Tuesday, January 30, 2007


My mentor is not feeling very well today. She is spending tonight in Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne following surgery this morning. I got up at O Dark Thirty and drove to her house through flurries and three inches of snow that had fallen overnight, to accompany her to the hospital. We were a little late, but apparently, so was everyone else, because when we got there, she had to wait quite a long time before being taken back for prepping for surgery. And once back there - more waiting.

She had fundoplication, a word I can't seem to remember for more than two minutes (but at least I can pronounce it, which is more than I can say for laparoscopically). It's necessary for patients that have severe cases of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and she's been avoiding this surgery for quite some time. Besides having an aversion to surgery in general, this is sure to slow her down and she does not live life slowed down. Though she is 23 years older than I am, she can and always has been able to work circles around me. The Energizer Bunny? She leaves him in her wake on a regular basis.

The surgery went well. The surgeon found just what he thought he would and he got the result he wanted when he was finished. Fundoplication involves taking the upper end of the stomach and wrapping it around the esophagus and anchoring it there. This helps prevent acid reflux. She also had a hiatal hernia and that was repaired during the surgery today. She will be on a liquid diet for the next two weeks. Doesn't this all sound like a good time to you? Nope. Me neither. She should be able to come home tomorrow, if she continues to play the part of The Good Patient.

Get well soon, Mom.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Winter Blues

When it's too cold to go outside, and nothing's really doing anything out there anyway, I have to come up with creative ways to garden. It's the middle of winter in northwest Ohio and I need to get my hands dirty. What's a person to do?

I can...

  • Winter sow some seeds
  • Browse the seed and plant catalogs
  • Re-pot house plants that need it
  • Visit a botanical conservatory
  • Take virtual tours online of other gardens
  • Fertilize the house plants and trim dead and yellowed foliage away
  • Visit the forums at Dave's Garden
  • Read a gardening book

That's a start. And while it temporarily satisfies my craving, sometimes these things leave me wanting, more than ever. Gardening can become an obsession. (No kidding.) I thought maybe this winter would be different than last. Last year I thought I would go insane before spring got here. Gardening was still fairly new to me, and when the weather forced me to stop, I was like a young girl suddenly separated from her lover. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, don't they say?

Romie has to go to Van Wert every week to get his allergy injections and I go along. After he's finished, we go to Walmart to pick up food and litter for the cats and any groceries we might need. Though their garden section leaves much to be desired, especially in the dead of winter, it's something and something is better than nothing. Even the most common houseplants look enticing, and invariably I leave with one.

I can rationalize with the best of them.

"I've never seen one like that before. I'd better buy it, because I don't know if I'll ever come across one like that anytime soon. And it's so healthy!"
I'd snatch it up quickly, because surely someone else was waiting right around the corner to do the same.

"Did you know that plants are actually good for the air? They remove toxins and ... oh LOOK at this Peace Lily and it's only three dollars!!"
Now what person with allergies is going to argue with that? And it was cheap.

"The fern in the kitchen window doesn't look so good, you know. How about if we replace it with this ivy? If the fern makes a recovery, then we'll have both of them!"
And well, if the fern dies, the window won't have to look bare for even a minute. Okay, that's a stretch, and got me an eye-roll from Romie. (And a new ivy.)

"Isn't the bloom on that mum just gorgeous? We can get it and it will brighten our days now, and then in the spring we can plant it in the ground. We'll have it forever."
Indoor-outdoor plants. What a novel idea.

Only 51 days till spring...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday

With winter in full swing here in Zone 5, the only thing blooming is inside. I've got several amaryllis brightening the corners of our house and this one is 'Piquant'. It is joined by one of my pelargoniums, 'Vancouver Centennial', which echoes the rich orangey-red colors of the amaryllis.

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers
can join in every Sunday. Visit
As the Garden Grows for more information.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Blizzard of '78

Romie and I just finished watching an account of the Blizzard of 1978 on our local PBS Station, Channel 27. Seeing that brought back memories...

Twenty-nine years ago this weekend, I was twenty years old, working full-time as a dental hygienist in New Haven, Indiana. Romie was 24 and worked second shift at Herbert E. Orr Company in Paulding. With just 2½ years of marriage under our belts, we were still trying to get on our feet financially and securely and were not yet ready to take on the challenges of parenthood. We had just purchased our house the previous summer.

I was alone in that house, following the biggest blizzard we would likely ever see in our lifetime. On Wednesday night, January 25th, I had gone to bed around 11:30 p.m., with light snow flurries falling outside, but the weather reports predicted a blizzard was on the way. When the phone rang at 1:30 a.m. and I awoke, noticed that Romie was not beside me in bed, and heard the wind howling outside, I knew something was wrong. What was wrong was that the weather reports were right.

