Friday, February 29, 2008

Ft. Wayne Home and Garden Show 2008

Much anticipated for several weeks as winter winds down, Mom and I attended the Ft. Wayne (IN) Home and Garden Show on its opening day. Walking into the Expo Hall at the Memorial Coliseum brought a smile to both our faces as we walked between all that greenness that you could also smell.

The show was heavier on the home than the garden, as usual, and since neither Mom nor I were all that interested in the home aspect of things, we breezed through those exhibits, with a stop to purchase a snack of German roasted pecans.

There was a King Tut replica exhibit that I suppose was nice enough, but it seemed a little strange to me to be looking at replicas of the actual items from his tomb. And even stranger that there were miniature replicas of the replicas available for purchase.

In the Garden Gallery, where we spent the most time, we browsed exhibits by several landscapers, nurseries and garden centers. There were several beautiful patio exhibits, but most were out of the realm of possibility for my property. Oh, we have the square footage to accommodate any of them, but even if the style matched our home, we couldn't afford the price tag. Still, they were fun to look at.

The emphasis was on stone, stone, and more stone, with water feature accents. As you first walked in, to the right was a unique water feature by Planscape. The stonescaping was beautiful, but the wow factor was provided by the waterfall. It seemed as if there was rain falling from one side of the pergola. I can just imagine how soothing it would be to relax there and listen to that.

Woodland Water Gardens of Columbia City had a display with a babbling brook, waterfalls, and footbridge that impressed me the most. It wasn't exactly the waterfalls, but the contemporary look and lines of the stone bridge that really got my attention.

There were squiggles cut into the stone to allow the water to pass through to the other side, where the water bed continued. I overheard many positive comments from other admirers while I was photographing the display.

Country View Greenhouse from South Whitley had a nice display with some of the less common perennials for sale. I returned to this vendor at least three times, making a purchase of a nice 'Red Lady' hellebore and speaking with the young owner. I was very impressed with him and what he had to offer and will be making a trip there when planting season rolls around. He specializes in rare plants and I'm anxious to see what else he has at his greenhouses.

The Three Rivers Orchid Society had a lot to drool over, besides offering advice about growing orchids. It took all the restraint I could muster to resist buying one, but it helps that I have a hard time making decisions. I just don't know which one I would have bought, had I decided to!

Always full of temptations is the area occupied by the Tulip Tree Gift Shop from the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. I've long known that this is a great place to pick up interesting plants at very reasonable prices and today was no different. For $8.50, I purchased a very healthy variegated Abutilon.

Another place to visit this summer will be Blue River Nursery, also near Columbia City. Though they didn't have a large display, I saw some of the most unusual trees and shrubs there.

Attracting a lot of attention and comment was the Golden Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia 'Chief Joseph'). Even more attention-getting was the price of the larger one of two, which was less than three feet tall - $499. But not to worry. A much smaller version which was about a foot tall could be had for $109.

Okay, now for the highlight of the day...


If you've never had the pleasure of hearing this man speak, too bad for you. Mom had mentioned hearing him when she was in Atlanta a couple of years ago, and I have a couple of his books, including Tough Plants For Northern Gardens, but I didn't know what a wonderfully engaging person he was.

He was scheduled for several speaking sessions the first two days of the show, and Mom and I were in the front row for the first one. The small room was jam-packed and when it was nearing the time for him to end his presentation, the crowd asked him to keep going. Unfortunately for us, the room was scheduled for another session so he wasn't able to. He graciously autographed our books for us and we left, talking all the way down the hall about what a great time the last hour had been.

At this point, Mom and I parted ways and I went back to browse the Garden Gallery. I joined her awhile later in the children's area, where she had wanted to hear Felder again as he was to make a presentation about children's gardening. As I walked up, I noticed Mom and another woman sitting on chairs with Felder sandwiched between them, looking at his laptop. Apparently, they were the only two people who showed up.

I joined them and for the next hour or so, we four had great discussions about educational opportunities for teaching gardening to kids (and the lack of them), ideas for elements that can be incorporated into children's gardens, and more detailed discussion about some of what he had presented earlier. Mom and I felt very fortunate to have been able to spend the time in the company of such greatness.

