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!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Grave Tending

There’s been a spate of death again—mostly parents of good friends. So, I’ve been thinking about graveyards. I spend a lot of time in graveyards—not because I’m morose or melancholy—but because in the gardening off season, I help people with their family trees, and graveyards provide a wealth of information. You get to find out who is buried with whom and who isn’t in the family plot.

I like the old country graveyards with the upright headstones of different shapes and sizes better than the new memorial gardens with flat stones that make it easy for the mower but uninteresting for visitors.

My favorite graveyard is the one on Just√łya, the island in southern Norway, where most of my family is buried. I like it because I can tend the graves there. It’s another place to garden and make lovely. It’s an act of love that provides an opportunity to remind me of my roots and history. I am used to bringing my own equipment, but in recent years, the church provides trowels and cultivators and buckets for hauling water from the well. There’s also a wheelbarrow for hauling away the weeds, but many people just heave them over the fence to the sheep that graze there.

Even though there is a protocol about who is responsible for which graves, I do pull weeds on graves we’re not tending. (I do this when I visit US graveyards, too.) Planting and painting (touching up the names that may have faded over the winter) are strictly for the responsible parties. The florist on the mainland has annuals marked especially for gravesites, which change with the season. Some graves now have perennials or rose shrubs, so the annuals get tucked in rather than take center stage.

I don’t have any experience with grave tending in the US. I don’t know whether there are similar rules about who can/should tend which graves. If you do, I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment and let me know how it works here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Grapes—Not Just for Jams and Wines

Believe it or not, we can make wine—from grapes--here in Minnesota. Some of it is quite good, too! I had the opportunity to sample some Minnesota wines while I was at the Fair, where they defined “fruit” wines as those made from raspberries, blackberries, and rhubarb, rather than from grapes.

In my neighborhood, several people have grapevines. Most of them use it to cover old chain-link fences or to make a few pints of jelly or juice. Because of our short growing season and cold, dry winters, most years are not conducive to great grape harvests. This year, however, produced a bumper crop.

The octogenarian sisters who live a few doors down from me have a grape vine on an arbor in their backyard that has taken over their clothesline this year. And, their grapes are abundant. After a momentary vision of the Baldwin sisters from an ancient TV program called “The Waltons,” I wondered whether they were going to make jelly with all those grapes.

It turns out that the sisters don’t have the grapes for the fruit at all! Lillian explained, “We’re Greek, you know. Mother had the vine planted for the leaves.” Wow. I couldn’t have predicted that response in a million years. It never would have occurred to me that a crop many people value for the fruit would be equally as valued by others for the foliage. I love when my world gets bigger!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Neighborhood Plant Swap

I’m in a book group with the women on my block. It gives us a chance to get together and read and have a snack and visit each others’ homes. At our last book group meeting, we realized that we were all were gardeners, too. So, we decided to have a plant swap. We included gardeners from other blocks in our neighborhood, too!

We picked a Saturday afternoon so we’d have time to dig things up in the morning (or just sleep in) and then plant later in the day (or plant on Sunday). And, of course, we had snacks. We set it up in my driveway and we had the garage ready in case of bad weather.

The weather was as fabulous. The plants people brought were equally as fabulous. They came in pots, boxes, bags, and buckets!

We had iris (bearded and Siberian), day lilies, sedum (upright and creeping), turtlehead, ligularia desdemona, anise hyssop, lemon balm, liatris, Lamb's Ear, rudbeckia, primroses, baptisia, summer phlox, artemesia, hosta lancifolia, sedge, Karl Foerster grass, wild geraniums, Tiger sumac, and a few more. I put out some “shelves” and tables so some of the plants could be closer to eye level for easier viewing.

Everyone was excited about the selection. Being Minnesotans, however, the swap part of the day was slow to get going—nobody wanted to be the first to take something! But, after a few snacks, we got over it, and started making piles or trips home with our goodies.

I had a shovel and some extra pots in case people wanted to dig stuff out of the garden that I hadn’t potted. Only the big pot is left! I hooked up a hose to the rain barrel so we could water in the things we’d potted.

At the end of the afternoon, even the “common” things found a home. (Day lilies, anyone?!) We decided that all the “leftovers” will go to the community garden addition next week. And, everyone agreed it was a GREAT way to spend a sunny September afternoon. Maybe we’ll do it again next year!
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