Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Windy Wet Weather

Wow! The weather here this autumn has been wild. In September, we had 5 inches of rain in one fell swoop. That was followed by 28 days of zero rain – not a drop. (I thought I had emptied all the rain barrels in early October, but discovered a full barrel Saturday when I built the compost bins.) It rained pretty steadily on Sunday and broke our dry streak.

Yesterday, we had a weather system move in that brought sustained winds of 30 to 40 MPH with even higher gusts! Apparently, we set a new record yesterday for low barometric pressure in Minnesota – 28.22 inches. Weathercasters and web sites reported pressure that low is equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane!

I’ve never been in a hurricane, so I couldn’t confirm that comparison, but I’ve been through plenty of blizzards, and the way the wind howled last night and rattled the windows I was sure I’d wake up to a foot or more of snow. Thankfully, it was too warm here for snow last night, but there are flurries this morning. The strong wind is supposed to continue through today.

By the weekend, it’s supposed to be “back to normal” autumn weather – 50s and partly sunny – perfect for planting tulips!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Improvised Compost Bins

One of the projects on my list this year was to build a new “two bin” composter. Well. I ran out of time and didn’t get it done. I still wanted to collect and keep my leaves, though, and didn’t want to have to bag them all. So, I improvised and whipped together a couple of wire bins. Okay, “whipped together” isn’t exactly how it happened. The hardware cloth is quite stiff and comes in a roll. By the time I got to the end of the roll, I needed to use some stones to hold it down so I could bend it in the correct places.

I used rebar posts from the home store as my corners and placed them 3 ½ feet apart. Then, I started measuring the hardware cloth and made creases in it every 3 ½ feet so it would stand up better around the posts. I started using zip-ties to hold the hardware cloth to the rebar posts, but found that some coated wire cut into about 3 inch pieces worked much more quickly. If you look closely, you can see that I ran out of hardware cloth on the second bin and used rabbit fencing to finish off the fourth side. Since it’s temporary and holding only leaves, I think it will be okay.

I then got out a tarp, raked the leaves onto it, and dragged the tarp to the bins, which to my surprise, filled VERY quickly! We had some rain yesterday and I noticed that the leaves have already started to compact themselves. In the photos, the leaves reach almost the top of the bins, but even a few days later, there is already about a 12 to 15 inch gap!

I can hardly wait for spring so I can spread the composted leaves through the gardens!

p.s. Oh. Those stones in front of the bins are for ANOTHER project I didn't get to this year -- the stone steps on the West Hill. *sigh* There's always next year!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Visiting the Gaylord Texan

I have just returned from the Gaylord Texan, a HUGE resort/conference center in Dallas, Texas, where I was a guest for the last week or so—bonding and learning with colleagues from work. We had long days (and nights) of meetings and events. But, there were a few opportunities for solo activities, and guess what?! I explored the gardens!

It’s Texas, so they had lots of succulents and cacti. I didn’t take snapshots of those. (I did take snaps when I was at the Botanical Garden in San Antonio last November. Those were some spectacular plants.) There were also lots and lots of bromeliad and other typical hotel plantings.

I bumped into a gardener early one morning, who was removing fallen leaves from one of the beds with a long pincher! He talked with me for a bit and said he was one of eight gardeners who keep the gardens (indoors and out) looking spectacular. I forgot to ask him about the Texas sized grapes in the vineyard, of which I DID take some snapshots because they were so outrageous! (They were also outdoors, which was wonderful after many hours/days inside.)

p.s. Apparently, I have not mastered the “scheduled” feature in blogger, so the posts I thought would get automatically posted while I was gone, did not actually post! *sigh* Sorry for the long absence.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lazy Sunday on the St. Croix

Okay. So, after several days out of the garden (and away from the computer) due to a multi-day migraine, which finally went away yesterday, I should have spent the day raking and heeling in the truckload of hostas I received from my friend, Marcia, who lost a big tree in her yard that provided shade for her hostas. (Marcia and I installed her garden together about 15 years ago and I was honored she asked if I wanted a few hostas.) I was not expecting to get a whole truckload! It’s a good thing I moved some things around earlier. It left some space, which I can use as a winter home for all the new hostas.

