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Friday, July 31, 2015

Dear Kathy, Thank you for the memory keeper plants

Surprise lilies
Dear Kathy,

I've wanted to write for awhile and tell you thank you for being such a faithful participate in my blogging meme, Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on your blog Cold Climate Gardening.

I'm sure it isn't always easy living and gardening in a colder hardiness zone than almost anyone else, or at least anyone else I know, and watching and reading about all our flowers blooming ahead of yours.

While we are all bragging about our crocuses, you are wondering when your snow will melt.  Or we are all bragging about the surprise lilies in bloom, Lycoris squamigera, so you check them out and realize they aren't quite hardy enough for your garden.  (See the picture enclosed of mine blooming this week. By the way, if you think they are hardy enough to try, let me know, I'll send you one next year.)

One fall blooming bulb I do know is hardy enough for you is Colchicum sp.  I think of you whenever mine bloom because you were the one who introduced me to them.  I still grow those you sent me in one particular spot so I know which ones they are.  Thank you again for sending them to me.  Just a few more months until they, too, are blooming.

I am convinced plants were put on this earth by God not just for photosynthesis, which is quite necessary for life, and not just to add beauty to the world and provide us with nourishment.  I am convinced God also put plants on this earth to hold memories for us.

I think of them as memory keepers or vessels.  The Colchicums hold memories of you and the help and encouragement you provided to me and so many others as we got started in garden blogging.   You were one of the first bloggers and lead the way for so many of us!

Many of my favorite memory keeper plants are, of course, passalong plants from friends and family. Colchicums from you, asters from my aunt, hostas from my sister-in-law... it's a long list and I could go on with it for pages.  I always remember the giver each time I see the blooms on whatever plant they gave me.

Just as I am convinced that plants are intended to be keepers of memory for us, I am also convinced that as a gardener, the memories I associate with plants will be some of the last of my memories.  (Of course, being a gardener, some of my first memories to go are of Latin plant names.  I need to be better about labeling plants.)

Which reminds me, I hope the Columbine seeds I sent earlier this spring germinated for you and at least one grows and flowers for you. Then you'll have a memory of me in your garden! (If they didn't, let me know, I'll be happy to send some more.)

With a shared love of gardening,

P. S. Speaking of memories, I am just getting ready to read your son Rundy's memoir, The Sea is Wide: A Memoir of Caregivingabout the three years he spent caring for his grandfather, your father-in-law, who had Alzheimer's.  His book is  getting some wonderful reviews - I will add mine once I've finished the book.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

If it isn't producing, it's reducing

I have a new saying for my vegetable garden.

If it isn't producing, it's reducing.

In years gone by, I planted out my vegetable garden starting in early spring with peas, lettuce, and other cool season crops. Then after I felt pretty sure we wouldn't have another frost, I planted the rest of the garden with tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn, and other warm season crops.

Then I'd pick and enjoy the cool season crops.

Then I'd pick and enjoy the warm season crops.

Then at the end of the season, I'd tear it all out and wait for spring.

Seemed like a good system, except, I would let lettuce and radishes bolt and grow flowers. The pea vines, overtaken by powdery mildew, would make a dry rattle sound hanging on their little fences long past their prime.  Squash vines would become overrun in the late season with squash bugs.  The dried corn stalks would make that eerie noise they make when the wind blows through them on a cool autumn day.

And all of them were sucking up soil nutrients long after they were producing food for me.  Well, except the peas and beans, which are legumes and help fix nitrogen in the soil. But for the most part, those non-producers were robbing the soil of nutrients and giving me nothing in return.  And not only that. They were also becoming host plants for bugs and diseases that I really did not want in my garden.

Those plants no longer producing were reducing the viability, the vigor, of the garden.

No more.

My new motto is "If it isn't producing, it's reducing".

And if it's reducing, I'm pulling it out. Pronto.

It takes attention and some effort, but I am working on being more diligent about pulling out the non producing plants in the vegetable garden as soon as they are no longer producing.

In their place, I am either planting a new crop which would have time to produce before the end of the season or  I am  leaving the ground fallow, unplanted.

