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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What's your pickle?

What's your pickle?

The other day, I watched an old Andy Griffith Show, the one about Aunt Bea's pickles.  "Ya see" (that's Andy talk) Aunt Bea made some homemade pickles, and Andy and Barney acted like they liked them, even though they hated them. The pickles were awful and tasted just like kerosene. They did this on account of they didn't want to hurt Aunt Bea's feelings.

Early in that episode, after Aunt Bea dropped off a plate of her pickles at the courthouse for Andy and Barney to eat, Barney turned to Andy and said, "I don't think I can face the future knowing there are eight more quarts of these pickles out there".

As soon as I heard that sentence, my thoughts turned to gardening, as they always do.

"I don't think I can face the future knowing there are eight more quarts of these pickles out there."

I wondered about some of  the "pickles" in my life and garden. What causes me to not want to face the future as long as those "pickles" are a part of it?

I suppose technically my "pickles" ought to be something that someone gave me, thinking I liked them, when really I didn't, but I am too nice to tell them, just like Andy and Barney were too nice to tell Aunt Bea about her pickles. So I just smile and accept that "pickle" every time it's offered. 

Really, though, I can't think of any of those kinds of pickles. Even if I could, I wouldn't post about them online because the "pickler-maker" might see the post, and it could hurt his or her feelings. No sir-ee, that is not somthing I'm fixin' to do cause folks' feelings would just get hurt unnecessarily. (More Andy talk.)

My main "pickles" right now are things that no one has control over and many other people don't like either. But they still fit the thought expressed by Barney.  "I don't think I can face the future knowing there are eight more quarts of these pickles out there".

I don't think I can face the future knowing there are more dry months ahead of us.

I don't think I can face the future knowing there are thistle growing in my garden, taking it over.

I don't think I can face the future knowing there are still over three months until the elections.  (Oops, that's not related to gardening at all!)

Of course, I will face the future. But unlike Andy and Barney, I'm not going to try to get rid of my "pickles".  Even if I could get rid of them, those "pickles" would just come back again, the same way the real pickles came back to haunt Andy and Barney.

Whatever happens, will happen. Bring it on. Bring on the "pickles". Bring on the dry months and the thistle. I'm sure I can handle it. I'll just water and weed. I'll just grin and bear it, and enjoy those "pickles".


Yes, Dr. Hortfreud.

This must be one of the most far-reaching gardening posts you've ever written, comparing Aunt Bea's pickles to stuff you don't want to face in the future. You must have spent one too many hours out in the hot sun without enough water to drink.  I don't think I can face the future knowing you might write more posts like this one.

Funny, Dr. Hortfreud. Very funny.  What's your pickle?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gardener's Guide to Drought Recovery: 3) Make a Quick Hit Task List

OSO EASY™ Cherry Pie Rosa 'Meiboulka'
I'm shocked and delighted that these shrub roses in my garden are doing as well as they are doing, in spite of the lack of any real rain since May 1st.

As I embarked on my drought recovery program, I spent some time  assessing my garden over the weekend. When I got to this section of the garden, I wrote "shrub roses look pretty good but have some weeds nearby ready to encroach on their territory", or something like that.

Notice that I didn't write "pull those weeds before they take over those shrub roses and stop whining about the heat", or something like that. Nor did I write, "wow, plant more shrub roses because they seem to be able to grow in spite of the drought".    That's because the previous step on the road to drought recovery was "assess your garden", not create a task list.

But now that I have an assessment of the garden and have previously thought of the goals for my garden, it's time to move on to the next step, making a quick hit task list.

Finally!  Now we are getting somewhere.  For awhile it looked like drought recovery was all about list making. Well, technically it is still about list making but now it is about making a quick hit task list.

To make your task list, go down through the assessment and list off the stuff you should do no matter what the goals are for your garden. In most cases, it will be to weed. My weeding list goes something like this: weed around the roses (pocket full of posies), weed the half of the vegetable garden you didn't weed last week, weed in Plopper's Field, weed in Woodland Follies, weed, weed, weed.

Oh, and emergency watering will most likely be on your list, too,  plus tasks like adding some mulch in a few bare spots and moving some leftover edging blocks over next to the compost bins and stacking them neatly.  Etc.

What should not be on your quick hit task list is any kind of planting, designing, reconfiguring, repurposing or re-doing of any part of the garden.  Patience. There will be time for that once the quick hit task list is done.

Still with me. Still recovering from drought?  Still in love with gardening?

At this point in your drought recovery, if you are following along with me, you have some goals, you have an assessment of your garden, and you have a quick hit task list.  I don't know about you, but having all this gives me some sense that I am now back in control of the garden* no matter when it rains again.  With that sense, I'm ready to check those  quick hit tasks off one at a time so I can get on to the next step in drought recovery.

*This statement should not imply that I ever lost control of my garden in the drought, in spite of evidence to the contrary like weeds, sloppy piles of left-over edging or plants that need water now.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Guest Post: Garden Fairies Assess Garden

This shrub is not aware of the drought.
Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we are posting very quickly while Carol is trying to do some clean up in the drought-den. A drought-den is like a garden, only without rain.

We just made up that word, drought-den. We are garden fairies, we can do that. We have no idea what excuse Carol has for making up words. But that is a topic for another day.

Yesterday and earlier today when Carol was out assessing her garden and trying very hard not to write every thing down as a "to do" item, we garden fairies went along.

Do you know how hard it is for a gardener to walk-thru her (or his) garden and make observations without writing it down as a task?   Well, apparently it is very hard to do, just try it some time. We are garden fairies, though, so it is no problem for us because we never bother to do anything so we don't need a to do list.

Well, we don't do anything planned, we should say. We are all about spontaneity, seize the moment, which means if Carol leaves her gloves out in the garden and a garden fairy happens to see them, then it is fair game for a garden fairy to take them and hide them, spontaneously, of course. We would never plan to do it.