Instead of working in the garden, I went out to the St. Croix River, which divides Minnesota from Wisconsin, and did a 15 mile canoe paddle. It really was a glorious day – cool in the morning when we started, but almost 80 when we finished in the afternoon.

I had hoped to see the bright fall colors mixing with the evergreens along the river, but because everything is early this year, the sugar maples put on their show last weekend (for the marathon) and this week we had the quaking aspens and the oaks. It produced a really muted effect.

The river was really high after all the rain we had a few weeks ago. Islands that typically appear in the river were under water. And, shorelines were drastically altered. The scenery was still spectacular. We had a botanist on the trip with us, but there wasn’t really a lot to see this time of year except the trees. All in all, it felt like a good way to ease back into the swing of things.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Out of Synch

It’s been a heck of a week. Sunday, I worked in my octogenarian neighbor’s garden—digging out volunteer trees, re-stringing her fence, and cutting down the peonies. Monday, the same day the wascally wabbits mistook my front garden for a salad bar, I came down with a cold and lost my voice. And, then, I got a migraine, from which I’m slowly emerging today. Waking up after a migraine—especially one that lasts more than a day—always makes me feel a little like Rip Van Winkle or Sleeping Beauty, because while I’ve been sleeping like a mushroom in a cool dark room, the world – and the garden – has continued on without me! It’s a little discombobulating to feel so out of synch.

When Monty and I went on our walk earlier today, I noticed how much things have changed just since Monday! Everything looked so dry – even though I had watered everything well on Monday. I also noticed piles of leaves in the street and in some yards. Monday, the leaves were still on the trees. Today, the asters were bursting with color and on Monday, they were still on the verge of opening.

All I had the energy for this afternoon was watering and taking some snapshots of the trees, with and without leaves. I hope to be back in the swing of things tomorrow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rats! Wascally Wabbits Strike Again!

Rats! I guess I’m in a cartoon character kind of mood today. It could be the cold that’s clouding my head. Or, it could be that if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry. I walked out the front door this morning and noticed that the wascally wabbits had munched down not only my new shrub clematis, which had a blossom last week and hasn’t even made it out of its pot yet, but also my beloved Graham Thomas rose – just when it was making a comeback after last year’s munch down.

I’m a live and let live kind of gardener. (Okay, I do kill the Japanese Beetles.) I don’t mind if the rabbits munch (occasionally) on a hosta or two, and understand when they chomp the top off the odd tulip in early spring, but when they strip every leave and most stems from Graham Thomas season after season, steam comes out of my ears! “Aaauuuugggghhhh,” I said aloud (a la Charlie Brown) as I looked at the bare twigs that were green and leafy just yesterday, wishing, not so secretly that the hawk would thin the herd a bit.

Are the wascally wabbits in your garden too? If so, what are they getting? If not, what’s your secret? Do you have a wabbit wemedy that you swear by? Post a comment and let me know.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lumberjack Day

A few times a year, my friend, Betsy provides an opportunity for me to express my inner lumberjack by inviting me to come out to her acreage to split wood. Yesterday was one of those opportunities! I’m always happy to participate because the work is so satisfying. And, for a few hours work, I haul home enough wood to have a winter filled with cozy evening fires.

Speaking of fires, Betsy had a pile of brush that needed burning, so we took care of that, yesterday, too. On some "lumberjack" days, we cut fallen trees into 18 - 24 inch lengths and stack them to be cut into fireplace-sized pieces later. Mark runs the chain saw and we move and stack the logs. Some days, like yesterday, we run the splitter and either haul wood to the barn for storage or load up the trucks with wood for each family. Typically, there are four of us (Betsy’s sister and brother-in-law are the other two regulars) but Mark was traveling, so it was just the three women yesterday. Betsy figures we split and hauled two cords. Hear us roar?! (Mark and Sue had split the logs into manageable pieces earlier in September so we could get them on to the splitter more easily.)