The result?

I have an overall healthier garden, with improved soil nutrition and fewer diseases and bugs. Plus my garden looks better without those non-producing, dying plants.

If it isn't producing, it's reducing.

So pull it out.  Pronto.

You'll have a better vegetable garden in the long run.  

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dear Mary Ann, Do you remember my tomatoes?

Dear Mary Ann,

I was out in the garden this evening picking more tomatoes and thought of you and your blog Gardens of the Wild, Wild West.

Do you remember when you visited me in late summer in 2011 when you were here for the Garden Writers Association symposium?  My vegetable garden was such a mess that summer.

Earlier that spring, I had a crew tear out the old raised beds which were made out of cedar boards. The boards had mostly rotted and I decided it was time for a fresh start.  But, I didn't know what I wanted to do to replace them and I didn't have time to do anything in the spring so I just made some rows and planted.

Then it didn't rain, but weeds grew. The weeds always grow, don't they? And I was short on time so never really had a chance to set the garden right before you and several others visited.  But I remember you said your garden was not doing well, either, and you hadn't yet tasted a ripe tomato.  

I did have some nice ripe tomatoes, as I recall, and when you pointed them out, I was more than happy to pick them and share them with all of you.

I'm picking a lot of tomatoes right now.  Even with all the rainy weather.  Here's the latest batch of tomatoes, waiting for me to do something with them.
And that's just what I picked in the last day or two.  I think it is time to make some salsa.

But before I get all engrossed in that, I wanted to take a minute to thank you for all the support you've given me over the past, going back to at least 2008.  You were the one who got me to join the Garden Writers Association and start attending their symposiums, including the one in 2011 in Indianapolis. Including that one I've been to six symposiums now and am looking forward to my seventh one in September.

Can you believe that?

You've always been a big supporter... pushing me a bit, giving me suggestions, and sometimes just flat insisting that I do something. And it's all worked out so far, hasn't it?

Anyway, thank you for all you've done these past few years to encourage me, pester me, and help me branch out a bit in garden writing and speaking.  I appreciate it more than you know.

With a shared love of gardening,

P.S.  The zinnias are all blooming now, too.  See...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Red Dirt Ramblings, May I Express My Gratitude

Dear Dee,

Thank you for your latest lovely blog post on Summer Flowers for Summer Heat.  I know you feel the heat in Oklahoma much more than we do here in Indiana.

But we are gardeners and somehow we make the best of it, don't we?  Whether it is too much rain, as is my good-to-have problem this year or not enough rain, which we wouldn't wish on our worst enemies, we figure out what will grow for us, don't we?

Speaking of growing, I always think of you when I look at all the day lilies in my garden.  I've added a picture of one here, and now that I see it, I can't believe I didn't deadhead those two spent blooms before I snapped the picture.

My sloppy gardening habits, forever memorialized in that photo.

And roses?  Dee, I know how you've struggled with all the beautiful roses you planted in your garden, now that the dreaded rose rosette disease is in your area.  I admire you, though, for helping to spread the word about this rose disease through your blog and other venues, and then setting a good example of digging up diseased roses and replanting with flowering shrubs and native plants.

Have I told you how proud I am of you for writing the book The 20-30 Something Garden Guide?  It is important to teach future generations how to "grow stuff", whether it is day lilies, roses, native plantings, or one of my favorites, vegetables. Your book is a great gift for new homeowners and newlyweds. I've given it to all my nieces and nephews who have their own homes and a place to garden. And as the others grow up, they'll get copies from me, too.  I'm not sure any of them are gardening much, yet, but I'll keep poking them a bit.  I will see some of them today at a family birthday party. I might take them a few homegrown tomatoes to tease them.

If they only knew how easy...

I need to run back out to my garden now. I just harvested some more tomatoes, beans, squash, okra, cucumbers, and peppers this morning and now need to make a sweep through to pull out the worst of the weeds and decide if that scrawny cucumber plant is worth trying to keep going and if I should remove the sweet corn, from which I harvested two whole ears of corn. I guess being flattened by one of our rain storms last week was too much for it to overcome.

