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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year, Thirteen

View across Ploppers Field on a snowy day
The ol' Rabbit, Twelve, stood in the snow looking across Ploppers Field toward the green chairs where he had seen Eleven waiting for him so long ago.

"My how a year can fly by," he said to no one in particular.  "I'm gobsmacked that it is time to go already, but I'm ready, none the less."

With that he looked at the notes he had carefully made out for Thirteen.  He wanted to be sure that Thirteen didn't mess up the weather the way he had.

"I can't believe how I botched up the winter by providing almost no snow cover, then I accidentally turned off the rain in early May. It took me forever to figure out how to turn it back on in August. Not having rain sure messed up the garden and fooled some of the plants into early bloom, if it didn't outright kill them. I sure was sorry to see some plants die, but it wasn't my fault that the redbud fell over. That was just the wind."

Twelve paused momentarily in thought, and looked toward the gate to see if Thirteen had arrived.  He gingerly moved through the snow closer to the gate. He wanted as much time with Thirteen as he could get so he could share all his notes on what to do and what not to do in the coming year.

"Oh, this snow.  I sure outdid myself with this snow.  It wasn't my fault that we also had all that wind at the same time, though the weathermen seemed awfully happy every time they got to say the word blizzard. Blizzard, blizzard, blizzard.  I hope Thirteen knows that people around here like their snow in spits of one or two inches, not this dollop of eight inches all at once that I provided."

Just then he thought he heard a rustle and called out "Thirteen"?  Then he checked his watch and realized he had a few minutes more to wait, so he wrote done some of the things he had done in the garden, in spite of getting the weather all wrong.

First, there was Carol's new sculpture, Tiger Tails. He liked it quite a lot.  Then he counted out that he had planted six trees, three in Woodland Follies to replace the fallen redbud tree, which he noted again was not his fault. He also planted three apple trees at the end of the vegetable garden near the compost bins. Oh, and he made sure to write down that he had straightened out the Vegetable Garden Cathedral by putting in new raised beds edged with nice edging bricks.  He was very proud of those raised beds.

Just as he was writing down that Thirteen should be sure to make sure the 1,000 crocus corms that Carol planted in the lawn were all blooming on Easter, he heard a crash as the gate opened.

There was Thirteen, all young and energetic.

"Come here, new year Thirteen. I don't have much time so I wrote a bunch of notes for you so you will get the weather right and so you know what I've done in the garden and what you need to do."

Then Twelve handed Thirteen the notes, wished him well, and hopped out of the garden toward a place called The Past.

Thirteen stood for a moment and looked at the handful of notes from Twelve, then set them down so he could take stock of the garden. Just then a big wind came up and blew the notes away.  "Uh oh", he said, "I hope there wasn't anything too important in those notes. They are gone with the wind.  Oh well. I think it is better to make it up as you go and not follow the past. At least it will be more fun that way."

Then Thirteen called out to the garden fairies and anyone else who was in earshot, "Happy New Year! Let's make this the best year yet in the garden. Let's have fun. Let's be happy and joyful and thankful. Let's spend lots of time in the garden. Happy New Year!"

Friday, December 28, 2012

All Aboard!

I finally watched the Christmas movie, The Polar Express, and my thoughts turned to gardening, as they always do.

Actually, my thoughts first turned to other trains that were named "Express", then I thought of gardening.

I thought of the Hogwarts Express, which takes the young wizards and witches in the Harry Potter books to and from London and Hogsmeade, where they go to school in Hogwarts Castle. 

I also thought of the Orient Express, a real train that took travelers from Paris to Istanbul, with presumably stops in between. Agatha Christie used this train as the setting for one of her murder mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express.

I thought about how, whether fictional or real, these trains took their passengers on great adventures, which surely changed their lives. 

And then after I thought all of these thoughts, I thought that it would be nice to have a train for gardeners that could take us on some kind of magical ride. Since it is my fictional train, I'm going to call it the May Dreams Express.

All aboard the May Dreams Express.  

Please take your seat and present your ticket to the conductor who, by golly, looks a lot like a gardener himself.  If you don't mind, leave the windows closed. The garden fairies tend to get sucked out open windows and no one wants that to happen.