He was calling from my parents' house, and said he wouldn't be home that night. They lived just 2½ miles east of us, on US 127, and I wondered why he was there. He'd left work to come home and only because he'd followed a snow plow out of Paulding had he even been able to make it to their house before getting stuck. I hung up and took comfort in the fact that he was safe and warm and so was I, snug in my bed and I probably wasn't going to have to go to work the next day.


By the weekend, it was clear that no one was going anywhere, including some that had already been on their way to somewhere. Cars were buried. Entire houses were buried. We were lucky we didn't lose power, so I watched TV, baked cookies, read books, visited the next-door neighbors, and took lots of naps. Not until Sunday afternoon, when Bill Spitzer, our county school superintendant, got out and about with his snowmobile, was Romie able to make it home. Snow plows didn't get down our road to plow us out until Monday.

As soon as we were able, we drove into Haviland to Fisher's Market to get a few groceries and there was a party going on there! A neighbor that lived a mile away from us was there and she was so glad to see everyone that walked in the door, she was hugging each and every one. It seemed like we were having a family reunion of sorts.

I don't remember when we finally were able to go back to work, but we did drive around and take pictures of the incredible drifts. Some were as tall as the power lines and the roofs of houses. I remember hearing that some living near us were trapped in their homes and snow had to be shoveled away before they could get out. It was an incredible time and we were lucky that we didn't suffer any hardship from it other than a few days of lost wages.

They just don't make snowstorms like they used to.

The worst winter storm in Ohio's history struck before dawn on January 26, 1978. The "Great Blizzard of '78" continued for two days and shut down transportation, schools, and business all across Ohio, for a week in some cases. According to weather historians Thomas and Jeanne Schmidlin, it was a storm that Ohioans will never forget, one that will be a legend through the 21st century.

Rain and fog the previous evening gave little indication of the impending blizzard but forecasters saw the signs. A deepening low pressure center was moving northward toward Ohio from the Gulf of Mexico. Moist tropical air flowed northward along the Atlantic coast and, most importantly, bitterly cold arctic air marched eastward from Iowa and Illinois. Forecasters at the National Weather Service saved many lives as they issued a "Blizzard Warning" for Ohio in the pre-dawn hours.

The storm that embraced Ohio was the most powerful ever known in the state. Records for low barometric pressure were set at most locations. In their book, "Thunder in the Heartland: A Chronicle of Outstanding Weather Events in Ohio," the Schmidlins report a barometer reading of 28.28 inches at Cleveland early on January 26, 1978, the lowest pressure ever recorded in Ohio and lower than observed in most hurricanes.

The "Great Blizzard of '78" swept across Ohio on winds over 70 mph and heavy snow. An ore carrier stranded in Lake Erie ice off Sandusky reported sustained winds of 86 mph and gusts to 111 mph. Winds blew down thousands of trees and miles of electric and telephone lines. Barns and signs toppled and windows were smashed by the winds. Two people died in collapsed buildings.

Hurricane-force winds drifted the powdery snow to the peaks of houses, totally covering some in drifts 20 feet high. Cars, semi-trucks, and farms buildings disappeared under the drifts. All air, rail, and highway transportation came to a halt. Ohio's major airports closed for two days. The entire length of the Ohio Turnpike was closed for the first time in history. Interstate 75 was closed for three days.

Temperatures fell to near zero with the arrival of the arctic air and remained near 10 degrees all day. The death toll rose as motorists were stranded and home heating failed. The Schmidlins report at least 22 people died outside while struggling through the blizzard. Another 13 people were found dead in stuck cars, and 13 died in unheated homes.

Governor Rhodes summoned the Ohio National Guard in the disaster. Over 5000 men and women of the Guard were pressed into long hours of operating heavy equipment to clear roads, assisting utility crews in getting to fallen wires, transporting doctors and nurses to hospitals, and rescuing stranded persons in emergencies.

Forty-five Ohio National Guard helicopters flew 2,700 missions across Ohio working around the clock for three days. They rescued thousands of stranded persons, many in dire medical emergencies. More assistance arrived after President Carter declared a federal disaster in Ohio and dispatch 300 troops from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Toledo with arctic gear, bulldozers, and fuel tankers to rescue persons in northwest Ohio.

Shortages of bread, milk, and eggs developed quickly. State police escorted food trucks from Michigan into Toledo stores. The Red Cross bought 80,000 loaves of bread in Springfield and Ohio National Guard helicopters delivered them to isolated area communities. U.S. Coast Guard cargo planes flew 30 tons of food into Cincinnati where it was distributed to low income families.

