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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights

Camellias! As hardy as I could find.
I blame the writer Eudora Welty for my recent purchase of camellias (Camellia japonica) for my garden.

A while back, I read Tell About Night Flowers: Eudora Welty's Gardening Letters, 1940-1949, edited by Julia Eichelberger). In nearly every letter to her publisher, Welty mentions her camellias.

I knew as I read the letters that camellias are not hardy enough for my garden.  But oh how Welty went on and on, letter after letter, about those camellias. They really must be something special when they bloom.

I was gritting my teeth with envy.

Then I did some more research and found out that some gardeners are growing camellias in a climate similar to mine.  Perhaps I should try?  Why not try?  What is there to lose, but a little time and money?

What is there to gain? A few beautiful blooms? A reason to boast?  Why not?

I pondered it all. For over a year I thought about it, and then I decided late last summer to clear out a spot on the north side of the sunroom for The Garden of Southern Follies and Delights.  Yes, the advice is to plant camellias on the north side of the house so they don't bud out too soon in the spring.

I ordered the camellias several months ago for spring planting.  They arrived today and I'm pleased to report I've already planted them.

The Garden of Southern Follies and Delights

I realize the picture of the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights is a little underwhelming.  But imagine it in a few years if the camellias make it through a couple of winters. What a sight to behold it will be.  It will then surely be a Garden of Southern Delights.

Or if you prefer, and your glass is half empty or you are a skeptic or  you don't like singing birds, sweet little kittens or happy frolicking puppies, imagine me planting something else there in a few years, muttering about the Garden of Southern Follies.

I am, of course, imaging it as the Garden of Southern Delights.  I always plant with optimism.  And now I'm also thinking about Crinums, thanks to the writings of Elizabeth Lawrence.  Criminy. Crinums.

Some will think I've lost my mind.  Others?  Well, I can just imagine a group of old gardeners sitting on a porch on a hot summer's night, sipping sweet tea. A fan turns slowly overhead as they sit and rock back and forth, fanning themselves with the kind of fans that funeral homes used to hand out, with their name printed on them for advertising.  All is quiet except for the occasional chirp of a cricket and the soft squeaking as the chairs rock back and forth on the wooden porch floor.

"Oh, my sakes, do you remember when that foolish gardener, what was her name, tried to grow camellias up north in Indiana?"

"I sure do."

"Did they live?"

"Why I don't remember if they lived. I just know she tried and I think that's what's most important.  She tried."

"I agree with that. She tried. But, I do wonder how they did..."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Who opens all those flowers?

Mayapple bud
Garden fairies here!

We are garden fairies and we know the answer to the question "who opens all those flowers?"

We do. Yes we garden fairies are responsible for opening every single flower in the garden.

And we are near exhaustion at this point because this is spring, our busy season.

And it seems we are busier every year as someone keeps planting new flowers.  We barely get one flower open before it is time for the next flower to open.

Sometimes, we just want to relax, for just a minute, and admire the flowers as we open them.

Some kind of trillium
But there is no time for rest. It's spring. The busy season.

Did you read that?

The busy season.
Phlox subulata
It's a wonder we garden fairies have any time and energy for writing on this blog.

But we wanted everyone to know we are still here, we are just busy with the spring season.

Now, if you'll excuse us, we need to open that mayapple bud in the first picture,  stop the viola painting fairies from making good on their threat to paint the trilliums and then admire the phlox.

Because if we don't admire the nice striping on that phlox, some garden fairy is likely to get all huffy.

No one wants that.

We are garden fairies.

Submitted by:

Viola Greenpea Maydreams, Chief scribe and Head Flower Opener in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral.  Look - blueberry flowers!

Blueberry flowers

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday: Carolina Silverbell

Carolina Silverbell Blooms
I'm not sure if the Carolina Silverbell tree in my garden is a testament to my laziness or to my stubbornness.

Probably a little of both.

It's a pretty little tree, or could be under the right growing conditions.  It has a unique bloom which looks like a little pink bell.  In the top picture, the bells are just beginning to open.

In the fall, each bell shaped flower will produce a seed bearing vessel called a dry drupe.

This is the second Carolina Silverbell, Halesia carolina, I've tried to grow in my garden.  The first one sort of ended up in the wrong place after I redid the garden layout with the help of a garden designer.

It languished for a couple of years and then I put it out of its misery.

