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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Greetings

Happy Easter from everyone at May Dreams Gardens

Friday, March 29, 2013

Accidents happen, over and over again

I did not accidentally buy these pansies.
I have no idea why more gardeners aren't talking about the many accidents that take place in garden centers, nurseries, big box stores, and even the grocery store.  I have even heard about, and have personally experienced, accidents that take place while  shopping on line for seeds, plants and even old gardening books.

Certainly garden center owners and other retailers aren't talking about these accidents. In fact, there is evidence that they may actually be encouraging these accidents.

I am, of course, talking about the accidental purchase of plants, along with seeds, bulbs, tools, and even old gardening books, that every gardener experiences at least once, if not dozens of times, in their lives. 

As with most accidents, we don't expect them to happen.  We wake up on a pretty spring day and decide to skip on down to the local garden center, whistling a happy tune, to buy some onion sets to plant in the vegetable garden.  Then, without warning, there is a display of the prettiest violas we've ever seen blocking our path to the cashier. We stop. We slow down. We know we have entered a danger zone. We try to be careful, alert, cautious. We try to think and not just react.  But the accident happens anyway.

Yes, we accidentally buy the violas.

Sometimes it is just a little accident, and we buy just one or two violas. Or other times it is a big accident and we are forced to go get a cart and accidentally buy one or two or three flats of violas. 

Once we get home, we may try to hide the accidental purchase from others, like a person who accidentally twists their ankle and tries not to limp.  Or we deny it was an accident, telling everyone that we actually intended to buy all those violas, even though we already had violas everywhere in the garden. 

We have these accidents over and over again. Yet no one is talking about them, writing about them, or doing one darn thing to prevent them.  I've observed them for myself among a wide range of gardeners from coast to coast, including Leslie,who has had many accidents with succulents;  Dee, who can trip over a rose or daylily without warning; Gail,who has had more than one fall over wildflowers; Frances, who has many paper cuts on books by Piet Oudolf;  Layanee, who lately has had accidents related to fairy gardens for her granddaughter;  Cindy, who has had accidents involving metal garden art both at the garden center and in her own garden;, Kathy, who has tripped on more than one colchicum bulb; and Mary Ann who almost needs a bodyguard to help her avoid accidents at her local garden center.

I myself will admit to accidents involving plants, seeds, bulbs, gardening tools, especially hoes, and old gardening books.

Most gardeners recover quickly from these accidents, which is good, based on the number of such accidents that happen.  But we never learn to be careful. It is never safe.  Conspiracy theorists think that those doing the selling of plants, seeds, old gardening books, new gardening books, gardening tools, bulbs, pots, greenhouses, etc. are actually looking for new ways to make these accidents continue to happen.

Plants are arriving daily in the garden centers as Spring arrives.  Fellow gardeners, please be careful. Accidents can and will happen.  Learn to recover quickly, and be ready for the next one.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring is not quite awake yet

A "toe" of Spring as it wakes up from slumber
I went out in search of Spring and wildflowers for Wildflower Wednesday and though I didn't find many spring ephemerals in my garden, I found this quote from Truly Rural by Richardson Wright (1922):

"To me Spring is a movement, a mighty surging upward. It isn't coaxed from above, but moved from below. The growing things break upward through the crust of chill earth the way a man gets out of bed on a zero morning — gradually, reluctantly, cover by cover, a toe at a time; not because some one has waked him, but because he has accumulated the necessary refreshment of sleep and is ready to go forth and do the day's work.

That day's work may not be anything very strenuous, and yet it has a purpose. The earliest flowers in the garden are usually small flowers — as if Nature herself were putting out a toe at a time — snowdrops, crocus, and scillas. If these can stand it, then she comes out flat-footed on the cold floor of the earth with hyacinths, narcissus, tulips, and iris pumila. Once up, she shivers into a kimono of leafing trees, washes her face with April rains, does up her hair into delightful flowering shrubs, and sallies forth — the vain old thing! — in a gorgeous creation of peonies and German iris and lush green grass." 

Spring is still in bed here, not quite awake. I suppose after the record high temperatures of spring last year, followed by record drought all summer,  followed by a blizzard the day after Christmas and a big late March snowfall just a few days ago, Spring needs a bit more rest than usual. 

None of us can make Spring hurry; this season has its own timetable, its own slow awakening from a well deserved slumber and we'll have to abide by it. 

