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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Garden Design Update: Garden Gate

I've always liked the idea of entering the vegetable garden via a gate.

With a gate, the garden feels more like an enclosure, a sanctuary, a quiet retreat separate from the rest of the yard.  I imagined opening the gate, going into the garden, and having the gate close behind me, as though I'd entered a room. 

With my vegetable garden already surrounded on three sides by a privacy fence, and then closed off half way across on the open side by a grape arbor, all I really needed was a gate and something to close off the other half of the open side, to complete my dream.

Today, I got the gate, built and installed by a local craftsman.  It is one of a kind, made of cedar.

It's exactly what I imagined.

To the right is the grape arbor, as impenetrable as any fence, meaning that of course rabbits can freely run through it, but I can't. I have to go through the gate.

On the other side of the gate, there's a small shrub planted next to the gate to mirror a shrub on the other side that was already there. The rest of that border will be filled with red and gold raspberries, already planted this spring.  I'll run wires between those posts to hold up the raspberry canes and then no one can walk through there, either, except of course, the rabbits.

(Yes, the grass is that dry. We might be setting a record for the driest July on record, though we did get some rain last night.  And even if we don't set a record for driest July, we may well set a record in five days for most number of consecutive 90 F or above days in a row.)

But forget the hot days, the lack of rain... I've got a gate now!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I can explain, maybe

I've received several suggestions to clarify all the guest bloggers and people (personas) I write about here on my blog. I am happy to oblige and intend over the next few days to create a separate page to explain who all is here and provide some background information on them.

I'll attempt, as best I can, to provide a history for Thorn Goblinfly, chief scribe for the garden fairies. I'll need to interview her, if she's even talking to me by then. She still has not gotten over my leaving the hot, humid, record setting weather of Indianapolis for the cool of Seattle, even though I was only gone for a few days.

I don't help my case for mending the rift with Thorn when I post pictures like this one from The Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.
Click to enlarge to see evidence of garden fairies
If there was a "garden fairy detector meter thingie", it would have gone wild at this spot, where clearly there were garden fairies. Clearly.  Thorn would admittedly love it there, and I like to think she was there in spirit. She's not buying the "there in spirit" thing, by the way, because she's a garden fairy as she likes to remind people over and over and over again when she posts.

In addition to Thorn, I may list off a few other garden fairies who have at least been written about here, including Ol' Rainbow Tanglefly and Sweetpea Morningdew.

Dr. Hortfreud has also agreed to provide some history and list her credentials as a gardenerapist.  It will be nice to turn the tables and have her explain to me what's on her mind rather than me spilling my guts to her, yet again.

She very much approved of this reflecting pool at The Bloedel Reserve.
Reflecting pool at The Bloedel Reserve
I've never before encountered a garden spot like this one where I immediately felt it necessary to whisper so as not to disturb the peace around me.   I need to discuss with Dr. Hortfreud why that is.

I'll also write about Hortense Hoelove in a Q&A format because that's what she's requested.  It is always best to do things Hortense's way because, well, it just is.

If she shows up and I can talk to her without her disappearing on me the minute my back is turned, I'll also explain who The Old Woman at the Door really is, though regular readers have already figured it out. Here's a picture of her holding a hand digging hoe, if you need a clue.
Someone should wear gloves in the garden.
I won't forget to include Gloriosa Vanderhort, my new stylist who is rather appalled at the state of the hand holding that hoe. Filthy! Though Gloriosa (yes, like the daisy) Vanderhort (yes, like the designer) is new around here, I think she'll fit in well with the others.

Have I left anyone out? Oh, wait, there are those darn rabbits! I think someday I'll create a special page just for them because there seem to be quite a few of them and they are multiplying as rabbits do. Yes, they need a separate page.

Once I have these pages set up, it will be easy to say "I can explain" to new readers who must wonder sometimes what is going on here at May Dreams Gardens. I wonder myself, sometimes. The pages will answer all, or at least some, of the questions.

There's also the possibility that they will include some other personas not yet featured in any posts. 

And as a bonus, I may finally explain what the Green Bandana Garden Club is all about.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comparisons and Thank You's

It's inevitable. We all do it.

We go someplace else, maybe a different climate, a different hardiness zone. We look around and it is green and lush and the sky is blue and they've had some rain. We begin to wonder to ourselves. Could it actually be better to garden someplace else other than where we garden?

Welcome to Seattle, destination for the fourth garden bloggers fling!

Let the comparisons begin...

The hostas in Seattle look like this:
Hostas in the Epping Garden, Seattle

And my hostas at home, burned from the hot sun and lack of rain, look like this:
"Nice hosta seeks gardener who will water more."
The ferns on Bainbridge Island look like this:
Ferns in The Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island
My ferns look like this:

(Picture left out intentionally because the ferns look worse than the hostas.)

