Sunday, February 11, 2018

More is More: The Bat Shit Crazy School of Seed Starting

It must be said that I'm a passionate person and once I commit myself to a cause or hobby, I go all in. I'd get more sleep and have more money if these weren't defining characteristics, but they are so there ya go. To quote Popeye, "I yam what I yam!". 

It's not possible for me to just start a few packs of seeds. But turn my basement into a mini-greenhouse and start 55 different varieties? Yes, please! I open the seed catalogs or visit the websites and am seduced by the possibilities. So many flowers and so many options for just a few dollars. In the past I have methodically made my selections and drifted off to sleep designing my garden and filling all 100 of my containers. I allowed myself five or six purchases made on a whim but usually stuck to a plan. 

Many of these plants were grown from seed. Photo showing original Casa Mariposa garden.

Not this year. This year, I have no plan. I have no idea how much sun I have to work with although I doubt it will be much. I haven't arranged my containers or designed my new garden. There is too much work still to do. A retaining wall and terracing needs to built as well as two new brick paths in the front. The soil desperately needs to be amended, a new shady rain garden created, and shrubs added. But that didn't stop me from buying more seeds than I probably have grow light space for. It didn't slow me down at all. This year, I simply followed my heart and bought whatever seeds I damn well wanted to. Plants I don't have space or sunlight for will go to friends. A plant grown from seed and given as gift is a cup of love. Life could be worse.

Snapdragon seedlings 

I have 58 cups of seedlings but still have empty space under my grow lights for many more.

I grow my seedlings in big plastic drink cups that I've punched holes in the bottom with a hot screwdriver I've heated up on the stove. I cover the tops with a plastic sandwich baggie to act as a mini-greenhouse until the seeds start to germinate and then I remove it so I don't fry the seedlings.

I barely have any room between this set up and the nearby wall and have to squeeze through so I can do laundry. But I don't care because  I have plants growing in my basement in the middle of winter. To see what I'm growing this year, check out my So Seedy 2018 page. I went on a snapdragon bender when I was buying my seeds. Don't judge me. Alcohol may have been involved and I was left unsupervised. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Singular Choice

I'm not sure how to begin this post. Should I explain where I've been for six months or that I no longer have a garden? Casa Mariposa is a memory. The garden lies under a blanket of leaves, holes pock the surface where plants have been dug, and the patio is almost empty, bereft of the pots that brought so much color. The house soon goes on the market and what's left of the garden with it.

BEFORE - My new house is a 1938 stucco Georgian colonial. I cut the shrubs down the night I closed on the house. A huge cherry tree anchors the front yard.

AFTER - I closed on the house at 2:45 pm on a Thursday in mid-November and met my contractor there at 3:15. By Sunday I had a yellow house! I tore out the existing shrubs. The house looked like it was wearing a big green turtleneck.

I spent the summer after the Garden Bloggers Fling was over in my hammock and did not garden. I watered and pulled a few weeds but did not tend or nurture my plants. They grew wild and I turned away. You cannot tend what you know you must leave.

BEFORE - The back yard is an odd set of wooden terraces and poorly constructed steps. A steep slope filled with tree roots is being replaced with a retaining wall. The garage is being held together with ivy.

AFTER - I'm adding a retaining wall this spring to help level out this slope.

AFTER - The existing stairs were a death trap so I had new ones built.

I married young, a wild party girl with no plans in love with an Air Force officer. I was uninhibited and quick to laugh, an enlisted man's daughter eager for adventure. He was handsome and drove a Mustang and I was in love with being loved. But the decisions you make when you're 20 often no longer work when you're in your 40's and in September I asked my husband for a divorce. It was a difficult decision years in the making but life's too short to be unhappy. 

BEFORE - My garage is too small for my car but works as an awesome garden shed. A side porch adds period charm.

AFTER - I'm looking forward to filling this space with plants! I'm still in the process of rescuing and transplanting as many perennials and small shrubs as possible.

