Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Today in the Garden

The Genius of Farmers

A few weeks ago we went to an estate sale down the road and picked up a push broom, a shovel, and a hoe (as well as the yellow bowl in the pool garden). Woohoo! I don't ever remember using a hoe. My clearest memory having anything to do with a hoe is freshman year of college there was a one outside at a class (Why? No clue.). Its amazing how many jokes can be made about a dirty old hoe.

While my perennials are enjoying Spring and getting lush and happy, bajillions of malicious plants are being born every second. Its pretty disheartening. So I thought about picking up the hoe, but you know what stopped me? Embarrassment! I'm a flower gardener, not a farmer! What will people think of me, hoeing my perennials? But, like with my new gardenning hat, I threw vanity to the wind and hoed my row...of tiarella cordifolia.

Farmers are geniuses. The tiny baby weeds are easily scraped off the surface and biggers ones are hacked out with the corners. How supremely satisfying! And totally worth the plebian feeling. Thanks farmers!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today in the Garden

The yellow bowl is a Corelleware one that I found at an estate sale this weekend. I stuck it in a tomato cage and it looks pretty good. Not high art, but I like it (for now).
Pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst White" in bloom.

Pulsatilla Vulgaris, or pasque flower, drooping after the rain.

I want to be awesome--like people who give away manure for free

I prepared the middle bed for planting last weekend. I was planning on buying what I needed: compost, topsoil, potting soil, and mulch. Well, Friday night I was browsing Craigslist and found someone who was giving away composted manure just a 25 minute drive away. I decided to give it a try. Of course, the books I read say to get all soil amendments from a  reputable source (read: expensive) so that there are no weeds and other bad actors in them. Impossible, I say! Nothing I have ever purchased for my garden has ever come free of weeds. I put it down, give it some water, and, Bam. Weeds. I feel anything is worth trying once--and its free!

I asked them why they were giving it away and they said, "So we don't have to spread it." Ok, but there are others on Craigslist who are charging. For example, $20/truckload, or the carpetbagger on the East side who is charging $20/bushel basket. And these fine people were not ignorant of the market. We all laughed openly at the bushel-basket-guy. No, they just wanted it get rid of it and do it for free. Not only that, he shoveled it into sturdy feed bags and loaded up my poor Camry's trunk. I shudder to think of what would have happened if I had used my wimpy garbage bags. Meanwhile we chatted about everything and I learned that they've been fostering special needs kids for 23 years. 

That's the kind of awesome I want to be: willing to give, willing to serve, willing  to love.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Site Log II

I find that now I have revealed all my garden areas in my site log, I have less motivation to show my non-garden areas. Well, potential-garden areas, actually.. I think if we live in this house for too many more years, it will only be a massive, rambling garden. I like the sound of that...

Next on the log is the back border. There are some hostas, daylillies, brunnera, and maiden's rocket (who came up with that name?) here. I'm not sure what's mine and what's the neighbors.

Then comes the right side which has several lilacs, a rampant and contrary forsythia, and a rose that-from the height it reaches- would like to be growing up a trellis.

Next is the pine area, which is Marma's favorite hang-out spot. It was also the site of a carefully fought battle against poison ivy (My arch nemesis. There are weeds that I despise, but only p.i. can hurt me back). So far, I am The Winnah. In this area are lilly of the valley, really big violets, rhododendrons, rose of sharon, a very unhappy holly, pachysandra (ugh), tons of baby maple trees, and all the pinecones we throw back at the trees that shed them. All of these plants were here when we arrived. This is not my favorite place, but Marma likes it,, so I'm not messing with it

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Site Log

We finally got a digital camera, which I resisted because I'm an old fuddy-duddy. What convinced me was my desire to keep a log of sun and shade patterns in the yard so I can plan gardens better. So I started the log this weekend. Its tricky since I need everything to line up: A sunny day on the weekend when I'm home. ideally, I want to take a picture every hour of daylight several times during each season. I only got three time-points in this weekend. On the left is the pool garden, of course, with a fresh top-dressing of home-made compost!

