Monday, July 30, 2012

If You Love It

"If you love it, set it free."  Or something like that was a flag statement during the make love not war 1970s.  The idea is if something is free, it will return when it realizes it has a choice.  OK, we've all seen how well that works with teenagers...

This year (granted this year is odd on many gardening levels) I've been surprised by many a plant thought long gone only to have it pop up and put on a show.

I buy cheap gladiolas bulbs because I'm typically so sick of gardening by early November there is no way I'll get out there in the semi slush of cold weather and dig them up.  I figure they rot and become a compost of sorts (rationalization is ever a friend of the lazy gardener.)

This year there are glads popping up willy~nilly in most every garden bed where they've been planted over the years.  Even in places where we now mow, a three-some popped through (thank you husband for not mowing the first sprouts).    Because those beds have changed so much over the years, the glads are nestled between and among, but, pretty never-the-less.

Violas and cleomes have self seeded in every little crack among the stones and bricks of the back walks.  The cleomes even self seeded in an old wash pot I'd forgotten to empty of soil last year.  Both have tiny seeds that manage to lodge in minute cracks and push a piece of cement aside as if it was nothing.

I have sunflowers blooming where the grass has gone dormant.  Tough little beauties.

The year we had to replace our north basement wall, all the soil was back-hoed out, piled high and then refilled in construction guy manner.  Top soil was mixed with soil that had laid in place since the house was built over a hundred years ago.  Nothing should have survived.  While we let the ground settle for the rest of the year, to our surprise up pops an array of cannas.  How did they survive?  How did they manage to be replanted near enough to the top to make it push through?  How fun!

Another bulb made a surprise visit the year I decided the tacky old bathtub water feature was going - going - gone!  It had never lived up to the vision although the toads loved the mosquito breeding ground.  I had planted a couple of cheap elephant ears.  They did especially well because I would empty the goldfish poo poo water on them about once every two weeks.  After serious reconstruction to fill the hole left by the tub and landscape, up pops the elephant ear to make a repeat performance.  Elephant ears are very tender and should not have survived the weather let alone all the disturbing.

Morning Glories and a lone little sweet potato vine have emerged to brighten the summer. 

Have you ever had the accidental success of a repeat?  I'm sure it was all the peace and love!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Annual Business

It’s beginning that time of the year when we can be thankful for the annuals we’ve planted.  Whether in pots or in the ground, they’re just now reaching their best.  Meanwhile in the perennial corner, most are about done blooming and beginning to look tattered.  It’s especially true this year where most all plants are suffering with drought conditions.

I tried something new in my shaded flower pots:  Totally planted with coleus.  Typically, I stick with all impatiens.  Impatiens grows to form late summer lushness.  I’m good with lushness.  They also take an enormous amount of watering in the fall, fertilizer and pinching back.

Coleus has been hybridized into so many beautiful colors, patterns and sizes.  My current determination is they also take a lot of watering, but, can die from too much water.  The bigger leafed ones can break in high winds.  If they are to remain compact, the tops must be pinched.  OK – a little different care than I’m used to performing. 

On the scale of beauty and the look I was wanting, the coleus makes a much larger statement especially when several distinctive types are grouped.  I do rather miss my impatiens and how they get a second wind late in the fall.   Their light parfait-looking flowers are pretty scrumptious.

The other new thing I tried is the entire front row of my new raised garden bed was planted with cannas and gladiola bulbs.  Since I couldn’t put landscape fabric over bulbs, I figured it was the perfect place to plant some real old fashioned annuals.

This is going to be a riot of color.  My Cannas are red and the glads are multi colored.  Coming up from seed is four-o-clocks, bachelor buttons, nasturtiums, and cosmos.  They fill in nicely around the bottom of the bulb plants.

Four-o-clock flowers are multi colored bright pinks, yellows and whites.  As the name suggests, they open late afternoon.   Foliage is dark green and the plant forms an 18 inch bush.

Bachelor buttons have light moss green strap-like leaves with white, pink or cornflower blue flowers.  They grow to about 24 inches and continue to bloom until frost.  They do well in a vase. 

Nasturtiums are low growing and this particular variety has variegated leaves.  Their flowers are shades of orange, yellow, and red.  Nasturtium flowers are also edible in fresh salad or with seafood.  They last a long time in a vase.

Cosmos have medium green lacy foliage and can be short or up to 30 inches.  They also come in a variety of bright colors and white.  For years I had cosmos self seed and then one year they were gone.  It’s going to be nice to see them in the garden bed and to pick for vases.