My sweet peas are fading fast and only reached about 18 inches tall at their peak.  The sweet peas all over Seattle, including these in the garden of Lorene Edwards Forkner look like this.

How do they get so big and stay so fresh so late into July?

I think the formula is cool weather and frequent rain.

It's paradise, we think, during our four days in Seattle. We laugh. We forget that back home it is hot and dry. We hope someone is watering our gardens for us. We ooh and ahh over all the green gardens of Seattle and wish we could garden there, or have a climate like Seattle's in our garden.

But then we find out there are plants that they can't grow, or grow easily. Shocking, but it's true! 

Squash, for example, gives them fits. My spaghetti squash is taking over in one corner of the garden, even without rain every day or every other day.

Spaghetti squash vine takes over the garden
They have to tuck their squash in with glass bottles filled with water to collect the heat all day so they can keep the little squash vines warm at night.
Squash at the South Seattle Community College
And I bet no one in Seattle picked okra or eggplant or cucumbers this evening!  I did. (Shush about the okra. Okra is good to eat, if you fix it right like my Grandma did.)

I had a fabulous time in Seattle and would like to thank Lorene Edwards Forkner, Marty Wingate, Debra Prinzing, and Mary Ann Newcomer for planning and organizing the entire four days.  They packed in visits to private gardens, public gardens, educational gardens, and retail gardens and never made us feel rushed.  They were fabulous hostesses.  Thank you also to David Perry for joining us at The Bloedel Reserve and sharing his love of photography with us.

Thank you to everyone who attended. Were there seventy of us? Or more? Everyone was gracious, in good humor and ready to talk about gardens at the mere mention of the word "plant".

Many thanks also to the garden owners and others who welcomed us into their gardens and to the sponsors listed on the sidebar of the official Seattle Fling website.

The bluest skies you'll ever see, they say...
Blue Skies above St. James Cathedral, Seattle

Or sing about...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Postcard from Bainbridge Island

A beautiful garden at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island with a thousand shades of green glistening on a cool, rainy day. How does one describe such a place? How many...

Garden fairies here! What is the deal? This is an outrage! We are garden fairies and we are roasting... baking... frying up out here amidst the drying cornstalks and wilting squash in Carol's garden. And she was where?? In Seattle with garden bloggers at a Fling? Cool Seattle? Rainy Seattle? Have to wear a jacket Seattle?  Ancestral home of garden fairies Seattle? That Seattle?

We are garden fairies and this is a great injustice that we were not allowed to go, too! We did not even know she was leaving. We are garden fairies, we may try to organize a revolt. A revolt!

Wait... It is too hot to do anything like organize a revolt. We are garden fairies, we will just stay in the shade of the tomato plants and wait for Carol to come back here and then we will...

What will we do, you ask? We are garden fairies, we aren't telling what we will do, but Carol had better be on high alert!

Posted by Thorn Goblinfly
Chief Scribe and Head Instigator for the Garden Fairies at May Dreams Gardens

Sunday, July 24, 2011

You will see whatever you came to see

I saw a sea of green, perfect for garden fairies to hide in on brightly lit days at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

The docent at the garden saw Oxalis oregana redwood sorrel, which she said can be somewhat invasive. It is a native plant found in the wooded areas of the Pacific northwest, but it is only hardy to USDA Hardiness zone 7, so it is off limits for my garden.

Perhaps the closest we could plant to this would be the much larger leaved mayapples, Podophyllum peltatum. Though perfectly hardy for my garden, I lack enough shade to grow it in big swaths beneath tall trees.

The garden fairies will just have to make do in my garden by resting in the shade of the zucchini plants or toughing it out in the corn rows.

I saw a door, quite unexpected in a woodland garden.

This clearly is the door to another world, one where perhaps giant garden fairies go to seek shelter from the rain or the sun or the people, though it is really hard to say for certain what was on the other side.

The docent tried to explain it away as the door to a root cellar put in by the original residents of the property. The door was padlocked and closed, so I could not verify this. I just know that if the garden fairies back home see this... well, let's just not tell them about it.

As I walked out of the forested area of the garden, I saw one more curiosity-- a path that went right under a tree.

Though it was much too small an opening for me to get through, it appears to be a well-worn path that someone is using regularly.

I don't want to conjecture too wildly, so I'll stick with the explanation of "garden fairies" because that is clearly the most logical answer for anything that has no other explanation.

I don't know what others saw or thought when they saw this, or if they even saw it at all. Perhaps they just saw a tree raised up by its roots.

In any garden, you'll see whatever you came to see... So what not see something enchanting, mysterious, or inspiring?

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Stylist for Gardeners

I've hired a new stylist to assist me in integrating "gardening style" into my life.

Gloriosa Vanderhort and I are so far getting along quite well.

She's currently figuring out what shades of green I can add to my life color palette, and has some interesting ideas on how to accessorize both the garden and the house with hoes of every sort.

