Monday, January 30, 2012

X is for Papaver

I could not come up with a reasonable article on "X".  I'd already written Xeriscope Me back in July 2009.  Nothing is as boring for a writer as revisiting a story unless I've totally forgotten and do a repeat and then it's not because it's that interesting, it's due to short term memory being buried with last year's bulbs...

Today, I'm going to expound on annual poppies because I've seen loads being advertised in paper and on-line catalogs.  If you've ever raised annual poppies, you know they are twice as beautiful in the garden.  No photo does them justice. 

Annual poppies are so fragile looking they look as if they are made of some expensive silk or by an expert pastry chief.  They aren't all that fragile and typically self seed easily. 

They need rich soil and full to partial sun.  Get them in the ground right after the last frost for the longest blooming season.  Deadhead some of the flowers to prolong bloom time.  If you want them to self seed, you'll have to let some go. 

There are very short and single petal varieties - such as the California types.  Others may grow to several foot, some are super double, most are fragrant.  They go into vases easily and take little care.  Some nurseries carry plant sets.  If you mulch, the tiny seeds must have light on the soil to sprout so either use the little seed starter containers or scrape away the mulch until the plant is a good 3 inches tall. 

Annual poppies are perfect for cottage gardens and look especially nice when taking little spaces between and around perennials.

These are not the same as the beautiful perennial poppies, although the blooms do have similar characteristics.  The perennial poppies have another set of planting and care criteria.

This photo of two-toned red and white poppy was taken from Annie's Annuals at

Take a look at your catalogs for a variety of these little beauties.  Add a sticky note for the ones that trip your trigger - or in a lame attempt to stay on task:  X will mark the spot!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Loosing Eloise

Today, a best friend and close as a sister cousin passed away after a long battle with cancer. 

That's Eloise in the front in the little pink dress and the bow in her hair looking angelic and that's me second from her left with dark hair looking like a little mischief maker.  Truth is, we were a little of both.  Because we were close in age, both girls, and our folks were together every week of our young lives, we had a bond no time or distance could erase.

Being a sentimental type person has led me to keep things that haven't much worth other than they are tied to a memory.  A little this or that can bring a memory of some event or of someone special. 

Sweet memories of my mother's "French" iris, the Boston ferns my Grandma Shenk had in pots on her summer porch, and the blue corn flowers that were a favorite of my friend, June.

I can't imagine a garden without memories tied to them.  It's why I have a cottage garden style in my yard.  It allows me to tuck in every odd plant willy nilly just because it holds a memory for me.

Where there isn't a specific flower, I've loaded (and overloaded) a bed with daylilies named after family.  Since Eloise wasn't much into gardening (she was married to a career Air Force man and lived all over the world), I'm thinking an "Eloise" daylily will be perfect.

Today I may cry again for her suffering and my loss.  Tomorrow I may touch a flower and smile at her memory.

“Let’s be grateful for those who give us happiness,
they are the charming gardeners who make our soul bloom.”
- Marcel Proust

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Happy Happy

Or, just plain Glad! 
Oh, there's nothing plain about Glads - better known as Gladiolus. 

If they're so beautiful, so easy, and make everyone so glad, why don't we see them in gardens more often?  My guess it's the whole daunting thing about planting those little bulb-like things in the spring and digging them up in late fall.  So friends I'm here today to debunk all the reasons you may offer for not having glads - or being glad - or glad handing. . . . . .

First, a little history:  Gladiolus is from the Latin word gladius meaning a sword.  It's in the iris family and is considered a bulb known as a corm.  It is sometimes called the sword lily and they are mostly native to Africa.  They have a rich relationship with insects both for pollinating, use of nectar and are food for some larvae.

Glads have been extensively hybridized and are a major product for florists.  Glads symbolize strength and moral integrity.  They represent infatuation, with a bouquet conveying to a recipient that they pierce the giver’s heart with passion.

