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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Flowers and Their Teachings

I consider it a wondrous happenstance that I discovered this little book for sale online. I knew nothing about it, and there was no picture of its pretty cover, but it was priced low enough that I was willing to purchase it just to see what it was all about.

It took a while to get here, 18 days in fact. Had I been taken in, ripped off? Where was this book? Was there no book?

 I checked my order confirmation a week ago and realized that they had noted arrival sometime between Feb. 21 and March 3.  I waited some more.

When the book finally showed up in my mailbox on Monday, I realized why it took so long to travel from its shelf at the booksellers to my garden library. It came via Royal Mail from England.

Finally, it is here. It's a charming little book full of book fairies and anecdotes about flowers and gardens.

It has no publication date noted anywhere, but it does have a book plate inside, giving me a clue as to when it was probably published.

How about sometime around 1878, or 136 years ago, when it was awarded to William Clarke for "punctual and regular attendance" by the School Board of London.  

The book is in remarkably good condition for something so old.  The title page gives us a hint of the many illustrations throughout the book.  What a marvelous drawing.

There is no author listed, but it is noted that the author wrote at least one other book, "Sunshine and Shadows in Kattern's Life".  The publisher is The Religious Tract Society, and many of the teachings have a religious theme, but it really is mostly about flowers and gardening, and quite fascinating.

Every chapter, including a chapter on snowdrops, has a lovely drawing to embellish the first letter of the first word.

There are chapters on flowers -- snowdrops, daisies, daffodils, violets and more.  There are also chapters on topics -- children and flowers, children's gardens, flowers and festivals, flower gifts and even flowers on graves.

"The snowdrop tells us by its very name that we may look for it before winter is over... the little blue-green sheath of two leaves bursting up from the brown earth, which shows that the snowdrop is at hand; and the flower itself appears, a white globe of a bud, before it raises itself on its stalk, and hangs its beautiful blossom like a drop of snow over the cold garden-border or field..."

My first snowdrop appeared yesterday.
It is a white globe of a bud, like a drop of snow... just as the anonymous author described it 136 years ago.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Anachronistic Gardener:

I may be an anachronistic gardener, stuck in my own time.

There is evidence.

I'm not taken in much by new gardening products. 

I saw a new product today - a peat pot already pre-planted with a seed, fertilizer included. Just tear off the paper lid and plant the whole thing in the garden and you will have planted the seed.  For $1.25 each.  One of the vegetables offered was bush beans.  You do the math on what it would cost to plant a row of beans using those silly pre-planted peat pots. I'll just tear open a packet of seeds and plant them directly into the ground the old-fashioned way.

I like to read old gardening books. They are charming and have personalities to them. I learn from them.  I enjoy them. They weren't mass produced nor likely widely read.  Each time I open an old gardening book, I'm certain that an old idea, a good idea, will come to light and make me a better gardener.

I'm leery of new, improved varieties of vegetables, generally choosing heirloom varieties if they are offered.  I like to think I'm growing the food my grandparents grew.

I actually garden.  I get my hands dirty, and end up with grass-stained knees and smears of dirt on the front of my shirt and across my forehead.

If all this evidence convicts me of being an anachronistic gardener, someone who seems to cling to the past, so be it. I know no other way to garden and hope to never plant a seed by buying a pre-planted peat pot and shoving it into the ground.

Maybe I'll start a club, a society -- The Loyal Order of Anachronistic Gardeners.

Who wants to join?  We'll buy packets of heirloom seeds to plant the old-fashioned way, and together read the old books to resurrect the old ways of gardening.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Late Winter Session with Dr. Hortfreud

 Overheard in a garden...

Carol, so good to see you in the garden today.

Well, Dr. Hortfreud, it's good to be in the garden today, even it is just to walk around and look at the bare ground.

It's nice that the snow has melted.

Yes, indeed, Dr. H.  62 degrees Fahrenheit can melt a lot of snow. And look, there's a crocus sprout.

I see that, Carol.  Which reminds me that I wanted to ask you if you've ordered your seeds yet.

Uh, well, no, not yet.

Carol! What are you waiting for?

I don't know.

This greatly concerns me.  Do you know what seeds you want to order?


Do you know who you want to order seeds from?

I think so.

Then, why haven't you ordered seeds yet?  Do you think spring is going to wait for you to order seeds before it arrives?

Well, with all that snow a few days ago, it sure seemed like winter was taking its time, so I thought I had time.

But Carol, there's also a snowdrop coming up, right where you planted it.

Gosh, I see that Dr. Hortfreud. It's exciting.

