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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hennessy leads to the search for Houdyshel

Knock Out Rose, I don't think Hennessey would approve
I found Roy Hennessey unexpectedly the other evening while reading What There is to Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell.  While most of the letters are about writing and publishing and family, there are a fair number of gardening references, especially about roses.

Maxwell wrote to Welty that he had succumbed to the diaries of Roy Hennessey and had purchased a copy of Hennessey's book, Hennessey on Roses (1942).  In the next letter, Welty wrote that she had also purchased the book but was disappointed because Hennessey's wife did a fair amount of editing, and it was not like his catalogs, "not by a long shot".

That's all it took for me to run off to the Internet and fall down into a rabbit hole looking for Roy Hennessey. I found his book and ordered a cheap copy of it. As Welty indicated, he started the book with a tribute to his wife for chasing after him and nagging him into making it a book anyone could read and understand.

In another letter, Welty suggested to Maxwell that he should read Hennessey's catalog, and enclosed a sample in one of her letters, "because that's his real style".  Later, Maxwell referred to him as a madman.

I await delivery of his catalog, from 1961-62.

In the meantime, down in the rabbit hole, I ran into Katharine S. White who also wrote about Hennessey in her book Onward and Upward in the Garden (1979).  Hennessy, according to White, was mad at Jackson & Perkins, mad at a professor at Cornell, mad at the state of Arizona, and mad at the American Rose Society. She said she found him wearing and wrote how she would soothe herself after Hennessey by turning to another brochure, Bulbs for Pots and Spring (or Fall) Planting written by another nurseryman named Cecil Houdyshel.

White described Houdyshel's brochures as "collector's items" and "important reference books for any serious gardener".  She went on to describe how Houdyshel started each brochure with a letter which began with "Dear Floral Friends" because he thought of his customers as his friends. She wrote that he was gentle and scholarly.

I readily found Cecil Houdyshel on the internet in the form of a lovely pink Crinum named after him. There is also an Iris bearing his name. But nowhere could I find a copy of any of his brochures, except as part of some collections of nursery catalogs and brochures locked away in university archives.

I'm still looking.

I would much rather read Houdyshel, gentle and scholarly, when I'm reading about gardening, than read Hennessey, mad and wearing, and according to White, not all that fond of "eggsperts".

My preference for such reading extends to today and the garden writers of today. I believe wrapping good gardening knowledge in a kind and gentle package makes it more appealing to a broader audience. The writing is about gardening, not the writer.

When the information is bound up with sharp barbs and anger, the writer loses me, and I'm sure others, and whatever message he or she had to share about gardening is hard to find amongst the negativity.

Give me Houdyshel writing over Hennessey writing any day, just based on what White, Welty, and Maxwell had to say long ago.

Oh, and really, truly, give me, find me, any Houdyshel writing.  I will need Houdyshel as the White  prescribed antidote after reading Hennesey.  But I cannot find anything written by Houdyshel that is readily available online. I'll keep looking, though, because good writing like that should not be, cannot be, lost to the gardening world.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Gardening on the Edge

Where are the thrills of gardening?

Where are the chills? The excitement?

Where can you walk the tightrope of the garden, where one ill-timed freeze could cause a bloom to fall off and become compost?

Where can you get all this in gardening?

You can get all this in my Garden of Southern Follies and Delights, where right now one of the three camellias I planted last spring has buds starting to open, showing the tips of the petals.

Ladies and gentleman, fellow gardeners, gardening on the edge of your hardiness zone is not for the faint of heart.

Stay tuned to see if this bloom opens, if it successfully walks the tightrope of weather. Find out if other camellia blooms will follow.

Some say the show is over in the garden for this season, but here, where we are gardening on the edge, there is one final act, one grand finale, one dare-devil feat of gardening still to watch.

Stay tuned.  The camellias are just coming on stage.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Leave the last of the blooms

Tempting to pick, but leave it for the garden fairies.
"Leave the last of the blooms for the garden fairies."

Thus the old saying* goes.

For if you don't... do you really want to know what happens, what the garden fairies will do, if you pluck every last bloom from your garden and take them all inside to enjoy, where the garden fairies can't see them?

Such a selfish act!

Always leave the last of the blooms for the garden fairies.

They will appreciate it and in return, they will make sure your blooms multiply throughout the garden in years to come.


*Old saying - I might have just made this up so if you are reading this ten, twenty years from now, it is true, this is an old saying. If you reading this now, just know you read it here first and it is going to become an old saying.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What does it do?

"What does it do?" is a question a friend of mine often asks me when she goes with me to a garden center.

