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Monday, January 30, 2012

Gardening Friends Will Gather

"Over and above fostering equanimity, the cultivation of a garden promotes the tenderer graces and extends the sweet charities of life."

In other words, gardeners are generally, calm, nice, and giving people.

The first fling was in 2008 in Austin, Texas
"I need no introduction to a person who has a garden; and be his or her rank what it may, I go, opening the gate, whether a huge iron or a humble wicket, with a proud confidence, certain to find a man and a brother, or a woman and a sister."

Gardeners automatically have a lot in common and can just start talking about gardening and plants, wherever they gather.

The second fling was in Chicago in 2009.
"Love of gardening creates a safe freemasonry among those who cherish it."

This common love of gardening is a bond, even amongst strangers.

For the third fling, we gathered in Buffalo, NY.
"I stand on no ceremony, tender no excuse or apology, proffer no introduction, but say at once, 'What magnificent honeysuckle!' or 'Where do you get those splendid tuberous begonias?' and lo! we are friends at once."

Friendships have been made quickly at each fling, over one plant or another.

The last fling was in Seattle, Washington
"I have made many a life-long friend by a bold intrusion and instant conference over a Paeony or a Michaelmas Daisy I had not seen before."

At every fling, gardeners find kindred spirits and leave looking forward to meeting them again at the next fling.

The next garden bloggers' fling will be in May in Asheville, North Carolina. Do you have a garden blog? Are you coming?

(All quotes are from a passage in The Garden that I Love by Alfred Austin, 1894. It's amazing how the types of friendships that gardeners have amongst each other haven't really changed in over 100 years.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How to Space Plants in a Garden

I wonder a bit how it is that until last Friday, the 20th, I had never heard of Alfred Austin or his book, The Garden that I Love.  How did my garden designer decide on that book to leave for me?  I've enjoyed it immensely. It's the kind of book you can pick up and read cover to cover and along the way, fall in love with gardening all over again.

Plus, there is some useful information on how to garden, buried in the story.  Useful information like how to space out the plants in a garden.

In his own words...

"A garden is not a collection of curios. It is for the most vigorous, the most lovely, and the most fragrant flowers that room should be found; and many these demand for the full display of their charms that the atmosphere should be seen all round them, and that they should not be too much elbowed by their neighbours. It is, perhaps, a little incautious to say this for it may be pressed into the defense of those terrible villa borders where every plant is a specimen, is duly staked, and tied and trained and they all stand at stated and goodly intervals from each other. I pray you avoid it. But if you run into the opposite extreme and crowd certain herbaceous plants overmuch, you curtail their growth and their grace and incur the risk of losing them altogether." (The Garden that I Love, Alfred Austin, 1894)

In my words, space plants not too close, but not too far apart.

If you crowd all the plants together, you are likely to lose a plant or two that just can't compete with a closely planted, vigorously growing neighbor.  But if you space them out too far then it isn't really a garden, where plants play off one another and sometimes support one another, it's just a row of plants. 

I can think of no better advice on how to space plants in a garden.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Back Tracking in the Rabbit Hole

I am still down in this rabbit hole chasing after ideas and quotes in "The Garden that I Love" by Alfred Austin (1894).

You can imagine this rabbit hole in any way that suits you.

Maybe you think of it as various underground runs with occasional side rooms where, if you peak in, you'll see meadow voles wearing aprons and having little tea parties?  But watch where you are going, because comparatively giant moles wearing heavy blue overalls and glasses with thick lenses are busily digging out more tunnels and rooms.  They keep expanding the rabbit hole by pushing something interesting just a little further out of reach, enticing you to keep going, to stay up later, to find that thing. Then about the time you come to that thing, you see something else and before you know it, you are so far down in the rabbit hole that you decide it is best to keep going.

Maybe the exit is closer than the entrance?

Truth be told, my rabbit hole looks a lot like a chair by the window, where there is good light in the day time and a view of the garden and bird feeders. Next to the chair is a side table holding a tall stack of books, mostly old gardening books but there are a few news one, too. There is just enough room left for a good lamp for night time rabbit hole explorations. On the floor beside the chair is a basket filled with seed and plant catalogs.

I spent quite a bit of time this morning in that rabbit hole, searching for a passage that I read a few days ago in The Garden that I Love. It seemed to me the perfect description of how to determine the amount of space a plant needs in a garden.

I see my new friends as I look back through the pages I've already read. There's the author plus his sister Veronica and their frequent visitors, the Poet and Lamia.  I have just a slight idea of who they are and how they relate to the author in real life. They are there throughout the book, so are always present in this rabbit hole.

I knew generally where in the book I'd read the passage about how to space plants out in a garden but I didn't mark it, so I had to go back and hunt for it.

Going backwards through a rabbit hole can be treacherous travel, but it is sometimes necessary.  Why didn't I mark that passage or even the page where the passage was? Why didn't I scribble a little note or draw a tiny star in the margin?  Well, if a 116 year old book (mine is the 1896 edition) has made it so far without someone dog-earing pages, or underlining passages, or highlighting keywords, I don't feel like I should start doing so now.    Though, I do enjoy opening an old gardening book and finding notes in the margins or something underlined. I also like finding old newspaper clippings or other handwritten notes slipped in between the pages of the book.

