Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The game of Jeopardy! takes knowledge, skill, and most of all - concentration.  I have learned the same could be said of gardening.

As I sit here with a swollen leg, bruised from the knee to the ankle, I have to warn you that gardening can be downright dangerous.  Here are just a few of the dangers in most gardens:

Stones -  The reason I'm hobbling around.  I was moving concrete blocks in a wheeled carrier, when one of the wheels got stuck in a hole and the carrier came down on my leg.   Luckily, I was only bruised. 

Spiders - In addition to my bruises, I also have two spider bites.  (It just hasn't been my week.)  Worried, I looked up the two most notorious spiders in my garden, the black widow and the brown recluse.  Luckily, it must have been a different spider that bit my arm (twice).

Sunburn - Wearing sunscreen and hats help.  If you get sunburned, there are a lot of home remedies you can use.  I like aloe vera gel the best.  Yes, I have sunburn this week, too!!!

Snakes - Always a threat to the gardener, snakes come out of hibernation about the same time we do!  I have seen several baby snakes this week.  I haven't run into the mom yet!  I hope I don't!

Sticks (Plants) - Before picking a flower, my granddaughter asks, "Will this one bite?".  She has learned that roses have thorns.  With the rise in MRSA, antibiotic ointment is popular in my household.  And it's not just scratches you have to worry about.  There are a lot of weeds (and some beautiful plants) that are poisonous or caustic.  Knowledge is important!

Scorpions - A threat here in the South, thankfully I've never been stung by a scorpion.

Sniffles - Allergies can wreak havoc on the budding gardener.  Many people take medication.  Thankfully, I don't have allergies!

Stings - Would you know what to do if you (or a visitor) got stung?  Remedies range from applying meat tenderizer to using an EpiPen.  Watching for life threatening symptoms is a must with every sting.

Saws and other electric/battery powered tools:  I love my little chain saw, and my electric hedge trimmers.  However, I know that severe bodily damage may occur in an instant from these machines.  I try to remember to always, always hold the tools with both hands, and watch where I'm swinging them!

Other 'Stuff' -

Sore muscles.
Garden ponds. (Can be deadly - watch the children!)
Statuary.  Mine once was in jeopardy of toppling over on me after leaning from a heavy rain.
Darkness.  I'm not afraid of the dark, but I like to see where I'm going! Outside lighting helps.
Ladders.  (Falling is dangerous.)
And a lot more, including lung diseases. (Feel like renting a haz-mat suit?)

I have noticed that I get hurt less when I concentrate on what I'm doing at the time.  Which is hard for me.  I have a tendency to daydream.  I need to remember to concentrate more on the task at hand.

In this gardening blog about joy, why would I mention these jeopardies?  Because a joyful gardener is a gardener that gardens without injury. (Try saying that three times fast!)

Have you ever been injured while gardening?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Beauty that's Carefree?

Women are used to working for their beauty.  Special moisturizers, favorite shampoos, putting on makeup, fixing our hair.  Yes, we get used to beauty being work.  But who wants to put that much effort into their roses?  Not I!

I purchased this rose several years ago.  I had had some success with roses and was ready to try even more.  I went to the rose nursery and put myself in their competent hands.  When I heard this rose's name was 'Carefree Beauty', I raised my eyebrows and asked the nursery worker "Is it really carefree?".  He assured me it was.  I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try.  False advertising?  No.  It really is a 'Carefree Beauty'.

In fact, 'Carefree Beauty' is one of my favorite roses.  At least in the spring.  I adore it's coloring - a cheerful pink that waves hello.  The flat blooms are huge.  I measured.  5-1/2 inches across.  'Carefree Beauty' gives a wonderful flush in the spring, blooming fairly early.  Unfortunately, it doesn't do much in the summer (the first year I had it, it didn't bloom at all that summer), with another smaller flush in the fall.  But that first flush is fabulous and makes it worth growing.  I do wish it would repeat better in the summer, but I suppose that would be asking for perfection.