Typically, we work in the morning and end with a hearty “sloppy joe” lunch. Yesterday, we started in the afternoon and ended with pizza and black bean nachos. Yum. Today, I’ll unload the wood—making sure to fill the bin on the porch before stacking the rest in the garage. It may even be cool enough tonight to have the inaugural fire!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Who Knew?!

I started Auntie K’s Garden earlier this year after almost a year of pondering. I talked with bloggers whose blogs I read (and liked) and made notes about what I liked (and hated) about other blogs I read. I read list after list about what makes a good blog. And, I began to brainstorm topics – both broad categories and specific garden related events/issues/passions. My goal was to write between 200 and 300 words about something garden related every day for the entire growing season. By the time the first plant sale of the year arrived, I was ready. Or so I thought.

It turns out the one thing I hadn’t considered was how my life would change as a result of being a blogger. Because I saw my blog mostly as an exercise in discipline and writing, I told very few people – fearing I’d run out of ideas after I covered my brainstorming list and die from embarrassment. So, I wasn’t really expecting people would read it!

I found Blotanical – an online community of garden blogs and bloggers – almost a year ago when I was reading My Northern Garden – the blog by the editor of Northern Gardener magazine I’ve been reading regularly for a couple of years. I joined Blotanical only after I had a few months of posts under my belt. (No sense inviting people to read 5 posts, I thought.) And, then a crazy thing happened. People from all over the world were finding and reading my blog. I’ll never forget the first day someone from Malaysia commented on a post. I almost fell off my chair!

Then, friends I hadn’t told about my blog started mentioning it. Twice, recently, I started to tell friends about progress in the gardens. They said, “I know all that already, I read your blog.” “You DO?” came my astonished reply. “Yeah,” they said, “I’ve been reading it for a while now.” “Who knew,?!” I thought.

I like that people have found my blog (and seem to like it). But, cooler, for me, is “meeting” other garden bloggers. I found some really lovely and interesting blogs and bloggers through Blotanical. I look forward to reading their posts and sharing comments and experiences. I love seeing gardens in other parts of the world and reading stories from other home gardeners like myself. It’s amazing some days how many of us are on the same wavelength. And, the photographs are extraordinary! My goodness! I’m trying to include photos in my posts now, but I think it’s a skill that will develop slowly.

I think maybe the best way to sum it up is to say that 1) because I saw Auntie K’s Garden as a writing practice, and 2) I told very few people about the blog that I wasn’t prepared for the wonderful interaction I’ve experienced. And, it just seemed like the right time to say it out loud. I hope I continue to have experiences that make me say, “who knew?!”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Celebrating Minnesota Harvests

Minnesota’s most well-known food product is probably wild rice. I have to confess that it took me a while to get used to the dark, crunchy fare, but now eat it on a regular basis. One of my favorite ways to have Wild Rice is in creamy soup with chicken. Mmmmmm. Last night, however, I was at an event that celebrated other Minnesota grown goodies and raised money for a great cause!

The Minnesota Horticultural Society hosted a wine, cheese, and apple tasting at one of the local garden centers. Over 100 of us attended! The proceeds support the Hort Society’s “Garden in a Box” program, which helps low income families grow their own produce at home. Considering there is a waiting list for the boxes, I’m thrilled with the turnout!

The wines were from St. Croix Vineyard in Stillwater, MN. (I had sampled some of these wines at “the Fair” this year and was glad to have the chance to sample a few others.) It’s still amazing to me that we can grow wine grapes in our climate!

The apples were from Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake (a suburb of St. Paul). I’m a really fussy apple person -- kind of a “find one you like and stick with it gal” but I tried every apple they brought with them and liked every one! Not one mushy mealy flat bite in the bunch! We got to try HoneyCrisp, Honey Gold, Cortland (my fave of the evening), SweeTango, and Keepsake, which was described as the kind of apple you could break a tooth on! It was, indeed, a hard, crisp apple.

