Glory's Garden

All the world's a garden, you know, and we are mere flowers within it. Come, I'll show you!

Don't get any funny ideas!

©2018 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved

My Peeps!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Grey Towers Covered in Ivy

See? I'm not the only one with vines taking over everywhere. Sure looks nice though. This is at Grey Towers, the historical site in Milford, PA.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Trumpet Vine Seed Pods for Cheap

This is one of....oh,  5 maybe 6 or 7 Trumpet vines I have in my gardens. I lose count because I always find a new one poking out of ....well, some place they ought not be. Like last week I found one poking out from under the steps leading into the driveway garden and this week I found another, though I forget now where it is. I’ll find it sometime. I’ll have to dig them out and plant them along the fence enclosing the back 40. It’s the only place left for these wild things.

But don’t go thinking I’m complaining. I love these vines, although, my son Justin, the one with autism, calls it a tree. I had to stop and really look at it from his point of view and actually he was right. The one he was pointing to, this one in the picture, has a thick trunk, bigger than most saplings we find for sale at the nursery. I never even noticed it before he mentioned it.

I should show you a picture of the trunk sometime. It’s gnarly, all twisting around the lattice, exactly how I had trained it back in the day when it was a tiny six inches long and thin like any vine should be. One day I’ll find the lattice busted up from this ever-growing, ever-expanding tree-vine or vine-tree, whatever it is. I suppose it’s my fault, its current shape. I pruned it this way to keep it from knocking off my hat every time I go down the steps. I just ended up giving it a canopy, so, now it does indeed look like a tree.

These vines grow so quick, I have to keep trimming them back, just to keep them from taking over. Not doing too good a job though, I’m thinking. And look at all those seed pods dangling from it! I may end up with even more of these growing wherever they like. Anybody want one? Real cheap! I’ll trade a Trumpet vine seed pod for any seeds you got in abundance which I don’t have. I kid you not! Let me know.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Good Morning Glories!

The Morning Glory gets it’s name because it blooms in the early morning and the flowers close up and fade by the time the sun is high in the sky.  Botanically known as Ipomoea, Morning Glory encompasses many decorative vines and even the sweet potato. When I think of Morning Glories I recall a friend who read the complicated direction on the back of a seed pack. She said “The heck with that!”, threw them down in disgust and frustration, then forgot about them only to have them grow, with no help from her, into a mass of tangled vines with beautiful, multi-colored trumpet-shaped blossoms and  pretty heart-shaped leaves. Needless to say she found out about the  experts’ keen ability to make matters such as the simple planting of seeds into something far more complicated.

Morning Glory vines are annuals with a propensity for self-sowing and anything with that ability can’t be very tough to grow, now can it? So, should you disregard the instructions on the back of the seed pack? Yes and no.  No, you don’t have to sit there with a nail file or pen knife and nick the seed coat of each and everyone of those tiny seeds but yes, you should do something to soften that seed coat. I prefer the much easier technique of just letting the seeds soak in warm water overnight. This isn’t necessary of course. I just showed you that throwing them down in a reckless manner will accomplish the same thing. But if you want the seeds to germinate quickly as I do it’s a good idea.

Because of my relatively short growing season and the fact I adore Morning Glories and want them around for as long a time as possible,  I therefore want them growing quickly so the soaking method works great  for me. It’s hardly a burden to place the seeds in a recycled yogurt cup with a bit of warm water and allow them to sit for a few hours then plant them about a half inch deep in regular garden soil. The softened seed coat allows them easy access to the moisture in the soil around them, they germinate swiftly and start growing like weeds. They require very little care after that. Casual feeding and regular watering will encourage blooms. They don’t like to be disturbed after planting so sow them where you want them.

If that still seems like too much trouble (you are a lazy one, aren’t you?) Then simply plant the Morning Glory seeds in the autumn after your temperatures have cooled considerably about the time of your first few hard frosts and leave them to the elements. That seed coat will soften all by itself and in spring they will obligingly sprout and grow on their own perhaps surprising you. By then you may have forgotten all about them. I like surprises like that and often give myself some just for the thrill.

I call the Morning Glory an annual but in truth there are perennials amongst the genus though mostly grow in temperate areas. Elsewhere they are exclusively grown as annuals. Ipomoea Alba, the Moonflower, is such a perennial in the tropics. This one grows so quickly and profusely (up to thirty feet within a season) that it is well worth planting year after year. The moonflower gets it’s common name from its large, white, fragrant flowers which tend to bloom  on dull, dark, stormy days, at dusk and into the night, (the exact opposite of other Ipomoeas which bloom at daybreak), perfect for “Moon” gardens and for night-flying insects. It also has large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves up to 8 inches long to recommend it. This plant makes a beautiful display and can quickly cover a trellis, fence or arbor.

