Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I've Got the Lavender Blues

Earlier today, I'd read Jodi's post from Monday, then went out for a walk through my garden. Prompted by the title to her post, I was singing to myself as I slowly meandered through the waning display that earlier in the season had been so colorful and lush. "Lavender's blue, dilly dilly ..." and it was an appropriate theme song.

Of the flowers still blooming in the garden, by far the majority of them are "lavender blue" or purple, and one of them actually IS lavender. I caressed the spiked stems, put my hands to my nose and breathed in deeply of its scent. I don't think I could ever tire of it. I've got three cultivars of lavender, but it's 'Jean Davis' that's still putting forth blooms at this late date.

It's been awhile since I've seen a bloom on 'Siberian Blues' Dianthus (
Dianthus amurensis), and my plant is small, but one lone bloom stands proud and perfect, having defied the frost we had on Monday morning.

I don't have this plant sited in the best location, and it is slated to be moved next year to a place where it will get more sun. I was disappointed in it initially, because it turned out to not quite be the color shown in Park Seed's catalogs. But the longer I have it, the better I like it, even if it isn't as blue as they would have you think. The anthers are blue though.

A short distance away are some 'Aladdin Nautical Mix' petunias I grew from seed. When I planted the dust that was the petunia seeds, I really had my doubts that anything would come of it. Oh me of little faith!

While petunias are not my favorite flowers by a long shot, I wanted the shades of blue I saw in Park Seed's catalog. Once again, most of what I got wasn't really blue, but the mix of lavender hues turned out to be a joy as they grew and bloomed non-stop from mid-summer on. They laughed at the thermometer this week, too.

I turned around and smiled at the 'Crystal Palace' lobelia, blooming its heart out and looking handsome as ever with its deep, deep indigo blooms and burgundy foliage. It's a wonderful color combination that I've tried numerous times to capture with the camera, but never seem to be able to get the purply-blue quite right. It's such a rich, vibrant color, it nearly seems to glow.

The lamium (
Lamium maculatum 'Red Nancy') that I've had for years is another one that defies accurate rendition of its color by my camera. It always comes out more pink than it is in real life. I've got it in a couple different locations and its blooming as if it's still summer.

Mom once again shared some Johnny Jump-Ups (Viola cornuta) with me. She's given some to me before, saying I'll have them all over the place, but I don't think they like my garden very well, because they bloom and promptly disappear, never to be seen again. I'm still trying though. I even planted some seeds this spring, but never got a single seedling to show for it. Maybe the fifth time's a charm. (Or is it the sixth?)

I realized as I was looking at the clematis and one of the late-season blooms it has, that the two vines are nearly thirty years old! We planted them shortly after we first moved here in 1977. Before we added the room onto the back of our house in 1983, they used to climb all over a wrought iron railing. After the room necessitated the removal of the railing, we used our old chain link fence posts to construct a trellis with strong fishing line and each year it twines its way around that.

While it was still growing on the railing, one year it had hidden in its vines and foliage a robin's nest. We didn't know it was there, but it was at just the right height for little three-year-old Kara to look right in and be tempted by the blue eggs. Yes. She did. When I saw the yolk dripping from her chin, I went into panic mode and called the doctor right away. He wasn't concerned in the least and in the end, nothing resulted from it, not even an upset stomach.

The delphiniums (Delphinium elatum 'Magic Fountain') continue to look pretty good and weren't harmed by the frost either. I really hope these come back for me next year, but my past experience hasn't been good in that respect. However, this year's plants were by far the strongest growers and the most prolific bloomers I've ever had, so maybe they'll survive the winter.

Oh look there - a primrose (Polyanthus 'Pacific Giant') bloom trying to hide under that foliage. It's looking pretty ragged due to some sort of something chewing on it, but it's still nice to see. I've got a red one and a yellow one too, but it's the purple one that blooms most often.