Glads are the "birth flower" for August birthdays and 40th wedding anniversary flowers. And there is a whole boat load of things you could know about glads but let's just move on to your garden and mine.

First, glad corms may be purchased individually or in bulk.  They can be fairly cheap from a big box store.  They can be a new hybrid and only one will cost as much as a new pair of shoes.  There are other differences between cheap and expensive.  Cheap bulbs tend to be smaller and you pay more for larger.  Smaller bulbs means smaller stems, flowers and perhaps production.  Cheaper usually means not as many color choices.

Here's the test:  If you buy glads and simply cannot make yourself dig them up each fall - buy cheap.  You're what we call "Cazzzzz" or the casual lover of glads.  If you're more into glads, then move down to the next paragraph and get GLAD!

You can get beautiful hybrid glads in the medium price range - about 8 for $10.  The flowers may be larger, have color combinations that are wild and wowzer, texture may be pearlized or velvet, and the edges may be ruffled.  IF you dig up your glad corms each fall - the price of good bulbs becomes so much cheaper if you think how many years you will use that same bulb or some of it's babies.  

Here's some things to know when planting glad corms: 
They like sun and well drained soil that gets plenty of moisture.
Start planting about the time the leaves start to come on your trees.
Plant in intervals of two weeks and you'll have weeks worth of blooms.
If it's dry, water once a week.
Apply liquid fertilizer about every ten days from when buds appear to when flowers are in bloom.
Dig up before it frosts.  Trim off any leaves to about one inch above corm.  Don't trim down the leaves prior to digging up because you will forget where they are - I promise.
Store in a cool, frost free, well ventilated place.  I lay them on newspapers on my basement shelf.  Others hang them in old nylon stockings from a nail.  They shouldn't dry out totally or be so wet they mold.

If you plant one color together, it usually gives more impact.
Planting around perennial flowers and bushes helps to hold them up when it's windy.  Otherwise, you may want to stake and tie them. 

I tuck them around my daylilies (being careful not to damage the daylily roots).  They can look nice near perennials that bloom in the spring.  It's a way to add color to an area where it is mostly green leaves in the summer/fall. 

I mostly use my glads for bouquets/cutting so I'm less than caring about where they are in relation to other plants. 

It's so easy to get glad!  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pretty Pictures

Pretty Pictures ~ Pretty Ribbons of Blue
Pretty pencils to write "I love you."

OK, OK, I know I've taken liberty with the lyrics, but they go so lovely with these garden themed photos.   Most of these photos are from the ~Romantic~Vintage Home~ facebook page and Karen is gracious to share with others.

This is a bit of a fluff piece although most gardeners are inspired by the beauty around them.  These photos are beauty from the simple to the wonderfully over-the-top.  Enjoy!

This is the over-the-top creation - made from fresh flowers.  Don't you wonder why this was created - what event - the client?

No doubt this takes "Shabby Chic" to a whole new level.  And my husband and I have had a few laughs about this photo.  To explain:  Husband was born in an area of the country where there might be a multitude of vehicles and car parts in the yard.  Much of it is on cement blocks - involves rust and high weeds.  Admittedly, they say the same thing we gardeners say, "I have a plan for it." 
Old architectural pieces (in this case an old door) can be used as garden accents if done with aesthetics in mind. **see the above for those that might slip into what we call "Georgia yard ornaments".  Old doors can be used to fence off an area, leaned against something to add character, to make an entry into a little area or as a arbor.  Life of these pieces isn't all that long in our area of the country.  Still it can be a beautiful accent in the right garden and used well.  
Many of Karen's garden photos involve entertaining and/or eating and drinking.  What I enjoy about them is most are done with what someone had on hand (or gives that impression).  I so like the idea of taking a little of this and a little of that and the end result is beautiful.  It takes the pressure off first timers that they must have real china, real crystal, real silver, real butlers and waiters - you get the idea.  My idea of REAL is how a host or hostess treats their guests.