Morning Glory Vines come in many colors though the preferred hue is the sky-blue color. “Heavenly Blue” is the most popular and wildly available of the true Morning Glory Blues. A warning to you  if you want to retain the blue colored Morning Glory you may have to buy fresh seeds every year instead of relying on them to self-sow. When grown with Morning Glories of other colors the seeds resulting will most likely be of mixed colors. Not that it’s a big problem. They are all beautiful after all.

Other cultivars to try are the  red “Scarlet O’Hara” and “Blue Star” which is a bi-color with pale pink stripes forming a star on each pale lavender- blue flower. “Carmen” comes in a  burgundy bloom with a white throat. When grown intertwined  with the Moonflower the effect is stunning and you get almost continuous blooming as one closes up just as the other opens. Perfect!

There are many others to choose from.  Some are  bi-colored and even  tri-colored coming in single and double flower forms. I suggest you look through a Seymore Select Seeds mail order catalogue for more varieties.  You can readily find mixed seed packs in white, pink, light purple, red and blue just about anywhere but make sure you get to the store on the earliest spring day as the Morning Glory seeds tend to be the ones to be sold out sooner than any other. If you intend to collect the seeds make certain you pick them when the papery husks are dry to the touch. The seeds will easily fall away if left in place but collecting them gives you the control so they can grow where you want them instead of where Mother Nature allows them.

The Morning Glories  are popular plants used to add height to a garden when planted on a lamp post, fence or even tangled with other vines or shrubs. They can also be useful as ground covers or in hanging baskets. No matter how you put them to use you’ll love them as do all the butterflies, honey bees and Humming Birds which will frequent them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Dreaded Poison Ivy

There I was minding my own business–-  wait, it is my own business if I’m yanking out weeds in my garden, isn’t it? Sometimes I’m not very certain. You see, the birds in the nearby nest often squawk at me when I’m out there. It’s as if I’m cramping their style just by being so close. But that’s a tale for another time. I was mindlessly pulling out weeds out from under the Mugo pine, when all of a sudden I see it. Yikes! Leaves of three on a long vine and that undeniable reddish tinted foliage. I had touched Poison ivy!

I froze for a few seconds, recalling quite vividly my last bout with the rash to end all rashes. I was covered from head to toe within a week of touching the evil weed. The doctor said he had never seen anything so bad. He gave me a steroid shot, but still it took quite a while for it to subside and the itching! It was horrible, like my skin was on fire

Tommy forbade me from going anywhere near it and from ever touching it again. He said, “Call me when you see it. I don’t care what I’m doing. Don’t touch it and come get me!” I was more than willing to obey unquestioningly.

Well, that was all fine and good, but that was when the Poison ivy obligingly stayed far away from me. It had been growing exclusively in a shady spot under the now dying birch trees, far removed from the house and gardens. I have no formal gardens there, unless you count a patch of daylilies and a few Forsythia bushes, so my exposure to it was nil........until now.

It was just there, innocently enough, but I had already touched it, albeit with gloves on. I should have just dropped it as soon as I recognized it and called Tommy, but he wasn’t home. But I did have gloves on.  Still, it could get on my skin. But I had learned that lesson too. I now always garden with as much skin covered as possible, long sleeves, long pants, hat and gloves. Surely, I would be okay.

How naive I can be! Well, it did somehow get on me and it spread, not much, but enough to keep me out of the garden for two weeks. Yes, I was scared of this rash getting worse and it took me that long to finally get rid of it. No, I wasn’t going out into the garden until it was completely under control and what if I found more of the vile stuff growing around my favorite plants? I didn’t want to think of it!

Many home remedies later, including vinegar, bleach, calamine lotion, hydrocortizone and other sundry lotions and ointments, I’m okay and back out into the garden. ~sigh~ It’s good to be out here again and not itchy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Strange fruit?

I’ll bet you’re wondering what shrub I have in my garden that can produce such a wonderful fruit as this. Well, even if you’re not, I’ll tell you. This is one of many Pee Gee Hydrangeas I have scattered about my four acres. I love them. They have pretty flowers, a wonderful shape and lovely foliage but they don’t usually produce fruit. If you look closely, however, you’ll spot that it’s a pumpkin in there.

