.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Garden Delights

A selection of thoughts and ramblings about life in the garden.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Cocoa Puffs in the Garden

Today I decided to try a new type of mulch.
New for me at least.
Cocoa shells.
I love it!
Never has mulch been so easy to put down. I didn't end up with little slivers stuck to me. There were no huge chunks to contend with either. Just nice little same size pieces. What a joy! The color is great too...a nice rich chocolate brown.
A friend introduced me to cocoa shell mulch. She liked it, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
I'm not a big mulcher to begin with. And I'm not fond of most mulches.
They don't sell pine needles here.
Cypress doesn't add much in the line of nutrients to the soil, so about all it's got going for it is it takes a bit longer to break down.
Bark nuggets are just to big.
Colored mulch just looks to unnatural. And I noticed they have new designer colors this season. Red, gold, and black.
And I positively HATE rocks.
(Long story.)
If I haven't managed to shred my own mulch(I have a chipper-shredder), hardwood is my usual choice. It adds nutrients to the soil and looks natural. The plants seem to like it too.
Well, was my choice.
These cocoa shells are starting to grow on me.
And I won't mind the smell chocolate in the garden for a few days either.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Colombine-this one is a lovely red and yellow combo. Posted by Hello

Columbine-the gift that keeps giving

Today I went to a friends house to identify some plants I had given her, and to collect some plants to take to New Mexico.
There were only three plants to identify.
As usual, she had more plants waiting for me than I expected.
Way more plants.
Among other things, she literally had buckets of columbine for me.
I'm not kidding folks. I brought home a six gallon bucket full of colombine, and at least six gallon pots loaded with it.
Colombine is just one of those gifts that keeps on giving.
A rather humble plant, it isn't terribly picky about where it grows. And it comes in a wonderful array of colors, like the lovely red and yellow variety in the photo. Though often short lived, it self sows profusely.
Which is why I ended up with buckets of it.
As I loaded it in the back of my vehicle, I became very scared. They seemed to take up the whole back end. All I could think of was that I already have a table, chair and bookcase that need to go west with the wagons. How on earth am I going to fit all those plants in, with the furniture (which takes top priority), and still have room for the greenhouse full of plants in the photo below?
Oh. And luggage for a family of four for nine days.

Very carefully.

Good thing I'm an expert packer.

The colombine (most of it at least) will be a gift for my sister that will hopefully keep on giving.
Along with a bag of canna lilies I rescued from the bus barn.
They were another gift that keeps on giving.
A friend offered them up for grabs last fall. They had multiplied profusely, as they do so well, for her step-father and he was looking for a home for them. Two of us were takers.
I put mine in my garage.
The other lady left hers in the heated bus barn on the gravel floor.
Mine were looking not so good when I planted them a couple of weeks ago.
The other lady had surgery this spring and forgot about hers.
I remembered.
Guess whose looked better.
ALL of the ones wintered in the bus barn were in perfect condition.
Guess where I'm storing mine next fall.

So now I have even more plants to make the trek to the high desert.
Good thing the U. S. Postal Service has priority mail.

Plants tend to make the rounds.
Mother Nature has made sure all of her little subjects survive. Most of them do it by multiplying rather rapidly.
Which is good if you like sharing.
I tend to share a lot.
I figure I've single handedly filled the gardens of at least 10 people by now.
(Soon to be eleven.)
Mother Nature likes me.

Plants: The gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Plants that are going on a long trip soon. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A Rose by Any Other Name

Who comes up with the names for plants anyhow?
I think some of them should be shot.
Think about it.
We're either stuck with hard to remember Latin names. Which stink.
Or really stupid common names.
Take the lovely plant 'Ragged Robin" for example.
The name just sounds condescending.
It has wonderful perky pink flowers in spring. It does not deserve such a horrid name.
And why label any plant 'false'. That's just plain confusing.
False Sunflower.
If it isn't a sunflower, don't call it one.
Why call a cheerful daisy, 'ox-eye'? What a gruesome thought.
Or the exotic looking cleome 'stink weed'? Even if it does stink?
And couldn't they find a better name for crocus?
Tulips and lilies.
They have such happy sounding names.
Even in Latin.
All flowers should have happy names.
While I understand the logic behind Latin names, they just don't sound appealing.
Dodecathelon. Such a stately name for the humble shooting star.
Tradescantia. That's a rather dismal sounding name for a terrific plant with bright blue flowers.
Better known as spiderwort.
Now worts I can handle.
Worts are cool. Worts go back to the days of folk medicine.
Leadwort, lungwort, worts galore.
They have a mystical appeal.
Plant names should have just that.
A happy mystical appeal.
The world needs more sweet williams, bouncing-bets, and naked ladies.

Hosta-my own seedling I named "My Tina" Posted by Hello

The Lawn Ranger Rides Again!

