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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Meanwhile in Ploppers' Field

Meanwhile, in Ploppers' Field, Lilium henryi mixes it up with two daylilies.

I think the pinkish orange daylily is 'Longstocking' and the purple one is 'Prince of Purple'.

I think.

Ploppers' Field is where I plop in plants that I have fallen madly for and have no other place to plant them.

In Ploppers' Field, there are just two primary factors considered for plant placement -- is there an empty spot where the plant will fit and will the new plant get taller than the plant in front of it.

Color, flower shape, compatibility with other plants nearby are secondary considerations or hardly considered at all.

It's a roulette wheel approach to planting. 

The wheel spins through the days -- April, May, June, and soon July.  Occasionally the wheel stops and it's "winner" for a few days, such as the few days I've been enjoying this combination, which makes me happy. 

Sometimes the roulette wheel stops and it is "loser", and  I make note that maybe I should move something and plop it elsewhere.  But usually I don't move anything. Those flowers fade, the wheel spins again and a few days later, there is another flower blooming, another combination to enjoy or not.

And so it goes through the days and seasons in Ploppers' Field.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Garden Invention Announced

Fellow gardeners,  inspiration struck in the garden recently and once again, I’ve proven that old gardeners can learn new tricks.

Tragedy has been turned into triumph.

I was out in the vegetable garden weeding one evening, pulling out handfuls of purslane, that awful, yes-I-know-it-is-edible-but-I-don’t-care, weed, when I tragically, inexplicably, absent-mindedly and quickly pulled my hand digging hoe through a row of tiny parsnip seedlings, wiping them out completely, removing them from the garden, once again.

As in, “once again” because this is the second time I’ve done this. “Once again”, oh what a phrase to have to use, to have to admit to!

Either I have it in for the parsnips, who never did me any harm, or I am not very astute when it comes to weeding, even though this is my 25th vegetable garden.

That’s right, this year's vegetable garden is my 25th vegetable garden.

I planted my first vegetable garden way back in 1987, when Ronald Reagan was president, before I had my first PC or knew about blogs or even had a thought of a digital camera to capture every moment of my garden. Way back then, it was just me, a plot of ground, some seeds and one hoe. One hoe! Those were the days! I was copying what I had learned from my own Dad when I gently and expectantly poked those seeds into the ground of my first vegetable garden. Sure, I made some mistakes, but I learned from them.

Starting this 25th garden, I am still learning and coming up with new methods, new ways, new ideas... So without further ado, fuss, or build up...

Ladies and gentlemen, gardeners young and old, experienced and inexperienced, educated and un-educated, may I present…

The Official May Dreams Gardens Row Markers

In between these two markers is a newly sown row of parsnips. Even I will surely not weed them out now, if I simply remember that in between these two markers is a newly sown row of parsnips.

In between these two markers…

The New and Improved Official May Dreams Gardens Row Markers!

Now with instructions!

They are practically fool proof now, but only time will tell for sure. I’m still testing them, figuring out if they are the right width, length, and if the instructions are clear. If these markers work as I hope, I'll end up with a nice row of parsnips.

Feel free to make your own markers, with or without writing, with or without arrows pointing to the actual row. And keep it mind that these markers work for other crops, too, including lettuce, onions, radishes, spinach, carrots, beans – basically anything you plant in a row in a vegetable garden...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Plant Spacing Personality Quiz

What kind of gardener are you?

Find out by taking the "Plant Spacing Personality Quiz".

Look at the picture of these two plants and answer this question:

"Are these two plants planted too close together"?

If you answered, "Yes, and which one is going to eventually claim this space as their own, my money is on the Helleborus", then you are a competitive gardener, one who likes to over plant and then stand back and see which plants win the battle for the garden.

If you answered, "Yes, now dig those up right now, separate them, and give them their own space", you are a practical gardener, one who likes for plants to be properly spaced and properly cared for, so they can properly display their best qualities, properly.

If you answered, "Cool, how did you do that",  you are an inquisitive gardener, who assumes that this was done on purpose and wish you had thought to do it in your own garden and you can't wait to try it in your garden.

If you answered, "How in the world did you violate the Pauli Exclusion Principle? I wouldn't believe it except I'm seeing it", then you are a geeky gardener who somehow relates everything, even unrelated scientific principles, to gardening.

If you answered, "Clearly garden fairies did this", then you are an imaginative gardener who sees beyond what is in the garden to what could be in the garden.

If you answered, "There are two plants there, I thought it was just one" then you are likely a naive gardener and I have some special, magic bean seeds to sell you.