Now Felder would probably scoff at that last sentence, because in spite of his numerous degrees and vast experience, this man is like your next-door neighbor. In fact, I wish he was my next-door neighbor, because then I could join him around his fire pit while sipping a beverage and shooting the breeze.

I like this man, because of his philosophy on gardening. If you like how you garden, then that's all that matters. What's important is that you garden and not be afraid to try things out of the ordinary. How many people do you know that have a bottle tree, a hanging pot planted with lettuce, and bags of potting soil planted with cabbage, pansies, artemisia, sedum, and euonymus growing in the back of their pick-up truck?

Felder, if you're out there and happen to read this: Thank you for what you do for the gardening world and for sharing a bit of yourself with us on Thursday. You, sir, have got it going on.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just Biding Time

This is the winter that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. The temperature stays frigid and the snow keeps right on falling, and spring is now on hold because...This is the winter that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. The temperature stays frigid and the snow keeps right on falling, and spring is now on hold because...This is the winter that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. The temperature stays frigid and the snow keeps right on falling, and spring is now on hold because...This is the winter that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. The temperature stays frigid and the snow keeps right on falling, and spring is now on hold because...

This is the winter that never ends............

Pushing the Zone Limits

Zone envy. We've all experienced it. I live in zone 5 and I see something that's only hardy to zone 6. Yes, if I could only live in zone 6 . . . what a garden I could have! And you - you live in zone 6. If only you could live in zone 7 . . . what a garden you could have!

The truth is, many of us who suffer from this gardening malady try to be something we're not. Come spring, we'll see new offerings and some old ones again, and we'll rationalize and fantasize and otherwise figure out a way to buy them, plant them and make them work. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. Are there things we can do to give them their best chance of survival?

I tried to think of something I grow that's marginal to our zone that has done well and the truth is, I've taken the safe route so far. As I've mentioned before, I planted Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata 'Fantasy') last year and depending on which source you read, it is hardy to zone 5 or 6, making it a marginally hardy plant for my area. It still has decent green foliage right now, so it appears to be doing fine.

In the last few years, I've gotten to know my garden better and have learned the personalities of each area. The spot in the middle of Max's Garden, where the willow tree grows tends to be lower and wetter, so I've sited plants that like these conditions there. The trellis area in the shade of two large oak trees also tends to be rather damp, so it contains plants that like moist shade.

On the south side of the family room is a small bed that most definitely is a warmer microclimate, meaning temperatures there are different than are typical for our area. It is protected on three sides - two of them by the house and the third by some shrubs. It's open only to the east. Anytime I have planted things there - bulbs for example - they are the first to wake up in the spring. So I think I can safely say this area is zone 6.

This year, I want to try a few zone 6 plants in this small bed. There are some ground orchids that I think might do well, such as this one:

Hardy Calanthe Orchid
(Calanthe discolor)

If you could grow something hardy to just one zone warmer than you actually are, what would it be?

Photo of Calanthe discolor from Plant Delights.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Flock My World

When I was growing up in the '60s, I can remember several Christmases where my dad and my grandpa used to get cut trees and flock them. There was this blower thing that sprayed the flocking onto the trees to make them look like they had snow on them, kind of like the trees at Our Little Acre look today.

I knew it would be gorgeous when I awoke this morning and before the wind started up and blew the snow off the trees, I bundled up again and took the camera out to take some more photos.

Baby thought she wanted to go out with me and play in the snow,
that didn't last long before she was looking for a way back in.

One of two 'Red Delicious' apple trees at the back of the property.
Max's Garden is to the right of this view.

Max's Garden

Looking from Max's Garden toward the back of the house.
The Japanese Garden area is to the right of the gazebo.

The Japanese Garden

The bench looks comfy, doesn't it?
Just a bit wet and cold, though.

This hedge belongs to our neighbors, but of course, we get the advantage of it, too. In a couple of months there will be a drift of Virginia Bluebells (Mertensis virginica) at its base that we planted two years ago. There are other woodland wildflowers scattered here and there along the hedge, too.

Looking toward the pool from the patio.

Simba, being part Alaskan Malamute, absolutely loves the snow and has been known to sleep in the open during a raging snowstorm, even though she has a nice, warm doghouse.

We have pictures where you can't hardly see her because she's covered in snow, sound asleep.