So how the heck did this pumpkin get here, right smack-dab in the center of the shrub? I went on vacation and that’s what happened when I turned my back. Now I can’t remove it until it’s ripe or I’ll tear it off the vine, so, there it will have to stay, at least for a few weeks. My garden produces some strange fruit, don’t you think?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pumpkin Vine Gone Mad

I’ve said numerous times how wild and rambunctious I consider vines to be. I’ve said vines have a mind of their own and care not one wit what you want. Their main goal, I am quite convinced is world domination, but even this took me by surprise. I had neglected the vegetable garden. I pretty much gave it up as a bad job because it appeared that the pumpkin vines had dried up and nothing was growing. At least that was what I thought!

What should I find once I did some weeding and looking into the veggies but more than a dozen pretty orange globes. These “sugar babies” had been hiding amongst the dry foliage. But that wasn’t all. The vines had completely gone mad-hatter, mad. They were not content staying in their designated garden. Oh, no! They decided to climb over the hedge of globe Boxwoods I planted on the edge of the garden. The Boxwoods were there, ironically enough, to keep errant plants like this in check. See how well that didn’t work?

Well, the pumpkins didn’t stop there. Once they climbed over the Boxwoods they were in the grass, from the grass they decided to continue no matter what was in their way. What was in their way? A Pee Gee Hydrangea. Yes, you got it. They climbed over that too, right up and over and down the other side. And nestled deep in the branches, foliage and flowers is a large pumpkin, just visible if you get down on your knees and peer into the bush.

Can you frickin’ believe that? Well, if you’ve grown pumpkins before, I’m sure you do. It is my fault. I never think of cutting a vine when it seems so eager to keep growing! Just seems mean to cut it short. Yes, I’m silly, but there ya go!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Best Construction Worker Ever

I have many family members in construction and quite a few friends as well. They make a good living and keep busy. The reason for that is simple. They are good at what they do.  But none of them, no matter how good they may be with hammer and nail, can match the skill of the one creature that put together this nest.

Look at this amazing structure. It has a perfectly rounded bottom and sturdy walls. The construction is perfect, like you can’t believe. When you hold it in your hand, it feels heavier than it ought to be. It’s just astounding that it was made by a tiny bird who has no hands, no fingers and not a single tool. The wonderful construction of this nest was done solely by a beak and a pair of wings.

None of my construction buddies (and they all should know I love them dearly and don’t mean any disrespect) can do that! Yes, they are good, great even but they are not as good as the owner of this little nest.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Black Walnut Tree

It took forever (actually just fifteen years, but it sure felt like forever) for this Black Walnut tree to get this big. It’s about twenty feet tall and it’s the biggest of the five we planted way back when we first started planting trees in Tommy’s arboretum. They never took. Well, that’s not quite accurate. They were fine until the deer attacked them, the rabbits girdled them or the Gypsy moth caterpillars attacked them. Really, it was just one thing after another with these trees.

We started out with five, like I said, and now we have three others that are barely to my knees. Why we bother is anyone’s guess. Most people would have given up. No, scratch that. Most would never have planted them to begin with. Folks seem to hate this poor beleaguered tree. It has a bad reputation and admittedly a well deserved one. But Tommy wanted a diverse arboretum and I like the way they look. There's hardly a tree whose looks I don't like but that's neither here nor there.

Well, we finally have a good sized black walnut tree. It stands on the side of Tommy’s pole barn where he stores....uh...heck if I know what that stuff is! But anyway, it’s a pretty tree and maybe (fingers crossed) we may one day get a nut or two. Although...Tommy and I don’t even like walnuts. Yes, maybe we’re the nutty ones!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Troublesome Golden Rod

I’ve been pulling out Goldenrod seemingly since the dawn of time. Okay, so I exaggerate, but it surely feels like it. The funny thing is, Goldenrod is rather pretty and I do wrestle with the idea of letting it stay and I probably would if it weren’t for the fact it takes over. There is no such thing as a tiny patch of goldenrod. And boy, does it grow tall! Almost five feet high. Okay, maybe that’s not tall for some, but definitely for all five foot one of me.

If I could only get it to grow where I wouldn’t mind it, at the back of the perennial border perhaps, and if i could persuade it not to blow its seeds hither and dither. Alas, I may be asking a tad too much from the mighty Goldenrod.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Itsy-bitsy Spider in a Web

I saw this web just clinging to the side door, a door which we rarely if ever use, mostly because the honeysuckle vines on either side don’t seem to want us coming through there. Yes, they tend to grow pretty wild right there. I think their aim is to enclose it all together! The spider in the web, however, never moves, so, I thought it was dead. I took this picture for no other reason than because I don’t have a good picture of one, and lo and behold! Now the stupid spider decides to move. Camera shy, I guess!

