Thursday, April 28, 2011
My new quote of the day (and it's mine so you can quote me): "Some women go shoe shopping, I go sedum shopping." I wrote today about the joys and perils of gift plants versus garden center purchases on my weekly column/essay at Main Line Gardening. I invite you to visit their site and read the fully essay. Photos are from my garden.
Don't Look a Gift Plant in the Sepals - gardening essay for MainLine Gardening by Jeanne Grunert
I also received the nicest compliment this week from reader Barb over at SFO Mom (who also has a terrific blog, and you can find her link in my blogroll somewhere in the messy sidebar here). She said, "Your book has given me confidence to start an herb garden this year." I got a real lump in my throat at that comment. I've always wanted to inspire somebody and it is so nice to hear that my gardening book did that. I want everyone to have fun in the garden. It's so worthwhile, so rewarding to grow something - anything! - whether it's a little pot of geraniums on your front steps or a windowsill of basil and herbs. Try it!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I've actually found it to be the opposite - the few times I've resorted to conventional gardening methods, whether it's pesticides or fertilizers, I get so mixed up with chemical names, numbers, warnings and cautions that I end up one big befuddled mess and I give up and go back to nature's way.
Nature makes things easy. Look at this way; if plants have survived over the thousands and thousands of years since the Earth was formed, don't you think they're tough enough to get along without mankind's chemistry set? Add manure, add compost, and you're done. Plant stuff that grows well together. Water it. Done. Insects? A little trickier, but there are things you can do without dumping stuff that will eventually kill you along with the insects onto the soil.
Yes, it's true that you might get an apple with a worm in it, or a lettuce leaf nibbled by slugs. One organic gardener I know just shrugs and says, "Well, what do I do about that? I plant a bit more for them, you see."
Now that's what I love about organic gardening!
Here is my latest article on organic gardening. It offers very basic tips. Someone said I gave her courage this week to plant a little herb garden and boy did that comment make me feel good, like I was accomplishing part of the reason why God put me on this Earth with an obsession for plants. I want everyone who wants to garden but who is afraid to do it or uncertain to know it and love it and just feel joyful and happy about it. So read my little essay, try a few things, and let me know how you're doing. Have fun and get your hands dirty!
New article: The Lazy Gardener's Guide to Organic Gardening
Thursday, April 21, 2011
We've been working like crazy on the flower garden and today noticed that many of the shrubs are blooming. I'd estimate that about 10% of the flowers are blooming, but the seeds are all germinating and the rest of the plants are taking off. The butterflies are fluttering over to the phlox, and today we had hummingbird moths on the azaleas. I tried to take a picture of them but like their namesakes, they won't hold still!
I'll write another day about the new rose arbor. What a gift that was from my husband....he used up some large wooden fence posts we had just stored behind the shed and constructed a wonderful sturdy arbor for my Blaze climbing rose. And to keep Blaze company, he came home from Lowe's with a new pink climbing rose for me. But more on that later. For now, please enjoy the flower garden update - in pictures.
|Azaleas are in full bloom now.|
|Easter-egg colored tulips just in time for Easter!|
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Click the link below to read the full article:
Three Native Perennial Flowers for American Butterfly Gardens
Monday, April 18, 2011
|Ann's Bloomerang, Year 2|
The Bloomerang has lived up to its catalog hype. Not only does it bloom vigorously, it has doubled in size since planting it last year. That's saying something. Areas in front of the home or near the foundation of any home are notoriously difficult places for shrubs thanks to compacted soil and construction debris hidden under the earth. Our soil in front of the house is hard-packed clay with large chunks of gravel for drainage that strayed out from under the porch. The Bloomerang doesn't seem to care. It offers dark purple lilac flowers generously, and was among the first shrubs and the very first lilac here to bloom this year.
