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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ten steps to de-clutter your garden

When you look around your garden, do you wonder how you ended up with so much stuff?

All those decorative items you knew would be just perfect for your garden.  You placed some of them in the first open spot you found, while others you left on the porch or patio because you just couldn't decide where to put them.  Whatever were you thinking when you bought yet another plastic butterfly on a stick to put in your garden?

Hoses, pots, saucers, tools, gloves, pruners.  It's as though you left them in the last place you used them because you did leave them in the last place you used them.  You know they will last longer if you take better care of them, yet you don't.

Then there are the plants.  There are plants still in their nursery containers, sitting on the patio begging for a drop of water. How could you love them so much at the garden center but then treat them so poorly once you brought them home?

And that's just the condition of the patio. We haven't even walked around the garden yet. We are a bit afraid to, but we must.  There we know we'll find weeds, and plants which could use a good pruning back or maybe should even be removed. We'll find areas not yet planted.  Vegetables not picked. Flowers which would look beautiful in a vase inside.

If this describes your garden, a big cluttered mess, or even a half-cluttered mess, it's time for a good session of decluttering.  Here are ten ways to do declutter your garden.

1. Make a big pass through each garden area and without thinking too much about it,  pull the weeds, cut back spent blooms, removed diseased plants and take out all of the decorative items.  Once you are through with one garden area, go on to the next one.

2. Make a list as you go of what you can't do alone in each garden area and hire or ask for help from friends and family to take care of those times.  A half dead tree needs to be removed? Call right away to get quotes and get it out of there.

3. Find the open places where you were going to plant all those plants still sitting on the patio in their nursery containers. "Fall is for planting", so plant them now before it gets too late in the season. If you bought annuals in the spring and you haven't planted them by fall, toss them on the compost pile.  Then make a donation to a charity of your choice equivalent to the amount you spent on those annuals you never planted. You'll feel better about yourself if you do that.

4. In the vegetable garden, pull out plants which are no longer producing. Compost them unless they are diseased. Throw the diseased plants in the trash.  Consider planting a cover crop on the fallow beds to prevent weeds and enrich the soil.

5. Go through your garden tools. Toss those that are broken.  Do you still have too many tools?   Keep those you use the most and donate the rest. (Unless you have a hoe collection. For now, you can keep your hoe collection). Then take those you are keeping and clean them up and store them properly when not in use.

6. Take a look at all those garden decorations.  Toss them out if they are broken, donate them if you don't love them.  Clean and put them back if you think they add to your garden.  Remember nothing damages garden decor faster than winter, so if it is fall, put all those decorative items away for the winter. If there are too many decorative items to store each winter, go back through them and donate what you can't take care off properly.

7. Go through all your pots, containers, saucers, etc.  Recycle plastic nursery pots or find a garden center willing to take them back.  Go through pots and saucers. Sort by size and get rid of any you haven't used in the last year.  Get rid of what is broken unless you are one of those crafty-type people who can make something of broken pots. If you actually think you are one of those crafty-type people but it's been a year or longer and you've done nothing with your broken pots, get rid of them.

8. Hoses? A necessity of gardening but oh how we fight them all summer. They kink, they leak, they balk at us.  Buy a good hose reel and keep your hose at least rolled up when not in use.  If it leaks, replace it. If it kinks, replace it. If it balks, well, that's what hoses do.

9.  Round up all the garden gloves. If you can't find the mate to a glove, toss the glove. The mate will surely show up, then toss it, too.  Get rid of gloves that don't fit properly or are full of holes and then find a good home for the remaining gloves and vow to return your gloves to their home after every use.

10.  Finally, after you've done all these steps, go back through those garden beds again. Weeds grow, flowers bloom and die and so it is never once and done in a garden.  A garden is a living, breathing, every changing place so it will always need some attention. And aren't you glad of that? That attention is called "gardening". Give your garden regular attention and like a room that is cleaned regularly, it should never become too big of a mess.

Honestly, every gardener needs to do a bit of decluttering this time of year.  I do. You do. We all do.