Would you like some treats from the trolley car?  No need to bring your own food, we've got fresh fruits and vegetables grown on the train - the garden is on the third car from the caboose, if you are interested. While you are snacking, feel free to browse through the seed catalogs and gardening magazines tucked in the back pocket of the seat in front of you. You'll find that any plant listed that you want will grow perfectly in your garden back home, if you ever get back home after your ride on the May Dreams Express.

If you are tired of sitting and would like to get up and stretch your legs a bit, go on back toward the caboose where you will find the world's only railway car conservatory.  We've taken great care in filling it with the plants and flowers that you love, and there is always something nice in bloom.

What's our destination?  Gardens, of course.  The May Dreams Express will take you to gardens around the world. When the train stops and the doors open, you'll be in whatever garden you've dreamed of seeing.  And you'll be seeing that garden at its very peak of perfection. 

Watch your step as you exit the train to see the gardens and please watch the time. You'll have plenty of time to see every garden, we promise. But remember that our train likes to leave on time and there are many gardens and plants to see, so you don't want to be late.

What? Violet Sweetpea Maydreams is missing from the train? I could have sworn I saw her get on at the first stop.  I guessed this might happen. Now it looks like we also have a mystery to add to our fun on the May Dreams Express.

No one move until Hortcule Poirot has a chance to look for clues.

All Aboard!  Don't miss this ride. Who knows where we will end up?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wildflower Wednesday: Recap of 2012

Back garden after the Blizzard of '12
Following the lead of Gail at Clay and Limestone, who hosts Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday of the month, I thought I'd review some of my posts on wildflowers over the past year.

Apparently, I was too busy with winter to post about wildflowers in January but in February, I posted about my wildflowers. Or rather, I tried to post about wildflowers but the post got taken over by garden fairies, once again, and they went on and on about how you can't "own" wildflowers, just by their very nature. They also wrote that it was pathetic how little shade I had in my garden. Ha! They didn't know what "little shade" meant back in February. But they sure found out in July when the redbud that was providing the shade for my woodland wildflowers fell over.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

At the end of March, I was so very excited to write a post about my woodland wildflowers. They had survived being uprooted from the forest and transplanted to my garden.  They are so sweet and lovely in the spring. I swore I even heard the garden fairies chanting "they survived" as though there was some doubt about that.

In April, I posted about some wildflowers I purchased that were grown from Indiana seed. I considered it my solemn duty and responsibility to do so.  I planted those little seedlings in the August Dreams Garden which is all about the late bloomers.  Those little seedlings sure had a rough summer to establish themselves, so I'm not sure they all made it but we'll find out in the spring.

Oops, I don't seem to have posted for May but in June it was all about the August Dreams Garden where the asters were blooming early.  The drought had already established itself in the garden by the end of June and I think the asters and other plants decided if they didn't bloom early and set seed, then they might not bloom at all this year.   They were right, in a way, because the drought continued through most of the summer.

In July, still a-glow from my visit to the gardens of Elizabeth Lawrence and nearby Wing Haven, I shared more about Wing Haven.  It's a lovely place and I tell everyone who plans to visit Charlotte to check it out.  The wooded parts of Wing Haven are surely full of spring ephemeral flowers. Oh, I'd love to see it someday, and make a return trip to Larwrence's garden, too.

In August, I turned to my August Dreams garden for inspiration and went on and on about goldenrod, and how I never figured I'd plant goldenrod in my garden. Now I have the rarest goldenrod in the world well-established and blooming in my garden. Who'd a thought that would ever happen? Not me, that's for sure. I guess it goes to show never say no and never assume that things will always stay the same.

In September, I went on and on about serviceberries.  They truly are a tree for all seasons with good blooms, good fruiting, and good fall color.  I have four serviceberries in my garden.

Looking back at November's post, I realize now how I discovered the garden writer Harriet Louise Keeler.   I bought some of her books but I couldn't remember where I first read about her. You know I only buy books that I have a connection to. I'm sure glad I re-read that post. Now I feel less silly about buying Keeler's books.

Which brings me to December.  The picture above shows my garden under nearly a foot of snow, okay, really about nine inches of snow, which fell on my garden this morning during the blizzard.  Nestled under all that snow are some of my wildflowers, waiting patiently for spring or summer or fall, whenever they bloom. They will inspire me to keep adding wildflowers to my garden, just as Gail does every fourth Wednesday on her blog, Clay and Limestone.

Gardeners, What did you get for Chrismas?