|Three years later, the Arbor Day "twig" is this beautiful specimen|
In 2009, we planted several 'twigs' purchased from the Arbor Day Society - lilacs, but they came like big sticks with one single lonely root, and we feared we'd lose them all. We have five out of the six, with one growing into a vigorous shrub behind the house. The smaller one in the flower garden produced its very first old-fashioned scented blossoms this year. Yesterday we cemented more edging in the flower garden, and it's only when you're working for a while near the lilac that you notice its rich perfume.
|Variegated leaf colors on the lilac from Joan|
I'd always wanted lilacs. We had no room for them in Floral Park, but my next door neighbor, Mr. Hoffman, had a big hedge of them growing near the garage. He grew them for his wife and after she died he chopped them all down. I was sad because we couldn't grow them and he used to give me big cuttings of lilac in the spring. In Huntington where I lived later on, we had so much shade lilacs wouldn't grow. They were one of the first shrubs I chose for the new gardens we put in here and although we have flowers this year, the shrubs are still so small that I am not cutting the flowers to bring into the house yet. I'll wait. In a year or two, I'm guessing I'll be able to cut big bouquets, but for now I will enjoy them in the garden.
Friday, April 15, 2011
We've added another new garden bed to the east side of the house, and today the plants we ordered to complete the flower garden arrived. I am very upset with the nursery we ordered from; I am going to wait and see what survives, then get a refund for anything that dies as per their guarantee. We shall see what lives....thank goodness I ordered tough plants like sedum and forsythia. They are hard to kill kind of plants but this mail order nursery looks like they were trying their darndest to prove the adage, "What doesn't kill you makes you strong."
Despite a full schedule of work, two hours of weeding, and three hours of cement work yesterday on the garden wall, I did head over to my neighbor's farm this week for a nice after dinner walk and chat. I needed the stress relief of girl talk. Guys just don't understand why us gals need time with friends to talk; but really, it is as necessary as breathing, I think.
Here are pictures from our woodland walk. These are wild Virginia bluebells. She has meadows of them down by their little patch of the river. They have bald eagles on their farm too, but we did not see one during our walk, just a bunch of cattle that broke a fence line and decided to go wading. Thankfully, her German Shepherd dogs were on patrol and herded the recalcitrant beasts back towards their official field.
Enjoy these pictures of spring on my neighbor's farm while I complete my office work for the day, then head outside to plant more flowers! Looking forward to the rain showers predicted tomorrow so I can actually get some house work done; if it wasn't for rain, a gardener's house in the spring would always be messy.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
If you're scratching your head and wondering, "What's a Kerria?" I'm not surprised. They're hard to find. I'm not sure why. The nursery I worked for in New York had them, but they were expensive, and online they are tough to find too. They're related to roses but with yellow flowers. I named ours the "Bee Bush" because bees just loved it.
So when I got a call Saturday morning from my gardening buddy Joan offering me not one but TWO rescued Kerrias from another neighbor's garden, I was thrilled. Seems like someone wanted to dig up the "nuisances" shrubs and throw them out, but Joan - ever on the lookout for plants for me - snagged them, potted them up, and is acting like the gardening Santa Claus today dropping them off at her friends' houses.
I have Blaze climbing roses growing in the garden now, along with a lovely snowball viburnum and dogwoods, and a little coral bells growing next to the side steps on my porch. Each reminds me of my mother. But adding those two Kerria to the back garden will finally complete my mother's garden or the plants I have included in memory of her.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Well, what gardener can just "look" at her garden? I pulled out five pots of geraniums from the plant room that I have overwintering and let them get some drizzle. The weeds annoyed me; I grabbed my hoe from the rack in the garage and started snagging those unwelcome visitors. The next thing I knew I had a trowel in my hand and I found myself planting several dozen impatiens and petunias in the garden next to the patio and the flower garden. And you can't just plant annuals; the seeds have to go in too! Five packets of zinnia seeds and one package of foxglove seeds planted, another peony staked, and a new garden bed marked out with string, my sneakers were soaked, my socks soaked, and I was a bedraggled mess along with Shadow.
But really, it doesn't feel like a Saturday in April unless I'm outside gardening.
April showers do bring May flowers!