Go. Do it now.  Let us know how it turned out for you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Theory of Seasonal Wildflowers

Dear Gail,

Thank you for providing us with Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday of the month, reminding us to think about wildflowers for our gardens.

While I was out mowing today, I thought about wildflowers and what I might post about them.  I mowed past some Black-eye Susans (Rudbeckia sp.) and considering posting about them.

Black-eyed Susans
Then I saw the big Joe Pye Weed (Euchotrium dubium 'LIttle Joe', formerly Eupatorium dubium 'Little Joe'), standing over four feet tall and covered with bees.
Joe Pye Weed with Boltonia asteroides
I considered posts about Boltonia asteroides, Symphyotrichum novae-anglia, Solidago shortii and even Phlox paniculata. All are big, wonderful wildflowers for the garden. We wait all summer for them and its like a big carnival when they arrive. Color! Bees! Butterflies!

As I continued to mow, I asked myself why we don't have such big colorful wildflowers in the spring. 

In the spring, we marvel in the smallest wildflowers.  The tiny scented blooms of the vernal witch hazel, Hamamelis vernalis. The diminutive Dutchmen's breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, which peek out from the leaf litter in early spring.  The pure white of a Bloodroot bloom, Sanguinaria canadensis.

We would never notice these tiny spring flowers amidst the exuberance of fall flowers, and I think this is by design.  Mother Nature knows best.  

Mother Nature gives us the big, bold, colorful fall blooms to fill us up and give us the energy to endure the cold bloom-less winter.  Then in spring, she gives of the tiny, pastel flowers to slowly bring us out of winter lethargy, as she brings the garden out of its dormancy. 

Mother Nature knows that after all the cold and snow and ice, it would simply be too jarring to walk out to the garden or the woods or fields on the first warm day of spring and be assaulted by masses of bloom. Instead, she starts us off slowly each spring with the eagerly anticipated tiny blooms.

I call this idea of why we have the blooms we have each season The Theory of Seasonal Wildflowers.

Of course, I'm sure many people will point out some big flowers that bloom in early spring, and others will point out tiny blooms of fall.  That's fine. It's a theory, and I've based it on my own experiences, mulled over in an evening of mowing.

I guess what matters about my theory is that I like it.  I enjoy Mother Nature's ways, what she's chosen to have bloom in the the early spring and what she's chosen for early fall. 
I like both seasons, for their own reasons, and I wouldn't change a thing.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Old Woman at the Door teaches me about balance

Sometimes, when I sit still in the garden for just a minute, the old woman at the door comes and pays me a visit.

Long-time readers, you remember the old woman at the door, don't you? She seems quite familiar to me, and when I look her in the eyes, I sometimes see my own reflection.

She keeps me on the straight and narrow and reminds me what gardening is all about. Sometimes, she reminds me that it isn't all about gardening. Occasionally she insists I hire help with some of the more arduous tasks of gardening, like spreading mulch or cutting off great big tree limbs.

I remind her it is hard for me to fathom that the trees I planted are big enough now that I should ask for help when cutting off lower branches.

She smiles and nods at me. She knows. She gets me, as they say.  She seems to have traveled all the same roads I've traveled, hoed the same rows, but she is further ahead of me, always. She looks back to see me.  I'm sure she sees me more clearly than I see her off in the distance.

The other day, the old woman at the door and I were sitting quietly in the garden when she asked me about the new app on my iPhone called The Amazing Type-writer. I explained how it is set up to be like a typewriter, so much so that you can't backspace and delete a letter you didn't mean to type.

She and I talked more about gardening and came up with nine words of advice on "Garden Your Way to a Good Life" and I carefully, slowly, typed them via my "typewriter", to come up with a nice card with the nine words.

It's all about balance, she said. Sometimes you have to create and coddle - like when you sow, grow, and nurture.

There is also a time to take care of what you have and even get rid of what isn't adding value - tend, weed, prune.

But always you must find time to reap the fruits of your labor - harvest, taste, enjoy.

She told me if I had all three of those, I had balance.   I'm working on that balance. I suppose a little more weeding is needed and after that some enjoyment is in order.

