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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Garden fairies explain green Ginkgo leaves

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we are not tattle tales but we feel that certain events here need to brought to the forefront so they can be explained.

First and foremost at the forefront of our minds is how a certain group of garden fairies, who shall not be named because they are tree fairies, had a big ol' time a few weeks ago.

Now, we do not know what went on but we know that the end result is that the Ginkgo tree lost most of its leaves while they were still green.

We are garden fairies and we know this is oh-so-wrong. Everyone knows  Ginkgo tree leaves all turn yellow and then Swoop! In one big swish, all those yellow leaves fall to the ground.

Got that tree fairies? We know you read this stuff. Listen up. The Ginkgo leaves need to be turned yellow before you cut them all loose all at once from the tree.

We are garden fairies and we hoped this turn of events, or shall we say non-turning of leaves, does not in anyway detract from the beauty of fall in the garden. We humbly apologize if it does.

But we don't think it does! We think this was a fluke, but to be on the safe side we plan to be more careful and watchful so that this does not happen with other leaves that we are supposed to turn a color, other than green, before we release them from the trees.

Already, we are seeing marvelous color on the red maples, which we would be delighted to show you, except Carol hasn't take any pictures of them yet.  Maybe she will this weekend.

Submitted by:
Violet Sweetpea Maydreams, who is in no way going to take responsibility for all the leaf color changes in the fall.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Goodbye, Old Friend

Goodbye, my old friend, my favorite gardening shirt.

I knew this day was coming. I could sense it when we last gardened together yesterday.  I kept you safe, remember, by wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt over you.

We had some good times, didn't we?

Remember all the times we planted the vegetable garden in May?  You were as delighted as I was to feel the sun on your soft fabric after months inside.

I'll always appreciate, too, how willing you were to mow the lawn, even though I'd sweat and get you all wet.  You were one of the best at keeping me cool.

I can see how it has worn on you, though.

Especially around the collar.   Those holes on the shoulder seam.  Oh gosh, do you remember how you'd make those holes on the shoulders look like bugs and then I'd swat at them?  I'd laugh, you'd, well, you did whatever t-shirts do when they play tricks on their wearer.

Lately, I've also noticed some stains on you that just won't go away.

I think these stains come from that time you helped me unload mulch from the pick up truck.  It seems that one corner of the tail gate always had some grease on it that would get all over you, but you never minded.

But lately, more holes have shown up.
I know you are just worn out.  I understand. We had a good run, didn't we?  How long has it been?  I'm guessing maybe 15 years? That's a long time for a t-shirt.  You should be proud.  You were my delight, one of my all time favorites.

Even though we won't go gardening together again, I'm going to keep you around. You deserve that. You don't deserve the rag drawer or worse, the trash. No, you deserve to be kept all clean, nicely folded, in a place where we can meet every so often, just to reminisce.  And that's where I'll keep you, forever.

Thank you from the bottom of my gardening shoes to the tip of my trowel for being a great gardening t-shirt.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Paperbark Maple

I opened the blinds this morning and gasped with delight.

Wait, that's not quite what happened.

I opened the blinds this morning, jumped back in delight and stared in awe.

I'm not sure that's quite the way it happened, either.

I opened the blinds this morning and found myself staring at the fall color on the leaves of the paperbark maple, Acer griseum. A thousand memories of autumn flashed through my mind in an instant followed by a thousand imagined images of autumns to come.

Yes, it happened about like that.  (wink, nod)

I'm happy to have this tree in my garden, even though it is still a bit small and is going to take its time to grow to any size.
In a few years, the bark is also going to turn a cinnamon color and begin to look like someone has gently pulled away pieces of it and curled them up just a bit. The technical term is exfoliating.

If I am so excited by this little tree which has no known pest or disease problems and grows slowly adding six to twelve inches to its height each year, I can only imagine what the tree fairies and garden fairies are thinking.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nature's Garden

"Do the wildflowers speak to you--do they know you as a friend, or pass you by as an alien? Do you know their names--their language--their secrets?"

I know the wildflowers know my friend Gail of Clay and Limestone as a friend. She's our hostess for Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday off the month, and that's today.

"Every lover of the beauties of Nature, every one who thrills to the out-of-doors, must know the wild flowers. Here in this book is that knowledge--the most fascinating of all the lore of Nature. How plants work out the problems of existence and survival--how they make their families healthy--how they start their children in life--how they found colonies in distant lands--how they use insects for their own purposes--these are some of the gorgeous mysteries which this book reveals-- a book that gives every reader a broader sympathy with Nature and with Man."  ~ Nature's Garden by Neltje Blanchan (1900, Garden City Publishing Co., Inc.)

Lucky Esther M. Hubbard received this book for Christmas from her father in 1932.

