Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pass the Peas, Please

I've been picking peas for about a week. This year is the first we've grown peas in quite some time. In fact, I remember very distinctly the last time we grew peas.

We were sitting on the deck out back, and I was shelling peas and talking about what my next car would be. I had always wanted a Volkswagen Beetle but they stopped selling them in the US in 1977. Then for the 1998 model year, they redesigned it and started selling them in the US again. I liked the New Beetle as well as the old classic style.

I was shelling away - it takes an insanely large amount of pea pods to produce an insanely small number of peas - and I jokingly said to Romie, "Hey! I know what you can get me for our anniversary next year! A New Beetle!" He didn't roll his eyes or make some sarcastic remark, he just said, "What color would you want?" We would be celebrating our 25th and I was hoping for a silver Beetle.

At that time, you had to put your name on a waiting list along with a $250 deposit (to show you were serious, I guess) and your car requirements (silver, automatic transmission, leather seats, sun roof, CD player). With silver being the second most requested color (yellow was number one), we were told it could be a year or more before they were able to get one with my specifications. Back then, they were a hot item.

Waiting that long was fine, because I didn't have to have a car right away. But it was just a few short months and my car was here. We picked it up on 9-9-99 and it was an early anniversary present, since our 25th wasn't until August 1, 2000.

And that leads us back to the peas...

When I planted them this spring, it made me remember that last time we grew them and how I got my car - ten years ago. That's a long time to not grow peas and the longest we've ever had any one car. The Beetle is doing fine and I plan to drive it for many more years.

We plan to grow peas for many more years, too.
I'd forgotten just how good fresh peas from the garden really are.


Interesting fact about peas: Peas are one of those cool plants that returns nitrogen to the soil (called nitrogen fixation). They have nodules on their roots that contain bacteria that converts the nitrogen in the air into organic nitrogen in the soil. Beans do this, too.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Smiles

It doesn't take much to make me smile, and I think that's what gives me such a positive outlook on life in general. I like to imagine God in his heaven, orchestrating such minute details that don't serve any other purpose than to give us joy, even if just for a moment.

Don't we do these things, too? How fun it is to surprise someone with a card in the mail for no other reason than to let them know you're thinking about them. So while it's easy to imagine that God must be too busy to bother with "the little things," that's just our human brain being unable to comprehend the magnitude of just what God can and does do.

So what caused me to wax philosophical on this Saturday?

"Gee thanks, Dad! Cool rope swing!
Bet none of the other birds in town have one of these!"

Romie said he would have loved to have seen the bird flying back to the nest with that in its mouth.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Garfield Park Conservatory - Chicago

Who loves a garden, loves a green-house too
Unconscious of a less propitious clime
There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug
While the winds whistle and the snows descend.

~William Cowper
The Task

It occurred to me the other night that I'd not yet finished my account of this year's Spring Fling in Chicago. Sunday, May 31st - the last day - was another beautiful day in the Windy City and we had more beautiful gardens to see!

We met several other Flingers in the lobby of our hotel at 9:15, then walked several blocks to catch the El to the Garfield Park Conservatory. I'd overheard the comment earlier - "If you've seen one conservatory, you've seen them all." - and I couldn't disagree more. Though we'd just seen Lincoln Park's the day before, Garfield Park's was just amazing and probably the best I've visited anywhere up to this point in my life.

The conservatory recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, having been constructed in 1906-07 under the direction of Jens Jensen, the architect famed for his garden design. He intended it to be "the largest publicly owned conservatory under one roof in the world." Taking up 4.5 acres, Garfield Park Conservatory is the crown jewel of Chicago's West Side and has been recognized as an internationally significant horticultural facility.

The conservatory wasn't busy at all, which made it nice for the dozen or so of us that were visiting. Photo ops presented themselves at every turn and it was nice to not have to wait much (if at all), to get a clear shot of things.

In the first room, the Scheelea Palm (Attalea phalerata) was the star of the show. Grown from a seed planted in 1926, it is the largest and oldest palm in the conservatory.

I got a chance to chat a bit more with Pam during this time, which was nice, though she and Diana had to leave a little early. We talked about how many of the plants we saw here were houseplants for those of us that try to grow them in the north, but they're garden staples in Texas, where the two of them live.

For example, Pam grows wonderful agaves such as the ones we saw here and she knows how envious I am of hers. They're impressive plants!