'Carefree Beauty' also goes by the name "Katy Road Pink" and grows in zones 4 to 9.  It supposedly gets to 6 ft. or so, but I think you could keep it smaller if you wanted, because mine is nowhere near 6 ft. tall.  Of course, it is in heavy clay soil, was in a spot with too much shade, and I have moved it around several times.  Imagine the beauty it would be if in ideal conditions!  The best part of 'Carefree Beauty' is that it is quite resistant to black spot, rust, and powdery mildew.

Want a beautiful rose that's really carefree?  This rose is worth a try at home.  It is a natural beauty.  Because of its slow repeat, you might not want it to be the star of your garden, but it deserves a supporting role.  Grow it for its spring flush.  I couldn't imagine my garden without those big, billowy, beautiful blooms.

Do you have an experience with 'Carefree Beauty'?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Azalea Trail Highlights

Tyler is hosting it annual Azalea Trail.  This year they have historic home tours, a driving tour through residential areas showcasing gardens with azaleas, and three homes are opening their gardens to the public.  Enjoy!

First garden:

As you walk up to the garden, you are greeted by a number of different azaleas and annuals.  A holly tree is the red berried tree in the top right.  Yellow azaleas are Florida Azaleas.

A closer look at the azaleas.  Japanese maples are abundant in this garden.

Notice the stone walls.  The walks are all mortared stone.  There is a mortared stone walled creek that runs through these gardens.  Stone bridges crossing the creek are quite charming.

This garden is on a slope.  This stone wall separates one area of the garden from the driveway.  Notice how even the wall is filled with plantings.

A nice vignette.  Crossvine (very top) was trained across the house.

See the stone walled creek?  The green tree on the right is a white camellia.  Though it doesn't show well, it was in bloom.

Seating areas were everywhere.  I could imagine just sitting and enjoying this garden for many hours.  The small signs states "Help us water out plants." and is filled with several small watering cans for the children to enjoy the garden, too.

The focal point under the arbor.  And yes, it was as big as it looks.  Probably 4 or 5 ft. tall.  Just gorgeous!  I believe it is bougainvillea.  I wonder how they keep it alive in the winter.  It has to be either transported inside or at least to a garage.

We now head around to the side of the house.  This clematis was gorgeous.  The blooms were at least 7 inches wide.  You can see just a glance of the third garden in the background.

We have gone around the garden and reached the street side.  There were several camellia blooming in this area.  The entire garden was enchanting.

This is the side facing the street.  A gas lit lamp flickered.  The clematis photograph was taken just to the right of this.  The first photo was taken just beyond the left of this photo.  I have visited this garden before and I see something new every time I go.  I just love it.  There was too much to photograph.  Several water fountains, a grilling area, an eating area, and an arbor and another garden area were all left out.  (I was running low on my camera battery.)

Second garden:

This was a very large garden.  The bed in front was filled with bulbs and columbines.  The glass green house was an indication that a real gardener lived here.

Obviously this gardener loves dogs.  There were several dog statues.  The plantings in the middle in a knot pattern were roses.

Not sure I've ever seen a double-decker koi pond before, but the koi seemed very happy.  The ponds were quite deep and the sound of running water was soothing and distracted the sound of nearby street traffic.

I loved this boxwood knot garden.  Notice the arbor covered by a Lady Banks rose.

I'm sorry to say my camera battery went dead and I didn't get any pictures of the third garden. These gardens were beautiful.  I believe they have been featured in Southern Living magazine.

If you want more information, check out the Tyler Azalea Trail website.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

First Bite

I was watering my vegetable patch (yes, we are already watering things around here), when I decided to do something bold.  And I'm glad I did!

For those of you that are interested, according to Dallas' Channel 8 WFAA chief meteorologist, Pete Delkus, we have officially received .1 inches of rain in the month of March.  The lowest rainfall on record for March was in 1925, when we received .2 inches of rain during that month.  So, if we don't get some rain soon, we may be back to the start of another dust bowl!

Anyway, back to my story.  I was watering my vegetable patch and I noticed how pretty the red radishes were just barely peeking up out of the ground.  The contrast of the green leaves with that bright red of the radish was beautiful to me.  Not only the color contrast, but the fact that the radish seeds were actually growing to be radishes!  Last year my radishes did poorly.  This year - they look great!