According to Jeanne Schmidlin, "Generosity of Ohioans poured out during the Blizzard, as it has in every weather disaster." Thousands of volunteers with snowmobiles and four-wheel drive vehicles risked their lives to deliver medicine to homes, take staff to hospitals, deliver Red Cross blood, and carry electric linemen to repair downed lines.

Radio stations abandoned regular programming for two days to issue storm information and serve as communication links where electricity and telephone failed and highways were blocked. Restaurants that had electricity stayed open packing food orders for electric utility workers, stranded factory workers, and police and military rescue teams.

Agricultural losses were staggering. Dead livestock, lost production, and property and equipment damage totaled $73 million. More than 12 million pounds of milk was dumped on farms the day after the blizzard when storage and transportation were not available.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What's the Story, Morning Glory?

Last month, while reading the Morning Glory forums at Dave's Garden, I came across a thread started by baolvera. She had purchased an unopened packet of morning glory seeds from a seller on eBay that was dated 1949. She had about 100 seeds and offered a few of them to anyone that wanted to try to grow them. Well, I love a challenge!

I received my seeds on Monday. Tuesday, I purchased a Jiffy-7® Mini-Greenhouse at Walmart, and put my seven seeds in warm water to soak overnight. This helps soften and loosen their hard coat, facilitating germination. (Remember how I explained that the late winter freezing and thawing helped do this with winter sowing?) This morning, it appeared that one seed split, and the other was open, with a 'tail'. The other five seeds were a little swollen, but intact.

I soaked the peat plugs in the Jiffy-7®, as directed, and carefully put each seed about ¼-inch deep in the peat. I put the lid on, and set it on top of my computer tower to keep it warm. When I got home from work tonight, I got out my heating pad, turned it on low, and set the mini-greenhouse on top of it. This should be just warm enough to keep the peat warm, without cooking the seeds.

Now we wait.

It's interesting to think that it's possible to grow plants from 58-year-old seeds (they're probably older, being collected and packaged in 1948 for the 1949 growing season), but it's not beyond the realm of possibility, either. While most seeds have a shelf life of three-to-five years if kept cool and dry, last September seed scientists at The Royal Botanical Gardens in the United Kingdom successfully germinated seeds that they'd discovered in The National Archives. The seeds were believed to have been collected by Jan Teerlink, a Dutch merchant, during a trip to the Cape of Good Hope in 1803. Certainly stored in various conditions through the years, it was not expected that any of the seeds were viable. However, several germinated and grew, to everyone's surprise.

I grew morning glories in various places last year. It was the first time I'd ever grown them, and my mom assures me it won't be the last, even if I never plant another seed out there. That's okay with me. I love them, and if they threaten to take over, I'll just pull them out.

I grew the common morning glories, but I especially like the Japanese varieties. They're a little more exotic looking and have equally exotic sounding names. While the botanical name is Ipomoea nil, the cultivars I grew were 'Akathukinoumi', 'Asuka', 'Heian no Haru', 'Chocolate' and 'Double Blue Picotee'. Some of them look as if there is an LED illuminating them from behind.

I started some of my seeds inside last year, about a month before last frost date (May 15th). I soaked them in water for 24 hours and planted them in peat pots filled with starter medium. It's a loose, soil-like material containing no nutrients, but provides a good environment for tender seedlings, with no competition from other sprouts, such as weeds. It also drains well.

I had good germination from those that I planted, but there were a few that didn't do anything. I eventually returned the seed starting medium to my bucket of potting soil that I keep in the garage. A couple of months later, I used that potting soil to stuff a topiary turtle that I had purchased at the Cincinnati Flower Show. I planted wire vine in my turtle, but about July, I noticed something else with much larger leaves growing amongst the wire vine. It looked vaguely familiar. Those morning glory seeds that I thought hadn't germinated were just a little slower than their siblings. I let them go, and had a blooming turtle later in the summer.

Stay tuned for progress (or not) on The 1949 Project...

*Update posted here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

No Man Is An Island

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13 NASB

This morning, ABC News' Chris Cuomo was traveling with our troops and they were hit by a roadside bomb. There were no injuries, but that isn't always the case. Unfortunately, war has side effects of death and injury to so many, but sometimes there isn't any other way to stop humans from mistreating other human beings.

I'm not a particularly political person, and don't ask me which party I associate myself with, because I don't. I try to look at each individual candidate and make my voting decisions based on what they represent. And while I'm not in favor of war in general, I also realize there are times that it's necessary to bring about needed change.