The Fern Room was just unbelievable. The minute you stepped into the room, you could smell the green.

They'd used layers of rock from Ohio (yeah!) to form the base for growing the ferns and there were corridors you could walk through that were entirely covered by various ferns.

The size and scope of this room has to be experienced to be believed. The photos here just don't convey it adequately. That could be said of the entire conservatory though.

There's a permanent Chihuly glass display:

And just as I made the comment to someone that I didn't really care for cacti and other dry desert plants, I came upon these that tried to change my mind...

The bromeliads were impressive...

Flaming Sword Bromeliad (Vriesea splendens)

The outside grounds of the conservatory were pretty impressive, too. We exited the rear of the building, shown here, with its espaliered tree and boxwood balls...

...and found ourselves in the "City Garden."

Back into the conservatory and out again, on a different side, was the Monet Garden. Loosely adapted from Monet's Garden in Giverney, France, this smaller version uses plants and color much as Monet did.

And out yet another direction was the labyrinth, leading to the children's garden.

When it came time to head back downtown so we could get our car and head for home, MrBrownThumb walked Mom and me back to the train station, to make sure we got back okay. This was just another way he and other Chicago gardeners that were part of the planning team for Spring Fling helped make our weekend that much more pleasant and enjoyable.

Mom and I talked for a long time on the way home about all our experiences of the weekend spent in one of my favorite cities with so many nice people. It was apparent that a huge amount of planning and thought went into every aspect of it and everyone involved should feel pretty pleased with the results. We simply had a great time, and I'm planning to attend next year's Spring Fling, which is to be in Buffalo, New York.

Most of the Spring Flingers, as captured by MrBrownThumb in Lincoln Park

As posted on the
Chicago Bloggers' website, here is a list of other posts by other attendees on the Spring Fling experience:

Garden Girl:


My Skinny Garden:

On the Shores of Lake Chicago:

Garden Faerie's Musings:
Flatbush Gardener:

Ramble on Rose:
Spring Fling '09 Wrap Up
Muse Day Final Fling Thoughts

Art of Gardening:
Garden Bloggers Spring Fling
Garden Blogging Influencing

Caldwell Lily Pool, an oasis in Chicago
Visit to Garfield Park Conservatory
Intimate Gardens of Spring Fling
Art Institute Garden in Chicago
On Cloud Nine in Lurie Garden
The People Behind The Blogs
Chicago Botanic Garden wows Spring Flingers

Dig Grow Compost Blog:
Loving It-Chicago Botanic Garden
Rick Bayless Garden
Thank You Chicago Garden Bloggers


Prairie Rose's Garden:

May Dreams Gardens:

The Garden of live Flowers:

Sharing Nature's Garden:

Each Little World:

Outside Clyde:

Our Litte Acre:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Place in the Shade

With temperatures in the 90s this week, Boo has the right idea:

He always finds the cool spots in the garden, such as this one in the dappled shade of the willow tree and other plants.

I wonder if cats have a natural mosquito repellent, because all the rain we had earlier has produced bumper broods of the biters. The cats don't seem to be bothered by them, but maybe it's because they've been getting their nourishment from me. It doesn't matter what time of the day I go out - the mosquitoes are always biting.

Of course, with the heat and humidity being what it is right now, the mosquitoes are going to have to find someone else to chew on, because I'm staying inside with the air conditioning!

Plan Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest Working Creatures on the Planet - A Review

I love honeybees and am fascinated by them. Too bad they don't like me. Well, I guess it isn't really their fault that I'm allergic to their stings. In spite of the pain and other bad reactions they cause me, they are one of my favorite insects. They rank right up there with the butterflies and lightning bugs.

Honeybees have been a part of my life since I was quite young. I grew up just a few miles from two honey producing and packing businesses. In fact, the son of one of the owners of one of them was in my class at school and was my boyfriend in the fifth grade. My parents used to call him "Honeyboy."

He eventually went on to become the president and CEO of that business, which merged with another honey business in Kansas to form Golden Heritage Foods LLC, the second largest honey packing facility in the nation.
He and his wife, who was also in my class, still live just a few miles away.

Anyway, it was nothing to drive down one of our country roads and see bee hives sitting in the middle of a clover field. About a month ago, Romie and I were trekking through a nearby woods and there were some hive boxes a-buzzin' there. I kept my distance, of course, but it was fascinating to stand and watch the flurry of activity surrounding those boxes.