Anyway, we are garden fairies and we went with Carol to the garage side of the house which doesn't get a lot of attention.  Our assessment was that the Fothergilla shrubs she moved over there a few years ago are dead. The daylilies, which are really ditch lilies, might be dead or at least they don't have any green leaves above ground.  And the vinca groundcover that was just covering up the ugliness is now the ugliness.

But right smack dab in the middle of all that mess, next to the air conditioning unit,  is a Rhus aromtica 'Gro-Low' that did not get the memo about the extreme drought.    We posted a picture of it above.  Look how green it is.  And it never gets extra water because Carol doesn't water over on that side very often. 

Plus, we garden fairies know that Carol doesn't really care for this shrub. She says she doesn't like the smell of it. Duh, it is called aromatic sumac, she should have smelled it at the garden center before she bought it.  Plus, she doesn't like how rampantly it spreads.  Duh, it had a tag, why didn't she read it?  And, she is always talking about how she has too much bare mulched areas and wants more plants that spread.  Well, here is one that spreads and she doesn't like it.  To that we garden fairies say "tough tomatoes". We are experiencing an extreme drought, it is green, and so it stays. End of story.

However, if Carol wants to cut it back some, we will allow it. We are garden fairies.

Oh, and one last thing. This aromatic sumac has really pretty red foliage in the fall. DUH. Carol, keep this one.  We are garden fairies, we insist.

Submitted by:

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

P.S. We are sorry to have interrupted the flow of Carol's posts about drought recovery, but we are garden fairies and we saw something green so we had to tell someone!.  We will try to not post again until she is done writing about the steps to drought recovery.  Oh, oh, oh,we just noticed that this is post number 1987.  We are garden fairies. We are going to try to sneak in and write post number 2000 in a few weeks. What do the readers think of that!?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gardener's Guide to Drought Recovery: 2) Assess Your Garden

Look how green & no watering!
Still with me on drought recovery?  Have you figured out your gardening goals?

Yes? Good. Keep reading. 

After you've figured out what your goals for gardening are, your next step on the road we call drought recovery is to assess your garden.

I know you've been hiding inside during the hot days, occasionally sticking your nose out the door to see if it still hot. Then you go out at dusk and water what you can before sighing heavily, turning off the water, and heading back inside, happy that another day of this miserably hot summer is over.

No more. No more hiding. No more ignoring. No more "head in the sand it isn't really all that dry" attitude. And absolutely no whining. There is no whining in drought recovery.  Though, there are enough letters in "recovery" for cry, so if you need to cry a little bit over how dry it is, that's acceptable.

Now tears dried, chin up. It's time to face the garden, to figure out what's doing well, other than weeds, and what may need some attention. It's also time to step back a bit and see if the garden is overall what you want it to be.

But before you leave your computer and go running out into your garden to start assessing the situation, there are just a few more instructions.

First, take some paper and a pencil with you to take some notes.  It's hot out there, and you may be rushed and come down with a case of memory-wiping drought delirium, so write down your assessment.  You want to have notes to refer to later.

Next, and this is very important, do not write your notes and assessments as a bunch of "to-do" items.  For example, when you see all the weeds that sprouted in your personal plopper's field while you weren't looking, don't write "need to weed plopper's field".  Instead write "plopper's field is weedy".

And don't write, "need to find a tree to replace the fallen red bud tree in Woodland Follies".  Nope, that's a task. That's something you have to do. Instead write "tree fell in Woodland Follies and now it is a sunny garden with no shade." That's an assessment of current state and how you want to make your list. After all, when you have finished your assessment, you may decide that Woodland Follies is better as a sunny garden. Don't commit yourself to anything just yet.

Later, once you've completed the assessment, you can look at the list you've made and turn some of the observations into tasks. But don't do that right away.  Trust me, you'll be overwhelmed in the first few minutes with all that you need to do and all you want to do if you write everything down as a task.  They'll be time later to be overwhelmed.   But doing worry about being overwhelmed yet. There will also be ways to keep from being overwhelmed as we follow along on the Gardener's Guide to Drought Recovery.

Ready? Set?  Go out into your garden to "assess the situation", but don't make a "to do" list.   Report back when you are ready for what comes next.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gardener's Guide to Drought Recovery: 1) Start with Goals

The grape vine seems to love the drought.
We know with certainty that no gardener planted a garden with the hope that eventually she could water by hand day after day and still watch the plants die from lack of water.

"Oh please, please, no rain. I like to provide all the water for my garden myself", was never spoken by any gardener that I've ever known.

I know I didn't sign up for constant watering when I decided to be a gardener. (Yes, I know I decided to be a gardener when I was about five years old and getting to hold the hose and water was fun back then. But if I had known then what a drought was, I know I would not have wanted it for my garden.)

I planted a garden for a thousand other reasons besides wanting to water.  Yet, I find myself watering day after day and see that in spite of my best efforts, some plants are probably not going to survive the Extreme Drought. Or, if they do survive, they'll be smaller than before and will need a few good seasons to catch up.

But now that I'm in a drought recovery program, which yes, I am making up as I go along, I won't be forever watering my garden.  I'm moving on, adjusting, and taking the drought in stride because nothing is going to keep me from gardening and I refuse to let gardening look mostly like watering.  No more hand wringing for me. No more wondering when it is going to rain again.  I'm recovering now!

Can I get an "amen"?  Thank you.

The first step in recovery from a drought is to go back to the beginning and remember why it was you planted a garden and what you hoped your garden would be once you had established it. Perhaps just as important, what did you imagine yourself doing in your garden?  (If you imagined yourself sitting in the shade of your weed free garden, drinking iced tea and reading a book, I assume you also imagined hiring help to do some of your gardening for you.)

