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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Garden Design - Best thing I ever did

The best thing I ever did for my garden was to hire a garden designer to plan out the overall design.

The worst thing I did was wait 13 years from the time I moved to this property until I hired the garden designer.

It wasn't easy to give up that control I thought I had in my garden, to admit that I needed help on design.

After all, I'm a gardener.  I know the basics.  Big plants go behind little plants.  Vegetable garden goes in the back third of the yard. Plants that need full sun go in full sun. Plants that need shade go in the shady places. All good.

All not good. My patio was too small, my beds were too narrow, I had trees dotting the backyard like misplaced punctuation in the middle. of a sentence.  And I didn't have entire types of plants in my garden because I just didn't understand them and how to use them to enhance the garden.

Now I have garden borders that make sense. A lawn with a shape.  Trees in their proper places. New kinds of plants. Old favorite plants in better places. A bigger patio. 

It's magical.

I can still add new plants and I do so frequently, but now I plant them within the design without messing it up, too much.  I still have a vegetable garden. I still have Plopper's Field. I have sculptures. I have a beautiful gate leading into the vegetable garden. I have a garden path.

If it is even possible, I enjoy my garden more now than ever before because it makes more sense.  It's not just a collection of plants. It's a garden.

If you don't think your garden is quite right and you can't quite put your finger on what's wrong, hire a garden designer to help you make it right. 

You'll make fewer planting mistakes and save money in the long run when your garden has a good design.

Don't wait 13 years.  Do it now.  This fall. Or no later than early spring.  Do it.  Hire a garden designer to turn your garden from a place for plants into a magical place you'll enjoy for years to come. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What did we learn today by planting a Wardian case?

After carefully aging my Wardian case for approximately eight years, I've finally planted something in it.

I can explain.

Well, I can't really explain why it took me eight years to finally plant something in this Wardian case.  I did at one time put a poinsettia in it at Christmas time. I think that was the first winter I had it.  Then I took that out and left it empty.

There were a couple of times in the middle of winter when I thought about planting it but the middle of winter is not the best time to buy houseplants.  Then spring would come and I would go outside to plant and play in the garden and forget about the empty Wardian case.  I did this for eight springs.

Really, I can't explain, but I can announce that I've finally planted up the Wardian case.

Funny thing. I had everything I needed to plant it except for one plant I bought today.

Here's how it all worked out.

The Wardian case can be lifted off the base to allow for easy access.

First I took off the roof.

Then I took off the case part.
This particular case has a waterproof bottom.

I added a layer of gravel with horticultural charcoal mixed in to the bottom.  Believe it or not, I bought that charcoal eight years ago when I bought the Wardian case.  Before I used the gravel and charcoal, I rinsed both out to cut down on the dust.

Then I potted up some plants in containers and set them on trays in the gravel.
In the upper left corner, I added a pot of Ficus pumila 'Curly Fig'. That's the only plant I purchased today.  In the upper right I placed an Arrowhead plant, Syngonium podophyllum, which was one of the plants in a container sent to us for my mom's funeral, a year ago. I put it in there for height.  Then I added the three pots of Viola labridorica. I dug the viola out of a container outside and divided it amongst three pots, each of which was a different height.

If any of those plants don't make it, and the violas are "iffy", then I can easily pull out that particular plant and replace it with something else.

To finish up the planting, I gathered some rocks from my vast collection of rocks and placed those around the plants, added a little bird next to the arrowhead plant, put the case back together and "ta da".
Planted Wardian Case - I'll take a better picture soon
It's all planted.

What did I learn today?

I learned that I have all kinds of stuff around here that I can use to plant up a Wardian Case. 

I learned that it only takes an hour or so to plant something like this up, after you wait eight years.  Hmmm... I suspect it would have taken an hour or so eight years ago, too.

I learned that the Wardian case looks better with plants in it.  I had cleaned up the sunroom a few weeks ago, removing dead plants, repotting other plants, and generally making it more pleasing to be in there. Once I did all that, the Wardian case was like a black hole without plants.

I learned that there is another Viola that might be a better terrarium plant - Viola hederacea, also known as Viola banksii. As soon as I read about this other viola, I googled it and then ordered three of them from Logee's Greenhouse.  According to their website, they will only ship these if the temperatures there and here and at all points in between are such that they don't die enroute due to freezing.  They will arrive when they arrive.