Recently, I was asked to read and review a copy of Plan‌ Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest Working Creatures on the Planet. It's no secret that I love to read, so when I got the chance to learn more about honeybees in the process, I enthusiastically said, "Absolutely!" Even so, I kind of thought to myself that the book was going to be rather dry and boring after awhile. I mean, really. How much can you say about bees before it begins to sound like an entomology textbook?

Susan Brackney is a beekeeper. She's also an engaging writer who just made me love honeybees even more than I already did. I never once got bored or felt like putting the book down without finishing it. This is good stuff!

Every time I spoon out a bit of honey for my coffee or oatmeal, I'm reminded that anything of real value requires hard work and a lot of it. On average, it takes about a dozen bees to gather enough nectar to make just one gloriously golden teaspoon of honey, and each of those bees must visit more than 2,600 flowers in the process. Crazier still, all those flights from the hive to the flowers and back again add up to 850 miles or so - just over the distance from New York to Chicago.

There's R-rated stuff in the book, too. I don't tell you that to get you to read the book, but how a queen bee attracts her mates and what they do after she's lured them her way is pretty bizarre stuff. In fact, this little book (192 pages and about 5" x 8") is chock-full of amazing facts, history, and anecdotes about honeybees. There's also information about beekeeping, just in case you'd like to try your hand at it, and recipes for making not only food items, but soap, candles, and lip balm.

I think
Plan‌ Bee is the bee's knees. In case you don't know what that means, read the book. It tells you that, too.

Plan‌ Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest Working Creatures on the Planet by Susan Brackney
Perigee Books
List Price: $21.95
Amazon Price: $12.56 (qualifies for Free Shipping on orders over $25)

Susan Brackney is a beekeeper in Bloomington, Indiana. A nature writer whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, Plenty, Organic Gardening, and elsewhere, she is also an avid gardener, an expert on sustainablility, and the author of The Insatiable Gardener's Guide, The Lost Soul Companion, and The Not-So-Lost Soul Companion. Visit her website at

Check out the live BeeCam!

The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is There a Doctor in the House?

I had my yearly doctor's appointment today. That's always fun. No, really, it isn't too bad, because I really like the Nurse Practitioner that I see there. She's like your best girlfriend, but a lot smarter. I know this, because when she looked at my routine blood work results, she knew that I'm a junk food junkie. (If she only really knew...)

She also knew why my left ear has been plugged for the last two weeks. Ear wax. UGH. I kind of thought that might be the case, but she produced tangible evidence. Now I have to put drops in my ear and go back in two weeks to have it flushed out. No problem. Anything so I don't have to walk around like my head's underwater anymore.

My plants need to see a doctor, too. Several weeks ago I noticed spots on the leaves of several plants. Teeny tiny round brown dots.

They look like they got hit with buckshot.

I looked around to see if I could find out what's literally bugging them, but the only thing I could see was a striped beetle that reminds me a bit of a lightning bug, but not quite. By the way, we saw our first lightning bug the evening of June 19, which is right on schedule. Usually they appear for the first time right around the first day of summer, which this year was June 21st.

So... about those spots. I found them on the Rudbeckia, Gaillardia, Veronica, and Oregano, just to name a few.

Does anyone have a clue as to what's going on here? Insect, fungus, bacteria?

And while we're at it, what would make my Rosa 'Senior Prom' have leaves like this?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't Bug Me! (This Year, Either)

I was getting ready to write a blog post about the scarab beetle I found in one of the roses yesterday, which I was certain was an immature Japanese Beetle. I did some searching online for scarab beetles and came upon a blog post I'd made two years ago, nearly to the day. (Yes, I'd forgotten about it.) So instead of writing a completely different post about the Hairy Flower Scarab, I'm simply going to rerun my post from June 19, 2007. I could have written it word for word today.

I thought the Japanese Beetles had made their appearance. I found two today, both on roses. But while they were of the same size and general shape of a Japanese Beetle, they didn't look like the ones we had last year. This is a photo I took of the second one I found today:

Trichiotinus assimilis

It's a Hairy Flower Scarab or Bee Mimic Beetle. They behave much like bees. They hide in roses much like Japanese Beetles, too, and I'm treating them as such.

