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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guest Post: Garden Fairies Prepare for Rain

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we are busy preparing for rain, lots of rain, to arrive here at May Dreams Gardens this weekend.

The first task on our list to prepare for rain, lots of rain, was to mow the lawn. We are garden fairies so we could not actually cut the lawn ourselves, we had to make sure Carol did it.

Well, we were not disappointed. Indeed, Carol saw the lawn, knew the lawn needed to be mowed and figured she'd better do it sooner rather than later because...

Rain Is Coming.

We don't mean just some rain.  We are hearing through the fairy-vine that we should expect a lot of rain this weekend compliments of a storm named Isaac.  This has us quite excited.  We are making our preparations as best we can.   Does anyone know if umbrellas come with instructions?

Our preparations include, of course, sneaking into the house, if we can, so that we don't get too wet because we are hearing that this storm could be a real soaker, bringing with it anywhere between two and six inches of rain, depending on who you want to believe and what time of day it is.

We are garden fairies so we won't tell anyone how we actually get inside the house.  Sometimes we just walk in through the back door, while Carol stands there with it wide open.  Other times, we... hey wait a minute, we said we were not telling our ways.  That was close.

Anyway, once we are inside, we'll spend some time catching up on news and views with our good friends the toast fairies. We don't see them as often as we'd like, because they are inside near the toaster and we spend a good part of the year outside, where there are no toasters.

We'll also scope out the sun room to see what we need to do in there to prepare it for winter.

Honestly, right now the sun room is a mess and there are some plants in there that don't look so good. We are hoping that Carol's recent purchase of two books by Tovah Martin, one on terrariums and one on unexpected houseplants, means that she's going to spend some time this rainy weekend figuring out some new plants to grow inside in her sun room.

At the very least, she needs to get over her commitment issues related to a certain large Wardian Case that she has not planted yet, and she has had it for eight years. She even mentions it in the first post on this blog back in 2004.  We are going straight to Dr. Hortfreud and will be asking her to speak to Carol about this irrational fear of planting in a big ol' terrarium if she doesn't put some plants in it this fall. It's just ridiculous to leave it empty.

In the meantime, we are asking Dear Hortoise, who always gives us the best practical tips and tricks, what else we should do to prepare for rain, lots of rain, other than mow the lawn and figure out how to operate an umbrella.   We are garden fairies, we'll do whatever we need to do to help.

Submitted by:
Thorn Goblinfly, Chief Scribe and Chairfairy for the Committee Responsible for Preparing for Rain, Lots of Rain.

P.S.  We garden fairies are also going to make sure the rain gauge has been emptied before the rain starts so Carol can get an ak-u-rut measure of how much rain falls on our gardens. We are garden fairies, we like to know stuff like that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Speed weeding

Weeding at top speeds approaching more than 20 weeds a minute, I speed weeded my way through a large garden area called The Shrubbery.

I did not stop to choose a special tool and dig up any weeds. I pulled and tugged as fast as I could and if a weed didn't give up its grip of the earth with a solid tug, I cut it off at ground level. Fast, faster, fastest I went, until I had cleared the area entirely of weeds, at least on the surface.

I have no doubt that my satisfaction in seeing that area of the garden weed-free will be short-lived, but I don't care.  I wanted that satisfaction, and I didn't want to wait.  

I told myself as I speed weeded that I would return sooner rather than later to pull out the new weed sprouts that will surely crack through the surface in a week or so. Maybe I'll even attempt to dig up their roots the next time.  I make no promises that I will, though, even to myself. I know that if my past behavior is an indication of what I'll do in the future, and it is, I really won't try to dig out those weed roots.  But I'll be happy to say that I will try, time and weather and my mind permitting.

I identified some of the weeds as I pulled them. There were plenty of thistle, some lamb's quarter, my ol' nemesis purslane, and too many mulberry saplings. There was some dreadful nutsedge and foxtail tall enough to tickle my chin if I reached over it to grab another weed. And standing large and unafraid was a giant pokeweed.  Pulling and cutting, none of the weeds were safe from my speed weeding.

Speed weeding isn't for everyone. It doesn't work for perfectionists, who would be bothered by knowing those roots are still there. I have news for them. Even if they take the time to choose the perfect tools to dig up their weeds, they'll never get them all.

Speed weeding doesn't work for the timid. There is no time to look at each plant and ask "friend or foe" before pulling it.  When you are speed weeding, if you pull up a good plant, and you are likely to do so at least once, you just immediately replant it, pat the soil around it, apologize and move on.