If you answered, "It depends", then you are a conflicted gardener, who may need additional therapy, perhaps with Dr. Hortfreud, to help you work out whatever issues are keeping you from answering yes or no.

(Dr. Hortfreud is the author of this quiz and may use any and all answers for further research.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Night Lights and Light Pollution

Would anyone like to guess why I was out after dark taking pictures with a flash in my garden?

Was I just randomly taking pictures hoping that when I uploaded them and looked at them more closely, I would find evidence of garden fairies?

Had I suddenly become fascinated with the look of pictures taken in the dark with a flash?

 Was I trying to take pictures of fireflies lit up at night?

The answers are maybe no, no, and maybe, though I will not admit to the third one or the first one.

As soon as I was outside in the garden in the dark with my camera watching as little fireflies occasionally flew by and lit up for just a second, I realized that I would need far more patience, far more time, and far more skill to even hope to capture a picture of a firefly lit up in the garden.

I did happen to take a picture of this one which landed on my truck while I was standing there at dusk.

Firefly on truck.

Fireflies provide as much light as anything else in my garden when they appear in early summer. I do not have any landscape lighting, other than a porch light and some flood lights on the corner of the house that I only turn on when I am mowing at dusk. Most people would not call those lights "landscape lighting". They don't up-light any trees, illuminate the path through Woodland Follies, or cast interesting shadows on the house.

I did notice while out mowing after dark the other night that going from the dark of the far side of the lawn into the light of the floodlights near the house can be a bit disorienting when you do it every few minutes. It takes a minute to adjust to seeing in the bright light when you enter it from a dark corner, and then it takes just as long to orient to the dark when you move away from the light.

This all reminded me of a comment about light pollution that Rosalind Creasy made when she spoke in Indianapolis last fall. She said landscape lighting is causing issues for insects, birds, bats, and other wildlife. I didn't know much about light pollution then, and I don't profess to know much about it now.  Doing a very quick search online, I found an article from National Geographic on light pollution with some basic information. I suspect there is probably a lot more information to be found that would shed light on this subject (pun intended, perhaps).

For the time being, I've decided that after all these years with no landscape lighting, I'm in no hurry to add lighting to my newly designed garden. I'm content to let the dark be dark, at least as dark as it can be, here on the edge of the city.

After all, there are birds, bunnies, bugs, bats, and perhaps a garden fairy or two out in the garden who probably appreciate the dark more than the light, so I want to make sure they have some dark here in my garden, to encourage them to stay.

(Did I just write that I wanted to encourage bunnies to stay here?)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Garden Fairies Guest Post: Mowing in the Gloaming

Garden fairies here! We have some stuff to write about, and we are garden fairies so we are going to do just that.

You will never believe what Carol did on the longest day of the year. By the way, we are garden fairies and the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, is one of our favorite days of the year. We have a big party to celebrate, starting just as soon as it starts to get dark, in the gloaming, as we call it. “Gloaming” – look it up and you’ll see that it is a magical time right before the sun really sets and night begins.

Anyway, we were going to tell everyone something. What was it? We are garden fairies… no, we already wrote that.

Oh wait, now we remember! We are garden fairies and we were getting ourselves ready to start our celebrations for the summer solstice when all of a sudden, we hear Carol mowing the lawn – in the gloaming! We are garden fairies and we did not like this. Why was she mowing so late? Oh, right, something about she kept thinking it was going to rain and it didn’t rain, so finally at about 9 pm she started to mow the lawn and she finished IN THE DARK at 10 pm.

Well, we are garden fairies, and we were concerned that Carol would accidently run into a garden fairy or a tree or something out there mowing in the dark, so we organized a bunch of fireflies, or lightning bugs as some people call them, to fly in front of her to light the way.

We think she liked that so we were glad to have done it for her.

The lightning bugs, or fireflies, are important friends of the garden fairies. We like to invite them to our parties so they can provide the lights. We are garden fairies; we supply the fun and merriment. It works well, all have a good time.

By the way, lightning bugs or fireflies are neither true bugs nor flies, they are beetles, members of the Order of Coleoptera. True bugs are members of the Order of Hemiptera, and flies are members of the Order of Diptera. These Orders are not the same as those fraternities like the Loyal Order of the Moose. We are garden fairies, we don’t know what those are all about, but we do know that insects have their own Orders, too, and are willing to take orders from the garden fairies, which they did last night when we ordered them to help light the way for Carol to finish mowing the lawn.