I remember that I used to garden a bit haphazardly. I planted a vegetable garden. I had some flower borders. I planted trees and shrubs.  But it wasn't turning out to be the garden I wanted it to be. So I thought about it all one winter and wrote down what I wanted my garden to be, which became my gardening goals.  Then I worked with a garden designer to come up with a design that helped me achieve my goals.

That was two years ago. Between the garden designer and I, with help from several others, I've   made great strides toward those goals in those two years.

Tonight, I'm reviewing my garden design posts again to remind myself what I want my garden to be because I know without that idea of what I'm trying to achieve, i.e. some goals, what's the point of all the watering? (No, surviving the drought is not a goal. Remember, we are recovering, moving on.)

With my gardening goals fresh in my mind, I'll move on to the next step in my drought recovery program.

If you are playing along at home, think about why you garden, what you want your garden to be, and what you want to do when you are out there gardening. Start with goals. Then we can discuss the next step in drought recovery.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gardener's Guide to Drought Recovery: Intro

Dear Hortense,

Right now at 10:00 pm on the 25th day of July with an actual temperature of 91F and a "feels like" temperature of 96F, I declare that we have reached the dregs of this drought and it cannot get any worse.

The ground is littered with what I like to call "drought droppings", mostly dried up leaves and flower petals that just could not hang on any longer and fell to the ground, no doubt stirring up some drought dust as they each silently hit the dirt. I hope no garden fairies have been struck by this drought debris.

Some of the plants that still have leaves seem to be in a permanent "drought droop" and almost beg me to cut them back. I just pray that the roots of these plants, mostly perennials, are alive but dormant as though it is winter, and that once it rains again, they'll recover with new shoots and leaves. I'm told to expect this and I hang on to this dream, for without it, I am left with bare ground.

My hand is sore from holding the trigger on the hose spray nozzle and I'm nearly devoid of garden dreams as I stand there with the hose, evening after evening, trying to avoid collapsing in a heap of drought doldrums.

But, Hortense, as I put the hose away this evening at dark o'thirty, I realized that I did not want to survive this drought and hope that next summer is better. I realized that I want to recover from this drought, right now, with a real temperature of 91F at 10:00 pm. I want to reclaim my garden from this drought and heat and enjoy it once again. Now.

I am certain that other gardeners feel the same way. There is no joy in surviving a drought and living to tell the tale. If this is the new reality for my garden, I will embrace it and encourage other gardeners to do the same.

Our joy will be in recovering from this drought, and showing others how to do the same. We'll reclaim the delight we had in gardens that flourished. We'll be inspired by plants that bloom and prosper no matter how dry it is. . We will draw strength from a garden well-tended.

And we will do this whether it rains or doesn't rain.

We will recover.

Are you with me, Dear Hortense?

If so, let's get started now on a Gardener's Guide to Drought Recovery.


Wildflower Wednesday: Wing Haven

I really don't think I can do an adequate job of describing Wing Haven, the nearly three acre garden of Edwin and Elizabeth Clarkson, who lived down the street from Elizabeth Lawrence  in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For me, Wing Haven started out as the place to go to pay the entry fee to visit Elizabeth Lawrence's garden

When we had finished visiting Elizabeth Lawrence's garden, if one can really "finish" soaking in the atmosphere of the garden  and examining all the plants there, we headed back down the street to Wing Haven.  I decided to tour it, too, out of respect for the Wing Haven Foundation, which purchased the Lawrence House and Garden and have committed to maintaining it along with Wing Haven.

I am glad I took the time.

The first thing we saw was this video.

Wing Haven Bird Sanctuary from Cathy O'Hara on Vimeo.

You really need to watch the video, if nothing else to learn about Tommy the Bluebird.

Here in the middle of this beautiful neighborhood, down the street from Elizabeth Lawrence's house and garden was this three acre garden, a sanctuary for birds, and a peaceful, reflective place for visitors.

I headed out to see the garden.

Parts of the garden are wooded.

Other parts of the garden are clipped to perfection.

There are two large pools with fountains.

There are bird baths throughout the garden, with faucets to drip water into them.

The entire garden is surrounded by a red brick wall.

At various places along the wall, there are insets containing statues of various kinds.

Here and there along the paths, there are plaques with quotes and scriptures engraved on them.

The garden also included a well-manicured lawn, a rose garden, and a children's garden, in addition to places along the way to sit and rest in the shade and wait for birds to come along and bathe in a bird bath or eat from a feeder.

Though my time was rushed, I can imagine that in early spring the woods of Wing Haven are filled with wildflowers.  I would guess that there were wildflowers in bloom when I was there, but I didn't allow time to look for them, as I should have.  Then I'd have a wildflower picture from Wing Haven to post about for Wildflower Wednesday, hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone.

But I don't have a picture of a wildflower. Let that be a lesson to all of us.  When visiting a garden, always allow enough time to really see the garden. And find out more about the garden before you visit.  A garden like Wing Haven deserves at least that.

The next time I visit, I'll spend more time at Wing Haven, on Ridegewood Avenue, just down the street from Elizabeth Lawrence's garden, and I'll look for wildflowers in both gardens.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The safest place for a plant during a drought

The safest place for a plant during a drought is in a container in a slightly sheltered location that keeps it out of the hot sun. Ideally the location should also be near an outdoor faucet which has a hose hooked up to it so that the gardener can water the  plant the minute it looks like it might need a little drink.

In my garden, there are three plants in containers that occupy such a location. I check them daily but I try not to fuss over them.  I know you can kill a plant with kindness just as quickly as you can kill a plant with neglect.

These three plants are special.

I bought them while I was visiting the Elizabeth Lawrence Garden on June 30th.  (Oh, lovely readers, I know you thought I was finally finished writing about my little visit to Lawrence's garden when I wrote about her study.  No, not quite yet. There are still a few more stories to tell.)