This war in Iraq is not a popular war, but in my lifetime, I don't think any war has ever been popular. President Bush has had to make some hard decisions during his two terms in office and while it's easy to criticize him, the alternative choices weren't a whole lot better - both those that make the decisions and the decisions themselves.

I have a simplistic view of this Iraq situation. I can still remember how the country felt when we were attacked on September 11, 2001. And while this may have been the impetus that got the ball rolling toward the Iraq war, there were other factors that entered into our actions there. The United Nations was not effective in getting Saddam Hussein to comply with its directives, and he was like a child who knows he can manipulate his parents to escape consequences of misbehavior.

Whether we were misled as a nation as to the reasons for entering Iraq, to me is irrelevant. The fact is, Saddam was not complying with the requests of the U.N. and he was a ruthless dictator. Yes, it was his country and many feel that we should have stayed out of their business, but when human beings are tortured and killed as he did to his own people, it is our business.

We are all human beings living on this planet Earth. I believe we will be held accountable to God for how we treat each other. If we have an opportunity to help others and we don't do it, we will answer for that. The United States is considered to be the most powerful nation in the world, and if we have the means to come to the aid of others, especially when it means their very lives, then I feel we have an obligation to do so. It has nothing to do with oil or money or who owns what; it has to do with compassion and love for our fellow man.

Our neighbor has served in Iraq twice. In speaking to him and others who have served there, it is clear to me that their motivation in doing what they do is for the Iraqi people. As one soldier said of his time in Iraq, "I don't do what I do so that Americans can live free. I do it so others can live free like we do." May God bless them for that.

I don't have a family member or loved one serving in the military and maybe if I did, I would have a different view of things. I hope we can leave Iraq soon, and that their people can defend their freedoms for themselves. It's a tough situation and there isn't an easy answer, but for now, I think we have done a great thing for those people. I'm told there are many in Iraq that have expressed their gratitude to our soldiers and I hope our soldiers know in their hearts that they saved far more lives than they may have taken.

"No man is an island, entire of itself..." - John Donne

I put out five more wintersown jugs today:

  • Larkspur Mixed
  • Malva 'Magic'
  • Shirley Poppy
  • Chinese Forget-Me-Not
  • Butterfly Weed

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Let It Snow!

The gardens are no longer shivering from the cold rain and wind. I awoke to all kinds of whiteness outside this morning. This is our first real snow of the winter. By the time the day was done, we had a couple of inches, with a promise of a little more throughout the coming week. I finally feel like winter has arrived, although I'm told by The Weather Channel that tomorrow is the day that the average winter temperatures start to rise and the days grow longer at a faster rate.

I always like to go out walking in the first snow of the season, and this was an excuse to wear my new furry boots. I took my camera with me and braved the 28° air. Simba, our 13-year-old Black Lab/Alaskan Malamute/German Shepherd/Unknown dog, just loves the snow, and has been known to curl up and sleep out in the open in a raging blizzard. She was romping and rolling in the snow today and accompanied me on my tour of The Acre in search of subjects to photograph.

While the overall dusting of white is beautiful in its own right, I try to look more closely at the details. Snow can turn the most mundane things into a piece of art. Its inherent beauty aside, it also creates a nice, warm blanket for the plants above and below ground, protecting them from the icy cold winds.

Fun Facts About Snow*

  • The largest snowflakes ever recorded fell in the state of Montana in the United States of America. The snowflakes were 15 inches in diameter.
  • The snow capital of the United States is Stampede Pass in Washington State. Each year, the average snowfall is 430 inches.
  • People buy more cakes, cookies and candies than any other food when a blizzard is in the forecast.
  • A blizzard occurs when you can't see for 1/4 mile. The winds are always 35 miles an hour or more. The storm must last at least 3 hours to be classed as a blizzard. If any of these conditions are less, it is only a snowstorm.
  • The average snowflake falls at a speed of 3.1 miles per hour.

*From Suite 101

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cats and Alfalfa Bees

All this thinking about and drooling over roses reminds me of a day last summer when I all of a sudden noticed holes in the leaves of some of my roses. I got down for a closer inspection of things, looking for aphids, caterpillars, beetles, anything that might have been having rose leaves for lunch, and I saw nothing. Stems, leaves, and buds were clean as a whistle. But something was clearly munching when I wasn't looking.

Then I saw it happen. In the matter of less than a minute, I saw a small bee, looking much like a honeybee, land on a leaf and quickly and methodically excise a perfectly round piece and fly off with it. That sent me inside a-Googling, to see what was making Swiss cheese out of my beautiful green, glossy rose leaves.

