Monday, January 31, 2011


Heirlooms are things of value passed down.

(Just for the record, the jewelry pictured above are not heirlooms; they are fakes.  They just look pretty!)

Today I'm going to explain how seeds became heirlooms.  Years ago, farmers would grow crops from seed, take the best vegetables from the harvest, and use the seeds the next year to grow more crops.  Year to year, the seeds would be passed down from the very best of the harvest.  They were valuable because the vegetables would grow and adapt to the farmer's soil and climate, thus making even better vegetables with a higher yield.  Very valuable, indeed.

Then, progress happened.  People started experimenting with seeds.  Chemists.  Companies.  And they would sell these seeds that would yield more, grow larger, and/or were more disease resistant.  These became the standard.  Unfortunately, a few things came to pass with this practice:

1) A lot of variety was lost.  Because these seeds had higher yields and better disease resistance, that's what farmers grew.  Only now, instead of going to the grocery store and finding 5 types of corn, they offer only 1.  Instead of 45 types of tomatoes, they offer 5.  Instead of 10 types of lettuce, they perhaps offer 3.

2) Nutrients were lost.  We eat to nourish our bodies.  We do that with a variety of foods.  With the variety of vegetables being depleted, so too were the number of nutrients our bodies receive.  Additionally, these improved seeds were grown and sold for yield, looks, and disease resistance, but not for nutrient content or even taste.  So, even if the tomato in the store looks pretty, it doesn't mean it's the best for your body, or that it even tastes good!

3) Companies did this for profit.  Which is what companies do.  They patented the seeds, so the farmer has to pay the companies royalties on any seed, even if he has saved the seeds from the vegetables he grew the year before.  Then they went a little farther.  They sold seeds that grow vegetables - but the seeds inside these vegetables are not viable.  So even if you save the seeds from these vegetables, most of the seeds won't sprout, or what comes from them is no good.

So, the farmer was stuck.  The people got used to seeing their vegetables a certain way.  And the farmers had to buy their seeds from these companies, because the companies own these seeds.

But - finally some people realized what was being lost.  So, these people began to track down the old varieties and began to offer Heirloom Seeds.  The seeds that the big companies don't own.  Some of these vegetables that come from these seeds may look a little funny.  They may not be big producers.  But the big selling point is their seeds can be saved from year to year.  And usually they taste better.  A true Heirloom.

When you go into the grocery store, take a good look.    Are there any Heirlooms?  Or, like the jewelry in the picture above, do they just look pretty?

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."                                        - Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Competition

Mr. Holleygarden has started his own vegetable garden patch.  Guess he didn't want me to have all the fun!  Which is great, because that just means more vegetables for us to enjoy.  Yum.

However, I do wonder if he's going a little bit overboard. Take a look:

A wee bit larger than mine!  So like a man.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shhhh! Don't tell!

This sweet little scabiosa is confused.

Sure, scabiosa (known as pincushion flower) has a long flowering period - spring to fall.  And this one performed beautifully, with happy little blossoms that sweetly offered themselves to the multitude of bees that visited this summer.

During the fall, when everything else was winding down, it just kept blooming, and blooming, and blooming.  It hasn't quit.  Here it is, in the dead of winter, and everything else is dormant and hibernating, saving their strength for spring.  But not scabiosa.  Although we have had several days of freeze, this little plant just keeps on blooming.  It's definitely going on my "Must Have More Of" list.

If you ever come to visit my garden in the winter, admire it's pretty little blooms.  Silently.  But don't say a word.  Don't tell it that it's not supposed to bloom in the winter.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Evergreens in the Garden, Part 3

Edging with plants is a classic look.  I have always loved this look, especially with Liriope muscari.
Liriope in summer
Liriope in winter

I love the way Liriope drapes gracefully over hard surfaces like concrete or brick, has flowers with a nice (but not too showy) purple, and spreads, but not too vigorously.
'Dianthus' in winter
Dianthus in summer

Dianthus is another edging plant that is beautiful in summer when flowering.  There are many, many cultivars of dianthus.  This is 'Firewitch' which has a beautiful grey tone.  Classified as a perennial, it is evergreen in my zone.