As we walk among the trees and shrubs, I'm thinking Fothergill gardenii, great fall foliage, Syringa, love the smell of the blooms in the spring and mom really liked those flowers, Rhodendendron, rarely a good choice around here, Potentilla fruticosa, related to roses Cotinus coggygria, weird flowers supposed to look like plumes of smoke from a distance and needs to be whacked back to keep to shrub size or it will become like that tree in the neighbor's yard around the corner, Taxus, nice green but a long-term commitment to trimming and that 70's look around the house,  Viburnum, good blooms and many have good fall foliage, Acer, outstanding fall foliage it if is a sugar maple...

I imagine she's thinking something along the lines of green plant, plant with flowers I recognize, green plant with pretty pink flowers, plant with yellow flowers, red-leaf plant, green plant, green plant, tree with leaves, etc.

Then she'll point to one and ask,  "What does it do?"

What does it do?

If it is a tree, it provides shade in the summertime and then when its leaves turn a brilliant orange in the fall, they make you smile and so happy to see them against a clear blue sky.

And when the leaves fall,  the tree provides you with a bit of fun and memories of being a kid as you shuffle through them and enjoy the sound they make as they crackle under your feet.  Then you rake the leaves into a big pile and sit amongst them, even if it is on a lawn chair and not the bare ground, smelling their woodsy goodness and remembering what it was like to be a kid in a pile of leaves on a brisk, bright autumn day.

The tree helps you exercise as you rake all those leaves up.  And those leaves, freely given by the tree, add to your compost pile and become food for all kinds of micro-organisms that break the leaves down into compost, which becomes food for the plants in the garden.

It provides shelter for birds, insects, even squirrels. It is their home, their playground, sometimes their source of food.

The tree also helps you stay healthy by releasing phytoncides that help improve your immune system and reduce stress.  The tree leaves take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. The tree, the plants, are the very reason you can breathe...

And that's the short answer.

A tree, even a shrub, does a lot. Remember that the next time you go to a garden center and are walking amongst the trees and shrubs.  Remember how much each one does, how much just one tree adds to our health and well-being, to our very lives.

What does it do?

What doesn't it do?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Frost tickles, freeze slaps

Frost tickled the garden yesterday morning and from what I could tell, very little seemed to be affected other than maybe the pepper plants in the vegetable garden, which were calling it quits anyway.

Then this morning the first freeze of the fall season slapped the garden upside nearly every plant that it could and the garden went down for the count and will not come back until next spring. For the most part.

There are still some trees that haven't reached the peak of their fall color and many leaves have yet to fall.  And  there are still some blooms out there, but only on the hardiest of the hardy, including these Autumn crocuses I discovered yesterday.

They are champs and I think I should plant many more in my garden.

Later, the Christmas roses, Helleborus niger, will have buds and I'll make a big fuss over them, like I always do.  I think there are now five planted throughout the garden, including the varieties 'Josef Lemper' and 'Potter's Wheel'.

And of course, I'm watching those Camellia flower buds, checking their progress every few days. I did wonder earlier this morning when I surveyed the garden after that slap of freeze, if I should have covered them. I didn't, so if I should have, it is too late now.

But then I read a little something in a letter Eudora Welty wrote to William Maxwell, published in What There is to Say, We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell  edited by Susan Marrs (2011).  In a letter Eudora wrote on Dec. 8, 1954, she noted:

"The camellia year isn't going to be worth a thing this time, owing to that too - a dreadfully dry summer, the sudden cold whacked the buds - as doesn't ordinarily happen unless it gets much colder. However, those on the north of the house, oddly enough, are fine and full of buds - camellias are so temperamental."

My camellias are on the north side of the house, too.  And even though Welty grew her camellias in Jackson, Mississippi, in a climate they are much more suited to, her passing comment in a letter written 61 years ago gives me hope for my own camellias.

So I'll keep checking them until I either see a bloom or see the buds turn brown.

Rest assured, though, while I'm watching these last few buds, I won't just be standing around.

Absolutely not.

There's no time for that.  It's a new season now that we've had that tickle of frost and a slap of freeze, and I have a whole host of garden clean up tasks to attend to.  I've got to pull this slapped-down garden up, dust it off, and get it ready for Spring, which is arriving in just 153 days.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2015

Black-eyed Susans, a bit of floral flotsam
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for October 2015.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, the growing season is slowly coming to a close.

While I should be pulling out annuals and vegetables, deadheading rampant self-sowers and otherwise preparing for winter, I find myself pausing, virtually leaning on my hoe, waiting for the first frost to signal to me that this season is really over.

Without that first frost, I think I have more blooms at this point than in past years, but that could just be wishful thinking, a glass-half full view of the garden.

Much of what I see in bloom is floral flotsam, those bits of blooms here and there on plants which were in full bloom earlier in the season, then manage to put out one or two new blooms late in the year.

There are a few black-eyed susans, Rudbeckia sp.,  peaking out from under the grape arbor. I assume the shade of the grape leaves kept this chance seedling from blooming until now.

