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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Postcard From My Veg Garden

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

A postcard from my little veg garden. I'm picking lots from the garden right now as you can see from the picture of Saturday's pickin's. Everything is doing well except the peppers.  It's been cool these last few days, so we'll see what that does to the garden.  I'm not sure when I'll have time for a longer letter, but I will make time because I want to share with you and everyone in the Dear Friend and Gardener Virtual Garden Club my secrets for growing vegetables.

Take Care,

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Obsessed gardener looking for an old variety...

Begonia 'Gloire de Lorraine' (American Gardening, 1900)
Obsessed gardener looking for an old variety of Begonia, 'Gloire de Lorraine'.

Described by Buckner Hollingsworth in Gardening on Main Street (1968) ~

"From a tight cushion of bright green foliage a great many lax stems emerged, each tipped with only two flowers, but when these fade and fall the stem lengthens and two more flowers appear. There are so many stems of so many varying lengths that the plant becomes a fountain of rose-colored flowers."

Hollingsworth also called it by another common name "A Yard of Roses". 

I searched the Internet and found ;Gloire de Lorraine' in a place called the past. Indeed, the picture above is from an issue of American Gardening dated December 1, 1900.

I found another article about 'Gloire de Lorraine' dated 1968, the same year Gardening on Main Street was published. And I quote, "The decline in popularity of 'Gloire de Lorraine' Begonias can be chiefly attributed to their unsatisfactory response to the living room climate. The leaves tend to curl and turn yellowish, and usually sooner or later become attacked by mildew which rapidly renders the plant unsightly. Moreover, the plants are susceptible to bud drop, and the flower colour presents only a limited range: white or light to deep pink."

I still want it.

Someone who went by the initials H.G.L. wrote the editor of Country Life in America back in 1903, "anxious to learn the secret of success in this culture" of Begonia 'Gloire de Lorraine'. He lost nearly all his begonias and wanted to know how to save those he had left. The editor provided a lengthy answer describing when the begonia needs a period of rest, how to harden it off so the buds don't drop inside and more. He makes it seem just a bit challenging to keep this plant going from year to year.

I still want it.

But I don't think I'm going to get it. I think it really is in the past. I even checked the website of the American Begonia Society and they have just one reference to it in one article.

This is one of the pitfalls of reading old gardening books.  They often describe plants that are lost to the ages, cast aside in favor of newer, maybe better, varieties or hybrids.  I can find newer, maybe better, begonias which long ago replaced 'Gloire de Lorraine'.  I'm not sure I want them. I just wanted to grow the begonia Hollingsworth described.  Or at least try.

Obsessed gardener looking for an old variety of Begonia, 'Gloire de Lorraine'. If you find it, let me know.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Buckner Hollingsworth

I will always remember this summer as the summer I discovered Buckner Hollingsworth's books.

My first discovery came when a friend and I were browsing in a nearby antique mall. I had gone my way in search of old gardening tools and books and she had gone her way in search of whatever.  I met up with her as she was looking through several shelves of  old books.

She handed me a copy of Gardening on Main Street by Buckner Hollingsworth (Rutgers University Press, 1968) and said she thought I would like it. 

Though it was newer than most of the old gardening books I buy, I decided to buy it because it looked interesting and would be a nice edition to my growing stack of "mid-century modern" gardening books, as I call the gardening books published in the 1940's, 50's and 60's.

I went home and read the book and loved it. It's the simple story of a gardener's garden.

Part way through the book I asked, "Who are you Buckner Hollingsworth?"

Down the rabbit hole of the Internet I went in search of this garden writer.

I found out she was really Edith Buckner Kirk Hollingsworth, known as Buckie to her friends and family. Born in 1892 in Baltimore, Maryland, (just two days after my own grandmother) she graduated from Bryn Mawr College, where one of her classmates was Katharine S. White, who wrote the classic Onward and Upward in the Garden.

Buckie's younger sister, Mary, was a friend of Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Yes, that Wallis Simpson. Mary later married Ernest Simpson, after he divorced Wallis.  Buckie's youngest sister, Anne, wrote a book about their sister Mary.

