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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Garden Design Update: Yard Becomes A Garden

Clematis 'Rooguchi'
Over in Ploppers' Field, another small-flowered clematis, Clematis 'Rooguchi' is blooming. It doesn't have as many blooms right now as Clematis 'Pagoda' but it has a charm of its own, regardless.

I think I'll keep it and maybe get some more small-flowered, bell-shaped clematis because I like them. I like them a lot. I have two more in pots on the patio that I need to plant sometime soon.

I like them so much that the other night, I had three more small-flowered clematis in my online shopping cart, but I held off clicking the "submit" button just to prove to myself that I could show some restraint when it comes to plants.

Plus the ones in my cart weren't the ones I really want.

The ones I really want are sold out, so I signed up to get an email when they are available again.

I also like Bletilla sp., hardy ground orchids, these days.
I'm still thinking about ordering some more of these.

In other garden news, and this is the part that many people like the best, I've decided to show before and after pictures of Woodland Follies/August Dream Garden because the transformation is remarkable, even though the plantings are fairly new.

As the Hort-enabler replied when I sent her a picture showing a new bird bath in the garden, "You would never know it was the same yard."

That's exactly what I had hoped for when I hired a garden designer two winters ago.

What was once a yard is now a garden. And I could not have done it without the garden designer. I'm just not wired for "garden design". I'm wired for plants, for gardening, for digging, for growing vegetables, for coveting small-flowered clematis and hardy ground orchids, for buying tiny, cute plants for fairy gardens, for mowing, for collecting hoes, for having conversations with Dr. Hortfreud.

Here's a before picture, looking from the patio out to a few trees planted in the yard.
For those of you who missed it, I chronicled the patio transformation last summer.

This evening, I took this picture from roughly that same spot.
Sorry I didn't have sense enough to move the garden hose out of the picture.

I hope you can see that I'm no longer looking out at a yard with a few trees planted in it.

I hope you can see that there is a garden there, with a path running through it.

It's quickly become one of my favorite spots in the garden.
 And look at all the room for plants!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Clematis 'Pagoda'

Clematis 'Pagoda'.

It speaks softly, "Slow down and notice the details of the garden."

It whispers, "Pause and admire me."

No shouting, chortling or guffaws from this little flower.

Sweet. Dainty. Subtle.

A sure magnet for garden fairies.

Clematis 'Pagoda'

My new favorite small-flowered clematis.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How wide should the paths be in a vegetable garden?

"How wide should the paths be in a vegetable garden?"

Gardeners everywhere are asking.

If they are too narrow, they are useless to all but the ants and coons.

If they are too wide, you've wasted valuable planting space.

Many people think they have the answer to this question.

Some people say the paths should be wide enough for two people to walk side by side. That may be true if the path is designed for ambling through the garden arm in arm with someone else, but who goes ambling arm in arm with someone through a vegetable garden?

Some people advocate for narrow paths, barely wide enough for you to shuffle sideways through the garden so you have more planting space.  That makes it too hard to get around in the garden and so you won't get around and you'll abandon your garden, the weeds will take over, everyone will think it is ugly and no one will encourage you to plant another vegetable garden ever. "You'll just let it be taken over by weeds", they'll say, and you may never try to grow vegetables again.

Others suggest the paths needs to be wide enough for you to kneel in front of one bad without crunching the bed behind you with your backside.

Balderdash to all those answers! I've determined the perfect width for the paths in my vegetable garden and it is...

19 inches.

How did I choose 19 inches, you ask?

That's the width of the stand, the legs, the whatever you call them, on my wheelbarrow, plus a half inch on either side to set them down.
My wheelbarrow in the garden last year. It is 24 years old and still going strong.
Perfect. Brilliant. Now, I can confidently finish laying out the beds in the vegetable garden cathedral and finally plant.

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Newest Hoe is a Spork

I got a new hoe several weeks ago from the Garden Tool Co.

How I came to get this new hoe is a testament to the connections you can make with others of like mind on Twitter and Facebook.

The folks at the Garden Tool Co. found out about my hoe collection via a tweet I sent out on Twitter, checked it out, didn't see a hoe like the spork hoe and offered to send me one.

I accepted their offer because I like hoes. I like to use them in the garden. I have a collection of hoes. I generally can not resist when someone offers me another hoe.

*Public Service Announcement*

If you love garden tools, be careful clicking over to the Garden Tool Co. site.  There are garden tools over there. Good tools. Well-made tools. Tools that you can hand down to your kids and grandkids. Tools that you'll drool over, and want, and put on your Christmas list. Then Christmas morning when everyone else is exclaiming over new sweaters and ties and billfolds and mittens and whatever else non-gardeners get for Christmas, you'll be sitting there with something like a brand new Dutch Hand Hoe, as happy as can be and wishing for spring to arrive quickly.  I have had one of those hand hoes for going on 15 years or longer, and it is still one of my favorite gardening tools. If I lost it, I'd mourn briefly and immediately buy a new one.  If I ever break it, hey, lifetime guarantee!

In the past, I have also purchased from various and sundry sources a DeWit Garden Disc (I bought that in Buffalo and got it safely home in my suitcase), a  DeWit Rockery Trowel (great for planting small bulbs in the fall), a Cape Code Weeder, (I am on my second one of these because the garden fairies stole my first one and hid it somewhere out in the garden),  and a Cobrahead Weeder, (which I got for Christmas one year), to name a few tools.

