Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back at 2007 (Part IV)

Autumn came barreling along on the heels of summer and a few of the perennials and annuals that struggled in the dry heat perked up and put on a fresh show of growth and blooms. While I hate seeing the growing season come to an end, I do love the clear blue skies of October and the crisp cool nights.

The fall color is always a treat, too.

The Children's Garden that Mom and her fellow Master Gardeners have been working so hard to help establish in Van Wert had its butterfly release and ribbon-cutting ceremony in August. In October the Master Gardeners were given an Environmental Award. This award is given by Dominion and the Biodiversity Alliance and Mom, Sue Heappard (Van Wert City Parks Director) and I traveled to Cleveland to accept it.

On the way home from Cleveland, we stopped to visit Schedel Arboretum and Gardens and we were blown away by the beauty of them, as well as the fact that we'd lived our entire lives in northwest Ohio without seeing them. We'll be returning for another visit in the spring.

While in Cleveland, Kim (blackswamp_girl) and I finally got to meet each other in person! We had a great time perusing Petitti's Strongsville store together and I left there wishing we lived closer to each other. When you share a love of gardening the way we do, as well as growing up within 30 miles of each other, you feel an instant kinship.

I'd met another fellow blogger, Martha (Earth Girl), back in February when she was a featured speaker at the Allen County Home and Garden Show. We met again in July, when I visited the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historical Site, where she is in charge of the restoration of the gardens. I enjoyed the personal tour of the gardens and Martha gave me a Cornelian Cherry seedling (Cornus sp.) that is the offspring of the original that Gene planted many years ago.

We discovered wild grapes growing along the creek that runs behind our house and I made wild grape jelly for the first time in October. It was so delicious that I plan to make it again next year and will try it with the strawberries from our garden as well.

We found a Monarch caterpillar on the swamp milkweed in our garden late in September. This was later than usual and I took it in the house where it formed its chrysalis the very next day. About ten days later, it emerged from its chrysalis, a perfect and beautiful female. We released her several hours later and she began her long migratory trip to Mexico.

Fall is a good time for planting many things and we put some garlic in the ground for the first time ever. Of course there were the many spring bulbs that I said I wasn't going to buy (but I did) that needed planting and who knew planting tulips was so dangerous? We purchased two more Japanese Maples and got them put in the ground before the really cold weather set in.

The year closed in December with a major snow storm that provided us with good photo opportunities and insulation for the plants. Inside, we were forced to share the air with a jungle of greenery that wouldn't survive our cold Ohio winters if they remained outside. Life can be tough - what can I say?

And now, as we say goodbye to 2007, we realize how very blessed and fortunate we are to be living the life we do. God has allowed us to be stewards of so many living things around us - trees, birds, plants, flowers, insects, cats - and we do our best to take care of them inasmuch as is humanly possible.

We've shared much of our life this year via this blog and to those of you who visited and read about our adventures and misadventures, thank you for all your kind comments.

Now, on to 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Looking Back at 2007 (Part III)

July came and we were firmly entrenched in summer with hot sun and no rain. Determined not to let one thing expire from the garden, I continued to water. I let the garden go as long as possible without doing it, but when things started to droop and get crispy, I gave them a good drenching. I didn't follow the rules, either. I watered with a sprinkler and I many times watered at night. As dry as it was, it made no difference, not even to the roses.

Ah, the roses...

English Rose 'Crown Princess Margareta'

This summer was my first experience with English roses and for being a rose novice, I had great success. I say "I" because Romie doesn't like roses and will have nothing to do with them except smell them when I drag him over to one and force him to have a sniff. He always says, "I don't smell anything." He's got horrible allergies and they affect his sense of smell. Too bad, because some of them are downright intoxicating.

Take the hybrid tea 'Diana, Princess of Wales,' for example...


I'm on my second one, though. It's a temperamental thing, and the one I bought last year didn't make it through last winter. Yes, it was a tough winter, especially for roses, but this rose has other issues, too. I loved it enough to try it again, though, and while it got a shaky start again this year, by the end of the season it was looking really good. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will live to see spring this year.

