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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

List of ten clues to determine if you might have an eccentric gardener living next door

I believe I have the qualifications and experience to provide a list of ten clues to determine if you might have an eccentric gardener living next door to you.

Now, don't spend too much time trying to figure out how I can provide such a list.  Just go through the list and answer yes or no about your neighbors.

And as you go through the list, you might also see if any of these ten clues apply to you. If so, you might be that eccentric gardener the other neighbors are talking about.

The list of ten clues to determine if you might have an eccentric gardener living next door, in no particular order...

 - She has a set of gardening clogs at every entrance to her house and garage, so that at a moment's notice, she can be outside in her garden, perhaps to chase a rabbit or scare a squirrel away from her recently germinated green beans.

- When you see her lying on her stomach in the grass, you don't panic and call for help. You just wait a minute or two, and sure enough, she soon gets up after taking whatever picture of the garden she thought should be taken at ground level.

- She often spends afternoons in the fall sitting on the lawn, jabbing it repeatedly with a long, narrow trowel as she plants another couple hundred bulbs for spring lawn flowers.

- No matter how early you get to the local greenhouse to buy spring violas and pansies, you are never earlier than she is. By the time you think to buy spring flowers, she's already gotten her flowers, planted them up, and given them individual names. You swear the owner of the greenhouse must call her to let her know they are ready, and it turns out, they do.

- When you see how many gardening tools and hoes she has hanging in her garage, you wonder if she  has set up a shop to sell them from home.

- When UPS brings her packages, nine times out of ten they are marked "Live Plants".  The tenth package looks suspiciously like the shape of a hoe.

- She has a truck decorated with bumper stickers with sayings like "#GARDENING", "Practice random acts of gardening", and "CROP".

- Whenever she is outside, she has a holster clipped to her side pocket to hold her pruners.

- You see as much of her backside as her face when she's outside because she seems to always be leaning over pulling a weed, smelling a flower, or just looking at something in the garden.

And the last clue, at least for now, that you might have an eccentric gardener living next door...

- She always smiles when it rains.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mercy Pulling Time

When you "sedum" bees on the barely opening sedum flowers, you know it's time*.  Let's not put it off.  Don't wait. You know it's over.

Yes, it is time for mercy pulling in the garden, as in "For mercy's sake, that flower did not perform well, pull it out and move along."

I would rather look at bare ground than flowers that are begging to be mercifully pulled out of their misery and moved on to the next phase of their lives.

The compost bin.

I've performed several mercy pullings this past week.

Cucumber vines and squash vines thanked me for ending their squash bug invasion and letting them begin new lives as compost.  And I pulled out two tomato plants which had succumbed to blight. I like to think the tomato plants around them were thankful but they surely must know as the days shorten that their days are numbered as well.

The zinnias need no mercy.

They are happily blooming along and have been for months, and seem to be oblivious of the shortening days. They shall stay, along with the sunflowers, which are destined to become bird food before too much longer.

And while some might say I'm merely hiding the evidence of poorly cared for plants, on my part, by pulling their under-performing stems, roots, and shoots and tossing them out, I will stick to my story.

These are mercy pullings.

It's time. The garden will look better after you've pulled out these plants, and you may create space for something else by doing so.

Like a fall sowing of lettuce where that squash was. Or ornamental cabbages and perhaps some mums and violas where petunias once looked as though you deprived them of water and fertilizer, even though you swear you didn't.

Do it now.  And yank some weeds, too, while you are out there.

The flowers that are left will look so much better. And if those that are left look better, then the whole garden is suddenly transformed from tired and weedy to a serene backdrop for fall, with its colorful leaves, clear blue skies and new fall flowers.

Now suddenly, that mercy pulling doesn't seem to be all about the plants.  Now it's all about the gardener and the joy you get from a garden that is well cared for, where every flower looks good and everything contributes to a serenity that you can find only in a well-kept garden.

Mercy pulling. For the garden.

For you.

*The sedum blooms really aren't the trigger for "mercy pulling", I just wanted to use that pun. You should pull flowers and spent plants out whenever they detract, rather than add, to your garden, regardless of the sedum blooms.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

WIldflower Wednesday - August Dreams Garden

My late summer-autumn blooming border is coming along nicely as we round the corner and head straight to the end of August.

I affectionately call this particular border August Dreams Garden because it is planted with mostly native plants that bloom in mid to late summer and early fall.  It's the most designed garden I have, and I try to stay true to the overall concept by planting mostly native, prairie type flowers that bloom late in it.


