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August 24, 2005

Hi Lily, Hi Lo

Note: The Maas family is taking a well-deserved break and will be in a non-blogging status until after Sept. 8. After this entry, my blog is officially on hiatus. See you in a few weeks!

Just in case there are folks out there who think I’m an obsessive gardener, I want to set the record straight: obsessive gardening is a shared responsibility in my marriage.

Every once in a while, Brian will latch on to a plant or species and decide that we have to have it for our garden. Quite often they are wonderful additions to our perennial beds, and then he can walk around with a smirk and say, “Who’s the master gardener now?”

The latest bee in his britches is Orienpet lilies, a cross between Oriental and Trumpet Lilies. These lovelies produce very fragrant blooms on tall – some up to 96” – stalks. Of course, they’re not cheap.

We found some available through the Friends School of Minnesota annual bulb sale and will purchase several “Silk Road” bulbs which promise “huge white flowers with deep intensely crimson-pink throats, carried on an enormous inflorescence with many well-spaced secondary buds for extended blooming time. All this, and it’s very fragrant.”

We will plant these behind the pergola to screen out the compost bin. Watch for photos late next summer.

We also planted some Asiatic garden lilies this past week and they are in full bloom at the moment as seen below. This one is called Centerfold. I wonder why my husband picked that one out?

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What’s Happening in the Garden Now

The September-like weather has continued, and it has been cool enough to finally have bonfires again with friends gathered round.

The Mystery Plant

Last week’s plant was Physotegia, as many of you guessed, although what variety, I have no idea. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now:
:: Puppy Pont ::
No, Pont is not blooming but he is a beautiful puppy!
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Globe thistle Ligularia “Othello” Canna Morning glories Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes Wisteria Verbena bonariensis Cardinal Lobelia Native monarda A lobelia that is blue but was labeled “Cardinal Lobelia” when I bought it. Surprise! 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 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:
:: It Never, Ever Ends :
It is time for a vacation!
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

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

Relax and enjoy it all, especially since we’ll be on vacation!

Vegetable Garden

I have been neglecting the vegetable garden of late so it’s time to give it a little attention.

The tomato crop will explode this week. We have lots of BLTs ahead of us. Yum!

Sound Beta Testing

Click to hear night sounds from my garden. You'll hear my fountain in the background as well.

Today’s Grahamisms

"You know, Mama has done a pretty good job of raising me so far, but Daddy, you have done so much better!"

"Jackie? Your name is Jackie? Oh, I forgot you had a last name."

Posted by maasx003 at 8:33 PM

August 21, 2005

The Gunnera is Always Greener

A few weeks ago I had lunch with my friend Sue who had visited Scotland with her husband in June. She brought photos so we two addicted Anglophiles could have good chat and a sigh over them.

Sue stayed at some lovely places – both in the categories of stunning country estate and charming bed and breakfast. While I was eager to see pictures of the homes’ exteriors and decorating schemes, I wanted photos of the gardens.

And such gardens. Long sweeping borders, babbling brooks edged by candelabra primrose (candelabra primrose!!), and exotic plants such as a blooming handkerchief tree. Ahh, me.

Every time I look at photos of British gardens, I ask myself, “Why am I living in Minnesota when I could be gardening year-round in a nation that is as obsessed with gardening as me?”

My current British gardening fixation is gunnera – a plant that produces leaves that can grow to five feet across. I know that gunnera would never survive our frigid winters nor would I have a wetlands place for it nor would the enormous size of it fit the scale of our garden.

None of that matters. I just want one.

Night Scents

I was out deadheading the other night when the most beautiful scent stopped me in my tracks. I sniffed my way around the garden until I located the culprit – the glorious phlox “David.”

This plant has pleased me in a number of different ways: the big white clusters of flowers extend garden viewing into the evening, and its honeyed fragrance is lovely.

Nicotiana also produces scent at night, and I have at least four different colors of it blooming across the garden, thanks to its prolific seed and tendency to self-sow.

World Music

I have Sirius satellite radio in my minivan, and I have become addicted to the Latin/World Music station. Nothing gets my energy going in the morning like the pulsing beats of salsa music or the tapping staccato of Irish dancers.

Listening to the music is almost like taking an aural geography class. From Dublin to Dakar and from New Orleans to New Zealand, Graham and I hear different tempos, instruments and singing techniques during our commutes. Half the fun is just trying to figure out what language the artists are singing in. One song titled “Gne Gne” sounds like a French man scolding a little child.

This explosion of new sounds and beats led me to the public library (of course) where I discovered a treasure trove of world music CDs. I quickly hit my reserve list limit of 50 items and now have stacks of Celtic, salsa, flamenco, African and zydeco tunes to listen to. The Rough Guide and Putamayo labels both provide a wide variety of music.

