Friday, December 30, 2011

12 Gifts From the Garden

We gardeners give our time, efforts, hard work, and dedication to the garden.  What does the garden give back?  Joy, delight, surprise, anticipation, hope, exercise, education, and wonder, to name just a few non-tangibles.  But I wondered if I could come up with something even non-gardeners could see and maybe, just maybe, start to understand our obsession!  So, I decided to take a look back through my pictures, and join Diana at Elephant Eye's with a slight twist on her Twelve Days of Christmas meme.  Ready to sing?

On the First day of Springtime, my true love gave to me
One beautiful surprise in a crocus bloom:

I had forgotten that I had planted these crocus, and when they sprang up, I was so thrilled!  Almost beyond words, but not quite, as I quickly ran to my computer to blog about the excitement.

On the Second day of Summer, my true love gave to me
Two beady eyes hiding from me:

Bees and butterflies were becoming quite common to see in the garden, but this little lady was a complete and welcome surprise.  She watched me as I watched her, with mutual respect.

On the Third day of blooming daisies, my true love gave to me
Three butterflies lined up in a row:

Butterflies were plentiful in the garden this past year.  I loved seeing them.  Who wouldn't?

On the Fourth day of May, my true love gave to me
Four rose blooms framing the view:

Ah, my favorite time of the past year.  My garden was in its climax.  A glorious time!  I look forward to next year.

On the Fifth day the roses bloomed, my true love gave to me
Five petals on each Mutabilis bloom:

The catmint next to Mutabilis was a delight to me, and I began to fill the main rose bed with even more companion plantings.  Next year there may be another favorite companion - there's always something to look forward to in the garden.

On the Sixth day the roses bloomed, my true love gave to me
Six blooms on Perle d'Or:

My roses are growing and filling in the main rose bed nicely.  I hope next year it will be photo perfect!

On the Seventh month of the year, my true love gave to me
Seven trunks on the crepe myrtle tree (behind the bench):

Next year I'm going to actually sit on that bench and enjoy the view!

On the Eighth hydrangea bush to bloom, my true love gave to me
Eight tiny hydrangea blooms:

Hydrangeas are a sentimental favorite.  Even without the sentimental attachment, I would love their old fashioned charm.

On the Ninth stroll down the walking garden, my true love gave to me
Nine white echinacea blooms:

I should have bought tons of these!  I loved the touch of white in the garden.  But mostly I loved the way the butterflies loved them!

On the Tenth type of bulb, my true love gave to me
Ten purple alliums:

I wanted some alliums, and these were the cheapest I could find.  But the joy they brought was priceless.

On the Eleventh joy of springtime, my true love gave to me
Eleven alstroemerias:

I thought these were dead this past summer due to the drought, but they have sprung back up this fall.  I've learned to leave 'dead' plants in the ground for a while.  About half the time, they rise again!

On the Twelfth day of harvest my true love gave to me
Twelve crookneck squash:

Could anything be better than fresh vegetables from the garden?  I think not! 

These twelve gifts are just a small sampling of all my garden (my true love) gave to me this year.  Because really, it gives me something every day!  And I hope if you're a non-gardener I gave you the desire to become one!  That would be the best gift of all.

Which gift of the garden (from mine or from yours, listed or not) do you like the best?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


When I hear the term "skin like leather", I think of my grandfather.  He toiled in the dirt, exposed to the harsh Texas summer sun, probably from the time he could stand until the time he laid down to die.  When he would see his grandchildren, he would swoop us up into his strong, lean arms, and plant a kiss on each of our cheeks.  He seemed to continually have a five-o'clock shadow (long before Don Johnson made this style popular), and his whiskers would scratch our tender faces.  Squealing, we would turn away, rubbing our cheeks.

It was a source of wonder (at least for us children) at the difference in our soft, white, tender hands and his dark, wrinkled, tough, and calloused ones.  We could not understand how they had become so weathered.  A quiet man, he lived through many heartaches and hardships.

When I was young, I never understood the sadness that comes to so many around the holidays.  To me, it was a happy time.  Now I understand.  The loss of loved ones, the realization of our own mortality, and the weathering of our bodies are all like drops of water wearing away our childish perceptions.  Like whiskers on a tender cheek, sometimes life's lessons tickle us, sometimes it scratches, and sometimes it downright hurts.  Time has a way of weathering us.