She doesn't like anything garish, as far as I can tell. But I am concerned that she and I will have to sit down and talk about the dreaded "B" word, "budget". I thought she lingered far too long looking at these French black truffles during a recent visit to the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

I pulled her away before she asked them to weigh one to find out how much it would actually cost. Plus, I had to remind her that if she decided I needed French black truffles to add a little style to my life, she would have to find a cooking coach for me.

I wonder if truffles and zucchini go together?

Interesting little tidbit about Gloriosa Vanderhort... she seems to want to use green bandanas quite a bit to accessorize my wardrobe...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dear Dr. Hortfreud, I found an old newspaper clipping..

Dear Dr. Hortfreud,

I need your help!

I found a yellowed newspaper clipping stuck in the pages of an old gardening book I bought last week, and it has sent me straight down a rabbit hole where the gardening advice is always curious and the people are interesting.

I am blaming Hortense for giving me a little push, or perhaps it was a giant shove down this particular rabbit hole, the likes of which I do not really have time for. She was the one who wrote and suggested that I look in old gardening books for some information that I can't seem to find anywhere else.

No, Dr. Hortfreud, I don't know who Geraldine or her mother are, though someone has signed the book "Mrs. H. A. Sherrill". I am not really interested in them. Instead, I want to know more about the author of the garden column, Marguerite Smith. Where was she from and when did she write it?

There was an engagement announcement on the back of the clipping about a couple with Indianapolis addresses, so likely the garden column was from an Indianapolis paper and so was Marquerite.

Then I checked in with my favorite genealogist-gardener, Annie in Austin, with the name of the couple listed in the engagement announcement and the month and day they planned to marry and she quickly wrote back that they got married in 1945. That probably means my newspaper clipping is 66 years old.

I also checked in with my favorite newspaper-junkie, former reporter now garden columnist for the Indianapolis Star, the Hoosier Gardener, to find out if she recognized the name Marguerite Smith and she did. In fact, she also has an old newspaper clipping of one of Marguerite's columns that she found tucked in an old book that belonged to her mother. She believes that Marguerite once wrote a garden column for the Indianapolis Star. Or was it the now defunct Indianapolis Times which ceased publication in 1965?

After more checking online, I discovered that Marguerite wrote an article for the American Rose Society on Rose Society Publicity. Frass! They only offer snippets of the publication so I only know how she started the article.

"The newspapers are, of necessity, full of bad news in these troubled..."

We could use that opening line today, couldn't we?

Anyway, as much as I was frustrated that I could not read the article in its entirety, it did give me proof that Marguerite was once the garden editor for the Indianapolis Times. Further proof came in the form of another article that someone posted as a PDF online

But what good is all of this information? And did Marguerite ever write for the Indianapolis Star? The answer appears to be no, but she did write for the Indianapolis News, published by the same organization. I figured that out from this one line from an online database of obituaries provided by the state of Indiana: "Smith, Marguerite R. Walters (Mrs. Leland R.) / Death. Former garden editor of Indianapolis Times and Indianapolis News. Indpls. Star. Jan. 4, 1990. Sec. B. p. 4, c. 4"

And there my search ended, at least for now. It is summertime and there is too much to do above ground in the garden and too many places to go to spend much time running around in rabbit holes looking for obscure references to long forgotten garden writers, as fun as that sounds.

Dr. Hortfreud, though I found some interesting information in these old books and this newspaper column, it doesn't really get me any closer to finding out about the Green Bandana Garden Club.

Or does it? Writing this letter has helped me pull myself out of the rabbit hole, dust myself off, clarify my thinking, and figure out my next move.

Thank you as always for listening (reading), Dr. H.


Monday, July 18, 2011

A Postcard from Hortense


I have time for just the briefest note to follow up your request for more information about the Green Bandana Garden Club.

Did you ever think to check in that pile of old gardening books you found and purchased last week?

Just a thought... I'll write more later when there is more time and the garden is not so needy,



Dear Hortense,

Your brief note arrived just as I found an old newspaper clipping in one of the books. I've been reading it, and re-reading it, to figure out what meaning it has, if any at all, and how it relates to the Green Bandana Garden Club. Once I figure it out, you'll be the first person I contact, unless my attempt to figure it out leads me to madness, then I'll contact Dr. Hortfreud. (Please forgive my lame attempt at humor, it has been very hot these past few days.)


Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Return Letter to Hortense

Dear Hortense,

Greetings on a fine summer's morning!  I very much appreciated how quickly you responded to my letter about the Green Bandana Garden Club. Somehow, I knew you would know something about it.

I should have responded back sooner to your letter, but it has been a busy week. On Monday, I bought a pile of old gardening books, including Pay Dirt by J. I. Rodale -- yes, the Rodale of Organic Gardening. They are all very interesting books but reading through them has certainly chewed up some time. Then the rest of the week flew by and I had to stop and celebrate Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on Friday, the 15th. I'm so pleased and thankful for all who join in, but Hortense, where to find the time to comment on all of their posts?