Buckie served in the Red Cross in World War I and later married the artist Will Hollingsworth with whom she had one one son, Kirk. Eventually Will and Buckie bought a house on Main Street in Windsor, Vermont, where they lived and she gardened.

A web site about Will is a goldmine of information if you are looking especially for pictures of Buckie as I was one evening several weeks ago.

Buckie passed away in 1979 and many of her letters and correspondence related to her books and her sister Mary are now housed in a library at Harvard University.

But I digress...

After I finished reading Gardening on Main Street, I found good used copies of the two other books written by Buckie, including Her Garden was Her Delight (The MacMillan Company, 1962)

This lovely book is a collection of essays Buckie wrote about women gardeners from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and very early 20th centuries.  It's a gold mine of information all on its own and was reviewed by Katharine S. White, though not with great enthusiasm.

In a letter sent by Katharine S. White to Elizabeth Lawrence dated June 5, 1962, White writes she couldn't give Buckie's book an enthusiastic review. She "detected many small errors in fact..." She felt bad about the short review she did include in The New Yorker, because Buckie was an old friend and according to White, almost totally blind.

Buckie also wrote Flower Chronicles (Rutgers University Press, 1958) in which she tells the history of several different flowers.

As noted in the front flap, "Every gardener knows that his craft is immemorially old, and that the flowers of this year's blossoming are the latest delights in a sequence rooted in centuries and millennia. This is a book to affirm the gardener's sense of the past, to reaffirm the ancient sense of connection between this year's blossoms and the story of flowers and men as it has happened in many times, many places and among many peoples."

In many ways, Gardening on Main Street is also an affirmation of the "gardener's sense of the past", the timeless story of a garden and the relationship a gardener forms with her garden and with the universe of gardeners past and present.

I think what I enjoyed most about Gardening on Main Street is that reading it was like sitting in Buckie's garden or in her kitchen, listening to her tell the story of her garden. I can imagine arriving early and following her around the garden, stopping here and there as she tells me how she solved the problem of what to plant along the narrow front garden, how beautiful the morning glory vine is that grows by her front door, and how she and Will rigged up a garden hose to keep the water moving in her little fish pond.

It has a timeless quality about it, even though it was written 46 years ago.  And it made me want some of the plants she described.  More on that some other time...

Buckner Hollingsworth. Until this summer, I never knew her.  But meeting her through her books has added to my life and thoughts as a gardener, and convinced me, once again, that stories of gardens really are timeless.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Class is now in session for Wildflower Wednesday - Wild Petunia

Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis
"Good morning, class."

"Good morning, Miss Horters."

"Now class, I hope you all remembered that today we are having a very special Show & Tell for Wildflower Wednesday, which is always on the 4th Wednesday of the month".

"Yes, Miss Horters, we remembered," said the class in unison.

"Miss Horters?"

"Yes, Judy?" 

"Miss Horters, Carol brought in a garden fairy with her wildflower I thought you didn't allow garden fairies in class will you be sending her to the principal's office?"

"No, Judy.  I won't be sending Carol or anyone else to the principal's office. We are granting a special exception just for today because we all know garden fairies are notoriously hard to control and I'm sure Carol didn't mean to bring in a garden fairy with her wildflower."

"Now, Carol, why don't you tell us about your wildflower. It's very pretty."

"Thank you, Miss Horters", said Carol as she stood up, stuck her tongue out at Judy and headed to the front of the class.  "My wildflower today is wild petunia, Ruellia humilis.  Would you like to know more about it or the garden fairy who came in with it?"

"Just tell us about the wildflower, Carol. We don't want to encourage garden fairies with any publicity."

"Well, Miss Horters, and fellow classmates, I got my wild petunia from my garden designer.  She sent me an email and asked if I'd like a start of wild petunia and of course I said yes.  I had visions of it blanketing the ground of my August Dreams Garden border with its pretty bluish-purple flowers.

When she gave it to me late in the fall, I dutifully planted it as soon as I got it home. I thought it hadn't survived that first winter in my garden when I didn't see it the next spring, the next summer or the next fall or the next spring. Then this summer, there it was. It was growing in the path, not the garden border. It is pretty tolerant of a lot of different conditions, apparently. I suspect the garden fairies knew this and they grabbed some seeds from the one I got from the garden designer and threw them out into the path."

