Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Eve!

I always get melancholy this time of year. I guess most people do. I use the end of the year as an opportunity to reflect on the passing year and to make goals and aspirations for the new year. When I look back at 2007, I find it has been a good year. My family was blessed with the birth of a healthy grandson, we all have our health, were able to travel to Maine to see our oldest daughter graduate from college, saw the Niagara Falls (a dream of mine my whole life), my husband is a successful Army Recruiter (the HARDEST job in the Army) and was promoted, I graduated from college and started a new college program, and the garden is still the garden even though it suffered tremendously in 2007.

I look forward to 2008 and to prepare for the new year I think ahead to what I hope will happen. It is kind of a "get prepared now and you will know how to react when it happens" mechanism. I have had many years of looking ahead and back and many, many changes in my life. Most all have been great and everything seems to turn out fine in the long run. Moves are the biggest changes and challenges that the new year used to bring to my life. No more moving so now life's priorities have changed. Here are my top ten hopes the new year (in no particular order): Some relate to gardening, some everyone can relate to, and some no one but me will desire.

1) World Peace

2) Continued health for family and friends

3) My children will continue to grow and prosper in life
4) I will find the right job for me AND for the job

5) Jimmy will enter his first year of high school and finally realize it is COOL to get all A's

6) My husband's stress level will be greatly reduced because his recruiting duty will end after more than three long years.

7) It will rain between 1-2" each and every week this year, and only in the early morning hours when I am not in the garden.
8) The voles will change their dietary habits and instead of eating my perennials and shrubs, they will now eat only dandelions and plantains.

9) The adjacent property owners will finally sell their house and move. The new owners will be great neighbors and wonderful people. (As a bonus at least one will be a gardener and/or appreciate plants)

10) I will continue this blog and get to meet more super people and learn new things about gardening and life.

Last year at this time, our family was preparing for a much anticipated and long awaited trip to the Ringling Barnum and Bailey Circus in Nashville. And because I love stories, here is how we wound up at the circus. Jimmy was born in 1994. Because 1994 was the 125the Anniversary of the Ringling Circus, the Circus, in conjunction with Family Circle, offered every single child born in 1994 a free ticket for one circus performance good for the child's lifetime. It took us nearly 13 years to finally use it, but we did and had a great time. Circuses sure have changed since I last saw one!

Be safe this evening and may the New Year bring you all of your dreams, hopes and aspirations.

Happy New Year and make it your best every day!

in the garden....

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winter Gardening: Form (Part 3)

Form is how the structure of the garden is put together and the kind of mood which is presented to the gardener. It is how the hardscaping and plant material are married to one another. But form does not require both hardscaping and plant material in order to work effectively.

A good example of both hardscaping and plant material is the above picture which shows a red twig dogwood in front of a hunter green split rail fence with a chain link fence to the left of the shrub. This is structure (the fences and the shrub) but then you look at the shape and feeling the fence and shrub present to the gardener and you get the feel for the form. The fence kind of gives a solid appearance while providing us a backdrop for the plant material. The plant material is a deciduous shrub which has a strange reaching spidery type of form. One might think the shrub is reaching out to you. The two together make the form of this particular winter vignette.

Form can also be the straight trunks of the deciduous trees. Not only are the trees structure, but they are in a straight and linear which is the form; which makes the viewer want to look up and down. Therefore, form is different from structure in that structure tells the gardener there is something there, and form tells the gardener how to feel or where to look. These tree trunks break up the horizon and keep the gardener's eyes within the garden. This is form. If these trees were all Christmas tree shaped fir trees, the gardener would have an entirely different feeling. It would seem form and structure are the same, but they truly are not. The structure is the backbone and basis for the garden, whereas the form tells us what kind of garden we designed.

Lastly, form can be just the plant and shape of the plant itself. This PeeGee hydrangea is a deciduous shrub just like the red twig dogwood above. But this hydrangea, while spidery and reaching like the red twig, has a totally different feel than the red twig dogwood. The red twig seems to be lighter and airier and gives the gardener a sense of space. The hydrangea would seem to give the gardener (me) a sense of messiness since the stems are all intertwined and seem in need of organizing. The form of the plants is what sets the mood of the garden. It is how the structure is presented which makes form important in all gardens, no matter what the season.

in the garden....

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Winter Structure Pictures

We all here in Tennessee so rarely get this much snow, and since my previous post was about structure in winter gardens, my sister Dawn has shared some pictures of her garden in the winter. She is located in the interior of Maine, and as you can see, the folks in this area get lots of snow. My mother, who is on the coast of Maine, usually doesn't get this much snow because the ocean moderates the weather to a certain extent. Of course, the downside is the ocean can bring storms which can (and have) caused a lot more damage on the coast of Maine than the interior receives.