I was thrilled to see that they were selling a few plants that had been propagated from the plants Lawrence grew in her garden.
At first I wasn't going to buy a plant because I was heading to the beach for a week's vacation before going home, but in a matter of a few seconds I came to my senses and changed my mind. 

Andrea, who works in the garden, helped me pick out some plants that would be hardy in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden.   We chose:

Acorus gramineus 'Ogon' - Japanese sweet grass. I'm going to have to think about where to plant this one as it likes a wet location. Currently my garden has no location that I would consider wet, especially during a drought, but I'll figure out something.

Kalimeris pinnatifida ‘Hortensis’- Oxford Orphanage Plant. I first read about this passalong plant when Allen Bush wrote a post about it for the Human Flower Project website.  He met Lawrence in 1982 and she gave him a start of it.  When I read that article, I immediately ordered this plant for myself, but that plant got lost in the shuffling of plants that took place when I re-planted several garden borders a couple of summers again.  Andrea was very accommodating in making sure I went home with this plant when I asked her about it.

Chrysanthemum 'Christmas Gold' - Andrea wrote an article about this Chrysanthemum and how it blooms late in the fall. I'm sure this is one that Lawrence also passed along to others because Chrysanthemums are easy to share. I suspect if I look for them, there are some references to to this particular Chrysanthemum in her writings.

These three plants successfully made the journey from Elizabeth Lawrence's garden to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where they enjoyed a week in a motel room window overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Then they were loaded back into my car to make the long journey back to Indiana. (I set them on top of a cooler that was on the floor in the back seat so they would get some light as we drove and drove and drove some more.)

All three plants are safe right now, on the front porch, sheltered from the hot sun and near a good source of water. They are waiting for me to find them more permanent planting places, once the drought is over.  My hope is that once I plant them in my garden, they will flourish and spread. I hope, too, that as the years go by, I can share divisions of these plants with others who visit my garden.

"Here, have a start of Chrysanthemum 'Christmas Gold'. You'll love it, even if you don't like mums. I insist.  I got my start from Elizabeth Lawrence's garden."

Doesn't that have a nice sound to it?

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Test: What Kind of Gardener Are You?

Please look at the following picture and write down the first thing you see.

All done?  Put down your paper and pencil and let's see what Dr. Hortfreud has to say about what kind of gardener you are based on what you first saw in the picture.

If the first thing you saw was the half eaten tomato, and  you wondered how it got there, and  you decided that a squirrel probably picked it from a tomato plant in the vegetable garden in broad daylight, then drug it half way across the yard, intent on carrying it up the only sizable tree in the back yard so he could feast upon it for days, but the squirrel realized it was too heavy to carry or something scared him and he dropped it, then you are the kind of gardener who gardens where there are squirrels and you know the trouble they can cause.  This is answer a) Squirrely.

If the first thing you saw were the toad-lilies with half dried leaves and you wondered why in the world the gardener (that would be ME) didn't water them more but you remembered that there is an Extreme Drought where this garden is (that would be MY garden) so the gardener (that would be ME) couldn't water them more so you were filled with all kinds of sympathy for the gardener (that would be ME) and now you can't get out of your mind that image of half dried leaves, then you are the kind of gardener who has sympathy for all gardeners who garden where there is drought and you yourself might be gardening in a drought, too. This is answer b) Sympathetic.

If the first thing you saw was the mulch and you wondered what it was and then mentally went through a list of all the mulches you've seen before to figure out what type of mulch it is and finally decided that it must be a pine bark mulch and  thought how nice that it keeps its dark color so well,  then you are the kind of gardener who expects to see half eaten tomatoes all over the garden and half-dried leaves from extreme drought but is very interested in the science of mulching. This is answer c) Scientific.

Finally, if you just saw a half-eaten tomato, half-dried leaves and a bunch of brown mulch then you are the kind of gardener who is not a gardener at all. This is answer d) Not a gardener at all.

Dr. Hortfreud would now like you to report what kind of gardener you are by leaving a comment with your type:

a) Squirrely,
b) Sympathetic,
c) Scientific,
d) Not a gardener at all.

Or if you saw something completely different than the four choices, please let Dr. Hortfreud know that as well.  Thank you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Post Produce: Tomatoes

Let the tomato season begin!

Until today, my vegetable garden was teasing me with little cherry tomatoes called Mexican Midget and another small  tomato variety called Tomataberry.  Mexican Midget tomatoes are good, but Tomatoberry is so-so.  Those are the little ones in the picture.

Then this morning -- ta da! Big tomatoes!

I've already followed all the required rituals for the first big tomato of the season and ate that one in the upper right in the photo above.  (Warning: That link to the first tomato ritual information might frighten some people, so click on it only if you... never mind... click at your own risk).

The variety of this first big ripe tomato is... oh no! That vine didn't have a tag on it.  Oh, dear. How sloppy of me.  I can assure you, though, that even nameless it was delicious, juicy and tomato-y beyond belief.  I almost wept as I ate it, it was so good.

I also don't know the other varieties of big tomatoes that I picked, other than the pink one in the upper left is German Johnson.  It needs a day on the counter to juice up a little and then I will eat it very slowly because it is one of my all-time must-grow-it-every-year favorites.  The reason I picked it a day or so early was because it was low on the vine, within reach of critters. I sure didn't want to chance having one of the rabbits or squirrels or raccoons eat my German Johnson tomato tomorrow morning after I dream all day about picking it and eating  in the evening for supper. At least this way, my first beloved German Johnson tomato is safe.

I do love my tomatoes fresh from the garden and am delighted to post them today as part of  Your Small Kitchen Garden's meme Post Produce, which takes place on the 22nd of the month.

I am also picking peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini squash. In fact, I just baked a zucchini pie this morning, good for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Pair it up with some fresh tomatoes from the garden, and as I like to say,  "that's good eats".

