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June 5, 2005

Rites of Passage

(Note: For Internet novices, the bright orange text signifies a link to a photo. Just click on those with your mouse to see a photo!)

Some of the younger members of our family have recently achieved major milestones in their lives.

Last month, our nephew Aden graduated from basic training in the Navy. He has already begun his intelligence training in Pensacola where he will learn to be a cryptographer. We are very proud of him.


Last weekend, our niece Elise graduated as one of a handful of valedictorians from a class of over 400 students. She has received a four-year, full tuition Wilson Scholarship, one of only six given to incoming freshman at Jamestown College, my alma mater. We are very proud of her.

Finally, at our home, our five-year-old son Graham moved up to an “up-down” bed, his description of a bunk bed. Why did it take so long? He still liked his old toddler bed and he still fit in it, so why make waves?

Graham - May 2005 002.jpg

Plus we were hesitant about a bunk bed, knowing how much of a fearless climber he is. We figured he’d be swan diving from the top onto his head every day. This bed has a futon couch for the lower sleeping unit so he can have a comfy seat for reading also. He made the transition very well and has followed our mandate that he can’t sleep on the top bunk until next year when he turns six. We are very proud of him as well.

What’s Happening in the Garden Now
Do you ever have those dreams where something is chasing you and no matter how hard you run, you know that eventually something will reach out and grab you? That’s exactly how I feel about the garden right now.

With all the moisture we’ve had, plus a long, cool growing season, the plant life in the gardens has exploded exponentially. The gardens look green and lush – and full of weeds, overgrown perennials and thug plants that are gradually encroaching on everything around them.

Any time I get into the garden for some clean up, for every single task I accomplish, I see 10 to 12 other things that need to get done.

And so I’m feeling panicked and frustrated and like something is chasing me. It’s hard to find time to garden with our busy lives and schedules. I’ve even taken a few days off work to spend among my plants.

This weekend Brian offered to take Graham to Camp Snoopy so I could have a large chunk of Saturday to garden. I made the most of it. I was up and out in the yard before7 a.m. and was able to dig out all the yarrow that has been taunting me every time I looked out the window.

Then it was indoors for Graham-time and Saturday morning chores. I was out again as soon Brian and Graham were backing down the driveway. Five minutes later, it started to sprinkle.

No big deal, I thought, I don’t melt. So I started gardening in earnest, trying to wrestle some control back from the invading campanula, field daisies, violets, anemones, and other pushy plants in the garden. I was slightly shielded by the neighbor’s trees over head and was making good progress.

Then the rain got a little bit harder and then harder again until I was completely soaked and had water pouring out of my gardening clogs. “It’s easier to weed when the soil is wet,” I rationalized, as I continued to work. “None of the neighbors will try to chat with you. The flowers’ colors are so much more vivid in the gloom.”

But I was cold and wet and frankly, a little miserable. My big epiphany came when I realized that I could go inside, dry off, have some lunch and then bitch about how I never have any time to garden, or I could just garden. Problem solved.

Then it became a matter of pride. I had been given a chunk of time in which to spend doing my favorite thing, and by golly, garden I would!

When the skies finally cleared, I went inside, peeled off the wet clothes, pulled on some dry ones, hopped into my Wellies and went out for another hour.

By the time I finally called it quits, I had accomplished a great deal and no longer feel so pressured. There is still much to be done but I’m feeling a little easier about it. For now!

Some Great Tips

I added lots of containers with annuals this year for more color in our garden living areas. I stink at container design so I chose the age-old process of stealing someone else’s ideas.

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This container combo comes from the front cover of the June 2005 edition of Garden Gate magazine. My friend Susan gave me a gift subscription, and it has already proved very helpful.

I picked up another great tip for container gardening from the BBC Gardener’s World magazine. Instead of using packing peanuts to fill up a big pot so you don’t have to use as much soil and it doesn’t get so heavy, use old potting containers. I have a huge collection of four-inch plastic pots and I turned them upside down in a graduated fashion to fill the bigger pots about halfway full and then added potting soil. Very slick and a great way to recycle your pots.