Stachys in winter

Stachys is one of my favorite edging plants.  Known as "Lamb's Ears", it is a soft, fuzzy plant that is almost soothing to touch.
Stachys (in front) in summer

 After wrestling with roses (and all those thorns) it is exciting to be able to pet a plant without getting bit!  I've heard this plant can be invasive in the north, but in the hot south, that is not a problem.  

Ajuga reptans is another beautiful edging plant.  Below is the cultivar 'Black Scallop'.  Again, Ajuga may be more invasive in the north, but it needs to be protected from western sun here in the south.  Another perennial that stays evergreen for me.  Plant Ajuga where it will not be harmed by foot traffic.
Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop'

Each of these plants can be useful as an edging or as a ground cover.  Don't you just love variety?

I hope you have enjoyed looking at some of the evergreens in my garden.  So far, we have looked at hedges in Evergreens in the Garden, Part 1.  And eye-catching accent plants in Evergreens in the Garden, Part 2.

Have we covered all the evergreens in my garden?  Oh, no!  I have many, many more - azaleas, gardenias, loropetalum, nandinas, ... ,  I could go on and on.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Evergreens in the Garden, Part 2

Accent plants are those plants that grab your attention.  The ones that make you say "Wow!".  The plants you run to your nursery to get after seeing them in a garden, a magazine, or on the web.  They are usually blooming when this happens, but not necessarily!

Some evergreen accent plants I use in my garden are:

Euphorbia 'Blackbird'
I had drooled - yes, drooled - over euphorbias in gardening books and magazines for years.  They look so unusual, so unique.  Finally, I was determined to have one.  And, lo and behold, I found one at the most unusual place - WalMart.  I wasn't even looking for it.  In fact, I was just minding my own business, just casually walking through the garden center, not really looking for plants at all (you're believing me, right?), when -BAM- there it was!!!!  Not only this one, which has such beautiful, exotic, dark foliage, but also 'Ascot Rainbow', which is a much lighter green.  I wish I had bought more than just one each.  Euphorbia 'Blackbird' is so unexpected - it makes you look!

Camellias are a great evergreen accent plant in the south.  They are wonderful for extending the garden's blooming period.  And such a joy to see when the rest of the garden is sleeping.  If you live in the south, you must, you must (!) get a camellia.  An unexpected surprise when you least expect it - winter.

Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil'
'Sky Pencil' hollies are unexpected because their growth habit is thin and tall - the Abraham Lincoln of hollies.  Most other hollies get too wide to place near the front of a home, and many have those sharp-needled leaves, which make them a definite non-welcoming front garden evergreen.  But 'Sky Pencil' holly is the wonderful exception.  A great evergreen accent for anywhere in the garden.

Tomorrow we'll touch on edgings and ground covers.  Oh, and if you missed the post on evergreen hedges, it's here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Evergreens in the Garden, Part 1

I love evergreens.  When planning an area, I shoot for about 20% evergreens, although in some areas they make up over 50%, and in other areas only around 5%.  Evergreens give gardens winter interest, structure, backbone.  In the winter, you have something to look at, even if it's not blooming.

Walking around the garden, my heart is warmed by the many evergreens in my garden.  They are used in numerous ways, from hedges to accent plants, edgings and ground covers.

Here are the types of evergreens I am using as hedges, and how they function in my garden:

Euonymus japonica var. aureomarginata
After years of contemplating about what to plant in this area, I finally decided on several Golden Euonymus' to form a hedge around my air conditioning units.  They get quite tall and I can shear them off at the height I want them to grow.  They are drought tolerant and will grow in our clay soil.  They are a tough plant.  I like tough plants.  They make life easier.  Eventually I would like to place other plants in front of this hedge.  Still working on that design!

Rhaphiolepis indica 'Hines Darkleaf' aka Bay Breeze Dwarf Indian Hawthorn
 I love this plant!  Bay Breeze gets to about 3 ft. high x 3 ft. wide, blooms in spring, and has berries in winter. A great foundation plant, I have used it as a small hedge near my front doorway.  Unfortunately, it won't survive extreme winter cold (below 0 degree F), but if you're in the south, I would definitely recommend this plant.  Loves full sun.

