Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fall Clean Up

I rarely clean up my garden in the fall. I wait until spring when the ground is softer and my motivation is stronger. Leaving plants up also makes for natural bird feeders throughout the winter and ads winter interest.

But, next spring I want to hit the ground running and it was an awesome fall day (especially for NOVEMBER!!), so I got to work. I stripped my garden of all but a few well placed sunflowers. I left all the echinacea because they look really neat in the snow. I trimmed back many of my plants even though they may have been still somewhat green. I trimmed the dead lily stalks leaving just a few inches to let me know where they were come next spring. I pruned my pear and a few of the shrubs. I even got rid of a very ugly hosta that I have been meaning to dispose of for quite some time. I figured that would give me some fresh space in the spring to plant something that I really enjoyed.

And I even planted garlic for the very first time. I am not too concerned about how late in the season it is. Real winter comes late in this area. Besides, the garlic cost me all of $1.50!

I tried my best to get rid of as much Creeping Charlie as I could. It really got out of hand during the month that I have been tied up redoing my bathroom floor. It usually takes me a few weekends in the spring to get it back under control. But there is supposed to be good weather all week, so maybe I'll still have a few more chances to get at it.

I'm still waiting for the last of the bulbs that I ordered. They ran out of some of them -- so I will only have about 30 to plant when they do arrive. I hope they come soon or I will have to store them in the refrigerator over the winter!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Awesome Apple Pie!

Regulars of The Obsessive Gardener know that winter means FOOD SEASON! And I am going to start out this food season with probably the best recipe I ever created!

I work with a guy that has an orchard. Along with all the experimental trees he grows (like sweet cherries, peaches, pears) he also has a ton of apple trees. At harvest time he started bringing in bags and bags of apples for us and hinting how he would really like us to bake him a home-made apple pie from some of these apples.

Well three weeks and no takers. So when he started to bring me my favorite apples -- Honey Crisp -- I decided that I should probably oblige him with a pie.

I really can't remember the last time that I baked an apple pie. It could have been last Thanksgiving, but in any case, none could have been as good as the one that this one that I created for him!!

As usual, I made this recipe up as I went along.

1-1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup COLD butter
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (I use sea salt, cause I love it)
2-4 TBS ICE COLD water
a little bit of brown sugar (please use the C&H pure brown sugar, not the colored, flavored white sugar that a lot of companies try to pass off as brown sugar)
The important thing about pastry is that everything should be cold and you DO NOT want to over-work the dough. The way that pastry gets light and flaky is through the expansion of the little bits of fat in the dough while it's baking. If all the fat is mixed in too well, it does not do the job. No tiny air pockets mean dense, tough pastry.

So with that in mind, you really should mix this by hand with a pastry blender. A fork will also work, but I find that they dig into my hand. OR, you could just mix it with your hands. This technique can work well as long as you work fast, because the heat from your hands will start to melt the butter.

Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Break or chop the cold butter into bits into the mix. You want the dough to form fairly uniform crumbly bits. Then add just enough ICE COLD water to hold the dough together.

Now most people will roll it at this point. Any of you who have followed my recipe posts know that I like to cook and bake simple. All I do with this dough is push it into the pie plate to form a crust. There will be some left over dough. Hang on to that.

With my crust, I put the lump of left over pastry in the middle, threw plastic wrap over the whole thing and stuck it in the refrigerator while I prepared the rest of the pie. I actually had the crust in the fridge over night as I only had enough time to make the crust that night. I have heard that you should let the pastry "rest", so maybe this helped too.

The Filling:
4-6 apples-- cut, cored and peeled
1/2 cup brown sugar (remember -- C&H!)
1-2 tsp sea salt
1-3 TBS ground cinnamon
1-3 TBS ground ginger (depends on how much zip you want in the pie.)
a couple dashes (or more!) of Captain's spice rum

I used a variety of apples in the same pie since my coworker had given me so many different kinds. I think I mainly used Connelly Red and Honey Crisp.

To prepare the apples, I first cut the apples into slices, kind of like you'd do for pizza. Then I made "V" shapped cuts in the center of each slice to remove the core. Then I cut the peels off. I have found that this is the fastest, easiest way to prepare apples for me; you do what you want.

Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Now would be a good time to turn the oven on as you want the oven to be HOT when you start baking. 325-350F

Left over pastry
a couple handfuls of quick oats
1/2 - 1 cup brown sugar (you know the drill)
1/2 tsp of sea salt
2-4 TBS ground cinnamon
1-2 TBS ground ginger
1-2 TBS COLD butter (optional, but the topping will be more dry)

Put the pastry in a mixing bowl. (If you did not have left over pastry, you will need to mix some flour, butter and water to get a gob of "pastry"). With your hands, mix in everything but the flour. You want this topping to form a fairly uniformly crumbly mix. If the mix is just too moist, add a little bit of flour at a time until it looks right.
crust -> filling -> topping

Simple, right?