But I am always reminded that one should must respect the rabbit hole, the book, and leave it in the same condition that she found it in, so others can enjoy it, too.  The only thing that shouldn't be in the same condition after a run through a rabbit hole or a read through a book is the person who fell in. They should be changed, filled with new ideas and old ideas that are new to them.

Finally, I found the passage about plant spacing that I was seeking.  It's too good to tack to the end of a post, as almost an afterthought.  I'll start a new post for it, as soon as I can find my way to the exit, or is it the entrance, of this rabbit hole, The Garden that I Love.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Season to Make Experiments

Obligatory Garden Picture
A quote that I love from the book that I love titled The Garden that I Love...

"What would be the good or the pleasure of a garden if one did not make experiments?" (Alfred Austin, The Garden that I Love, 1894)

Have you "made experiments" in your garden lately or have you played it safe, afraid to risk a season with a mistake or misstep?

Maybe this should be the season to "make experiments" in your garden?

Yes, this should be that season. The season of experimentation.   

(Garden fairies here. We are garden fairies and we are now very afraid of what is going to happen this spring and summer here at May Dreams Gardens. What is the book that Carol is reading? It is giving her ideas. It is old. Should it give her ideas? Experimentation? What does she mean by that? There has been such upheaval here the last two growing seasons, we had hoped to just relax a bit. But Carol seems so determined to do something. Experimentation. We are garden fairies, we can only watch and see and maybe occasionally hide her gardening gloves. These experiments could be fun. Or they could be a disaster. We just hope they are safe for garden fairies.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Garden Has Moved

Plopper's Field, now in a zone 6a garden
My garden has moved... sort of.

When the new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map came out earlier today, I dutifully entered my zip code and discovered, as I suspected might be the case, that my garden has moved.

It has moved from zone 5b to zone 6a.

What does this move mean?

No longer will I start my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts with "here in my zone 5b garden".

Instead, I'll say "here in my zone 6a garden".

No longer will I say "oh, shoot" when I see that a plant is only hardy to zone 6.

Instead, I'll say, "Hmmm, maybe I'll try that in my garden".

Well, truth be told, if I really wanted a plant before this new map came out, and the plant was listed as only hardy to zone 6, I might have tried it in the past and hoped for the best. Now I'll just be trying it with perhaps a bit more confidence that it won't die off in the winter and plan for the best. 

But otherwise, not much has changed.  Admittedly, zone 5b is just a few miles, maybe 20 miles, north of me, so I don't feel like I am solidly in zone 6a.  I feel like I am just provisionally in zone 6a until I try a few more zone 6 plants and see how they fair.

After a few years, if those zone 6a plants do well, I'll consider this move to be more official.

Now, where are those catalogs? I need to start looking at those  "hardy only to zone 6a" plants.  I want to try a whole bunch of them and maybe make this zone 6a move feel a bit more official, as soon as possible, in a few years.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Garden that I Love

The universe, aided by my garden designer, gently pushed me toward a new rabbit hole.  After skirting around it through a busy weekend, I've finally fallen in.

I got my first glimpse of this rabbit hole on Friday afternoon, when I arrived home just before dusk and spied a bag hanging on the front door knob.  Inside was a book "The Garden that I Love" by Alfred Austin (Macmillian and Co., LTD, 1896) with a note from my garden designer.  She left it for me as a remembrance of my Mom.

I have no idea where she got it or how she knew of it, but that's okay, when the universe sends a treasure like this, one shouldn't ask too many questions.

For a book that is 116 years old, it is very good condition, with gold letters on a dark green cover and gold edging on the pages. It is the perfect size for holding and reading.

I am merely 50 pages in, but can tell you that if it were not for other commitments and responsibilities, I would be finished with all 168 pages by now. 

Nearly as fascinating as the book are some of the reviews included in the back of this fifth edition of the book.

Daily Telegraph ~ "Mr. Alfred Austin has produced in The Garden that I Love (Macmillan) a little book full of delightful prose interspersed with equally charming poetry, the whole radiant with wit and mirth and delicate fancy... The scientific pomologist may be glad to know how the author protects his orchard from grubs, and the lover of dainty poetry will certainly  thank him for such a gem as the verses beginning 'Had I a Garden'".

Literary World ~ "The most fragrant and refreshing book that we have had the happiness to review for many a long month... The Garden that I Love is a book to be thankful for. It is beautiful. It goes very close to perfection."

Why has it taken so long for me to discover this treasure?

It is full of prose such as,  "For there is no gardening without humility, an assiduous willingness to learn, and a cheerful readiness to admit you were mistaken.  Nature is continually sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. But, by the due exercise of patience and diligence, they may work their way to the top again."

I think that is a nearly perfect description of what gardening with Nature is like, don't you?

Good-bye for now, for I must finish reading this book and the sequel "In Veronica's Garden" which I've downloaded as an eBook to read on my iPad.*  After all, according to National Review ~ "A delightful book, which will be cordially welcomed by those who enjoyed "The Garden that I Love".  It has no mission, settles no problems, and is content to be charming, simple, and pleasure-giving."