Everyone likes the lightning bug beetles by the way. They would not hurt a flea, of the Order Siphonaptera, but everyone hates Japanese beetles which really are beetles. Carol saw a Japanese beetle yesterday and she, well, we don’t want to say what she did or what she said, because we are garden fairies and it wasn’t nice, and we don’t repeat things like that. We’ll let Carol write about that later.

Anyway, back to the lightning bugs and us garden fairies giving them orders. Who are we kidding? We are garden fairies. No one obeys our orders. We just asked the fireflies in a very nice garden fairy way, promised them some special garden fairy spirit water when they were done and it was a done deal... we are garden fairies!

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday - Court is now in session

Court is now in session!

Ladies and gentleman of the jury of the Superior Court of Gardening Crimes, have you reached a verdict?

Your honor, we have! 

We find this flower, Hemerocallis fulva, which also goes by the alias "ditch lily" and occasionally "tiger lily", guilty on the count of proliferating itself throughout the country making it appear to be a native wildflower.  The evidence is clear that it is from Asia!


We also find this flower guilty of making a nuisance of itself by become an invasive plant in some areas!


Thank you, members of the jury.  Do you have a recommendation for sentencing?

Your honor, we do.

Please proceed.

For the first count of imitating a native wildflower, we hereby banish it from our gardens.  For the second count on becoming an invasive species, we hereby recommend that it be thrown out with the trash, and not be taken to the compost pile.

Members of the jury, the court thanks you for your service and accepts this verdict and sentencing.   Gardeners, please proceed as instructed by the court to remove this plant at once from your garden and throw it in the trash.

This court is adjourned!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The May Dreams Gardens Board of Directors Met and...

The Board of Directors for May Dreams Gardens recently met to review a full agenda of decisions, actions, ideas, and reports.

Members of the Board who were present included Hortense Hoelove, Dr. Hortfreud, Thorn Goblinfly, The Old Woman at the Door and Carol.

One of the first items on the agenda was how many votes Thorn thought she should have. She claimed to be representing so many garden fairies that she wanted extra votes to ensure their interests would be well represented. It was agreed by a vote of 4 to 1 that Thorn should have just one vote like everyone else.

The board also agreed by general affirmation that Carol should remain as Chairwoman of the Board. They tabled the motion that a representative of the rabbits should be permitted to join the Board, but agreed that the garden designer and hort enabler had helped to make tremendous improvements in the garden and should be retained in the future as needed.

In other business of the boring kind, the Board discussed how often each member should post on the blog and if in general, they should all post less frequently. There was quite a bit of discussion before it was decided that no matter what the Board decided, Carol should make sure to finish the third play, Life of a Perennial: A One Act Play, and post it as soon as it was completed.

She should then turn her attention to outside projects which might mean less posting in general, but for a greater good.

Finally, after a review of the top secret financial reports and general blog statistics, the Board got around to more exciting topics like what should be done in The Shrubbery where a shrub, to wit Viburnum prunifolium,  had completely run amok sending suckers out several feet in all directions.

Many options were discussed ranging from a reprimand to complete removal from the garden. Some argued that complete removal seemed a bit harsh, while others said the Board members were fools to think that reprimanding a plant would have any effect whatsoever. Carol reminded the Board that she had given the Viburnum a chance by pruning it up last summer to make it look better.

It was also pointed out that the shrub that the Chairwoman wanted to plant in place of the Viburnum, Cottinus coggygria ‘Ancot’ (Golden Spirit), might also sucker, but Carol’s response was, “At least it would be a plant I love.” This caused quite a bit of discussion as heretofore, Carol had declared to the garden designer that she would never have a Cottinus coggygria at May Dreams Gardens.

At that point, Thorn reminded the group of the first secret to achieving happiness in your garden, namely, grow the plants you love. Did Carol really love the Cotinus as much as she said she did?

A motion was made by Dr. Hortfreud that Carol should remove all the suckers from the Viburnum and generally clean it up a bit to see if that put it back in her good graces. Motion was seconded by Hortense Hoelove and passed by a vote of 3 -1 with Thorn abstaining.  The Board also gave their permission by general acclimation that Carol could her remove the Viburnum from the garden if pruning did not help.

Following this discussion, the Board tabled all other matters and adjourned to begin preparations for the first day of summer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Anticipating, Waiting, Hoping, Planning

Anticipating... a fabulous candelabra of blooms on this lily, any day now.

Waiting... for a thunderstorm to roll through, any time now.

Hoping... that the lily withstands the wind and rain and stays upright when it blooms.

