Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Finally bought and planted the Limelight Hydrangea and am so psyched at the pretty.  See for yourself!  When I started working on the garden last March, I cleared all of the weeds from this small area and divided and transplanted the hostas.  The Limelight Hydie was the crowning touch.  Thank you Labor Day gardening sales!

The once derelict plot

Up close and pretty

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Bike versus Yard

Not much news on the bike front, sadly. It has been stormy, but that’s a poor excuse.

Good news, however: my huz and I spent all day Sunday in the yard and I’m happy to report that the seedlings – all of which my four-year-old son and I planted from seed – are in the garden and nestled with homemade compost! Whoohoo! It’s very gratifying to create nutrient-rich soil. Never thought I’d utter those words. Also accomplished: irises divided and planted (one row has turned into FIVE), pumpkins planted behind irises, and a brand new bed created around the oak leaf hydrangeas. It looks fab if I do say so myself.

Here are some photos from the garden.



Tomatoes planted: Check!

Irises divided (then flattened by storms): Check!

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While I have already summed up some of my progress/failures of the month, I thought I’d do so in a more official manner to match previous months.  Then, I’m moving on!

Purchase peat pots and terrarium for seeds — NOPE, haven’t done it yet.  Still have plenty of time and I’m going to sow some of the seeds directly into the soil because my father, the expert gardener, says that’s how he does it.  Make way for lettuce, radish, and maybe carrots, Garden!

Move plants that are in the wrong place — CHECK!  Well, for the most part.  I can’t move the peonies or hollyhocks until after they bloom, so fall.  But I did move the oak leaf hydrangeas and my husband moved the crowded azalea.  The hostas and irises, and maybe tulips, will also have to wait for fall dividing and replanting.  At least now I know.

Build 2 more raised vegetable beds — NOPE.  We’ve had a cold spell and haven’t gotten to the yard in weeks.  It will happen.

Plan the garden in front of the garage — IN PROCESS.  I did plant a knock out rose to fill in the gap where I pulled a hollyhock last summer and to hopefully dissuade my dog/moose from traipsing in the bed.

Attend gardening workshop — NOPE.  Fortunately, these happen pretty regularly throughout the spring and summer, so all is not lost.

How’d I do?  On the surface, not great.  Dig deeper and I’m satisfied.  It was a busy and wrenching month and still I was able to purchase new plants, move old ones and plan ahead.  Compared to last year, I am a master gardener.

Celtic knot symbolizing body/mind/spirit interconnection. I've always been drawn to Celtic symbols.

One thing I’ve learned from focusing on the soil is that I gain a lot of spiritual comfort getting my hands dirty, sweating in the sun, seeing my plants bloom, and having quiet time just me and my yard.  The categories that I have set up for this blog are organizational constructs, but I know that body/mind/spirit are false divisions devised by Greek philosophers and reinforced by Judeo-Christian texts and homilies.  It all blends together for me.  Gardening is one part body (dirty hands, sweat, sore muscles), one part mind (understanding basic botany, visual organizing), one part spiritual (as outlined before), and altogether creative.  This is as close to religion as I sometimes get, but now I’m eluding to next month’s goal: Spirituality.  And it’s a doozy!

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Almost the end of the month time, time for reflection.

This month I didn’t have lofty goals.  I knew that my kids’ schedules would not permit much room for me to percolate with personal growth.  And then smack in the middle of the chaos came death.  My father’s long-time girlfriend – a strong charismatic woman – fell ill and passed in one brief month.  Not enough time to process the loss, to know what to say to her or my father.  So, in between running to ballet and soccer and ping-ponging between schools sometimes 3 or 4 times a day with various events and volunteering commitments, I drove to the hospital.  I drove to the nursing home.  I drove back to the hospital.  And I wrote daily emails to my out-of-town family to help them keep track.  This month did not turn out like I expected, but I am glad my personal goals were digestible and I’m learning that each month’s goals need not end the last day of the month.  Each month is a beginning process, rather.  An opportunity to grow and commit to stop the neurosis, start the action.

The focus of the month has been my garden/s, my yard.  The main thing I’ve learned is: it’s too early to start most of the gardening I want to do!  It’s a great time to plant or transplant shrubs, so I did that.  Summer bulbs can go in – still on my list.  And some vegetables can be sown directly in the garden soil, particularly root vegetables that take longer to grow and lettuces.  Haven’t done that yet either, but did turn the soil in the beds.  Some of my more nagging weeds are gone, so that’s improvement, and I have more of a vision for what I want the green space surrounding me and my family to look like.  I haven’t attended the garden workshops on my list, but there’s still time.  Most are offered throughout the growing season.  One big thing I learned is some garden centers charge much much more for a plant you can get for $9.98 at Lowes.  If it doesn’t make it, I’m only out $9.98.  I call it stress-free, budget gardening.  I also learned that friends are willing to give me cuttings for free.  If anyone in the River City needs some Sedum or Hostas (come Fall), give me a shout.

New leaves on the Oak Leaf Hydrangeas that I moved! They like me! They really like me!

