Bloomin’ Update 34: Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘Bout Miss Thing


There is a certain sadness when I look about the waning October garden.  So many blooms have faded and turned to seed; so many leaves have dulled.

And then there are the red hot flowers, looking a bit out of place and overly made-up amid the first flush of autumn’s golds and yellows and rusts.

Celosia — a few plants from last summer reseeded themselves for this year’s garden. Surprise!

And that’s when my imagination takes hold.

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Bloomin’ Update 28: I Went To A Garden Party . . .


It seems that quite suddenly, summer has brought the entire world into bloom — and that means hosting a whole bunch of guests to a bloomin’ banquet.  There’s plenty to eat and drink — so, bring a chair, sit back, and relax.

First up: butterflies.  I’m not sure what type of butterfly this is, but the garden is full of them.  They really don’t socialize with the other guests, and can often be found in pairs, fluttering about in mid-air and playing among the lavender.

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A Pot To Call My Own


It seems like only yesterday that I planted these Geraniums, the first of this year’s seeds to be started early — and here they are, all grown up and ready to be moved into individual pots.  The truth is I am always caught off guard each year.  I know this day has to come – and then all at once, all of the sprouts have their first set of true leaves, an indication that I’ve got a lot of transplanting to do. 

Step 1:  I moisten a batch of seed starting mix, which is a little lighter and airier than potting soil and so roots do not have to work as hard to develop and grow.  Keeping the mixture moist not only creates a damp environment for the transplant, but it also keeps down the dust factor for your lungs.  I then fill the cell packs with the mixture.  Using a pencil or the tongue depressor plant label, I make some room for the transplant, deep enough so the roots can grow downward.

Step 2: I then ease the seedling from it’s starting pot.  This can be a little tricky.  I use the plant label as a shovel to help bring out the seedling.  In a starting pot that is more densely packed, I usually unpot the whole thing, resting the potless soil and seedlings on the potting bench.  I am then able to pry out each individual seedling, working from the perimeter to the middle, without disurbing the roots of the neighboring plants.

Step 3: At this stage, be very careful in how you handle the seedling.  I do not hold the plant by its stem or by the first set of true leaves.  Everything is still a little delicate — kind of like the soft spot on a baby’s head — and I wouldn’t want to crush any of  the developing plant cells.  Instead, the only thing I handle are the cotyledon leaves, the “baby leaves,” since these will eventually die as the plant continues to grow.

Step 4: With my plant label “tool,” I place the seedling into it’s new pot.  My goal is to help the roots into the hole’s depth, rather than bunching up near the surface.  I think this helps the overall health of the plant, especially as it continues to mature and is ultimately planted in the garden.  Deeper root development helps to prevent the plant from drying out in arid conditions.

Step 5:  Finally, I place the pot in a tray of water for bottom watering.  At this stage, I do not want to compact the soil mixture too much with watering from above, since that would hinder healthy root development.

 

Now that the Geraniums are transplanted, all I have left are Amaranth, Impatiens, Salvia, Candytuft . . . Hmmmm . . . Do you suppose this is why Joe scratches his head in disbelief each year? 

Book Review: 1493


When children recite, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” perhaps a more appropriate question would be, “From where does your garden grow?”  That’s the question I ‘m asking myself this Columbus Day weekend after reading the best-selling new book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann.  This meticulously researched book examines the world after Columbus set foot in North America. 

While Columbus certainly has his critics, there can be no mistaking that his arrival in the New World placed the entire world on the globalization frontier.  The author’s position is that much of what we enjoy today can be traced back to what he calls the Columbian Exchange, a means of moving plants and seeds and animals from one part of the world to another part.  It is why, for example, that tomatoes arrived in Italy and citrus arrived in Florida.  So much of what we take for granted wasn’t always so; and much of it would not be if Columbus had not set the process in motion. 

I myself am a bit of a mutt: English, Scottish, German, French, and Italian.  My paternal ancestors arrived in North America in 1675; my maternal great-grandfather entered through Ellis Island.  While this is my gene pool, I wonder just how diverse and worldly is my garden? 

Thanks to the Internet and Google, I learned that what I plant has traveled a long way to be planted.  In fact, my garden could be a lesson for world leaders seeking peace.   Although it heavily favors Asia and Central and South Americas, there is little conflict in plants from many lands successfully sharing common ground.   (Note to self: bring Australia into the mix, but wait until full-out global warming for Antarctica to come into bloom.) 

And to think my melting pot only took 518 years — and still counting — to plant. 

Happy Columbus Day — and enjoy the weekend in the garden.

Bloomin’ Update 10: Autumn Joy


My plan was to have a post featuring the blooms of the waning days of summer.  With camera in hand, I captured bees tending to their chores on a day that felt more like July than September.  If you could see their bee faces, I’m sure they were aglow with autumn joy.