I had this little bellflower (Campanula sp.) potted up most of the summer, but planted it out a couple of weeks ago so it could winter over in the ground. It will likely stay in the ground from here on out. If I want more next year for potting, I can probably get it at Walmart, which is where I got this one (actually there are three plants). It's been a non-stop bloomer all summer and is still going pretty strong. The frost didn't hurt it. I love the leaf shape and of course the little purple bells. I'm really falling in love more and more with the different types of bellflowers.

I believe this toad lily (Tricyrtis) to be 'Sinonome' but I'm not sure. It's the last one to bloom of the several varieties I have in the shade garden and this one just opened today. There are a few more coming on. I love toad lilies and would like to acquire a few more in the years to come. They remind me of little orchids for some reason.

The spiderwort (
Tradescantia sp.) continues to pop blooms out its top and seems to like the cooler weather than the heat of summer.

This verbena was just gorgeous when I bought it already potted up in a hanging container this spring, but it declined mid-season to the point that I cut it way back in a last-ditch attempt to let it start over. Good move! It came back in fine form and is still blooming pretty well. The frost didn't hurt it.

This is the Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) that many times isn't. I used to have two clumps of it in two far apart locations, but we dug out the larger of the two this fall. It had just gotten out of control to the point that it was trying to kick its bedmates out of bed. You'd think it was a mint or something. I don't like it well enough to tolerate such behavior so it was banished from that garden. For some strange reason, it stays contained in the other one.

And finally, the lavender bloom that I'm most excited about and I almost missed it. I'd been complaining just last week that those darn fall-blooming crocuses (Crocus kotschyanus) that I planted two years ago had never bloomed. I'd gotten lovely grassy foliage in the spring, but nada in the fall. Last night, Romie pointed out to me that it was blooming!

So fragile-looking and very pastel, it was a teeny bit of a disappointment to me as to its appearance, because the picture on the front of the package looked like this. But they were a free bonus from Bluestone Perennials and anything that blooms at this time of year is okay in my book.

What's Wrong With Grass?

I don't get it. I read post after post by gardeners talking about and actually getting rid of most or all of their grass. I get the feeling that grass is supposed to be a bad thing to have.

I like grass. I like grass without weeds (even though we don't have that kind of grass). I like grass that feels wonderfully cool and cushiony to walk on in the summer. I like seeing its pure greenness and I love the smell of it when it's been freshly cut.

So I ask, what is wrong with grass? Is it because you don't want to mow it? I can certainly understand that. But is there some other reason? I have a feeling there is, but I'm in the dark as to what it is and I honestly want to know so I can understand this no-grass trend.

Please! Enlighten me! Maybe I'll want no grass too (but I don't think so).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's A Jungle In Here

When you live in your own house, you get used to your surroundings. Some things - like dust - you just don't see anymore until it reaches that level where it refuses to be ignored and then you take action.

Since cutting back on my work schedule a few years ago, I find that I tolerate more clutter and dust than I ever thought I would.
I used to be a "a place for everything and everything in its place" kind of person. Even when the kids were little, our house was pretty neat and clean and as the kids got older, they were employed to help keep it that way. For some strange reason, Jenna took a liking to cleaning of all types, actually making it her hobby. She did laundry, dishes, and kept the house clean.

I got spoiled.

Then the day came when both girls were gone to college and off on their own. Now it was up to me. Romie has always been my equal when it comes to household chores (he dusts, vacuums, does dishes and laundry), so it wasn't all up to me, but with me not working much anymore, I felt like the bulk of the responsibility was mine. And while I still want my house to be organized and clean, the fact of the matter is, it isn't.

There are probably several reasons for this:

  • I'm The Queen of Procrastination.
  • I'm overwhelmed by all there is to do and don't know where to start, so I don't.
  • I have a really hard time making decisions, so some things don't get discarded because I can't decide if I should keep it or not (I might need it later!) and if I keep it, where's the best place for it?
  • I don't have the energy to do all I need to do in the garden and the house at the same time, so it's one or the other and gardening is more fun. I only dream of the day when I can do both simultaneously.
  • I have developed selective vision. You've heard of selective hearing? It works with eyes, too. Look at something long enough and after awhile you don't see it anymore. Nope, can't see the praying mantis molt laying on the desk . . .