This second tree isn't doing much better.  It has been through two winters in my garden so far. After its first winter, the top of the tree died off. Some people with a little more sense might have cut it back to the ground at that point.  I cut out just what died back and decided to see how it grew.

This spring it isn't looking much better.
It's hard to see in the picture, but a couple more branches didn't make it through the winter. Though, I must say, the branches that did make it have a lot of blooms on them.

How is this a testament to my laziness?  Well, this tree isn't thriving, it's mostly surviving. I should take it out and plant something more suitable in its place.  Perhaps another dogwood, Cornus florida, which is a tree Gail of Clay and Limestone is highlighting this month as our hostess for Wildflower Wednesday?  Or maybe something else? Instead, I'm leaving it.

How is this tree a testament to my stubbornness?  I'm not yet willing to give up on the idea of having a thriving, gloriously blooming Carolina Silverbell in my garden.  I'm just not giving up. I'm going to give this one some tender loving care and see if that helps it snap out of its funk, or whatever it is in.

We'll see how it goes. I'll make a final decision this fall, in time to replace it with another, better, choice for my garden, if that is the decision.

There is much to ponder in the springtime garden, but today, as you can see, we are pondering wildflowers, native blooms, today.  Go visit Gail of Clay and Limestone to see who else is writing about wildflowers today.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cover those seedlings, or else!

Rainy Sundays.  I suppose if we must have rain on a weekend, it is better for the rain to fall on Sunday rather than Saturday.

I ran out to take a few pictures and check on the Vegetable Garden Cathedral when it was sprinkling just a  little bit.  A lull between rain clouds.

I passed by the lovely 'Lady Jane' tulips, all closed up, doing their best to protect their pollen until a sunny day.

Which will hopefully be tomorrow.

Out in the vegetable garden, the lettuce, radish, and spinach seeds I sowed just a week ago are all coming up.
I'm a darn fool if I don't cover those seedlings with a cover cloth pretty soon.  I actually hope to remember to do that tomorrow evening. If I don't, I might as well print up menus and hand them to the rabbits.  "Our special this evening is hand-sown lettuce seedlings, served in a straight row to allow for easier eating. For dessert, we are once again offering clover, violets, and dandelions, served au natural on the lawn."

The apple tree is blooming.  I will find out in the weeks ahead if there is another apple tree nearby to cross pollinate it. If not, I must decide if I'll try to find another fireblight resistant apple tree to plant somewhere else around the garden.  Well, "must" is a strong word. I could just leave the tree for decoration. Or I could remove it. Whatever. I'm not ready to decide. I need more data!

Not shown in the picture are the blueberries I transplanted to the veg garden last weekend. They are all leafing out and by golly, I think they are going to make it.

I am also pleased to see foliage coming out on the pawpaw and quince trees I planted this spring.  In case I hadn't mentioned it, I'm excited to have these new additions in the garden.  I'll be eating good some fall day in the next few years... pawpaws and quinces.  Yes, and maybe some apples, too.

This coming week, I am going to spend some time weeding in the garden. I promised myself I wouldn't let weeds get big this year.  Maybe I should enter into a contract with myself, in case my word to myself isn't good enough, or my resolve weakens?

The contract would go something like this.

Whereas, you have planted a vegetable garden,
Wherefore, it is known that vegetables grow better and gardens look better without weeds,
Wherefore, it is also known and understand that weeds do not go away on their own,
Wherefore, it is also known and understand that weeds are easier to remove when they are small,
Therefore, you agree to regularly spend time in your vegetable garden removing said weeds when they are small.

Signed _________________________________

Oh, yes, I'm sure this contract will help.

Feel free to print and sign for yourself, if you think it will help you remember to weed, or you just like the idea of being contractually obligated to your garden.

We'll see how it goes in the weeks ahead.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tweaking and experimenting in the garden

Star flowers. They capture the color of the sky
and bring it to earth in a flower.
It's been a spring of tweaking the garden a bit because, well, not all the plants are where I want them and I wanted some new plants.

So far...

I had a crew come in and take out two gigantic Viburnums that had grown well, served well, but were on the decline.

In their places, I planted pawpaw trees, two different varieties for pollination.

The same crew removed some shrubs up by the sunroom in the spot I've reserved for three Camellias, hardy ones, which I expect will be shipped to me in a few weeks. I'm going to call that border "The Garden of Southern Follies & Delights", for obvious reasons.