 Then, in a matter of hours, a cold front roared through.  The clouds thickened and darkened, the wind grew stronger, and fat drops of rain splattered everything.  And all the while, the temperature plummeted — so much so, that by sunset, it felt like late October.  When I looked out of a window, I saw the last canna bloom (was that a shiver?) glowing.  I again grabbed the camera, this time to capture the canna’s last stand — and I was blown away by the vividness of color.

 
I wondered what other flowers and plants would look like surrounded by chilled darkness and then the glare of a flash.  I was limited in my selection because of the time of year, but I did (surprisingly) capture a noisy cricket in the ivy that climbs up the maple tree.  He’s resting on the large leaf at the bottom of the photo.
 
   
Now the Zinnias, a little battered and chewed up, but still holding on to their color.
 
 
 
This Blanket Flower is probably wishing that it had a blanket.
 

A few of the old standbys:  a faded Hydrangea (take that Madonna!), Liriope spikes, Coleus “Tartan,” and a Caladium close-up.

 

The Sunflower Sisters, one streaked with orange, the second like a faded version of the first, and the third looking more like celestial eclipse.

Finally, another glimpse of “Autumn Joy” Sedum.  The bees were probably in a state of suspended animation at this hour and temperature.

My late-night expedition into the garden was a wonderful way to close-out summer.  (Note to self: Next year, don’t wait until the end of summer for a nighttime photo shoot.)  Looking back on this growing season, it was exciting to enter the blogging world and to share my life and garden with you.  I appreciate greatly all of the comments and encouragement.  Now, it’s time for cleaning up, digging and storing tender bulbs, protecting terracotta pots, and the never-ending raking — in other words, the joys of autumn.

Bloomin’ Update 3: Welcome Home


We arrived home late last night, and the first thing I did today was to take a walk around the yard.  Joe’s mom did an excellent job at keeping things alive during our brief heatwave.  I cannot believe what popped while we were away for only a few days.  I thought I would share my findings here.

This lacecap Hydrangea impresses me each year. First, because of the violet color. Second, because of the size of the flowers.

One of my favorite easy-to-grow-from-seed flowers: Cosmos. Please excuse the shriveled one -- it's been a hot couple of days.

I'm not sure of the name of this plant, and I'm not sure if it's a curse or a blessing. It's practically invasive, spreading by means of runners. The clumps of pink flowers, however, are sweetly smelling and perfume the air, especially at night.

This is my reward for saving this Geranium each year. I actually planted this from seed several years ago, and I cannot part with the hot color.

I decided to give Sunflowers another try. According to the seed packet, this is "Italian White." Does this look white to you? Is yellow the new white in Italy?

Meet Nelly Moser. I thought I lost this Clematis over the winter after a wind storm ripped the trellis out of the ground. I put the trellis back into the ground, and "Whoa, Nelly," she returned.

I planted Morning Glory seeds around the same trellis as Nelly Moser. This is a double flowering variety.

Normally, I stick with traditional red Geraniums. This year, I started white ones from seed, and I'm glad I did. Seeing them poolside reminds me of the colors of Santorini.

Campanula ready to burst open.

Please, humor me with another Hydrangea photo. This is just outside of the front door, and began as one those Easter gift plants that was forced to bloom too early.

Morning Glory


For all of my life, I have been a morning person.  As a kid, I loved being the first person awake in the house — especially on a Saturday morning.  That was prime television watching time, and I didn’t have to share the clicker.  As an adult, my favorite morning is Sunday — it’s designed for pre-crowd food shopping, breakfast, a leisurely read of the newspaper, a crossword puzzle, and a nap — all before 11:00 a.m. 

Drops of rainwater on an Elephant Ear leaf look like beads of liquid silver in this morning's light.

Now that I’m on summer vacation, mornings are even more special.  You see, I love my garden in the morning — and there are some times when morning almost feels like a religious experience.  The light is soft.  The air is fresh.  As the sun starts to warm the air, the dew evaporates, so that the few rays of light are like beams.

But it’s the human silence that I appreciate.   For many of us, this is the closest we can come to feeling alone, as if we were the first person to set foot on this land.  There are no lawnmowers revving.  No cars and sounds of traffic.  No voices.  Just a non-stop soundtrack of songbirds — sparrows, robins, doves, cardinals — all stirring to greet the day alongside me.

Yes, the garden changes throughout the day, and volumes of poetry could be written about the garden and the play of light and shadows as the day goes on.  I just think there is more of an intimacy in the morning.  The plants seem to agree with me.  They appear rested and alive and alert, as if they are determined to put on their best show.

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