Sunday, June 24, 2012

But, What If.....?

I was thrilled to have learned a few months back that I was the winner of the seed giveaway by Donna at Gardens Eye View.  But immediately, I began to panic.  I'm not the best vegetable gardener.  And I knew she would want to know what happened to those seeds!  Aaack!  All I could think about was the What Ifs.

1st basket of tomatoes

What If...
     the seeds didn't grow?

Well, that actually happened.  I'm sorry to report that the melon seeds never came up.  Not one.  So, I'm not sure if I planted them at an incorrect depth, or if they just hated my soil.  Or if some critter came along and dug them up.

What If...
     they didn't do well?

There's a couple in this category.  I'd never grown peppers before, and although I didn't get a record harvest, I did harvest a few.  So, maybe not great, but they turned out o.k.

And, the poor cucumbers have had a hard time.  They were the favorite of some hungry deer that passed through one night.  But the cucumbers sprang back up and now have blooms.  I'm looking forward to having cucumbers soon.   So, in their short little life, they have gone from "not doing well" to "doing o.k" and will soon be "doing great"!

Which brings me to:

2nd basket of tomatoes

What If...
     they actually did well?

Like the tomatoes!  I've been amazed at the tomatoes!  The one thing I didn't count on was the fact that we wouldn't have a drought, and the plants would actually grow!  Initially, I didn't have much hope for the tomatoes.  You see, in this area, tomato seeds should have been started inside about a month to six weeks before I received Donna's seeds.  So, instead of starting them inside, I planted the tomato seeds directly in the soil.  There was no danger of frost.  But I didn't know how well tomato seeds would do directly planted.

It seems they do great!  Although they are a little bit behind the rest of the tomato plants that I have planted in my garden, they are pumping out tomatoes at breakneck speed.

Wahoo!  (Happy Dance here.)

Tomato seeds directly planted do great!  (Picture taken a few weeks back)

When I received the seeds, I realized there was one more What If that I hadn't thought of!

What If...
     we have different planting zones?  (thus different planting times)
Well, there were some seeds that Donna probably plants in the summer that I need to plant in the fall.  So, there are some seeds still waiting to be planted.

But, now,  I won't think about what might go wrong.  I will only think about each seed's future potential.

And even more tomatoes!

Thanks, Donna, for the seeds.  But. also, thank you for helping me turn the apprehension of What If into the promise of What Could Be.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Garden Book Reviews June 2012

I'm not sure you would consider this a garden book, but lately, this is the book I've been opening far more than any other book I own.  So, I'm going to pretend it's a garden book, because I think all gardeners need it!  And even if you're not a gardener, if you have access to a farmers market, you may find yourself in need of this book, too.

The book I'm talking about is:

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
400 delicious and creative recipes for today

Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine

Last year was my first venture into canning.  Since then, I have learned quite a bit about it, although I am definitely no expert.  However, if you grow vegetables, you probably want to preserve your harvests in some way.  A lot of people like to freeze their extra vegetables, but I love seeing everything lined up in jars.

Not everything should be canned.  You will notice some recipes call for lemon juice or vinegar to be added to the vegetables.  That's because this will adjust the acidity to a safe level.  So, depending upon the acidity level of each vegetable, some may be preserved with just a water bath (no pressure canner necessary), some need to be pressure canned, and some can not safely be preserved by either method.

I like this book because it has step by step instructions, something that I very much need and rely upon. So, this book is good for the novice canner as well as the expert.  It has many recipes using just the water bath method, some using only pressure canning, and some recipes have an option for both.

In addition to the step-by-step instructions, there is also a section about general canning information, altitude adjustments, produce purchasing guide, and an extensive glossary so you can look up any word you may not know.  And the index makes it easy to look up recipes for the fruit or vegetable you have on hand.

If you have a canner or if you are interested in canning (pressure canning or water bath method), I would highly recommend this book.

Can you can?  Yes, you can!


Now it's your turn!  On the 20th of every month I invite you to join me with a Garden Book Review.  Just post your review and link in below.  Any garden book, or any book with a gardening influence, is fine.  (If you're new, no books on growing illegal substances in the US allowed.) 

Thanks for joining in!  I'll be visiting your post, and I hope that you will visit each participant, too.


Friday, June 15, 2012

The Rose Garden for Bloom Day

Excuses, excuses, excuses.  Have you ever noticed gardeners are always making excuses for the way their garden looks?  Do you want to know why?

Gruss An Aachen
(located on the left side of my main rose garden)

Because most gardens are (and continue to be) a work in progress.  Like a dress made from scratch, it can be hard to imagine the outcome from a pattern on a piece of material.

Right side

So our excuses are not really excuses.  We love our gardens, and know that there is beauty in it.  But we want you to know what the garden will look like when it's finished - what it looks like in our minds (the dress on the front of the pattern package).

Left side

For Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, instead of the usual close up shots (like the first picture of Gruss An Aachen above), I thought I'd show some long views of my main rose garden.

