With the Best of Intentions

Yeah, it’s June and the last time I wrote a Blog here was in April. My bad.

Today I pulled gray shallots out of the ground — a plant I’d never tried before and probably won’t again. My ups and downs with gray shallots would’ve made a good Blog. But, no go.

I’ve had wild success with daylilies this year. Except. The ink on the labels I prepared vanished over the winter. I’ve no idea what’s what. That would’ve made a good Blog. But. Nope.

I’ve noticed a few new folks following in the last couple months, and I had to wonder why. NG-Blues started off as a record of the trials and tribulations of an inexperienced gardener.

In the last four years, I’ve learned … what? That with sunlight, water, weeding, and fertilizer, things that grow in Kansas will grow. That some things don’t grow in Kansas–blueberries, for example–without a degree of dedication and heroism I’m not willing to give. That it’s best to garden early in the morning before the bees arrive. That keeping track of when it rains makes decisions about watering easier.

So there it is.

Meanwhile, I’ve moved on to other projects that take a lot of time. My garden is up-to-date. My Blog, not so much.

A name change for the Blog is in order, and I’m thinking on it.

Meanwhile, here’s my favorite photo from this year’s flower garden. So far.

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April Fool

The joke’s on me! I had no time in March to write my second Blog. We had solar installed instead – quite the process. We’re still chasing pantry moths, though not as many. The exterminator I spoke with said, “It’s a process.” Indeed!

So what with one thing and another, I have had no time to Blog about the spring garden. And I’m not gardening because it turned cold – April Fools – and wet.

I’m out of excuses. Here are some of my favorite spring photos from the past week.

The sweet gum tree against the still-winter sky.

My three-year-old red bud. I was told it wouldn’t survive. It’s thriving!

Bleeding heart starting to bloom. A bit early.

Daffodils this week. Maybe tulips next if the sum comes out.

If the weather ever turns spring-like, I may Blog more. Happy April!

Words Matter

A couple years ago, I had great luck planting sugar snap peas. Only problem? The plants were so heavy with fruit that the stakes I used collapsed.

Heartened by that single success, I found, bought, and erected a pea tunnel, hoping to provide last year’s crop with greater support. Sadly, rabbits found their way into my pea bed last year. They ate the shoots emerging from the ground, and despite multiple plantings, no sugar snap peas.

Armed with products to deter rabbits and other critters, along with the addition of rabbit fencing to the bottom of my chain link fence, I bought some sugar snap pea seeds. The warm winter, with no cold weather in sight, encouraged me to think about planting in late February.

I ordered ‘early’ seeds. Here’s the blurb from the catalog.

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So imagine my surprise when I received the seeds in the mail and read the back label.

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Got that? Do not use for food, feed, or oil purposes.

Seriously? Why am I planting them? I reached for my phone to call the company and spoke with a very polite young man who listened to my story and then went ‘to check.’ Guess it struck him as odd, too.

Turns out, you’re not supposed to eat the SEEDS. They are treated with a fungicide called Thriam 42-S. I’ve provided the link to some EPA information, if you care to go to the trouble of looking it up.

Problem is, ‘don’t eat the seeds’ is not what the back of the seed packet implies. Something I hastened to point out to the seed catalog customer service guy. What the packet should have said was: Do not use the SEEDS for food, feed, or oil purposes.

Makes a difference, right?

Words matter. I might have written this Blog using some ‘alternative facts’ about this particular seed. The company sure left me an opening.

Words matter. Wish someone would tell that to our government. Wish someone would explain that to the media. But maybe they already know that. Maybe the goal is to tell so many lies that the truth is no longer discernable.

If that’s the case, look out!

We may all end up feasting on poison.

A Winter Experiment

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I promised two Blogs a month and here it is, January 26, with only one under my belt. I’ve had plenty of ideas. Too bad for me, they’ve all been some kind of political commentary. Lucky for you, they have stayed firmly where they belong. In my mind.

January has been a warm but wet month. Not complaining about the wet. I haven’t had to haul hose yet this winter. The warm temperatures are a bit of a worry, though, with its threat of climate change. Will eastern Kansas move from Zone 6 to Zone 7? Maybe not quite yet. And as far as gardening news, I have none.

But while scrolling through Face Book one afternoon, reading all the political sturm und drang, I read about growing vegetables from veggies bought at the store. Celery in particular. I found a bit of old celery in the fridge. Since it was destined for the trash, I cut it as described in the article, plunked it into a glass of water, put it in a sunny window, and promptly forgot it.

“What’s this?” Jim asked a week or so later.

Yes, by golly, the durn thing grew. Little celery leaves poked up out of the center of the old stalk.

I looked. No roots, so I wondered if the roots were inside the stalk. Nothing loath, I planted the entire stalk in a four inch African Violet pot with some AV soil. And now comes the experiment.

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How will I know success? When I have a bunch of celery I can eat. Honestly, I don’t think this method will ever replace going to the store and buying some. I don’t have room for hydroponics in my basement. But as an experiment into what works and what doesn’t, I’m curious. And open.

Which leads me to my amateur political punditry. We’re in the middle of a grand, disruptive experiment in our country. I was against it all the way, but I accept that it’s here. Like the celery, I don’t know whether this will be something we want to keep on doing once winter is done.

For me, I’ll know when I’ve had enough. I have a bottom line. People, not profits.

Those of you who follow me on Face Book know that I’ve been touting that mantra for the past few months. People, not profits. I’m hoping that our government has a heart for its people. If not, well, I hope the people know what to do next.

