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September 24, 2005

Sick Time

I’ve been out sick most of this week with my annual September sinus infection, an occurrence that occurs with the same regularity as the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano.

This infection knocks me out, leaving me as tired as a baby. I spent one morning sleeping and in the afternoon, made my way to the chaise lounge under the pergola. There I managed enough energy to turn the pages of my book.

I lounged for a couple of hours, warmed by the sun, surrounded by my beautiful fall blooms. As I sat there, it registered that I’ve been wanting to do nothing more than this all summer: just lay back, rest and enjoy the gardens.

I’m just sorry it took an illness to get me to slow down and enjoy the fruits of our labors. There’s got to be a message in there somewhere but my brain is too fuzzy to figure it out.

Happy Birthday, Pont!

This weekend marks the first birthday of Pont, our male whippet. While his reign of destruction while growing out of puppyhood has left a long laundry list of chewed up socks, books, toys, sofa pillows and coffee tables, we’re still glad to have brought him into our family. Graham picked out some presents for him including a new “Flying Squirrel” Frisbee and sang “Happy Birthday” to him when he woke up.

Listen to a First-hand Account of Surviving Katrina

Pop over to my husband Brian’s blog to listen to his interview with “The Pope”, the New Orleans Saints Fan of the Year who rode out the levee burst with his son on the roof of his house. Harrowing stuff. From his podcast page, simply click on the play button of the embedded sound player and choose Viking Underground Podcast Sixteen.

A Shameless Book Plug


The next time you are at the book store, pick up my friend Amy Scheibe’s new book, “What Do You Do All Day?” that she began writing while on maternity leave with her son two years ago.

Publishers Weekly gave her the following review: “Scheibe's hilarious debut is rife with wry observations…With a light touch and a sparkling plot, Scheibe takes on the conundrums-and beauty-of motherhood for driven yet nurturing women.”

Amy is smart, funny and in touch with what working mothers are feeling today. Again, check it out.

Something New

My husband has been raising the bar for sports bloggers everywhere. He has been delving into podcasting, mobile blogging, and videocasting. I was getting jealous so he finally decided that I should start doing some of that as well.

We put our collective minds together and came up with the idea of having me do short videocasts each week. You will actually get to see and hear me in action as we discuss something new each week. This week, I let you know how to defend your gardens against slugs.

To view this videocast, the very first one for Through the Garden Gate, you just need to slide over to my Moblog site. You'll notice a hot link on the right side of this page near the top called "My Moblog Site: Video/Audio Supplements".

Once there, you will see the video and all you need to do is click on the play button. I hope you like them. Next week, I'll show you how to properly plant bulbs.

Why We Use a Tree Care Service

When we purchased our house 14 years ago, it came with five flowering crab trees along the north side of our property. Each spring they started out looking lovely with lush green foliage but by mid-summer, the leaves had turned bright orange-yellow and spotty and were dropping off.

The culprit was cedar-apple rust, a fungus (Gymnosporangium), which alternates between Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and mostly apple and crabapple trees. The rust is particularly bad during wet springs.

There are two things you can do prevent rust: remove the hosts or apply fungicides. Since removing all the cedars in the wide radius around our house is unrealistic, that leaves a chemical solution. Okay, I thought of a third thing: plant trees that are disease-resistant. But our trees were already in place so that wasn’t an option.

I remember trying to apply the fungicide by myself one year but shortly after that I became pregnant with Graham and avoided all garden chemicals, even for a few years after he was born.

Eventually we hit on the idea of hiring a tree service to spray for rust. Take a look at the difference between an untreated flowering crabtree from the neighborhood and then one of our treated trees.

In addition to the obvious aesthetics of a tree with healthy, glossy leaves, massive defoliation year after year will weaken a tree.

We’ve also used a tree service to provide deep root fertilization for trees stressed by the heavy construction equipment used during our remodeling project and to provide professional pruning.

There are some gardening maintenance projects that should just be done by professionals. The service may be expensive but for the health of your trees, it’s worth it.

Amaryllis Care

Each Christmas, I find myself purchasing an amaryllis bulb at Target. They offer a great deal – a big, healthy bulb for only $5. I have given them away for presents to Graham’s teachers, and they also make a great hostess gift.

I seem to have developed quite a collection of them through the years but have had little success in getting them to bloom again.