I often get asked where one should go to buy a good hoe. Finding so many hoes (three pages worth) and other good gardening tools on the Garden Tool Co. website will make it easy for me to answer this question.  

*End of Public Service Announcement*

Now where were we before I got lost on the Garden Tool Co. website where there are three pages of just hoes (did I mention that), both short-handled and long-handled, including the DeWit Pull Spork Hoe that they sent me to try out and add to my collection.

The hoe arrived right about the time it started to rain, and rain, and then rain some more. For several weeks, my new spork hoe was leaning up in the corner in the entryway (yes, inside my house) while I waited for it to dry out enough in the garden to hoe something, anything.

Finally, finally, finally, the rain stopped just long enough for the ground to dry up enough for me to take the spork hoe out to the garden and test it out. Here's what the business end of the hoe looks like.

It's a cross between a fork and a hoe. What it does really well is break up the ground. I used the pointed/fork end to break up some beds in the vegetable garden, then turned it 90 degrees to use the side of the hoe to smooth out the area. It works quite well!

Like all DeWit gardening tools, it comes with a lifetime guarantee.

This weekend, if we don't get more rain, I'll be taking the spork out to the vegetable garden, along with a few other tools, to hopefully, finally prepare the beds for planting, and then plant! It will be a great pleasure to do so because of well-made tools like this spork.

(Full hoe disclosure. The Garden Tool Co. sent me this hoe for free to review. I purchased all the other tools mentioned, except for the Corbrahead, which was a gift from a family member.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday: A Wildflower Secret

Lean in real close if you want in on a wildflower secret.


Now look behind you to make sure no one is reading over your shoulder.

After all, I wouldn’t want just anyone to find out this wildflower secret.

Then it wouldn’t be a secret.

Are you alone? Are you sure it’s just you reading this? Because if this secret gets out… well, we won’t let it get out. We’ll just keep it amongst ourselves, won’t we?

Now pinkie swear you’ll keep this wildflower secret. I’m trusting you with it.

Okay, I think its safe now to tell you that I have…

Garden fairies here! Whew! That was close! What is Carol thinking? We garden fairies can not believe she was going to tell that secret.  We garden fairies would never let that secret out. We protect that secret.

After all we are garden fairies. We know how to keep secrets. Well, we keep secrets except for ones about Carol in her garden.

Do you know what she did? We were aghast when we saw what she did and we have been wanting to tell everyone for days.

Wait, we are garden fairies. We can not just tell you this secret. That would break the Garden Fairy Code of Ethics Related To Keeping Secrets! So you have to guess.

But we are garden fairies, we will give you three clues.

Are you ready?

Okay, clue number one is “August Dreams Garden”.

Got it… August Dreams Garden.

The second clue is Solidago ‘Little Lemon’

Got that? Solidago is a goldenrod flower.

And the third clue is "Carol planted Solidago ‘Little Lemon’ on the edge of the high summer garden that her garden designer planned out and planted".

Rumor has it Carol is going to dig them up, though, and move them slightly because she thinks they need to be moved slightly. Another rumor is that she rationalized buying and planting them because after all, it was her garden designer who said she should go all the way to Perennials Plus to look at the plants and she surely knew Carol would not leave empty handed. Plus Carol realizes that if ‘Little Lemon’ turns out to be a lemon of a plant, she can easily dig it up and move it over to Ploppers’ Field.

We are garden fairies, we hope these three clues were enough for you to figure out what our secret about Carol was.

For those who are still scratching their heads and wondering what the big secret is, here is a picture.

Three clues and a picture... that ought to make it pretty easy to figure out. 

Submitted by Thorn Goblinfly
Chief Scribe for the Garden Fairies

P.S. We garden fairies believe this post qualifies for Wildflower Wednesday sponsored by Gail at Clay and Limestone because goldenrod, Solidago, is a native wildflower in the United States, even though ‘Little Lemon’ appears to have had some of (a lot of) its wildness bred out of it. We are garden fairies, don't argue with us about this or we will do stuff in your garden.  We are garden fairies...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sedum - I'm talking to you

I posted this from my iPad to see what that would be like.

For those who stopped by for some actual gardening related news or notes, you may ponder this...

"If you are a gardener, it isn't a question of if you talk to plants, it's a question of what you talk to them about."

I told this sedum that its flowers made it look ratty, "please hold still while I cut them all off".

Then I cut off all the flowers and threw them into the compost bin, along with all the trimmings from cutting back the fall blooming asters.

I told the asters to "branch out and be ready to bloom like crazy in the fall".

I am not the only one talking to my plants -- instructing them, praising them, admonishing them, am I?

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, May 23, 2011

When Plants Disobey - Clematis 'Pink Fantasy'

I had visions of a nice line up of Clematis vines along the back fence that borders the vegetable garden. The vines would grow up various and sundry trellises, that in and of themselves would be architecturally interesting, and provide color and interest throughout the season.

I started my little line up with three clematis that had to be moved for the garden design and three old trellises.

"How's that going for you, Carol?"

It is not going as I had planned, thank you for asking.