Individual groups or artists that I’m enjoying are Solas, Celia Cruz and Two Siberians. This is good stuff!

What’s Happening in the Garden Now

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The gardens are just flat-out gorgeous right now. The plantings are lush and full of color and the weather is perfect – mid-70s for the middle of August. I can’t wait for our vacation so I can sit outside and enjoy it all.

The hummingbirds must be making their way back south because we have had many, many of them at our feeders and in the flowers.

I need to get a better butterfly identification guide because there has been an orangey-brownish critter with dark dots on its wings at the zinnias of late, and I can’t find exactly those same markings in my guide. Maybe it’s a kind of copper or a harvester.

The Mystery Plant

A whole lot of you must have dead nettle or lamium in your gardens because it was an easy plant to identify. It’s a great groundcover which comes in a variety of colors for both foliage and flowers. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Globe thistle
Ligularia “Othello”
Canna
Morning glories
Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes
Wisteria
Verbena bonariensis
Cardinal Lobelia
Native monarda
A lobelia that is blue but was labeled “Cardinal Lobelia” when I bought it. Surprise!
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
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

Cut back the iris leaves.

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

Relax and enjoy it all.

Vegetable Garden

I have been neglecting the vegetable garden of late so it’s time to give it a little attention.

The tomato crop will explode this week. We have lots of BLTs ahead of us. Yum!

Today’s Grahamisms

"What do you call a cross between a parrot and a caterpillar? A walkie-talkie!"

"Is the lake next to our house the ocean? Does it go to the ocean?" (Well, yes, Graham, the water flows into a stream which takes it to the Mississippi which flows into the ocean.) So our lake is the very first lake and it’s the Ruler of all the Waters!

Posted by maasx003 at 12:10 PM

August 14, 2005

Mommy Weirdest

In less than a month, Graham starts kindergarten, and he is quite excited. Each day he asks, “How many days left at my old school?” followed by “I start my new school on the first Wednesday in September, right?”

I’m excited for him but I’m surprised at how emotional I’ve become as we gear up for this big change. (Okay, I’m not really surprised.) The other day was I was reading through a skills assessment that Mrs. Block, Graham’s new teacher, sent home for all her students to complete. I began to weep when I discovered that I was sending my baby off in the world and he didn’t even know how to button. How will he manage? (It turns out he can button but I’ve never seen him do it since he refuses to wear any clothes with buttons.)

Then there was the night when all the district kindergarteners and their families learned about bus safety. One minute I was bursting with pride as I watched him march up to the front of the gym with all the other kindergartners, and the next I was struck cold when I listened to the bus driver tell the kids, “The most important rule is ‘If your backpack drops underneath the bus, leave it.’” Last year a five-year-old in St. Paul was run over by a bus driver who thought the bump he made was a backpack, so she backed over him again to take a better look. God help me.

And this weekend we were at our favorite “Frisbee Park” where a group of young men, probably 16 or 17 years old, play a wild game of wiffleball. As I watched them, I tried to project out 10 to 12 years when Graham would be hanging out with his buds. Would they be the kind of good kids to engage in such an innocent and free-spirited game? (My thoughts about the kids playing changed later when I heard one young man use the old Effenheimer in front of small kids louder and more frequently than the Irish dancers tapped with their steel-toed shoes earlier in the day.)

I heard a great term the other day: helicopter parents. These are the wigged-out parents who relive their own childhoods by “hovering” over their children. You know, the parents who chart and manage their children’s careers from tiny totdom on and eventually follow them off to college and have to be asked to leave by the Dean.

For five years, we’ve been able to keep a bubble around Graham, keeping him safe. We’ve known who’s been around him, scheduled his play dates and controlled who he came in contact with. In September, that bubble will burst the minute he steps on the school bus for the first time and drives off to school.

I keep thinking back to the evening of his bus training and how I watched him walk away from me, his head held high, master of his own destiny. As he marches away from us into an environment over which we have no control with only the hope that we have instilled some sense of good judgment in him, how do we begin to let him go and not hover? How do we let him live his own adventure and not live it for him?

Hang on, folks, it’s going to be a bumpy (helicopter) ride!

Irish Fair

Irish Fair Photo One:
:: Graham’s Class ::
Graham stands with his class shortly before they go on stage
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

We had such a great time during Irish Fair, I’m almost sorry I’m not Irish. We spent most of Saturday and a big chunk of Sunday afternoon cheering on Graham and his fellow dancers from the Rince na Chroi Irish dance school. The older dancers are phenomenal and the wee ones in Graham’s class all made their parents proud.

