Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I'm Being Poisoned!

Poison.  When it gets in you, it courses through your body.  You have no control over where it may attack, how strong it will be, how it will affect you, or how long the effects will last.

I'm being poisoned.

It was a surprise when I realized it, and now I am left wondering:

When is this torture going to end?

Wait a minute!  Don't arrest Mr. Holleygarden yet!

I'm being poisoned by - poison ivy.  Or poison sumac.  I'm not really sure which.  I just know it's something poisonous!

I think this is the offender!

Yes, I am medicating all those red spots.  Trying not to scratch.  All the time thinking:

Surely, this torture has to end!

Somehow, I run into poison ivy every year.  You'd think I'd be immune by now!  Or that I would have eradicated it.  But, obviously I've done neither.

It started on my waist.  Apparently, there was a gap between my shirt and my shorts when I was bending over weeding, and without my knowledge, it must have dripped on me.

That was a month ago!

Then it spread to my upper back.  Up my head, under my hair.  On my shoulders.  Arms.  Then to my legs.

And now, on my waist.

Again.  :(

Is it ever going to end???

I'm beginning to have doubts.

In other, brighter, news, Helene of Graphicality-UK has awarded me the Illuminating Blogger Award.

Thanks, Helene!  I really appreciate it.  

I am supposed to pass the Illuminating Blogger award on to five other bloggers.  I am going to pass on that requirement, as it has become increasingly difficult for me to pick out only a few blogs.

I am also supposed to give one random piece of information about myself.  Hmmmm......  here's one:
For years I thought barbed wire was spelled Bob wire because that's how it's pronounced with a Texas drawl.  Bob wire.  :)  I even wondered who "Bob" was!

Poison ivy.  Barbed wire.  Trust me - you don't want to get into either one!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Like Lemon Sorbet

Lemon sorbet is used to cleanse the palate between courses in a meal.

Last week, I was treated to a vacation in Galveston, and it was glorious.  Instead of weeding, I waded through seaweed.  Instead of mowing, I plowed through waves of salt water.  Instead of the buzzing of the bees, I listened to the melodic sound of waves crashing against the shore.  Instead of dreaming up new garden areas, I snoozed under a big beach umbrella.

No computer.  No cell phone.  No camera.

And even more surprising - no itinerary!  Usually, I plan activities hour by hour on my vacations.  But this time, the itinerary only read:  Lounge at Beach.

It was like a lemon sorbet.  

When I came back, I viewed my garden differently.  

There were some pleasurable flavors.

But as a whole, my garden dish fell short of tasty.  

For instance, many of the plants in my garden need to be cut back.  The last of the spring vegetable garden needs to be harvested, and planning (and planting!) for the fall garden should have already begun.  The hedges need a trim.  I haven't finished mulching.  And the weeds!  Oh, the weeds!  

And still, when I look at my garden, I see the dream.  I can almost taste the dish I'm trying to serve.

Sure, it's still a mess.  But it's not always going to be that way.  One day it will be finished, and it will be beautiful.  At least, that's the dream.  And the dream is all that matters.

The vacation was wonderful.  Like a lemon sorbet, it cleared my mind, and I am ready to cook up the next course.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Garden Book Reviews July 2012

I don't do facebook.  I don't tweet.  I don't keep up with movie stars.  Or authors.  Somewhere I randomly read that P. Allen Smith has a new farm home, but I know no other tidbits of information.  Just this one fact, however, has made me wonder about his suburban home that was the subject of his book, P. Allen Smith's Garden Home: Creating a Garden for Everyday Living.  I wonder about the home because I love the book, and the glimpses of his garden that were in it.

This book was an impulse purchase.  I was in a bookstore.  I was in the gardening section.  (Of course!) 

I was not going home without something to read.  That is, not if I could pick out a book fast enough, as I was being hurried along.  So I was quickly thumbing though some gardening books, and picked up Mr. Smith's book.  I liked the photos, and it was either buy a book, or go home empty.  So, this was the book I bought.

I am so glad I did!

At the time I bought it, I was trying to design my garden.  I was looking for some help, and some inspiration.

I got both.