Sometimes when I am out in my garden, like today, I remember fondly the day you and several others actually came and visited me in 2011 and saw my garden. That was a dry summer and the garden wasn't in great shape, but you were kind enough to see the good bones of it, and said nice things about it. Thank you for that, and for being an inspiration to me as both a gardener and a writer.

With a shared love of gardening,

P.S.  I've enclosed some pictures of more of my day lilies.

I like those with an unusual form.

I think this is one I've transplanted from my first garden, to my second garden, to this garden.

Another one which is might actual be a spider type?

This one is pretty.

I know this is the old, old variety 'Hyperion'.  It has a nice subtle scent.

And probably one of my favorites.  It would be nice if I knew the name of it, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday: May I express my gratitude?

Bee on Cup Plant flower
Dear Gail,

I'm writing today to express my thanks to you for coming up with this wonderful meme called Wildflower Wednesday.  Through your garden, which we've all come to enjoy through your blog posts on Clay and Limestone, we've learned so much about the importance of planting wildflowers to attract pollinators.

I thought of you when my garden designer sat down with me a few years ago and pointed to a newly proposed flower border  in her design and suggested I could either plant it with day lilies or make it a prairie-type garden.

Prairie-type garden, was of course my answer. I could envision it planted with wildflowers of different sorts, all blooming more or less toward the second half of the summer.

Now after several years, I am thrilled with my choice.  Mixed in with grasses, primarily Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, I've planted mostly prairie type wildflowers including Cup Flower, Black-eyed Susan, Tall Phlox, Joe Pye Weed, Boltonia, Goldenrods, Asters, Culver's Root, and Liatris, to name a few.

Did I mention I was thrilled with my choice? I did, didn't I! Well, it bears repeating, I could not be happier with this garden border filled with native wildflowers.

If we are fortunate and watchful, occasionally people cross our paths and teach us through their examples. Gail, you are one of those individuals! I am grateful everyday that you have crossed my path, virtually visited my garden, and allowed me to virtually visit your garden.   I am grateful for your inspiration as you ever so gently show us through your blog posts how wonderful wildflowers are in the garden.

Oh sure, I still have many non-native, highly cultivated flowers and plants in my garden, but in my little prairie garden, I try to plant only native wildflowers. It has turned into a marvelous garden, which I call August Dreams Garden, and it is filled with pollinators.

Thank you for all you've done to promote gardening with wildflowers and gardening to attract pollinators.  You've helped make my garden better.

With a shared love of gardening,

P.S. - Some pics around August Dreams Garden just as it is approaching its peak bloom season.

Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm'

Cup Plant, Silphium perfoliatum

Tall Phlox, Phlox paniculata 'David'

Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium purpureum 'Little Joe'

August Dreams Garden

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Read the Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy...

Want to know what's been going on around here?

I read the Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy to find out.

Monday -
Dear Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy,

What a day we had. First, Carol came out and harvested green beans when she wasn't supposed to be here. Then there was a gigantic thunderstorm that turned the day into night and knocked down the sweet corn.  Granny Gus McGarden was just beside herself with upset over it all.

Tuesday -
Dear Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy,

Well, Carol finally came out to see if she could get the sweet corn to be upright again.  I am telling you she did a lazy thing to do it. She brought out ONE stake and proceeded to pound that into the ground at one corner of the little corn patch.  We saw her coming and made sure the young ones were out of the way first. Then she used some silly plastic-y twine-y string-y stuff to sort of lasso all the corn in a big loop and tie it to the one stake.  What a mess it still is.  We hope she comes back and fixes it right.  Does she really expect to still harvest any sweet corn?

Wednesday -
Dear Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy,

Carol is still hanging around. We've deduced she is on some kind of vacation where you hang around and torment garden fairies or something like that.  Today she came out and did a full trimming and mowing of the lawn.  It was the 28th mowing of the season, which is a new record of some kind.  We want to blog about it, and will in time.

