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Friday, April 29, 2011

Watching a Wedding from May Dreams Gardens

Tulipa acuminata
In a rare gathering, Dr. Hortfreud, Hortense Hoelove, the Old Woman at the Door, several garden fairies, and I gathered in the early morning hours here at May Dreams Gardens to watch the royal wedding.

Dr. Hortfreud grumbled a bit about the early hour, since she'd been up late, again, typing up her notes after another difficult, grueling session with her one and only patient.

Hortense Hoelove was in a bit of a snit, wondering why she had not been invited to this grand affair, but it was pretty much an act because she really would not have wanted to bother with shopping for a proper hat and dress. And she won't talk about flying over the ocean in a plane. I hope she'll talk to Dr. Hortfreud about that flying business because the Old Woman at the Door complains all the time that we never go anywhere.

Speaking of the Old Woman at the Door, she recalled watching a similar wedding some thirty years ago when she was, of course, thirty years younger. She was the one who decided not to tell the others what she was going to wear to watch the royal wedding, until she actually arrived this morning. She wanted to do things the way they did them over there across the big pond.

The garden fairies were all in awe, watching especially the princes in the uniforms and wondering why they couldn't wear nice uniforms like those. I reminded them that they are garden fairies. They do not have a military so forget the uniforms. Then they saw all the pretty dresses and thought they should dress a little nicer in general, but I told them it was futile to try to do so. They are garden fairies so they are slobs! Any nice uniforms or dresses they had would be a mess in a matter of a few minutes in the garden. They decided then that they should just get some new hats after seeing all the fancy hats of the wedding guests.

After a bit, the groups' thoughts turned to gardening, as they always do. Were any of the hats covered in real flowers? What flowers would look best on a hat?  The group voted and decided that of all the flowers blooming in the garden right now, the odd looking Tulipa acuminata was the most likely to end up on someone's hat.

Even the announcers were thinking "garden", having described the Queen's outfit as "lemon".  Then they noted that the bride was carrying a bouquet of lily of the valley.  There are some lily of the valley flowers (Convallaria majalis) getting ready to bloom here at May Dreams Gardens, a sentimental favorite traced back to my grandmother's garden.

Hortense noted that it looked like there were trees actually growing inside the abbey. Big ones, too.  She thought that was nice but hoped no one wrote her asking about those trees because she didn't know much about them and hates when she doesn't have an answer and has to make one up.

Soon the garden fairies began to fidget and to occupy their time, they found some Shakespeare to quote, to remind them of England.

“I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.”

(A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

The Old Woman at the Door then  made a pitch to the group that they should all plan to go to England sooner rather than later to see the gardens and not just read about them.  I promised to look into that on everyone's behalf if Dr. Hortfreud would talk Hortense into flying across the big pond.

Finally, the time came for me to leave the party, filled with thoughts of gardening, flowers, ceremonies, and traditions, and head out into the world again, happy to have seen a lovely ceremony and a little history and remembering that the best advice to give to any couple starting a new life together is...

"If you should plant a lovely garden, then you should have a lovely life."

I don't know what the others did with the rest of their day, though there are rumors that the garden fairies heard all those royal titles and now want some of their own.

And that's how we watched the royal wedding here at May Dreams Gardens

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dr Hortfreud Encourages Us to Accept Mistakes

Good evening, Carol.

Hi Dr. Hortfreud.

Are you ready for our session, Carol?

Yes, I am.

Okay, tell me what you are feeling when you look at this half circle of peonies?

Well, Dr. Hortfreud, I feel "happy" All of the peonies are coming up nicely and have flower buds on them. Last fall when I dug them up and moved them here, the ground was so dry that I watered this spot for days to get it ready. Pretty soon, the ants will show up on the buds. In fact, I hope that the ants that think my kitchen is the place to be in the spring time see these buds from the window and come out here!

I see, well, that's one way to get rid of ants, I suppose, Carol, by wishing they'd leave. Any other feelings or thoughts?

Don't make me admit it, Dr. Hortfreud!

Admit what, Carol?

That I goofed this spring!

How so?

You see it, why must I say it out loud?

Because, Carol, we know it is good to admit our mistakes.

Alright. Just give me a minute here... I admit that this spring I noticed some peonies coming up where I had dug them up last fall, so I decided to move them over here, too, and make the half circle a little bigger.


And I dug up a bleeding heart and stuck it right in between two peonies!

Good confession, Carol. Don't you feel better about it now?

I guess. I'll feel even better when I move that darn bleeding heart out of there.

And now, if you'll excuse me Dr. Hortfreud, I need to go get a shovel.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday: Spring Ephemerals

Deep in the forest, across the creek, there is an area that will soon be underwater, once the trees are cut down and a new dam is built.

There is where I looked for some spring ephemerals, flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow. As I walked through the woods, I wished I had spent a few minutes before hand looking through a wildflower book to refresh my memory not of blooms but of foliage.

I'm sure I probably passed up some "good stuff" not currently in bloom, but I didn't have much time so I went after the obvious flowers.

Normally, I would not walk into a forest, find some flowers, dig them up, take them home and plant them in my garden. No one should be doing that!

But I know the owner of the forest, and I looked only in the area that in a few months will be the bottom of a new lake.

I did all right, coming home with these flowers...

