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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Garden Fairies Post Again!

Garden view across the violas and pansies
Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and it has been quite some time since we posted on this blog.  We have a good excuse because we have been busy because it is spring and we must celebrate every single new bloom as it blooms.

These celebrations, as you can imagine, take up quite a bit of our time.

But there are things going on here at May Dreams Gardens that we felt should be reported on and as we don't see Carol posting anything, we decided that once again we must take it upon ourselves to post about the happenings in the garden.

First of all, we heard Carol cuss in the garden. She said "frass"!  Yes, we are garden fairies, and we clearly heard her say "frass" when she saw some garlic mustard blooming in the backyard.  She, of course, saw all the thistle coming up, too, and did not one thing about them, but when she saw the garlic mustard she nearly freaked out.

And then do you know what she did? She pulled it out and threw it in the trash. It was blooming so we garden fairies did have a chance to celebrate its bloom before she did that. Thank goodness because we sure hate to miss a bloom celebratoin.

In other news, we are so proud of Carol because she bought some plants yesterday, 11 new plants in case anyone is counting, and today she got them all planted, plus some other plants she already had, plus potatoes. We are impressed.  We applaud her tenacity, her willpower, her get-it-done attitude. She is a model for all gardeners!    Hey, who wrote that? We are garden fairies and we did not write that.

Anyway, Carol also dug up the surprise lilies in the bed by the garage and transplanted them along the garden path between Woodland Follies and August Dreams Gardens. You know she calls that path Ridgewood Avenue, don't you? Do you know why?

We are garden fairies so we know some of the other names for surprise lilies, like resurrection lily, or the fancy-schmancy botanical name Lycoris squamigeria. Or, dare we write it?  Nekkid ladies. 

Some of the younger garden fairies thought it would be funny to write on this blog, "Carol planted nekkid ladies along the garden path".  But we are garden fairies and we are more refined than that so we are just going to stick with surprise lilies.

Now we are waiting on rain, which will be good to keep the plants growing as we hurl around the sun a few more days before May.

Submitted by:
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe for the garden fairies at May Dreams Gardens who wishes there was more time in the spring because she really wants to write about the vegetable garden.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chasing the Rose: A Book Review

In a far corner of my garden, tucked behind a spruce tree, an old pink rose grows rampantly. I give it little attention and mostly forget about it until I see it blooming with abandon in early summer.

I got the rose from my aunt, not once, but twice.

The first time she gave me a start of the rose, she said it was  from my great-grandmother's garden. I planted it in my first garden, happy to have a link to the past growing near my back door.

When I moved, I left the rose behind.  Two gardens later, I went back to my aunt and asked for another start of the rose.  When I mentioned its origin in my great-grandmother's garden, my aunt looked puzzled.  She had no such rose growing in her garden.  She explained that this rose was one growing on the property when she and my uncle moved into their house in the mid 1950's.  She said their city lot had once been part of a farm, and she just assumed the rose was one planted by the farmer's wife.

Whatever its origin, the pink rose grows without much fuss or bother on my part. Even after this past winter, one of the coldest winters on record, this rose had very little die back compared to the other roses in the garden.  And at the end of the season, its leaves are always still green, with no trace of black spot or other rose diseases.

I was reminded of my mysterious rose, which perhaps was once prized by a farmer's wife or my great-grandmother, when I read a review copy of Chasing the Rose:  An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside by Andrea di Robilant (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014).

di Robilant comes across a rose growing on his ancestral home in Italy and proceeds to try to find out its origin.  He takes us on a journey through history going back to Napolean and  through modern times with visits to several gardens. Along the way, we learn some history of roses and meet several rosarians.   

From the beginning, I'm pulled into this world of roses and the author's mystery.  It's a mystery I want to see him solve, and so I stayed with the book through the course of one afternoon and evening.

Several days later, I'm still thinking about old roses, my rose and the question of what becomes of a garden when the gardener moves on or passes away.  What plants do I have growing in my garden that one day become another gardener's mystery?