Planning...  to prop it back up if it doesn't stay upright.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Open Auditions for "Life of a Perennial"

After the smashing success of

Life of a Marigold: A One Act Play


Life of a Hollyhock: A One Act Play

Open auditions are now taking place for the upcoming tri-quel:

Life of a Perennial: A One Act Play

Okay, perennials, please line up and as we call your number, please present yourself at center stage, state your name, and then tell us a little about yourself.

No. 1
State your name, please:


Daylily? Is that it? No variety name? You look familiar... you aren't 'Stella d'Oro' are you?

Oh, no. I'm not Stella! She's my cousin. Unfortunately, there was a tragic accident and my label got lost and so I just go by Daylily.


No. 2

State you name, please.

Veronica spicata 'Royal Candles'.

What have you got for us?

Well, I'm not as tall as a lot of perennials, and I may not bloom off and on all summer, but I think my blue color is just the best don't you?

Yes, what's left of it. We'll let you know if we need you to come back.


No. 3
State your name.

Clematis triternata 'Rubromarginata' but my friends call me Fairy Vine.

Fairy Vine? Well, you are lovely and sweet, but to be honest, we were thinking of more of a well, non-vining flower. If we decide to cast for Life of a Vine, and there is a good chance we will depending on how Life of a Perennial goes, we'll give you call.


No. 4
State your name, please.

Heliopsis helianthoides 'Lorraine Sunshine'.

Wow, interesting leaves you have there. Hey wait a minute! What is going on there on your flower? This is not that kind of a show!


No. 5
State your name.

Echinacea purpurea.

Okay, what have you got for us today?

Well, I grow just about everywhere, I'm a native flower and I come in many colors. Plus, the birds love my seeds and I have winter interest!

Interesting. Anything else.

Hmmm... I know! I can cure the common cold!

Nice, but we are putting on a play here, not curing the sick.


No. 6
Your name, please.


Just Daisy?

Well, really I'm Leucanthemum vulgare, but that's not the prettiest name so I prefer just Daisy.

What can you do?

I can make predictions!

Next group, please!

Auditions are still open for Life of a Perennial!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2011

Diervilla lonicera
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for June 2011.

I feel like the garden is pausing momentarily between spring and summer here in USDA Hardiness Zone 5b. There are blooms but it doesn't seem quite as wild as spring did.

Diervilla lonicera, northern bush honeysuckle, is blooming in the front garden, attracting bees and other pollinators. This native shrub is a new shrub in my garden, planted last year as part of the garden re-design.  

Also blooming in the front garden is Triteleia 'Rudy', Ithuriel's Spear.

Triteleia 'Rudy'
Behind it is Heuchera 'Mocha'.

On the side of the house, tucked out of the way where it can't hurt anyone, Opuntia sp. cactus is ready to bloom.
People are surprised that cactus are hardy in Indiana, but here is proof that some are.

On the other side of the house, I still have common ditch lilies, Hemerocallis fulva, blooming.
Hemerocallis fulva
I plan to eventually pull these out and replant something nicer here, but eventually hasn't arrived yet. Perhaps I will dig them up once they finish blooming in a week or so?

In the back, in Ploppers' Field, the first of the daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) just started to bloom. This particular one is 'Longstocking', I think.

Hemerocallis 'Longstocking'
It is either an unusual form (UF) or a spider type daylily. I'm trying to buy just those types because I like them better than the other types and it gives me focus when I see the 50,000 varieties of daylilies available.

Yes, I also still have 'Stella D'Oro' blooming in my garden.
Hemerocallis 'Stella D'Oro'
Our break up isn't going very well.

Nearby, one of the first of the lilies is blooming.

Lilium cerneum
It is possibly Lilium cerneum. Possibly.

What else is blooming? Well, clematis is blooming, including Clematis x triternata 'Rubromarginata', which I have given the common name Fairy Vine.

Clematis x triternata 'Rubromarginata'
And larger clematis are also blooming, including this "name forgotten and tag lost" (NFTL) clematis.

It's actually blooming in the vegetable garden along the fence where I plan to grow more flowers and clematis. (Don't remind me that I haven't planted those flowers yet!)

Over in the high summer garden, known as August Dreams Garden, some flowers including Helenium 'Mardi Gras' are confused and have started to bloom now.

Helenium 'Mardi Gras'
It's not supposed to bloom until August. Perhaps it is confused because early June felt like August with record setting and near record setting high temperatures? I'm going to cut off the blooms on two of the three plants now and see if the plants bush out as a result, increasing the blooms of August. I suspect I should have done that in May, when I cut back asters and mums.

Finally, I would like to make note of one other bloom that I think is keeping the rabbits out of my vegetable garden.  It is one of their favorite foods and I'm more than happy to grow it for them if it means they will leave the green beans in the garden for me.  May I present...


