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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year, Seventeen

The old rabbit, Sixteen, sat by the garden gate, watching for her replacement to show up, a new rabbit named Seventeen. While she sat and waited, she surveyed her garden and thought back over the year.

"I thought I did pretty good with the weather," Sixteen said to no one in particular.  And she had done a good job with the weather. Everything was seasonal and as expected with no lows too low and no highs too high, and there was enough rain, too.  However, it seemed she had trouble finding the dial to go from Fall to Winter, making for a longer than normal fall.

Once she did find the dial to move from Fall to Winter, she promptly ignored all instructions to turn it slowly and with a quick flick it was suddenly winter. She laughed as this sent everyone scrambling to get ready for the snow, ice, and single digit temperatures that soon followed.

Then Sixteen remembered the Camellias and was sorry she had pulled such a stunt. She hoped they'd be okay.

Oh well, Sixeen enjoyed the flurry of activity toward the end of the year. She was used to it since she happened to be in charge of the garden when Carol decided to retire from what she called her "day job" way back in early summer.

At first Sixteen and everyone else in the garden were quite concerned upon hearing that Carol would be around more often. After all, there was a certain rhythm to the garden that everyone enjoyed and expected. Would Carol disrupt it?

As it turned out, Carol seemed to fit right in with the rhythm of the garden. She got right to work, though some grumbled about how she didn't weed nearly as often as should have and sometimes she just sat there, supposedly thinking. And what was her obsession with zinnias all about, really?

Everyone was pleased, however, when Carol added a new variegated dogwood in Woodland Follies and planted a Brown Turkey fig in The Vegetable Garden Cathedral.  Sixteen also liked that she planted more bulbs in the lawn and a lot of tulip bulbs in the garden borders.

"Seventeen will love those," she said to the garden fairies who had gathered around the gate to see her off. She bore no grudge that Seventeen would see those blooms and she wouldn't.

"But one thing I am a little bit jealous of is that Seventeen will be in that book Carol says she is publishing," said Sixteen.

"After all, Carol wrote the book on my watch, so is it fair that Seventeen will be in the book as the date published? I hope I at least get a mention in the acknowledgements!"

Just then, Sixteen checked her watch and realized it was nearly time for Seventeen to arrive. Peering out the gate, she caught her first glimpse of her youthful replacement.  Seventeen was hopping toward the gate with high leaps full of energy— she seemed quite excited to reach the garden.

"Hello, Sixteen!" Seventeen shouted as she saw the gate. "I'm here and I'm supposed to ask if you have any instructions for me before you leave."

"Do I ever have instructions for you," replied Sixteen. "But I have no time to sit here and go through all of them so I scattered them about the garden. I think and hope you'll find them as you need them. And do watch the weather. Carol likes it to be seasonable and just that, with plenty of rain when she needs it."

Just then a far off clock began to chime the midnight hour.

"That's it for me," shouted Sixteen over the sound of the bells. "I'm off, good luck and all that Auld Lang Syne stuff."

And with that Sixteen was gone and Seventeen was now in charge of the garden.

Surveying her new garden and already making plans, Seventeen asked the garden fairies, "Now, what is this about a book Carol is writing?"

The garden fairies giggled and pointed to the windows of the library where they could see the desk where Carol wrote, in a spot where she had a good view of the crabapple tree and all the birds roosting in it.  Excitedly they told Seventeen, "She says it will be out for the world to see well before the crabapple blooms again."

"Wonderful," said Seventeen. "I'll check on it first before I start on the much needed clean up of this garden. I need to find the first set of instructions Sixteen left me. Hopefully they are inside where it is nice and warm. But there will be time for that tomorrow. Today we say..."

"Happy New Year, everyone, from all of us at May Dreams Gardens!"

Thursday, December 29, 2016

When a gardener buys jigsaw puzzles

When a gardener buys jigsaw puzzles...

She looks for those that have lovely flowers on them.
She likes the addition of clay pots, too.