Gardening, and being outside in general, has a calming effect on me.  It boosts my mood, even if I don’t know what I’m doing.  Taking walks with my beastly dog amongst the flowering trees has helped bring comfort at a time of loss.  I know I haven’t been as diligent getting to the blog and my posts have been more scattered in focus (and trust me, I’m still taking the Vyvanse!), but I am feeling the old adage hold true–March is going out like a lamb, or in my case like Lamb’s Ear.

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This has been a hard month.  I knew before February ended that my March would be straightjacketed with scheduled obligations, mostly my children’s.  When I say that, it sounds negative.  I don’t mean to whine.  I’m happy to be able to chauffeur my kids to all of the places they need to go.  I’m happy to have a schedule that allows me to volunteer (and dress like a pig in a tutu) at my daughter’s school.  I’m happy to give my time and energy to fundraising for her school too. (Side note: the read-a-thon that I co-coordinated with another awesome mom raised over $2,300!!!  This overwhelms me with joy when I think of how many truly needy kids at that school will benefit from the additional funds.)  So, I am tired but relatively happy.

What I hadn’t counted on was my father’s girlfriend of six years ending up in ICU and bouncing between the hospital and nursing home.  What I hadn’t counted on was her diagnosis of inoperable cancer.  I hadn’t counted on her rapid decline or my father’s remorse.  It has been a hard month.

Despite the hectic schedule and the emotional roller coaster, my husband and I put in a couple hours of yard work to bring a few plans to fruition.  I had the vision, my husband did the grunt work, for which I thank him.  So, to balance the sorrow of this past month, we have spring in our yard.  Woody weeds removed, forsythia planted, grass seed scattered, and detritus cleared, kids on bikes and hiding in tents on the lawn, the dog happily chasing squirrels.  A little solace on the porch.  Soon I will plant the fledgling knock-out rose bush in the back flower bed, scatter some lettuce seed in the vegetable garden and plant some summer dahlia rhizomes to replace the perky tulips.  And it will help.

Forsythia from above

I look forward to the forsythia sprawling like a wild child

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I’m excited!  Not only has it finally stopped raining, but the Master Gardener at the Jefferson Co. Cooperative Extension Office emailed me back with detailed answers to my questions.  And not only that, but she gave me a thorough list of lectures/classes in town for the next month offered by the Extension Office.  I think they are free offerings because most of them take place in public libraries and schools.  There’s even one for kids during spring break and I’ve added it to my calendar for an activity that week.

Below are my questions and the master gardener responses:

1. I asked about planting beneath my dogwood.  She didn’t really give me suggestions, but I found some ideas in Fine Gardening.  Sarah, the master gardener, wrote that I “will continuously have a difficult time growing plants around the base of a tree. Rather, you should mulch around the base of trees. Keep in mind not to “volcano” mulch meaning not piling much closely to the trunk of the tree. Consistent layer of about 2″ of mulch will be sufficient.”
2. I asked about moving the peonies, even though I was already pretty sure of the response.  Sure enough, Sarah recommended “September or early October is the best time to add new peonies to your garden or divide older crowded plants. Planting in early fall gives peony tubers time to become established before winter.”  Looks like my lovelies will be hidden for another spring season.

3. For shady bushes, Sarah recommended this link: http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho77/HO77.PDF , which I haven’t checked out yet.

4. And for the oak leaf hydrangeas that barely survived their current location, Sarah told me that “it’s best for root development to transplant in the fall, though early spring is the second best time to transplant your hydrangea. To make transplanting easier, remove any dead/diseased wood and also prune back the top growth to reduce the size for easier mobility. Once you transplant,
remember to water thoroughly and mulch. Avoid fertilization until next spring.”  Since there isn’t anything to remove, I’ll just dig ’em up and cross my fingers.  If they don’t make it, I tried.  I think I’m going to plant some Russian sage in their spot with some white cone flowers, if there is room.

Russian Sage, so pretty

Sarah was super helpful.  I can’t wait to check out some of the Cooperative Extension lectures and workshops.  If you live in Louisville and need answers to a gardening question, go to the Extension website or email the master gardener for more information about Horticulture, 4H, Agriculture, and Family Science.  If you don’t live in Louisville, go to the Federal site and find your local office!

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The rain, it is relentless.  Thankfully, I enjoy rain.  I like the smell of it, the sound of it, and if my hair didn’t kink up so much in humidity, I’d walk in it without cover.  Unfortunately, my body doesn’t enjoy the rain so much.  I suffer with hormonal migraines and the rain exacerbates the pain and nausea.  Strangely, every month when I’m about to fall down with a migraine, it rains.  The weather appears to be conspiring against me.  One of my unspoken, unpublished resolutions this year has been to take better care of myself.  Eat better, exercise regularly, drink more water, exfoliate, give a damn about my hair and eyebrows.  One of the things I did early in the year was talk to my doc about these migraines . . . again.  We found a drug that works and so today I am pleased to report, I started the day off iffy and am now feeling fine.

And we got to get ourselves back to the garden, as Joni Mitchell would say.