I'm beginning to see the weathering effects of time on my own body.  I see it on my hands and my face.  I feel it in my muscles, and in old injuries.  (No, I'm not *that* old, but I'm getting there!)

I want to garden until I am no longer able to do so.  Just like my grandfather.  And so, as my eyes diminish and my body weakens (even though I'm not *that* old), I often think about my garden's maintenance, and how to make it easier to keep beautiful.  I will hopefully have many more years of love's labour in my garden (I'm not *that* old, you know), but it's best to think ahead.  Besides, a low maintenance garden sounds good, no matter the age of the gardener!  (You can be 29 for several years, but not forever!)

The very best essay I have ever read on gardening and our aging bodies is this essay HERE posted on GardenWeb by luseal.

She makes the argument that, the most low maintenance garden is a winter garden - a garden full of evergreens, deciduous shrubs, trees, and winter interest.

A few of her points include:

~~  "If gardening makes you happy and you do not wish to give it up, plan for your older gardening days."
This is important not only due to aging, but also if you need to be away from the garden for a while, whether it is a fun vacation or an unexpected illness.

~~  "Evergreen structure is the most important aspect of a winter garden."
I always, always include evergreens in my garden beds.  I try to imagine what the garden will look like with only the evergreens before I plan in other plants.  These are the bones I will see in winter.

~~  "Do I plant perennials?  Yes, but not a whole bed."
I made the mistake of having an entirely perennial garden bed early on, and was so dismayed by the look of my garden that winter, I ripped it all out and started over.

~~  "Around each bed I plant Korean boxwood."
Boxwood may not be your plant of choice, but her main point is to edge each bed with plants or a hard edging like brick or concrete.  This really does make the beds look neater.

~~  She also recommends that all or most of the evergreens, deciduous shrubs, and trees be flowering.  This gives another season of interest and beauty to your garden, whether the flowers come in spring, summer, or fall.

~~  "Nothing do I love more than lying across my bed looking out of my upstairs window at the full green winter garden below."
Nothing better than being happy with the garden all year round!

I don't know luseal, but I took these principles to heart when I started planning my garden.  I broke these rules in a few areas, but at least I knew in advance these would be beds that might require more maintenance, care, and work.  When I plan a new area of my garden, I now plan for winter first.

The beauty of these principles are that they can be used by anyone that has an illness, a disability, sees their youth weathering away, or just wants a low maintenance garden.  If you haven't read this essay, it is worth reading and thinking about by every gardener, whether you're *that* old (you know, old as dirt) or a young spring chicken!

I'm joining Donna of Garden Walk Garden Talk's Word 4 Wednesday meme on the word Weathering.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Views Out My Windows

It's been raining for three days.  Which is nice, because we need the rain!  So, I'm not complaining, but I haven't been able to enjoy the garden - outside.  But I still enjoy the views out my windows!

I invite you to see what I see on a cold, wet, rainy, winter day.

From my bedroom window:

This bed holds the fish pond.  Drops on the water easily reveal how hard the rain is coming down.  This bed is also evergreen, so no matter the season, I am greeted to a lush, green scene.  Every spring I wonder if I should put some flowers in this bed, but every winter I am thrilled to have evergreens.

From my living room:

From the living room, I see Julia Child roses, Knock Out roses, evergreen jasmine, evergreen lavender, and evergreen dwarf Indian Hawthorns.  The mix of evergreens and roses make me smile, no matter the season.

From the kitchen:

I look out this window daily, and am always captivated.  Because there is so much variety, the view changes almost daily.  Right now I can see camellia blooms, along with late blooms from Heritage and Home Rose roses.  The perennials that dominate this bed allow me to see the seasons change, slowly filling up in spring, until summer is a riotous display of color.  Winter is sparse, but it still gives a beautiful display with the addition of some evergreens to these beds.

From my bathroom:

Frozen roses are still a joy to me, and I can see the vegetable garden from this vantage point.  This small window is not one I usually stare out of, but the cats enjoy it!