But then she sees this jigsaw puzzle...
And her decision is made.  She will alternate her time between putting together her jigsaw puzzle of seed packets and sorting her actual seed packets as she waits through the winter for spring to appear.

Because... when a gardener buys jigsaw puzzles, the garden is still very near.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Bit of Advice on Houseplants

If I may, I'd like to offer a bit of advice on houseplants. Or is it house plants?

I prefer houseplants, myself.

I have a few houseplants that I keep and enjoy. I've had some of them for years, even decades.

My night blooming cereus dates back to 1987 and prior to me taking ownership of it, my father cared for it. I think he got it around 1970 or so? That would make it 46 years old.

My pothos, sometimes called Devil's Ivy, dates back to 1987. That means it will soon be 30 years old. Like several other houseplants, it arrived in a funeral planter and thus is always associated with the person whose funeral it arrived for.

And I have an aloe plant that came from an aunt who got it from my grandmother who supposedly got it from my great-grandmother. That would put its origins back to the 1940s or earlier. Of course, my aloe plant doesn't look quite that old. It renews itself regularly with new starts, the same as the pothos does.

The night-blooming cereus renews itself, too, but it takes longer to do so. It is one of the ugliest houseplants I have. In fact, it is the ugliest houseplant anyone could have.  But I keep it because it is family now and it flowers.

For the most part I prefer houseplants that just grow and occasionally flower. I have two euphorbias called "Crown of Thorns" that are in that category. They grow. They flower. They grow. They flower. I've never seen either one, the pink one or the yellow one (pictured above) without a bloom.

I'm not sure what I would do if I did see them without blooms, and I'm not anxious to find out.

What is especially nice about the Crown of Thorn plants is they tend to bloom more in the wintertime, which is of course, when I appreciate the blooms more. Smart plants!

So here's my houseplant advice.

Grow plants that are "sure things", like aloes, crown of thorns, even pothos.

You know what's not a sure thing, at least for me?


This is the time of year when I see little rosemary topiaries for sale, right next to the poinsettias (which are also easy to grow as long as you aren't trying to get them to color up again the next year).

I do not have much self-control when it comes to plants and even though a little voice in my head tells me not to buy the rosemary plants, for they will surely die, I still usually buy one once a year. Then a few months later, when the rosemary plant has dried up and dropped all of its leaves, I toss it out.

This year, I bought a rosemary plant in the produce department of the grocery store. It was with other potted herbs, all wrapped up in protective plastic. It looked so nice and fresh. Healthy. Just a lovely little potted rosemary. Nothing fancy, not even shaped like a little Christmas tree.

I saw those rosemary plants and decided this was the year. My time had come! I was going to have success with rosemary because surely this small plant would not shrivel up and die like the fancy holiday rosemary plants.

I stood there in the produce department looking over those rosemary plants for quite awhile. I touched them and smelled their lovely rosemary scent on my fingers. I looked outside. It was warm enough that I was sure the rosemary would not catch cold and die on me if I bought it and took it home.

Yes, I convinced myself this rosemary plant was going to make it.

I took it home, repotted it, and gave it the best care I knew how to give a houseplant.

And then it shriveled up and dropped its leaves like all the other rosemary plants I've purchased.

Yes, this rosemary plant, which I had such high hopes for, died after just a few weeks in my sunroom, just like all the other rosemary plants before it.

But is it really dead? Could I be mistaken?

Perhaps it is playing possum? Or has just gone dormant? Or is just messing with me?

Time will tell. I'm going to keep watering it and pretend it is alive. Maybe it is alive? Maybe in the spring it will have new leaves? Maybe I gave up on all the other rosemary plants too soon and sent them to the compost heap just when they were ready to leaf out again and announce "kidding"?

Or maybe I'm delusional and need a long therapy session with Dr. Hortfreud?

I'll report later on which scenario is correct.

In the meantime, my bit of advice on houseplants is to always have a few in your house that you know will grow well and flower a bit.  And avoid the rosemary plants, which will lead to nothing but heartache and anguish.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December 2016

Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for December 2016.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, any thoughts I had that Fall would really last forever have been blown away by the cold chills and snow of Winter.

