Monday, June 29, 2015
When Mother Nature says I can.
And right now Mother Nature is speaking the language of rain.
When it is flat-out raining, she is saying "No, do not go out to the garden."
When it rains in the morning or overnight, that's her way of saying, "You can garden this evening, but please put on a good mosquito repellant."
When it doesn't rain for an entire day and the night before a sunny day, she is saying, "Time to mow."
I listen closely to Mother Nature, and so far it's turned out okay.
On Saturday, it didn't really rain, but it had rained so much the night before, I decided Mother Nature was telling me to clean inside, which I did. Now my house looks like a normal person lives here, and not someone who is so obsessed with gardening that she feels it is okay not to clean when she can garden.
Then on Sunday, since it hadn't rained all the night before and the sun was shining, I decided Mother Nature was telling me, in her rain language, to trim and mow the lawn, so that's what I did.
Then, I went out to the vegetable garden and found Mother Nature had left me oodles of peppers, one giant squash, and the first little cucumber to pick.
When I saw the size of the squash, I wished then I had listened to Mother Nature a few days earlier when she told me to go out and check on the squash. The one I picked was a bit oversized.
I guess the large squash is Mother Nature telling me in vegetable language to make Zucchini Pie for supper because she is bringing us rain this morning and again this evening, so there won't be much gardening today.
I guess I better do that, because when Mother Nature talks, in the language of rain or the language of vegetables, I listen.
Most of the time.
Friday, June 26, 2015
|Thistle growing up thru a rose|
A thorn among thorns.
As I looked at the thistle, I wondered how I would get back to there to pull it out.
Should I get as close as possible to the rose and then pull the thorns out from above? Or should I crawl over to the base of the rose, ninja style, and pull out the thistle from ground level.
After sizing up the entire situation and noting the plants around the rose - the lilac on the one side and the false indigo on the other side, along with some asters and variegated coralberry - I decided it was not possible to get to the thistle from ground level, ninja style.
I would have to carefully make my way between the lilac and the coralberry to the rose and get as close as I could without being scratched and permanently scarred.
I took precautions, of course.
Primarily, taking precautions meant putting on my Knights of The Rose Trimmers garden gloves.
|Knights of the Rose Trimmers garden gloves|
One by one, I pulled out each thistle, reaching down the stem as far as I could. One, two... eight thistles. I tossed each on out of the flower border and onto the lawn.
Then I turned and gracefully made my way back through the lilac and coralberry, back to where I wasn't surrounded by thorny stems ready to scratch and claw at me.
I was victorious and don't mind telling you that after I yanked off the Knights of the Rose Trimmers garden gloves, which are quite too heavy to wear in the summer-time, I stood in quiet, triumphant celebration over the thistle before cutting the long stems into pieces and tossing them into the trash.
Then, as any heroine would do, I looked around for my next foe to vanquish.
Ah yes, I see it. It's the purslane and nut sedge in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral.
I'll tackle them next, just as soon as it stops raining long enough for me to go back out into the garden.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
|'Fantistico F1' Cherry Tomatoes|
This display of cherry tomatoes lasted as long as it took to take the picture. Then I ate the tomatoes and put the salt cellars back in the cabinet.
They were quite good and ripened earlier than the other cherry tomato varieties in my garden, which are all still green with no hint of red on them.
I'm sure right now the green cherry tomatoes on the other plants are rolling their eyes, if they have eyes, at these early ripening tomatoes. They are thinking "show offs", assuming they can think.
They are probably thinking these early ripening cherry tomatoes are like the kid in class who always has his or her hand up volunteering to help the teacher, just to impress the teacher. These tomatoes are so good, I think they would surely help little old ladies cross the street, if they could.
In fact, I think these little cherry tomatoes might even try to weed for me, they are that good.
Oh, wait. I might be going a bit overboard. The first ripe tomatoes sometimes make me do that, even if they are just cherry tomatoes. I should calm down a bit.
After all, what if the other tomatoes sulk because of all the attention I'm giving these early cherry tomatoes. What if they decide to just stay green instead of trying to catch up with them? What if this is it for tomatoes for me for this season? Are these cherry tomatoes enough tomato for the summer? No, but they are quite good.
These early ripening cherry tomatoes are the variety, 'Fantastico F1', an All-American Selection from 2014.
So far, this variety is performing as advertised, ripening earlier than other varieties. We shall see if it lives up to its other claims, of being resistant to late blight and the fruit not cracking open if left on the vine after it is ripe.