Technically, I didn't learn about the violas from planting the Wardian case. I learned about them from two books I purchased because yes, after decades of gardening I still purchase books about plants and gardening.  The two books are  The New Terrarium  and The Unexpected Houseplant, both by Tovah Martin.  These are the kinds of books that a gardener takes to bed with them to read before falling asleep so that all her dreams are about plants.

Now, enough about what I learned by finally planting my Wardian case. Did you know I have this  large glass cloche that is begging to be used to cover some indoor plants?

This might pre-date the Wardian case so I think it has aged suitably to be planted now.  I guess the next step is to find a base to plant on that is about 15 inches, maybe 18 inches around.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Guest Post: Big Change For One Garden Fairy

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we are once again taking over this blog because we have something important and exciting to share with everyone.

First, some small talk. Fall has truly arrived.  You should have seen Carol hustling around the garden planting bulbs before it turned cold.  On Sunday, she planted 1,100 crocuses in the Green Sea, which is what she calls the lawn.

We are garden fairies, we are excited about this and can hardly wait until spring to see what this will look like. We plan to have a big party when these flowers all bloom and invite garden fairies, sprites, pillywiggins, wood nymphs, tree fairies, toaster fairies, and everyone else we can think of to come and see and help us with all the pollinating.  It's going to be a big deal, so check back later in the spring for more details.

We are garden fairies, we also noted that Carol planted another 430 bulbs around in the garden late Thursday, many in Bird's Blanket which is the planted area under the honey locust tree.  She calls that border Bird's Blanket because there are a bunch of bird feeders nearby.  Does she know that she'll get more birds visiting those feeders if she actually fills them with bird seed?  Anyway, in Bird's Blanket she added more 'Lady Jane' tulips and some grape hyacinths.  Then she planted yet more crocuses in groupings here and there in flower borders and some 'Easter Egg' tulips and oh, yes some species tulips.  We are going to have a very busy, beautiful spring, we think.

We also heard a rumor that Carol is going to try to buy exactly 70 bulbs today so that she will have planted an even 1,500 bulbs this fall.  We are garden fairies, we like to call that a bit odd but we will welcome another 70 flowers come spring.  The more bulbs, the better we say.

But really, the bulb planting, exciting as it is, is not our Big News.

Our Big News is that Thorn Goblinfly has changed her name.  

That's right. Thorn isn't to be called Thorn any longer. She said she never really liked her name which came from some fairy name generator on those Internets.  She has pondered this for quite some time, probably more time than it should be pondered, but that's Thorn... oops, that's Violet.  She can't really be stopped when she gets a notion.

So anyway, Thorn...oops we mean Violet... has changed her name to Violet Greenpea Maydreams.  She says it has great meaning.  Violet was Carol's mom's favorite flower so that makes sense, even to us garden fairies.  Greenpea is because Thorn... oops we mean Violet... says that Carol always thinks of her Dad when she plants peas in the spring.  We are garden fairies, we can appreciate that.  Maydreams is because Thorn... oops we mean Violet... says she wants to be forever associated with this garden where we live, May Dreams Gardens.  We are garden fairies, that is fine with us.

So Thorn... oops we mean Violet... should hence forth be known as Violet Greenpea Maydreams.  Or for those who don't catch on so quickly Violet Greenpea Maydreams formerly known as Thorn Goblinfly.

We are garden fairies, we don't know if it is a good idea to be changing names like this but we are going to go along with Thorn's... oops we mean Violet's... wishes.   We are garden fairies. Violet is still the same to us and other than this post, we will still rely on her to post for us from time to time and tell the truth, as only she can, about what really goes on here in her home, May Dreams Gardens.

We are garden fairies.

Submitted by:
Granny Gus McGarden, filling in for Violet GreenPea Maydreams formerly known as Thorn Goblinfly, chief scribe for the garden fairies at May Dreams Gardens.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Every gardener must decide: Cut Back or Leave Standing

Aster hiding in the Amsonia
There comes a time in the fall when every gardener who gardens in a climate with a true winter season with snow and ice and, well, winter,  must decide. Cut down those seed heads on the perennials and grasses or leave them standing thru the winter.

The proponents of leaving the perennials alone for the winter point out that many of those seeds are food for the birds.  Plus, all those perennials, even stripped of bloom and leaf, add that oft-spoken of structure to the winter garden.  Oh, and not too mention, those seeds may fall to the ground and sprout into new seedlings that you can dig up and give to others or plant in bare spots somewhere else in the garden.