I promised the old woman I'd keep these nine words close at hand and commit them to memory. She seemed satisfied that I would try, and got up and walked away, disappearing through the garden gate, leaving me to sit and ponder some more.

Garden Your Way to a Good Life
     Sow, Grow, Nurture,
     Tend, Weed, Prune,
     Harvest, Taste, Enjoy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Oh give me a lawn...

"Oh give me a lawn
Where the bees roam along
And the rabbits have plenty to eat."

Such a lawn will surely have clover in it.

Lean in and let me tell you a secret about my lawn.

I bought a bag of seeds for dutch white clover and sowed the seeds around my back lawn earlier in the spring. I'm not sure how well I timed my sowing but as I mow now I see little spots of clover coming up all over. Some of the clover seed must have germinated.

I'd like to convince others to add clover back into their lawns. I truly think we lost our way, lost our minds, lost our sense of what's important in the garden and in life when we let the lawn care companies and services convince us that clover should be killed off with herbicides.

I think there are many angles to use to help people find their way back to lawns with clover in them.

We could appeal to the feelings of nostalgia we often get when we see something from the past. Did you know that prior to the mid 20th century, clover seed was actually included with grass seed mixes?  I have proof in the form of a 1931 Department of Agriculture Farmer's Bulletin on lawn care. They recommended 17 parts of bluegrass, 2 parts of redtop (another type of grass), and 1 part clover for the ideal lawn. 

We could tug at the inner child in all of us, and remind people of a time when kids spent hours looking for four-leaf clovers or picked clover flowers to tie together to make bracelets, necklaces, even crowns.  Sometimes, when I was a kid, we just tied the clover flowers together to see how long of a flower chain we could make. Kids can't do that without clover in the lawn.

Some people might be convinced to add a bit of clover to their lawn once they find out clover is in the legume family, so it fixes nitrogen in the soil. This nitrogen then helps the rest of the lawn grow better, without lots of additional, costly, fertilizer.

Yet another reason to grow clover in your lawn is to give the wild rabbits something to eat besides the vegetable garden. Though I have no scientific proof, I have anecdotal evidence that once I allowed clover to grow in my back lawn, the rabbits seemed to eat less in my garden.

And before I forget, I've noticed clover is much more tolerant of drought or near drought conditions, staying green longer than the actual grass in the lawn.

Of course, you can't blast your lawn with a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring and then sow clover seed. The seed won't germinate. Nor can you soak your lawn with a broadleaf herbicide. It will kill off the clover.

You also can't expect your lawn to be weed free when you grow clover in it. You'll have a few dandelions, some plantain, maybe even, if you are lucky, wild violets.  But you'll also have a place where children and the young at heart can sit for hours looking for four-leaf clovers without exposing themselves to herbicides.

Oh give me a lawn with clover, for all the reasons or any of the reasons above.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dr Hortfreud: On Mowing in the Rain

Hello, Carol

Hi, Dr. Hortfreud. It's been awhile, hasn't it?

Yes, Carol, but I sense you need a session with me now.

Oh, yes, I do. Always.

Well, it looks like rain, so why don't we meet in the sun room around the house plants.

Oh no, Dr. Hortfreud, I would like to have a mowing session with you. Besides, if you look to the west, it's sunny out.

But if you look to the east, Carol, it's all cloudy and looks like it might rain.

I want to go for it, Dr. Hortfreud.

If you must, Carol, but we really do need to talk about this mowing obsession you have.

I have a FitBit now and I have to get in steps.

Carol, it's raining now. Surely you can get your steps in some other way.

But now it's not about the steps, I don't want to leave the lawn half cut.

Carol, it's raining.

But there's no thunder, Dr. H.

Carol, it's raining.

So you said, Dr. H, but it is still sunny to the west and look, there's a rainbow to the  east.

Carol, it's raining. What will the neighbors think?

Dr. H. you told me before to be my own gardener. Besides, I'm in the back behind the fence and its raining so the neighbors are probably all inside and don't realize I've become the crazy gardener who mows in the rain.