The pictures remind me of when I was a child. I think even southerners can love the snow and the charm and ambiance that seems to go with a good snow, evergreen trees and a roaring fire in the ski lodge!

My oldest daughter is BIG into snowboarding. I can assure you she loves this type of snow and usually stops by her Aunt Dawn's on her way to the mountains for a snowboard weekend. Our family had the pleasure of skiing in the Alps when were stationed in Germany. I spent most of my time in the lodge with a good book-especially so after I took a bad fall on the bunny slope. The fall was not so painful as scary because it jarred my head. Not a good thing.
Back to the winter structure subject. The first picture is my favorite. It shows what appears to be a tire and a split rail fence to the right of it. Kind of makes one think of summer play to come. The second picture is the shoveled out walkway to the parking area. I don't envy the northerners on the shoveling-though I don't mind shoveling, it is too much in the north! The last picture truly makes me think of the stars who always vacation in Aspen, Colorado. I have never been there but can only imagine it looks like this, and this beauty and the peace that goes with a good snowfall is surely what attracts the rich and famous to Aspen.
Thanks Dawn for sharing the beautiful pictures! If any readers out there have some winter pictures of their gardens they would like to share, just email me at
in the garden....trimming trees and taking down Christmas decorations.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Winter Gardening: Structure (Part 2)

Structure is the "Bones" of the garden. Structure tells us there is something in the in the way of landscaping in the area.

Some people consider structure to be the walls, floor and ceiling of your garden. This is very true because if you relate garden structure to the structures of your home, the walls, ceiling and floor are the backbone and framework.

Just like in your home the structure can be made up of many different materials, so too in the garden. For example: walls in the home can be; painted drywall, textured stucco, brick, stone or paneling or any number of creative materials. In the garden, walls can be; a metal wall, tree trunks, lattice, a shrub border, fences, a greenhouse, flowers, stone walls, or any number of materials.

The first picture shows a linear deck rail with very linear and bare tree trunks in the distance. These are the "walls" of my garden. The branches, which so happily hold the snow, are the roof.

You really can't see the floor of my garden in the first picture, but if you look at the second picture you can clearly see the patio stepping stones in the corner of my sidewalk and driveway through the melting snow. One knows there is something there, even in the winter time (of course you might not see them if there was too much snow but you might still see the outline of the sidewalk garden just beyond the stones).

Gardeners in the north where winters can be harsh need to make maximum use of structure to tell them where the garden is and to frame the sleeping garden during the deepest, darkest part of winter.

Structure will not be as important to southern gardeners as color and texture will play a larger role since plant material in the south is likely to still be growing in the south.

On a personal note, I would like to say thank you to my friend Anonymous, her husband and their four children for hosting Jimmy and I all day yesterday. I never once looked at my watch and was stunned to find we spent about six hours at their lovely home when we finally departed last night. We both had a great time talking and Jimmy says he'd love to come again (me too)!

in the garden....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Saving Poinsettias

It is that time of year when people who purchased poinsettias now wonder, "Can I keep this plant for next Christmas?" The answer is yes, though I have never done it. I did some research and found some information on saving and getting poinsettias to reflower. I am not much of a houseplant gardener but I have known people who have successfully saved their poinsettias and I think the effort is worthwhile. My friend (Delisa) who did save hers really enjoyed hers on the deck in the summer time. Poinsettias actually make great houseplants and in my book, any houseplant I can enjoy outside is a great houseplant.

The Poinsettia Pages sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension and found at the web address: is a wealth of information not only on saving poinsettias but on neat facts about poinsettias.

For instance; Did you know poinsettias are native to Mexico and can grow to 10 feet tall in their native habit? I think I have heard people from California talk about them growing quite large out there. Ginger, did you ever see any grow that large when you lived in California? That would be a sight with all the colorful red bracts interspersed among the shrub.

The website also says 80% of all poinsettias are purchased by women. Additionally, 80% of purchasers of poinsettias are aged 40 or over. Do you think it is the same 80 %? Only women over 40 buying them?:) For the record, I am over 40 and a woman. I didn't purchase any poinsettias this year but I sometimes do. Depends on the specials offered and my mood at the time.

I did not realize poinsettias were in the botanical class of Euphorbias. Euphorbia pulcherrima to be exact. The name was given to the plant by a German botanist and the name means "very beautiful". Euphorbias are a wide and varied botanical class of plants. I think they are very cool because of their uniqueness and sometimes wild habits and growth manner. They are mostly all showy in and out of flower.