Clematis 'Pink Fantasy' pictured above, is refusing to climb up the trellis, even though when it was planted in the front yard, it climbed a trellis just fine.

With great authority and strong words, I have carefully, gently, yet firmly, lifted it up off the muddy ground and put it back on the trellis at least three times, if not twice.

Now stay! And climb! And bloom some more while you are at it!

Then the minute my back is turned...

It's back on the ground again.  Did I just hear someone or some plant laugh?

Honestly, what does it think it is? A shrub clematis? Hardly.  Here's a shrub clematis... Clematis integrifola 'Alba', kind of in the center in the picture. Yes, the white, bell-shaped blooms in the center there.
That's how a shrub clematis behaves. I do not expect it to climb.

But Clematis 'Pink Fantasy' -- I expect it to climb.

What's a gardener to do when a clematis that should climb without the aid of clips, ties, or bondage of any kind, refuses to climb?

I am already beginning the process of disassociating myself from this clematis to prepare for its inevitable removal from my garden..

I think the flowers look fake, almost  like plastic as shown in this picture from a previous year when it climbed.
 What was I thinking when I bought this?  I don't even like the flowers.

That's two strikes now.  Strike one - it doesn't climb like it should. Strike two - its flowers look like plastic. I just need a third strike, and it is out.

Strike three - it disobeyed me!

It's out!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Garden Design Update: Woodland Follies and More

Iris 'Dawn of Change'
I have only one old-fashioned tall bearded Iris in my garden. It is growing in a bed on the west side of the house, next to some lilacs, where it has not bloomed for at least ten years. I was pleasantly surprised to see buds on it this spring.

I am just sure it was something I did that made it bloom!

But I know better. I did nothing to it, except move the peonies that were next to it. Next to it... but most assuredly not crowding it out.

When it finally bloomed, I was actually able to find the old package for it to determine that its name is 'Dawn of Change'.

It's a fitting name for this spring because as more of the garden design is taking form, it feels like the dawn of change in my garden.

Last fall I moved the peonies that were growing next to 'Dawn of Change' to a new bed in the backyard that runs along the fence.
There I'll be able to enjoy them more because, well, they aren't stuck on the side of the house. I think subconsciously I originally choose that spot on the side of my house for the peonies because most of them were originally my Dad's, and he grew them in a bed on the side of his house.

It was the garden designer's suggestion to move them and it was a good idea.

Elsewhere in the newly designed gardens, I'm slowly adding plants along this path that splits two garden borders.

On the right side of the path, where the red bud tree (Cercis canadensis) is leaning, there is shade. Not a lot of shade, but shade nonetheless. I'm planting more shade loving perennials there and calling it Woodland Follies because if that red bud croaks, I'll look pretty foolish with all my shade loving plants in full sun.

It's hard to find good shade when your garden used to be a field.

On the left side of the path, the August Dreams Garden is starting to fill in.  The garden designer and her digging guy planted all those plants way back in April, luckily choosing what seemed like the only two days in April that were dry enough to do any planting.  August Dream Garden is designed and planted to have peak bloom in late summer, hence the name, and includes many native plants.

If you follow the winding path between Woodland Follies and August Dreams Gardens, you'll arrive at the Vegetable Garden Cathedral.

I've been working on the beds in the vegetable garden off and on as time allows and made some progress yesterday, but then we got another half inch of rain last night, so I've put that on hold for another dry day.  (For those who worry that it is getting kind of late to plant a vegetable garden, I assure you that it is not too late!)

The Vegetable Garden Cathedral will look a lot better in a few weeks when it is all cleaned up and planted up with vegetables and flowers, including the flowers that starred in my one act play, Life of A Marigold, now playing in a garden near you.

Meanwhile, over in Ploppers' Field, I've added a few perennials here and there.

Any guesses as to which ones are new?

Well, it barely matters which are new and which have been there for awhile because it's May, and all of the garden feels new and fresh in May.

Some people may be rolling their eyes at the naming of gardens within a garden. So far, I have Plopper's Field, August Dreams Gardens, Woodland Follies, and the Vegetable Garden Cathedral.  It's actually easier to use those names than to say "over there" or "by that red bud" or "round yonder".  And a whole lot more fun.  Try it in your own garden!

Coming soon, an update on another garden area named The Shrubbery!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Life of a Marigold: A One Act Play

Life of a Marigold
A One Act Play
Carol M.

    Cast of Characters

Marigold………………………….  A simple annual flower
Pruners……………………………. The villain turned hero

TIME: Late Spring
SETTING: A garden


(We see a simple annual flower, sunning itself in a garden, admiring its beauty.)


Oh, I am so proud of myself. I’ve grown a flower! And it is so pretty! Isn’t it the prettiest flower ever! Now  I just need to attract a bee or two to pollinate me and I’ll be all set to form some seeds, drop my petals, and be done for the year. Then I can just relax and enjoy myself and watch the earthworm races. Ah, yes… that’s the life for me!

(Light fades and ominous music begins to play in the back ground)


(A scary looking set of sharp pruners appears out of nowhere.)


Where are those lazy annuals that think they can just grow one flower and quit. I’ll show them! That’s not the way it’s done around here! Not on my watch. In this garden, all the annual flowers have to pull their weight. I expect way more than one bloom out of them. They need to provide lots of flowers! I’m going to cut off their first blooms before they set seed!