Buxus Microphylla
I pick up all kinds of Boxwoods, so I'm not sure if these are 'Winter Gem', 'Wintergreen', or 'Green Gem'.  I think I've bought all those different types at one time or another.  I also have some just labeled "Japanese Boxwood".  There are numerous types of boxwoods, but not all will thrive in our heat.  I use them mostly in front of deciduous plantings.  They hide the naked legs of roses beautifully, and give structure to perennial beds.  They can be used beautifully for geometric plantings.

Ilex cornuta 'Bufordii Nana'
Since I've already sung Dwarf Buford Holly's praises here, I'll just move on.

Last year I planted a new hedge of hollies Ilex meserveae 'Castle Spires' and 'Castle Walls'.   They should grow to around 15 ft. tall, which will be perfect for the spot in which they're planted.  For now, though, they are small and almost forgotten.  Eventually they will form a wall of green.  A beautiful background for my main rose bed, and at the same time hiding the electrical box that is necessary but unsightly.  Plants are so useful!
"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show. " ~Andrew Wyeth

Celebrate winter - use evergreens.  Tomorrow we'll look at evergreen accent plants!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Treat for You

After yesterday's composting post, here, if you missed it, I felt compelled to give you a treat.  Kind of like serving ice cream after meatloaf.


Did you notice the little grasshopper in the last picture?  :)
Have a great day!

Monday, January 24, 2011


People that don't compost think "Ew, that's gross!!!!".  People who do compost think it's the most amazing process.  I fall into the second category.  It's basically just decomposition accelerated.  A great science project for adults.

Composting is quite simple, really.  Or, at least it is the way I do it.  I have a little pail that sits in my kitchen for scraps.  No meat, no bread.  Easy enough rules.

It's copper, to match my cabinet hardware.  :)  A lot of people just put an old plastic jug under the sink.

OK, then you just throw that into a big pile outside.  This is totally individual.  Some people use pallets to form a bin, others buy special compost mixers.   There are several factors here.  Price.  Looks.  Neighborhood.  Speed.  You need to take all these things into account.  This has been the hardest part for me - making a decision.

Here's the lingo of composting:  browns and greens.  Here's what the lingo means:
Browns:  leaves, sawdust, hay, paper (hint: shred it first for easy composting.)
Greens:  all that stuff in the pail (fruit & veggie scraps), weeds (pull them before they seed), grass clippings, coffee grounds, tea bags

Now comes the mathematical part.  Don't freak out!  You can eyeball it and it'll probably be fine.  I've heard different ratios from 2 parts browns to 1 part greens, up to 5 part browns to 1 part greens.  Whatever.  Just throw in some browns and a little greens.  If it stinks, add more browns.  If it's just sitting there forever, you need more greens.  Simple.  Layering the greens and browns helps the compost break down faster.

Water & Air - add enough water so it will be moist, but you don't want it sopping wet.  Add more browns if it's too wet.  Air is added as you turn the compost.  You don't have to turn it very often, and I usually just stir it around every couple of weeks, or whenever I think about it.

That's it!  Depending on what kind of compost mixer you have, you will soon have compost!  If you have one of those tumblers, you might have compost in 2 weeks.  I just throw mine in a big bin and it takes about a year.

Trust me - this will be good stuff soon!
Why try it?  Compost is like super vitamins for your garden.  And, it's a worm attractor.  That's a good thing.  If you're of the squeamish kind, don't think about the worms.  But they're really good for your soil.

The strange thing:  After you get into composting, you start to really look at your garbage.  You'll be amazed what all can go into your compost pile.  Almost all mail (no plastic windows, no glossy magazines), 100% cotton shirts, cardboard, egg shells, all that dust from your vacuum cleaner, hair and fingernail clippings, manure from: horses, cows, chickens, rabbits.

A couple of things to remember:  No meats, no bread, no yeast, no dairy, no manure from any animal that eats meat, and no weed seeds (unless you want that weed all over your garden).