Clover for the rabbits
Is this the new secret weapon in my on going, years long battle with rabbits?

Time will tell, as it always does in a 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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Garden Fairies' Guest Post - Vegetable Garden Update

Garden fairies here!

We are garden fairies and we are going to give you an update on the vegetable garden here at May Dreams Gardens!

Honestly, we were quite worried this past week because it was so hot and Carol was not out in the garden as much as she really should be in June. In her absence we noticed weeds getting taller and braver and covering more and more ground in the vegetable garden especially.

We are garden fairies, we were concerned because as you all know, we think of the vegetable garden as our sanctuary and we like it be much nicer than it was getting to be.

Carol finally showed up early Sunday morning with her hoes so we knew she meant business. Good bye, weeds! See you later, don't let the sun dry you out in the compost bin! Carol got your roots? Ha! We are garden fairies, we can taunt the weeds if we want to, and we do want to! Up and down the rows, Carol worked most of the morning. Then with just ten feet of one row left to do, she up and quit!

But we are garden fairies, we did not panic. We noticed that she left the hoes and a rake out in the garden so we knew she would be back! And she did come back and finished the job later in the day.

Then, and this next thing that happened we were not expecting, she used some leftover retaining wall blocks to make a nice border for what we can only presume will be a place to plant some flowers in the vegetable garden. We are garden fairies, we like that.

We did not like that Carol misplaced her precious hand digging hoe at one point. She went round and round the garden, up and down the rows looking for it, blaming us garden fairies for its disappearance. We are garden fairies, we took umbrage!

Then without warning, just as we were thinking we were going to have to step in and tell Carol that she left her precious hand digging hoe on top of the compost tumbler, you will never guess what happened.

We are garden fairies and we saw the whole thing as though it was happening in slow motion but it probably only took about two seconds. That Carol was so intent on finding her precious hand digging hoe that she wasn't keeping track of where she was in the garden and Boom! she stepped right down into a big ol' post hole. Then quicker than a garden fairy can disappear, she pulled her leg out, shook it off, and proceeded to look for her precious hand digging hoe.

We are garden fairies, we do not like for anyone to get hurt, so we were happy when Carol got up from that dumb fall and kept going. Really, she should be more careful. Every gardener should be. Accidents can happen faster than you can step down in to a post hole! Anyway, we are garden fairies, as you know, so after that, we managed to get Carol to look over to the compost tumbler where she finally saw her precious hand digging hoe. Good thing, too, because she needed it to finish up that nice flower border edge.

In other news related to the vegetable garden, the tomato plants are big enough that Carol had to sucker them and tie them up, the peppers have grown out of that "just planted" funk, and the corn, beans, okra, squash, and cucumbers are all up and growing. Oh, and some of the lettuce and radishes bolted in the heat last week so we made Carol pull all those out. We like our vegetable garden nice and neat, we are garden fairies, after all!

Now, if we can just get Carol to plant the flowers and a few other types of vegetables...

We are garden fairies, we are up to the challenge!

Submitted by Thorn Goblinfly,
Chief Scribe, Garden Fairies of May Dreams Gardens

P.S We are very excited that Carol planted a little Fairy Vine in the garden last year and this year it is blooming. We are garden fairies, we want to show our appreciation! For doing this, we are going to give Carol one day in the garden with no fairy mischief for her to worry about. But we are garden fairies, so we are not going to say which day we are going to do this.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Clematis scampering through the sedum

On the twelfth day of June, Clematis x triternata 'Rubromarginata', scampers around and through tall sedum.

I always wanted to have a little vine scamper through a garden, without looking like an invasion the way field bindweed would look, but looking very sweet and innocent like this little clematis looks.

I wondered how people got this to happen in their gardens, and as is generally the case, it is all about "right plant, right place,"

The blooms are supposed to smell like vanilla, but they didn't smell like anything early in the morning.

I realize that having a clematis scamper through and around other plants is not something that every gardener would like. I also realize that this isn't really a small or little vine. It is capable of growing 10 - 12 feet which means it could cover a lot of garden. But "little" comes to mind because of the dainty little flowers and the lacy, lightweight feeling of the vine.

It's not smothering the tall sedum, it is scampering through it.

I looked for this clematis's common name and when I found it, I didn't much care for it, so I'm going to give it the common name "Fairy Vine".  Does anyone think this name will catch on?

For those gardeners who think this Fairy Vine looks like a mess, who wonder why I did not provide a proper trellis for my Fairy Vine, I did manage to find a bit of order amongst the randomness of blooms.