"Carol, that's an interesting theory about how it came to grow in the path."

"I almost weeded it out of the path when I saw it but something made me stop. I suspect garden fairies held me back. Anyway, I'm glad I did stop short of pulling out my wild petunia because now it is blooming. I am hopeful that this one sets seeds and more wild petunias pop up around my garden and one day I'll have a blanket of wild petunias."

"Well, Carol, we're glad you didn't weed it out, too, and we hope it continues to sow itself around your garden. Thank you for sharing it with us today."

"Your welcome, Miss Horters.  I love my wild petunia and I love Wildflower Wednesday."

"Now class, does anyone else have a wildflower to share, posted on Clay and Limestone?"

Sunday, July 20, 2014

'German Johnson' Tomato

I believe 'German Johnson' is one of the finest heirloom tomatoes you can grow in your garden.

It has a pinkish skin, pinker than this picture shows, and the classic dimples one generally finds on most of the larger, beefier tomatoes.

The vines are indeterminate and should continue to grow and set fruit all the way until the first frost knocks them down.

The fruit of 'German Johnson' is very meaty and the taste is as good as you can imagine.
Many of the 'German Johnson' tomatoes are so big, one slice will cover an entire piece of bread, corner to corner, side to side.  Perfect for a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

I've been growing 'German Johnson' tomatoes for several years now. They remind me of my grandmother, whose maiden name was Johnson, and my grandfather, who was of German descent.  When I see those big, meaty tomatoes, I remember our summertime weekend visits to their house. We would usually arrived in time for lunch which always included a big plate of sliced tomatoes.

I put a lot of pressure on my tomato varieties. I like them to have meaning for me, and to provide me with the best tomatoes you can grow.  'German Johnson' delivers on both counts. 

It's a repeater. I'll grow it every year.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

As the Garden Grows: Cup Plant

Silphium perfoliatum
Cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum, bloomed one day after Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day so I didn't include it in my last post.

This particular native flower is often called Cup Plant because water collects at the base of the leaves where they attach to the stem, making it a handy source of water for goldfinches and other birds who eat the seeds of the spent blooms.

Cup Plant is a large plant with gigantic leaves.  A little coarse, some might say. Not for every garden.

I planted this particular native flower for fun, just to see it in person.  It took a couple of years to establish itself and bloom. Last year, I think it grew about a foot and then got broken off by some careless person in the garden. (Oops, my bad.)

Now that I've seen this flower in person and realize how big this plant is, I might end my relationship with it later this fall.  But getting rid of it might not be as easy as I think because it has a tap root, and it colonizes.

We'll see how this turns out. 

As the Garden Grows...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2014

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for July 2014.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana I am happy, happy, happy with how my garden looks in mid-summer this year.

As I look around at all the blooms, I think back to just two years ago when we were in the midst of one of the hottest and driest summers we've ever experienced.  In 2012, by mid July we were dry and hot and there weren't many blooms to show.

I really do like it better when we get rain and it isn't so hot!

The only heat I want in my garden now are from hot colors like this pink phlox. It's a passalong plant that I've brought with me to each of the three gardens I've planted.

Across the way, another phlox, 'David' is starting to bloom as white as the passalong phlox is pink.
It's one of the first flowers to bloom in the border I call August Dreams. 

Would you like to see some of my daylilies, growing in Plopper's Field and elsewhere in the garden?
I live near a daylily and hosta nursery so I have easy, too easy, access to a wide variety of daylilies. Early on, I had a talk with myself and decided I really needed to figure out what I like my daylilies to look like, and stick to just those, or I would end up with way too many.  (As if it is possible to have too many of something in the garden.)

From the pictures,you can see, I hope, that I like spider or unusual forms, green centers, and old varieties like 'Hyperion' which is the yellow one in the middle of the top row.

If only I could remember the names of the other daylilies, we could play Hemerocallis Squares.  'Moonlight Orchid' (bottom row, far left) for the win!