Now with Your Small Kitchen Garden'sPost Produce meme, I feel challenged to figure out how to have produce, or something I grew to eat, every month of the year, just as I challenged myself to have flowers nearly every month of the year for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. The winter months will be a challenge, but I think I'm going for it. After all, I could grow sprouts, right?

Anyway, the harvest is plentiful, and I'm eating from the garden and giving away extra produce as I have it to give. What could make a gardener happier? (Well, this gardener could be happier if we had more rain or any rain at all and fewer weeds, but that's a topic for another day.)

What are you harvesting from your garden today?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A pleasaunce

I must tell you that Elizabeth Lawrence's study contains some rather large rabbit holes.  A few evenings ago, I fell into one and came up with a brand new word -- pleasaunce.

Let me start at the beginning.  When I came home from my vacation and looked at my photos of Elizabeth Lawrence's study, I didn't feel I had done it justice, or that I had asked enough questions.  For example, the wall containing the door into the study is lined with built in bookshelves. I took pictures of one side of the door and the other side of the door but not of the door between the two sets of bookshelves.

Remind when I visit again, and oh, yes, I shall visit again, I will arrive promptly when the garden opens and I will not leave until the garden closes.  I will not be in a big rush with a long drive ahead of me to get to another destination.

Anyway, those are not Elizabeth Lawrence's library of books on the shelves of her study.  Those are books donated by Allen Lacy.  So where are Lawrence's books?  Her library of books, all 513 of them, are safe and secure in the Cherokee Garden Library at the Atlanta Historical Society.  I found that out by reading an article on the Wing Haven website about two volunteers at the library who were given the opportunity to go through all of Lawrence's books to catalog the ephemera within the pages.

Ephemera are paper items that are usually insignificant and often discarded, but if kept long enough and associated with someone like Elizabeth Lawrence, they become something of significance. 

If you read the article (please do!) you'll find that Lawrence tucked all kinds of things between the pages of her books -  a review she wrote about the book, or a receipt for the purchase of the book, or correspondence with the author, or even a grocery list or two.   Reading through the article, you'll find that the two volunteers often went out to the Internet to look up more information on something they  found in a book, or because of the book itself.

Which leads me, like the two volunteers, wondering what a "pleasaunce" is.

It seems that Elizabeth Lawrence owned a book called "The Peacock's Pleasaunce" by E. V. B.   (Eleanor Vere Boyle).  Now, Eleanor could lead us down yet another rabbit hole, but let's focus on "pleasaunce".

A pleasaunce, as it turns out, is an obsolete word that means, "a region of a garden with the sole purpose of giving pleasure to the senses, but not offering fruit or sustenance".  Today, we might use the word "pleasance" in its place.  Or stick to the old pleasaunce.

Did you know that two thirds of my backyard, including Plopper's Field, is a pleasaunce? The other one third is the vegetable garden.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go out and tend to the pleasaunce, which in this drought does not give me much pleasure.  But if I pull the weeds and deadhead the flowers, perhaps it will become the pleasaunce I hope it to be. 

And I hope you find pleasure in your pleasuance, or pleasance if you prefer, this weekend.  Just watch out for rabbit holes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Elizabeth Lawrence's Study

What fun it was to go inside the house of Elizabeth Lawrence after touring the gardens.

I wanted most to see her study, which features a large window that looks out over the garden.

When we entered the study, I could see that Andrea, the Wing Haven staff member who works in Lawrence's garden, sets up the vases to display samples of what's blooming in the garden, just as Lawrence was known to do.

That's fitting  because Lawrence's study is under a conservation easement, so it can't be remodeled and should be preserved as is.

There is a long  counter that runs the length of the window that serves as a desk. I presume that Lawrence wrote all of her newspaper columns and books while sitting there facing the window, admiring whatever she had cut to put in the vases and gazing out the window to decide what she should write each week for her newspaper column or how she should turn a phrase for one of her books.

Lawrence kept notes about the plants she grew in the garden on thousands of 3 x 5 index cards, which are all kept in file drawers in the study.

Andrea showed us a sample of one of the cards.

She says she is still looking for the secret decoder ring to help her decipher the information on the cards.  Because there are few photographs of the gardens when Lawrence was alive and gardening there, her books and newspaper columns along with these cards help Andrea and others determine what plants Lawrence actually grew in the garden, so they can re-introduce some of those that have disappeared over the years.

The goal, per the Wing Haven website, is not to turn the garden into a museum, but to treat it as a  dynamic plant laboratory which is how Lawrence viewed her garden. 

Along another wall, there are book cases filled with gardening books. The books on the shelves today were donated by Allen Lacy.  I discovered that all 513 of Lawrence's books are now housed in the Cherokee Garden Library at the Atlanta History Center.   Oh, that's a rabbit hole I want to go down and check out some time soon.

I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I wanted to leave some time to see Wing Haven,, purely to show respect and appreciation to the Wing Haven Foundation, which had agreed to purchase and preserve Lawrence's house and garden. Plus we still had a day's drive ahead of us to get to the ocean.

I was very glad I didn't skip Wing Haven. More on it later...

(Update from Bobby Ward:  "Elizabeth Lawrence's columns for the Charlotte Observer were typed, as were her book manuscripts.  Her letters to friends were hand written.  The books at the Cherokee Library in Atlanta were sold by the niece and nephew from Lawrence's estate. The library has them well organized and it has taken all the clippings, notes, seed lists, and many other scraps of paper from the books and filed them separately, identifying which book they were removed from.")

Wherever you go, take memories with you

View thru study window at Eliz. Lawrence garden

Wherever you go, take the memories of a beautiful garden with you.

Remember the flowers and their scents.

Remember the paths and the sound of your footsteps as you walked along them.

Remember the breezes and the birds, and how they filled the garden with a symphony that can never be replayed exactly the same way as it was played for you.