Three little Clematis x triternata 'Rubromarginata' flowers all in a row, which brings to mind a story.

Once upon a time, there were three little flowers on a Fairy Vine, all in a row....

Thursday, June 09, 2011

You Might Be A Gardening Geek: Garage Sale Edition

The clay pots are not for sale.
You might be a gardening geek at a garage sale if…

You go to a sale, see garden tools hanging on the wall and ask if they are for sale, even though clearly they are not. Bonus points if you have your own garage sale and hide your garden tools and hoes so that no one asks if they are for sale or stares because they have never seen so many garden tools in one garage.

You refuse to sell any of your gardening tools at a garage sale. Bonus points if you have a crappy trowel that is hard to hold, doesn’t dig very well, and you never use it, but you refuse to try to sell it because if a new gardener bought it, tried it, and it didn’t work well for them either, and then he or she gave up on gardening entirely, you’d never forgive yourself.

You have people return to your house a month after the neighborhood garage sale that you weren’t home for to find out what the name of the tree is in your front yard because they saw it flowering and wanted one for themselves. Bonus points if you gave them both the botanical name and the common name and then recommended at least two garden centers that might have it.

You spotted a plant you didn’t recognize at a garage sale and asked the homeowner what it was. Bonus points if they didn’t know the name of the plant so you asked if you could snip a tiny spring of it off to take home to identify. Subtract bonus points if you pinched off a piece of the plant without asking.

You once sold canna roots or dahlia roots at an early spring garage sale. Bonus points if you included written instructions on how to care for them.

You would never sell any of your clay pots at a garage sale, no matter how many you had. Bonus points if you even keep the broken clay pots because you can further break them into pieces to help fill in the bottom of other clay pots when you actually plant something in one of them.

You  purchased something at a garage sale that was not originally intended to be used in a garden and then you used it in your garden.

You never sell old t-shirts, shorts or jeans at a garage sale because you wear them to garden in until they are no longer decent or are so dirt stained that no one else would wear them. 

And finally, you might be a gardening geek at a garage sale if…

You were going to have a garage sale, but then when the day came, you realized it was the perfect day for gardening so you ditched the garden sale and spent the day in your garden.

(This is the 26th gardening geek post with a list of clues that you might be a gardening geek. If you'd like to read others, click on the gardening geek tag.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Remove it from your garden

Many gardeners have it in their gardens.  They may speak often of it. They may speak emphatically of it.  They are passionate regarding it.

I had it in my garden, many different kinds of it. But I've slowly gotten rid of it.

"It" is "Never".

I will never have junipers in my garden.

I now have Juniperus chinensis 'Etgozam' Eternal Gold™ in my garden because I wanted something that would take full sun, be evergreen throughout the year and had a yellowish tint to it. Other evergreens fried in the full sun, but these junipers love it.

I will never have arborvitaes in my garden.

I now have Thuja occidentalis 'Holmstrup' waiting to be planted on a corner by the sunroom where I need a tall, narrow evergreen accent.

I will never have tall grasses in my garden.

I now have Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah' forming a nice stand, blocking the view of the necessary utility boxes in my front yard.

Yep, I have removed "never" from my garden and replaced it with some beautiful plants, well-suited to their locations, and growing much better than "never" ever did.

I give credit to my garden designer and the hort-enabler for their bravery in making suggestions I would not normally consider, as we sat at my kitchen table and reviewed designs and plant lists.  When they suggested something to plant instead of  "never", they would pause, look at me, and wait for me to realize that their suggestion was better than "never".

Now, "never" doesn't grow in my garden. I weed it out whenever I see it.  I'm even contemplating buying some Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit' even though I said I would never have a smokebush in my garden and emphatically told the garden designer so when she suggested a red-leaf variety.

Never grow "never" in your garden. You'll be surprised at the beautiful and interesting plants that can be grown in its place.

Monday, June 06, 2011

New bloom leads to Milton's Paradise Lost

Triteliea 'Rudy'
I can not tell a lie. Not with Triteleia ‘Rudy’ beginning to bloom in my garden.

I’ll admit when I first saw Triteleia’s blue and white striped bloom, I did not know what it was, but after the whole Star-of-Bethlehem scare earlier this spring, the sight of it sent me straight to the lists of bulbs I ordered last fall to find out what it could be.

Narcissus? Tulipa? Iris? Nope, nope, nope…


Yes, that’s it!

I had never heard of Triteliea before I ordered it and then I forgot I ordered it. I must have been taken in by its picture. And that’s the truth. It has to be the truth because I found out that Triteleia’s common name is Ithuriel’s Spear.