(Light fades and a scream is heard off in the distance.)


(The lights come back up in the garden, and we see the Marigold with no blooms.)


Oh dear! Oh my! Oh goodness! What happened to my flower?! It’s gone! The last thing I remember was something red and shiny coming at me. I couldm’t get away. Oh these darn roots! I’m just stuck right here. And now no flowers and that means no seeds. Frass! What’s a flower to do? No watching earthworm races for me. I need to get back to this flowering business and produce more seeds. But I’m a smart flower. This time, I’m going to grow way more branches and way more flowers. Those pruners aren’t going to stop me from setting seeds! I’ll show them.

(Light fades again.)


(The lights come back up and we see the Marigold with several blooms on it.)


Look at me! Oh, I am so pretty now, much prettier than before. So many flowers! I’m gorgeous! Just beautiful, if I do say so myself! And I’m attracting all kinds of bees. Why I had no idea I could produce this many flowers! And think of all the seeds I’ll have for next year! This is fun, way better than stopping at one bloom and watching boring earthworm races. Goodness, where are those pruners? I could use a little trim again because I feel like some of my blooms are starting to set seed too soon. I don’t want that! I want to bloom with all kinds of flowers until the frost comes. I want to be the star of the garden! The main attraction! Oh, pruners… where are you??

(Light gradually fades as the flower continues to bloom.)


The part of Marigold was played by the French Marigold, Bonanza Deep Orange. Many thanks to Ball Horticultural who sent these marigolds to me to try in my garden. They are grown in SoilWrap® containers which are biodegradable.  

The part of the Pruners was played by my Felco pruners.

No marigolds were harmed in this play, though one was deadheaded.

Dear Hortense: Do Garden Fairies Really Exist?

Dear Hortense Hoelove,

Do garden fairies really exist?

Yours truly,
Thorn Goblinfly

Dear Ms. Goblinfly,

This feels like a trick question, the kind of trick question a garden fairy would ask.

You can’t fool me!  I’ve been in this business a long time and know to be very careful with trick questions. They are tricky, like garden fairies.

And there's your answer. I could not compare this tricky question to garden fairies if they didn't exist, could I? Indeed garden fairies do exist!

In fact, this question was submitted by a garden fairy!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Old Woman at the Door Talks About Time

The old woman showed up in my garden, coming up behind me as I knelt on the ground pulling weeds. I was startled momentarily, not recognizing her at first. Then I realized she was the old woman at the door who had come to visit me in early April.

She looked a bit different than before, trading her green sweatshirt for a light green t-shirt and wearing loose green canvas pants that looked as though they’d been worn in the garden for years. But she wore the same hat and garden clogs that I remembered from before.

“Did I startle you?” she asked.

“A little bit, I just didn’t hear you come through the gate.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. The gate was open, so I came on through to your garden since no one answered my knock at the door.”

“It’s okay.” I was beginning to wonder as I looked at the old woman why she had returned. Once again, she just showed up.

“Carol, I came back to talk to you about time, if that’s okay.”

“Sure,” I responded, wondering if she meant time as in days, hours, and seconds or thyme as in the little herb. Soon enough, I realized she wanted to talk about time as in days, hours, and seconds.

“If it’s okay with you, can we sit in those chairs over there to talk?”

I got up then, realizing I was still kneeling and looking up at the old woman. We walked over to the chairs and sat down.

She turned toward me and put her hand on my arm as she began to tell me about time.

“Carol, time is an interesting subject both in and out of a garden. It’s true what they say, you rarely find time, you have to make time. Once you make time, you have to spend it right away because it can’t really be saved. Oh, sure, people talk about saving time, but what they are really doing is figuring out how to use less time on one activity so they can spend it on another activity. It’s not really saved for another day.

You know you can also lose track of time. That can be a good thing if you are using the time wisely and making something of it. But if you lose track of time just frittering it away on nothing in particular, then that’s no good.”

She paused momentarily while I reflected on what she had just said and then continued on.

“It’s nice to have something to show for the time we spend. Like in a garden if we spend an hour, we’d like to see that we spent it weeding or planting or watering. But sometimes it’s good to have nothing to show for the time we spend. Like in a garden, if we spend an hour just relaxing in a chair, like we are doing now, that’s okay, too.”

I began to wonder where the old woman was going with all this time talk when she continued on.

“Carol, the most important thing to remember is that time really does not stand still in a garden. Once you understand that, I think you’ll make better decisions about how to spend your time both in and out of the garden.”

I sat and thought about what the old woman had just said. As I was about to respond, she got up and announced that it was time for her to go. There was no convincing her to stay longer. As she left, she took a quick stroll through the garden, admiring one flower and then another, before leaving through the gate and disappearing around the corner.

I chose not to follow her, realizing that she was likely to return soon enough and no doubt would have something interesting to tell me. I closed my eyes for a few minutes, then got up, dusted off the seat of my green canvas pants, straightened out my light green t-shirt and adjusted my garden hat. I looked around the garden, happy to see that at least some of the time I had spent in it was clearly productive. Then I set off with pruners in hand to spend the rest of my day in the garden deadheading flowers, pulling weeds, and wondering if I should plant some thyme somewhere in the garden to remind me of my latest conversation with the old woman at the door.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dear Hortense: Spacing Plants in a Garden

Allium karataviense
Dear Hortense Hoelove,

How does the Pauli Exclusion Principle relate to gardening?