And, the cheese was from Shepherd’s Way Farm in Northfield. The couple who owns/runs the farm has sheep and all the cheese is made from sheep’s milk. I didn’t try the “Big Woods Blue” because it’s my single most reliable migraine trigger, but I did try the Friesago, which seemed a lot like a cheddar to me, and the Hidden Falls, a brie-like delicacy made from both sheep and cow milk.

I thought this was a creative way to showcase some Minnesota Grown produce and to raise money for a great cause. I’m glad I had the chance to participate!

Oh, and, I found out that my favorite apple, the Regent, will be at the stands on Saturday! Woo Hoo! I see a trip to the orchard in my future!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Woodpecker Elevator

When I’m in the garden, I typically hear the birds before I see them. Last night when I was watering, I heard the rat-a-tat-tat of the downy woodpecker. I stopped and looked around to see if it was in one of my trees or in a neighbor’s tree. I spotted him -- waaaaaay up in the silver maple. It drummed methodically down the branch and then hopped to another branch, drumming up. I laughed (quietly) as I watched. It reminded me of an elevator.

I watched for a while and then went to the house to get the camera – hoping it would be there when I got back. It was! Still drumming away up and down the branches in the silver maple. Trying to follow the acrobatic bird was a challenge, but I was able to get a few shots before it took off for another tree.

I was surprised to see when I zoomed in on this one that his head is blurred – showing him in action! I'm grateful to you for encouraging my photos and for being patient with me as I try to improve my photographic skills.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Magnificent Mushroom and other Surprises

On my way through the garden the other day I bent down to move a stone that had fallen out of place in the border of the fragrant garden. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it wasn’t a stone at all, but a mushroom! Most likely, this guy popped out late last week after all the rain we had. I took the photo on Sunday morning. It’s the biggest mushroom I’ve seen outside a forest setting. It’s still there. The squirrels and birds and bunnies are leaving it alone, even though it is very close to the feeder.

And, when I was weeding the lavender hill later that day, I went to pull this and then realized it’s a baby rose shrub! It’s not supposed to be there, but I’m going to leave it for now. The best part of this garden surprise is that the “mama” plant was mostly dead when I got it from my sister a year ago. Neither of us was sure the rose would make it. Clearly we were wrong.

I found two small coreopsis under a peony and three small geraniums (Johnson’s Blue) under some day lilies, too! I was able to get the coreopsis moved, but still need to move the geraniums. (That was a happy accident, since I needed a couple more to add to the lupine hill!)

What surprises have you discovered in your garden this week?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two Additions to My Gardening Bookshelf

I stopped buying up gardening books years ago, but picked up a couple recently. The first is “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” by Jessica Walliser. Like Marguerite over at Canoe Corner, I wanted to know more about bugs this year. I asked several Master Gardeners about the bugs I saw in my garden, and there was little consensus about what they were and whether they were helpful or harmful. So, when I was volunteering for the Hort Society at the Fair and saw this book, I snapped it up!

I like that the “bad bug” pages show pictures of the mature bug and the larval stage. It also provides organic options for controlling the pests and which plants are most desirable by the particular bad bug. Japanese Beetles were my nemesis this year. Ugh.

The “good bug” pages tell you which pests they control and how to attract them to your garden! I had a few bugs in my garden that weren’t pictured, so I’m going to have to search for a more comprehensive bug book. (I was told they were innocuous, but I’d like to know for certain.) If you’re learning about bugs, like Marguerite and I, check it out!

The second book I picked up (used) is “The curious gardener’s Almanac—centuries of practical garden wisdom” by Niall Edworthy. I love the illustrations; and the “warning” up front to not read too much at one sitting is charming. He suggests, instead that “readers may delve into it from time to time in the hope that they will be intrigued, amused, enlightened, surprised, or even inspired.” I’ve delved in a few times over the last few days and was all of those things. I know I’m going to have this one handy by the fire on those long winter nights that are getting closer and closer.

p.s. It's the Tuesday Garden Party over at An Oregon Cottage. Visit the link and check out what other gardeners are doing today!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gardening “Go To” Resource(s)

A friend and I were having dinner the last week and ended up talking about our gardens. (Surprise, surprise, right?!) She is a much more organized gardener than I am – having a master list of plants, with purchase dates and growth success. (I make a map at the end of the season – partly so I can see what I want to move around next year, and partly so I can see if everything comes up again in the spring. But, I don’t have a master list of plants. Maybe that needs to go on my list to do this winter!)