Next is the area to the left of the pool garden when looking towards the back.There are hosta,
violets, little white flowers that smell like chamomile, and weeds here.
The trees get tons of white flowers in the late Spring. I wish I knew what it is.

On the left again is the Middle Bed, which I will be working on this Spring. The shape is blobbish and I don't know If I can improve on it much. I lack imagination.

Then there's the Back Bed (and the compost pile). This is the first garden I planted. I plan on edging it this Spring--its been shrinking steadily.

There's more to come. And don't worry, I won't bore you with all the raw data, just the occasional garden tour through the seasons.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


IMG_0059, originally uploaded by chels580.

It won't be above freezing tomorrow, but these shoots are a guarantee of things to come. Thank God for seasons!

Monday, March 9, 2009

(almost) Spring Cleaning

IMG_0056, originally uploaded by chels580.

I got my fix this weekend, spending four hours outside. I cleared out dead leaves and learned a few things:
1. Tiny green things in March make me smile like a fool.
2. Weeds multiply and grow during the winter.
3. Echinacea is the easiest plant to clean up since its leaves just melt into nothing.
4. I REALLY need to edge the garden to keep the grass from growing into it.

When Eric chopped wood for us a few years ago, he left a nice pile of pieces and bark. I decided to break up the bark to mulch the path. (I spent more time weeding the path last year than doing anything else. The best part was when my niece and nephew visited and it became a game. "Hey, I want to do it!" "Ok, you can dig five weeds, then she can dig five." Awesome!) I was able to mulch about a third of it before my hands wore out. Thing is, I know there's not enough for the remaining two thirds. Oh, well, at least I know what it will look like mulched. I will buy the rest when the garden center finally opens in Spring.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mexican Hat and Creeping Jenny

425165-R1-16-8A_017 copy, originally uploaded by chels580.

The Daisy Debacle

Yellow Mexican Hat, originally uploaded by chels580.

The Daisy Debacle
I found a semi-local nursery where I could order online and then pick up the plants at the Rochester Public Market (http://www.lighthouse-gardens.com/). That way I save on shipping. I placed my order and had a nice email conversation with Todd. I navigated the bustling public market, paid without looking at the receipt, juggled the plants into my car, and made it home. It was raining so I took a few minutes to rest. I looked at the plants. I looked at the yard. I looked at the plants. And I started crying!

I had told Todd that I wanted 8 Alchemilla mollis, 4 crazy daisies, and 4 Echinacea 'White Swan.' He asked me "you want them all in the 4 packs, right?" I interpreted that as the 4-pack size not quantity. I came home with 16 four pack of plants! And I was so busy navigating unfamiliar territory that I didn't notice I was carrying TWO FLATS of plants, or that I paid 4X more than I was planning to! Its the money part that I was crying over, not to mention the embarrassment. My Sweetheart was a little flummoxed that I was crying over this and just put his arms around me and told me he wasn't mad. I love him.

My honest opinion is that no garden needs 16 daisy plants. But on the other hand, this solved my empty space problem. I am also establishing unity and rhythm through repetition (a lot of repetition) of the alchemilla mollis.

The Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) was the only thing I actually got ONE of. It was super happy in the garden and flowered constantly all season.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The pool garden begins

The pool garden begins, originally uploaded by chels580.

The first thing I learned from reading about garden design is to think about the goals of the garden.
Rabbit trail: Whenever I use the word garden, I am referring to a flower garden and not a vegetable garden. Now, while I feel a bit guilty about throwing myself into cultivating the land and producing nothing (well, nothing edible), I have several reasons not to plant veggies.
1)I don't have time to weed, water, or harvest.
2)With just the two of us, I don't want tomatoes up to my elbows or zucchini coming out of my woohoo.
3)I am not willing to put all that work into it, only to feed the birds, bugs, slime molds, and the neighbor's woodchuck.
In short, I have no hope for a veggie garden. If you can suggest a perennial vegetable that I can set and forget, I might think about it. Actually, asparagus comes to mind. I should think about that...
Right. Goals.