Reduce your garbage!  Get into composting!  You can try this at home!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Greenhouse, Part 1

This post was supposed to have been about joy.  About success.  Of triumph and victory.  Of excitement. Plans. Dreams.  Because I took the one nice, sunny day we've had in two weeks to put together the greenhouse.

But, it didn't quite work out like that.

First of all, I know before I start that the instructions are going to be horrible.  I've put stuff together before.  And it is ALWAYS frustrating.  But, eventually, somehow, things do get put together and - rejoice! - you have the finished product.

Not this time.

Not only were the instructions horrible as expected, the entire kit almost impossible to put together (again, almost expected these days), but I was missing a piece!!!!!  Argh!

No telling when I'll finish putting the thing together.  :(  But I'll let you know when I do!

Don't you miss the old days when things were well made, well thought out, and had clear instructions?
Oh, and had all the pieces, too????

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New and Improved?

Did you know that roses are separated into two categories?  OGRs (Old Garden Roses) and Modern roses.  OGRs and Modern roses each have several classes in these two categories.  A Modern rose is any class of rose introduced after 1836.  Not very modern, huh?

You see, in the rose world, 1837 is a very important year.  That year is the year the first Hybrid Tea was introduced, and it started a whole new class of roses.

Just to get a little technical, the OGR classes include Alba, Centifolias, Chinas, Teas, Gallicas, and more.  In addition to the Hybrid Tea, newer classes of roses introduced after 1836 and considered Modern roses include Floribundas, Grandifloras, Miniatures, etc.

OGRs are not very popular.  They are not usually sold at Wal-Mart and Lowes.  However, I did snatch up the little beauty below at Home Depot:

An OGR, the Gallica 'Belle de Crecy'
It must have really felt out of place there.  It was the only OGR in the place.  I usually make a quick check every year at those stores and have never seen another OGR for sale yet.

When people start a rose garden, most will just pick up what's easily available, which is most of the time a Modern.  And even if they knew there were Old Garden Roses and Modern roses, people might assume that a Modern rose is improved in all areas.  But - hold your horses!  Let's see how improved the Modern roses really are:

Modern - most have no scent, though more are now being bred with this trait.  David Austin has become famous in rose circles by breeding modern roses with scrumptious scents.
OGR - most have a lovely scent, from the classic rose scent to citrus and even those that smell like tea leaves.  Some are slightly, others strongly, scented.

An interesting fact: People seem to smell different scents with varying degrees - I may be able to smell the citrus scent, but you may not, or vice versa.

Modern - some are quite disease free, others are a disease magnet with a pretty face.  The Modern class of Hybrid Teas, specifically, have a reputation for not being disease resistant.
OGR - same as the moderns - some are good, some are not.

FYI: The big three rose diseases are rust, mildew and blackspot.  Different areas are prone to different diseases, so knowledge of which disease resistance you desire is important.

Modern - most are bred to bloom continuously in the summer.
OGR - some bloom only once yearly, others bloom continuously in the summer.

Modern - while a few may be evergreen, most will lose their leaves during the winter.
OGR - some classes of OGRs are deciduous; others are evergreen.

One of my OGRs, a Tea, 'Mrs. Dudley Cross' full of leaves in January:

Who cares about OGRs?  Why do people like them?  Well, some for scent.  Others for their evergreen leaves.  And some for their bloom form.  A post of mine showing the different bloom forms between Teas (OGR) and Hybrid Teas is here.  

Who cares about Moderns?  People who love that specific bloom form.  And people may think Modern is better.  But as you can see, new doesn't necessarily mean improved.  You have to dig a little deeper with roses.

Whether you want an OGR, a modern rose, or just something pretty, there are so many different roses, with a little research you should be able to find a rose that has good disease resistance in your area, scent if you want it, continual bloom if that is important to you, and maybe even leaves in the winter!  But don't just fall for a pretty face.  :)

Friday, January 21, 2011


It's time to start seeds inside.  Cauliflower, broccoli, and tomato seeds can all be started indoors or in a greenhouse this month in our area.  It took me a while to find this information online, as Texas is a big state with several growing zones.  Finally, I found a planting list for East Texas.  The list is compiled on this blog in another page for convenience here.  Hope it is helpful to you.  I am also ordering sweet potato slips for delivery later in the season.