I usually pick them off and take them in the house to put them down the garbage disposal. If I smash them in the garden, the resulting smell they give off will attract more. I could take a jar of soapy water with me to the gardens when I'm on Japanese Beetle Watch and put them in there to drown, too.

We only had a total of thirteen of the little buggers last summer, but something tells me we're going to have a lot more than that this year. I've only ever found them on my roses, but Wikipedia says they like these:

Strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, roses, plums, pears, peaches, raspberries, blackberries and these genera:

  • Abelmoschus
  • Acer
  • Aesculus
  • Alcea
  • Asparagus
  • Aster
  • Betula (Birch trees)
  • Buddleia
  • Calluna
  • Caladium
  • Canna
  • Chaenomoles
  • Cirsium
  • Cosmos
  • Dahlia
  • Daucus
  • Dendranthema
  • Digitalis
  • Dolichos
  • Echinacea
  • Hemerocallis
  • Heuchera
  • Hibiscus
  • Hydrangea
  • Ilex
  • Iris
  • Lagerstroemia
  • Liatris
  • Ligustrum
  • Malus
  • Malva
  • Myrica
  • Oenothera
  • Parthenocissus
  • Phaeseolus
  • Phlox
  • Physocarpus
  • Platanus
  • Polygonum
  • Prunus
  • Quercus
  • Rheum
  • Rhododendron
  • Rosa
  • Rubus
  • Salix
  • Sambucus
  • Sassafras
  • Solanum
  • Syringa
  • Tilia (Linden, lime, or basswood trees)
  • Toxicodendron
  • Ulmus
  • Vaccinium
  • Viburnum
  • Vitis
  • Weigelia
  • Wisteria
  • Zea
  • Zinnia

Oh brother. The whole freakin' garden.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Green Thumb Sunday - Echinacea 'Tiki Torch'

It's been awhile since I've done a Green Thumb Sunday post, but this week, Echinacea 'Tiki Torch' burst into bloom and I just had to share. Orange just isn't my very favorite color in a flower, but 'Tiki Torch' clearly demonstrates that it depends on the flower. I really like this.

A closer look...

Besides its scrummy color, I'm tickled by the whimsical little petalettes, curling at random around the plastic spiked centers and the crowns of gold.

Join Green Thumb Sunday

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Heart Dirt and You Can Too!

It always makes me proud, somehow, when I find out that a great business is located in my home state of Ohio. I'm a born and raised Ohioan, otherwise known as a Buckeye, and I'm proud of it. Ohio has produced some wonderful people, some of them famous.

You know those Wright brothers - Orville and Wilbur - who are credited with flying the first airplane. Ohio has produced eight of our presidents: Garfield, McKinley, Harding, Taft, Cleveland, Hayes, Grant, and Benjamin Harrison.

There's Neil Armstrong, who's the first man to step foot on the moon, and Paul Newman, who only got better looking as he got older.

We're home to not only people, but businesses that are notable. The first matchbook was manufactured in Barberton by the Diamond Match Company (1896). Smucker's started making jams and jellies in Orrville in 1897. Etch A Sketch was first manufactured in 1960 in Bryan by the Ohio Art Company. Bob Evans Restaurants got their start in Rio Grande in 1962.

And then there's
Troy-Bilt, based in Cleveland. As gardeners, we're familiar with the company's products and many of us use them on a regular basis. They have a reputation for producing high quality equipment, to which I can attest, and they've also got a great sense of humor.

Take these t-shirts shown below, for instance:

No really. Take them.

One is size medium and one is size large, and I'm giving them away, courtesy of Troy-Bilt. They're made of super soft organic cotton and have Troy-Bilt's logo on the upper back (it's small). To win one of these shirts, just leave a comment here, telling me which Troy-Bilt product you'd most like to have and which size t-shirt you'd prefer. You can see their line of products on their

Then at midnight EDT on Saturday, June 27th, I'll randomly choose two winners from those who have left comments. The first one chosen will get a shirt in the size they prefer and the second winner will get the other one.
Enter now and good luck!

Oh, and here's another bit of Ohio trivia, with which you can astound your friends and neighbors: The first automobile accident occurred in Ohio City, Ohio in 1891. I've been by the crash site many times, since Ohio City is half an hour from here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Two Ohio Gardeners

For some time now, I have enjoyed reading one of the most beautiful garden blogs on the internet. BG Garden Blog, authored by Brenda, not only is located in the same zone as Our Little Acre, but is also just a short hour and a half drive away. Yesterday, upon the invitation of Brenda, I visited her gorgeous gardens.