Phil Physics

Dear Phil,

I am so glad you didn’t ask “does the Pauli Exclusion Principle relate to gardening” because then I would have had to answer yes and move on. However, you asked “how”, so I shall tell you.

For us ordinary gardeners, the Pauli Exclusion Principle essentially means “two solid objects cannot be in the same place in the same time”.

It is relevant to gardening in that we should space our plants so that they are given enough room to grow without having to fight another plant for the same space. When plants have to fight for the same space, one plant will lose and one will win.

They simply can’t occupy the same space at the same time.

If they try to grow in the same space, the more vigorous grower will always win.

Time and time again, though, some gardeners place plants so close together that it is as if they think this principle does not apply to their gardens. The arrogance! I suppose they are just so anxious for their gardens to look filled in that they forget to give the plants the space to grow into their own form.

Please, if this is your problem, take into account the Pauli Exclusion Principle and give your plants their own space to grow


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2011

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for May 2011.

When it's May in Indianapolis, all (many) eyes turn to the west side of town where the Indianapolis 500 race will take place at the end of this month. All month long, it’s one race event after the next and everywhere we look there are black and white checkered race flags.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 5B garden, where temperatures shot up to near record highs this past week, all the flowers seem to be in a race to bloom, and bloom quickly.

Like the flowers, I, too, am racing around trying to weed, buy plants, plant, prepare the vegetable garden for planting and occasionally, if only for a few minutes, sit back, relax and watch the action.

I’ll soon be racing to deadhead those daisies pictured above, too, because they are Leucanthemum vulgare, prolific self-sowers. I leave just a few each year because they are pretty, but just a few or I'd have a garden with nothing but those daisies.

Looking back on past years of blooms on May 15th, I noticed I have many of the same blooms today as I had in 2007, except that year I also had pea blossoms and the peonies were almost open. Today, the peonies are still tight buds and there isn’t a pea blossom in sight.

2008 seemed a tad bit slower than this year. That year I even had some tulips still in bloom in mid-May. This year they are all done. But to be fair about it, I have almost all species tulips now and the tulips of 2008 were all big showy Darwin types. 2009 seemed a lot like 2007 and ditto for 2010.

But whether the same or changed, I’ll always look forward to May, with its abundance of blooms and generally good weather. It’s a chance to see plans and plants come together to form… a garden.

The columbine (Aquilegia sp.) are all in full bloom.
I’m adding a few new columbine this year, and leaving them to self-sow themselves around the garden. They’ll do so without becoming a daisy-like thug and are easy enough to weed out if they show up where I don’t want them to be, or transplant them to where I do want them to grow.

The Salvia, including ‘May Nights’, are singing the blues.
I bought ‘May Nights’ because of the name.  I keep it because I like the flowers. Speaking of its name, I checked on it and it seems to be listed by different sources as Salvia × sylvestris, Salvia nemorosa and Salvia x superba. I'll stick with plain ol' 'May Nights' for now.

Have I mentioned my new obsession with Clematis? I’m fascinated by any with a bell-shaped flower, like C. integrifolia ‘Alba’.
I just got three new Clematis to plant, all with bell-shaped flowers. 

The ‘Miss Kim’ lilacs (Syringa patula) are blooming. The scent of them is enough to almost knock you over right now.
But the Iris right next to them is still a tight bud. I can’t recall when this Iris last bloomed, but it was many springs ago so I’m not even sure what the bloom color is. And heavens no, I don't know the variety, either.

Elsewhere in the garden, there are other shrubs besides lilacs in bloom including Deutzia gracilis ‘Duncan’, marketed by Proven Winners as Chardonnay Pearls®

Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile’, the common snowball bush that many of us remember from our grandmothers’ gardens, is almost finished blooming.
She’s a big shrub in my garden, a perfect hiding place for birds and no doubt a rabbit or two. It is also quite possible that maybe a family or an entire village of garden fairies live under there. This shrub is so big that I can hide stuff behind it, too, like the compost bins and the compost tumber. Now that's a versatile shrub.

There is much more in bloom - Baptisia, Rosa, Allium, Amsonia, Camassia, Geranium, Cerastium, Dianthus, Penstemon, to name a few. The blooms just keep coming and I keep going round and round in the garden, incredulous at times that we are already at the half-way point of May.

I must remember when I’m racing around the garden in May, I should remember to occasionally take a pit stop and sit for a minute or two to enjoy the flowers and remember why I garden. 

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

Friday, May 13, 2011

Discussing Obsessed Gardeners with Dr. Hortfreud

Good evening, Carol.

Hello, Dr. Hortfreud.

Carol, are you ready for our session this evening?

Yes, and I’ve got a topic to discuss with you, something I’ve been mulling over for quite some time.

Well, then, let’s start with that. What’s your topic?

Obsessed gardeners.

Really, Carol. Do you know any?

Any what?

Obsessed gardeners. Carol, this is your topic. Can you pay attention for just a minute?

Sorry, Dr. Hortfreud, I was thinking about gardening.