Bake for about 30-50 minutes depending on your oven, the moisture content of the pastry, the moisture content of the apples, altitude, etc.
You want to bake this until the crust is golden brown.

Serve fresh and warm with whipped cream.

It made me like pie again. I will never eat any other apple pie again! It simply MUST be THIS pie!!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Squirreling Bulbs

I had gotten most of my bulbs planted two weeks ago until all I really had left was a mixed bag. I wasn't looking forward to trying to find homes for all 50 of these, so I came up with a brilliant plan.

I handed a trowel, a container of bone meal, and the bag of tulips to my son. I then told him to go out into the garden and pretend that he was a squirrel burying food for the winter. I explained that the bulbs needed to go into a hole at least 6" deep and that the bone meal needed to be worked into the bottom of the hole - but he had full control over where they were planted.

He gave me a strange look and asked, "Are you sure? You don't care where they go?"

I said, "In nature they pop up where they want so why not in my garden? It will be my springtime surprise!"

He got them all planted and was very happy to do it. He said he would even "squirrel" bulbs for me next year if I wanted.


He might be doing it sooner.

I just bought almost 50 more bulbs from Brecks!


OK. I am seriously thinking that I either need professional help


I need to be locked in the closet for a good month!

I think I've crossed that line from "Obsessive" to "Compulsive" Gardener!!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Stop Me! I Have a Problem!"

I yelled to my husband as I stood there in Menards with my arms and cart loaded with various boxes and bags of bulbs, yet still trying to grab more from the shelves. "Help me! I'm addicted to bulbs!"

He managed to help me put almost ten packs back on the shelves, but I still went home with 300 bulbs! And I still had about 100 that I bought from a garden center the previous weekend, and I have more coming in the mail!!

As I laid the haul onto the living room floor, I began to wonder how I would ever get that many bulbs planted before winter. Saturday was optimal for planting, so I ditched my plans for tearing out our bathroom flooring (to finally put in tile that we had drove over 200 miles south to purchase about 5 years ago), and I began weeding and planting.

By the end of the day, I had an aching back, my garden about 3/4 weeded, and all but about 70 of the bulbs planted. I am planning on finishing planting once it stops raining.

We are going to have a very beautiful spring!

Monday, October 01, 2007

It's Alive!

My computer is alive and kicking! A friend of ours came over Friday and helped get the ball rolling with his Linux Live CD (KNOPPIX). Prior to this CD I was unable to get it to recognize the CD drive or the external hard drive that I was using for back-ups. And the horror I faced when I realized that the last back up I could find was from 2005!!!

But all is well. My husband painstakingly downloaded all my files and applications onto a back-up drive. Then he began the repair process. My computer is now in pre-meltdown condition. And I am so grateful to the both of them!

Everyone should make friends with a computer geek. Actually, two wouldn't hurt!

This week I will get to posting some of those pictures that I have been waiting to get to, so bear with me!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Computer Down!

My computer went kaplooey, and all my garden photos were on it! I'm pretty sure that I should be able to retrieve them, but right now, I can't get to them to do any decent garden posts.

I haven't been getting much gardening done lately anyway. I have been traveling. I spent one weekend in Grand Marais, MN. It is a fantastic place to explore and eat out! We save tons of money camping instead of staying at a hotel, so we have plenty of money to splurge at gourmet restaurants. Plus, we do so much walking/hiking during the day that we easily burn off all those extra calories!

Last weekend we went to my brother's and then my sister's. It had been a while since I had seen them. When I showed up at my brother's he was finishing up some new landscaping around his house. When he moved to the house, the shrub beds were weedy and over-grown. He has done a wonderful job of turning all that around. He's even put in a flower bed with a few native species. Good for him!

When I got to my sister's she told me that when they re-did the road next to her property, they made it so that all the water drained onto her property! It gets really soggy in the spring and every time it rains. So, she asked me if I would help her design a rain garden. Of course!! So, I will be taking off one weekend this fall to go back to her house to start her garden. I knew the day would come when my yard would become too small to hold me!

And this has really got me thinking...
I have been approached by many people over the years for garden advice/help. Especially recently, even strangers have come up to me in my yard to ask if I am a professional garden designer and ask me if I have thought about doing it for other people. Maybe I should! I think that I could probably afford some time to do a couple each season. I really am going to think about it because it would mean that I could try out even more of the ideas that are swimming in my head!

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's Finally Happening

I like my garden this year. I have done a lot of good moving around and everything has really been coming together.

