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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Protecting my green beans

First strawberries from the garden
The good news from the vegetable garden is that the strawberries are beginning to ripen.  I ate a little bowl of them this evening.

I'll be picking strawberries every day now for awhile. These are everbearing strawberries, so they'll continue to produce some berries through the growing season, although not in the same quantities as they produce in June.

The bad news from the vegetable garden is that I discovered early Monday morning that a rabbit or maybe an entire marauding colony, nest, warren, or herd of rabbits ate all the sweet pepper plants except for one.
They left me one plant of 'Big Bertha' peppers.

Carnage left by marauding rabbits
Eight of my sweet pepper plants were  'Cubanelle'. 'Cubanelle' is hard to find as plants in the garden center so I had lovingly, carefully, thoughtfully grown them from seed. The rabbits ate every one of those plants and then went on to eat all the basil and eggplant.

I will re-buy and re-plant some sweet peppers, taking appropriate measures to protect them from the rabbits.

In the meantime, I checked this evening and found that all of the green beans have sprouted.
Green bean sprouts
I'm growing five varieties of green beans, two four feet rows of each.

Once I saw those little seedlings, I took appropriate measures to protect them so they would not end up as dinner for that marauding colony, nest, warren or herd of rabbits.

Yes, I forked my green beans.
Using forks to protect the green beans
You may laugh at my methods for keeping marauding bands of rabbits from eating all my beans, but when I did this with spoons several years ago, I had my best green bean crop ever.

In other news, I began experimented with my new weed eradication method.  I messed the experiment up a little bit, but I should still be able to tell if it worked by morning.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Garden Fairies Report on the Garden

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have taken it upon ourselves to disrupt our day for just a moment to provide a State of the Garden statement as spring turns in to summer.

You would not believe the plants that keep arriving here at May Dreams Gardens.  Seems like every time Carol leaves, she returns with more plants.

For awhile, there were plants on the front porch and plants on the back patio.  Pots and flats of them.

We did not think it was possible for Carol to plant them all by this weekend, and we were sort of right though the day is  young and we have heard rumors that by gum and by golly and by whatever means necessary, she will finish planting up a few containers this morning and then everything will be planted until she leaves again and returns with more plants.

We are garden fairies and we are constantly hearing rumors of new plants.  Well, we welcome each and every one of those plants. The more the merrier, we say.   

Now let's talk about seeds.  Carol has planted up the vegetable garden, and we are waiting now for the first seedlings to emerge.  However, according to Granny Gus McGarden who reigns supreme over the vegetable garden, Carol has not yet sowed seeds for zinnias and sunflowers along the fence. Well, we are garden fairies and we don't know what Carol is waiting on but she'd better do that soon. Today would not be soon enough.

We are garden fairies and we are excited about this summer in the garden. According to Ol' Rainbow Tanglefly, the garden has never looked as good as it does right now, in spite of the weeds. But we have heard rumors that Carol has a New Plan for dealing with the weeds. Stay tuned for more details.

Submitted by:
Violet Sweetpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Spokesperson for the Garden Fairies at May Dreams Gardens

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Secrets to Happiness with Peonies

Peonies anyone?

You may have your fancy peonies, your new varieties, even your tree peonies.  I am sure they are very nice and give you joy when they flower.

But for me, I only need the peonies that I got from my Dad's stand of peonies.  They are like family.  Good family, who don't need a lot of attention and return faithfully year after year and when they are here, they are no trouble at all.

There are just a few tips, secrets, that you should know about them if you are going to invite them over to your garden.

Enjoy the blooms.  They are a delight in the spring.

Deadhead when the blooms are spent.  The plants will look much nicer without decaying blooms which turn all brown and mushy. However, if you want to leave a few spent blooms, you'll see that they have interesting looking seed pots.

Feed them when they are done blooming. It takes a lot to produce such lovely blooms and so a little fertilizer afterward to encourage strong plant growth is welcomed by the plant.