AFTER - Cute and funky works for me!

My new garden sits fallow behind an old house in a small country town twenty miles from the manufactured suburb where I used to live. A massive maple shades the weedy lawn and ivy grows with abandon. The existing shrubs have been torn out and a steep slope ripe with tree roots has made transplanting almost impossible. The property is small and I have no place to put most of the plants I'm so desperate to save. A month long renovation ate away at my time and the plants have gone dormant, leaving me to guess their location.

BEFORE - I kept the existing deck but replaced the lumpy stones with brick and removed the boxwood. The brick patio was built around an odd assortment of shrubs that were quickly removed.

AFTER - All the hydrangea stayed, except for one that was sacrificed to the compost pile for the crime of being planted just a few inches from the house and in the way of the painters.

All my pots came with me! Most of these pots have pots inside them like Russian stacking dolls.

I've already started lime washing my brick patio because I just can't resist a project....

But with everything I do, my divorce is as quirky as I am. My soon to be ex-husband and I are still friends, a new relationship to replace the old one. A new garden and life await.

I'm still here!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Art of Nothingness

The shady side 

 Sometimes you just have to stop. 

Monarda punctata thrives in dry, well drained soils.

One week after school ended, the three and a half day 2017 Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling that I coordinated began. Three days after it was over, my daughter and I flew to London for a week, where she will be attending graduate school.

'Limelight Hydrangea' and fallopia japonica in the pot

This is my third trip but her first and we walked for miles each day as she explored the city. We are bohemian travelers. We sleep when we're tired, rise when we're refreshed and make few strict plans. We wandered the markets, toured the Tower, and saw a show. 

annual rudbeckia

I came home to a garden lush with summer rain and just stopped.
 I didn't slow down or take it easy. I just stopped. 

Part of the rain garden and river bed

I did nothing.

zinnias and rose of sharon

I slept, laid in the hammock and read a few books. I lazed away the afternoon on the couch. I enjoyed the garden but didn't pull weeds, except the really big ones, and didn't take many photos. I hung out with friends, spent quiet days with only myself for company, and tried not to think of anything at all.

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on the fennel

Not think about anything? I wish. My brain simply doesn't work that way. But it felt good to enjoy my daily mental gymnastics while wearing pajamas at noon.

Annual monarda 'Bergamo'

I have two weeks of summer left before I spend my days with 100 11 year olds who cry about their lockers and lose their homework. I have one goal - to just do nothing.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Letting Go: The Perfection Paradigm

Part of my pollinator garden

It's no small thing to plan a Garden Bloggers Fling, to invite 90 people over to see your garden and organize a three and a half day event while working full time. It took three years. Life kept getting in the way and the task was monumental.

It was my own Mt Everest.

Seed grown 'Denver Daisies' rudbeckia

I spent two years analyzing my garden and redesigning the weak spots only to redesign them again and again. I wanted everything to be perfect or as close to perfect as I could hope for. But that didn't happen.

I love buttons and birdhouses so I had to have these!

The dogs' pee burned yellow circles into the grass and a few of my annuals took their damn sweet time growing large and lush.

I had hoped the metal rods and plastic tubing, which adds weightless surface area for the vines to grow on, as well as the dead wood, would be covered by the Fling. Photo by Diana Kirby

The Ugly Arbor, which had previously harbored an invasive but innocently purchased Japanese honeysuckle, was laid bare, the honeysuckle roots removed to stop its spread. I left the wood and started an annual vine from seed during December but that, too, wouldn't grow fast enough. Hops planted with the hope they'd scramble to the top in a mad dash fueled by fertilizer, climbed the sides with the languor of a lazy drunk. The arbor stood in contrast to the buffet of perennials at its feet, naked and thin, its secrets revealed. I cringed and sighed and walked away. 

