Thursday, January 31, 2013

Changes Are Coming!

The garden is always changing.  Plants grow.  Some go dormant.  Some die.  Sometimes, changes are initiated by the gardener.  Other changes, however, are brought about by uncontrollable forces.

To varying degrees, there are changes in every area of my garden.  Want to see?

The Main Rose Bed looks a mess.  But changes are coming!  It will look quite a bit different in a few weeks, after I have pruned the roses and cut back the dead stems of the lantana, the cannas, and the asters.  One element that would greatly improve the look of this bed in the winter would be evergreens.  When I designed this bed, I considered mixing evergreens with the roses.  I generally do put evergreens in all of my beds.  But I wanted this bed to be filled only with roses and their companions.

Main Rose bed

Still, it needed some green.  A green backdrop would be the perfect touch for winter - and for summer.  That change will happen one day.  In fact, it's already started!  There are evergreens planted behind the fence, just not tall enough yet to see.  But some day those evergreens will give this bed the structure it needs in winter, without sacrificing any room for my precious roses.

Walking garden

The Walking Garden looks quite different than it does in summer.  Not as romantic or colorful, but there is still a lot of interest in this bed.  I love how the delicate hydrangea petals contrast with the dark, strong green of the holly.

In addition to a lot of winter interest, there are a lot of small changes coming to this bed.  Numerous bulbs are emerging.  One large change is in the ''Professor Charles Sargent' camellia.  It will soon be flush with blooms.  (Notice the little iris in the background that is craning its neck to be in the picture!)

Over the next year, I'll be making big changes in the Corner Bed.  Looking to complete this bed's transformation into a winter garden, I have purchased some winter blooming plants, and more camellias (three camellias are blooming in it right now, but they are too small to be seen unless you look for them).

Corner bed

Like the evergreens growing in the main rose garden, this bed just needs time to complete the changes.

Kramer's Supreme camellia

The biggest change in my garden this year, however, will be in the East Bed.  That's because the winds blew down my gazebo.  :(  And, the top is bent.  :((

East bed gazebo  :(

So, I'm not certain what changes will be made here, but changes will definitely be coming!

I'm joining The Patient Gardener for her End of Month View.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Miracles in my Garden

Don't believe in miracles?  Become a gardener.  There's just something about being in touch with nature that makes you see everything as a miracle - or if not a miracle, at least as amazing.

Take today, for instance.  I walked outside with my camera, mostly as a habit.  I didn't expect to see any blooms.  But I wanted to be in my garden before the rains started.  (Rains are a miracle - if you don't believe me, ask anyone that's lived through a drought!)

Walking through the garden, rounding the corner, I was surprised and delighted to see my rosemary blooming!  This particular rosemary has never bloomed before.  I never expected it to, either.  It was a gift of remembrance given to me three years ago.  It has grown and flourished, better than I ever expected.  But it has never bloomed.  This past autumn, I gave it a small pruning.

Just seeing those bright blue flowers made my heart leap.  Blooms!  Blooms on this particular rosemary!  Well, it seemed almost like a miracle.

Then I realized that the garden was full of miracles.  Buds on trees and roses are pregnant with the promise of spring.  New little leaves are welcomed by the warmth, and the rain.

Bulbs and perennials are waking up from where they have been blanketed all winter by the warm, soft earth.

I don't clean up my gardens until after the perennial plants begin to emerge in spring.  (The lantanas always emerge last.)  The old stalks and stems are an indication that what is coming up is a flower, not a weed.  (I'm very bad about pulling up anything I don't immediately recognize.)

When I first started gardening, I only planted shrubs.  They stay on top of the ground and there is no mistaking them for a weed.  But then, I began to plant perennials.  Sometimes, as I walk through my gardens in winter, they look bare to me.  I begin to make plans to fill in bare patches, and start a grocery list of new plants to purchase.

But then, when spring begins to arrive, the perennials poke their heads up out of the sea of leaves.  And that's when I know - those bare patches are, in fact, full.  Full of little miracles.  Don't believe they're miracles?  Ask my husband.  That list of plants to purchase gets trashed, and all that money is saved.  He would say that's a miracle!  ;0

Plants emerging from under the ground.  Blooms.  Rain.  Money saved!  My garden is full of miracles! And if you don't believe in miracles, you'll at least have to admit - it's all quite amazing!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ready, Get Set, Go!

