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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thinking about gardening in the 1970's

Everywhere I look these days, I seem to be reminded of gardening in the 1970's.

The other day when I arrived for Thanksgiving at my older sister's house, my youngest sister opened the passenger side door of my car and threw in a bag of old gardening books from the 70's. 

It all happened so fast. I think she was waiting for me to pull up. I think she plotted it out. I think she practiced. Her motion of opening the door and throwing the books in was so fluid, so quick.

She didn't want these gardening books so they are mine now, whether I want them or not.

I feel like one of those eccentric cat ladies who ends up with all kinds of cats because everyone knows she loves cats, and so they drop off kittens and cats on her door step.

She really has no choice but to take the cats in. She can't leave them starving out in the cold, can she?

I can't leave these gardening books out in the cold, can I? They might end up in a trash pile or on a conveyer belt headed to a shredder.  Shudder at the thought.

It's kind of ironic that my sister forced me to take gave me these gardening books from the 70's because lately every time I see the spider plant (Chlorophytum elatum) in my sun room, I have been thinking about gardening in the 1970's.  Does any plant other than the spider plant more represent house plants of the 1970's?

I just need a hand made macrame' plant hanger and I'm all set.

This pile of books my sister gave me includes the classic Wyman's Garden Encyclopedia by Donald Wyman (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971).  I already own four other books by Donald Wyman, which I bought new back in the day as reference books when I was in college studying horticulture. 

Now I'm considering buying good used copies of two other books he wrote that I don't have. Then I would have all seven of the books he wrote.  

Would you like to know what Wyman wrote about spider plants in his encyclopedia?  "A common and very popular house plant native to South Africa, with fleshy tuberous roots, long, narrow, white-striped leaves all originating from the base of the plant and about a foot long. The plant sends out long stalks on which there are a series of plantlets, each well supplied with roots and leaves so that propagation from these is extremely simple. A rugged house plant which can thrive under neglect, it is excellent in hanging baskets in sun or shade."

I think I'm going to enjoy spending some time this winter reminiscing about gardening in the 1970's, compliments of Wyman and many other authors.

(Note from Dr. Hortfreud - I predict that Carol will find and buy these other two books by Wyman. She has a need for "closure" and knowing she owns five of the seven books Wyman wrote will leave this as an open item for her. She won't be able to stand it. It's just a matter of time.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tips to Avoid Thanksgiving Day Clashes

Just a little coleus I'm attempting to turn into a houseplant.
Welcome to May Dreams Gardens, home of the clashing Thanksgiving Cacti.

Here in my sunroom, the big story, just in time for Thanksgiving, is about my two clashing Thanksgiving cacti.

Technically, they are both Schlumbergera truncata, and though they share the same name, I must keep them separated in the sunroom to avoid the clash they cause when both are in bloom.

One is hot pink.
Some people like pink.
The other one is bright orange.
Some people like orange
You can just imagine the clash of color when these two cacti sit side by side.  It's just awful.  They fight for attention with their screaming colors.

"I'm the prettiest pink ever!"  "Ha, as if people want to see all that pink in the fall."  "Yeah, well, your orange is like a hunter's hat!"  "It is not. It's the color of fall."  "Pass the water, I need a drink."  "You drink like a fish and then drip all over. It's disgusting!"  "I do not. I like it dry but my pot is smaller than yours so I need more water."  "I need a new window, away from you."

And so on.

I find it best to keep them on opposite sides of the sun room so they don't spoil Thanksgiving for anyone who gets near them.

I've put up with this clash for several years now.  The pink flowering cactus came first. I've had it for 15 years or so.  The orange flowering cactus is a more recent acquisition. I got it from a co-worker just a few years ago.  Both plants, if not overwatered, should live for decades, so I must  accept their clashing ways as part of the fun of Thanksgiving. They only bloom for a few weeks, after all, then they are just green and get along fine.

In an effort to balance out this clash of colors, I recently purchased a white-flowering Thanksgiving cactus, but haven't introduced it to either one of these. It's actually on the other side of the house, in quarantine, until I'm sure it is pest-free, clash-free, fit company for the other two. In the spring, I'll put it in a new pot and put it somewhere between these clashing cacti.   We'll see how that works out next Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, whatever you do, don't call these Thanksgiving cacti "Christmas cactus". I do that sometimes, out of habit, but they hate that.

The Christmas cactus is usually Schlumbergera bridgesii.  It's stems, called phylloclades if you want to get all haughtyculturist when talking about them at Thanksgiving dinner, are more rounded.  I don't have one, but am going to get one as soon as I find one for sale that I like.  It will probably be red-flowering and though it should flower later than the Thanksgiving cacti, it's early blooms might show up as the late blooms of the Thanksgiving cacti are fading.