In a way though, isn't it nice to know there is nothing we can do but sit and enjoy the show, as Spring climbs slowly out of bed?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Garden fairies discuss the recent weather

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have taken over this blog once again to report recent weather related events here in May Dreams Gardens.

The other morning, we were all getting ready to help the pillywiggins open the crocuses. The pillywiggins are garden fairies who especially like the early spring flowers, truth be told and we always tell the truth. They are quite diligent in noticing every new flower as it blooms and fussing over it as though they have never seen a flower before. 

In a way, that's how it is with the pillywiggins.  We don't know why, for sure, that they have such an affinity to spring blooms, but they do. 

Anyway, it was morning and we were getting ready to enjoy another spring day when all of a sudden Sweetpea MorningGlory noticed that it was snowing.  It was snowing like December.  That sent us into a tizzy and running for cover which is okay because we are garden fairies and we are used to events around here causing us to run for cover.  Like when Carol bursts through that gate with a hoe in her hand, or butts it open with her wheelbarrow.

Anyway, shortly after Sweetpea proclaimed that it was snowing, it stopped snowing and most of the little bit of snow we got melted right off.  So we garden fairies went about our business as we normally do.  Then whoosh came another big bunch of snow came and this time it kept snowing and snowing and snowing until all the crocuses and other spring blooms were completely buried, completed buriedd, did we mentioned completely buried, under the snow. 

We are garden fairies and we were dumbstruck by this snow.  Ol' Tangle Rainbowfly scratched his head when he saw how much snow there was, well over six inches, and started looking at all of our astrological charts and leafing through The Garden Fairies' Guide to Spring to see if we had perhaps mis-calculated the beginning of spring. After awhile, he declared that indeed it should be spring and he didn't know why we had all this snow. 

We decided at that point to go talk to Granny Gus McGarden out in the vegetable garden. She is one of the oldest garden fairies around but is as sharp as newly sharpened pruners and remembers just about everything around here. We found Granny pacing up and down the row of pea seeds Carol sowed the week before, fussing over them, as she usually does. She declared that it had been over 100 years since anyone had experienced snow like this.  She then began to recount the tales told to her by her own granny, Granny Marigold McGarden, about other so-called springs like this, the last one being in 1912.

We garden fairies soon started to doze off as Granny told her tales and awoke the next morning to a winter wonderland.  We worried about the crocuses, but the pillywiggins assured us that they would fix them right up after the snow melted, and sure enough they did.

We thought the crocuses out in the lawn looked real nice in the melting snow this afternoon.
We even marked a picture of them so all the nice readers of this blog could see where they were.
We marked them with hearts because we are garden fairies and we love them out in the lawn.

Between this spring, which dumped all this unbelievable snow on us and our early spring flowers and last spring when it was  as hot as a warm simmering pot of tea, causing all the early spring flowers to almost melt, we garden fairies are thinking, well, we don't know what to think.  We will just hope for more seasonable days, and a quick melting of this snow so that spring can return.

Submitted by
Viola Greenpea Maydreams, chief scribe and historian for the garden fairies at May Dreams Gardens

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why Do People Garden?

If you will indulge me, this post is much longer than others...

I saw a reference a few weeks ago to Your Brain on Nature by Eva M. Selhub, MD and Alan C. Logan, ND.  It looked like an interesting book, about the science "of nature's influence on your health, happiness, and vitality", so I bought it and read it.

Many of the chapters start out with quotes from the late 1800's and early 1900's to illustrate that much of what we feel today about how nature impacts us has been felt and described by other generations. The authors  of Your Brain on Nature go beyond these feelings, however,  and provide the scientific evidence of why we benefit from nature.  If you read this book, you are hereby forewarned that you will find compelling information between the covers on how you can improve your life with more contact with nature.

Be further forewarned that if you enjoy the writings of old garden writers from the turn of the century, the quotes alone will draw you down into a rabbit hole to explore more about their writings.

Today, I've been chasing down the authors of several of the quotes from the book, in particular Richardson Wright (1887-1961) who was the editor of House & Garden magazine from 1914 to around 1949. I discovered somewhere in this rabbit hole that I own a reprint of one of his books, The Gardener's Bed-Book: Short and Long Pieces to be Read in Bed by Those Who Love Green Growing Things (2003: Modern Garden Library, originally published by J. P. Lippincott Co. in 1929). I've just ordered another one of his books, The Story of Gardening.