Dig and divide them in the fall.  Fall is really the best time to dig them up, though I dug mine from my Dad's stand of peonies in early summer when they were threatened by some construction taking place at the time.  I dug them up, potted them up, and then planted them out in late summer, as I recall.

Plant just below the surface. Peony tubers like to be planted about two inches deep. Any deeper and they may not bloom in the spring. They also prefer a mostly sunny location but will grow in some partial shade.

Cut the foliage back each fall and throw the remains in the trash.  Peonies can suffer from botrytis blight which overwinters in old foliage. I cut mine back to ground level after a frost or two.

Don't mind the black ants.   Every peony I've every met will attract black ants before the flowers bloom. They do no harm. If you are going to bring peonies inside to enjoy as cut flowers, give them a good shake to knock off any ants that are hiding in the blooms.

And finally, enjoy the blooms. Oh, did I mention that? It bears repeating. There's nothing quite like those big blooms when they visit your garden in the spring.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday: Where's the Baptisia?

Let's play a new gardening game called "Where's the Baptisia".

Baptisia australis, which has the common name of Blue False Indigo, is a native flower in the eastern United States.  Well-planted in the garden, it can provide a stunning display of purple blooms in mid to late spring.

Here in my garden, Baptisia is not well planted.

Can you find it in the picture above?

Let's go in a little closer, shall we?
And there it is, surrounded on the left by Aunt Marjorie's pink climbing rose  and on the right by Symphricarpos orbiculatus ‘Taff’s Silver Edge’.

Aunt Marjorie's rose is an old wild rose she gave me a start of fifteen years ago. It has pink blooms for a few weeks and then just lurks in that area of the garden, occasionally snagging me if I venture in to clear out some of the thicket it has become.

The Symphricarpos orbiculatus ‘Taff’s Silver Edge’, also known as Variegated Coralberry, is also a native plant, one chosen for its variegated foliage.  It spreads itself with running stems and at least in my garden, is forming quite a thicket.  I suppose one could keep it in check by watching for those stems, or one could let it become a thicket as I've done.

Elsewhere in the garden, another Baptisia is growing near a native tree, a serviceberry, Amelanchier sp., in the garden border called Plopper's Field

This one is also not well placed, by that sometimes happen in a garden where you just plop plants in here and there.

I do have another Baptisia in another section of Plopper's Field.

This is Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight'.  It's a hybrid, so strictly speaking probably shouldn't be in a post about wildflowers. Infiltrator!  In my garden, this hybrid grows much slower than the species Baptisia.

People may wonder why I don't get out my shovel and dig up my hidden Baptisia or clear out the other plants around them.  I have heard, though I haven't dug one up to see for myself, that Baptisia have a long tap root, so they aren't so easy to transplant.

Knowing that, I did what any gardener would do.  Absolutely, I bought another Baptisia australis to plant in my garden, way over on the other side near August Dreams Gardens.  That border is supposed to be mostly plants that bloom in late summer, but I think I can sneak a Baptisia in there somewhere, maybe along the edge, and it will provide some spring blooms. In the fall it will have interesting seed pods that will play nicely with the late blooms of the other flowers.

This post is my addition to the garden bloggers' meme called Wildflower Wednesday, which takes place on the fourth Wednesday of the month.  Please visit our hostess, Gail of Clay and Limestone, for more posts about wildflowers in the garden.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Today's plant obsession - Aquilegia

Today's plant obsession is Aquilegia, common name Columbine, though some species are also called Granny's Bonnet.

We have enough Granny's Bonnet here at May Dreams Gardens to open up a hat shop, a milliner's delight of color.

This is mostly due to allowing Aquilegia to self-sow about the garden because at least in this garden, I believe it is a sin to weed out Aquilegia.

As a result, we have this lovely stand of light blue double columbine, probably 'Blue Tower', growing where it planted itself in a garden border that currently has no name.

Nearby, a darker blue columbine is sharing space with a hellebore.

Don't worry, though, columbine and hellebores are both in the same plant family, Ranunculaceae.