The only berries left on the Washington Hawthorn trees are way at the bottom. The birds have pretty well stripped the trees of them.

The red feeder is looking a little top heavy with snow and light
on the bird seed. Must remedy that!

By now, you must be wondering just how much snow we got. I measured the snow on top of the shrubs on the southeast corner of the house. Looks like about nine inches so far! It's still snowing lightly, so that may increase a little.

I'm happy we got this snow, because the temperatures are going to dip down to a low of 8º tomorrow night and the snow cover will protect the plants. What I'm dreading more than that is the pickup in the wind that's supposed to occur later today. With this much snow, that's sure to create very hazardous driving conditions.

Maybe this is winter's last hurrah? Let's hope!

Big Fluffy Puffy Snow

As promised, we are once again being dumped on. No one will commit to how much snow we are to receive by Tuesday evening and they're saying it may possibly continue into Wednesday. Earlier, the news reported that just an hour away from here, it was snowing at the rate of more than five inches an hour.

I looked out the window, and sure enough, it was coming right down. I could do nothing else but go out in it and try to capture some images of the enchanting fluffiness, even though it was dark. I turned on the outside lights and took these photos without a flash, which accounts for some of the blurriness.

Few things in this world have the power to transform the landscape and how we feel when we see it and touch it and play in it, more than snow. As much as I am ardently wishing for winter to be over because it's been such a long one this year, I am so glad I live where I can experience snow every winter.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Let There Be Peace

When I woke this morning and checked the Passion Flower, I knew that today would be the day it opened. I could barely see a cracking in the seams, but I recognized it as a sign of what was to come. I took photos periodically as it did its thing:

Time elapsed from the beginning of opening to fully open was about two hours.

See my 2007 post on this gorgeous flower!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Downy or Hairy?

Just spotted at Our Little Acre:

Anyone know?

I tend to say female "Downy" because of its overall size (rather small compared to most woodpeckers I see around here) and its relatively short beak. But I'm not an experienced birder.

The Power of Positive Thinking

In keeping with my usual cheery self and being the positive thinker that I am (and on the heels of a bleak, wintery post), I took to the great outdoors once again, in search of spring. Now with snow on the ground (some melted away this afternoon) and more to come, you might think it would be difficult to find. But I knew it was out there if I just knew where to look.

You know, Mother Nature is smarter and more clever than all of us put together and no doubt she is getting weary of hearing us whine. I'm even getting tired of doing the whining. And just as I suspected, I didn't have to look all that far!

Behold! There are buds!

The Buckeye (Aesculus sp.) has the largest of the buds I saw. They probably looked like this last fall, but it doesn't look like the winter has hurt them any. It's a native tree, so it's used to just about any kind of winter you throw at it.

The dogwood (Cornus sp.) that has only bloomed twice in the 15-plus years we've had it, is once again loaded with buds. These too were present last fall, but I just know there are some pretty white flowers inside the onion-shaped buds.

This Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Emperor') is poised and ready to go.

The Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) has bunches of buds and they're showing a bit of green at the tips!

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick
(Corylus avellana 'Contorta') has little buds at the base of its catkins.

I don't know what type of viburnum this is, but it's got gorgeous red foliage in the fall and white flowers in the spring. Its blushed buds remind me of Spanish peanuts.

The white lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is preparing for its spring show.

This isn't the greatest photo of rosebuds (it's too cold to go back out and take it again), but take my word for it: that nub on the left, opposite a thorn is a bud on the English Rose 'Falstaff'.

Out in the back garden, the gray-headed coneflower (
Ratibida pinnata) is actually putting up new foliage! And you-know-who has gotten to it already. (Rabbits. Meh.)

Now here's something that makes me really happy to see. The Monarda punctata 'Fantasy', which some sources say is only hardy to zone 6, is looking pretty darn good. But I did mulch it pretty well.

As I was walking back to the house with frozen fingers, I thought I detected a faint "squish" as I walked across the yard where there was no snow. The ground felt hard as a rock, but there must be a little bit of thawing going on. And I know that in spite of the coming snow, at this time of year, a week can make a big difference. So I continue to think positively and busy myself with other things. We'll be swamped with gardening chores soon enough. (Bring 'em on!)

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