Thursday -
Dear Secret Dairy of a Garden Fairy,

We were so excited today when Carol showed up with bags of mulch for the paths in the vegetable garden.  Those paths are getting so bare and make the whole garden look a mess.  Granny Gus McGarden is almost embarrassed to have company come back there. Well, our excitement was short-lived because all Carol did was stack the bags of mulch into three fairly neat stacks. At least the bags are neatly stacked.  We'll give her that.  We garden fairies wish we could spread the mulch but we are garden fairies.

Friday -
Dear Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy,

Carol was here again.  This time she harvested all kinds of green beans, squash, peppers, cucumbers, and even tomatoes. She was so proud of it all she took pictures.  Then she left again.  But then she came back and planted some lilies she had purchased on Saturday. She sure takes her time sometimes when it comes to planting plants she has paid money for. Later another big storm blew in and then another one and well, we garden fairies were soaked by it all. Over four inches of rain. Granny Gus McGarden is very thankful Carol has raised beds in her vegetable garden. Otherwise, Granny said everything would have drowned by now.

Saturday -
Dear Secret Diary of a Garden Fairy,

Pretty quiet day around here but it was so hot, who wanted to do anything? We thought for sure we would be safe to just lounge around in the shady areas of the lawn, drinking iced clover tea and telling stories of what goes on around here, but then late in the day, here came Carol with the mower. 29th mowing this season. And so hot. We think she mowed because it is going to rain again. She seems to rush out and mow anytime they say it is going to be rainy.  She seems obsessed with the mere thought of her lawn being overgrown and boy-oh-boy is it growing with all the rain we've been getting.  Anyway, we were scrambling out of the way and it was oh-so-hot.  Oh, and we found that picture of Carol's harvest from the other day.

I hope the garden fairies don't mind that we found and read a little of their secret diary...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2015

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for July 2015.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, the garden season is in full swing and on those days when it isn't raining, it's nice to go out and see bright, cheerful flowers like the common zinnias.

I do believe no summer garden is complete without some zinnias.

They come in nearly all colors.
I'm growing mine along the fence side of the vegetable garden.  Just down from them is a little plot of okra starting to bloom.
Okra flower
The okra bloom is pretty, but is always a bit hidden behind the foliage.  Soon I'll have some okra to enjoy along with green beans, tomatoes, squash, peppers... oh wait, we are talking about blooms, not vegetables...

Out in the rest of the garden the plants are loving the rain and growing as big and lush as I've seen them in many years.

Ploppers Field in the early morning
In Ploppers Field the day lilies, lilies and coneflowers are putting on a colorful show.  Further down the way, I have tall phlox that have grown nearly six feet tall.  It's probably a new record and had they been in bloom, I would have shown them to you, but the picture of them just looks like a bunch of overgrown greenery.

How about this lily?
Lilium lancifolium 'Flore Pleno'
It's Lilium lancifolium 'Flore Pleno'.  I know some people shun orange flowers in their gardens, but who could not want this bloom in their summer garden?

Across the way in the border I call August Dreams Gardens, we are starting to see more blooms, right on schedule.
August Dreams Garden
That pink bloom is Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium purpureum 'Little Joe'.  The other bloom? Well it is... it is... a sea holly, Eryngium sp. but don't take my word for it and if you think it is something else, be kind and tell me.

I do like the view from the other side of August Dreams Border, too.
August Dreams Garden
Do you see that tall day lily bud in the picture?  I was hoping it would bloom for bloom day, but I guess not. It is called 'Notify Ground Crew' and I thought it would go well with all the other tall blooms in this border because it does have very long bloom stalks on it, up to five feet tall or taller.

There are other blooms around the garden, including Black-eyed Susans, Agastache, tall Phlox, Cup Flower, False Sunflowers (but not the real sunflowers just yet), Marigolds, more day lilies, Clematis, lavender and of course, hostas.

Hosta 'Praying Hands'
This particular hosta is 'Praying Hands'.   It's been a good hosta for me, with a smaller footprint than many hostas and beautiful lavender colored blooms.

What's blooming in your garden as we reach the top of the summit of summer?  Join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and show us.

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

And always remember...

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Reading - The Squabbling Garden

The Squabbling Garden, 1934
I love summertime reading.