Though, with no other tomatoes ripening right now, there is little chance of me leaving these on the vine any longer than necessary. I ate the first six last night and these three tonight.
I am hoping there are more ripe tomatoes tomorrow and for several days after that. Based on my records from previous years, these 'Fantastico F1' tomatoes will be all I have to pick for several more weeks.
I do want you all to know that last fall my name got pulled out in a drawing to get some sample plants from All-American Selections, and this was one of the plants they shipped me this spring. I planted it in the garden with my other tomatoes, but wish now I had planted it in a container on the patio because it is supposed to be a good variety for containers.
Next year, I'll do that. Next year, remind me to get 'Fantastico F1' tomatoes to plant in a container on the patio.
And remind me to calm down when they ripen early, but I still will display them in my grandmother's antique salt cellars. It's a new tradition for me to do that now with the first ripe cherry tomato.
Then, come back in mid-July to see what traditions I follow when I pick the first ripe Big Tomato of the season. You won't be disappointed, I promise.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
We are garden fairies and we like to think we've been missed on this blog and that every day when people come here and see we haven't posted, they are disappointed.
But now we are here, and we are posting, and it is the summer solstice and we have so much to tell we don't even know where to begin.
Well, we mostly will begin by saying that our work which consists primarily of opening flowers is continuing, though we'll admit there is a bit of a slow-down here in the last third of June.
But look at what a good job we did with the squash blossom.
We can't help but notice as we open up flowers in the garden that there are quite a few weeds growing up around some of the flowers and let's not even mention the Vegetable Garden Cathedral.
Well, since we did mention it, let's just say it is becoming a dire situation. If it doesn't stop raining and Carol doesn't start weeding it won't matter how many squash blossoms we open. She'll never find the squash in the weeds.
Purlsane, nutsedge, thistle, foxtail. These will be Carol's new crops if she doesn't start weeding and pronto hop to it. Now. She can't wait. She mustn't wait. She needs to forget about the heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes.
This is it. The weed situation is dire.
In other news, we are garden fairies, and we are quite impressed with the number of mushrooms popping up in the lawn. It's because of the rain. It rains mushrooms down upon the garden. It's magical.
Just like us garden fairies,
Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Head Squash Bloom Opener here at May Dreams Gardens
Thursday, June 18, 2015
|Borage - a new plant in my garden this season|
A thought flashed through my mind.
"The owners of this nursery know me. I've been coming here for years. I've purchased a lot of plants from them. I'm getting ready to buy more plants from them. They might be wondering about me, wondering if perhaps I am killing all these plants, which is why I need more plants. Oh no, they think I am terrible gardener."
Or they could just be happy to have me buying more plants.
I do buy a lot of plants. Doesn't every gardener? And I'm not talking about buying annuals and vegetables, which of course we buy every year.
I'm talking about trees, shrubs, perennials, and vines.
This spring, I've purchased quite a few plants, including two pawpaw trees, one quince tree, five jostaberries, three flowering quince, three camellias, three Pixie grapes, and let's just say "several" perennials.
Pat on the back for me, please, because other than three Pixie grapes, I have planted all those plants out in the garden somewhere. None of them, other than the three Pixie grapes, are languishing in pots on the patio.
How in the world did I find room for more plants in a garden I've been gardening in for 18 years? Why isn't the garden full by now?
The answer is a bit of several reasons.
This spring, I actually removed some overgrown viburnums, ripped out some roses that ripped me to shreds for the last time, and moved some blueberries from one location to another. And I got rid of some Endless Summer hydrangeas that never really did well. Doing all that early in the spring made quite a bit of room for new plants
And since I re-did the gardens a few years ago, I do have a lot more room for plants in general so I've been adding some each year because most gardens aren't a one-season-of-planting-and-done project.
Plus, of course, some plants up and died on me and left bare spots calling out to be planted or weeded. I chose planted.
I actually keep tags for plants I've had in the garden that are no longer there. They are in the "dead or missing" file. Other plant tags are supposed to be organized by the garden area where they are.
I think this is a much better filing system than filing alphabetically by plant name. After all, you need the tag because you can't remember the plant name, so it is no good to file them by plant name. You would have to look through them alphabetically to figure out which tag goes with that plant you can't remember the name of. A... B... C.. It would take forever to get to the plant tag for a Zelkova, for example.
It is much better to file plant tags by the approximate location in the garden and then when you want to know what a plant is, you go look at the tags for that garden area and by process of elimination based on which plants you do know the names of, you find the missing name.
Periodically, you should go through the tags and see if you can find all those plants in that area. If you can't, then you put the tags for the missing plants in the "dead or missing" file.