Anyway, this morning I found myself out in the garden, realizing I had failed to write back! I wrote an entire letter to you in my head -- I will try to remember what all I wanted to tell you.

First -- oh my garden!  I was afraid that if I didn't go out and weed in Ploppers' Field today, I would lose it all to the weeds and seedlings and have to start over.  It was as close to a wild state as it has been in a while so I bravely waded in there and pulled weeds and deadheaded flowers to get it back into some sense of order.  Had I not done that, it would soon be filled with thistle, dandelions, oxalis, and foxtail amidst the suckers of the locust tree.

Yes, of course, I knew that the locust tree was a grove forming tree and would sucker, but I had no idea how much and how far from the original tree. Well, too late now. I just cut the suckers off as I find them throughout the garden. I absolutely refuse to give in to the foolish temptation that some gardeners have of letting a new tree grow wherever a good sprout of one shows up. Been there, done that, and you end up with a mess.

I would also end up with loads of mulberry trees in the garden if I didn't weed, no doubt with trumpet vines climbing up through them. The trumpet vine is a new weed for me... it shows up near the big Viburnums where the little birds roost all day. They are delivery slaves of the weeds, those birds, dutifully "dropping" seeds for both trumpet vines and mulberries everywhere they can. It's a conspiracy!

Speaking of conspiracies, what is going on with the Green Bandana Garden Club? You teased me with just a little info and then, well, I guess I can wait for more info. I have no choice, do I? You have the info and I want it, so I will have to wait for you to send me more details later. In the meantime, I'll keep weeding and cutting back in Ploppers' Field and discover plants I had forgotten about or could barely find amongst all the weeds and overgrowth. Just look what I found when I cut back the Amsonia.

Yes, the balloon flowers -- Platycodon grandiflorus.

And off to the other side of the Amsonia, I found some lilies getting ready to bloom. I'll send you a picture of those when they are actually blooming.

Those lilies have it better than the ones hidden in here.

Oh my, I've got some serious work to do to fix this end of Ploppers' Field. One good thing about it is that it is too thick and lush for thistle to grow in there, plus the garden fairies like it because it is a good place to hide and stay cool on a hot afternoon. And we have plenty of hot afternoons these days.

But enough of my going on and on about my garden. Please write back soon, sooner than I wrote you and tell me what you know about the Green Bandana Garden Club.



P.S. -- I am picking lots of zucchini squash and cucumbers these days. I must find someone to take some of it off my hands!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2011

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for July 2011!

Here in my USDA hardiness zone 5b garden, the coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea, are creating a swath of bloom that will carry that section of the garden through the dog days of summer.

Echinacea purpurea is a good, sturdy, trustworthy, reliable flower, one that I think has been in my gardens wherever I’ve been for the past 25 years. It is almost like a backbone for the border it is in, the border called Ploppers’ Field.

Further along in that border, some unnamed variety of common tall phlox, Phlox paniculata, blooms with Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Loraine Sunshine’.

'Loraine Sunshine' is the variegated leaf form of the rather common false sunflower and though “she” self sows herself all over the the garden, producing progeny that revert back to the plain leaf form, I let her stay not for her flowers, but for her leaves.
 And I resign myself to pulling out the plain leaf form of false sunflower wherever it shows up.

There are salvias starting to rebloom in July, after blooming in May.
They would look so much nicer if the garden fairies would have dead headed them awhile ago.

There are also blooms starting to show up in the new border called August Dreams Garden, but I’m holding off on showing any of those until next month.

Out in the vegetable garden,  I would normally be picking green beans about now, but because I planted everything a full two weeks later than normal, I am still watching the blooms of green beans and just now noticing the tiniest bean starting to form.
 It won't be long now before I will have some green beans to eat.

A bonus of my late sowing is that sweet peas planted by the compost bin are just starting to bloom. In past years, I would have already pulled these plants and thrown them into the bins by mid-July.

There are more blooms in the garden – Rosa, Heuchera, Hosta, Hemorocallis, Hydrangea, Clematis, Cucurbita, Coreopsis, Lilium, Leucothemum, Zea – are some of the names I'd throw out at you if I was a botanical name dropper.

But it is July and it is either too hot to spend too much time in the garden or it is a lovely day like today when the garden calls us to come out and weed and water it and deadhead those salvias and think about garden clubs and garden visitors, and plants and passions.

What’s blooming in your garden under the full buck moon of July?

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 bloom day 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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pay Dirt

A sign should have flashed above me to warn me that I was about to fall into a rabbit hole when I found this book at a local antique mall.