When you are speed weeding you also don't need to worry about garden fairies. They'll move on quickly when they see what you are doing.  They won't risk getting caught up in a weed and being thrown into a basket and then onto a compost heap.   They won't try to steal your tools or push you over when you are kneeling on the ground pulling weeds.

I love an evening of speed weeding and being able to see progress right away.  Too much of life deals with what we can't see, and it is difficult to know if we did good, made enough progress, or went fast enough.  With speed weeding, you know right away that you are making progress, you can measure your speed and you can see that the garden is better when you are finished.

I think I'll do some more speed weeding tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Early Fall is the New Spring

Early Fall is the New Spring.

After three months of the hottest, driest days I've ever experienced as a gardener, we finally had some good rains a few weeks ago and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Now as August skitters to a close in a few days, we can see that the rain has brought new life to the garden.

Dianthus is blooming, though not quite as fully as in the first Spring which seems like it was so long ago.

I know Dianthus throws out a few blooms this time of year, anyway, but considering that this generally drought-tolerant flower looked like it was ready to pack it up just a month ago makes me appreciate these blooms more fully than even the massive flush of blooms in the spring.

Phlox 'David' had a good run in July, but it didn't last long and I thought that was it for the season.  Turns out, I was wrong.
It's blooming better now than before and almost glows at night.

Elsewhere in the garden some Bird's Nest Spruces (Picea sp.) decided to bud out again just like spring.
I need to trim back those stems that died and then these shrubs will be as good as new, if slightly mis-shapened. Ah, yes, no one prunes like Mother Nature.

I've also noticed that some Hosta that died back almost completely are sending up some new shoots, as is a Clematis vine that I innocently planted in May not realizing that it would be the hottest, driest three months of my gardening life.

And the lawn. The lawn is back, too, mostly green except for a few places, and calling me to mow it at least once a week.

I love this new spring.  It's full of hope, fully of recovery, full of life.  I know this happens every year at this time, but we don't notice it because it is so subtle, it seems like a continuation of summer.

But in years like this one, when we had the hottest, driest summer I've ever experienced, it stands out like a jewel in a compost bin. It's all shiny and new and begs us to go out and garden with it again.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Post: Garden Fairies Write About Themselves

New buds in August? Yep.
Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we are once again having to take control of this blog before it withers away and becomes as bare as a maple tree in the winter time.

Carol said she was going to post less frequently when she got to 2,000 posts and she has, sort of.  We counted and she has posted four times in the last ten days and we have posted once and then there is this post, which is six posts divided by 10 days carry the 2 and divide by the number of garden fairies, and well, we don't want to over complicate things but really, we are garden fairies.

We believe, based on our own observations, that Carol is off working on a secret project or reading those Harry Potter books or both, instead of posting on this blog.

Since we garden fairies know that fairies are mentioned in those Harry Potter books, along with all manner of other creatures, we thought we would take this opportunity to set the record straight in regards to garden fairies.

So without further ado, explanation, interruption, or long, meaningless sentences which might cause readers to abandon hope and click on "delete", here are 21 interesting facts about garden fairies.

1.  Garden fairies are not magical. We are not like witches, warlocks, house-elves, trolls and those of that ilk. We do not traffic in spells, potions, jinxes, curses, hexes or any other such nonsense.   What we do, we do on our own accord.

1.  Garden fairies have wings, but we do not use them for flying, per se.  Really, flying is for the birds, literally, and it is just ridiculous to think of garden fairies flying about the garden like a bunch of goldfinches.  Nope, we are garden fairies, we merely use our wings for extra long hops and maybe a bit of hovering about the garden.

2.  Garden fairies are actually very busy in most gardens.  Who do you think opens flowers in the morning and closes them up in the evening? Or, opens them in the evening and closes them in the morning? And we have to keep track of which ones to open at which times, based on strict schedules which are set based on a variety of factors including season, temperature, rainfall, type of flower, etc.

3.  Garden fairies do not like to over complicate things so we will not go into great details on how we figure out when to open flowers.  Or paint leaves. Yes, we paint leaves in the fall. It is quite a production, as you can imagine, to paint all those leaves and keep track of which leaves should be which color especially when two trees which should have different colored fall leaves are touching each other and their branches are intermingled. We leave (hey, a pun!) that painting to our most experienced garden fairies like Ol' Tangle Rainbowfly.

5.  A group of garden fairies is called a giggle. Don't laugh. And a group of pillywiggins, which are English garden fairies, is called a puddle because they are from a rainy climate and often like to gether around interesting puddles.  We do not know the origin of "giggle" to describe a group of garden fairies, however.  And not to confuse things, it is not wrong to also call a group of pillywiggins a giggle, but regular groups of garden fairies are not generally known as puddles.  Got that?