I think it's started!  At least, I'm hoping it has!  As we were driving down the highway yesterday, we noticed it.  The paperwhite narcissus were blooming!  Surely, that's a sign:
spring is coming soon!

It's been warm enough lately to go outside and play work a bit.  I cheerfully put on my sweat pants and a light jacket.  Mr. Holleygarden calls sweat pants "fat pants", leaving no doubt in my mind the answer to the question: "Does this outfit make me look fat?"

The delivery men know my gardening clothes.   In fact, everyone that knows me has come to understand the sign my attire conveys:
I'm working outside.


My first chore is to start on the mulching.  Mulching is work that I love.  Not while I'm doing it.  But, afterward, it is so satisfying to see the beds.  They have a finished look to them.  They can have just one or two plants in them, and they look as if the bed is designed, not bare.

In learning how to mulch, there are just a few things to remember:

  • Don't put the mulch too close to the wood of the plant.
  • Mulch can prevent any new (wanted) seeds from coming up.  
  • Mulch will break down over time, making this an annual chore.  

But it is well worth all the time and effort.  Not only does it make the garden beds look beautiful, it makes the soil nice and fertile, too.  I am always amazed when I dig down and see the signs:  
the soil is dark and lovely, not too heavy, not too sandy.  

From what I understand, northern gardeners mulch to protect their plants from the thaws and freezes over the winter months.  I mulch to keep the soil cooler in the heat of summer.  Every year I vow I'm going to mulch every bit of my garden before it gets too hot to work outside, requiring me to finish in the autumn.  We'll see how far I make it this spring.  I watch the sun as it moves higher in the sky.  I can read the sign:
believe it or not, it will be hot soon!


My schedule changes throughout the year.  Right now, it's inside chores in the morning (because it's too cold to be outside), while the warm afternoons are spent outside.  In the summer, that reverses: outside work in the morning, until it gets too hot, then work inside for the rest of the day.  There are just a few days that I can work outdoors all day long, first in the spring then again in the autumn.  I cherish those nice days.  My family knows the sign that those days have arrived:
indoor work is completely ignored.

My mother, especially, thinks it's odd that I love to garden.  I've always been a bit squeamish.  When I was young, I turned away from worms, screaming.  Now I admire them, and cart them off to places where I want better soil.  I used to grow my fingernails long.  Now they are an embarrassment to me.  Short, ragged, and sometimes dirty.  I look at other women's hands.  I am always disappointed when I see one with beautifully manicured nails.  I look for someone who has nails like mine.  That is an unmistakable sign:
they're a gardener, too!


I've begun mulching.  Little buds and blooms are showing.  Days are getting longer.  It's only January, but the signs are there:  
spring is right around the corner!  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Favorite Rose - This Winter

As I wander through the house, I look out the windows.  I look for sunshine.  I look for shoots springing from the earth.  I look for weeds that will need weeding.  I look at my garden's design.  I look at the places garden areas will be added this spring.

I look forward to my garden's awakening from its sleep.

And I have realized that I have a favorite rose this winter.

Prosperity rose

This picture of Prosperity rose was taken in December.  There are no blooms to be seen now.  Still, it has become my favorite rose this winter.  Why?  Because I can see it from my bedroom window.

And when I see it, I begin dreaming.  I dream of how this rose will look this spring.  I dream of its branches filled with creamy white blooms.

And then, I walk around the house, and my dreams include the rest of my garden.

But this particular rose is in my dreams every morning as I awake, and every night as I close the drapes.  Therefore, it has become my favorite rose - this winter.

Prosperity is a hybrid musk rose.  If you put this beauty in your garden, be sure to give it lots of space.  It will grow to a large mounding shrub, around 8 ft tall and wide, or you can grow it as a climber.  It needs no pruning, repeatedly blooms, and is hardy in zones 6 (possibly 5) through 10.  Prosperity will also grow in a semi-shady position, and is fragrant.