This book is about the garden Mr. Smith made encircling his suburban home.  He designed several different garden rooms, each leading to the other, yet each room is unique, beautiful, and functional.  He explains how he took design elements, and fit them to his garden space (such as scaling down an English border for his front garden room).

His garden is broken into 12 different areas.  There are plenty of photos of each space, an explanation of each are, and a map of the entire garden on page 30.  His garden does have a lot of formal elements to them, which I like.  If you don't like formality in your garden, you will probably not enjoy this book as much as I do.  Perhaps another book would work better for you.

I was amazed how much he could pack into one suburban lot.  There is a water feature, a dining space, vegetable beds, and even a service area.  (Design a service area!?  What a great idea!)  Each space had something I wanted to use in my garden in some capacity.  Even now, when I look through this book, I find ideas I want to use somewhere in my garden.

After showing us his garden, Mr. Smith then explains 12 design principles.  I probably didn't get as much from these design principles as Mr. Smith would have wanted, although they gave me a lot to think about, and there are still a lot of creative ideas in this section.

This photo, taken in May, shows several of Mr. Smith's design principles at work:
Enclosure, Focal Point, Structures, Color, and Abundance

The last section is about creating your own garden home, with practical advice about shape, areas, pathways, privacy, views, walls, etc.  There are no pretty pictures in this section.  This section is like a workbook for you to think about what will actually work in your own particular space.

If you are in the creation stage of your garden, and you like a touch of formality in gardens, you will like this book.  Check it out.  Every time I add a new area to my garden, I go back through this book.  It always gives me an idea or two I can adjust to my own garden.


Do you have a garden book to share?  I'd love for you to join in!  Any book with a gardening influence in it qualifies!

And be sure to visit the other participants, too!  :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I love to see dragonflies.  There are many times I see them when I'm out in the garden.

Sometimes I will see a swarm of them.  Why do I consider them "The Good"?  They eat mosquitoes, ants, and termites.  If you want more information on dragonflies, check out my post HERE.

This creature is considered "The Bad" by most gardeners.  Grasshoppers have five eyes and no ears.  Yet they can still hear, thanks to some strange organ on their stomachs!  There are thousands of different species of grasshoppers, and can be found around the world, except at the North and South Poles.  The locust is a type of grasshopper.  Grasshoppers eat about one-half their body weight every day. In areas of high infestation, they've been known to eat the paint off of buildings!  If only we could teach the grasshoppers to eat just weeds, they would go from being considered The Bad to being The Good!

This particular grasshopper is the Obscure Bird Grasshopper (Schistocerca obscura).  It was as long as one of my fingers!  I don't think I've ever seen a grasshopper as big as this one.  And there were several on this plant!  One of the most interesting facts I read about grasshoppers was that some people claim to be able to determine the temperature with a grasshopper.  If you count the number of chirps for 15 seconds, and add 39, that is supposedly the temperature in Fahrenheit degrees.  Maybe I'll give that a try!

Finally, The Ugly:  Black widow spiders are considered the most poisonous spider in North America.  We have tried for years to eliminate our population of black widow spiders here, but we still find them quite regularly.  Black widows lay around 300 to 400 eggs per cocoon, and lay about four cocoons every summer.  I guess that's why we have never totally eliminated them.

I'm certain the male black widow spiders don't think the females are ugly.  But little do they know that she may make a meal of them!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's July's Bloom Day!

It's July!  It's July!  It's July!  And that can sometimes mean unbearable heat, drought conditions, and dormant blooms.  But not this July!

While most of the country is having unusual weather, our weather report here is: normal.  Normal!  Hot, but not triple digit heat.  Scattered showers.  No storms, no drought.  My roses are still blooming, and it's cool enough to work outside in the early mornings.  I feel for those in areas of the country that are suffering from unusually high heat and drought conditions.  We went through that last year.  I'm glad Mother Nature decided to give us a break and let us have some normal weather for a change.  I wonder how long this normal weather will last.  It seems 'normal' and 'weather' just don't seem to go together very often!

So what's blooming in my garden for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day?  Here's just a few photos:  Enjoy!

Kronprinzessin Viktoria


Perle d'Or


Koko Loco

Crape Myrtle

Red Cascade cascading over Carnival Glass

White salvia

Gruss an Aachen

Even a confused iris decided to bloom!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mulch Better!

