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July 16, 2005

The Best Laid Plans

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This one comes from the files of “What was I thinking?”

Last Friday, we had the day off and were going to Valley Fair as a family. It was going to be hot, humid and ripe for a good thunderstorm. That evening we were going to go to Home Depot to purchase more cypress mulch and spread it Saturday and Sunday.

In anticipation of a good rain, I got up early Friday morning and lightly spread a bag of 7-8-7 fertilizer across most of the garden beds. “What a great thing I am doing for my gardens,” I thought. Fertilizer, a good rain and then mulch. “Won’t my plants be ever so happy?”


Well, there was no rain on Friday, just wretched heat and humidity. The Maas family was so wiped out from a day in the sun that we were all in bed by 8:30 p.m. that evening. Any idea of spreading mulch was vetoed for the weekend.

By the time I got to checking out the plants on Saturday, the damage was done. Several plants had scorched leaves from where the fertilizer sat on top of them and cooked in the sun. There were no plant fatalities, but there will be some loss of leaves as the weeks go on.

I was most surprised by which plants were greatly affected and which were not. Rudbeckia, for example, is a plant I think pretty indestructible. But they must be more sensitive than I thought because they burned much more than any other variety.

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I tried to think back to the spring when I laid fertilizer but with no damage. What was different? Ahh, yes, now I remember. It was thundering and lightning as I was laying it down, and I was starting to get drenched from the first drops of rain. Mother Nature was doing clean up after me.

Would I apply fertilizer again? Yes, but I would definitely schedule enough time to water it in.

To Stake or Not to Stake

This is the fourth year for our “Annabelle” hydrangeas, and they have completely taken off. They have produced enormous, fragrant blooms the size of basketballs.

Size is not always better in this case. The blooms have gotten so heavy that any soaking from rain or sprinkler brings the stems crashing to the ground.

So I have staked this stand of bushes up after the fact. Next year I’ll have to remember to stake them up earlier to prevent their horizontal habit.

To Prune or Not to Prune

Brian had found a wonderful plant combination for clay soils in one of our British gardening magazines: train a bright pink clematis up a “Black Beauty” elderberry.

It took some doing but we tracked down “Black Beauty” at Gerten’s in Cottage Grove and purchased two of them plus two “Hagley Hybrid” clematis. We would plant one on the south side of the house where a white cedar had formerly resided and another by the pergola.

The first year the shrubs grew a few feet high, and I threw a bag of leaves over each bush to protect it in the winter. Each shrub seemed to have died back to the ground, sending up all new growth in the spring.

So the second fall I did an experiment. I cut the shrub by the pergola back hard and covered with a bag of leaves like the year before. The shrub at the front of the house, I left alone but still covered it with leaves.

Turns out that elderberry send growth off old wood. This season, the one in front that I did not cut back is about three feet high with the clematis growing all over it.

The shrub in the back has taken months for it to finally send up enough shoots to convince us I did not kill it off. It certainly will thrive, but it just has taken forever to get going.

So this fall, no cutting back, just leaves like before.

Oh, the things you can learn in the garden by doing.

The Mystery Plant

The mystery plant last week was indeed snowdrops. We could all use a few snowy thoughts right about now, what with this heat. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

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Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Corpeopsis “Moonbeam”
Campanula “Blue Clips” and others
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Missouri primrose
Hollyhock “Nigra”
Lavender “Hidcote”
Sweet William
Oxeye daisy
Salvia “May Night”
Indian blanket
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”
Rose – “Carefree Wonder,” “William Baffin,” “Graham Thomas” and more
Dead Nettle

Garden Chores for the Week

Mulch, mulch, mulch since we didn’t do it last weekend.

I still haven’t sowed a second planting of radishes but I did get around to pulling out the plants that had gone to seed.

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Change the beer in the slug traps. This should be done at least weekly. The hummingbird feeders should be changed weekly as well.

It’s probably time to spray the roses again.

Keep watering the new arborvitae.

Check the ever-growing wisteria vines.

Move a blue oat grass.

Vegetable Garden

The cherry tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

The bush beans are flowering.


I've been decorating character cakes since Graham was born. This week we had two dinner parties, which called for two cakes. For some of Brian's sports blogging friends, I did this special baseball cake with an ice cream filling.

For Graham's special movie night to introduce his friends to our new 80 x 45 inch movie screen, we did this Marvin the Martian cake in honor of Graham's movie of choice - Looney Tunes: The Movie.

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Adults sipped wine and enjoyed a specially-prepared seafood curry prepared by Brian. The wine glasses had Looney Tunes wine tags on them. Fun!

Today’s Grahamisms

“Hey, Dad! This Kipper movie box says it has 60 minutes of fun!”

"I'm as hungry as an ostrich, and they'll eat anything, you know.

It's Getting to be Fair Time!

The Maas family is busy preparing our entries for the Hennepin County Fair and Minnesota State Fair, including this potato "art" hedgehogs created by Master Graham. I am a previous blue ribbon winner at the Minnesota State Fair and hoping to pick up some more awards this year. Stay tuned!

Posted by maasx003 at July 16, 2005 2:20 PM | Family | Gardens


Wow, Jackie! Now if we could only get you to teach a cake class in the cafe and grow our herbs for us, too :-)

The garden looks gorgeous!

Posted by: Tina Kiriakou at July 16, 2005 8:54 PM

Butterfly weed?

Posted by: Kasmira at July 18, 2005 8:11 AM

Tina - maybe we could do a cake in the shape of Minnesota and pipe in all the differnt lakes? Sheesh! What am I thinking!

Kasmira - you got it! I love this plant. The orange color is just stunning next to purple Russian sage. The other day I saw a monarch butterfly caterpillar chomping on one of my plants. I looked later but he had gone. I would love to have a monarch chrysalis for Graham to watch.

Posted by: Jackie at July 18, 2005 11:16 AM

Hey Jackie,
I want to come over to watch movies on that big screen! How fun! And cake too!

Posted by: dvora at July 20, 2005 1:31 PM

What is the conifer in the container in the top photo?

Posted by: Sandy at July 22, 2005 12:09 AM

Sandy, this is a Norfolk Island Pine that I purchased back in 1983 when I was a freshman in college. I paid about $1.95 for a 10 inch sprout at Woolworth's so I could have a little Christmas tree for my dorm room. It has followed me through various moves and just won't stop growing! Here is a link for more information. They make wonderful house plants. I think the Brits call them Monkey Puzzle trees.

Posted by: Jackie at July 22, 2005 8:27 AM

No one does theme cakes like my wife. No one!

Posted by: Brian Maas at August 12, 2005 6:50 AM