From another bedroom:

This is my favorite view of all.  This is my soon-to-be winter garden.  A few camellias, some summer blooming plants, and boxwood hedges serenely invite peaceful meditation.  I could look out this window for hours.

Views are important, no matter the weather or time of year.  When we went to church on Christmas day, I could see a white camellia blooming from the pew where I was sitting.  A crepe myrtle was planted in front of the camellia, shading it from the summer sun, and giving churchgoers another lovely view in a different season.

I hope you, too, have a beautiful view out your window, even on a cold, wet, rainy, winter day.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

This past year of blogging has surprised me mostly by how close I feel to you, my blogging friends.  You truly are my friends, whether we have met or not.

At my house, we celebrate Christmas, but whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or another tradition, I want to wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My New Baby!

The day started out innocently enough.  We had to go to the home repair store (garden center!), for something-or-another to fix something-or-another.  That was of no interest to me.

What was of interest to me was the garden center attached to the home repair store!  Cyclamens, pansies, and nandinas, however, didn't hold my attention.  I already have all those.

Then, I saw it.  'Green's Blue' camellia.

They had two.  Hmmmm......  should I get both?

I restrained myself.

But, I knew exactly where to put one!  I am removing two 'Blushing Bride' hydrangeas that have disappointed me from day one.  They have been in that spot for three or four years, and they barely put out one bloom per year.  They are never happy there, and I'm not sure if it's them or their home.  So, they will be moved (and given another chance) to where the gardenias are struggling.  And the gardenias will be moved somewhere - I'm not sure where.  But, that doesn't matter.

What matters is I have a place to put this camellia!  So, of course I need it!  :)

Actually, I would have passed it by except for one thing that was right above its bloom - a 50% off sign! That sealed the deal.  I'm a sucker for a plant sale!

And my "winter bed" has a new winter blooming plant!

By the way, in case you're wondering, Green's Blue really isn't blue.  Most flowers called blue are really kind of tinged purple.  If they're called purple, chances are they're really a dull, not bright, pink.  I really don't think most gardeners are color blind.  I think it has to do mostly with marketing.

So, Green's Blue is pink.  Maybe a purply-pink.  Whatever.  It was 50% off and that's what really mattered!

Is it hard for you to pass up plants on sale, too?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last Kiss

The first kiss hello is always welcome, but the last kiss goodbye is bittersweet.  I'm talking about blooms, of course, the kiss of flowers.  It's what makes bees swoon, gardeners smile, and children reach out to touch.  The camellias give my garden its last kiss each year.
"Twas not my lips you kissed, But my soul" ~ Judy Garland 
The camellia 'Hana Jiman' was the first camellia in my garden to bloom.  I looked back just to make sure of the dates - it has been blooming in my garden since November 7!  It was full of blooms from the middle of November through the last of that month.  By now, I really thought it had finished blooming for the year.  That was, until yesterday when I went outside and saw this last kiss goodbye:

Beautiful, isn't it?  Doesn't it look all puckered up?

Hana Jiman grows well in zones 7 through 9, average size is up to 15 ft tall, and 6 to 8 ft wide (oops, I think I have mine in too small a spot!), and can take part sun.
"One kind kiss before we part,   Drop a tear, and bid adieu; 
Though we sever, my fond heart   Till we meet shall pant for you."   ~ Robert Dodsley

Monday, December 19, 2011

Garden Blogging 101

When I started my blog, I wanted to write about my garden.  But I also wanted to read about other people's gardens, too.  So, I blogged, and I went looking for other blogs.

And I found out some things about garden bloggers: they are the best!

They are the most generous, enthusiastic, sweet, and caring bunch of internet friends I think anyone could find in any of the blogging categories.  I guess we're used to nurturing plants, so we instinctively nurture other bloggers, too.

Do you want to connect to other garden bloggers?

If you want to get your garden blog noticed, memes are a great way to start participating.  A meme is just a question or topic that is linked to different posts or blogs relating to that particular topic.  You add your post to the link provided.  It's like an internet party!  If you're a new garden blogger, I would encourage you to join in some of the great memes offered.  There are many, and each has its own theme.  Just be on the lookout for them.  They all have cut off dates, so if you find an active one, and you want to write a post about that topic, jump in!  All are great to participate in.  I don't join in many, but I love the support and camaraderie of the ones in which I do participate.