So, Carol, would that define an obsessed gardener? One who thinks about gardening so much that they can’t stay focused even if the topic is obsessed gardeners?

Very funny. I do love gardening or “heart” it as they say, but I don’t think I’m obsessed with it. Besides, even if I was obsessed, is that a bad thing?

Well, Carol, in the strictest sense of the word “obsessed”, it is possible for an obsession to turn into a bad thing if it removes other “good things” from your life, like family and friends, or causes you to isolate yourself.

Oh, then I’m not obsessed in a bad way! I still have family and friends and actually, gardening has opened up more of the world to me. Whew, I was worried. Now I can go back to the garden with a clear conscience and work on my vegetable garden, plant those perennials I bought this week, fill my containers and in between all that mow the lawn. Currently, I have at all kinds of Dianthus, Iris cristata, bleeding hearts, Clematis, but only those with bell-shaped flowers, to plant, plus a bunch of other perennials, and oh, yes, my garden designer reminded me that this is the time to plant some of the spring flowers whose foliage doesn’t persist through the summer. I went to several garden centers and loaded up the truck with all kinds of new plants and two new chairs for the garden. We can sit in the new chairs and have more therapy sessions.

What was that you just said, Carol?

What? Dr. Hortfreud! You weren’t listening to me?

Sorry, Carol, I was thinking about gardening.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Gardener's Spring Time Pledge

Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

I state your name, am a gardener.

I pledge and promise that:

I will not panic if one week off work in May is not enough time to complete all the projects I want to have to do in the garden. (It isn't.)

I will faithfully weed in my garden so that at no time this summer will I have more weeds than flowers.

I will promptly plant any new plants within a few days of falling in love with them at the garden center, promising them a wonderful garden to grow in, and bringing them home.

I will not buy a plant unless I know where I'm going to plant, no matter how pretty, special, low-priced, it is.

I will water all my containers when needed, even if that is twice a day, and remember to feed those plants regularly and make sure someone else will water them if I am gone.

I will mulch.

I will remain calm when the Japanese beetles emerge as adults and begin devouring my garden. I will not resort to sprays or traps, but will use safe methods to at least control them.

I will harvest everything from my vegetable gardens and give extras away to family, friends, and food banks.

I will not whine, complain, cry or carry on (too much) if I don't get rain exactly when I think my garden needs it, or if it falls on the weekends, or otherwise interferes with my gardening activities.

I will not whine, complain, cry, or carry on (too much) if it gets too hot this summer.

I will prune as necessary to preserve the natural shape of a plant and never shape it into a nice round ball unless it is a boxwood.

I will deadhead rampant self sowers promptly so they do not take over my garden.

I will share my knowledge of gardening with others, along with passalong plants.

I will attempt to spend at least one tenth of my time in the garden just sitting in it and enjoy it.

Thank you. Please sign the registry below to signify your acceptance of this pledge.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Vegetable Garden Patterned After a Great Cathedral

Over the weekend, I used wooden stakes and string to mark where the new beds will be in the vegetable garden. I measured, staked, and strung, then stepped back to view the layout.

It was then that I realized I had unwittingly laid out the vegetable garden to look like a giant cathedral with an aisle up the center and three rows of pews.

I swear this was not intentional.

But it is going to come in handy to silence anyone who sees the garden and says, "Really, Carol, three long rows with a walkway up the center? Couldn't you come up with a more creative layout?"

To which I will reply, "What is more creative than patterning your garden after the great cathedrals of Europe?"

The center aisle will have a gate at the entrance and some kind of focal point at the other end.
I'm still thinking about what that focal point should be. Perhaps a statue of some kind, maybe a statue of a rabbit?

The big boulder is still in the garden. I've decided the best way to deal with it is to ignore it.

It will lie half in a garden bed and half in a walkway.

It reminds me of people who sit on the aisle in church and politely refuse to slide over if someone wants to sit in that same pew or won't stand up and step aside for a minute so you can get past them. You end up sort of ungracefully climbing over them to get to your seat. That's what I will think of every time I have to get around this boulder.

My little vegetable garden church with its three long rows, each four feet wide, will give me about 600 square feet of planting space if you account for the walkways around each row.

PLUS, along the front or altar of my vegetable garden there is a bed that is three feet wide running the length of the garden, giving me another 150 square feet to plant mostly flowers, I think.

My previous raised bed layout gave me only 492 square feet for planting, so this new layout, with 750 square feet, is an increase of a little over 250 square feet, which is over 50% more planting area.

If we don't get any rain for a day or two more, I think the garden will be dry enough to mound up those beds a bit and perhaps bring in some top soil or other amendments to "juice 'em up a little" for those heavy feeders, the vegetables. Really, vegetables are pigs when it comes to soil fertility. They want more, especially the corn.

But that's a topic for another day.

For now, I'll just keep repeating (close your ears and eyes, dear Texans), "Please no more rain on my vegetable garden until I have a chance to finish prepping it for planting."

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Star-of-Bethlehem Discovered in Woodland Follies

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- On a quiet afternoon, Ms. Carol M. Indygardener was tending to her garden, mostly marking out new beds in the vegetable garden, when she noticed  a pretty, white, almost shiny flower amidst a group of other spring blooms in the garden she likes to call Woodland Follies.