The gazebo area is coming along nicely. We leveled out all the feet and made planting beds at the base of each leg. In five of these we planted the clematis we bought earlier this year. The clematis are doing really well so far. I can't wait to see them next year!

I had one Stargazer lily in my garden. It looked very lonely all by itself, so I bought a bag of them this spring and planted them. Now it is a much happier looking area. And they smell nice!

I have been trying out different ideas for all that brick that I got last year and I have been really liking this use. I need something to hold the berm back, and it really looks snazzy.

And when it all comes together, it's a beautiful thing.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pears O' Plenty

I work with a guy that owns an orchard with a variety of fruits: apples, cherries, plums, and pears, just to name a few. He has had his pear trees for five years and they have yet to produce. The "Luscious" pear tree pictured here has been at our house two years, was transplanted this spring to make room for the rain garden, and it has no partner tree; yet it is covered in pears. I have actually already taken off over two dozen pears just to keep this tree from over working itself and there are still this many pears left! We had gotten four pears from this tree last year and they were the best pears that I have ever eaten. I can't wait until these ripen.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Did You Doubt Me?


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Beauty and the Beast

I love my gas plant. I got it a couple of years ago and have been so smitten with the citrusy smell of the foliage, the compact and neat form of the plant, as well as the beautiful, long-lasting flower display starting sometime around Memorial Day as most of my tulips are fading away.

And I have been reading many posts from other gardeners who have discovered this most awesome plant. Many may even know why it is called a gas plant. The plant emits a flammable vapor; which on calm days, it is said, can actually be lit. It burns a beautiful blue and doesn't hurt the plant. I've never tried it myself, but I believe it.

Now, you may be thinking, "A plant that theoretically could burst into flames? Sign me up!"

But I have a warning for all you gardeners who, like me, have fallen in love with the beautiful gas plant. Bursting into flames isn't the only trick this plant has up it's sleeve.

I found out the hard way that if it can't get you with actual fire, it will attack you with a chemical that is photo sensitive and will actually cause your skin to burn and blister if exposed to sunlight after contact.

This has happened to me two years in a row! Last year when it happened I didn't realize what the blisters and dark markings were actually from. I thought maybe poison ivy, but it wasn't spreading as it notoriously does, and it really didn't itch that much unless I was out in the sun or the area got heated somehow.

The blisters lasted for about a month and the dark marks lasted for a few months. I was actually beginning to think that they might be permanent!

Over the winter, I read a few articles about gas plants to see how to propagate them. That was when I discovered that brushing against their foliage could cause skin irritation. They really didn't get into details about how bad it would irritate your skin, though. I have a few plants in my garden that give me a minor rash that lasts a couple of days if I have too much contact with them - no biggie, right? So, when I was pulling weeds around my gas plant a week ago and got scratched by it, I thought no biggie.

Boy was I wrong! In a couple of days, I had the same welts, blisters and dark markings that I had been plagued with most of last summer! I had even washed my arms after the scratching and that didn't seem to have done much to stop it.

On the up side, it doesn't seem to spread (although I am still careful of cross contamination) and calamine does seem to help. Also, although I need to research this a little more, it seems that the volatile chemicals appear with the seed heads. I have touched and brushed up against this plant many times every spring and during flowering and never a reaction. The reaction I got last year was at approximately the same time in June that I got it this year.

I am keeping my plant and haven't completely scrapped the idea of getting a few more (even though my husband is urging me to stay away from them). They are a great plant, I just have to be aware to beware not to be fooled by its beauty; this is one beast of a plant!

an additional article with similar experience Added 05/30/2009

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rain Garden Update

I have been extremely busy the last couple of weeks - work, work, get togethers, landlording, and lots of gardening.

In particular, SSB and I have been working on the rain garden. We finally tracked down our contract which was approved two months ago but the DNR guy neglected to give to us. As our neighbor says, "Never trust the government."

What exactly is a rain garden? The idea of a rain garden is to make a place for the water that falls on your property to collect and be used up by plants rather than running into the storm drains. Rain gardens normally use native plants since they are the best adapted to your property's particular conditions. I really liked that idea and took it as a challenge. My plan is to take a garden that can look rather boring

that uses plants that can look rather weedy

both pictures from

and make it appealing to the average homeowner.

We were given a design for the garden which looked very much like the design you see in the first picture above. I'm not too big on all these doughnut or kidney shaped rain gardens. Every rain garden that was on the demonstration list we were given was either doughnut or kidney shaped - OR BOTH! They just end up looking so unnatural and boring; whereas I prefer more natural looking layouts with some excitement. -And spirals, apparently, as the design that I came up with will be the second spiral garden on our property.

This is a "Before". I already started a garden here that I had been expanding over the years. At least 2/3 of the material in the garden needed to be removed (I gave them all new homes).