I loved this one (yes, I'm a farm girl) and thought my husband would find it a project HE would want to jump right into.  Those of you familiar with barbed wire know it's difficult to work with in the most simple situations - let alone bend into this beautiful form.  I haven't given up hope although I'm guessing there is precious little hope my husband will put it on his "to do list".
I'll close with the beautiful little corner.  It looks so easy and that's the fooler for really beautiful shabby chic.  It's not always easy to look easy.  Done poorly, it could like a corner where junk has been left to fall apart.  Pulled together with the right kind of flowers, in the right places, the "casual" placing of the quilt and it becomes a showpiece.

Have a lovely Saturday - dream a little dream for me! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seeds of Wisdom

I’m an advocate of organic mulch to help control weeds, preserve moisture and improve the soil as the mulch decomposes.  How then are we suppose to plant seeds without undoing all our mulching work?

  • ·       Only plant perennials.

·        Use only plant sets from a nursery.

·        Use only plant sets you’ve grown over the winter.

·        Or, try the following.

  1. Once the danger of frost is over, purchase the little peat starter pots or make your own out of newspaper.
  2. Set them side by side in an old rimmed cookie sheet.
  3. Fill each to within ½ inch of the top with potting soil.
  4. Gently water this mixture.  Allow water to stand in the tray to about ½ inch.
  5. Check the next day to make sure the pot and soil is damp.
  6. Plant two seeds in each pot following the directions for that variety.
  7. Move a small area of mulch aside with your hand.
  8. Dig down in the soil to half the depth of the pot.
  9. Water the hole.
  10. Set the pot gently into the hole.
  11. Make sure the soil is pushed against the side of the pot.
  12. Push mulch back around the pot but not over the potting soil.
  13. When the seeds sprout to about 1 inch, pull the weakest one in each pot.  If done gently, they can be transplanted to another area or a flower pot.  Otherwise, dispose of them.
  14. Keep the little plants damp (not soggy) by watering gently so as not to wash out the seed/sprout. 
  15. If there is going to be a hard rain, you may want to lay an old sheet over the pots until it’s over.
  16. Once the plants are taller, leafed out, and established, brush more mulch around them.
A few additional hints for those of you who drool over your new plant catalogs this time of the year:  Some vendors list the number of seeds to a particular order.  Do you want 1,000 of the same variety?  Knowing the number of seeds in a packet allows you to get the most for your needs.  You can always share seeds, although, not everyone will have your same needs and wants.  Most local nurseries carry a small variety of the most common seed varieties.  Seeds are much more economical than buying plant sets IF you actually use them all.  Make sure your seed supply vendor sells only new seeds.  A packet of old seeds may not be so cheap if only a few sprout. 

Here are a few of my favorite annuals easily grown from seed:  Four O’clock, Alyssum, Phlox, Nicotina, Cleome, California poppy, Forget-Me-Not, Cornflower, Cosmo, Nasturtium, Marigold, and Zinnia.  A garden filled with these would be a beautiful summer-long cutting garden.

I turn to Henry Ward Beecher for this seed of wisdom, "As for marigolds, poppies, hollyhocks, and valorous sunflowers, we shall never have a garden without them, both for their own sake, and for the sake of old-fashioned folks, who used to love them."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


This Petunia is an old fashioned climbing petunia with attributes galore!  I've found conflicting names and descriptions for the actual botanical name.   

In our area, the petunia is the workhorse of summer annual gardens and pots.  New varieties have many new colors, forms and resistance.  Who of us hasn't marveled over the "Wave" series when they flow over the sides of hanging pots? 

If your ancestors had flower gardens, they probably included the old fashioned petunia multiflora variety.  It's one of those plants that almost disappeared in lieu of the newer varieties.  After all, who wants a petunia that's leggy, refuses to behave, and only comes in pastel pinks, whites and lavendars?  I do!  I do!

This heirloom plant variety was abandoned by commercial seed growers and you may only get seeds today from speciality and heirloom flower growers or from friends.