Later in the conversation, my friend mentioned that she has a gardening Go To guy – Don Engebretson. He has a web site and does a column for the Minnesota Horticultural Society magazine “Northern Gardener.” On the way home, I tried to think of just one person or book or website I’d consider my “Go To” resource and couldn’t. I have, instead, an assortment of resources. I like to sort of compare and contrast and see what they all say, and then I throw in my own experience.

Do you have one “Go To” resource – be it a human, book, web site? I’d love to know!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunny Sunday in the Garden!

Finally. A full day to work in my own gardens! And the weather was PERFECT! Cool and clear in the morning and sunny and warm in the afternoon. I was in the garden by 9 and came in about half an hour ago – giving me almost 11 hours to start the fall clean up and move things around some more! Yesterday, I got a head start and moved and leveled the veggie boxes in their new location close in the front walk garden.

This morning, I moved the soil from the old location and to re-fill the boxes, adding a few buckets of chicken manure for good measure. Then, I set two concrete squares into the configuration so Elmer and the herb pot would each have a level “summer home.” I had a few pots of ornamental allium looking for a home, so I stuck them in as a border. I’m happy with the result. I think it will be much handier to have the veggies closer to the house, and in a location where they’ll get more sun. Monty the wonder dog says he approves, too.

My next project was to dig up the peony bed. My neighbor wanted to give me some of the plants from her garden that had originally come from her mother’s garden. And, the only place I could think to put them was in the peony bed. I left the peonies and dug everything else – lamb’s ear, artemesia silver mound, pasque flower, knautia Macedonia, geranium sanguinium – out. I then found them homes in other gardens and then went next door to dig out the sedum, roses, and peonies. (Night time photo, sorry.)

There’s still a bit left to do, but I’m happy with today’s progress.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Themes and Memes

I started blogging earlier this year after careful consideration about what I would blog about and whether I could sustain it for longer than three posts. (So far so good.) Garden bloggers are creative folks, and I’m learning a lot about the craft of blogging by reading their blogs!

A few of the bloggers I read regularly have themes in their blogs. I like that. It’s like a day set apart for something special.

I haven’t developed any themes for my blog. Maybe I’ll think of something original. Maybe I’ll just continue to enjoy the themes of other bloggers.

The other thing I’ve learned about in my short time as a garden blogger is the meme. I stumbled onto these memes and enjoy seeing the contributions from around the world.

I’ve participated in a few of these, but forget sometimes. I collected this list to help me remember, and then thought it might be an interesting post.

If you have a theme in your blog or if you have a favorite meme in the garden blogosphere I haven’t mentioned, post a comment and let me know! I love finding out about new things.

Friday, September 24, 2010

September Garden Bouquet

Whew! The rain finally stopped. “Baby Bear” Turtle (my rain gauge) measured just over 3 inches. But, south of here, places like Owatonna and Amboy got between 8 and 10 inches. Schools and roads were closed today and people were evacuated from their homes because of the flooding.

I thought everything in the gardens would be either drowned or shredded after having been pelted with heavy rains for two days, but when I went out this morning, the roses and lavender were still looking fresh and lovely. So, I cut a few blooms and brought them to the office with me! It’s been a while since I cut a bouquet for the office and it turned out to be just the thing to perk up a dreary day. The fragrance of the roses and lavender periodically wafted across my desk and for a few moments, it wasn’t 56 and blustery, it was 85 and sunny. Ahhhhhhh.

I’m sure these will be the last roses of the season. Tomorrow, I’ll cut the rest of the lavender for a sachet. Who knows what will be blooming in the gardens a month from now? I’m guessing asters and maybe some hyssop, which seems to be making a comeback.