Every summer, I think I'll discover some new-to-me old garden writer.  I live for that possibility. I search for old garden books in antique malls and bookstores and online, knowing I'm really searching for old garden writers, kindred spirits from the past, from another era of gardening.

I always remember it was summertime when I discovered the garden writers Cynthia Westcott and Buckner Hollingsworth, and of course, Elizabeth Lawrence.   Oh, and Charles Dudley Warner, though he wrote just one book on gardening called My Summer in a Garden.

Perhaps I should write a book called My Summer in a Gardening Book?

This summer, I may have discovered yet another old garden writer, Marion Cran.

As usual, I discovered her down in a rabbit hole of old garden writers on the Internet. I couldn't even begin to recreate the twists and turns, the online searches, the dead ends, the "ah ha" moments that lead me to her.

But here I am reading one of her books, The Squabbling Garden, published in 1934.

I ordered it a week or so ago, late one night, not really knowing what it was about, but the title intrigued me.  The next night, I did some more searching and found out more about the book.

It is about...

Breeding and raising pigeons.

Pigeons to eat.

I tried to go online and cancel the order but in this fast-paced "ship it as so as they click it" world, there was no canceling the order.  But customer service was so kind. They wrote back in response to my request to cancel the order explaining that  I could mark it "return to sender" and they would refund my money once they got the book back.

Well, the book arrived, postmarked Great Britain, which means it was "dispatched" and not "sent" or "shipped".  I love when someone dispatches me a book.

Unfortunately, Curiosity was right there beside me when I pulled the package out of the mailbox.

Curiousity. She's a funny thing, isn't she?  Curiosity opened the package anyway, and then Curiosity opened the book and began to read.

I read over Curiosity's shoulder.  Yes, there is quite a bit of information about pigeons in the book.  But it is about so much more than that.

Yes, I think I've found my garden writer for this summer. Marion Cran.  Opinionated, insightful, pigeon-raising, Marion.  And guess what? She seems to have written quite a few books.  I may have to look for more of them...

But first, I'll finish The Squabbling Garden. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

We'll call this "The Summer it Rained A Lot"

Zinnias and dill from the garden
I'm trying out different names to describe this summer in future years.   So far, the name that seems to fit the best is "The Summer it Rained A Lot".

It seems like we have an hour of sunshine, and then it gets cloudy and rains for days.  An hour of sunshine, then days of rain.

I'm sure it hasn't been that much rain but it has been more than the normal amount.

Unless something changes, and the forecast for the next ten days seems to indicate it won't change, this really is going to be "The Summer it Rained A Lot".

My apologies to all those out west for whom this is most assuredly not "The Summer it Rained A Lot".

All the rain is making my cucumber plants sulk and look puny and diseased, which is because they are puny and diseased. They don't like all this rain.  I've picked two little cucumbers so far.

On the other hand, the green beans seem to think all the rain is just great. I've picked two big messes of beans.  You do remember a big bowl of fresh picked beans is called "a mess of beans", right?

And there are more beans to pick. I'm going to have to freeze some beans to eat when it is cold and snowy and icy and we are all sitting around the fireplace telling stories of "The Summer it Rained A Lot".

On the tomato front, the cherry tomatoes are slowly ripening.  They take their time when it is raining it seems.  

The other day, I picked the first big tomato. It was an orange one, 'Chef's Choice Orange F1', from a plant I received from All-American Selections to grow in my garden.

First big orange tomato 'Chef's Choice Orange F1'
By my calculations, it ripened about three weeks earlier than I should have reasonably expected it to and this caused me some consternation. (Insert image of me with a sort of happy look on my face followed by a look with a furrowed brow while I thought about my dilemma in having the first big tomato be an orange variety.)  Should I display the orange tomato on the satin pillow reserved for the first big ripe tomato of the season?

It was the first big tomato, no doubt. But it wasn't a red tomato.  I debated what to do and finally decided I would slice it and put it on an antique china dish that once belonged to my grandmother.  And now I have a new tradition. I'll display the first non-red big tomato of the season on grandma's plate and I'll continue to display the first red big tomato on the satin pillow.