Here we have begun the lay out. I like to study a site for a while, then just start digging. The site will guide me as to the shape the garden should be. It's more divining than designing.

Most of the rain garden guides that I read mentioned an option for over-flow. They suggested a drain of some kind. I decided that, since the whole purpose of the garden was to keep water from draining off my property into our river, a holding pit made more sense. This pit will house the marshier plants that we purchased. It is the spirally part of the garden.

There is SSB watering the plants that we just purchased and laid out in the design. We purchased small plants so we could afford to get more of them, and they tend to transplant better when they are small. These should fill in nicely in a couple of months.
Here you can see the river idea that I was going for. The basin will be filled in with layers of sand, pea gravel, and progressively larger rocks once the plants are dug in. Right now, the rocks are serving to keep the plant pots from tipping over while we lay them out.

Are you ready for the dramatic Before & After?

Nice change, huh? Some of the plants in this picture were ones left from the original bed. They were either wildflower volunteers (like buttercups, goldenrod and daisies) or they were wildflowers that I had planted there myself. SSB and I did all the design ourselves and we did almost all the work too (the DNR guy helped dig for about an hour one day).

We still have a little more to do, but I think we might reach my goal of having it done by July 4th!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Easy Ligularia

Although I live in the North, my garden is mostly in full, and I mean FULL, sun. Plus, the summers here are generally in the high 80s and 90s with humidity in the same - but not infrequently does it get over 100F! Bleh! And barely any rain makes for a very poor environment to grow ligularia, unless you happen to have a consistently boggy area in your yard, which I do not.

However, I have happened upon what I would describe as no ordinary ligularia - Desdemona.

Desdemona, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways

First - the fact that it actually grows!! I have killed so many ligularia; and the ones that I have managed to keep alive before finding this one have required a lot of attention.

Second - it's easy! I barely have to do anything to mine - even in FULL SUN!!

Third - they grow in FULL SUN!! Strike that. They aren't so much "growing" as they are "thriving". Having them in full sun was an accident. This area was originally very shaded, but the shade came from annual sunflowers. I had intended to move the ligularia the following spring, but they never gave me a reason to follow through with that plan. Even in the height of summer they do just fine here in FULL SUN!

Fourth - rarely needs extra watering. Ligularia have gained quite a bit of a reputation for being water hogs; and I have to say that my vote is in the affirmative on that one for every other ligularia that I have grown. But these are no ordinary ligularia! I am watering many of my other regular garden plants due to lack of rain or excessive heat long before I even need to think about the Desdemona - and did I mention that these are in FULL SUN?

Fifth - their height. The oldest plant is already over 3' high this year!

Sixth - the texture they add to the garden. Their leaves are Huge! I was just reading the other day that gardens without variety in leaf size and structure will appear boring.
These are definitely not boring. In fact they really do make all the plants around them look better!

Seventh - the color. The leaves are a spruce green on top and an iridescent raspberry underneath. The dark stems add even more contrast and interest.

Eighth - they flower! And they have nice, big, interesting flowers - and lots of them!

Ninth - the structure and form. It is a very architectural plant that can be used successfully in a formal or cottagey garden.

Tenth - did I mention they were easy?

If some one had never planted a ligularia before, this is THE ONE that I would recommend.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Wonderful Wildflowers

When I garden, I don't so much "plan" as "go with the flow". Often the most wonderful things happen when I just let things happen.

As my garden has gotten bigger I have developed the habit of leaving some of the weeds to see what they actually are. Through the years I have been rewarded with lots of fabulous free flowers: violas, columbine, catchfly, hoary vervain, poppies, sunflowers, dame's rocket, lilies, goldenrod, milkweed, asters, veronica, rudbeckia hirta, pennycress, Virginia waterleaf, downy yellow violet, Solomon's seal, buttercups, winter cress, tansy, evening primrose, rose twisted-stalk, ground cherry, geranium, wild strawberry, white campion, and lots & lots of oxeye daisies - the current backbone of my garden!

But the one that I get the most people asking me about is my mullein. It is a biennial that looks like a velvet loose-leaf cabbage in its first year - very nice for the front of the border. In the second year, the plant elongates to 6 feet tall at times! Time for the back of the border at that height; and even if you move it in that second year, it blooms just fine.

It's a member of the snapdragon family that looks more closely related to lamb's ear or cacti. In fact, part of the reason that I personally love this plant is that, as it "ripens" after flowering, it reminds me of a saguaro cactus - well a soft, fuzzy version anyway.

They dependably start up around the garden every year and are fairly easy to move. I loved the way that these were bunching here in my prairie garden, so I moved a few more here.

Just when I thought they were looking fabulous themselves, the peony bloomed. I love the white pompons behind the silvery, fuzzy foliage of the mullein. What a happy accident!