Those who advocate for cutting down the perennials warn that all those seeds could sprout and over run your garden.  You'll be weeding forever if you leave those perennials standing all winter, free to fling their seeds about the garden.  They will tell you that some perennials, like Asters, Amsonia, Black-eyed Susans and Coneflowers,  can over take a garden with their seedlings.  Oh, yes, they can! I've seen it in my own garden. I've weeded them out of my own garden

What's a gardener to do?

What a gardener needs to do is just decide for themselves and do what feels right to them. 

I do a little of both, depending on my mood and the amount of time I have in the fall to do garden clean up and what type of flower it is.

The seedlings that come up from all those perennials left standing through the winter are both a blessing and a curse.  Right now, they are a blessing in the August Dreams Garden border. I want those plants, which are mostly native flowers, wildflowers, to seed forth and multiple, to fill in and create the look of a prairie.

Those seedlings are a curse in Plopper's Field.  That garden is pretty full and lush already. If there are open spaces, I want to fill them in with all my impulse purchases, not the same plants I have today.

So decide for yourself.  Cut 'em down or leave 'em standing.  There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to cutting back perennials for the winter.

Seeds of August Dreams Garden border.

 Just be prepared to accept the consequences of your choice.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Every garden touches a gardener's soul

Tucson Botanical Gardens
The gardens in and around Tucson, Arizona are quite different from those in my neighborhood. They are filled with cactus, succulents, agaves, and trees that have the tiniest of leaves, an adaptation that helps them survive in the desert environment.

I didn't know, and still don't know, the names of most of the plants I saw when I visited Tucson for the Garden Writers Association symposium. If someone asked what a plant was I could just shrug my shoulders or help them find a plant label.   I called most of the plants by the generic names - "cactus", "succulent", "tree".

I joked at one of their local nurseries that the plants I saw were what we call "houseplants" here in the Midwest, though our houseplants don't get quite as large growing in containers inside as they do growing in desert gardens outside.

I wondered how often gardeners in Tucson get stuck by the cactus they tend. I could only imagine the pain if you were leaning over a planting of cactus and lost your balance, as gardeners sometimes do, and fell into the patch. Ouch. I have just a tiny patch of prickly pear cactus tucked into an out of the way spot in my garden but I have been stuck with those spines enough times to know that one has to be careful around cactus.

All kidding aside, I enjoyed seeing gardens in an environment that is so different from my own. I was intrigued how the gardeners in the desert planted gardens that were thriving in spite of the heat, in spite of the miniscule amounts of rain they receive.

In the Tucson Botanical Garden, I enjoyed the personal touches in the Barrio (Neighborhood) Gardens, which "honor the distinctive gardens and yards found in the Tucson Mexican-American neighborhoods, and the pride with which they were created".
Wheelbarrow planting in the Barrio Gardens, Tucson Botanical Garden
I can appreciate that whether a garden is just a pot of geraniums or an old wheelbarrow planted with common marigolds or an entire backyard filled with cactus, it is a beautiful garden if it is planted and tended with pride and care and good intentions.

In one of the private gardens we visited, the sound of water amidst the cactus made me think about how precious water is in an environment as dry as Tucson.
Water feature in a Tucson garden
I got a glimpse of what my garden is like with no rainfall for three months this summer. It was not a pretty sight.  I admire all the gardeners of Tucson who don't try to grow plants that need more water than their environment provides.

After awhile, I think every gardener visiting gardens filled with plants they don't recognize looks to find something they have in common with those gardeners.

I found that I have zinnias in common with Tucson gardeners.  I always plant zinnias in my gardens because they attract butterflies.
Zinnias in Benedictine Sisters Monastery Garden
Even Zinnias in Tucson require some extra watering, but their bright colors don't fade in the hot sun, especially when planted against a bright background.

