Friday, November 30, 2007

How to be a Successful Blogger

Okay, as promised, I said I would disclose some tips for successful blogging as published in the Washington Post by Dan Zak, and here they are. My mother sent me this article and I found it very helpful. This posting has nothing to do with gardening but it does have everything to do with what I spend a lot of time doing, writing about gardening on my blog (Mr. Fix it says I need a paying job and to stay off the computer). He is a funny guy sometimes. Fortunately I do still garden more than I talk about it. Whew! When that changes there will a problem. I hope you enjoy the tips on blogging and perhaps some of you already know these tips, but a little extra knowledge cannot hurt. Maybe readers of this blog would like to start their own blog? If you have other tips and agree or disagree, feel free to leave a comment stating your views.

Dan Zak's article is titled, "Be More than a Blip in the Blogosphere" and I am not going to reprint the entire article, only the 10 tips. Here they are in the order published.

1) Tell stories rather than sticking solely to links or photos.

2) Create a voice for yourself (and brand it).

3) Make everything easy to read and access. (Keep aesthetics simple)

4) Sift through blogrolls and create your own.

5) Widget your page. (helps to direct traffic to your page)

6) Comment early and often. (Comment on other blogs as well)

7) Pray for a link from the big boys. (Really popular blogs)

8) Nominate yourself for awards. (Enter contests)

9) Post with verve and consistency. (People lose interest if you don't post regularly)

10) Join the crowd. (Join blogging communities)

Some things we Leaf bloggers can do and some we can't since the blog is run through a certain link (I don't understand that computer stuff). I am going to check with them soon because I would like it if there was a way to see an old blog post which is no longer on the view page. Sometimes it might be nice to reference a page about a certain plant for later use. I know my mother likes to pull up pictures of the family for others to see. This blog has really connected me to my family, which I didn't anticipate. It has also allowed me to make many, many new friends.

Enough on blogs for now. You and I now know what blogs are and how to be successful. Ultimately, blogs are for connecting with others and having a voice about what we are passionate about. And who isn't passionate about something?

I really wish I could remember which Alabama rest stop this picture of the rocket was taken at. The Ramsey family made a trip to the Biloxi, Mississippi area to visit a dear friend (Sherry and her son Michael) and stopped here on our way down. This rest stop had a miniature Vietnam Veteran's Memorial (my father and uncle are Vietnam Vets) in addition to other war memorials. It was a real treat to stop and visit here. I used the picture of the rocket to illustrate my blog success post-reach for the stars!

in the garden....

Thursday, November 29, 2007


The word blog conjures up different opinions about the item itself depending on your experiences with blogs. When the Leaf Chronicle sent out a request for bloggers in the hardcopy newspaper I didn't stop to think twice about volunteering to do it. My only worry was if my writing would be good enough to get me in. That wasn't a problem since not many people responded to the request. Blogging has given me a super way to talk about gardening and life where others who want to listen can log in and read (listen) and talk too! It has been so much fun and I love doing it. Imagine my surprise then when I find people who only think of blogs as "gripe sessions" or platforms to espouse a certain view.

I found out many people view blogs negatively. While at school on Tuesday I was talking to a few friends about my blog and they seemed lackluster about checking it out. I assured them I was NOT selling anything and I am NOT making money either. I told them I talk only about garden things and life things and you will not find anything negative on my blog. This is when I heard about blogs being gripe forums for people. Maybe so, but I have not found any to be like that (keeping in mind I do NOT visit many blogs-only gardening ones and it is hard to be negative when you discuss gardening).

This blog I publish on is hosted by Google, with a direct path to the Leaf Chronicle. When I go to log into Google Blogs there is a link on the log on page that clearly says, "What is a blog?" Well do you all know what a blog is? According to Google's Blogspot log in page, a blog is,

" a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world.
Your blog is whatever you want it to be. There are millions of them, in all shapes and sizes, and there are no real rules.
In simple terms, a blog is a web site, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, so your visitors can read what's new. Then they comment on it or link to it or email you. Or not.
Since Blogger was launched in 1999, blogs have reshaped the web, impacted politics, shaken up journalism, and enabled millions of people to have a voice and connect with others.

So now you know and I know exactly what a blog is. I had known of blogs prior to volunteering to write one but wasn't really sure I had visited any. Now I am thinking I did visit some blogs because of my gardening research on the Internet. Oftentimes garden blogs are called garden journals, but really they are a web site where someone writes things, a blog.

I knew of blogs from My Space. I do have a My Space page to keep in touch with my family and children and even to check up on my teenaged son. On each My Space page there is a place you can sign up to blog. I think my children do blog but I have never checked their blogs so I am not sure. I had never actually pursued blogs and when the editor at the Leaf Chronicle asked me if I knew what a blog was and had I ever blogged, I answered honestly, "Not really and no." But here I am and having fun living and learning and meeting new people! I think the friendships you can develop on blogs is an added bonus of blogs which Google should add to its definition of blogs. Something like this, "A great way to meet new people with similar interests to your own." Actually, the "connect with others" statement in the Google definition kind of sums it up.

Tomorrow I will post more on blogs. My mother, like many mothers, is very interested in what I do and has been kind enough to send me an article discussing blogs. I think it would be interesting for my readers so I want to share it. It discusses ways to be successful blogging. While we bloggers blog for the fun of it because we are passionate about something and would like to connect with others, we do want to be successful so tune in tomorrow for 10 tips on being successful at blogging.

The picture is of a wonderful sunset taken from my back deck. It is the little things everyday that count and sunsets are but one of a million little things!

in the garden....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Winter Roses

Here is another beautiful camelia which is growing in Skeeter's yard. This winter rose is white to match the snow which may or may not pay us a visit this year. It is truly gorgeous. Just look at how the white bloom stands out against the dark green foliage of the bush. You just cannot go wrong with camelias. They are such a pick me up when not much else (if anything) is blooming in gardens at this time of year.

Coming home from school on Monday I saw a little red fox on Dover Road right where Hwy 374 crosses over Dover. I thought how beautiful the fox was and it reminded of why I love Tennessee-the natural beauty, flora and fauna. I saw the little fox again last night, unfortunately it was when I almost ran it over in the same place it was two nights ago. I hope it stays safe and does not wind up under someone's tires but I think this story may not end well.

in the garden....

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Garden of the Month

My choice for Garden of the Month is this garden at the home of Nicky and Tracy on Lafayette Road. I have driven by it for several years and could not help but notice the simplicity and great color in it. Having this garden blog (I will talk about blogs in general soon) has enabled me to talk about the different gardens I find around town and so I am pleased to be able to feature this garden as my first Garden of the Month and to share it with you.

There is a saying many have heard, "Less is More." Sometimes this could not be more truer than in gardens. We plant collectors tend to overload our gardens with many types of plants which can lead to a chaotic look. Nothing wrong with this look but sometimes it is nice to just simplify the garden and focus on two or three main plants which can carry the garden all by themselves. This garden is that type of garden.

Obviously this is the front of the home and is very visible from Lafayette Road, though you would have to be looking for it as the house is somewhat raised above the road. There are only three main plants in this foundation garden and none of them are what I call blooming plants, as the flowers are not showy. That does not detract from the garden in any way at all. The three main plants are: Artemisia "Powis Castle", Ligustrum, aka Variegated Privet, and an ornamental grass (type and cultivar unknown but it looks to be a Miscanthus).

