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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Seeing the world through garden-colored glasses

I see the world through garden-colored glasses.

All around me I notice plants and flowers and I must have them around me as well. I rarely walk by a plant without an impulse to touch it. I see soil and I want to feel it and smell it.

I will go places I wouldn't normally go if someone dangles words and ideas in front of me that relate to gardening. And I can relate most aspects of my life to gardening.

I see the world through garden-colored glasses.

I'm not the only one with this view, though as with real glasses, there are various prescriptions of garden-colored glasses. Some focus in on tropicals, others on trees. Some of the garden-colored glasses bring vegetable gardens into sharp focus while others have magnifying powers that allow you to see miniature gardens. Still other garden-colored glasses are almost like 3-D glasses, giving the wearer special powers to see beyond the garden to where the garden fairies live.

And some garden-colored glasses are like bifocals or trifocals with all kinds of lenses for those who view and love all kinds of gardening.

Some people start wearing their garden-colored glasses at a young age. I think I started wearing them at the age of two. Others discover their garden-colored glasses when they are older. Either way, once someone sees the world through garden-colored glasses, the world is no longer the same. And even though the garden-colored glasses sometimes make those of us who wear them look a bit odd or eccentric, we don't mind because what we see amazes us.

I see the world through garden-colored glasses.

I've just returned from six days with hundreds of others in the Garden Writers Association who attended the recent symposium. It was in Indianapolis, my home-town, so I use the term "returned" rather loosely since I never really left home. But for those days I was with others who also wear garden-colored glasses. It was great fun. I'll share more of what I learned and observed in the next few days, weeks, and even years.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Planting and Care of Lawns in 1931

I now have a copy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers' Bulletin No. 1677.

Yes, that one. No. 1-6-7-7.  "Planting and Care of Lawns".  Published in 1931, updated in 1935.

I now know the truth.

I know that in 1931, when this booklet was originally published, "A beautiful green lawn is the ambition of most home owners... but few are willing to expend the effort necessary for a successful lawn."

Not much has changed in homeowner's attitudes in the past 80 years. Too many homeowners want their lawn to look good, but  they don't want to put forth the effort, or don't know what effort to put forth to make it look good.

I now know that the recommended seed mixture in 1931 for lawns in the northern areas of the country was:

17 parts Kentucky bluegrass
2 parts redtop (probably Agrostis gigantea)
1 part white clover.

By weight.

It's good to have the evidence that they  did put clover in lawn seed mixtures. Who took it out and why?  Of course, I know why. It isn't completely green. But clover is good stuff.  I credit clover with keeping the rabbits out of my garden. Plus, clover is good for the soil.

I know now that they also recommended leaving grass clippings on the lawn 80 years ago,  unless of course you were mowing very tall grass and the clippings were smothering the lawn.

Why did someone invent lawn mowers with bags to catch lawn clippings?  I think I have two, maybe three lawn mower bag attachments up in my attic.  As a kid, I hated having to bag the lawn clippings as I mowed. That darn bag would fill up just as I got into the rhythm of mowing. It was disruptive.  It was like having a good song stop just as you had become one with the beat.

I now know that in 1931,  "the use of chemicals, thus far, has not yet proved a very effective method of controlling lawn weeds". And furthermore, you just have to keep after your weeds to keep them in check. 

I knew you could keep weeds in check. Though I've not done a good job of keeping after my weeds, in the lawn or elsewhere,  I do believe in this 80 year old advice. Just keep after those weeds, and no matter what, don't let them set seed.

I now know about lawn care in 1931.  And I like it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

An honor from Horticulture: Best Gardening Blogs

Everyone here at May Dreams Gardens is quite excited to be included as one of Horticulture magazine's Best Gardening Blogs.

Apparently, they asked Thorn Goblinfly, the chief scribe of the garden fairies around here what she thought of the idea and she thought quite a lot of it.  She also kept it a secret from everyone else.  Garden fairies are good at keeping secrets, apparently.  It does make me wonder what other gardening secrets they have to share with me.

Hortense Hoelove, Dr Hortfreud, and the Old Woman at the Door were pleased to be mentioned in the write up posted on the Horticulture website, but as expected, were a little miffed that Thorn kept the secret from them, too.  I'm sure there will be discussions amongst them all about that. I'll stay out of it, if I can. There's no benefit for me to pick sides in a debate about who's who around here.

I will always have a soft spot for Horticulture magazine and their editors because they were the first to publish something I wrote.  No matter what anyone tells you, opening up a magazine and seeing your name on a by-line is a wonderful thing.