In the vegetable garden proper, the back border is still colored by zinnias and marigolds, and the purple blooms of Purple Hyacinth Bean, Lablab purpurea.
Lablab purpurea, grow it just for the name!
Had I known how long this vine would flower, I would not have waited my entire gardening life to plant it in my garden.  Now that I know about it, I'll replant it each year.

And I will also keep planting Alyssum along the edges of the vegetable garden beds.
And the Alyssum attracts pollinators.
When I tear out the majority of the crops in the vegetable garden this weekend, I will leave the alyssum to grown on until it is covered by snow.

Over in Plopper's Field, where I plop in perennials wherever there is a blank spot, I love the rusty brown color of the tall sedum.
Rusty brown is the new "in" flower color, right?
Though the pollinators are leaving these dried flowers alone now, they are still finding pollen on the Asters.
Can't have a fall garden without Asters!
I noticed in one area of Plopper's Field there is some common fleabane, Erigeron annuus, growing and flowering.
A welcome native, self-sowing itself in my garden.
I remember reading about fleabane in a British garden magazine last year, about how it is a good flower to fill in a border, but if left to go to seed, it can become a nuisance.  But it is a nice nuisance, don't you think?

I am still enjoying the blooms of Dendranthema.
Dendranthema, the new, better garden Chrysanthemum.
This is one of the Igloo series, but I'm not sure which one. No matter, they are all lovely flowers.

Another lovely flower is Colchicum.
Three colchicums walked into a bar...
These are literally the last three Colchicum blooms I could find in my garden.

What else adds color to a mid-October garden?

The berries of beautyberry, Callicarpa dichotoma 'Early Amethyst' are as lovely as blooms.
Not native, but the birds still like the berries
As are the red and black berries of Viburnum x juddii.
Viburnum x juddii, one of the best viburnums for scent
Is that the last of the blooms in my garden? Perhaps, but maybe not. I am closely watching the flower buds on some hardy Camellias in the back garden.
A delight or folly? Time will tell
Perhaps they will bloom yet this fall?

We can only hope.

What's blooming in your garden on this lovely autumn day in mid-October? We would love to have you join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and show us.  It's easy to participate. Just post on your blog about what's blooming in your garden on or about the 15th of the month and then come back here and put a link to your blog post in Mr. Linky and leave a comment to tell us what you have for us to see.

And then remember, as always...

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Five questions to ask about your garden this fall

A bit of floral flotsam
As I stand in the garden, leaning on a hoe, surveying the remains of summer, I turn introspective, as most gardeners do this time of year.

Here are five questions I ask myself.

Did I like all the vegetables I grew in the garden?

In the fall, I make a list of the vegetable varieties I want to grow again and tuck the list somewhere inside where I am sure to find it when it is time to order seeds.

Then when it is time find the list and order seeds, I go through the house, room by room, looking for it. Along the way I find I am cleaning up a lot of piles of lists, bills, receipts, etc. before I find the list of vegetable varieties I want to grow again.  So the list really serves two purposes. It's both a cleaning aid and a reminder of seeds to order again.

Do I want to see a particular bloom all over the garden?

If the answer is yes, I let the self-sowing thugs keep their seed heads through the winter, knowing in the spring their seedlings will be coming up all over and throughout the garden.  If no, then I go out with my pruners and cut them back. Don't judge me, but if a particular perennial, and you know which ones they are in your garden, is really a prolific self-sower, I'll bag the seeds up and put them in the trash. Hey, I asked you not to judge me for that. My compost pile never gets hot enough to kill off seeds, so I also toss out weeds that have gone to seed.

By the way, I always let columbine self-sow. They are easy to knick out in the spring if they happen to land and germinate where I don't want them and they fit nicely in between a lot of other perennials.

Where is a good place for a new flower border or vegetable garden?

I remind myself that fall is the best time to dig up a new planting area, whether for flowers or vegetables.  Or if you prefer to save your back, you can layer on cardboard, leaf mulch, newspapers, leaf mulch, whatever will decompose by spring.  Then in the spring, you've got a new bed ready to plant.  If you really prefer digging, you should still add some compost or mulch to decompose over the winter and make the ground that much rich for planting.

I've never regretted having a new border to plant in the spring, when there are so many plants in the garden centers begging me to take them home with me.  

I also look around in the fall to see if there is a spot or two in the garden where I should plant a tree or shrub. Fall really is the best time to plant trees and most shrubs.

Will there be enough flowers in my garden in early spring?

The answer is rarely yes, so every fall I figure out how many new flowers I want to see in the garden in the spring and then I buy and plant bulbs for crocuses, tulips, daffodils, whatever strikes my fancy in the catalogs, online, and even in the big box stores where I buy groceries. When spring comes, I've never regretted the time spent planting bulbs in the fall.