And lucky me because Jo Ellen, The Hoosier Gardener, found this book and left it on my doorstep the other day. (Yes, I do run a home for old gardening books. They arrive here by many means and all are welcomed.  There are shelves for all and more coming, but that's another story.)

What makes this book more interesting than, and different from, other wildflower books is that Blanchan wrote it with insects in mind.  In the preface she wrote, "Inasmuch as science has proved that almost every blossom in the world is everything it is because of its necessity to attract insect friends or to repel its foes--its form, mechanism, color, markings, odor, time of opening and closing and its season of blooming being the result of natural selection by that special insect upon which each depends more or less absolutely for help in perpetuating its species--it seems fully time that the vitally important and interesting relationship existing between our common wild flowers and their winged benefactors should be presented in a popular book." 

What could be better than to have a book that describes not only the wildflowers, but also the insects that visit them?   It makes perfect sense to put the two together. After all insects and flowers go together like peanut butter and jelly, like bacon and eggs, like peas and carrots, like steak and potatoes.

Wow, all this wildflower and insect talk is making me hungry.  Thank goodness I have some apples to eat, brought to you by the apple blossom and the bee. They go together like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, like milk and cookies... like wildflowers and insects.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


A shrub, not a tree. Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst'
As I was mowing the lawn this evening, I imagined all the phytoncides I was breathing in and I was... delighted.

Phytoncides are "antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees".   They are good for you.  They are supposed to help improve your immune system and reduce stress.

What could be better?

In my garden, I also imagine the tree fairies are hanging out in the trees bombarding me with phytoncides.  "Here she comes, blast her!"  "Good shot, Maple Phytonflinger, you hit her right on top of her head."

Yes, go right ahead, tree fairies, hit me with all you've got because phytoncides are good for me.

Seriously, for just a minute. I first read about phytoncides and studies related to their benefits in Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality
by Eva M. Selhub MD and Alan C. Logan ND (Wiley, 2012).

I think I do feel better when I am exposed to phytoncides, though I don't have the tests to prove why, as others have done. I just know that after spending time outside, I am more relaxed and  less stressed.

Of course, I could just be more relaxed because after mowing the lawn, my fear that my grass will grow too long for me to mow it is no longer a fear, at least for another week.

But that's just silly. I'm really more relaxed because the tree fairies fling all kinds of phytoncides at me every time I got close to one of the trees they like to hide in.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2013

Kalimeris pinnatifida ‘Hortensis'
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for October 2013.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, the growing season is winding down, though we have not yet had any frost or freeze.

Looking back on past bloom day posts for October, I think the garden is further along this year compared to other years, perhaps because August was so dry.  But there are still blooms for those who go and look for them.

One of the plants with the most blooms is Kalimerias pinnatifida 'Hortensis'.  It's common name is Oxford Orphanage Plant. It is one of the three plants I brought back with me when I visited Elizabeth Lawrence's garden in the summer of 2012.

I'm leaving it alone in hopes that it will self-sow itself throughout the garden. 

Lurking above this plant are the fading asters.

I neglected to cut these back by half in late May and so they are taller than they've ever been.  They look nice in this picture, but halfway down, they look like sticks with no leaves.

Another plant that I forgot to cut back by half in late spring is Short's Goldenrod, Solidago shortii 'Solar Cascade'. It's done blooming and is now flopped over, covering up this plant with yellow blooms.
I wonder what those yellow blooms are? I've been so negligent with plant tags that there is no telling where the tag for the plant is. My best guess is that it is some kind of coreopsis.

I thought the goldenrods were all bloomed out, but discovered this stand of goldenrod getting ready to bloom in another part of the garden.
I'm not sure which goldenrod this is. I can only remember planting S. shortii, but I won't swear that this is a seedling from that one. It could just be a wild goldenrod that sprouted up and I never weeded it out.  I have been negligent in my weeding this year.

I do have a couple of Colchicums in bloom.
They look kind of lonely so I ordered another 36 Colchicum bulbs to keep them company, plus some bulbs for autumn crocus.  I'll plant them in the garden border I call Bird's Blanket as soon as they arrive.

I call this border "Bird's Blanket" because my garden designer described this as a quiet planting area, with repeating plants like quilt squares. It's shaded by a honey locust tree which seems to always be full of birds.  I think Colchicums will be quiet enough for this area in their pale shades of violet and purple.

The other blooms in this border right now include toad lilies, Tricytis sp.
They aren't showy or flashy, but mark the end of our main season of bloom. 

In the days ahead, we'll shift our focus to the leaves as they turn color and to whatever floral flotsam makes it through the first frost which is surely not too far in our future.

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

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

It’s easy to participate and all are invited!

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

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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Play Called Autumn

Let’s listen in as the Director of “A Play Called Autumn” conducts a rehearsal.