As I neared Brenda's house, I passed a wind farm, much like the one that is being planned for our area. I'd forgotten that Bowling Green had this and I was happy to get to see the gigantic wind turbines in action.

A short time later, I turned into the drive at Brenda's house and I was taken back to the time I visited Hiddenhaven, the gardens of Tracy DiSabato-Aust. The rural setting was very similar to Tracy's, complete with pond and woods.

Brenda met me as I stepped out of my car and from that moment on, we were two friends and gardeners immediately off on a day of talking plants and flowers and design, with the latter being a mostly one-sided conversation, as garden design isn't my strong suit. It clearly is something that comes naturally for Brenda. She has a knack for putting things together in a perfect blend of color and texture.

We casually walked around her house and Brenda explained some of how things got where they were and what were her favorites. She shared her plans for planting various landscaped areas, flower beds, and the vegetable garden.

The Portage River runs through their property, back through the wooded part. Oh yes, lots of woods and we walked some of the trails. There were remnants of the spring wildflowers, such as bloodroot. Black-winged damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) flitted here and there, and graciously allowed me to get close enough for a decent photo.

There are several beautiful cats roaming BG Gardens, because like us, they like their kitties. I got to meet Jack, Oppie, Kink, Boo, and Gracie.



After we did our walk-through, we took off for Genoa, where I introduced Brenda to one of her fine local dining places - Muggz's Tea Nook - where I'd been at the end of May, during the Cleveland trip. Funny how that is, that something can be right in your back yard almost, but for some reason, you're not aware of it. I tried to finagle the recipe for the Tomato Basil soup out of the chef, but alas, it's the only thing she won't give out, of all the things she cooks. (She did tell me she uses honey in it, though.)

With our tummies full (Thank you, Bren!), we traveled a short distance to Elmore, home of Bench's Greenhouse & Nursery (as well as Schedel Arboretum and Gardens). As we turned into the parking lot, we saw a sign out front that said, "40% off all plants." A flurry of words were exchanged between us, as we pondered if that meant what we thought it meant.

When we got inside, we saw another sign:

And then another:

Finally, Brenda went to the counter and asked just what really was 40% off. The answer? Anything with a root system.

Well, let me tell you, we were beside ourselves and like two kids in a candy store. In some places, a sale such as this might not be all that exciting, but this was Bench's. Brenda had told me they had a huge variety of plants, trees, and shrubs to offer and that they were healthy too, and she was right.

We probably spent two hours or more, looking through their things, picking and choosing and having the best time. The only thing stopping me from getting more than I did is that I'm running out of space to plant things, unless we make the gardens larger. They're already at the upper limit of what Romie and I can manage, so I left the 'Coppertina' ninebark and the 'Diane' witch hazel there. It was really hard passing up the witch hazel, at $60 for a large one, but the sale meant there was no guarantee on anything and I wasn't sure I wanted to risk that much.

Brenda used to work at a greenhouse, so she shared some tips with me as we chose plants and talked about where they might be planted and how to take care of them. We took our purchases to the checkout, and Brenda was concerned that we might not be able to fit everything into my van, but I assured her that over the course of all the gardening trips Mom and I had made in the past, we both knew how to pack a van to the maximum. No worries!

Do we look like we just won the lottery, or what?

We felt good about our choices and the great deals we got on some fabulous plants. Brenda got a couple of Snowberry (Symphoricarpos) shrubs and a 'Sutherland Gold' Sambucus, as well as other perennials. I found my hanging Boston ferns for under the pergola and the gazebo, and a few other plants that I've never seen in any garden center before, such as a tricolor St. John's Wort (Hypericum × moserianum 'Tricolor').

I also picked up a Japanese Beautyberry, a Sunset Hyssop (Agastache rupestris), two Siberian Irises ('Pink Haze' and 'Strawberry Fair'), and an orange German Bearded Iris ('Savannah Sunset'). A Gloxinia, at $2.99, just jumped right into my cart, too. Those perennials, in quart containers? $2.00 each.

By now, it was after 6:00, and I needed to think about heading for home, so after taking Brenda back to her house and saying goodbye to her lovely family, she and I said our goodbyes too. It was amazing how quickly the time had passed, but that's how it is between friends, isn't it?

blogger templates | Make Money Online