Remember the colors, the blending of floral tones with shades of green.

Remember what the leaves felt like as you touched those that looked so soft.

Remember the hospitality of those who tended that garden, how they welcomed you in, knowing that the memories you took with you would only enhance the garden in the long run, adding to its mystique.

Wherever you go, take the memories of a beautiful garden with you.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Guest Post: Garden Fairy Grievances

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have not posted in a long time, not since it got really hot and we now have a list of grievances that we feel should be published for everyone to read and say "Poor Garden Fairies, what a rough life you lead".  Or, "Poor Garden Fairies, we are totally on your side".  Or "Poor Garden Fairies, there, there, this drought can't last forever", or something sympathetic along those lines.

We must warn you that we have many grievances and then at the end we are going to make a Big Announcement.  We are garden fairies, let us get right to our many points.

Blooming radishes! Is it hot or what? We are garden fairies and we have never seen it so hot.  And so dry, too. Records have been broken for high temperatures here in Indianapolis and it has been a zillion days since we have had any rain to speak of.  But would Carol know about those hot days with temperatures in the 100's? Not from actually experiencing them because She Left On Vacation Right As It Got Hot And Missed The Hundred Plus Degree Days.

When we garden fairies found out about this, we were bug-eyed.  And then! And then!  We found out that she stopped in Charlotte, North Carolina on her way to the Outer Banks and saw Elizabeth Lawrence's garden. And she did not take us. She left us here.  She is a crummy bum in our book for doing that.  Really.  How is it that we were not clued in to these plans?  We should have seen the clues!

Anyway, fortunately for us garden fairies, her sister came over and watered every day, otherwise we garden fairies would have had to pack up and leave because we are now in Extreme Drought here at May Dreams Gardens. Oh, and while Carol was gone, a tree fell over in the garden. We garden fairies were not responsible, we don't care what anyone says.  No one is talking about it, though we garden fairies did post about it . Someone had to keep this blog going while Carol was on vacation.

Apparently, though, Carol found out about the tree falling and she had people come and clean it up before she got home.  We think her sister blabbed it to her but she didn't mention us garden fairies being involved in any way. Woo-wee.

Did we tell you that Carol saw Elizabeth Lawrence's garden without us? She's still all moony-eyed about it and we hear that she has more posts to write about it but only stopped briefly for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.   Oh, and she also discovered Cynthia Westcott while she was on vacation.  Geez, another garden writer?  There are rumors that Carol has ordered more of her books to read. Geez.

By the way, we are garden fairies and we know how appreciative Carol is of all the gardeners who post for bloom day. And she is especially appreciative of all the British gardeners who graciously offered to send her some of their rain because they apparently have way more rain than they need, even for England.  She would love to have it because did we garden fairies mention how dry it is here?

We are garden fairies and we have met our quota for this blog post so we are going to stop here and let you all commence with the "Poor Garden Fairies" and other sympathies for all that we have endured so far this summer.

Did you know there is a watering ban, too?  We are garden fairies, we almost forgot to mention that. Now Carol has to hand water anything that gets water around here.  We are garden fairies and are trying to direct Carol where to water but she has her own mind about it.  It sure is boring and sad to have to stand there watering stuff, let us tell you that.   But garden fairies don't cry so that's enough about that sadness.

Sniff.  We'll make our Big Announcement some other day when it is cooler and we've gotten some rain.   We are garden fairies, we are sure it will rain again some day.

You may now commence with the "poor garden fairies".

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2012

Volunteer sunflower
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for July 2012.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana we are enduring a hot, dry summer. 

Weather record keepers have been busy recording new record high temperatures, record streaks of days over 90 F, and record numbers of consecutive days without any measurable rainfall.  They have also declared that we are now in extreme drought rather than severe drought.

As of noon on Friday, we are banned from watering lawns, washing cars or anything else outside with water, or otherwise running water out the end of a hose as though it is a resource that will always be there. 

We are allowed to hand water flower beds, vegetable gardens and any trees and shrubs that are less than five years old. 

In spite of all that, I do have blooms in my garden.

A volunteer sunflower came up this spring and I left it to grow because I am a lazy weeder.  It is in a corner of the vegetable garden that didn't get a lot of water even when I used a sprinkler to water the entire garden. I wonder if it would have waited another year to sprout if it had known what the weather would be like this summer?  Grow, sunflower, grow!

Another volunteer flower that comes up here and there and seems to do quite well with little water and less attention is Verbena bonariensis.

I just wish I had more of these scattered here and there because in some gardens, like Ploppers' Field, there is a sad lack of bloom. I'll let the seeds of this Verbena mature and sow themselves throughout the garden.

The few flowers  that are blooming in Ploppers' Field, like this daylily, are surrounded by "not pretty" which can look worse than weeds.
I do need to get out into the garden and do some massive clean up and weeding.  The garden will still be dry afterward, but it will at least look neat and tidy.

Elsewhere in Ploppers' Field, there are some coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea, in bloom.
I won't be deadheading these anytime soon. The birds will enjoy the seeds for dinner later this fall.

Across the way in the August Dreams Garden border, there are some bright spots.

Phlox paniculata 'David' looks cheery and even glows at night.
I've been watering this garden border because everything in it was just planted at the beginning of last year's gardening season so it is still establishing iteself.  That tan area you see in the upper left is the dormant lawn, by the way.

Rudbeckia sp. is also blooming now as it should be blooming.
It, too, stands out against the dormant lawn.

Around in front, there are also some blooms, mostly in containers which I planted with some Proven Winners trial plants.
 I have no idea where the tags are for these flowers but I am pretty certain that the two plants in this container are Lo & Behold® 'Ice Chip' butterfly bush and Calibrachoa 'Lemon Slice'.  I'll plant the butterfly bush out in the garden some time this fall.

