Saturday, February 21, 2015

Colocasia gigantea

"Blue Hawaii"
"Puckered Up"
Any plant that has the horticultural name "Colocasia gigantic" is bound to be big.  It's what we casually call "Elephant Ear" and it's a colossal beauty in the garden.  It's not used as much up north because the hardiness zone means it must be brought inside before the weather gets cold.  The ones you see planted directly in the ground and are majorly huge are probably NOT planted in a northern garden.  The plant size shown in these pictures are realistic.   The ones that show them towering over a man are probably grown in a more temperate climate. 

You can either plant directly in the ground and dig every fall which effectively stops the growing process but will save the bulb - or - you can plant in large containers and manhandle them inside.

"Coal Miner"
Elephant Ear needs constant water, full sun and nutrients to be lush.  I planted one beside my fish pond (now gone) and every time I emptied the pond to clean (the reason it's gone), I dumped the nutrient rich (fish poop) water on the Elephant Ear.  It was perfect and the plant thrived.  One season with this kind of attention and it was at least 3 foot tall and 4 foot wide.

Elephant Ear plants now come in a variety of leaf forms/colors and plant sizes.  I've copied the ones from Bloomington IL Royal Dutch Gardens as examples.   Elephant Ear bulbs are seen in big box stores but they tend to be dried out and the survival rate isn't good.  The ones in this catalog range from $15.  If you're seriously wanting to include Elephant Ear in your garden, I'd get them from a nursery (either local or on-line.)   

"Jack's Giant"
The leaves also can take a beating (because the leaves are so large) if we have one of our super summer wind or hail storms.  I planted mine in a semi protected spot at the corner of the house and a porch. 

I didn't have any major pests on my plants although I did wash them off with a soft rag and a mix of mild dishwashing soap (like Dawn) about once a month just to make them pretty. If you have hard or chlorinated water, I wouldn't spray the leaves because it will leave spots.

Elephant Ear brings a bit of the tropics to a garden and certainly makes a statement piece.  Give it a try this summer and see if it's something you consider worth the effort.  Full sun, keep the soil moist and douse the roots with fish emulsion every week.  

"Pink China"

If you plant this where you will tend to it's needs, it will be a show stopper.  Around a fish pond or other water feature, the center of a round formal annual garden, by your porch or deck, to hide an ugly something and etc.   Rationalization:  One bulb costs less than a Super Size burger meal and it doesn't make your thighs bigger.  Win - win!



Friday, February 20, 2015

Understanding the Cost of Perfection

Recently I employed a grandson, who wanted a little cash, to do some "thorough cleaning".  I used to do this "thorough cleaning" twice a year; called spring and fall house cleaning back in the day.  After some neck issues a few years ago, my idea of "thorough cleaning" was no longer in the cards.  And so in walks a teenager needing work.

First off, let me compliment my grandsons who occasionally help grandma with these physical tasks I now find hard or impossible.  They do an excellent job with nothing more than initial instruction and they do it to the end.  All employers wish for this kind of help and I have them in the family – and needing cash.

And so the perfection thing:  My idea of "thoroughly cleaning" a room involves wiping down every hard surface:  ceiling, walls, woodwork, doors, light fixtures, glass, furniture (both top and underneath) and vacuuming every soft surface.  Putting every other fabric through a wash cycle if applicable and ironing and starching to prove it’s been done.  Yeah, I was raised by a clean freak and the dust settled on my genes.  This particular grandson was amazed at what this task entailed and I’m betting I either scarred him for life or implanted a few dust particles on his genes.

Now back to the cost of perfection.   Gardeners with the perfection gene can drive themselves crazy trying to perfection up Mother Nature.  Mother Nature never had a perfection gene; she has the wildflower gene.

Photos of gardens in blogs, books and online usually only show perfect: 
  • ·      Grass mowed to one perfect length. 
  • ·      Every edge trimmed perfectly sharp. 
  • ·      Not one weed. 
  • ·      All plants perfectly spaced with no encroachment on another. 
  • ·      Water features sparkling clean. 
  • ·      No ornament looking cheap, cracked, sentimental or garish. 
  • ·      Lawn furniture placed over perfectly maintained surfaces. 
  • .   Cushions and fabrics perfectly clean.
  • ·      Trees producing in the right place and right form. 
  • ·      Walkways smooth, unstained and perfectly clean. 
  • ·      Porches with no chipped paint, rotten boards, torn screen or baluster missing.
  • .   All Children and animals perfectly groomed and poised. 

Yes, this is the perfect world we will never live in and neither do most of the people in the homes and gardens pictured.  Unless heavily funded, these garden pictures are staged, photo shopped or one time experiences because real people and real gardens are imperfect.   Yes, the cost of that kind of on-going perfection is huge sums of money.  It either taxes our own physical well being or we're constantly unhappy with what we do have. 