It's also a wonderful thing to be one of their Best Gardening Blogs. Thank you to Jenny Koester for choosing my blog this month and for the wonderful, creative way she did it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday: Garden Fairies Threaten

Please include more wildflowers and native plants in your garden. Chosen well, these plants, more so than many others, seem to survive, if not thrive, in a wider range of weather extremes.

In my own garden, the black-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, anchor one end of a new garden border designed and planted with mostly native plants that bloom in late summer. I believe...

Garden fairies here! Goodness, you can thank us later for rescuing this post. We have no idea where Carol was headed with her thoughts but whew, we are garden fairies and we almost fell asleep reading it.

So, we garden fairies are going to save this Wildflower Wednesday post which is sponsored by Gail at Clay and Limestone and tell you the truth about wildflowers and native plants in the garden.

The truth is... everyone should have some wildflowers and native plants in their gardens. They seem to survive and even thrive in these hot, dry summers around here. We are garden fairies, do not question us on this.

And do not tell us that we just wrote the same thing as Carol. We are garden fairies, those are our own thoughts and we thought of it first. We are garden fairies.

We are also very busy garden fairies so we have no time to convince you to include wildflowers and native plants in your own garden. Instead we will just threaten you with years of misery and heartache in your garden if you don't include some natives and wildflowers. You don't want that! Trust us...

We are garden fairies.

Thorn Goblinfly, Chief scribe for the garden fairies at May Dreams Garden

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Garden, You, and I and The Green Bandana Garden Club

"This book is for those who in treading the garden path have no thought of material gain; rather must they give, -- from the pocket as they may, -- from the brain much, -- and from the heart all, -- if they would drink in full measure this pure joy of living." (The Garden, You, and I by Barbara (The Macmillan Company, 1906)

This is a most fascinating book. Barbara turns out to be Mabel Osgood Wright. She had already written many other nature-related books using her real name before she wrote this book, but for some reason, she thought this book and a couple of other gardening related books would sell better if people didn't know she wrote them.

The welcome from the book makes me think of a literature class in high school. I can just imagine a teacher peering over her glasses looking at all of us and asking "What did Barbara mean by this welcome statement?"

But perhaps what the teacher should really ask is is, "What does "The Garden, You, and I" refer to?" By doing so, she could make sure everyone had at least read through page 21 where Barbara/Mabel writes that "the garden, you, and I" is the name she and her friend gave to a "horticulture society of only three members" that they had just formed. Barbara/Mabel was designated the recording secretary, meaning she would write the book with the same title.

That made me think of the Green Bandana Garden Club, and how I've left some loose ends regarding that. I think now it is time to wrap that up and reveal once and for all the true nature of the club, what it means to belong, and just how one becomes a member.

It might be best to start with a recap, going back to the first event, when I found a green bandana hanging from a tree in the garden. The next day, I wrote a letter to Hortense Hoelove to find out if she knew about this club.

Hortense wrote back, but provided just a tease of information, if anyone can even imagine someone doing that. I wrote her back and practically begged for more information on this Green Bandana Garden Club.

Hortense wrote back again and I responded. She told me to look in an old gardening book for more information! I had no idea which book to look in. Exasperated with Hortense, I decided to follow up with Dr. Hortfreud to find out if she knew more.

Dr. Hortfreud then wrote me back because she wasn't quite sure what I expected from her.

It was all a bit of a mess, meaning I was making it up as I went along and didn't know where to go with it. I felt like I was running around the garden, reading through old gardening books and not coming up with any additional information or ideas about the Green Bandana Garden Club.

That is, I didn't have any additional information or ideas until I started to read "The Garden, You, and I".

There are many of us who "give from our pockets as we may", meaning we spend more than the average person on our gardens. "From the brain much" implies that we put a lot of thought into our gardens. "From the heart all" means that we are passionate about our plants and gardens, too. We go about our obsession, thinking perhaps we are the only one.

But we are not alone. We just don't always know who else is in this society, this club of garden obsessions. That's what the Green Bandana Garden Club is for, to tell us who is really in this horticultural society of "The Garden, You, and I".

You join simply by acquiring a green bandana and carrying it with you. It really is that simple. Then others will see the green bandana that you have and know that you are one of those who "treading the garden path have no thought of material gain; rather must they give, -- from the pocket as they may, -- from the brain much, -- and from the heart all, -- if they would drink in full measure this pure joy of living."

Who's joining?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

You Might Be a Gardening Geek: Seattle Fling Edition

At Dragonfly Farms Nursery
You might be a gardening geek who went to Seattle Fling if…

Before you left home, you spent more time making notes on how to water and tend your garden in your absence than you did providing instructions on how to care for your kids or pets, if you have them.

Your reading material for the long hours on the plane included the most recent issue of Hortus plus several old gardening books that you downloaded to your Kindle including Elizabeth and her German Garden. Bonus points if you don't even like to fly but you flew anyway because you weren't going to miss this fling.  Double bonus points if on the flight home you were still thinking about gardens and  read the book Timber Press gave you.