Clockwise, from the top left, I found Jeffersonia diphylla (twinleaf), Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit), Phlox divaricata (blue woodland phlox), Enemion biternatum (Eastern false rue anemone), Viola spp. (white violets), and Trillium cuneatum (Trillium).

The pièce de résistance, however, may just be this moss-covered rock.

What gardener can resist a good rock like that?

Again, I repeat, I would not have dug up wildflowers in the woods if I did not have permission and the area was not going to be the bottom of a new lake in a few short months.

I was also careful to choose wildflowers that should not turn into thugs in my garden, though yes, I will keep my eye on that violet.

Once I brought the flowers home, I planted them in the only quasi woodland area of my garden, a shady spot beneath a Cercis canadensis tree (Eastern redbud). I planted them in a light drizzle and then watched as it rained for the next two days, ensuring that at the very least these plants won't dry out right away.

To remind myself where these flowers are, and so I don't accidentally plant something else there, I marked the area with some rocks. Eventually, once I've planted more plants in this tiny woodland garden, I'll remove that fairy ring of rocks.

This is in keeping with the garden design, which calls for this area of the garden to be under planted with spring ephemerals and then become a quiet, restful spot in the garden for the rest of the year.

I'm looking forward now to next spring, to see which of these flowers return to remind me of a quiet morning spent in the forest.
If you'd like to read more posts about wildflowers, visit Clay and Limestone to find links to other blogs participating in Wildflower Wednesday, which takes place on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Maple Seed Test

What is the first thing you think of when you see all these seeds on a maple tree?

If you answered "there are many tree weedlings in your future", you may be a bit of a pessimist, or a perhaps a realist.

If you answered "those samaras are so interesting, I just love to see them twirl as the fly off in the wind", you may be a bit of an optimist or perhaps are choosing to ignore all the tree weedlings in someone's future.

Regardless of your first thought, I'm sure your second thought was to wonder why the botanists moved the maple trees from their own family, Aceraceae, to the plant family Sapindaceae, which you never heard of until you looked it up.

The Sapindaceae family, commonly called the Soapberry family, also includes horse chestnuts, the most common of which is the buckeye tree, Aesculus glabra, the state tree of our neighbors to the east in Ohio.  In fact, we call people from Ohio "buckeyes".

In case you are wondering, the state tree of Indiana is the tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, which is in the Magnolia family, Magnoliaceae. However, we do not call people from Indiana "tulips".  We call them "hoosiers" which has nothing to do with trees at all.

Getting back on track... the maple seeds above are on a red maple, Acer rubrum, in my backyard and someday I'm sure I'll be pulling up a lot of tree weedlings. In the meantime, I hope to never lose the fascination of seeing those seeds twirl to the ground or the interest in plant names, families, and relationships.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

You Might Be A Gardening Geek: Easter Edition

You might be a gardening geek on Easter if…

You check the year before to see when Easter is and then plan your bulb purchases to ensure maximum bloom on this special day. Bonus points if you just go ahead and order, early, mid-season, and late bulbs so you are ready every year.

You think that seed packets are the perfect gift for Easter baskets for all the little ones. Bonus points if you’ve ever made your own seed packets, labeled them “Seed Money” and then put money in them for older kids. Double bonus points if you've also stuffed Christmas stockings with seed packets.

You momentarily forget your war on the rabbits in your garden during the Easter season, because one of them just might be the Easter bunny. Even you don’t want to “do in” the Easter bunny before his big day. Bonus points if you’ve also written some bunny fables about how bunnies of all seasons, including Halloween and Christmas, relate to Easter.

You go to church and momentarily miss some words of the homily because you are staring at all the flowers. Bonus points if you can name all the flowers.  Double bonus points if you can list all the botanical names of all the flowers in church.

You try to crack open eggs before Easter by taking a little off the top of the shell, then you stuff the empty shells with dirt, grow grass seed in them for hair, and decorate them with funny faces. Bonus points if you try to make the faces look like famous gardeners from the past.

You look at those packages of Peeps and wonder if someone has figured out how to turn them into plant fertilizer because you know a few of them will get left in the garden after the big egg hunt. Bonus points if later you look at the Peeps after they've hardened in the open air and wonder if they could be used in a sling shot to scare away rabbits.

Your new Easter bonnet is really a new gardening hat to wear all summer. Bonus points if you use a Sussex trug for your Easter basket and your new Easter shoes are a brand new pair of gardening clogs.

You host an Easter egg hunt in your garden and the Easter bunny hides the eggs so well that you end up finding an egg or two later on in the summer time.

Finally, you might be a gardening geek on Easter if you see the blooms on the native dogwoods, and are reminded of The Legend of the Dogwood and what Easter is really all about.

Happy Easter

Friday, April 22, 2011

Garden Fairies Hijack Blog to Share Some Big News

Finally, with the first lilacs just beginning to bloom and the early blooming Viburnums still hanging on, I had the perfect opportunity to smell each one and decide, once and for all, which flower smells the best.

Clockwise from the top left corner, we have our contestants: the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), Judd Viburnum (Viburnum x juddii), another lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'President Lincoln') and Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii).

I ran from shrub to shrub, from bloom to bloom, earlier today, carefully smelling each one, in between breathing fresh air to ensure that the scent of one bloom was not still in my noise when I moved on to the next one.

Without a doubt, the best smelling bloom amongst all four of these shrubs is...

Garden fairies here! We are hijacking this blog because we have some very big news to share!

This is big.