On Sunday, I myself dug up the six blueberry plants I planted by the side of the garage last spring because they just looked so puny.  I re-planted them in a narrow bed on one end of the veg garden where there were once three apple trees and now there is just one apple tree. Fireblight took the lives of the other two last year.

It sounds like that was a bit of work but the blueberry plants were/are still quite small. I was able to pop them out with the help of a perennial spade and then just as easily replant them.

Just a little tweaking, a ten minute job, really.

Where the blueberries were I am going to plant some jostaberries. I ordered them Sunday and hope they arrive soon. They are bare root so now is the time to plant them. I've never grown them before and don't know anyone else who has grown them, so it will be a nice experiment to see how they do.

Other tweaks?  Oh yes, I bought and planted a quince tree.  There was an open spot for it in another bed.  At least I think it was a open spot. There might be a few perennials that come up around it. I'll just move them around as they come up.

Oh, and don't let me forget I want to move some of the violets, and there is that forsythia that is obviously in the wrong place, even though it is in its third place in the garden. By now it should be used to being moved around and won't mind me digging it up again.  I wonder where I'll replant it...

A typical spring in the garden.  Tweaking and experimenting.  All gardeners do it.

And for as long as I garden, I hope to always have plans for tweaking and experimenting, and the courage and strength and fortitude to carry them out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2015

Brunnera macrophylla
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for April 2015.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, it is most assuredly spring and every day something new is blooming.

When I went out to take pictures for bloom day, I almost missed the pretty little blue flowers of False Forget-me-not, Brunnera macrophylla.  The plants are hidden from view,  but I caught a glimpse of them when a knelt down to take a picture of a nearby Hellebore, Hellebores sp. probably Helleborus orientalis.

Helleborus orientalis
I am amazed every year to see, again, how quickly the hellebores recover from their spring haircut, the removal of all the foliage that overwintered.  Cutting back that foliage is usually one of my first post-winter garden clean up activities.  They look like the dickens for a few weeks but then turn into a lovely clump of blooms.

Of course, I also have daffodils in bloom here, there, and everywhere.
Narcissus sp.
I go through spells with daffodils. I like them, then I don't like them.  Now I've decided I like some of them, like the ones pictured above which remind me of pretty yellow butterflies.  I do not love the big bright yellow daffodils, but I have some in my garden. Who doesn't?

Flanking the gate to the veg garden, I planted two honeyberries last spring. Or two springs ago?  Regardless, they are full of blooms even though they are still small shrubs.
Lonicera caerulea var. kamtschatica
Honeyberries are supposed to be good substitutes for those of us who live where blueberries, Vaccinium sp. struggle to grow.  Our soil is just not acidic enough for them.  (Of course, I'm still trying to grow some blueberries, but we'll talk about that some other time.)

In one of the few shady areas of the garden some Fairy Wings are in bloom.

Most people know these as Epimedium sp., but when I found out a common name for them is Fairy Wings, well, of course, that's what I call them. The garden fairies insisted.

Other blooms? Oh yes, violets, star flowers, glory-of-the-snow, serviceberries, tulips,  and the Star Magnolia are all putting on a good showing right now.

And trilliums!

And Virginia Bluebells!
Mertensia virginica
And the very first columbine, a little dwarf variety, has its first bud.
Aquilegia sp.
It is definitely spring in my garden.  If we can survive another month or so, we'll be frost free and on our way!

What's blooming in your garden in mid-April?  Join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and show us.

It's easy to participate. Just post on your own blog about what is blooming in your garden and then come back here and leave a link to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget below, then leave a comment to tell us what you have waiting for us to see.

All are invited!

And remember the inspiration for bloom day, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Sunday, April 12, 2015

An Update from the Vegetable Garden Cathedral

Vegetable Garden Cathedral
I spent some much needed time in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral this weekend.  Both the garden and I needed it.

The garden needed it because it was quite a weedy mess, with henbit (probably Lamium amplexicaule) growing in nearly every bed.

Henbit is a winter annual which generally shows up in early spring.  The trick to controlling it is to pull it out before it sets seed.

I pulled a lot of it out.

There was another weed which seemed pretty rampant in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral,  but I haven't put a name to it, yet.  But I'll name it and then figure out how best to control it, too. In the meantime, I pulled out as much of it as I could.