Wouldn't it be lovely growing along a fence?  Ah, there I go... dreaming again.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Garden Book Reviews January 2013

49 cents.  I couldn't pass up buying this book at only 49 cents!  With shipping and handling, it was still under $5.  That's a bargain!

Of course, buying books online, where you can't thumb through the pages, does have its pitfalls, too.  I have bought books that were disappointing.  But the treasures I find usually outweigh the disappointments.

So, what book did I get for such a bargain?

Beautiful American Rose Gardens

by Mary Tonetti Dorra

Just the name alone was enticing.  If you are interested in having a rose garden, I would recommend this book.  It has gorgeous pictures of real gardens.  Some of these gardens are designed, and some maintained, by professionals.  Some are not.  Either way, there are lots of ideas and inspiration in this book.

No matter what kind of rose garden you wish to have, there is a rose garden design in this book for you.  Roses grown formally in rows.  Roses grown informally mixed in with other plants, cottage style. Roses behind boxwoods.  Roses grown over arches.  Miniature roses, shrub roses, climbing roses, old garden roses, hybrid tea roses.

What I really liked about this book is that it is divided into five different sections of the country: New England, South, Center, California, and Northwest.  Anyone that grows roses knows that climate makes a big difference in the type of rose that's best for your garden.

What I didn't like so well was that each garden was only given a few pages.  As beautiful as the pictures were, I wanted to see more.  I also wanted to know more than what the author presented.  I wanted to know more specifics about the roses, and their companion plantings.  I would have loved to have each garden given twice as many pages each, possibly more.  This book was much like an hors d'oeuvre - it whetted my appetite for more.

Still, I definitely got more than my money's worth!  If you love roses, want to put in a new rose garden, or just love looking at beautiful photos of rose gardens, I recommend you snatch it up.  Especially if you can get it at a bargain.

Now it's your turn!  Please join us on the 20th of every month with your own garden book review.
Any book with a gardening influence qualifies!   And please take the time to visit each of the other participants, too.   

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Watching, and Waiting

"Is she here?", he asked.


The 'she' he was asking about was me.  And I really was there.  But I had tried for days, and in numerous ways, to make this customer happy.  And I couldn't.  He was not happy.  He was not going to be happy.  And there was nothing I could do that could change his outlook or attitude.

And I was tired of trying.  Plus, I was busy with other things.

And a million more excuses.

So, I told my co-workers that when he walked in that day, they were to tell him that I was gone.

In reality, I was hiding in another room.

I had endured his curses and threats, and was tired of explaining that what he wanted was impossible for me to accommodate.  I expected him to leave.  He had told me many times that his time was valuable (much more valuable than mine).  What I didn't expect was him to answer:

"I'll wait."


What?  He'll wait???!!!  Now what was I to do?  He could see the doorway to the room I was hiding in.  I couldn't leave the room without him seeing me.

I was trapped.

I sat there for a few minutes.  My co-workers were silently smirking.  They knew I had painted myself into a corner, so to speak.  Could I out-wait him?  No.  I had too much work to do.  I realized I was going to have to just bite the bullet.

I took a deep breath, walked out of the room, strode right up to him, and sweetly asked, "May I help you?"

If he was surprised, you'd never know it.  He launched once more into his tirade, and I once again told him what I could do - and what I couldn't.  But one thing changed that day.

He never came back.  Secretly, I gave a little cheer.

My garden is hiding from me.  But I know it is there, just under the surface.

I'm waiting, and watching.

And one day it will become tired of just sitting there, waiting for me to leave.  And it will come out of hiding.  

And I will greet it with unconcealed cheers of joy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Better than Blooms!

I didn't mean to be gone so long.  I had planned to only be away for a couple of days.  Instead, those two days turned into a week!  I also had no idea that I wouldn't have internet service!  But, I wouldn't have had time to get online while I was away, anyway.

You see, I was helping my daughter move.  Packing and unpacking are not easy to do.  But, finding sweet memories lost in a box stuffed in the back of a closet made it all worth while.