8. A favorite sport of garden fairies is the Orthoptera Rodeo. We gather up wild grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets, all members of the insect order Orthoptera, saddle them up and see how long we can ride them before they throw us off.  You should see how high they can jump with garden fairies on their backs. Of course, no garden fairies ever get hurt during the Orthoptera Rodeo because we just use our little wings to fly off right before we get thrown off.  For the wee little garden fairies, we saddle up a praying mantis, which is in the order Mantodea, and let them ride it. Perfectly tame, perfectly harmless, and they get a big kick out of it.

13. Garden fairies do sometimes migrate indoors in the wintertime where they can cause mischief, especially around the Christmas tree, the toaster, and the house plants.  We are garden fairies, it is harmless fun, just to bide our time through the winter. And if we are around the right kinds of house plants, we can keep up on our flower opening and closing skills while we rest.

21. Garden fairies do occasionally have a little fun in the garden. It isn't all opening flowers and painting leaves.  We hide garden gloves, move tools, and scatter seeds in odd locations.  For really great fun, we'll actually move plants around in the garden and then wait to see the gardeners' puzzled looks when they try to figure out what happened.  They look where the plant is, where they think the plant should have been, and then scratch their heads. Oh, goodness my blooming radishes, the look on their faces is always the same and priceless. Good, clean garden fairy fun.

34.  And a final bonus fact. Wow, we are up to 34 already?  That is because we garden fairies count according to the Fionacci sequence. We are garden fairies. We live in and around nature, so that's the counting we know.

We reckon that 34 facts is quite enough information about us, though it is not all the information about us. We are garden fairies.   Thank you for reading this far.

Submitted by:

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday: Goldenrod

Goldenrod?  In my garden? A prized plant? Ha!

Ten years ago, if someone had suggested to me that one of my most prized perennials would be a goldenrod, I would have laughed.  What foolishness.

Goldenrod, after all, is a fall weed, often found along the roadsides out in the country, "wherever fine weeds grow".

I'm sure glad back then I didn't bet anyone that I'd never plant goldenrod in my garden because guess what?  Now I have a goldenrod, Solidago shortii, in my garden and I include it is on my short list of plants that I would take with me if I ever moved away from May Dreams Gardens.

As noted in a post a few summers back, I received my seedlings of this rare goldenrod thanks to two generous horticulturists at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Brian Jorg and Steve Foltz, who gave them to attendees of the Garden Writers Association Region III meeting in April 2010.

Yes, I did say "rare goldenrod". According to Wikipedia, Solidago shortii is one of the rarest plants in the world.  And it grows in my garden. 

For those who are itching to get this plant for your own garden, it is being propagated and sold as Solidago shortii 'Solar Cascade'. Search online for "goldenrod Solar Cascade" and you'll find at least two nurseries who list it in on their website. Of course, this propagation is being done without disturbing the goldenrod's wild habitat.  You can read more about that on the website of  the Center for Plant Conservation.

You can also see pictures of a large stand of  'Solar Cascade' growing at the Cincinnati Zoo on Foltz's website,

I moved my goldenrod to the August Dreams Border last spring and it is doing quite well there.
It's one of the highlights of August and beyond, and a worthy wildflower for any garden.

Are you interested in other garden worthy wildflowers?   Visit Gail at Clay and Limestone for other posts about wildflowers on the fourth Wednesday of every month, Wildflower Wednesday.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reading Harry Potter and thoughts turn to gardening

Purslane - is this what Gillyweed might look like?
I am reading all of the Harry Potter books this summer and my thoughts turned to gardening, as they always do.

Naturally, I am interested in the references to herbology as one of the subjects that the young wizards and witches study. 

I noted today that it was mentioned in the fourth book that none other than Neville Longbottom seemed to do best in herbology. Poor Neville, slightly chunky, barely a wizard. Of course herbology is his best subject. After all, isn't it always the slowest, clumsiest, most inept among us who seem to do well with plants and gardening? 


When will this characterization of gardeners as those who aren't really all that smart or good at anything else cease?

I would take umbrage except I know that nothing is as it really seems in the Harry Potter books and I suspect that Neville Longbottom's plant knowledge will come in handy at some point.  Plus, I have read other books, including the Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters, where the herbalist, the one with the gardening knowledge, is the smartest after all, the one who figures out whodunit.  

I also noted today that there was a brief mention of fairies in the fourth Harry Potter book. The fairies, which I assume were garden fairies, were hanging out around rose bushes and lighting them up.  I would like to set the record straight on garden fairies at this time, and explain how they differ from wizards.  First, garden fairies do not...