I'm a few years behind on my plant tag filing. I have plant tags in the garage, by the backdoor, in a basket in the sunroom, and even in the laundry room. Some of the tags in the laundry are actually quite clean and dry now, since I didn't take them out of my pocket before washing those jeans. Others are dirty because I remembered to check my pockets.
I even have tags in the ground next to some of the plants they belong to.
One year I got the big idea of pinning all the plant tags on a bulletin board in the garage. It took me about a week to figure out that I'd bought too small of a bulletin board to pin all the plant tags on it. And my garage probably wasn't big enough for the size of bulletin board I really needed, so I abandoned that idea.
I think this summer I might round up all the plant tags, again, and organize them by where the plants are, again, and see how big the 'dead or missing' file is, again. While doing it, I'll reminisce over those plants no longer in the garden and probably end up right back at that nursery, looking over all the plants, deciding which new ones I need.
And that's why I still need more plants in my garden. Not because I am some kind of lousy gardener who kills plants and ends up with a big pile of plant tags to file under "dead or missing".
I still need more plants because I am removing some plants, moving others around, and making more gardens.
I still need more plants because I am a gardener.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
|Pokeweed hiding in the raspberries|
Redbud seedlings are especially prolific in my garden.
It is almost the third anniversary of the hot, sultry, windless summer day when the redbud tree, which offered the only shade suitable for some rescued woodland plants, inexplicably fell over when I was hundreds of miles away, just getting ready to wet my toes in the Atlantic Ocean. From then on, that garden border, with woodland plants but no shade, has been dubbed Woodland Follies.
Now every time I weed out redbud seedlings, and I have pulled out hundreds of them over the last three years, if not thousands, I wonder if somehow the mother tree passed along a message to her seeds, some powerful instructions to germinate and grow as quickly as possibly because the mother tree knew she was dying and would one day, on a hot, sultry, windless day, just fall over. The mother redbud tree knew she needed replacements, and gave her seeds the power to last for years in my garden, germinating in waves, year after year.
It was while kneeling under the grape arbor one evening that I had this thought and a revelation about weeds and gardeners.
I realized all gardeners are delusional and that is why year after year, season after season, we continue to hope and believe, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that if we just keep pulling out weeds and cutting back unwanted redbud and mulberry tree seedlings, they will all get the message and leave our gardens alone.
So why isn't the message to stay out of our gardens embedded in the weed seeds' DNA? "Don't bother growing within this fenced in area. The gardener will find you and pull you out. Get out beyond the fence or forget about it." But that has not yet happened, or if it has happened, the weed seeds are ignoring the message.
I continue to pull weeds.
I rarely get all the roots, but when I think I have, I hold the weed with its fully intact roots up high, ever so briefly, to commemorate my victory, and then I throw it unceremoniously into the tub and move on. There's a weed that will never sully my garden again!
Sometimes, though, when I am most delusional, I simply keep cutting back the weeds, weeds like nutsedge. I use my weed whacker, intent on wearing the weeds out. How often can they come back from those roots?
Quite often it seems.
I bury purslane with a sharp swipe of my hoe, knowing it will just root again and spring up even healthier and thicker than before. I know that's what will happen, because it always happens, but yet, somehow...
If the definition of delusional is knowing something is true but then ignoring that truth and coming up with one's own version of what is true, then I am guilty of such in my garden when I think about weeds.
But if I, or any gardener, were other than delusional when it comes to weeds, if we did not believe we could win the battle against them, then we would have long ago thrown down our dandelion diggers, yanked off our gardening gloves and gone inside, out of the sun and humidity, away from the mosquitoes and ticks, and taken up some other hobby, like painting on china plates.
Yet, we aren't painting on china plates. We are still weeding. We are still gardening.
The reason? I can only think it is because we must be delusional or we would never garden at all.
Monday, June 15, 2015
If you came in person today to my USDA Hardiness zone 6a garden in central Indiana, we could sit in the garden and listen to the buzzing of bees and the songs of the birds while sipping iced tea.
And we could talk about flowers and plants, of course.
I have a "tea" of sorts blooming in my garden today and the bees love it. It's the native shrub Ceanothus americanus, also known as New Jersey Tea. Another name for it is Red Root. One is advised to carefully chose its location because it has strong roots and won't be easy to move later on.
I guess I like it's location. I know the bees do. This is the first year I've really noticed its blooms, and they remind me of another one of its common names, Wild Snowball.