Something has happened that has never happened before to us garden fairies! In fact, we do not recall that this has ever happened to any garden fairies that we know of.

Our own Thorn Goblinfly got a package in the mail!

It was delivered by the postman. This is exciting in two big ways.

First, all those who doubt the existence of garden fairies should now watch Miracle on 34th Street. We garden fairies will absolutely use the same defense that Santa Claus used when people said that he did not really exist.

Here is the package, clearly addressed to Thorn Goblinfly, who we all know is a garden fairy.

We garden fairies spent quite bit of time studying this package, wondering what could possibly be in it and who it was from. We even noticed there was a lady on the stamp on it.
We are garden fairies, we are curious. We wondered who she was and why she was on the stamp on Thorn's package.

We garden fairies looked her up and found out that she was a philanthropist and we quote, "LadyBird Johnson wrote about Lasker numerous times in her book A White House Diary, calling her house "charming ... like a setting for jewels" and thanking her for gifts of daffodil bulbs for parkways along the Potomac River and for thousands of azalea bushes, flowering dogwood and other plants to put along Pennsylvania Avenue".

Of course, we garden fairies are not a bit surprised that the lady on the stamp would have a tie to gardening. Everything has a tie to gardening for us garden fairies.

Anyway, fascinating as all that is, we garden fairies finally opened the package to reveal...


A special gate just for garden fairies!
With garden tools on it!

Double squeal!

We garden fairies immediately set it up in a container planting that includes the tiny, garden fairy sized spirea, Spiraea japonica 'Golden Elf'. (We are garden fairies, we think that is the name of that little shrub but we are not sure.)

Then we set it up and took pictures of it in various locations all over the garden.
We are garden fairies and could not decide where to put it. In fact, several garden fairies, including Sweetpea Morningdew and Limeleaf Greengrass almost got into an actual fight over the location.

But we are garden fairies. We do not fight like that!

Finally, Thorn herself decided that her new gate should be put in the miniature garden, the very one that got uprooted with all the garden design changes and has not yet been replanted. We are now organizing ourselves to make known to Carol that she must plant the new miniature garden at once or there will be trouble in the garden!

Then we will set up our new gate, with tools on it, in the newly planted miniature garden and be the envy of garden fairies near and far.

Humbly, yet excitedly, submitted by,
Thorn Goblinfly, Chief Scribe and First Garden Fairy Ever to Get Mail

(P.S. We apologize to Carol for hijacking her blog. We only did so because of the importance of our big news and also to keep her from making the mistake of choosing one bloom over another when it comes to scent. We are garden fairies. We will just tell you that they all smell equally nice.)

(P.S.S. We garden fairies have very poor manners as a rule and almost forgot to thank the person who sent Thorn the package. Thank you to the Hort-Enabler, the Hoosier Gardener!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Finding It in the Garden

I'm on a hunt...
Malus 'Guinivere'

Looking for something in my garden...

Focusing in on it.
I know if I look long enough, I'll find it.

It may not be in the usual places, because these days what is in the usual places?

It may elude me some days, but if I'm diligent, I should be able to find it most days.

I wish I could find more of it in one place, though, but will have to settle for finding little bits of it here and there.

Then I must become more adept at using those little bits of it and not wait until I find big pieces of it, because big pieces of it are scarce around here.

I could buy it, and I have bought some of it this year already. It it isn't as fun to buy it as it is to find it because then you don't really have it for yourself, it is merely borrowed.

Sometimes when I'm away from my garden, I think about where I am going to find it, a whole bunch of it, but then something happens and I'm too tired to look for it or too busy to look for it.

It is most disappointing when I think I've found it, finally, and it rains and it gets all wet so I can't use it like I had planned to, dreamed to, wanted to, needed to.

And it is true, the scarcer it is, the more valuable it is to us, so when I finally find it I will do my best to use it wisely, because I never know how much of it I'll get.

But I'm not giving up hope of finding it because I usually do end up finding it eventually.

"It" is time in my garden.

If you know where it hides, please let me know, I'm looking for more of it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another Perennial Border is Named

Tulipa humilis 'Magenta Queen'
I like to name my gardens.

I don't like to force the names. I wait for the names to come to me.

The overall name of my gardens is May Dreams Gardens.

Repeat after me... "All year I dream of the days of May, when the sun is warm, the sky is blue, the grass is green and the garden is all new again."

When I reviewed the garden designer's plans, and realized the "east perennial border" would be planted to have peak bloom in August and early fall, it seemed natural to give that border the official name of "August Dreams Garden".

Across the way from August Dreams Garden is the original perennial border, known on the plan as the "west perennial border". This is where I've been planting perennials for years, plopping them in where there was room, where it appeared they wouldn't grow taller than the plant behind them or wouldn't crowd out, too much, those plants around them.

The garden designer has always been a little vague about any plans for this garden border.

I suppose it is a little daunting to think about moving some of those plants, though she has had me, or rather the digging guy, move some plants to other places, so she's willing to do that for the sake of the design. 

There isn't even an accurate accounting of what grows in there, anyway.  Plus, when I wrote that first email to the garden designer to introduce myself and my gardens, I indicated I needed a design that would allow me to occasionally add plants without messing up the overall design.  The west perennial border is as good a place as any to do that.

(I did not define "occasionally", by the way.)