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Some of the container combos I did used plants that were freebies from other volunteer gardening projects. See last week’s blog on being a plant ho!

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Wildlife Sightings

Last night we were visited by a ruby throated humming bird which was feeding from the "Walkers Low" nepeta.

A robin has made her nest over the security light attached to our back wall. This morning we found the first broken eggshell.

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Prairie Question

When we planted our prairie garden with pre-packaged seed, I didn’t know much about prairie plants. Now that the garden is becoming established, I’m more than a little surprised to find that seed included Sweet William (definitely NOT a prairie plant) and lupine, which is more suited to the North Shore of Minnesota than the plains! Either way, I’m excited to have their blooms.

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Iris – both Siberian and bearded
Johnny Jump Ups
Perennial cornflower

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Wild Geranium

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Japanese anemone
Jacob’s ladder
Rue anemone
Prairie smoke
Creeping phlox

Garden Chores for the Week

Continue to weed.

Tie up the climbing clematis. Move one to the middle trellis to replace one that didn’t come back.

Bring out the hummingbird and oriole feeders.

Pot up plants for friends.

Vegetable Garden
I had a great salad the other day with fresh lettuces, radishes and chives from the garden, finished off with a single strawberry.

Graham - June 2005 005.jpg

Helping Hands

These dirty hands belong to my husband and son who worked together this past week to reseed the bare spots in the lawn.

Graham - June 2005 001.jpg

Can You Identify This Plant?

A new feature to this blog will be a photo of a plant that I will ask you to identify. Just leave a Comment below if you know this plant!

Posted by maasx003 at June 5, 2005 11:09 AM | Family | Gardens


It looks like a pulmonaria of some type, but I don't have this one, and no time to search the web to find a match.

Jackie, I really like the twig planter on your deck - did you make that? I love twig stuff.

I know what you mean about the urgency of gardening. You described how I felt this weekend perfectly. The one thing I treat myself to is a peaceful wander around my garden every morning before work - coffee in hand and no matter how many weeds, I don't get my hands dirty. Now after work is a different story ...

Posted by: Mia Goff at June 6, 2005 7:14 AM

Are the leaves large and prickly? Does it grow tall? If so, it could be Comfrey.

Posted by: Kim at June 9, 2005 3:56 PM

hey jack,

i know i've told you that i'm such a fan of this blog. i love reading it and watching things develop in your garden and world.

in this posting i was interested in your talk of container gardening. i started trying this on our hot tar, brooklyn, NY, rooftop two summers ago and enjoyed the bit of comfort it provided to apartment living. we often had friends over for rooftop BBQs (tricky, as to get there we have to climb the fire escape ladder on the side of the building). we like pretend that we are in our own park oasis (from which, classically, we can see the statue of liberty!).

anyway, i'm late in my plantings this year and must admit to feeling a little discouraged last year by how many plants didn't make it due to the intense, full-on summer sun. my attention to watering is a little sporadic on the roof, though i do keep herbs potted on the fire escape right by the kitchen window. any tips (aside from "water more, you idiot")--kinds of flowers/plants that tolerate intense direct sunlight? should i try to rig some sort of overhanging treliss (sp?)?

i admire you.


p.s. you mentioned "ruby-throated humingbirds." as a kid who spent summers on the lake in brainerd, i remember that for years we thought this was a separate species. until one day my uncle looked it up and we realized they were simply the males.

Posted by: Lizanne at June 11, 2005 12:28 PM

Hi, Lizanne -

It's not too late to start some pots; I'm still adding pots, too.

Regarding the watering, a trellis might help to block the heat but you can also purchase a product such as Soil Moist. It is made of granules that absorb and retain water. YOu just mix it into your potting soil.

I started using this product last year and it has helped. I hate pots because I always forget to water and they end up drying out.

The hummingbird comment made me laugh because I did go to a birding book to see if there had been two species visiting us. Nope, just a mama and a papa. I wonder if there's a nest nearby...

I hope you are enjoying your respite from work. How very nice!


Posted by: jackie at June 12, 2005 9:04 AM