February is a big month here for planting vegetables, as well as March and April.  By July we are working on the fall garden!

Oh, beautiful, beautiful seeds.  The beginning of life.

Unfortunately, I've already missed some of the good days for planting according to the Farmers Almanac's Gardening by the Moon guide.  The next good days to plant are Jan 26th thru 28th.

Until then, my sweets!
"Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.  Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."  - Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Big Hips You Have!

Rose Hips, that is!

Rose Hips are the seed pods that form on some roses after they have bloomed.  Just like a tomato plant that blooms, gets pollinated (thanks, bees!), and forms a tomato, which has the seeds inside, some roses form hips (instead of tomatoes) which have the seeds inside.  Not all rose bushes do this.  But the ones that do are a nice addition to the interest of the garden in the fall/winter.

Technically, they all should, but if the rose has a lot of petals, the bees may not be able to get in there and do their job.  The above rose hips are from a rose that has open petals, a 'single'.  A 'single' rose is simply a rose with a single row of petals, usually less than 12 petals to the bloom.  The bees have plenty of room to get in the flower and check out that rosy pollen.  Rosy pollen's just got to be yummy!

You can actually grow new roses from these seeds, and one day I'm going to give that a try.  Rose Hip Tea is also brewed from - you guessed it - rose hips.  Rose hips are very high in Vitamin C, and a lot of people swear by this as a cold cure.

Rose hips will vary in size and color, depending on the rose.  Some are small, some are quite large.  Some are orange, some red, some purple, some black!  To help rose hips form on your roses, don't deadhead (take the bloom off) your roses in the fall.

Let's all give a cheer to hippy roses!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Try This at Home!

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is definitely a plant you should try at home.

1) Evergreen:
A definite plus in the winter.  Small blue flowers may form on rosemary in the spring.

2) Fabulous fragrance:
Rosemary's fragrance is delightful.  It is such a pleasant experience to walk by and take in its scent.  If you get full sun by the front door, rosemary is a nice plant to place nearby.

3) Versatile:
If you want a small leaved evergreen hedge, try rosemary.  It takes well to cutting as well as shearing.  It can be used as a topiary, if you have that certain talent.  During the Christmas season, you can find rosemary trimmed to look like miniature Christmas trees to be given as gifts, or used as decorations.   And they make your home smell so great!  Oh, wait, I've already gone over fragrance.

In addition, there are upright rosemary cultivars as well as prostrate ones.  Prostrate rosemary is beautiful arching over a wall.

4) Functional:
You can cook with it!  It is, after all, an herb.  So, baking and cooking are one reason why many people grow this plant.  Oils flavored with rosemary can be functional as well as decorative.  Rosemary is also a nice addition to potpourri.  Convinced yet?  :)

5) Very drought resistant:
Don't overwater rosemary.  Make sure your soil doesn't retain water.  It likes it dry.

6) Loves the heat:
Does great in 100+ degree F weather! (ask me how I know)  Doesn't really like the cold so much.  You may have to bring yours indoors in the winter if you get weather below 0 degrees F.

1) May be an annual in northern zones
2) May not do well planted in heavy clay or wet climates

So few cons!  Surely you're convinced now!

Have fun growing rosemary!  Yes, you should try this at home!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Memories in a Garden

It is no wonder why I love gardens and gardening.  So many memories are linked to the garden.  My grandfather was a farmer.  Memories of sweet watermelon dripping down my chin are indelibly linked with my memories of him.

The memory of his mother, my great-grandmother Mamma Lizzie, are almost all of her garden.  She would allow us to pick one flower on each visit to her.  What type of flowers were in her garden, I do not remember, but the memory of that special pleasure remains.

Hydrangeas remind me of my grandmother.  She had two large plants flanking her porch.  I was always mesmerized by those large blue flowers.  They seemed magical.  I grow hydrangeas in my own garden to preserve that memory.