A view of  part of the garden that includes a tiny bit of the river bed

Plants died and I replaced them just weeks before the event. Newly purchased shrubs bought the winter before succumbed to leaf blight and I mercilessly cut them down, replaced by 'Little Lime' hydrangea I was assured would thrive in my dry shade. I didn't care. As long as they were alive for the Fling, I was happy. I dug a hole and stuck them in. An important clematis was uncooperative and the anemones took over again. I couldn't find the ferns. 

A search and rescue mission uncovered several ferns but there are still a few that are missing. Photo by Late to the Garden Party 

In my frenzy and exhaustion, I gave up and decided it was all good enough. It was not perfect. I could not even begin to compete with the other professionally designed gardens on the tour so I just let go. 

The back steps and part of my extensive container garden. 

I had a beer and then another and thought. "F*ck it." Two days before the Fling, I ignored the garden and went to see one of my favorite bands, instead. 

A bit of my funky garden art

90 bloggers came to my house. They loved the Ugly Arbor and posted pictures of it on their blogs, while I cringed and sighed and looked away. They said it was whimsical and clever so I took a second look and agreed. No one stepped in any hidden dog poop or asked why the grass was dying. They took pictures of everything and told me how much they loved my garden. I smiled and believed them because I could see it on their faces. 

They took my picture and I cringed again when I saw how exhausted I was, my eyes mere slits in a puffy, sleep deprived face. Then I took a second look and saw pure joy at having done what I was told I couldn't do. So I just let go. Sometimes good enough is enough.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Score One for the Stubborn Cuss

Let me start this post by just telling you I'm stubborn.
I could give up but I just don't see the point.

For the past several years I've killed my tulips by submerging them in moisture-retentive soil designed to keep my summer plants happy.

There was no happy medium. 
What made the tulips happy, brought death and despair to the summer annuals. 

Being a stubborn cuss, I tried method after method to solve this problem, to no avail. The more I failed, the more irritated I became. Come hell or high water, I was going to solve this stupid problem and I'd do it cheaply. Ha!

So I scheduled a drought and stuffed my bulbs into wire baskets lined with burlap and filled with old soil. Logic dictates that a container full of holes should drain exceedingly well. Logic won and I have tulips. Score one for the Tamster!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sweet as Candy

I'm a sucker for a sweet surprise

The 'Candy Showers Red' trailing snapdragons I grew from seed have already started blooming! 

 and the pure joy of the unexpected.

It's a reminder that sometimes just letting go

to see what happens next 

Some of the plants I've grown from seed have been moved to the patio to enjoy the warm temps. I have others still under grow lights.

is more rewarding and authentic 

than anything you could have planned.

Monday, February 13, 2017

How to Love a Gardener Redux

I originally posted this in 2015 but it's one of my faves so here it is again.

I'm convinced most gardeners see the world a bit differently than others. We all know real love is announced through all the small things that are - or are not - done through out the year rather than a single grand gesture on a manufactured holiday. But if you wanted to woo your favorite gardener, how would you do it? Rest easy and follow these steps. You are guaranteed to make an impression.

When the gardener is covered with compost and sweat, avoid statements such as, "What the hell happened to you? Were you hit by a a manure truck?" and "Sweet Mother of God, you smell like a goat." Instead, while they're showering find a way to make dinner magically appear, quickly pay the delivery person, and open a bottle of wine.  

Instead of traditional chemical-laden roses and cheap box of candy, consider this approach, "I've hired David Austin and his landscaping crew to dig up the rest of the lawn and personally select a dozen of his most fragrant roses for you to enjoy all summer. When I told them I was trying to romance you, he suggested I buy the 'In the Mood' package." 

Hey, baby! The landscapers are here!

Instead of telling the gardener the pink things by the yellow flowers next to the bushes look good, try Latin. "The planting of silene and tulips near the osmanthus 'Goshiki' is beautiful" just might help you get lucky. But butchering the Latin and telling them the "sireen and tulips by the gohsweeki are really nice" is probably better than nothing.

But if you really want some lovin', snuggle up close and whisper in his/her ear, " I cleaned, sharpened, and organized all your tools."