In another area of the gardens, cleomes have self seeded and just coming into their own.  Beautiful heads of white, pink and purple on top of 36 inch stalks. 

The birds have spread sunflower seeds in various unsuspecting places much to the joy of me and all the little goldfinches attracted to the seeds heads as they mature.  All of these annuals are loved by birds and bees.  

I’ve planted all these annual seeds in years past and I must say I’m glad they’ve returned.   At a time when perennials are ready to call it quits, they leave no doubt why people still indulge in annuals.

If I squint, I can imagine my entire yard is lush with beautiful blooming flowers and healthy green foliage.  Narrow that squint and I don’t see the effects of the drought conditions.  Annuals can be a little paradise in the dessert. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Sucker Assortment           4    

Sucker for punishment!  I know - not the most inspired graphics and I spent so much time searching the web for these pictures that I forgot what I was trying to illustrate.  I'm blaming it on one of my huge HUGE sinus infections.  Aside from getting to sleep all day in the air conditioning, it pretty much takes all my brain matter and turns it to mush. 

I may have reached a plateau this year:  I'm growing less fond of July.  Getting up at 4:00 am to take garden pictures, so as not to go into heat stroke, has lost it's charm (did it ever have charm?)

Looking at the front porch (facing south) thermometer and it reads 105 degrees, is just wrong for Illinois.

My rain gauges have more Japanese Beetles in them than water and sets a bad omen for crops.

Buying a hibiscus bush last week was either an exercise in optimism or just plain crazy.  I'm already watering too much and  I'm loosing this battle.  Have you ever noticed the sound of water being sucked into parched ground is the same sound as money being sucked into a black hole?

Apparently, some things are going to die.  We've lost a pine and others are either being forced into an early fall, their shedding leaves to conserve water or their coughing up their last hurrah.

"J" adjusting well to AC
Bitsey, my little cat, doesn't take the heat well.  Left out too long and she will be crying and panting.  Left outside too long, I'll be crying and panting  Even our outside cat, "J", has decided she is pretty good with being inside for awhile.

Have you noticed if we have a 85 degree day, people are high fiving the blast of arctic air?

Do residents of the humid and hot areas of this world suffer and complain like we do in July?  Are they tougher? Acclimated?  Thinner blood? 

Is it harder to tolerate the hot weather because we have become so used to air conditioning? 

Are we simply not made from the tough genes are ancestors were made and have become a society of mambly pambly wimps.  (OK that was seriously a brain mush statement I'm crediting to William Shatner in Boston Legal.)

To add to my thinly veiled complaining:  Blogs are now being attacked under the guise of "let's all be friends".  Someone writes a comment on a blog article that goes something like this:  "I love your blog and think you will love mine, too.  I will add your blog to mine and you do the same."  Note that I have written this quote using the correct English grammar which is never the case.  Their blogs have nothing to do with gardening, and have only one purpose.  Every time someone clicks on their blog site, they receive money.  Yeah, let's be friends and I make money off you.

Now back to S4P - I still have no idea but I'm not taking the pictures off this story because I'm hot and cranky and taking azithromygin (I know you don't care the name but just wanted to type it out because it sounds like some kind of moonshine).     

Wonderful World


Daylily "White Temptation"

Shasta Daisies
Sweet Autumn Clematis


Bee Balm

Thought I'd just add a few pretty pictures with no real theme. Louis sum it up well, "What a wonderful world"!  Click on this YouTube version to enjoy while browsing the pages.

What a wonderful world - LOUIS ARMSTRONG.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fifteen is Good

I once announced: "You can really never have enough daylilies."  As our fifteenth grandchild is born, I can announce: "You really never can have enough grandchildren."

I'm always on the lookout for daylilies (pretty daylilies) with a name at least close to that of my family.  I have one bed devoted to these; called the "family bed".  The "family bed" name can raise a few eyebrows until it's understood just what it contains.   

Since the criteria is names, the colors have no rhyme or reason.  It's a wild uncoordinated mess of daylilies that I love.  It's located right off the screened in porch and enjoyed the entire daylily season.

Every morning, I head out bright and early to deadhead and take pictures.  It's fun to note, "Oh Betty is blooming so pretty today."  OK if that puts me officially into crazy old lady - so be it!  Here are a few of my "family bed" daylilies that have performed really well this dry hot summer.