Tonight, while out admiring how nicely planted and mulched August Dreams Gardens is right now, I looked across at the other perennial border and noted that it seems more like a bit of mish-mash. It could use a good cover of mulch, a little weeding and raking out, and a few more plants.

On the one edge of this perennial border is a lovely clump of Tulipa humilis 'Magenta Queen'.  It grows amidst a mess of plants plopped into this garden earlier in the spring when I had to move them out of the holding beds in the vegetable garden so that area could be cleaned up.

I  plopped those tulip bulbs in that spot last fall because it was bare ground and I could dig there.

As I stood there admiring those tulips and gazed across at the rest of that garden border, its suddenly it occurred to me what this garden border should be named, this garden border with plants plopped here and there, where it looks like they won't be taller than the plants behind them or crowd out those around them, too much.

This border will henceforth be named...

Plopper's Field.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Garden Design Update: Planting vs. Plopping

August Dreams Garden border, newly planted
We were sitting at my kitchen table a few weeks ago, the garden designer, the hort-enabler and I, going over the plant lists for the groundcover garden, the high summer garden, and the shrub border.

After reviewing and approving the list of plants for the high summer garden, which I’ve dubbed “August Dreams Gardens”, I casually mentioned that maybe I would dig up the ditch lilies on the side of the house and move them to that garden.

In a near instantaneous fashion with no hand signals, eye contact, or other means of communicating between them, they both said “No” almost immediately.

I guess I will leave those ditch lilies where they are or look for another place to put them.

Some people are going to hear that story and suggest I’ve lost my mind. Why would I let anyone tell me what to do in my own garden? After all it’s my garden, I can plant what I want where I want.


But I’m not going to plant those ditch lilies there, even though I can.


Because I want to stick with the design as is, at least for a while.

Plus there are other garden borders were I can plop plants in where I want to.

That’s right. Plop them. As in plop them in wherever there seems to be a bare spot, where it looks like they won’t be taller than the plants behind them, or much taller, and won’t crowd out the plants around them. Just plop them right there.

That’s what I did before. Yes, you end up with a garden that way. And it might even be, and probably is, quite pretty to look at.

But is it the best that it can be?

With a garden design, plants are planted to complement one another, with thought given to when they will bloom, how tall and wide they will get, and how they will generally fit together.

Will I never plant another thing in my “August Dreams Garden” border?

Not likely over the long haul, but I will probably think twice before I do and try to remember what kind of garden it is trying to be when I eventually can't resist adding something.

Let me answer one other question about the garden design and hiring a garden designer that has been nagging/bugging/perplexing people who know me.

“Carol, you have a degree in horticulture. Why did you hire a garden designer?”

Yes, I have a degree in horticulture, which I earned 30 years ago this spring. (Wow, was it really 30 years ago? Seriously? 30 years? Can that be true? I am now in shock that it has really been that long ago.)

On my diploma it says “Horticulture Production” which means I focused in on courses about growing plants like vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs, mostly in efficient rows.

In rows.

I am very good at planting in rows.

I am not so good about design, using for years the plopping method.

No more plopping, no more rows, at least not in the August Dreams Gardens border.

At least not for now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2011

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for April 2011.

Here in my central Indiana, USDA Hardiness Zone 5b, garden, April is like a reunion of flowers.

Since the last Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day in March, the blooms have been steadily arriving at this happy reunion from their journey through the seasons. I rejoice that they made it through that treacherous trip that winter always is. I marvel at each one’s story of survival through last year’s drought.

They arrive daily, first one and then another. Some blooms stay for days and days and I grow used to seeing them. Others come and go all too quickly.

All are greeted by these little violas, which were planted last spring, made it through the summer, overwintered, and now are blooming as brightly as anything else in the garden.

I noticed that all the blooms of April are arriving a little later than they did in 2010. Did the drought hold them up? They seem to be on about the same schedule as 2009 and are definitely ahead of 2008.

To a one, none of them want to recall 2007 at all, due to how cold it got that April!

There are daffodils,
And tulips.

The blues are represented by star flowers, vinca, and these grape hyacinths.

The trees make their presence known with the brightly pinkish-purple blooms of the redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and the white flowers of the serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.). Soon the crabapple blooms will arrive.
Malus ‘Guinevere’ has dark pink buds which fade to white when they open.

The weeds show up, too.
They try to blend in so it is less obvious that they really are crashing the spring reunion party.

While the Forsythia have come and gone, the first Viburnum to bloom, Viburnum carlesii, arrived just in time for bloom day.

But the first lilac, Syringa vulgaris ‘President Lincoln’ is still on its way.
This will be its first visit to this garden so I’m anxious to see it when it finally arrives.

And that’s how the April reunion of flowers is going here at May Dreams Gardens.

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Gardener and the Mighty Dandelion

There in the garden, the wild dandelion was trapped, cornered, easy prey for the gardener, who swooped down upon it and with her bare hands pulled it out of the rain-softened earth.

She was delighted at her kill, how long the root was! Ah, sweet victory!

She flung the dandelion to the sidewalk to bake unprotected in the late afternoon sun. It was at least a four-pointer, measured by the number of blooms. She considered for a moment that perhaps it should be dried beneath a heavy pile of her best gardening books and then mounted on the wall for all to see how adept she was at pulling out that dandelion.

But she was no fool, this dandelion-pulling gardener. She knew not to brag, for even trapped and cornered throughout her garden, she knew that not every dandelion would give up so much root so readily, bare-handed or with digging tools.