When you arrived in Seattle and saw that it was raining, you remembered your plants at home where it was hot and dry and momentarily wondered if you had left enough instructions for the lucky person who was going to water them all for you. Bonus points if in preparation for going to Seattle you mowed your lawn, even though you thought it could go awhile longer without being mowed, but you were afraid that if you didn’t mow it and by some miracle it did rain while you were gone, it would be overgrown when you returned. Triple bonus points of sympathy if it was so dry in your garden that you didn’t have to mow the lawn again until just this week, and even then it didn’t really need it, but you did it anyway because some of the drought tolerant weeds were getting kind of tall.

On your first walk over from the hotel to the University Village shopping area, your automatically went to Ravenna Gardens even though you were really going over there to get an iced green tea at Starbucks.
Bonus points if you went to Ravenna Gardens three or more times. Add more bonus points for every $25 you spent there when you went.

When the group visited the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, you thought it was the best library you had ever been in and were in awe that it was full of thousands of  horticulture and gardening books and open to the public. Bonus points if you took a picture of a book because it had a fun title.
Double bonus points if you took a picture of a book because it had a botanical name on it that you wanted to remember because you had just fallen in love with that plant which was blooming right outside the library.
You wondered if you could grow it at home, maybe in a container.

You were willing to strike up conversations with others whom you didn’t know because you knew that everyone in the group was interested in obsessed with gardening and you would surely have something in common with them. Bonus points if you had been to the other three flings and already knew half the people attending, anyway.

At many of the garden stops, after viewing the gardens, you made it a point to look for the business end of the garden, to see what kinds of tools the gardeners used. You didn't see many because most gardeners hid them away before everyone arrived, but you did spot this rake used to hold up some plants in the garden of Kate Farley.

You took more than 500 pictures of gardens. Bonus points if you took more than 750 pictures of gardens.

When you went to the Bloedel Reserve you took a picture of the soil exposed by a cut out for a future sitting area, just so you could remember what it was like.

Bonus points if you remember what your guide, garden designer Stacie Crooks, said about the soil at the Bloedel Reserve, which isn't as rich as you would think it is because it is“glacial till”.

Someone took a picture of you and you look rested, at ease, happy, and comfortable because after all you are touring gardens and hanging out with other gardening geeks. Bonus points if you felt so at ease with the group that you wore your special occasion t-shirt with all the garden tools on it on the very first day of garden touring.

You didn’t complain about the rain while at the Bloedel Reserve and never heard anyone else complain about it, either. You just snapped open your umbrella and headed out to one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen.

And finally, you might be a gardening geek who went to Seattle Fling if you are already planning to attend the next fling, the fifth fling, rumored to take place some time in spring 2012 in Asheville, NC.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My New Hoe: The Rake n' Hoe

Rake 'n Hoe from Kaizen Garden
"You jest about what you suppose to be a triviality, in asking whether the hen came first from an egg or the egg from a hen, but the point should be regarded as one of importance, one worthy of discussion, and careful discussion at that."  (Macrobius, Roman Philosopher)

Which brings us to the question that my new hoe, the Rake 'n Hoe from Kaizen Garden poses for the gardener.

Did the hoe come first and then they added the rake, or did the rake come first and then they added a hoe?

One might assume that the hoe came first, because without using the hoe to chop off the weeds, what would there be to rake?

Or perhaps the rake come first because without removing fallen leaves perhaps covering the plants in the flower or shrub border, how would the gardener know which were weeds that should be chopped off with the hoe?

Such weighty matters!

This is a unique hoe (or is a unique rake?) and was developed by those at Kaizen Garden to improve the efficiency, and presumably the speed, that one could chop out weeds and rake them into a pile. "Kaizen" is the Japanese word for "improvement" or "change for the better".  Kaizen methods are often employed in factories or any work environment to encourage continuous improvement.

The improvement is that you hoe, then flip the tool over and rake.  You don't have to drop the hoe, then pick up the rake.  It saves time!

One tool, two purposes. As I used it I found it easy to get into the swing of things... hoe, hoe, hoe, flip it over, rake into a pile. Hoe, hoe, hoe, flip it over, rake into a pile.

I had two thoughts as I tried this hoe (this rake) out.  I wish the rake was a bit wider. As it turns out, those Rake 'n Hoes shown for sale on the website do have wider rakes, so someone else must have agreed that "wider" was a good improvement. Kaizen! "Continuous improvement".

My other thought was will the hoe stay sharp enough? I wonder with those jagged teeth how easy it will be to sharpen?

