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July 28, 2005

Gardening for a Good Cause

People garden for lots of good reasons, such as exercise; tasty, homegrown vegetables; a creative outlet, etc., but this was the first time I’ve gardened for a good cause.

Our gardens were part of the Bright Beginnings Garden Tour, sponsored by the City of Plymouth with proceeds benefiting both the city’s Millennium Garden and a mentoring program for teen mothers at North Memorial Hospital. Since Graham was born at North, this was especially meaningful.

The tour organizers must have done some tremendous promotional work because they reached the tour capacity of 150 people and even had 25 to 30 people on the waiting list!

Five bus loads with 162 gardening enthusiasts made a round robin circuit of six different gardens in Plymouth with lunch and a presentation by local gardening personality Bobby Jensen following at the Plymouth Creek Center.

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I have a feeling we were probably the smallest garden on the tour, but we pulled out all our tricks to make the gardens look great. We even placed Graham's fire truck and wagon over dead spots in the lawn. Brian and I answered lots of different questions about plants, butterflies and wisteria. And people were literally lined up to get in.

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The most frequently asked question came as a big surprise to me. On each tour, several people asked about the bergenia that edges both our window wells at the back of the house. While I love its big leaves and interesting texture, it’s always just been a nondescript background plant to me. Who knew it would cause such curiosity?

Other questions focused on the source of some of our garden supplies, such as “Where did you get your lavender incense sticks?” Smith and Hawken. “Where did you purchase your copper fountain?” Smith and Hawken. “Where did you purchase your copper pots?” Smith and Hawken. You get the idea.

The people were fun to watch. Some were definitely serious plantspeople while others were just there to spend a pleasant morning. I think everyone had a good time, and hopefully picked up a new few ideas for their own gardens. Plus it was a beautiful day, and the tiger swallowtail butterflies were abundant.

I admit it was rather fun to play the ‘garden expert’ again, especially when talking about such an overwhelming passion of ours. And if you were to stop at any point of the garden and take a 360 degree panoramic sweep of the yard, I’d have to say it was looking its best. Here are a series of panoramic photos Brian took earlier this week.

Panoramic One

Panoramic Two

Panoramic Three

Panoramic Four

Panoramic Five

Panoramic Six

Panoramic Seven

Panoramic Eight

Brian stayed back to hang out with Graham so I was able to attend the lunch with my cousin Karen who drove all the way from South St. Paul to attend. Before the speaker began, each of the gardeners who hosted the tour was presented with this very attractive stepping stone, which will be a welcome addition to the gardens.

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Special thanks go to our landscape designer Jay Siedshlaw of Dundee Nursery for being present to answer questions as well that morning.

Cut Flowers

This week a few coworkers and I had lunch at the home of our former division head and his wife. They moved into a new home about a year ago and had a new remodeling project to show off. And some gorgeous gardens. They have both been busy.

Before we left, I visited their bathroom and was stopped dead in my tracks by the most delicious fragrance. I looked around to see what special scented soap or lotions were on the vanity counter and then realized that the aroma was coming from an arrangement of cut flowers from Diana’s garden.

When I commented on them, she said she always has cut flowers in her house – either from the garden or purchased. What a lovely thing to do.

But for some reason, I just can’t seem to cut my flowers to make a bouquet each week. Occasionally I’ll cut a stem or two of something to brighten up my office at work but I rarely have a vase with blooms from the garden inside the house.

Maybe I feel I don’t have enough to cut and still have enough to look good in the garden, maybe I’d just rather see them outdoors. It could also be that any vase in our house has a pretty good probability of getting knocked over by one kid or another.

I’ll have to work on this one. Both the purple phlox and white “David” smell especially nice right now…

A Week of Joy and Sorrow

In the midst of all the pre-tour panic attacks, there was joy. I had a long chat with my childhood friend Amy in NYC to congratulate her on the birth of her new baby girl, Hedda Marie. Both mom and babe are doing well.

There was also sorrow: I learned that Tim Fiske, the former assistant director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the man who gave me my start there, passed away last Sunday. He will be greatly missed.

As I still miss my friend Tony Pezalla who died of cancer nearly three years ago. After the garden tour lunch, I visited his memorial bench at the City of Plymouth’s Millennium Garden. Tony and I were in the same Master Gardener class, and he was my native plant mentor. I hope he has been enjoying my prairie patch.

What’s Happening in the Garden Now

The butterflies continue to flutter about. The tiger swallowtails have been joined by pretty little white butterflies that are probably damaging cabbage moths. Ah, well.

Gardens July 2005 020.jpg

Some plants will be hitting their second wind soon. The wisteria has put out a few buds, as have the roses, Walker’s Low nepeta and others. I’ve also noticed another flush of grown on the Hidcote lavender but I don’t expect more blooms from them.