The privet and grass are alternated in front of the house, with the artemisia planted in front of them. The textures are wonderful and I like the color. This picture was taken today and I think the garden still looks good even after the freezes we have had. This is a garden which will change throughout the seasons as the new grass and privet grow in the new foliage will be green and brighter, then mellow out during the growing season, finally the grass will turn brown in the fall and winter but all plants maintain a presence throughout the year. Something interesting is always going on in this garden and it is very low maintenance. The house gets a lot of sun so this type of planting would be good in a garden with a lot of sun (not my house obviously since I don't have much sun). The textures are wonderful, all plants play well together and make a statement. I could not get all of the garden in but suffice it to say the house is heavily planted with a number of different specimens and the foundation garden also extends around the home.

The homeowner (Tracy) tells me the garden was already installed when she and her husband purchased the house two years ago. She has maintained it but with a full time job, college and children she doesn't get to work in as much as she would like. I think the fact the garden still looks super is a testament to its designer and to the plants themselves. All of these plants can take care of themselves with no problem.

I want to thank Tracy and her family for allowing me to share their lovely garden. If any of you know of a special garden you would like to see profiled here just let me know.

in the garden....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Making the House a Part of the Garden

We have been having some remodeling work done on our home. Mr. Fix-it and I absolutely love our home. Since we moved here six years ago, we have been continually updating it to suit our needs and desires. This is something we will do until the day we die I am sure. We haven't made many changes-just a few cosmetic add ins like the garden but now have started on the house itself.

Our latest endeavor involves adding faux stone to the outside of our home. The area where Mr. Fix-it comes from in the mountains of North Carolina has many homes with stone on the exterior, to include his childhood home. My home state of Maine also has many homes with stone on it-both areas in the two states have an abundance of stone available so it is a natural choice for homes (just my guess). Stone reminds us both of our homes in other states, so we wanted to add it to our Tennessee home.

I have spent most of my time planting shrubs and trees because I know they take a long time to grow in and make a difference. Mr. Fix-it spends most of his time working on cars and his boat. The house has kind of taken a back seat-until now. Making changes to houses is so much simpler and faster than making changes to gardens because you can get instant satisfaction gratification. It is not like planting shrubs and trees which take years to grow in and show some results. So we have waited to change our home instead focusing on the garden. We contracted with Centurian Stone of Nashville to change the siding and have been pleased with the results. The picture above shows Carlos (the man in the cream colored shirt) and one of his crew working on the east side of our home.

The other picture shows the south side of our home. This is the side we use the most since it faces our parking area and we have a little basketball hoop here for our children.

We went with a faux stone because it can be custom made to our specifications by both cut and color. It is guaranteed for a full 30 years by Centurian, goes on the house easily and quickly and should provide a maintenance free exterior for many, many years. I feel like the stone makes the house more a part of the garden and I tried very hard to pick a color which would match both the existing vinyl siding and the plants already in the garden. The workers took great care to not harm my plants and I appreciate it, but the work was a small disruption in our lives that we are glad is finished.

I did check with a neighbor on Woodlawn Road who had the faux stone added to her home a few years ago. She said she and her husband have been very pleased with the results and the work Centurian did for them. Hearing this from another satisfied customers makes me feel more confident in our choice of contractors and we look forward to a great looking home for many years to come.

If someone reading this likes the look of the faux stone and decides to go with Centurian because of this blog entry-don't forget to put my name down as the person who referred you. Centurian does give a monetary reward for referrals and it sure would come in handy:) Actually, my friend Geri referred me to Centurian and I am waiting for her to get some more work done so she can put my down as the referring person like I did her...what do you say Geri?

in the garden....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time to Really Rake the Leaves

OMG-what's a homeowner to do with all those leaves?!! Yes, I remember I said I love to rake leaves but only once or maybe twice-not everyday! I swept the lawn with my lawn sweeper on Wednesday-in the rain. Came back from a pleasant Thanksgiving weekend and guess what? It doesn't even look like I did anything in the yard.

People who know me know I am not only a big gardener with ornamentals, but I am a big lawn person too. I guess you might say I somewhat obsess over my lawn. I was truly afraid leaving leaves on the lawn all weekend with rain in the forecast would cause some damage to the newly seeded grass. So in the rain I go to sweep it all on Wednesday. Mission complete, topped off with a nice hot shower on Wednesday.

Today was the day to get all the new leaves and pine needles up. The day started out great but while I was out running some errands, here came the rain-again! De-ja-vu all over. I really don't mind raking the yard in the rain just so long as it is not cold. Thankfully, I did not think it all that cold today, though Mr. Fix-it was not happy I was outside for over four hours. I think he felt obligated to come out though I assured him I did not need his help and this was really why he didn't want me in the yard today.

I got most of the yard raked by hand. I am very proud because I have a big yard and raking is hard work. I also have the blisters to prove I did it all by hand! No lawn sweeper today. I love hand raking because then I can really look at the grass and I can see an instant change when I rake. My Rebel Tall Fescue lawn is VERY green with all of this rain and is actively growing right now. Leaves smothering the grass would not do at all.

All raked leaves go into gardens. I usually run out of leaves though I have many, many trees. This year I think leaves will be scarcer, because of the freeze and drought the trees did not put out their full complement of leaves like usual. But there will still be plenty! Before the leaves go into gardens I lay down a layer of 5-6 newspapers over the soil. This extra layer of newspapers is the secret to my gardening along with the leaves. So many people use mulch without something under it, or worse yet, with black plastic under it, but they still have tons of weeds. The newspapers really block out the sun while still allowing water and air to pass through to the soil and effectively keep the weeds at bay. Any weeds that do grow through are easily pulled. Within one or two years the newspapers will decompose and add organic material back to the soil. I only use the black and white portion of the newspaper and couldn't garden the way I do without them.

I am in the process of trying to get up with a homeowner in order to receive permission to photograph their garden for my choice of "Garden of the Month". I have left a telephonic message so I hope they call me back soon! For now, I will be soaking in a HOT shower.

in the garden....

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Yucca filamentosa, aka Adams Needle is an excellent architectural plant for the landscape. The yucca does not disappear in the wintertime like most of the other perennials I have planted in my garden. I warn you though, wherever you plant it you are likely to have it there forever. My friend Deb and a few of her neighbors don't like their yuccas so they gallantly volunteered the plants to me-if I wanted to dig them out. Dig them out I did! My friend Gerianne also dug several as well. Digging and transplanting them does not seem to harm either the transplanted yucca, or the roots left behind. You see, after a small length of time, the yuccas resprout in the exact same location where they were dug. I am afraid Deb and her neighbors are stuck with their yuccas.

I transplanted the some yuccas in July 2006. They did not require any water this year and have thrived in this inhospitable location next to a busy road and my driveway. I think near a road or a driveway are really good spots for these stalwart natives and got the idea to plant mine here from several local houses with yuccas prominently displayed near the road for all to see. Another alternative is in a dry hot garden designed with xeriscaping (low water garden) in mind, or in a desert themed garden. This yucca is hardy here and requires no maintenance other than cutting off the flower stalk after it has bloomed in June. You can leave the stalk on, but I prefer to cut mine off. The bloom is beautiful but I find it doesn't last long. Also, sometimes the yucca will bloom more heavily one year and not the next, which is a drawback in the year of light blooms. The yucca root is a tuber somewhat resembling a potato, which I am sure gives it staying ability in dry inhospitable conditions. Digging yuccas and coming across the root can be shocking if you are not sure what it is-so be prepared.