I'll find out eventually. Hoe, hoe, hoe, rake, rake, rake. Which came first, the chicken or the egg, the rake or the hoe.  Hoe, hoe, hoe...

(Yes, I got this hoe for free. Yes, I now have it in my hoe collection.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A large rabbit hole showed up on my porch...

A large rabbit hole showed up on my porch Tuesday evening.

Summer is so busy, this is no time for large rabbit holes. There are weeds to pull, gardens to water, and vegetables to harvest. The house needs to be cleaned, again, even though I swear I cleaned it right before Easter. There is a loose brick on the porch that needs to be glued back into place. There is mulch to spread.

There are work, writing, and family obligations a-plenty.

But rabbit holes have their own ways and timing and forms. This new rabbit hole of mine is in the form of a 14 volume set of The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening, published in 1960.

I have a recent commenter, Mary C. from Mary's Gardening Endeavors, to thank for leaving me a comment a few weeks ago about these encyclopedias that she found for sale on Etsy.  Old gardening books apparently remind her of me. Thank you, Mary C.!

Now, lest anyone think that I'll buy just about any old gardening book, let it be known that I did make myself think about these 14 volumes for five or six days. I decided if still remembered them and they were still there after that amount of time, I would buy them. That would be the rule I'd live by.

Those five or six days just flew by but I remembered these books and they were still there for sale when I looked again, so now they are mine. I like to follow rules, even those I make up for myself.

Someone asked me where I was going to put these 14 lovely volumes that all have a cover that looks like this:

I don't quite know yet. It seems (um) that my bookshelves are fairly full already.

But full bookcases won't stop me from buying old gardening books as I find them.

These particular books are from 1960. At first I thought, "Oh, those aren't very old", because after all, I was alive in 1960, my younger sister was born that year. Then I realized these were over fifty years, and it is a complete set and where would anyone find something like this anytime soon?

There is much to explore down this rabbit hole.
For starters, who is T. H. Everett? Who were these "twenty horticulturists and authorities in the United States and Canada" who contributed to these encyclopedias? What's on some of the little slips of paper left by some previous owner, including a shopping list with just two items on it -- canned milk and Calgon? Was the person who left that note planning a milk bath? Is there any significance to the page she left the note on or was she just using it for a general bookmark? What can we learn from 50 plus year old gardening encyclopedias?

Oh my, this is going to be a deep rabbit hole. Too deep for now. I'll save it for a winter's day.

In the meantime, one other unrelated rabbit hole book came today... a treasure from 1906.
Surely there is a time now for this tiny little rabbit hole of a book with this very pretty cover?

(Readers, should you ever see, online, an old gardening book that you think I'd surely like to have, please feel free to leave me a link to it, like Mary C. did. You just never know... I might decide that I must have it after making up and following whatever rule helps me justify getting it.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2011

Welcome to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day for August 2011!

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 5b garden in central Indiana, the blooms are set against a backdrop created by the driest July in recorded history and a stretch of days with high temperatures that were 90 F and above for over three weeks, besting a record set in the dust bowl year of 1936.

I ventured out into the garden early Sunday morning to find some blooms and was greeted by the rain gauge flaunting an inch of rain from overnight storms. Leaves still had droplets of water on them and the garden looked almost relieved.  I was relieved, too.

Without this rain, a visitor might have assumed the garden had been neglected. Plants cried out for water and the ground clung to its weeds like a toddler clings to a security blanket. I did some watering through the driest days, but you can never water like the rain.

Out in the vegetable garden, the sunflowers are beginning to bloom.  The bright, lemony yellow happy face above is one of the many colors of sunflowers found in a mix called Flash Blend from Botanical Interests

Nearby the zinnias are also blooming even though by mid-afternoon on many days, they were as wilted as week old lettuce.

These are are a hodge podge of varieties grown from seed sown directly in the garden in mid-June.  I think the late sowing actually helped them through the dry spell.

I've waited since spring to see the blooms in the newly planted August Dreams Gardens.

It's still filling in and finding its way. The large purplish-maroonish flowers are Eupatorium dubium 'Little Joe', the little white daisy flowers on those wispy light stems belong to Boltonia asteroides 'Snowbank' and the orange-ish flowers in the background are Helenium 'Helbro' sold as Mardi Gras.

One end of this garden border is anchored by a popular perennial that helps support many late summer gardens... Rudbeckia hirta,  Black-eyed Susans.

August would not be the same without two other blooms that I can always count on. The Resurrection Lilies, Lycoris sp., showed up on schedule, popping up from the bare ground, their spring foliage long gone.

And the August lillies, a passalong Hosta, bloomed in spite of what July did to its foliage.
It's been a long summer for them and they've looked better in past years.