Bryan Paul Daylily
Donny Delight Daylily

Katisue Daylily
Lunar Max Daylily

Megan's Love Daylily
Siloam Betty Woods Daylily
Susie Wong Daylily
Timeless Grace
  And we are expecting our sixteenth grand baby this week.  I'm just sure sixteen is better!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gardenstock 2012

Save August 18, 2012 for a road trip to Distinctive Gardens, 2020 Lowell Park Road, Dixon IL for the 4th Annual "Gardenstock".  (11 AM to 11 PM).  Copied the following from their fb page:

Gardenstock Page: Get ready to rock your heart out with the fourth annual Gardenstock Art and Music Festival benefiting the Sinnissippi Center’s Gardening Program. Bring a chair and cooler or sample scrumptious offerings from local drink a...nd food vendors. Make yourself at home while you listen to bands ranging from folk, to bluegrass, and rock. Wander the art festival grounds and check out the best in local creativity. A nominal donation at the gate gets you in for the day. Information online:


11:00 - 12:00 Chuck Gall
12:15 - 1:15 Flying Fish
1:30 - 2:30 Lojo Russo
2:45 - 3:45 Carsick Radio
4:00 - 5:00 Wrong Element
5:15 - 6:15 Route 88
6:30 - 7:45 Robbie LeBlanc & the Real Live Show
8:00 - 9:30 Australian Blues Guitarist, Gerry Joe Weise
9:45 - 11:00 Acoustic Circus

Artists and Veteran Gardenstockers:

Jewels, Kimberly Clark and Heather Houzenga, graphic artists, Chuck Cook and Jesey Nicholson, painters, Tim Drane, Maureen Gazek, Ken Reif, Emily Garcia, and Deb Cleary, sculptor, Paul Algueseva, basket-maker, Linda Hinklemann, and photographers, Brian Lutz, Tina Rockwell, and Chris McCormick. New artists include: photographer Kurt Schmidt, jewelers Sasha Tweel, Natalie Picchi, Kristin Jones, Judy Gregory Gonzalez, Ellen Repass, mixed media artist, Brittany Waterhouse, painter, Sarah Wells, and ceramicist, Bob Milano. There will be a live “Pour Painting” demonstration by Tim Drane during the day.


Mama Cimino's
Baker Street Cafe
Sow Belly's

Monday, July 16, 2012

Farming Fun

This has been going around the net for a few weeks.   BUT just in case you haven't seen it, turn up the sound and boogie with some pretty darn cute farm boys.  Good message and good fun! 

Mother of All

Out at 8 AM and its 85 degrees and 77% humidity:  Mother of all sweat buckets!

Somehow I’d forgotten that once we get a good soaking rain (blessing that it was), we now have high humidity.  Those that must work in this surely in need of shade, hydration and breaks.

We had a good many insects (Japanese Beatles) and now we have the rain to bring in the rest.  I realized this morning we hadn’t had many flies – now we do.  I’ve also noticed I have a more diverse and plentiful amount of bees and wasps.  None have bothered me while walking the gardens because they’ve been busy on my flowers. 

Earwigs have done complete destruction to my Chinese cabbage.  This cabbage was something new I’d tried and it had every indication of quickly setting heads and yummy in dishes.  Slowly, they earwigs have killed every single plant in spite of my using insecticidal powder.

The gardens have a larger than usual number of praying mantis and I keep encouraging them to eat every Japanese Beatle on the property.  They’re fierce little insects but tend to sit and wait for an insect to come within their reach. 

Birds are doing their best to munch a lunch and I can see them picking on trees and in the grass.  Bats are spending a lot of air time at night swooping in for their supper.  Toads and frogs are busy little eaters.  Placing saucers of water in your gardens helps them stay hydrated.   

Apple, cherry, ash, elm and maples are taking a hit from the Japanese Beatles; nearly defoliating them in the process.  This is the second year for that kind of destruction and I’m sure the trees are being stressed.  I expect we’ll lose some over winter due to the trees being unable to take in nutrients through their leaves.

While traveling to Jacksonville the other day, I was amazed to see many trees beside the interstate already turning gold.  Upon closer inspection it wasn’t fall colors, it was Japanese Beatle damage.

County extension reports that one day there will be a predator for Japanese Beatles and then nature will return to its balance.  That predator hasn’t arrived this summer. 

I’ve been asked how to control the Beatles and there is simply no good answer.  Even though there are some things that kill them, the vacuum created is quickly filled with more.  Here are some current remedies:

Traps:  The bags with scented attractants WILL capture Japanese Beatles and you may find you will use up to thirty bags in a short time.  The down side is they also attract every Beatle within miles causing them to set up home in your garden. 