It's funny now, but back in college, when I took a class in plant taxonomy, I never thought much about the Ranunculaceae family. I didn't think it had much to offer me. Now I'm obsessed, in a good way of course, with several members of its family, including Aquilegia, Helleborus, and Clematis.

These pastel colored columbine may appeal to many gardeners, especially in the spring time.

These are growing in Plopper's Field, just about ready to be overtaken by some daylilies. 

Also growing in Plopper's Field is this stand of mostly pink Granny's Bonnets which are probably progeny of Aquilegia 'Tower Pink'.

Across the way, in the garden border called Woodland Follies, a native columbine is blooming in a little stand of native woodland flowers.

It is probably Aquilegia canadensis.

I've always wanted a yellow columbine, and now I have one.
I would have to find the plant tag to know the exact variety, but my guess it is 'McKana's Giant', which are mixed colors, and I just chose a yellow one to plant.

I always keep a look out for interesting Aquilegia at the garden centers.  That's how I found these dwarf columbine.

This spring I found 'Green Apples' columbine for sale and bought one to plant somewhere in the garden.

Columbine does have some issues.  Leaf miners always disfigure the leaves, though they rarely kill the plant.  There is also the problem of columbine sawfly larvae which can skeletonize the leaves overnight. The best method of controlling them is to just pick off the little green caterpillars as soon as you see evidence of them. They are tiny, so you have to look closely to find them.

The only other issue I can think of is that Aquilegia can be addictive.  I dare you to try to plant just one.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I really must stay clean today

I really must stay clean today because I am going to my niece's wedding and it just won't do to be other than clean.

This means that I must stay out of the garden.

Even though I think the containers and plants waiting for new homes on the front porch could use a splash of water, I'm afraid to water them.

I know if I get out the watering can, fill it up, carry it to the plants, and then water them, somewhere between filling and emptying the watering can, I might splash water on myself.

Or I might realize too late that the watering can had dirt on the side of it  and that dirt has inexplicably transferred itself to my pants.

I dare not go outside because I might see a weed and reach down to pull it out. Just one weed, how could I get dirty pulling it?  Oh, let me count the ways. I could pull up the weed and in the process bring up a bunch of dirt that then splatters on me.

Or if that doesn't happen, I might get dirt on my hands when pulling the weed and without thinking, wipe my hands on my pants. Oops,  I'm well on my way to perfecting my "eccentric aunt who gardens" look.

Or I could forget that I pulled the weed and then at some awkward moment at the wedding, look down at my hands and discover that I have fresh dirt under my fingernails.

I could run out to the garden for just a minute and end up ten minutes later with a trowel in my hand for who knows what planting emergency and then see above about hands and pants and add swipes of dirt to my arms.

Or I could see something under a big shrub to tend to like a weed and find myself carefully crouching down to reach it, trying hard not to actually kneel on my knees, but then kneeling anyway and when I get up, besides now having dirty knees, I have little bits of fading flowers and twigs in my hair.

Later, someone at the wedding will point out that I have something in my hair. When I reach up with my now dirty hand to get it out,  I might accidentally side swipe my face with my hand that has dirt on it and end up with a big smudge on my face.

On and on it goes. There are so many scenarios I could list that involve the garden and my difficulty with staying clean.

I really must just sit and wait quietly for the wedding, and then tomorrow, I can return to my usual gardening self. Thank goodness it is also raining, so sitting quietly and staying out of the garden on a Saturday in May is just a little bit easier.

Though, if I use an umbrella, maybe I could sneak out to the vegetable garden to pull a radish or two for lunch and somehow miraculously stay clean?

I really must stay out of the garden...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2013

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for May 2013.

Ah yes, the merry month of May, the month when  the sky is blue, the grass is green, the sun is warm and the garden is all new again.  I dream of the days of May... 

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, we are still enjoying a relatively slow start to spring.  I can see from looking at  past bloom day posts that many plants are blooming about a week later than in past years.

In Plopper's Field, the alliums are dominating the other blooms which are mostly all buds.