Garden fairies here. We are garden fairies and we do not think it is right that Carol writes about us as though she is in the know. If there is anything written about us garden fairies, we will write it.   We will set our own record straight. We are garden fairies.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Guest post: Garden fairies celebrate

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we assume that everyone knows that whenever a mushroom pops up in the garden, it is a sure sign that the garden fairies will soon be gathering for a big party.

Did you get your invitation to the party?  You surely did if you are celebrating the rain like we garden fairies are.  In fact, even if you didn't get an invitation, you are invited anyway. We are garden fairies and invitations are strictly optional because we really don't have time to address envelopes, figure out stamps, figure out how to get to the post office, etc.

Instead, we are focusing, as much as we garden fairies can focus, on celebrating and we plan to celebrate through the night and all weekend.  After all, if you don't celebrate rain, well, that's just rude and ungrateful. 

We are garden fairies and we would like to explain that why it didn't rain in May, June, and July, but now that it is August, it is raining again.   We would like to explain it but we don't understand it anymore than anyone else.  Instead, we'll just marvel at the mushrooms popping up in the mulch after the rains last night and try our very best not to accidentally knock any of them over during the celebration.

But we are garden fairies. We make no promises, except the promise to try.  We think trying is the most important thing.  Try to grow different plants. Try to adapt to the drought. Try to weed. Try to clean up the garden.  Just try and we are garden fairies, we know it will turn out alright.

Submitted by Thorn Goblinfly
Chief Scribe Who Tries Her Very Best at May Dreams Gardens

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2012

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for August 2012.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6b garden, I've circled August 5th as the day when it finally rained, and the extreme drought loosened its grip on my garden just a little bit.

I'm not ready to declare August a new spring but there are signs  that we are going to recover from this drought after all.

One of the best shrubs right now is Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'. It is doing quite well, all things considered, and adds a nice touch of bloom to one corner of the garden.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
Not surprisingly, just down the way, the garden border that I call August Dreams Garden is looking pretty spiffy now because most of what the garden designer suggested for that area blooms late in the season.

The Joe Pye weed,  Eupatorium dubium 'Little Joe' hasn't quite decided what height it should be.

Eupatorium dubium 'Little Joe'
I think in future years it will be about three feet tall.

False aster, Boltonia asteroides 'Snowbank' isn't quite as showy as last year.
Boltonia asteroides 'Snowbank'
But it is providing a nice backdrop for my Tiger Tails garden sculpture.

The rare  Short's goldenrod, Solidago shortii, seems to have paid no attention to the drought.
Solidago shortii
When those golden blooms open up, they are sure to be covered with pollinators of all shapes and sizes.

Elsewhere in the garden, there's quite a bit of drought damage and clean up to be done. Someone commented a while back asking to see pictures of Plopper's Field before and after the drought.

Here's what Plopper's Field looked like three months ago, when thoughts of  breaking all-time heat and drought records were far from my mind.
Plopper's Field - May 13, 2012

And this is what Plopper's Field looks like now after three months of record breaking heat and drought.
Plopper's Field - August 13, 2012
Don't panic, and don't cry.  After some clean up, a bit of fresh mulch, and some weeding, it will be okay, I promise.

Around in the front of the house, I'm still quite impressed with Buddleia davidii Lo & Behold™ 'Blue Chip'.
Buddleia davidii Lo & Behold™ 'Blue Chip'
I'll really be ready to sing its praises once I see how it over winters.

One last bloom to share...  Rosa 'Radsunny' stayed green thoughout most of the drought, but was a bit stingy with its blooms.  Now with the rain, it is starting to bud up quite nicely.
Rosa 'Radsunny'
I'm looking forward to seeing these roses open up in this "new spring" called August.

What's blooming in your garden in mid-August?  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

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Pillywiggin's Pleasaunce

Pillywiggin's Hideout
I am currently fascinated with Pillywiggins, which I just learned about a few days ago from Mary Ann of Gardens of the Wild, Wild West.

Pillywiggins are  garden fairies from England and Wales who seem to be associated with spring flowers, hence the picture of tulips.

And that is about all I know about Pillywiggins or could find out about them.

My online search did not yield much information, though I searched several different sources, including online books. There just is not much known about Pillywiggins other than they are garden fairies associated with spring flowers.

I am therefore beginning my own study of Pillywiggins.

My first observation in my own study of Pillywiggins is that just saying their name makes people smile. Pillywiggins. The world needs more smiles, so I'm going to say this new word a lot to verify that my observation is correct. Pillywiggins. Pillywiggins. Pillywiggins. 