At first, I thought about explaining why it's not the picture-perfect garden of my dreams, at least not yet.

But then I realized - all it needs is time, and a little work.  Just like most gardens.

So, if you tour someone else's garden, and they begin to make excuses, listen.  They are telling you their dreams.  They are explaining the garden to you in future terms.  What it will look like when all the pieces have come together, and it's ready for its formal debut.

Of course, that time may never actually come.  Because I don't think gardens are ever finished, or that gardeners ever quit dreaming.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I realized I didn't know much about Australia, except from what I've gleamed from the 'Crocodile Dundee' movies and Outback Steakhouse restaurants.  Which meant, I only knew that they like to call friends "mate", and that the grill is called "the barbie".

But I know that the canna 'Australia' is a stunner in my summer garden.

The leaves are dark, almost black.  Gorgeous when the sun shines through them.

The flower is a bright red-orange.  It really shines.  You won't overlook it, even though the flowers rise up on a stalk almost 8 ft tall!  Even before it flowers, this canna is a bold 6 ft tall.

Canna 'Australia' loves full sun and is hardy in zones 7 through 11.  It can be used as a marginal planting in a pond. Wouldn't that be a beautiful sight?

And if you're in a zone colder than 7, you might want to use cannas as a potted plant.  Even if you're in a warm zone you might want to do this, as it gives a very dramatic effect.

Cannas are native to North and South America, not Australia.

But it made me wonder about Australia (the country) anyway.

Did you know that there is a town in Australia named Canna?  In 2006 it had a population of 81.

The island of Tasmania is a part of Australia.  The Tasmanian devil is the world's largest carnivorous marsupial.  Other famous marsupials of Australia are the kangaroo and the koala.

Koalas have fingerprints that are similar to a human's!  They also have brains that have shrunken to taking up only about 60% of its cranial cavity (the rest is filled with fluid).

The national gemstone of Australia is the opal.  Although more than 90% of the world's opals are produced in Australia, opals are found in numerous other countries, and NASA says they are even found on Mars!

So, Australia is wonderfully unique.  Just like the canna 'Australia'.

And in case you're wondering the facts on Australia all came from Wikipedia, not from a movie or a restaurant.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Amarillo by Morning

"I'm going to Amarillo.  Want to meet me?"

"You bet!"

And so, I took off to meet my sister in Amarillo.  She lives several states away, so although I would have probably never chosen Amarillo as a place to spend a long weekend, I knew we'd have fun no matter where we were.

And we did have fun!

Cadillac Ranch was first on our must-see list.  It could be a sad sight, if it wasn't so unique.  Aerosol cans were discarded everywhere (even though there was a dumpster available).  Beautiful Cadillacs were beaten, abused, and defaced.  It had free, easy access off the highway, and was touted as an outlet where anyone can paint anything on an unusual canvas.   I was amazed at the people that were coming to this famous site.  They kept coming, and kept coming, staying as long as they wished, then moving on, a continuous circle of new painters, on-lookers, and picture takers.

Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum was next on our list.  The largest museum in the state of Texas, it was a maze of information, beauty, and history.  We spent several hours there, and we moved through the museum at a fast pace.  A day - or two or three - would be needed to truly see most of this extensive museum.

I looked forward to hiking Palo Duro Canyon.  Considered the Grand Canyon of Texas (but in reality no where near as grand), we found the scenery interesting, breathtaking, and beautiful.  The hiking was nice after we found the correct trail (before we realized which way to go, we were practically hanging off a cliff).

But the highlight of our trip was TEXAS!  Texas, the musical, is a play, a fireworks show, and an extravaganza put on in an amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon.  It is a drama based upon history, and I was surprised how emotionally attached I became to the characters.  The play has fire, fountains, horses, flags, singing, dancing, and fireworks.  It was a fabulous experience, and I would recommend seeing it if you ever go to Amarillo.

There is a Chuckwagon dinner option, which we did not take, but I wish we would have.  When we arrived, the diners were doing the Chicken dance to a live band!  I think they must have been treated not only to a fine dinner, but also to two hours of total fun.

Have you ever been to Amarillo?  Did you see Texas the musical?  Did you do the Chicken dance?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Time in a Bottle

Ah, summertime.  When I was young, we would visit my grandparents in the summer.  My grandfather would save bottles in a pile out by the garage.  At some point during our visit, he would ask us to pick up the bottles.  It was a chore we didn't mind.

You see, we would take the bottles to the store and turn them in for the deposit money.  It was the best recycling program I've ever known, and a great way to teach children money management.  (If you're too young to understand what a deposit on a bottle is, go ask your mother.)

With the deposit money, we were allowed to purchase colas and candy.  People didn't drink colas like they do now.  We had one (maybe two) on vacation.  Occasionally on a Saturday or Sunday (not every weekend).  And one or two at my grandparent's house in the summertime.  Like ice cream, sodas were considered a real treat, not a normal part of our diets.   My grandfather saved his bottles all year in order to get a pile big enough to treat each of his grandchildren to sodas and candy in the summer.