Moving on, I spent some time this morning actually picking June flowers and bringing them inside to enjoy.
|June flowers in my garden|
The idea is that wherever you are, whether it be the United States, Great Britain, Australia or any place else, look for local flowers, just as you would look for local foods.
My June bouquet contains several varieties of clematis, a daylily, a daisy, betony, yarrow, perennial sweet pea, veronica, and coreopsis along with hosta leaves and the leaves of prairie dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis. I will enjoy them for as long as they last, whether it is through the dinner hour or a week.
Would you like to see some of the blooms actually in the garden?
There are multiple Clematis competing for my affection.
'Rooguchi'' has great bell shaped flowers.
Elsewhere in Plopper's Field, where I plop perennials in wherever there is a gap, the first daylily, other than 'Stella D'Oro', is blooming.
Over in the August's Dreams garden border, I snuck in some June blooming swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, last year.
|Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata|
To add some color to this garden border before August, I added a new sculpture made out of an old plow part.
Out in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral, where I grow vegetables and some flowers, I planted borage this spring, so I could enjoy the blue flowers.
I also want tomatoes, and these blooms are a good sign I'll soon have some tomatoes to pick from my garden.
Now, come virtually sit with me in The Shrubbery and we can talk about what else is blooming not only in my garden but in gardens around the world on this 15th day of June.
|The Shrubbery where two Cotinus sp reign.|
"We can have flowers nearly every month of the year." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
|White clematis, a welcome vine in the garden|
First, let's address the scream. A scream, and by scream I mean one little "eh" not a blood curdling scream that causes the neighbors to call the police, is only appropriate if you are startled or feel as though your very life, or that of your garden, is in danger.
For example, if you are looking at a lovely flower border and see a vining plant, where no vining plant should be, you should scream. Your garden is in danger!
It is in danger of being overtaken by one of the most deadly of weeds, Convolvulus arvensis, also known as field bindweed. Once established in a garden, field bindweed is nearly impossible to eradicate.
After you scream, and by scream I mean one little "eh" not a blood curdling scream that causes the neighbors to call the police, you need to take swift action to nip it literally in the bud. If you don't, well, I could scream just thinking about how awful it would be.
Other reasons to scream include if you see a big ugly spider, if a snake slithers across your path, or if someone accidentally dumps a truckload of cement on your front garden.
Please note the spider, snake, and cement examples are just that, examples. They did not happen to me. And for the record, the vining plant I thought from afar might be bindweed turned out to be Celastrus orbiculatus, Oriental bittersweet, which is also a bad weed, but easier to pull out than field bindweed.
And it was a silent scream.
Now, let's discuss when it is appropriate to cuss in the garden. And by cuss, I mean only use the gardener's cuss word, frass.
An example of an appropriate occasion to cuss is when you go out to your vegetable garden and see that the rabbits have found your edamame plants, which you left unprotected. When that happens, you can certainly cuss, and by cuss I mean only use the gardener's cuss word, frass.
|Frass! Look what those rabbits ate!|
Other occasions for cussing, and by cussing I mean only use the gardener's cuss word, frass, include when you are weeding in a flower border and accidentally step on or cut off a flower bud just as it was beginning to open.
Or if you finish weeding and have just put your gloves and tools away and then spy a gigantic thorny, nasty thistle hiding amongst the asters.
Or if you find that some insect has chewed off most of the leaves of your columbine.
You get the idea. Scream when there is danger that might affect you or your garden. Cuss when you are annoyed. Follow these simple guidelines and you'll sound like the most experienced gardener in the neighborhood, even if you just started gardening yesterday.
Then once you've mastered screaming and cussing, I'll teach you when to laugh and when to whistle in the garden. All part of my efforts to give back, to help educate other gardeners.
Sunday, June 07, 2015
|Clematis 'Rooguchi', planted several years ago|
Oh, wait. Never mind. I still have three Pixie® Grapes I bought last week to plant somewhere.
Well, it was close to a miracle, having everything planted.
I know more than one gardener who is hiding a bunch of half-flats and pots of plants they bought and never planted. I won't name names. You all know who you are.
Buying plants and not planting them out is like buying clothes and never wearing them. That blouse or shirt or whatever just hangs in the closet waiting for its turn, which never comes.
Then one day you take it to Goodwill.
Or maybe it's like buying ice cream in a new flavor and never eating it.
Never mind. Bad example. No one buys ice cream and never eats it.
With plants you never plant, they wait and wait, and get all root bound in their pots and struggle along.
Then one day you take them to the compost pile.
Anyway, it was almost a miracle, having everything planted this spring and it is only a week into June.