I am surely the envy of all gardeners at Christmas-time with my brand new tree garden-y ornament.  It is a glass garden fork with a little toad sitting on the handle.

I've already hung it on the tree, as you can see, where it adds to my growing collection of gardening-theme ornaments.

And yes, I do have a hoe ornament.  Doesn't every gardener? 

In other good news, I also received a pair of garden gloves to use when I prune roses.

I can't imagine any rose thorn penetrating through the heavy suede of these gardening gloves. I am ready for battle.  I am ready for spring rose pruning now.  Unfortunately, it is not spring, it is winter and there is a blizzard outside, so I'll just have to spend hours admire my gloves, trying them on, over and over, until spring.

Just in case every gardener is not already drooling over my ornament and my rose pruning gloves, I'll show you my new Guy Wolff pot.

And it is green!

One final word on gardening related gifts.

If you got an old gardening book, "mind the fairies" when you open the book.  Book fairies are old gardening fairies who were trapped decades ago in old gardening books when these books were last read.  When you slowly open the book, the light will wake them up, and then they'll leave and head out to the garden.

Knowing this, perhaps it is best if you only open old gardening books in your own home, so the book fairies will at least escape to your own garden.

What did you get for Christmas?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Planting a few ideas

Garden fairy footprints in foxglove blooms
I have a few random thoughts floating around that I thought I'd plant here for awhile. Later, in that mythical place call "the future", when I think I will have more time, perhaps I'll come back and see how these ideas are doing.

Fairy footprints

I am sure by now that everyone knows the little spots inside of foxglove blooms are garden fairy footprints.  If that is the case, I believe one could logically draw the conclusion that the spots on the backs of a gardener's hand are also fairy footprints.

Calling these spots fairy footprints sounds a lot better than calling them age spots.

Yes, the next time someone looks at the back of my hands and even thinks "age spots", I'll let them know that those are fairy footprints and I am proud that after years of gardening, the garden fairies feel comfortable enough around me to step on my hands whenever I pause while planting or weeding.

Mind the Book Fairies

Speaking of garden fairies, I found out in their latest post that garden fairies often get trapped in old gardening books, so we should "mind the book fairies" when we open old gardening books. They need a few minutes to wake up, stretch, get their bearings and then make their escape.  Some of them have apparently been in those books for quite some time, as I've found out. 

I've been on an old gardening book buying spree and there are book fairies everywhere.

Vicar Ellacombe Garden Literary Society

Speaking of old gardening books, I am still enamored with this quote from Vicar Henry Nicholson Ellacombe:

"I suppose no one who loves his garden is entirely without books on his favourite subject; and, indeed, I have always found that a lover of gardens and flowers is also more or less a lover and reader of books."

After reading this, I thought that if I ever joined a book club or started one, I would call it The Vicar Ellacombe Garden Literary Society.

Then I thought that such a society should have someone in charge of it with a name like Lady Daphne Hortus-Wellington-Cloverberry.  Her parents would be Lord Neville Hortus-Wellington-Cloverberry and Lady Agnes Hortus-Wellington-Cloverberry.  Lady Daphne would also have a brother, Lord Basil Hortus-Wellington-Cloverberry.  Lord Neville and Lady Agnes would have a dream that someday their daughter, Daphne, might fall in love with a good botanist or horticulturist who could help them return the gardens of their estate, known as Cloverberry Castle, to their former glory. Lady Daphne and her botanist husband would live nearby in Cloverberry Cottage.  

Well, that all seems just a wee bit complicated, so maybe I'll just appoint myself as the chairperson of The Vicar Ellacombe Garden Literary Society, at least for now.

Those are my thoughts these days. 

The seeds are planted. We'll see what grows.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Garden fairies on garden book fairies

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have been having fun in the Christmas tree here at May Dreams Gardens. It's a real tree, and we are scampering from branch to branch with the tree fairies and our guests the book fairies.

Book fairies, you ask?  We are garden fairies and we are glad you asked.  We have always welcomed the book fairies here at May Dreams Gardens but the population of them seems to be increasing here by leaps and bounds, correlating, of course, with the number of gardening books that Carol has been buying lately.

The book fairies, as you know, are garden fairies of old who get trapped in old gardening books. Once the garden-book fairies are trapped in an old gardening book, they have to wait and wait and wait and sleep until someone, like Carol, buys the gardening book. Then when Carol opens the gardening book after all those years, any garden-book fairies inside wake up and make their escape.