So, I boldly reached down, and harvested one.  Removing the roots and the top, I made a quick decision.  I popped it into my mouth - dirt and all.  Now, there wasn't much dirt, really.  And I, like most home gardeners these days (I think), garden organically.  I figured farmers have been testing their vegetables without washing them first for years.

The radish tasted splendidly.  (No dirt taste, really!)  Sweet, with just a little bit of bite at the end, but not too hot.  It was a 'Sparkler' variety.  Yum.

Have you tasted the first bite out of your garden yet this year?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Not Exactly Cary Grant

Have you ever seen a plant in a garden book or magazine that you just had to have?  Even when you didn't know the plant's name?  And you hoped upon hope that it grew in your zone?  And that you could eventually find one?

Well, that's what happened to me when I first saw the unusual Euphorbia plant (cushion spurge).  I didn't know what it was, but I thought it was beautiful.  Well, maybe not beautiful, but striking.  Not exactly handsome in the traditional way, like Cary Grant.  But definitely mesmerizing.  Like Johnny Depp.

After years of seeing this plant in my favorite gardening book, I had little hope of having one in my garden.  But you never know what surprises await at the garden center!

Euphorbia 'Blackbird'

Sure enough, suddenly one day, there he was!  Not decked out in finery, just the regular black plastic pot.  With not an admirer in the place - except me.  I couldn't believe my luck.  I had found my elusive plant - the euphorbia.  'Blackbird' was its name, and I ran to it like I was going to plant a big kiss on its leaves.  (I didn't.) (It's poisonous.)

A slight hesitation to make sure it grew in my zone (it did!), and I greedily put it in my cart.  I looked around and found another, 'Ascot Rainbow', for insurance, and proudly planted them in my garden.

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'

I never tire of seeing these beautiful euphorbias.  They stay evergreen for me, bloom with the most unusual flowers, and basically just look absolutely stunning.  When visitors come, they are always a bit surprised, but quite delighted, with the remarkable - and handsome  - foliage of this most striking plant.  If there were a Hollywood Walk of Fame for flowers, you can bet this plant would be on it.

And if the plant isn't odd enough for you, check out its most curious flowers.  In the 'Blackbird' picture above, you will notice two little seed pods in each bloom that are not opened.  In the picture below, you will clearly see that these seed pods have opened (the seeds get flung out when ripe).  It looks like two extra blooms coming out of each bloom.  I don't know about other types of cushion spurge, but these two are not invasive.  I have never seen any baby Euphorbias coming up.

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'

Euphorbia 'Blackbird' and 'Ascot Rainbow' grow to around 2 ft. tall, in zones 6 through 9.  If you like something a bit different, something that may garner its own paparazzi, and you're lucky enough to find one or two, you should try this at home.

Do you like unusual plants?  Or would you rather stay with the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan type flowers?  (You know, very nice and adorably cute.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Secret Garden

Everyone dreams of having a secret garden.  Well, I have one.

You see, there once was a house that sat in this location.  People shared their lives here.  Memories were made, time was spent, and a gardener planted a garden.  The house is now gone.  Trees have fallen where a roof once sheltered a family.  And the garden was abandoned.  But not quite forgotten.  Every year I venture down to that secluded spot to see the secret garden.

Yellow daffodils bloom there.  And white irises.

The irises have spread.  They now form a thick clump of unexpected beauty that shines bright in the darkness of the surrounding woods.  Monkey grass, too, continues to spread.  It is so thick no weed dares to sprout in the middle of them.

Last year I transplanted numerous irises from this secret garden.  In fact, every white iris in my garden is from this place.  Like Sleeping Beauty, briars protect the rest.

Thank you, JG, for planting your garden all those years ago.  Though it looks quite different than when your garden was in its prime, the irises still bloom.  Even in a forgotten corner of the property, they still delight.  Because I know their secret.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One Tall Tale

Part of the lure of growing Old Garden Roses (roses dating back before 1836), is the history behind the rose.  That was a time of chivalry, when men named roses after their wives and daughters.   It was a time of exploration and discovery, when travels to other countries brought new and surprising plants to the western world.