I had this posting all ready to go when over the Thanksgiving weekend I discovered this beautiful grouping of yuccas at Mr. Fix-it's parents home in North Carolina. I already knew of it, but thought the coincidence of being able to photograph the grouping BEFORE I did this posting was a good thing. Comparing my little yucca I planted last year to my in-law's yuccas is like comparing a cherry tomato to a beefsteak tomato-really no comparison. But unlike the cherry tomato which will never catch up to the beefsteak, my little yuccas will someday grow into beautiful specimens like those pictured here. I think yuccas look best grouped together and this grouping is very effective with the added bonus of a lacecap hydrangea thrown in the mix (to the right and rear of the yuccas).

I want to thank my friend Deb for her yuccas and give you all the idea that if you feel you want some yuccas and have a friend who has some-ask her if you can dig them and I am sure the answer will be yes because in all likelihood the yuccas will grow back.

in the garden....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fall Vegetables

After the heat of this past summer some of you are surely enjoying the cool fall weather and good rains we have been experiencing. Vegetables are also very happy. Garlic and elephant garlic are up and growing happily in my vegetable garden. Carrots are not happy and I don't even think they are growing at all (maybe just a little). Arugula is up and beginning to get large. It is probably too late to start much of anything else this fall, but I do plan to sow some lettuce seeds soon. I wanted to share another common fall crop growing in my friend's garden.

These Brussels sprouts are growing in Gerianne's garden. I think she likes to grow vegetables just for the challenge of growing them because she doesn't seem to eat them! These Brussels sprouts are ready to be picked and eaten and I was thrilled to see such a good crop. I personally have a problem timing the growth of Brussels sprouts and other cool season crops like broccoli, so I rarely get a good crop. Spring crops bring worms to my Brussels sprouts and fall crops bring frozen plants. Brussels sprouts are members of the brassica family, which also includes cabbage, and require cool weather to grow. But if you will notice the date on the picture is October 1st. It was not cool at any time before this picture was taken, so I am not sure how these Brussels sprouts did so well-but the proof is in the picture. Don't they grow in a cool way? You have to actually either cut or twist off the little sprouts from the stem. In my family we like to eat Brussels sprouts with vinegar on them. I am not sure if anyone else eats them this way but the tartness of the vinegar and dull taste of the sprouts works very well together and Brussels sprouts are very good for you. Even Jimmy eats them this way.

Good news, Gerianne tells me she and her family will be eating Brussels sprouts today for Thanksgiving. She also says the stems are now twice as big as they were when this picture was taken and she has a good crop to pick. Ahhh, nothing better than fresh picked vegetables you grow yourself (or pick from a friend's garden). I hope if you don't have some veggies in your garden to pick, that you will plan to grow some next year. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

in the garden....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bottle Trees Revealed

If you will remember, when I posted a blog about bottle trees I promised I would reveal my bottle tree today. Mine is the one on the bottom, the one with predominantly green bottles on the old cedar tree I cut down. Gerianne's is the colorful one on a metal tree her handyman made for her. I love hers and wish mine was more colorful, but you have to work with what you have and nice neighbor had all those green bottles (my favorite color) he didn't mind me confiscating for the tree. Both bottle trees sparkle in the sun and add much needed color in the winter when little else is in bloom.

Felder Rushing visited my blog and looked at the pictures. He tells me bottle trees go back over 2000 years to the days of geniis in the lamp. Superstitious people would put bottles outside in hopes of catching bad spirits. Felder also says bottle trees were brought to America by northern Africans (who he says invented bottles). He should know, he has photographed bottle trees all over the world. Felder also says bottle trees are generally a Southern "thang". I have never seen a bottle tree up north in New England but that doesn't mean the north doesn't have any. If anyone has knowledge of bottle trees-let me know! I'd love to hear if there are some in the north and see pictures-which I will post with permission.

I had to post this picture of my camellia. I did not post it in the initial camellia posting, though there is a picture of it prior to bloom. This shrub is SO loaded with blooms it appears pink from a distance. The ground under the shrub is literally covered with pink petals and this morning when I got close to the camellia, I thought I had disturbed a beehive because of all the bees humming. All of these blooms are inundated with bees doing their job pollinating the camellia. I have had the privilege of seeing camellia seeds and hope I get many more this year. I enjoy the seedpods but if I did want more camellias, I think the best way to make more is by cuttings or air layering. Neither of which I have done with my camellias. The seeds look like miniature apples on the shrub and are yet another ornamental feature of this great landscape shrub.

in the garden....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Peacocks and Tall Grass

I travel around quite a bit, though it is not my favorite thing to do-that would be gardening! Another nursery I found in Evansville is called Hillside Gardens. I enjoyed the atmosphere here as the nursery is very well maintained and the staff is very helpful and knowledgeable. I finally purchased my Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus) here for a very excellent price (more on Sweet Shrubs in another post). Have you ever seen peacocks in a plant nursery? Hillside Gardens has quite a few. This picture is of the blue ones roosting under a shade house. I walked all through this nursery before I realized there were peacocks all over the place! I really tried to get a picture of the white one walking around as if he owned the place (perhaps he thinks he does?). The birds were stunning, as you can see from the picture.

I did visit two other nurseries this weekend. One I will not mention as it was not a good experience at all. The last one, Scotty's, is right around the corner from the Jim Hipp nursery. This nursery was a nice place and they had a 50% off sale! I bought a beautiful and large 'Snow Queen' Oakleaf Hydrangea and a Fothergilla, which had great fall color from Scotty's.

Even though winter is on its way now is still a good time to plant trees and shrubs. Many nurseries have some grand sales to help out the savvy gardener. Most often spring is the time when people are interested in gardening but when you focus your efforts only on spring planting, you sell your garden short. Fall color is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your garden. The only way you can be sure to get the fall color you want is to shop in the fall when plants are displaying their fall color. This year has to be one of the most splendid falls I have ever seen. I can tell you in my garden club and in all of my conversations with others everyone agrees the drought did not hurt the fall display at all. Even Jim Monday commented on the beautiful fall in his weekly Sunday column in the Leaf Chronicle. So get out while the color is still here before winter truly sets in, and visit some nurseries to see what kind of fall color will go nicely in your garden.

On our way up north Jimmy really, REALLY had to go pee. He could not hold it for the life of him. Being a boy who is not used to going pee on the side of the road and never one to settle for any ole bush, I was surprised he insisted I stop right away. He picked the perfect spot on the side of the Pennyrile in the dark. Ran to a bush, did his business then ran back. Here begins the problem.

He had to jump over a drainage ditch in tall grass in order to get back to the car. His eyeglass lens fell out of his eyeglasses when he landed after jumping. Jimmy knew exactly where and when it happened. Simple enough right? Anyone who wears eyeglasses knows they are not cheap and this pair is particularly expensive because it has a one year warranty. Apparently the cost of the glasses does not make them immune to falling apart at the slightest movement. We spent the next 45 minutes searching for the eyeglass lens to no avail. Not one single police officer showed up, but a nice couple did stop to see if they could help. They thought we were wrecked and I am sure we looked comical searching for something on the side of the interstate in the dark with nothing but headlights and an LED light. The couple were quite kind and got down in the tall grass with their hands searching for the eyeglass lens (after they made sure it was not the place where business happened). Jimmy cannot see without his eyeglasses and I thought it vital we find them. Not to mention I was REALLY mad about the whole situation and a bit frightened being parked on the side of the interstate at night, but it was OK. The woman told Jimmy that if that was the worst thing he ever did then he'd be alright. She really did put things in perspective. We left the roadside empty handed.