I planted these giant alliums in the fall of 2011, so this is their second spring to bloom. I'm happy see they've returned. They had a rough start because I realized after I planted them that I had planted them upside down.   Good thing the bulbs have a sense of direction and know which way to send the roots and which way to send the shoots.

Near the patio, gilliflowers, Dianthus, are starting to bloom.
I realize gilliflowers is not the most common of common names for Dianthus, but I discovered it this past winter and like it, so I'm using it. Maybe it will start a trend?

These dwarf columbines are flanked by two growing swaths of blooming Sedum ternatum under the honeylocust tree in the garden border I call Bird's Blanket.
The dwarf columbine plants have been confined to some containers on the patio so these must have come up from seeds blown into this garden border.  I think I will transplant the rest of the dwarf columbine in the containers to this garden border and move that sedum to another garden border. It looks a little thuggish here.

I have other columbines growing throughout the garden, progeny of Aquilegia 'Tower Blue', 'Tower Pink' and 'Black Barlow' that I grew from seed a decade or so ago.
I rarely deadhead my columbine until the seeds are ripe. I scatter the seeds around the garden and let the columbine come up wherever they like it. It's a sin to weed out a columbine here at May Dreams Gardens.

I have a new shrub blooming on the edge of Woodland Follies, at the beginning of the path I call Ridgewood Avenue.  (Yes, you can ask me why I call my garden path Ridegewood Avenue, or follow the link for the answer.)
This is a black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa 'Autumn Magic'. It should have great fall color and fruit that the birds will eat, eventually.  The fruit is very sour, sour enough to choke on, so it won't be their first choice meal.

At the other end of the Woodland Follies garden border sits this large snowball bush in full bloom.

This is Virbunum opulus 'Sterile'. I think once it finishes blooming, I'm going to figure out how to cut it back just a little bit.

There is more blooming in my garden - after all it's May. I have strawberries blooming in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral and tulips still blooming in the front garden.  The quamash is in bloom and will soon be joined by blue dogbane,  ox-eye daisies, and salvia.  And because it is a slow spring, I think I'll have time to enjoy it all.

What's blooming in your garden in this month of May?

We'd love to have you share your blooms on the 15th of each month by joining us with your own Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post. Just post on your blog about what is blooming this month in your garden and then come back here and leave a link to your blog post in the Mr. Linky widget below along with a brief comment to let us know you've posted.

The rules are simple... no rules! You can include pictures, lists, no lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms. All are welcome!

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

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blue skies over and in the garden

Camassia quamash
Blue skies touched my garden today and left their color on these flowers.  This is quamash, Camassia quamash, a spring-flowering bulb. 

It grows in Plopper's Field, which is starting to fill in nicely.

There aren't many spots left in the garden border I call Plopper's Field where I generally plop in perennials wherever they will fit.  I'll have to do some sorting out in this area to see if there are some "undesirables" to evict to make way for more plants. 

Or more likely I'll figure out other areas of the garden to plant new plants in.

I spent much of the afternoon in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral where  I made good progress on weeding out the flower border that runs along the fence from one end of the garden to the other.  This flower border is now a blank canvas, except for a few clematis vines trained to grow on trellises leaning against the fence and an old 'Hyperion' daylily.

I am a tiny bit concerned because some evening primrose found its way to this border. I grubbed out as much as I could today but I expect I'll have to be vigilant in weeding it out for the next ten years to be really rid of it.

The Vegetable Garden Cathedral
Life is pretty busy these days, both in and out of the garden, so I probably won't be able to spend much time in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral again until next Sunday when I plant out the summer vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, and sow seeds for beans, corn, squash, and annual flowers.

In the meantime, I'm beginning to harvest lettuce, spinach, spring onions, and radishes and hope to soon see blooms on the peas. I think I will also have a bumper crop of strawberries this year.

Life is good in the garden, especially in May when the skies are blue, the sun is warm, the grass is green, and the garden is all new again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Portkey in the garden

This is not a portkey

Garden idea number 5,439...

I think I will add a portkey to my garden.

