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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Art of Nothingness

The shady side 

 Sometimes you just have to stop. 

Monarda punctata thrives in dry, well drained soils.

One week after school ended, the three and a half day 2017 Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling that I coordinated began. Three days after it was over, my daughter and I flew to London for a week, where she will be attending graduate school.

'Limelight Hydrangea' and fallopia japonica in the pot

This is my third trip but her first and we walked for miles each day as she explored the city. We are bohemian travelers. We sleep when we're tired, rise when we're refreshed and make few strict plans. We wandered the markets, toured the Tower, and saw a show. 

annual rudbeckia

I came home to a garden lush with summer rain and just stopped.
 I didn't slow down or take it easy. I just stopped. 

Part of the rain garden and river bed

I did nothing.

zinnias and rose of sharon

I slept, laid in the hammock and read a few books. I lazed away the afternoon on the couch. I enjoyed the garden but didn't pull weeds, except the really big ones, and didn't take many photos. I hung out with friends, spent quiet days with only myself for company, and tried not to think of anything at all.

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on the fennel

Not think about anything? I wish. My brain simply doesn't work that way. But it felt good to enjoy my daily mental gymnastics while wearing pajamas at noon.

Annual monarda 'Bergamo'

I have two weeks of summer left before I spend my days with 100 11 year olds who cry about their lockers and lose their homework. I have one goal - to just do nothing.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Letting Go: The Perfection Paradigm

Part of my pollinator garden

It's no small thing to plan a Garden Bloggers Fling, to invite 90 people over to see your garden and organize a three and a half day event while working full time. It took three years. Life kept getting in the way and the task was monumental.

It was my own Mt Everest.

Seed grown 'Denver Daisies' rudbeckia

I spent two years analyzing my garden and redesigning the weak spots only to redesign them again and again. I wanted everything to be perfect or as close to perfect as I could hope for. But that didn't happen.

I love buttons and birdhouses so I had to have these!

The dogs' pee burned yellow circles into the grass and a few of my annuals took their damn sweet time growing large and lush.

I had hoped the metal rods and plastic tubing, which adds weightless surface area for the vines to grow on, as well as the dead wood, would be covered by the Fling. Photo by Diana Kirby

The Ugly Arbor, which had previously harbored an invasive but innocently purchased Japanese honeysuckle, was laid bare, the honeysuckle roots removed to stop its spread. I left the wood and started an annual vine from seed during December but that, too, wouldn't grow fast enough. Hops planted with the hope they'd scramble to the top in a mad dash fueled by fertilizer, climbed the sides with the languor of a lazy drunk. The arbor stood in contrast to the buffet of perennials at its feet, naked and thin, its secrets revealed. I cringed and sighed and walked away. 

A view of  part of the garden that includes a tiny bit of the river bed

Plants died and I replaced them just weeks before the event. Newly purchased shrubs bought the winter before succumbed to leaf blight and I mercilessly cut them down, replaced by 'Little Lime' hydrangea I was assured would thrive in my dry shade. I didn't care. As long as they were alive for the Fling, I was happy. I dug a hole and stuck them in. An important clematis was uncooperative and the anemones took over again. I couldn't find the ferns. 

A search and rescue mission uncovered several ferns but there are still a few that are missing. Photo by Late to the Garden Party 

In my frenzy and exhaustion, I gave up and decided it was all good enough. It was not perfect. I could not even begin to compete with the other professionally designed gardens on the tour so I just let go. 

The back steps and part of my extensive container garden. 

I had a beer and then another and thought. "F*ck it." Two days before the Fling, I ignored the garden and went to see one of my favorite bands, instead. 

A bit of my funky garden art

90 bloggers came to my house. They loved the Ugly Arbor and posted pictures of it on their blogs, while I cringed and sighed and looked away. They said it was whimsical and clever so I took a second look and agreed. No one stepped in any hidden dog poop or asked why the grass was dying. They took pictures of everything and told me how much they loved my garden. I smiled and believed them because I could see it on their faces. 

They took my picture and I cringed again when I saw how exhausted I was, my eyes mere slits in a puffy, sleep deprived face. Then I took a second look and saw pure joy at having done what I was told I couldn't do. So I just let go. Sometimes good enough is enough.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Score One for the Stubborn Cuss

Let me start this post by just telling you I'm stubborn.
I could give up but I just don't see the point.

For the past several years I've killed my tulips by submerging them in moisture-retentive soil designed to keep my summer plants happy.

There was no happy medium. 
What made the tulips happy, brought death and despair to the summer annuals. 

Being a stubborn cuss, I tried method after method to solve this problem, to no avail. The more I failed, the more irritated I became. Come hell or high water, I was going to solve this stupid problem and I'd do it cheaply. Ha!

