Thursday, November 26, 2009

Plantable Holiday Cards

Just ordered a bunch of these. What a great idea!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Difficulties in Dallas

The Dallas Observer recently ran this fascinating story about the difficulties city residents have faced in their efforts to begin a community garden.

Seems to me like there's a lot more going on here that we'll find out about later. Make sure you read the comments after the article too.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Garden Crossings Delivers

Just wanted to, once again, share the love for Garden Crossings. They send you the best plants with the best packing method of anyone I've dealt with in the mail order plant business.

Know, too, that many of the plants in my order were on sale. Ever ordered sale plants from other mail order places, only to receive the tiniest, sickliest, most pathetic sticks you've ever seen, usually tossed into the box carelessly? Yeah, me too. Well, not from GC. Here are a few photos:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can't Afford Plants? Train Your Pet to Steal Them.

Viewers of The Colbert Report are familiar with his frequent "Monkey on the Lam" spots, featuring real stories of escaped monkeys and their adventures.

Well, here's the tale of a Monkey on the Take. He's been caught on tape robbing a local Dallas plant store. Police believe monkey used to steal from business

Considering how much I spend on plants each year, maybe I should trade in my labrador and tortoise for a gibbon...?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Garden Crossings Savings

Just placed a small-ish order with Garden Crossings. I've had a discount card sitting on my desk for awhile, begging to be used. (Use the code SAVENOW at checkout and receive $25 off a $99 order, or $15 off a $75 order, thru July 31!)

I've had my eye on a couple of types of golden barberry, both of which are carried by GC. There's the dwarf low-growing beret-type 'Maria' and the upright pillar-type 'Talago'. I wanted both of these, but the Talago was sold out, so I'm at least getting two of the dwarves to flank the variegated yucca at the end of our sidewalk. I've tried regular barberries there, but they keep burning up. Hopefully the goldies will last longer.

I also ordered a gorgeous new Aquilegia called 'Blackcurrant Ice' (shown at right), a couple of Heucheras ('Miracle' and 'Tiramasu') plus an interesting Brunnera called 'King's Ransom' that looks to be a cross between 'Hadspen Cream' and 'Jack Frost'. I hope it at least has the heat tolerance of Jack Frost...every Hadspen Cream I've had has melted during our intense Texas summer, never to be seen again, while the Jack Frosts have held up surprisingly well...when given adequate water, of course.

I also got an Echinacea 'Mac 'n' Cheese'. Didn't see the accompanying bright red 'Tomato Soup' variety in their catalog, or I would've gotten that too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Go Fish

I've been growing fish peppers for the past couple of years with limited success. In most attempts, I put the plants into my community garden plot and watched as they slowly got munched down to nubs by various varmints during the growing season.

Well no more. I am now growing them in pots in the somewhat safe sanctuary of my own backyard, and my success has escalated...when I can keep the tobacco hornworms off the plants, that is. (I plucked off a hornworm as big as my ring finger the other day. Luckily, we have lots of attentive and hungry mockingbirds around our property.)

Anyway, this year's success of the lovely variegated heirloom Fish Pepper got me thinking: what exactly do I do with the peppers now that I have them? Are they hot? Are they a main dish type of pepper or a flavor-enhancing kind?

Well, trusty old Google provided me with some answers and then some. I learned a lot about where these unique peps originated and how their seeds have survived. Quite fascinating. Read on:

Heirloom Fish Peppers - I don't think there's a vegetable my buddy Kenny over at Veggie Gardening Tips hasn't grown. Check out his interesting and informative article about Fish Peppers.

Fish Peppers - Mother Earth News - William Woys Weaver offers a fascinating look at the history of these peppers, including a great story of how his grandfather was a key player in keeping the seed in circulation.

As for recipes...well, it's difficult to find them, mostly because when you Google on "fish pepper" you get a a lot of recipes with fish and peppers in them. There is some correlation in the name, however, as the traditional usage of the vegetable was as a flavoring in seafood dishes. A-ha!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Lovely Lily

I planted this lily about three years ago and it hasn't bloomed until now. Gorgeous, yes? If memory serves (which it usually doesn't these days), I think this was a freebie/extra bulb from somewhere.

What I do know is that it is a very fragrant Oriental lily called 'Stargazer'.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Surrounded by Squash

First, check out the picture of my "Siamese Twins" squash. This is a budding Zephyr squash, in actuality, but I guess the flower was double-pollinated? Pretty cool...I'd be interested to hear from any of you who have seen and/or experienced this before.