What I am most fascinated with now, though, is an essay that appeared in the May 1918 issue of House & Garden, titled Why Do People Garden.  A sentence or two from this essay was included in Your Brain on Nature to introduce the science behind the benefits of soil, in particular the benefits of certain bacteria in the soil, on our health and well being.  The authors included this quote from Richardson Wright:

"But if you are of the really elect in the ranks of gardeners... you know what actual contact with the soil and the things that grow therein means in the way of mental and physical rejuvenation."

In a matter of a few seconds, I found the entire essay online. It was written at a time when we were at war, so there are references to gardening for the war effort. For those of you who want to read the entire essay, here it is.

Why Do People Garden?
Richardson Wright, Editor
House and Garden, May 1918

A simple question, perhaps, on the face of it, and one to which a dozen answers spring to mind. They garden because they want to make their bit of earth beautiful with flowers, you say; or because they seek an excuse for useful occupation out in the spring sunshine; or because they enjoy the fresh corn and peas and beets which are the fruits of their labors.

Excellent reasons, all, and true so far as they go. But are they sufficient to explain the unbounded enthusiasm and the deep, quiet joy in his work which grow outward from the heart of the true gardener? These emotions are characteristic of tens of thousands the world over— men and women, rich and poor. Their cosmopolitan quality hints at more than merely practical, obvious causes.

Someone has said that the deep appeal of gardening lies in the feeling that we are "in at the creation" of something. The seed in its printed envelope is powerless, dormant, dependent upon the hand of man to gain its chance for the great adventure of life. Tiny and shriveled and hard, as unsuggestive of green leaf and bright flower as is a pebble by the roadside, it makes us feel that the miracle of its transformation is almost as much a part of our own handiwork as of the processes of nature. We place it in the soil knowing that its subsequent development is chiefly independent of us, but that we can materially help or hinder it; that though the power to germinate and grow is inherent in the seed and the soil surrounding it, its awakening and expansion are direct results of our bringing the various life elements into conjunction.

So we are really "in at the creation" of our garden. The knowledge of this may be subconscious—probably is, in the majority of cases—but its influence is none the less potent on that account. We like the sensation of playing our parts in the game, of broadening our influence in the general scheme of things.

Egotism, you say? Well in each of us, I suppose, there is a more or less developed streak of primitive nature, of desire to approach in a measure a simpler manner of life. In its exaggerated forms this crops out in the dyed-in-the-wool camper, in the hunter of big game who eagerly exiles himself for months on the Upper Congo, in the prospector who is never so happy as when sampling some hidden canyon of the Coast Range or panning for gold at the headwaters of the Magdalena. Under the ostensible purpose of each of these is a cause far deeper: a lack of satisfaction with modern civilization and a longing for more natural standards.

These are extreme manifestations, of course, but in the last analysis they are closely akin to the feeling which prompts the "back to the land" movement. And gardening is simply a modified form of going back to the soil as we have come to understand that dangerously overworked phrase.
Would it be so unreasonable, after all, to think rather seriously about that time-worn expression, "Mother Earth"? Call it pagan, if you will, and mere mythology. But if you are of the really elect in the ranks of gardeners, the kind that is born and not made, you know what actual contact with the soil and the things that grow therein means in the way of mental and physical rejuvenation.

It amounts to more than the benefits directly traceable to the exercise and the change of thought. The actual grubbing in the soil, the literal handling of the warm, fine earth in the making of drills and sowing and covering, holds peculiar spiritual comfort if we but acknowledge it to ourselves.
Closely akin to this is the soothing effect of the plants themselves, as they attain their growth. Have you ever watched the ethereal yellow petals of the evening primrose uncurl in the summer dusk? Or have you walked between the rows of corn, the long, bountifully green leaves shutting the world away and giving but a glimpse of the blue sky directly overhead, and heard the silken rustle of the breeze approach, pass, and die away in the distance? Then you know how calming these experiences are, and how much better fitted you are afterward to step back into the accustomed daily path.

These, too, are reasons why people garden.

AND finally—many people garden for no other ostensible reason than L to contribute their share to the great cause which keeps the world at war. "Food Will Win the War—Produce It" is a slogan which has come home to the heart of America. It is the slogan which thousands have adopted who never before grew anything more edible than potted hyacinths from fashionable Fifth Avenue florists. And it is the slogan which many more thousands must adopt if America is to do her utmost as a member of the Entente. Purely utilitarian gardening, this, yet one cannot but feel that it will have its spiritual after-effects.