Doesn't that sound like the perfect book?

*Yes, I'll confess, I found a decently priced used copy of "In Veronica's Garden" and ordered it.  It's coming to me from England so while I wait for it, I'll read it online.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Inconceivable Antiquity

"How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew!" Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bring on the roses, violets, and morning dew, it's time for another meeting of the Society of Gardeners Aged 50 and Over (SGAFO).

Fun times we are having, too, as today there are no roses, violets, or morning dew anywhere in sight to cover the "inconceivable antiquity" of the earth.

Instead, we have ice and a crunchy white snow/sleet mixture forming a cold crust on everything. It lures us in to believing that perhaps in this winter stillness, "inconceivable antiquity", has slowed down a bit or maybe even stopped for a minute. 

In this winter stillness, I think I'll slow down, too, and watch the birds as they flit from the feeders to the shrubs in the back garden, make an earnest attempt to put together a seed order or two or three, and then fall deep down into the rabbit hole of an old gardening book.

All current and future members of SGAFO are invited to join me, to forget for a moment anything having to do with "inconceivable antiquity" and enjoy instead the timelessness of gardening.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Scarlet Sage

 I received some unexpected mail yesterday, a manila envelope from an aunt. Inside the envelope was a copy of a letter my Aunt Marjorie wrote in 2004 with memories of her father, and in particular her recollection as a child of how he spent his last months in failing health before passing away in 1937.

Of course, I did not know him, her father, my mother’s father, my maternal grandfather. I actually know very little about him so receiving the letter with my aunt’s memories was a pleasant surprise.

Included in the letter, appearing as almost an afterthought, my aunt wrote, “P.P.S. Daddy used to make a large vegetable garden in the backyard. That stopped when he could no longer dig. I remember Mother saying his favorite flowers were scarlet sage.”

That P.P.S. was the most exciting discovering in the letter. I did not know my grandfather planted a vegetable garden. There is little mention of that in my grandmother’s diaries. And I surely did not know his favorite flower was scarlet sage.

Guess who is going to plant scarlet sage in her garden this spring, a variety that would have been available before 1937.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Gardening Points from 1901

The observant reader may have noticed that in my previous blog post, where I outlined the points listed in "The Book of Old-Fashioned Flowers and Other Plants Which Thrive in the Open-Air of England by Harry Roberts With Numerous Illustrations Reproduced from Drawings by Ethel Roskruge, copyright MCMI (1901),  I went from number 5 to number 10, skipping numbers 6, 7, 8, and 9.


I'm glad you asked.  I skipped them because unlike the other points, I thought they needed some commentary to go with them.

6.  Cultivate the soil to a depth of two or three feet in the manner described in this book, and in dry weather supply an abundance of water, and keep the surface mulched either with moss or manure, or with loose soil.   

Today, the subject of digging the soil down to that depth is controversial and generally not recommended. I personally want it be a practice that remains in the 20th century, though there may be times that digging is appropriate, though maybe not down to three feet.  One article of probably thousands of articles on this subject on the Internet that seems to provide good information on when to dig and when to not dig is Double-Digging:  Why Do It? on the Organic Gardening website. As always, you need to judge the value of digging for your soil conditions.  But I agree with the article, building soil up is a lot easier then digging down to create a good planting bed.

7.  In arranging mixed borders, avoid dottiness, preferring rather to plant bold clumps or masses of individual species.  Let the surface of the soil be carpeted by low-growing, surface-rooting plants, such as the dwarf Campanulas, Aubrietias, Arenarias, Silene acaulis, S. alpestre, Linaria alpina, Veronica saxatilis, and the like.  Let the taller growing plants be mostly towards the back of the border, and the smaller plants mostly near the front, but avoid primness by allowing an occasional clump of tall plants (especially those, such Gladioli and Lilies, which need special care) to break the front margin, and by letting the dwarfer carpeting plants spread towards the back of the border.

Truth be told, I left this off because it was a long two sentences. Reading back over it, I think it applies today.  Plus it gives us the word "dottiness"  to describe how some gardeners plant their "one of"  plants. A dot here, a dot there, here a dot, there a plant, everywhere a dot (plant) dot (plant).  And it gives us the word "primness" which I interpret as the strict adherence to planting by height, like you are lining up kids for a kindergarden picture.  Tall kids in the back, please.  Primness and dottiness -- two words we should use more often in describing how not to plant a flower garden, unless of course, you like dottiness and primness.

8.  Keep in a shed or in a corner of the garden a compost heap composed of two parts sand, one part fibrous loam (such as the top spit of meadow land), one part of two-year-old leaf mould, and one part manure. Whenever one is transplanting a herbaceous or other plant, it will be found very helpful to cover the roots with a few inches of this soil. Mixed with an equal quantity of sand it will also be useful to place round bulbs when planting them.

We make composting too complicated.  Parts this, parts that.  No one is going to follow this recipe these days.  Who has access to a top spit of meadow land, anyway?  I make my compost the lazy way, just pile up stuff and wait.  Eventually, I get compost.