All is not lost though. We returned in daylight hours and spent a total of fifteen minutes searching for the eyeglass lens. Who would have thought it would be so difficult to find a little piece of glass in tall grass? (Say that three times fast for tongue twister) Finally, an ever so slight glint from the sun led me to the lens and we left the roadside very happy and relieved! Today those eyeglasses go back to the manufacturer! So much for tall grass and eyeglasses. Lessons learned: Jimmy-hold it or go closer to the car! Mom-return the eyeglasses or glue the screws in! Jimmy is a good sport and does not mind me talking about him on here (does he have a choice?) though he might not like this story getting back to him so help me keep it a secret-ok?
in the garden (or in this case the tall grass searching for eyeglass lens)..

Monday, November 19, 2007

Home of the Topiary Tree

The Fort Campbell Courier used to do a one day trip special each week. I am not sure if they still do but the subject of this posting would be an excellent one day trip for families and gardeners. I don't like to travel, but I like seeing new places so I sometimes find myself away from home. One of those places I like to visit and go shopping is Evansville Indiana. Evansville Indiana is just a short two hour drive north of Clarksville on the Pennyrile Parkway. It is well worth the trip not only for shopping but for the great community atmosphere and really nice people. There is so much to do there that it is almost more worth it to drive there than Nashville. Anyhow, on one of my trips I found the coolest, neatest, funnest, family oriented nursery I have ever found. I took a ton of pictures and had fun visiting with Donna Hipp at the nursery. There is no way I could publish all of the pictures but here are a few of my favorites.

This is a picture of a topiary UE, which stands for University of Evansville. I had the pleasure of talking with Donna Hipp, the granddaughter of the original founder of the nursery, Wendolyn Hipp. Wendolyn Hipp is of German descent and migrated down here from South Dakota and began the original nursery. He began the nursery by selling peonies all over the country. It was Jim Hipp, Donna's father who transformed the nursery into what it is today-The Home of the Topiary Tree. Donna said it was funny, her grandfather kept telling her dad, Jim, "You are ruining those trees by doing that!" But from the success of the nursery I would say the trees are a big selling point and Jim found a niche in and amongst the many nurseries plying their trade. Jim passed away one year ago this past June and is buried close to the nursery. The family plans to do something special for his grave.

Jim's favorite tree was the Bald Cypress but he also loved Japanese Maples. I took a picture of a specimen Japanese Maple which was moved recently. It is doing fine and has a great silhouette in a prominent place close to the house on the nursery grounds. The fall color on the tree was wonderful. Donna was telling me that in order to plant trees during this drought, the workers first had to dig a huge trench around the area where the tree was to either be dug or planted, fill it with water and let it soak in, then they were able to get the tree spade into the ground. This extra step slowed down the process of tree planting by some 40 minutes to an hour, which can cost money. I couldn't even imagine what it took to transplant this beautiful specimen Japanese Maple! You can see the nursery loves trees so I included a few special tree pictures in this posting.

Today the family still runs and maintains this wonderful nursery. Donna's mother and brother live on the grounds and the rest of the family is close by. The Jim Hipp nursery is right on 41A just north of Evansville in a small town called Haubstadt. You cannot miss the nursery when traveling on 41A and I know that with as many travelers and people from other states we have living in the Clarksville area, many of you may have already seen and even visited this nursery. It is worth stopping just to have a look and garner a smile or two from your family.

As soon as you drive in the long drive you realize something is very special at this nursery. You are greeted by several specimen topiary trees and several huge rocks. One of the rocks says, "Hi, I'm a Rock". Well, duh! but the silliness sure makes one smile. Next you will see huge buffalo statues, then Clydesdale statues pulling a covered wagon and so on. One of the first statues though is a gigantic eagle flanked on either side by large trees trimmed in a columnar fashion. I could not help but think, "Screaming Eagles". I mentioned this to Donna and told her about Fort Campbell. She told me they were VERY patriotic at the nursery and I believe her. I have included a picture of the eagle. I have found most people in the Evansville area to be patriotic and very supportive of the men and women serving in the military.

Donna and I had several connections and I was delighted to talk with her. She and her husband actually honeymooned in my home state of Maine. Donna also has bowling balls in her garden and has a clawfoot bathtub she wants to make into a pond! Donna, the next time you and the hubby come through Clarksville on your way to Nashville give me a call and we can go shopping! I like daylillies too! Thanks for visiting with me Donna and it was a pleasure meeting and talking with you about gardening!
in the garden....

Saturday, November 17, 2007

American Beautyberry

Callicarpa americana, aka American Beautyberry is a southern heritage plant and native to this part of the country. It is a beautiful and easy to grow shrub for your landscape.

Many landscapes around Clarksville are graced with this shrub. The flowers are not showy nor are the leaves. I do think the shrub's form is noteworthy but the shrub's main claim to fame is its berries. The berries are a rich magenta purple which persist on the bush well after all of the leaves have dropped. The berries look like little jewels clustered all around the branches. The effect is unusual and quite a sight. Birds love to eat the berries. My beautyberry pictured above would usually have more berries but it was set back by the late frost and subsequent drought.

In my garden I have two beautyberries. One I ordered from mail order and the other was a gift from a gardening friend (Diann). Diann started the shrub from berries she picked and planted. These shrubs are four years old and are about three feet high and four feet wide. The branches gracefully seem to cascade out from a central stem low to the ground. When planting you need to allow for the cascade and ultimate spread as shade cast by the branches is deep.

Don't forget, I will reveal which bottle tree is mine on Wednesday and I also received an email from Felder Rushing himself concerning the history of bottle trees. I will post the information on Wednesday. My mother guessed the right bottle tree so you all give it a try!

in the garden....

Friday, November 16, 2007

Roses in the Winter?

Camellias are roses in winter. These versatile small trees/shrubs of the south are so welcomed in the cold months of winter that I have half a dozen in my landscape. I grow only one Camellia japonica, and the rest are Camellia sasanqua. The camellia sasanqua was the first one I picked up when I moved here and since it is doing so well I have stuck with this species. It is the one pictured. Plus I just like saying the word sas-an-qua. I was hooked when I purchased this camellia as a one gallon shrub six years ago. I planted it on the north side of my house and actually had to move it over four years ago. As you can see, the move did not harm it at all as it is well over eight feet tall and six feet wide.

Camellias are marginally hardy in this area and while there is much controversy on how they should be grown, I have found really only one secret to longevity and good growth-plant them on the north side of something. It doesn't have to be a house. I have a camellia planted on the north side of my deck and two planted in a woodland garden under the shelter of a Juniperus virginiana, aka Easter Red Cedar and a few other shrubs and oak trees. All camellias are thriving.

When I tried planting a camellia on the south side of my deck, the foliage wound up scorched and dry. I think it warmed up with the daily sun which started sap flowing. When the winter night came the leaves froze and lost too much water to maintain a good form. I quickly moved the camellia to the north side of the deck. This particular variety blooms in early winter but I also have two camellias which are spring bloomers, one is blood red and the other crystal white. These two shrubs usually do get nipped by late freezes every year-darn! But they are well worth growing just for the beautiful glossy evergreen leaves.