Soapy water:  Walking your garden with a bucket of soapy water, then knocking the Beatles off into it works.  For most of the day, your roses or hollyhocks will be able to bloom in relative peace.  It must be done every day – twice a day.  This is the desired method if you don’t want to use insecticides.

Milky Spores:  Scattering milky spore granules will naturally kill the grubs (winterizing JBs) over a period of time.  I recommend this even if you use other methods to collect the live Beatles.  The grubs can do a lot of turf damage.  It will not eliminate all JBs.

Insecticides:  There are several on the market that will kill JBs.  It will also kill most other insects it touches.  I don’t recommend this because it will kill the beneficial insects as well.  Bees are especially susceptible.  Bees take it back to their nests and it will kill the entire colony.  Toads and frogs are also very sensitive to insecticides and it can kill an entire generation.  If you must use insecticide to save field crops and trees, I recommend using on the foliage instead of spraying the ground.  Time the spraying so it won’t come in direct contact with beneficial insects is best.  Both recommendations are easier said than done, especially when dealing with acres of crops and large trees.

If you spot kill using insecticide, the Beatles will be killed on one thing and the rest will turn to their next favorite plant.  

Bottom line is there is no easy cure or answer.  Maybe we can hope they sweat to death!

(Top photo was web based)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Oldies But Goodies

Heading out to my 50th class reunion this weekend.  This is the reunion where people have stopped bragging about their careers and started bragging about their grand kids.  Looking forward to updates and renewing old friendships. 

Made me think of some old daylilies - the kind that were around long enough to be called heirlooms.

Hemerocallis fulva "Kwanso" was introduced in 1860.  Probably was around longer.  Here in the Midwest we see these beauties in roadsides and gardens.  They may be old, but, they still have beauty and grace.

Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus “Lemon Lily” dates to 1570.  It was the first daylily to be registered with the American Hemerocallis Society.

Hemerocallis "Theron" was hybridized in 1934 by the father of all daylily madness, A. B. Stout.  This photo is from Old House Gardens who offers many heirloom daylilies.

Hemerocallis "Autumn Red" was hybridized in 1941 by Nesmith. 

There are many more heirloom daylilies, especially if you only go back to your childhood.  It may even be surprising how many stunning colors and shapes were hybridized long ago.  Many new introductions have these old girls in their ancestry.

Now this old girl will be taking a break - hope your week is stellar!  I'm sure mine will be with my heirloom classmates!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Big Drop

In a few minutes,
we went from 101 degrees in the shade to 79 degrees,
 a little rain,
a bit of a rainbow,
 rolling thunder
and a nice breeze. 
Blessed break!

Off with the air conditioners,
off with the ceiling fans,
and open the windows!
It's a perfect evening for porch sitting!

Hope your Sunday turns smoothly perfect and you get a break from the heat, too.

Friday, July 6, 2012


At 104 degrees on our front porch this afternoon, I'm all about shade.  I'm all about a big thank you that we have power for our AC; praying for safety for those without power during this brutal heat wave.  Also, for those that must work in these conditions: in factories, farmers, outside construction and laborers, kids detasseling, sports teams, the utility crews and anyone who is suffering from the high heat and humidity.

Some hints: 

Shade the west side of your house by planting deciduous trees (they loose their leaves in the winter).

If water is abundantly available, water early in the morning.  Water deep.

Use insulated shades or curtains at the east, west and south windows.  In a pinch, hang a quilt over the windows.

Hang outdoor curtains on the West side of your porches.

Install awnings on the outside of your west windows.

Install an whole house attic fan.

Use cotton slipcovers or sheets over upholstered furniture (couches, recliners, big pieces).  It feels cooler.

Don't turn on incandescent lights - they heat.  Another reason to use the new energy saver bulbs.

Drink lots of water.  Iced water will fool the body into thinking you;re cold and may heat you up more.

Although no contractor in his right mind will do it now, plan to insulate the side walls and attic. 

The same principals apply to heat loss as it does to cooling loss.  A drafty winter house is a house hard to cool in the summer.

If you need a blanket, sweater, or have goose bumps in the house, turn the AC thermostat up.  It is simply wasting money.

Don't drink caffeinated drinks - they dehydrate you.  

Consider installing a ceiling fan on your porch.