We of America have done more serious thinking in the past four years than ever before in our lives. Especially since April of last year we have broadened and sobered and come to a truer appreciation of the really worth-while things in life.

When peace comes it will find a nation from which false standards have largely melted away in the fires through which it is now passing. There will be a great and sane and lasting reaction to home-making in the truest sense of the word. It will not be merely houses that we will be seeking—shelters to which we can return casually to eat and sleep and go away from in the morning. We shall want simplicity and sunshine, the smell of fresh-turned earth and the myriad insect voices vibrating through the August night. The songs of birds will mean more to us then than they do now; the white shower of petals as the May breeze stirs among the apple boughs will have a new appeal; the delicate blue-black tracery of twigs on the moonlit snow will find a quicker response in our hearts. These are but parts of those true homes that are the units upon which civilization is built.

Through the soil we are being led to know these truths. In the world's crisis we garden that we may do our share in the trenches at home; but while doing it we are coming to a realization of how infinitely much more the soil is to humanity than a mere producer of food. Peace will dawn upon a nation that not only answers the urge to garden for gardening's sake, but that knows how. This our war gardens will have taught us. While we are helping to save the world by "raising our bit," we are coming inevitably to a full understanding of the wisdom of the Greek philosophy which counsels "Know thyself."

My favorite quote from the above?  I have two:

We shall want simplicity and sunshine, the smell of fresh-turned earth and the myriad insect voices vibrating through the August night. The songs of birds will mean more to us then than they do now; the white shower of petals as the May breeze stirs among the apple boughs will have a new appeal; the delicate blue-black tracery of twigs on the moonlit snow will find a quicker response in our hearts. These are but parts of those true homes that are the units upon which civilization is built.

In this world where we are constantly bombarded by messages, instant and subliminal, and spend far more time than most of us will admit in front of a screen of some kind, I think what Wright says we shall want is true nearly 100 years later.  It's time to go outside.

And I enjoyed this one:

Through the soil we are being led to know these truths. In the world's crisis we garden that we may do our share in the trenches at home; but while doing it we are coming to a realization of how infinitely much more the soil is to humanity than a mere producer of food. Peace will dawn upon a nation that not only answers the urge to garden for gardening's sake, but that knows how.  
I'm grateful every day that I know how to plant a garden.  I resolve to somehow spend more time "gardening it forward" to help others learn to garden, too.

Thank you for indulging me down to the bottom of this post.  I hope you enjoyed it and found food for thought on a cold, blustery Sunday in early spring.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Glory of the Snow

Chionodoxa gigantea 'Alba'
Little Glory of the Snow, you have no idea what is headed your way.

There is snow headed your way.  Oh, joy, you will get to live up to your name, though because you are only three inches high and the weathermen are predicting several inches of snow on Sunday, possibly 6 - 10 inches of snow, we may have to change your name to Crushed by the Snow.

I hope the weatherman are wrong about the snow forecast.

But if they aren't wrong, we'll still be okay. We'll survive the record breaking late snowfall.  It is moisture for the garden, after all, and we still remember the record setting drought of last summer that only produced moisture in the form of gardener's tears, as we watched the garden gasp for rain.

I'd rather have a slow, cool spring than one that set the records for high temperatures, like March of 2012 did.  In hindsight, last March was just a precursor of the misery we and our gardens would endure all summer with no rain and record breaking heat.

If a cool March means a cool summer, that's okay with me.  Glory of the Snow will last longer, too, in a cool March.

Unless it is crushed by accumulating snow on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Garden fairies discuss spring

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we had a very busy day yesterday, but still feel that there are matters here at May Dreams Gardens that we should bring to everyone's attention so we have undertaken, once again, to post on this blog.

We were very busy yesterday because the sun was shining and so we had to rush around and open up all the crocuses so that the bees and other pollinators could get to the pollen.

Do you know how many crocuses there are to open up around here?  Quite a few and we garden fairies had to open every single one and then when it got dark,  guess what?  That's right, we had to close every single one. And we'll have to do the same for every sunny day until the crocus blossoms fade, no matter how cold it is outside. And it is cold.

We cannot just sit on our laurels like some gardeners we know and act like "oh, spring is so slow arriving that I have plenty of time to get the garden ready".   We do not know where this laissez faire attitude comes from but it surely does not come from us garden fairies, that is for certain and guaranteed.