Carol, you need to order your seeds. Please promise me you'll order them, or go buy them, before our next session. I don't want you to miss out on the varieties you always buy. Plus you need your pea seeds to plant on March 17th.

I promise, Dr. Hortfreud. I'll order those seeds this weekend.

Thank you. Then we can have a session when you sow the seeds of tomatoes indoors in a few weeks.

I'd like that, Dr. Hortfreud, and thank you for all of your help.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blog Book Party for The 20-30 Something Garden Guide, with Prizes

Update February 24 -- Congratulations to Commonweeder who won the drawing for the seeds and tools.  Thank you to everyone else who stopped by to visit and find out about Dee's new book!


It's a blog book party and I am thrilled to be one of the guests at this shin-dig.

My dear friend and fellow garden blogger, Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings has just published her first book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff.  (St. Lynn's Press, 2014).

As soon as Dee's book showed up on Amazon, I pre-ordered copies for my nieces & nephews to give to them this spring. Shhhh... do not tell them that I did that.  It's a surprise.

Wow, this party is going to my head. I'm so excited, I'm even revealing secrets.

But seriously, just for a minute before we go around and meet the other guests at this party and I tell you what Dee has arranged for me to give away to one lucky reader, I'd like to say that this is a wonderful book for anyone who finds themselves wandering over to the seed aisle of the big box store this time of year and wondering what people do with those seeds.  It's a great book to give to someone who has just purchased their first home and now has a "yard" that should really be a garden.  It's a guide that will lead any new gardener through the minefield that a garden center can be to those who have never really thought about gardening, and help them make good decisions to have a garden they can be proud of.

Dee, this is a wonderful book and you should rightfully be proud to have your name on the cover.
Dee Nash, the author and hostess of this blog party

Now, back to this party which is full of guests and prizes for all.

First, here at May Dreams Gardens, I am pleased to be giving away seeds and gardening tools.  Seeds and gardening tools! Two of my favorite things to garden with.

The seeds are from Botanical Interests, my go-to seed company when I buy seeds.
This is their Heirloom Organic Seed Bank Collection, which includes seeds for a complete vegetable garden, everything from beans to turnips, including peas, squash, tomatoes, and more... 24 seed packets.  These are all open-pollinated heirloom varieties, the varieties our parents and grandparents grew, if they were gardeners.

The tools are just the kind I have... from DeWit, these are quality tools that will last a lifetime.

The set includes three hand tools, a hand digging fork, a trowel, and  hand rake.  If you've never gardened with hand-forged tools like these, you haven't really gardened!

How can you win these seeds and tools? Just leave a comment below and make sure it will lead me to your email address, or put your email address in the comment, using a format like email AT gmail DOT com so it can't be scraped.

Enter by Sunday, February 23 11:59 PM EST and I'll choose a winner on Monday, February 24 by random number.

Now, let's meet the other party guests.  You will want to visit each of their blogs because they, too, are giving away some great prizes for gardeners!

Marie Wreath at the (Not Always) Lazy W Ranch is giving away some Longfield Gardens tulips & daffodils.

Shawna Coronado is giving away a gift certificate to High Country Gardens for a Summer Dreams Garden.

Robin Haglund at Garden Mentors is giving away Buckaroo Worm Castings, a hula planter and Empire Soil Builder.

Jenny Peterson of J. Peterson Garden Design is giving away a SeedKeepers Deluxe Seedkeeper and Burlap Girdle.

Rachel Hough at The Domestic Artiste is giving away Fiskars Tools, two sets of loppers, one is the PowerGear Lopper 32” and the other is 28”.

Niki Jabbour at Niki Jabbour, The Year Round Veggie Gardener is at the party, too. Go visit her to be inspired to grow vegetables in the snow.

Whitney Curtis at the Curtis Casa is giving away a  David Austin Rose, 'Princess Alexandra of Kent'
  and Authentic Haven Brand Moo Poo tea,

Pam Penick at Digging is giving away Bee Preservers from Glass Gardens NW,

Colleen Dieter at Red Wheelbarrow Plants  is giving away Garden Girl shorts and Fiskars PowerGear 18” loppers

Carmen Johnston at Carmen Johnston Gardens is giving away Garden Girl pants with knee pads, and a David Austin rose, 'The Alnwick Rose'.

Genevieve Schmidt at North Coast Gardening is giving away Annie’s Annuals gift certificate,  and Keira Watering Cans.

Whew. I'm excited to be invited to this party to help Dee launch her new book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff. (St. Lynn's Press, 2014).

Join the party by commenting below to win Botanical Interests seeds and DeWit hand tools, and then visit the other party guests to enter to win their cool prizes, too!  All winners will be chosen on February 24. 

