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Thursday, May 28, 2015

There's magic in a clover lawn

There's magic in a clover lawn.

You can carefully pick the flowers and tie them together to create a tiara fit for a queen and then you are suddenly the Queen of the Garden. And all the garden fairies will gather round to grant you your fondest wishes and dreams.

You can sit for hours staring at the three-leaf clovers until magically a four-leaf clover will appear before your very eyes.

With that four-leaf clover you will have the most marvelous day, filled with all kinds of good luck.  And later you can carefully place the four-leaf clover between the pages of a book, put it on a shelf, and then open the book on a cold winter's day to bring you even more joy and good luck.

In a lawn of clover you can watch as bees show up, seemingly out of nowhere, and visit each and every bloom, eager to get to the sweet nectar contained within.

You can gather clover flowers by the hundreds and make a long-long chain, and maybe tie it to a tree branch and watch to see if tree fairies use it to come down and play.

Yes, there's magic in a clover lawn. The clover will even fix nitrogen in the soil and share its nutrients with the grass to make it greener.

So if we believe there's magic in a clover lawn, and there is no reason not to, why don't people want clover in their lawns today?

Once upon a time, people did not realize what magic there was in a clover lawn.  They never thought about it. They just assumed all lawns had clover growing in them.

Then someone, a villain, came by and commented with just a bit of a sneer about how nice it might look if the lawns were all grass, with no clover at all.

And the people looked at their lawns and thought perhaps the villain, whom they didn't realize was a villain at the time, was right.  Their lawns would look nice if they were all green with no clover.

Then the villain explained how they could put something on their lawns to make the clover go away, and it would stay away as long as they put it on every single year.  I'm sure this villain was wearing all black and had an evil, sinister grin on his face when he sold them that something, that poison to get rid of the clover.

As the years went by, and one person after the next bought the poison from the villain and put it on their lawns, the villain got richer and richer and the people became poorer and poorer. The poor people. They didn't even realize how poor they had become when they had no more clover in their lawns.

When the poison killed off all the clover,  everyone thought they were so happy with their lawns, all green and grassy.  No one realized that when the clover disappeared so did the magic - the tiaras and four-leaf clovers, the long flower chains, even clover bracelets and necklaces.  They were all gone. And the bees left, too.  And nothing in the lawn fixed the nitrogen, either.

Yes, the lawns were green, but they contained no magic.

In defense of the people, they did not know the magic was actually in the clover. They believed the villain.

But then gradually, the people started to figure it out.  They figured out the magic comes from the clover, and they stopped buying the villain's poisons.

Fortunately, once they stopped using the poisons, the clover began to return. And with it came the magic, the tiaras and four-leaf clovers, the long flower chains, the bracelets and necklaces. And the bees came back, too.  And, yes, other flowers joined the clover in the lawn, like dandelions and violets and even plantain.

But the people didn't mind.

The people rejoiced when the magic returned and vowed never to let the villain trick them like that again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Garden fairies take over for Wildflower Wednesday

Nemophila maculata
Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we are once again called upon to take over this blog and provide some useful information for the fine readers who come here looking for useful information only to find some of that stuff Carol will sometimes write that we don't think is useful at all.

Plus, if we don't post for Wildflower Wednesday to show what we did in the garden, then who will? Indeed.  That's what we thought as well, and so here we are.

It is has been a busy spring, and we wanted everyone to know that we have not been sitting around being all lazy and lackadaisical.  No. We have not been doing that.

We have been madly darting about the garden celebrating each new flower as it opens.  Honestly, it is almost too much for us garden fairies and yet, Carol plants more flowers in the garden.

Last fall, just as the first frosts arrived and we garden fairies were getting ready for the big leaf painting party, Carol took an old bag of seeds for wildflowers and cast them about the lawn and in the mulch at the entrance to the vegetable garden.  She is lazy and so did not do one thing to prep the ground for those seeds or water them in or anything like that. She just cast them hither and yon.

Well, as you can just imagine many of those seeds did not germinate after the winter, but there were some that did including the one pictured above.  We had never seen it before and neither had Carol, but she looked it up and guess what it is.  Just guess.

It's Nemophila maculata, with common names like Baby Blue Eyes and Fivespot.  It's a wildflower, but it isn't exactly native around here. It's from Cal-ee-for-nye-a.  Like we said, we garden fairies never saw it before, but we think it is kind of pretty so we are watching over the six or so little plants that came up in the mulch in hopes they like it here and decide to sow some seeds and stay awhile.

Carol's pretty pleased with it as well, but she had hopes more would bloom in the actual lawn which she hopes somedays is more flowers than lawn.