I had been about to take down the web as it had been there for most of the summer but as the little guy proved he was still breathing, I thought it best to leave him be. Spiders, after all, don’t bother me none. They eat other bugs for me!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nest in the Honeysuckle Hedge

So, there I was trimming --or should I say hacking away unmercifully?- at the overgrown and very crowded Honeysuckle hedge, when what should I find but a bird’s nest. I was thrilled! It was empty at the moment I found it, but still! It meant I truly had myself a wildlife friendly garden. I had heard a bird squawking within the hedge every time I went by and always wondered what his problem was with me. I wasn’t doing anything more than passing by. Did he know I was contemplating trimming down his home shrub later that season?

I knew I had achieved a wildlife friendly garden,  but it’s always good to see further proof of it. A nest does this rather impressively. More so than just birds at the feeders, bees buzzing from flower to flower and butterflies fluttering by. A nest is home and we all know home is where the heart is.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Going to Seed

I begged a friend to save me some seeds from his Phlox paniculata. His reaction was, “How do I do that?” Really? I found it rather hard to believe he didn’t know how to save seeds. It seems like such a no-brainer, but that could be because I’d been doing it since I was a kid.

I recall following my mother about the garden toward the end of the season. She used to carry used envelops from bills and other mail, and she would pluck off the dried up marigold and zinnia flowers. And there they were, the exact same seeds she had planted in the spring at the ends of the dried up petals. Talk about magic! Mom planted a seed got a flower that turned back into many seeds again. Yes, for a little kid that was magic. (I wonder, does that mean I’m not yet grown up?  I still consider it magic, after all.)

So, my friend asks when he will know the seeds are ready. I told them when they are dry. In most cases they turn a dark color, darker than they started out, that is. For some, the seed collecting can be tricky. You have to get them at just the right moment or they will be gone with the wind, quite literally! Cosmos and Cleome will almost explode if touched at just the right time-or is that the wrong time? They really are fun, these ballistic ones are just the ones to show kids if you want them interested in gardening. Who wouldn’t like exploding plants?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hummingbirds going bonkers

You should have seen the Hummingbirds this morning. They were going absolutely bonkers zooming around the Hibiscus. Of course, they did this at top speed, so, no, I couldn’t manage a picture of them. They seem particularly camera shy of late.

Last year I found evidence of them building their nests in my yard. No, I didn’t actually find the nest, but I found the next best thing, fragments of their tiny shells just under the “Jane” saucer Magnolia. Oh, but I was thrilled! I could only imagine that somewhere amongst all those glossy, leathery leaves and magenta colored blossoms there was a tiny nest no bigger than a lichen bump on a branch. I didn’t look too closely. I didn’t want to spook them in case they were still using it. I thought they might reuse the same nests year after year. Other birds do, but I wasn’t certain about Hummers. In either case, I simply didn’t want them to think I was a nosy neighbor, butting into their business. That’s no way to treat a neighbor!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weed turned Wildflower

Tommy thinks I’m nuts to want to keep this monster weed around, but I can’t help but like it. Poke Berry is what I have been told it is called and it truly is a monster. Six foot tall and almost as wide, my pretty weed-turned-wildflower could be a screen or hedge if I can get them to grow where I want them.

Here it insists on being on the daylily hill behind the pole-barn. Not exactly where I wish it to be, but weeds have a tendency to do as they please with little if any regard for your wishes. But no matter. I will dig it up at the end of the season and toss the plant, seeds and all where I would like it to grow. With any luck, I shall have my Poke berry hedge just behind the half-stockade fence along the back driveway that leads to the pole-barn. I’ll be able to see it poking out from behind the Rhododendrons from the other side.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Clematis Seeds Pods

I recall a friend who had just bought a new home complete with established garden, asking about a plant that she wasn’t entirely certain wasn’t a weed. She described it this way, “The flower looks like a spider kinda thing but also like a dandelion. You know, one puff and a million seeds go everywhere. Should I yank it out before it takes over the yard?”

While I wasn’t in her new garden to tell her with absolute certainty that what she had there was a very coveted Clematis vine, when she described the seed pods, I knew exactly that was what she had.  I laughed and  told her, “You can only wish they would spread all over the place. It would be the very best “weed” you could have growing in your garden. Don’t touch it. You’ll love it come next spring and if you can, save me some seeds.”