I was grateful we were spared the big snowfall that fell north of us this past weekend, but that "sparing" didn't last long as we got a decent pile of snow dumped on us a few days ago.

I measured about the three inches of the white stuff. The picture to the right was taken at day break just as the snow started to fall. By mid-day, we were covered.

But on to the blooms. As you will see, I took these pictures the day before it snowed.

One plant that needs no snow cover is the hardy Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger.  I've been checking the buds on the variety 'Josef Lemper' and expect on the next sunny day, those buds will open.

Next to it is another variety 'Cinnamon Snow'.
This is not a great picture, but trust me that the buds on 'Cinnamon Snow' are smaller and tinged with pink.

There were several seedlings under 'Josef Lemper' this summer, so I transplanted some of them out to grow on.
Looks like I have a few years to wait for this one to bloom.

Nearby, the last of the autumn crocuses appear to be caught in the act by the cold. It's buried in snow now.
I want to plant more autumn crocuses and will do so next fall.  Remind me!

Elsewhere in the garden the last of the violas are also shivering in the cold.
I always let them go to seed in hopes they will just show up here and there in the garden, and they often do.

Since it is so cold outside, and now snowy, I have to get my gardening fix indoors.

I just potted up an amarylis, a double-flowering pink and white variety called 'Nymph',
Looks like its blooms will be featured in a January bloom day post, along with the blooms of Lily of the Valley and hyacinths, which are the other flowers I force into bloom indoors each winter.

Until they bloom, I will continue to enjoy the blooms of the euphorbia commonly called Crown of Thorns.
The two I have, one pink, one yellow, are always in bloom, every day of the year.

What's blooming in your garden on this cold December day? 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. Then come here and leave a comment to tell us what blooms you've got to show us and put a link in the Mr. Linky widget to make it easier for us to find you.

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

Saturday, December 03, 2016

When a gardener collects vintage postcards

When a gardener collects vintage postcards, especially vintage Christmas postcards, she quickly realizes she needs to narrow down her choices for which postcards to collect, or she will soon be overwhelmed with postcards.

So she decides to look for postcards that feature flowers and plants other than the traditional poinsettias, holly, and ivy.

Her eye is drawn to this card which features violets, one of her favorite flowers.

Sent on Dec. 21, 1911

Then she finds one with panies on it, also a favorite bloom.

Sent Dec. 23, 1909

Her horizons are expanded when she finds a card with both violets and lily of the valley on it.
"With love to Aunt Georgie from Edna" - 1909
She does a little on-line sleuthing and finds out that in days of old, lily of the valley pips were once forced into bloom for the holidays.

No date on this one, but addressed to Mrs. Ruby Knight, Sheridan, Ind.
It was a lucky find for her because now she buys pre-chilled lily of the valley pips and forces them into bloom for herself in the dark days of winter.

When a gardener collects vintage postcards, she is bound to find some cards with the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger, on them.
Sent in 1913
They remind her to look for some in bloom at the store.

Later she found another card with the Christmas Rose on it.
"From Nillison"
This one also featured little elves, which reminded her of the tree fairies that come inside and mess around in Christmas trees, throwing ornaments to the floor and blowing out some of the lights.

Speaking of Auld Lang Syne, if you are Scottish she supposes heather is a seasonal bloom - at least it is on this card.
No date, but based on the stamp, it's British.
She is not sure who thinks irises are a flower of the season.
Sent in 1916, 100 years ago!

But she definitely agrees that snowdrops can be seasonal.
Sent in Michigan in 1908
Though her snowdrops usually come up at the end of January or beginning of February, there are some fall blooming snowdrops that might bloom at Christmas time.

When a gardener collects vintage postcards, sometimes she buys one with no flowers at all on it.
From Bessie to Ella, 1916
This one reminded her of the story of the Christmas Cottontail, which someday she plans to publish as a book.

And finally, when a gardener collects vintage postcards, she can't pass on this one.
Vintage 1922

No gardener could pass up a card with a sentiment related to gardening, even if it does feature the most common of Christmas flowers, the poinsettia.

