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 7: Before & After


I can never tell which I enjoy looking at more: the unopened bud or the full bloom. 

There’s something very exciting about looking at an unopened flower.  There’s promise and wonder and anticipation.  It’s like staring at a gift with your name on it that’s been sitting under the Christmas tree for weeks — only you can’t shake it or pry open the wrapping paper to get a peak.  But you know in your heart, that tied up in that puckered green bundle is a treasure of pure beauty: the flower that you always wanted. 

Since it is better to give than to receive, may I present two buds and the two ensuing blooms in the mid-August garden.

Before: Teddy Bear Sunflower

 

After: Teddy Bear Sunflower

 

Before: "Vancouver" Dahlia

 

After: "Vancouver" Dahlia

                                                              

Bloomin’ Update 5: Hot Colors & Cool Thoughts


Hot colors in the heat dome.

The newscasters and weather forecasters are having a field day with the heat wave.  They’re frying eggs on the pavement and baking cookies in cars and they have a new term, “heat dome,” to describe the blistering weather pattern.  The urgency in their voices reminds me of “The Twilight Zone” episode where the Earth is moving closer to the sun.  These are the same people, mind you, who whip up winter hysteria when snow is predicted.  It seems that no matter what Mother Nature throws at us, she’ll never make everyone happy.

I must admit, though, I am enjoying the heat dome — or as I call it, summer.  Yes, it’s hot, and yes, I’m spending lots of time quenching my thirsty plants.  For lots of reasons — too many to get into here  —  I like the warmth.  I like the casualness of the season.  And I like the time spent in the garden, because the days of the heat dome are numbered. 

In honor of this sentiment, I would like to share a few hot colors from around the yard, as well as a few cool thoughts to remind us of what was and what will come.

My reward for saving Canna corms each autumn.

The potting shed.

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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.

No Sunflowers, Ever!


In my last post, I made brief mention of my Mommie Dearest moment — a not-so-proud incident that clearly illustrated the ugly and, yes, comedic side of gardening.  I had asked people to remind me to tell the story, and they have.  So here it is.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a backyard not so far away, there lived a young gardener, me.  Joe and I had recently purchased his parents’ home, and the yard presented us with a blank canvas.  I had always enjoyed gardening as a kid, but that was usually relegated to the family’s vegetable plot.  Now, I had a whole yard and a big vision and no money.  The layout in the back was pretty basic.  There was a large built-in pool with red and green patio blocks surrounding it.  To the east, there was an area of pebbles and stones, and this led to a small lawn.  The rocks were held in place by a low wall of cinder blocks, all placed on their sides.

I decided to start small one year, and I planted marigolds in each of the cinder block openings.  They did quite well, thriving on neglect and heat.  The following year, though, I saw on Martha Stewart’s early television show that she grew gigantic sunflowers and would harvest her own home-grown sunflower seeds.  Then, in true Martha-style, she would even hang some of the flower heads in the trees to feed birds and squirrels.  The whole idea sounded like an eco-friendly winner.

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