Spring is not slow. It is here today as of 7:02 am EDT.  IT IS HERE.   We are garden fairies and this arrival of spring excites us very much but at the same time we are in a dither about how to get Carol -- oops, we weren't going to name names -- how to get the gardener around here to get going on spring clean up.

We are garden fairies and we should make a list of what all needs to be done around here so that it gets done. We believe that what gets written down gets done.   But we are not going to do that. We are far too busy.  Granny Gus McGarden has already nearly exhausted herself just three days after Carol planted peas trying to make sure that those seeds don't freeze on cold nights, and out in front, Sweetpea MorningGlory is very busy tending the pansies that Carol bought and has not yet potted up.  Ol' Tangle Rainbowfly says he's not going to do one thing more until Carol -- oops, we weren't going to name names -- gets out here and does her fair share. 

Really, we are garden fairies and we cannot do one thing more around here.  We must rely on Carol -- oops, we weren't going to name names -- to wake up and realize that it is now spring and it is time to get this garden back in shape.  We don't care that it is cold.  Time's a wastin'!  It's time all gardeners went out to their gardens and commenced getting them ready for spring which will all too soon be summer.

Posted by Violet GreenPea Maydreams, the hardest working garden fairy in all of May Dreams Gardens.

P.S.  We are garden fairies and we like the crocuses with the streaks of color. We  will demand that Carol get more of those.  After all, what's a few more crocuses to open up around here?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bracketology - How a gardener chooses the winner

As Spring arrives, and the gardener turns her thoughts to her garden, it appears that the rest of the world, at least in the United States, turns their thoughts toward basketball.

In particular, they turn their thoughts to NCAA basketball and the  important task of filling out their brackets to predict who will win the big tournament.

Here at May Dreams Gardens, I've applied a little gardening knowledge to predict who will win.

First, I went down through all of the teams and figured out which schools have agricultural programs, and thus presumably horticultural programs.  I predict that these teams will beat the teams from schools that do not have such programs.  (It is my opinion, by the way, that ag schools are under represented in the tournament, but we can discuss that another day.)

Where there are two teams playing each other and neither offers an agricultural field of study, I picked the school that makes me think most of flowers and gardens.  For example, Pittsburgh and Wichita State are playing each other in the first round, neither has an ag school, so I picked Pittsburgh because the 2014 Garden Writers Association symposium will be in Pittsburgh.  In another example - Cincinnati vs. Creighton - clearly I choose Cincinnati because they have some good horticulture going on at the local zoo.   Harvard and New Mexico?  Neither have ag schools, so the clear choice is Harvard because I think there is a nice herbarium there, but I'm not sure.

By the way, those who put the brackets together had only one school in the East bracket with an ag school - North Carolina State, so they will surely advance to the Final Four out of the East.

In the South bracket, the only school with an agricultural program is Western Kentucky. You guessed right, they also go in my Final Four.

Oh, picking teams is so easy doing it the gardener's way. Why do people spend so much time on something so easy?

Out of the Midwest bracket, which is played in my city - Indianapolis - we have the unusual situation of having five ag schools represented.  Hmmm... this requires a little thought.  Let's pick Oklahoma State for the winner there because Oklahoma is home to some good gardeners that I know.

Finally, in the West bracket, where there are also five ag schools, I'm going to choose Ohio State for no particular reason other than they are from a neighboring state and my team, Purdue, also a great ag school, isn't even in the tournament this year.

So that leaves four ag schools in the Final Four -- North Carolina State, Western Kentucky, Oklahoma State, and Ohio State.

And to win it all... the final game will feature those ag school powerhourses, Oklahoma State and Ohio State, with Ohio State winning it all.

That was all so easy.  It just goes to show once again that as with most things in life, if you apply a little gardening knowledge to it, you can generally figure it out.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The slower pace of a cold March

Vintage Garden-y Postcard
Hearty good wishes to everyone. 

Here at May Dreams Gardens, I'm feeling all caught up as we wind down on St. Patrick's Day.

In spite of a high temperature that was probably not quite 40F, I went out to the garden and scratched up a little dirt today so I could sow seeds for peas. I am a traditionalist in my garden. I observe the ritual of pea planting on St. Patrick's Day, rain or shine... or cold.

I'm going to wait another week or so to sow seeds for lettuce, spinach, and radishes.  Normally, I would have planted them all with the peas, but it was chilly and overcast outside, not exactly the kind of weather that makes you want to linger around and dream of summer.