Here's the rest of my harvest...the yellow crooknecks shown are what I picked just from this week...just from one plant! I've already resorted to pushing some off on the neighbors, since hubby doesn't care for squash in any form, color or shape. I also used quite a bit making this yummy casserole.

Lastly, please check out my new Organic Gardening newsletter. Some of it is Texas-exclusive advice, but most is not. There are tips on feeding hummingbirds, composting, and a brief product review of my new Neuton electric lawn mower.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dallas Councilman Chokes the Chicken

Dallas' most progressive nursery, North Haven Gardens, is facing a fight with local (soon to be former, thankfully) councilman Mitchell Rasansky about supplying chickens at its store. The nursery did everything right but still got slammed by this idiot who, in the past has disputed the use of bat houses around the city. Read more here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Creaky Knees? Aching Back?

You're not're gardening!

Apparently gardening isn't just really physically good for you - it will extend your life too.

Please tell that to my body after a marathon weeding and raking session.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Conflicting Reports

Everything seems to be "off" this year weather- and garden-wise, in one way or another.

I saw a hummingbird today - the earliest ever - yet the juncos are still here. Some of my Louisiana irises are swelling with the same time as their usually-earlier German bearded and Siberian iris cousins are blooming.

Nearly all of the tomatoes planted at the Community Garden perished in sub-zero, wind-whipped temperatures last week. Because of the presence of the aforementioned juncos, I continued to hold off on planting my half dozen or so tomato plants, and am trying not to be smug about my foresight. But watching the birds was something my mother taught me from a very young age; our feathered friends possess a sixth sense about weather conditions that we do not. At least, the winter birds have it, anyway. I'm not sure what that crazy hummingbird is doing here already.

Anyway, lots of plant orders are trickling in. I don't consider myself old enough to be even close to senile, but I can never seem to remember/envision what I ordered from these companies when they get around to finally shipping the order to me. I save invoices, make notes, etc., but by gosh I still find myself tearing open boxes like a kid at Christmas because I truly don't know exactly what's inside. A Salvia Pachyphylia 'Blue Flame'? Great! Thanks! (What the heck does that look like??)

I am expecting a 10 lb. box from Bluestone Perennials tomorrow. Ten pounds of plants sounds like a lot to me...! So I guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend. Besides that order, I have six Agastaches and Salvias from High Country Gardens to plant, plus two daylilies and 30(!) Gladiolus bulbs from Dutch Gardens that need to taste soil pretty quick.

And, in what must have been a lustful tropical plant haze, I also ordered several plants from Logee's, including one of those incredible-looking Diamond Head purple elephant ears. Not sure when that order will arrive. I'm trying my hand with a more common red Passiflora (other than Margaret, which didn't do well for me in the past for some reason) plus another round of Tarnok Sarrencia for the water barrel garden and a 'Chad' hibiscus just because it was stupifying.

Call me a multitasker, but I'm also managing several vegetable projects around the backyard. I have two new 3' x 3' beds by the driveway which now host radishes, peas, carrots and beets, and a couple of half whiskey barrels around the pool area with cabbage, bok choi and radicchio. All of these are doing well; the squirrels and/or rabbits are keeping their chewing to a minimum. I've planted nasturtiums around the containerized plants and the marauding rodents seem to be repelled by it. Amazing.

So there's a nice big, fat update about what's been going on with me in the outdoors arena. Spring might be here around Dallas...we're still not sure. But one thing is certain: I'm ready to plant!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Going Dutch

I'm always a little embarrassed to admit when I've ordered from Dutch Gardens. In my book, they're about one step above Spring Hill Nurseries as far as plant quality and reliable customer service...and that's not too good. But gosh, the pictures in their catalogs are intoxicating.

I figured I couldn't go too wrong with daylilies and gladiolus - two of the toughest plants in existence. Here's what my order looked like; these should be arriving in about a month:

Gladiolus 'Black Surprise'

Gladiolus 'Dandy'

Daylily 'Thundering Ovation'

Daylily 'Lori Goldston'

Flower Seeds - Old and New

I was going through my collection of flower seeds and was truly amazed at how old some of them were. Sunflower seeds from 2001, marigold seeds harvested from plants I had...gosh, I can't remember when. Maybe from before I was married, even. I ended up pitching most of the old seeds, as they probably weren't viable anyway, but I decided to try the sunflower and marigold just for the heck of it. The datura was also harvested from a plant and is only a couple of years old. The rest of the list is brand-spanking new seed from either Burpee or Select Seeds. Seeds were started yesterday, 2/14.