Check out the "Poinsettia Pages" for more interesting information and detailed instructions on how to save poinsettias and get them to rebloom the following Christmas. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

in the garden....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter Gardening Principles

I had the pleasure of presenting a program on Winter Gardening to my garden club this past February and thought I would take the opportunity to share it with you all too. The principles will take up a few posts as it would be too much to put all in one post.

The program was very important to me as I was quite honored to be presenting to my garden club, unfortunately it was a traumatic time too. The program had been on the calendar for nearly one year, but Jimmy, unbeknownst to me, had signed up for the Spelling Bee at his school. He won and was to represent his school in the County Spelling Bee. Do you know the County Spelling Bee just happened to be scheduled the same night as my garden club program? It was cold and stressful that evening trying to be in two places at once. Jimmy placed sixth in the County Spelling Bee then we immediately sped over to the Women's Club for my program.

The program went off without a hitch and all was well. But then I got sick (I almost NEVER get sick and I just know I got sick from the running around and the cold) and I lost my voice for more than one week. Those of you in school with me will remember I could not present our project or even talk. Jimmy loved it his mom had no voice. I hope I don't ever go through that again. If you have never lost your voice, consider yourself lucky, if you have, then you know the pain. I only share this story with you so you will know this winter gardening program is very memorable for me. This is the first of several posts on Winter Gardening. Not only will I cover the four principles of winter gardening, but I will conclude with a plant list which will provide the gardener with winter interest.

My mother will be bored stiff as these posts will be all about gardening. So all you commenters out there be sure to leave lots of comments as she enjoys the comment part of the blog MOST! You know in Maine I don't think they do too much winter gardening, but the principles remain the same no matter where you live and garden-even in northern Canada so she should pay attention!

There is a saying that any gardener can have a good looking garden in the spring, but most gardeners want their garden to look good through the spring, summer, fall and even the winter. Gardeners need not stop gardening in the winter and their gardens can shine this time of the year just like in the spring. True, herbaceous perennials are fast asleep underground dreaming about the glory they will spew forth once the conditions become favorable again. The branches of deciduous trees are bare. The lighting is different and things seem dreary. It need not be this way though. The key is in capitalizing on things you have and making vignettes which will not change much in the wintertime.

Winter gardening has to be thought out carefully, but even if you don't plan specifically for winter gardening, you will find some interesting and beautiful things in your garden that help to keep you close to the garden all through the year.

The four principles I use when planning for a winter garden are: structure, form, texture and color. Over the next four posts I will describe each one in detail and give you some examples of how you can apply them to your garden to ensure your winter garden looks good and beckons you out into even on the coldest winter days. I will end my Winter Gardening Program by posting a list of plants I find interesting in the winter garden. No one principle is more important than another but some may be more important in your garden depending on where you live and what you already have in place. For now you can find me shivering...

in the garden....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas & Furkids on Patio

Merry Christmas everyone! Believe it or not I am not the ONLY one blogging on Christmas Day so please don't think I am toooo weird.

I hope everyone has had a great time opening their gifts this morning. I know my family did. I got lots of gardening things-no surprise there! Now we are looking forward to a home cooked turkey and all the fixins.

Ginger, one of my regular readers, sent me this lovely picture of her furkids on her patio. She has a huge Great Dane, Doris Day, the little tan dog is Franky and the black kitty is Webster. She says she had a pinwheel garden which was a clever idea until a storm came through and darn near sent the flowers into orbit! I am thinking the flowers on the fence are from the pinwheel garden and I think they look super. Lots of whimsy and something that will no doubt make people smile when they see it. The flowers provide Ginger with lots of winter color and require no care. Just make sure they are safely secured to the fence and the fence is safely secured to the earth!:)

Merry Christmas!

in the garden....

Monday, December 24, 2007

Gifts and Families on Christmas Eve

It is finally Christmas Eve. I know the stockings are stuffed and all the kids tucked into bed in anticipation of tomorrow. Such excitement! Think back to when you were a kid and try to get that feeling too.

Since it is Christmas Eve and a time for family, I thought I would share this gift from Mr. Fix-it. He and I recently celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. Life with him just gets better and better everyday; which is saying a lot because life with him has always been great. Anyone who knows us and him know this to be a true and concrete statement. He is just a kind and family oriented man. A true gem. (He usually doesn't read my blog posts so I am not getting any brownie points)

Anyhow, unknown to me he commissioned this etched mirror with a custom picture. A friend of his etches glass as a hobby and SSG Moore did a super job! I have a thing for mirrors. Mirrors in the garden and mirrors in my home. Every single room in my house has a mirror or two. The porch also has a mirror and I have glass in the yard. Putting a mirror together with an etching just seemed the ideal gift for our anniversary.