Oh the stories these book fairies tell.  We garden fairies and tree fairies love spending hours by the fireplace listening to the book fairies talk about their adventures and tales of the old gardens. We are just fascinated to hear about old plants, old gardeners, and old ways of gardening.

We listen for hours, exchanging stories, comparing notes and enjoying some delicious snacks provided by the toast fairies. Some of our new book fairies are over 100 years old.   Good times, all the way around.

Anyway, we are garden fairies, and we would like to pass along this public service announcement on behalf of the book fairies.  Here it is:

"Mind the book fairies when you open up old gardening books."

That it is in a nutshell.  But we are garden fairies so we will also provide the following extra information.

"Please mind the book fairies when you open up old gardening books.  Open the books slowly and turn the pages gently to give the sleeping garden book fairies a chance to gradually wake up and get their bearings. Some of them have been sleeping for over 50 or 100 years and when anyone has been asleep that long they aren't going to just jump up at the first crack of light and yes, it would be helpful if you turned your head for a minute or two to give them a chance to leave quietly without you watching their every move.  Don't worry that the book fairies will be lost and confused. They  will only be confused for a minute or two until a garden fairy finds them and takes them by the hand and shows them the proper hospitality that one should show a book fairy who has been asleep for so long in an old gardening book and then all of a sudden is woken up."

We are garden fairies and as we stated, we have never seen so many book fairies in one place as here lately at May Dreams Gardens.

Good times!

Submitted by:

Violet Greenpea MayDreams, chief scribe for the garden fairies at May Dreams Gardens and chairperson of the "Welcome Book Fairies Committee".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wintertime, and what does a gardener grow?

Wintertime, and what does a gardener grow?

Her library, of course.

The steady stream of old gardening books showing up in my mailbox and on my doorstep has slowed down to a trickle now.  I believe I am expecting just two more books, unless of course, I discover another gardening book that I could not possible continue without.

I offer assurances to those who have some idea of the number of books that I've ordered recently that I am not just haphazardly buying books on the topic of gardening.  I'm only purchasing those books that are connected in some way to a particular interest I have in gardening, or are suggested to me by someone, or that strike my fancy or that I found through a reference in another book or, well... there are a couple of books that I bought that I haven't quite figured out what caused me to purchase them.

In some ways, this is also how I garden.  I buy plants I have a particular interest in or are suggested to me by someone, or that strike my fancy or that I found through a reference in a book or catalog or well... there are some plants that I bought that I haven't quite figured out what caused me to purchase them.  Don't we all garden this way?

In some cases, someone else sowed the seed of the idea of a particular book I purchased.  That's how I came to acquire the remaining volumes of a set of books called "The Garden Library" published by Doubleday, Page and Company.  I somewhat randomly purchased two or three of the books in the set years ago, including The Flower Garden by Ida Dandridge Bennett. I  didn't really think about buying the whole set, because I never knew how many books were in the set. Then a reader sent me an email a few weeks ago saying she had the whole set and had just donated it to a botanical garden and would I like to correspond with the person who had accepted the donation.  Yes, I would, just to find out what other books were in the set and how many books were in the complete set.  She replied that she'd written down all the titles and authors and provided me with the list.

I did what anyone would have done.  I worked down through that list and found all the remaining books from various booksellers and purchased them one evening. Merry Christmas to me.  I received the last book, House Plants and How to Grow Them by Parker T. Barnes (1910) a few days ago.

In other cases, one book provides a branch to another one, as is the case with my recent purchase of two books by Canon Henry N. Ellacombe.  I can go right to the passage in Gardens in Winter by Elizabeth Lawrence where she mentions reading Ellacombe's books to see what was blooming in his garden after she had explored her own garden in a given month. I could not resist finding and buying these books, once I knew that Lawrence referenced them in her book.

And so it goes.  Like a gardener in May who buys one plant after another while others look on and wonder where she will plant them all and if she will have time to plant them all, I am a reader in December who buys one book after another, while others look on and wonder where I will put all these books and if I will have time to read them all.

Somehow, like the gardener in May, I'll figure it out.  In the meantime, I just received In a Gloucestershire Garden by Canon Henry N. Ellacombe (1895) which is based on "certain papers... which were published in the Guardian during the years 1890 - 1893".  The original owner of this book, Agnes O. Kennaway (not sure of that last name) signed and dated it on August 7, 1895.