Camellias like an acid soil with a good mulch. They are not harmed by pests or diseases. This particular camellia sheltered a cardinal's nest this summer. What a joy to have them so close to the house. I was truly glad my pest control cat, Orkin, did not find the cardinals as they are not pests!

in the garden....

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Community Garden of the Month

My selection for the Community Garden of the Month is Joe Heitz Toyota of Clarksville on Wilma Rudolph Blvd. This is a landscape that reaches out to travelers on the blvd and catches their eye and says, "Look at me! My business cares about my community and customers and come in and shop here!" I do have a confession though, for the six years I have lived here I have always noticed the gardens but before I chose this garden, I could not have told you the name of the dealership. That may be because I have not been in the market for a new car or it may be because I was always so busy looking at the lovely rock wall and seasonal color in this landscape.

There are many automobile dealerships and businesses in Clarksville that have wonderful landscaping and my choosing Joe Heitz in no way diminishes their efforts. It is just that this landscape is meticulously maintained and it is clear the gardener or gardeners have taken measures to ensure functionality of the garden and the hardscaping. You see, like most businesses there is a big drainage ditch adjacent to the blvd in front of the dealership, and several culverts to carry away the water. Great pains have been taken to control the runoff and make the culverts attractive in the form of rock walls and a cement lining. The above picture shows a good choice of shrubs, variagated liriope (monkey grass) and a well planned area for seasonal color, which is changed frequently.

The two women I spoke to at the dealership (Debbie and Amanda-thanks for your help) were very proud of the garden and their dealership. Debbie told me Mr. Heitz has relayed to his employees that a customer's first impression is very important so he wants it to be good! This garden does not stop at the roadway. Up close to the building were several specimen Acer japonica var. Dissectum, aka weeping Japanese maples (pictured below) and other plantings.
I am told Hunter Lawn Care maintains the gardens with the guidance of Mr. Heitz. Mr. Heitz probably spends most of his time at the dealership and I know even if he does not get out and plant and dig in the soil this is truly his garden. Of note, Debbie told me several people have called the dealership asking who maintains these gardens so it is evident other Clarksville residents have also noticed the great effort made by this dealership to make their community a nice place and to attract customers!
I am working on getting pictures of a private garden. The problem I am finding is most people are not home during the day when I am out and about but will soon get it up on here. For now I am in the garden....reworking a garden and preparing for tonight's garden club meeting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bottle Trees?

Before you think I am totally nuts, hear me out. A very well known gardener quoted in the Fourth printing of The Southern Living Garden Book, Felder Rushing, has bottle trees and rubber bushes (you will have to check out his website to learn what a rubber bush is)! Felder Rushing is quite the gardener and individual. He is from Mississippi and I can assure his neighbors probably truly don't know what to make of him. His quote on page 12 of the Southern Living book is: "Gardening is an attitude, not a skill." I am not sure I totally agree with this statement, but the fact he is quoted in the Southern Living book and is nationally known and respected gives credibility to bottle trees. To find out more about Felder Rushing check out his website at: He has several bottle gardens in his yard. My friend Gerrianne and I had the privilege of hearing him speak at a Perennial Plant Society meeting and thoroughly enjoyed the talk.

I am not sure of the history of bottle trees but believe it is a 'southern thing'. Since I am from the north I will just have to play along. Bottle trees are a fun and very colorful way to add some light and change to your garden. Not to mention they are a great way to display collectible bottles-out of the house. If you are like me you probably have too many collectables within the confines of your home and may want to expand beyond your four walls. Here are two pictures of bottle trees. One belongs to me and the other belongs to my good gardening friend Gerrianne. She was kind enough to allow me to use a picture here. We both agreed bottle trees are a winter subject.

My new friend the Saint said that in Germany the Germans would put bottles over pear blossoms in the spring. The pears would then grow within the bottle and conform to the shape of the bottle. At first he thought this is what these bottles were for. He did like the bottle tree much better than the bowling balls, but like I said gardens are individual and not everyone will garden in the same way. There are no two gardens the same nor are there two individuals the same and that is OK.

Please leave a comment or email me stating which one of these lovely bottle trees you think is "growing" in my garden. For those of you who have been to my garden-please don't spoil it for the rest of the readers who want to guess. I will let you all know which bottle tree is mine on Wednesday, 21 November.

in the garden....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Foundation Gardens

There is something good to be said about foundation gardens. From all I have read about foundation gardens, they began as a way to hide unsightly foundation walls many, many years ago. I think as time went on and gardening evolved, foundation gardens then became a way to "marry" the house to the land. Houses just stuck out in the middle of a plot of land with no transition space between the outdoors and the structure can be a little unsettling.

Foundation gardens also add curb appeal to your home. Curb appeal is very important if you want to sell your house for top dollar or even if you want a prospective buyer to take a second look. While at a party this year a neighbor of the hostess had commented she and her husband were at one point trying to sell their very nice custom built house. Every single prospective buyer who came by commented there was no shrubbery near the house, which swayed their opinion negatively when viewing the home. The couple took their home off the market and are waiting until better conditions but will probably add some kind of a foundation garden to it before they re-list it.

Around Clarksville we have many good builders who do try to landscape new homes. Unfortunately, most builder packages include the standard boxwoods or compacta holly, maybe an arborvitae or yew, and a few barberries. Sometimes there is a good mix but the standard package when the house is new is not always the ideal package for long term sustainability in the foundation garden. Boxwoods and arborvitae will outgrow their space, cover up windows and cause maintenance headaches. The homeowner then has no choice but to do nothing or remove the shrubs. Oftentimes, removing the shrubs is where the foundation landscape will stop. Many homeowners feel the expense and time to maintain a foundation garden are just too much and not worth it. I understand this point of view but want to give the homeowner a few options and another side to the coin.

Removing overgrown shrubs and letting nature take its course (usually in the form of grass) is certainly an option. But this option actually can require much more maintenance than a foundation garden. Grass has to be mowed and trimmed. Mowing, trimming and edging take up the most time in my garden. If a homeowner purchased a few ideal shrubs, bulbs or perennials and planted and sited them properly, mulched the bed once a year and occasionally pulled a few weeds then he or she would actually have LESS maintenance than maintaining grass all the way up to the house. The added value to the home would more than compensate for this little bit of maintenance and initial expense.

The key is in choosing the right plants the first time. If a window is only two feet above the ground why would you choose a barberry that will grow to 6 feet or a yew that can top out at 15? There are many good alternatives that grow only two feet tall-like Firepower Nandina or Euonymus microphylla. Each situation will require a different approach and a "one size fits all" approach will not work out in the long-term.