Well, if she doesn't learn better how to sow seeds in a lawn, that's not going to happen.

We are garden fairies.

Submitted by:
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Hardest Working of All The Garden Fairies in May Dreams Gardens.

P.S.  We apologize to Gail how lazy Carol is and hope she accepts this as a true and bonafide Wildflower Wednesday post. Please visit her and let her know about this post.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Double Flowering Mock Orange Defies the Odds in My Garden

A double-flowering mock orange, Philadelphus 'Buckley's Quill' has defied the odds and continues to grow in my garden

In my garden, the double-flowering mock orange is hidden behind some other shrubs, including a pearl bush, Exochorda,  so it is only visible if you walk into the vegetable garden and look from there  to the backside of a border called The Shrubbery.

It is so hidden my first thought on seeing blooms in that general area was to wonder if the pearl bush was still blooming.

Of course, other than both being white, the blooms of a double-flowering mock orange and the blooms of a pearl bush aren't all that much alike.

The second thought I had was one of astonishment that I still had a double flowering mock orange in my garden.   I thought I'd lost it forever when I cut it back and moved it one spring to the other side of the garden.

Then I decided it didn't really belong where I had put it so I moved it to another equally unsuitable location.

Then I came to my senses, more or less and moved the mock orange to The Shrubbery, where it is now growing about five feet from where I first planted it probably a decade ago.  It is undersized, still, from all the moving around. It is currently only about three feet tall but should grow to five feet tall, especially if I leave it alone and stop moving it to new locations every few years.

For care, it asks for nothing and that's what it gets.  In fact, as far as plants go in my garden, this one is as close to neglected, nearly forgotten, as a plant can get.

And had I not walked around the garden this morning, I wouldn't have noticed the blooms.

But I did go out into the garden, and I did see the mock orange in bloom.

I was reminded again that many plants grow in spite of the care or lack of care we give them.  And those are good plants to have in your garden.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I'm sending my houseplants to Club Hort for the summer

Not houseplants, just cut flowers from my garden
I am sending my houseplants to Club Hort for the summer.

Normally, they stay in the sunroom and never leave for anything.

But not this year. This year almost all of them are heading to Club Hort, an exclusive all-inclusive resort, where they will enjoy the finest of immentities for most of the summer.

Upon arrival at Club Hort, which is not too far from the sunroom they live in, they will receive an updated wardrobe in the form of a top dressing of the best potting mix money can buy. It's labeled "professional", so we know it is the best.

Following that, they'll receive a shower of the purest water from the outdoor spigot to remove the dust, grime, and dander they've accumulated after months, if not years, indoors.

Then on a regular basis, they will dine on a fine diet of organic nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium mixed with occasional micronutrients.  On some days, they will drink the wettest rain water the sky can deliver to them. I'm sure they will enjoy the rain, but I hope it doesn't spoil them as they will be  getting only tap water once they return home.

Throughout their stay, they will be enrolled in daily exercise classes, primarily involving an exercise we call "swaying in the wind".  To really build up their strength, somedays we'll feature a more aerobic exercise called "blowing in the wind".

Their luxurious accomodations will be primarily in the shade, with glimpses of dappled sunlight.  I hope they don't get any leaf burn.  For a more festive environment, I'm even going to replace the pump on the nearby fountain so that at night they can be lulled to sleep by the soft sounds of water splashing happily from the sides of the fountain into the main bowl.

Then, prior to their return from Club Hort to the sunroom,  each plant will receive a thorough cleaning, which will include a vigorous scrubbing of both the inside and outside of their pots. Once again, their roots will be clothed with the best potting mix money can buy, because it is labeled professional.

Some of the plants are a bit apprehensive about their upcoming stay at Club Hort.  Many have been in the sunroom for so long they've forgotten what it is like to be outside.  Others are just afraid, in general, of having to share their pots with spiders, bugs, and the like who may take up residence with them.

But I've assured them all that the change of scenery, the fresh air, the better light, the exercise, the regular watering and feeding, will be good for them.  When they return, well before the first frost, they will be bigger, stronger, and overall healthier.

Club Hort. It's what every houseplant needs once in a while.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to plant a tomato plant

How do you plant a tomato plant?

You start off with a lovely tomato plant, maybe one you grew yourself from seed or one you bought at a local greenhouse where they grew it from seed.

You pick a variety that reminds you of the tomato plants your dad bought, when 'Big Boy' and 'Beefsteak' and 'Supersteak' grew in many backyard gardens.

Or perhaps you buy a variety called 'Old German' because it reminds you of your ancestors who came to the United States from Germany.  And you think it would be a good match for the variety 'German Johnson' which always reminds you of your grandmother.