Director: Queue up the asters for the opening number. And action! (Music plays, asters dance onto center stage with bees and butterflies.) Cut, cut, cut! Where did you get these asters? They are as tall as giraffes!

Assistant Director: Yeah, about their height. It seems the gardener forget to cut them back in late May so they are taller than normal.

Director: They are ruining the opening number. The bees and butterflies can barely reach the flowers. Sigh. Okay, send them back and let’s try something different for the opening number. Bring out the garden fairies and let’s have a big splashy opening with them leaf surfing on the falling leaves.

Producer: We can’t. The leaves haven’t turned yet and we don’t have a budget for fake leaves.

Director: Fine. Let’s use the honey locust leaves. They're turning yellow and falling now.

Producer: We can’t. The leaves are too small making it too difficult for the garden fairies to catch hold of them as they fall. The liability insurance alone would put us in the red.

Director: Sigh. Okay, Let’s see. I know. Let’s practice our big number in the vegetable garden. Someone go get Granny Gus McGarden.

Assistant Director: Granny won’t come out of her dressing room. She says the paths in the vegetable garden are too weedy and she just cannot work under these conditions. The union is backing her on this one.

Director: Then get someone out there to clear out those weeds! In the meantime, get the Halloween Hare out here to practice his big scene.

Producer: Can’t. We only signed the Halloween Hare for one night so he isn’t here yet. Last I heard he was on a beach with the Great Pumpkin waiting for Halloween.

Director: This is impossible. How are we supposed to put on A Play Called Autumn with all these problems.  Okay, let’s see if we can salvage this production with the rose hips.

Assistant Director: They won’t come out of their dressing rooms, either. Seems they think their hips are too big.

Director: Too big? Then tell me, just who can I get to practice a scene now?

Assistant Director: How about Jack Frost?

Director: Okay, good idea. Jack, stand right there and when I yell “Action”, you run across the garden spreading some frost. And action!

(Jack Frost steps forward, stops and declares he is just not ready.)

Director: Cut! What is going on with Jack?

Assistant Director: He’s having some issues.

Director: Yes, I can see that. But this is his time! We need him. I can’t believe it. Can you go get Dr. Hortfreud and have her talk to him?

Assistant Director: Can’t. She says she is too busy counseling that gardener who forgot to cut back the asters in May. Apparently that has created some kind of crisis for her.

Director: Sigh. Then you talk to Jack and convince him to do this scene!

Assistant Director: Me? I’m afraid I’d blow it and Jack would go from frost and freeze straight to snow and ice. I think we’d better just wait until he is ready on his own.

Director: Okay, let’s call it a day and just enjoy the weather we have for now. Everyone go home, get some rest and come back tomorrow ready to go for “A Play Called Autumn”. We don't have much time left!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I'm interested in their gardens...

I'm getting ready to find out more about the writer Eudora Welty by reading One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place by Susan Haltom, Jane Roy Brown, and Langdon Clay (University Press of Mississippi, 2011)

Then I'm going to find out all about the poet Emily Dickinson when I read Emily Dickinson's Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and a Gardener by Marta McDowell (McGraw-Hill, 2004).

After I've become better acquainted with Miss Dickinson through her gardens, I'll head across the ocean to meet Beatrix Potter and her gardens when I get my hands on Beatrix Potter's Gardening Tales: The Plants and Places that Inspired the Classic Children's Tales by Marta McDowell (Timber Press, 2013).

Then I might as well stay in England, figuratively, and dive into the life of Winston Churchill by reading Churchill and Chartwell: The Untold Story of Churchill's Houses and Gardens by Stefan Buczacki (Francis Lincoln, 2007).

Detecting a theme here?

I'm down in a rabbit hole looking for the stories of writers, politicians, anyone, as told by their gardens.  Gardens do tell us a lot about people, don't they?

I'm not looking for stories that anyone wrote about their own gardens. I'm looking for stories about their gardens that tell us more about who they really were.  

I'm sure there are more books like this.  Do you know of any?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

More entries from the Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy

A lone Colchicum
Now where were we?

Oh yes, I was recalling how I had found the Secret Dairy of a Garden Fairy, returned it, and then found it again a few days later.

Those fairies seem to leave the diary out where I can find it whenever they want me to read something in it.

A few excerpts:

Dear Diary,
I am so embarrassed that Carol only has two Colchicum blooms in her fall garden.  Two!  One plus one! That's it! We keep hearing tales of a garden in upstate New York that is full of Colchicum blooms.The gardener there has posted many times about all the Colchicum blooms.  If it wasn't so far from here, some of the garden fairies would just pack up and go there, at least for the fall. 