The lovely vines (up to 3 foot) are one of the most fragrant evening  flowers you could plant.  Fragrance is one of the things bred out of most current hybrids. 

This variety blooms all summer, likes lots of sun and self seeds.  In most cases, once you have a successful planting, you will have this beautiful heirloom for years.  It is recommended they be fertilized (as all potted plants should) but if they are in fertile garden soil, they will do well without additonal fertilizers.    

This petunia was usually planted near a porch or entrance.  It would lay it's pretty flowers up and over the posts and braces and provide a lovely scent while folks sat on their porches in the evening.  Simple pleasures!

An added plus, these plants are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.

Their soft colors are attractive in cottage gardens, informal beds and as ground cover around taller perennials.   

Do they have any problems? 
To keep blooming, they must be deadheaded occassionally.  Pull off the bloom or give them a little haircut with your garden shears.  Don't do a month before frost if you want it to self seed.  
They also tend to look rather sad after a rainstorm.  They will perk up on their own.
They belong to the nightshade family (same as potatoes and tomatoes) and won't grow well near walnut trees.
Towards the end of the season, they may look a little scraggly, but, they're well worth that small issue.

Heirloom and the new varieties isn't an either/or situation.  There's a place for both if that's what you like. 

Some places where you can find the seeds for sale: -  listed as "petunia - old-fashioned climbing"  -  listed as "petunia old-fashioned vining"

Side Note:  The photos are of this heirloom petunia.  The seeds came from my late neighbor, Clarence Medley.  These two photos show self seeding in our stone walk.  I've always wondered how I can do three-hundred things to ensure a plant grows well in all the right conditions and then have something grow in the crack of a stone/brick walk...            

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Betwixt and Between

I always hesitate to write about something current in the newspaper because it will probably be obsolete by the time it’s published.  What could be more obsolete than last week’s weather?  Today, I publish on my blog instead. 

The late run of summer-like weather in December/January has confirmed I’m not a snow bird (those friends who head south during the Midwest winters).  I enjoy winter weather and would hate to face every day with perfect temperatures.

I’ve had quite a few folks mention their plants and trees were acting as if it’s spring.  New perennial sprouts pushing up, trees budding out, and grass is still green.  The plants are confused. 

The questions are will any of these plants die and will the spring flowering plants have flowers next spring?  The answer is “depends”.

If you have a plant that has been severely stressed, this could push it into dead.  With the late summer drought conditions in 2011, the energy for two spring-type buddings could stress a plant, especially trees.

Now before you worry - realize there’s not much you can do about it at this point – especially if we have a continual freeze and a layer of snow. 

I’ve heard it recommended you drag out your hoses and water trees and other plants (especially those recently planted) until the ground freezes so hard and deep it no longer takes in the water.  I agree but realize most people simply don’t get this task accomplished once hoses are stored inside.

For otherwise healthy plants, they will probably survive.  We’ll have to wait and see if the spring flowering trees and bushes bloom come spring; my unscientific guess is bloom quantity will be down.

Once the ground freezes, it wouldn’t hurt to toss a few inches of additional mulch on those perennials sprouts.  It won’t preserve the sprouts but it will help insulate the tender plant parts underground.  A continuous covering of deep snow does much the same thing.

If our winter continues to be mild, you might see  a large quantity of insects next summer since the natural winter kill numbers will be less.  Same with birds and critters. 

 We could still have months of normal winter weather – freezing temperatures, ice, wind and snow.  Meteorologists say we have now moved into a period where we can no longer make up the lost averages for winter moisture and temperature (or as Terry Swails says, “The winter that wasn’t.”)  That doesn’t mean it's clear sailing into spring.  What it does mean is next spring and summer could be different and interesting.

The point of this article:  Don’t spend time worrying about your outdoor plants at this point.  Sit back and enjoy the beauty of our Midwest winter.  If there are ramifications this spring, deal with them in the spring.  As for me, I’m just thankful I don’t have to deal with the weather in Cordova Alaska!