You touch the tomato plant and it releases its distinctive tomato plant scent onto your hands. You pause as you breathe in the scent and it releases all your memories of tomatoes grown in the past.  You remember your dad bringing in buckets of tomatoes and your mom wondering what she would do with all of them.

You remember summer lunches at your grandparents, always served with a platter of sliced home grown tomatoes and recall how some relatives salted their tomatoes, others sprinkled theirs with sugar, but you liked yours plain.

You feel the ground, it's warm. The air is warm. You've checked the long-range weather forecast, and there is not even a hint of frost so you've decided you really have made it through another winter, through another spring, to the first hint of summer.

You recall how your dad planted his tomato plants.  He dug a deep hole and put some well-rotted cow manure in the bottom of the hole, the cow manure you yourself helped him get from a generous farmer who told your dad he could take all he wanted.

So the first thing you do with your tomato plant, upon which you are pinning all your hopes for a perfect bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, with a thick tomato slice so big it covers the bread from corner to corner, is cut off all the side branches to leave just one or two leaves at the very top.

Then, because your tomato plant isn't nearly as big as the ones your dad planted, you dig a trench instead of a deep hole, lay the tomato plant in the trench, and gently bend the tip of the plant up so it will be out of the soil when you cover the roots and most of the stem.
You know that along that buried section of stem, more roots will grow and you'll end up with a stronger, healthier tomato plant, the kind of plant that will produce bigger, better tomatoes, no matter the variety.

And you side dress it with a bit of organic fertilizer because you don't know of a good source for cow manure, but you know your dad, and grandpa, and all the grandpas before them would laugh from Heaven at the idea of buying a bag of cow poo.
Then you give the ground a good pat around the tomato plant and gently water it in.

Finally, with your tomato plant in the ground, you say one last prayer for no more frost and begin waiting for the tomato plant to grow, for those yellow flowers to show up, and for that first perfect ripe tomato to be ready to pick.

And that's how you plant a tomato plant.  Just like that.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

An Update on The Vegetable Garden Cathedral

Radishes, 'Cherry Belle' and 'French Breakfast'
Ah, yes, those radishes were quite good, and thank you for asking.  They were crunchy in a crisp sort of way and had just the right amount of kick for a Sunday morning snack.

You should really grow some yourself. You know you should.  Radishes are oh-so-easy to grow, too. Just scratch up a little garden, then plant a few seeds in a row and about a month later, go out and pull some radishes.

Are you putting out a garden this year?

I'm not sure why we say "putting out a garden" when we ask if someone is going to plant a vegetable garden.

We don't put out flower gardens.  We don't put out lawns.  We don't put out trees or shrubs.

We just put out vegetable gardens.

I spent quite a bit of time today in my vegetable garden, The Vegetable Garden Cathedral.

Here's the before picture:
As the garden grows

And here's the after picture"
See? All weeded, except the paths
What's the difference, you ask?

The difference is I weeded all the beds and hoed them up a bit with a stirrup hoe.  Then I planted some alyssum along the front edge of each bed, just to add a little color and attract a few bees.

Then I painted all my tomato spirals a lovely tomato red.
I was going to paint them "Glow in the Dark" but decided at the last minute to paint them red.  I thought maybe the red stakes would have the same affect red plastic mulch supposedly has on tomatoes. Time will tell.

I also planted out the tomatoes and peppers, along with eggplant and nasturtium.  Oh, and along the fence I planted some borage and hollyhocks.  That bed along the fence has been fallow for several years meaning I never plant anything there, so it fills up with weeds, and then I have to spend hours weeding it out.

I'm determined this year that will not happen.  Soon I'll sow seeds for zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds along the fence. It will be a veritable oasis of bloom amidst the vegetables.

I haven't finished putting out the garden, even though I did quite a bit in my garden today, all under the threat of rain, I might add. This week I'll be sowing seeds for beans, squash, cucumbers, okra, corn, and who knows what else.

Then all that's left to do this summer is weed a little and harvest a lot.

I'm quite optimistic about this year's garden, even more optimistic than in other years when I was also optimistic.  I don't know what it is, but this year just feels like it is going to be a good garden year.

Hopefully you all feel the same and are putting out a little veg garden of your own. If you aren't, you should.  That's no greater satisfaction in gardening then to eat something you grew yourself.  But don't take my word for it, try it yourself.  

I challenge you. Grow something to eat in your garden this summer.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2015

Clematis integrifolia
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for May 2015.

I hardly know where to start here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana.  We've had a wonderful spring, for the most part. There are flowers everywhere and lots of lush, green growth.