Mullein are EASY to take care of. After you get them re-established after transplant they should NEVER need anymore care - no water, no food, no fuss. Nice.

Some of these mullein are already three feet high, but don't worry - behind them is Queen-of-the-Prairie which also gets up to 6' tall. And behind that are my compass plants which can get 7' tall!!

I will be planting winter cress among the mullein this year as I find them in my veggie beds. They have beautifully full tufts of yellow in mid-spring.

In front of them I have seeded pennycress that I collected from the patch that started itself there the last three years. This is a great little annual from start to finish. Nice form, pretty flower, interesting seed pods, and great ripening color. It also blooms right before the winter cress, so there should be continual color in this bed.

Don't have a prairie garden? Don't worry, I think they work well in the average, well kempt garden too!
The mullein are impressive at all stages, even in death. They create stately bird feeders throughout the fall and winter months- goldfinches and woodpeckers especially love the seed.

Mulleins have encouraged me to continue to let the weeds grow. Who knows what gem I will find next!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Vexing Vines

I decided that no matter what I was going to get the clematis planted this last weekend, which meant that I had to finish leveling the gazebo. It was difficult since it has been raining almost everyday for a week, but I got it done Saturday morning.

When I brought the clematis out to plant, the Comtesse de Bouchard all had some sort of fungus, even though the Blue Ravine right next to them were unscathed. I went to the nursery to ask if they had a fungicide I could use on them and they told me to bring them in for an exchange instead. I know you are going to say that was nice of them but actually they were quite snotty about it even though I never asked them to do it. They only had two though, so I got a refund for the third.

I have never bought a potted vine with a mini trellis before. I seriously suggest that they include instructions with these things! I started with the Comtesse since I really wanted to get them planted to avoid the fungus problem. I nearly destroyed one and did destroy the other trying to get the damn trellis unhooked from the pot so I could get the plant out. My suggestion with this set up is to cut the pot to release the trellis hooks from the bottom, take the plant and trellis out together, plant the vine, and if you want to remove the trellis - clip the vine free with sharp mini pruners. Oh, and you'll probably want a second person to help hold things. It was a nightmare.

Just as two years ago when I knocked a hibiscus shoot off the plant, I quickly acted to make cuttings. I have 6 of them and I tried all three ways that I read about. Something HAS to take, right? We'll see.

The oak I transplanted on Mother's Day is still alive. It looks like we will be losing the very top two branches, but everything else is looking pretty good. I figure that since it is three weeks in, that tree just might make it. Yay!

The pear that I transplanted this spring didn't even seem to notice that it had been moved. It never wilted at all, bloomed profusely, and is now covered by about three dozen pears! It had over four dozen, but I clipped off over a dozen of the smallest pears to keep the tree from over-working itself. This tree is only a few years old and barely taller than I am and was recently transplanted but still manages to crank out dozens of fruit - what a trooper!

My Tiffany tea rose made it another year. See my pretty toes?

Here is the rodgersia flower in full bloom. Not bad, huh? This will look really nice when there are a bunch of them blooming at once.

I Was Right!

Two years ago I was trying to identify a lily that I had. I scoured through all the lily indexes I have in my sidebar and finally guessed it to be "America" - I was right! I just found the tag for it Saturday. Yay!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Late Start, Early Start

I finally got my veggie/herb garden seeds from Jung that I ordered about a three weeks ago. How long does it take to put a dozen seed envelopes in a box?
Normally this wouldn't be a problem since I generally don't start planting my veggies until a week or two after Memorial Day - but this year I got a jump start (for me anyway) and had started planting two weeks ago. I had already replaced much of what I had ordered with other seeds, so...

I will be making ANOTHER veggie garden bed to house the items that I just got from Jung. I needed an additional bed anyway. I can cram a lot of veggies in a 4x16 bed, but I want to grow more squash and herbs.

The seeds I purchased:
  • Pumpkin "Early Sweet Sugar Pie" (which I already replaced with "Triple Treat"; a fabulous pumpkin that I had grown one other year and made the best pies with and what I had really wanted anyway)
  • Snow pea "Mammoth Melting Sugar"
  • Edible pod pea "Sugar Daddy" (which I have already replaced with "Sugar Snap" left over from last year)
  • Garden pea "British Wonder"
  • Filet bean "Maxibel"
  • Kale "Blue Curled Vates"
  • Broccoli "Packman Hybrid"
  • Lettuce "Baby Star" (which I already replaced with "Buttercrunch")
  • Salad greens "Jung's Gourmet Mesclun Mix" (I have grown this before and my family and the groundhog highly approved)
  • Pepper "Cherry Bomb Hybrid" and "Margaret's"
  • Spinach "Bloomsdale Long Standing" (which I discovered later I already had seeds!)
  • Carrot "Sweetness III Hybrid" (which I have already replaced with "Gold Mine" and "Nantes Scarlet"
  • Basil "Mammoth Napoletano" and sweet basil "Italian Large Leaf" (both of which I already replaced with what I had really wanted anyway "Genovese")
I also get left overs from my neighbors every year (packs of 6 when they only need 4 plants - I get 2! I love free plants!) . This year so far I have three different kinds of tomatoes, an eggplant, and two sweet peppers. The eggplant and peppers I planted in the flower garden since I had run out of space in my veggie garden and haven't finished the new bed yet. They will look nice and help fill in some space. I am thinking about starting a few more veggies in the flower garden, I have all this extra space in there, and having something growing in it should keep me from buying more plants!