Pink, orange, white, and red.

I like to live dangerously, with loud plants clashing and screaming for attention, at least in the sun room.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Amaryllis: From Pinterest to Potted

I was browsing images on Pinterest and came across a picture of some Amaryllis planted in a large container with ivy, pinned by Mary Ann of Gardens of the Wild, Wild West.

I decided right then and there that I would pot up some Amaryllis and ivy for myself, just like in the picture, sort of.

The picture on Pinterest showed white Amaryllis in a white container

I decided on pink Amaryllis in a brown clay container because mine are probably going to bloom a few weeks after Christmas. Plus, that's what I found at the store when I went to buy the Amaryllis bulbs and ivy. Pink and red. 

Step by step, here's how I put the planter together.

First, I set everything out on the table in the sun room, shown above.

Wait.  That table cloth is all wrong. That's kind of springy. I need my wintry, Christmasy table cloth for this project.

That's better.

Wait.  I am going to be slinging around potting soil.  I better put something down, like newspaper, to contain the mess.
That's even better.

I added some potting soil to the container and placed the three Amaryllis bulbs so that when the planting is finished, their necks will be sticking up out of the soil
The bulbs came with plastic pots and discs of compressed potting soil, mostly peat moss. I recycled the plastic pots, they didn't even have drainage holes. I set aside the discs of compressed potting soil, mostly peat moss. I'll probably just chuck those onto the compost pile.

Then I added the twigs and more potting soil.
I'm not sure about those twigs, but let's add the ivy and see how it looks.
As with many houseplants, there is often more than one plant in a pot. I separated the ivy into multiple plants so I could spread it around in the container.
It's starting to look like something now.

Before I finished it off, I took it over to the sink and watered it thoroughly.
If you don't have a plant sink in your sun room, you should get one. They are the cat's meow, the dog's bark, the bird's chirp.

I thought this looked nice once planted, except for maybe those twigs, but decided to do one more thing to it.
I added some green moss around the edges to cover up the dirt.

And there it is. My planter of three Amaryllis with ivy.

Of course, it's going to look a lot better once the Amaryllis actually send up bloom stalks and bloom. That should be in seven to ten weeks, around mid-January, hopefully.

If it looks nice once it is blooming, I'll share a picture of it. 

Update 01/02/2014... the Amaryllis are in full bloom and look magnificent.
This is worth repeating every year.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My garden has never been more ready for winter

Columbine seedlings in the leaves
Elizabeth Lawrence, the famous southern garden writer, had one for her garden.

So did the writer, Eudora Welty, who spent a lot of time in her garden, fussing over her camellias. She wrote in her gardening letters during World War II it was hard to find a reliable one.

I never thought I'd have one, but I do.

Yes, I have a guy I call to come out and help in the garden when I don't have the time or the strength or both to tend to it as it should  be tended to.

He came out with his crew of two helpers in the spring and edged and mulched all the borders in the back garden.  It looked great when they were done.

Then they came back a couple of times this fall to cut back all the perennials and weed out the awful thistle that is threatening to overtake my garden and steal my joy.   This left me with time to plant bulbs and corms, in the lawn, in the borders, all over the garden.

I've already asked him to plan on coming out in the spring before Easter to edge and mulch the borders again so they look nice for The World's Greatest Family Easter Egg Hunt, when many of those bulbs will be up and blooming.

Of course, I still mow my own lawn. I wouldn't think of having someone else do it for me.  I'm hoping to mow it one last time for the season in the next week or so. Since that will be the last mowing, I'll drop the blade to the next setting  so the grass is a little shorter going in to winter.  This helps prevent snow mold, a fungus that attacks lawns in early spring in areas where the grass is covered by mats of leaves or by taller grass that has flopped over under the weight of snow.

Anyway, one last mowing, hopefully in the next week or so, and my garden and I should be ready for winter.

And with the help of a guy and his crew, my garden has never been more ready for winter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Garden fairies take credit for autumn crocus blooms

Crocus speciosus
Garden fairies here!

It has been a long time since we posted anything but we are going to make it a short time by posting here now.

We are quite excited about how we fooled Carol the other day.

Wait, we didn't quite fool her because when you do that the object of the foolery looks foolish and Carol did not quite look foolish.

We tricked her! Yes, that's it, we tricked her.

No, wait, we didn't really trick Carol because when someone gets tricked, they stand there scratching their head, puzzling over what just happened.