You may be getting tired of seeing my mulching progress.  But, I am so thrilled to have some of these beds reclaimed!

Yes, believe it or not, there's a rose in there!

This is a New Dawn rose by the gazebo (to match the New Dawn by the arbor).  It was planted this spring with the best of intentions.  But, you know the old saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  :(

So, although I had the best of intentions, things got in the way, as they so often do, and I didn't get around to getting the area around this rose edged and mulched until now.  Poor rose!  I bet it did think it had gone to a really bad place!

But now that my good intentions have turned into action, I bet it will only take a year or two for my rose to be looking quite heavenly in its little home by the gazebo.  Grow, rose, grow!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taming the Beast

"Have you been working in your garden?", a friend of mine asked me the other day.  "You haven't been letting us know on your blog."

Oh, how sweet of you to wonder - and to keep up with my blog!

Well, there's a reason I haven't been blogging my progress.  Because parts of my garden have become beastly!  And I didn't want to scare anyone!

But, I've taming the beasts.  Just look for yourself.

This was Before:

Yes, this is a bed!  :O

There are hollies planted in this bed, but they're hard to see because the weeds have taken over.  The brown holly (it's not quite dead) is suffering because the weeds are so high, they are blocking the water from the misting system.

Was that you I just heard screaming?  Will this haunt you in your dreams?  Give you nightmares?  I know it's ugly.  And scary.

A real monster.

Did music soothe the savage beast?  No, hard work did!

I worked:

  • 45 minutes digging the trench for the edging
  • 2 hours putting in the edging  (Yes, I know I was supposed to put the edging in before I put in the plants.  This is one reason monsters start to grow.)
  • 5 hours putting down cardboard and mulching  (Broken up into two work sessions.)

I also took one day off for housework, one day for a non-gardening appointment, and one day going to get more edging and mulch!  This one bed holds about 2 yards of mulch, and it's not put down very deep.

This is the After:

Ah, much better!  This monster's gone for now.  I have others, but it's going to be o.k.  Nothing to be afraid of.  Remember, no matter how bad a garden looks, it can be tamed with just a few hours of work (usually).

Sweet dreams!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Same Place, Different Side

Yesterday I worked on the same area as I did the day before, just on the other side.  This time, though, I only put in one length of edging, and just a little bit of mulch.  Why didn't I complete this bed like I did on other side?  Well, eventually, it will join and become a part of the East bed.  And that's going to have to wait until a bigger project day!

I also cut off the wire cage I had on a tree.  I had put the wire around the tree trunk so the cats wouldn't damage it.  It worked great, but that was quite a few years ago, and the tree trunk was being squeezed by the wire, so off it went.  Actually, I have been meaning to do this chore for about 3 years!  I just now made myself actually take the 5 minutes to do it.

Wow, that could almost be embarrassing to admit!

Lastly, I weeded just a fraction of the East bed.  I could have, would have, should have done more, but it's a big bed.  Instead, I decided one hour of work was plenty.  After all, it was Friday!  (Sometimes any excuse will do to get out of the heat!)

Before I quit, though, I decided to harvest the tomatoes.  Did they need it?  Oh, yes they did!  I got an entire box full.  They will be used to make salsa!  Yum!  (Us Texans love salsa!)  I had meant to weed the sweet potatoes, but I completely forgot to do this!  Oops!  Maybe I'll remember tomorrow.

And I'll leave you with a joy from the garden:

The water lilies are looking beautiful right now!

Friday, July 6, 2012

What Happened Yesterday?

Do you ever wonder what it takes to make a garden?  Do you ever wonder what's going on "behind the curtains"?  Do you ever wonder how much work is involved?  Does it bother you that the work doesn't generally get mentioned on gardening blogs?  Well, I have numerous projects, and I need to work every day to get them done, so for my own motivation, I thought I'd let you in on how much work I do (or how much I don't).  Feel free to ask questions!

What did I do yesterday?

I prepared a new garden area.  Kind of.

This is a small area next to my vegetable garden.  I wanted to tie the arbor to the vegetable bed with a planting area, make it easier (hopefully) to mow around, and finally (finally!) plant the rose I bought this spring to go next to the arbor (it's a New Dawn rose - I know all my rosy friends will want to know that).