Leaf-cutter bees, a.k.a. alfalfa bees, like to use rose leaves to line their nests. They don't form colonies like honeybees, instead preferring to raise their young in solitary nests. They are important pollinators and rarely cause more than cosmetic damage to rose bushes or their other favorites - green ash and lilacs. I also noticed they liked our golden privet bushes. Sometimes they'll bore into the soft wood of cut rose canes, so to prevent them setting up housekeeping there, you can put white glue on the ends of the canes after pruning.

The adult lives about two months, and is most active during the time alfalfa is in bloom. About half a mile south of our house, there was a large alfalfa field, so the visiting bees probably came from there. They never became a problem and because of their value as pollinators, insecticides are not recommended, nor are they particularly effective. They do have natural enemies - parasitic bees and wasps, velvet ants, and certain blister beetles.

Another thing I noticed with one of my roses - 'Diana, Princess of Wales' - was that the back side of it began showing discoloration of its foliage and then it just dried up and withered away. The front side was fine and I was puzzled. I took a picture of the damage and posted it in the forums on Dave's Garden, and I was promptly asked if we owned a cat. Ummm...yeah. Quite a few of them, in fact. Did I notice if any of them 'sprayed'? Ummm...yeah again.

I suspected Jinx, our 16-pound black Big Boy, of being the culprit. We'd seen him do this lots of times in our garage and on the door of the pool house, where several of our cats stay at night. He was the terror of the neighborhood, and anything that entered his space was subject to bullying or worse. There was little that he was afraid of and he was quite proud of his conquests, as most cats are, and often brought them to our porch to show them off to us. I always felt bad for our UPS man, because you just never knew what carnage there might be by our front door. Birds, rabbits, voles, mice ... he was quite the hunter.

Two months ago, after six years with us and being the senior member of our current crew, Jinx went missing. He was a smart cat and while he wasn't terribly affectionate - okay, he wasn't affectionate at all - he was fiercely loyal. He never strayed far, and he was road savvy. We always tried to put him in the garage for the night (we couldn't put him in the pool house with the others, because well, he was special you know, and required private quarters), because if we didn't, he would take off for the field behind our house, to do whatever cats do in the dark of night. Then, sometime between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., we'd be awakened by this 'tink, tink, tink', and know that Jinx had come home. We have a wooden pergola over our patio, and it was a wondrous thing to see him scamper up the wooden posts to the top of it and then over to the roof of our family room, which was below our bedroom window. He'd pick at the screen of our window, and we had better let him in, because he wasn't going to quit tinking until we did.

Two days went by, and no Jinx. We checked the next-door neighbor's storage barn to see if he'd accidentally gotten shut up inside (it had happened before), but he wasn't there. I was on my way home from work, talking to Romie and we discussed what our next step was going to be in trying to find him. Romie was taking a walk down by the cemetery as we were talking and all of sudden, he said, "Oh no." I knew he'd found Jinx. He had gotten hit and was laying by the side of the road. Of all our cats, we never thought Jinx would be the one to have his life end this way. When I got home, we buried him in the garden and it was pretty somber around the house that night.

We'll probably have a healthier rose bush this summer, but we miss you, big guy...

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose ... NOT!

The Jackson & Perkins catalog came the other day. Time to drool over the luscious roses they have to offer. I'm reminded of the ones that I saw in there last year that I wanted and didn't buy, and I see new ones that I'll add to my want list this year. I don't have that many roses, but the better I get at this gardening thing, the more I want.

Roses can be intimidating, but with the new disease-resistant hybrids being introduced all the time, everyone should have two or three of them in their gardens. My rose 'collection' started with three small roses that I bought from an online nursery about four years ago. They were mere sticks when they arrived here and I had doubts they would live, let alone grow and produce flowers, but they did. They still aren't large bushes, but they improve a little each year.

'Pompeii' has small-sized blooms for me, but they're elegant and fragrant. 'Sutter's Gold' is a yellow with peachy edges and no two blooms are colored exactly alike. Some are more yellow and some are more peachy. One thing I know is the Japanese Beetles love this one best of all, and for a couple of weeks last summer, I walked away from it every day with two or three of those things in my hand. I read that you don't want to crush them in your garden, because they emit an odor that attracts more, so I always took them inside and put them down the garbage disposal. I wasn't bothered by this pest as much as other gardeners, from what I was hearing, but one is one too many. They just chewed their way through young buds right to the center, effectively ruining the blooms. And they definitely preferred 'Sutter's Gold'.