I will admit there is one daylily called "Notify Ground Crew" with flower scapes that are nearly five feet tall planted in there and near the edge, I snuck in a couple of mums I got to trial.  And earlier this summer I planted one Crocosmia 'Lucifer' in a bare spot.

I have every intention of moving the Crocosmia next spring, and may for sake of "sticking to the plan" go ahead and move the daylily and the mums. Then this truly would be a completely native wildflower garden.

Pardon me if I don't use the botanical names to tell you it is filled with Black Eyed Susans, Joe Pye Weed, Boltonia, New England Asters, Snakeroot, Rattlesnake Master, Sneezeweed, Goldenrod, Tall Phlox, Blazing Star, Cupflower, Wild Petunia, Swamp Milkweed, and Prairie Dropseed. At one end, there is a copse of three serviceberries and at the other end, a red maple.  All native to North America.

Because not much happens in this border until around the fourth of July, I have a sculpture in the center of it, from Girly Steel, a local artist, to add some interest when there are no flowers. I like this sculpture, which is actually a bunch of curlicues and a few straight leaves made out of steel.  It fits in with the overall look of this border. I can't imagine what it would look like with a sculpture of a Greek god or goddess, can you?

I will admit when the garden designer first proposed this option for this border, I had to throw out some of my notions of what I did and did not plant in my garden, like did not plant grasses. I'm glad I tossed those notions into the compost bin where all my dumb ideas go.

This garden is easy to maintain.  I just let it grow and then at some point, which has lately been early spring, I cut it back to the ground.  However, even if I wait to cut it back, I look at those seed heads and ask myself "do I want those plants to grow all over the garden?"

For the most part, I don't. I've learned the hard way how prolific New England asters can be, and how far and wide they can cast their seeds. I've noticed that the Black Eyed Susans can do likewise.  And given the size of the Cup Flower plants, I don't want to find out how well they self sow.  So late in the fall, well after the killing frost, and after the birds have had a chance to eat a bit from the garden, I cut off many of the seed heads.

In such a small garden, it helps me maintain some sense of order, in a garden that doesn't at first appear to have much order. But it has an order, an order that only wildflowers can bring to a garden when they are happily growing amidst, between, up through, around, and over one another in one happy late blooming party.

Join in for Wildflower Wednesday hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone on the fourth Wednesday of the month to see more posts about wildflowers.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Smiles of Sunflowers

I don't believe it is possible to look at a sunflower without smiling.  I've tried to do so since mine began blooming and have determined it is just not possble.

As I stand on the ground and look up at the sunflowers, now nearly ten feet tall, I automatically smile. I don't know if it is because I have to look up so far to see them, or if there is some other force making me smile, I just know I smile without even thinking about it whenever I see sunflowers.

This year, I'm growing a variety called 'Heirloom  Titan' from Renee's Garden.  The tallest flower is at least ten feet tall and the only way to see it is to crane your neck back and look up.

And then you automatically smile.

I'll bet you are smiling just reading about how sunflowers make you smile.

I think the secret is Mother Nature captures smiles from little kids and puts them in the sunflowers, thus causing anyone to look at them to smile.
The bees are smiling all over the sunflowers right now.  Every flower has six, eight, ten bees on it, all day long, all going nuts for the pollen and no doubt smiling while they do so.

In a few weeks, when the sunflower seeds begin to ripen, I plan to set a chair up in the garden and sit there and watch the birds perform their acrobatic stunts to get to the seeds.
It's going to be a grand show, as the sunflowers, heavy with seed, nod toward the ground. The birds will have to be almost upside down to get to the seeds, no doubt smiling and laughing as they do.

And I'll be smiling as I enjoy the show.

Sunflowers. Smile makers. Essential for my veg garden. Easy to grow from seed sown directly in the garden in the spring. Impressive amount of growth in one season, going from seed to ten feet tall in just three months.  If you've never grown sunflowers, grow them next year. They are super easy to grow, and they are guaranteed to make you smile.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Turning Facebook Into Flowerbook One Pic at a Time

I seem to have become known for zinnias this summer, at least amongst my friends on Facebook.  I've posted a lot of pictures of zinnias since they began blooming and started tagging them with #TurnFacebookIntoFlowerbook.

In turn, a few friends, maybe three or four, have posted pictures of their zinnias and tagged me.  I'm tickled zinnia pink when they do so.