Well, we'll see anyway.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Springtime Waning

We are now entering that weird in-between time where it doesn't feel like spring anymore but it isn't quite summer yet either. The last of my spring bulbs have finished and the black locust are blooming.

OH! The black locust has such an enveloping, wonderful scent! I look forward to its bloom every year. It is a wonderful garden tree in that it grows FAST but strong; provides dappled light; offers interest in the way of bark (older trees), leaves, flowers, and generally inedible bean shaped fruit; it has a narrow canopy footprint, and the leaves are small enough to leave where they land. The problem comes in their aggressive seedlings. This tree has quite a few offspring every year and they will not be denied! The saplings are very thorny (they lose their thorns as they get older) and the entire root must be dug out to get rid of them. You could also let them grow until they are an inch or two thick and cut them down, but even then the tree will try to sucker. They actually are much easier to remove than elm, though. I spent an hour yesterday cutting elm sapling out of my lilac bush - and I will have to do it again and again because I can not dig out the root where they are.

Another item blooming right now is my dogwood.
I have not noticed any scent with it, but the shrub is beautiful enough.

They are not necessarily easy to grow, no matter what you hear. The majority of the other variegated dogwood around town look pretty shabby. Other than a fertilizer spike at planting (which I do with most of my shrubs) I didn't do anything special with this one, I guess I just got lucky.

If you give this a try, I would suggest growing it in full sun as I have noticed about the other variegated dogwoods around town, the more shade they get, the less happy they look.

One plant that really doesn't mind a little shade is the columbine. Several years ago I started some Barlow columbine from seed. I originally had four plants. They weren't too keen on exactly where I had planted them (a little too close to the pine, I'm guessing) and one by one they died over a two year period. The spring after the last died, a couple of their offspring showed up. And now I get new ones every year.

These are just two of the Barlows that I have this year. My husband and I remembered the columbine munchers from last year and were right on top of them this year. I squished them right on the leaves while they were still tiny. They didn't stand a chance.

Here is the rodgersia with it's flower. Not a real impressive flower, but it's the leaves that I want. This plant at maturity will be about hip high. Not as big as the astilboides (which I just found out is related to the rodgersia), but still a very interesting plant.

I want to get a mass of them growing to help fill in the Asian shade garden that we are expanding. Again, it is not meant to be a true Japanese or Chinese garden, it is merely inspired by them; Fusion, as my husband calls it. And hopefully it will be an inspiration in its own right.

This is the work that I did yesterday. It was supposed to rain all day, so I got up started my runs to the compost center as soon as they opened at 8am and figured that I would just get loads until it started to rain. I was able to get enough to lay out the whole garden. My idea here was a Taoist theme of "going with the flow". I think out of all the philosophies that I have studied, Taoism makes the most sense. If you have not read The Tao of Pooh I highly recommend it.

The path is a river, an old river, the kind of river that has over the years gone from rushingly trying to push its way through the world to gently and wisely finding its way through. It is not concerned with the speed of the journey, it values the journey itself. This river guides those traveling it through the garden slowly so that they may enjoy the journey too.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

New Template and More Plant Shame

As you may have noticed, I tweaked my template. I'm not sure if I like the background color yet, but I think that the title/header turned out great - featuring a picture of my very own "Princess Irene" tulips. Love them!

And here is another of my favorite tulips - "Blue Parrot". I know, they don't look like parrot tulips since they are only slightly frilly; but that is what I like about them. They are one of the most feminine looking tulips I have ever seen. Very delicate looking, yet TOUGH! They are growing in mostly shade under two pine trees - and still blooming every year!

The oak tree that I moved last Sunday is still doing well. I am not calling it a success yet, but I am less worried about it now. I still have not identified it. Here is a picture of the bark (isn't it cool?) and the leaves. Does anyone know what it is? My best guess is a burr oak, but I can't find any pictures of the juvenile leaves and bark.

And now on to the shame...