Thanks to Noelle at Ramblings from a Desert Garden for hosting the Monthly Garden Bouquet.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Day of Fall

I stepped out of the house the other morning onto a front walk peppered with leaves. “How can this be?” I wondered. Yes, we’ve had a cool snap, but it’s only September! Then, I remembered that everything has been about two weeks ahead this season, and was shocked to realize that while I appreciated the two extra weeks in the spring, I’m missing them now! I'm not ready for Fall!

I know this poem by Shakespeare isn’t about Fall, but I think about it every year when I see the maples changing color and dropping their leaves. (Sorry about the lack of photos this morning, but it's pouring buckets of rain.)

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth from the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed by that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

What is Fall like where you are? And, happy Spring to those of you “Down Under!”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Tale of Three Rain Gauges

For days now, the weather people have been warning us about torrential “tropical” downpours, which should start this evening and last through Friday morning. We are expecting as much as two to four inches of rain during this period. The prospect of all that rain got me thinking – not about my overflowing rain barrels or about wet basements or flooded streets – but about rain gauges. Maybe subconsciously I want to “see for myself” how much rain this slow moving system will bring our way.

I do have a rain gauge. It’s a cute little turtle with a test-tube like vessel for collecting the water. In the years between the St Paul house and this house, when I didn’t have a garden, I used it as a bud-vase! Turtle sits on the ground in the front walk garden and collects the rain. I’m not sure how accurate it is. I’ve never checked it after a rain! I just like the way it sits in the garden ready for whatever comes along.

Recently, however, I’ve been visiting friends (and fellow gardeners) and have noticed that they have much more serious rain gauges than I. One friend has a rain gauge that’s about two inches square and maybe a foot long, which is attached to her mailbox. It’s not collecting any water dripping from the trees there. And, it’s easy to read because it’s almost at eye level. (I need to either kneel on the ground or pick up my little turtle to see the water level.) Betsy has the most gigantic rain gauge I’ve ever seen in a residential setting. It is about 4 inches in diameter, with a funnel like opening at the top. Either of these might be much more suitable for my spot check on the Weather Service, but, Turtle will have to do. (I've just now realized how much like Goldilocks this story is! And, I'm sticking with the baby bear version of the rain gauge! Oh no!)

Do you have a rain gauge in your garden? If so, what type is it? Do you vary your plant watering based on what the gauge shows? Post a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Frantic Race against the Weather and the Calendar

We’re supposed to have a few days of torrential rains later this week, and I’ll be gone for a week in early October, so yesterday at lunch, I made a list of all the things that still need to get done before putting the gardens to bed for the season. Build the new compost bin, move the raised beds, plant the 20 or so things still in pots, dig the peony out of Barb’s yard and put it in one of the gardens here, compost the languishing tomatoes, bring out the suet feeders. Oh, and Elmer still has to move inside.

On the way home, I realized I wasn’t going to get it all done. I had to pick the most important things and leave the rest. I chose to move the raised beds. That would free up the space for the compost bin, which I could build in the garage in the rain and move outside later. I could use the raised beds in their new location for heeling in the plants that need homes. (I’d probably move them in the Spring anyhow.)

Last week, I measured the spot I thought would work for the raised beds, and it was a bit too small. Oddly, when I dug out the frames last night and carried them to the spot, they seemed to fit with plenty of space! Tomorrow, I’ll have to move the sedum and Elmer’s patio and then I can move the soil from the old location and plop in the plants in pots and sit back and wait for the rain.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dirty Enough Dungarees

I took off my jeans after the long work day on Saturday and was instantly transported back to my childhood. The scene was my grandmother’s kitchen where I had handed her a pair of jeans to wash. She held up the jeans, inspecting them carefully all over. “How many times have you worn these dungarees?” she inquired, squinting a little at me as she shoved the jeans back into my hands. “Just yesterday,” I responded, holding the jeans out for her to take back. “There’s not a speck of dirt on them.” She responded. “You’ll have to wear them some more before I wash them.”