A portkey, as fans of the Harry Potter books and movies know, is an ordinary object that is enchanted so that when someone touches it, it transports them to another place.

I need to decide first what the ordinary object will be. 

Should my portkey be a boot?  A bowl?  A basket?  

Next I need to decide where the portkey will transport me to.

I think my portkey will transport me to England, perhaps to one of the great flower shows like Chelsea or Hampton Court.  Or may be it will take me to a famous garden or a dozen famous gardens in England?

Finally, I need to get my story straight so that when someone visits my garden and asks about the portkey, I'll be able to explain it, and then I will forbid them to touch it.

I hope one day my portkey, or some other travel method, like maybe a plane, will transport me to England.  A gardener's dream...

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The bloom is off the viburnum

Strawberry blooms
The bloom is on the strawberry and off the Korean Spice Viburnum.

By golly,  now that it isn't blooming, I think I can remove that Korean Spice Viburnum on the right side of the gate to the vegetable garden after all.  It has a big dead branch in the middle and is right where I want to plant a new honeyberry.

Then I'll move the other smaller Korean Spice Vibnurnum on the other side of the gate to someplace else in the garden.

And when I say "I", I really mean the two guys I've hired to actually do this work.

Final picture of viburnums to be removed/moved
I think the two honeyberries will grow quickly to fill the spaces on each side of the gate and though the blooms won't be quite as fragrant as the viburnums, I will get edible fruit from the honeyberries.

It's all part of my grand plan to grow more fruits around the vegetable garden.  Last fall I planted three dwarf apple trees on one end of the garden by the compost bins. Two springs ago I planted red and gold raspberries in a bed to the left of the gate.  And 15 years ago I planted grapes in the bed to the right of the gate.

Plus, I have strawberries, and they are blooming.

One viburnum I'm not planning to remove is this big bertha viburnum, Viburnum opulus 'Sterile' on the other side of the grape arbor.
Viburnum opulus 'Sterile'
This big shrub provides shelter for all kinds of birds and hides the compost tumbler and compost bins. I also suspect that a family or two, maybe a village of rabbits live around its base. They can all stay there, as long as they don't eat the fruit of my vegetable garden.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Springtime Panic = Spranic

Syringa vulgaris 'Sensation'
Ah, Spring.

Spring has fully arrived here in central Indiana.  The tulips are fading and the crabapple blossoms are falling.  I just set out my tomato and pepper seedlings so they can harden off and get used to the great outdoors before I plant them out in the vegetable garden.

Out in the vegetable garden, the peas are close to a foot tall and it is well past time to thin out the lettuce and radish seedlings.  I just cut back the cover crop still growing on one of the beds and weeded my way through some of the other beds.

I have enjoyed this spring so far. It started out much slower than last year, when spring came out of the chute running like mad toward summer.

But after the slow start, this spring seems to be speeding up. It is now going at a speed that has caused me to again get to the point when I wonder if I will get everything planted, weeded, mulched, set up, set out, pruned, and otherwise readied for the onset of summer.

In other words, after watching it rain on yet another weekend day, I am in a full state of springtime panic, also know as "spranic".

Are you spranicking?  Do you think you'll get it all done this spring, completing all those gardening plans you made all winter?  Back in the winter, I imagined only sunny spring days, with no other activities, other than gardening, vying for my time, so my plans are big.

I was going to get it all done this spring. This beautiful spring.  Then I'd sit back and smell the lilacs. 

Right now, though, I have no time for smelling lilacs.  When I was mowing the lawn on Saturday, under overcast skies threatening rain every second, I noticed that a new-to-me lilac was blooming. I ran out later and took a picture of it just as it started to actually rain.

I puzzled over that lilac for a second or two. I didn't remember buying a lilac with flowers edged in white. I thought I bought 'President Lincoln', which has almost blue flowers.

Thanks to friends on Facebook, I quickly found out that my new lilac is most likely 'Sensation'.  That's fine. It's pretty. I'll take it.  I assume it smells nice, though honestly, I only had a few seconds to snap the picture before the rain started, so I didn't smell it to be sure.