Monday, April 4, 2011
With the major weeding accomplished and all the cool weather vegetables planted, it was time for some photography. The orchard is blooming now with daffodils. We planted 400 bulbs in 2009 and another 400 in 2010, and they are already putting on a spectacular display. The area in the photo is large, over an acre, and we have 30 fruit trees in metal cages to keep them safe from deer and critters. There are about 10 apple trees of various types; peaches, plums, pears, cherry and apricots. We're hoping the daffodils spread out so that we will have a carpet of them underneath the flower canopy when the trees mature. They are only 2-3 years old now and according to the books we read, they will take several more years before they are mature enough to bear fruit, but in the meantime we plant more bulbs each year in the hope of things to come.
Enjoy the pictures taken around the gardens yesterday.....and not to be outdone, since I'm always sharing pictures of Pierre, Shadow finally sat still long enough for me to get a good picture of her.
|Flowers under the kitchen windows|
|Little tulips next to the garage|
|Tulips, almost finished blooming|
|Phlox in front of the house|
|Miss Shadow dressed for "work" with her purple bandana and tennis ball|
Saturday, April 2, 2011
The poor tomato plants looked like they were shivering in their pots. So were the basil plants. I almost fell over when I saw they were selling basil. Anyone who plants those outside today better have some kind of cloche or cold frame, because it's dipping back into the 30s tonight. Unless you like your basil browned, that is...
I do "get" why garden centers are selling plants earlier in the season. I worked for a large garden center for two years, and the period of April through Memorial Day in May is the time of year when the center makes all of its money. It's a make or break period in the home and garden center industry, and I have read a lot of trade publications (I'm a writer, editor and marketing consultant by profession, with a strong background in marketing) how the busy season for the home improvement centers is spring. People are busy building decks, erecting sheds, painting houses and planting lawns.
So I do understand putting the plants out for sale, and yet I don't. On the one hand, they'll make a quick profit today. But on the other hand if you have a novice gardener who grabs a few tomato plants and plants them tonight, she's going to be really disappointed if a frost kills them, and then won't that discourage a potential gardener from coming back and shopping more? Wouldn't you want a long-term customer who is really enthusiastic about gardening?
I think I'm over thinking this. I'm thinking long-term, get a new convert into the gardening hobby.
They're thinking make 50 cents profit.
* * *
We sprayed the organic oils on the fruit tree this morning. We have 30 fruit trees, planted less than three years ago from really tiny seedlings, so nothing bears fruit yet. Everything looks wonderful except the plums. I have two Burbank plums and two Methley plums and they look dead. I think they just haven't broken out of dormancy yet, but John is convinced they're dead. He's become the resident fruit tree expert. I think he's actually channeling his grandfather some days the way I catch myself channeling my dad; his grandpa was his gardening influence, my dad and Mr. Hoffman were mine. Grandpa had fruit trees, mostly apple and pear, and tomatoes, and John excels at growing both edibles. My own tomatoes tend to be disappointing so I am going to let him help me with planting this year.
So that is what we've been up to. It's rained most of the week and I've been working a lot. Thankfully, I have a lot of work coming in now from consulting. I write for several websites, am working on two different nonfiction books, dabble at my novel, edit two major websites, and work on marketing pieces for my fabulous clients.
When I have an evening free, I sit and play piano, working my way back through the two easiest Beethoven Sonatas, the opus 49 bits. Opus 49 #2 was my high school project, but I'm in love with the melody in #1 now, and have been slowly groping and fumbling my way through it. I am grateful there's no more pressure as an adult to learn pieces; no grades, no school, just the sheer pleasure of hearing a bit of the great master's music flowing from my fingertips, interspersed with a lot of sour notes.
Shadow sleeps to the side of the keyboard stand and every once in a while whines at me, but Pierre the cat is the funniest whenever I hit a sour note. He sits on the right and glares at me. If I hit the wrong note, he jumps up and tries to shred my leg.
Everyone's a critic!
Happy weekend, folks! If the rain holds out, I may tackle more weeding....or not!