Because there are views of the garden from the kitchen windows and coming to the house from the driveway I wanted it to be both soothing and welcoming. For soothing, I chose white, yellow and green. I really like the soothing combination of green and white and yellow is one of the easiest colors to see (not receding like blue or advancing like red ). I added some purple lowlights, so hopefully its not boring too. For welcoming, I added a winding path through the middle.

When I first calculated how much dirt we would need to buy, I was naively hoping that I could make a mound up to six inches high. Um, yeah, that would have been my whole budget. So I settled for half of that--4cubic yards of compost and 2 cubic yards of top soil. It took two days of shoveling, wheelbarrowing, and raking. I loved it, because all throughout I kept thinking, "This is gonna be the best garden ever!" I may even have had a maniacal grin on my face. I'm not exactly sure what was going through my Sweetheart's head to motivate him, but lets call it love.

I bought most of the plants by mail-order, except some that I ordered online and then picked up at the farmer's market (which I shall refer to as the great daisy debacle). And for you goofy people like me, here a plant list:
Alchemilla mollis 'Thriller''
Anemone xhybrida 'Honorine Jobert'
Arum Italicum
Acteae (Cimicifuga) ramosa 'Hillside black beauty''
Dicentra Spectabilis Alba
Digitalis grandiflora
Heuchera 'Palace Purple'
Hydrangea arborescens 'White dome'
Itea virginica 'Little Henry'
Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy'
Ligularia dentata 'Desdemona'
Polygonatum biflorum
Pulsatilla vulgaris
Stylophorum diphillum
Smilacena racemosa
Tiarella cordifolia
Carex Hachijoensis 'Evergold'
Pulmonaria officinalis 'Sissinghurst white'
IRIS sibirica 'Caesar's Brother'
HOSTA 'August moon'
Echinacea Pupurea 'White Swan'
Chrysanthemum Superbum 'Crazy Daisy'
Ratibida Columnifera Yellow
Eupatorum Maculatum 'Chocolate'
Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip'
Earlicheer Daffodils
White Daffodils

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On The Pool Garden: An Introduction. Or, How I Fell Off the Deep End.

I look back at last January and am amazed by the thing that happened in me. I am looking for a word to describe it and am having trouble...epiphany? Transformation? Stark-raving-mad? It was something new, that's all I can really say.

I used to love winter. Every snowflake made me smile. I loved the colors--yes, the colors...gray, brown, black, blue, white. (I still love these things.) But for several years in a row, I was getting depressed in the winter. It wasn't the weather, really. I was bored, I had no purpose, and all I did was watch tv and movies. I felt bad, which sprouted more feeling bad which ate the bad feelings and got bigger. That's how depression works in me.

Late in '07 I was gaining freedom from depression and learning to see the pattern I tend to fall into that leads there. So in the winter of '08, when I found an artistic expression that captured my imagination and that I had some hope of making reality, I was so very grateful. But it was an experience so new for me that I still shake my head at the person I've become.

It started with looking at pretty pictures in gardening books. I have found that when I admire something, I want to be/do it. This has never been a realistic desire in the realms of singing, acting, or painting. But reading gardening books, I was suddenly convinced that I could do it! I could learn, plan, carry out a design, and produce something beautiful. So I dove in.

I decided I was more interested in gardening than maintaining our pool (old and always green by July). We had it removed during a thaw in January and that 15X30 ft. oval became my blank slate. I read tons of books. I got a notebook with graph paper. I drew several different layouts. I learned botanical names of almost all the shade plants that would grow in NY. I lay awake at night turning ideas over and over in my head! Nothing, ever, had kept me from sleeping before. This passion/obsession lasted through the planning stages of the winter, the digging stages of the spring, and the weeding stages of the summer. Its winter again and I'm so happy to be planning the next garden and I cannot wait to see how the Pool Garden looks this spring.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

On Pain and Suffering

Disclaimer: These are thoughts and truths based on my own small experience. Pain is very personal and I can only comment on mine. The Truth of the love of Jesus is not just for me, and can be received by trusting in Him.