When I looked up Ithuriel’s Spear, it led me to this quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost:

“Him [i.e. Satan], thus intent Ithuriel with his spear
Touched lightly; for no falsehood can endure
Touch of celestial temper, but returns
Of force to its own likeness.”

Milton: Paradise Lost, iv 810-813.

I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole of Paradise Lost, but many references point out that “the slightest touch of Ithuriel’s Spear exposes deceit”. In Paradise Lost, Ithuriel is an angel sent by Gabriel to the Garden of Eden to expose Satan. The National Forest Service has a nice write up about Triteleia laxa, if you would like to read more about this native California and Oregon wildflower and the reference to Paradise Lost.

I did, of course, go down the rabbit hole of plant taxonomy to discover that Triteleia is one of those plants that is “problematic” to botanists and could be placed in the Asparagaceae, Liliaceae, or Alliaceae plant families.

I think most botanists place it in Asparagaceae now. But what does it matter, except to botanists? It is not as though you are going to call up your gardening friends to debate this because as soon as you run the debate through to whatever logical or illogical conclusion gives you an answer that everyone may or may not agree with, the botanists will likely change the family again.

(Notice I didn't question that you would want to debate it, but why you would debate it.)

I reached down and touched Ithuriel’s Spear earlier this evening before I knew what it was, which is why I remain convinced that any lie I might even consider telling now would be exposed.

I’ve gone from not knowing what this flower is to feeling like I must be truthful around it.

Ithuriel’s Spear, growing in my garden now, is nature’s own truth serum.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Old Woman at the Door Returns: Part 2

"Come and walk with me over here, but be quiet as you walk."

With that the old woman tiptoed quietly across the vegetable garden to a large snowball bush that had been growing for years on the southeast corner of the garden.  Pointing down at the base she rather excitedly exclaimed, "Did you see that rabbit go under there?"

I hadn't seen any rabbit but didn't want to admit it, so I offered a meek yes. She turned and faced me again and said, "I think that was Bountiful Bunny."

Up to this point, I had assumed that Bountiful Bunny was a figment of my imagination, but as I stood there with the old woman, I couldn't help but wonder what was real and what I was imagining.

"Let's go sit over here in the shade, Carol, and I'll tell you what I really came to talk about this morning."

As we sat down in two chairs in the shade, the old woman turned toward me, laid her hand gently on my arm and began to speak as I listened intently.

"Carol, I think your garden really came to life the day you let the garden designer and hort-enabler come and see it.  It's shaping up nicely and even though there are still weeds and large areas to plant, trust me, it is only going to get better. I think you are happier with your garden now, too, since they came and since the garden designer helped you implement a real garden plan."

I nodded my head in agreement as she continued.

"Awhile back you wrote that one of the secrets to happiness in your garden was to share your garden.  A lot of what you wrote for that secret was about sharing the plants and vegetables from the garden, along with one's knowledge of gardening. You sort of glossed over the part about letting others see your garden.   Now I'm here to tell you that once you share your garden, as in truly let others come through your gate and see your garden and walk freely through it, your garden will be more alive, more full, and more vibrant than you can ever imagine.  You should really go back and re-write that secret to emphasize that."

As I pondered what she had just told me, the old woman got up, dusted off her pants, and said, "It's time for me to go, but before I do, I'd like to thank you for sharing your garden with me today, even with the weeds in the flower beds and the vegetable garden, the empty pots and tools strewn around the patio, the half-built retaining wall, and the edges of the beds not being quite as sharp as you'd probably like them to be.

"It is still a pretty garden with a good framework and a lot of beauty." 

Before I had a chance to wonder how she saw all of that in my garden in the short time she was here, the old woman headed out through the garden gate, walked around toward the front of the house and disappeared once again.  I was glad she had returned, happy to get her advice, but still filled with questions.

Exactly who was she, why did she seem so familiar and when would she return?

The Old Woman at the Door Returns

I went out to the garden early one morning and was startled to find the old woman, whom I generally refer to as the "old woman at the door", sitting on the boulder in the vegetable garden.

She had on her usual attire. This time it was olive green cargo pants, a minty green t-shirt that didn't quite match, and her gardening hat, which bore a striking resemblance to mine, though hers was older and more beat up.

I just assumed that when or if she returned, she'd always go to the front door and knock, but I suppose as we became more comfortable with one another she felt it was okay to just show up and go straight out to the garden.

After all, though there is a gate into the garden, it is never locked.

"I hope I didn't startle you", she said.

"Not really."

