Meet TS and Come See the Rest of the Garden...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Facts About Me

I was invited by Missy from Missys Garden to play a game that told my fellow gardeners 10 things about me. Ok! Sounds like fun...:0)!

1.  I live in the Virginia suburbs outside of Washington DC. It is the land of long commutes, horrific traffic, and unpredictable weather. But I'm close to DC, which I love, and also close to the gorgeous rural countryside of Virginia, which I also love. ( I didn't take the picture below, unfortunately!)

2.  I am a volunteer for the no-kill animal shelter Friends of Homeless Animals, which is why I have five dogs!! Two of my dogs are foster dogs. I love to work with dogs that are shy/have issues and need the help of a patient human/canine pack. My three shelter rescues do as much, if not more, canine rehabilitation than I do. I would be less successful if I didn't have three easy going, goofballs that welcomed every new pup into the pack. Check out The Dogs of Casa Mariposa to see the crew.

Rigby was one of my former foster dogs. His previous owner had cut his ears off and later dumped him at a high kill shelter. FOHA rescued him off death row before he was euthanized. Needless to say, he had major fear aggression issues and didn't trust humans. He stayed at FOHA for six months while I worked with him every weekend. Adopters avoided him because he barked so much and hid in the back of his run. But I knew this sweet boy had potential so I took him in as a foster dog. He stayed with us for 2 1/2 months and in that time, he became confident, very silly, and learned to trust humans and accept canine leadership, as long as it was female. He was adopted three weeks after he returned to the shelter and is now living the good life!!! PLEASE adopt shelter dogs!!

3. I enjoy cooking, especially if I have the time and energy to spend creating a wonderful meal, but I truly LOVE baking, and make great cookies! Baking is pure chemistry - it's all about the quality and combination of ingredients. It's a relief to take take my frustrations out on the contents of my mixing bowl and create something beautiful in return.

4. I love to make jewlery and am hoping one day to have crazy mad skills at wire wrapping! I love beads that are made from natural stones. Being a CA native, I'm currently working on a necklace that I want to evoke the colors of the Pacific ocean.

5.  I love the rain, crazy storms, and the sound of the wind howling as it comes rushing in from the Dakota prairies. Have you ever been to the Dakotas? Go! It's beautiful! It's life in the vast lane.

6. I love being a teacher and have no patience for teachers that are mean, lazy, incompetent, or indifferent. My favorite subjects to teach are English/writing and science.

7. I would love to be independently wealthy so I could travel more. I have a great love and appreciation for other languages and cultures. Egocentric, close minded people frustrate me! My way is simply my way - it's not the only way!!

8.  I love to read, especially books that force me to look at a situation from a different perspective. I recently finished The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and Little Bee by Chris Cleave. Both were wonderful! One of my favorite books is Join Me by Danny Wallace. It's laugh till you cry funny. :0)

9.  I have a bubbly, goofy personality but am very calm around animals. I love fashion, especially clothes that are a bit retro or artistic. I have no desire to look like everyone else.

10. When I was in high school, early college years, I had no desire to be a teacher and used to kill every plant I came near. When my son was born I asked people NOT to give me plants because I knew they would face a slow, dry death in my care. When my son was about 2, I was in the plain, ugly yard of my Air Force base house lamenting to myself the utter drabness of my surroundings. I looked at my yard and then at my son and thought, "Hey, I kept him alive for 2 years. I could probably keep a plant alive." Thus, my gardening adventures began. I created a garden at several base houses and at each house we purchased later. Having moved 17 times in 34 years, it was my way of saying, "Yes! I was here! And this small patch of Earth is the better for it!"

I originally wanted to be a foreign correspondent, so that I could make a career of writing and traveling. Marriage, kids, teaching, suburbs were NOT in the plan! Fast forward to age 41 - I've been married almost 21 years and have a 15 yr old and an 18 yr old. Life's just like that sometimes but I'm very glad I made the choices I have. There's only one road to NOW and I'm happy I'm on it!!!

11. I decided to add one more fact!! I LOVE live music!! In the past year I've been to concerts by No Doubt, U2, Muse, Pink, and Sheryl Crow. I would really love see Allison Kraus perform!

(I will try to add more pix to this post later. Blogger is telling me to get my pix off Picasa instead of the My Pictures file on my computer which is slowing me down to a glacial speed. UGH!!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Milky Spore, How Do I Love Thee??

Act I

If everything had a color instead of a word, japanese beetles would be puce green and black and my garden would resemble a flaming red bull's eye. If the colors were replaced by scent, the beetles would reek of rotten fish and my garden would smell like fresh laundry, chocolate chip cookies, and Thanksgiving dinner. I would smell their evilness or see their  hideous shells before the damage was done.