On Monday I had surgery to remove a mucocel from the left side of my bottom lip. I wonder a bit if it was really necessary, but that's a rant for another day. The surgery was quick and I don't remember a thing. What I ended up with was a puffy face and massive sutures (stitches) digging into my gums. I managed the pain with ibuprofen until Wednesday when I forgot to bring it to work. I begged some off of a co-worker who was more than willing to help. When time came for the next dose, I was reluctant to ask for more. I really don't know why. I think I was being stubborn. So, of course, I was in pain.

It wasn't severe pain, but pain is pain. The nurse asked me to rate my pain after the surgery and I was flummoxed. I gave her a three, because I could imagine being in greater pain. A pain scale between 1 and 10...is it linear? Is it logarithmic? Is it based on previous pain? But how can remembered pain compare to current pain? So far, I think my pain scale goes like this:
A) I'm fine.
B) It hurts
C) This is the worst pain of my life!

So Wednesday it hurt and I wasn't going to do anything about it. Then I started to suffer--I just wanted to put my head down on my desk and I didn't think I could finish my work. But then a light switched on and I thought "Dude, (its always Dude in my head. I blame tv.) this is my fault so I better quit being a wimp and learn something from the pain" So I asked God for grace and the guiding of my thoughts, and as I puttered around work this is what I learned:

I sometimes say to myself that pain only has the effect on me that I let it have. This is really just a mind game and only works temporarily

My pain always comes with riders. In my opinion these are the aspects that contribute most to the suffering. One of them is fear: Is something wrong? Is it infected? Am I going to have a hole in my cheek? The answer to that is God's love. Nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus! His plan is to give me a future and a hope and in every situation He holds me Safe. Mmm...peace.

Another is self-focused FEELINGS. Its in caps because its hard to see or feel anything else though them. For me, the basis for these feelings is the idea that my needs are not being met, nobody understands, there's no end in sight, ow, ow ow. The answer to this is God's love too! No one cares for me as much as He does. He holds me, and provides for me, and speaks Love to me.

Peace during pain lifts most of the suffering. And its available every time I turn to Him... as I discovered Thursday, Friday, and today. Gratitude during pain is really nice too:-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kimchee tuna

I threw together something tasty tonight. I had it on my list to make this week and of course tonight was the night I remembered I needed to buy kimchee. So I drove though the mush to the Asia Food Market and also came away with some red bean cakes to sustain us through the long drive home. And I want to say thank you, THANK YOU God, for the person who snow-blowed (snow-blew?) our driveway today. I am so grateful for that act of kindness my heart hurts.

Ok then, this recipe is not for the faint of heart. You have to be ok with your house smelling a little funky afterwards.

12 oz. tuna, drained
12 to 16oz kimchee
10 oz. spinach

Heat tuna and kimchee in a large pot. Add a little water. Add spinach and cover, steaming the spinach for 3-5 minutes. Stir everything together until the spinach wilts. Serve with rice and roasted seaweed.

Obviously not everyone's cup of tea, but I like it!

Monday, January 26, 2009

On the Back Garden Again

The spot where I planted the back garden was initially growing: a rose that never flowered, raspberries whose berries were the size of peas, the orange lilies, and some very healthy grass. I hacked out the berries and the rose and put my compost pile over any pieces I couldn't dig up.

Oh, yes, how could I forget? There was also mint, LOTs of mint, and tons of violets, too. Now, a lot of you will say, "Oh, how lovely!" But let me tell you about something called totipotency. That's where a cell has the ability to divide and produce all the other cells of the organism. It would seem that mint and violets can produce whole new plants from a few cells left in a flower bed (slight exageration). I have seen these plants growing from a piece of stem or root smaller than my pinkie toe. And then they take over. I found over 50 unhappy bulbs under a mat of violets. They turned out to be some awesome white daffodils-- yay! All that said, I do not deny that mint and violets are lovely. If you'd like, I could pot some up for you. I still have plenty.