9.  When planting, always dig a hole sufficiently large and deep to contain the roots well spread out.  Place the plant in position, cover the roots with a few inches of the compost just named, and give a bucketful of water to settle the earth.  Then fill up the hole with ordinary soil, firmly pressing with the foot if necessary, though the liberally watering often does away with the need.  In any case the surface should be ruffled up into a state of looseness in order to check evaporation.

I think that is mostly good advice, although today, less emphasis is placed on the deep part, and more on the large (wide) part.  I never dig the hole deeper than the root ball and often dig it just a little less deep. But that's me.

So there you have it, the rest of Harry Roberts' points on gardening.   I think until I get the actual hard copy of this book, I'll move on to the next rabbit hole of winter gardening...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Points: On Gardening in 1901

With Numerous Illustrations Reproduced from Drawings by Ethel Roskruge
pg. 109 - 111

"1.  Grow no plant which does not strike you as either beautiful or interesting.

2.  Learn the requirements of every plant as far as possible before ordering it, and have everything ready before its arrival.

3.  Do not overcrowd, but allow every plant to develop and display its own form of beauty. On the other hand, show as little bare earth as possible at every season of the year.

5.  The borders should generally be wide -- where there is ample space not less than nine to twelve feet. They should be backed by a plant-covered trellis or wall, or by flowering and evergreen shrubs.

 10. Keep a special garden notebook in which to note things which want correcting or developing. If not noted when recognized, they are likely to be forgotten when the season for making the change comes round.  Also note any good plants or good effects which you may see in the gardens of others.

11. Buy your seeds from the best seedsmen, regardless of price. Buy your plants from the best nurseries, even though they may be listed a little cheaper elsewhere.

12.  Do not be content merely to copy the "arrangements", "groupings" and such which you may see suggested in books or practiced by your friends. Study books, study gardens, and study wild nature, but use your own brains.

13. Make, or remake, one border every year.  You will thus always have sufficient surprise to afford spice or seasoning to the "settled" part of your garden.

14.  It is interesting, in addition to cultivating a large variety of flowers, to grow one flower or one race of flowers as a specialty."

Ah, yes, the wisdom of old gardening books...

Diving down a rabbit hole of old-fashioned flowers

Welcome to my new rabbit hole, The Book of Old-Fashioned Flowers and Other Plants Which Thrive in the Open Air of England by Harry Roberts.

With numerous illustrations reproduced from drawings by Ethel Roskurge.

Published in MCMI, which if I remember my Roman numerals correctly, is 1901. "Aught One"

It took me mere seconds to download it to my iPad thanks to Google and Apple.

It took me just a few more minutes to find an actual copy for sale and buy it online. I'm a traditionalist. Even though it is free to read online and on my iPad, I want to hold this book in my hands.
Roberts wrote this book "To homely unaffected people who appreciate homely unassuming flowers".  

It's for plain folk like us!

People wonder what is useful in these old gardening books.   Plenty is useful and as a bonus it is described with a flowery, poetic language that is lost to us at times.

For example, we might write today that you don't have to spend a lot on plants to have a lovely garden. Ho hum. 

As Roberts describes it,

   "The cottage gardener has usually to employ the simplest flowers wherewith to express himself, but it is probable that this limitation is helpful rather than a source of increased difficulty. He may say, in the spirit of Lewis Carroll --

     "I never loved a dear gazelle,
        Nor anything that cost me much.
     High prices profit those who sell,
        But why should I be fond of such?"
                                    Lewis Carroll

   "And these old common plants thrive as well and flower as beautifully in the garden of the shepherd as in the ground of Windsor Castle.  The wind blows from the same quarter, the rain falls equally, and the frost is as severe in the one as in the other."

We might write that trees provide shade in the summer but allow the sun to shine through in the winter.   Obvious.

Guess how Roberts describes trees and shrubs?

   "Trees and shrubs, however are useful not only for the shelter and seclusion which they yield, but also for their delightful summer shade. In one of his essays, Emerson quotes an Arabian poet's description of his hero --

      "Sunshine was he 
        In the winter day;
       And in the midsummer
       Coolness and shade."

  "This is a beautiful description of a perfect friend, but it might serve equally as a description of a perfect garden."

 Or we might write that it is important to weed and cultivate so that the weeds don't overtake the garden.

Want to know how Roberts tell us to do this?

""Let the painfull Gardiner expresse never so much care and diligent endeavour; yet among the very fairest, sweetest and freshest Flowers, as also Plants of most precious Vertue; ill savouring and stinking Weeds, for  no use but the fire or the mucke-hill, will spring and sprout up."  So wrote Boccaccio nearly six hundred years ago, and the truth of his observation has not lost its savour in spite of the centuries..."  

Where else can you get weeding advice that is seven hundred years old?

This is all well and good, put what is most interesting is at the back of the book, just four pages from the end. 

Oh goodness, the hour grows late. I must climb up and out of this rabbit hole and return to it another day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2012

Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper'
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for January 2012.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 5B garden in central Indiana, winter finally arrived last week after ten plus days of above average temperatures.