Throughout the long weekend of visiting gardens and talking to other gardeners, I was often asked "what do you think of the gardens of Tucson". I admire the gardeners who tend them.  I think of what it must be like to garden in such a challenging environment and how in spite of the "dry heat" gardeners find ways to tend to plants and create environments that they can relax in and enjoy.
Shade in a Tucson garden
I think it is always worthwhile to see a garden, even if it is one that you could never copy in your own environment,  because every garden touches a gardener's soul.   It may knock us over and give us that "big idea" to try in our own gardens or it may nudge us to be more appreciative of what we have wherever we garden. It may haunt us with its beauty long after we leave it or it may get lost in our subconscious and blend in with our overall knowledge of gardening.
Regardless, seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and walking through a garden, wherever it is, adds to our understanding of gardens and makes us better gardeners.  Every garden touches a gardener's soul.  For this reason alone, every garden is worth seeing. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Planting Crocuses in the lawn

Crocuses blooming in the lawn spring of 2012
As garden fairies slept under shrubs nearby, I planted 1,100 Crocus corms, specifically several varieties of Crocus tommasinianus, in my back lawn, the Green Sea.

I like to think that the garden fairies approved of my choice of flowers for the lawn because every time I returned from a break in planting, my gloves, trowel, and trug full of crocuses were all still there where I left them. 

This was not my first time to plant crocuses in the lawn.  I planted several hundred in the lawn last fall.  I don't know the specific number because I just wrote "planted a few crocus corms" in my garden journal on the day I planted them. I did not have a lot of time to plant last fall, and apparently less time to make a proper recording in my garden journal about what I planted.  I think "a few corms" was a few hundred, if I recall correctly.

I have been asked how one goes about planting so many corms in the lawn.

I find it easiest to plant all the corms if you empty them all into a low flat trug, mixing up all the varieties if they are packaged separately as mine were.
It makes it easier to grab a corm if you don't have to reach over the edge of a tall bucket or other container.

If I were planting these crocuses in a bare flower bed instead of my lawn, I would dig many large holes, not too deep, scatter the corms in the hole and then cover them up.    However, I was planting these crocuses in my lawn so opted to plant them one at a time.

With the right tool, which in my case is a rockery trowel, it took me about three hours, with several breaks, to plant these corms.  

The technique is easy and has a nice rhythm to it, once you get going.

Clockwise, from the top left, grab your rockery trowel and a good pair of gloves. I used some of those gloves dipped in rubber because the ground was still heavy with dew when I started.  Jab the trowel into the ground a few inches, then push it forward to create a hole.  Drop a corm behind the trowel, then pull the trowel out and knock any dirt back into the hole.

Repeat as many times as you have corms until you are finished. Don't try to plant in a pattern or straight lines. Just move about the lawn and plant around you, then move on to another spot, and another, and another until you run out of corms.  Remember to take several breaks to stand up straight, stretch, and drink some water.  I take a break every 25 minutes or so.

Then when you are finished planting, go inside and tend to the blister on the palm of your hand, clean yourself up, and wait for the glorious show of spring. 

I am hopeful that these crocuses will bloom toward the end of March, specifically on Easter, March 31st, when I will host the world's greatest family Easter egg hunt.  However, the first picture above was taken on March 13th this year, so I'm going to need some help from the weather and the garden fairies to hold off on the blooms until about two weeks later than that next spring.

Regardless of when they bloom, I look forward to seeing them scattered throughout the lawn, the sign of a new spring in my garden.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vegetable Garden Cathedral Update

Get into the garden
Come with me into the Vegetable Garden Cathedral for an update at the end of the growing season.  

If you are new or visiting this garden for the first time, you may wonder at the name of it.  I call this the Vegetable Garden Cathedral because last year I arranged the rows as one might arrange rows of pews in a church, with a center aisle.  Plus, I often go to church on Saturday night, leaving Sunday morning for me to tend the vegetable garden without interruption.

Earlier this spring, I had a crew come out to clear out the garden and create new raised beds using pavers from a local building supply and hardware store.

The Vegetable Garden Cathedral
There are six beds approximately four feet wide and 20 feet long, plus another narrow bed way down at the end by the compost bins, which are cleverly hidden behind a short bamboo fence purchased from Gardener's Supply.  This is my third fence. They don't last forever, especially if you, oops, leave them out all winter in the snow, ice, sleet, and rain.

I am more than pleased with how these beds worked out and I have some more plans for this garden

In the narrow bed way down at the end by the compost bins I plan to plant three dwarf apple trees. I ordered them a month or so ago and they'll be shipped so that I can plant them when dormant in a few weeks.  I also hope to someday plant the entire fence bed, which is a long narrow bed about 18 inches wide that runs along the side of the garden, with Clematis vines. At one time I thought I would buy a zillion old metal trellises for them to grow on, but that's not likely to happen, so I think I'll just figure out how to string some wires between the fence posts for the Clematis to climb on.