'Senior Prom' has always performed fairly well for me, and I was amazed when I saw my first bloom from it. When Jenna was a senior in high school, she wore a hot pink dress to prom that year, and this rose is exactly the same color as her dress.

Many years ago, we planted a climber, 'Blaze', which spread over our chain link fence that we had around our in-ground swimming pool. Then we removed the fence, and the rose had to go with it. It had been there long enough that it was quite a chore to get it all out and we had to take an ax and chop the woody roots away. I wasn't too sad to see it go, because it wasn't presenting us with that many blooms anymore and I didn't care enough about it to figure out why.

Then the next spring, I noticed little shoots of roses coming up in between the stones where 'Blaze' used to be. I thought we took that thing out! Apparently, it wasn't giving up that easily. We continued to hack at the upstarts for a couple of years, and then in the fall of 2005, when we dug up a large portion of the back of our property for more gardens, we decided to stop trying to put the 'fire' out. We dug deep down and transplanted six healthy starts to the south side of the new garden, by the split rail fence. We were shocked at how large the roots were on some of them. One had a chunk of root that measured over two inches in diameter.

We planted those starts in October, and we hoped and prayed they would settle in and return for us in the spring. And they did. Then the rabbits promptly chewed them off all the way to the ground. At least we thought it was the rabbits. We noticed deer tracks one morning and then our daughter Kara saw three deer in the front yard a short time after that. Time to do battle!

I had gotten some PlantSkydd at Meijer for 75% off, so I mixed it up and sprayed it on the split rail fencing that was on two sides of the garden. It's supposed to last up to six months without reapplying, which is a good thing, because it's messy and it stinks. We didn't have any problems with rabbits or deer after that, so I guess it worked. Anyway, the roses came back and had healthy growth all summer, but no blooms. Maybe this summer.

My other roses are 'Memorial Day', 'About Face', 'Chihuly', 'Hot Cocoa' and 'Diana, Princess of Wales'. I love them all, but my favorite is probably 'Hot Cocoa'. It is the most unusual shade of red and I got lots of gorgeous blooms from it last summer. It's lightly fragrant, too.

'Diana, Princess of Wales' takes the prize as the most fragrant of all my roses. One bloom in a vase can perfume a large room. It doesn't seem to be a real strong grower though, and I had problems with the stems being weak, and sometimes I had to stake them. Still, it's probably my second favorite, due to the beauty of its blooms and its strong fragrance. Jackson & Perkins donates 10% of their sales of this rose to Princess Diana's Memorial Fund which helps disadvantaged people in poor and war-torn countries around the world.

'Memorial Day' is a good bloomer that resides in my Japanese garden, east of the pool. It was a bonus rose I received when I bought 'About Face'. Even though it was planted late in the season, it adapted quickly and I enjoyed lots of nearly perfect blooms last summer. It's a fairly fragrant rose and as you can see, it even caught Boo's attention. Its color is a soft pink that has just a suggestion of lilac.

'About Face' got an auspicious start. It looked pretty ragged when it arrived in the mail, but I soaked it well and planted it in. I was sure it was a goner. About a month later, it started putting out a small amount of new growth. I got a couple of tiny blooms from it before fall, but I'll be surprised if it makes it through the winter. I planted it like I did all my roses, with the crown 3-4 inches below soil level so they are well insulated for our Zone 5 winter and I piled mulch high around them all as well. I notified Park's about the shaky start 'About Face' had, and they promptly gave me a refund since they sold out of it and couldn't send a replacement. I'll be anxious to see what it does in the spring.

The most gaudy of my roses is 'Chihuly'. It's named for Dale Chihuly, the famous glass artist. If you've never seen any of his works in person, you need to. Mom and I went to Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, in 2004 to see his exhibit, Chihuly at the Conservatory. The 'Chihuly' rose, with its stained glass brilliance and variation in color from bloom to bloom, is aptly named for this innovative artist. Like his unusual glass works, each one surprises and delights you.

I've got several miniature roses, which have done very well for me and are basically no-care. They're always loaded with blooms. I have no idea which ones they are; I just know they're pretty. The red and yellow ones I bought from the Van Wert Master Gardeners, and I have twelve of them. The oldest one in the garden, I got in 2002. It's pink and was a table decoration at our 25th class reunion of my dental hygiene class at IPFW in Fort Wayne, IN.

I've made my list of those that are now screaming, "Buy me!" but I'll choose just two or three to actually purchase.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sow 'n Go

Last year, I was introduced to winter sowing. I hadn't heard of it before, but there was a lot of talk and excitement about it at Dave's Garden. The idea is to make a miniature greenhouse out of gallon milk jugs or other suitably-sized container by cutting the top off, putting three to four inches of soil in the bottom after poking holes for drainage, sowing your seeds, duct-taping the top back on and setting the jugs outside with the lids off, right around the time of the winter solstice (December 21). Then you forget them until spring.