Well, Carol, it's a good sign you recognize that it is crazy to mow in the rain.

Hey, look, Dr. H. It's stopped raining.

So it has Carol, but you've still become the crazy gardener who mows in the rain. Congratulations.

Thanks, Dr. H. I'll wear my new title proudly.

And with that, Dr. Hortfreud buried her head in her hands and began to wonder what she had gotten herself into taking Carol on as her patient.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2014

Clematis 'Rooguchi' with Lamb's Ear Leaves
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for August 2014.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in Indiana, I am thrilled with this summer we've been having.

I don't mean to brag or make anyone with weather woes cry or gnash their teeth or throw down their own gardening hoe in disgust, but this has been one of the nicest summers in my memory.

We've had rain when we needed it, for the most part, and I can't remember any particular days or stretches of days when it was too hot.  In fact, out in the vegetable garden, I think the peppers would like it to be a bit hotter and drier. But the rest of the garden isn't complaining.

Really, it's been a good growing season. I barely remember our record breaking terrible winter.

Now, I could give you a twirl around the entire garden, starting with the Clematis 'Rooguchi' still blooming as it runs at ground level across one section of Plopper's Field.  See how 'Rooguchi' is completely ignoring the support I am attempting to provide it?

Oh well, I'd rather have 'Rooguchi' running through the garden at ground level than have no 'Rooguchi' at all.

You can quote me on that!

Yes, I could give you a twirl through the entire garden but I'm going to just focus on the garden border I call August Dreams Garden.  We'll see the other flowers another day.

August Dreams Garden is a flower border designed and planted to be at the height of bloom in late summer.   It's coming along nicely after being planted back in 2011.

This is what I see in August Dreams Garden when I come out the back door in the evening to decompress from the day's activities.

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, is in full bloom. If you look just above its flowers, you can see the purple mop heads of Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium purpureum 'Little Joe' (formerly Eupatorium).  And at the far end, you can just make out the yellow flowers of some very tall Rudbeckia, species unknown, though it might be Rudbeckia maxima

If you walk around to the other side of the garden, the path side, you'll see touches of white from Tall Phlox, Phlox paniculata 'David'.

The big yellow flowers are cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum. It has large leaves and can be a bit of a "my garden, I'm taking over" flower, so I hear.  I shall soon be deadheading it to make sure it doesn't go to seed. 

The sculpture in this garden, from Girly Steel, is barely visible this time of year when the Boltonia, Boltonia asteroides 'Snowbank' begins to bloom around it.

The rest of the year, the sculpture adds some interest while I dream of what this garden will look like in August.

Even though it is mid-August, this garden border is far from finished with its blooms. There are more blooms to come.  One of the asters is just beginning to show some color.
This is Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Andenken an Alma Pötschke', normally sold as 'Alma Potschke'.

And once the asters start to bloom, the goldenrod, Solidago shortii 'Solar Cascade' will make its crescendo, drawing pollinators from near and far for a final dance in the garden.
When my garden designer and I sat down and reviewed the plans for this area of the garden, she suggested either "daylilies" or a mix of late summer blooming plants. I'm very happy with my choice. I even like the Little Bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium, which grows amidst the flowers, providing a matrix for the forbs, and giving the whole garden a prairie feel. 

Now this garden border is one of my favorite garden areas here at May Dreams Gardens. It provides new blooms at a time when many gardens are winding down, extending the perpetual spring, first described by Sir  Francis Bacon, through early fall.

It makes me happy to just stand by this garden border in the early morning before the sun is fully over the horizon, before I leave the garden to tend to life.

What's blooming in your garden in August? Please join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and show us.

It's easy to participate. Post on your blog about your blooms on the 15th of the month, then leave a comment below to tell us about your blooms and a link on the Mr. Linky widget so we can find you. If you have any problems with the links or commenting, shoot me an email, and I'll help however I can.

As Elizabeth Lawrence once wrote, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I'm home from the Garden Writers Association Symposium

I wish I had placed a penny next to these little flower shoots so you could see how tiny they really are.