But I won't slice the red tomato first as that would get a tad bit messy.

For those wondering, I think it will be a few more weeks before any tomatoes turn red. After all, this is "The Summer it Rained A Lot".

In other news, we did manage to string together a few sunny days last weekend, but we are back to rainy days again.  That's why this is "The Summer it Rained A Lot".

How's your summer going?
The rain sure makes everything grow well.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Invisible Weeds

I also weeded in Ploppers' Field this weekend
I started mowing as I always do.  Next to the driveway by the bed which borders the part of the garage that was built for storage.

I headed east a few paces, turned north and mowed next to the garage. There is, of course, a planted area next to the garage.  I surely do not like it when people only plant a few shrubs in front of the house and then let the grass grow up to their house on the sides.  Boring.

The side of my house by the garage has a raised border with retaining stone around it because there is a slight slope down from the garage there.  Every time I mow around there, I think about how I should trim along those stones, but I don't.  

Then just as I mowed past the garage border and turned slightly to the west to mow along the border beside the rest of house, I saw it.

The invisible weed.

Only this time, it was not invisible. It was nearly six feet tall, double branched, and as nasty a specimen of thistle as I've even seen, with huge spiny thorns and massive leaves covered with tiny, spiny thorns.   And I had caught it out in the open, growing up beside the air conditioner unit, no longer invisible as it must have been the entire time it was growing until just that moment.  

For whatever reason, it didn't expect to see me, nor I it.  

Never under estimate the element of surprise to catch your enemies.

What did I do when I came face to face with this enemy?  I stopped the mower, went to the garage and armed myself for battle with  thick gloves, a sharp pair of pruners and a weeder.  Then I went back to face my enemy, my foe, the one who was threatening my garden.

I half expected it would be invisible again, but there it was and now it is no more.  I chopped it down, foot by foot, dug out its roots and threw it all into the trash.  I didn't stop to take a picture. There was no time for that.

And then, as though I encounter and vanquish this size of weed every day, I proceeded to finish my mowing, all the while contemplating how weeds can make themselves invisible and then Bam!  They are huge and gnarly and ready to flower and cast their seeds everywhere.

We gardeners must remain ever vigilant.  The enemy, the weeds,  know so many tricks to thwart our efforts to rid our gardens of them.  

They make themselves invisible.

They disguise themselves as other plants.

They grow up through other plants, daring us to take them out, when they know taking them out will mean we must sacrifice a plant we love.  It is as though they are holding the other plants hostage.

We can't let the weeds win. We can't. Spend the time weeding. Look critically around at all their usual hiding places. You know where they are. Under trees, where they trick birds into eating their seeds and then pooping them out. Around the edges of borders, next to the fence, in the vegetable garden, behind the compost bins.

Seek them out. Clear them out.  Don't let the weeds win.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Why do I name my gardens?

Plopper's Field
I spent the morning out in the garden.

I cleaned up some weeds growing in the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights and noticed two of the three camellias have nice big buds on them.  I don't know if they are flower or foliage buds, but I take it as a good sign they are starting to establish themselves.

After weeding there, I mulched around the camellias and moved on to Plopper's Field.

In Plopper's Field, I pulled out, yanked out, cut back, hacked back, pinched back and otherwise cleaned up all the perennials and removed quite a few weeds.

Plus, I cut back the Amsonia so it doesn't self-sow itself all over the place. It will most assuredly do that if you don't cut back off those seeds before they mature.

Right now, the day lilies and coneflowers are providing most of the color in Plopper's Field, along with Lilium leichtinii. 

Satisfied that Plopper's Field once again looked like a garden and not a field of weeds, I moved across the way to Bird's Blanket. It didn't take me long to weed this garden border which is anchored by a large honey locust tree, so then I moved on to August Dreams garden and weeded most of it and the nearby Woodland Follies garden.

While I was working on those borders, I also weeded out Ridgewood Avenue, the path that separates them.  Then, before  I dropped from exhaustion, I weeded the Family Circle and made a quick pass through Hazelthicket, which is the latest name I'm trying out for the garden border along the back of the house next to the patio.