WHAT?!?!?! That's crazy. Nothing will germinate and grow in the dead of winter around here. It says on most seed packets to either start the seeds inside four to six weeks before the last frost date or to not plant them outside until after last frost date. Where I live that's May 15th, nearly five months after the winter solstice. How on earth can this work, planting seeds outside in December and January?

While not all seeds are suitable for winter sowing, there are an awful lot that are. Logic started to speak to me and I thought about my garden and things that self-seed. Columbine, forget-me-nots, morning glories, petunias... Oh those petunias.

In our flower bed in front of the porch, we have vinca planted. It's been there for several years and I love the little purple flowers speckled among the robust vining foliage. Last summer, as I was walking around, weeding out the beds, I noticed something coming up that didn't quite look like a weed, but I wasn't sure what it was, so I left it. A week or so later, there were a few more, and I left those as well. Imagine my surprise when my 'weeds' bloomed! They were pink petunias! I thought someone (probably my mom) had played a trick on me and planted them there when I wasn't looking. I hadn't had any petunias in there, ever! But I did have them two summers before, in the flower boxes that were directly above.

Now when you consider the size of petunia seeds, and that they need light to germinate, the fact that ANY of them survived in the ground for two years and grew to maturity is nothing short of a miracle. There are 260,000 petunia seeds to an ounce! Open up a ripe seed pod, and you'll see the fine powder that is the seed. I had seven petunias grow and bloom in that bed last summer.

Other plants that are good for winter sowing besides those that self-seed, are those that require stratification or cold-chilling. The seed packet tells you if they need it. Stratification of seeds is where the seed is soaked by the wet soil which softens its hard outer coating and then the action of freezing and thawing will help break open the seed when it germinates. You can simulate this by using a plastic bag, some vermiculite and your refrigerator, but why not let Mother Nature do the work? When the time is right, the seeds germinate and start growing. They're already outside in a somewhat protected environment and they harden off naturally, so when it comes time to put them in the ground, they take right off.

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't tried it. Last year, I sowed 22 milk jugs. Out of those, about half of them did very well and the seedlings made their way into my gardens. Others were scanty and some didn't grow at all. Notes taken and lessons learned.

Today, I sowed 10 jugs and put them out. We finally are getting weather cold enough that there's no chance my seeds will germinate too early (and then freeze to death). I planted:

  • Lupine 'Sunrise'
  • Penstemon 'Rocky Mountain Blue'
  • Malva sylvestris
  • Heliopsis 'Loraine Sunshine'
  • Siberian Pea Shrub
  • Blackberry Lily
  • Coneflower 'Kim's Knee-High'
  • Coneflower 'Bright Star'
  • Baptisia australis
  • Crocosmia 'Lucifer'
Six of those are seeds that I collected from my own garden last year. Some are seeds that I traded with other gardeners. I didn't buy a single one. I did buy the soil I planted the jugs with, though. One thing I learned from using soil from my garden last year is that sometimes you can't tell the flower seedlings from the weeds that come up. Yes! You can winter sow weeds, too! Not good. By the time you've determined what the weeds are, you can't find the flowers. This time I used Expert potting soil mix by Schultz, which I got at Walmart.

It's 32° right now and we're under a Winter Storm Warning. Let the stratification begin!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


I took a walk-through of the gardens today, and they looked typically like they should in January, with a couple of green exceptions, due to the unseasonably warm weather we've had. Most things are naked and brown. Some are noticeably absent altogether. If it weren't for the plant markers, I wouldn't know where some of them are at all.

The tulips, daffodils, lilies, and alliums are deep in the cold, dark earth gathering strength for their burst of color in a few months. Some of them, like the tulips and daffodils, need the prolonged cold of winter to elicit the biochemical action that makes them bloom. When I'm lamenting that I can't grow tropicals outside year-round here, the Floridians are wishing they could grow tulips the same way.

When everything's green and lush and pretty, you can't see most of my plant markers. I don't want them to be conspicuous, so I tuck them in out of the way, but I want them to be available so if I forget what the cultivar is, I have it right there. I tried the copper markers first, but last winter taught me that those aren't very lasting. The copper doesn't deteriorate so much, but they don't stay wrapped around the frame very well. I was constantly looking for wayward labels and reattaching them.

This year, I got the vertical zinc-coated hairpin ones. They're better made and while they're a bit larger, I can still hide them among the foliage. I was able to find them at Organic Growers Supply for an economical price. I use my Dymo Label Maker to make the labels and stick those on the face of the marker.

