of Loudon’s Rule No. 7,

“Never pass a weed or an insect without pulling it up or taking it off unless time forbid.”

Keep that in mind this spring as you pass by weeds. Remember to stop and extirpate our hereditary foes, the weeds, fellow gardeners, unless time forbid.

Remember and be ready to recite Loudon's Rule No. 7.

Oh, and if you know who A. B. Tarryer really was, please let me know.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Garden Fairies Guest Post: Rules, Traditions, and Guidelines

Garden fairies here!

Happy First Day of Spring to all the clumsy big feet people, or CBF’s as we like to call all the gardeners.

We call all you gardeners CBF's because it seems that whenever you step in the garden, no matter how careful you are, you accidentally step on a plant you shouldn’t have, then you yell “Frass!” or something worse, and we laugh.

That is we laugh unless you’ve almost stepped on one of us garden fairies, then we are the ones who yell “Frass", but never anything worse than that because we are garden fairies and we do not curse as a general rule.

Anyway, we garden fairies did not take over this blog today to talk about CBF’s or wax poetic about the first day of spring after that ginormous full moon last night. Really, we have matters much more important than that to write about.

Do you see that straight line of Iris reticulata ‘Mrs. Beatrix Stanley’? Goodness, what is that all about?

We garden fairies thought there were rules about planting, or should we say not planting, in straight lines like that? We were all puzzled over it because the Irises in the front garden are scattered about and not in a straight line. Then we realized that these are Irises that Carol rescued last spring when the garden re-design started. She moved them back to the vegetable garden for safe keeping, the way we garden fairies moved back there for safe keeping, too.  She must have a rule about planting everything in the vegetable garden in a straight line.

We garden fairies get all confused about rules, guidelines, and traditions in gardening. Just when we think something is a “rule”, we notice someone breaks it and then it is called a “guideline”.

Or we think something is a “guideline” and it turns out it is really a “tradition”.

All this is making us garden fairies think that the only rule that’s worth anything is the tradition of drinking spirits every night. And the guideline of stopping our drinking an hour before dawn so we can find our way home before daylight really ought to be a rule because we garden fairies can end up in some awkward situations if we don’t.

If we garden fairies are confused by all these rules, traditions, and guidelines, we can only imagine how confusing it all is to new gardeners!

Believe it or not, Carol had a tradition of planting peas on St. Patrick’s Day, which we thought was a rule, but was more like a guideline. We say “had” because she didn’t plant them this year. She has to wait until she’s re-done the vegetable garden raised beds before she can plant anything, because they are a mess.

Just look at this!

And there are plenty of other pictures like this one.

But she hasn’t redone the vegetable garden yet because of the rule of not working the soil when it is wet. It keeps raining. In fact, it rained again some this morning and might rain some more this afternoon. But that shouldn’t stop her from planting pansies and violas out front, which is also a tradition, and it shouldn’t stop her from getting her tomatoes and peppers started inside now.

All this change and abrupt canceling of traditions is kind of unsettling to us garden fairies. We can only wonder how Carol is handling it. After all, she seems to like love all her rules, traditions, and guidelines. But never you all fear, gentle gardening readers and others, being good garden fairies, for the most part, we have taken it upon ourselves to watch her closely though this season and have alerted Dr. Hortfreud to be ready at a moment’s notice.

What we garden fairies are watching for we don't rightly know, but if anything noteworthy happens, and it appears Carol isn’t going to post about it because she’s in denial or has her head buried in some old, dusty gardening book, we garden fairies will have to post about it.

Submitted by:
Thorn Goblinfly
Chief Scribe for the Garden Fairies at May Dreams Gardens

P.S. We garden fairies just took a peek at Carol’s calendar and it appears the garden designer is visiting tomorrow evening. We are excited to see what this means for the garden this spring!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

No Time for Rabbit Holes

This is not the time, place, or season for rabbit holes, for diving deep into old, often long forgotten, gardening books from a century ago. It is not. The days are getting longer and warmer, and there is much to do in the garden. There are seeds to sow and soon there will be grass to mow.  There is winter interest to cut back and violas and pansies to plant. An entire vegetable garden that must be re-done. Busy, busy, busy.

But I can not resist.