After all, we need more flowers and more flower pictures in this world.

And wouldn't it be nice if Facebook was filled with all kinds of flower and nature pictures? Yes, move over kitty cats, cute babies, and selfie addicts, here come the flowers.  I would love it if my FB feed was filled with flower pictures, all tagged with #TurnFacebookIntoFlowerbook.

To see it as a trending hashtag would be "awesome", as some are found of saying.

Of course, the ulterior motive behind getting people to use the hashtag #TurnFacebookIntoFlowerbook, is to get more pictures of flowers on Facebook. It's that simple.

I believe if more people saw more pics of flowers grown by their friends, they might be inspired to add flowers to their own life and Facebook feed.  Those flower pics are powerful. I know of at least one friend who swears she is now going to buy zinnia seeds next spring to sow in her own garden after seeing all the pics of my zinnias.

To that I say "copy cat, get your own signature flower"! Kidding. To that I say "bravo" and maybe sow a few seeds for marigolds while you're kneeling down there sowing those zinnia seeds.

Might as well.  And sow some seeds for sunflowers, too.  There is nothing that is as impressive as a sunflower plant in mid-to-late August soaring eight or nine feet in the air with a big ol' happy flower on top.
My tallest sunflower this summer is a variety called 'Heirloom Titan' from Renee's Garden Seeds. It is nine feet, six inches tall, so far.  I don't care who you are or what you grow in your garden, you cannot deny it's impressive that one seed, one small seed no bigger than a sunflower seed, can grow into such a tall plant in just a few months.

Now that's the kind of "wow' stuff we need to see on Facebook. Extra tall sunflowers.  And pretty zinnias.

Wouldn't you agree? Oh, you do agree? Then post your own picture of flowers on Facebook and tag them "TurnFacebookIntoFlowerbook".  Let me know about it, too, so I can keep a count.

Who knows? Perhaps one day there will be too many posts on Facebook tagged with "#TurnFacebookIntoFlowerbook" to count them all.

Wouldn't that be great? Then we'd have the Flowerbook we all long for.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2016

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for August 2016.

Just last week, here in USDA Hardizone Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, I thought my bloom day post would be full of  my whining about how dry it was.

Was dry.

A lovely thunderstorm rolled through last Wednesday leaving behind over two inches of rain. I was pleased and thought how lovely and refreshed the garden looked. No more dry, brittle leaves. No more dusty flowers. No more plants drooping in the garden by noon.

Then this weekend, we got more rain, over three inches by mid-morning Sunday and it is still coming down.

I had the brief sane thought of waiting for the rain to pass on through before going out to take bloom day pics, but that thought passed quickly when I saw the forecast for the next several days.

So I found a rain coat deep inside a back closet, threw it on and headed out to see what's blooming in the rain.

Turns out, there is quite a bit blooming, even in the rain.

I have a couple of white lilies blooming. There are some in several spots in Plopper's Field, so I assume I bought bulbs for them.

This is what wet tall phlox, Phlox paniculata, looks like, growing along side false sunflowers, Heliopsis helianthoides.

This is more wet tall phlox, in purple.

The sunflowers, Helianthus annuus 'Heirloom Titan', grown from seeds I got from Renee's Garden,  look a little a lot drippy. It's morning in this picture, so they are facing east, no doubt wondering where the sun is. When the rain stops, I intend to get a ladder and a tape measure and find out how tall they really are. My best guess is ten feet. I should start a betting pool. What's your guess?

This is definitely the summer of zinnias. I have them growing all along the back side of the veg garden.  I'll be growing them again next year, which is no surprise. I grow them every year.

Oh my, this is a type of black-eyed susan... it is... give me a minute to think of it... I know... it's Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Henry Eilers'! Not a great picture, but did I mention the rain?

Will you look at this hydrangea loaded with blooms?  Ignore that weedy area around it, many of those  "weeds" are violets,  focus on the blooms.  This one is Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'.

I think this hosta is pretty. It has a dark red stem and I purchased it from Soules Garden. There is a tag under there which I could look at to tell you just which one it is, but did I mention the rain?

Here's another hosta, a white blooming passalong plant I just call " Grandma's August Lily" because it is just like the ones I remember growing along the northside of my grandma's house. It is surounded by some surprise lilies, Lycoris squamigera.

And look, just to remind us that fall is coming, the toad lilies, Tricyrtis sp. are just beginning to bloom.