Seeing all the plant markers standing at attention reminded me of the cemetery down the road. Oriental Lily 'Muscadet' is buried here. The 'Ice Stick' Tulips are there. Just as the plants and bulbs are resting and waiting for the day when their creator will awaken them to shine in all their glorious beauty, we too have faith that we will be raised one day and live in God's Eternal Garden of Eden.

Saturday, January 6, 2007


The calendar says January, but you'd never know it by the weather. As I begin writing this at 11:30 p.m., it is 48° and still raining. It's been so warm, I haven't worn anything heavier than a light jacket when I go out. The ditch across the road is full of water, and our neighbors have a small river running through their back yard. Blue Creek has been out of its banks most of the week and we are currently under another flood warning.

Calendars are popular gifts at Christmas time, and I got two of them this year. Our youngest daughter, Jenna, got me a daily photo calendar that has a picture of a cat for each day. We have seven cats at the moment (only two inside), but that number is always in a state of flux, depending on who happens to decide they don't want theirs anymore and they 'miraculously' find their way to our house. While we wish some people were more responsible and caring pet owners, we have welcomed the strays into our home. We do love our kitties. (More about those later.)

Kara got me a photo calendar of a different kind. In November, she asked me to make a CD with about twenty of my favorite pictures that I had taken of my flowers. I couldn't narrow it down to that many, so she got a disc of 200. Most days, when I go out to do a walk-through in the gardens, I have my Felco pruners in one hand and my digital camera in the other.

Kara's pretty creative, so I figured she was going to surprise me with something. When I opened the stocking stuffer from her, it was a calendar that she'd had made at VistaPrint. There were twelve of the pictures that she'd chosen - one for each month of the year. She'd also had everyone's birthdays and anniversaries printed on the calendar. January's page has a photograph that I took last winter, of the hens and chicks with snow on them. That's how it's supposed to look in January.

I have another calendar on my desk that I received as an impromptu gift from my harp teacher a few years ago. She had this wooden perpetual calendar and every time I would go for a lesson, it was never on the right date. I would always fix it for her and one day, she handed it to me. She said I was the only one who paid that much attention to that calendar, so she wanted me to have it. She was probably tired of me reminding her that she wasn't keeping up. In any case, I love this calendar, and it reminds me of her. I still have my harp, even though I don't play anymore. I know that I will take it up again, so it waits patiently there in my living room for that day.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Hellebores and Helleborus

My mom introduced me to Hellebores at the Cleveland Flower Show in May of 2005. I bought 'Sunshine Selections' from Secrest Arboretum, which had a booth at the show. It was $8.00 and came in a quart-sized container. Mom bought three, of course, as she usually does, but there was so much that I needed and wanted for my new gardens that I felt like I couldn't afford to buy more than one of anything.

That was my first flower show and this big new world was exciting and overwhelming. I was just beginning to learn the botanical names of things and basic gardening terms and tools and methods. I once said I loved learning so much that I would like to take a college class every semester for the rest of my life. While that wouldn't be practical or feasible, I am grateful for the internet, which I've described as a book that never ends. I can start researching a subject and when I finally take a break, I can't believe it when the clock says it's three hours later.

I brought the helleborus home and planted it in the shade, by the trellis. I loved its dark green leaves with serrated edges. I'd seen pictures of the flowers and I couldn't wait to see them. But I still had much to learn about these beauties. No flowers that summer, and I thought my helleborus was confused! It was October, and that thing was shooting out new foliage!

I thought it should be going dormant like most everything else in my gardens, but it turns out I was the one that was confused. Hellebores many times bloom in the dead of winter, which is why some varieties are called Lenten Rose. About the time that Lent begins, they surprise you with their deep and pastel colors and even a fresh snowfall doesn't deter them. You've got to love that haughty attitude in a plant.

I acquired a few more varieties last year. Park's Seed had a special and I jumped on it. I received lovely large plants and wished I'd purchased more. Of course, they sold out quickly. But our local Lowe's had them marked down mid-summer, so I bought a couple more.

This fall, my mom and I went to Winterthur, Delaware for GardenFair, and I was able to purchase a variegated one, which I planted on the north side of the pool house, under the serviceberry. I am attracted to variegated foliage, and I was thrilled to find this one.

My latest venture into the world of hellebores was made possible by a grower in Virginia at Winterwoods. Gina sent me some seeds as a favor to fellow members of Dave's Garden, and I followed her instructions for planting. I have faith that one day I will see little green spears poking through the soil.

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