"Every family can have a garden. If there is not a foot of land, there are porches or windows. Wherever there is sunlight, plants may be made to grow and one plant in a tin can may be a more helpful and inspiring garden to some mind than a whole acre of lawn and flowers may be to another. The satisfaction of a garden does not depend upon the area, nor, happily upon the cost or rarity of the plants. It depends upon the temper of the person. One most first seek to love plants and nature, and then to cultivate that happy peace of mind which is satisfied with little..." Garden-Making by L.H. Bailey (The Macmillan Company, 1902)

I think this spring, one of the best things any of us can cultivate is "that happy peace of mind which is satisfied with little". 

To remind myself of this, I might just plant for myself "one plant in a tin can", in addition to whatever else I plant.

I can do with far less than I have.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Should I be concerned that not just one person, but two people left this comic strip from yesterday's newspaper on my desk at work?

Now why would they leave this particular comic on my desk?

"Why", she asks Dr. Hortfreud, while slowly tapping her fingers on her desk.

Tap, tap, tap... why?

Is it because I once wrote a post about different types of gardening related fears, which did sound a bit like Lucy Van Pelt when she listed all of Charlie Brown's possible fears in the classic TV special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas"?

(Goodness gracious, you can find so much on YouTube, can't you?)

By the way, "fear of gardening" is called kipourikosphobia.

But back to the comic.

I do know why people left this comic on my desk.

It's because of my hoe collection!

I suppose everyone has a reputation for something...


Thank you to everyone who joined in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. It's a virtual explosion of March blooms, far too many for me to visit each blog individually, though I would sure love to be able to. I encourage garden bloggers and other readers to go through the list to find new bloggers and visit their blogs, then leave a comment to let them know you were there. Or visit the two or three blogs listed before your blog and after your blog. Thank you! I sure hate to see bloom day posts that aren't read.


"Every person in this world who has ever amounted to something started by using a hoe!" ~ Lucy Van Pelt

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2011

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for March 2011.

Here in my central Indiana USDA Hardiness Zone 5b garden, we welcome back Iris danfordiea, who returns after a three year absence.

Three years!

I planted the bulbs for this little yellow iris in the fall of 2007, enjoyed the blooms in March 2008, and then they disappeared.


I finally went looking for them in March 2010 and after not seeing anything but foliage, just like in March 2009, I read that they often take several years to re-bloom.

I had just about given up on them when I discovered a bloom on Sunday. It’s just one flower, though, so I won’t get too excited.

For reliable re-bloom year after year, I plant Iris reticulata,

And the never-to-be-out-bloomed Crocuses.
Look, they were showing their pollen in the sun this past weekend.

I was a bit surprised to find a few snowdrops, Galanthus sp. blooming in mid-March.
They seem a bit late but did survive the digging up of much of the area where they were planted and still came back to bloom this year, so I won’t complain. Maybe next year they’ll get back to their normal blooming schedule.

March is a great month for buds, too, some of which will bloom before April arrives, including Narcissus and Helleborus, along with these Hyacinth still nestled down in a cradle of new foliage.
(Yes, of all the buds, I chose to show this one so I could write "nestled down in a cradle of new foliage".)

Soon they’ll be blooming along with Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxa sp.
And it will all be glorious!

And that’s my garden in mid March.

What’s blooming in your garden?

We would love to have you join in for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and show us. It’s easy to participate and all are invited!

Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and leave a comment to tell us what you have waiting for us to see so we can pay you a virtual visit. Then put your name and the url to your post on the Mr. Linky widget below to make it easy to find you.

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Crabapple Branch Gardener's Personality Test

Please look quickly at the picture below and write down your first thought.

Don't stare at it or study it or ponder it or pore over it.

Just look at it and think about what first comes to mind, then write that down.

A garden display at the Indiana Flower and Patio Show
All finished? Did you write down your answer?

Yes? Good.

Dr. Hortfreud will now analyze your answer and tell you what kind of gardener you are based on what you first saw when you looked at this picture.

If you wrote down that you saw a crabapple branch with a garden behind it, you are a gardening geek who likes the details, the little things in a garden that make it unique.

If you saw a crabapple branch but wanted to get it out of the way, you are a gardening geek who likes for everything to be in its place in the garden.

If you saw a crabapple branch but worried that it might poke someone in the eye or slap them in the face as they entered the garden you are a gardening geek who worries too much, who takes the safe route in gardening.