Elsewhere in the garden, the members of the Asteraceae family are also making a good showing.
Clockwise from the upper left, there are dark pink coneflowers (Echinacea sp.) in bloom, along with Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum), false sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides) and just plain old regular coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea).

For some reason, I didn't take a picture of the black-eyed Susan's (Rudbeckia), which are also in the Asteraceae family and also blooming.

And there is more!

Out in the vegetable garden, Alyssum is blooming at the ends of some of the raised beds.
I like how it brings in pollinators, has a nice scent, and adds color to the veg garden.

I also like the lilies now blooming.
This is Lilium lancifolium ‘Flore-Pleno’, a wonderful double tiger lily.  It will be blooming for weeks.

I am ready to declare that this has been one of the best summers we've had for blooms in the garden. May all our summers be like this one, and may you someday also experience your version of the perfect summer wherever you garden.

But enough about me and my lovely summer. Is it a good summer for you? What's blooming in your garden as we celebrate mid-summer? We'd love to see your July blooms.

Just post on your blog about the blooms in your garden, then come back here and leave a comment, then add a link to your bloom day post on the Mr. Linky widget below. Just like last month, you should also be able to choose a picture from your post to include with your link.  (If you have any troubles with the linking, just shoot me an email and I will happily help you out.)

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Optimist and The Pessimist

Two houseplants just got put out on the patio to spend the rest of the summer in plant rehab. We'll call one plant "Purple Leaf" and the other "Ivy".  Let's listen in as they discuss their situation. 

Purple Leaf:  Oh, look! Look!  We are outside. Isn't it wonderful to see the sun like this and not through a window?

Ivy:  Are you kidding me? I'm going to burn up here. It's so bright. I want to go back inside. Who's in charge here?

Purple Leaf:  Relax, Ivy.  With all this nice sun we are sure to grow some big leaves now.  I've noticed your leaves have been getting smaller lately.  You could use some more chlorophyll.

Ivy:  Well, okay. Maybe the extra sun will be nice, but geez, I'm drying up out here. We are going to need way more water than that slop of water we get once a week inside, if we are lucky, that is.

Purple Leaf:  Didn't you notice, Ivy?  The plants out here get watered nearly every day.

Ivy:  I knew it, I'm going to drown.

Purple Leaf:  No, Ivy. You won't drown. You'll be just fine.  Oh look here she comes now with the water.  I just love when I get watered so much it comes rushing out the bottom holes of my pot.

Ivy:  Speaking of pots, I could use a new one here, and some new soil, too. Do you know how long I've been in this container? And how old the soil is around my roots? It's been so long, it's just gross.

Purple Leaf:  I think we are going to get new pots, and new soil, too. Look, there's a big bag of it over there. That has to be for us. I think I'd look wonderful in a dark green pot, don't you?

Ivy: If you say so. Hey, aren't we going to end up with a bunch of spiders and pill bugs moving in on us out here.  Ick. Bugs. I hate bugs.

Purple Leaf:  Relax.  I'm sure she'll give us all new soil before we move back in later this fall. She doesn't want us to bring in bugs and spiders, either. You really do need to stop worrying and relax. Please try to enjoy this outside treatment.

Ivy:  Fall? Did you say fall? We aren't going back inside until fall? That's kind of late for us to be out here, isn't it? What if there's an early frost and she's late bringing us inside. It will kill us.  I need to go inside and lie down now. Help! Take me back inside!

Purple Leaf:  Oh for heaven's sake.  Just stay put. 

Ivy:  Very funny, where do you think I'm going to go, anyway? I'm as rooted as you are.

Purple Leaf:  Well, then, be quiet. I'm trying to take advantage of this time outside to put out some new leaves. I mean, really, we are a sad couple of houseplants. We are so sad looking she won't even post a picture of us. Instead, she posted a picture of one of our neighboring plants, a canna. Just look how pretty it is over there. Yoo-hoo, Canna. Over here. We are new here.  Can you tell us when we'll get some fertilizer?

Ivy: Oh, I assumed we didn't get our pictures posted because of privacy laws. We are under treatment, after all, so she really shouldn't post our pictures. Though for the life of me I cannot imagine why we are trusting her with our treatment. She's the one who has been so neglectful for all these years.