What can I learn from a book that is almost 120 years old?  Ellacombe is not teaching me how to garden, he is teaching me to love my garden, to look at it differently, to enjoy it in new ways. He reminds me, "December is not the month for the full enjoyment  of the garden; it is the month of pleasant memories, and it may be also of pleasant anticipation". 

I think December is also the month for buying gardening books.

After the holidays, I plan to enter my new-to-me gardening books into LibraryThing, which I use to keep track of all my gardening books. Then I'll take stock of the shelves of book throughout my house to see where I can put these new books, just like I would take stock of my garden in May to see where I can plant new plants.

I'll read through these gardening books, too, and pass along any special passages I run across, just as I would share a special bloom from my garden.  After all, according to Ellacombe, "the best gardeners are the greatest readers".

Monday, December 17, 2012

Helpful Christmas Tree Related Words

For those who set up Christmas trees each year, I offer the following useful definitions:

Treerangement - Noun. That odd arrangement of furniture that you end up with when you move it around to make room for the Christmas tree.

Treerange - Verb. To move furniture around to make room for the Christmas tree. Example in a sentence, "I treeranged the great room to make room for the tree."

Treeturn - Verb. To return furniture to the room when you realize after setting up the Christmas tree that you had room for it after all.

"Treeeeee!" - Noun. What the tree fairies say when they see you bring a lovely Fraser Fir into the house for Christmas.

Tree Fairy - Noun. A garden fairy who sneaks inside once the Christmas tree is up and takes up residence in the tree. Note, garden/tree fairies only take up residence in real trees. Tree fairies are responsible for ornaments that fall to the floor and Christmas tree lights that mysteriously burn out. In some cases, the tree fairies may cause an entire strand of lights to to not work.  Tree fairies, like all fairies, are generally harmless, but you should play lots of Christmas music for them and put a few extra candy canes on the tree, as this is one of their favorite winter foods. Oh, and leave a few walnuts in a bowl nearby. Tree fairies love walnuts and they need the protein after all that candy.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December 2012

Welcome to Garden Blogger's Bloom Day for December 2012.

Here in my zone 6a garden in central Indiana, we have not yet had any snow so it still seems more like late fall than winter.   I looked back at previous bloom day posts and remembered that last year in December, I only had one bloom to show.

This year I have three types of blooms, mostly because we have had fairly mild weather so far this season.

Out in the lawn there are a couple of violas that have established themselves and still have a few blooms on them.  I leave them be and hope that they will make it through the winter to bloom again in the spring.

There are also a pair of yellow violas that had the good sense to self-sow themselves right by the brick of the house.  

I believe they'll do alright through much of the winter because they'll be warmed by the radiant heat that comes off the brick of the south facing wall of the house.  I check on them every time I go get the mail. 

Out in the back garden, there is some Vinca minor that has one or two blooms on it.
Many gardeners will be horrified that I still have some Vinca minor growing in my garden, as it is considered invasive in many states, including Indiana. Relax. I am going to grub this out in the spring and toss it in the trash.

And to think that in the late 1970's I worked in a nursery where this groundcover was grown and I actually helped to propagate it.

Elsewhere in the garden, I am reminded that spring flowers lie just beneath the surface.
Those leaf tips belong to Leucojum aestivum which goes by the common name Summer Snowflake.  My bulbs were a gift from Leslie of Growing a Garden in Davis.  It won't bloom until May so who knows why it is sprouting in fall. I'll blame it on the crazy weatehr.

When I see my lawn these days, I am reminded that underneath that surface there are over 1,000 crocus bulbs waiting out the winter.
I am also reminded by the green color that we really have not had much winter yet.

My third, and final bloom is the only bloom I had last year.  It is the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger.

This is the variety 'Josef Lemper' and it was sent to me last year by Skagit Gardens.  I dearly love this flower and wonder why it took so long for me to figure out that it existed and I should have it in my garden to help fulfil the quote by Elizabeth Lawrence:  "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.

It really is the only flower in my garden that is supposed to bloom in December.

What about your garden? Are you snow covered or still enjoying outdoor blooms?

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

All are welcome!