So I scheduled a drought and stuffed my bulbs into wire baskets lined with burlap and filled with old soil. Logic dictates that a container full of holes should drain exceedingly well. Logic won and I have tulips. Score one for the Tamster!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sweet as Candy

I'm a sucker for a sweet surprise

The 'Candy Showers Red' trailing snapdragons I grew from seed have already started blooming! 

 and the pure joy of the unexpected.

It's a reminder that sometimes just letting go

to see what happens next 

Some of the plants I've grown from seed have been moved to the patio to enjoy the warm temps. I have others still under grow lights.

is more rewarding and authentic 

than anything you could have planned.

Monday, February 13, 2017

How to Love a Gardener Redux

I originally posted this in 2015 but it's one of my faves so here it is again.

I'm convinced most gardeners see the world a bit differently than others. We all know real love is announced through all the small things that are - or are not - done through out the year rather than a single grand gesture on a manufactured holiday. But if you wanted to woo your favorite gardener, how would you do it? Rest easy and follow these steps. You are guaranteed to make an impression.

When the gardener is covered with compost and sweat, avoid statements such as, "What the hell happened to you? Were you hit by a a manure truck?" and "Sweet Mother of God, you smell like a goat." Instead, while they're showering find a way to make dinner magically appear, quickly pay the delivery person, and open a bottle of wine.  

Instead of traditional chemical-laden roses and cheap box of candy, consider this approach, "I've hired David Austin and his landscaping crew to dig up the rest of the lawn and personally select a dozen of his most fragrant roses for you to enjoy all summer. When I told them I was trying to romance you, he suggested I buy the 'In the Mood' package." 

Hey, baby! The landscapers are here!

Instead of telling the gardener the pink things by the yellow flowers next to the bushes look good, try Latin. "The planting of silene and tulips near the osmanthus 'Goshiki' is beautiful" just might help you get lucky. But butchering the Latin and telling them the "sireen and tulips by the gohsweeki are really nice" is probably better than nothing.

But if you really want some lovin', snuggle up close and whisper in his/her ear, " I cleaned, sharpened, and organized all your tools."

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Growing Addiction

There is something about success that is addicting, 
as if a giant sign suddenly appeared that said 
"You've figured this out so do it again!"

It doesn't matter if what you're doing is mindlessly easy to others. We all have our own mountains to climb.

I grow a lot of rudbeckia hirta because it's so easy. This year I'm also growing the herb monarda citriodora. I bought a few organic plants last year (pink flowers above) and loved them so much, I'm starting them from seed. They're also super easy.

I've figured out how to grow many annuals from seed but don't be impressed. I specialize in growing plants that are easy to grow but I'm ok with that.
 Life's hard enough. 
I don't need to make it harder by torturing myself. 

'Frosted Flames' snapdragons have cool variegated foliage

The vast majority of the plants you buy at garden centers and even many online nurseries are full of pesticides so every annual I want that attracts pollinators is grown from seed. Sometimes I grow a few herbs, too, although the organic ones are pretty easy to find.

Most of these plants were grown from seed.

It's not hard.

Pink 'Summer Jewel' salvia grows and blooms quickly.

I buy big red plastic drink cups and poke holes in the bottom with a hot screwdriver I've heated on my stove. I fill them with moist soil and scatter the seeds on top. The only seeds I ever bury are the big ones. I cover the cups with plastic sandwich bags and put them on a heat mat under some cheapo grow lights. 

Seed grown dahlias are pollinator magnets

It's not hard.  

Once the seeds sprout, I take off the plastic bags. This year I'm starting almost 50 different types of seeds. I'd probably grow more if I had the room. Is that crazy? Maybe. But life's short so a little crazy is ok, too. It beats boring.

Cups full of monarda 'Bergamo' and monarda citriodora

This summer when my patio pots are bursting with organically grown, pollinator friendly plants I can stand back and say, "I did this!" 

To track how my plants are progressing, check out my So Seedy page.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Beautiful Madness

I'm still here.

I've just been crazy busy juggling a career while serving as director of the 2017 Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling.

My garden is one of the stops on the Fling.

But that's ok. Crazy doesn't bother me.

 Nothing much has changed. 

I enjoyed this container grouping so much I'm repeating it 
next summer.

My dogs dug new holes 
after I filled in 
all the old ones and
 are still pooping in the garden
 when they think I'm not looking.

I redesigned my shade garden
 - again - 
because it's become an annual event. 

I'd much rather make traveling here 

or here 

with him

 an annual event but it hasn't happened yet. 
My talents apparently lie only in buying plants
 but not actually designing anything with them.

 If I ever tried to make it as a designer 
I'd be living in a van down by the river.

Native anemone canadensis spreads vigorously, suffocating everything in its path. I redesigned this area with plants whose leaves are large enough to shade out the anemones, hopefully slowing them down.

I updated my So Seedy 2017 page and
 am planning on starting more seeds 
than I have room for.

 But that's ok, too.