Her mother, my great-grandmother Mamma Lloyd, had a beautiful yard of crape myrtles and daffodils.  Years after her death, the trees and bulbs she planted still continue to bloom each spring.  That is her yard in the photo below, where the bulbs spring to life each year.  The love of gardening continued by my father, who has grown vegetables in his own gardens for most of his life.

In my garden, memories are everywhere.  Gifts given to me by family and friends include tools that I work with, and plants that grow and bloom.  They are a special joy to behold.  My son has dug the koi pond, helped create the walking garden, and moved more wheelbarrows full of mulch than I could count.  My spouse's hand is everywhere, helping me with the garden in every aspect.  There are even special memories of the grandchildren, picking flowers and feeding the fish.
"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."  From the television series The Wonder Years
 Want to build a memory?  Plant a garden.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Design Dilemma :s

We have a dog!  It has adopted us, and we are slowly coming to the realization that he is going to stay.  Isn't he good-looking?

With a dog, comes a need for a doghouse.  Thus the dilemma.  What do you do with a doghouse in a garden?  It's like floss.  You know it's in the bathroom somewhere, but you don't want to see it out on the counter!

A garden, I believe, is a place of beauty.  Of joy.  Of nature.  A doghouse just seems - unnatural.  So, do you elevate its status and make it a focal point?  Try to hide it with climbing vines?  Just what do you do with a doghouse?  Compost piles, trash bins and other utilitarian objects can be designed to be hidden away.  But the dog needs to have access to views, so he can protect the masters.

There are a couple of places I'm considering putting the doghouse:
Under the trees by the driveway.  Close access, shade in summer, but also one of the first things people see when driving up, and possibly in the way of extra parking.  
Farther out, by the vegetable garden.  Easy viewing for the dog, not in the way of any vehicles, but no shade in summer.   

Stay tuned.  I'm certain there's a perfect spot out there, somewhere.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dreaming of Spring

Six inches!  Yep, that's how much rain we've received over the last couple of days.  Rained so hard today I couldn't get an internet connection until tonight.

So, what do you do when the sky is falling?  While it's cold, rainy, snowing, freezing, or just not gardening weather?  Daydream, of course!

In the winter I dream of spring:

And read gardening books to learn more about my favorite hobby, read gardening blogs to find out what other gardeners are doing, look through old garden pictures to remind me that the garden will come to life again, and plan.

Planning is a very important part of gardening, perhaps one of the most important.  You can plan new areas, improvement of existing areas, plan for new plants and flowers, plan hardscaping - the list is endless.

In my mind, I am entertaining the thought of a new area with tall orange cannas and orange ditch daylilies.  A simple idea.  But one that is hardy, tough, low maintenance and eye catching.

Now to go through the bulb catalogs that have been swamping my mailbox for weeks for the perfect cultivar - at a good price, of course!

Right now, spring may just be a fond remembrance, and a foggy future.  But, rainy days and winter nights are prime time for daydreaming, and for turning those daydreams into a plan for execution in the spring.

      "There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling."
     - Mirabel Osler

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Welcome Winter Sight

Walking around the garden is a daily pleasure.  Every day brings some joy.  Whether it is a bulb bursting forth from the frozen ground, a butterfly flirting with the wind, bees wallowing in pollen, or an evergreen bough silently reminding us that the garden is still alive in winter, every season has something different to enjoy.

It is no secret that I seek out the pleasure that roses bring.  The scents, the form, the color and beauty that roses provide are soothing to my soul.  But winter is a dreary time for rose lovers.  So it was a pleasant surprise when I walked around the garden yesterday.  Many roses lose their leaves in the winter; that is to be expected.  I have some classes of roses that remain evergreen, and that is a soothing sight, but still, I have learned to expect a full bush in some areas of the garden.

So what was so surprising?  The rose 'Red Cascade'.  It was still blooming!  :

What an enchanting sight.

'Red Cascade' is a climbing miniature rose bred by Ralph Moore in 1976.  I have 'Red Cascade' in a pot, where it does as it claims - cascades - down the sides.  Looking for a rose for a hanging basket?  I would definitely recommend 'Red Cascade'.  Just remember, plants in pots are about 1&1/2 zones (or 15 degrees F) colder than those in the ground. Thankfully, 'Red Cascade' is hardy to Zone 5, so mine is safe.