Also blooming in the front are Lo & Behold® 'Blue Chip' butterfly bushes.
I bought six of these in early June to replace some Aster 'October Skies' plants that were dying off from some kind of blight. The butterfly bushes were a bit scraggly when I planted them, but I've been watering them regularly and they've responded with beautiful blooms.  I'll see how they get through the winter before I truly sing their praises, but for now, they are a bright bloom in this season of dull drought.

The rest of the garden is dry and the blooms are mere shadows of what would normally be blooming in mid-July in my garden. I looked back through all of the previous July bloom day posts, going all the way back to 2007, just to remember that it wasn't always like this.

What's blooming in your garden in mid-July?  I'd love to see and read about whatever it is that brightens your garden on the 15th of every month.

Please join in with your own Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post. Just post on your blog about what is blooming this month in your garden and then come back here and leave a link to your blog post in the Mr. Linky widget below along with a brief comment to entice us to virtually visit your garden.

The rules for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day are simple... no rules! You can include pictures, lists, no lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms. You can post early, you can post late. We are grateful for whatever you share with us. Thank you, and all are welcome!

Now, say it together with me...

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

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence

Have you ever been in a garden for the first time and felt like you had been there before?

After reading many of Elizabeth Lawrence's books and gardening columns and devouring all the information that the Wing Haven Foundation has posted online about her life and garden, it all seemed so familiar to me as I entered the gate to her garden on Saturday, June 30. 

My photographs, taking during the late morning, close to noon actually, are admittedly not of the best quality, but please indulge me as I post some of them.

As I entered the garden, I passed by the bamboo she planted outside her dining room window.
She learned, as many gardeners do, that running bamboo like this needs to be contained and controlled or it will spread and sprout everywhere.

I followed the paths that she had laid out in the 1940's when she and her mother built the house and gardens.  The center path goes from the house to the back off the garden.

On its way, the path goes around a pond which still has the same frog fountain in it  that was there when Lawrence owned the garden.

At the end of the path, I found the plaque of Madonna and Child, just where I knew it would be.
According to Andrea, who works in the garden, they have plans to have this plaque restored as it is showing its age. She also said that they have records that indicate Lawrence made this plaque herself.

From the back of the garden, you can look up to the house to see the windows to Lawrence's study.
Lawrence designed the house and garden to provide  a complete view of the garden from the study windows.

There are sunny borders in the garden, filled with many different plants, some spilling over and softening the edge between the path and the garden.
There are shady areas, too.

Deprived northern gardener that I am, I don't recall that I really ever saw Crinum in bloom, but I knew Lawrence had a fondness for them, so I was able to easily spot some in her garden. They weren't at peak bloom, but I can see how pretty they are.
Seeing her garden, I better understand her balance of garden design with her love of plants. Her garden was indeed her plant laboratory.  She took the time and grew the plants so she could understand how they grew, or didn't grow as was sometimes the case, in a Southern garden, her garden, before she wrote about them. That is part of what makes her writings so authentic.

I loved being in this garden, walking along the paths, spotting familiar and unfamiliar plants.  I could imagine what it was like when Lawrence herself was there, how she might lead a guest from one area to the next and then invite them inside to cool off a bit, before sending them on their way with a plant or two to visit the Clarksons just down the street.

Just as I did that day...

I have much more to write about my visit to Elizabeth Lawrence's garden, but will pause here as Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is this Sunday.  As has been my habit since my first bloom day post in February 2007, I will once again go out to my garden on the 15th of the month to observe what is blooming and compare these blooms with not only my own records from past years, but with many other gardeners who will do the same.

As always,  I will end my bloom day post with the words of Elizabeth Lawrence:  "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year."   These words inspired me to really look at my garden and understand when plants really bloom.  And Lawrence inspired me to share my blooms with others and ask them to share theirs with me because as Lawrence also said, "no one gardens alone".

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Journey to Elizabeth Lawrence's Garden: Part 3

Part 1      Part 2

I woke up in the hotel in Charlotte and looked out the window to see that the sun was shining, a promising start to the day.  As we drove to a nearby restaurant for breakfast, I marveled at the trees and shrubs planted along the roads, especially the crepe myrtles in full bloom.

Charlotte, as far as I could tell from the areas I was in, is a pretty city, with landscaping along public streets and lots of flowers in bloom. 

After breakfast, we got back in the car and programmed the GPS for Wing Haven on Ridgewood Avenue. It told me that  I was nine minutes from Elizabeth Lawrence's garden.  Nine minutes after years of wanting to visit. Nine minutes.

As we drove to the garden, my friend was surprised that we were driving through a lovely neighborhood in  Charlotte.  Where was this garden?  It was at her house, of course.  And her house was in a neighborhood  just down the street from another, larger residential garden called Wing Haven.

And then we were there.  I parked the car in the nearby parking lot and we walked two houses down to the big white house that had once been the home of the Clarksons, whose three acres of gardens, along with the gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence, are maintained by the Wing Haven Foundation.

Clarkson Home, Wing Haven Foundation Offices
At this point, the woman who was there to collect our entry fee and explain about the gardens might have suspected that I was a fan of Elizabeth Lawrence.  I was rather eager in asking for directions to Lawrence's garden. I might have told her I was a big fan. I might have mentioned I'd read all her books.  I might have said we planned to see Elizabeth Lawrence's garden first, then come back Wing Haven.

"Eight houses down on the right. There's a sign in front."

Off we walked.  I was too excited to actually count houses, but I'd seen the pictures of Lawrence's house, so I knew we'd find it.

And then, after a short stroll, there was the house.
Elizabeth Lawrence's House
I was there!  My pace quickened and I almost ran up to the gate where Elizabeth Lawrence posed for that classic photo of her inviting people into her garden.