Pay Dirt by J. I. Rodale, copyright 1945. Forward by Albert Howard, author of An Agricultural Testament, copyright 1940.
From the introduction by Howard,

"A revolution in farming and in gardening is in progress all over the world.  If I were asked to sum up in a few words the basis of this movement and the general results that are being obtained, I should reply that a fertile soil is the foundation of healthy crops, healthy live stock, and last be not least healthy human beings.  By a fertile soil is meant one to which Nature's law of return has been faithfully applied, so that it contains an adequate amount of freshly prepared humus made in the form of compost from both vegetable and animals wastes."

A good rabbit hole to fall into, to learn more about Rodale, Howard, and all those others who preached "compost" to any who would listen or read.

Pay dirt, indeed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Testing a Hypothesis

Over the past two days, I’ve observed something several times which has led me to develop a hypothesis.

Then I went looking on the Internet for how to test my hypothesis and ran into all kinds of explanations and formulas and statistics, which lead me to come up with another hypothesis that “statistics can make your head hurt”. I have no interest in testing out my hypothesis on statistics because of the probable pain involved.

My other hypothesis has no pain involved. It’s all about happiness and what makes people happy. I’m not even sure it is a hypothesis, though, because I don’t think it can be proven to be emphatically true or emphatically false.

Instead of proving my hypothesis, I may just make up a statistic about it, such as “Four out of five people…” and let someone come forward and prove me wrong. After all, aren’t 80% of all statistics made up, including that one?

Regardless of whether it is a hypothesis or a series of observations that can be quantified as a statistic, I’m sure that even if there was evidence to the contrary, I’d still believe what I observed not once, not twice, but three times in a twenty four hour period. In fact, now that I think of it, I’ve never seen any evidence to the contrary in regards to my hypothesis which is enough to make it true in my book.

To wit…

My first observation occurred at an antique mall. I came across a booth and saw the tell-tale handles of garden tools sticking up in a corner. I walked over and looked down to see the business ends of the tools and what do you think I found? That's right. I found a hoe. It was an old, rusty hoe with a well aged handle. I pulled it out and carried it with me through the mall and observed that each person I passed looked at me, looked at the hoe, and just smiled.

My second observation came from an email exchange. I got an email from someone who had been searching on the Internet for a specific type of scuffle hoe. He came across my hoe collection page where he apparently found the exact hoe that he wanted and so he sent me an email asking where he could buy it. I fired back a quick reply along the lines of, “I’m sure you can find one via Google”. He wrote back that he’d searched for an hour unsuccessfully, so I went and looked at my hoe collection, saw which scuffle hoe he wanted and sent him the exact link for where to buy it. He wrote back and said I had made him very, very happy, so happy he could cry and he was going to buy one for his mother, too.

My third observation happened when the UPS driver stopped at my house earlier today. I met her at the truck as she pulled out a long box and said, “It only weighs three pounds”. I replied, “It’s a hoe”. She just smiled and handed it to me. It was a big smile.

I think those three observations are enough for me to put forth my hypothesis with a high degree of confidence that it is true. I believe that at least three out of four people, or more, will find it to be true.

But before I finalize any statistics related to my hypothesis, I should gather some more evidence through observation, through the reactions of those who might come across this post and read this far.

To assist me in proving my hypothesis and validating my statistics, please view the following picture and then leave a comment describing your first reaction. Choose from these three possible reactions.

1) It made me smile. (Good for you!)

2) It did not make me smile. (Are you kidding? Try again.)

3) I had no reaction. (I’ll bet you don’t even own a hoe and aren’t even qualified to answer. Or you are not well and should go see a doctor for a thorough once over.)


Here is the picture:

Again, the choices for your comment are:

1) It made me smile. (Good for you!)

2) It did not make me smile. (Are you kidding? Try again.)

3) I had no reaction. (I’ll bet you don’t even own a hoe and aren’t even qualified to answer. Or you are not well and should go see a doctor for a thorough once over.)

Thank you for helping me validating my hypothesis, to be known in scientific journals as Dr. Hortfreud's Hoepothesis.

It is...

Hoes make people happy.

Soybeans in my Vegetable Garden

Anyone know what this new-to-me vegetable is in my garden this season?

If you guessed Glycine max, soybeans, you would be correct!  In particular this is 'Midori Giant' from Nature's Crossroads, a local Indiana seed company that specializes in varieties of vegetables that do well in Indiana and the Midwest.

I've attempted to grow soybeans in my garden before but the rabbits always ate the young seedlings down to nubs, so I never saw a single actual soybean.  This year my luck has changed or my rabbit deterring technique has improved because I've got nice big healthy soybean plants.

This particular variety of soybeans is supposed to have a sweet, buttery taste and be high-yielding. The more you pick the more they produce. They are flowering now.

Some gardeners and chefs refer to these soybeans as edamame.  I've been referring to them as "edible soybeans" which gives people pause because technically, all soybeans are edible. Perhaps a better name if I don't want to say "edamame" is "sweet soybeans". Then people would get it right away because they are used to farmers growing field corn and gardeners growing sweet corn.