Arriving home, the daytime high temperature only reached 34 degrees (F), and icicles were still hanging from street signs as I drove up.  So, I didn't expect any blooms to be greeting me.  And it was too cold to walk around hunting one.

But, I did have some surprises upon my return.  I had gardening books (ordered before I left) waiting for me.  Seed catalogs.  Sweet comments on my blog.  And a beautiful bracelet from Jennifer of Three Dogs in a Garden.  Isn't it gorgeous?  (Actually, it's much prettier in person.)

Thank you, Jennifer!

Then I began checking my 313 emails.  And I realized: the post I had written for Jennifer's writing contest had been published!  Wahoo!

Please click HERE to read it.

It's titled "Don't be the Crazy Cat Lady", and of course, it's about gardening.  Jennifer also enhanced some of my photos, and they are gorgeous.  I knew that Jennifer would make the photos look beautiful, as she always has the loveliest photographs on her blog.

Thank you again, Jennifer!

It's always fun to be pleasantly surprised when returning home!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I'm Famous!

Of course, I'm not really famous.  But I felt like it the other day!

We went to a restaurant called 'Chicken, Rice and Burgers'.  Not a very catchy name, but one that is quite descriptive.  When we entered it, we noticed their "Wall of Fame": photos of patrons taped to one wall.

After having our lunch (they had the best coleslaw!), the owner came up to us and politely asked, "May I take your picture for our wall?"

A big smile spread across my face.  Well, of course!  Who wouldn't want to be asked that?!  Instantly, I felt like a celebrity!  In fact, our entire demeanors changed.

There were some coworkers having lunch, and they also had their pictures taken, as well as an adult pair of twins, dressed alike.  I watched as each patron's attitude changed.  On the way out the door, I laughed about being famous.  My father, who had just watched the movie, 'The Wrong Man', joked that he now had an alibi, should he need it.  Instantly, the rest of our day was brighter.  Our smiles were bigger. Our laughs were louder.

We felt special.

Roses and Other Gardening Joys turned two years old on January 6th.  In that time, I have blogged about roses, of course.  But also about companion plantings, evergreens, winged insects, garden centers, and vacation spots.  I like to believe that this blog is a little like that restaurant.  The name isn't very catchy, but it's descriptive.

And if it had a Wall of Fame, it would have a picture of every one of you.  Every person that follows, subscribes to, has commented, joined in the book meme, or has read any part of this blog.  I want to thank each of you.

I have written about why I blog.  But I wanted to reveal a little more behind the motivation.  Not long before I began this blog, I lost someone very dear to me.  The garden became a very healing place.   I somehow found joy, even though my grief.  And I wanted, in some way, to share those moments.  And so, this blog became not just about roses.  But about every gardening joy.

Several bloggers I have come to know through this wonderful community of garden bloggers have lost loved ones in their life recently.  Others are still reeling from the Connecticut shootings.  At some time, grief finds us all.

But if you ever go to 'Chicken, Rice, and Burgers', I hope you get your picture taken to be put on their Wall of Fame.  I hope you smile, and feel special.  And if you are grieving, I hope you will find healing in your (real or symbolic) gardens.

I am still finding joy in mine.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


We often cook pinto beans.  Dried pinto beans are cheap, easy to cook, and very accessible.  But at my local grocery store last week, they had fresh pinto beans.  Fresh!  They looked quite different from the dried ones I am used to.  Pinker.  More plump.  And of course, softer.

I was shocked when I cooked them.  They tasted NOTHING like cooked dried pinto beans.  If I didn't know these were pinto beans, I wouldn't have guessed it.  The taste was that different.  It always amazes me how different fresh tastes.

If you've ever grown your own tomatoes, you understand the taste difference between a home grown tomato and one you purchase at the store.  The difference in taste is usually shocking to those that take their first bite of a home grown tomato.  In fact, most gardeners start growing tomatoes as their first vegetable because of all the hype they've heard about how good home grown tomatoes taste.

But, in my garden right now there are no tomatoes.  Too cold.  Those yummy bites of home grown deliciousness will have to wait a few months.  And no pinto beans, either.  Although I think those just made my "must grow" list for this summer!