If you saw a garden and just now noticed the crabapple branch, you are a gardening geek who is interested mostly in the entire effect a garden has on a person. You like to leave details to others.

If you saw both a crabapple branch and a garden, then you are a gardening geek who probably thought too much about the picture and are also likely to over analyze your own garden.

If you saw the crabapple branch and wondered if it was really a crabapple branch, and if so what kind, then you are a gardening geek who probably labels the plants in her garden, or at least keeps track of all the plants in her garden.

Finally, If you saw anything else in the picture related to gardening, you are a gardening geek, plain and simple.

So how did you do on The Crabapple Branch Gardener's Personality Test?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dear Hortense Hoelove: Flower and Garden Shows

Tulips blooming at the Indiana Flower & Patio Show
Dear Hortense Hoelove,

Should I attend my local flower or garden show?

Tulip Lover

Dear Tulip,

Yes, you should go!  Why do you even ask? It ought to be a tradition now for you to attend if you live anywhere near your show, and even if you don't. It's a rite of passage of spring. First your crocuses bloom in your garden, then you go to the local garden show.  Geez!  You'll get to see tulips blooming inside well before they are blooming outside, along with hyacinths, azaleas, and even impatiens and petunias. You'll get to smell good dirt, too, plus it is a chance to visit several different landscapers, even for a few minutes, if you are planning to ask a landscaper to help you in your garden. 

Now go!


Succulents in a container show importance of details.

Dear Hortense,

When I attend a garden show, I am sometimes disappointed by the gardens which look more like hardscapes with a few plants thrown in for good measure. I don't see new plant introductions, just a lot of the same plants. What am I missing?

Bud Bloom

Dear Bud,

I think you are missing the beauty of the details to be found in some of the hardscape and planters.  I think you should study those details and see how you might incorporate them into your garden because I believe the details are what make or break a garden. Yes, details make a garden your garden.

Sure, sometimes it seems like the plant choices are limited, but remember it is March, and so it isn't always practical or possible to bring in a lot of new plants, which may not be all that easy to force into bloom or leaf this early. But there are still plenty of plants to see!

Hortifully yours,

Do you see crabapple buds or a garden?

Dear Hortense,

What did you like best about the Indiana Flower and Patio Show?

Gardener in Indy,

Dear Gardener,

I liked the details, the smell of good dirt, the flowers blooming, and the details of some of the gardens (did I mention the details) including...

How this landscaper worked with an artists' group to showcase not only a garden, but paintings by local artists.

Painting of the display garden
How many landscapers captured the feel of some of the neighborhoods of the city, which was the theme for this year's show.
Visit Garfield Park in person some day to see the sunken gardens there.
How a local florist decorated tables to represent businesses near her and promoted a local farmer's market.
Go to the Indiana Flower and Patio Show to see the tablescapes!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three Wishes for Thursday

Iris reticulata 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'
I have three wishes for this Thursday.

I wish that it would stop raining long enough for the raised beds in the vegetable garden to dry out so that I can rip out all the wood that is framing those beds, pull up the landscape fabric in the paths, till up the whole thing, lay out new raised beds, edge them with some kind of stone, and have it all done so I can still plants peas on March 17th.

I wish... well, really, I only have the one wish right now. Everything else is moving along as it should this spring. I don't want to get all garden-greedy.

Thanks to Cindy at My Corner of Katy for coming up with the idea of Three for Thursday.

(Note from the garden fairies... If Carol is only going to use up one of her three wishes, then we want dibs on a wish, too. We also wish it would stop raining, but not because we are anxious for Carol to re-do the vegetable garden raised beds.&n In fact, we are a little fearful of that because if everyone will remember, when she started tearing in to the rest of the garden with that garden designer, we all fled for our very lives back to the vegetable garden. We thought we'd be safe there! Now where are we going to go? What we wish for is that the timing is right and the rain stops long enough so that they can plant some of the new garden beds before she tears up jack in this vegetable garden, as Carol's grandmother used to day. Then we only have to move once. We garden fairies are really homebodies at heart and we don't like all this disruption and displacement in the garden!)

(Note from Dr. Hortfreud... It appears that only two wishes have been used here. I'll take the third wish, if no one else wants it. I wish that Carol finds another place to sow seeds for a few pea vines because if she doesn't get to plant peas somewhere in her garden on March 17th, I'm going to need some help handling the gardenological impact on her psyche.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A New Script For Spring

Look, we are showing our pollen!
As the days grow longer, I once again have time to look around in my garden when I return home from the world.