"I thought you might have come out here earlier," she said in a tone that was almost admonishing. "You know you are missing the best part of the day in the garden when you don't come out early in the morning, early enough to notice the sun rising."

"I know," I said, "but it isn't even 7 am!"

"That's okay," she said, "I didn't really come here to scold you about not getting out to the garden earlier in the day, I came to..."

In mid sentence, her gaze shifted from me to something behind me. As I turned to see what she was looking at, she got up and commanded, "Come and walk with me over here."

She said it in a tone that left me no choice but to do as she asked.

To be continued...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Life of a Hollyhock: A One Act Play

Life of a Hollyhock
A One Act Play
Carol M.

Cast of Characters

Hollyhock ………………………… A simple biennial flower
Thorn Goblinfly ………………….... A simple little garden fairy
Various flowers. …………………... A variety of blooming flowers

TIME: Summer
SETTING: A garden


(We see a few leaves growing in the garden, surrounded by blooming flowers.)

(All chattering at once)
Hey Hollyhock. Where are your blooms? Look at me! I’m so pretty blooming now! Really, what’s that problem, Hollyhock, why aren't you blooming? What’s a matter, Holly-hock? Nature got your flower? Come on, get with the blooming program here or get out of the garden!


Stop that! You know I’m a biennial. We don’t usually bloom the first year our seeds germinate. We need time to grow a strong root system because when we do bloom the second year, watch out! You’ll all be amazed then. Just you wait and see!

(Light fades slowly, emulating the setting sun.)


(A spotlight shines on a hollyhock in full bloom as it turns and faces the audience.)
Hollyhock by Dee, Red Dirt Ramblings


(A soliloquy).  Just look how tall I am! I tower over all the flowers now. Now I’m the show and they are merely a backdrop. We go through this every two years. I’m a biennial. I don’t bloom the first year, I bloom the second year. I’m not a biannual. Biannual means twice a year. It’s b-i-e-n-n-i-a-l, rhymes with “perennial”. And please, do not call us outhouse flowers. We deserve a whole lot more respect, if not for ourselves, but for our entire family tree!

After all, if it wasn’t for our relatives of the Gossypium genus that like to grow down south, where old times aren't forgotten, all the gardeners around here would be walking around in wool or polyester, or maybe even nekkid if it was really hot outside. Oh, you know the Gossypium’s! Most go by the name cotton.

And then there is Hibiscus esculentus in our family tree. That’s okra, but you smart gardeners in the audience knew that. Did we mention Hibiscus? Why yes, we did. There are all kinds of Hibiscus in our family tree, Malvaceae.

But probably the most famous and beloved member of our family tree, one that the botanists recently added to Malvaceae, one that is more famous and beloved than cotton, okra, and hibiscus flowers, combined, is Theobroma cacao, from which you all get chocolate. Now we have your attention!

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


(The lights come back up in the garden, and we see a garden fairy scurry about in the wind and rain.)
Photo by Leslie of Growing A Garden In Davis


Oh dear! Oh my! Oh goodness! What are we garden fairies going to do! We are garden fairies and there is a storm coming. We need to do something to save the hollyhocks! Save the Hollyhocks! They are so big and tall. Look at some of those double-flowering hollyhocks! They are so top heavy. Why aren’t they staked? Lazy gardeners! Save the Hollyhocks! That big ol’ storm is going to knock them down. Henry Mitchell was right! Hollyhocks attract these storms with their tall blooms. They do! They must! Oh dear! Oh my! We are garden fairies and those bloom stalks are so tall. Save the Hollyhocks!

(A loud clap of thunder is heard and a blinding light fills the stage, then immediately fades to black.)

Photo by Mary Ann of Gardens of the Wild, Wild West.
(The lights come back up and we see Hollyhock again, blooming in the garden.)


Is it over? Is it safe to look? That was quite a storm. Is everyone okay? Can I get a bloom stalk count here? One, two, three… I think I’ve accounted for everyone. I reckon if Thorn Goblinfly and her merry band of garden fairies hadn’t come along when they did, we would all be flat on the ground. All hail the garden fairies! They can use some of our flowers to make hollyhock dolls. After all, we have plenty of seeds. In fact, some of our seeds will germinate later this summer and then they’ll bloom next year in this same spot!

(Light gradually fades as the main hollyhock and all the other hollyhocks break out into a chorus of song.)


Many thanks to Mary Ann of Gardens of the Wild, Wild West, Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings, and Leslie of Growing a Garden in Davis who provided set design, costumes, and make up for the various hollyhocks, Alcea sp). Oh, okay, they provided pictures, but I had more fun saying they provided set design, costumes, and make up.