This story begins with chivalry and exploration.  It will end with fame.  All told in the story of a rose, the Lady Banks.  Rosa Banksiae.  (There are more than one variety of this rose - they bloom either yellow or white.)

Lady Banks rose was found in China on a plant hunting expedition.  These expeditions were no means a easy trek.  These were life-threatening journeys through foreign territories.  Hollywood could not come up with anything more action-packed than some of the dangers faced by these explorers.

And who paid for this expedition?  The famous botanist Sir Joseph Banks.  That's important, because when the plant was brought to him, he named it for his wife - thus the name Lady Banks.  Wasn't that sweet?

But - if you're enthralled and want one now,  just wait!  You don't know the whole story!  You see, I don't know how big the real Lady Banks was, but the rose named for her is not petite.  She (the rose) grows so big she is considered a monster.  A house-eater.  Which is really sad because her thornless stems are a joy for the rose lover that is tired of being stuck with thorns.  And even though the plant gets huge, her flowers are small.  Each tiny flower is only about 1/2 inch wide, blooming in clusters.  These clusters form the most beautiful corsages, fitting for a doll's wedding.  She only blooms for a couple of weeks in spring, but she stays evergreen throughout the year.  She grows in zones 7 through 10.

And now for the fame part of our story.  The most famous Lady Banks rose is in Arizona, (the white variety) where it covers 8,000 sq. ft.  and is over 100 years old!  So, if you're looking for a large evergreen plant that blooms briefly in the spring, and can get as big as a tree, consider Lady Banks.  But if you're looking for a sweet little rose to climb a small fence, remember:  this little lady is one big mama!

Let's end this tale with a personal story of my garden.  Did I mention I have two of these roses?  I fell in love at the first sight of those petite little blooms and the thornless stems.  I bought them on the spot, before I learned how large they would eventually become.  After discovering this small idiosyncrasy, I transplanted them to places where they have much more space to spread out.

And, like all good tales, there is a moral to the story:  Don't let a pretty bloom turn your head.  It pays to do a little research before buying a rose!

Monday, March 21, 2011

And The Winner Is....

Every year rosarians play the same game:  Which rose will bloom first?  I always exclude the sweet 'Lady Banks' rose because she blooms so early.  Last year's winner was 'Julia Child'.  But this year's winner was...

TaDa!  'Home Run' 

'Home Run' is a seedling of the infamous 'Knock Out' rose.  So, if 'Knock Outs' work well for you in your garden, and you are wanting a smaller rose, look for a 'Home Run'.

'Knock Out' - 'Home Run'.  O.K, I get it - but why couldn't they have named this rose something a little more romantic?

'Knock Out' roses can get huge; they also have a strange metallic pink twinge that some people find offensive.  (I don't.)  'Home Run', however, has all the assets of it's 'Knock Out' parent without the liabilities.  Small in size, it stays a nice 2 to 3 ft. tall, with a rounded habit.   The blooms are about 3 in. in size, and the color is a true red.  Velvety is an accurate description.  Very slight scent.  I stuck my nose in it to make sure.  The best asset of this rose is that 'Home Run' is extremely resistant to blackspot, and is also resistant to powdery mildew.  This is one rose you should try at home!

I have 'Home Run' in the walking garden.  With its bright red blooms, and the red camellia in full bloom, it's satisfying to see.

And even though it's silly that 'Home Run' has its own web page,, the history of how they took 288 seedlings and ended up with this one rose is a very interesting glimpse into the rose world.  Definitely worth taking the time to read.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slaying the Dragon

Ah, the weekend!  "I think I'll go to the garden center.  What about you?", I innocently asked.  The answer was surprising:  "Today I'm going to slay the dragon."

My knight!  He does everything in his power to please me.  And now he's going to take on the formidable task of slaying the dragon.  That term has been tossed about the last few weeks.  I have come to know its meaning.  Slaying the dragon equals moving the gazebo.