The soybeans appear to be easy to grow. Just sow in rows like you would green beans, water, and keep the rabbits away. These will take about 75 days to start producing. I planted them on May 31st so the first tender soybeans should be ready to pick around August 14th.  Maybe sooner.

In Indiana, there are thousands and thousands of acres of soybeans grown every year, yet in the book Field Crops by A. D. Wilson and C. W. Warburton, published in 1918, there is not one mention of soybeans in the table of contents or the index.   But I did find information about it on page 374.  "The soy bean does not yet occupy a very prominent place in the United States, though its importance is increasing rapidly."  The authors further note, "Much that has been said regarding cowpea applies equally to the soy bean."

Cowpea? Who grows those any more?

The authers of Field Crops also wrote,  "Before many years, they are likely to become a common article in our diet and their cultivation is certain to increase immensely, for the uses of this plant as oil, food, and forage are very numerous."

They had no idea.

I did some further research on soybeans and discovered that 2011, this year, is the Year of the Soybean at the Indiana State Fair.   Then I found out that Indiana is the 3rd largest soybean producing state and ....

I feel myself falling into a rabbit hole.  Someone grab my hand and pull me up!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Letter from Hortense

Dear Carol,

I knew I would get a letter from you once you found the green bandana hanging from your locust tree.  It didn’t take you long to write either!

First, let me say that news of your garden sounds promising, even after the late start and all of the rain.  But isn’t it awful how dry everything looks after just a week without rain? I hope you are at least watering your vegetable garden once a week.

You are right on one point in your letter… I do know about the Green Bandana Garden Club or shall I say I know as much as anyone, except maybe the Old Woman at the Door.  (By the way, has Dr. Hortfreud helped you figure out who the old woman really is?)

Anyway, even I don’t know everything there is to know about this garden club because some of its history, especially the history of how it began, has been lost over time. Now there are so many theories and stories about its beginnings that one wonders what is the truth.

One theory, and probably the most believable theory,  is that one day a gardener got bored with gardening alone and decided that she would seek out other gardeners and form a club. But she didn’t want it to be a club that required members to meet once a month, take minutes, collect dues, and follow any rules. She just wanted the club to be sort of a loose federation of gardeners, a secret society of sorts. 

As this gardener stood in her garden wondering how this could work, how members could be in a club that never met and still know who each other were, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a green bandana to wipe the glisten off her brow. 

Inspiration struck at that moment and she decided that members should carry with them a green bandana in such a manner that at least a corner of it was visible somewhere.  Then they would recognize each other as members whenever they happened to be out and about where other gardeners might be. That’s why she chose to call the club the Green Bandana Garden Club.

Other theories seem less plausible, but are fun to consider, nonetheless. They involve garden fairies and rabbits and rabbit holes, amongst other things.  I'll tell you about some of them later. They are really best told late in the day in a garden, just as the fireflies start to come out. Plus, I don’t have the time today to go into all the various theories. I just want to get this letter to you quickly so you will at least have some idea about the Green Bandana Garden Club.

More later, I promise, especially on what you are supposed to do now that you are in the club.

Carpe hortus,

P.S.  I should let you know that even though the members of the Green Bandana Garden Club don’t meet and conduct their business rather informally, you have been elected their new president. I’ll tell you why later… gotta go!  ~ HH

Clover and Bees for the Heatlh of the Garden

Is your garden healthy?

Stand in a patch of clover in your garden and if you don't see a bee within a few seconds, something might be wrong.

Bees and clover go together like peas and carrots,

like peanut butter and jelly,

like Laurel and Hardy,

like Lucy and Ethel,

like salt and pepper,

like hoes and rakes,

like a fence and a gate.

Where you see clover, you should see bees.  It is that simple.

If you have the clover, and don't see any bees, something is wrong.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Predicting the Weather

What gardener wouldn't want to get a more accurate forecast of the weather, to be able to predict well in advance if they were going to get rain or should plan on watering?

After all, no gardener wants to pay for water to thoroughly soak the garden one day and then wake up the next morning to a steady downpour of free rain.

In our quest to accurately determine what the weather will be like as far in advance as possible, we use a variety of methods and sources, but then the weather happens and it is appears that everyone was just guessing.

Fortunately, there are few highly accurate sources of weather predictions including...

Garden fairies here!

Wow, just in time because it looks like Carol was about to reveal some weather predicting secrets that really shouldn't be revealed because, dear gardeners, we are garden fairies and we know you can't handle these secrets! You'll tell everyone like Carol was about to do.

But we are nice garden fairies, so we'll go ahead and tell you one very accurate secret way to predict the weather so you will be one hundred percent right every time. Go get your pencil and some paper to write this down because we are garden fairies and we don't trust this Internet to always be here and we don't want you to forget this valuable secret.



What you need to do is set up one of those fancy solar powered fountains like Carol's frog fountain and then listen and watch!