If your idea of a garden starts with envisioning perfection, you will be disappointed.  And here’s the good news:  other gardeners are forgiving of imperfection.  I know of absolutely no seasoned gardener who criticizes someone for garden imperfection.  We all know the impossibility and have the aching back, ragged fingernails and lost dreams to prove that fact. 

Seasoned gardeners enjoy the fact you are so happy with something in your garden.  We are excited to know there’s a new generation of gardeners taking on the beautiful experience of nature.  We love your enthusiasm and new ideas.  And even for those of us whose nature cries out for perfection?  It may take all our will to not bend over and pull that little weed in your brick walk but we love it that you aren’t tied to that perfection ball and chain.  Go forth gardening friends and be perfectly happy with  nature in all its imperfect beauty.

Note:  All photos are mine taken at Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford IL in 2013.  By clicking on one picture, they will be large enough to see details.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 Spring and Summer Color Trends

Metallic Green Thistle
BEHR Color Trend report for 2015 has a huge dollop of teal and purple.  They throw in accent colors of orange, chartreuse and a dark soft red berry.  What does this mean for gardeners?  Nurseries tend to grab the new color trends each year for their offerings of garden flowers.

If you're an interior decorating fan or shop home furnishing stores, teal is everywhere.  Same goes with the colors of new spring clothes.    

With garden plants, purple is pretty easy to find (as are the accent colors.)  Finding teal plants will be almost impossible.  

Silk lanterns
There are a few plants described as teal but in reality they are more another shade of blue.  Florists have generated teal flowers because the wedding industry is demanding this year's Color Trend.  They are mostly white flowers that take up a teal die.  There's also an abundance of silk flowers in this color.

So here's some teal ideas for your outdoor spaces:

Pots, vases, water features
Pillows, curtains, rugs, cushions, table cloths
Statuettes, stepping stones or other decorative hard items

And my favorite:


Salve of the Weary

There are many reasons we gardeners garden not the least of which is potent and simple things like beauty, food, and exercise.  I find the strong pull for calmness, order and sanity right up there at the top.

Because most of the social media focuses on a constant bombardment of bazaar, obscene or frightening behavior, it can directly or subtlely cause outrage, worry, sadness or tenseness.  In being proactive, we can minimize the effects by doing something about a situation or by ignoring.

What do we do with the residue effects of the negative impact from social media?  We garden.  Too simple?  Not really.  It's long been acknowledged (by me at least) that being close to the land is a way to work out problems and minimize negative outside influence.

Letting the balm of nature work on my mind is one reason I don't garden with music, newscasts or books.  The only exception for me is when I'm on a riding lawn mower.  Mowing is not a balm to me but a task to be completed as quickly and easily as possible.  I can work in the garden for hours while rethinking or meditating on something and at the end my mind and body are refreshed.

It's like pulling out the weeds of the mind, throwing them away and having a clean fresh space.  How blessed we are to be able to let go of making a living, doing household tasks or the responsibility of caring for others by a little gardening.  How blessed we are to live in a land where immediate survival isn't primary every second of the day.  In this land of blessings, how sad the cream of the over indulged and hyped rises to the top of social media.  For me, that cream has curdled and is thrown out of my thoughts while in my yard and gardens.  I'm so grateful I've been truly blessed to have and enjoy these things.          

Pots and Planters

I wrote this last year (2014) and totally forgot to post.  Yes, that little blip was my own fault.  I'm going ahead and posting it this cold winter day because - I want to!  I hope you will simply think of it as a lead in to spring 2015 or just forgive me anyway.

King Tut ornamental grass & pink geraniums

With spring and summer coming late in 2014, many of us didn't get our outside pots, planters and window boxes planted much before the middle of June.

Also, most nurseries that planted their own ran behind time for the same reason so their starts were smaller than usual.  Those that received them from other places had to baby the root bound and leggy plants before the customer was ready to buy.   And now gardeners have planted their annuals and seeds and are enjoying a summer full of beauty.   EXCEPT for those of us who wander nurseries all summer and can't resist one more plant.

The successful petunias in the shade box.
I finally changed out the wilting pansies in the window box.  I love this window box full of flowers because it's visible from my kitchen window, everyone passes it when they're coming to the door and it's only a minor hassle watering.  Although it gets indirect light, it's basically in the shade of the overhang and I've always planted it with shade loving plants with some success.  This year I planted petunias thinking the indirect glare might be enough to keep them healthy.  Gardening is always an experiment.  

I have the best intentions on plant color schemes for all my pots until I get to the nursery.  Or rather nurseries.  I have a yellow house, trimmed in white with blue accents.  I have mostly blue pots with a couple of yellow.  Seems simple to fill them to coordinate.

This year I was going with pinks and chartreuse.  So many choices and so pretty.  I planted several and was totally happy.
Straying off the plan.

A week later I went to another nursery for the rest of my plants and became enamored with purple and yellow.  Yeah, it's an odd lot I have going this year.  They are lovely and they don't totally look wrong but certainly not a coordinated effort on my part.