I killed the delphinium that the nursery guy gave me. I feel awful. It was in a small pot and dried out overnight. I really should have re-potted it as soon as I got it home. I almost cried. What could I do but vow to have the best damn looking delphinium bed this year?

SO, I went to another nursery today with the specific purpose of buying delphinium. I left without any since their stock looked a little iffy, but did manage to purchase 7 clematis!! And they weren't cheap - but I had to have them. They had "Blue Ravine". My early readers may remember the pictures that I posted of my "Blue Ravine" clematis - simply STUNNING! But I killed it last year. Noticing a pattern here? I was trying to straighten what it was climbing and *snap!*

I didn't get ALL Blue Ravine. My gazebo has 6 legs and I want to plant a clematis next to each one so my gazebo will be covered in clematis. I didn't want it all covered in one color though - that would just be overwhelming. I chose another clematis to alternate: Comtesse de Bouchard. The Blue Ravine is a repeat bloomer, blooming May-June and then again in August. Comtesse blooms June-September. I think this will be perfect since they will most likely only bloom together in August. Comtesse's selling point, besides the blooming time, was that the vine takes on the look of shiny copper wire as it ages - just beautiful!

So six legs, seven clematis. What was the seventh clematis?
Well, we fell in love with this one and just had to have it:

It is "Betty Corning". We loved the way that it resembled a trumpet lily. The foliage is very fine and delicate looking which makes this a very feminine/lacy looking plant. We really don't have a clue where we will put it either. *Sigh* I have to quit going to nurseries.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Free Tree

Mother's Day was another very busy day. I started weeding and adding compost to the delphinium bed, but got sick of running into the half dead ornamental plum so I had my son cut it down for me.

Then there was a huge gap that I was not happy with. Seeing as we did not get a tree the day before, I wasn't sure what to do. But as you may have guessed - I am obsessive. I did not want to wait to fill the gap so I started finally digging out an oak that I have been meaning to move for a couple of years. It was a gift from the tree rats, but they planted it too close to the high line. I didn't move it yet because I had no idea where to put it and I heard that oaks were not easy to move successfully. But it was either move it or chop it down, so why not give it a chance to live?

OMG! They are not easy to move at all! I was digging in 85F heat for about an hour and a half! I had fully intended to dig a good three feet down before cutting the roots (oaks have a tap root system - a series of thick roots that grow practically straight down), but the spot it was in was tight and I kept hitting roots. Even though I hacked up the roots more than I wanted to, I did finally get it out and move it to its new home.

Sorry it's so fuzzy, but it was dusk when I took this picture. You can see the remains of the plum between the dogwood and the oak. I was actually happy that the plum died - it was way too close to the dogwood and I didn't want to move it.

This oak so far hasn't seemed to even notice that it got moved. I watered the crap out it yesterday and feed it to give it a boost. I still have not gotten any root stimulator, otherwise I would have used some of that too. I am crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. This is an absolutely lovely tree and I think that it fits the spot nicely. I figure if I can keep it happy for a couple of weeks it might just stand a chance.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

I have been in a funk for a couple weeks due to, I'm guessing, all the stress that the changes at work have been creating[1] - and that garden-pillager didn't help either! But yesterday I had a great day. I woke up around 9am, made some coffee (Farmer Brothers ROCKS!), and nestled into my couch to order some bulbs from Breck's before their $25 coupon expired. Here's what I ordered (all of the following images are from the Breck's catalog):

I liked my Arabian Mystery tulips so much that I just had to have more. I originally bought these from a nursery in the Twin Cities that has an awesome fall bulb collection - but they sell them in open bulk bins, so I'm never 100% sure that I'm getting what I think I'm getting.

The Sunrise tulips speak for themselves!

The Trout Lilies looked perfect for our Zen garden[2], they reminded me of pagodas.

The Exotic Emperors just caught my eye. The combination of colors looks so elegant. I can't wait to see these in person!

After I sent my bulb order in, I slammed the rest of my coffee and headed out to the garden to get some weeding done before heading off to work.

It was perfect weather - cool and sunny. I don't like heat. I prefer high 60s to low 70s. I can take higher temps if the humidity is low, but around here it gets really humid - not Florida humid, but pretty damn close.

I was getting so much done in the garden that I decided to skip work (which I can do pretty much at will since I am in charge of my own scheduling at my job - nice, huh?). I weeded pretty much all the beds in the main garden and even moved some plants around - including those Greenland Tulips that I have been meaning to move from under the burning bush for years. Even though they weren't really flowering anymore because they weren't getting enough sun and were being strangled by the dense root mass of the bush), they were still multiplying nicely. I also noticed that some had moved themselves from under the bush into more sun and were actually blooming pretty well (I left those alone). I hope that means that the move will get these tulips blooming again; they are such lovely tulips.