There are a couple of other reasons too, but I'm not willing to admit those yet. But I have decided there's nothing that makes you more aware of how your house really looks than to have another person set foot in it.

Sunday night, we went to Van Wert and got Grandma and brought her out to the house to spend the night. There's something about walking into your house with another person behind you that all of a sudden makes you see things through their eyes. How does that

This time, all the plants that we had to bring in for the winter just jumped out at me. I counted them last year and it was some ridiculously high number, but there are even more this year. Mom had a few she was going to throw out and I couldn't bear for her to do that with perfectly good plants, so of course I took them in. Cats. Plants. They're all the same to me. And then there are all those brugmansias, God help me.

Even with our "greenhouse in the basement" it's a jungle in here. The air quality is undoubtedly fabulous, what with all that conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen going on. You'd think that would boost my energy level, wouldn't you? I haven't noticed it.

The cats seem to like all the greenery around, with Simon munching down on anything that even remotely resembles grass and Baby hiding under the larger plants when one of the other cats sneaks into the house.

There will be a natural attrition over the winter, but for the most part we live in a botanical conservatory. It's not so bad, in fact, Romie likes it and so do I, but visiting friends and relatives are somewhat shocked as they walk into it. That's okay. It's our house and it's only five months till spring and everything will begin to go back outside.

Maybe I should start conducting tours and charging for admission to our indoor gardens. Maybe we could make enough to hire a cleaning lady.

What Do Your T-Shirts Say About You?

With cooler weather upon us and colder weather to come, this past weekend I switched out my closets and drawers. Summer clothes swapped places with winter ones. Now that both Kara and Jenna are out on their own, I have the luxury of using the closets and drawers in their rooms for this purpose.

It's no secret that I like clothes and though I've weeded out much of what's in those closets and drawers, I still have too much of everything. But I've got pants that are too big that I will surely fit into again, clothes that fit that are perfectly fine but for some reason or another I don't wear, and odd bits that are also perfectly fine but don't go with anything else. Please don't suggest that I get rid of these things, because I can't bring myself to do it, especially with all this closet space.

I sort my things according to type when storing them. Shirts / pants / shorts / pajamas. And then the shirts get sorted again. White shirts (you can never have too many white shirts), 'nice shirts', long-sleeved t-shirts, and t-shirts with a message. Hmmmmm . . . message. What am I trying to say? What do my t-shirts say about me?

I'm sure this one comes as no surprise to anyone, except it did to me, because it arrived in the mail last month - a birthday gift from my friend Kat, who lives in Florida. She knows me well and knew that I would love this, in fact, I had almost purchased it myself earlier this year.

I'm a big fan of Life Is Good products, and I have two other t-shirts from them. One of them reflects my love of geocaching:

I was a child in the 1960s - too young to attend Woodstock * - but I have always loved the poster advertising it, so when I saw this t-shirt in a Limited Too store several years ago, I had to have it. Limited is very smart in making their children's clothing all the way up to XXL sizes, because big kids like me can shop there and sometimes find pretty cool things that are also priced less than in their regular store.

Several of my shirts I can blame on Kara. She'll see one and say, "Mom, you need this shirt. It's so you." Here are three of them:

"Nature is Beauty"

I like vintage t-shirts and while browsing, this one caught my eye:

Note: If you've never ordered from before, most of their shirts run small. If they say order a size up, they mean it.

VistaPrint offers custom t-shirts free (except for shipping) or at a reduced price every now and then, so I thought it would be fun to get one made with my blog name and URL on it.

The back has the Marcel Proust quote that's at the top of my blog.