As we look forward to summer, Donna at Gardens Eye View asks the question:  What seasonal celebration are you looking forward to this quarter?  My answer is : canning.  You thought I was going to say enjoy a soda, didn't you?

Growing a vegetable garden is not something I love.  But I do love seeing those cans of vegetables lined up in my pantry.  I love eating from them all winter long.  I love having a lower food bill because of it.  I've just started canning, and look forward to doing this all summer long.

So, this summer, I celebrate the season of canning.

Beth at Plant Postings asks: What lessons did you learn last quarter?  Again, I look to the vegetable garden.

What I learned was to grow something fun in the vegetable garden: Sunflowers!  I have never grown sunflowers, but they are the star of my garden this year.  Their bright faces look down, and I can't help but smile.

I now love to go out to the vegetable garden, just to see the sunflowers.  And while I'm there, I check out the other vegetables, too.  Last year, I thought of the vegetable garden as a chore.  It represented work.  Labor.  Sweat.  Toil.

This year, thanks to the sunflowers, my attitude toward the vegetable garden has changed.  Now I see it as a place full of wonder.  Joy.  Delight.  Fun.

Even visitors are magically drawn to the garden just to see the sunflowers!

My grandfather farmed.  My grandmother canned.  It was a necessity for them, not a luxury.  The vegetable garden meant the difference between survival and starvation.  They didn't need sunflowers to make vegetable gardening exciting.  Growing food was exciting enough.

Canning was for preservation, not for self satisfaction.  A full pantry was a celebration because it meant winter nights with a full stomach, instead of a hungry one.  And a soda was a treat, not a daily drink.

So what about those sodas?  Well, my consumption grew to be a weekly expectation when I became a teenager, then on to a daily habit when I began working full time.  Now, I try not to drink sodas very often.  But I think I'll drink one this summer, in remembrance of my grandparents.

Do you drink sodas as a treat, an expectation, or a habit?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What's for Supper?

Last month, I had no harvest to report for Garden Bloggers Harvest Day.  :(

But this month, I have harvests to report.  Boy, do I have harvests to report!  What have I been harvesting?

Squash.  Lots and lots and lots (and lots) of squash.

I've given away squash.  I've eaten squash.  Squash fried, squash boiled, squash sauteed, squash casseroles, squash bread.  Squash.  I've tried almost every recipe I can find using squash.  I've eaten so much squash it's a joke at my house.  "What's for supper?"  "Squash."

This is just one basketful of squash.  There have been many basketfuls of squash harvested.  I may end up with an entire freezer full of squash, too.  I guess it will be appreciated if/when the squash vines stop making more squash.

Whenever that will be.

Oh!  And I almost forgot.  I harvested carrots, too.

I like carrots better than squash.  Carrots are a reasonable vegetable.  They make one carrot, you pull them up, and they don't continue to multiply.  Unlike squash.

I'm actually quite proud of our carrots (they're Mr. Holleygarden's, really, and he is very proud of them).  The squash?  Ask me later on how I feel about them.  Right now, I've got to go make supper.

We're having squash.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grassless Grandeur - Garden Tour

When I think of a grassless garden, what usually comes to mind is a mixed-prairie style planting.  Wildflowers, natives, self-seeders.  But even though this next garden on the Home Garden Tour given by Smith County Master Gardener's Association was grassless, a prairie it was not!

The front yard did have grass, and some easy plantings.  If you were walking down the street, you would never know the backyard had a garden different from everyone else on the street.  I wish more people would show their garden personalities in the front.  Wouldn't that make a street fun to walk down!

This little side path was beautiful.  Shady, cool, and with very interesting foliage.

Then suddenly you're in the back yard.  The grassless back yard.

She had taken out all of the grass and put in boxwood hedges.

These boxwood hedges formed beds of different sizes and shapes.  Some beds were square, some were triangular, some were curved.

There was something inside each boxwood bed.

Japanese maples, fountains, statues, daylilies, roses, ferns, and planters are just some of the things in these beds.

Pathways wound around, so that the walk around the garden was fun and interesting.  There were also several places to sit throughout the garden.

Although the majority of the hedges were boxwoods, other plants were used in some hedges.  This added a different height and dimension to the garden.

I think the key to this garden was that you could not see the entire thing from one area.  If this element had not been present, it might have made the garden seem crowded and jumbled.  Instead, the pieces you could see together coordinated well, and as you turned another corner, more pieces drew you toward them.

Hope you enjoyed the tour.  Which was your favorite garden on the tour this year?

In case you missed any, the other gardens on tour were:
Woodland Wonderland
Lakeside Living
Vision of Versailles
Artistically Amusing

And if you want to see more garden inspiration, check out these posts from last year:
So Peaceful
How Impressive
Just Incredible
Quite Relaxing
Such Fun

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