In the rest of the garden, all the main crops are finished  and I've pulled nearly everything out except for the tomato stakes and a little stand of Tabasco peppers. I'll remove them today.

Those strawberries in the lower right corner of the picture above are still producing as are some raspberries.  I think it is because we had that brutal summer followed by a lovely fall. They are confused or making up for lost time. (One never knows sometimes which it is with plants.)

In several of the beds, I've sown some cover crops.
Winter rye cover crop
The winter rye is up and growing. I can leave it until spring, then cut it back and fork it into the soil as a green manure crop.  I also sowed some cover crop mixes, with mixed results, mostly because I sowed them a bit late.  One other cover crop, buckwheat, has me quite perplexed. I swear I sowed it, saw it come up, but now I can't find it anywhere. I'm going to spend time this morning in the cathedral trying to figure out what happened. Did the rabbits eat it all?

I can see plainly that the rabbits have eaten a lot of the spinach that came up a few weeks ago from a late sowing.  I sowed seeds for spinach, radishes, and lettuce just to see how they would do.

Late sowing of lettuce
The lettuce was a mixture of all the leftover lettuce seeds I had.  It's coming up nicely and so far the rabbits have ignored it in favor of the spinach.  I think today I'll fashion some stakes along the edges of this bed and use a row cover to protect the what's left of the spinach and the lettuce and see if I can keep the lettuce going long enough for a nice Christmas salad.

After that, I will do some weeding in the garden - thistle never quits. Then that will be the end of this season in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral.

Overall, considering the drought and all, I am pleased with how the garden turned out this year.  I am always happy to have a nice ending to the growing season, to know that my garden is tidy and resting and ready for me to sow peas in March.

Plus, with my Vegetable Garden Cathedral house in order, I feel like I can face anything in my garden.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thoughts From the Desert

Two flights with a layover in between and I was transported from Indianapolis in the Midwest, where Fall is lowering the temps and changing the leaf color, to Tucson in the Southwest, where it felt like Summer was a permanent resident.

On the drive from the airport to the hotel in Tucson where the annual Garden Writers Symposium took place, our shuttle van driver patiently answered our questions about the local life of the desert, including rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and scorpions, oh my.

Fortunately for me, I saw none of those critters, but I did see some other insects and birds out and about as we toured both public and private gardens.

There was the butterfly pictured above, coming in for a landing on what I think is Ageratum sp. at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson.

Eventually, the butterfly did rest and sip some nourishment.
That's something that everyone who attended the symposium had to do at some point. It's go-go-go then rest and drink plenty of water.

At the Tucson Botanical Garden, a grasshopper patiently posed for me.
I would never have noticed this grasshopper if another garden writer hadn't pointed him (her?) out to  me.  I have found that garden writers and gardeners are generally patient like this grasshopper.  They are also helpful.

Later, back at Tohono Chul Park, I saw a hummingbird resting.
I've never seen a hummingbird just sit and rest like that. That could be because when I'm out in my garden, I'm not usually sitting around and watching for resting hummingbirds or it could be that they don't spend their time resting in Indiana.

This one rested long enough for several of us to take many pictures of it.  It's a good reminder that even the busiest of us must rest at some point.

Resting after the symposium seems like a good idea. I can use the resting time to sort out the ideas and inspiration I absorbed from the people I met, the sessions I attended, and the gardens I saw.  In the days ahead, I will do just that -- rest and reflect on all I learned and experienced.

Oh, and I will also plant some bulbs.  Fall made itself quite at home while I was out of town.  There's no turning up the thermostat now and the days are continuing to get shorter. And I have 1,000 crocus corms to plant out in my back lawn and a few hundred other assorted bulbs to plant here and there.

But you can bet while I'm planting those corms and bulbs, I'll be thinking and pondering about my four days in the desert and all that I learned there.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2012

OSO EASY™ Cherry Pie, Rosa 'Meiboulka'
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for October 2012.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6b garden in central Indiana, fall is slowly pulling the curtain across the garden, ending this most unusual growing season.

This fall has been as good a season as I can remember in quite some time.  It brought rain, which revived many plants that had sulked and suffered through the record setting drought.

The roses made a nice comeback, including this OSO EASY™ Cherry Pie, Rosa 'Meiboulka', which has been a star since it was planted just last season.