I rarely go into Abercrombie & Fitch, because I actually have a really strong dislike for the store, but one of their catalogs came in the mail one time a couple of years ago (addressed to Jenna) and I looked through it. I saw this t-shirt and though I'd previously told myself I'd never go into that store, this t-shirt was screaming my name. I had to shut it up by buying it. It has metallic embroiderly and beads stitched to it.

I think now that I could have lived without it, but I didn't think so at the time.

And finally, the other Life Is Good t-shirt pretty much gives you an idea of what I think nearly every day I wake up in the morning:

So, based on my t-shirts, that makes me a nature-loving, tree-hugging, litter-picker-upper, self-promoting blogging gardener and hippie wannabe who's almost always in a good mood. Oh, and I like a little bit of glitz now and then.

What do your t-shirts say about you?


*Linked for those who are either too young to know what Woodstock was, or for those who were there but can't remember.

Monday, October 29, 2007

That's a Wrap

The gardening season is over for 2007. It seems like just a few weeks ago that it began and now we've had our first killing frost (last night). Much of what was vibrant and alive yesterday is black and hanging limp today. Oh, there's plenty of green out there yet, but I feel like I can now sit back and look back and say, "It was a good year."

'Zowie' zinnias were new to my garden this year and while I wasn't all that impressed with them at the start, as the season progressed 'Zowie' proved to live up to its name. Color definitely made them a winner and was the reason I planted them in the first place. But beyond that, I was impressed with the germination rate of the seeds (100%), the staying power of the blooms (each bloom looked good for weeks), and the health of the foliage from one end of the main stem to the other.

I also grew other cultivars ('Whirligig', 'Chippendale', and 'Candy Cane') so I was able to compare 'Zowie with these and overall, 'Zowie' outperformed the others. I don't know if I've ever grown a zinnia that didn't have foliage afflicted with mildew until 'Zowie' came along. I'll definitely grow them again next year.

The hellebore seeds that I planted last fall germinated and are slowly growing in the shaded bed behind the trellis. Hopefully by next spring I can transplant them to other locations. The seeds were complimentary from Winterwoods, so I'm happy to have experienced success with them.

We finally got that small pond put in this summer. It still needs more rocks around it, but there's plenty of time to find those by next spring. I think the cats and Simba (our dog) liked the pond as much as we did because I found them helping themselves to a drink from it quite often.

Another project that was completed was the wood deck over the part of the cement surrounding the pool that had settled creating a discrepancy between it and an adjacent section. We extended that to the nearby existing deck around a large oak tree.

A flagstone walkway was set in from the patio to the pool. Irish moss and creeping thyme now grow in between the flagstones and the walkway is well on its way to looking like it's always been there.

We discovered wild grapes growing
behind our house along Cunningham's Ditch. I wish I'd kown before that they were there, because I would have learned how to make wild grape jelly long ago. We are just now finishing up the last jar of it and I've already got plans to make strawberry jelly as well as more grape jelly next year.

I planted several English roses
for the first time. While they are strong growers and have an amazing fragrance and form, one thing I don't like is that they generally are weak-stemmed. Maybe as they continue to grow over time they'll overcome that.

The garden was once again host to several swallowtail and Monarch caterpillars, so the garden earned its designation as a Certified Monarch Waystation. One of the Monarch cats was brought into the house and metamorphosed into a butterfly there.

We started a compost pile at the end of July and we're watching it grow and shrink and grow and shrink as time goes on. No finished compost yet, but it's well on its way. Each time I turn it, I can see the progression of decomposition from bottom to top. It's looking good on the bottom, but it needs more time in order for it to be worthwhile to harvest for the garden. We will add to it with leaves we're in the process of raking and other dead plant material from the garden as that continues to wind down for the year. On the agenda for next spring is for Romie to construct a bin for the compost. I don't like looking at just a heap of dead stuff, even if it is located in the back corner of the property.