Sunflower 'Sunspot'

Marigold 'Jaguar'

Datura 'Double Purple'

Ornamental Millet 'Jester'

Scabiosa 'Beaujolais'

Scabiosa 'Dark Knight'

Maltese Cross

Gentian Blue Sage 'Cambridge Blue'

Amaranth 'Oeschberg'

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'

Coreopsis 'Mardi Gras'

Calendula 'Oktoberfest'

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Lead Us Not Into Temptation...

...but deliver us from weevil?

It's a difficult time of year for gardeners, at least, Southern gardeners. Spring is so close we can almost smell it.

I look around the yard and see my daffodils blooming and I want to start doing things. Things like cleaning up dead plant debris and trimming off ornamental grasses and planting stuff. You know...gardening. But alas, it's still a bit too early.

After suffering through last week, which started off with ice storms and ended with 75° temperatures, I know not to trust Mother Nature this time of year. She is naughty and treacherous and won't hesitate to freeze unprotected plants to the ground.

So, seed starting and garden planning has filled some of the void. I finally got the three lightweight half whiskey barrels out of the garage, positioned them in the backyard around the pool and filled them with potting soil and some homemade compost. My seedlings are looking good and it'll be tough deciding what goes into the barrels, what goes in the new beds by the driveway and what (besides the tomatoes) gets sentenced to the wild confines of the Plano Community Garden. Sheesh.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Digging the Blues

Well, I've placed my bi-annual plant order with Bluestone Perennials. I hope some of you took advantage of their 15% off early bird special. I had a bunch of little coupons from them too, so I ended up saving over $30. When you consider that many of these plants come as 3-packs, the value is outstanding. I've had good luck overall with their plant quality as well - a couple of disappointments over the years, but not many. They are Garden Watchdog Top 30 company, after all.

Here's what my order contained:

VERONICA teucrium Royal Blue
RUDBECKIA hirta Cherry Brandy
AGASTACHE Purple Pygmy
COREOPSIS rosea American Dream
KNAUTIA macedonica Red Knight
BUDDLEIA davidii Harlequin
HEMEROCALLIS siloam Irving Hepner (shown at right)
ASTER oblongifolius October Skies
SEDUM spurium Fulda Glow (Fuldaglut )
THYMUS x Highland Cream
HEUCHERA Purple Petticoats
HEUCHERA x villosa Miracle

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seeds of Change

Yesterday's inauguration has brought a feeling of hopefulness and much-needed change to our country. Kind of like how seed-starting does for me during winter's doldrums.

And that's not to diminish the importance of either occurrence. Just as I am in awe of our new president's sense of fairness and humility, I am always humbled by the simple yet hopeful task of starting seeds for the coming season.

Here's the list of what I started in Jiffy pots this past Saturday:

Tomato 'Valley Girl'
Tomato 'New Girl'
Tomato 'Yellow Cherry'
Tomato 'Orange King'
Radicchio 'Red Surprise'
Cauliflower 'Cheddar'
Cabbage 'Deadon'
Cabbage 'Alcosa'
Pac Choi 'Red'
Broccoli 'Purple Peacock'
Purple Orach
Mustard Greens 'Purple Wave'

Yeah, I still love growing weird-colored veggies, as you can tell. Orange cauliflower? Purple broccoli? Yellow cherry tomatoes? You betcha. For one thing, purple vegetables are said to contain more antioxidants than their common green or white or whatever counterparts. And to me, anything different and unique is usually way cool.

We've had really Sybil-like weather here in North Texas, i.e. 70° one day and a high of 45° the next. So, when things even out a bit, I'll go about the task of direct sowing things like carrots, beets, peas, lettuce, etc.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Good Intentions Make Good Mulch

So I'm starting off 2009 with a few personal gardening resolutions that have been posted for all to see over at Dave's Garden.

Some are ambitious (like not killing any more orchids), while others are just plain necessary (like being more active at the Plano Community Garden). But I'm optimistic about the new year, and not just for good gardening.

After building two 2'x 2' raised beds and filling them with soil the other day, I felt 100 years old. Every part of me ached. So 2009 will be a year in which I also hope to become stronger physically by returning to regular weight training and elevated cardio routines...and lugging bags of compost doesn't count!

Finally, and as my Dave's Garden article mentions, I promise to post here more. Many times I considered shutting this site down since I almost never update it. But then I would hem and haw and never do that either, mostly because I don't want to. I like writing about gardening and I like reading about other people's gardens. So I hope there are a few of you out there who are still interested.