This helleborus, which has been blooming since mid-December, is frozen in mid-bloom, half covered by snow. When warm days return, which we are told will happen in a few days, I'm sure this plant will go right on blooming.  It's a great addition to my winter garden.

Elsewhere in the garden, the snow cover is enough to remind me of what I left standing last fall.

Standing out in monochromatic dark brown against the white snow are...

The birds picked the seeds from these long ago.


The birds likely didn't eat these seeds so I'm sure I'll have many dill seedlings in the garden this spring. Remind me it isn't necessary to buy any dill seeds.

 These are not the prettiest flowers for winter interest. In fact, they look quite weedy.

There is some green in the garden.
These chairs are made of composite wood and should do just fine even though I've left them outside.
Note there's a trail in the lower left by the chairs No doubt that is a rabbit trail leading to the shelter of a nearby spruce tree. Or perhaps it leads to a gigantic rabbit hole, the kind I could get lost in for the rest of the winter.

With blooms like these outside, a gardener has to do some indoor gardening to ensure some bloom in her life.

I planted some paperwhites on New Year's Day to enjoy in the depths of winter.
These will be blooming in another week to ten days, I hope. 

For those who have been posting for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day since it's beginning back in Feb. 2007, this post marks the end of the fifth year of bloom day posting. Wow, that means some of us have five years of online records about what blooms in our gardens each month.

Thank you to all those gardeners who have participated in this meme sometime during these past five years. You've helped make this a fun way to keep an online record of blooms.

What about your garden? How is January treating you? 

Whatever your circumstances and however your garden looks during winter days, I hope you’ll join us for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day this month.

All are welcome!

It's easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and then leave a link in the ‘Mr. Linky’ widget below, plus a comment to give us a hint as to what we might find in your garden in January.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guest Post: X Marks the Spot

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we went outside because Carol went outside.  She was taking pictures for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, which is tomorrow.

We garden fairies weren't helping with that, we just wanted to get some fresh air, as in 18F fresh air, but the sun is shining so it doesn't really feel that cold. Well it feels that cold but if you have a coat on and stay out in the sun and try not to think about it, it isn't really that cold.

We are garden fairies and we remember colder, but we never remember seeing what we saw today in the sun.

Did you know that as the snow covers it also reveals?  That's right.  This snow has revealed that...

Carol's garden has been marked by a giant X. 

We are garden fairies and we are trying to determine what this means. Who left the mark? How did they leave the mark? Whoever left the mark looks like they were walking in single file.  It reminds us of a crop circle that mysteriously appears in a field, but this is an X that mysteriously appeared in the snow in Carol's lawn.

Whatever could this mark mean? Does someone want us to put something there? Is someone or something going to put something where the X is?  Do they plan to stand in the middle there and wait for something?  Does it have anything to do with what might happen in the spring? What? Where? How?

Well, we know where. Right there, where X marks the spot.  But we don't know much else.

We are garden fairies. We will occupy ourselves for hours pondering all the possibilities of what this X could mean. 

Submitted by
Thorn Goblinfly, Chief Scribe and now Chief Detective of the Garden Fairies at May Dreams Gardens

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dear Hortense Hoelove Answers "Enough Flowers?"

"Dear Ms. Hoelove,

Something has been nagging at me for some time now, and I hope that you can help me. A year ago I decided to dig up another area of the back lawn to create a new flowerbed. Usually I don't consult with my husband before doing such things, but I thought it would be courteous of me to mention it to him since he is the head of lawn mowing here.

To my surprise, he wasn't very thrilled with the idea and told me, "You have enough flowers." "Enough flowers"?? I've never heard this phrase before and wondered if there was such a concept...

Dear Hortense, if you can find the time to answer this pressing question soon, I would appreciate it. If there is such a thing as "too many flowers," perhaps you could suggest a 12-step program for plant addicts like me. The new garden catalogs are coming in every day, and I'm already developing plant lust--Help!!

Bewildered (aka Prairie Rose)

Dear Prairie Rose,

I am so pleased you asked this question as it has given me an excuse to take over the laptop and post something on this blog.

Do you know how hard it is to get a turn with this laptop? If Carol isn't using it, then the garden fairies are. Those garden fairies have become quite the prima daisy publicity hogs, thinking that every little thought they have ought to become a blog post.  I swear, they run through this blog like chickweed runs through the garden in early spring.

It's hard for a garden advice columnist to get a post in edgewise.

But your question is an important one, so move over garden fairies. Hortense gets the keyboard tonight!

I've consulted with some experts around here to help emphatically answer your question about the concept of "enough flowers".

First, I consulted with Carol's therapist, Dr. Hortfreud. She's a learned gardener-therapist-listener-sounding-board and has good input at times.

Dr. Hortfreud once heard of this concept of "enough flowers" and did her own research on it. She has concluded that as a scientific theory, no one has proven that the concept of "enough flowers" exists. If it doesn't exist, well, then it isn't there. It's like two random words said together.