In past years, I would have also potted up violas and pansies to put on the front porch for St. Patrick's Day. I bought some Cool Wave pansies on Saturday but I'm waiting a few days before I pot them up.  In the meantime, they'll be fine up by the brick on the porch, while we endure a few more nights with temperatures well below freezing.

I also cast seeds of violas all around the back yard today, including the traditional Johnny Jump Ups and a variety called 'King Henry'.  I am hoping that they will come up all over the place.  I also threw some chamomile seeds into the mix. Now, some might think that's just insane, especially the chamomile which can become weedy, but I like how the chamomile smells when you cut it with the mower. It smells like a good apple. It's all part of my plan for more flowers in my lawn.

Once I had finished casting seeds about, I  cut the stubs of the switch grass, Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah', down to nubbins in the front yard. I had been looking  at that patch all week after hand cutting it back last Sunday and decided I should go after it with the electric hedge trimmers to cut it back further.  I did that today and checked it off my list.  I still need to cut back  the other grasses in the back yard but fortunately, it's been cold enough that none of them are coming back yet, so there is still time to do it.

Indoors, I finally sowed seeds for several varieties of tomatoes, one variety of peppers, 'Cubanelle', and a few different flowers, including Nicotiana, Bells of Ireland, and Calendula.  I don't rush to plant outside until around mid-May, so there is plenty of time for these seedlings to sprout and grow before then.

I'll admit I still have quite a bit to do before May, but because it has been mostly cold this month, I feel like I have some time. This is a nice change from last March, which was the warmest March around here, at least since they started to keep records of such things. All the plants, and weeds, came up suddenly out of nowhere and there seemed to be no time left to do anything at a normal pace. It was all hurry, hurry, hurry.

I much prefer this slower pace.  Though I have much to do, it feels like I'm all caught up, at least for now, and there will be plenty of time to do all I want to do in the garden this spring.  I know deep down that this feeling is an illusion. By the end of March I'll once again be running about the garden trying to get everything ready for summer. That's more or less a tradition around here, too.

But until that happens, I'm going to enjoy this slower pace of a cold March.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2013

Iris histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for March 2013.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, I am once again caught up in that epic struggle between Winter and Spring.  The weatherman said this evening that we've had traces of snow on 16 of the last 19 days.

Winter may still be trying to hold on, but we know that Spring will eventually win.

The Iris are putting on a nice show right now.  I. histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin' is blooming in the front garden.  I wondered for several weeks when it would bloom. I checked past bloom day recordd and it seems that this Iris started blooming in early February last year.  I'm not surprised because last year's winter and spring featured record high temperatures.

'Katharine Hodgkin' is joined by I. reticulata 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'.
Iris reticulata 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'
Crocuses have been blooming for several weeks now. I'm pleased to see, however, that not all the Crocuses that I planted in the lawn have come up yet.
This is just one of over 1,000 that should bloom before Spring truly arrives. The plan is to have some of these blooming for Easter in two and a half weeks.

Amongst the Hellebores, the best show right now is from Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper' also known as the Christmas Rose.
Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper'
It's a bit late, of all things.

The Lenten Roses, Helleborus orientalis, are just starting to bloom, though they've had buds since last month.
Helleborus orientalis

Helleborus orientalis
It's past time to go cut back the old foliage on these hellebores. We had a warm day on Sunday, but I spent it pruning back roses.  The rest of the days have been cold and that seems to be the forecast for the next several days. Perhaps I'll just have to brave the cold and do it because it seems like it is never going to warm up.

I have one last bloom to show for this bloom day.
Chionodoxa sp.
I think this is a pink Glory-of-the-Snow, Chionodoxa sp.  It's a sweet little bloom, not to be missed.

What’s blooming in your garden today?  Are the blooms early? Is winter still lingering around?

We welcome everyone to join us for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day whether this is your first time or your 62nd time, whether you have a garden blog or some other kind of blog.

It’s easy to join in. Just post on your own blog about what's blooming in your garden right now, outdoors or indoors. You can include pictures, lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms.

Then leave a comment and put your name and a link back to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget below, so we know where to find your blog and can visit you virtually and read about your bloom day blooms.

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

Monday, March 11, 2013

Find your passion

Find your passion and you will find the time.

You'll find the time to read about it and learn as much as possible.

You'll find the time to seek out others who share your same passion.

You'll find the time to share your passion with others.

You'll find the time to indulge in your passion.

And if your passion is gardening, you'll be one of the happiest people on earth, and in earth, with earth all over you.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shake off those winter blues...