Carol wasn't exactly puzzled over what we did.

We garden fairies surprised Carol.

Yes, that's exactly what we did.  We surprised Carol.

Would you like to know how we surprised her?  We are garden fairies so we will get right to the point and tell you how because that's what we do. We get right to it. No delays, stalls, waits or other such time wasters here. No, we get right to it.

What were we getting right to?

Oh yes, we surprised Carol!

Here's what happened.  On November 2nd, it was a Saturday, Carol came out into the garden and planted Colchicum bulbs and autumn crocus corms, Crocus speciosus.  She was really just going to buy the Colchicum bulbs but there was a sale and it also included autumn crocuses, so she got them, too.

We know that when Carol planted those crocuses, she didn't expect them to bloom until next fall. Well, we garden fairies decided that we would surprise Carol by making them bloom this year.

So we made them bloom this weekend.

You should have seen how surprised and delighted Carol was when she ventured outside yesterday to play in the compost.  She stopped and looked at every bloom.  We saw her take pictures, too, and have put one on this post. 

We were so happy, too, to hear her say as she went on back to the compost bins that she was going to have to buy a whole lot more autumn flowering crocuses for next year.

To that we say, Hooray!  We are garden fairies and we never think there are enough flowers around here, especially in the fall.

Submitted by,
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Influencer here at May Dreams Gardens

Friday, November 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2013

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for November 2013.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, winter made a guest appearance a few days ago with a good dusting of snow on the ground.

It was one of those snows that looked like someone sprinkled powdered sugar on the grass and garden, but left the roads alone.  In other words, people from places like Austin, Texas would have freaked out  if it had been on their gardens.  But here, we just took it in stride.

Winter. It happens here.

A day or so later, I took a quick tour around the garden and found a few blooms including this mysterious goldenrod that is blooming rather late.  I've decided it is not the same Solidago shortii that I planted elsewhere in the garden that is all bloomed out and cut back now.

I've also decided that based on where it's growing, it isn't likely to be some wild seedling.  I must have planted it, right? I assume I did and now I am curious which goldenrod it is and whether or not I should expect it to bloom this late every year.  I'll spend some time this winter looking through piles of plant tags to see if I can figure it out.

Elsewhere in the garden, I found some color in the rose hips of Rosa 'Meiboulka' which is sold as Oso Easy® Cherry Pie Rose.
They aren't exactly blooms, but won't they be pretty with snow on them?

I also found some buds in the garden.

This Colchicum bud is from a bulb that I planted just a few weeks ago.
It was a little late to plant Colchicum bulbs, but I got them in a close out sale.  They won't bloom this year, in spite of this bud, but should bloom next year.

The buds that will bloom this year are those on the Christmas rose,  Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper'.
 I'm looking forward to seeing these blooms in the weeks ahead, aren't you?

What's blooming in your garden in November?

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

As the Leaves Turn, Season 1, Final Episode

"As the Leaves Turn" is a soap opera for gardeners brought to you by our sponsors.

When we last left our gardener, at the end of Episode 3, she had just received her long-for package and had rushed inside to open.

In this final episode, our gardener is standing in her kitchen, staring down at the box, imagining what is inside of it. She slowly turns the box from end to end, side to side, examining it closely.

She then takes out a knife out, carefully slices through the tape holding the box closed and gingerly folds back the flaps on top.

She reaches in and pulls out the wadded up paper that is protecting what is inside the box.

There it is.

The most beautifully hand-crafted hand hoe she has ever seen or owned.

From the hand-hewn hickory handle to the tip of the hand-forged hoe head, it is a work of art.

The curly-cue in the shank holds the head at the perfect angle.

And the stamping on the back elevates it above all other hand hoes.
The craftsman who created this, from Fisher Blacksmithing has truly created a work of art.

The gardener exclaims over the beauty of her new hand hoe and takes it out to the garden.

Should art be used in common toil? 

Our gardener tries the hoe out and determines that it is going to be her new go-to hand hoe. It works, and works well.

After trying the hoe out in a few more places in the garden, she takes it inside and gently wipes it off.
Art will be used in toil, and it will be used well and often.

Thus concludes season 1 of "As the Leaves Turn", a soap opera for gardeners. Stay tuned to find out if there will be future seasons with our gardener.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Refresh Your Garden Design Winner and New Contest

And the winner of the Fiskars loppers and hoe is "BooksandGarden".  I've notified her by email so she can claim her prizes.

Many thanks to the hostess of the virtual book party, Rebecca Sweet, for arranging all the prizes and blogger guests. I was honored to be included.