Other favorites were 'Chihuly' and 'Hot Cocoa' which I acquired in 2006. New to the garden this year were 'Disneyland' and 'Topsy Turvy.' Both performed beyond my expectations, with oodles of luscious colored blooms most of the summer, well into fall.

By midsummer, I'd gotten over the fact that I was unsuccessful at growing Himalayan Blue Poppies from seed. Oh, they germinated, but didn't make it much further than that. I've not given up, however, and have purchased new seed just recently, of two varieties: Meconopsis betonicifolia and Meconopsis x sheldonii 'Lingholm.' We'll see if either of those agrees with me.

'Zowie' zinnias were a hit, though! All fifteen seeds germinated and I'm giving them two thumbs up because of their outstanding color, endurance, and healthy foliage. Oh, and they're EASY. No fuss, no muss plants. The flower itself lasts for a month or more and I only deadheaded once all summer. No icky mildew either!

More new bugs were discovered, with my two favorites being the hummingbird moth and the ermine moth. Oh, and The Gold Bug. Now that is one very cool insect. Except for the fact that it adored my convolvulus leaves. Adored them to pieces. Literally. Still, I'd grow them again just to see that bug.

The tomatoes were disappointing. We grew 'Mr. Stripey' and 'Sungold.' We got several 'Sungolds' but only two or three 'Mr. Stripeys' by summer's end. But the sweet corn was exceptionally delicious and earlier than we're accustomed to. It was pretty well finished by the first of August, when we're normally just starting to pick it.

A cairn was built in July and a small pond in Max's Garden in August, proving that a garden is never done, whether it be by planting or adding other interest.

After most of the summer bringing us next to no rain, August tried to make up for it all at once and we were flooded. The gardens were appreciative, but our basement not so much. In the thirty years we've lived here, we've never experienced water like that in our basement and I hope we never do again. The sump pump just quit in the middle of the night and we didn't know it. Family came to our rescue and helped with the clean-up process.

August also brought the annual Perseid meteor shower and a total lunar eclipse. We enjoy stargazing and if there's an event in the night sky, you'll likely find us out in the back yard taking it in. We watched the space shuttle chase the International Space Station earlier in the year, too. (Or maybe it was the other way around.)

More garden trips: Franklin Botanical Conservatory with good friend Marsha, Mulberry Creek Herb Farm with Mom and Dad, a local garden tour with Kara, and three days in Columbus with Mom for the Master Gardeners Annual Conference. There, we visited Inniswood Metro Gardens with a friend of Mom's, the gardens of The Ohio State University, and Columbus Park of Roses. We also had the pleasure of meeting Tracy DiSabato and getting to tour her gardens.

Our family had a celebration of birthdays in September and Mom threw a big party in our honor. Dad was 75, I turned 50, and Jenna hit the quarter-century mark. (She'll love me for that.)

Whew! We had a full plate of summer!

NEXT: Looking Back at 2007 (Part IV)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Looking Back at 2007 (Part II)

The second quarter of 2007 was much more eventful and colorful than the first! With things awakening in the garden, my spirits awoke right with them. Still being somewhat new to gardening, I couldn't wait for the day when I could get down on my hands and knees to dig in and work the soil.

First to awaken, of course, were the spring bulbs, but wait ... there's more! My first real hellebore bloom! Planted in 2005, and apparently too young for blooming in 2006, it was a thrill to see its freckled face. I had planted fresh seeds the autumn before, too, and they were showing up in the seed bed. I don't expect those to bloom yet this winter/spring, but I'm certain they will, given more time to mature.

There were hyacinths, daffodils, tulips, irises, crocuses, dog-tooth violets, and regular wo
od violets, too. All the usual fare, including the trillium we'd transplanted from a nearby woods. Those were in their third spring in our garden, tucked between the hostas.

Dog-Tooth Violet (Erythronium sp.)

The bergenia bloomed for the first time, too. I'd very nearly torn it out last year because it just sort of sat there, doing nothing and generally looking ugly for me. A change in location must have been just what it needed, because on the north side of the pool house where it now rests beneath the serviceberry tree, it receives very little sun, if any, and it burst into bloom in April.

ly, a late snow and freeze damaged a few things beyond their ability to survive, and we lost a Magnolia ('Jane') and a pink dogwood that we'd planted last year. On the other hand, the white dogwood tree we'd had for more than fifteen years that had only bloomed once (with three blooms) in that entire time, was loaded with blooms this spring - 159 of them! The effect of the freeze was evident in those blooms, but still ...