Finally, as I walked around the garden, noting where the dry, hot summer did its damage, I found a little Viola, a bloom that likes it cool, blooming away in the garden, unaware of how out of place it looked with all the blooms of August.
The little viola probably has a lesson to teach us about overcoming adversity or something like that. I'll ponder that another day when it isn't so busy.

What’s blooming in your garden as summer starts to wind its way toward its end?

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, leave a comment here to tell us what you have waiting for us to see and then put your name and the url to your post on the Mr. Linky widget below so we can pay you a virtual visit!

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

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gardening: The Greatest Adventures You'll Ever Have

At our last stop of the Seattle Fling, Dragonfly Farms Nursery, in Kingston, Washington "where abnormality is the normality", all of us were treated to an wonderful reception hosted by Proven Winners and and some gift bags with books provided by  Timber Press.

I picked up a bag that included My Garden, the City, and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London by Helen Babbs, illustrated by James Nunn (2011, Timber Press, $18.95).

I decided that it was the perfect book to read on the flights home... two plus hours from Seattle to Denver, two plus hours from Denver to Indianapolis.

I will admit, as I started to read the book just after take off from Seattle, that I wondered if the world needed or if I needed to read yet another book by someone who had just discovered gardening.  But as I read through it, it occurred to me that while it was about someone's discovery of gardening - sowing seeds, watching the plants grow and then harvesting something to eat from them, it was also about how gardening expands your horizon.

From the time she started planning her garden, the author, Helen Babbs, began to go to places in and around London in search of seeds, plants and even urban farms and discovered places and people she never realized existed. I suspect without gardening she might not have ever thought to go to in search of some of these places. 

Gardening will do that to a person, lead you to places you never thought you'd go to.  Even an experienced gardener like me makes new discoveries related to gardening every year, and through gardening ends up going to places she never thought she'd go to.

I've now been to Austin, Chicago, Buffalo, and Seattle, just to see gardens and meet up with other gardeners who like to blog about gardening.  And I've been to Raleigh and Dallas, too, to attend the Garden Writer's Association annual symposium, and to Cincinnati for a regional meeting of GWA.

If I didn't garden where would I have gone and would I ever gone to these places and met all the wonderful people I've met along the way? What would be the horizon for my gardening?

I feel certain if Helen Babbs continues to garden, she'll discover, as many gardeners have already discovered, that gardening leads to the greatest adventures you'll ever have.

(Timber Press gave these books to garden bloggers with no expectations, suggestions, or demands about what to do with them.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How's your garden doing?

"How's your garden doing?"

That's usually the first thing I hear when I see my aunt and uncle from the southern part of the state. I don't have to ask "which garden" because I know they are asking about my vegetable garden.

They also have a vegetable garden.

We compare notes. They plant their garden earlier, usually by several weeks. Then they often use a hotbed to get a jump on the season with lettuce.
Their okra, pictured above, is always taller than my okra and they have more of it. Their okra is about five feet tall now and they have 24 plants. They pick from those plants every two days or so. My okra is about three feet tall and I have about six plants. I should pick okra every two days or so, but I don't think I eat it as often as they do in the summer time. My uncle grew his from seeds saved from last year, the variety 'Emerald Green', so that's the variety I grow, too. 

Goodness, I can't imagine what they are doing with all of that okra.

They sent me some pictures to show me.
That's okra with tomatoes in the bowl in the upper left of the picture and fried okra in the bowl in the bottom right.

I think they also give away a lot of okra.

They also give away a lot of tomatoes.
My aunt said they are currently eating about five tomatoes a day and give a lot of them away to family and friends.  I think I grow more varieties of tomatoes than they do, but when those 'mater plants are producing, I eat them every day, too., and I give some away.  One of their favorite varieties is 'Celebrity'.  My favorite is 'German Johnson'.

Growing up, I suspect my aunt spent quite a bit of time helping my grandma put up a lot of canned tomatoes, maybe pickled okra, definitely bread and butter pickles, I think, and anything else they were going to eat during the winter time on the farm. My aunt says she remembers going down to the cellar and getting cans of beans, tomatoes, peaches, and who knows what else to make supper. Canning was a way of life in the summertime.

Now a days, my aunt doesn't can many vegetables though I think if you grew up canning food, it's not easy to give up the habit of doing so every summer when their is so much excess coming from the garden. Most of the people I know who still can vegetables, do so because they like the taste better not because they'd go hungry if they didn't. I don't can or preserve anything, for the most part, though I have made grape and strawberry jam before and frozen hot peppers.

My aunt and uncle will not lack for green beans, should they decide to can some.
That's okra on the right, by the way. Five feet tall!  I will lack for green beans as mine dried up in the heat when I was gone.