I am truly enjoying Rebecca's new book, Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture, & Form.  It is inspiring me to finish out the areas of the garden that I haven't quite gotten around to planting yet. 

I long for the day when I can take a visitor around my garden and not have to say, "I still need to add plants to this border". This book is helping me to see how I can do that.

In fact...

I am so smitten with this book that I've decided to do my own giveaway -- one copy of Refresh Your Garden with Color, Texture, & Form.  If you'd like to win a copy of this book, just leave a comment by Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 11:13 pm EST and include a link or disguised email address so I can reach you.  Winner will be chosen by random drawing.

I'll have Amazon ship the book directly to you, so you'll have to give me an address if you are the winner.  Open to residents of the U.S., 18 and over, etc.

P.S. -  Rebecca is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and she will protest that I didn't need to do this, but we'll just not pay attention to her. She's in California, I'm in Indiana.  We aren't likely to see each other in person for quite some time. Besides, I want to Garden It Forward!

Update: The lucky winner is 5 and the commenter is Cindy, MCOK! Congrats, Cindy and I'll be contacting you soon to send you this book.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

As the Leaves Turn, Season 1, Episode 3

"As the Leaves Turn" is a gardener's soap opera brought to you by our sponsors.

When last we left our gardener at the end of episode 2, she had just finished planting more bulbs and was still waiting for her mysterious package.

Let's turn the lights up on the stage and see what's going on in episode 3, shall we?

Our gardener has just finished a Saturday's worth of gardening.  She reflects back on all she has done.

She had readied the patio for winter by covering all the furniture with a large tarp. She decided to also cover the large pots on the patio, rather than risk injury by trying to move them all to safer locations.

(This s a low budget soap opera so we do not have funds to create elaborate hospital scenes with doctors and nurses hovering over the gardener as she lays in traction to recover from any injuries caused by moving heavy objects.)

Our gardener will find out in the spring if that was enough protection from whatever winter sends her way. 

Right before she started to mow the lawn, a FedEx truck pulled up and the delivery man hopped out with a small box.  Our gardener realized right away that this wasn't the package she was waiting for, but it was a package she had expected.

Inside were 70 crocus corms, the exact number our gardener needed to bring the total number of crocuses planted in the back lawn over the last three years up to 2,000.

Without hesitation, she went out and planted the 70 corms under the watchful eyes of the pillywiggins, tiny garden fairies who are responsible for most of the spring blooms.

Next, our gardener mowed the lawn. The leaves crackled beneath her feet and she reminisced as she walked about all the time she had spent as a child raking leaves at home. Back then, they raked the leaves and drug them to a big pile to burn them.  She was happy that burning leaves is no longer allowed, but she could still remember what they smelled like.

She finished mowing the lawn and wheeled the mower back to the garage. As she was rounding the corner of the house, she spied it.

Her longed-for package had arrived!  The postman had placed it by the front door.  It was the right size, the right shape.    She quickly put the mower away, grabbed the package and rushed inside to open it.

Tune in tomorrow for another episode of "As the Leaves Turn" to see the contents of the package and learn why our gardener was so anxious to receive it.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

As the Leaves Turn: Season 1, Episode 2

"As the Leaves Turn" is a gardener's soap opera brought to you by our sponsors.

When we left the gardener at the end of Episode 1, she had just received a package from the postman.  Now at the beginning of Episode 2...

She looks at the box and notices that it says to "open immediately" and then she sees another sticker that says "bulbs".

Though delighted to receive this package she notes it was not the package she had been waiting for.  But always one to follow instructions, she opens the box immediately.

Carefully she reviews its contents, an odd mixture of bulbs she ordered from an end of season sale at Old House Gardens Heirloom Bulbs.  There were five trillium bulbs, three hyacinth bulbs of the variety 'Chestnut Flower', and ten corms of an almost forgotten by time, dark purple variety of crocus.

She reads the lovely note an actual person wrote on the invoice and smiles at the personal nature of what so often is an impersonal transaction, online ordering.

The trillium planting instructions started with "plant immediately", so she changes her clothes, finds her digging knife and heads directly outside to plant the trilliums and the crocuses.  She is undecided on whether or not to plant the hyacinths outside or put them in her refrigerator to cool for a few months and then force into early winter bloom after the holidays.

She pauses as she ponders her planting options for the hyacinths and notices off in the distance what she thinks is a tiny pillywiggin.  She rubs her eyes and the pillywiggin is gone.

Satisfied she has done her best to follow the bulb planting instructions, she heads inside, still wondering when her next package will arrive. She looks online for tracking information and is shocked to see where her package is.