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12, Our thoughts turn to fertilizer

My beautiful compost in my red wheelbarrow.
It is December 12, 2012 and our thoughts turn to fertilizer, as they really should.

One year ago, I looked forward to today and decided that we should proclaim it International Fertilizer Day.


And now the day has arrived!

 If you are a gardener who has read much about gardening through the years, you probably recognize that 12-12-12, "triple 12", was once a common fertilizer recommendation, and in some gardening circles, it still is.

If you are not a gardener, you probably don't associate Dec. 12, 2012 with fertilizer, as I found out by asking a few non-gardeners.  Oh my, the blank stares.  The "she really is touched in the head" looks I got when I asked "What does 12-12-12 make you think of".  No one answered "fertilizer".

Oh, well. Let us go on without them to celebrate all things fertilizer today.

To start with, please know that by proclaiming 12-12-12 as International Fertilizer Day I am not endorsing, promoting, suggesting or advocating that 12-12-12 fertilizer is the be all, end all, best all fertilizer for gardeners.

I'm just having some fun.

In fact, I will confess that I am lackadaisical gardener when it comes to fertilizer. I don't tend to use much additional fertilizer.  I mostly just try to add some good compost to my garden beds and borders when I have compost available.

I am also not much of a zealot when it comes to soil testing to determine what fertilizer my garden needs.  I would, however, have my soil tested if I lived and gardened someplace where it was possible for my soil to be contaminated with heavy metals or I thought that my plants were growing poorly.

I am somewhat  of a grow and let grow kind of gardener.

In my garage, which often looks like an attached garden shed on the inside because it is where I keep the hoe collection, you'll find a few bags of organic fertilizer, which I try to remember to use from time to time.  See above about lackadaisical.

But even though I don't use Triple 12 fertilizers and am lackadaisical about fertilizing my plants, I can still proclaim today, 12-12-12, as International Fertilizer Day.

May I humbly suggest that you use this day to consider your fertilizing habits and perhaps confess your own fertilizing sins?  Promise to do better for your garden when it comes to fertilizer.   Then go out and enjoy the rest of the day.

12-12-12. Just the mention of it makes our thoughts turn to fertilizer, doesn't it? Doesn't it?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Fascinating Christmas Rose: Helleborus niger

Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper'
I have scoured the garden literature of the 20th and 21st centuries to bring forth for the holidays some tidbits about Helleborus niger, the Christmas Rose.  I did this realizing that it might possibly lead me down one or two or more rabbit holes where securing the keys to escape might involving purchasing a few more old gardening books.

This did indeed turn out to be the case.

If I should be so fortunate as to have the one bud currently on my H. niger bloom in time for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on the 15th of this month, one or two readers will ask how I got my hellebore to bloom so early because their hellebores bloom later in the spring.  This is probably because they are growing H. orientalis or a hybrid of H. orientalis, which is commonly called the Lenten Rose. It does bloom later in the spring.

According to Alice T. A. Quackenbush, in her book Perennials of Flowerland (The Macmillan Company, 1929) the name hellebore "is derived from helein, to kill, and bora, food" or "food of death". The roots are poisonous. Quackenbush also noted about H. niger, "Probably blooming in any other time, the plant would seem of little garden value: when one remembers that it is possible to dig through snow and find bloom, it becomes precious".

In Our Garden Flowers by Harriet L. Keeler (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), Keeler notes that another common name for this hellebore is Black Hellebore because the roots of the plant are black. She noted that "any weather which will permit the lowly chickweed to open its corollas to the mid-day sun will bring forth the Christmas Rose".

Last winter, I was reading through Helleborus: A Comprehensive Guide by C. Colston Burrell and Judith Knott Tyler (Timber Press, 2006) and found mention of a small book, The Christmas Rose, self-published by Arthur E. and Mildred V. Luedy (1948). Yes, I found a good used copy of The Christmas Rose and purchased it.  Luedy wrote, "And there is a flower that strangely loves the bitterness of winter and blooms through the crystal of ice. It is the Christmas Rose, with a history worth telling..."

For what it is worth, Luedy referenced a book, History of Plants by Theophrastus, which was written in the fourth century before Christ and  noted it was "called the most important botanical work of antiquity". I had the good sense to not go looking for that book. That would have been a treacherous, deep, unforgiving rabbit hole.

