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July 24, 2005


The Stones were right. There are times when I look outside at my gardens, and I can’t get no satisfaction. All I can see are the flaws and the gaps and the “what was I thinking?”s.

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I know I’m not the only gardener who feels this way. In fact, a while back Sylvana sent me the following post, “Even though so many people come up to me every week and tell me how much they enjoy seeing my garden and that they even route their walks and drives home just to see them. Sad, isn't it, that I just can't be satisfied with my own art?”

I hear you, sister.

This whole feeling of angst is really roiling to a head for me right now. Next weekend we are participating in our first garden tour. There will be 150 people visiting our gardens on Saturday morning, and I’ve already started my mental catalog of excuses for what I see as their faults:

1. We have two dogs so the lawn looks terrible.
2. I work full time with a long commute so I don’t have much time to garden.
3. We have a small son. See Number 2.
4. Rabbits are running wild in the gardens and are eating everything.
5. The weather in June was really cold.
6. The weather in July has been really hot.
7. Some of my favorite plants didn’t come back this year.
8. And so on and so on and so on.

There are times I look outside and I really love what I see. Or maybe I love what I know I’m going to see in three years. I use that three year rule a lot, as in, “Oh, it looks good now but in three years it will look really great!”

So what’s wrong with us? Why can’t we just be content with how our gardens change throughout the seasons? Each area has its own particular strengths and looks best at different times of the year. It’s a masterful gardener who can make everything look great all the time.

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we know that we can always do better, that with a little more care and attention, next year the gardens will look that much more impressive and beautiful.

And I think that constant desire to create something beautiful is what keeps us gardening.

So wait ‘til you see my gardens in three years!

Compost Queen I Am Not

While on a cerebral/academic/former Master Gardener level, I know it’s really environmentally important to compost, and I do religiously put garden clippings and kitchen waste in my bins, the other more slothful/sluggish/lazy part of me thinks, “Turn it over frequently? Are you nuts? It’s hard, heavy, yucky work!”

That’s why every year I have things like this potato plant sprouting at the edge of my bins. If I was really doing a good job of maintaining it, like turning it frequently so the green stuff gets enough oxygen so the temperature will get hot enough to cook everything down, it would be too hot to grow vegetables in it.

Ahh, well. I also know if I’m just patient enough, the plant material will break down on its own. So being lazy could actually benefit me on this one: pretty soon I’ll have some Yukon Gold potatoes to harvest!

What’s Happening in the Garden Now

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I continue to be visited by Peter Rabbit, and now his juvenile derelict little brother Pauly has come along, too. One night I stepped out to pick some lettuce and there was the cutest little bunny, about the size of my hand, calmly hanging out inside my semi-fenced raised beds, eyeing my crops. Probably munching on them too.

What’s it going to take to get these ravenous little beasts out of my garden? I feel like Henry II asking of Thomas a Becket, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”

Except I would substitute “pest” for “priest” and then I would feel really bad if someone actually killed the stupid things and eventually got them canonized so they’d be St. Peter of the Garden and so forth. Now that would be another fine mess I’d gotten myself into.

The hummingbirds are back! I was chatting on the phone the other night and watched one take a drink from one of the many tiger lilies that have sprung up across the yard. I’m glad to know they like the buffet at Chez Maas.

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The butterflies have also been drinking from the tiger lilies and the purple phlox. They would swoop in for a sip, crawl all across the surface of the bloom and then flutter away before returning again.

The wisteria vines are really starting to take off on all four corners of the pergola. In three years (again with the three years), the pergola should be covered in tendrils and blossoms.

The Mystery Plant

As many people figured out, the mystery plant last week was butterfly weed. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Ligurlaria “The Rocket”
Cardinal Lobelia
Nasturtium “Peach Melba” and others
Rudbeckia “Goldsturm”
Phlox “David”
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Coreopsis “Moonbeam”
Campanula “Blue Clips” and others
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Missouri primrose
Hollyhock “Nigra”
Indian blanket
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”

Garden Chores for the Week

This weekend is “go-time” for deadheading and cleaning up any straggly-looking perennials and shrubs. I especially want to give some of the overgrown hosta a haircut. It’s too late in the season to divide them but I do want to get rid of some foliage so the other shady plants nearby can be seen.

We’ve purchased 35 bags of cypress mulch to lay down before the garden tour. Mulch really helps to unify the beds, cover up the empty bits of dirt, retain moisture and keep down the weeds. All for only $2 a bag!

I still haven’t sowed a second planting of radishes.

The dead pea vines need to be removed and the scarlet runner beans trained up the willow teepee.

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. I see thrips have been visiting the “Nearly Wild” bush by the deck.

Keep watering the new arborvitae.

Vegetable Garden

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I ate my first cherry tomato of the season, and it was wonderful. Then I remembered my favorite way to eat them. Pluck a cherry off the vine during the hottest part of the day. Lay a large basil leaf in the middle of your palm and place a sprig of mint on top. Place the tomato on top of the leaves and roll it up. Pop it into your mouth and savor the explosion of biting mint and aromatic basil blending with the warm tomato. Someday I will serve cherry tomatoes this way as a hors d’oeuvre for a dinner party, and people will weep from the taste.

The bush beans have begun producing. It’s important to pick these frequently to continue the bloom cycle. But never handle the plants when they are wet; it can bring about rust.

Today’s Grahamism

He was full of them this week. To wit:

”When you sneeze it means that you are ‘allergit’ to something. My friend Quinn is allergit to cittamon.”

While taking Pont the Pup to the vet: “Come on, Pont. I know you will be brave. You can do it!”

And after the visit with the vet, “Some day I want to be a doctor guy who helps sick animals and people, just like Dad.”

“Our family is the Magic Family because we have so much cool stuff at our house. Our special powers are that Dad can shoot things out of his arm. Quinn’s family is the Zoo Family because they have so many animals. Their special powers are that they can turn into any animal they want. John’s family is the Word Family because they know every word there is. Their special powers are that they can say words and things happen. And they know two words of Spanish.”

And, “I finally figured out the rules. When you are home, Mom, I will always follow you and do whatever you do. When Dad is home, I will follow him. At school, I will follow Quinn. And that’s how my life will be.”

Posted by maasx003 at July 24, 2005 6:48 PM | Gardens


Lobelia cardinalis?

Posted by: Sabine at July 25, 2005 3:43 PM

Lobelia cardinalis?

Posted by: Sabine at July 25, 2005 3:44 PM


Add a small ball of mozzarella cheese to your cherry tomato bite! It'd be perfect!

Posted by: Tina at July 26, 2005 8:09 AM

Good eye, Sabine! I put that lobelia in last summer as tiny plugs. I'm pleased that it has bloomed this year and I am amazed at the pure red color of the flowers. A welcome addition to my borders.

Posted by: Jackie at July 26, 2005 11:22 AM

Dang, two people already beat me to it! Cardinal Flower.
You know, Jackie, I still have a love hate relationship with that garden out there! I do have a couple of gardens which I have gotten to near perfection (I have really good luck with shade gardens!) so it deflects some of the angst I have against my main garden. I think I will start refering to that garden as my "working" garden, because I know that it will never be done.

Posted by: Sylvana at July 29, 2005 12:17 PM

If anyone has suggestions on treating grass burns caused by dogs...just leave them here. Other than "sell the dogs", of course.

Posted by: Brian Maas at August 12, 2005 6:49 AM