Carol's stylist, Gloriosa Vanderhort, was also asked if there is such a concept -- "enough flowers". She laughed. The only place she could imagine "enough flowers" was in one of those Japanese Ikebana floral arrangements that involve all kinds of rules about how many flowers are included. Gloriosa is not one for rules. She likes lots of flowers in the garden.

Now, if you want someone to follow rules, Miss Jane Hortaway, Carol's personal assistant and organizer,  knows all about rules.  I swear, you can tell Miss Hortaway about a rule and she will follow it off a cliff. So, we don't tell her many rules, as a rule.

Miss Hortaway would certainly know if there are any rules about how many flowers a gardener can have and she knows of no such rules. She also thinks the concept of "enough flowers" is pure fiction. As she put it, "Chief, you can never have enough flowers, as a rule".

I have to agree with these experts. As a scientific concept, there is no proof.  As a rule, it doesn't exist.  If there is no proof and it doesn't exist, then we can ignore it. "Enough flowers." Really, it's laughable to think about, isn't it?

Given all of this, there is no need for a twelve step program. There is no need to limit your plant catalog browsing. You can never have enough flowers.

Hortifully as always,
Hortense Hoelove

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dear Gardener's Journal: The First Ten Days

Sunday, January 1, 2012
Dear Gardener's Journal
High 51F, Low 35F
I heard winter was finally coming so I rushed around and took down all the outdoor Christmas lights, then I potted up some house plants. There was a little Johnny Jump Up Viola blooming by the garage.
Love, Carol

Monday, January 2, 2012
Dear Gardener's Journal
High 31F, Low 20F
Welcome, winter! Oh, look a dusting of snow on the ground in the morning and snow flurries, too. I think that little Johnny Jump Up Viola by the garage is probably done blooming now.
Love, Carol

Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Dear Gardener's Journal,
High 29F, Low 13F
Bitterly cold and windy, but sunny. At least the temperatures have gotten in the swing of winter.  I wore a pair of long-johns. Should I tell you that kind of stuff, Gardener's Journal? It's too cold to check on that little Johnny Jump Up Viola.
Love, Carol

Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Dear Gardener's Journal,
High 43F, Low 29F
Geez, that cold spell didn't last long, but at least it was partly cloudy. I'm getting ready to settle in for some real winter now.  Good bye Johnny Jump Up blooming by the garage.
Love, Carol

Thursday, January 5, 2012
Dear Gardener's Journal,
High 51F, Low 25F
What a pretty, sunny day. If I hadn't been at work I might have been tempted to do some garden clean up this afternoon. There are some weeds in the vegetable garden that probably loved this weather. But really, we need some winter.
Love, Carol

Friday, January 6, 2012
Dear Gardener's Journal
High 58F, Low 37F
Another pretty, sunny day. Where did winter go? Come on now, don't mess with me. I'm ready for winter.
Love, Carol

Saturday, January 7, 2012
Dear Gardener's Journal
High 48F, Low 34F
Okay, the temps are moving in the right direction now, though it was so sunny out there. I suppose if I hadn't been conditioned to stay inside by decades of cold January weather, I might have gone out to work in the garden today. That Johnny Jump Up is blooming again. I've enclosed a picture.
Love, Carol
Johnny Jump Up Viola blooming in January

Sunday, January 8, 2012
Dear Gardener's Journal
High 45F, Low 29F
Another sunny day. Really? Is this March? Stop messing with me, I want some real winter. If we don't get it now, we'll get it eventually. Right? I'd rather pay now than in March. Oh, by the way, I saw a yellow-flowering Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) at the store, but I didn't buy it.
Love, Carol

Monday, January 9, 2012
High 50F, Low 29F
Sunny and nice, again. I'm starting to get a little freaked out by the lack of winter. Then I feel guilty that I'm not taking advantage of these nice days to do some weeding, or something, outside in the garden. I didn't sleep well last night. I swear it was NOT because I didn't buy the yellow-flowering Crown of Thorns. It's because I miss winter.
Love, Carol

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
High 52F, Low 30F
Sunny and nice again. This weather is really messing with me. The Johnny Jump Up is still blooming. Will we ever get winter? I would like some winter. I'm used to winter. I need winter! Winter, where art thou?
Love, Carol
P.S. I stopped at the store on the way home. They had a yellow-flowering Crown of Thorns. I bought it this time.
Euphorbia milii

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Not having the plant is punishment enough

Euphorbia milii
I confess.

I broke one of the cardinal rules of gardeners.

Namely, when you see a plant you want, get it.

I saw a crown of thorns, Euphorbia milii, for sale. It had bright yellow bracts instead of the pink bracts that are more commonly sold, that I already have.

I wanted it. I picked it up. I looked it over. It was the last one. It was a little rough looking. You'd be rough looking too if you were sitting in a big box mega-sized grocery store waiting for someone to buy you.

I told myself I had no business looking at house plants. I've got more house plants than house right now. Then I told myself "But you've never seen a yellow one".

I resisted. I put it back. I forgot about it. I moved along. I bought groceries. I went home. I thought no more of it. It's in the past. I didn't get it.

Then I started to water the house plants. Oh, so many of them, but none of them was Euphorbia milii with yellow bracts.

I realized then that I wanted it, that I'd broken the rule about "when you see a plant you want, get it".