I also, finally, sowed seeds for lettuce, radishes and spinach, and planted out onion sets. Onion sets are those tiny onion bulbs you can buy in most garden centers in the spring. I am a little late in sowing the seeds for those cool season crops, but I think I'll still get enough lettuce, radishes and spinach to make it worth my while.

Earlier today, I pulled out the six blueberry plants growing out in front by the garage and replanted them in the narrowest bed in the cathedral. The acid-loving blueberries don't look great, and probably will alway be less then vigorous due to our alkaline soils I decided it would be better to put them hide them in back rather than prove to all the neighbors that it is difficult to grow blueberries in our soils.

The blueberries are now in the same bed where I had planted three apple trees and lost two last summer due to fireblight.  The lone remaining apple tree, which was thankfully in the center of the bed, is now flanked by three blueberries on each side of it.   One question that remain unanswered at the moment is if there is another apple tree nearby in someone else's garden to cross pollinate my apple tree.

Time will tell.

With the cool temperatures and plenty of sunshine, I was happy to spend time in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral, even if most of the time was spent on my knees weeding.

It's where I come up with some of my best gardening ideas.

And this weekend, I came up with a good one...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Controversial Violet

Viola sp. grown from seed many years ago. 
Oh, the controversy over violets!

There are some people who consider violets of any species to be lawn and garden weeds which should be pulled out, or worse, obliterated with herbicides.

There are others, and I am in this group  of others, who think violets are the most charming of flowers, which should be allowed to flourish just about any place they decide to do so.

A dozen or so years ago, I actually hunted down all kinds of violet seeds with the hopes of adding some different varieties of violets to my garden other than the common woodland violets.

Oh yes, I actually dug up some common woodland violets and brought them to my garden and planted them in my garden.  Where did I dig them up, you ask.  Well, originally, when I was about ten years old, my dad let us dig up some violets from a woodlot out in the country which we knew simply as "Bob's Farm", named after the neighbor who owed it.

We always went out to Bob's Farm to look for morel mushrooms. One year my Dad brought along a trowel so we could dig up some violets, my mom's favorite flower, and quite possibly also my favorite flower.

Those violets have flourished for decades and it is from that group that I dug up some violets for my garden.

Of the violets I started from seeds way back when, only a few remain, and they are flourishing in one spot on the side of the house.  In the picture above you can see how pretty they are.  And you can see how many other seedlings are coming up around them. Seedlings of more violets.

That picture, those violets, bring me joy, though some may shudder at it.  Shudder all you want.  I am going to transplant some of those to the back garden, probably to the semi-shaded border around the honeylocust tree.  For those keeping track, that's the garden border I call Bird's Blanket.

Why Bird's Blanket? Because the bird feeders are on the edge of the border and all the plants within are intended to be low growing, quiet, restful-to-see plants.

Then I think I'll start my search again for seeds for all kinds of violets to add to my garden.  And I might even attempt to remember which species is which this time.

Or I might just enjoy them, violets, one of my favorite flowers.

Monday, April 06, 2015


Memories are triggered by many things, the snippet of a song, the whiff of a scent, a few sentences in a book...

I was reading along through Sissinghurst: Vita Sackville-West and the Creation of a Garden by Vita Sackville-West and Sarah Raven and came to a section about ornamental quince growing in the garden. "Their fruits, which in autumn are as handsome as their flowers, make excellent jelly; in fact, there is everything to be said in favor of this well-mannered, easy-going, obliging and pleasantly old-fashioned plant."

That's all it took. I immediately remembered my grandmother making quince jelly and talking to my mom one fall day about her quince tree having fruit on it. I don't remember actually seeing or noticing the quince tree when we visited, but I think it was on the left side of her backyard, half down toward the alley.  But who knows. I did look through grandma's diary entries and noted that on November 2, 1925, she wrote,

"I ironed quite a bit after I got my house cleaned up. Mrs. Little came after some quinces for a friend..."

By the time I came along, grandma's quince tree must have been at least 40 to 50 years old.

In only a few minutes of online searching, I surmised that most of the quinces Sackville-West wrote about in the 1950s, including Cydonia lagenaria, Cydonia nivalis,  Cydonia cathayensis have all been moved by botanists to the Chaenomeles genus.  That's something to remember when reading about old plants or reading quotes from long ago garden writers.  Botanists change the names of plants sometimes as they learn more about them,  so it takes a minute or two, or more, of searching online to figure out what those plants are named today.