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With live music all around, Graham couldn’t stop dancing, and we could barely keep him in his seat to enjoy fish and chips with Uncle Mike and Aunt Lori who came to watch him.

Irish Fair Video:
:: Graham Dances::
Graham practices his steps before he goes on stage
GK_DanceWS_half.jpg
Click photo or HERE to view the video

Here are some other photos. If you'd like to see all the photos, please visit our Irish Fair album (you may need to register first, which is free).

Irish Fair Photo Two:
:: Graham and Mommy ::
Graham and Jackie enjoy a moment before the show.
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Irish Fair Photo Three:
:: Dance Routine ::
Some of the older girls wow the crowd.
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Irish Fair Photo Four:

:: Graham On Stage ::

Graham joins his group on stage.

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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Irish Fair Photo Five:

:: Graham and Daddy ::

Daddy wishes Graham luck before his performance.

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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Irish Fair Photo Six:
:: Day Two Treats ::
Graham enjoys some ice cream before his second day performance.
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Irish Fair Photo Seven:
:: On Stage ::
Graham performs a little jig with his class on stage.
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Irish Fair Photo Eight:
:: On Stage ::
Graham was very comfortable and smiling on stage.
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Irish Fair Photo Nine:
:: Refreshments ::
Graham drinks some water in between performances. He had two on the second day.
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Click photo or HERE to view larger image


Irish Fair Photo Ten:

:: All Over ::

Graham takes a well deserved bow after his performance.

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Click photo or HERE to view larger image

From sheepdog demonstrations and cold stout to a hurling game and a marching piper band, Irish culture was on display. Now if I could just nabbed a sticker that said, “Kiss me, I’m a Kelly” …

The Top Ten Characteristics of Real Gardeners

10. ...have gardens that are never finished.
9. ...actually spend money on a sack of poop.
8. ...give advice to other customers at garden centers.
7. ...stop on the way home from buying plants – to buy more plants.
6. ...will, within 5 minutes of entering someone else's garden, start pulling weeds.
5. ...find seeds falling off plants and into their hands when they visit other gardens.
4. ...can be recognized from May to September by a telltale hint of dirt under their nails.
3. ...know what Taraxacum officinale is.
2. ...squish "bad" bugs with their bare hands.
1. ...keep an "emergency gardening kit" in the trunk of their car.
+...can always find room for just one more!

So which ones describe you? Post a comment and let me know.

(Printed with kind permission from my friend Rebecca)

What’s Happening in the Garden Now

The morning glories have hit their stride. I always plant two or three different varieties along the chain link fence for some late-season color. Some have even managed to set seed and start growing on their own.

The Mystery Plant

Several of you guessed correctly that the plant with the lime green flowers was a nicotiana. Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Morning glories
Nicotiana – all shapes, colors and sizes
Wisteria
Verbena bonariensis
Cardinal Lobelia
Native monarda
A lobelia that is blue but was labeled “Cardinal Lobelia” when I bought it. Surprise!
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
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

Plant the lilies and butterfly weed that Brian brought purchased.
Keep up with the wisteria vines, slug traps and pot watering.

Vegetable Garden

So many cherry tomatoes, so many ways to eat them.

Today’s Grahamisms

"Tell me again what six creatures suck human blood? I know there are vampires, lampreys, mosquitoes and those things in the lake water but what else?"

While playing Wile Coyote and Road Runner and showing off his stockpile of weapons: "And here is the Acme Dental Floss of Doom. You open it and sniff and oh, how refreshing."

"Daddy says he was the fastest boy in all of Jamestown so he must have been the fastest man in the world."

"I am the Pumpkin Man and my powers are that I have a box of taxes. Taxes are those things that make car tires go flat, right?" He meant to say tacks.

"While listening to a radio announcer: That guy said electrical response but that can’t be right. There’s no electrical response! He must have meant “mythical.”

"Do germs and bacteria see our owies as big, red playgrounds where they can run around like a maniac like Pont? Do they have really big ears so they can hear the minute we get an owie?"

Posted by maasx003 at 9:43 AM

August 12, 2005

Beta Testing

Please excuse my husband as he conducts some beta testing of some new html codes on my blog. Some of this looks fun!


Video Tests:

:: Graham at 16 months ::
A quick clip shows GK running at the playground

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Click photo or HERE to view file


Video Tests:

:: Graham Eats Some Cheerios ::

A quick clip shows GK eating some Cheerios at 8 months old

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Click photo or HERE to view file


Video Tests:

:: Graham Takes First Steps ::

A quick clip shows GK taking his first steps at 5 months old

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Click photo or HERE to view file

Picture Tests:
:: Puppy Pont ::
Picture of Pont suitable for 4x6 photo print
pont thumbnail.jpg
Click photo or HERE to view larger image

Picture Tests:
:: Puppy Pont ::
Picture of Pont suitable for 8x10 photo print
pont thumbnail.jpg
Click photo or HERE to view larger image

If you liked seeing video or the thumbnail photos with your option of resolution size, just leave us a Comment below.