Side Note:  Don, a school mate who is also a beekeeper, said bees come out on warm days to unburden themselves (poop) and will not be killed from coming out of hibernation.  Bees do not hibernate, they keep their wings moving and stay close together to keep the hive warm.  The largest winter kills are during very cold February and March because they starve to death.    


Friday, January 13, 2012


For the person who wants to treat their sweetheart to a valentine weekend to remember ~ try the weekend in St. Louis MO. 

Reservations at the Moonrise Hotel6177 Delmar In The Loop, St. Louis, MO 63112 is guaranteed to be the perfect overnight stay.  Romantic, beautiful rooms, great service and the added benefit of the wonderful Eclipse Restaurant.  314-721-1111 Front Desk and Eclipse Restaurant Reservations





For the nature lover, make reservations at the St. Louis Zoo for "Untamed Hearts:  An Intimate Valentine's Day Dinner.  February 11 and 14 - 6 and 8:30 p.m. seating.   A four course meal for two by candlelight at McDonnell Center at River Camp, followed by a look at some secrets of animal attraction.   $125 per couple (t&t incl.) 


Limited reservations. Call (314) 646-4857 by Wednesday, February 8, 2012.

The Missouri Botanical Garden (Ridgway Visitor Center) February 11, 2012, 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  Over 800 orchids are on display and you will be in the middle of this fragrant beautiful show.
Sweetheart's Dinner at Thornhill Mansion at Faust Park, February 11th.  Thornhill is the home of the Frederck Bates family (Missouri's first elected governor.)  The event includes a candlelit four-course dinner in a home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The meal is served by staff dressed in period clothing. 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Advance registration; (314) 615-8328
For the sports fans, the St. Louis Blues Hockey Team plays February 12th at Scottrade Center. 
St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks. 6:00, (800) 745-3000 or (314) 622-5400.

Enjoy the beautiful outdoors with your Valentine at the Shaw Nature Reserve in St. Louis County. The reserve is hosting a special evening hike for couples just before Valentine's Day. Couples will also enjoy hot chocolate and delicious desserts by the fire. The cost is $29 a person.  February 11th - 7-10 p.m.  314-577-5140.

Dust off your dancing shoes February 11, grab your partner and head over to the Casa Loma Ballroom for a Valentine's celebration. Get in the groove with the Fabulous Motown Revue featuring Velvet & Satin. The doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the dancing begins at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 a person.  314-664-8000.
Members of the St. Louis Symphony will be performing a free concert on Valentine's Day, February 14,  at the beautiful Piper Palm House in Tower Grove Park. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the concert begins at 7 p.m. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.  314-286-4432


For the person who would really like to find alternate living space after Valentine's Day: 
Candlelight. Romance. Sliders. You'll find it all at White Castle on Valentine's Day. Once again, the burger chain is serving up a special Valentine's meal complete with candles, tableside service and romantic decor. Dinner will be served from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at all local White Castle locations.
And on the way or back, travel down the Great River Road and stop along the Mississippi River for some eagle watching.  Or take advantage of the February 19-21 eagles and much more at the National Great Rivers Museum, Alton. The World Bird Sanctuary will have eagles, falcons, owls and other birds of prey on display. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Kids 3 and under are free.

And the final suggestions: 

Do not and I repeat "do not" buy inferior chocolates.  It tastes like brown wax - bla -uck - gurf.  If you can't afford good chocolate, make a batch of chocolate chip cookies - oh be still my beating heart!  Some Big Lots carry Godiva Chocolates.

If your mate loves flowers and the only thing to satisfy is roses, check out local florists or discount stores.  Both have flowers waaaay cheaper than the call and order teleflora things.  If roses aren't her thing, consider a potted flowering plant or other garden related lovely. 

My all time favorite flower was the white gardenia wrist corsage when we were married.  I kept it in the car and wore it for days - heavenly fragrance.  Does anyone even wear wrist corsages anymore?  But still ~ it was heavenly!  