They were clinging to this rock, holding hands with the moss to stay atop their little world, doing their best to bloom. It was exquisite, a true miniature garden landscape occupying just a fraction of space in a much larger garden

This is just one of the hundreds of photographs I took while attending the Garden Writers Association's annual symposium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Did you miss me while I was gone? I didn't post a thing on my blog the entire time. I didn't even post I would be gone because you just can't be too careful these days. Some of you might be plant rustlers, just waiting... I digress.

I took another picture at the end of the symposium, when I went on an optional tour to see two Frank Lloyd Wright houses, Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater.

From Kentuck Knob, you can see across the horizon to Maryland on the left and West Virginia on the right.
I checked a map when I got home and sure enough, Maryland and West Virginia do share state lines with Pennsylvania.  I had no idea.

These two pictures pretty much sum up the experience of the symposium.  From little ideas to mull over to big horizons to walk toward,  I left with  much to think about.

I started, or rather continued, mulling and thinking  as soon as I got home and mowed the lawn.  And I had a thought...

The story of a garden is ultimately the story of a gardener.

Once upon a time...

Friday, August 08, 2014

Garden fairies explain mystery gladiola

Garden fairies here!

We are garden fairies and you should have seen the look on Carol's face when she saw this white gladiola growing in the middle of Plopper's Field, the garden border where she just plops plants in wherever there is a bare spot.

She looked quite startled when she saw this big glad towering up over some daylilies.  Then she looked puzzled and her brow kind of furrowed a little bit.   You know why she was all startled, puzzled, furrowed?

We are garden fairies and we will tell you why she was all startled, puzzled, furrowed.

She was all started, puzzled, furrowed because she could not remember planting this gladiola in the middle of Plopper's Field.  She had absolutely no recollection.

Now many of you good readers are going to assume we garden fairies planted this gladiola here to play a trick on Carol.  We assure you we did not plant this here. Do you know how big a gladiola corm is? There is no way we garden fairies could move an entire gladiola corm, let alone plant it, even if we wanted to.

But we are garden fairies and we know how this gladiola came to grow in the middle of Plopper's Field.  It's a bit of a story, but it is absolutely true.

Years ago, out in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral, Carol planted some gladiola corms in one of the beds, just for decoration.  She thought it would be fun to grow them and besides, her Dad used to grow a row of glads in his vegetable garden, so she thought she would, too.

Well, as a general rule, Carol is a bit on the lazy side, so she planted them, they grew and flowered, and she enjoyed them, but she didn't dig them up in the fall.  She just assumed they'd die out and that would be the end of them.

That next spring some of them did come up again, but by then Carol had purchased some daylilies and decided to plant them where the glads once grew. So she dug up the glads that had come up... most of them were just little sprouts which weren't going to be big enough to bloom anyway... and planted the daylilies in that bed.

The next year, Carol decided to move the daylilies to Plopper's Field. So she dug them all up and moved them and they have grown just fine.

What Carol didn't know was that she didn't dig up all those little glad sprouts like she thought. One of them managed to stay hidden amongst the daylilies and even got moved with a daylily to Plopper's Field.

There it grew.  It must have grown for three seasons, hiding amongst the daylilies, until this summer.

Then this summer, the little glad which had hidden itself for so long, finally gave itself away by blooming. Because you know it's hard to hide when you are a tall white flower like this glad growing in the middle of Plopper's Field.

We are garden fairies and the good news in this story is Carol is going to leave the gladiola right where it was hiding all those years. See above about how she is a tiny bit lazy.

We are garden fairies. This makes us very happy.  Let the glad festival begin.

Submitted by:
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Glad Hider at May Dreams Gardens

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Garden of Southern Follies and Delights

And so it begins... the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights.

I've been thinking for quite some time about clearing out the hodge podge of shrubs and perennials around the sun room and replacing them with plants normally grown in the south, including camellias, crepe myrtles and possibly crinums.

I actually started to call this area of the garden "The Garden of Southern Follies and Delights" a few weeks ago, even though I wasn't totally set on replacing those plants with marginally hardy southern plants.