She knew that the best she could do in her hunt for the mighty dandelions was to thwart each one by attempting to pull it, hoping for at least some root loss to slow it down.

For she knew that for every dandelion trapped in her garden, millions of other dandelions lived unfettered in the wild, casting a thousand seeds on a single breeze, hoping to send their offspring to whatever garden was near or far.

She had even heard that some gardeners attempted to domesticate dandelions, to plant them willfully and purposely in their gardens, where they would grow them to enormous sizes just to eat the leaves or make a little dandelion wine.

None of that nonsense for this gardener! She considered the dandelion to be best viewed in the wild and continued her daily quest to thwart those that attempted to move in on her garden, to slow them down, wear them out by pulling them, and pulling them, and cutting off their blooms.

She knew she’d never win completely, that the dandelions would always return from their roots or be replaced by tiny seedlings.

Yet still she paused and hovered over the dandelion on the sidewalk, admiring her kill, feeling victorious for a brief moment, confident that at least this one dandelion would not return again from its roots…

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rabbits Watching Over The Garden: A Garden Design Update

The rabbit watches over the placement of plants for a ground cover garden around the locust tree. Up by the patio, this garden will be calm, serene, a sea of greens to rest my weary eyes on after a hard day of work.

Won't that be nice?

The garden designer and her digging guy will be planting that garden today along with some other new borders. Details to follow.

I wonder what the garden designer would think if I added just a few bulbs in there this fall?

I would choose quiet plants like these grape hyacinths.

These all need to be moved anyway as they are "oddly planted" out where a new raspberry patch will be.  I'm going to assume they can be moved "in the green" and will probably dig them up and plant them somewhere this weekend. Maybe not in the ground cover garden, but somewhere.

"Oddly planted" seems to be a theme around my garden.  I'm telling you all, right now, when you have a design that is followed when planting, it is a whole lot different, and better, than when you just waltz around the garden and plop plants in any empty spot.  

By the way, speaking of oddly planted, I did identify my mystery flower, as noted on the previous post.

Closed up on a cloudy day, it is clear now it IS a tulip, Tulipa sylvestris.  And I want more of them!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Horticultural Existentialism

Does a plant exist any less if the gardener doesn't remember buying it or planting it, and can not even name it other than to say, "Pretty orange tulips and those look like daffodils with no trumpets".

I found two of my bulb receipts from last fall, and I did not find anything on them that resembled these two flowers.  But clearly, they do exist, oddly planted on the edge of a new flower bed not yet planted with anything else.

No doubt I choose that spot last fall because I could dig there without a pick axe. Oddly enough, there is no pick axe in my garden shed of tools, which number well over --- anyway, I don't have a pick axe.

My best guess, based on searching through the catalog of the third company for which I am missing the receipt is that the orange double flowering tulips are an heirloom variety, 'William Van Oranje'. I have no idea on the narcissus like bloom without a trumpet, other than to note that it has a quiet beauty to it. (Get it - no trumpet, quiet beauty?)

I would plant more of those next fall, if I just knew what they were.

(Update, I found some old packaging and confirmed that the tulip is 'William Van Oranje'. I'm still trying to identify the other flower.)

(Update, I came home today and skies were overcast. There for me to see was the mystery yellow flower.  It is no quiet daff! It is a tulip!

Tulipa sylvestris, to be exact.  I purchased it from Old House Gardens, planted it, forgot it, but fortunately kept the package.  And right there on the package it says "this charming wildflower has small yellow, almond shaped flowers that nod in bud and then open wide in the sun."

In my defense,  here's how it looks in full sun.

But my defense is pretty weak because you can see a bud behind the flower that clearly looks like a tulip bud.

But the foliage is narrow so that threw me off.

But I was in a hurry, so I didn't look at it closely.

But isn't it pretty?

OHG continues their description of T. sylvestris: "Gerard pictured it in his great Herbal of 1597, Jefferson grew it at Monticello, and you'll find it naturalized today at the Rochester, N.Y. estate of Victorian nurseryman George Ellwanger as well as through out Pennsylvania Dutch country."

I want to will get more of these tulips next fall, if I am judged worthy enough after forgetting I planted it, mis-labeling it as a daffodil and questioning its very existence.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Signs of Rabbits

It is important to know if you have rabbits in or around your garden so that you can take precautions to prevent them from eating your lettuce before you get a chance to harvest it for yourself.

How do you know if there are rabbits around your garden?

Look for these signs:

Actual rabbits. Especially in the springtime, you may see rabbits early in the morning hopping around the garden.

Foliage half eaten off.  Tulip foliage and any expensive, rare perennial, plus tender new shoots in the vegetable garden, are favorite foods of most rabbits.

Rabbit droppings.  Look in the lawn and other areas for rabbit droppings, which look like, well, rabbit droppings.  FYI, if you actually raise rabbits and collect all the composted droppings to use as a garden fertilizer, you should then refer to the droppings as "rabbit manure".

Less common but still a sure sign of rabbits is...

A rabbit ritual altar.

Notice how the two tulip leaves represent rabbit ears and the Euphorbia in between is shaped like the head of a rabbit.  This is the usual form of these rabbit ritual altars, though they can take other forms. 

No one has ever seen or documented the actual ritual that the rabbits perform at these altars, but it is widely known that following the ritual, the rabbits gorge themselves on anything and everything in the garden and then carry on well into the night with near riotious rabbit merry making.