In a bit of a rush, Ms. Indygardener did not at first recognize the bloom but later confirmed its identity after consulting with several gardeners online.  Ms. M. A., author of the popular blog Gardens of the Wild, Wild West, was the first to correctly identify it as Star-of-Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum.

She also told Ms. Indygardener, "I hope you like it cuz you are never ever gonna see the end of it."

Ms. Indygardener was horrified when she found out the identity of the bloom. She recalled immediately the blog for the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historical Site and their yearly battle to remove this plant which has spread throughout the gardens for over 80 years.

She told reporters, "I don't know where this flower came from.  I've searched all the receipts for my bulb orders from last fall and don't see it listed. Really, I would never order it because even though I didn't recognize it at first, I knew when I found out what it was that it was an invasive plant."

Ms. Indygardener later shared information about how the Purdue University Extension Service describes Star-of-Bethlehem as an invasive weed, now growing in 91 of Indiana's 92 counties.  In fact, it is listed on their "Most Wanted" Invasive Plant Pest List.

Following a sleepness night in which she said she had nightmares about seductive, invasive plants, Ms. Indygardener went out at first light and dug up the one Star-of-Bethlehem plant. She noted that it was at first difficult to see, hiding amongst the other bulbs with its blooms all closed up.

But she found it and dug it up on the spot without hesitation.

"No invasive flower like Star-of-Bethlehem is taking over my newly designed gardens", she told reporters. As evidence of a hopefully successful removal, she took pictures of the plant shortly after she dug it up and right before she unceremoniously threw it in the trash.

There was some speculation amongst various authorities as to where the bulb for the Star-of-Bethlehem might have come from and how it ended up in Ms. Indygardener's Woodland Follies garden. The current theory is that one bulb of the Star-of-Bethlehem may have ended up in a package of other bulbs purchased last fall, and blended in enough that Ms. Indygardener did not notice it when she hurriedly planted bulbs before the ground froze.

Asked if she had any words of wisdom for other gardeners after her ordeal, Ms. Indygardener responded, "We must always remain vigilant in our gardens. If we see a plant that we don't recognize and don't remember planting, we should find out what it is, because it might be bad."

(Reprinted from The May Dreams Gardens Gazette, circulation unknown, mostly read by the garden fairies while sitting on their porches after a big dinner. One fairy usually reads the stories aloud to all the others.)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Guest Post: Garden Fairies on the Eve of Gardening Week

Garden fairies here! We are all in a dither and don't know quite what to make of this new turn of events here at May Dreams Gardens.

Normally, we garden fairies have to sneak around to get a chance to post on this blog, but tonight it appears like Carol actually wants us to post.

We are garden fairies! We do not do what people want us to do. We do what we want to do.

What we would like to do now is tell you about this new flower that showed up in the garden this spring. It's on a shrub! Well, that is not so unusual because there are many flowers on shrubs around here but we garden fairies have not seen this particular bloom before. We checked around with every garden fairy to see if any of them brought it to the garden, and no one did, so we think it appeared by magic!

We garden fairies are smart and know that this flower is on Calycanthus floridus, Carolina Allspice. We think if it wasn't brought in by a garden fairy or planted by magic, it must be one of those shrubs that the garden designer and her digging guy came and planted last fall.

Regardless of where it came from, we are garden fairies and we are all very excited to see it!

We garden fairies are also a little excited and a whole lot of afraid because next week is Carol's gardening vacation. Remember what happened last year when Carol took off to garden? Remember how Carol dug up all those plants and we garden fairies went running for the vegetable garden where we thought it would be safe? Well, all of us except for Ol' Tangle Rainbowfly, but you know that story. We are garden fairies, we won't repeat it.

We don't know what Carol has planned for this coming week, so we don't know whether to be scared or excited. But we are garden fairies so we've decided to be excited because we are garden fairies (did we mention that?) and if we are excited then we can organize a parade!

Yes! A spring parade around the garden!We'll each carry one of these Allium schoenoprasum flowers from the garden as we march around the big lawn.

But don't get too excited that someone will video tape the parade and put it on YouTube. We are garden fairies, we will not allow that. Plus, we are garden fairies so our parades are never organized into straight lines and formation. Our parades look more like garden fairies milling around holding various flowers.

If you want straight lines and formations, then you should come and see the vegetable garden after Carol plants it. She should win a prize for straight line planting. In fact, we hear tell that one of the reasons she hired a garden designer was because she planted everything in straight lines and it never looked quite right. The garden designer came in and added all kinds of curves to the garden and it really looks nice and curvy. We garden fairies approve wholeheartedly.

We garden fairies hope, by the way, that Carol does not expect us to post on this blog all week while she is out gardening and running around to all the garden centers. We are garden fairies! That is too much work for us. We are by nature lazy.

We especially do not want to post on the 15th for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. We are garden fairies and that is too big a post for us to write. We also think that Hortense Hoelove and Dr. Hortfreud should step it up and contribute this coming week, too. And we all want to hear more about the Old Woman at the Door. We are garden fairies! She fascinates us.

Oh, we garden fairies are running on a bit tonight with all this time at the keyboard. Let us just say in closing that the next time we post it will probably be to shame Carol into replanting our fairy garden. It is just a bunch of plants in pots right now.
She needs to fix our fairy garden -- during her gardening week -- or else! Don't test us, we are garden fairies!