(Open to residents of the United States, over 18, etc.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2014

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for February 2014.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, we are snow-covered and there are no blooms to show outdoors.

In fact, we were just blessed with another five inches of snow yesterday, which moved this winter up to the fourth snowiest winter in Indianapolis since they started keeping records. Officially, they've measured 50.2 inches so far this winter.

I'm not too excited over fourth place because I was here for the first, second and third snowiest winters, too.  The record, by the way, is 58.2 inches, set in 1981-82. Ah, yes, those were the days.

This bloom day is in stark contrast to bloom day a year ago, when I had a little puddle of snowdrops to share along with the first crocus blooms and the sweet scent of witch hazel.

This year's bloom day is more like the inaugural bloom day back in February 2007.  The garden was snow-covered back then, too, and I just knew others had blooms in their gardens, so I started Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day to find out for sure.

Anyway... enough reminiscing.

This will certainly be a winter we'll talk about for some time because the near record snowfall has also been accompanied by near record cold temperatures.  Brrrr... too many mornings with sub zero temperatures for my liking.

Meanwhile, out in my garden, I did catch a hint of color when a male cardinal stopped by to admire the sculpture nearby.
 The cardinal nearly glows against the white snow.

Just for fun I checked for that little puddle of snowdrops planted near the base of the post light out front.

"X" marks the spot where I will surely find those snowdrops when the snow finally melts. 

What's blooming in your garden on this wintry February day?

Please tell me! Please show me! All this white is making me forget colorful flowers!

It's easy to join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. 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.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Play called Winter

Listen in as the director, assistant director and producer of a play called Winter discuss recent reviews and changes to the show.

Producer:  Have you seen the most recent reviews of Winter?  People hate it right now.

Director:  Hate it? People just don't understand Winter.  I really don't care what they think. 

Producer:  They say it is too cold and there is too much snow.

Director:  But it's Winter. There's supposed to be snow and cold. People just don't understand.

Assistant Director:  I hate to interrupt this debate but we've got some problems over here on the set and we need the director to sort them out.

Director:  What now?

Assistant Director:  Well, for starters the snowdrops refuse to do their big bloom scene because they say they can't work under six inches of snow.

Director:  Tell them to hang on, it's going to get warmer in a few days and a lot of this snow should melt. When it does, we've got plans for a new scene for them.

Assistant Director:  I'll try to convince them..

Director:  In the meantime, how about that Christmas Rose?  Do you think we can coax it into blooming?

Assistant Director:  Uh, boss.  The snow that is keeping the snowdrops from performing is crushing the Christmas Rose buds and they don't think they can go on at all.

Director:  I'm sorry to hear that.  Let's strike their scene and move on to the crocuses.

Producer:  Sorry. We didn't sign the crocuses up for a play called Winter, so you'll have to wait a few weeks for them.

Director:  If I wait too long, this is going to be a play called Spring!

Producer:  Actually, given the poor reviews of the play called Winter, I think we could make some money if we pushed up the release date of a play called Spring.  Think you can rush it a few weeks?

Director:  People around here wouldn't recognize a good season if it was an icicle that dripped on their head.  I can't make any promises. There are a lot of blooms and birds and bees who need to rehearse before we can open a play called Spring.

Producer:  Well, see what you can do.  I think people would really flock to a play called Spring if it means we've shut down the play called Winter.

Assistant Director:  In the meantime, boss, we've hired a pair of cardinals who think they can save the play called Winter.  Though, they are insisting that we replenish the black-oil sunflower seed in the feeders, or they will leave.

Director:  I guess the cardinals are our last hope. Okay, fill the bird feeders, quiet on the set.  Ready, set, action!

Cardinals flit across the stage of a play called Winter...

Monday, February 10, 2014

The colder and snowier the winter...

The colder and snowier the winter, the more likely it is that the gardener is going to come up with an idea for her garden that may or may not be possible.

... the more likely it is that the gardener will buy twice the number of seeds she truly needs or could ever sow in one season.

... the more likely it is that the gardener thinks surely future winters will not be this cold so now is the time to order plants to push the hardiness zone a bit, perhaps plants like camellias.

... the more likely it is that the gardener will buy one or two or more old gardening books to tide her over until spring.

The colder and snowier the winter, the more hopeful the gardener is that the winter will have suppressed all the weeds in the garden.

... the more hopeful the gardener is that the bad bugs will have died in the cold and the good bugs will have survived.

... the more hopeful the gardener is that spring will come on time.

... the more hopeful the gardener is that her idea for the garden will be possible.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Silver Pennies

I leaned over the snow mound and opened my mailbox, expecting to find the usual junk mail and bills. Instead I found a package.