If you hear water gurgling out of the froggy's mouth and see it splashing into the basin, it's a sunny day!

If you don't hear the water gurgling out of the froggy's mouth and don't see it splashing into the basin, it's a cloudy day.

If the basin is filling up and there is no water coming out of the froggy's mouth, then it is raining!

You can also tell time with this fountain. We garden fairies think this is an added bonus, as we like multiple use tools!

If you can see the fountain, it is day time. If you can't see it, it is night time. We are garden fairies. We think that is all you need to know about time. Hours and minutes are irrelevant to us.

And that is all we garden fairies think you need to know about predicting the weather and telling time.

We are garden fairies, after all.

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

Thursday, July 07, 2011



If you know that the meaning of the word discombobulated is "to be thrown into confusion" and you are a gardener, you can readily imply that the meaning of the word "hortombobulated" is something along the lines of "to be thrown into confusion in a garden" or more precisely "to be thrown into confusion on matters related to gardening".

For the record, I am not personally hortombobulated.  I am not confused on matters related to gardening, though sometimes it looks as though I have no idea what I am doing, even after decades of gardening.  But for those who do feel hortombobulated right now, hang in there.  It is still early July. There is time to get yourself and your garden straightened out before the end of the season.

Generally, most gardeners hoe themselves out of a hortombobulated state. They go out to their gardens and just start weeding, deadheading, trimming, mowing, sweating, and hoeing until they've worked everything out and feel less confused and more like their gardens are once again under control.

For severe cases of hortombobulation (is that a word? Oh wait, it is as much of a word as hortombobulated is, never mind), it may be necessary to seek professional help which can come from a general laborer or helpful family member, a garden designer, a gardening therapist or some other qualified individual, depending on the root cause of your hortombobulation.  Knowing where it stems from is also helpful  in deciding how to address hortombobulation.

Yes, the use of the words "root" and "stem" was intentional. 

In other news, I will soon be posting the next installment of the Tale of the Green Bandana Garden Club.  Check back later for that.

"May you never be so hortombobulated that you want to give up on gardening entirely."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Letter To Hortense

Dear Hortense,

It’s been so long since I’ve read any garden advice from you that I thought I’d write to tell you about my garden and try to entice you to visit and answer just a few questions.

Oh, sure, I know Dr. Hortfreud is always here, but she is better about explaining my feelings about gardening and you excel at giving me pragmatic advice on this whole business of gardening. Truly, there is a need for both of you.

Anyway, you would not believe how the garden has changed since you were here in mid-May. Remember, that was the day when you quite rationally explained that garden fairies really do exist.

I know you were concerned then that I hadn’t yet planted the vegetable garden. You’ll be pleased to know that I finally got to it around May 31st.  Even with that late start, the corn is now shoulder high and there are green tomatoes on nearly every tomato plant. I've enclosed a picture clipped above so you can see for yourself.

Yesterday, I spent several hours weeding the vegetable garden, mostly getting rid of all that darn purslane that is my nemesis in the garden, more so than rabbits if you can believe that. After I finished weeding, it seemed so dry (no rain for a week!) that I put the sprinkler on it for about an hour. This morning when I went out to check the garden before leaving for work, I was shocked. It looked as though everything had grown by inches, if not feet, overnight.

Oh, why am I’m prattling on about the vegetable garden when I have the most exciting news to share!? You will never guess or maybe you will? I went outside yesterday and found a green bandana hanging from a low branch of the locust tree. You know what that means! In spite of my foibles and failures of gardening, I must have had enough success and experience in the garden to qualify for membership in The Green Bandana Garden Club.

Now I’m on high alert for a letter, a call, or some communication from the club to tell me “what next”. It’s all so secretive that I honestly have no idea what will happen. I just know I finally have my green bandana and no one can take it away from me! Do you happen to know anything about this garden club or who recommended me? I’ll bet you do! You have to come visit and tell me if you know something!

Besides, there is much to see in the garden these days, and it isn’t all vegetables.

Out in Plopper’s Field you’ll be excited to see that the double flowering tiger lily, Lilium lancifolium ‘Flore-Pleno’, is blooming.
I planted these last fall and they are making a grand showing. I would never have thought to plant an orange flower in my garden, but I couldn’t resist these when I saw them in the catalogs. (Please excuse the spots, I believe those are the footprints of the garden fairies. No doubt they've been enjoying these blooms, too.)

Anyway, enough about me and my garden and the garden club. Please come and visit! You have an open invitation to come visit anytime, to provide some good old-fashioned gardening advice, and of course tell me what you know about The Green Bandana Garden Club. I'll have some iced tea for us to drink.

Horticulturally yours,


Monday, July 04, 2011

The Green Bandana Garden Club

I didn't get up as early as I'd hoped to, no doubt because the morning was overcast with no streaming sun coming through the east window to wake me up and no alarm clock set on a day off to force me up.