If you see something like this in your garden, there are definitely rabbits around!  Many rabbits!

Get out your plastic spoons and forks and arm yourself for battle!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Dear Hortense Hoelove: Horticultural Senility?

Tulipa humilis 'Eastern Star'
Someone left a question for Hortense Hoelove on my Facebook page. Hortense has agreed to answer it.

Dear Hortense Hoelove,

"How does one overcome a persistent case of horticultural senility? This condition seems to manifest itself in 1 of 2 ways. Often I see snowdrops, crocus, and early iris blooming in my neighbor's yard, and I determine to plant the same beauties in my own garden the coming fall. But when fall arrives, horticultural senility sets in, and I never even buy the bulbs. Other springs, I see beautiful flowers pop up in places that I SWEAR I never planted anything -- again: horticultural senility. What to do??"

Delisa in Wisconsin

Dear Delisa,

First of all, thank you for the question!  I'm happy to answer it, but are you sure it is really a case of "horticultural senility"? It could perhaps be...

Gardener's Attention Distraction Syndrome (GADS).  This is the condition that causes gardeners to start out intent on completing one activity in the garden, but then they see something else that needs to be done, say to themselves, "gads, I need to do that now", then they stop and do that, which leads to yet something else to do. They repeat this cycle until they have completely forgotten what they were originally going to do.  This constant shifting of focus, of doing one task and then another without really ever finishing anything, is quite common in gardeners. 

Horticultural amnesia - This often occurs when someone important or highly respected is visiting your garden, often for the first time. You immediately can not remember any of the names of the plants in your garden. Perhaps you are merely suffering from a type of temporary amnesia? Out of sight, out of mind?

Some kind of phobia -- Many people have phobias related to gardening, including kipourikosphobia, which is a fear of gardening. The fear of bulbs is known as bolbusphobia, so says I. Maybe you have a fear of flower bulbs and so block out thoughts of them in the fall?

Or perhaps you don't really like these flowers as much as you think you do?  Well, certainly that can't be it. What's not to like about:



Little early irises:

All growing in Hortense's own garden.

Honestly, I do not really see this failure to plant bulbs as a sign of horticultural senility. Actually horticultural senility doesn't really exist like you think it might.

What I suspect is that you live in a constant state of GADS.

To combat this, go right now to an online resource to order some bulbs for this fall. They will not ship the bulbs until closer to the time to plant them, if they know what they are doing.

Then forget about the bulbs until they arrive in the fall. When they do finally arrive, you'll wonder why you got them, assume they are some kind of gift (and they are a gift -- to you from you) and promptly plant them. After all, you won't know who they are from and you'll want to have the bulbs blooming in the spring, in case that person happens to stop by to see how they did.

As for seeing beautiful flowers pop up in places where you SWEAR you didn't plant them... relax. That also is not horticultural senility. It's the garden fairies playing tricks on you. If you don't believe me, go out to your garden, act very surprised to see a flower in a particular spot, then listen closely for the sounds of little fairies laughing at you.

That'll turn you into a believer!

Thank you so much for the questions, I hope this was helpful.

Hortense Hoelove

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Garden Fairies Guest Post: Status on Tomato & Pepper Seedlings

Garden fairies here! We garden fairies hope you fine folks get all excited when we decide to post because you should know by now that we are going to spill the beans on what's really going on around here.

We'll give you the straight scoop, no sugar coating it. No siree, sugar coating and being all nice and politically correct just is not in our nature as garden fairies. We are garden fairies after all.

We garden fairies have to hurry this morning because there are just a few minutes before Carol shuts down this laptop and goes to work, so we'll have to make this short and to the point.

Though we are garden fairies and sometimes we know we take a long way to get to the point or we get lost on our way to the point and never quite get to the point. Or we spend so long getting to the point that we forget what point we were going for.

Anyway the point is, we garden fairies have something important to tell you all about what is really going on around here at May Dreams Gardens, but now we've almost forgotten what that point was.


Oh, right! We garden fairies have noticed that it is already the sixth day of April and Carol has not started her tomato, pepper, or eggplants from seed yet!

Shocking, we know, so we garden fairies will give you all a moment to let that sink in.


We think what happened is that she had someone come in and paint the sun room, which is where she starts all her seeds and so she waited until he was done to get started on the seeds. Then the room was a wreck and she had to put everything back.

We garden fairies thought it was hilarious when Carol moved that ginormous night blooming cereus in the corner and it started leaning like it was going to fall over.

Well, it didn't fall over because Carol trimmed it all back. Just look at all this mess on the floor!
We garden fairies were a bit nervous that there might be a tree fairy or two in there and they might get thrown out when Carol cleaned it all up, but we counted tree fairy noses and everyone was accounted for.

Whew, that was a close call!

Afterward, we garden fairies thought the night-bloomer looked a bit sparse...
... but we think it will grow out of it.

We garden fairies thought for sure once she finished that big job she'd sow those seeds, but she did not! I know,  we are shocked, too.  Carol always starts her tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants from seed.

Now we believe that she is not going to sow those seeds at all this year, but instead she is going to buy her tomato, pepper, and eggplant plants. "Eggplant plants"... we garden fairies think that is so funny to write that.

Anyway, that is good news for the garden centers and the seed sellers, too. It sort of means that Carol bought them twice, unless she saves those seeds for next year.