May you find roses blooming in your own winter garden.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bird Sightings

"My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather."
 - Loire Hartwould

It has always impressed and amazed me when I see a large flock of Blackbirds.  They move as water - in one fluid motion, the ebb and flow of 1,000 birds on invisible tides of air.  I saw a flock of several hundred this morning.  The sound is mesmerizing.  Individual chirps join together to become one chorus of song. It is truly one of life's humbling sights.

Blue jays and Cardinals have also been frequenting the garden.  They are a joy to watch with their brilliant colors sparkling in the sun.

We have a Purple Martin house.  I don't think I've ever seen a Purple Martin around here.

The most exciting and surprising bird sighting has to be of the Bald Eagle.  Never seen when I was a child, they are making a delightful comeback.  So much so that we see them now every winter.  Not here, but close by, near a large lake.  It is almost a shock to see that large bird.  I never expect it, and am thrilled each time I see our national emblem.

"You have to believe in happiness,
  Or happiness never comes...
  Ah, that's the reason a bird can sing - 
  On his darkest day he believes in Spring."
 - Douglas Malloch

Thursday, January 13, 2011

#1 Newbie Rose Grower Mistake

If you are new to growing roses, I applaud you.  Roses are a beautiful part of any garden.  Whether they take center stage or just are a small part of your garden, roses will give you lots of pleasure.

Should you ask questions when new to growing roses?  Yes!  Emphatically yes!  Even gardeners that have grown roses for years and know all the basics will come across some situation that will generate questions. So, ask away!  But I want to shield you from some embarrassment.  From that big neon sign above your head proclaiming "Newbie, Newbie, Newbie!"

What is the #1 newbie rose grower mistake?  Is it planting, pruning or disease?  No, though these are things you will learn.  The #1 newbie rose grower mistake is calling a Hybrid Tea rose a Tea.  What???!!!!  What could be so bad about calling a Hybrid Tea just Tea?
The Hybrid Tea rose 'Peace'

Well, one of the most confusing things in roses is that these are actually two different classes of roses.  A tea rose is an OGR (Old Garden Rose), mostly a shrub-type rose that is grown predominately in southern zones.  A Hybrid Tea is a modern rose (meaning not an OGR).  More on modern vs. OGRs later.  A Hybrid Tea rose generally is the long stemmed rose most people think of when they think of roses.  There are other differences, too.  Again, more on that later.

For now, just remember to look at your labels, and when you are asking a question, don't call your Hybrid Tea (or HT for short) a Tea.  :)

The Tea rose 'Mrs. Dudley Cross'

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What blooms in winter?

Camellias!  The south's winter rose.

If you are in the right zone for growing camellias, you should give them a try.  I received a couple of camellias as gifts in 2009; since then my camellia obsession has grown.  There are two main classes of camellias - japonicas and sasquanas.  Generally (which means there will be exceptions), japonicas need more shade, sasquanas can handle more sun; japonicas bloom later in the season (Jan - March), sasquanas bloom earlier (Oct - Dec).

Handle camellias with care.  They hate their roots to be disturbed, so transplant with some delicacy.  They also love nice, rich soil.  Something that is hard to come by around here.  I have two 'Yuletide' camellias that died this year.  I could blame it on the hard clay they were planted in.  But in reality, one was blown over by a wind storm; while replanting it, I damaged its roots.  The other split in two.  Probably from a jumping animal - most likely cats, but it could have even been an armadillo or raccoon that did the damage.

Either way, I will replace both camellias.  Camellias love to be placed under deciduous trees.  That way, in the summer when the temperature is high, they get shade; in the winter when the temperature is low they get the warming rays of the sun.  I had some roses originally in this spot.  But the tree nearby grew, as trees will do, and shaded the roses a little too much.  They survived, but bloomed little and grew leggy.  So, I've transplanted the roses to a sunnier spot.  The camellias should do beautifully there with some enriched soil.  Provided I can keep the animals off them!

Blooming in my garden right now:  Camellia 'Kanjiro'

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Try this at Home!