Elizabeth Lawrence
“This is the gate of my garden. I invite you to enter in; not only into my garden, but into the world of gardens — a world as old as the history of man, and as new as the latest contribution of science; a world of mystery, adventure and romance; a world of poetry and philosophy; a world of beauty; and a world of work.”

Elizabeth Lawrence,
The Charlotte Observer
 The first thing I did when I got there was pose at the gate.

June 30, 2012
I didn't get the pose quite right  but Andrea, who works at the garden, said "I love when we have visitors who already know about Elizabeth Lawrence."   I wondered if the woman at Wing Haven had called ahead.  "We've got a fanatic heading down your way." Or maybe Andrea figured that anyone who knew how to pose at the gate knew who Elizabeth was.

In any case, I was there, and ready to begin my tour of the gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journey to Elizabeth Lawrence's Garden: Part 2

Part 1

After a brief stop at Starbucks to fuel up with some iced green tea, my travel companion and I were on our way to the Outer Banks via Charlotte, NC and the garden of Elizabeth Lawrence.

I was fearless and intent, the GPS was programmed for Charlotte and the forecast was for temperatures above 100 F all along the route.  We drove down I-65 heading toward Louisville. All was well on the road, though the corn fields we passed were not well at all with the drought.

I put the drought out of my mind, along with the high temperatures and what they might be doing to my garden.  After all, what could I do?  Stay home and water? No, I could not stay home and miss this opportunity to see Elizabeth Lawrence's garden.

One of my sisters who lives nearby agreed to stop by and water as she could, though when she saw the long-range weather forecast and all the days that were supposed to be over 100 F, she asked if maybe she should have me sign a waiver in case any plants should die under her care. I assured her that some plants would die in the drought but not to worry about them. Just water as best she could.

We drove down the highway. What did that sign say? What did that sign say about the exit I want in Louisville being closed?  Yep, the exit to Lexington was closed, temporarily, and I was stuck in a line of cars and trucks trying to figure out where to go next.  I also soon figured out that the GPS I had borrowed for the trip didn't know any better than to keep routing me past the same closed exit.  I felt like a gardener who keeps  pulling out the same weed over and over, that weed that keeps returning in the same spot no matter how you try to weed it out.

We ignored the GPS momentarily and followed the detour signs. Finally a bit further down the road,  the GPS figured out that we were not going to take that exit and got us back on our chosen route.

Having driven this same route earlier in May to the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Asheville, NC, I knew that a section of I-75 was down to one lane south bound near the Kentucky/Tennessee state line.  The first sign said to expect some delay.  How bad could it be?  Should we take the alternate route or forge ahead through the one lane and "some delay".  We decided to forge ahead and take our chances.

It turned out to be a bad idea. The last sign we saw was blinking "Expect Significant Delays".  We had not counted on an accident or two slowing and stopping traffic or for some unfortunate motorists to end up with over heated cars pulled off to the side of the road. The thermostat in the car at one point showed an outside temperature of 108 F.  But it was too late and too far to turn back and  take the alternate route. We lost some time, a lot of time, but finally made it across the state line and into Tennessee.

Passing through the area around Asheville, NC, it pained me to ignore the exits for Clyde, knowing that Christopher was Outside Clyde and would be more than happy to have us stop by.  But there was no time, and I had visited Outside Clyde during the fling, so on we drove.

And we drove some more, turning where the GPS told us, as the sun set behind us.

It was well past dark o'clock when we finally pulled up to the hotel in Charlotte, unloaded the car and settled in for the night.  We wondered how we could have lost so much time, adding nearly four hours to what was supposed to be a ten hour drive.  The only thing we could figure out was that between stops for lunch, bio breaks, and two traffic slow downs, time just adds up.

No matter. I was finally in the hotel in Charlotte, a mere three miles from Elizabeth Lawrence's garden.

Part 3

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Journey to Elizabeth Lawrence's Garden: Part 1

Where to begin?

I could say that my journey to Elizabeth Lawrence's garden began on Friday morning, June 29, when I backed the car out of my driveway and headed with a friend to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, via Charlotte, North Carolina.

Or maybe the journey began on January 2nd when we made reservations to stay for a week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina?

I did have to convince my travel companion that Charlotte, North Carolina was "right on the way" to the coast.

Google Maps gave me this route to the Outer Banks which takes about 14 hours.

But I've been that route before and didn't really like it, plus it goes nowhere near Charlotte, NC.

So I forced this preferred route.
 You can't really see it, but Charlotte is right down there at the bottom of the map, sort of in the center.

That's not too far off this preferred route, so I added a side trip to Charlotte. It only added "about an hour" of drive time.  
Since we were taking my car, that extra hour would be no trouble at at all.

But that's not really the beginning of the journey.

For the beginning of my journey to the gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence, I could go back to January 19, 1988, when I purchased her book, The Little Bulbs.  I know the date because I tucked the receipt in the book and it's still there.

Later, in 1989, I made my first visit to the Outer Banks and stopped at Manteo Booksellers where I purchased Lawrence's Gardens in Winter. At least I think that's the book I bought there.  I'm going from memory and a process of elimination to figure out which book I actually bought because I didn't keep the receipt. But I know I purchased one of her books there. 

Over the years, my admiration for Elizabeth Lawrence and her writing and gardening grew as I found out more about her and read her books. I somehow have managed to purchase all the books written by or about Elizabeth Lawrence, including the compilations of her newspaper columns,  her biography and two collections of letters.

I've quoted her often on my blog and credit her quote "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year" for inspiring Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

I didn't know nearly 24 years ago that purchasing one book would start such a journey.  That's how it is sometimes.  It makes me wonder anytime I find a new garden writer, like Cynthia Westcott, or Ida Dandridge Bennnett or Alice T. A. Quackenbush what journey they might take me on, what people I might meet even today through them.

It was something to ponder  a week ago last Friday, as I was finally heading to Charlotte to  see Elizabeth Lawrence's garden.

Part 2