When we moved into our home six years ago we had the requisite boxwood and grass in front of the house. Nothing else. The boxwoods were way overgrown and covered the windows. I removed them and replanted them elsewhere in the landscape and changed out the shrubs. I like the layered and tiered effect and NO grass near the house. I have actually extended the foundation garden all the way around the house and now feel my house is "married" to the surrounding land quite nicely. The two pictures are of the side yard of my home which faces north. Hostas, camelias, hydrangeas, ferns and impatiens all do well on this side. This garden requires a cover of pine mulch every other year, and a yearly trim of the edging, and that is the only maintenance. Weeds don't even grow over here much because it is so shady. You can barely see the brick foundation wall but the best part is the way the house seems to be a part of my garden. Think about your house and your garden and customize the garden to be both functional and beautiful and a welcoming place to come home to each day.

in the garden....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gardening Around the Country

I wanted to share some background with my readers and how and where I have learned to garden. I am originally from the great state of Maine. The picture was taken from a vantage point not too far from my mothers home in Mid-Coast Maine. I grew up on the ocean and to this day, the unique smell of the ocean breeze evokes powerful feelings in me. I use a lot of things from the ocean in my garden. (I will save that for another posting) Mr. Fix-it and the kids also love the ocean, even though they did not grow up around it. A common question asked of Army soldiers when they meet new people is where are you from? I always responded Maine. You would not believe how many times I was asked if Maine was a part of the United States and where was it located! It never fails to amaze me how little we Americans truly know about our country.
While growing up, I had to have a garden in every single house we lived in. French marigolds to line the walkway to the front door, snapdragons and African marigolds in other areas in front of the house. These flowers are some of the easiest to grow and might be why, as a child, I was very attracted to them. I concerned myself with the lawn too. Oh yes, even as a pre-teen I was busy researching, buying and planting Kentucky bluegrass. The hardest part of growing a lawn in the area where we lived was keeping people off from the lawn in the mud season. Mud season, as some of you may know, is when the spring thaw hits after a winter of snow. The mud season in Maine lasts for a few good months in the spring. Maine has wonderful soil but on the coast you have to battle rocks and ledges and strong ocean breezes. For the most part anything I grew in Maine I can grow here-including peonies. Some of my favorites for down here do not grow in Maine, most notably Crepe Myrtles.
I next gardened in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. North Carolina is actually a wonderful place to garden if you can manage the heat. The Piedmont area is one zone hotter than we are here in Tennessee and I found the humidity to be much higher. The only real drawback to North Carolina gardening is in the area I lived the soil was sandy. Most of you are saying "That is great! Beats clay!" Actually, whether you have clay or sand is not really important. What is important is understanding the soil and how best to manage it (more on managing soil in another posting). Sandy soil drains very quickly and does not retain water and nutrients as long as clay soil which can be ok. But with the recent droughts we have had, can you imagine gardening and watering a sandy soil garden? I think it would be nigh on impossible. No matter how much I worked the soil and added organic matter to it, the soil would still be sandy-though vegetables and flowers grew very well.
The last state, not including Tennessee, where I have lived and gardened is in southeastern Alabama. Let me tell you, as a gardener I would not wish Alabama on anyone. Not only was the soil very much clay, but it was full of fire ants! If you could get past the fire ants and clay soil then you had to cope with the heat and humidity. There are many more plants you can grow in southern Alabama that you cannot grow in Tennessee. Then again, there are many plants you cannot grow in Alabama that grow in Tennessee-like peonies. As an avid gardener I did garden in Alabama and had I lived there longer I may have become adapted to the region. When Mr. Fix-it and I sold the house a few years ago we went back for a visit. I was happy and sad at the same time to see my rose garden, perennial garden and Japanese maple happily growing and even thriving. Sad I had to leave them forever but I truly hope the new homeowners and neighbors enjoy the plants. Plants are an investment in time, money and the future. The one foot red Japanese maple I had planted five years earlier had grown to a beautiful eight foot tall speciman! How quickly time flies.
Now I am in Tennessee and garden most of my free time-or talk about it to others. I love Tennessee gardening for one simple reason-you can truly garden all year long here in Tennessee. Some of my friends say it is too hot or too cold, but again, I think it is all relative to how you approach gardening. There are always opportunities to do something in, around or about gardening even on the hottest, coldest, rainiest and sometimes snowiest days. Thank goodness for garden catalogs at this time of year!
I have also gardened in Germany but will not go into that on this posting. I just wanted to share some areas of the United States where I have gardened. Even though I live in Tennessee, the plants, ideas and sometimes experience come from all over the country. For instance; I cannot visit Maine without bringing back plants. You can find plants up there that you can't find down here EVEN though those same plants WILL grow here too. I have actually had a nursery worker tell me that if you can't find Joe Pye weed down here, then it doesn't grow down here. That is so not true and was rather shortsighted on the part of the worker. Nurserymen are selective in what they will offer the public. Certain areas of the country stick to certain plants, and that is too bad because plants can transcend all boundaries.
Notes on the garden: Pine needles are NOT ready for raking (at least in the area I go to rake), vegetable garden brick walkways are complete, and the 125 perennials I bought at Lowe's big sale this week have been planted out! Whew. It was not as difficult as you might think-the hard part was finding the right spots for them all. If you did not have a chance to get to Lowes it might not be too late. At .56-.64 cents a one to two gallon pot, Lowes was practically giving away the perennials. A dream for gardeners so hurry on over.
in the garden....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Spikey, Frilly and Roundy

In one of the Perennial Plant Society's monthly meetings, the speaker said to have good design in the garden you need "Spikey, frilly and roundy". While he said this he was demonstrating with his hands. The effect was funny. My friend Gerrianne and I have not forgotten this lesson and his very animated advice.

This picture of perennials demonstrates the spikey, frilly and roundy concept even without flowers. The iris are spikey (straight green blades to the left of St. Francis), the Powis Castle artemesia (a plant I must have in my garden and is the silver and gray plant in the foreground) is the frilly, and the large canna leaves are the roundy (the plant behind the artemsia). Throw in the cleyera behind and to the right of the cannas and you have a good well rounded garden containing lots of textures and different colors. Sometimes all it takes to make a pleasing garden are special shapes and colors of foliage-no flowers required. Just remember spikey, frilly and roundy! Combining textures and colors of foliage can be much simpler and easier to do than finding flowers to fill a spot. Soon, I will post my choice for "Garden of the Month" which clearly demonstrates this principal of using just foliage. Will it be your garden???

I hope everyone has a good Veterans Day-it is a time to reflect and enjoy being with family; grateful for all of the sacrifices we veterans have made in our lives for others. The Leaf Chronicle has a few very good articles highlighting veterans in today's paper-check it out.

Today is also a good day to rake pine needles for mulch-so for now I will be in the garden....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

People and Plant Databases

My new friend Skeeter and her husband, the Saint visited me recently. We had met only once before but had so much in common that a visit was a definite go. What an enjoyable afternoon talking and listening to one another-and I didn't even have to go out shopping as they came over! After the afternoon I got to thinking about people. You see, after this one afternoon I feel like I've known Skeeter and the Saint for many, many years. Isn't it funny how you can meet some people and just have an instant connection and then others you never do truly know them? Anyone who reads the Leaf's blogs is probably familiar with Skeeter and I want to say you all know her! She is exactly what comes through on the blogs; kind, caring, funny, interesting, talented and honest. I wish everyone could be like this, so easy to get to know and like.

So I started thinking about plants and people. I always have this way of equating my dogs with my children. (Be patient it will all become clear soon) Some of you will be mortified but most of you will understand what I am saying. You see pets are very easy to know and love as they truly adore their masters with no help at all. They never sass and they never are ungrateful for all their masters do. By no way am I saying my four children are ungrateful but they have all had their rebellious stage and with a newly minted teenager at home, I can attest I sometimes prefer my dogs over him! So comparing plants and people is only taking the simile one step further.