Ilex Comuta 'Bufordii Nana', or known as Dwarf Buford Holly.  A great plant for hedges.  Especially beautiful as a 'wall of green' behind rose bushes if you have the room.

Dwarf Buford Holly has many positive attributes:
1) readily available
2) evergreen
3) berries in winter
4) little maintenance required

1) sharp needles

You can shear Dwarf Buford Holly if you like, which is how I like to see it used.  Because of the sharp needles, be sure it is placed in a position far enough away from traffic where that won't be a problem.  There are many, many cultivars of 'Ilex'.  Some are deciduous, some are evergreen.  Dwarf Buford Holly is evergreen with red berries in the fall.  It does flower in the spring (flowers are not noticeable) and will attract bees.  May not be reliably hardy in northern zones.

Dwarf Buford Holly is one tough plant.  Very drought resistant when established.  Be certain you place it where you want it permanently.  Once established, it is the dickens to remove!

There is a regular Buford Holly, Ilex Comuta 'Bufordii'. Be certain you know what you are getting when you purchase one.  The Dwarf Buford Holly is still quite large - it will grow to around 6 ft. tall.  But the regular Buford Holly grows to well over 10 ft.  So, check your labels carefully.

If you are contemplating an evergreen hedge with little maintenance, consider Dwarf Buford Holly.  Yes, you can try this at home!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Surprise! Snow!

Surprise, surprise, surprise!  I can just hear Gomer Pyle in my mind.  With 2.6 inches of rain, we also received some snow yesterday!
 Snow is actually a good thing.  Not just for making snow ice cream.  Snow insulates the plants, so the temperature variations are not so hard or damaging on them.  It's like a nice little thermal blanket for plants.

Sleep tight, my little beauties.  It will be time to wake up soon.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


With the coming of the cold front, we are receiving lots of RAIN!  This is very exciting!  All of last year we were in drought conditions, burn bans, and constantly worried that plants would die from lack of that precious commodity only the skies can provide - rain.  Unfortunately, we did lose some plants.  Some were very large trees which had deep taproots.  That is a discouraging sign to anyone.

But, today :
Beautiful, life-giving rain.  Ahhhh, so nice.

The garden will undoubtedly show its appreciation, in time.  As for me, I appreciate it now.  Even as I wonder - which inside project should I work on now?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Spreading the Dirt!

New dirt is spread in the vegetable bed.  Thanks, Mr. Holleygarden!  ;)
Yes, the new U-shaped design is complete.  I just have to finish the paths so that dratted Bermuda grass will hopefully not be able to find its way into the raised beds.  Anyone that has tried will tell you that it's not easy getting rid of Bermuda grass.  Especially since I refuse to use any chemicals so close to the vegetable beds.  So, it's just plain hard work, and hopefully some clever strategies, to rid this space of the Bermuda invasion.  How successful my plan will be, only time will tell.

I also planted the Europeana rose, near the bird bath.  I will definitely take pics this summer when it is blooming.

It was a glorious day to work outside.  We are expecting a cold front to come through and it is supposed to be chilly the next few days, so it was good to get these chores out of the way now.  Though they didn't feel like chores.  Isn't that what they say?  Find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Roses already!

No, no blooms.  But purchases!  :)  Well, just one rose purchase so far this year (5 days into the new year).  A 'Europeana' rose.

'Europeana' is a dark red, semi-double rose bred in 1963.  A small rose, it only grows to around 2 to 3 ft. high.  I will plant it in the walking garden, as soon as I  find the right spot.  By the right spot, I really mean a spot where there is nothing planted there yet!  Since I planted a number of bulbs last year, that perfect spot may be hard to find!

And one more, less beautiful, but very important, purchase for the garden:  Dirt!

Yes, I actually paid good money for dirt.  It will go in the raised vegetable garden.  A very important and purposeful purchase.  It's already been delivered.  Now, to just get the shovel out and finish getting the dirt into the vegetable beds.  Ready, muscles?

This is last years vegetable garden:

This year I will enlarge it into a U shape.  I just need a few work days and I will be ready to think about starting seeds! Yippee!
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