I hope it is there when I go back tomorrow. Or maybe I should go back now? That store never closes. The plant should still be there.

Or will it be gone? Perhaps another gardener saw it? Maybe they bought MY plant. My yellow bracted (is bracted a word?) crown of thorns.

I confess.

Please be kind and don't chastise me for not buying this plant. Not having the plant now is punishment enough.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Old Woman at the Door Makes an Observation

     The Old Woman at the Door showed up again this morning. She seemed familiar to me, dressed in blue jeans and a dark green sweatshirt. I let her in right away, as I always do. She has visited often enough over the past year that we didn't really need to spend much time hem-hawing around. She came right to the point of her visit.

"Carol," she said, "I think you spend too much time sitting around and dreaming in the wintertime."

Ouch. Had she been looking in the windows? What did she mean by that? Last weekend, I spent quite a bit of time potting up the houseplants that came in all the funeral planters. That wasn't really dreaming time, though I can do a lot of thinking when I have my hands in some good dirt.

And though I haven't actually purchased any seeds yet, I have made sure that all the seed catalogs are ending up in the basket by the green chair so I can find them when I'm ready to order some seeds.  I hope she doesn't think I'll refrain from dreaming when I start looking through all of them.

Really, I should have been miffed by her direct comment. But I knew she might be right.

It's time to sow a dream and see what comes up.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

My Old Red Wheelbarrow

My Wheelbarrow (2008)
I like my old red wheelbarrow.

I bought it back in 1987. Yes, 25 years ago this spring.

I look at it now and can hardly believe that I've used the same wheelbarrow for 25 years. In all that time, it has served faithfully. It still has all its original parts except for a new tire that I bought 10 years ago, and maybe one or two new nuts on the bolts that hold the barrow to the handles.

I've hauled rocks, plants, top soil, mulch, compost, pavers, garden refuse and more in my red wheelbarrow. I've moved it to three different gardens. I've loaded it to the max a time or two with my gardening dreams and wishes.

A few times I've gotten sideways on a slope and dumped the whole load, but for the most part, my wheelbarrow and I have worked well together and have gotten a lot done.

Every time I see an old wheelbarrow that someone has converted to a planter, I think that I should get an old wheelbarrow and do the same.
Wheelbarrow planter at Dragonfly Farms Nursery
Sometimes, I've look at my old wheelbarrow, my 25 year old wheelbarrow, and wonder if it has become that old wheelbarrow that I should use as a planter now. I could fill it with top soil, plant it with little plants, decorate it with my growing collection of fairy sized garden ornaments and make quite a nice fairy garden.

But is my wheelbarrow really ready for retirement, ready to be re-purposed into a fairy garden planter?

No. I always decide that my wheelbarrow still has a lot of good years left in it. It's strong, doesn't wobble, and hasn't rusted through. There's a lot of work that it can still do, and thankfully, I'm still able to do most of that work, too.

So it won't be that wheelbarrow garden I've always wanted. For that, I'll need to find another old wheelbarrow, one that I'm not quite as attached to.

Did you know you could get attached to your gardening tools?

You can.

You can admit to me that you're attached to your Felco pruners with the clip on holster and tell me that you always clip it to the side pocket of your pants every time you step out into the garden. I won't wonder about you or laugh.

You can admit to me that you'll leave three trowels in plain sight while you spend 30 minutes looking for your favorite trowel because that trowel just seems to make the whole experience of gardening that much better. I'll understand.

After all, I have Felco pruners in a holster that I've had for a dozen years. I also have a favorite trowel, and even a favorite hoe, not to mention a lovely, barely broken in 25 year old red wheelbarrow that I can't imagine gardening without.

P.S. -- Nice try, but I'm not about to tell you which hoe is my favorite hoe. That secret is going to the grave with me, and maybe the hoe will, too.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I waited a few days to decide on a resolution

Viola in the garden on Jan. 1.
A waited a few days before I decided on a New Year's resolution.

I just didn't want to rush into anything and let myself down if I failed at my New Year's resolution before the sun set on the first day of the year. I wanted to think it over.

Once I thought of my resolution, just to be sure, I actually floated the idea of it on Facebook and many people "liked" it. I was heartened by this and took it as a sign that I was on the right path.

Or rather as we gardeners would say, I took it as a sign that I'd pulled a weed and left a good plant. Or maybe that I'd chosen the right row to hoe. Or that I hadn't gone out on a limb that I'd eventually have to saw off. Or that I had some good seeds in my hand.

Armed with this affirmation, I'm ready to reveal my resolution, to put it into writing. After all, I wrote a few days ago that what gets written gets done. That may or may not be true, but at least I find that I'm more likely to do something if I write down that I need to do it. I don't know if this is because I like to check things off a list or if it is because I need the list to remind me that I need to do something.

Regardless, I am now ready to write down and publish my New Year's resolution right here, on this blog, for all to see, for all to remind me.

Garden fairies here! What is all that gibberish that Carol wrote? Was she really going to tell everyone about her New Year's resolution or was this going to be one of those teaser posts where she gets close to telling it and then wonder of wonders, she runs out of time and ends the post leaving everyone hanging?