To attract some Pillywiggins to my garden, where I can observe them up close, I also plan to plant more spring flowering bulbs this fall. Then next spring my garden will be a veritable Pillywiggin's' Pleasaunce, a garden for their pleasure, a garden where I can observe them.

I haven't ordered my bulbs yet because I was suffering from Drought Delay, a mild form of lethargy brought about by weeks and weeks of hot, dry weather.  But I've learned that the cure for this is some rain plus the discovery of Pillywiggins.

That is my second observation about Pillywiggins. Knowing about them causes you to buy and plant more spring-flowering bulbs than you had planned for.  I will verify this observation this weekend when I order bulbs for my garden.  

Pillywiggins.  My garden many never be the same again.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

2000th Post

Plopper's Field before the Drought of  '12
The garden fairies have been waiting and watching all weekend to see what I was going to write for the 2000th post on my blog.  They are not very patient, as a rule, and can take over my laptop as quick as a hornworm can devour a tomato vine, if I let them.  

Though it is tempting to find out what the garden fairies would have written for the 200th post, I'm going to write this post.

(Garden fairies here. Yes, let's have Carol thinks she's writing this post. We are garden fairies we know otherwise.)

This has been a most unusual season for gardening.  June and July were lost to Extreme Drought.  The only significant time I spent in the garden related to watering because it was too hot to do much else. If I had not posted on my blog about various events related to gardening over the past few months, I might be convinced that we were just a few weeks past Memorial Day and not a few weeks away from Labor Day, the holidays that bookend our summer growing season here in the Midwest.

Fortunately, nearly four inches of rain over the last week have revived the garden, and the gardener, at least temporarily. I feel like it is a new beginning, a new season, in the garden.   I'm excited again about the possibilities for fall planting, anxious to fill in what I consider to be far too much open space in my garden.

(Garden fairies here... Carol needs to get on with this post. We are garden fairies, we want this to be about the 2,000th post not about that drought. We are sick of hearing about that drought. We lived through it, we know about it. It was hot, it was dry, then it rained. Hopefully that is the end of that drought. We are garden fairies.)

Over the course of the last eight years, beginning in 2004, I've told 2,000 stories about my garden on this blog. Yes, I actually started blogging eight years, if you go all the way back to 2004 and 2005, when I posted a grand total of eight times in those two years.

Thank you to all those who have visited my blog to read my stories, to find out what's going on here at May Dreams Gardens, whether it is tragedy or comedy, factual or fanciful.  You've all made this a very enriching experience for me, one that has opened up my garden gate to new opportunities and new friendships beyond what I could have imagined when I started on this adventure.

(Garden fairies here. Is that all she's got? 2,000 posts and this is it? We are garden fairies,we could have done so much better. We really do carry this blog, and that is factual not fanciful.)

Posting on my blog has greatly enriched my life and my garden.  Thank you all for your support and encouragement.

May Dreams Gardens

Thorn Goblinfly
Chief Scribe for the Garden Fairies Here at May Dreams Garden and Secretly a Pillywiggin

P.S.  This is Carol. I see what the garden fairies have written, I'm going to leave it, because I really am in control, no matter what they write. But I am curious now about pillywiggins.  I did wonder about Thorn. She always did seem to be hiding something from me.

P.S.S. This is Thorn. I get the last word. A pillywiggin is an English garden fairy. I'm working on enticing Carol to go to England to see gardens, because I want to go, too. Don't tell her.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Time to celebrate

Dendranthema 'Cool Igloo'
We have agreement from everyone here at May Dreams Gardens that rain is a real difference maker in the garden. 

This agreement amongst everyone is a bit surprising because not everyone agrees on everything around here.  We sometimes have quite the discussions, but that's a story for another day.

Rain is especially a real difference maker when it has been absent from the garden for, by my accounting, dang near three months.  And those three months were hot months.  

But finally the rain came back on Sunday, and then again later in the week, and yesterday morning and last night.  I did some measuring and calculating and fudging and ciphering and decided that my garden received, quite graciously and thankfully received, almost four inches of rain.

Already, the grass is starting to green up in a few places. The leaves that did stay green are no longer droopy and a couple of blooms popped out in the Dendranthema.  It's like a new spring, only in August instead of April.

Of course, the rain did not un-crisp leaves that had turned brittle and brown in the drought. Nor did it cause the weeds that sprouted and grew tall while I stayed inside in the air-conditioning to disappear.   And it hasn't promised to stay around through the fall.

But it sure lightened my load a bit, at least for awhile. I haven't had to water since Saturday.

I think I might celebrate by mowing the lawn this weekend. 