Oh, well, we are garden fairies. We can not, will not, and do not concern ourselves with the finances around here! What we are most concerned about is that the tree fairies who came in at Christmas time with the Christmas tree and then stayed on through the winter in the sun room, where most of the houseplants are, often hide amongst the tomato seedlings for a free ride out of the sun room in the spring time.

How will they get out now?

We just hope when Carol buys her seedlings that she puts them in the sun room for even a few hours, to give the tree fairies a chance to get a free ride out of there.

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

Monday, April 04, 2011

Vegetable Garden Project Management

Tulipa biflora
“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” ~ William Shakespeare

It occurred to me as I stood on the edge of the recently cleared vegetable garden on Sunday that I only needed to figure out where one of the beds would be and then I could sow seeds for my peas, and lettuce, spinach, and radishes.

So that’s what I did.

I also paid the bill for the garden clearing. Some people have wondered why I am hiring out more of the heavy lifting in the garden these days. According to the invoice, it took two men 7.5 hours to clear out the garden and haul off the rotted boards and other assorted debris. That’s 15 man hours of labor.

I think that would have been about 34 “Carol” hours and I would have still had to haul off all the junk to the dump or wherever they took it. If I kept at it steadily, working 7 hours a day, that would have been three Saturdays and two Sundays.

I just don’t have that much extra time these days.

Not to mention, doing that much heavy labor would not remind me of the spirit of youth that I think still resides within me especially in the spring, but of the old woman at the door. Nor would it have allowed me to plant my peas in any reasonable time, and I was already feeling behind by not planting them on St. Patrick's Day.

It is still a somewhat daunting, though more manageable task, to lay out the beds in the garden, now that it has been cleared and I have a plan on paper. It reminds me of what L.H. Bailey wrote about large projects, in this case, the writing of his Cyclopedia.

“The most difficult part of the making of a cyclopedia is to project it. Its scope and point of view must be determined before a stroke of actual work is done. This much done the remainder is labor rather than difficulty. The lay out of the enterprise cannot be made in a day. It is a matter of slow growth. One must have a mental picture of the entire field and must calculate the resources. The plan once perfected it remains only to work out detail after detail taking up the tasks as they come not caring nor even daring to look forward to the work that piles mountain high farther down the alphabet.” (L.H. Bailey in  "Cyclopedia of American Horticulture comprising suggestions for cultivation of horticultural plants descriptions of the species of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants sold in the United States and Canada together with geographical and biographical sketches”, Volume 4, 1909.)

They sure wrote some long book titles back in the day. The title is almost as long as the quote. I almost forgot why I pulled that quote out of that book.

Oh, right, we were talking about gardens and big projects. Change “cyclopedia” to “garden” and “alphabet” to “row” and you end up with this:

“The most difficult part of the making of a garden is to project it. Its scope and point of view must be determined before a stroke of actual work is done. This much done the remainder is labor rather than difficulty. The lay out of the enterprise cannot be made in a day. It is a matter of slow growth. One must have a mental picture of the entire field and must calculate the resources. The plan once perfected it remains only to work out detail after detail taking up the tasks as they come not caring nor even daring to look forward to the work that piles mountain high farther down the row.”

And so I am forming my vegetable one garden bed at a time, "not caring or even daring" to look any further than that for now.

Here’s a picture of the vegetable garden after I laid out where the one bed will be and sowed the early spring crops.
The bed is there on the left, sort of edged with some concrete edging stones to mark the end and the corners.

Off in the distance you can see the newly placed compost bins.

They are along the side fence now where they won’t be as visible when you are standing at the entrance to the garden, surveying what I hope are some nice looking vegetable plants, interlaced with annual flowers in mid-summer. It was the garden designer's idea to move the bins to one of the sides. Why didn’t I think of that?

Now, some of people will say, "Sure, it would be nice to be able to pay someone to clear out the garden debris, but what if you can't afford that?"

The answer is that for every project, in or out of the garden, there are three factors to consider -- time, cost, and quality, or fast, cheap, and good.

You really can only have two of them at any one time or for any one project.

If you want to save time and still keep quality, as I did, you have to increase costs.

Or, you can keep costs low and keep quality, too, by increasing the time, doing the work yourself.

Or you could have it look terrible, with low quality, by doing it quickly at a low cost or not doing it at all.

Now that the first bed is in place in the vegetable garden, I can look on to the next row and begin work on it. By mid to late May, when we are finally frost free, the whole garden should be laid out and ready for planting.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Old Woman At The Door: Part 2

(See Part 1 before reading Part 2)

The old woman paused before speaking. During that brief pause, I looked past her sitting across from me at the table in the sun room and out to my own garden.

It was very early in spring and I could see off in the distance a few yellow daffodils blooming in small clumps scattered here and there. The first hints of green looked like fuzzy halos around some of the trees. Further out in the garden, the vegetable garden was a newly created blank slate, and I was anxious to get out there and mark off where the new beds would be.

With a soft clearing of her throat, the old woman once again captured my gaze and began to tell me her secret.

“Carol, the secret I want you to know now, that many gardeners never figure out, is that no weed or insect or plant disease or weather calamity can do as much to prevent us from having the garden we want to have as procrastination can.

If you rid your garden of procrastination, you’ll have no regrets, and you’ll have a garden that you can share with others because it won’t be just in your mind, it will be a reality that you can sit in, stroll through, harvest from, and garden in.”