Now back to the window box:  It has crazy thrived and looks better than any year before.  Who knew?

The deal on planters and pots come September:  Typically they begin to look a little sad this time of the year unless you're really diligent about pruning, watering and fertilizing.  Even with those steps, there comes a time when they are spent.  It's time to think about replacing some with fall plants.

I've tried removing the worst plants and inserting fall plants with the surviving summer plants with little success.  All it does is damage the existing roots and the new plants make the old plants look shabbier.  If you simply cannot throw away a summer annual before it dies, consider transplanting them into the ground - perhaps at the front of your garden.  Annuals tend to make a huge comeback if put in the ground in the fall.  (Tip:  they must be watered.)

Marigolds tucked under daylilies
Some fall selections:
Ornamental cabbage is really a beautiful plant and almost carefree.
Everyone has used decorative annual mums and my only tip is to buy plants not blooming.  Otherwise, you will have this lovely planter for a few weeks and then the rest of autumn your plants will be done and simply a green bush in your pot.   Fall annual mums are not winter hardy.  I've had some survive in protected places but lost them all last winter.  Marigolds are beautiful in the fall if you can still find them at the nurseries.

2015 addendum:  Enjoy this planning stage of gardening - I'm sure it will be another fun year.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day 2015

Garden flowers for a housewarming gift 
Because I woke up crazy early on this Valentine's Day, I thought I'd post some pictures I've taken of  vases with beautiful garden flowers.  On this cold (22 degrees) windy and dark morning, hopefully this will be a little pick-me-up for us both.  That and a cup of hazelnut coffee and thick warm socks...

As a reminder:  click on one photo and you can easily slide through close up photos for a almost near experience.

Fragrant bouquet
Spring cutting.
Lilac and peony arrangement
Roses from the garden
Fall mums
A paperwhite alongside my 2015 valentine tulips
Sometimes little is better
Roses fresh from the vine.
A simple lily and greens are perfect
A single clematis
Sometimes simple works

One of my favorites

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Not So Much About Gardening

A few observations that may stray off the garden path:

ü If your kids and grandkids don’t remember giving you that knickknack, you’re safe to donate it to the thrift shop.

ü To teenagers, grandpa will always be a geezer until they have car trouble.

ü John Marx, The Dispatch, is the best stand up comic that never hit the stage.

ü I’ve never met a contractor who understands the emotional tie a gardener has to their plants.

ü The old saying, “The older I get the more I realize my parents were right.” should be, “The older I get the more it doesn’t matter who was right, we move on – hopefully with dignity.”

ü When the dandelions take over your yard, pretend you’re cultivating them for healthy eating.

ü People who put down a young person for lack of a particular talent are telling more about themselves than that young person’s talents.

ü Vitamin D from sunshine helps make strong bones.  Another blessing from gardening.

ü If I could live my life over again, I wouldn’t.  It’s a one-act play and I’m shooting for a happy ending.

ü A person has to prove they are really a gardener if they have good-looking fingernails. 

ü If you’ve never had one health related problem as a result of some gardening effort, you just didn’t put your heart into it.

ü Immaturity is only cute if you’re under 3 years old.

ü There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that tops a shower and drink of cold water after working in the garden.

ü If you supervise people and hate going to work everyday; I guarantee your employees hate your going to work everyday, too.

ü I have a wave of insecurity if I find I’m walking in my garden without my camera.

ü I’m really thankful interior decorators haven’t brought back burnt orange, moss green and brownish gold flowered couches. 

ü I appreciate my parents’ tolerance when I went through my “hippy” stage.
ü Does anyone but me find the sound from a “water feature” distracting to the point irritation?

ü If you’ve never slow danced to a 1950’s song, you don’t know romance.

ü On a day when it was below zero, the lady in front of me at Wal-Mart had on pink Capri pants OVER long thermal underwear.  I was in a good mood the rest of the day.

ü We have a bit of a superiority complex when we live in areas of the country where you can die outside during bad weather.

ü No matter how much caulk is used on an old house, it leaks when the wind chill is zero crazy. 

ü On really cold winter days, if you don’t have soup you’re just not American.

ü Taking your personal first world problems too seriously makes one look uninformed at best and callously self centered at worst.

ü There’s something so Midwest rural when an area weekly newspaper lists the school's lunch menu under the feature “Area Dining and Dancing”. 

ü Humor should be everyone’s cup of tea.

ü I will eat the stalest left over Christmas cookie after midnight.

ü Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but a good pair of pruners ranks right up there.

ü Does the many graphic murders on TV dramas every night validate Americans are only entertained by inhuman cruelty against each other?

ü Scientists may unequivocally prove sugar kills brain cells but I may never be able to give up candy and – well, whatever it was I was going to say. . .

Note:  Pictures are just random shots with no particular meaning to the story.