I am a very lucky person.
My new neighbor has decided he wants to rid my lawn of weeds.
My hero! (Sigh!)
This is a very good thing.
For me.
I personally don't like to use chemicals.
I tried it once and a mama robin abandoned her nest in my front yard.
That made me wonder.
I once heard someone say that homeowners use scads more chemicals than the farmers do.
All for an unbroken, carpet-like patch of green that needs more mowing and watering once you achieve that perfect lawn zen.
I'd much rather see flowers than lawn. I keep removing sections of lawn in favor of flowers. Much lower maintenance.
So...I have let the weeds take control of the yard.
You name it, I've got it.
Chickweed, creeping charlie, dandelions, plantains, thistles, clover, dock, violets, bugleweed, and on and on and on.
Even the flowers move into the lawn.
This does not sit well with my neighbor.
He's a chemical salesman.
Being the nice guy that he is, he's offered to rid my lawn of weeds.
How could I refuse?
All I have to do is give him some hosta.
Since he was out there spraying today, I guess I owe him.
I can always find a spare hosta. Or two.
I consider it kind of a symbiotic relationship.
He reduces my weed population.
I increase his hosta population.
Works for me!

(Though secretly I think he just can't stand the thought of my weeds migrating into his yard.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

On the Road Again

I truly intended to get out in the garden today.
At least to mow the lawn.
Or pull grass out of the flowerbeds.
Or tie my wisteria back up.
Or dig some more plants for my sister.

But, no.
I got tapped to drive a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

So, you might ask, what exactly do bus drivers do to pass the time on field trips?

I'll give you a short summary, just for fun.

Find a bathroom. (Top priority!)
Find food.
Watch the seagulls and pigeons.
Talk about cocoa shell mulch.
Admire the landscaping on the lakefront.
Debate whether or not Lake Michigan is cleaner than before.
Check to see if you can see the bottom.
Walk the lakefront from the front of Shedd's to behind the Planetarium.
Debate whether a sparkly looking statue of a guy hugging a dolphin with water shooting out of its mouth qualifies as art.
Discuss the bus parking situation in downtown Chicago.
Trade field trip horror stories.
View the skyline.
Comment on how the city has changed.
Debate the eye appeal of the new Soldier Field.
Debate the logic of trying to rename stadiums.
Find out stuff you didn't know about each other.
Find an astronomically aligned seating area by the planetarium.
Debate whether it's creepy because the granite seats look like headstones.
Admire the color of the water and the waves.
Watch the clock.
Smash a few pennies.
Find a restroom.
Load 'em up.
Take 'em back.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Miracle of Plant Transplantation

Today I decided to do a plant check on the hundred or so baby plantlings I have in flats, awaiting a major locale change.
They are going to New Mexico.
Why babies in flats?
I needed to save space.
They need a healthy root system.
Babies will simply adapt better in the long run.
If I can keep them alive.
Most are currently in little one inch flat cells. I ripped them out of the ground, stuck them in cramped quarters...
and still they thrive.
Some are thriving to the point of trying to flower in a miniaturized state.
It's kind of scary.
Mother Nature finds a way.
Out of the lot of them, only three look to be goners. The rest are getting a lot larger than I want them to be when I have to cart them half-way across the U.S.
What's my secret?
It's so simple. Anyone can do it.
But you have to do it for the first six weeks.

Just add water.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Typical flooding in my yard Posted by Hello

Tomatoes in Containers

I've decided to try something new this year. I'm going to grow my tomatoes and green pepper plants in containers on my deck.
Wish me luck.
'Cause I'm gonna need it.
You see, my veggie garden was way out back where I would always forget to water it.
Originally it flooded. And everything died.
Then I tried raised beds. They didn't flood and I was good about keeping them watered for a year.
But there was that horrible bug problem. I seem to attract copious amounts of bugs to my yard. The bean beetles ate all my beans. The squash bugs killed the squash. Corn bugs got into what few stalks of corn I had room for. And the cucumbers wilted.
I grew pumpkins. Once.
I grew gourds reasonably well. But they never got enough water for really thick shells. Even when I grew them next to the pool.
Carrots were a limited success. They were very deformed looking.
Now radishes and garlic I can grow. But I never use them.
I finally decided to give the raised bed up to the baby perennials, with the occasional tomato and pepper thrown in.
But I still can't remember to water them enough out back.
So now they sit, contained in pots, on the sunny deck.
The odds of this working aren't very good.
But I'll keep trying. Someday I'll get it right.
A true gardener never gives up.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

My Mom's Day Present

Happy Mother's Day to all!

It was a beautiful and hot day here in northern Illinois. Perfect for all those moms.