With each longer day, I notice that there are a few more irises in bloom, and the crocuses are no longer blooming alone here and there but are blooming together in groups.

Everywhere I look, I see little green shoots of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and other spring flowers breaking through the mulch. I see buds swelling. I actually hear birds singing early in the morning.

Dare I say it?

Spring is definitely moving to center stage and the curtain is slowly rising on this new seasonal play.

After years of gardening, I enjoy being in this particular play.  I know my lines without referring to the script or reading the directions on the seed packets. I know where I should be on stage in the garden without looking for my mark. I know what every plant around me should be doing, too.

It’s a good place to be as a gardener, being able to just garden without having to think too much about how, when, if, or where.

But an even better place to be as a gardener is to be waiting in the wings with a brand new script - one that challenges you, energizes you, and makes you want to run out to the garden, to center stage, as soon as you can each day.

And I'm working on a great new script for this Spring's play, full of adventure, hard work, new plants, and promises of a summer in the garden that will long be remembered.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sowing Seeds

There’s nothing wrong with sowing the same seeds you’ve always sown, as long as you are happy getting the same results. And there is nothing wrong with the same results. Gardeners, people, gain comfort from sameness. Sameness is our anchor, allowing us to stay safely close to the shores we’re familiar with.

But what if we just once decided to sow different seeds, casting sameness aside and lifting up the anchor to let ourselves drift to another shore? Would we see something there that provided even more comfort than the sameness of the same ol’ seeds?

How do we find out what it is like to sow those different seeds?

By reading about what happened to others who chose different seeds?


By imaging what could happen?

Yes, we could do that. Some people call those dreams.

Or by actually sowing different seeds?

That’s it!

To really understand how it is to sow different seeds, we must actually do it.

"Before the seed there comes the thought of bloom." - E. B. White

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Protect the Pollen!

Protect the pollen!

I can hear the rallying cry spread from crocus to crocus on these rainy days. Close up! Protect the pollen!

By any means, protect the pollen.

So how does this happen, this closing of crocus blooms on cloudy, rainy days?

There are probably some scientific theories about why and how flowers close, debated no doubt in the halls of great agricultural universities. But here in my garden, when I don’t remember or know why or how, I usually credit or blame the garden fairies, depending on the situation.

I imagine the garden fairies scurrying about closing up the crocuses to protect the pollen from the rain. Oh my! The commotion that ensues in the garden as they run from one crocus to another, shouting back and forth as the wind picks up, “I’ve got this clump, go over there and close those.”

“Don’t forget the ones in the lawn!”

“I can’t get this one to close, come help me!”

"Protect the pollen!"

And on and on they go until they have closed up all the crocuses throughout the garden.

Whew, what a job!

Fortunately, the newly blooming Irises, which chose a rainy day to open, do not need to be closed up to protect their pollen, which is presumably buried deep down in the flowers.

Some of those blooming in yesterday’s rain included Iris histrioides ‘Katherine Hodgkins’,

and Iris reticulata ‘Confab’ (maybe, could be another variety)

It is important for flowers to protect their pollen by whatever means they have available to them. Their very survival depends on that pollen!

According to The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture edited by Liberty Hyde Bailey (The Macmillan Company, 1915), page 1240,

“Most pollen is injured by exposure to rain and dew. The grains tend to swell and burst owing to the excessive osmotic pressure. It is for this reason that pollen when studied or germinated in the laboratory must be mounted in a sugar solution approximating the density of the stigmatic fluid. It is not a surprise therefore to find that nature has protected the pollen of many flowers from rain by structural means. Thus bell shaped hanging flowers, salverform corollas with a small eye which requires pressure to force a drop of water in, closed corollas of the snapdragon type, beard in the throat flowers that droop only in wet weather, flowers that close up during rain and many other contrivances are adaptations in part at least for the protection of the pollen.”

These openings and closings of flowers in response to something external to them are called nastic movements. When it is due to light, it is called photonasty. When it is in response to water, it is called hydronasty. Missing from the list of various nastic movements and their causes is what the nastic movement is called when it is due to garden fairies.

Well, clearly that should be called fairynasty.