I'm also thinking about di Robilant's book and how a story well-told leaves you with something to hold on to, even after you've finished reading it. You don't have to be obsessed with roses to enjoy this book. It has a universal appeal for anyone who values the past and enjoys the hunt for clues to solve a mystery.

I was happy to receive this review copy of Chasing the Rose and plan to pass it along to my good friend Dee, who grows many roses in her garden. I know she will enjoy this story.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ducks and Daffodils

I wanted something quick to post on my blog  because I was tired of seeing the picture of Tuesday's Tax Day Snow.  The weather has improved significantly and I no longer wished to be reminded of how cold it was just five days ago.

So at first light, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to find a few flowers to post about.

I snapped some pictures, moving around the garden in counterclockwise fashion, until I came to the garden border I call The Shrubbery. 

Something in that border caught my interest and I walked over to it, forgetting momentarily I was within five feet of the duck's nest under the spruce tree.

Mama Duck (she needs a name!) saw me and she was not pleased.  She hopped off her nest and started across the lawn in a huff.

"My bad, Mama Duck (she needs a name!).  I forgot about your nest. Go on back. I promise to leave it alone."

Then, after snapping a few pictures of the duck (she needs a name!) from a safe distance, I went about my business of taking flower pictures and she presumably went back to her nest.

The garden is picking up speed now,  no doubt spurred into action by the warmth and sunshine.  The daffodils are near peak of bloom and were not fazed by the Tax Day Snow.

I like these daffodils in the front garden. 

 But I like these even better.
Remind me if I decide to buy more daffodils to get the paler colors.  I like them better.

Also, remind me about the duck (she needs a name!) on her nest under the spruce tree. I keep forgetting she is there, and she doesn't like it when I forget and get too close.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener: Snow in Spring

Snow on the garden on April 15th
Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

It's been a few weeks since my last update for Dear Friend and Gardener, but in those few weeks there wasn't much to report.

However, the occasion of snow on April 15th seems like a reason to write and provide an update on my veg garden and share a few pictures. 

Whenever it snows when it shouldn't snow, I'm reminded of the passage from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

"Mr Avery said it was written on the Rosetta Stone that when children disobeyed their parents, smoked cigarettes and made war on each other, the seasons would change; Jem and I were burdened with the guilt of contributing to the aberrations of nature, thereby causing unhappiness to our neighbors and discomfort to ourselves."

If Mr. Avery was right about misbehaving children causing aberrations of nature then some kids have been very bad, given our colder than normal, snowier than normal, winter followed by snow and cold on April 15th.

But honestly, I feel lucky when I walk around my garden. I don't think I've lost too many plants to the harsh winter and yesterday's snow doesn't seem to have affected the daffodils and other spring blooms.
I took this picture this evening.  I do like these particular daffodils. I hope they'll stay blooming for a few more days until Easter.

Out in the veg garden, the peas are up and growing.
I should really start covering these with white cloth before the rabbits discover them and munch down the entire row. While I'm doing that I might as well cover the next bed over because the lettuce, radish, spinach, and Swiss chard have all germinated and are also a favorite food of the rabbits.

I really wish the rabbits would eat thistle plants. I had a lot of thistle weeds last year and this spring they are popping up all over the place.  Thistle is one plant I wish the winter cold had killed off, but no such luck. I see weeding in my future. Lots of weeding.

While I'm on the downer subject of weeds, I might as well tell you the other bad news.  I think all my tomato and pepper seedlings are kaput. I'm not sure if it was the soil I used, but the seedlings just never looked right when they started to grow their first sets of true leaves, which are smaller than usual. Fertilizing them didn't seem to help at all. I may have given them an overdose.  Poor little seedlings.  I'm giving them another week and if they don't come out of it, they'll start new lives as compost and I'll just buy my pepper and tomato plants.

I have a few other updates to share,  about ducks and potatoes and blueberries, but I'll save those for another letter another time.