This photo was featured on my very first blog post.

And speaking of camaraderie and support - Blotanical is an entire community of garden lovers.  It's for garden bloggers as well as for anyone just wanting to find garden blogs to read.  I have met some of the most wonderful gardeners and their fabulous blogs through this community.  If you're a garden blogger, you should check it out.  Stuart is rolling out Blotanical version 2.0 soon, and I can't wait to see the wonderful changes.  You can read about the updates here.

If you are a garden blogger, rejoice!  You are part of a wonderful community of lovely people.  Don't be shy!  We want to find you!  We love to read about gardens as much as we love to share our own!

So just leave a comment below, and I'll give your garden blog a visit!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bloom Day Revelation

It's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - for December!  Bloom Day is usually a time of joy, pride, and abundance, but December strikes fear into the gardener's heart.  Will anything be blooming?  Most of the time, that answer depends entirely upon your gardening zone.

I live in Texas, zone 8.  We get freezing temperatures.  But I still think that (most years) here, a garden planned well should be able to have blooms throughout most of the year.

Busy preparing for Christmas company, I haven't been out in the garden much.  So, I didn't know what, or if, anything was blooming when I ventured outside to take photos for Bloom Day.

I was relieved to see that there were quite a few blooms.

But then I realized - Something was wrong!

Sure, there were blooms here and there, but these blooms were spaced too far apart for any real impact.  

I thought about this for some time.  I've heard of gardeners that have "a spring garden", "a summer garden", "a fall garden", and "a winter garden", each in different areas of the garden.  But that concept has never been particularly appealing to me.

But I'm beginning to reconsider  - at least for winter.  These blooms would look so much better if they were placed near each other.  Now I see that, with just a little tweaking, my garden could have an entire area that was truly beautiful in the winter.

I have one part of the garden that is fairly empty.  Finding enough winter blooming plants to fill in and have a true "winter garden" would not be too difficult.  And it could still look beautiful in summer.

I'm going to work on that concept.

Thanks, Bloom Day.

Because of you, I quit cooking, cleaning, decorating, painting, shopping, wrapping, and baking long enough to go outside and really see my garden, and how it could be even better.

My Bloom Day revelation?  I live in a great zone.  I should have a true garden in winter (or at least one area), not just a few scattered blooms!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter's Rose

Camellias are winter's rose.  If you live in the right zone for growing camellias, oh, you must get one!  They bloom when everything else winds down.  What a wonderful pick-me-up on a winter's day!  The traditional camellia belt is zones 8 and 9, although there are a number of camellias that will grow in zones 7 through 10.  If you live outside these zones, well, the only advice I could give would be to move!  haha  ;)

There are a lot of different types and varieties of camellias, but the more common types offered for sale generally fall into three categories:

1) Japonicas - These generally have large, glossy leaves.  Most bloom in late winter or early spring, and the entire bloom falls off instead of petal by petal.  Most of the time, these grow larger than the sasanquas.

A japonica bloom from early last spring.

2) Sasanquas - Usually with smaller leaves, these generally bloom in fall or early winter, and their blooms fall petal by petal.

This is how I remember the differences:
       Shorter plant
       Smaller leaves
       See them first (bloom earlier)
       Sun tolerant (more than japonicas)

Sasanqua blooms from this fall.

The third common type of camellia is the Sinensis.  I personally don't have any of these, but they are intriguing because tea can be made from their leaves.

Camellias can grow as tall as a tree or short and wide, so it's nice to do a little research before purchasing (or go to a good nursery where they will help answer your questions).  Some camellias can take quite a bit of sun, others like it very shady.  Roses like to be planted deep; camellias like to be planted shallow.

When looking around my garden for a good spot to grow camellias, I consult my "cheat sheet":
     Would a hydrangea grow there?  If so, then it's probably a good place for a camellia.

And don't forget - camellias can make great potted plants, too (so you really don't have to move to enjoy one)!