Tune in tomorrow for another episode of "As the Leaves Turn" to find out if Carol receives her package tomorrow, or is forced to wait another day after that.  Learn what a pillywiggin is and why it would be in her garden.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

As the Leaves Turn: Season 1, Episode 1

"As the Leaves Turn" is a soap opera brought to you by our sponsors.

In this soap opera, there are garden fairies in a snit, tree fairies being falsely accused, and pillywiggins counting the last of the bulbs being planted for spring blooms.

No one knows how it happened, but some flower borders have been overrun by thugs called thistle and the keepers of the vegetable garden are up in arms that this late in the season, tomato vines are still tied to their stakes, with rotten tomatoes zapped by frost still attached.

With the stage set, we watch the first episode.  

Inside, the gardener seems almost oblivious to all that is going on around her as she sits quietly, surrounded by gardening books both old and new.

A postman walks up the front walk as suspenseful music plays.  He pulls a box from his bag, leaves it by the door, rings the doorbell and turns to walk away.

The gardener, with a quick, startled glance that is supposed to imply she had no idea the postman was delivering a package, gets up and walks toward the door.

She slowly opens the door, glances around and then down, and says to no one in particular, "I wonder what is in the box."  She glances around again, grabs the box, and closes the door behind her.

The camera zooms in on the box as the gardener looks for something to open it with.

What could be in the box?

Tune in tomorrow for another episode  of "As the Leaves Turn" to find out.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Refresh Your Garden Design Book Party and Tool Giveaway

Guess what I'm doing this evening?

I'm participating in a virtual garden book party hosted by one of the nicest people I know, Rebecca Sweet.

The guest of honor at this party is her new book, Refresh your Garden Design with Color, Texture, & Form (F&W Media 2013).

I've been looking through her book for a few days now and feel like she is talking to me, specifically, and teaching me how to look at my garden differently.

Now, to be honest, I started to look at my garden differently a few years ago when I felt like every plant I bought just seemed to disappear into my garden, which lacked a cohesive design.

I hired a garden designer back then to help me with an overall design and my garden is much improved. Now that I have the beds and borders all laid out, I think this is the perfect book for me to learn how to tweak each of the areas, fill in some gaps, and make a few other adjustments. Not to mention, I can use the design tips in this book to figure out what to do with some areas that are sadly not yet planted.

I've already recommended this book to a co-worker and loaned her an extra copy that I ordered for myself. This co-worker  mentioned she was going to work on her garden design this winter and had purchased a book to help her. When she told me what book she bought I told her, "No, no, no, no, no. Send that book back and I'll loan you one that will be a lot better."

You'll be able to read my full review on Amazon in a few weeks.

In the meantime, let's mingle at this party and talk about the giveaways.

I've got two garden tools to give away, including a Fiskars Telescoping Power-Lever® Bypass Lopper that could be used by any gardener to prune back that shrub or small tree that has grown all out whack and is making your garden feel unbalanced at the moment.

The other garden tool in this giveaway is a Fiskars Long-Handled Aluminum Hoe.

I'm a little envious that someone is going to win this hoe, other than me, because this is one hoe I don't own but would like to own. It looks like the perfect hoe for smoothing out that new bed or border that you are putting in because you just read Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Form & Texture and realize that is exactly what your garden needs.

To win these prizes, just leave a comment by 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, November 10, 2013.   Be sure your comment leads me to a website or blog with your email address or put your email address in your comment disguised by typing it something like myemail AT gmail DOT com.  I'll pick a winner by random number and announce the winner on Monday, November 11. One winner will win both prizes.

This contest is open to residents of the continental United States, age 18 or over.  If you want to enter more than once, post a link to this blog post on Twitter or  your Facebook page and you can enter again with another comment.

And now, enough about me and you and winning these prizes. Let's go mingle with the other party guests because they also have great prizes to give away.  

There's Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings, Pam at Digging, Robin at Urban Gardens, Shawna at Shawna Coronado,  and Susan at Blue Plant Garden Blog. Each one has different prizes to give away as part of this virtual book party honoring the new book, Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Form, & Texture. Go visit them and enter to win!

And now it's time for me to again thank the hostess of this party, Rebecca Sweet, for this fun virtual event and for introducing me to her new book, Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Form, & Texture.  It is going to help me see my garden in new ways.

(Yes, Rebecca sent me a copy of her book, but I also bought a copy of her book because it's good to support garden writers!)

Update 11/11/2013 - This contest is over. For a chance to win the book, please visit this blog post by 11:13 pm EST on 11/13/20131