Yes, that’s one of my things, asking my friends (and the occasional enemy, stranger or close relation) to save the seeds for me. Some do, some don’t. Some just don’t know when the seeds are ready to harvest. That’s easy enough. When the seeds take on a billowy texture, when they look, like my friend said, like dandelions, one puff and they blow away. They take on a dry look when they are perfect for picking and they are very easy to pull off the plant. Try it. Tug on the seed pods and you can feel them resist. This means they are not ready yet. But as soon as they no longer resist, that’s when they come right off and are ready to be tucked into an envelope for storage until planting time next season.

Although most people would think me quite insane for saying this, I believe the Clematis gone to seed is just about the prettiest thing about the Clematis vine. Yes, I know the flowers are some of the most spectacular in the vine world, but have you ever really taken a gander at the seed pods? They look like something out of a Dr. Seuss illustration. Ever seen a truffula tree? Look familiar to you? Well, it should, but only if you don’t go clip-happy and deadhead all your Clematis vines!

Seed heads of the Clematis is rather different looking and, I find, adds another aspect to the entire plant. I know they intrigued me enough when I first spotted them in a garden nursery many years back before I even knew what a Clematis vine was. I liked the seeds so much that I simply had to pluck some off and surreptitiously stuff them into my pocket. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pee Gee Hydrangea

Hydrangea paniculata “grandiflora” is the botanical name for the Pee Gee Hydrangea. The name Pee Gee  refers specifically  to and is a sort of nickname for Paniculata “Grandiflora”. Although many, even those who should know better such as nursery growers, consider all Paniculatas to be Pee Gees, this is not the case. Not that it truly matters what you call this amazingly lovely plant. It could be called Myron and  still it would be something any garden enthusiast will want within their landscape.

The Pee Gee Hydrangea is catagorized as a tall, deciduous shrub but as it matures it can be trained rather easily into a single or multi-stemmed tree shape. Cold hardy in USDA zones 3-8 it is by far the most adaptable to cold weather of all Hydrangeas, hence why there is rarely the northern home garden without one. It is a very pretty plant growing 8-10 feet high and starting its flower show by mid to late summer, when nothing much else in the shrub department seems to want to do anything spectacular. For this reason along it makes it very desirable for the home garden.

This blooming continues well into the autumn and in spring it is one of the first to leaf out looking very nice in its lovely early green splendor. Even in winter the Pee Gee has great appeal if the flower clusters are left to dry on the plant to catch powdery snow or to glisten with ice. This plant makes a striking winter time silhouette in the landscape.

Pee Gee Hydrangea, unlike its cousin the Mophead or Big leaf Hydrangea (H. hortensia) likes it in the sun.   It can tolerate some dappled shade in the hottest climates where the sun’s intensity may burn the foliage. It will likely not flower well without some sun, however.  It likes a rich, well draining soil but needs ample water to do its best. A nice organic mulch therefore will do it some good for maintaining moisture and also to protect its roots.

If you know your garden Latin you will understand Paniculata refers to the panicle or cone shape of the flower clusters. From afar when completely covered with enormous blossoms the flowers, however, appear to have the familiar round puff ball shape. It is only close up that you can really see the blossoms are slightly panicle and a very impressive 10-15 inches across. Upon even closer inspection you can see the clusters consist of hundreds of 4 petaled flowers with tiny pink eyes. The flowers start out as having a greenish tinge to them but once fully opened they are a stark white which show up so nicely against the medium green foliage. As they mature the flowers will gradually turn a blushing pink and by autumn and staying well into winter they will obtain  a buff color. These make wonderful dried flowers  for long lasting indoor arrangements.

The foliage of the Pee Gee Hydrangea is smaller and lighter colored  than the more popular and showy pink or blue  H. hortensia at only 5 inches long with a slightly serrated edge. Veining is visible but not drastically so. The leaves do turn a bronze color for their autumn show before dropping off.

Pee Gee Hydrangea is one of those unobtrusive garden fixtures that barely gets noticed until in bloom. But when in bloom, WOW! It is certainly something to behold and something your average gardener will insist on having if only to show his neighbors how a home landscape is properly done.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rose of Sharon

 While there are several plants, from trees to ground covers, that have been called Rose of Sharon, the true one, or at least the one more universally known as Rose of Sharon, is Hibiscus Syricacus or the Althaea shrub. This is a dream plant for the imaginative gardener. Rose of Sharon can be trained as a single stemmed tree, a wide growing bush or an espalier.  They can be used as single specimens in the landscape, as potted plants for the patio, as a colorful addition to shrub borders or as a thick, everlasting, flowering, living fence.