I was horrified, but, after she explained that the water was limited and she didn’t want to waste her water (or her time) washing something that clearly wasn’t dirty, I could sort of see her point. She also explained that washing things wore out the fabric and that if she washed something so frequently, it would wear out sooner. The scene in the kitchen went on for many more days, until finally one day I brought the jeans to her and she deemed them “dirty enough” to wash! They looked very much like the jeans in this snapshot.

I still wear many things—especially jeans—more than once because of that experience. But these jeans are definitely “dirty enough” even after one wearing.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Work Day at Community Garden and Shady Sisters

Yesterday was a busy day. First stop—Community Garden. Our original plan was to weed the existing gardens one last time before the growing season ends. But, late last week, we had a load of mulch delivered, which needed to be spread on the new bed we will plant in the spring.

So, everyone (including the kids) hauled their wheelbarrows to the site and schlepped mulch for a couple of hours!

The kids had fun stomping the mulch down to make sure we had distributed it evenly. Audrey and I will go back today to plant the leftovers from our neighborhood plant swap.

After a quick stop at home to take Monty for a walk, it was out to the Shady Sisters gardens where we needed to sort the pots—saving the ones that were still in good shape and getting rid of the ones that were damaged. (Several local nurseries/garden centers take the pots back, but will do so only until October 1st so we had to make sure we could hit that deadline.)

Our next job was to un-pot and re-plant the plants that didn’t get sold this season. Gail started before I got there and then we worked for an hour together before we needed a lunch break. Linda joined us after lunch and the three of us worked for another 4 to 5 hours. We worked out a good system. Linda placed the plants, Gail dug the trenches, and I plopped the plants in.

Even in the cool weather—long pants and turtlenecks—we were working up a good sweat. Every once in a while, we’d stop for a quick water break and look at the growing stack of pots. On one break, Gail said, “I don’t feel tired until I look at that mountain of pots.” So, our motto for the afternoon became, “Don’t look at the pots—just keep working.” And, work we did. Unbelievably, we got almost everything in the ground!

It was a long but satisfying day of getting the gardens ready for winter. Ahhhhhh.

p.s. I found several small rocks in the holes/trenches we dug and piled them in an out of the way spot. Thought this made a cute shot.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fairy Gardens

My rule of three popped up again this week – and the phrase was Fairy Garden. A little girl in my neighborhood has a Fairy Garden at her house. She plants tiny plants, including bulbs. It’s a cute garden. One I’m sure Fairies would enjoy. (And, good for her mother for nurturing the girl’s interest in gardening!)

Then, I gave some miniature hosta to a neighbor, who exclaimed excitedly, “Oooooh! Thank you! I’ve always wanted to start a Fairy Garden, and now I can do it!” I didn’t ask her at the time if I could help, but I still may.

And, the third encounter was when I finally met the gardener of a garden I pass on my daily morning walk. The garden is on the hill and boulevard in front of their house. I told the woman how much I enjoyed her garden and asked if she planted it herself. She said she had help, but planned the Fairy Garden theme herself. This garden has GIANT plants in it – not tiny ones like the other two Fairy Gardens, which left me wondering . . . what exactly makes a Fairy Garden a Fairy Garden? Is it tiny plants? Is it Fairy furniture (as one other garden in our neighborhood has)? Is it the presence of a Fairy object?

I have two Fairies, now—the Thistle Fairy, given to me by the neighbor to whom I gave the hosta and the Garden Fairy who currently takes up residence on a shelf in my bathroom next to my Little Gardener Hummel. I’d love to see the Garden Fairy outside in her own special garden, but I have no idea about how to go about doing it or whether it should be in a sunny or shady location.

How about it, gardeners? Anybody have tips on planting a Fairy Garden?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Buying up the Bulbs

Guess what started showing up in the garden centers this week?! Yep. Bulbs! To be more precise, spring-blooming bulbs. They’re my weakness. Don’t get me wrong. I love all kinds of plants, but after our l-o-n-g winters, the spring bulbs pop out (sometimes when the snow is still on the ground) and signal the start of spring and warmer weather and digging in the dirt. They should get some special recognition for that in my book!