I wondered if with plants what you see is what you get. Sometimes people are like this and sometimes not. Looks can be very deceiving. No way are plants always what they seem! Anyone who has planted a cute little Norway Spruce five feet from their front door will know what I am talking about. Ten years later that cute little small tree is a gigantic door blocking pain in the ***. So what do we do when we purchase new plants? Hopefully we have in mind what type of plant we are purchasing, and if not, we research it. I always research plants in my garden. I do not stop at just one source and instead read gardening books and at least half a dozen websites. Inevitably the websites all seem to vary just a little. Therefore, when reading several I can get an average of what the plant will actually become.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could research people on the web? I know you can but I am not talking about those kinds of websites. I am thinking a "People Database" type of website. One that if I were of the mind I could type in "Skeeter" and go directly to research on Skeeter. The people database research would say; (Plant Database comparison is in italics)

Type personality: (Habit) Warm, caring individual who plays well with others and is very adaptable.

Talents: (Foliage and Fruit) Artistic, funny, creative which can light up any environment for the long-term.

Background: (Site Requirements) Grew up in a warm home, loves family and pets and performs best around like environment.

Uses: (Companion Plant with) Good lifelong friend for a variety of personalities so plant anywhere!

Growth: (Growth Rate) Loves challenge, new ideas and perspectives and grows quickly.

What do you think about a people database? Good idea or what? This way we can immediately look and see what makes up a person and it would of course, have to be verifiable and researched extensively by powers other than people-therefore a people database would never work. People are funny because we all have different views, needs, perspectives and thoughts. That is what makes people unique. Sigh, I guess I will stick with meeting and talking with people and research only plants.

One site I use often to research new plants is found at I really like this website because gardeners can evaluate the plant based on their own observations. It is not a "one size fits all" database. I myself have left evaluations of plants I grow in my garden. I think maybe we have plant databases because plants are not as easy to get to know as people. Sometimes it takes several years for the true plant to come through and most people can be figured out rather quickly.

Skeeter and the Saint it was very nice visiting with you both and getting to know you both! Have a safe trip back home.

in the garden....

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dividing Perennials

Dividing perennials is one of my least favorite chores in the garden. I think my favorite chores are raking the yard and pruning with my hand clippers. Anyhow, now is the time to divide perennials. There are two general reasons to divide perennials, one is to make more of the perennial and the other is to rejuvenate an overgrown perennial. Fall is the ideal time to divide because the plant is usually ready to go dormant, there is plentiful moisture, and the soil is still warm enough for good root growth. I think it is important to time the division so that the perennial can get reestablished before really cold weather sets in, but as long as there is moisture in the ground and the ground is not frozen, you can probably divide up to December, then begin again in February.

Some perennials which should be divided at some point are: Red hot Pokers, daylillies, shasta daisies, hostas, sedums, irises, coreopsis, yarrows, lambs ears, oreganos, cone flowers, brown eyed susans, dianthus, phlox, ornamental grasses, gladiolus, crocosmia, spireas, alliums, ferns, and peonies. This list is not all inclusive, just some that come to mind in my garden. Notably missing perennials include: Russian Sage, salvias, mums (although I have had success in dividing some mums), and gaura. I start these from cuttings because they do not divide well.

I have a very long and wide and perennial border on the north side of my property (pictured above). This border has been sparse for many years to say the least as it is so large and my budget does not allow for instant gratification. I have started shasta daisies from seed and planted them, divided daylillies and stuck them in here and many other plants but the border has not been full because I have had to spread out the plants. My plan was to repeat everything in a uniform manner. I made sure I planted one daylily every five feet and one shasta every five feet and so on. The problem is one of anything does not work in a large garden, even if it is repeated every five feet. My saving grace was the fact I knew all of the perennials I planted would eventually grow enough they could be divided. The time has come! Where I had just one shasta I now have five or six. They will still be thin for a year or two but they will fill in and make the impact in this border I am seeking. The cost in dollars to increase your plantings from division is ZERO-so what a bargain. The costs wind up being the amount of time of you are willing to wait before you can divide your one of everything.

in the garden....

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Old Friends and Blogs

I think I might have to stay at home in order to get things done-clean house so Skeeter and the Saint can come visit tomorrow! But since I would much rather garden than clean house, I am protesting by doing nothing and shopping instead! I keep running into old and dear friends when I go out.

Today I ran into my friend Celeste. I have not seen Celeste and her family for quite a while but sure had a good visit with her this morning in St. B Wal-Mart. She used to be my neighbor out here in Woodlawn and was a super neighbor. To my great surprise she knew everything that was going on in my life-I am a grandma and the garden and my mom and so on. Can you guess why? Yup, she reads my blog every day. Her habit is to rise early and check out all the online versions of newspapers not only for Clarksville, but for other cities she and her family have lived in. Her son Zachary, who reads the hard copy newspaper in Rossview middle school, told his mother and father about my blog as he recognized my picture in the paper. Astounding since it has been a good year or two since he has seen me-he has a great memory! Since then, Celeste has read all of my postings, including the comments. Celeste has not gotten the hard copy newspaper in years because she likes the online versions better. I am completely opposite. I love the hard copy and could not live without my morning paper. It is a luxury I find necessary. Since blogging I do read more online information-but I always skip the Leaf's headlines if I have not yet read my paper. It would be like finding out who was kicked off Survivor without watching it-or who won the Superbowl the day after (very common when you live in Europe and there is a seven hour time difference) without watching it. I want the little details and I want it in person.

Celeste, I was looking for a reason to post this picture and now I have one. It is for you and this posting is for you! So good to see you and Jacob this morning and thanks for reading along! This picture is one of my favorites and is in a special gardening frame a friend (Mary) gave me because she knows how much I love gardening. Celeste's oldest son, Danny, and Jimmy were good friends and Danny would come over and hang out sometimes. I managed to convince both boys to go pick some vegetables from the vegetable garden on this day. Getting family to pick vegetables is hard. I feel that since I plant, grow, nurture, water, weed and store the vegetables the least my family can do is pick them! But I never have problems getting vegetables picked when friends come over because they are always happy to help out-thus Danny and Jimmy wound up in the vegetable garden with green peppers. They were 10 years old in this picture and aren't they cute?!

I would be remiss in not saying hi to Dan and "The Girl" since I got the other three kids in here-hi Vonia and hi Dan!

in the garden....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What a Great Day to Meet Gardeners!

What a super gardening day-and I wasn't even in the garden! I started out at Helene's house (the President of the Clarksville Garden Club) in Sango discussing gardening clubs. As I was leaving her house what should I spot but this old clawfoot bathtub! Those of you who travel Old Sango Road will surely recognize this garden. It certainly made me smile and ties in with my bathtub fish pond-sure wish mine was a clawfoot like this one. The nice owner (Larry) sure was proud of it. He acquired the bathtub from a neighbor who used it as a water trough for horses. At first it didn't have the clawfeet on it but when he dragged it out of its position from behind his truck-he found all four feet! It is a huge heavy tub. Larry added the irises and shower spigot. His plan is to cascade tinsel from the shower spout in order to simulate falling water. What a super idea! I think all neighbors must smile when they see this tub proudly displayed in Larry's front yard. I will by again in the spring to look at the lovely display of irises.
I next went to Lowes thinking it just might be sale time-and boy did I rack up! I met Linda there where she was busy buying all of the coral bells Lowes had in stock:) We talked about-what else-gardening! and friends! Then my best gardening friend Gerrianne showed up and coincidently Linda's best gardening friend Fran also showed up! Fran was looking for the coral bells Linda had already loaded into her cart:) This was so not planned but made for a very enjoyable afternoon in the garden shop. I do hope my new friends come to garden club next week!
I wanted to quickly mention about posting comments on blogger. Stacey and Sandy have already covered posting instructions on their blogs so I will not repeat it here, but my mother mentioned something readers may not know. She had been trying to comment on my postings but blogger told her she needed a Google email account. When my mother went to Google to sign up she could not find a place to get email. That is because Google email is called Gmail. My mother established an account no problem. Others, like my daughter do not want to fool with yet ANOTHER email account so she only reads without commenting. That is fine.
in the garden....