Who? Who? Who?
Who is going to the Indiana Flower & Patio Show or your own local outdoor living - flower - garden show?

'Tis the season for various shows like this to pop up across the country.  They vary on the "gardening" spectrum as to how much gardening is included, from little to some.  That's okay. A gardener like me who pretty much thinks about gardening all the time doesn't expect that the entire show is geared toward gardening.

Which is good because our show is an "outdoor living" show. There are plenty of ideas for patio sitting, outdoor cooking, and outdoor playing .  The plants in some - most - displays often seem like more of a backdrop.

But mixed in are some good ideas for gardeners,enough to shake away the winter blues and get you thinking about spring and summer and gardening outside again.

I really liked this sculpture by the same artist who made the sculpture I have in my garden.
Girly Steel sculpture
I like the idea of doors in the garden and have long thought about getting some old doors for my garden.
From Hittle Landscaping

When I see blue hydrangeas, I usually think "how nice", but it's hard to make a hydrangea turn blue in my garden.

I do love a good vignette in a garden, and thought this one with blue Brunnera and other flowers planted in a rotting log was sweet.

 Even the praying mantis had it's blue on at the show.

I used to take notice if there were blooms or plant combinations at the show that were not likely to occur in an Indiana garden, but now I'm just happy to see something growing, like these agaves, which by the way, are not suitable for an Indiana garden.
Going to the Indiana Flower and Patio show is one of the rituals of the season, one of the first activities of spring gardening for many of us.  We smell the mulch, see the flowers, and dream of our own gardens.

Then we come home and find that our own flowers are beginning to bloom, like this Iris reticulata.
And we are excited that once again, the growing season is near.  Time to shake the winter blues and look for clear blue skies and blue flowers ahead.


If you go to the Indiana Flower & Patio show, be sure and go through to the second building. That's where you'll find booths chickens, Master Gardeners who can answer your gardening questions, the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society's (INPAWS), and  Indiana Gardening magazine.  

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Dr. Hortfreud Assesses My Readiness for Spring

Hello, Carol

Hi Dr. Hortfreud. I'm here for my Spring Readiness Assessment.

Good.  Let's begin. I'll ask you some simple questions and you give me the first answer you think of.  Ready?


Carol, there is snow on the ground now. Will this delay your planting of peas on March 17th?

Dr. H., absolutely not. It's going to be 50F this weekend, so by next weekend, the ground should be warm enough for me to plant peas, and spinach, and maybe some lettuce.

Good.  What about pansies and violas?

Ha! Dr. H., I know you saw me craning my neck as I drove by the garden center on the way home today to see if they had any in yet. Plus, the owner of another little greenhouse will probably call me the minute she gets some in.  I've got my special pansy and viola containers all ready in the garage and I have potting soil for them, too.

Okay.  Seeds?

Yes, I've ordered all my seeds and they've all arrived. I'll be starting my tomatoes and peppers, and a few other seeds, this weekend.  With my stash of peat pots and seed starting mix, I don't even think I need to buy seed starting supplies.

Very good.  How about cutting back what didn't get cut back last fall?

I'm it on, Dr. H.  I'm cutting back the Knock Out roses soon and have some special new gloves to wear so I won't scratch up my arms. I've been practicing wearing them, getting comfortable with them. Though, I do take them off to type.  Oh, and I bought a new pair of regular gardening gloves, too.

Carol, will your gardening pants still fit you?

No comment.

Carol, it sure sounds like you are ready for Spring. I wish for you a wonderful growing season, with ample rain, sunny blue skies, and loads of flowers to brighten your days. Go forth and garden it forward.  I'll be here for the season whenever you need me, plus we'll have our regular appointments when you mow the lawn.  By the way, is the mower tuned up and ready to roll?

Thank you, Dr. Hortfreud. Ready or not, here comes Spring!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

What is a gilliflower?

What is a gilliflower?

I did not know so I looked it up in Johnson's Gardeners' Dictionary, edited by J. Fraser, F.L.S., F.R.H.S.  and A. Hemsley (London: George Routledge & Sons, Limited, 1917).  This is a new edition "based on the Original Edition of 1846, thoroughly recast and brought down to the year 1917".

And I quote.