The Mystery Plant

As many people figured out, the mystery plant last week was cardinal lobelia. 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”
Rose
Lithrum
Physotegia
Phlox “David”
Asters
Liatris
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Coreopsis “Moonbeam”
Campanula “Blue Clips” and others
Yarrow
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Veronica
Thyme
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Astilbe
Sedum
Daylily
Indian blanket
Hosta
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”
Clematis

Garden Chores for the Week

With the tour over, my desire to work hard in the garden has suddenly vanished. I’ve reached the point in my summer when I long to lounge around on the willow furniture with a good book and a cool drink and be lazy.

So I’ll do the minimum required to keep the plants living and take a break for a while. (Yeah, right!)

Vegetable Garden

To keep the runner beans producing fruit, I should be harvesting daily.

The Roma tomatoes are starting to ripen.

Today’s Grahamisms

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"Glynis and Pont are just not using their manners. For Christmas we should get them the Big Book of Doggy Manners, and that’s all."

"I wonder what dogs dream about? I know! I’ll bet they dream that Santa will tell them that for Christmas, they can go poop and potty inside the house, just like people."

These next gems were all uttered during a 20-minute commute home this week.

Graham’s solution to a traffic jam:

"Whenever you see a car that is colorful, follow it."

"…So if atoms are inside our bodies, are they friends with germs?"

"Oh, I just felt a germ run inside my leg right now!"

"Only cheetahs can run as fast as infinity!"

"If you get shocked by lightning, it won’t be any fun."

"On sunny days, I like to go to the pool with my dad, and on rainy days, I like to go to the stores."

"I think that we should go to the store that says “Holiday” on it for our next stay-home stays because that’s where you have a holiday."

Graham also got his soccer report from his summer program. As you can see, he is doing well and his father is very proud to see him excelling in sports, as Brian once did himself.

soccer.jpg

Posted by maasx003 at 6:14 PM

July 24, 2005

Satisfaction

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.

Gardens July 2005 042.jpg

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”
Rose
Lithrum
Physotegia
Phlox “David”
Asters
Liatris
Russian sage
Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Coreopsis “Moonbeam”
Campanula “Blue Clips” and others
Yarrow
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Veronica
Thyme
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Astilbe
Missouri primrose
Sedum
Hollyhock “Nigra”
Daylily
Indian blanket
Hosta
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”
Geranium
Clematis

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

Gardens July 2005 007ab.jpg

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 6:48 PM

July 16, 2005

The Best Laid Plans

Gardens July 2005 013.jpg

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?”

Idiot!

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.

Gardens July 2005 009a.jpg

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

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.

Gardens July 2005 013a.jpg

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.

Cakes

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 2:20 PM

July 10, 2005

Hollyhock Dolls

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At one point or another each summer when I was a little girl, my mother and I would go into her gardens and pick a handful of hollyhock blossoms and buds.

We’d take them indoors and carefully peel back the green bits of the bud until only a gleaming white “face” would appear below an elaborate “up-do”. Next we’d break off a section of a toothpick and thread the sharp end through the base of the blossom into the stem area so a quarter inch or so would remain. Then we’d stick the “head” onto the “shoulders” and voila! We had a hollyhock doll.

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If we’d really wanted to go all out, we would apply a little dab of bright lipstick to the doll’s face to get her ready for a big night. And if we were lucky enough to have hollyhocks in a variety of colors that year, we could mix and match the color of the dolls’ hair and gowns – deep magenta skirt with soft pink hair and vice versa. Very cool.

This year I have a gorgeous stand of deep plum-colored hollyhocks (Alcea “Nigra”), and I made a couple of dolls to float on water in a shallow dish for table decorations for our Fourth of July celebration.

Now If only I had had some bright pink buds for the hair….

Fourth of July Recipes

We served a delicious Fourth of July dinner to Brian’s parents and his sister and her husband. The recipes are all new to us this summer, but they will be made again and again. Give them a try!

Deviled Eggs a la Sam
From Penzeys Spices

12 large hard boiled eggs (see tip)
2 slices double thick prosciutto or 4 regular OR pastrami

Guacamole
2 ripe avocadoes
½ small red onion, minced
4 cherry tomatoes or an equivalent in regular tomato, minced
1 TB water
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ dried garlic
Juice of 1 large lime
1 tsp salt
dash of hot red pepper sauce or to taste
2 tsp fresh cilantro leaves, minced.

Prepare the guacamole while the eggs are cooking. Mix water and spices together in a medium bowl. Halve avocadoes, remove pits. Remove skin, cut into thirds, discarding any brown spots, add to the bowl. Add onion and tomato, lime juice and salt. Mash with a hand potato masher, stir to blend. Add hot pepper as desired. Cover with plastic wrap, pat onto the surface. Carefully peel the eggs and cut into half. Remove the yolks and save for salad. Cut a small slice off the bottoms if they don’t sit nicely on the plate you’ve chosen. Cube the prosciutto, stir into the guacamole and fill the eggs. Sprinkle fresh cilantro over the tops and serve.