My apologies to those who live in areas suffering from drought or those who live where it is naturally dry. I didn't intend to post so many pictures of wet flowers, but that's what I've got here in the middle of August for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

What's blooming in your garden now? We'd 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 and then come back here and leave a comment to entice us to visit and a link in Mr. Linky so we know how to get to your garden post.

And always remember, "We can have flowers nearly every month of the year." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Garden fairies step in to save this blog

Garden fairies here.

We are garden fairies and we have stepped in at this time to save this blog from sure and certain extinction because a certain person seems to have become quite lax in providing any new blog posts.

So, we are garden fairies, and we have taken it upon ourselves to find some pictures and post some updates ourselves.

You're welcome.

First off, we found some pictures of elephants. Apparently, while we are sleeping during the day a certain person is going off to do stuff like go to the zoo.

We garden fairies do not as a rule go to zoos. However, we do enjoy seeing pictures of some of the animals, though we were not impressed by the snake pictures.
This one in particular caught our attention because of the garden tools in the cage with the snake.

Now we have learned from a trusted authority that a certain person has not yet seen a snake in her garden and she is quite happy about that.  Seeing this snake around garden tools was quite enough for her.

We are garden fairies, we don't like to see snakes in the garden, either.  And for those of you won't don't see the snake, look in the lower left corner.  That's usually a good place to find anything, isn't it?

Anyway, we are garden fairies and we have too many responsibilities in this garden to go off to zoos and other such places. We must stay here and open flowers, make seeds, and otherwise make sure this garden doesn't become a complete and total waste land of weeds.

Let us tell you, speaking of weeds, we garden fairies could use some help in the weeding department.  And mulching, too.  A certain person could be of help, but she, as we have noted, is off doing who knows what.

In the meantime, we are garden fairies and there is no way we can leave a blog post with the last picture being of a snake, so we are offering the following to erase that snake image from everyone's minds.

We are garden fairies and we have been having such fun with zinnias this summer.  Really, we've done our best job ever with zinnias and hope a certain person plants them again next year.

We are certain she will.

We are garden fairies.

Submitted by:

Violet Greenpea Maydreams, Chief Scribe and Primary Snake Handler here at May Dreams Gardens (not that anyone has ever seen a snake here, but if they did, Violet will be ready for it.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Summer of Zinnias

This zinnia got the ball rolling,
Every year, it seems like a particular flower, maybe one I've grown for decades, captures my imagination.

In my gardening past, there was the summer of daylilies, when I acquired all kinds of daylilies.

There was the summer of sunflowers when I sowed seeds for every sunflower variety I could find.

And then there was a summer decades ago when I tried to grow every kind of easy to dry flower, like gomphrena and strawflower,  I could find.

I toyed briefly with gladiolus, went through a brief affair with all those different colors of coneflowers, and of course, there were those violets grown from seed.

Anyway, this summer my flower affair is with zinnias.  It's the SZummer of Zinnias.

Four packets of zinnias was all it took, along with what seems to be the ideal growing conditions this summer. And by ideal I mean virtually no Japanese beetles have attacked the zinnias and I have yet to see any powdery mildew on any of them.

The zinnias really are on their best behavior.

Sure, it's a summer romance. It will only last until frost. But between then and now, there are plenty of weeks to enjoy the zinnias.

Hot pink does well on zinnias.

They are as tall as the okra behind them.

I'd never seen such a bicolor.

They are also pretty before they are fully open.

White pom-pom anyone?

The candystripe version.

And cactus type flowers, too.

Plain or fancy?

The bees love them, too.

Clashing colors? Not on zinnias!

Even "red" looks good on a zinnia.

Just enough petal to attract a bee.

Orange you glad I showed you all the zinnias?
The four packets of seeds were:

'Fireball Blend' and 'Northern Lighs Blend' from Botanical Interests (purchased)


'Granny's Bouquet'  and 'Cool Crayon Colors' from Renee's Garden (sent to me to try).

In late May, I roughed up the ground a bit, sowed the seeds, and covered them lightly. When the seedlings came up, I  thinned them to about six inches apart, give or take, to give them a little room.  They are all growing in full sun.

I never thought to label the zinnias when I planted them throughout the veg garden, so I could guess which flower came from which collection, but it would just be a guess.

My plan for next year? I'm going to buy more varieties of zinnias and sow them again.

Will they be just as good next year?

There is only one way to find out.  The SZummer of Zinnias Part II, taking place in my garden in 2017.