I lost an ornamental plum tree and over half of my delphinium, so SSB said we should go to Funkie Gardens to see if they had any trees that we could put in the area. I always love a trip to Funkie Garden. They specialize in hostas and unusual perennial plants - hence the name. Well, $136 later we didn't have a tree, but we did have some very nice plants!

2 Eupatorium maculatum 'Carin' (Joe Pye weed)

2 Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Rubra' (pasque flower)

2 Trollius c. 'Golden Queen' (globe flower)

1 Iris cristata 'Eco Bluebird' (wood iris)

2 Heliopsis h. 'Prairie Sunset' (false sunflower)

1 Athyrium niponicum 'Burgundy Lace' (painted fern)

1 Tsuga canadensis 'Cole's Prostrate' (dwarf hemlock)

2 Silphium lanciniatum (compass or cup plant)

The last one I was not familiar with at all. I got it because the leaves and base were so intriguing and it said that it could get up to 7' high!! When I got home and Googled it - well, it wasn't what I was expecting - and I have two of them! I'm sure that I can find some place to make these work.

On the way home we stopped at another nursery that I usually get my delphinium from. They only had one variety this year, so I only got two hoping that I could pick up a couple more colors some place else. The guy selling me them was excited that I had such a big bed and commitment to growing delphinium. He told me to hang on, disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a small pot with a delphinium in it. He said it was a gift to me. He had grown it from seed himself. Aw! I was so touched! I promise to take good care of it.

I felt so good by the end of the day; content and happily tired! What a great early Mother's Day!

[1] I work at a pharmacy and one of the pharmacists quit, leaving only one pharmacist. And of course the one that left was also the one that made my job around there much easier. The other bookkeeper also left leaving me in charge of ALL the business management. That bumped my hours up about 20 more hours a week as well as giving me a whole new pile of things to learn and sort out.

[2] The Zen Garden is named so because it is inspired by Japanese gardens and our cat, Zen, is buried there.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Feel So Violated!

I came home from work early to get some gardening done.

First I mowed the lawn. That really makes the garden look so much better. It works as good as a day's worth a weeding.

Then I actually got down to weeding. As I was weeding my candy lily bed I noticed that the Bright Parrot tulips that I had planted nearby had been beheaded. It was a real ugly beheading too - the stems were shredded. Strange, I thought. As I leaned in to examine, I saw that two of the bulbs had actually been pulled right out of the ground and left to bake in the sun.

Those damn squirrels!!!

I replanted the bulbs thinking to myself that I should have remembered to put hair around these bulbs since they were fairly new. Then I hear my neighbor calling to me from across the street. He wanted to tell me about something that he had seen yesterday -

- a woman was in my garden picking my flowers.

WHAT THE HELL?!! Who the hell would do that? Someone obviously that feels that they are so damn important that they alone deserve the right to enjoy those flowers, those flowers that they did not buy, plant and slave over. Flowers that were not in THEIR YARD!!!

My neighbor said that by the time he decided she probably wasn't a friend of mine, she was gone. I told him that no one has permission to pick my flowers. I don't even pick my flowers!!

And this woman can't even be bothered to replant the bulbs that she pulled out of the ground in the process!!

I felt sick. I was so irritated that I just couldn't even finish my gardening.

Besides robbing me, and all my garden fans, the enjoyment of all my hard work, this stupid woman has me completely re-thinking plant choices and placement now. I hate the fact that I am now very hesitant to buy more interesting plants and feel like I have to hide them.


She better hope that I never find her!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

More May Shots

I love bulbs and my bulb beds are looking so good this year. They are filling out wonderfully.

These Bright Parrot tulips that I got from Breck's last fall just bloomed today. They are AWESOME!! I'm so glad that I got them last year, because they aren't in the catalog this year. I have to say that I was very impressed with the quality of the bulbs that I got from Breck's. So even though they are fairly expensive, I think that they are worth the money - especially if you use the $25 coupon that they send every year. I will be using it again this year!

I got these as a mixed tulip bag - they were ALL purple! Which is just fine, because I like purple.

A shot of my main bulb beds. You can see the Gavotas blooming just on the other side of the path.

These are my favorite tulips - Princess Irene. This picture is pretty good at highlighting their color, but I think that seeing them in person is far better.

This is another lily tulip. I can not remember the name. I bought it on special and stuck it in the ground without recording it. It is in the big berm, which does not seem to be very friendly to my bulbs. I have lost every one that I have planted in it except this one (which was a pack of ten).

The rodgeria leaves have unfurled. They still have quite a bit of growing to do. This plant gets a few feet tall.

"Elizabeth" magnolia in bloom. The tree is only in its second year at our house, so it only has three blooms, but they are just amazing.