What I do have in my garden right now is a lot of lettuce.  Five different kinds.  So, is the taste of home grown lettuce as shockingly different than a tomato or a pinto?  Well, it depends on whom you ask.

I have grown suspicious of bagged lettuce.  Lettuce stuffed in a plastic bag just does not appeal to me.  So, when I go to the store, I usually opt for the organic heads that are unwrapped.  Still, I always thought that if I could taste a difference, it was only in my mind.

If you asked Mr. Holleygarden, however, you would get a different answer.  We don't often go to the local hamburger franchise, but I have to admit that we do occasionally.  Mr. Holleygarden has started ordering his hamburgers plain - no vegetables on top.

That's shocking because we eat vegetables like crazy!  Why would he order a plain hamburger?

It all has to do with taste.  He first quit ordering the tomatoes because he could taste the difference, and he "just couldn't stand the taste of those tomatoes any more".  O.K.  I understand.

Then he started complaining about the lettuce.

"I just can't take their watered-down, round-up soaked lettuce any more."

Yes, he's right.  The lettuce is completely different.

The lettuce we get from the garden is amazingly fresh.  Amazingly beautiful.  Amazingly crisp.  And amazingly tasty.  It's shocking, really.

I'm joining The Gardening Blog for Garden Bloggers Harvest Day.

Which vegetable(s) do you think has a shockingly different taste than that you get from the store?

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Trail Mix of Winter Plants

I picked up some trail mix at the store the other day.  I just love that mix of sweet and salty.  My favorite type of trail mix has an abundant assortment of nuts, dried fruit, and just a touch of chocolate.

My winter garden is a little like a trail mix (without the trail).  Just a small corner area of my garden, the goal here was to have winter plants that either bloomed or had other interest (berries, colorful foliage) during the winter.

This area is made of six rectangular beds framed with evergreen boxwoods, and form the backbone to this entire garden.  Like the peanuts in a trail mix, they are abundant, plentiful, and a part of every bite.  Let's dive into this trail mix of a garden and see what other flavors can be found there:


Bite #1 is a sweet delight, like a dried cherry:

This first rectangle has a rose in it.  Of course!  You knew I'd put a rose here somewhere, and this area gets full sun.  The rose here is 'Souvenir de St. Anne's', a bourbon rose that keeps its leaves even in winter.  The rose fills out the boxwood rectangle perfectly, and for additional winter interest, there is a holly that covers the brick wall to its right.


Bite #2 is like an almond.  Not flashy, but a little different from just a handful of peanuts:

(Photo taken in November)

An abelia fills this rectangle.  It blooms all summer and through the fall, and is evergreen so it looks nice all year.


Bite #3 brings to mind cashews.  Not my favorite nut, but it can be nice to have a different taste sensation:

A gardenia fills this rectangle.  It only blooms in summer, but it is evergreen.  I have hardy cyclamen planted with it, but they have not bloomed this year, and they are not tall enough to see unless you bend over the bed to see them.  Some changes will be coming to this area soon!


Bite #4 is much like the raisins in a trail mix - expected, even if they are unexciting:

A common nandina and a holly bush fill in the corner and are both easy to grow.  Not a lot of excitement, but it does make for some beautiful foliage interest.


Bite #5 would be considered my favorite.  It's the chocolate bits:

This is my favorite area in my winter garden.  It is filled with hellebores, which make a nice evergreen ground cover, and a small camellia that has bloomed all autumn and which will eventually grow to just the perfect size.


Bite #6 is the sunflower seeds.  They are so small, sometimes they leave me with a sense of dissatisfaction:

This is my problem rectangle.  :(  I had two camellias here.  One died.  I've ordered some additional plants.  They haven't arrived.  The annual cyclamen are blooming.  But they are so short, they are easily overlooked.  This bed will get a complete re-do soon.  (Re-read the sentence about ordering additional plants!)

So, there you have it.  My trail mix of a winter garden area.  I love the idea, and the challenge, of an area filled with winter plants.  This part of my garden may not be the main course, but it allows a little bite - I mean bit - of gardening in winter.
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