Want more information?  Check out the American Camellia Society's website.  You'll be thrilled to know they are working on more cold tolerant varieties, as well as camellias that bloom year round!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I bet you think I'm going to talk about Lady Gaga!  Ha!  No, I don't know enough about her to write anything.  The gaga I'm talking about is the kind talked about on Seinfeld, as in "I'm gaga about her, Jerry", or "he's not gaga".  (I never watched Seinfeld when it was on years ago, but now I enjoy watching the re-runs.)

You will probably only understand this post if you are a gardener.  It's about fall weeds.  For some reason, weeds in the fall really don't bother me.  Spring weeds I detest.  I try to pull them as fast as I can (which is never fast enough).  But weeding in the fall just seems heartless.  Those poor little things, destined to freeze before spreading their seed.  So, I find joy even in the weeds - as long as I know the freeze is coming.

And the freezes have come, for the last two nights, and more expected.  But, before the freezes hit, I went outside to say goodbye to the weeds, and roses.  That's when I stumbled upon 'Safrano'.

Safrano has a reputation for being a heavy bloomer, a lovely rose, and all I've ever heard is raves.  Since mine is fairly young, I've been anxiously waiting to see what all the fuss was about.  She bloomed for me a time or two, but nothing spectacular, although I noticed her blooms were getting prettier as she aged.  Still, I wasn't gaga.

Then I saw these blooms:

And for some reason, in these final blooms of the year, I finally saw what I've been hearing about.  Beautiful form, delicate coloring, lovely foliage.  And stems described as "plum".  I couldn't take my eyes off these blooms.

I'm gaga for her, Jerry.

And now I have one more reason to look forward to spring.

Safrano is an old garden tea rose, grows in zone 7 through 9, is disease resistant, fragrant, and will get from 4 to 7 feet tall.  Might make you go gaga.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My 'Why'

Motivational speakers will tell you that you need to find your 'why'.  Your reason for doing what you do. The reason why you spend so much time and effort on something.  By realizing your reason, you will not look upon these tasks as drudgery, but as an outlet to increase what you value or help those you love.

I don't know my 'why' of my flower garden.  I like it.  I enjoy it.  It gives me peace and joy.  I think it's pretty, it's a creative outlet, etc., etc., etc.  But that doesn't really tell me 'why'.  The vegetable garden, however, is different.  It's not something I really enjoy.  It's not my love.  But I have a 'why', and so I have a vegetable garden.

What's my 'why'?

Well, I love movies based on historical facts, and historical documentaries.  But, since I am a gardener, I have expanded that to seeing several documentaries on farming, food, and basically - eating.  I like eating even more than I like documentaries!

Do you eat?  There are three food documentaries that I think every person should see.  If it doesn't change the way you eat, at least you will be informed.  These documentaries are my 'why'.

1)  The Future of Food (2004)
A documentary about genetically modified foods.  Before watching this documentary, I had no opinion on genetically modified foods.  It didn't affect me - I thought.  Boy, was I wrong!  What are they doing to food?  You will be amazed!

Lots of lettuce still in my garden.

2)  Food, Inc. (2008)
An illuminating documentary with something important to say.  How can we feed so many for so little?  This sheds some light on that.  I promise, you will look at food differently after seeing this documentary.  It changed the way I eat.  Be warned: it may change the way you eat, too!

3)  King Corn (2007)
Do you really know what you're eating?  This will make you wonder about every bite you take!  Not the most riveting documentary ever made, but what I liked most was their fairness.  Throughout the documentary, the policy of one certain man kept coming up.  But they interviewed him, and found out his reason - his 'why' - and it gets right to the heart of the food dilemma.

These documentaries are not new.  But they are important.

Have you seen them?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Phone's Not Smart

I don't have a Smart Phone.  My phone is quite dumb.  And very old.  In fact, it's been deemed "embarrassing" by the younger generation.

My daughters have phones they call "Smart".  When we are together and I have a question, they reply "Just a minute", and immediately they are on the internet with their phones, giving me the information I requested.

A Smart Phone would be nice to have at the garden centers when the labels are inadequate, and the workers are too.  A few minutes on the phone would let me know if I needed to spend my money on a plant that is calling my name, or just wave and walk on by.  But I'm not going to change from my old, dumb phone.  I'll just have to learn if an impulse purchase will survive the old fashioned way - by experience!