I received a rather unusual present in a rather unusual way. My hubby came home after working midnights and proclaimed that my present was outside somewhere and I just had to find it. He was quite proud of himself. Said it wasn't even wrapped.
Well, I gave the yard a cursory check and didn't spot anything. I even checked the front yard. I started to wonder if perhaps he'd actually purchased a plant and stuck it in with all the others in the yard.
That would be very tricky to find.
I have a large yard. I have a lot of plants.
So I decided I would add water to my pond while I went back and checked the yard again.
I didn't have to.
There was no mistaking the little gold bodies flitting about in my pond. They stuck out like a sore thumb, small as they are. The gold ones were easiest to spot. It took a bit longer to spot the dark grey ones. I even spotted a tadpole.
When I thanked my hubby, I asked how many he had gotten A dozen, was the response. Any tadpoles, I asked. Nope. Just goldfish, or fish from the goldfish tank at the local fish shop.

So...did my eyes deceive me, or did Mother Nature give me a special Mother's Day present?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Flowers in the Garden Posted by Hello

Precious Flowers in the Garden

Today I spent my time tending the most precious flowers in the garden.
Well...they don't live in the garden.
They mostly hang out at my house and eat a lot.
But today they were precious flowers. Today was the Senior Prom.
Talk about hustle and bustle! It kept me busy most of the day, picking up flowers, cleaning for the after-party, taking photos, and watching the grand parade to the buses.
I don't know who came up with this idea, but around here they take the kids off somewhere in charter buses for dinner and a dance. But before they leave, they all have to parade out to the buses past hoards of proud parents. It's quite a spectacle.
Today, the sky was blue, the grass was green, the trees were leafing out, and Mother Nature had graced us with an 80 degree May wonder.
And all the pretty flowers were out in force.
Red ones, orange ones, rainbow ones, silk and taffeta and sequins galore.
My personal favorite was the iridescent purple/blue one, shining in the spring sun.

Garden Spider Posted by Hello

Natural Marvels

Today I saw one of many marvels in my garden. It was an bright yellow goldfinch blazing a path across my yard. It's one of my many surprise visitors.
And I get a lot.
Which is rather surprising, since I live in the middle of town.
Some are large, like the raccoons, opossums, skunks and bunnies.
Some are tiny, like ladybugs, bees and waterbugs.
Some are yucky, like earwigs, slugs and spiders.
Some are beautiful, like the butterflies, birds and moths.
Some are surprising, like the mantis, cicadas and sphinx moths.
From the graceful dragonflies to the silly pillbugs, I love to watch them all.
Even the spiders.
And I hate spiders. I'm really borderline arachnophobic.
But in the garden they are truly marvels. So many sizes shapes and colors. So many different kinds of webs and dens. Orbs and funnels and tunnels and psychotic looking webs are everywhere.
The ones that are most fun to watch live in the rocks. I don't think they even build webs. They still scare me just as much as even the tiniest spiders do. But they have one endearing quality. They always carry their egg sacks around. If you disturb them, they scramble off, carrying that white ball of young along with them. Somehow it makes them a bit more personable.
My husband keeps telling me spiders are good because they eat bugs. Somehow that thought just isn't comforting enough when they drop down out of nowhere on a nearly invisible thread. Which, by the way, just plain feel creepy when you walk through them. Nasty invisible sticky threads!
So we have come to sort of a truce, spiders and I. They are allowed to live outside. As long as they don't move into an area I have to walk through. Then they get relocated. Now in the house...that's a different story.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Oriental Poppy...color yet to arrive. Posted by Hello

Spring Has Sprung!

Ah...the cold has finally left!
Now. If only it would rain. Just a bit.

Spring is full of color in unlikely places.

The orange breast of a robin.
The red flash of a cardinal crossing the yard.
The yellow of a wasp hovering.
The translucent gold of a honeybee.
The purple of the annoying creeping charlie.
The white of fallen apple blossoms.
The sandy brown of that unknown creature living under the deck.
The blue of a cloud-free sky.
The green of those grass stained gardener's knees.

A time to dream of future colors.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Weather

I'm not so sure about this global warming thing. It's not very warm out there. In fact, it has been unseasonablly cold here in northern Illinois. Tonight is our second frost warning night. So far, no damage to speak of.
Well, one little impatiens got nipped. I moved it for tonight, along with my fuschia. Paid too much for that to let it get nipped.
Aside from the cold, it's also been unusually dry. I have cracks in my lawn again. I'm not supposed to have cracks in my lawn in spring. I only get those in late summer. What is up with that?
And then there's the wind. Is is just me, or does the prevailing wind seem to be coming out of the east now? It's just a bit odd.
But...the plants don't seem to mind much. Mother nature just keeps keeping on in her own merry little way. The plants just seem to know to put themselves on hold for a bit when it gets cold.
I wish it were that easy for me.
I don't want to wait.