Thursday, August 29, 2013

Meeting the Teacher

I was recently asked by writer Kristy Gillespie of Keep Calm and Write On  to reveal a few facts about myself. Normally, I would save a post like this for winter when my garden is dormant and I don't have much to write about. But since my sixth grade science students will soon be learning all about me, I thought I'd share a few facts about myself with you, too.

1. All the horrible rumors about me are true. Yes, I will give you a bathroom pass but no, you can't have one every 10 minutes. No, I don't give homework over the weekend and yes, I will call your parents if you poke him one more time. Yes, you must write in complete sentences at all times in my class and no, you may not play with your cell phone lest you experience my Lightening Fast Cell Phone Snatch. You can have it back at the end of the day. Here's a tissue for your tears. Go sit down.



2. I have a ridiculous memory. I can remember events from five years ago in absolute detail but can't remember why I'm in the kitchen. I'm only 44 but expect full blown dementia to strike at any moment. If you find me wandering down the road buck naked and mumbling, just put a bell on me and bring me back home. Thank you in advance.



3.  I would spend all day in my pajamas if I could. If it were socially appropriate, I would wear them to work. I cannot reconcile my love of pajamas with my love of fashion and often find myself in a "What should I wear?" quandary. It's painful.


These will be the perfect compliment to my garden gnome pajamas.

4. Never having been down a road before is all the motivation I need to give it a try. If I don't like where I end up, I'll just make a U-turn. Quite simple, really.



5. I avoid all plants that are stabby, with the exception of my roses, those beautiful sadists intent on impaling me at every turn.



6. I am an outgoing, social person swirled with a need for solitude. I will occasionally retreat into my turtle shell and close the doors behind me. I'm never gone for long. Just knock if you're worried.



7. It's hard to beat me at Scrabble, my favorite game. However, I'm fairly non-competitive and we play by house rules, meaning the less tiles we have, the looser the "rules" become. Naughty words in foreign languages? Absolutely!



8. A friend and I once had a very deep, philosophical discussion on what type of flower our personalities most resembled. I am anything that resembles a daisy: What you see is what you get. I like to think I'm full of mystery and intrigue but I'm not. I need to work on that.



9. I'm a kamikaze shopper. I go in, find what I need, and leave. The idea of spending all day wandering around a shopping mall is not my idea of fun. But I love online shopping because I can do it in my pajamas. Because I occasionally forget what I've ordered, it's an excellent way to surprise myself.



10. I have no desire to be a copy of anybody else. I am my own authentic, unique self.  I was born original. Why die a clone?


Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Bit of a Ramble


 Mystery bug on white mist flower

This summer has been mostly kind to my garden. Despite the bunnies and various fungal diseases, it's been a good season. I have two big projects underway for the fall that involved removing a lot of grass and bringing in about 600 lbs of rocks that I slowly hauled myself. But right now the rock pile and naked soil are simply accessories to a happy garden.


Toad lily take over by the Big Daddy rain barrel


These were given to me by a friend and I have no idea what the cultivar's name is. They thrive in bright, moist shade. I love how weird the flowers are.


Despite still suffering from black spot, my 'Graham Thomas' rose has made a come back and is covered in flowers. Yay! This late fall/early winter, I'll be implementing my Rose Rescue Plan to reduce black spot in my garden.


This picture is too bright, but shows my light pink crape myrtles in full bloom.


Pink and frothy, crape myrtles grow across the southeast.


A friend gave me a chunk of blue mist flowers that she dug out of her meadow. They're tough and have spread across my garden but I don't mind. They planted themselves in my rain garden and have thrived so well I'm adding more seedlings this fall.


This is the same plant as the top photo, just in blue. I like them both.



I bought this as a half dead zinnia that seemed like it just needed a little love. A lot of water and fertilizer later, it's filled out and is covered with these cool orange flowers. The older the flower, the greater the difference in color saturation between the edges of the petals and the interior. I'm going to save some seeds and grow these again next summer.


Believe it or not, these 'Goldsturm' rudbeckia grow in half day shade. The mountain mint in the back is taking over and I've decided to give it free reign. Whatever I plant next to it will always have to fight for space, anyway. The mountain mint is easy to grow and is much loved by the pollinators.


Verbena and oregano


I winter sowed these malva 'Zebrina' and they're thriving in the rain garden. They were badly chewed by the bunnies but have made a fabulous come back. I'm planning on growing them again next year.


Mason bee covered in pollen


'Blue Fortune' agastache and the trumpet creeper


I am enormously talented at killing all purple sedum. I've managed to keep this one alive the whole summer by just ignoring it. The bees are grateful.


These 'Button Box' zinnias were supposed to be a foot tall but are almost two feet tall instead. No worries! They bloom non-stop and are super easy to grow. All of my zinnias have surprised me this summer, which I think is a bit funny.


Zinnias and tomatoes on a windowsill


I was playing around with the exposure when I took this picture. I love the way it turned out. I almost looks like I knew what I was doing instead of clicking buttons like a monkey.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slightly Tongue-Tied Tuesday


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on the 'Ava' agastache

It was so humid when I was taking this photo, the camera lens was fogging up. I grow 'Ava' in a giant ceramic pot bought on the cheap from Home Goods since our clay soil doesn't provide the perfect drainage it needs. It overwinters every year. It is also much loved by the hummingbirds. That's it. Shortest post ever! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Maybe a Pepper, Maybe a Bean


I grow carrots in a pot in my container garden. I threw several packs of multicolored carrots seeds into this pot and called it a day. I thinned out the weird ones and fed them to my worms.