The bed in front of the porch was replanted this summer due to the death of everything that was planted there previously (vinca and flowering almond). Variegated euonymus and several grasses were used and all are looking good.

Several new hydrangeas were planted around the oak tree deck, including a variegated, both cultivars of Endless Summer, and Forever and Ever. A couple of them are still blooming now. I'd like to have an oak leaf hydrangea although I don't think I'd plant that with these.

Mom and I had lots of wonderful adventures visiting flower shows and botanical gardens. Grand total for the year: 9
Romie and I made our second trip to Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota in March, and I visited Gene Stratton Porter's Limberlost in July.

Yes, it was a good gardening season. Time for the garden and gardener to rest and think about plans for next year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What Would YOU Call It?

If it were your job to give an official name to the cultivar of the flower from which this petal was taken, what would you call it? Don't think too hard or you'll miss the obvious answer. I questioned Daughter #2 when she was here last weekend and she nailed it on the first guess. So did Romie.

I had forgotten about ordering this chrysanthemum last fall and this spring it arrived in the mail from Bluestone Perennials. I think maybe they ran out or something, or I may have ordered too late for it to be sent last fall, but it was a nice surprise when it got here.

Of course, you'll remember I said I was never planting mums again, but this doesn't count. I said that after this got here and was planted. Besides, as I also said before, there are exceptions to every rule.
There are so many pretty mums out there, I guess I can't help myself. This time of year, I JUST WANT THEM. But I need to figure out how to keep them alive for more than one season.

Mom and Grandma both gave me some that they had in pots and didn't want to plant in the ground, so I planted those last week. I didn't put them where I want them to stay because for one thing, I don't even know where that is. The other thing is that I want to wait and see if they live through the winter, so they are now in the Orphan Garden until next spring.

The ones I'm asking you to name, however, ARE where I want them and it's too bad I didn't take a picture of them when my 'Disneyland' rose was blooming at the same time. The colors go very well together, which is why I put them where I did in the first place. They also blend nicely with the other new mums I bought when Mom and I were in Cleveland the last time ('Bolero').

So what name rolled off your tongue when you saw that first picture at the top of the post? If you said "Matchsticks" you would be correct. That wasn't too hard now, was it?

(By the way, I did pinch these back up until July 4th, but you can't tell it, can you? Maybe they would have been even taller if I hadn't. Bluestone does list them as being tall.)

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Saturday, October 27, 2007


When I first skimmed through the article about trees being injected with rabbit liver genes to clean up toxic waste, I thought, "News of the Weird." But when I slowed down and read it in detail, my thoughts changed to, "Now that is cool."

Published in Scientific American on October 15th, the report is that a French hybrid of an aspen tree has been proven to clean trichloroethylene (TCE) from groundwater. TCE is a carcinogen and is the most commonly found contaminant in U.S. toxic waste sites. It's in insecticides and fungicides as well as dyes, spot removers, adhesives and paints and is very likely in the water that I drink.

Like many of our friends and neighbors here in the rural midwest, we have our own well that provides our drinking water. The water goes through a sophisticated filtering system that's contained in our basement. We have it mainly because of the high sulfur content our water has and it does a pretty good job of removing that, although it doesn't take it all out. It also removes many impurities, but I honestly don't know if it takes care of anything like TCE. We were more concerned about the sulfur because of the smell and the corrosive damage it does to pipes, electrical wiring, and appliances, and we just try not to think about things like carcinogens that might be in that water. It's always been a concern in the back of our minds though.

Our bodies remove such toxins, but many times at the expense of our livers. So scientists, knowing that plants inherently help clean the air and water, figured out a way to boost that natural cleansing ability by introducing genetic material from rabbits into aspen and poplar trees. Tests proved they removed up to 91 per cent of TCE and it removed ten times the amount of benzene (another carcinogen) from the air as 'normal' aspens.

The studies involving the use of poplars in phytoremediation (restoring balance to a polluted environment using plants) have been conducted for over ten years. One of the things still left to be determined is the effect these altered poplars have on insects, birds, and other animals that may eat them.