Side note:  I'm sorry for some of the unusual looking print and arrangments of text - Blogspot was doing odd things tonight and didn't want to be corrected.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hitting the Big Time

During the Victorian era, garden design was over the top - in a good way unless you were a minimalist.  The above example is the layered look using tropicals in a round bed.  To achieve this look, the round plot needs very big and tall plants in the middle. 

Very large annuals are not typically native to the Midwest unless you use grasses.  Grasses can work, but, I'm talking about the large and distinctive leafed plants.  The ones that look like they just came from the rain forests. 

I've found very few local nurseries offering much of a variety of large leafed plants. 

Hornbaker Nursery, Princeton IL, does carry several large variety hosta if your plot will be in partial shade.  I do find that hosta tends to drape over too much for the above type design.  If you're looking for a perennial bed in some shade, keep in mind the width of these large hosta  (such as "Empress Wu", "Glory" and "Golden Sculpture") and plant the next row farther away.  Also, a perennial bed of this design will take a year or so to get established and picture perfect.

If the local nurseries in your area don't stock what you want and are reluctant to stock, turn to catalogs and on line sites.  I'll do my usual caution:  don't order fifty bulbs unless you've confidence in the nursery. 

I was amazed at the site's variety of Alocasia and Colocasia elephant ear plants!  For the above type display, the elephant ear plant would need to be tall.  If you choose one of the variegated varieties, it will help determine the colors of the other plants in this design.  I'm quite taken with the red stemmed varieties such as their Colocasia Cranberry pictured here.  Additionally, they have white stemmed/veined, all black, irregular mottled, and chartreuse. 

Elephant ear does best in bright indirect sun or morning sun.  This pairs them well with Caladium; another large leafed but shorter annual.  There's a large color variety of Caladium and choices to go with most any design you can imagine.

Another large plant is the Canna x generalis.  There are variegated and striped leafed varieties, plus, flowers of orange, yellow, peach, red, orange and white.  Use the Canna in full sun locations. 

The ricinus communis Caster Oil Bean plant is controversial because all parts are poisonous.  If you have children or pets that could eat them, I'd pass on this beauty.  Seldom can you find the seeds in nurseries or on line because of the safety issue.  Most of mine have been from friends who save the seeds and share/replant. has a few varieties as shown in this photo. 

Caster Oil Bean plants are very tropical looking and have immense leaves resembling a hand spread out flat.  Varieties come in green, decorative white ribbing, purple, and chocolate red.  Plant these in full sun. 

There are other tropical plants that would look good in the middle of this arrangement.  If you choose tropical trees such as Burgmansia, palm, banana, and etc., I'd advise planting in pots to make it easier to bring in the house before frost. 

File:Tissot lilacs 1875.jpgAll of the above plants can be preserved over winter by potting, saving the bulbs or gathering seeds.  These plants and the quantity needed for a display such as above, is not an inexpensive bed.  Overwintering is a good way to cut the annual expense.

It's not recommended to use seeds for this kind of display bed.  Seldom do the plants reach maturity or bloom at the same time and the desired effect is never quite achieved especially in the Midwest where the growing season isn't all that long.  If you are living in a warmer zone, your options for this kind of a bed are larger.    

To get any mixed bed to look good, all plants need to have the same requirements - soil, light, water, fertilization.  Many of the companion and smaller plants for the edges can be from local nurseries.  All look best if they don't spread a lot.  Prepare the soil using suggested amendments necessary for tropical plants.  I typically fertilize with fish emulsion.  Some require tropical dampness while others will rot if watered too much.  Use LOTS of organic mulch.

Hard edging is optional.  I've seen this type of bed planted in old cement ponds. 

The thing to keep in mind is this particular look is Victorian in design.  It's balanced, bold, formal and seldom has flowers.  It's not rustic, light, cute, pastel or crowded into other beds.  Which doesn't mean you have to follow the "rules" ~ it's your garden.