She stopped speaking momentarily, giving me a few minutes to reflect on what she had said. I hastily made some notes so I could remember this secret exactly as she told it to me.

Then she summed it up in just a few words, “Banish procrastination from your garden”.

With those final words, she rose out of her chair and headed toward the door. As she crossed the threshold, she turned and said, “If it is okay with you, I’d like to come back occasionally to see how you are doing with your garden, and perhaps share other secrets with you.”

I nodded yes and encouraged the old woman at the door to return whenever she wanted to. With that assurance, she headed down the driveway and disappeared around the corner. Before I could wonder how she got to my house, she was gone.

I suddenly could not wait to get out to the garden. I went back to my bedroom and changed into a comfortable pair of loose khaki pants with mud stained knees and my favorite old green sweatshirt. On my way out, I grabbed the hat I’d won in Austin and slipped on a pair of gardening clogs.

As I rounded up a hoe and a rake and headed back to the vegetable garden, I wondered if I would ever see the old woman at the door again.

Somehow, I knew I would.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Old Woman At The Door: Part 1

I was somewhat startled when I heard the doorbell ring and was tempted to ignore it. I wasn’t expecting anyone, which meant it was probably someone who was going to invite me to their church or tell me about a candidate I simply had to vote for. Maybe it was a little kid selling candy or cookies? Why don’t they ever sell plants door to door?

In spite of my instinct to just ignore whoever was there, I soon found myself opening the door and exchanging greetings with an old woman in a wide-brimmed hat, wearing an old green sweatshirt and loose khaki pants with mud stains on the knees. She seemed delighted that I had opened the door, telling me that she had been looking for me and had a gardening secret to share.

At first I was suspicious. Who was this old woman? She seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. I looked down at her feet and noticed she was wearing the same brand of gardening clogs that I wear, and her hat actually looked like the one I won when I went to Austin for the first garden bloggers’ fling three years ago, though it appeared to be older and more worn out than mine.

There was something I immediately liked about this old woman, though don’t ask me to describe that something because it would be difficult to put into words. I invited her in and she headed right for the sun room, suggesting that we sit at the table in that room and she would tell me the secret. As she walked toward the sun room, she asked if I had any iced green tea to drink.

How did she know about the sun room? Or that I would have iced green tea in the refrigerator.

I went to the kitchen and dutifully poured some iced green tea into two tall glasses, took them out to the sun room and sat across from the old woman. I noticed then that she had green eyes which were almost the color of mine, but a bit softer in color, perhaps a faded version of my own eyes.

She took a sip of tea and paused. Then reaching across the table, she grabbed on to my hands, looked right at me, and said, “I’ve come to tell you a secret of gardening, one that many don’t learn until it is nearly too late.”

I caught myself almost holding my breath as I waited for her to continue.

Part 2

Friday, April 01, 2011

Timing is Everything: A Reader Visits

Anemone blanda 'White Splendor'
Timing, they say, is everything. In life, in the garden, in taking pictures, and in sharing information.

When I found out earlier this week that some information I was given should be shared with others on the first Friday of April, I was concerned that no one would believe it.


The first Friday of April this year is April 1st.


It all started in 2006, when I wrote about discovering a new plant growing in my compost bin. There were some people who thought maybe I really had discovered a whole new plant species. They were so happy for me, too. I felt just a tiny bit bad about pulling their leg on that one.

Then in 2007, I couldn’t resist telling a little story about the giant boulder in my garden, which does exist, but sadly, isn’t a piece of a meteor that broke off and fell from the sky into my garden.

I considered mending my ways in 2008, but then there was that crack in the lawn which may or may not have revealed an underground cavern filled with Indian artifacts. Of course by this third year, I had more than a few people on the look out for something suspicious on my blog on April 1st.

In 2009, I think things got a little out of hand because I remember thinking about what I would write on April 1st about a month or so ahead of time, and then laying some groundwork via Twitter to make the story of the family plant stand just a bit more believable.

Things were so out of control in 2010, that I was actually making up quotes from old herbals to support my claim of a super fast growing tomato, in addition to posting a couple of tweets on Twitter beforehand, just to get people interested.

That brings us to this year and timing, and my concern that anything I post today will simply be dismissed as one more April Fool’s Day story. But should that stop me?

I think not.

I have permission to share some exciting information today…

Last Saturday morning, I was working around the house, waiting for it to warm up just a bit more so I could go out to the garden and finish up some spring clean up. I remember I was pulling some clothes out of the dryer when the doorbell rang.

“Who could that be?” I thought. When I went to check, I was greeted by an old woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat, loose khaki trousers with mud stains on the knees and an old green sweat shirt.

She introduced herself, told me how happy she was to find me, and then proceeded to tell me that she had a secret of gardening that she wanted me to share with others by posting it on my blog. She said she had read my column in the local weekly paper, which led her to my blog.

I didn’t quite know what to think as we stood there talking. Should I believe her or not? Finally, I decided to not be such a skeptic and believe her. I think she could see me relax a bit and let down my guard.

She proceeded to tell me her gardening secret.

I was astounded.

Then she made me promise to wait until the first Friday of April to share the secret with others.

Which brings us to today, and my concern that if I post the secret now, no one will believe it.

Oh, what a dilemma that old woman left me with on this first Friday of April!