I feel like writing a note in the margin of the diary that I just ordered 18 Colchicum bulbs. I hope they arrive soon as it is getting late to plant them, but I want to plant them in the garden border called Bird's Blanket, under the honeylocust tree. 
Bird's Blanket Garden Border - mid-fall
They will add some nice color to this border.

Dear Diary,
We garden fairies have been having a simply marvelously fun day. Ol' Tangle Rainbowfly has been teaching some of the younger garden fairies how to leaf surf.  They all climb up a tree that looks like it has leaves about ready to drop and then quick jump on a leaf right before it separates from the tree so they can free float on the leaf, surf, as it falls to the ground. It takes some practice and skill and a good eye to know when a leaf will fall. Right now just about the only leaves  falling are on the honeylocust tree, so it takes even nore skill because those are tiny leaflets.

Leaf surfing?  Garden fairies leaf surf? Who knew? I will now and forever more watch for garden fairies on the leaves as they float to the ground in the fall.

And the latest entry:

Dear Diary,
I've been spending the day making some big plans for the wintertime. Most of us garden fairies will be spending the winter inside Carol's house. We are planning all kinds of mischief, I mean special projects.  Everyone is in on it - the tree fairies, the toast fairies, all the garden fairies, everyone. It's going to be quite a winter for Carol.

What? This concerns me a bit, a lot. What in the world is going to happen inside my house this winter, that involves the garden fairies, and tree fairies and toast fairies?

I think it is time to close this Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy and place it back carefully at the base of the honeylocust tree so the garden fairies can find it.

I hope it shows up again soon with more diary entries about their plans for me this winter. In the meantime, I can only guess at what they have planned... and those guesses scare me.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

It's hard to resist reading a diary

I sort of made a promise to myself that I wasn't going to read any more of the Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy.

Then it rained.

It rained and rained some more so I couldn't go out and actually work in the garden. I began to browse through some of my old gardening books instead.  I pulled a few random books off the shelves and leafed through them - how else should one read a gardening book.  I rearranged a couple of other books that were stacked up on a table, waiting for me to find more shelf space for them.

That's when I found the Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy again.

 I was sure I had left that diary outside at the base of the honeylocust tree, per the instructions written in the back of the diary.  How did it end up in a stack of old gardening books inside?

I don't claim to know all the ways of the garden fairies. I assume someone, presumably the owner of the diary, put it in that stack of old books so I would find it, yet again.

Sometimes I feel used by these garden fairies.

I picked up the diary and began to leaf through it.  I assumed there was some important entry they wanted me to find and post about.  I looked through the diary from front to back, and from back to front, and was just about ready to put it aside when I found a most intriguing entry. 

"Oh, I shouldn't post that," I thought.  But then again maybe I should?  

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Purple and Green

Seems all I can think of these days is silver and gold purple and green.

Purple and Green
Purple and Green
Everyone wishes for Purple and Green
How do you measure its worth?
Just by the pleasure it gives here on Earth


Purple and Green
Purple and Green
Everyone wishes for Purple and Green
How do you measure its worth?
Just by the pleasure it gives here on Earth

Aster 'Purple Dome'
 Purple and Green
Purple and Green means so much more when I see
Purple and Green flow'rs and berries throughout my fall garden.

Callicarpa dichotoma  'Early Amethyst'
What's a fall garden without purple and green? It isn't really a fall garden is it? Just think of all we'd miss if we didn't have purple and green in our fall gardens?

Liriope sp.

Purple and Green
Purple and Green
Everyone wishes for Purple and Green.

Tricyrtis sp.
 Purple and Green
Purple and Green means so much more when I see
Purple and Green flow'rs and berries throughout my fall garden.

Callicarpa dichotoma 'Issai'
 With apologies to Burl Ives and Johnny Marks.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The World's Shortest Fall Garden To Do List

I am pleased to present the World's Shortest Fall Garden To Do List.

It's really rather simple. 

Leave the garden in the fall how you want to find it in the spring. 

That's it. Just do that and all will be good by spring.

In my little gardening world, doing that one "to do" item involves a little weeding, raking, mowing, planting, compost harvesting, putting away, mulching, protecting, edging, cutting back, pulling out, and of course, leaf gazing.

Yes, it's that simple.   Leave the garden in the fall how you want to find it in the spring.

No rush though, at least for me. Right now the leaves are still green and the days are decently warm but not hot.  I looked at the ten day forecast and didn't see any temperatures that looked even close to frosty. We get our first frost on average around October 10th.

Plenty of time.  Yes, indeed. It sounds like I've got plenty of time to make up information about garden fairies study fairyology and see what else I can make up learn about garden fairies and pass along to others before I start rushing around to finish that one "to do" item before the snow flies.

Leave the garden in the fall how you want to find it in the spring... The World's Shortest Fall Gardening To Do List.