In Gardens in Winter by Elizabeth Lawrence (1961), Lawrence wrote, "In Scottish Gardens Sir Herbert Maxwell describes it as growing abundantly and luxuriantly in the garden of Carnock at the turn of the century. The purpose of this garden, he said, was "to link season with season and month with month by a succession of blossom. No flower is more important to this scheme than the varieties of Helleborus niger".

I'm sure if anyone has read this far, they may be wondering if they can grow this magical winter flowering hellebore in their garden.

You can grow Helleborus niger if you garden in USDA Hardiness zones 3 - 7, and have a location in light to full shade that is well-drained with good soil. Burrell and Tyler note that "Helleborus niger is slow to mature, so time and patience are needed until your plant reaches full size".  They also note that the bloom time can vary year to year depending on all the usual factors that affect bloom, including weather and age and health of the plant.

If you garden in a warmer climate than zone 7, you may be disappointed that you can't grow this hellebore in your garden.  You may actually be envious of those of us who can experience the magic of flowers sticking up out of the snow. Don't be envious.  Please give us the joy and pleasure of these blooms, and we will not be envious of all that you have blooming throughout your garden during your version of winter.

Or go buy a potted hellebore. They are also becoming a popular potted plant sold around Christmas time.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

"The best gardeners are the greatest readers"

Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper' bud
Early this morning, before it was even light out, I found my copy of Gardens in Winter by Elizabeth Lawrence (1961) for the sole purpose of looking up information on the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger.

I like to look up information in books as a change of pace from the "fast food" information that is often what you get when you do an online search. 

I was certain that Lawrence would have included information on this winter blooming treasure in her treasure of a book, Gardens in Winter, and she did.

As I read what she wrote about Helleborus niger, my eye was inexplicably drawn to another passage in her book. This passage turned out to be a giant rabbit hole where I found  the writings of Henry Nicholson Ellacombe, Vicar of Bitton, Gloucestershire, England.

Lawrence, who often wrote about when flowers bloomed in her garden, and then compared notes about bloom times with other gardeners, wrote in Gardens in Winter,  "After poking about among the fallen leaves in search of crocus buds or iris tips, I like to take In My Vicarage Garden and In a Gloucestershire Garden from the shelves to see what is going on at Bitton Vicarage."

Eliz. Lawrence's bookshelf
It didn't take me long to set aside Gardens in Winter to turn back to an online search to find out more about Henry Nicholson Ellacombe. Through Google Books, I found "In My Vicarage Garden" and stumbled upon this quote:

The short version is:

"I suppose no one who loves his garden is entirely without books on his favourite subject; and, indeed, I have always found that a lover of gardens and flowers is also more or less a lover and reader of books." (Henry Nicholson Ellacombe, 1901)

The longer version is:

"FOR nearly a month the garden has been completely closed; in such a December as we have just been passing through all out-of-door work is necessarily stopped. Yet the gardener is not, therefore, entirely without work, or without even pleasant work, and if he is fortunate enough either to have a good botanical library himself, or to have ready access to one, his time may indeed be pleasantly occupied, and in a way which will bring good results when he can again take up his usual work.

I suppose no one who loves his garden is entirely without books on his favourite subject; and, indeed, I have always found that a lover of gardens and flowers is also more or less a lover and reader of books. In our country villages the chief applicants for books from the lending library are the gardeners, and the more they love their gardens and their flowers the more they wish to read about them; and the more they get to know from books the more they desire to know; and when cut off from their gardens by snow and frost they still find plenty of employment and pleasant work in reading of their favourites; and the best gardeners are the greatest readers, for Sir Thomas Browne's saying holds good with gardening and botany as much as in other pursuits, "They do most by books, who could do much without them." (Henry Nicholson Ellacombe, 1901) (emphasis is mine)

As winter slowly creeps toward my garden and I stay indoors more often with my books on plants, flowers, gardens, and all things botanical, I'll now think of Vicar Ellacombe and his quote about gardeners being readers.

I'll also think about the vicar when three of his books arrive on my doorstep over the next several weeks.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Garden Fairies on Guest Posts

Ajuga 'Dixie Chip'
Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we can no longer remain silent on the issue of guest posts on this blog.

It seems that ever since we started posting on this blog and labeled our posts "guest posts" so that the nice readers would not mistake our posts for Carol's, Carol has been getting all kinds of emails from people she does not know.