Information gleaned from Scientific American and Environmental Health Perspectives.
Photos from (1) Wikimedia and (2) University of Washington.

Waiting For First Frost

Last year, our first frost was in the first couple of weeks of October. I remember this because my friend Kat was visiting from Florida and she helped us carry plants into the house in a hurry. I wasn't prepared for the frost for some reason and we were really scrambling to get everything in and it was windy and COLD.

We haven't had a frost yet, but it's just a matter of time, and from the weather reports, I'm betting by next week at this time any annuals still left in the garden will be mush. But I'm ready for it! Shocking, isn't it? The Queen of Procrastination has done a pretty darn good job of getting the gardens ready for winter.
In the last week or two, I have:

  • Pulled or cut dead foliage and tossed it on the compost pile
  • Cut the hostas back to about six inches so insects can't set up housekeeping in them for the winter
  • Watered plants that were new this year or that are small or weak with root stimulator in an attempt to get the roots healthier for winter
  • Dug the tender bulbs (Callas, cannas, dahlias, oxalis, sprekelia, tigridia, tritonia, amaryllis, gladiolus, caladiums), bagged them in mesh bags or sawdust, and labeled them
  • Dug tender plants and potted them up to bring inside for the winter (pelargoniums, rosemary, bougainvillea, 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia)
  • Repotted houseplants that needed it and brought them into the house (jasmine, dracaena, aloe, orchids, kangaroo fern, heliotrope, passiflora, abutilons, schefflera, Norfolk Island pine, Boston fern, abutilons, tropical hibiscus, pilea, cacti and other succulents)
  • Took the campanulas I had in containers and planted them in the ground
  • Dug the brugmansias and potted them up. Cut them back and shared the cuttings and also am rooting some here
  • Did some mulching, although I'll wait to do the roses and other things after we've had the first frost
  • Brought in garden art and pottery; Romie drained the fountains
  • Took the two plants out of the pond and planted them in the ground for winter
  • Continued to gather seeds from plants still producing them (cosmos, morning glories, etc.)
  • Pulled what few weeds were in the beds (thank you, mulch!)

I still have to cut back the clematis and pull the morning glory and hyacinth bean vines, but I'll wait until the clematis has been bitten by the frost before cutting those, and I'm still collecting seeds from the other vines. Those are still blooming anyway. I need to get the pond cleaned out a bit and I hope to do that this weekend.

I mentioned that I watered plants that were new this year or that are small or weak with a root stimulator. When I was in Cleveland shopping at Petitti's with Kim (blackswampgirl), I asked her and one of the employees there what their opinion was about the root stimulator. Would it do any good or would I just be wasting it?

My theory is that if it beefs up the root system, the plant will stand a better chance of surviving whatever kind of winter we have coming our way. Kim said it might be interesting to use it on one plant and not on another and compare them in the spring. The Petitti's employee said he hadn't heard of doing this, but it wouldn't hurt anything. We'll see!

Though I got all the brugs dug and potted up, most of them are still outside on our front porch. They are the ones that had blooms on them and I'm going to wait to cut them back until they're finished blooming. If frost happens before that, I guess I'll just cut them back anyway. So right now, it's a jungle on our front porch, but those blooms are just too pretty to cut and the fragrance is out of this world, especially at night.

I'm working on a couple of bulb orders, because I really want more crocus and daffodils next spring. There are some oriental lilies on the orders, too, because I had a miserable showing of those this year. I don't know what happened, but the majority of them disappeared.
I was especially disappointed that 'Muscadet' didn't return, because that one was exceptionally pretty and highly fragrant.

So while I'm not yet "done done" with winter prepping, I'm about as done as I should be right now, with maybe the exception of the bulb planting. I feel that way only because I hate planting bulbs when I'm out there shivering and with my teeth chattering. But that's how it is every fall. Why should it be any different this year?

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