I look forward to hearing about your gardens now.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2014

Violets grown from seed, blooming on the 13th
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for April 2014.  Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, I think spring is running just a little bit behind previous years.

Not only is spring running a bit behind, but she's putting on a pretty good impression of winter this week.

Yes, indeed. After providing us with a few days in the upper 70's, causing all of us gardeners to go rushing outside to mulch and prune and survey the damage the horrible winter wrought upon our gardens, spring has decided to impersonate winter for a few fun filled days.

I see from Twitter and Facebook that gardeners across the US are gearing up for this cold. Some are covering plants and blooms. Others, like me, are leaving the garden to its own devices to figure out how to survive freezing temperatures.

After all, many of the spring blooms, like those on this hellebore, are used to surviving a chill or two.
And if the blooms aren't tough enough to survive the cold, well, there are far too many to attempt to cover them up for a night or two.  Plus, my garden and I survived the awfulest (is that a word?) April ever back in 2007 (Aught Seven!). This little cold spell ain't nothing compared to that!

Anyway, before I gave the garden a pat and a kiss and wished it good luck, I ran out for a few minutes, braving a heavy mist and temps in the lower 40's (Fahrenheit),  to check out some of the blooms.

Out in front, the windflowers, an Anemone of some kind, were closing up their blooms to protect them from the cold.
They were prettier yesterday when they were fully open.

Some grape hyacinths were blooming, too.
Though, it's hard to tell if Muscari blooms are open or closed.

The same is true of their pink counterparts in the back garden.
These pink Muscari are blooming in the same garden border as my 'Chestnut Flower' hyacinths which are so pretty I gave them their own post on Sunday.  You didn't see that post? Go check it out. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

On Sunday, before the weather turned, I picked a big bouquet of daffodils to enjoy indoors. I left these stoplight yellow ones outside.
I'll admit these are not my favorite daffodils. I probably got them in a big bag of mixed daffodils back when quantity was more important to me than quality.

In my later, more discriminating plant buying days, I acquired this little Narcissus.
It has a name, but I'm not quite remembering it at the moment.

I also have some passalong plants blooming in the garden, which deserve special mention.

Leslie of Growing a Garden in Davis gave me some bulbs for Spring Snowflakes, Leucojum. I don't know when they bloom in her California garden, but here they bloom in April.

Jo Ellen, the Hoosier Gardener, gave me some starts of  Virginia bluebells, Mertensis virginica, a few  years ago.
They aren't quite blooming, but there is enough color there for me to include them as blooms on this bloom day.

What else is blooming? Thanks for asking.  Forsythia, the Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata), Spring Starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum) and some little violets, pictured above, that I grew from seed a few years back.

What isn't blooming that was blooming at this mid point of April in past years? Thanks for asking.  The common lilacs, my crabapple tree, and  flowering pear trees in the neighbors' yards plus some tulips come to mind as blooming by now in past years.  We are behind!

Anyway, the next 24 - 48 hours will tell a tale about this spring. If we can get through this last bit of cold, I think we'll be in good shape.

How is spring treating your garden? Are your blooms early, late or right on time? Are you in the midst of a cold spell? Tell us!

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

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

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pretty Hyacinths, and not all in a row.

I think hyacinths are a bit difficult to place in the spring garden.  Their upright racemes just beg you me to plant them like little soldiers all in a row. 

Indeed, I do have a row of hyacinths in the garden, along the edge of the border on the side of the house.

Don't mock the row. Those hyacinths have returned reliably for probably ten years, if not longer.

Many tulips don't come back after the first year, row or no row.

After ten years, I was bored by the row of hyacinths, mostly taking it for granted.  I had also more or less decided I would only grow hyacinths indoors, forcing them into early bloom using hyacinths vases, or even planting them in a container.  Once their blooms were spent, I'd toss them onto the compost pile.  I would only by cheap big box hyacinths for this.