Mid-Spring wears its own brand of flowers and if I weren't so hungry for anything in bloom when those first bulbs burst open, I'd say I liked the second round better than the first. This brings things like our tree peony, Paeonia suffruticosa 'Sahohime' which is just about the loveliest, frilliest peony you'll ever see, with burgundy-tinged foliage, too.

The Jack-in-the-Pulpit I planted last fall not only came up, but one of them actually had a Jack, pulpit and all! That brought me to my knees with my camera, and don't you know, our next-door-neighbor just happened to be walking by as I had my rear end up in the air taking pictures. "Whatcha doin' down there?" He'd ought to know me well enough by now...

The ajuga now takes up a fair amount of real estate below one of the maples out in Max's Garden and this past spring I could fully appreciate the purple pillars rising from the dark greenish-burgundy ground cover it provided. (Yes, Kim, this is some of what will soon be making its home in Cleveland!)

'Miss Bateman' clematis bloomed well in its second year.

I don't think anything quite matches the innoc
ent beauty of Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majuscula) and when I first see its white bells appear, I drop down to get a whiff of its fragrance. I've got pink ones, too, although they aren't as prolific as the white.

Mom and I took in our first real flower show of the season by traveling to Cincinnati for their annual show on the banks of Lake Como. Then came the biennial Cleveland Flower Show, which never fails to disappoint. This was my second time for both shows.

While in Cleveland, we took what is now known as The Greater Cleveland Nursery Tour, where Mom and I spent hours drooling our way through several garden centers unlike any near us.

New to our garden from these trips were a green Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'), a coneflower (Echinacea 'Summer Sky'), two Lewisias, a variegated Abutilon, an Aruncus, and a vining Jasmine.

I got my fifteen minutes of fame in May, when I was interviewed by's Diane Mapes for an article she was doing on playing it safe in the sun. She'd run across my blog post on wearing sunscreen. That was pretty exciting for me!

Of course, with the warmer temperatures, it isn't just plants and flowers that come to new life, the insects do as well and we saw many new and different ones than we'd ever seen before. I think maybe we just paid closer attention to them.

Most exciting was getting to witness baby praying mantids emerging from their egg sacs in late May. We had something like 21 egg sacs situated throughout the shrubs and trees last winter.

The first of June, I got to see my first frog ever. I know, that sounds a little bit incredulous to think that I'd nearly gone fifty years before seeing a frog. I've heard them lots and I've seen my share of toads, but never a frog until June.

By this - my second full summer of gardening - I had accumulated quite a portfolio of photographs from the garden and I wanted to do something special with them. I uploaded some of my favorites and "published" my first photo album through Shutterfly. I called it botanica and its subtitle was the geographic coordinates for Our Little Acre, which was prompted by one of our other hobbies, geocaching.

Speaking of geocaching, we spent a warm day in June (weren't they all warm?) caching our way to Goll Woods, which is thought to be the least disturbed natural woodland in our part of the state. It's as close to what our ancestors were met with as they came upon this area known as The Great Black Swamp and does a lot to explain why our gardens are what they are in this area. We enjoyed the walk through the woods and plan to return this spring when the wildflowers will be in bloom.

Spring is typically a time for starting new projects and it was no different here at Our Little Acre. We put in a new flagstone walkway as well as a new deck.

Perhaps the thing that made the biggest impact on our gardening season was the drought we experienced here in the Midwest. So many days with high temperatures and no rain made me feel like I was walking around the yard with a tail
(the watering hose) permanently attached most days. Next summer, if we experience the same kind of weather (let's hope not!), I'm going to go easy on the watering early in the season. Not knowing that we'd go for so long without rain, I started babying the plants way too early so I was required to keep it up in order to keep them alive. Lesson learned!

The gardening season was well under way by the end of June, and I was in the height of my gardening glory. So, too, was the garden.

By this time, we'd been enjoying some of the fruits (and vegetables) of our labors in the other part of the gardens. We'd had many a spinach and lettuce salad, bowls of strawberries, and the green beens were flowering. The red beets were just days away from being pulled and pickled.