Rose of Sharon are deciduous, upright growing and they burst into bloom in mid-late summer until frost with either single, semi-double or double blossoms about 2 1 /2 -3 inches across  in colors ranging from pure white, pink, rose, purple, mauve, red, lavender, violet and some with intriguing contrasting throats and eyes. The leaves are bright green, rather small, only 1- 2 1 /2  inches long and have rough edges or toothed lobes.

Being it is a relation of the tropical Hibiscus and the Hibiscus Moscheutos (Rose Mallow) it comes as no surprise that the flowers of the  Rose of Sharon resemble them though they are considerably smaller and less showy. While this is strictly opinion, the single flower form is what most people consider the prettiest of these plants. The flowers open wider, and the contrasting colors either in the eyes or throats is rather striking.

Rose of Sharon are super easy to grow with little required to keep them looking their best. They like heat and are tolerant of drought. They can and do grow in many different soil types but prefer sandy, well draining and rich loam. They don’t take well to clay but are tolerant of that too if enough organic mulch is used around them on a continual basis to improve the soil. They like to be placed away from prevailing winds and may require a bit of protection when plants are young. They grow about 12 feet tall, compact and upright when young. As they get older the branches tend to relax giving the plant a more open air. To encourage bigger blooms late winter pruning is recommended back to two buds.

Some of the newer cultivars recently developed for fewer seed capsule are: “Aphrodite” (Rose-pink with red eyes), “Diana” (White), “Helene” (white with deep red eyes) and “Minerva” (lavender with Mauve-red eyes).

Rose of Sharon, unfortunately,  has a few drawbacks. The single flower forms have unattractive seed capsules which have a tendency to self-sow abundantly making it a bit of a nuisance for some gardeners. They dislike swampy regions though they like regular water. They are also rather late to break dormancy so you’ll be waiting a bit in the spring (and almost into the summer for the northern most gardeners) for the leaves to unfurl. In autumn they give nothing in the way of an autumn show. They don’t change at all before the leaves drop.

Aside from all the negatives, the Rose of Sharon is indeed a wonderful plant when in flower with its smallish Hollyhock-type  blossoms and the bright green leaves.  As a hedge it can’t be beat.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nelly Moser Clematis

It’s been a rather bad year for my Clematis and not just Nelly Moser. They’ve all grown kind of scraggly this season and something has been nibbling on them as never before. This is highly unusual. My clematis have always been safe from pests before. I haven’t caught them at it, so, I’m clueless as to what is doing the damage, too.

It has been a bit frustrating. They didn’t seem to flower as prolifically as they have in past growing seasons and I can only conclude it was lack of water. It have been a particularly dry season and I’m not one to water my plants unless they are in pots. It’s just a thing with me. I won’t baby my plants.

If they want to survive in my garden, my plants need to be hardy, trouble free and pretty much take care of themselves. If they don’t, then they are out of here! Perhaps that’s being a bit harsh, but when you consider I have 4 acres, most of which are some sort of garden or planting, I simply don’t have the time to hold a delicate hand...or should we say branch?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Last Apple Blossom

The poor tree from which these pretty apple blossoms came is no more. It was removed from the yard just a few days ago. It had been struggling for years to regain its strength, for naught. It simply was too far gone and Tommy, with the help of our son Brandon, took a chain saw to it and it is no more.

Oh, how we loved that little tree! Little being a relative term. When we first built our home, this tree was hidden among more briars, wild viburnum and tangled vines than you could imagine. It took some doing to literate the apple trees (there were 5-6 in the line of mangled rock wall just behind the house) from this mess, but once done, they were pruned into shape and looked much better. They even produced a bumper crop of apples for several years. That was the first year I ever made and canned apple sauce. To this day Brandon refuses to eat anything but homemade apple sauce, now that he knows what a difference it makes.

But the poor tree went through many hardships in ensuing years. Bitter ice storms which threatened to split its trunk in two, nasty insect infestations and the neighborhood woodpecker were all teamed up against the poor little tree. We protected and nursed it for as long as was possible, but alas, it had come to its end this summer. Tommy will miss those Granny Smiths baked into pies. Brandon will miss the apple sauce made with them. I on the other hand will mostly miss the flowers. They were always there, pale pink and white set perfectly against the brilliant blue sky, to show me that spring was finally come to the Poconos.