These emails usually start out with either "I see that you accept guest posts" or the more hilarious "I am a big fan of your blog and see that you accept guest posts".

We garden fairies don't know whether to take great umbrage about these fans or just laugh hysterically.  We garden fairies have exclusive rights to guest posts on this blog going back to a long-standing agreement that we worked out with Carol in exchange for the return of one of her garden gloves and one bloom on her night-blooming cereus.  

We garden fairies are clearly great negotiators and so we have worked out another deal with Carol.  Because we garden fairies live here at  May Dreams Gardens and clearly are not guests here, we have reached an agreement whereby and forewith without undue announcements or grandiose statements we will no longer label our posts "Guest Post".

Instead we will just say "Garden Fairies on".  This should make it clear  to people like "L" who wrote last night that we do not accept guest posts. I'm sure she will be really disappointed  because she wrote, "I'm a really big fan of your site and noticed you accept guest posts, so I was wondering how I'd go about getting some content up with you?" 

Ha, we are garden fairies and this supposed really big fan is out of luck.  We garden fairies are now also responsible for all guest posts and we have decided that we will not allow them. In fact, we considered that every time Carol gets an email from someone wanting to write one of those "high quality" guest posts, we garden fairies shall post something ourselves.

Wait, we are garden fairies and Carol gets entirely too many such emails about guest posts for us to commit to that number of posts, so we will just say that we are not allowing for any guest posts on this blog. We are garden fairies and that is our position.

We also promise, as garden fairies, that our next post will be about gardening.  And it will be longer than three words. Geez, what was that all about?

Submitted by
Violet Greenpea Maydreams formerly known as Thorn Goblinfly, chief scribe for the garden fairies here at May Dreams Gardens.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Gardening described in three words

Whether your garden is a potager or a pleasaunce or both, gardening can be described in three words.

Plan. Plant. Primp.

For a longer description, add Ponder. 

If you spend a life time planning, planting, primping and pondering in a garden, you are a gardener.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

On a spring-like December day

Viola blooming in the winter lawn.
On a spring-like December day, when the high temperature was 63F, you can't blame a gardener for chucking all other plans - plans for Christmas shopping, tree decorating, caroling, wassailing, egg nogging, decking the halls, addressing Christmas cards and writing her letter to Santa Claus and the Christmas Cottontail - so she could head out to the garden for some bonus gardening time.

After all, when Mother Nature presents us with a spring-like December day when she could present us with day that is quite wintry, it seems impolite and ungrateful not to go out to the garden for some extra gardening time.

I went out to my garden and found a viola blooming in the lawn.  I love to see these little flowers in my lawn and have some plans to try to get more of them to naturalize in the lawn next year. Stay tuned.

I was reminded that this is the early Christmas season when I saw the red and green of this geranium foliage.

Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'
I think these geraniums add more color to the garden in the late fall then they do when they are in full bloom in late spring.  Feel free to disagree.

Out in the backyard, I noticed how convenient it is for this rogue plant to still have green leaves on it.
Honeysuckle in the Viburnum
This makes it much easier to find this invasive interloper  and cut it out. You might be wondering if I cut this freeloading, fertilizer sucking shrub seedling out right after I took this picture.  Sadly, no.  I didn't.  I'm not sure why not. But I will cut it out before the week is over.  I promise.

Out in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral, I put some chicken-wire fencing around the newly planted dwarf apple trees to keep the rabbits from gnawing on them this winter.

Rabbits - Do not eat the bark on the trees.
I have no idea of this fencing will keep hungry rabbits away from these trees. I'll have to watch closely especially if we get some actual winter. If I find there are any teeth marks on these trunks, I'll take swift action.

On a spring-like December day, I also did some more weeding. The weeding never ends. I don't ever expect it to end. If you know how to put an end to weeding once and for all, you could make a lot of money selling your method to people like me who feel like they are constantly weeding, or if not constantly weeding at least staring at the weeds wondering why there are so many of them. 

Or maybe the answer is in my new-to-me book?
Secrets of Successful Gardening by R. Sudell
There's only one way to find out.  If winter ever arrives, and there are no more spring-like December days calling me out to the garden, I'll have some time to read through this book and see what secrets it reveals... maybe secrets about weeds.


Don't forget to celebrate all things fertilizer on International Fertilizer Day - 12-12-12. It only comes along once every 100 years.