I'll start with a new-to-me-this-year flower, Clematis integrifolia.  This is one of those clematis that isn't a vine, and so far this one is standing up on its own, unlike dear ol' Clematis integrifolia 'Alba', which is lying along the ground, calling out for some means of support.
Clematis integrifolia 'Alba'
I have stated before my love of Clematis and there are several others blooming now about the garden.  They are competing for my affection with all the columbine, Aquilegia sp.

This little dwarf  columbine is only about six inches tall.
 I also have a dwarf pink columbine, but it is nearly bloomed out.

Nearby is this dark blue columbine.
It looks a bit like the Clematis, doesn't it?  That's because both Clematis and Aquilegia belong to the same plant family, Ranunculaceae.  I remember back when I was in college taking a class in Plant Taxonomy, which I loved by the way, I was not all that impressed with the Ranunculaceae family.  But we all change, and now I am in love with many flowers in this family.  I could do a whole post on my love for  the Ranunculaceae family, but this is bloom day, so let's move on to this border of blooms.

In front, the Spanish bluebells,  Hyacinthoides hispanica, in white, blue and pink.  They are easy, reliable bulbs.   And yes, the pale flowers in the back are columbine. They are offspring of 'Tower Blue' and 'Tower Pink', two varieties I grew from seed back in the day.  I just scattered the seed and waited to see what would come up.

I never let columbine seed go to waste, and the self-sown columbine all over the garden are a testament to that fact.

Another bulb I planted last year for the first time also showed up for bloom day.
This one is a mouthful of Latin,  Ixiolirion tartaricum ssp pallasii, known by several common names including Lavender Mountain Lily.  It is supposed to be a good naturalizer.  Time will tell.

What else is blooming here at May Dreams Gardens?  Lilacs, of course. And daisies.
And gillyflowers.  Don't forget the gillyflowers!
Dianthus 'Bath's Pink'
And salvia, geraniums, strawberries...

You get the idea.  It's May in May Dreams Gardens.

What's blooming in your garden today for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day? Show us! We'd love to see whatever you have blooming. Who knows, you might have something blooming that we must all get!

It's easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what's blooming in your garden and then leave a  comment here to tell us what you have for us to see, and then put a link to your post on the Mr. Linky widget.

Then say it with me, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gillyflowers in bloom

Gillyflowers, Dianthus 'Bath's Pink'
The gillyflowers are in bloom.

Gillyflowers, you ask? Aren't those Dianthus, you ask politely?

To you, maybe, but when I read that another common name for Dianthus is gillyflower, I decided that's the name for me.

I got my starts of this particular gillyflower, which is Dianthus 'Bath's Pink' from the Hoosier Gardener. I remember she dropped off a paper bag full of these plants with very little roots but a promise to just plant them and they would grow.

And grow they have.

And they smell wonderful.

They do prefer full sun and in my garden are growing along the edge of the patio where just below the soil there are all kinds of rocks. They don't seem to mind a bit.  They actually prefer it a bit on the dry side,

They are even growing fairly well in the part shade under the honey locust tree, though with a little less bloom than the gillyflowers in full sun.
Gillyflowers in part shade.
When I first planted the 'Bath's Pink', I thought it would be really fun to have other kinds of gillyflowers planted with them, to create a mosaic of all different kinds of gillyflowers in bloom, in all shades of pink from pale pink to rosy pink to almost reddish-pink.

So off to the garden center I went to buy different varieties. And then I planted them up along the edge of the patio with 'Bath's Pink'.

Where are all the other gillyflowers, besides 'Bath's Pink', you ask?

Another variety of gillyflower amongst 'Bath's Pink'

Thank you for asking.

Most of the other varieties have been drowned out by 'Bath's Pink', but there are a few left, trying their best to keep from being overtaken by the waves of 'Bath's Pink'.

My first thought as I saw these other gillyflowers was, "I hope they make it".   Then I came to my senses.  I shall move them. Yes, I will dig up and move these other gillyflowers to a location where they can live without the fear of 'Bath's Pink' overtaking them.

After all, it is not as though they have deep tap roots.  They are actually quite shallow rooted and with just the flick of a trowel, I can dig these up and move them to higher ground, away from the waves of 'Bath's Pink'.

Yes, just the flick of a trowel.  You can quote me on that one.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Because it makes me smile

The minute I saw it, I wanted it to follow me home and come live in my garden, forever.

And so I gave the guy who made it a little something called cash, and the bird followed me home. Or rather, I picked it up and carried it  to my vehicle, figured out how to put it in the back without gouging the upholstery, and drove it home.