I always save the cardboard info sheet that comes with the bulbs so I can write the location of the bulbs and the year they were planted. Then, I write on the cardboard how they performed. My old favorite used to be Apricot Beauty. But, last fall, I planted cute little Bronze Charm tulips and now they are my new favorite!

I saw a Fritillaria in a neighbor’s garden this spring and loved it. So, I picked up a few of those this year. And, I’m not a huge fan of the daffodils, but I found a variety that looks a little like a giant snowdrop and picked up a few of those, too.

One neighbor avoids tulips because the squirrels and rabbits get them – if not in the fall when she plants the bulbs, in the spring when they come up. So, she buys scilla, windflowers, snowdrops, crocus, scilla, and grape hyacinth. Another friend loves the giant allium and has a garden filled with the tall purple pom-pom like blooms.

I won’t plant anything for a few more weeks and new bulbs are still arriving in the nurseries. So, if you have a favorite spring-blooming bulb, post a comment and let me know! I’ll see if I can find some to add to my gardens!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Morning Glory Story

I was reminded of one of my most vivid “back to school” memories the other day when I walked by my neighbor’s house and saw the Morning Glories climbing the telephone pole, which is waiting for the school bus at the end of the long driveway by the Morning Glory adorned mailbox.

My mother loves Morning Glories – only Heavenly Blue will do. No fancy Scarlett O’Hara or Pearly Gates—just the Heavenly Blue, please. And, every year, she planted a packet of Morning Glory seeds around the mailbox. I’m sure I have pictures where I am standing by the morning glory adorned mailbox with my school bag, but scrounge as I would, I couldn’t come up with any.

We had HORRIBLE soil at the house with the long driveway—almost entirely clay, which was great for making bowls and statues, but really bad for growing things. Yet, somehow, every year, the morning glories made their appearance on the mailbox.

To give the seeds every possible opportunity of germinating, mom would carefully nick each one before sprinkling them around the base of the mailbox post. (I later discovered that putting the seeds on a sheet of paper towel in a pie plate, covering the seeds with another sheet of paper towel and keeping everything moist for a few days works equally as well, and you can see how many of the seeds germinate.)

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday, so it seems appropriate that I tell the Morning Glory story today. (Yesterday was also Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, or I would have posted it on her actual day.) Happy Birthday, Mom!

Note: In an odd case of irony, my mom gave me (and my ex) the birdbath in the photos for our wedding. I kept it for many years, but always thought more about my ex when I saw it than I thought about my mom. So, I had to get rid of it. I thought it would bug me to have it next door, but it doesn’t. Seeing the joy it gives my neighbor makes me feel great.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – September 2010

It's the 15th of the month, and you know what that means . . . . Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. The premise is to post photos of what’s blooming in the garden on this particular day. May Dreams Gardens hosts, and provides a list of participating garden blogs.

As I looked around the garden yesterday (thank goodness I took snapshots then, because it’s storming this morning!) I realized I could almost re-post my August entry. The coneflowers have faded, but the rudbeckia, Russian Sage, phlox, salvia, and asters are going strong.

Lavender (pictured) and spring anemone (not pictured) are both having a second bloom.

Asclepias (pictured) and Stella D’Oro (not pictured) continue to add a splash of orange to the gardens.

The sedum seems more rosy this year. In past years, it has been a deeper, wine color.

The roses, which had taken a beating from August storms are back. Here’s Morden Blush and Julia Child. Crown Princess Margrethe is still in bud, but will also bloom once more before the chilly weather sets in.

Elmer, my tropical hibiscus, should be moving back inside this week, but he’s been blooming so beautifully, I’ve left him outside to soak up every last bit of sunshine. (Okay, to be perfectly honest, I’m also procrastinating about the “coming inside” routine. To prevent the whiteflies that come inside with him, I remove all the soil, hose off the roots and re-pot with new soil—a production that takes a bit of time.)

The volunteer sunflowers and cosmos are both still going strong, too. That’s what’s blooming in Auntie K’s Garden this month. My prediction for October is aster-o-rama!
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