Purple Leaf:  Bygones! That was then and this is now and isn't it a glorious day out here?

Ivy:  If you like sun and all that,  I guess it is. But isn't that a storm cloud over there?

Purple Leaf:  Oh yes, and I love rain water. It really is the best for our treatment, after all...

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

And after she picked green beans

Left to Right...Contender, Gold Rush, Roma II, all seeds from Botanical Interests.
And after she picked green beans, she accepted the garden fairies' invitation to sit in the garden with them and dine on golden raspberries and cherry tomatoes.

Their conversation was pleasant and enlightening, even uplifting.

After eating and talking, she walked around the garden with the garden fairies, admiring and exclaiming over the tasseling corn, the ripening tomatoes, and the tiny cucumbers just coming on.

The garden fairies' parting gift to her was a little cucumber which she sliced and ate as soon as she got home.


I sowed the bean seeds in the garden on May 19th, and protected the seedlings from the rabbits using plastic forks. Watering was done by Mother Nature. I have two short four foot rows of each variety.  I picked the first mess of beans on July 4th.  I picked these beans on July 9th. If you don't know where to start with growing your own food, start with green beans. They are easy to grow in a sunny location.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Fairy lace

When you go out and walk around your garden in the early morning hours, as every gardener should, you may see bits of fairy lace laid out to dry on the tops of shrubs, across the lawn, or even among the stems of perennials, as shown here.

Rather than being disgusted by the careless nature of the garden fairies - leaving their fairy lace lying around where anyone could take it - you should be grateful the garden fairies feel so at home in your garden, they will leave their fairy lace wherever they left it to dry, without a second thought.

Fairy lace often disappears later in the day, most likely retrieved by the more industrious fairies who bustle about during the day tidying up after others, fussing the whole time about those who made the mess, but secretly happy in their work.

For what good is a tidy garden, for those who enjoy the process of cleaning it up?

Yes, dear gardener, when you encounter bits of fairy lace strewn about the garden in the early dawn hours, leave them where they are, and be happy the garden fairies feel so at home in your garden.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener: First Tomato

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

Greetings from my garden where I just picked and ate my first tomato of the season. I decided this event was a good reason to post for Dear Friend and Gardener, Dee's virtual garden club for those of us who grow our own vegetables.

I also decided the first tomato of the season was a good reason to recreate one of my classic tomato pictures, which I posted way back in 2008 in a post titled "Ritual of the First Tomato".

I enjoyed writing that particular post, making fun of myself and other gardeners for the big fuss we make when we harvest our first tomato of the season.

So here's my "big fuss" picture of my first tomato this year.

It is a Beefsteak variety, I think.  I'll have to double check the tags tomorrow.  It isn't, or shall I say, wasn't, very big.  I already ate it.  It was six nice bites and of course I let some of the juice drip down my chin and onto my shirt.  That's the proper way to show you really love a tomato.

Do you know what else is special about this tomato?  No, not that it looks good on a satin and lace pillow, though it does look good on a satin and lace pillow, doesn't it?

What's special about this tomato is it is the earliest ripe tomato I've ever picked from my garden since I started keeping records. I need to check those records to see how much earlier it is, but I would guess it is about two weeks earlier. 

I'm not sure what I did different to get it to ripen earlier. I bought the same small size plants I always buy and I planted them in mid-May, like I always do. It's a puzzler. 

I have no other tomatoes close to turning red, so it will be a while before I'm harvesting tomatoes faster than I can eat them.  I look forward to those days!

Elsewhere in the vegetable garden, the green beans are forming and there isn't a bug on those plants.  I should also have squash and cucumbers to start picking soon and my sweet corn is tasseling.

We've had quite a bit of rain so far this growing season so the peppers are sulking and look terrible. They would prefer it be a little drier, I think. Oh well, we don't always get the ideal growing conditions for everything. I hope the peppers will start to grow better in the weeks to come.

I also hope your gardens are doing well and you are starting to  reap the rewards of growing vegetables.


P.S. - I am also starting to pick red and golden raspberries, just a few here and there for breakfast. They are delicious!