And so the season begins...

*Most of the postcards in my small collection date from the 1900s through the 1920s. Not all of them relate to gardening and flowers.  Check that. All of the ones I really like relate to gardening and flowers. Otherwise, why have them?

Thursday, December 01, 2016

They say only the best trees are chosen

The birds flew away when they saw the camera.
They say only the best trees are chosen...

Oh, pardon me. Before I get too far along with this blog post, let me introduce myself.

I am Malus 'Guinzam', but most folks just call me Guinevere®. I'm  a flowering crabapple tree. Having said that I know just what you are thinking. Diseases! Crabapples dropping everywhere!

But that's not me!

I have the prettiest dark pink buds that turn pinkish-white as they open around the middle of April.  My fruit is small and so quickly devoured by birds that one hardly notices there was any fruit at all.

Diseases? None here, thank you. I am proud of my foliage which stays green all season until it turns all shades of yellow and orange before gently falling to the ground in the fall.

But I'm not here to extol my virtues, which are many but obviously do not include humility.

I'm here to tell the story of how I was chosen amongst all the trees at May Dreams Gardens to play hostess for Carol's new obsession with feeding birds.

One could say I was chosen simply because I am right outside her library window.

She sits at a little desk in the middle of her library, with old gardening books all around her, and types and types and types. One wonders what she is doing. Anyway, I know I really was chosen because I am right where she can just look up and see me through the windows, which she finally washed so she could actually see out of them, thank goodness.

At first, I was delighted to be chosen for the bird feeding station. Of course, that's when I assumed she'd put up those shepherd's crooks and hang the feeders from them. Then I would just have to provide nice landing spots for the birds.

But I soon realized she got hooks to hang the feeders directly from my branches. "Be careful there, that's not my strongest branch." "Ouch, I think you nipped off a bud putting that hook there." "Can you move that hook over just a bit, I think it's sliding down to my trunk."

Fortunately, she chose some of my stronger branches for those hooks and the feeders aren't all that heavy. There's a tube feeder, which is the main feeding station. She has to fill it nearly every day now that the red finches, sparrows and other birds have found it.

There's also a little platform feeder. She puts safflower in it because she was told that would attract cardinals. Indeed, she has noticed a few cardinals partaking of the safflower. So much so she had to go buy another bag of it.

Then there's the suet cake, which is actually a suet cylinder.  It's been used quite a bit from the ragged looks of it.

And finally, there is a wreath with peanuts in it.

Mostly squirrels are eating the peanuts, with Carol's blessing from all indications. But when squirrels try to eat from the tube feeder when Carol is sitting in her library typing, typing, typing, and looking out the window, she often comes barging out the front door ready to throw a handful of ice at them

Of course, by the time she opens the front door, clomps her way across the porch, and takes aim with her throwing arm, the squirrels have scattered up my branches and on to the roof. There they just sit and look at Carol like she's nuts, and then scamper off. (Sometimes we all just look at Carol like she's nuts, but that's another story for another day.)

Usually, Carol still throws the ice, sometimes right at me. "Hey, be careful there!" It's really not my fault I'm attractive to squirrels. Or is it the peanuts and birdseed they are attracted to?

Speaking of being attractive, I do enjoy most of the birds that visit and dine, but that one downy woodpecker keeps pecking at my bark. I wonder if I have insects under there? Now that would be embarrassing for such a fine tree as me, wouldn't it?

Did I mention there's an old nest in my branches? I'm proud of that nest. Have I ever told you the story about how when my leaves dropped one fall, Carol realized I had played hostess to a bunch of bald-faced hornets all summer?  She didn't like that nest one bit.

Anyway, the bird feeding from my branches is going quite well and seems to please Carol since she keeps filling the feeders and added a–get this–heated birdbath.

Between my lovely branches, which she also draped with Christmas lights the other day, the feeders filled with high quality, top notch bird seed, and the bird bath, we are practically four star when it comes to hospitality.

I've never been prouder.