With care, amaryllis can provide years of holiday blooms but you need to follow a specific regimen to get them to bloom again. I’ve got the easy part down pat: bring them outside in the summer to give them as much sunlight as possible so they can gather energy back in the bulb. But after that, even though I’ve read article after article on how to do it, I’m just not doing something right.

I asked my friend and fellow gardener Susan for her proven methods of getting her amaryllis to bloom year after year:

One, take the bulb out of the pot, wash the roots and start the dormant stage by putting it in the basement for six to eight weeks. Then re-pot the bulb with fresh soil.

I prefer to leave them in a pot with fresh soil, in the cool, dim area of the basement, and keep them fairly dry. Let the leaves die down, then cut leaves off. Start the forcing period about six to eight weeks before you want bloom. When leaves appear, bring them up the light, water and watch them take off.

The real key is to re-pot them, in a deep but small pot, with about 2" of soil around the bulb. Keep the bulb raised in the pot, so soil does not touch the neck. If that does not work, put them out in the summer, feed and encourage new leaves. That feeds the bulb. Then try again!

I’ll keep you posted through the next couple months to see if I can reach my goal of amaryllis blooms for Christmas – without buying more bulbs at Target!

What’s That Buzz?

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Our prairie garden is attracting thousands of busy honey bees. If you stand still, the buzz of all those golden wings is not deafening, but certainly loud. Somewhere around here is a hive that is going to have some scrumptious honey this year, thanks to us!

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What I’m Reading

Just finished: “Confessions of a Slacker Wife” by Muffy Mead-Ferro. I highly recommend it.

In the middle of: “Snobs” by Julian Fellowes, who won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for “Gosford Park.”

Next in the queue: “Locked Rooms: A Mary Russell novel” by Laurie R. King. The latest in the series about Sherlock Holmes’ young mystery-solving wife.

Listening to: “Monty Python’s Spamalot” – the original Broadway cast recording. Hilarious musical retelling of one of the greatest films ever made, “Monty Python’s Holy Grail.”

Graham’s current favorite: “My Kindergarten” by Rosemary Wells. A lovely look at a kindergartner’s first year.

The Mystery Plant

Was that tricky? Last week’s plant was a canna seedhead. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

“Sweet Autumn” clematis
“My Favorite” mum – lavender, red and coral
Campanula “Blue Clips”
Ligularia “Othello”
Morning glories
Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes
Verbena bonariensis
Native monarda
A lobelia that is blue but was labeled “Cardinal Lobelia” when I bought it. Surprise!
Nasturtium “Peach Melba” and others
Rudbeckia “Goldsturm”
Phlox “David”
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Coreopsis “Moonbeam”
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Indian blanket
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”

Garden Chores for the Week

Keep up with the wisteria vines, slug traps and pot watering.

Start planting bulbs.

Make an appointment to get the lawn aerated?

Vegetable Garden

Lots of green tomatoes but not many reds. I had to purchase a tomato to make a BLT this week. Gasp!

Today’s Grahamisms

During the severe thunderstorm that the Twin Cities experienced this week, Graham gave me minute by minute update’s of the storm’s progress:

"Mom! Mom! The wind’s fellsity is up to 40 miles an hour!"

"Mom! Mom! It’s hailing!"

"Mom! Mom! The guy said the storm is heading toward Oakdale. Aunt Lori and Uncle Mike are in DANGER!!!"

On being presented with a chocolate doughnut covered in red, white and blue sprinkles, Graham asked, “Is this an American doughnut?”

Posted by maasx003 at September 24, 2005 4:27 PM | Books | Family | Gardens | Videocast


The mystery plant: a nastursium (sp?)We were gone last week to the Vancouver, Victoria & Seattle area. We visited at least one garden each day & I read "Mrs. Whaley's Charleston Garden" before sleeping each night. Chuck seemed to have a good time & I, of course, was in heaven. I still love this blog, & hope you don't tire of the work before I die. 25 years or so will be nice :-)

Posted by: Diana at September 25, 2005 9:57 AM

Hope you are feeling better soon!

Posted by: Sandy at September 28, 2005 3:11 PM

nasturtium. don't know the mix, but they look like they might be the carribean mix that I bought this year.

I have tried to re-bloom amaryllis too, but have never had any luck. I'm no good with houseplants anyway. I forget about them and they die.

Posted by: Sylvana at October 6, 2005 10:33 AM