Posted by maasx003 at 12:44 PM

August 6, 2005

County Fair

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When I was a kid growing up in North Dakota, the county fair meant a visit to the dusty 4-H barn to check out which of my classmates who lived on a farm had entered sheep or chickens or a stop by the civic center to look at plastic-wrapped plates of cookies and brownies.

So it seems a little strange to be living in a suburb of Minneapolis and participating in our county fair. This is the step-sister of the much, much larger Minnesota State Fair in which I have won blue ribbons in the past.

The Hennepin County Fair must be among the metro area’s best-kept secrets. It’s close by (about 10 minutes for us), relatively cheap and full of just the right amount of entertainment for a family outing. Graham loves doing the rides with the tilt-a-whirl as current the favorite, and we adults love the typical fair food of mini doughnuts, corn on cob and Dippin’ Dots ice cream “of the future.”

This year we raised our activity level and entered a number of different categories in the creative activities competitions. From photographs, bonsai, potted plants and flowers to perennials, pickled jicama, ornamental grasses and potatoes with grass “hair”, the Maas family was triumphant in bringing home the blue, red, white and purple ribbons.

Graham also won his fair share of ribbons incuding the potatoes mentioned above as well as his painting and his photography.

We also were able to enjoy some exciting bull riding. Graham especially thought the clowns were funny.

How have you done at fairs? Won anything big? Have any interesting stories from your entries? Leave a Comment at the end of this entry and tell me about it.

Those Who Wait

Two summers ago, we purchased a pot of Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittoniana) at the end of the growing season. It added a bit of height and purple flowers with its long stalks but pretty much went dormant over the winter.

Last summer, it did nothing but look like a bunch of dead sticks with a few leave on top like a coconut palm.

This spring I experimented by cutting down a number of the stalks to between six to 10 inches. Surprisingly, each of those stalks sent out new shoots.

We have had a usually hot and humid summer in which this plant must have felt at home because it finally set buds and began to bloom for the first time in two years.

Maybe I don’t have to compost this plant after all.

Got Thistles?

I couldn’t figure out why the Orange Profusion zinnias in the pot next to the sliding glass door of our deck looked so terrible until I noticed the goldfinches zooming in and out from them.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that they had been eating the seeds of the spent zinnia buds.

Those little goldfinches are deadheading for me!

Small, Dark and Handsome

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The tiger swallowtail butterflies are still fluttering around like crazy among the purple phlox. Periodically they are joined by this dark butterfly. I believe it is the black form of the tiger swallowtail. The other butterflies don’t seem to like having him about and attack him.

Irish Fair

Graham will be performing with Rince na Chroi, his Irish dance school, during Irish Fair at Harriet Island next Saturday, Aug. 13, at 11 a.m. , and on Sunday, Aug. 14, at 4 p.m. He has been practicing his kicks by pretending he is kicking Darth Vader or another Star Wars villain every night this week. It should be a fun weekend with lots of music, children’s activities and food.

Happy Anniversary, Baby

To quote the great Little River Band, “Happy Anniversary, baby. Got you on my mind.” Brian and I celebrated our 14th anniversary on Aug. 3 by taking our county fair entries to be registered and having dinner at Graham’s favorite restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings. Here’s to the next 14 years!

What’s Happening in the Garden Now

We’ve hit deep summer with the garden in full stride now. Fall is a long way off but I can already see that the fall garden will be deep and lush with color.

The Mystery Plant

Here’s the puzzle. I thought last week’s plant was Joe Pye Weed but Rebecca, the native plant maven, says it is swamp milkweed. Hmm. Trowels at 10 paces to settle this disagreement? Can you guess the plant this week?

Here’s What’s Blooming Now

Ligurlaria “The Rocket”
Morning Glory
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

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

Vegetable Garden

It’s time to do something with all the Roma tomatoes and the bumper crop of basil…

Today’s Grahamisms

"Pont jumps around just like the bull at the fair."

Note: Apparently the panoramic links did not work as planned last week. My husband fixed the issue so if you did not get the full panoramic view on last weeks post, give it a tyr again:

Panoramic One

Panoramic Two

Panoramic Three

Panoramic Four

Panoramic Five

Panoramic Six

Panoramic Seven

Panoramic Eight

Posted by maasx003 at 4:01 PM