Tip: With a needle or a clean thumbtack, pierce the large end of each egg to a depth of 3/8 inch. This helps center the yolk. Place eggs carefully in a large kettle with at least 2 quarts cold water. Bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Remove the kettle from the heat, cover and let stand 18 minutes.

Zesty Coleslaw

1 bag of coleslaw mix – or use 4-6 cups shredded red cabbage for a more colorful salad
2 red peppers, cut into strips
2 cups snap peas (fresh from your garden, if possible)
1-15 1/2 oz can of tropical fruit salad, drained and cut up a bit
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup Zesty Italian salad dressing

Mix all together and serve.

Grilled Shrimp and Scallops with Teriyaki Sauce
From Coastal Seafoods

2 pounds shrimp and scallops
2/3 cup soy sauce
2 TB brown sugar
2 TB honey
¼ cup sake
2 TB ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients except for shrimp and scallops. Mix well. Place shrimp and scallops on kebab skewers and marinate in the sauce for at least 45 minutes. Grill for 4 minutes, turn kebabs over and brush with marinade. Cook until done.

The Mystery Plant

The mystery plant last week was Corydalis lutea. Can you guess the plant this week? (Hint: The photo is from a farm visit to Wales, Great Britain.)

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Hydrangea “Annabelle”
Corpeopsis “Moonbeam”
Campanula “Blue Clips” and others
Yarrow
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Lily
Veronica
Thyme
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Astilbe
Missouri primrose
Sedum
Hollyhock “Nigra”
Lavender “Hidcote”
Sweet William
Oxeye daisy
Daylily
Salvia “May Night”
Indian blanket
Hosta
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”
Rose – “Carefree Wonder,” “William Baffin,” “Graham Thomas” and more
Geranium
Clematis

Garden Chores for the Week

Mulch, mulch, mulch

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.

I usually don’t deadhead my “Carefree Wonder” roses, but I’m going to give it a try this year.

Change the beer in the slug traps. This should be done at least weekly.

It’s probably time to spray the roses again.

Keep watering the new arborvitae

Move a blue oat grass

Vegetable Garden

The basil is huge and lush right now. If only the tomatoes were ready!

The scarlet runner beans are taking off and need to be guided to the teepee.

Today’s Grahamism

“Water is like a chameleon. When you hold it, it’s just clear. But when you put it on other colors, it’s the same. So let’s just call water ‘chameleon water’.”

Posted by maasx003 at 5:29 PM

July 3, 2005

The Perfect Fit

I’ve been thinking a lot about proportion and scale lately.

Proportion is the relationship of one object to another; scale is the relative size of an object. These are interconnected and discussions of either can start to get convoluted. Just keep in mind that it’s all about objects in relation to each other.

When I look at my gardens, and the plants in them, I make a comparison of them to my entire yard as a whole. Do these plants “fit”? Are they the right size and in proper proportion to the other plants around them?

These thoughts came to a head this weekend when I returned to my friend Rebecca’s house for a plant swamp. I brought her a “Blue Moon” wisteria that I had propagated through the layering technique, and she shared lots of goodies with me.

As we stood before a clump of wonderful and gigantic plants, Rebecca asked me, “Would you like some?”

Silly question! Of course I would. Then I stopped to think. In her yard, an enormous open lot, the height of these plants “fit.” In my smaller backyard gardens, the only place those plants would fit is at the back of the deepest border, and even then they still would be too big in relation to the other plants around them.

I passed.

So my moment of supreme self-control has caused me to take a second look at what I have currently in my gardens. I need to draw inspiration and wisdom from the plants that Rebecca uses in her gardens and also from those of my friend Susan.

Susan’s St. Paul backyard is small, although probably average for an older urban lot. She is very thoughtful with the plants she uses in this space, with a preference for alpines. Alpines have a tendency to be smaller than their other relatives, and the scale of these plants work in proportion to the plants around them and to the yard itself. They “fit.”

Too bad you can’t use the dressing room idea to try on plants before planting them. Then you’d know if they were a good fit or not for your gardens.

I’ve got some more thinking to do.

Water, Water Everywhere…

And not a single drop in this container.

Now I remember why I hate doing container planting: the daily need to water. Last week we had almost two inches of rain, and two days later this pot and the plants in it were bone dry.

Part of this is my fault. I don’t have a saucer under the pot to capture any excess moisture, which would help since it’s in a full-sun location. The other key element to consider is that the pots are only half-full with potting soil. To keep the pot from getting too heavy with soil, I stacked four-inch perennial pots to about half of the pot’s depth. This is a great idea – but it also reduces water retention.