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Exotic Invasive Plants and Their Management

What do you think of when I mention exotic and invasive plants? I bet most of you would say kudzu! The plant that ate the south! Kudzu is but one of many introduced plant species that have become invasive and caused native plant communities harm by smothering them and colonizing their natural habitat. Exotic plant invasives are a real problem across the country, not just in the south or Tennessee. There are alternative plants for ornamental use you can substitute for the invasives. For instance, did you know
Euonymus alata, aka Burning Bush is considered
invasive? A good native alternative would be Aronia
arbutifolia, aka red chokeberry. Substituting native
plants for exotic invasives is but one way you can control the spread of the invasives; management of the
land is another.

Some of you may be familiar with Nick-a-Jack lake near Chattanooga. The above picture is of the sunset on Nick-a-Jack lake. I wasn't familiar with this lake until my college instructor (Nancy) mentioned a project she is working on with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the developer of Nick-a-Jack lake. It seems the TVA is allowing a developer to develop the natural area around Nick-a-Jack Lake with some stipulations. TVA has contracted the area surrounding the lake to an elevation of 250 feet will be restored to its original native condition and maintained in this condition indefinitely. If the surrounding bank of the lake rises straight up to 250 feet within 10 feet of the lake or whether it gently slopes up to 250 feet within 1000 feet of the lake does not matter, this area is to be restored over a five year period.

Nancy is working on the project and has developed a plan to remove the exotic invasives like Chinese privet (Ligustrum), multiflora roses, greenbriar (Smilax) and poison ivy. While some invasives are native, even native plants can become nuisances in the wrong places by choking out other native plants. Such is the case with the greenbriar. Removing invasives is not an easy or fun task. Have you ever tried to walk through the woods and been scratched by multiflora roses and tangled in Japanese honeysuckle? I have and it is not pleasant. I am glad to hear of governmental agencies taking a proactive stance in doing something about the exotics and invasives in our area.

In your own garden please be mindful of the consequences of plants you plant and always, always know what you are planting BEFORE planting it. Invasive tendencies aside, you don't want to plant something you know nothing about and wind up with your house disappearing under a tangle of vines. If you have exotics like multiflora roses-rip them out!

To find out more about exotic plants in Tennessee check out the list at:

in the garden....

Monday, November 5, 2007

More Standardization? Why not?

I think I will try to standardize some of my postings. I really, really enjoy gardens and usually the gardeners who tend them. I have been known to drive around and stop and knock on someone's door to comment on a particularly nice garden I have spotted. I have made a few friends this way and have found others not willing to talk about their gardens, and that is perfectly okay.

I think I will make my postings in a few areas more standardized. I have already profiled a Plant of the Month (Japanese Anemone), a Gardener (Ann), and a Community Garden (New Providence Blvd.), and now I would like to add a Garden of the Month. When I mentioned my new idea to Mr. Fix-it he said, "Who will be the judge?" No judging. Absolutely none. I don't believe you can judge gardens as they are as individual as the gardeners who tend to them. Just a personal preference of what I think works and what others might like to see or emulate in their own gardens. I look for gardens that are not necessarily designed and maintained by professionals, but for gardens an amateur gardener loves and tends. Gardens can be as small as a specimen plant in the front yard or as large as an entire front yard devoid of any grass and instead planted solely with ornamentals. What matters is the garden itself and the gardeners connection to the garden.

I like whimsy in my garden but that is not necessarily what I like in other gardens or even what I look for. It is always nice to smile when one sees a garden but there are also feelings of serenity, ease, symmetry, formality, color, peace, fun and the list goes on. Gardens are usually a reflection of the gardener but even if they aren't, they show what the gardener likes. I am interested in all types of gardens and already have several in mind that I have noticed over the years. Some are simple only containing one type of plant, some show some serious organization and others just yell at you and say look at me! Some are subdued and some are so low maintenance as to be doable by anyone that I just enjoy the possibilities of them all.

Participation will be voluntary and I would never use someone's garden or information without their consent. I am primarily talking about the private gardens and gardeners. The community garden will always be a public garden, and the plant of the month will always be a plant from my garden. Recognizing community gardens are very important to me because they and the gardeners who tend them give so much to the community. Using a plant from my garden ensures I know how it grows and that I know what I am talking about when I post about it. So, I'll give it a try and see how things go!

in the garden....

Plant of the Month

Community Garden of the Month

Gardener of the Month

Garden of the Month

Fall Trips and Color

I just came back from a wonderful weekend in a super resort called the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason Ohio. The trip was courtesy of Mr. Fix-it's job and the Ramsey family thanks the Army for the great time and awesome weekend! Especially Peggy, the behind the scenes workers, and the command team of the Indianapolis Recruiting Battalion.
My mother left a message on my answering machine all worried about why I hadn't posted each day (God love her) as she was really worried. Don't worry mom, all is well! My readers know I like to talk about gardening and will normally post each and everyday, but sometimes awesome weekends will cause even blogger and gardening to take a back seat. I will get back to posting as soon as possible-I promise!
The Great Wolf Lodge is a themed resort located adjacent to Kings Island just outside of Cincinnati. There is an indoor water park, a spa, shops and an overall woodsy feeling. Kind of like what one would get living in Alaska, which is where I usually think most wolves live. Upon driving up to the lodge we were welcomed with a massive display of blue and yellow pansies and the absolutely best stand of tall fescue grass I have seen. The grounds were wonderfully landscaped with 40 feet tall hemlocks and spruces. I was very impressed. So where are the pictures you are asking? Silly me, I forgot the camera! I realized my mistake on the trip up there when I saw some beautiful chestnut trees in their fall glory. I kept telling Jimmy to look at the trees and weren't they beautiful? He was not impressed but I know secretly he was taking it all in.
Since it is fall and the first hard freeze of the season is forecast for this week, I did take a few pictures out here in Woodlawn. The large picture with the beautiful burning bushes was taken in front of Woodlawn Elementary School on Woodlawn Road, and the smaller picture with the contrast of reddish pink and green was taken on Lylewood Road. The next trip I take, I will surely remember that camera! If readers have some nice photos they would like to share with others, email them to me at:
in the garden....

Christmas Gift Ideas for Gardeners

I found this kit called "Marker Stones" several years ago in a garden catalog and thought I would share the idea with my readers. Maybe someone will get inspired and start making some marker stones for gifts for Christmas (which is right around the corner!). I loved the look of bricks with stamped words in them so I bought the kit. Since then I have made several marker stones for my garden and for many more for friends and neighbors. My friend Tina loved hers so much she went out and bought herself a kit. I also bought an extra kit for my daughter so she could make her own.

These stones are not difficult to make and are very easy to customize. You can color them or add small stones and rocks-let your imagination be your guide. I tell you, these vegetable tags will last forever in my garden. I like to arrange them in my beds the season before planting and I also use them to identify my various gardens. Marker stones are also great pet grave markers. The kit comes with many different shapes and styles of letters.

It is never too early to start on Christmas gifts for your favorite gardener or even for yourself-so get to mixing!

in the garden....