Instead they sneak quietly into my garden, their irredescent shells cloaked by morning shadows and sleep filled eyes. They devour roses and crawl deep into my rose of sharon blooms, ravaging the flowers with neat, circular bites. They hang from the leaves like jewels in an Ethiope's ear, heavy and full enough to make Shakespeare proud. They sway with the breeze but do not slip, their hunger sated only when their handiwork is done and the leaves resemble lace, the stems supporting a network of open space punctuated by rigid veins. Shock and anger shake the sleep from my eyes and I run for my bucket of bleach water, furiously grabbing the hideous things and flicking them into its depths.

Again and again this scene has played out in my garden, the beetles emerge as the victor, my garden the hapless victim, and I, the flailing fool, complete with hat and gaudy garden shoes.

Act II

I stand in the pesticide row at the local garden store, contemplating my choices. So much death, so little time, and I feel my stomach lurch, my lunch headed due north. I grab a big blue bottle of a systemic insecticide and walk away. Thinking of the damage waiting for me at home, I rationalize my choice, pay, and drive away. I mix, pour, apply. The soil reeks of poison and I avoid the garden, guilty and ashamed. The beetles die, the leaves grow back, but the garden is quiet. The birds avoid the rose of sharon and the butterflies are absent, the milkweed and parsley empty. I have created an oasis but poisoned the water.


If being completely organic had a color it would be the blue of a can of milky spore and the chalky white of its powder. The puce green and black of the beetles would be splashed with the racing stripes of a butterfly caterpillar. If words were replaced by emotions instead of evoking them, "garden" would feel like pure joy and new life. Long gone is the systemic insecticide poured at the base of my roses and rose of sharon. The role of the fool has been rewritten and my garden bursts with life. Bravo!! Bravo!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hello Science, Goodbye Summer...

Starting tomorrow I'll be introducing at least 150 11 year olds to the fabulous world of sixth grade science. Science in my class is a lot wackier than it is in more traditionally minded classrooms, it isn't very quiet, it always involves rodents and sometimes student created skits to illustrate a scientific concept. I even have the sheer audacity to require my students to write complete sentences instead of filling in blanks. Teaching is definitely not for the weak or weary!

But today I am simply a gardener who at 2:45 pm is still in her pajama shorts enjoying a very quiet day at home. I spent part of the morning wandering around in the garden (in my pajama shorts) and despite several weeks of high heat and no rain, beauty abounded. Here's what I saw:

This is agastache 'Shades of Orange' from High Country Gardens. It loves the heat and doesn't want much extra water. It's much loved by the hummingbirds.

I love peachy orange flowers. When I look out my kitchen window and see this plant in bloom, it's like having a constant sunrise in the garden.

This caryopteris (Blue Mist Spirea) is supposed to be a dwarf cultivar. However, it's huge and has been in a shoving match all summer with a nearby sweetspire. I finally intervened and cut back the sweetspire a bit to give the caryopteris more room. It's been covered with bees since it started blooming.

Phlox 'Delta Snow' has bloomed almost all summer. It stands stalwart under a crepe myrtle, overshadowing it's cousin 'Nicky', enjoying the shade, and growing taller every year.

The bees and skippers busily canvas the sedum even before the blooms open. This is planted near several large trees that contiually rob the soil of nutrients and moisture. On my fall to-do list: compost, compost, compost!!!

I've had so many monarch caterpillars on my bloodflower (Tropical milkweed) that every leaf is gone. I hope the new growth grows fast enough to nuture and feed a few more!


My father in law calls my chenille plant "caterpillar plant" even though it doesn't attract any caterpillars. It was one of the few plants, along with my rue, that survived the horrific spider mite infestation that destroyed several of my potted plants. No amount of blasting from the hose could get rid of them. I plant it in a pot with my rosemary every summer. It doesn't attract any wildlife but it does attract me, so that's good enough!!

Bird seed sunflowers under the platform feeder and verbena bonariensis. The trumpet creeper, giant hog of all moisture and fertility, is off to the left.

This section of the garden is, as we used to say when I lived in the south, a hot mess! I've tried for years to make this a low-fertility, xeric garden bed, but my plants have decided that I'M NUTS!! They would like more compost, please!! This fall I'm planning on digging up the entire 18 ft bed, which includes two small serviceberry trees, raising the soil height by about 5-6 inches with compost and peat moss, and then rearranging most of the plants. Not an easy job. My very strong 6'5" 18 yr old is going to help me, he just doesn't know it yet... He no help me. I no feed him...!!

My gomphrena are so extremely pot bound that they've become a bit anemic but are still beatiful enough to make me stop in my tracks when I saw them hanging out with the yellow lantana. I have a wonderful surprise planned for them: worm juice from my compost bin added to their daily bucket of water tonight. Yum!!

Sorry hostas!! No water for you till it rains!! I finally figured out what was wrong with my hideous heap of siberian iris: not enough moisture or sun. Plus they probably need to be divided. I already have their new home mapped out for them. I hope they're happy.