I don't keep up with all those tech gadgets or "I" toys.  I-Pads, I-Pods, I-this, I-that, it's confusing.  Well, it probably wouldn't be confusing if I cared.  But I don't need any of those things.  At least that's what I thought.  Until my husband got me an I-Pod!

Now I can rock out to all those old songs I used to listen to in high school!  It's fun!  And I love listening to it when I do housework.  But the garden is a different matter.

I've always loved the peace and quiet that gardening provided.  I love hearing the buzz of the bees, the chirp of the birds, the sounds of the planes flying over - wait, scratch that last part!  Well, you know.  Nature can be a wonderful place to get lost in thought.

Now, my husband also bought me some camellias.  (No, he's not in trouble for anything.  He's just a sweet guy.)  Two Finlandia Variegateds (a white, pink-striped japonica), and a Bonanza (a red sasanqua).   But for some reason, I wasn't too excited about digging holes.  I needed a push.  The rain and cold were coming, so the camellias needed to go in the ground - immediately - even though I'd rather stay inside in my warm Hoodie-Footie.

So, I thought I'd try gardening with my I-Pod.  And it was fun, even though I'm not sure I heard much music, as I was still lost in thought most of the time.  So, I probably won't use the I-Pod in the garden much, but it was great for jump-starting my motivation.  The holes were dug and the camellias are safe and sound in their new homes - right before the rain started!  Yeah!

These pictures are all from yesterday, too.  My garden is still looking quite nice, though I'm not sure what it will look like after this cold front moves through.  I admit I haven't been working outside much.  I've been busy inside, getting ready for Christmas, and I'm sorry now that I've missed seeing what may be some of its last blooms.

I need to get smart (like a phone?) and make myself go out into the garden daily.  I feel much better when I do.  It's a low-tech pleasure - no I-Pod necessary.

Do you go out in the garden daily?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lessons Learned?

Do I really learn the lessons?  Because I seem to say I learned the lesson, but my garden shows I did not!  Take mulching, for instance.

I know that I need to mulch the beds.  Completely.  Not just half of them.  And yet, what do I do?  Half.  And the weeds take over.  And the plants could use a bit of insulation.  And it would be good for the soil for the mulch to break down.  And I know all these things, but yet...  I guess I'm just lazy.

And the vegetable garden!  I know I'm supposed to start my fall garden in summer.  When it's hot.  And I can't imagine being out there.  But it's hot.  And I can't imagine being out there!  So, it doesn't get started and then fall comes - and I realize that I could have had a lot more vegetables if I had started my garden earlier!

When will I learn?  Obviously, not this year!  Maybe next year?  I guess there's always hope!

So, for PlantPosting's Lessons Learned meme for this quarter, I had to really wonder - what have I learned?  Anything?


Let's see.....

Let me think.....

Yes!  I thought of something!  Actually, a few things.

From this past spring.  I should have bought more of these!
I learned that buying fall bulbs in July, when they are on sale, is a good thing.  And so is picking up even more at the garden center.  And buying even more online because the July order might not quite be enough!  Actually, I'm not certain I could ever have too many bulbs!  Yes, I learned that I love burying that small piece of promise and anticipating the show in spring.

I learned that, even though I consider most annuals a waste of money, I love pansies.  It is worth placing and replacing their sweet, cheery little faces in the garden, as they stay happy all winter long, and that makes me happy.

Sky Pencil in background.  See how sad it looks?  And this is a 'good' one!
I learned that I need to quit buying Sky Pencil Hollies.  (We'll see next spring if I really learned the lesson.)  I always buy several, place them together, and then one (or more) die.  I don't know why a plant whose tall, thin, evergreen form I find so attractive and useful in the garden is so difficult for me, but I need to just accept it and move on.  Even if this plant seems to give no one else any trouble, obviously it has personal feelings of animosity for me!

I learned (and posted) that radishes re-seed easily.  Very easily.  Very, very easily.  And I don't need to have 20 radishes go to seed, unless I want 200 radishes coming up in the fall garden!  Oops!  That's one lesson I'll definitely remember!

So, I guess I did learn a little bit this quarter!  Imagine that!  I suddenly feel smarter!
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