I like how they put straw down in between the rows. It sure does keep down the weeds and gives the garden an overall neater appearance. Plus it helps retain moisture, which was very much needed in July.
The entire garden looks neat and well kept with healthy plants.  I think I'll get some straw next year for the paths in my garden.

Overall, I'd say their garden is doing pretty good.

How's your garden doing?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Complete Guide to Fairy Holes

Bloedel Reseve
I've become aware that there is a lack of reliable information on fairy holes available on the Internet, while at the same time I've noticed an increase in these gateways to another world in my garden and others I've visited recently. These are odd times we live in!

I will attempt to remedy this situation, this lack of knowledge, by providing, as best I can, a complete guide to fairy holes.

Let us begin with a definition.

A fairy hole is the entrance, the gateway, into the underground abodes of various garden fairies who prefer to live close to the land instead of up in the trees, which is where tree fairies live.

It should be noted that while fairies who prefer to live in trees are called "tree fairies", fairies who prefer underground abodes are not called "ground fairies", but are generally referred to simply as "garden fairies".

Fairy holes can vary in size from just big enough to shove a marble down the hole to large enough to cause a gardener to trip over it if she or he catches it just right while walking over it. For this reason, and to avoid stepping on desirable plants, not to mention garden fairies, gardeners are advised to watch their step while walking anywhere in a garden.

Fairy holes often appear near the base of plants, under large shrubs and occasionally out in the open. The most common are vertical holes. These vertical holes may appear to be rather deep such that it would appear that the garden fairies might fall a rather long distance once they enter the hole, but this is an illusion. Upon close inspection, even those holes which appear to be long vertical shafts have horizontal tunnels near the openings that lead to most of the locations where garden fairies live. The deeper areas are generally used for storage or shared with snakes, mice, cicada killing wasps, and others.

Where garden fairies feel safe, secure and comfortable, they may build fairy holes that are completely horizontal with no drop at the entrance. These holes are often found at the base of stone walls, patio steps, or any other kind of curbing or rock edging in the garden.

In my own garden, I've noticed several new horizontal openings on a "step up" in my new patio.
This is a rare, two level, fairy hole. I could not be more pleased.

Often fairy holes will appear at the base of trees, as you can see in the picture above taken at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island in the state of Washington. As many of us who attend the garden bloggers' fling last month can attest, the reserve is an area with clear evidence of a high degree of garden and tree fairy activity.

Once you discover a fairy hole in your garden, leave it alone!

Though it may be tempting to poke in it with a sharp stick, resist doing so. Garden fairies consider this an act of aggression and may respond in kind, causing havoc in the garden and leaving warning signs throughout which may be mistaken as rabbit damage.

In extreme situations where a gardener just refuses to leave the fairy holes alone, garden fairies have been known to pack up and leave the garden en masse. When this happens, the gardener, no matter how hard they try and no matter what they plant, will never be satisfied with their garden, and worse, they will never know that the cause is the absence of garden fairies.

To help others recognize various types of fairy holes, I've collected pictures of them from several other garden bloggers.

From the upper left, going clockwise, we have fairy holes from:

Leslie at Growing a Garden In Davis - She noted that she began to see more fairy holes appear in her garden when she began to build a fairy castle.  While some might think this is a coincidence, fairyologists would have expected this to happen.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter - This is an excellent example of a horizontal fairy hole, one that looks like it has been in the garden for quite some time.

Helen at Gardening with Confidence - In this example, we can see why it is important to be careful when spreading mulch around flowers. Garden fairies do not like to wake up to find the entrance to their fairy hole covered with mulch.

May Dreams Gardens - From my own garden, I find that many fairy holes appear under the cover provided by large shrubs.

Kathy at Cold Climate Garden - This is a good example of a fairy hole in a grassy area. No doubt it was once hidden by snow cover, but became visible once the snow melted.

Frances at Fairegarden - Here we have another example of a fairy hole out in the open. When fairy holes appear in the open like that, it is a sign that the garden fairies are quite comfortable in their surroundings and feel safe and secure.

I hope this guide to fairy holes has been helpful. If you have fairy holes in your garden, please feel free to post pictures of them and link back to this post. Please leave a comment if you do so. This will only add to our overall knowledge and understanding of not just fairy holes, but the garden fairies themselves.

(This post was written and posted with no input from the garden fairies at May Dreams Gardens. They politely declined to offer any statements or confirm or deny the information contained in this post.)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Variegated Corn

Now, that's a pretty leaf.

I don't know who you are, where you been or what your taste is in leaves, I just know you can't deny how striking that leaf is.

Just look at it. Good lines, fine gradient change from a good, basic green to light green to cream to a rosy edge.