I will also be celebrating another event on Saturday or maybe Sunday.  This is my 1,999th post on this blog.  That means the next post is number 2,000. 

I  just hope that everyone here at May Dreams Gardens agrees that I should write the 2,000th post.  We'll see. Surprisingly, not everyone agrees on everything around here.  We sometimes have quite the discussions, but that's a story for another day

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Hoe Test Plot

Hoe Test Plot
Every gardeners needs a hoe test plot, a place to try out a new hoe or any hoe in their collection and see how well it works.

My hoe test plot just happens to be an area left open in the patio so I could plant something in it.  However, I haven't planted anything in it, so some weeds moved in, mostly thistle and thankfully not bindweed, making it a Hoe Test Plot.

This may not be the best location for a Hoe Test Plot, but it works for me, for now.  All it needs is a sign that says "Hoe Test Plot - Do Not Weed" so that should anyone see this and think that I am a lazy gardener who can't even be bothered to pull the weeds right outside the back door, they will realize right away that I have intentionally left this area in this condition so that I could test out a few hoes.

Next spring, I'll probably move the Hoe Test Plot to another area of the garden and plant something here that is drought tolerant.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Gardener's Guide to Drought Recovery 5) Choose New Plants

Bird's Blanket Garden Border
We have been given a gift with this drought.

With our own eyes and in our own gardens, we can see which plants truly do well in a drought  and which plants melt or shrivel up in the heat when we go a few days, or months, without rain.

Sure, we could have skipped the whole drought experience and just googled "drought tolerant plants" and memorized lists of plants that others said were drought tolerant. Or checked in the dozens of books about plants that we no doubt have collecting dust on our bookshelves. But knowledge gained by memorizing is quickly forgotten. Knowledge gained by experience stays with us forever.

Forever, I will remember how the Hosta and Epimedium in the garden border I call Bird's Blanket just shriveled up in the heat no matter how much I watered them.  I will remember, fondly, how the variegated Lioripe and the hardy ground orchid, Bletilla, looked pretty decent in spite of the drought.

In this fifth step of drought recovery, we need to use our experience supplemented by some research to choose new plants for our gardens that don't go all prissy on us and demand water the minute we go two days without rain.

As we continue to recover from the drought, it's time to go back out to the garden and assess it again, this time paying attention only to the plants and listing them in one of four categories:

- Looks good, never or rarely watered
- Looks good, watered quite a bit
- Looks bad, never or rarely watered
- Looks bad, watered quite a bit

If you like and are a bit indecisive, you can also have a category somewhere in between good and bad for those plants that didn't look good but didn't look bad and might make it through the drought in other years. 

With our new knowledge of which plants truly have what it takes to survive a drought, and a better understanding of other plants' needs, we now can choose plants more wisely for our gardens for future years.

If you are playing along at home, the other steps in the Gardener's Guide to Drought Recovery are:

1) Start with goals.
2) Assess your garden.
3) Make a quick hit task list.
4) Freshen up your garden.

Since I started this gardener's guide to drought recovery, I must confess that we've had some rain, so I feel like the drought is loosening its grip, ever so slightly.  Rain, as it turns out, is very helpful in drought recovery.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Notice of Eviction for Drought of 2012

Exhibit A
From the Law Offices of F. Lee Hortley and Fairy Hortson

To:  Drought of 2012
        May Dreams Gardens
        Indianapolis, IN

Dear Drought of 2012,

Please consider this letter your notice of eviction from May Dreams Gardens.  You are hereby and forthwith ordered to vacate the premises immediately upon receipt of this letter and leave behind any substance that is made up of two hydrogen molecules and an oxygen molecule, including moisture, rainfall, dew, and any other types of precipitation that may fall on the garden at any time now and in the future.

You are commanded to take with you all above normal temperatures.

This notice of eviction is rightly and fairly given due to your withholding of all rain and other forms of precipitation due in June and July 2012, when in fact you owed 4.13 inches for June and 4.42 inches for July for a total deficit of 8.53 inches for just those two months alone.

In addition, you made a complete mess of the gardens, evidence of which is attached in Exhibit A.

Though our client recognizes that you provided two inches of rain as recently as August 5th, this does not  make up for the heartache and distress you have caused nor is it evidence of any intent to reform your behavior in future months.

On behalf of our client, we request that you leave the gardens in an orderly fashion so as to cause no further disturbance in the gardens or in the heart of the gardener by any means including wind, heat, etc.

Should you not vacate May Dreams Gardens as requested, you will be forcibly removed at your own risk and cost.


Yes, Dr. Hortfreud.

What are you doing?

Evicting the drought from my garden with a letter from my attorneys.