This is one of the Victorian gardens at Biltmore Estate - note the large circle planting.  This takes it to a whole larger level.  Enjoy your winter gardening dreaming!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Flower At A Time

What do gardening and politics have to do with one another?  Quite a lot both worldwide and in your own back yard.

Consider the laws pertaining to our water and air quality, the park systems, roadsides, outside recreation, disposal of waste, protection of wildlife, native plants, and preservation. Not to mention the standards created (by laws) for what can be sold and truth in labeling.  Research labs, big business, and universities are all tied in some manner to laws.  Laws are tied to politics.  Politics is tied to money.  Money is tied to self interest. 

We have some great benefits for the protection and advancement of nature in the United States which resulted from legislation.  Consider our vast park system that was created by legislation. 

This photo from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas in Austin. 
I thought about all this while reading an article about Lady Bird Johnson’s influence upon the landscape of America.  She not only used her position as First Lady to influence preservation and reclamation laws, she did it as a volunteer.

Lady Bird knew how to rally people into making laws (Wilderness Act-1964 and The Highway Beautification Act-1965 among others); she knew how to get things done using donations and volunteers.  Often she used her own funds for projects.  

And herein lays my point:  We don’t always need to use tax monies for well deserving projects when government is in debt.  While expecting our politicians to get their National, State and local budgets in order, citizens will have to accept the responsibility for our special interest projects. 

I think we’ve see this kind of citizen participation in our own town of Galva where volunteers use donated flowers and volunteer labor to beautify public areas.  Whereas in years past local citizens may have expected the City to handle those expenses and duties, it now falls to volunteers.  Bravo to those who have taken this project and shown we don’t have to lose something just because government can no longer provide.

As the President of the Freedom House Board of Directors (a women and children’s domestic abuse shelter and services), I see firsthand how government monies can affect the operation.  The Board and staff are dedicated to keeping the shelter open, perhaps expanding.  To do this we must have volunteers and benefactors who take on the responsibility of replacing lost government assistance. 

Citizens can no longer sit back and “care” without stepping up and “doing.”  It’s a shift in mindset. 

Not all government programs can or should be discontinued.  That would be as irresponsible as our current debt crisis.  If our political leaders decide to balance the budget with significant and intelligent fiscal management, our citizens must step up to the plate.  Improving this country’s fiscal situation starts with one tiny flower planted by a volunteer in a city garden and one informed vote for government officials who understand they must act responsibly.  Citizens and government working together – is it possible?  One flower at a time folks!   

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

More Fun!!

Notice I used exclamation points and not question marks after "More Fun!!"

Although not a resolution, I think deciding to have more fun in your gardening endeavors this year is about as perfect as it gets.  Let's talk through a different kind of garden fun:

Eliminate all plots of garden that have become too much to handle.  My friend, Kathy, has done this and at the time I thought she must have lost her mind.  DECREASE areas of beauty - Nooooo!  Alas, Kathy figured out if you can't take care of it, it is no longer a place of beauty, it is a burden.

It doesn't mean you throw beautiful flowers into a dumpster or composter.  Donate them to friends, public gardens or have a tag sale and donate the proceeds to your local garden club.  Or, combine them into other beds.

It's doubly hard for me to embrace Kathy's "less is more" because I've been an advocate of mowing less by the use of heavily mulched perennial beds.  It's still a good practice, but, the rub is when you can no longer (physically, time or money) keep the beds worked.

An alternative to sowing with lawn grass seed is to sow with a grass that only needs mowed a couple of times a year or never.  And then, the ability to look at that grass and embrace it's casualness and not give in to pressure for perfectly groomed.

The alternative of planting a wild flower/grass garden is not exactly maintenance free.  It takes good soil prep to make sure you have no competition for the native plants and either a burn or fall mowing to keep the seeds active and weeds/trees/shrub starts from taking hold.