What I am going to plant in my garden is Cydonia oblonga, which the botanists left all alone in that genus.  At least that's what I think I'm getting. I ordered the only quince tree for sale by Stark Bros. and they just labeled it "quince".

Perhaps it is the same as the one that grew in grandma's garden. Or maybe she had another variety of quince.  No matter.  In my garden it will still be "grandma's quince tree".  I've got a spot all picked out for it and expect it will be shipped this week, in the knick of time to plant bare root.

Then in a few years, when I pick the first fruit, maybe I'll actually make some jelly with it...

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Ode to Lawn Flowers

I'm quite pleased with how the Chionodoxa have begun to flower in the lawn just as the Crocus are beginning to fade.

I like them so much I finally learned how to pronounce the name Chionodoxa - "key-own-a-dox-ah".

Or glory of the snow, if you prefer, but there is no snow around here so it seems to be a rather odd common name.


Most of what I planted last fall are Chionodoxa gigantea, I think. Maybe.

I'm already poised to order more to plant this coming fall because I can see the hundreds I planted last fall are really just a good start.

I love the look of the flowers growing in the lawn. Seeing them makes me more determined to have a lawn with flowers through the entire growing season, if I can.

Yes, this means I must accept plants other than Poa sp. and Fistuca sp., otherwise known as blue grass and creeping red fescue, in my lawn.

I must also accept the occasional Taraxacum officinale, dandelions, in bloom, amongst other plants that others refer to collectively as "weeds".

For summertime flowering, I've sown seeds for Trifolium repens, which is that miracle nitrogen-fixing legume that goes by the common name of Dutch white clover.

And I will never pull out any Viola sp. that might bless me with their flowers. I always cringe when people talk about killing off the violets.  Life is too short and violets are too pretty to kill them off just because they can be a little aggressive in some situations.

Speaking of killing off, when you decide to plant flowers in your lawn, you can never use weed killers, herbicides, ever again on your lawn. The herbicides will kill off the flowers.

Make no mistake, I'm still going to have a lawn. I'm still going to include grass in my lawn and I'm still going to mow it. I'm just also going to work very hard at including flowers in my lawn, as many as I can grow.  It makes me happy and surely delights the garden fairies.

Just look how the garden fairies arranged these crocuses in a circle.
Crocus circle mysteriously appeared!

Believe it or not.

It is sure better to have flowers in the lawn, than no flowers at all.
More Chionodoxa in the lawn.

Don't you agree?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

When you clean up the garden in the springtime...

Chionodoxa sp.
As the crocuses fade in the back lawn, the Chionodoxa ("key-own-a-dox-ah") are beginning to bloom and they'll be in bloom for Easter Sunday.

Exactly as I planned!

In preparation for Easter, and because it is spring and time to clean up the garden, I'm carefully tip-toeing around the Chionodoxa as I dart from flower border to flower bed and commence a wild flurry of cutting back, raking up, weeding out, and otherwise spiffing things up a bit.

The other day, it was getting late as I recall, I was outside for one of my mad-cap "what can I clean up in an hour" sessions in the garden, when something sparkly in a pile of leaves caught my eye.

My first thought was "piles of leaves aren't supposed to sparkle", followed quickly by "what is it".  I reached down with a gloved hand because one never knows so wear gloves, and picked it up.

Or actually, I picked them up... three gold coins.

What an odd find and in an odd place, too. I looked around to see if there were other coins in the pile of leaves, but found none. Just these three coins.  Where had they come from? Who left them in the garden? How long had they been there?  Maybe someone hid them in my garden on purpose, never thinking I would find them? Maybe whoever hid them in the garden is going to come back for them?

I turned them over in my hands and looked at both sides. They looked old. Very old.  Maybe whoever left them in the garden was long gone?  Maybe they had buried them there years, decades, ago and it was the freezing and thawing that heaved them up out of the ground for me to find?

Other scenarios came to mind, some plausible, some not so plausible.

I took the coins inside and cleaned them up a bit. They sure looked like real gold to me.  Back outside, I poked around where I found the coins and could find nothing else.

The next day, I spent some time looking on the Internet for other coins that looked like the ones I found, and what I found was amazing. Beyond anything I could have imagined.  If these coins are what I think they are, they could make me one happy, happy gardener.

I know, I know, I know, there will be many skeptics who read this today. After all, spring is a magical time in my garden and there have been other spring-time events and discoveries in my garden.

Really, though, I think this is the year.

I'll keep you posted.