Do anything that produces heat (oven, dryer, boiling) very late at night or very early in the morning.

Hang clothes outside to dry.

Use a crock pot or roaster instead of the oven and cook top.

Turn the water heater down a few degrees.  If you must turn your cold water on high to make the water comfortable, then your water heater is turned to high.

Provide pets plenty of water and shade. 

If you don't have AC:  Close all shades and curtains from first light to dusk.  In the afternoon, open one window on the West or South and put a box fan blowing out (upstairs if you have more than one floor).  Open one window on the North or East and put a box fan blowing in (downstairs).  Keep all other windows closed.  This will draw the cooler air into the house and exhaust out the hot side.

Drink plenty of water (not tea, coffee, pop, alcohol or sugar drinks).  Any drink that makes you urinate more is actually working against your cooling system. 

Eat light foods.  Heavy or fatty foods take energy to digest and that means it will heat your body.

Wear natural fiber clothing.  It absorbs and wicks the sweat off your body.

Wear a light colored hat if in the sun.  Wear plenty of sunblock and reapply.  If possible, do any outside chores early in the day.

Don't wear cream or lotion.  It will make you hotter because it keeps the skin from breathing and sweating properly.

The more you open the freezer and refrigerator, the more it must run to cool down.  The engine will run more and that throws off heat.  If you have a big family that wants ice all day long, consider putting ice in a cooler each day.

Some of these tips I acquired when I was the Consumer Advisor for a utility.  Others are from old house plans constructed prior to AC.  Some are common sense tactics.

Remember:  Winter is only a few months away!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

From Sea to Shining Sea

I'm talking a little less than a body of water as large as the sea.  This is just a little reminder to keep your birdbaths filled during the hot and dry weather.  It is sometimes the only source of drinks and baths our fine feathered friends can find.

Our birdbath has been a busy place for all sized birds.  They seem to tolerate each other; rotating in and out.  Some come to drink while others jump in and take a bath. 

With all the water park action, I took a couple of planter pot saucers, added a rock for them to stand on, and filled with water.  It was quick and inexpensive. 

You don't need to buy an expensive bird bath (although there are some beauties out there that do have wonderful falls, sprays, trickles and lights).  Look around for anything that will hold water, not too deep and set it in the ground.  If it has slick sides, add a rock for a perch.  If the lip is near the ground, you'll attract birds, toads, frogs, squirrels and perhaps other critters.

Keep the water clean and filled.  If you add all new water every day, the mosquitoes won't have time to  bother the water.  You can also add those little round natural mosquito prevention disks. 

I've used the "real" bird bath, the plant saucers, the bowl from an old water pitcher set, a mixing bowl, a serving bowl, an old hubcap (not really, but, it would work).   Anything that will hold about two inches of water.  Any deeper than that and they're afraid to get in.  If there's no rim or it's too slippery, it will be difficult to stand and drink.  That's why you add the little rock.

Have a wonderful 4th of July.  God Bless this country and those that have and do protect us.
Daylily fireworks is "Fly Catcher". 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Cult?

Are gardeners a secret cult, worshiping the gods of all things nature?  Do they have same personalities, passions, and focus?  Do they take the same road and only focus on the end result?  Oh, heck, no!

Gardeners are as diverse a group as you will find.  The only common demonimator that I've ever seen is their love of gardening and a selfless friendliness to anyone remotely interested in gardening.

I was reminded of that yesterday.  A local organization had a garden walk and my husband and I hosted an evening "thank you" to the gardeners and other walk volunteers. 

We spent hours talking about our yards, favorite and not so favorit plants.  The weather and Japanese Beetles were an intermittant conversation around every turn.

Questions, suggestions, experiences and compliments flowed.  Gardeners share!  Not only plants, but, encouragement and a positive attitude toward the other gardener.  It's an example of positive reinforcement the motivational speakers would drool over. 

Shared experiences bond people and gardeners are no different.  After having pulled two gazillion weeds, dealing with invasives and damaging insects, the effects of no rain - these people have compassion for the other guy.

I've never seen a true gardener whisper under their breath about "Did you see she/he had a (fill in the blank) in her flowers?  Tisk Tisk."  Although eager to share solutions, I've never heard a true gardener offer an opinion where none has been sought. 

This morning as I did my morning daylily deadheading and picture taking prior to it getting so terribly hot, I felt nurtured and pleased.  Hoky perhaps - true as a fact.

Enjoy your yards as we celebrate the first of July.  Know that there are other true gardeners rooting for you!