The yellow roses out front, Sunny Knock Out® Rose,
Rosa 'Radyod', had a tough summer, planted in full sun with a south facing wall throwing radiated heat back at it all summer.

They look pretty good now, with cooler weather. Early next spring, I'm going to cut them back hard and rejuvenate them a bit.

Elsewhere in the garden, asters are finishing their bloom in Plopper's Field.
The bees have been all over them, in search of pollen that they probably couldn't find in July when the garden was so dry, almost nothing was in bloom.

Asters, grasses and other prairie-type flowers are finishing up their grand stand in August Dreams Garden.
I do like the backdrop that the grasses provide for the flowers.  And to think, I had to be talked into planting grasses when this garden was designed.

Out in the vegetable garden, I've cleared off most of the crops and some cover crops are growing in the raised beds.  Surprisingly I'm still picking a few raspberries and this crazy Clematis is blooming.
Not even frost has stopped it, and we've had several frosty mornings. Go, Clematis, go.

Finally, an October bloom day post just doesn't seem complete without the quintessential flower of fall, tall sedum.

In a few weeks, these blooms will fade to a lovely, rich brown, the leaves on the trees will turn and drop and the curtain really will be closed for this growing season.

How's your garden blooming on this mid-October day?

We would love to have you join in for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day and tell us all about what is blooming in your garden.

It’s easy to participate and all are invited!

Just post on your blog about what is blooming in your garden on the 15th of the month and leave a comment to tell us what you have waiting for us to see so we can pay you a virtual visit. Then put your name and the url to your post on the Mr. Linky widget below to make it easy to find you.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Give mums a chance

Dendranthema 'Cool Igloo'
Mums, they aren't so bad, especially if they have a more natural shape and don't look all poodle cut and perfectly rounded. 

And by mums, I mean Dendranthema, which is the actual genus for mums.  Or maybe they switched back to Chrysanthemum?  It's difficult to keep up with taxonomists sometimes.

Regardless, in the right colors, and not perfectly mounded, mums add some nice color to the fall garden. 

Friends ask me about planting their mums in the garden  to winter over until spring.  Mums will winter over but there are a couple of tips to remember.

First, you should plant the mums as soon as possible, hopefully when they are still just budding out and not in full flower.  Around here that was about a month ago for most mums, if the ones I saw at the local big box hardware store a few days ago are any indication of the condition of the mums for sale now.    But even if my mums were in full flower, I'd still be tempted to plant them out now. What do you have to lose if they don't make it, except a little bit of time?

Next, avoid temptation and don't cut the mums down to the ground once they are done blooming. Leave that foliage standing through the winter.

Once the ground has frozen over, cover the base of the mum with some mulch to prevent it from heaving out of the ground when we go through those freeze-thaw cycles, especially in late winter. Many a gardener has lost her mums when they heaved out of the ground and dried out. If you find your mums out of the ground in late winter, push them back down using the heel of you boot.

Then in the spring when you see some green shoots starting to peak through at the base of the mum, go ahead and cut the dead branches down to the ground and pull the mulch back.   Fertilize the mum when you fertilize other perennials. I try to remember to fertilizer my perennials in early May.   If you want a lot more blooms in the fall, cut the branches back by about one-third around Memorial Day.  This encourages more branching, and thus, more buds.

Many gardeners shun the mums as ordinary and boring. I think they can be quite nice and cannot resist a little plea... all I am saying... is give mums a chance.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

What do you see in your lawn?

What do you see in this lawn?

Does the dandelion in the center of the picture bother you? Did you notice that the tips of the blades of grass are a little ragged, indicating that someone needs to sharpen the blade on her lawn mower?

Or did you see how the green the lawn is and jump to the conclusion that it must be a suburban wasteland created by the overuse of lawn chemicals, primarily herbicides and insecticides, in spite of the dandelion that is clearly considered by 99% of all people to be a weed.

Maybe you saw nothing wrong with this picture.

If that was the case,  good for you. I see nothing wrong in this picture, except maybe the ragged tips caused by a less than sharp cut with a dull mower blade.

I took this picture in my backyard where no herbicides or insecticides are used on the lawn. It does  get some fertilizer in the spring and fall, as do other plants in my garden.