Since I took that picture of the "hey you aren't President Lincoln you are Sensation" lilac, I've been watching the rain. With each raindrop, I can feel that sense of spranic springing up within me.  I am spranicking about weeding.  I am spranicking about mulching. I am spranicking about even getting to the garden centers before the good plants are all sold.  I am spranicking about spranicking because I know better after all these years.

I know I'll get this place whipped into shape before summer. I know I'll find plants to buy. I know I'll have a chance to enjoy the lilacs before they are bloomed out.

I just have to remind myself that I know these things so I can keep from spranicking...

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Garden fairies discuss flower festivals

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we feel that it is our duty and responsibility to let people know what is really going on here at May Dreams Gardens.

It is now the month of May as most people know and Carol is woefully behind on many garden tasks that should rightfully be done right now.  We expect, and hope, that any day now she'll come flying through the garden gate and commence doing with what needs to be done around here.

Oh, sure. She is mowing the lawn and we do appreciate that. And she did a bunch of weeding the other day.  But let us tell you that we are garden fairies and we can show you a whole bunch more that should be done around here. Especially in the vegetable garden.

Now some people, especially gardeners, might think that we garden fairies should take matters into our own hands and do some of the heavy lifting around the garden.  We are garden fairies, and that is just not going to happen because we are busy, too.

Busy?  We are glad you asked. We garden fairies are busy with our flower festivals and festivities. As is well known, or maybe not well known, we garden fairies have some kind of celebration for each and every new flower in the spring.

As you can imagine, having all these parties and celebrations leaves us with little time for even playing jokes on Carol.

As we said, we are garden fairies and we have different parties for different flowers.  For example, for these jonquils, we usually just have an afternoon tea.
They are growing in several places, so we have more than one tea so no flower feels snubbed.

When it comes to trees, we work with our friends the tree fairies to plan parties for each one as it blooms. Even the early maples get parties when they bloom.  Carol added a couple more flowering trees last fall, including the dogwood, Cornus florida 'Cherokee Princess', which has added to our busy-ness
We think it is very pretty and have decided that we will celebrate it with a nice luncheon.

We are still deciding how to celebrate the blooms of the Carolina Silverbell, Halesia carolina 'Arnold Pink'.

We are thinking it is so very nice that we will have a special brunch in its honor.

The oldest flowering tree here in the garden is a crabapple, Malus 'Guinevere'.
We have a big, all night blow-out of a party when this tree blooms.  We gather underneath it and, well, we are garden fairies, we are not going to tell everything that goes on under the crabapple tree, especially when the flower petals cover the ground.

Out in the vegetable garden, our friends the McGarden family celebrate each new bloom, including these strawberry blossoms, which we think seem early but maybe not.
Granny Gus McGarden and her son the reverend Hortus Augustus McGarden generally have very good food when they throw parties back in the vegetable garden. We can't wait to get back there and join them.

We are garden fairies and we also celebrate each and every bulb that blooms, including tulips.
Most of the time the pillywiggins plan the parties for the bulbs. You have not lived until you've attended a party planned by pillywiggins. We are garden fairies, trust us on this.

One other party we should mention is the one we have for flowering alliums like this one.
You would just cry at how nice those parties are.

These are just a few of the flowers we garden fairies have events for.  Ol' Tangle Rainbowfly says that he can't remember a better spring than this one.  Sweetpea Morningdew, who co-chairs the party planning committee around here, thinks the same thing and is nearly ready to drop from the exhaustion of trying to plan and attend each and every party.

I'm sure it is obvious now why we can't do Carol's work for her. She must do it herself because we are garden fairies and we have parties, celebrations, festivals, teas, luncheons, bruncheons, festivities, and other events we must plan for and attend as each flower blooms. But its her fault that we are far too busy to help her. After all, she planted all these flowers.

Submitted by:
Violet Sweetpea Maydreams, chief scribe and most invited guest to the parties at May Dreams Gardens