But when I finally woke up, I ran to the window like a kid on Christmas morning who is anxious to know if it snowed the night before.  Only, I, a gardener with an extra day off in the summer time, was wondering if it had rained or was raining.

When I looked outside, it was clear that it was wet outside, but the rain gauge was nearly empty, so it must have just sprinkled enough to wet everything down a bit.  I stood there for a minute looking out at the garden, wondering if these sprinkles were the end of the rain or the beginning of the rain.  Should I plan to work out in the garden, or plan to continue cleaning inside?

It was clear that I surely needed to do both, At mid-summer, purslane was once again making its best attempt to become the number one crop in my vegetable garden and the thistle plants were scaring all the perennials in Plopper's Field, or so it seemed to me.  Inside, I'd drug in enough leaves and bits of grass on my shoes over the last few days that I almost had enough to start an indoor compost pile.

As I stood there, looking out at the garden, considering my options, I noticed something hanging from a low branch of the locust tree.  Curious about what it was, I ventured out to take a closer look.

It was a green bandana.
I stood and stared, almost not believing that it was really there. I had hoped for so many years, wondered through season after season  if it would ever happen to me. Yet, there it was, hanging in the tree. I had always thought I'd get the green bandana in the mail, or someone would just give me one. I never dreamed it would just show up in my garden like that, tied to a branch of the locust tree.

My spirits lifted immediately. This was going to be a grand and glorious day, regardless of the rain. This was going to be a day I would circle on my calendar and look back on with fondness.

For today, the green bandana was hanging on a tree in my garden.

Yes, finally, I had my invitation to join The Green Bandana Garden Club!

Let the fun begin.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Life in a Perennial Border: A One Act Play

Life in a Perennial Border
A One Act Play
Carol M.

Cast of Characters

Coneflower ...............Echinacea purpurea
Aster ....................... Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
Perennial Sweet Pea .Lathyrus latifolius, an unwelcome visitor in the garden
Daylilies .................. Assorted daylilies
Lily ........................ Lilium henryi
Daisy ..................... Leucanthemum x superbum
Thistle ................... A mean thug of a weed

TIME: Summer
SETTING: A perennial border known as Plopper's Field


(Several flowers are talking to one another on a typical morning in the garden.)

Good morning all you flowers! Oh, what a beautiful day! The birds are singing and the breeze is cool. We coneflowers are pretty excited to be blooming. we are so pretty. We are the prettiest flowers in the garden!

You coneflowers are a bunch of show offs.  We daisies are the prettiest things in the garden right now. Plus everyone knows our name! Daisy! Ha!

Excuse me... Henry's Lily up there.  Are you dropping your pollen on us? You know you are. That's just gross, stop that!

(A rabbit passes through,  all the flowers stop chattering hoping not to be noticed, the light fades.)


(A couple of thugs show up in the garden at the first light of a new day.)

Scooch over flowers! Ha ha.  I'm puttng down my roots and settling in for a good long while here in Ploppers' Field. I don't see any gardeners around to throw me out.  Oh, yeah! Give me some room, baby, I've got stickers all over me that you don't even want to think about touching!  I'm going to like here!

I know what you mean, Thistle! I'm not supposed to be here either, but here I am. And I'm flowering! But oh dear! Is that a Japanese beetle on my bloom?! It is! Help me! Gardener!! Help me!!


Shut up, Perennial Sweet Pea! Do you really want the gardener to come out here? If she shows up, its compost bin time for us.  So be quiet! You are going to ruin a good thing here.

(Light fades and the flowers slowly close up to mark the end of another day.)


(The lights come back up in the perennial border, and we see a gardener come through with pruners and a hoe.)

Quiet everyone, here comes the gardener. And she's got pruners and hoes with her.  Remember the last time she showed up with pruners? She cut me back near in half, but I've grown out of that and look half way decent again. I hope she doesn't do that again. I'm thinking about forming some flower buds here and I don't want to have to do it twice.  But she's more than welcome if she gets rid of some of the riff-raff that have shown up around here. Yes, I'm talking to you, Thistle, and you, Perennial Sweet Pea, and Dandelions, Chickweed, and anyone else who doesn't belong here!

(The gardener begins to trim back dead blooms, pull out the perennial sweet peas and thistle, hoe and fix up the perennial border. The lights fade.)


(The lights come back up and we see all the flowers gently nodding in the breeze.)
Isn't it great to be a perennial in Plopper's Field? Life is sure easy. Grow, flower, fade for winter, grow, flower, fade for winter. I could do this for years here in Ploppers' Field, as long as that gardener shows up every once in a while and cleans up the place.  We may look a mess, but we aren't really a mess as long as we are deadheaded occasionally and the gardener keeps out the weeds. Ah yes, this is the place for us.

(Light gradually fades as the flowers nod in agreement and enjoy another day listening to the birds sing in the tree above.)