I mow "high", generally not shorter than three inches, and hope that the lawn crowds out the weeds and not vice versa.  When I think of it, or when a really big dandelion or other weed really does stick out and grab attention away from the lawn, I dig the weeds out. I do try to keep the mower blades sharp, and will admit that after I took this picture, I realized that it is time to put a little edge on those blades. I do this with a sharpening file as best I can.

I'm not looking for perfection in my lawn, I'm just looking for a sea of green upon which will rest the "islands" of flower borders.  Actually, the garden beds and borders are more like continents surrounding the sea of green.  On the northern shore of the sea is the Vegetable Garden Cathedral, to the west is The Shrubbery and Plopper's Field, to the east is August Dreams Garden and Woodland Follies, and to the south  is Birds' Blanket, the patio, and some yet to be named continents, I mean flower borders near the house.

The lawn, the sea of green, clearly needs its own name, too. I think I'll refer to it as simply The Green Sea.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Welcome Back, Lawn

Lawn on October 7
Drought? We had a drought? We had a record setting drought? This summer?

You're kidding, right?  It sure doesn't look like there was a drought in my garden. The lawn is green, the roses are blooming again.  And it has been raining, quite a bit. 

The lawn was an awful khaki tan color toward the end of the drought, and it had that funny smell that lawns have when they are dormant due to lack of rain in the summertime.
Lawn on July 24
 But the lawn came back with the rains. I knew it would.
Lawn on September 10
Welcome back, Lawn.  You really do add some serenity and peace to my garden. You provide a place to sit, a place to stroll. I could spread out a blanket and have a picnic with you.  I'm keeping you, Lawn.  You look marvelous.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Persimmon Seed Predictions for Winter

Persimmon Seeds from Soules Garden
Much has happened since I discovered earlier this week that people use persimmon seeds to predict the type of winter they will be having.

First, I figured out, through some kind comments and by looking at other pictures on the web, that we had not actually found the true cutlery in Robin's persimmons.  It turns out that you have to actually cut the seeds open, not just the fruit, as shown in this picture.

Ah, now I see. The shapes of cutlery are much clearer.  Or are they?

Second, I learned again the power of social media.  The pictures of persimmon seeds shown here are from Chris at Soules Garden, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from here.  Chris saw my request on Facebook for some persimmon seeds from trees relatively close to me and sent me this picture. I am confident that Soules Garden and May Dreams Gardens will have the same weather this winter, so these seeds should provide me with a prediction of my winter.

Third, I realized that while some shapes are obviously spoons or knives, other shapes are a little less specific and could be spoons or forks. 

To assist me with interpreting the predictions of the persimmon seeds, I asked for some assistance from some of the occasional - what shall we call them - personas on my blog, namely Hortense Hoelove, Thorn Goblinfly, and Dr. Hortfreud.

Here's what they thought about predicting the upcoming winter by the cutlery shapes in the persimmon seeds.

Dear Hortense Hoelove,
What do you see in the persimmon seeds?

Dear Carol,
Here is what I see.
You can see that I have labeled the Knives, Spoons, and Forks as I see them.  Based on this, I would expect you will experience some heavy, wet snows and some light, fluffy snows this winter, and it will be cold.  Don't even think that winter will be mild like last year.  As if.  Nope, it is going to be a typical Indiana winter with a little bit of everything.

Hortense Hoelove.


Garden fairies here. We are garden fairies and we are delighted to have been asked to interpret the persimmon seeds to help prognostic, ponder and predict the winter that is coming this way.  It thrills us no end that someone sent Carol a picture of persimmon tree seeds because there for a day or so we thought she might get the idea to plant a persimmon tree here at May Dreams Gardens so she could have her own seeds. We are garden fairies and we just want to say that we've heard that such a tree can be quite messy, dropping fruit all over in the later summer and fall. Though, as garden fairies we would have done our part to collect the persimmons and save them for pudding. We love pudding. Who doesn't? Though our preference is for chocolate pudding. Do you think we could get Carol to plant a cocoa tree here? Now that would be useful. We could use the chocolate for hot cocoa, too. Oh boy, that would be good in the winter time especially.