To combat that effect, I added water-absorbing Soil Moist granules to the potting soil before planting. This acts as a long-lasting water reserve, which helps, but obviously not enough with this plant.

This pot looks great with a vivid combination of coleus, “Profusion Orange” zinnias and amaranth. I guess I’ll just have to suffer for its beauty.

Falling Through the Cracks

One of my favorite parts of our yard is our pergola and the adjacent patio areas. These areas are hardscaped with pavers, which allow us to walk across them right after a rain without harming any turf.

The joints between each paver are narrow and filled with sand, but they are an ideal growing condition for the seeds of many different types of prolific plants that toss their offspring to the wind.

I could have an entire herb garden from the chive, dill and cilantro seeds that germinate, and there are enough oxeye daisy sprouts to start an entire meadow. Even errant grass seed can find its home in between the cracks.

Some plants have reseeded each year, and I welcome them, such as these alyssum. Others are more problematic. Who knew that mums could reseed?

Some little seedlings are easier than other to pull out, and I just end up ripping off the top layers of leaves, knowing that in a week, I’ll have to give them another go. One garden hint I read suggested using a needle-nosed pliers since it gives a very good grip on a tiny object. I’ll have to try it.

Public Gardens

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Graham and I had an extra “stay-home” day on Friday, so we packed up a picnic lunch and met Brian at his work site in Eden Prairie. His office building is next to a public garden, and we enjoyed the treat of eating Cheetos while viewing grasses, lilies and other lovely plants in full bloom.

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I commend the City of Eden Prairie for funding such a beautiful and well-landscaped public place. Walking paths meander through colorful plants and there is a large, covered picnic area as well. When we were there, a puppet show was about to start, and many families were there to watch it.

The City of Plymouth also has a beautiful Milennium Garden. Graham and I usually get there a couple of times a year to see the flowers and the koi that live at the ponds at the bottom of the waterfalls. We’ll have to visit soon and take some photos.

These city gardens remind me of those we saw in Britain during our travels – beautiful public spaces for the entire city to enjoy. Way to go!

Arborvitae Project

Our final summer landscaping project is complete. This week Dundees delivered and planted four arborvitae behind the pergola, completing the row we started four years ago. These will provide a solid backdrop to the tree peonies Brian brought home this week as well. I had to put tomato cages around the peonies to prevent Pont from destroying them during one of his FRAPing (Frequent Rapid Activity Period) moments.

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In landscaping, just like with interior decorating, one new project has a tendency to start a domino effect. After adding the new arborvitae, we decided the pompom spruce in the adjacent bed didn’t work any longer, and it had to go. Brian had it cut down and dug out in less than half an hour.

The neighbors behind us also did some serious pruning of the silver maple that overhangs into our property and removed a dead sugar maple that was directly behind the pergola.

These three actions – adding the arborvitae, taking out the spruce, and removing the dead tree and overhanging branches – have changed the look of our garden spaces tremendously.

Today’s Grahamism

Why are ants called ants? Do you think it’s maybe because “ant” is another word for small?

What’s Happening in the Garden Now

The prairie garden is really coming into its own during its fourth season.

The slug traps are working. When I cleaned out and replenished the traps with fresh beer this weekend, each of the five traps had several slugs in them.

Along the south portion of our chain link fence, we have five shades of clematis blooming – from softest pink to bright raspberry to deepest violet.

The rabbit is still with us – but not for lack of us sending Glynis out after it.

The Mystery Plant

Okay, last week’s photo of pink flowers was kind of sneaky. It showed the blossoms of a radish that had bolted. Who knew they could be so pretty?

Can you guess what this week’s mystery plant is?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Yarrow
Joe Pye Weed
Purple coneflower
Butterfly weed
Campanula glomerata
Lily
Veronica
Thyme
Alpine strawberry – and fruiting, too
Astilbe
Missouri primrose
Sedum
Hollyhock “Nigra”
Wisteria “Blue Moon”
Lavender “Hidcote”
Sweet William
Oxeye daisy
Penstemon “Husker Red”
Daylily
Salvia “May Night”
Indian blanket
Hosta
Nepeta “Walker’s Low”
Rose – “Carefree Wonder,” “William Baffin,” “Graham Thomas” and more
Geranium
Clematis

Garden Chores for the Week

It’s getting to be time to cut back some of the perennials that have had their first bloom, with hope for a second. These would include the “Walker’s Low” nepeta, geraniums, and “May Night” salvia.

It’s also time to do a second application of a general fertilizer on the perennials, annuals and vegetable gardens and to put down a refresher layer of mulch.

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

Vegetable garden
Peas, peas, peas!

The tomatoes have set fruit and are looking good.

Posted by maasx003 at 4:01 PM