Truthfully, I don't really figure out how many new flowers I want to see in the garden, as though it is some kind of math calculation.  I just figure I want to see lots of new flowers and buy bulbs accordingly.

And finally, how do I want to find the garden in the spring?

I usually want to find the garden ready for planting in the spring, ready for me to enjoy the flowers, and not ready for me to do a massive clean up.  So I take the time in the fall to cut back perennials, weed out flower borders and otherwise tidy up, following a fall clean up list I made up for myself last year.  It calls for a little bit of work now, but cleaning up the garden in the fall makes a big difference in the joy I get from my garden in the spring.

Trust me, I've done it both ways.

Now, go ask yourself these five questions, and get busy in the garden!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Party 'til frost

I was all set to fill up this post with picture after picture after picture of asters blooming in my garden.

But I can't find the files on my computer.  Maybe they are still just on the camera? Who knows?

Because I can't find the pictures,  I am sparing you, lovely readers, from having to scroll down through countless images that to you might all look the same but to me are part of a vast collection of pictures of some of the last blooms of the season in my garden.

Sniff. How can the growing season be over so soon?

But wait, we've not yet had a frost or the hint of a frost, so this season is not exactly over.  Sure, it is practically over, but  until we get that first frost, it isn't really over, is it?

Really. Should it be over because the calendar says October? Or should it be over because by now we should have had a frost?

It's a chicken and egg type of question, which we could debate for hours on end, waxing philosophical about gardening, but let's not.

Let's just party 'til frost.

Enjoy the last blooms.  Take hundreds of pictures of them.  Even if the pictures all look the same.

And don't forget the bees.  I sometimes stand for what seems like hours (and is probably just five minutes) in front of the asters and watch the bees go from bloom to bloom and admire the occasional butterfly who wanders by.

It is way better than television, at least better the commercials.

Do I know how to have fun? Sure I do.  Fun with asters.  And other late blooming flowers.

Party 'til frost.  A new motto for the garden.

Then when we finally have frost on the "punkin"- any other James Whitcomb Riley fans reading this -  I'll begin to clean up the garden and prepare it for winter.

But until then, party 'til frost, my friends, and always...

Garden with no regrets  (another great motto for the garden).

Sunday, October 04, 2015

We are a tiny bit behind...

We are a tiny bit behind here at May Dreams Gardens.

There are houseplants shivering on the back patio. I hope they didn't mind temps in the high 40s, though I think I heard some talk amongst them. It was a mixture of complaints, angry statements, and a few fearful laments.  They might even have cussed a little.

I should have brought them inside already, but this week's forecast is along the lines of:

"Sorry about that nasty cold day on Saturday. The upcoming week should be pretty nice with lows in the 50s and highs in the upper 70s and lower 80s. Gardeners should continue to procrastinate on preparations for late fall and winter and act like it is still summertime."

I like that forecast. And I think the asters do, too.  They are late in blooming this year. I thought they would be in full bloom by now, but they aren't. We had a talk today, and I ended up apologizing for leaving the garden for 14 of the 30 days of September.  But I didn't promise never to do it again.  I did encourage them to bloom their heads off this coming week, and I promised I would come out to admire them and take pictures, too.  The pollinators however, scolded them, for not blooming.

Many of those pollinators, mostly big fat bees, were all over the Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride' earlier today.  Though, I think I overheard them talking amongst themselves, too, like the houseplants. They were all a-buzz anticipating the asters being fully in bloom this week.  I think they are getting tired of Heuchera pollen.

My goodness, there is a lot of chatter around this garden.  Dr. Hortfreud, my psychoanalyst, or rather gardenalyst, as she sometimes likes to call herself, sat outside with me today and discussed the amount of chatter.  She said it is not unusual.

She and I also discussed how I've decided to not plant more crocuses and glory-of-the-snow in the lawn this fall. She agrees we should see how the 1,000s planted in falls past do this spring.  She is also happy to know 100 snowdrop bulbs are on their way to my garden.

After our talk, I peeked into the vegetable garden. Ol' Granny Gus McGarden is not too happy with me since I haven't pulled out spent plants.  I'll do that soon, but didn't she see the weather forecast?  Besides, she'll be happy with me after I move the compost bins to the other side of the garden this fall.

Of course, I'm not moving the compost bins until after a hard freeze.  Who knows what wasps and bees are living deep in those bins?  I sure don't know what all is living in that compost, but figure if I wait until a hard freeze, they'll all be dead, except for the queens, and a lonesome queen or two won't bother me.

Yes, we are a tiny bit behind here at May Dreams Gardens, but there is a lot going on, the weather is again trending warm, so no one is panicking.

Except maybe an uptight garden fairy or two, but we'll talk about that some other day.