Oh my, the patio needs a name, doesn't it?

I still need to weed and spiff up The Shrubbery and The Vegetable Garden Cathedral, but I can do that tomorrow morning.

Plopper's Field, Garden of Southern Follies and Delights, Woodland Follies, Bird's Blanket, Ridgewood Ave, August Dream Garden, The Vegetable Garden Cathedral, Family Circle, and now Hazelthicket.

Why do I name all my garden beds and borders?

It personalizes the garden and makes it feel like more than a collection of shrubs, trees, and flowers.

It gives the garden personality, too, and helps me when I am referring to different areas.  Instead of saying "over there", I can say "in Bird's Blanket", for example.

I don't name all the gardens right away. I wait until a name comes to me.

Sometimes the name is based on what's growing there, like The Shrubbery and the Garden of Southern Follies and Delights. Other times it is based on how the garden area is planted, like Plopper's Field, where I plop in perennials wherever there is an open space.

There are all kinds of reasons for why a garden border is called a certain name.

Hazelthicket, the newest name, is so named because there is a large witch hazel in that border, and the rest is a thicket of hostas, hellebores, violets, vinca, and other ground covers.

I still have a few areas waiting to be named. I'll do so in due time. No rush, I'll wait for the name to come to me.

Now what was the question? Oh, right, why do I name my gardens?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What I do about Japanese beetles in my garden

Japanese beetle on raspberries
The other day, I noticed a butterfly and a Japanese beetle sharing the same Agastache flower.

I didn't get a good picture of them on the flower, though I tried to.  The butterfly wouldn't stay still. The Japanese beetle could not have cared less, though, and later I took a picture of two of the beetles on a raspberry leaf.

There are also Japanese beetles starting to chew holes in the leaves of other plants in the garden, including newly flowering zinnias in the veg garden and of course, the Knock Out roses in front because roses are one of their favorite foods.

For the past several years, there weren't a lot of Japanese beetles around my garden and I was happy about that. I assumed it was because when we had the drought years, the adult beetles were having difficulty laying eggs in the dried up, hard ground.  I didn't get confirmation of that, it's just my own theory.

Unfortunately, though, enough of the Japanese beetles seem to have survived to increase the population once again.

Many gardeners at this point would reach for an insecticide and start spraying to kill the beetles.  Or put down a grub control to kill the Japanese beetle grubs in the ground.  There was a time I might have done the same, but not now.

I like to think I'm wiser now.  There is no insecticide that would kill the beetles and be safe to use around the butterflies and bees, which I want to encourage to thrive in my garden, so the Japanese beetles get a pass.

I could, of course, buy some of the beetle traps that are popular, and I've used them in the past.  I read, however, the traps can lure in Japanese beetles who never knew your garden existed and those that don't get caught in the trap have new feeding and breeding grounds - your garden.   I heard someone suggest you should offer to buy them for your neighbors but that seems a little selfish, doesn't it?

I also read you can just stand there and pick them off the flowers and plants and drop them into a bucket of dishwasher soap to drown them.  That might be helpful but also might be like trying to take the salt out of the ocean. It's tedious.

Plus, I am barely keeping up with weeding. Who has time to pick beetles off plants?

So, if I don't use insecticides, don't place traps around the garden, and don't stand there and pick the Japanese beetles off the plants, what do I do?


I do nothing.

I leave the Japanese beetles alone, for the most part, and and endure their existence for the sake of all the butterflies and bees, for the health of my garden, and my health, too.  Occasionally, when I go by a plant with Japanese beetles feasting on it, I might give the plant a big shake to scare the beetles, or flick the beetles off like a kid playing marbles, but that's about it.

The Japanese beetles will be gone in a few weeks. And once they are gone, I'll do my best to cleanup the worst of the damage they leave behind, hopefully surrounded by butterflies and bees, happily flying from flower to flower.

I can think of no other rational solution as someone who gardens for pleasure and wants to encourage bees and butterflies throughout her garden.  Viva la butterflies and bees!