"GILLIFLOWER.  By some supposed to be a corruption of July flower, because the carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) flowers in July. Other spellings are Garryophyllis, Gelovers, Gelouers, Gelyflours, Gilleflouce, Gilloflouce and Gilloflower. The French form of the word is GiroflĂ©e.  These names are evidently all corruptoins of Caryophyllus, the specific name of the Carnation, and that is derived from the Greek karoun, a nut, and phullon, a leaf, applied by the old Dutch to Caryophyllus aromaticus, not Eugenia caryophyllata, the clove of commerce. The name became applied to the Carnation on account of its clove scent, and by the French also to the Stock and Wallflower. In this country Gilliflower means the carnation only."

From all this, it appears that the common name gilliflower can refer to carnations (Dianthus), stocks (Matthiola), or wallflowers (Erysimum).

I feel fortunate to have some gilliflowers, Dianthus, in my garden and I have seeds for gilliflowers, Matthiola, to sow this spring.  I consider both to be easy to grow flowers. 

Oh, and one more thing about gilliflowers... There is a sweet little garden fairy out in my garden named Gilliflower Silverleaf.  She's responsible for adding scent to the Dianthus, I mean gilliflowers, that grow along the edges of the patio. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Devotion to one or more groups of plants

Clematis 'Pagoda'
"Specialising in a hobby of any kind greatly increases its interest, and in the culture of flowers it is desirable to devote oneself more especially to one or two groups of plants, though not to the exclusion of all others; for a garden devoted to one kind of flower only  lacks interest during a great part of the year."  (In My Lady's Garden by Mrs. Richmond, London: T Fisher Unwin, 1908)

Devote myself to one or two groups of plants?  I may need to work on that a bit.

My current interest is around Clematis, Helleborus, and Dianthus. It was mostly Clematis and Helleborus but then I heard that a common name of Dianthus, carnations, is gilliflower, so I'm suddenly more interested in them, too.

I am also interested in zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds, sweet peas, and other annual flowers that are generally planted in and around my vegetable garden to add color and draw in butterflies, bees, and in the case of sunflowers, eventually birds. 

When it is time to order bulbs for spring flowers, I tend to devote most of my time to Crocus, Iris reticulata, and Tulipa, the species kind. But I have also planted daffodils, hyacinths, and many other "minor bulbs".

Of course, I also enjoy seeing in my garden anything in the Viola group, including wild violets, johnny-jump ups, pansies, and any other Viola sp. including Viola banskii which I am growing as a house plant. 

Did I mention that amongst daylilies, Hemerocallis, I prefer the spider types? I hesitate to say I specialize in them. It is more like I focus in on the spider types so that I don't get lost in the thousands of varieties of daylilies currently available.  I have several in my garden and will add more as I find them.

I could go on, but it is clearly apparent that I seem to be specializing in that group of plants known as the angiosperms, though for interest, I also grow gymnosperms, ferns, and mosses.

Whew, I'm glad I've got my devotion to one or two groups of plants figured out.  It makes plant shopping that much easier when one has focus. 

Friday, March 01, 2013

Reaching out to the great un-gardened

Tulips from last year
We must be ready, at a moment's notice, to reach out to the great un-gardened.

We must recognize when there is a spark of interest in gardening and growing plants in the great un-gardened so that we are ready with an idea or thought that will turn that spark into a burning desire to go outside and plant something.

We must be ready to lend a hand or a tool or a seed or a plant to the un-gardened, to garden it forward, so they, too, can become gardeners.

We must not be dismayed if the first seeds of interest in gardening fail to germinate.  We need to keep sowing, keep trying.  The great un-gardened need our help.

We must be ready.

I am ready when someone mentions to me that they are thinking about planting a vegetable garden.  I know, without a moment's hesitation,what simple advice to give on how to plant a first vegetable garden in just a few hours. I know which vegetables are easy to grow and provide great harvests (zucchini!).

I am ready to share the secrets to happiness in the garden when someone mentions an interest in doing more in their garden than rowing up some shrubs in front of their house.

It's March. Even the great un-gardened will look around as flowers begin to bloom about them and think, perhaps just for a minute, that they might enjoy a lovely garden, might find some benefit for their family, if not themselves, in growing a few vegetables.  We must recognize those minutes and be ready with advice and assurance that they, too, can become a gardener.

The great un-gardened. We must be ready to reach out to them, to help them, to share with them.

"There is health in the garden. But because one has to dig for it, some persons prefer to keep on enjoying their old miserableness day after day and year after year." Eben E. Rexford, 1916

As quoted in Your Brain on Nature by Eva M. Selhub, MD and Alan C. Logan, MD (John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd., 2012)