I wasn't expecting a package. It was a surprise.  Isn't that the best kind of package to get?

I opened the package to find a little book called Silver Pennies by Blanche Jennings Thompson and another little book, More Silver Pennies, also by Blanche Jennings Thompson.

And down the rabbit hole I went.  Off in the distance I could hear the sender of the books, Leslie of Growing a Garden in Davis, saying to me "I knew you would like those books."  Thank you, Leslie, I love these books and the new world I've discovered in them.

These books, originally published in 1925 and 1938, are compilations of poems for children, written by various poets.  Each has two parts, Part I for younger children and Part II for older children.

Silver Pennies?  Ah, I'm glad you asked. "You must have a silver penny to get into Fairyland."

Many of the poems included are about garden fairies and wee folk who live around gardens and woods and fields.  Leslie knew I'd like these books.

Down in the rabbit hole, I looked for more information about Blanche Jennings Thompson.  I know now that she was born in 1887 and was the head of the English Department at Benjamin Franklin High School in Rochester, New York.  She wrote other books, mostly about saints, including Saint Elizabeth's Three Crowns, When Saints Were Young, and Saints of the Byzantine World.

Thompson included instructions in Silver Pennies about how to get children interested in poetry. She ends with this description of poetry.

"If a poem is worthy at all, it isn't tough--it is frail and exquisite, a mood, a moment of sudden understanding, a cobweb which falls apart at a clumsy touch."

I've dipped into both books and found a few short poems to share on this wintry day.

Garden Song

Bee-balm for humming-birds,
        Roses for the bee,
Larkspur for butterflies
    And hollyhocks for me;
Blue flax for orioles
   To mend their hanging nests,
But bee-blam for humming-birds,
    Our ever-welcome guests
                                      Arthur Guiterman

I feel warmer already, imaging my garden once again with flowers instead of snow.

I Heard It In the Valley

I heard it in the valley,
I heard it in the glen;
Listen, children, surely, surely
Spring is coming back again!

I heard it in the valley,
I heard it on a hill,
I heard it where the bare trees stand,
Very brave and still.

I heard it in the valley -
I heard the waters start,
I heard it surely, surely,
I heard it in my heart!
                               Annette Wynne

Surely spring is on its way.  While we wait for it, patiently, here's one more poem from Silver Pennies. According to Thompson, the author was six when she wrote this.


I cannot see fairies,
    I dream them.
There is no fairy can hide from me;
I keep on dreaming till I find him:
There you are, Primrose! -- I see you,
Black Wing!
                                  Hilda Conkling

Keep on dreaming, look for silver pennies, spring is surely on its way.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

It's February - take heart

Crocuses from a previous spring
Oh, those weather forecasters.  They've already told us that February here in Indianapolis is going to be a lot like January was. Cold, snow, snow, cold.

If one isn't careful, one could get lured into a false sense of doom ~ winter is going to go on foreverrrrrrrr.

Take heart.  Buck up, buttercup.

Winter is not going on forever.  It's going to go on for a few more weeks, maybe four or five, and then it will begin to sputter out.

I promise.

Pretty soon, at least starting next week after our next predicted snowfall of 6 to 10 inches has a chance to melt, I'm going to keep a sharp eye out for snowdrops and crocuses. Then before too long I'll be seeing daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths pop up all over.  Then we'll start wondering how summer could have arrived so soon.

I'm telling you right now, it's going to happen just like that.  So get on with your seed orders. Call that garden designer you meant to consult with this winter. Get your grow lights out.  Finish reading those gardening books you set aside for winter reading.

Do it now. Time's a-wastin'. It's February.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Stop, thief!

Oh bother and annoyance!

It seems that a web site owner is scraping my blog posts and putting them on their site.

A week ago or so, they showed several of my posts, with no link back to me.

Now it seems they've added a link back to here at the bottom of each post.

Woopee-doodle-dee, that's not going to cut it!

I wonder if they'll scrape this post and put it on their site?  I won't give them a link but just look for "Stem Leaf Bloom" dot com, all one word. 

Oh, and they are on Facebook, too.  Just look for Stem Leaf Bloom. I've emailed them via their contact info on their website and left messages on their Facebook page on multiple posts, including mine and those they've stolen from other bloggers.

My rights are clearly noted at the bottom of my blog. I'll repeat them here.

"This site, including the pictures and text, is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I grant you prior permission to use my feed and quotes of 100 words or less as long as you give credit. If you wish to use more, please email me."
So, to the scrapers of the Stem Leaf Bloom website, please contact me to discuss the use of my copyright protected content.

We now return to lovely thoughts of gardening.