Oh, dear. Sorry. We got off track there.  Here's our prediction for the upcoming winter.
As you can see, we think that what some are labeling as spoons are actually forks because they are straight across at the top, and everyone knows that spoons are rounded at the top.  Based on this, we think it is going to be a cold winter with mostly light fluffy snows, which are our favorites, so we admit that we are garden fairies and that might just be some wishful thinking on our part. There might also be some wet, heavy snows.  Regardless, we are garden fairies and we'll spend most of the winter here in the sunroom, because it gets so cold in the winter time, so it matters not to us how much snow and what kind we get, though sometimes the snow fairies care.  Hey, maybe we need to ask the snow fairies?

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



Yes, Dr. Hortfreud?

I see that you are predicting the upcoming winter weather using persimmon seeds.

Yes, I am.

Would you like to know my interpretation?

Well, yes, as long as it is your interpretation of the meaning of the persimmon tree seeds and not your analysis  of my state of mind.

Fair enough, here's what I think.
I think it will be a cold winter with some wet, heavy snows.

Dr Hortfreud, you haven't labeled all of the seeds.

That's a good observation, Carol. I'm still studying some of these, trying to decide if the are forks or spoons.

Oh, when will you be done with your observations?

In due time.  I don't like to rush my predictions and prognostications Maybe March?

Good to know. Thanks Dr. H.


And there you have it, three persimmon seed predictions of this upcoming winter from Hortense Hoelove, Thorn Goblinfly and Dr. Hortfreud.  By March, we can look back and see who came closest in their predictions.

What do you see in the persimmon seeds?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Persimmon Prognostications

Until today, I had no idea that the inside of a persimmon seed could tell us what kind of winter we are going to have.

Knowing it now, I am on a quest to find some locally grown persimmons so I can see inside and provide my own prognostication about the winter.

How does the persimmon predict the winter?

It all has to do with spoons, forks and knives.  If you see a spoon shape inside the persimmon seed, it means lots of wet, heavy snow.  If you see a fork shape, it means light, powdery snow.  If you see a knife shape, it means cold, cutting winds.

You can read more about how it works on the The Old Farmer's Almanac website.

I suppose if you cut open several persimmons, you might find some of all the cutlery.  In that case I assume you determine an average number of knives, forks and spoons and use that to prognosticate a cold, snow-of-some-sort kind of winter.  I also assume that to predict your own weather, you need to find persimmons that were locally grown.

The persimmons pictured above are from the garden of Robin of Bumblebee Blog. She was kind enough to respond to my shout out for persimmons and sent me a picture of one of hers.  I think that is a spoon shape, which means she should expect wet, heavy snow this winter.  Or maybe that is a fat knife and she will experience a cold winter? 

As for me, I don't know what my winter will be like, yet, as I haven't found any locally grown persimmons to check.

I did hear that someone in the next county to the southeast saw so many knives and forks in her persimmons this past week that it reminded her of the winter of 1978, which we all remember for the last major blizzard we had around here.  Most of us who lived through it just call it The Blizzard or the Blizzard of '78.   It was in January, which means that next January will be the 35th anniversary of this storm.

I would guess that after 35 years, we are due for a some kind of winter. I'm just not sure what kind of winter.  I won't rest now until I find some locally grown persimmons so I can figure it out.

Yes, indeed, I'm on the prowl for persimmons so I can prognosticate and predict.

Monday, October 01, 2012

More precious than gold or rubies

These were delicious!
More precious to me than gold or rubies, at least for the moment, are the first raspberries from my garden.

I planted these raspberry brambles in the spring of 2011 and didn't expect, or get, any raspberries that first year because raspberries fruit on two year old canes. This spring I was hopeful that I would pick my first crop by mid summer.

And then the drought struck and dashed my hopes.

The raspberry brambles melted in the heat and watering merely kept them alive.  How could I even hope for them to produce fruit under such conditions?

(Even though, by the way, I believe that many plants produce their best flowers under stress. Bring on the stress and the plant thinks it is dying and pops out flowers like crazy to produce seed. The same is true of us people.  Put us under a little stress and watch us produce whatever it is that is going to alleviate that stress.  For both plants and people, there is, of course, a limit to the amount of stress we can endure before we croak under the weight of the stress, but I digress...)

The rain returned in August, and both varieties of raspberries, 'Anne', the yellow ones, and 'Caroline', the red ones, perked up, bloomed and fruited.  I was surprised but should have guessed they would do this. Both varieties produce two crops a year, one in June/July, the other in September, according to the source I purchased them from.

From the looks of the brambles, I should be able to pick a couple more good handfuls of gold and rubies, I mean raspberries, before we get more frost.