And if I plant out those Pixie® Grapes soon, it might still be a miracle.
Time will tell.
Thursday, June 04, 2015
In a few days, I'll be picking shelling peas and there are snow peas ready to pick now.
Long-time readers, I mean from way back in the early days of my blog, in the "aughts", know for shelling peas, I swear by the variety 'Green Arrow'.
Check that. I shouldn't swear in a place I call a cathedral, should I?
I'll just say I believe 'Green Arrow' is the best variety of shelling peas, so I always grow it. The pods have six, eight, up to ten peas per pod.
If you've ever shelled out shelling peas, you'll appreciate the importance of having many peas in one pod.
I spent two evenings, about an hour each evening, weeding out the beds in the cathedral.
In between the beds, I am having some trouble with nutsedge, thistle, and another weed I've never identified. I used the weed whacker to knock them all back a bit. Rather than run to the store to round up an herbicide, I've decided to just keep whacking the weeds down in the paths, pulling the thistle and the other weed I've never identified when I can. Maybe they'll wear out, maybe they'll keep coming back. Time will tell.
In addition to peas, I am also picking some strawberries in my little strawberry bed, pulling young onions, and picking the last of the lettuce. The remaining radishes bolted and though their flowers are pretty, I pulled them out, along with the spinach which also decided to flower. I'm going to replant that bed with more green beans.
Speaking of green beans, I've thrown all caution to the wind and have left my green beans unprotected. So far this spring, I haven't seen any rabbits. If there are any around, I think they are choosing clover in the lawn over the green beans. Wise choice, don't you think? I'm mean wise for me to actually sow clover in my lawn.
I did put plastic forks around the pepper plants to protect them when I planted them several weeks ago. This weekend, I might go completely to the reckless side and pull out the forks. The pepper plants are getting big enough now I don't think rabbits will bother them.
The tomatoes are coming along nicely, too. I suckered some of them as I weeded, pinching or cutting out those stems coming up in the leaf axils. There are even a few tiny tomatoes on some of them. Yes, already. Time flies.
Overall, I think this truly will be one of my best vegetable growing seasons in all the 28 seasons I've been growing vegetables. All the seeds have sprouted, including flower seeds along the fence.
I am looking forward now to the many quiet mornings and evenings I'll be spending this summer in the Vegetable Garden Cathedral, weeding, harvesting, sowing, and just enjoying the pleasure of growing vegetables.
I believe everyone who has a bit of sun in their yard or garden should figure out how to grow a few vegetables. Your garden need not be large and grandiose like a giant cathedral to be a good place to grow food. It can be a big pot or a small plot. You'll still experience the same pleasure of growing vegetables, and in eating them, too, as someone with a great big garden.
If you don't believe me, the summer is young. Grow some vegetables and see, and taste, for yourself.
Monday, June 01, 2015
Do you have foxglove growing in your garden?
I have large yellow-flowered foxglove, Digitalis grandiflora, growing in my garden. It's right in the middle of Plopper's Field, my perennial border where I carefully plop new plants in any spot that looks open.
I do, of course, sometimes, if I think about it, consider what's growing around the bare spot before I plop in a new plant to make sure it won't get lost amongst the other plants.
Then its up to the plant to grow as best it can and give me a big show so I notice it.
The last several years, I've gotten a big show from this foxglove, and I couldn't be happier.
Foxglove attracts garden fairies.
Does everyone already know that? Did you know? If not, let me repeat.
Foxglove attracts garden fairies.
Foxglove also provides clues as to whether or not garden fairies live in or near your garden.
The first clue is to look inside the little foxglove florets to see if you can make out any spots or other markings.
|Look for spots inside the florets|
The other clue, and I apologize for the washed out photo, is to check for missing florets.
|Look for missing florets.|
Be grateful if this happens in your garden. There is no greater compliment that can be paid by a garden fairy than to steal a floret of foxglove to make a hat.
Please do go out to your garden and look at the blooming foxglove and report back on fairy garden activity.
By the way, if you aren't growing any foxglove, Digitalis grandiflora is quite easy to grow. It forms a nice clump and if you let it set seed, it will self-sow. However some gardeners may be reluctant to let it go to seed because those seed heads won't be the prettiest thing in the garden.
Other gardeners may shy away from foxglove because it is poisonous. Dead Man's Thimble is another common name. But it is apparently not poisonous to garden fairies.
But otherwise, it is a good flower to grow, one that provides signs of garden fairy activity, and thus I'll grow it in my garden. And I'll even let it self-sow a little.