I started by watering the ground well, so I could get a shovel into it!  Then I spray painted where I wanted to place the edging.  The edging from the vegetable garden to the arbor was simple.  One side was a straight line, exactly the length of the edging.  The other side I curved in order to exactly fit two lengths of edging.  I liked the design, so I took a shovel and dug a very thin trench, fit the edging into the trench, and hammered in the stakes that hold the edging down.

How to do it right:
After this step, you should shovel out all the grass.

How I did it:
I'm always looking for shortcuts.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  I hate shoveling out grass, so I opted for a shortcut.  I laid down cardboard (I've been saving it for months), and mulched on top.  This method works fairly well.  I still get grass coming up here and there, which I pull by hand.  Sometimes I get a lot of grass still coming up, and in those instances, I just put down another layer of cardboard and mulch over that patch of grass.

Some tips:
It's best to prepare the beds six months to a year before you plant, although I do plant shrubs with this method.  I just have to be diligent to pull any grass that comes up next to the shrubs.  Be sure not to get the mulch too close to the plant stems.  And only use plain cardboard.  Do not use boxes that have a painted or glossy finish on them, as these have toxins.  Water after putting down the cardboard, and again after putting down the mulch.

How long I worked:
I'm slow, but I'm steady.  It took me about 3-1/2 hours to complete this job.  It was almost too much for a hot summer's day, but I wanted to finish, so I did.  I did take several breaks, and drank lots of water.  And, of course, it took me quite some time to find all the tools I needed.

The bad:
There is still some grass coming up between the vegetable bed and the newly mulched area.  I'll end up pulling this by hand, but that's a chore for another day.

A joy from the garden:
Gruss An Aachen.  I love this rose!  Isn't it just the most beautiful color?!

What will I do today?
I'll let you know tomorrow!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Harvesting the Big Boys

I have loved these big boys the entire time.  They started out as just a tiny seed.  Hard to imagine how something so big could come from something so tiny.

Then they started growing - like a weed!  Actually, they grew taller, stronger, and more majestic than any weed around here.  Their stiff stalks seemingly grew to the skies.  Then blooms appeared.

Fun, cheerful blooms.  They were happy.  And they made me happy.

Then they began to age and grow old.  Their faces began to drop.  Their petals began to fall.  Although they still put on a mighty show, it was apparent that they were declining rapidly.

And then the day came.  It was time to harvest the sunflower seeds.  How do you know when to harvest sunflowers?  The back of their heads turn yellow.

You may even see some of the seeds underneath.

If you wait too long, you may lose some seeds.

The dried brown stuff, and the yellow/green pods on the heads can just be wiped away.  (Not sure what to call this, so I'm using "brown stuff" as the technical term!)

Some people keep the heads on, and place paper bags on them to catch the falling seeds.  Some people cut off their heads and hang them up to dry.  Some just lay them out where air can circulate around them.  The seeds are easily tickled out of the heads.  Since I didn't have a good spot to hang them, I decided to lay mine out.

I ran across a vendor selling sunflower seed heads at the farmers market.  Although I enjoy eating them raw, she shared this recipe with me for salted and roasted sunflower seeds:

1 cup Sunflower seeds
2 qts. water
1/2 cup salt
  1. Add water and salt in a pot or saucepan.  Rinse sunflower seeds and remove any plant and flowerhead matter.  (Notice she doesn't use the technical term "brown stuff", but the more sophisticated "flowerhead matter".  I'll have to remember that.)
  2. Add sunflower seeds to the water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
  3. Simmer 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  4. Drain on a paper towel until dry.  Do not rinse. 
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spread seeds on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Stir frequently.
  6. Remove from oven when they are slightly brown.

She also said that, at least in Texas, if you plant now, you can harvest them in the fall.  So, if you want to grow your own sunflower seeds, you just might want to give this a try!  Remember, the smaller sunflowers are purely ornamental.  If you want to harvest sunflower seeds, get the big boys.

The black seeds are from the sunflower 'American Giant', while the white seeds are from the sunflower 'Mammoth'.  Both will be good to eat!

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