Good-bye, my little apple tree. May you rest in peace in my compost pile. Rest assured, your rooting stump will furnish nutrients for a future generation of apple trees.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Aloe Vera Plant

Why would anyone have this many Aloe Vera plants? Well, I didn't until the one I had became way too crowded for it's pot. It literally burst out of the plastic pot, it had grown so much since I dug it out of my aunt Thelma’s south Florida (Davy, to be precise) yard.

She said to me when I asked if I could take a tiny bit of her Aloe Vera back home to Pennsylvania, “Take all you want. It grows like a weed here. Don’t know why you’d want it. Isn’t even pretty.”

That may be but it sure is useful. I found this out while I was cooking. I very rarely get burns as I am notoriously careful but this once I did. Well, I promptly went over to my collection of Aloe Vera, plucked off a leaf, split it open and soothe my burn with its gel. It took a minute or two, but it did ease the pain so much that I barely felt it the rest of the night. Cool, huh?

I decided to place a leaf in the fridge just for an extra cooling sensation, if it were to happen again. Well, there is always bug bites and rashes and...well, I’m sure it won’t go to waste.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Favorite Tree

When I first got this tree, it was a mere foot high, and that included the root system! Yes, I got it bare root from the Arbor day Foundation along with several other trees to fill Tommy’s “arboretum”.
I saw the “string bean” tree for the first time when we moved to Pennsylvania. I called them this because of their long seed pods that looked, obviously, like string beans.  Catalpa is the real name, however, named by the Delaware Indians who used to eat the seed pods.

I had never seen Catalpas before, but they grew all along the Delaware River which runs down toward Philadelphia. They have beautiful, large heart-shaped leaves and extraordinary flowers, both fragrant and lovely to look at. They look like orchids, I think and smell like heaven, my kind of heaven, anyway.

So, I plants two Catalpa trees in the arboretum and there they stood looking like 10 inch long twigs sticking out of the vast lawn amongst other 1-2 foot tall twigs. I wondered if any of them would make it through the winter. To make matters worse, the deer nibbled them down to the root. Oh, but I hated the deer for that! I thought, surely the trees would never recover such brutality. What did I know?

The Catalpa, which normally grows rather spindly, branched out nicely due to the coppicing the deers did by eating them. The deer actually did me a favor. Go figure! They are lovely sprawling trees now some 35-40 feet high and my ultimate favorite in the yard.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What to do?

I have a dilemma. My fountain girl is lonely. I removed the Hosta that had surrounded her because they couldn’t take that much sun and the rabbits were eating them to bits, the beasts! She looked nice with the daffodils this spring but she needs something else for summer color. I had tried in the past, Periwinkle (Vinca minor) but that didn’t suppress the weeds as I had hoped, so, out they went. Most of them anyway. Occasionally I still get a sprig popping up here and there.

I tried Marigolds which looks fine but I’m just not in love with the idea of having to plant something around there every year. I want something permanent, a perennial. But which one? I thought of Black-eyed Susans because they would be so easy and I have plenty of them. But I also have tons of hybrid daylilies. Some really bright yellow, orange or pink blossoms would be very pretty, I think and the sword-like foliage would look full and sway nicely in the constant breeze in the side yard.

I could do Lady’s Mantle which I have surprisingly many of now. Never knew they could self sow so readily. They would make an unusual choice being they have no outstanding flower to speak of. The blossoms are a delicate form, almost like a foam spray and chartreuse in color so they rather blend in and become unobtrusive, but the foliage is quite lovely, in itself. Lovely enough that I may consider it, perhaps in conjunction with another flowering perennial. Maybe Butterfly Blue Scabiosa?

Of course, I’m always open for suggestions.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Jane Saucer Magnolia

The Saucer Magnolia I’d always seen on Long Island where we first lived, always had a great spring show of purpley-pink or reddish-pink bloom. For the rest of the summer it would be a lovely dark, glossy leafed shrub, or small tree and that's all.

This “Jane”, however, gives the usual spectacular burst of color, but also flowers throughout the summer. Being this is one of Tommy’s favorite scents, Magnolia, this is rather nice. He gets to sniff at these well past the time when most Magnolias simply stop flowering. Gotta love Jane!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mr. Froggy

This little frog seems quite content in this plastic backyard pond even if it does have a leak so that it no longer holds water all the way to the rim. Nope, he doesn't mind at all, because now he has a very convenient ledge on which to perch, away from all that duckweed. As soon as I come by, though, he plops back into the water. I was lucky to sneak up on him to take this photo. Silly frog doesn't know I don't like fried frog legs.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Sounds of Wildlife

Many a time, I will find joy in the sounds of wildlife. The twitter of birds, buzzing of bees and croaking of frogs all tell me I’ve created a fine environment for all concerned. A nice place for all God’s creatures to live and thrive, right in my own back, side and front yards. It’s a very good thing.