My resolve weakened one day late last fall when I saw an end of the year bulb sale on the Old House Gardens website.  I broke down and purchased three bulbs of 'Chestnut Flower', a pink double-flowering hyacinth dating back to 1880.

Once I got them, I decided I would plant them in the garden instead of forcing them to bloom indoors in the winter and then tossing them on the compost pile.

I planted them in the garden border around the honeylocust tree, a border I call Birds' Blanket because the bird feeders are on the edge of this border.  I chose this spot merely because they are pink and I only want pink and white flowers in that area in the spring.

I also managed to plant these three bulbs in a triangle configuration, not a straight row.  I'm pretty proud of that. Don't mock!

Then I promptly forgot about them until this spring when they came up in the center of the border.

They are the prettiest hyacinth I've ever seen.
Hyacinth 'Chestnut Flower'
I took a few pictures of them yeterday. Would you like to see all the pictures I took?

I will admit it looks a little odd to see these three hyacinths in the center of a larger border of flowers, most of which are just barely coming up.  I think I'll mark where all the other flowers are, because many will bloom and die back. then this fall I'll buy some more hyacinth bulbs, all pink, to plant in this border.

Yes, that's what I'm going to do.  How could I not?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

You can't stop me!

Magnolia stellata
It occurred to me this week.  When the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) blooms, it is generally time to mow the lawn.

Now that I know this, I won't have to actually look at the lawn to decide when I should mow it for the first time. I'll just mow whenever the magnolia blooms.

I'm kidding.

I will look at the lawn to decide if it is ready for the first mowing.  But I won't look until the magnolia is blooming.

You can't stop me.

In other news, I'm posting another garden fairy selfie.

You can't stop me!
Garden fairy group selfie with crocus and iris
Oh, look, a little garden sprite photo bombed it.

I don't write much about garden sprites.  I really don't know much about them.  They are a bit shy and tend not to be out when people are out, but I suppose this photo op was just too tempting. 

You can't stop a garden sprite if they decide to jump into a garden fairy selfie.

You just can't.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Little bits of sky

Chionodoxa sp.
Little bits of sky fell down to my garden and turned into flowers.

I love the blue of these small spring blooms which carry the common name of glory-of-the-snow and the genus name of Chionodoxa

For years, I've driven by a house surrounded by a lawn filled with these blooms. The house is old and has seen better days, as has the lawn and garden.  But without fail, the glory-of-the-snow bloom each spring, unaware of the unkept nature of the garden they live in.

I plan to add these little bits of sky to my crocus lawn in the back where they'll start to bloom just as the crocuses fade. I think about a thousand bulbs should be enough for starters.

As soon as they start selling bulbs for planting next fall, I'll place my order, then forget about it. Then one day in the fall, the box of bulbs will show up on my doorstep, and I'll remember I ordered them. I'll be delighted to have one thousand little bulbs to plant in my lawn.

Truly. I will.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener: Early Spring Update

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

Greetings from my garden!

I've just come inside after spending a couple of hours this evening in the garden.  Rather than being tired from it all, like I thought I would be, I'm all pepped up and excited about this new growing season.

Or I could be all pepped up because I drank two large iced green teas today...

Either way, I'm off to a good start in the veg garden this year.

This evening, I planted out onion sets. I plant them close together so I can get some good green onions in just a few weeks by thinning them out. Then I leave some to grow on so I can harvest a few large onions later in the season.

Earlier in the week, on Sunday, I sowed seeds for six varieties of lettuce, three varieties of radishes, spinach and Swiss chard.  I've left that raised bed uncovered for now but before those seedlings pop up, I'll cover it with a white garden cloth to keep the rabbits from eating everything.

While I was out in the veg garden, I checked on the peas I planted on March 17th, but didn't see any seedlings coming up. I'm sure they'll come up in a few days, especially if it rains like the weather forecasters predicted -- three days of rain heading our way.