Then I went to the grocery store for some salsa, just one jar of salsa. The entrance to the grocery story is a minefield for gardeners because they always have some tempting plants on display out front. Good plants, too.  I've found some interesting plants in front of the grocery story over the years.

As I walked up to the grocery store, I tried my best to keep from looking at the plants, from making direct eye contact.  But a flash of pink caught my eye and I looked.

It was a crepe myrtle. Specifically Lagerstroemia indica 'Strawberry Delight'. I tweeted out "Temptation, thou takes the form of a crepe myrtle." I wanted it. But I didn't buy it. Instead I made a deal with myself. We all make deals with ourselves when there are temptations tapping us on the shoulder, don't we?

I made a deal with myself that if I went back to the grocery store the next day and they still had a crepe myrtle out front, I would take it as a sign to proceed with my plans to plant The Garden of Southern Follies and Delights.

The next day, I went back to the grocery store. I was delighted. There were three crepe myrtles sitting out in front of the store.  It was the sign I was hoping for, times three.  I looked from one to the other to the next one. Should I buy all three? Should I buy two? Or should I just buy the one with the nearly black leaves called 'Midnight Magic'? 

I bought Lagerstroemia indica 'Midnight Magic'. 

Depending on who is selling it, this particular crepe myrtle is advertised as either hardy to zone 6 or zone 7.  If it is only hardy to zone 7, then I have purchased a lovely annual crepe myrtle. If it is hardy to zone 6, then some winters it will probably die back to its roots but grow back in the spring.  It will likely never get to its full height of four feet. 

I'll plant this crepe myrtle soon and then I'll have Midnight Magic in the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights. It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Now that the new garden has been started,  I'll pull out the hodge podge of shrubs growing there and prepare the border for camellias.  I've been reading about camellias for over a year thanks to Eudora Welty so I know there are actually some winter hardy varieties that should survive my zone 6 winter. Should.  

I'll plant the camellias this spring to give them a good chance of establishing roots before winter arrives.

Crinums? I haven't quite figured those out yet. Perhaps I can dig them up each fall, like we dig up dahlies and cannas each fall?  I'll do my homework on those this winter when I plan out the rest of The Garden of Southern Follies and Delights.

I sure hope it grows more delight than folly... or I won't be whistling Dixie. 

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

A few entries from the Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy

Once again, let us open up the diary of a certain garden fairy and see what she has been up to these past few days. When we are done, we'll carefully put the diary back where we found it and she will never know we read it.

Oh pee-shaw, don't be a spoil sport.

She really wants us to read it. I know because she leaves her diary out in plain sight. If she didn't want us to read it she would put a little garden fairy diary lock on it and hide it someplace other than "in plain sight".

Let's read a few entries...

Dear Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy,

I do love these cool summer days.  I don't know what we did to deserve them, but we certainly are enjoying them.  We are actually enjoying them so much I've barely had time to write in my diary.  Oh, and we have lots of tomatoes to pick because Carol has been lax about picking them. We haven't seen her for several days. Oh, wait. We did see her a day or so ago, but she was mowing.  We garden fairies scatter when we see her come charging through the gate with her mower.

Violet Greenpea MayDreams

Dear Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy,

I just saw where Carol wrote an article for another website about a game gardeners can play when they drive around. Is that considered cheating on your own blog, to post content elsewhere?  We garden fairies don't know but we do think it looks like a fun game.  We will have to figure out how to get in on one of those car rides.

Violet Greenpea MayDreams

Dear Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy,

The Surprise Lilies are blooming. Carol surprised us by transplanting a bunch of them along the path she calls Ridgewood Avenue. We like that.  We are going to show our appreciation in a big way very soon by...

Okay. That's enough snooping through the Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy.  I think we should close it now. We don't want to reveal all their secrets or spoil whatever lovely surprise they have planned for me because I transplanted those Surprise Lilies earlier this spring.
Surprise Lily, Lycoris squamigera
Really, I'm not reading another diary entry. Go read about the car game for gardeners