Humbly submitted by,
Thorn Goblinfly, Chief Typist and Scribe for the Garden Fairies at May Dreams Gardens 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Precise Terms for Planting

To ensure we do not lead others astray unwittingly, we should be specific in our writing.

We should describe plants by their correct botanical names, refer to plant parts with accurate botanical terms and explain precisely how to place the plants in the environment in which they will grow.

While much instruction is written on the use of botanical names and botanical terms, very little information is available on how to describe the various methods of placing plants in the environment in which they will grow.

To fill in this gap of knowledge, I am offering to all…

The May Dreams Gardens Guide to Proper Terms for Describing the Placing of Plants in the Soil or Other Media In Which They Are Expected to Grow Using Only Words That Start With The Letter “P” with an Excessively Long Title Patterned After the Titles of Books Written in the Early Twentieth Century.

In alphabetical order, for ease of reference:

Placing: We place plants in the garden when we are giving them a trial run in a particular garden bed, often keeping them in their nursery containers until we decide if that is where we will ultimately put them. In addition, we place containers, planted with various plants, in the garden to fill in gaps or provide focal points.

Planting: We plant our plants when we are confident that we are putting them where they truly belong, perhaps because we have a garden design or landscape plan to follow.

Plopping: We plop plants in when we are placing the plants in a garden based on what we see in the garden at that very moment, hoping the plopped in plants will not grow taller than the plants behind them and won't crowd out those around them.

Plunking: We plunk plants in when we are putting them in a spot temporarily, perhaps in an official holding bed that we've created just so we can feel less guilt in acquiring plants we suddenly love but have no idea where we will plant them in our garden.

Putting: We put in a vegetable garden. Later, when we harvest the produce we will put up food from the garden for the winter. Yes, we put in a garden and put up food.

There are also precise terms that can be used to describe the removal of plants from the garden. These are particularly applicable to weeds and tiny seedlings. Again, in  alphabetical order,

Picking: We pick out little seedlings, generally by pinching them between our thumb and index finger and lifting them gently out of the soil.

Plucking: We pluck out weeds when we are able to remove them with one hand.

Prying: We pry out weeds when they are so deeply rooted that we must use a crowbar to remove the roots.

Pulling: We pull out weeds when we must use two hands to grasp the weed and pull them out with all our strength.

Note that while all the terms for removing plants from the garden are used in combination with the word “out”, it is not necessary to use the word “in” when using the terms for placing plants in the garden environment in which they will grow, unless you are “putting” them.

I hope this guide will be helpful to all in writing or speaking about gardening or for just describing your day in the garden.

And may all your days in the garden be full of placing, planting, plopping, plunking, and putting and may you have very little need for picking out, plucking out, and pulling out and absolutely no need for prying out.

This post sponsored by the garden fairies, especially Sweetpea Morningdew, who goes by the nickname “P”.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Truth About Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding heart... a sweet, romantic, old-fashioned flower.  For many gardeners, this may have been one of the first flowers that they learned the botanical name for.

Dicentra spectabilis.

An easy name to pronounce, even the most timid gardener, still unsure of her botanical names, might be willing to pronounce it out loud in front of other gardeners.

Dicentra spectabilis.

But this name is no more! Fellow gardeners, a tip of the hoe to Layanee of Ledge and Gardens for alerting me that the plant taxonomists changed the name of bleeding heart, now formerly Dicentra spectabilis, to...

Lamprocapnos spectabilis.

I can hear everyone saying it now... "Again?" "Why?" "How does this help?"

Ours is not to wonder why, ours is to remember both names because it is apparently taking awhile for those who sell bleeding hearts to catch up to this genus name change. It will likely be sold for years to come as Dicentra.   And no, it does not make you look smarter as a gardener to see it labeled as such at the garden center and announce to no one in particular, "Oh, look Lamprocapnos spectabilis! When will they catch up to its new name. Dicentra is its old name."

Nor will you look smart if you start in on how it is in the Fumiariaceae family, commonly called the fumitory family.

None of that will make you look smart at all because apparently, this name changed was published in 1997. How could we have missed it?

To find out more about this name change, I went down the rabbit hole and came up with some scholarly journals that made very little sense, but then took a turn somewhere and discovered the book Bleeding Hearts, Corydalis, and Their Relatives By Mark C. Tebbitt, Magnus Lidén, and Henrik Zetterlund (2008, Timber Press, $34.95).

Some of the content of this book appears online via Google books.  I've looked through enough of it that now I want my own copy. That's what happens sometimes in those ol' rabbit holes. You find stuff you didn't know existed and then you want it, just like that. Be forewarned should you decide to go down a rabbit hole yourself. If it is your first time, consider taking a guide with you.

I also want some more Lamprocapnos for my garden, such a sweet spring bloom, even though it is a fumitory from the Fumiariaceae family. It is easy to grow and asks for very little in the garden - partial to full shade, good soil, regular watering, and an occasional admiring glance at its unusual looking blooms. The one I have now is a passalong plant from my sister, the one who does not garden, which begs the question of how she had a plant that I took a start of for my own garden.

I'll leave that answer for another day and spend today committing Lamprocapnos to memory. It's about time, I'm 14 years behind!