Saturday, May 31, 2014

Roses and Raspberries

Trimming the roses and the raspberries is one of my favorite jobs of the year. I don’t know why. It certainly isn't that I have to wear long pants and long sleeves and leather gloves to avoid looking like I had been in a cat fight! There’s something satisfying about pruning out the deadwood and seeing the tiny buds promising wonderful flowers and fruit.

Bedraggled Lipton
This year, however, it was a painful job – and not just because of the thorns! I mentioned that I lost Crown Princess Margrethe to the Polar Vortex. I lost my Magnifica as well. And, I thought I'd lost Julia Child, but I saw today that there are leaves coming. Whew! A bright spot! The Lipton roses – typically very hardy – all took a beating. Last year they were so lush. This year, they’re looking decidedly wounded and bedraggled. I'm hoping they’ll recover, too. (I mentioned that I had 22 bags of leaves this spring. When I was done pruning, I had 7 bags of prickly canes.)

I’m hoping that the Japanese Beetles will have been adversely affected by the Polar Vortex. But, I'm told that since the larvae are in the ground rather than in trees like the Emerald Ash Borer, and since they thrive on moisture, of which we've had no shortage so far this spring, it's likely that they'll return in July to munch on – and breed on – the roses and the raspberries. A girl can dream, though, can't she?!

Friday, May 30, 2014


I’ve never been a fan of rhubarb, but when my dad was dividing his several years back, I couldn’t say no.  My favorite rhubarb memory isn’t even about eating rhubarb, it’s about wearing it!  The summer I was 10, I was in Norway at my grandmother’s and made a skirt from rhubarb leaves!  I found a length of yarn and carefully strung together enough giant leaves to make a very fashionable mid-calf garment.  (Much more modest than the garb of the Jolly Green Giant.)  It kept me occupied for a good long time while the adults were busy . . .  eating rhubarb (and drinking coffee).

I do have a few memories of eating rhubarb.  I remember eating rhubarb soup as a kid in Norway.  I remember sprinkling sugar on rhubarb stalks as a youth in Minnesota.  And, I had a delicious “rhubarb slushie” with the neighbors one summer night a few years ago.  But, I don’t really like it!  I never think… “hmmm.. I have a craving for some delicious rhubarb,” which I do with many other fruits.

And yet… I still have it in the garden!  I can’t part with it.  How irrational is that?!  I even dug it up recently from its spot by the compost and moved it in with the raspberries to make room for the two-bin composter instead of tossing it into the compost!  I gave the stalks from the smaller plant to a neighbor and did toss the giant leaves from the larger of the two plants into the compost – only after contemplating and then rejecting the idea of making another rhubarb leaf skirt.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

First Monarch

A few days ago on Facebook, the Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program posted that they had seen their first Monarch butterfly in Southeastern MN.  They asked if anyone had seen Monarchs in their area.  Monday afternoon, I saw one!  I ran inside to get the camera and got a few snapshots.  Here’s the only clear shot of the bunch.

A neighbor saw me with my camera and asked what I was up to, so I told her about the FB post.  Her sweetie ran inside and got their camera.  We stood in the street for a bit watching the Monarch flit about, landing from time to time on a plant in my Native boulevard garden.

Tonight, my neighbor and I were out weeding and she noticed several milkweed plants in my boulevard garden—none of which I planted!  We checked the milkweed for eggs and discovered that the boulevard is a veritable Monarch nursery!  I don’t remember a thing from fourth grade when we watched Monarchs in the classroom, so I had to go to Wikipedia, which said the eggs should hatch in about 4 days!  The caterpillar will last about two weeks.  And then two more weeks in the chrysalis.  So, in a little over a month, if everything goes well, I should see Monarchs galore!  

I’ll have to do a periodic check on the plants to see if any/all the eggs become caterpillars and whether the caterpillars survive the predators.

What an exciting accidental adventure!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lupines at Last!

I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve tried growing lupines over the years.  I didn’t have any success at the St Paul House and I haven’t had any luck so far at Auntie K’s Garden.  (I posted back in 2010 about my abysmal luck with lupines!)  

I’ve tried plants from nurseries.  I’ve tried plants from friends. I’ve tried seeds.  Nothing has worked—until now!  So, I was thrilled when I saw that the lupine from my friend Gail had taken.  I marked it last fall expecting a bare spot this spring.  Imagine my delight when I found not a bare spot, but an actual lupine!  

And, two days later when I was weed whacking, I noticed a second lupine tucked in with the catmint!

If all goes well, and these two lupines bloom, I’ll drop the seeds I have on the hill when their seed pods form and start to shake loose.  I’m crossing my fingers!

What’s the flower/plant you’ve been unlucky with?  Have you eventually found success? Or did you give up after a while?  

Post a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Polar Vortex and then the Deluge

Winter came early and stayed late this year. It was, in a word, relentless. We had mountains of snow and bone-chilling temperatures--forever. (On the way home from a business trip last week, my weather app notified me that there was a frost warning at home.) I had thought the mountains of snow would protect the plants, but when it finally melted (right around Easter time), I saw that many plants didn't survive. I lost all three of my azaleas, one arborvitae, a couple of boxwoods, and my beloved Crown Princess Margrethe rose shrub.

Because winter came so early, I focused on getting things in the veggie beds that I hadn't gotten planted rather than doing a thorough job of raking. I was surprised in April when I raked 22 lawn bags of leaves! (I’m choosing to attribute the great number of leaves partly to the fact that many leaves hadn't dropped by the time our first snow fell.) I couldn't have done that cursory a job in the fall, could I?!

Raking seemed like a good starting place this year. We’d had so much rain--and were expecting more--that the sodden leaves would have become more a hindrance to the plants than a help. Raking gave me a chance to take stock of the beds and see how much damage the Polar Vortex had wrought. And, it was a psychological boost to see the landscape shift from brown to green. Ahhhhh.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Where do I start?!

It’s always hard to know where to start after you’ve been away. I feel that way about the garden in the spring. And, I feel that way about my blog. I’ve been away from both for too long. I’ve been away from the garden for too long because we had the interminable/relentless winter. I’ve been away from my blog because we had a couple of family deaths and then I was assigned a giant work project, which consumed way too much time and energy.

I’m back now. Looking around and taking stock of what needs doing. Asking myself “where do I start?”

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