Another alternative is to pack perennial beds full of very hardy varieties.  It still takes some weeding and mulching but if done right in the very beginning, it will be less work.  This will work better if you don't live in a rural setting where weed seeds are blown, migrate or are dropped by birds.

An indicator your gardens have become too much is:

If you walk outside and begin to feel stressed because things aren't done. 
You're embarrassed all summer when someone drops by to walk your gardens. 
You can't sit in a chair on a beautiful day and enjoy your yard because the tasks are so many. 
You can no longer lift a bag of mulch, fertilizer, a full wheelbarrow, or pile of weeds.
The kids you hire to help actually do more harm than good.
You can't afford to hire competent and dependable garden help.
You can't take a good flower picture because there are too many weeds in the way
You can't be on your knees, bend over, or use other parts of your body without hurting - always..

For most avid gardeners, our life has been spent adding more and more beauty to our spaces.  We try another variety, another color, and another space.  To change that life long journey can seem sad and the beginning of the end.  In reality, it is simply another beginning.  Remember the point of most ornamental gardening is the enjoyment by the gardener. 

It's not failure to change our gardens to our present condition - it's what gardeners have always done.  We've always had to deal with changes:  weather, disease, pests, product failure, soil nutrients and etc.  If you've reached the point where you need to make changes to your gardens that involves easing tasks, face it headlong with a gardeners spirit.  Downsizing isn't failure, it's another design and adventure!!           

Monday, January 2, 2012

THE List

Kids are back to work, grandchildren going back to school and daycare, gifts distributed, decorations down and now:  THE List!

Some call THE List their "New Year's resolutions".  I don't do resolutions, never have, just not my thing.  I consider New Year's resolutions similar to party games; something to talk about when having fun and forget the rest of the year.

Considering the fact that I'm a tend to organize to the point I've been called "Monk" by those less than generous, it may seem odd I don't organize my thoughts on gardening every January 1st.  Garden book authors tell us we must.  Internet sites, educators, friends and perfect strangers tell us we must. 

I think my reasoning is:  (1) I think about changes and improvements to my gardens throughout the year. and (2) I've never been into self imposed garden deadlines, restrictions and rules.  I suppose that has the implications of an undisciplined, impulsive and immature mind.  I prefer to think of it as creative.

Most of us can point to persons whose success in a favored field included personality traits we ourselves possess.  We tend to ignore those with those personality traits who have failed miserably.  Aw, human nature, we are but a repeat process. 

I am fortunate to have grown up in a era where they didn't tag kids with personality disorders and use those tags to push them into a box of conformity.  My flaws and tendencies were not labeled as wrong, although at times, they might have incurred some strong parental "direction".

I come from a family with quite a lot of artists and engineers - polar opposites although both must be creative.  Sooner or later, one of the off spring had to be a bit unique on the organizational side.   

And that little bit of self disclosure brings me back to "New Year's resolutions".  I never look at my gardens (even in passing) that my mind doesn't do a little analyzing and changing.  Sometimes they're discarded when another glimpse offers another idea.  Other times they may go into the mental list for quite some time until they are either accomplished, revised or discarded.

Putting ideas into a "resolution" list means they are either accomplished perfectly in the next year or I have failed.  Seriously, who wants to set themselves up for that kind of self imposed black or white resolution?  Life has enough negative things going on, I don't need to purposely make something in gardening one of them.

Even when I don't get a garden something accomplished or an idea doesn't turn out well, I seldom consider it a gardening failure.  I usually consider it a learning experience. 

I'm not preaching that goal setting is bad, striving for your best is pointless and planning for the future isn't necessary.  I do all those things.  I just don't consider "failure" the flip side of not achieving everything exactly as I thought was important on January 1st.

And now, on January 2nd, I take my cup of hot coffee and a leftover Christmas cookie and watch the house finch in his red attire while a few lacy snowflakes drift from the sky.  This might be the best resolution for January 2nd I've come up with today!