I have decided to become a carrot farmer. Seriously. I have several compelling reasons for my sudden change of career. 1) Carrot foliage is pretty, which I know is a shallow and ridiculous reason, but so what. 2) Carrot foliage is a food source for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars and I like butterflies. 3) I can grow carrots without having to face death  or deal with drunk slugs and bean chomping bunnies.


Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in the carrot foliage


Ok, I can grow tomatoes, too. But not without risking life and limb, which I find highly irritating. Please do not be excited by the Yellow Brandywine tomato below. It's growing in a container, which could be idiotic or it could be brilliant. The verdict is still out.


This tomato was huge!


It was deep yellow inside and very sweet.


Here's the NanoFarm. Try not to get lost. The next tour starts at 12. My storm damaged Rose of Sharon is blooming in the background. 'Yellow Brandywine' is a potato leafed heirloom tomato best grown in the ground because they get huge. The big yellow ball you see is a bird house not a massive tomato. But don't tell my tomatoes that. I'm hoping it will inspire them to greatness.

I hadn't planned on growing giant tomato plants at all. But then I picked up the seeds in a seed swap so I planted them and they grew so then I had over a dozen tomato seedlings so I kind of fell in love with them a bit so then I knew I had to find a spot for them somewhere.....


This is the bottom of one of my tomato plants. To keep disease at bay and help prevent wind from knocking the pots over, I've trimmed away all the bottom leaves. Does it look like the tomatoes are growing at the top of a suburban mountain?


To maximize the amount of space and sunlight in my garden, I decided to create my NanoFarm in the steepest possible spot. If I could hire a mountain goat to check on the tomatoes for me, I would.


There are several more stairs missing from this photo. Repelling gear will be handy if I ever slip and fall. So will a hospital bed. My tomato plants are in the pots at the top of the stairs. Growing tomatoes in a pot helps prevent soil borne disease because I use fresh potting soil every year. But they dry out quickly so I water them every day. I supplement their water with a big splash of liquid kelp and have added dried alfalfa meal and Mater Magic to their soil. Note to self: Stop feeding the tomatoes and give them whiskey instead. They're too big! Must stunt growth....


This would fit nicely on my tombstone.


An unemployed trellis was put to work holding up heavy branches that fell over in
  a breeze


I need a tougher tomato.


Velcro straps from the hardware store are an excellent way to attach the stakes, poles, shepherd's crook, and whatever else I could find to secure the branches to the tomato cage.


I also use them to tie the wayward tomato branches to whatever strong metal object is closest.


Various swirly metal stakes help keep these huge plants upright.


Because I am a genius of unparalleled talent, I forgot to cage my Principe Bourghese tomatoes before my trip to England in June. They fell over in a storm and are currently growing sideways. But that's ok. We're cool like that here. Principe Bourghese tomatoes are grown to be used as sun dried tomatoes. I wintersowed these seeds and the damn things actually grew. I was shocked.


In my tomato frenzy I imagined thousands of tomatoes drying in the sun on the walls of my stone patio in Italy. Then the caffeine wore off and I dug out the dehydrator left over from a rather chewy foray into beef jerky making.


Watch out world! I am now the proud owner of exactly 10 not-sun dried tomatoes!


'Bush Porto Rico' sweet potatoes grow at the base of the tomatoes. These are the easiest vegetables I've ever grown. I just stick the slips into the pots and keep them watered. That's it. With all the rain we've had this summer, they need to be fertilized much more frequently than if I'd grown them in the ground. You can see them turning dark green again in this picture. Harvesting them is my favorite part because it feels like I'm searching for treasure. Much more rewarding than digging for coins in the couch.


I've started giving all my container plants this fertilizer. It was designed for plants grown hydroponically but my plants love it. It's full of bat guano but doesn't stink. I am so thankful for bats with stink-less poo. What nice creatures.


Potato vines growing down the Steps of Death.


Here is the biggest pepper of the year. It's so big, I'll have plenty to share. This is a 'Sweet Chocolate' pepper grown from seed.


How kind of the slugs to chew holes for the salvia to poke through! So thoughtful.


Fortunately, my slugs are cheap drunks and I keep their nightly beer bowl filled. Apparently, they were too full to finish this leaf.


I'm so relived beer cans have become easier to open. I was afraid the slugs would win.


This pot originally held two pepper plants. But one turned dark green and stopped growing, which I thought was quite rude. However, an uncomposted sweet potato from the worm compost decided to grow instead.


Sweet potato surprise


When I was dreaming up my vegetable garden visions, I imagined my metal arbor draped in bean vines, purple pole beans hanging from it's fabulous suburban Gothic arch. I imagined it would look like the beans in the Google images picture above. But no... The bunnies, bean worms, gnomes, etc made sure it didn't happen like that.


Here is the single bean vine I have left. Some vicious creature has decimated the 7 other vines I've planted. It's quite possible as I write this that these have fallen prey to pure evil, as well. I'm on my second sowing of bean plants and will be shocked if I harvest a single bean.


 Stay strong, beans! 


Since the bunnies also demolished the Cypress vines I had planted here, I finally just decided to plant the one vine I know bunnies don't like: honeysuckle. While I know some gardeners consider honeysuckle the spawn of Satan, I like it. It will quickly cover my arbor, has pretty white flowers that will compliment whatever colors it's planted near and smells good. This is lonicera 'Mint Crisp'. I created a bunny barricade around the base just in case they changed their minds.


GROW!