Carol, do you really think that's going to help?

What could it hurt, Dr. Hortfreud? Nothing else has worked to cause it to rain. Yes, I know it rained on Sunday but experts predict this drought could hang around until October.  I want it to leave now so I can reclaim my garden.

I suppose it couldn't hurt and if it makes you feel better, go for it.

Thank you for your support, Dr. Hortfreud. I feel better already knowing that I'm not just sitting around letting the drought push me around any more. I'm taking action!

Monday, August 06, 2012

My Dear Garden...

Rudbeckia sp.
My Dear Garden,

I feel the need to offer both thanks and apologies, along with new promises, in this letter to you, my dear garden, for what you've been through these last few months and for how well you did, overall.

First, let us get the apologies out of the way so we can end on a high note and I can put my regrets behind us and begin anew.

I am sorry that the heat drove me indoors and left you too often to fend for yourself with no rain and just my watering to keep you going.  I was not as faithful with watering as I should have been. There were even a few weeks when I let you go almost too far to recover.

You have to admit, though, that I did care and always wanted to do better. Even when I left town for a week - alright, ten days - I arranged for my sister to come and water.  She did a great job, didn't she? The vegetable garden should be particularly thankful.

Then came the watering ban, and I was even less faithful with the watering. But what could I do? I have to work to support your habit of new plants.  I couldn't just stand there and water all the time. 

But all is bygones now, right? You surely loved that two inches of rain on Sunday morning, even with the wind. I know the weeds enjoyed it.

Let us move on, together.

Thank you, my dear garden, for doing as well as you did through the hottest, driest summer you've ever experienced, that I've ever experienced, that anyone has ever experienced.  You came through it and showed me what you are made of.  And you continue to show me every day how resilient you really are.  Thank you.

Now, my promise to you, my dear garden, is to fill you with more plants that do well when it is hot and dry, like the black-eyed susan, Rudbeckia sp., pictured above. I remember a time when I pulled so much of this out of the garden and tossed it like a weed onto the compost pile. No more!  It is made for hot summers like this one. I am grateful you saved this one seedling for me. You knew all along that one day I'd appreciate it, didn't you?  I should trust you more, my dear garden.

And tall sedum, Hylotelephium sp. -what were they thinking to give this plant such an awful name?
Hylotelephium sp.
I know now not to disparage this plant as common and uninteresting. It will surely shine in the autumn sun when it is in bloom. I must divide this and spread it out into other areas of the garden

Truly, my dear garden, the best is yet to come.  
My sculpture was featured in the local paper
Just look at how you've embraced the new sculpture.  I can only imagine what you could have done with rain or better watering on my part. I look forward to turning imagination into reality in the seasons ahead.

My dear garden, I promise forever to not desert you in the heat, again. I promise to water, and to weed, too. I promise to find you more plants that will do well with less fuss even if we have another dry season.  I hope you know I am sincere.  Didn't you see me out weeding this evening? Surely that showed how sincere I really am. 

Not only am I sincere, I am also re-inspired, my dear garden, now that I see what a difference a little rain, a little deadheading, and some weeding have made so far, in just one day! I promise to return and continue the good start, the good restart, we've made now that we've gotten some rain.

Thank you, my dear garden,


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Guest Post: Garden Fairies Declare Christmas in August

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we are celebrating Christmas in August on account of over two inches of rain fell on the garden early this morning.  

We are not sure of the accuracy of our rain gauge, so we are hesitant to exclaim that there was actually a full two and a half inches of rain  because that might not be right and we garden fairies pride ourselves on being right and accurate and not exaggerating, ever.

We are always truthful.  We are so truthful that we'll confess that we do actually sometimes steal garden gloves and hide them. But it is all in good fun and for a laugh at the expense of the gardener.  You should see Carol walk back and forth in the garden looking for gloves we've hidden.  It is hilarious and then some.

Anyway, we are truthful garden fairies and all this rain has really lightened our mood.  We had started to call the drought "the Grinch" because it was so mean to withhold rain like that. We are garden fairies and we were beginning to have despair that it would ever rain again on our garden.

And then it rained.  We are garden fairies, bring on the wassail pudding, but don't burn a yule log because it is still too dry, hang some lights in the garden and let's celebrate a little bit!

It rained!

But we are garden fairies, so we must warn everyone. The Grinch of a Drought has only temporarily let go of the gardens. We don't want to seem ungrateful or piggish, but we are going to need more rain to really vanquish the Grinch of a Drought from the garden once and for all time.  A lot more rain.  

However, we are optimistic that over time we will get that rain.  And then Carol can stop watering, which she never wears gloves for. She can start doing other stuff, like weeding, that requires gloves. Then she'll set down those gloves and we'll hide them and watch her look for them.