Of course, you can always have too much of a good thing. When Tommy leaves the windows open all night, the rooster from the petting zoo across the street can be heard crowing before the sun peaks over the mountain. Then there are the crows cawing for no particular reason except that they can. Let’s not forget the twittering family of tiny birds which have taken residence on my front porch in one of the birdhouses I placed there for their safe dwelling.

The cicadas serenade us at night, and at first it is rather nice to hear their constant chirping after a long and silent winter, but they can get loud and bothersome come mid-summer when you’d rather listen to the breeze whistling through the trees. The frogs too get a bit obnoxious in their nightly ritual to attract love partners. My pond’s full enough, thank you very much. Don’t exactly need anymore tadpoles, unless that’s what my goldfish are eating to sustain themselves. I don’t exactly feed them, after all!

Rabbits are quiet, I must say, unless they are caught by a fox. Then you’ll hear squealing like you’ve never heard! Oh, but I do feel badly for them, until I see another rabbit swiftly take its place nibbling at my Hosta! Thank you. Mr. Fox!

There can also be heard a pack of wild dogs yipping and howling whilst roaming through the woods. At least I call them wild dogs. Some insist they are coyotes, wolves, bobcats or even mountain lions. Don’t know about that. I just hope they stay in the woods.

So, wildlife can make it just as noisy as the city. But I must say, I’d rather be bombarded in this manner than with sirens, blasting car horns and loud shouts from nasty people, wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tommy's Pin Oak

You should have seen this tree when Tommy first brought it home! It was all crooked and growing to one side as if it had been in its pot for a good year lying on the side. I told Tommy it would never look right. It looked sickly and as pathetic as a Charlie Brown tree. But plant it he did saying that all we had to do was stake it to the shape we wanted. I was supremely skeptical but Tommy's faith in his little three foot high sapling never wavered. And look at it now some four years later it look awesome and exactly as a Pin Oak should! Stately and charming.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gardens along the Highway

I was driving to the usual place, to Lords Valley to pick up Justin, when it occurred to me there were so many rather pretty plants along the highway. A real garden....just there along the highway for all to see, but do they? I suppose I may be the only one to see it.

So what did I see? Some flowers I knew by name, and others I would bestow a name to just because I wanted to and could. Lovely patches of Crown Vetch, some so wide and fragrant you could hear a buzzing from all the insecs drawn to it. Wild phlox scattered about along the edge of a watery ditch. Queen Anne’s Lace sway on their long wiry stems. even the occasional patch of spent native Daylilies can be seen, their dry stalks sticking out above the sword-like leaves that rustle in the breeze. Right by the edge of the road, lavender blue asters stick out like sore thumbs tempting me to stop and gather them. I’m always thisssssssss close to doing it too!

Daisy patches dot the hills intermixed with Black-eyed Susans. The rocky spots have a sprinkling of Mullien plants with their gray-green rosette foliage and tiny yellow blossoms poking out alone the tall, erect stems. They’re so stiff they don’t even move as the trucks whiz past at top speed. There are Dandelions, of course, buttercups, too and a few other flowers we’re likely to yank out but quick in our own garden beds, but here along the highway, they look rather nice.

If you can, take the time to look at these wildflowers while you’re traveling the highway this summer. It is, after all, Mother Nature’s garden and she seems more than willing to let us see it for free.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

In love with the Garden

You love your gardens. I’m as certain of this as I am of my own name. I love mine, weeds and all. There’s nothing better than just walking through it admiring the flowers, seeing what works, what doesn’t, looking at improvements to make for the next year and what should stay like this forever.

Alas, the one constant in a garden, as in life, is it’s inconsistency. Some years the tulips come out beautifully and others they peter out way too quickly. The Scotch Broom looks lovely for two years straight and then disaster strikes, it dies! Woe be the gardener who wishes for things she cannot know, like everything perfect forever. A picture in Better Homes and gardens. Oh, but that would be boring! I like the little surprises I get, even the Honeysuckle shrubs, Burning bush, Ash tree, Black-eyed Susans and a dozen other surprise seedling that pop out EVERYWHERE. I just dig them out, and, if I can, give them away to a new gardener in town, one who will love to have anything growing in their barren patch of land. With a friend like me, it won’t be barren for long!