Onward to February!

Perfection

This year’s fall gardening catalogs began arriving at the end of July. How can a person not be tempted by the lush fields of daffodils, tulips, and lilies? Check out this photo, taken with my camera of a catalog offering.

Love this.  How many plants did it take between the slates to achieve the look?

Love this. How many plants did it take between the slates to achieve the look?

I think catalogs should provide disclaimers. Here are four:

Image appears larger than it will be in real life.

That humungous grape hyacinth? It’s only about six inches tall. At best. Will that climbing rose reach the top of the trellis? Uh – that’s a firm maybe!

It takes at least three years to achieve the lushness of the catalog photo.

Master gardeners know that in year one, a plant sleeps. In year two, it creeps. And finally, if you haven’t torn it out before now, in year three, it leaps. Ideally.

I have a gorgeous clematis (Rebecca) that never bloomed for the first five years. Now, it’s a wild and crazy bloomer. But getting there required more patience than I normally have. I needed blinders so as not to see that plant for 1,825 days, including winters.

You can’t afford the number of plants in the catalog depiction.

Well, maybe someone can. I can’t. Check the price. Instead of the massive field of glorious yellow daffodils bobbing in a gentle spring breeze, the winds of reality hit hard. Five bulbs, $14.95.

Speaking of fields of daffodils, I once bought one hundred bulbs of crocus, thinking that in late February or early March I’d have a swath of blue and yellow beautifulness under my still bare deciduous shrubs. The reality? Only about half of those bulbs germinated. Instead of being this gorgeous field of flowers, it just looked sad.

How many bulbs did it take to create this look?

How many bulbs did it take to create this look?

Flowers in your garden are never perfect.

Catalogs show flowers ironically untouched by nature. I’ve never seen a brown or yellow iris leaf in a catalog. Peonies are never flat on the ground after a rain. No dogs made a hole in that yew bush for a cool place to sleep. And where are the photos of spent daylilies or chrysanthemums in need of deadheading?

Now I’m not naïve! Perfect photos sell flowers. But last year, my cynical-self resolved to not buy from catalogs. In fact, I threw the catalogs away without so much as leafing through them.

This year, I need plants that I can only get in catalogs. I aim to keep expectations low. I’ve resolved to not look at the new plants with a jaundiced eye until 2019 or 2020. I’m living a new mantra.

Perfection takes time.

Signage

Last August, I had the first glimmering of an idea to incorporate all my rusty things, of which I have many, into a garden. You may have read A Garden of Rusty Things and, earlier this year, A Garden of Rusty Things Redux.

Somehow, my feet took me often to that small garden, with its climbing rose and clematis surrounded by new daylily hybrids. I would look at the apple and pecan trees, planted to the south and, serendipitously, all in a row. And I would think how wonderful to plant more trees on the other side, creating an apple tree allee. And what if it started in the Garden of Rusty Things and continued all the way back to the property line?

What about another climbing rose to twist around the gas tank? And some bushes. A couple cornus arctic fire and maybe a tuxedo weigela. How about a slate path from the rusty garden to the veggie garden?

And what about a sign?

On a whim, I trudged out to Etsy one afternoon to look for custom metal signs and found Vintage Sign Design. Working with Lori, the shop owner, was easy. A couple of back and forth emails, and we agreed on the design. The price was better than I expected, and the delivered item is exactly what I wanted. Lori promised it will rust over time.

The sign now hangs from my truck frame.

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Bushes and roses are on order. I’ve begun (with Jim’s help, of course) amending the soil around the gas tank for a fall planting. I need to look for two apple trees to start my allee.

More Garden of Rusty Things to come. Promise!

The Importance of Labels

In the summer of 2014, I had great success growing cantaloupe. We ended up with three melons, sweet, juicy and delicious. Last year, we had lots of vines and a couple of runty … well, I don’t know what to call them. I simply put it down to last year’s cool, wet weather.

Despite last year’s failure, we like cantaloupe. A lot. So why not try again?

You probably know that a vine will produce two, maybe three melons at best. This year, I decided to buy four plants. Twelve melons. Six to eat and six to gift. Everything was going along swimmingly until we spotted THIS on the vines.

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Excuse me. That is not a cantaloupe.

Yes, we did get a couple of cantaloupes. One – almost ripe yesterday – mysteriously vanished off its melon cradle. I found the remains back behind the burn pile. I hope that the thief – two-legged or four-legged – enjoyed my lunch.

And yes, I’m pretty sure that thing in my cantaloupe bed is a squash. It’s a particularly nasty squash with tiny hairs all over it. Jim and I planned to identify it when the first one ripened. But just as it started to turn yellow, it exploded. Gross! These are so awful, even the squash bugs haven’t attacked yet.

So how did I end up with squash instead of cantaloupe? I hate to think that the nursery mislabeled the plant. Maybe I didn’t bother to read the individual labels on the plants and just picked up squash set near the cantaloupe. Or, someone misplaced the squash label and replaced it with one that said cantaloupe.

Which got me thinking about the subject of labels in general. My mother taught that it’s not nice to label people. I wonder what she’d say about the name-calling going on right now. Arrogant, crooked, goofy, narcissistic, immoral, ignorant, loser… Sort of makes me remember what middle school was like. But enough about politics.

I promise not to call names or blame. I’d just like to remind all the nurseries I buy from about the importance of labels.