We are garden fairies, we would never do that. It's not our style. We have style, too. Just ask Carol's stylist, Gloriosa Vanderhort. Most of what Gloriosa knows about style she learned from us garden fairies. It's true. Just ask her about what Sweetpea Morninglory taught her. But don't ask her how it is going with Carol as her client. That's a bit of a sore subject. Carol doesn't take to style very well, it seems, unless it comes in green.

That's why we've taken over this post. We are going to make sure Carol's New Year's resolution gets written down right here, on this blog, just as she said she was going to do. 

We are garden fairies and wait a minute. We've been had. Bamboozled. Radished. Carol didn't tell us her resolution so we can't write it down here. Oh no, this is a tragedy. Wait though. Run, hide. She's returning to the laptop.

My New Year's resolution is the universal gardener's resolution. I'm going to make this year's garden my best garden ever. How will I do that, you may ask?

Garden fairies here again. That's a lame resolution. Geez. We could have thought of that one. And how is Carol going to do this?

We are garden fairies. We must stop Carol at this point, once again. If she reveals how she is going to make this year's garden her best one yet, we fear she will be revealing too many gardening secrets. We are garden fairies. We must caucus about this and decide if we are going to allow her to tell more gardening secrets. By the way, we are garden fairies and caucus is a new word for us. We heard it on TV. We don't know quite what it means, but we know it means something about meeting and deciding. Anyway, Carol has told quite enough gardening secrets. What's left to reveal? A lot is left to reveal, we are garden fairies and we know this. She has just scratched the surface of gardening secrets. We are garden fairies, we must think about this. But not right now, Carol is returning.

Garden fairy parts of this post, in italics, submitted by:
Thorn Goblinfly, Chief Scribe for the Garden Fairies at May Dreams Gardens

A second resolution is to provide more useful gardening information on this blog. Looking back at this post, what is there for a gardener to take from it and use to improve their own garden, to enjoy it more? Well, there is the universal gardener's resolution.

Feel free to adopt that resolution as your own and together we can figure out how to make it happen.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Winter Time: Sow Seeds for a Happy Summer

A dusting of snow on the garden brings wintry thoughts.
Winter time is one of the best things about gardening in a temperate zone.

In the winter time, snow and ice and wind wipe the garden clean so we have a fresh, new palette for planting in the spring.

In the winter time, we sow the seeds for a happy summer -- seeds of ideas, seeds of spring and summer time plans, seeds of new garden designs.

In the winter time, we have time to read about new plants, new gardening techniques, new ways to think about of our gardens.

In the winter time, we can explore the depths of rabbit holes we never knew existed, without the distractions of mowing the lawn, watering the flower borders, or harvesting the tomatoes before they rot.

It was in the winter time that I figured out the first dozen or so secrets for achieving happiness in your garden.  It was in the winter time that I was able to articulate enough of my thoughts on the garden design elements I want in my garden to engage the services of a garden designer. It was in the winter time that I had enough time to learn about old garden writers like Ida Dandridge Bennett.

Welcome winter time. It's an enriching season. It's when we sow seeds for a happy summer, a prosperous growing season, and I wouldn't want to go a year without it.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Discussing movies with Dr. Hortfreud

Hi Dr. Hortfreud.

Hello Carol. I hear you saw several movies last week.

Oh yes, I did, Dr. Hortfreud. I saw three of them.

Care to tell me about them?

Sure. First I saw War Horse. There were some great scenes of the Irish country side in it. I can see why they call Ireland the Emerald Isle. It was so pretty. There was also a scene where the horse was hitched to a plow and they were trying to plow a field full of rocks.

Next I saw My Week with Marilyn. That one took place in rural England. There were some lovely garden scenes, mostly in the summer time. But in one scene Marilyn and Colin were walking under a big arbor and some of those leaves looked like they were turning colors for Autumn. That bothered me a bit.

Then I saw The Descendants. Wow, George Clooney and Hawaii. I've never seen so many tropical flowers and palm trees. Plus there were great scenes showing huge areas of the native Hawaiian landscape on Kauai. It made me feel warm to see all those blooms and big tropical plants.


Yes, Dr. Hortfreud?

Have you noticed that you described all the movies by the plants and landscape in them?

I did?

Yes, you did.

Oh, if that concerns you, then maybe I won't tell you about my movie rating system.

Rating system?

Yes, for how garden-y a movie is. If it is about gardening or a gardener, then it gets five daisies. If it isn't about gardening, but the landscape and flowers are both pretty and appropriate to the movie, then it gets four daisies. If it uses neutral flowers and landscape, then it gets three daisies. Two daisies are for those movies that really botch up the landscape with atrocities like fall foliage in the spring time. One daisy is reserved for movies with no landscape or flowers.

That's, um, interesting, Carol. Would you even go see a two or one daisy movie?

Oh, I might, depending on my mood. But I really prefer four and five daisy movies.

Well, Carol, thank you, this has been insightful.

Want to go to a movie with me, Dr. Hortfreud?

Sure, but only if it is a four or five daisy movie.