(Garden fairies here... We garden fairies do not want you to know we close up the crocuses when it rains. It takes away from our reputation for being lazy overall if you know about all the stuff we do in the garden. Forget you read this.)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Counting Crocuses

We have come suddenly to those early spring days when I need more than ten fingers to count the crocuses in bloom, but it is too cold to take off my shoes to further aid my efforts to keep track of all of them.

So can we say countless crocuses now? Well, not quite yet. That would be more of an exaggeration than saying "we have come suddenly to those early spring days".

I think it is good enough, and accurate enough, to say that there are more crocuses today than yesterday, and there will be even more tomorrow.

(That is if they don't drown in the rain we are predicted to get this weekend, but I digress).

Crocuses are members of the Iris family, Iridiceae, and the "bulb" we plant for them in the fall is technically called a corm. If you say "crocus bulb" you can always count on someone correcting you, so have a response ready for that when the time comes. But make it a polite response. Always take the high road and assume the corrector was only trying to be helpful and was not a haughtyculturist.

(You remember that a haughtyculturist is nothing more than an uppity gardener, but I digress, again.)

If you are not currently counting crocuses, and it is simply due to you not planting them in your garden, and is not due to the fact that you live in a climate where they won't grow or you you planted them but live in a climate where it is too soon for them to bloom, then go right now to your calendar, flip it to July and write down "order crocus corms". Then flip your calendar over to about Halloween or maybe a bit after, and write down "plant crocus corms".

(While we wait for you to do that... for those who live where it is still too cold and snowy for crocuses to bloom, "bless your gardening heart". Hang in there, spring is coming. We will send at least early spring your way just as soon as we've had a chance to enjoy it a few more weeks.)

So now that crocuses are beginning to become "countless" in my garden, I'm looking out for another iris to bloom... little Iris reticulata.

I can hardly wait to get to the point where they are countless in my garden, too.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

An Early Spring Visit With Dr. Hortfreud

Hello, Carol.

Hello Dr. Hortfreud.

It's been awhile. Tell me what you are thinking about now, Carol.

Oh, I'm thinking about a new quote for spring. "Nature is slow but sure; she works no faster than need be." (Henry David Thoreau)

That's interesting, Carol. Now, why did you choose that particular quote?

Well, Dr. Hortfreud, it seemed a lot better than "My goodness things are happening so quickly this spring and with everything I need to do I'm not sure where exactly to start. Nature is so uncertain, too, never telling us when it is going to rain or even promising that the ground will dry out in time for me to completely overhaul the raised bed vegetable garden and hopefully there will be some nice days on the weekends when I can trim back the perennials and the grapevine and still leave a bit of time to enjoy all the bulbs I planted last fall, that is if the critters didn't dig up all the bulbs which doesn't seem to be the case because I don't see a lot of holes in my new planting beds, which reminds me that I need to reconnect with my garden designer about spring planting and some shrubs that we are going to move and I need to finalize a design for the gate to the vegetable garden and I'd like to get new patio furniture and did I mention a water feature and in a few weeks I'll be starting seeds indoors and since it doesn't look like the raised beds will be rearranged by St. Patrick's Day I will probably end up planting peas among the perennials."

Whoa, slow down there, Carol! I need to catch up on my note taking. I agree, that first quote is a much better mantra to keep repeating to yourself instead of all that other stuff. You know how spring goes. Just take it one day at a time, take advantage of sunny days, and you'll be fine.

I know, Dr. Hortfreud. I was kidding about the second quote, though I managed to include almost everything I want to do in it, and I'm pretty sure I'll be planting the peas in the perennial beds while I re-do the raised beds in the vegetable garden. Even with that, I think I'll get it all done, or most of it, by working steadily down through the list, and hiring some help. After all, I can only cut back one perennial at a time...

That's right, Carol. One perennial at a time. I think you are ready for spring. Just keep repeating that Thoreau quote, "Nature is slow but sure; she works no faster than need be" and I think you will be fine. And oh, by the way, don't forget that you will also start mowing the lawn in mid-April. We can use that time for more therapy sessions.

Thank you, Dr. Hortfreud, that sounds like a good plan.

"Nature is slow but sure; she works no faster than need be."

"Nature is slow but sure; she works no faster than need be."

"Nature is slow but sure; she works no faster than need be."