Where was I? Ah, the healthy grass. We are blessed with some superb grass in our yard. We do nothing to keep it that way so there are places where weeds are making headway. But Something about the conditions in our back yard has yielded thick grass mixed with soft, spongy moss. It reminds me of "The Horse and His Boy" when Shasta is learning how to ride Bree and keeps falling off onto springy turf. Sorry that reference will be obtuse to many. At least two things are true about that grass: it is wonderful, and it is hard to dig up. I will think twice before I dig up grass to make a flower bed again. Besides being hard work, the roots are so thick that they remove several inches of dirt with them. So I ended up with a a hole that my moldy, compacted into bricks, purchased on sale, "compost" could barely fill. So far all of my gardens have that sunken look. That's how I measure wealth these days--"Wow, look at that raised bed! They must be rich!"

On the Back Garden

The Back Garden was my first foray into planting flowers. Several years ago I was suckered into buying two mail order collections, one of daylillies and one of bearded irises. It wasn't such a bad deal and I think it was a good place for me to start. Both are very easy to grow and very colorful. I planted them together in a bed at the back of the yard that doesn't get nearly as much sun as I thought. So usually the irises are all leaning into the sun (or away from the wind, I haven't quite figured it out yet) and fall over if I don't stake them. The daylillies would be more prolific if they had more sun, I think. But they all take great pictures. Here are some of my favorites.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Cup-a-Soup...a rant

So I had a hankering (an hankering?) for cup-a-soup while I was shopping at Wegman's so I decided to pick some up. Before grabbing this impulse buy, I took a moment to look at the price. I blinked. I may have even gasped. The cup-a soup was $1.29 for a box. Not too shabby. Right next to it was a box of chicken noodle for $1.39--same brand. It had more servings and it cost $1.39. But the kicker was this: The standard, 5 minute, chicken noodle cost $5.50/lb. The Cup-a-soup cost $11.50/lb!!! That is a high price to pay to make soup in a cup. I actually debated with myself for a while because if I paid the 10 cents more and couldn't finish it, is that a bigger waste of money? Then My Love said he would help me eat it and the dilemma was resolved. One thing I'm grateful for is that Wegman's posted both the unit prices using the same units, instead of one per pound and one per ounce--which will occasionally stymie me. That's like hitting a big word while reading and your choices are to skip over it or google it, and skipping is faster. But if you don't stop to figure it out, you really are none the wiser. That's why you can often find me standing for 5 minutes frowning at two boxes of soup.

On the title

I love flower gardens. I love planning and dreaming about them, I love working on them, I love sitting beside them. Sometimes I worry that its a massive waste of time and money and I'm Scottish, darn it! If you're gonna spend money, it better be worth it. But I learn a lot through gardening. I learn about the motivation of hope--I can spend two days hauling (well helping to hall-thanks, My Love) six cubic yards of dirt, all the while thinking, "This is gonna be the best garden ever!" I learn about the price of letting others do the work--I could have grown that plant from seed and watched it and watered it and transplanted it, but I'm willing to pay you more to do it for me. I learn about the perniciousness of weeds left alone--like this one weed which starts out with two tiny leaves, but grows 12ft high with massive, stinking berries and a tap-root like a carrot bigger than your leg that you can never get rid of. Then, next season, the area is covered in weeds with two tiny leaves... I digress. My conclusion is that I love gardening and its good for me. Better than that, my Father loves gardening, too! Every aspect, from planting to reaping and seasons and, well, everything! can be a spiritual analogy. Its powerful when God takes something that I love to do and shows me real things about Himself, so I often find myself saying, "Garden me, Lord!"

And so, I have a blog. I imagine it will be more than a bit about gardening, with thoughts and rants filling in the spaces. I refuse to gripe about how I hate to write, and it takes me two hours to write a paragraph, and nobody cares etc. I choose to express myself, and since I am a work of God's hands, may he be glorified.