Because that's what garden fairies do.

Submitted by:
Thorn Goblinfly, Chief High Priestess and Scribe for the Garden Fairies here at May Dreams Gardens.

P.S.  Carol had better put on some gloves and start weeding. You would not believe the weeds around this garden. We are garden fairies, truthful, always.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

When a gardener goes to the Outer Banks

When a gardener goes to the Outer Banks of North Carolina,

She chooses a route that will take her through Charlotte, North Carolina.

In Charlotte, she fulfils a long-time dream to see the gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence.

It's just down the street from Wing Haven, so she of course checks those gardens out, too.

Finally, she makes it to the Outer Banks and the first thing she does is go back across the bridge to check out the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, North Carolina.

There she finds that hydrangea flowers are blue instead of the pink she usually sees around her own garden.

The next day she goes up the coast to Corolla, North Carolina to see the sights and finds a lovely wildflower garden in Currituck.

In that garden, she sees a plant that has more bees on it than she has ever seen in her entire gardening life.

On another day, she visits the North Carolina Aquariums to seek some relief from the heat and sees a nice martin house on display. It reminds her that she wants one of these in her garden.

Once inside the aquarium, she sees lots of fish, but is pleased that some of the displays include lots of plants.

Of course, she looks in the travel guides for "garden centers" and finds one in Kitty Hawk to visit.

Before her vacation ends, she drives south to Cape Hatteras to climb up to the top of the lighthouse. Halfway up she sees a sign that she thinks is a good reminder for times when she is out in the garden. "Please pace yourself".

Once she is at the top of the lighthouse, she decides that the view was worth the climb, just like the garden is worth the effort.

The whole week she is vacationing at the Outer Banks, she sees many plants that she doesn't know the names of, but does recognize Gaillardia growing where it is very dry and sandy and makes a note that perhaps she should grow these in her droughty garden.

Finally, when a gardener goes to the Outer Banks, she looks to the east and north across the ocean and wonders if that is where the next place is that she should go to see gardens.
She thinks perhaps it is.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Ask Hortoise: Alternative Uses for Rain Gauges

I am pleased to publish the inaugural column for Hortoise (rhymes with Heloise) who, like Hortense Hoelove, is a garden columnist.  Hortoise focuses on the practical side of gardening, offering trips and tricks to make gardening easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

Dear Hortoise,

I'm living through an extreme drought and find that my rain gauge is not getting much use. It just sits in the garden day after day not fulfilling its primary purpose, measuring rain.  I think it is so out of practice that it is no longer accurate. The one time we had some rain about a week ago, I couldn't trust it because I think it might have had some water left in it from my hand watering nearby shrubs.  Is there anything else I can use my rain gauge for?


Dear Carol,

Thank you for your well-timed question.  As you know, I am a strong believer in keeping only those things that we find useful and making good use of what we have. We need to make your rain gauges useful again! In that spirit, I've come with some alternative uses for your rain gauge to ensure it continues to be useful until you get some rain, hopefully soon.

In no particular order, here are ten alternative uses for rain gauges.

A vase to hold fresh flowers. This is particularly useful if your garden has few fresh flower in it due to the drought.

A dried flower holder. If you are concerned about keeping water in the rain gauge, dried flowers and twigs may be substituted for fresh flowers.

A candle holder.
Please note that in extreme drought situations, the surrounding garden should be considered highly flammable. Never actually light the candle, especially if it is precariously resting on top of the rain gauge.

An LED tea light holder. If you want the look of a flame without the danger of open fire, this is a good alternative.

A cutlery holder. You never know when you'll need a spoon, knife or fork to have an impromptu picnic or ward off rabbits.

A drinking cup. After working around the garden, what is more refreshing than a cool drink from a rain gauge.

A pencil holder. This is useful for those times when you need a pencil out in the garden.

A sign holder. When the ground is as hard as concrete, the rain gauge helps to hold up the sign. 

A sunglasses holder. This keeps your sunglasses close by so the garden fairies can hide them in the event of sunflares.

A pedestal. The rain gauge can hold up an endless number of decorative items for the garden, such as this fake bluebird.

And finally, a bonus alternative...,

A flag holder.  Show how patriotic you are by proudly flying the flag in your garden.

I hope these ideas have spurred your creative juices. There are probably dozens of other uses for rain gauges.  One final piece of advice -  remember to empty the rain gauge anytime you use it as a vase or drinking cup so that it can later be used for its intended purpose, measuring the amount of rainfall on your garden.

Thank you for your question!