The gazebo had been placed in the main rose bed.  It was pretty, but not very functional.  It fit the space, but still left something to be desired.  It would be better in another spot.  The decision was made.  It needed to go somewhere else.  But it was not going to be an easy task, and it had been put off for some time due to its size and weight.

Putting it together had not been easy.  It had been almost too much for the two of us.  That's why the thought of moving it to another location held the same fear, dread, and possible loss of limb or life as in stories of old when conquerers rode into battle, princes rescued princesses, and men ventured into the unknown to face mysterious monsters.

Instead of swords, ladders were involved.  So were ropes.  Part of this was planned.  The rest was improvised.

It helps if your knight has a tractor (shining armour optional).

There were three spaces considered for its home.   The final decision on its new placement was made solely due to the fact that this was the easiest of the three locations to put the gazebo back together!

You will not be able to see the gazebo until you round a corner.  And I like the fact that it has one of the longest views of the property.  Wouldn't an allee look great here?  Well, that's another dream for another year.

This year there will be a lot of work done to incorporate the gazebo into the garden.  I can already imagine it with a walk approaching, a place for seating, and romantic plantings climbing up and draping over the top.

Surprisingly, it only took a few hours to slay the dragon.  Then my knight was rewarded - with a hamburger and cola.  And I got to go to the garden center after all!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Wonder of It All

I am constantly amazed how fast things change in the garden.  Bushes that were sticks are now covered in leaves.  Plants that had one bloom now are covered in them.  Things that were barely emerging are now 1 ft. across.

Most everything in the garden seems like a miracle.  This little plant I mail ordered looks just like it did in the pages of the catalog.  Seeing these tiny blooms lifted my spirit.

I wonder if, when, and how my Florida azalea will turn from bare sticks stuck straight up in the air to this magnificent show of yellow sunshine, with the scent of honeysuckle:

The light yesterday afternoon was amazing.  Soft, like a caress, each petal opened to it as if in a kiss.  I wish I could have captured the light with my camera.  I tried.

We acquire skills.  We learn how to care for our plants, our soil, our gardens.  But it is still amazing how fast a plant can grow, how beautiful it can be, how much difference one year, or even one day, makes.

My garden constantly surprises me.  I look at it daily, several times a day sometimes.  And still, a plant has the capacity to take my breath away when I see it as if for the first time.  The garden is constantly changing.  Tomorrow will be different.  Tomorrow will bring another wonder.

As each day brings change, each year the garden evolves.  I know that this year will be special to me in some way.  Next year will be different, but it will still bring just as much joy.  That is a wonderful gift.
"I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green."  - Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse
I hope you have a magical day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Feeding the Hungry

The hummingbirds are migrating north again.  Every year I watch my crossvine for its first blooms.  That's when I know it's time to put out the hummingbird feeders.  And anyone that has fed hummingbirds know they are quite territorial.  In fact, they return each year to the same place - so once you begin to feed them, they expect the same service yearly.

My household includes a cat or two, so extra measure was needed to ensure the little hummingbirds' safety.  The shepherd's hooks are not tall enough.  Placing a feeder high enough in a tree to be safe for the birds required climbing a ladder to get it down.  So, this is what we came up with to get our feeders high enough to protect the birds, but allow us access to the feeders without getting on a ladder:

A black iron hook holds the feeder away from the house, allowing it free motion.  We originally had a small pulley hanging from the hook, but the rope kept sliding off the side, jamming it up.  So, we finally decided upon this rather large, white clothesline pulley.  It does the job extremely well.

The rope is currently just tied to a nearby bench.  When I want to lower the feeder, I just untie the rope and it gets lowered smoothly to my reach.

A hook allows me to take the feeder off for refilling.  Then back on the hook it goes.  I usually put the hook on the trellis while refilling the feeder.  This insures it will not slide back up unintentionally.  After putting the feeder back on the hook, a pull of the rope raises it up to a safe height for the hummingbirds.  I then tie the rope to the bench again.

Pretty?  Well, no, not really.  But extremely functional.  And easy.  And the birds appreciate the food.  I appreciate it's smooth, simple operation.  It sure beats getting on a ladder!

How do you hang your hummingbirds feeders?
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