It's the best corn I have growing right now, Zea mays Quadricolor Variegated Ornamental Corn. That's what the seed packet says. It bothers me a lot little bit that there is no variety listed. Is Quadricolor the variety? Is Quadricolor Variegated Ornamental Corn the variety.

I think not.

For all of its fanciness, this corn is a survivor. I'm embarrassed to tell anyone how I mis-treated it from the time I sowed the seeds until I planted the seedlings in the garden and even after that.

I didn't abuse them with too much water, too much light, too much dark or anything harsh like that.

I neglected them.

I sowed the seeds and forgot about them. NOT A SENIOR MOMENT!

Then about the time the seedlings had grown so much that they had pushed the clear plastic lid half off their little half-flat, I remembered I had sown the seeds in a some peat pots in the sunroom. Gasp!

They had my attention at that point. It's odd to look over and see how a plant moved that lid. I have my suspicions.

As soon as I saw how desperate those seedlings looked, I watered them and then rushed them outside for about 15 minutes of hardening off before I planted them out in the vegetable garden. (Really, you should give plants more time to harden off, but by this time it was Father's Day weekend, so there wasn't much time.)

When mid-summer arrived...  Ha ha, can't believe I did this.  I ran off to Seattle on the very day it got to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and I made no arrangements for any supplemental watering the entire time I was gone. 

The leaves sort of curled in during that period of time. That's the corn's defensive posture to keep from transpiring too much water into the atmosphere when it is hot and dry.  Oops.

I watered them when I got home from Seattle. The leaves gradually uncurled, and now the corn looks nice again, though it is shorter than I had imagined it would be.

Just imagine if I had actually cared for this corn, what it might look like now?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The garden continues

Out in the vegetable garden, the harvest continues on a near daily basis.  I'm currently picking tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash, and for the first time this morning, edamame.

Edamame as in soybeans.

While the harvest is wonderful, there are a few missing players.  My green beans were a flop.  They were starting to form just as I left town for a week and temperatures during the day were in the high 90's.

They are small, starchy, and even the rabbits refuse to eat them. They are only good for the compost pile. 

My sweet corn is also nothing to be proud of or write home about.  "Dear Mom,  I did not get good pollination in my little patch of corn and so the ripe ears are only partially filled out. I suppose I could still pick the corn, slice off what is good and cook it that way.  Maybe I shall. Love, Carol".

Or maybe the corn will all end up in the compost bin with the green beans?

The compost bin is where all those plants go that didn't make it, or did make it and have finished their lifecycle.  Here  the right reverend Hortus Augustus McGarden* officiates at a memorial service every so often to honor those plants that served so well in the garden and those who did not serve so well. They are all treated the same. Hortus's dear mother, Granny Gus McGarden* provides the music.  Then the worms and microorganisms take over and turn all of those dead plants into nutrient rich compost which I harvest and spread back on the garden for the next generation of plants.

And so the garden continues.

(*Hortus Augustus McGarden and Granny Gus McGarden are members of a large clan of garden fairies who live, work, and play mostly in the vegetable garden.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Guest Post: Garden Fairies Go On and On

Garden fairies here!

We don’t even know where to begin we have so much to say about what is going on around here. We are garden fairies so we are right in the midst of all of it.

First of all, we are garden fairies and we do not like this weather. It is too hot! We aren’t getting enough rain!  It is too hot!  We might break a 1936 record for most consecutive 90F and above days in Indianapolis

Ol’ Miss Zinnia Drygrass, one of our older garden fairies, said she was born that year and she remembers how dry it was back then.

Well, we are garden fairies, and we certainly do indeed remember everything from the day we were born! Don’t question that.

We are checking the zinnias everyday now, watching all the pretty blooms and hoping that Carol will notice how dry they are and water them.  We are garden fairies, we need our zinnias, even if Carol did plant them in nice little short rows. She says that in a vegetable garden it most certainly is just fine to plant in straight rows.   We are garden fairies, we don’t care about stuff like that! Just plant, we say!

Speaking of stuff we care about, we garden fairies were in a snit, an absolute snit, when we saw all the pictures from Carol’s trip to Seattle with other garden bloggers. We were practically livid when we found out she had left us behind. We wanted to go!  It is so green and lush there.  Instead, we stayed here and made the best of it because we are garden fairies after all and that is what we do.

Oh, and there is more to tell about the goins’ on here at May Dreams GardensSome guy came by and put in a gate for the vegetable garden. A gate! But no fence.

We are garden fairies, we don’t question these things. Instead we are grateful that we can still get in and out of the garden rather easily.  Never, ever try to keep garden fairies out of your garden, by the way. We are garden fairies, trust us on this.

You should also trust us that Carol is really writing up that page to explain all the guest post writers and visitors to her garden.  Our own Thorn Goblinfly will be featured as our primary garden fairy representative.