Why garden?  I have always piddled around with plants and flowers.  They usually die.  I have some plants, however, that linger.  Like the graduation plant, a Croton, I received from my siblings during my last semester of college some 20 years ago.  It is staked and has been transplanted a few times.  It was under care of a friend for a year while my husband and I moved to DC for his internship.  Still kicking.  I also still have the Calla Lily that had been my mom’s.  She passed away 14 years ago and I don’t remember how long she had it.  I still have the Scented Geranium cuttings that my friend Sarah gave me 10 years ago when we left DC.  My dad actually thought it was a pot plant!  And I rescued a Christmas Cactus from under the porch of our old house about 7 years ago.  It is thriving and blossoms twice a year.  There is something calming about plants, about planting and watching things grow.  I love getting my hands dirty and scrubbing the mud out of my nails for days.  I love the smell of the earth.  I even love watching earthworms wiggle around in the holes I dig.  My daughter likes holding worms.  Maybe she gets this from me.  Ultimately, I find gardening relaxing and therapeutic.  Almost spiritual.  I can get lost in time when I garden.

The 20 year-old Croton

I need to make a list of my favorite plants to remember them.  Maybe when I visit the garden center I can slowly purchase each one and place them in the correct spot so that my yard looks like the cottage garden in my mind.  Weirder things have happened.  I’ve kept a Croton alive for 20 years.

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I used to sit on a neighborhood park board of directors and remember hosting events with Master Gardeners from the Horticultural Cooperative Extension.  That led me to the Jefferson County Horticultural Department which houses the Cooperative Extension and hosts a Horticultural Hotline as well as an email service with a gardening expert.  So as not to overwhelm the poor volunteer gardener, I wrote her a short email listing four of my problem areas and questions.  I hope she can help.  The department has loads of videos and newsletters that I will need to explore as well as a monthly lecture series.  The next lecture is on March 21 and will be about growing vegetables at home as a “resistance to the dominant culture.”  I like the sound of that from a sociological standpoint, although I doubt I’ll gain many tips on dividing spring bulbs and organic pest resistance.

This website also offered a bevy of resources, many new to me: Louisville Green Guide.  And I bought a copy of Fine Gardening that actually had some great ideas for some of the troublesome spots, in addition to beautiful photographs.

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The dormant peonies

It’s a rainy Saturday and I’m solo parenting while the husband is attending a few work functions.  So, my gardening chores today are online.  I started with the peonies.  They are so beautiful in mid-May: grapefruit size pink blooms so heavy they bend the stems into arcs.  I inherited two peony plants with the house, but they are completely hidden from view in the back corner of the side yard.  Only I know about them.  Well, maybe my neighbor’s yard guy too.  I looked up information about transplanting these lovelies at the National Gardening Association website and learned a lot, but unfortunately, this is looking like a fall task.  Apparently, I need to move (and divide!) my babies in the fall but it will take them several years to establish.  I can’t dig the hole too deep or they won’t bloom.  Can’t have that.  The good news is once they’ve

Future home for my lovelies

established, they don’t need much care (just mulching, maybe a little compost and deadheading in the winter) for decades.  Oh, and they prefer full sun, so now I have a plan for that bare spot in front of the Irises!  Yay! Only, I have to wait until late September to get this plan off the ground, so to speak.  Boo.

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Forgive me for not getting to this post sooner.  It has been one helluva week.  This is my first chance to post and I really only have a half hour window, maybe less as I listen to my kids shouting at each other.

The ugliness in front of my garage

So, this month’s resolution is decidedly less sexy than the past two months.  That’s not to say it isn’t a good resolution.  My yard has suffered from neglect and ill-planning for going on 3 years now.  I’m determined to make some positive changes.  When I say “my garden” and “my yard” what I mean is my attempts at landscaping both front and back yards (on pennies for a budget) and my vegetable garden.  Last year my kids and I grew seeds in peat pots.  We started a little late, so goal number one is to get that process under way by the end of the month.  I’ll need to purchase peat pots and several terrariums to get this started.  I already have seeds, courtesy of my father.

I also need to investigate moving plants that are in the wrong place.  My peonies grow beautifully, but are hidden on the back side of the house.  My oak leaf hydrangeas were singed last summer.  They need shade.  I need to divide the iris bulbs and the hostas.  Can I even do any of this in the spring?

Last summer, my husband built four raised beds.  We will need two more or we need to sow some grass in the bare areas.  The area in front of my garage has been a barren disaster despite planting efforts every year.

I have taken photos of all the problem areas and sent them to my sister-in-law, the landscape architect.  She may or may not be able to help, depending on her schedule.  That can’t stop me, however.  I will research online and go to gardening centers.  I may hire someone to come out for just a day’s worth of advice.  And on the 15th of the month, local organization 15 Thousand Farmers is hosting its first Gardening 101 class of the year.  I’m going.  I never made it last year.

Resolution #3 falls under the banner “Creativity”.  It’s also a huge organizational goal.

Time’s up.  Gotta get ready for the grade school talent show.

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