Max's Garden, June 30th

With our spring work behind us, the days of pure enjoyment of the lush green gardens were upon us. We just sat back, took it easy, and watched things grow.

Yeah, right.

Next: Looking Back at 2007 (Part III)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking Back at 2007 (Part I)

As we wrap up the year, I look out the window at the gray, gloomy stuff known as Winter in Ohio. At the moment, there isn't even a nice coat of white stuff covering up the brown and gray. I try to remember that this is much like the thirsty traveler in the desert who eats salty dry crackers so that when he finally gets water, it will be the most glorious quenching of his thirst. We must go through this famine of sun and warmth so we'll be delirious with spring when it gets here.

To brighten things up right now, though, I want to take a look back on the wonderful year called 2007. What did we learn? What were our joys? What new things did it bring to our gardens?

January was a bit cruel. We started out with warmer than normal temperatures only to be plunged abruptly into a deep freeze. Perennials and other living things don't fare well in such conditions. This is where mulch is invaluable in protecting against fluctuations like this. A good snow cover helps, too. Just a couple of weeks ago, I could be seen shoveling snow onto some plants that got missed during a recent snowstorm. Just tucking them in!

I wintersowed a few things, for the second year, and had similar results as the first year. I'll be doing it again this year, starting in a week or so. The first year I wintersowed, I had my doubts as to whether it would work or not. I had a high enough success rate that I'll likely do a little each year, if only for the reason that I'm fascinated by it and it's a chance to try new plants at a low cost.

February brought the first hint of spring, late in the month. We always have some "teaser" days where the temperature warms enough that you're assured that you're not stuck in winter indefinitely. Warmer temps in February means fog that freezes on cold surfaces to form hoarfrost. It happens in late fall, too, and makes a winter wonderland of everything.

Now March is very much a transition month, being filled with various activities and events that indicate we'll soon be out doing what we've not so patiently waited for all winter long. The first garden shows make their debuts. The amaryllis are still giving us inside color and cheer. The first true harbingers of spring - the red-winged blackbirds - returned for the summer. And we successfully raised two Painted Lady butterflies in our family room!

Hippeastrum 'Dancing Queen'

The highlight of the month was our trip to Florida, where we were warmed by the sun and enchanted by the tropical flora. A visit to Marie Selby Gardens was just what the doctor ordered for our spring fever. Just looking at the photographs taken that day, I can almost conjure up the smells of those orchids and the warmth of the sun on our backs.

We returned home to the first spring bulbs flowering in our gardens.


Next: Looking Back at 2007 (Part II)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Greetings from Long Ago

When I was a child, I was fascinated with things from the world of my grandparents and great-grandparents. I tried to imagine what life was like then, knowing it was vastly different in many ways than my own. I often wished I could be a time traveler just for a day or two and be with them "back then."

I don't know how long my infatuation with my family history and the times in which they lived and worked lasted, but it spilled out into the material I chose to read and the objects I selected to surround myself with. My bedroom during most of my growing-up years contained a mahogany four-poster bed with matching nightstands and a massive mirrored dresser that had belonged to my grandparents. It was the bed I'd slept in as a little, little girl when I spent the night at their house. It was the bed where I'd sleepily lay, listening to Grandma read stories from Old Mother West Wind and sing Froggie Went A-Courtin'.

I was so happy when I was able to have that bedroom suit for my very own. It followed me to my college apartment and then to our first and second homes after Romie and I married. It was the first "big bed" that Kara slept in under the Precious Moments quilt I'd made her. We don't have that bedroom suit anymore and I don't remember who bought it, but I hope they realize what a treasure they own.

I also managed to acquire a small collection of vintage postcards. They were purchased when my elementary school girlfriend Cheryl and I would tag along with her parents as they visited antique stores. I was fascinated with the ornate cards so different and much more beautiful than the postcards made in the 1960s. I still have these cards that were sent so long ago to celebrate Easter, Birthdays, Love, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

Merry Christmas to you from ages past ...

Sent December 18, 1913

Sent December 24, 1912

Sent December 21, 1914

Sent December 11, 1912

Sent December 23, 1922

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