Thorn got involved in a big discussion amongst everyone the other night about what order they should be listed on the page.  We are garden fairies, we wanted to be first. It is only right that we be first.

Then Hortense Hoelove said she should be first because she is the most interesting.Dr. Hortfreud but the ki-bosh on that saying she should be listed first because she came along first.

Gloriosa Vanderhort, Carol's new fancy-schmancy-who-is-she-putting-on-airs stylist said that Carol should list us in reverse order of arrival, but that’s only because she came along so recently.

Well, we are garden fairies, and we stood up for our right to be first on the page!

Carol finally decided on alphabetical order by last name because she was too lazy to figure out what order we all got here. That was just fine with us, we are garden fairies and that means we are first since Goblinfly comes before Hoelove, Hortfreud, and Vanderhort.

Then we realized that the Old Woman at the Door didn’t really have a name and we thought Carol might put her first and we are garden fairies, we were not going to put up with that!  But Carol said that she’d put her after Hortfreud but before Vanderhort which makes us think the Old Woman at the Door might have a name and we are garden fairies so we can’t wait to find out what that name might be.

Anyway, we are garden fairies and we are tired of this post, so we will just post it and let Carol have her laptop back.  Hopefully, she’ll work on the page but if she doesn’t, maybe she’ll finally explain about the Green Bandana Garden Club.  All those letters back and forth in that epistolary fashion, whatever that is,confuse us because we are garden fairies. We just want to know about it once and for all!

We are garden fairies!
Thorn Goblinfly,
Chief Scribe for the Garden Fairies at May Dreams Gardens

Carol has a new hoe. We saw it!

Dr Hortfreud writes back about the Green Bandana Garden Club

Dear Carol,

Greetings for whatever time of day you get this letter.

I read with interest your letter of July 20th asking for help in relating information from old newspaper clippings to the Green Bandana Garden Club.

I've reviewed over it several times and am still not sure what you want me to do as follow up. From the ending of your letter it appeared to me that you were on to something, but then I heard nothing more from you.

Do you still need my help to sort through what you know about this garden club?  I am certainly very intrigued by it and am willing to do work gratis to help you figure it out. 

Perhaps we can meet over the weekend to review your notes and figure this out together?

Kind regards and may your garden always make you happy,

Dr. Hortfreud

P.S. In regards to the weather, I suggest some extra group therapy sessions with other gardeners who find themselves in similar or worse situations with hot, dry gardens.  Most gardeners do understand the toll that this weather takes not only on the garden, but on the gardener's view of gardening in general.  Talking about the weather and the overall growing conditions doesn't change anything, but it helps to reassure one another that eventually the weather will change.

P.S.S..  I've noticed you continue to carry around a green bandana and you gave several other gardeners green bandanas on your recent trip to Seattle. Does this in any way relate to the club?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Summertime Thanksgiving

I am grateful to live and garden where I can grow vegetables, enough to make a dinner completely from the garden.

Monday evening's harvest included zucchini squash, some of it slightly oversize, making it perfect for grating up for zucchini pie.

There was also okra, ready to be cut up, soaked in water, coated in corn meal, and fried.

And tomatoes, including the first big slicer of the season, a variety called 'Pink Ponderosa'.

Not shown in the picture were tiny cucumbers, which when eaten straight from the garden, redefine how cucumbers should really taste.

I am grateful.

It doesn't take much more effort than scratching the earth with a hoe and planting a few seeds and tomato plants to come up with this harvest a few months later.

I am grateful.

We ate like this growing up, with produce from my Dad's garden. This simple fare defines a summer thanksgiving feast for me and will always remind me of family.

I am grateful.

And full.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The names we give to boats, gardens, and... mowers

We like to name things after people and places.

This ferry boat which took seventy plus garden bloggers from Seattle to Bainbridge Island last week is obviously named after a place, the city of Tacoma, Washington.

A few days earlier, we all visited Dunn Gardens, named for the Dunn family members who originally created the gardens following a plan developed by the famous Olmsted Brothers landscape design firm in 1915.
Dunn Gardens, Seattle, Washington
And now I've discovered that there is a lawn mower named after... ready for this?



What a nice name for a mower!

Thank you to Victoria of Victoria's Backyard  for the honor, or as she wrote it, "honour". I learned of it through a comment on her blog.

I don't usually have time to go back and read comments after I've left a comment, but this time I did. I must have been lead to do so by Dr. Hortfreud or maybe the garden fairies. Whoever, or whatever, drew me back to those comments, I'm glad they did.

I hope "Carol" mows well and faithfully for Victoria for years to come, always with a sharp blade and a clean cut..

Now, what shall I name my three mowers?