I have one more crop to plant in early spring -- potatoes -- and then I can turn my attention to other areas of the garden while I wait for the last frost, which is usually around May 10th here.  I have plenty to do in the meantime.

I'm preparing a bed next to the garage for blueberries. I need to add amendments to bring the pH down from our normal 7.0 to 5.0 or 5.5. The more acidic the better the blueberries like it.  But before I amend the soil, I need to remove some non-descript shrubs - three beautyberries and two hydrangeas. They aren't bad shrubs but they aren't all that exciting, either. I'd rather try to grow blueberries.

And while I was ordering the blueberry plants, I ordered some thornless blackberries. I'm going to plant them along the fence in the veg garden.   I already have raspberries, red and gold, plus honeyberries, grapes, and three kinds of apples.  And I'm thinking about trying to grow some pawpaw trees.  I don't spray any of it. I am happy with whatever fruit I get using organic methods.  I tell people all the time not to bother with pesticides in their home gardens.  After all, we can all buy plenty of pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.

I think I'm rambling a bit now, so I'll close with a hearty thank you for including me in Dear Friend and Gardener, a virtual gardening club for everyone.

Horticulturally yours,


P.S.  Would you like to join our virtual garden club?  If you grow your own food and have a garden blog (or start a garden blog), we would love to have you join in. Just go to the home page for Dear Friend and Gardener, grab the badge, put it on your blog with a link back to the club page. Then post about your veg garden about once a month during the growing season. We want to hear all about your growing adventures. Let Dee know you've joined, and she'll include a link to your blog on the club page. That's it!

Where there's a hole...

I was not happy on my first walk around the garden earlier this spring. I found a hole in the back lawn.

I think I looked a bit "put off" when I examined this hole, sort of like this pansy which seems to be none-to-happy with the cold nights I've forced it to live through.

Anyway, upon closer inspection, I realized the hole had developed where the PVC pipe for the sump pump had broken apart sometime during the winter.  

I had a similar situation a few years ago and watched how the plumber fixed it, so I decided I could save some money and fix it myself.   After a quick trip to the hardware store, I had a flexible joiner-thingie and proceeded to start the repair.

The first thing I realized was that the two ends of the pipe didn't really match, were too close together, and too unmovable, so I would have to cut off a bit of each end to make room for the flexible joiner-thingie.  I proceeded to cut off the two ends, and decided that the guys I had hired to bury the pipe had probably just butted them up against each other seventeen years ago and never joined them in the first place.

Here's what the pipe looked like after I cut off a bit of both ends.

While I was digging around the pipe I noticed that there was a big rock just below the surface on the one side.  I don't have that many big rocks so decided I would dig it out before completing the repair.

I got my spade and began to dig.  The rock was a bit bigger than I had anticipated, so it took a bit of digging and prying to dig it up. I dug, I pried, I dug, I pried, and just when I thought the rock had better come out or I was giving up, my shovel hit something that sounded more like metal than rock.

At this point, I was getting tired, but the sound of metal on metal gave me a little surge, and I dug down a bit more and was able to remove the rock. It was big, definitely.  But worth digging out because there underneath it was a rusted metal box, measuring about six inches wide by 12 inches long. I dug it out and could see that it was about four inches deep.

It was heavy to lift out and I assumed it was full of mud or rocks.  To my great surprise, when I opened it up, I found what I think was once paper money, now just a pile of gray mush, plus a large handful of coins. 

Wow.  I hadn't expect to find a metal box like this.

Forget about repairing that sump pump line.  I took the box inside, cleaned up all the coins, and sat there for a moment to let it soak in.  These were gold coins. I was almost sure of it. I couldn't make out all the dates, but most seemed to be from the 1800's.

I've taken the whole lot of coins to an appraiser to find out the value. I haven't decided if they are worth a lot whether I'll sell them or keep them.  Decisions!  Anyway, the appraiser promised to call me back today, April 1st, to let me know if I am suddenly a rich woman or just a fool who still needs to repair her sump pump line.