It's quite a bird, with its rakish tail feathers, big washer eyes, and spoon handle head feathers.  Gotta love it.  It even has a place to hold a pot of flowers, should I choose to add a pot of flowers.

And I probably will choose to add a pot of flowers.

I smile every time I see it, and I see it as soon as I go out the backdoor to the garden.

This means that now whenever I go out the backdoor into my garden, no matter what my facial expression was when I got to the door, I'll immediately smile, and enter my garden with a smile.

As it should be.

Because if you aren't smiling in your own garden, somethings not right and you should fix it until it is right.

Oh sure, there is a lot that isn't exactly right in my garden.  I could make a list.

Weeds.  Check I have those.

Unplanted areas or areas I wish would fill in faster with spreading plants.  Check and check.

Weeds. Oh, yes, I mentioned them already, but by weeds this second time I mean that dastardly thistle. Shudder. It can wipe smile off my face faster than a toothache.

But I won't let it.

Because I have a funny bird sculpture in my garden now.  The eternal smile maker.

It needs a name.  I'm thinking Esmerelda, since the first letters are E-S-M, which stands for "eternal smile maker".

Yes, Esmerelda it shall be.  She'll watch over my garden when I'm not around and make sure I always wear a smile when I am around.

 Who knows, she might even write a guest post on this very blog someday.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Why are you here?

Pearl Bush, Exochorda racemosa
Why have you come by to read this blog post today?

Are you looking for something funny?  I always have a funny story to tell about something going in my garden.  Some of them are just too embarrassing to put in print, like my discovery this evening...

Never mind.

Perhaps you are here to find out about some new plant that I'm all excited about, like pearl bush, Exochorda racemosa, which is blooming in my garden and has never looked better than this spring?

Or maybe you were hoping the garden fairies posted something?  They usually have something to say and often explain how things happen in a garden in ways I simply cannot.

Some of you might have come by looking for Dr. Hortfreud or some other character, like the long lost Hortense Hoelove. Geez, she hasn't posted any questions/answers for ages.  Really, she's lazy and would spend all her time sitting in the garden eating bonbons if she thought she could get away with it.  Silly Hortense.

Or perhaps you are here by accident?

Whatever your reason for coming by, thank you.  It's a pleasure, always, to see that people read what I write, and sometimes even comment.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Where do those plants go?

Mayapple bud, viewed at garden fairy angle.
I've been wandering around the garden this spring looking around to see if all the plants I planted last year, and all the years before last year, are all present and accounted for.

I think some are missing.

I'm not quite sure which ones, though, as I've entered a phase of gardening called "Denial of Poor Memory".  I am confident when I plant something I will, of course, remember forever not only that I planted it, but what its name is.

I refuse to accept any evidence to the contrary.

Where were we?

Oh, yes, missing plants.  Where do plants go when they disappear from my garden? From your garden?

They go to plant therapy, of course.

I recently stumbled upon a therapy session of several plants which have turned up missing from my garden.  Let's listen in as the great Dr. Hortfreud lets each plant talk.

"What was she thinking? My label clearly said I needed well-drained soil. I woke up with my roots in a veritable swamp. I had to leave or I would have drowned."

"Tell me about it. I was supposed to get full sun. Tell me, how is a plant supposed to get full sun in the shade of a maple tree.  It's not possible."

"Well at least you all left on your own. We were perfectly content, spreading out, seeding ourselves all over the place, like we do, and like she knew we would do.  Then, bam!  We found ourselves in the compost pile. It was awful. Disgusting. Stuff started crawling all over us, nibbling on our leaves. We couldn't stay for that."

"Ha! You think that's bad.  She planted us in Plopper's Field and we felt ignored.  She never looked our way again. Not once. We are just too pretty to stay where we aren't loved and appreciated."

"Such a sad lot you are.  What about us bulbs? We bloom like crazy in the spring, then she comes along and cuts our foliage back. Which is fine. We don't really like hot summers, but then in the fall, she comes along with that trowel of hers and nearly cuts our bulbs in half trying to add more bulbs. Crazy, she's crazy, I tell you."

"Well, try being her lawn. She's cutting us off every three or four days. How is a plant supposed to seed under those conditions? We are too big to move. We are showing her, though, we are actually creeping into the flower beds, on purpose."

"Really, the rest of you have nothing to complain about. She swooned over us at the garden center, bought us, talked all nice and sweet to us, and then left us in our nursery containers on the back patio. We were begging for water. Begging to be planted. We all felt so used. We finally just left. It wasn't healthy for us to stay."

And there was more talk. But you get the idea.  Be kind to your plants. Read their labels and give them a good spot in your garden for their needs and then pay attention to them.

Otherwise, they head off to plant therapy and talk about YOU.