Mr. Fix-it and his friend came up with an appropriate design for my new mirror, personally handpicked by Mr. Fix-it. If you look closely you can see him holding up the mirror. This picture was tricky because I did not want to get myself in the picture yet I wanted you all to see the picture itself. The picture has ivy intertwined with the word LOVE, has a few butterflies, and then says "MY GARDEN". It all stands for "I love my garden". I truly do and hubby knows it well-but he still tops the garden anyday!

I told Mr. Fix-it he should have saved it for Christmas since it wasn't done in time for our anniversary-would've saved him picking out a another gift for me. He says he already gives me everything so what else can he give me? I agreed and said just having him around is enough for me. Family at this time of year should be the focus. We all sometimes get carried away with living that we forget what is truly important is not the gifts or money or whatever, it is the thought and consideration behind our actions that really count.

in the garden....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The "Fertilizer Bunnies"

As many of you know, I have several animals. Most of them serve a purpose. The bird sings and makes me happy, the cat takes out the pests and purrs, the fish are grateful to see me and look pretty, the dogs-well the dogs are just kind of companions so I guess that is a purpose-wait-they guard the house too, and lastly there is the rabbit. He is the "Fertilizer" bunny instead of the Energizer bunny and provides my gardens and compost bins with a great amount of natural fertilizer.

We have had Cuddles for one and one half years now and he has been a very good source of natural fertilizer for the garden. Probably too good of a source considering how often I have to clean his cage. But I keep remembering just how many gardens I have to fertilize. He is in the first picture standing up and looking around. He lives in a cage my father built. I hauled the cage from Maine in the back of my Buick-that was a crowded trip!

I don't know what came over me when I recently I agreed to adopt Peter. I found Peter when a lady (Judy) posted an offer of a free rabbit on Freecycle. Against my best judgment, I offered to take Peter. I tell you, my hand and I had a fight when it involuntarily responded to her post of a rabbit on the computer keyboard. The menagerie we already have is enough-really! Mr. Fix-it (great guy that he is) is ok with our new acquisition, of course he doesn't clean the cage.

Animals are great but it is difficult to travel when you own animals, and they take a lot of time, money and energy. All of you know this. Anyhow, I reasoned that just adding one more bunny to the family with Cuddles wouldn't be toooo much. I mean afterall, I have twins-the more the merrier right? Two for the price of one?
Peter is a tame bunny and Judy was very sad to see him go. She was afraid someone would eat him. I assured her that she could come visit anytime she wants and he will most definitely not become our dinner. Judy already knew me as I had just met her the week before when she offered me some pine needles. She is a good gardener and used Peter's wastes for fertilizer in her garden.

Peter is much bigger than Cuddles and I am thinking he will do his fair share of serving his purpose around here by providing lots of natural fertilizer for both the garden and the compost bin. Peter is the big brown bunny looking like he wants to jump out of his nice cage Judy sent along with him. He has beautiful brown eyes and is very sweet. We love our two "Fertilizer Bunnies", and if you have fertilizer bunnies at your house, use their natural fertilizer in your garden-for free.

I checked to see if I could find the fertilizer value of rabbit manure to the garden. According to the website a resting adult can produce between 2-3 ounces of feces per day, and 3-4 ounces of urine per day. Broken down easier and for my benefit, I am receiving approximately 2 pounds of manure per week and over two pounds of urine (which soaks into the cedar shavings and is composted all together) from both rabbits together. This IS alot of compost and is very beneficial for the garden.

The nutritional value of the wastes is approximately 2.4% Nitrogen (N), 1.4% Phosphorous (P), and .6% Potassium (K). You should compost the rabbit manure or delay planting for at least three weeks. I do both in my garden. I have been known to spread it around in new gardens, but usually I toss it in my compost bins. Putting it in the garden fresh has not harmed my plants, but I recommend composting the manure first.

in the garden....spreading some natural fertilizer.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

He TOOK Responsibility!

First of all, I seem to spend alot more time talking about gardening lately than actually gardening. Maybe because it is wintertime, hope so. Yesterday was a garden day and boy did it ever feel great! The soil is still warm and it is not too late to still plant. I was actually dividing those "DDs" and moving perennials (garden phlox, Siberian irises and bearded irises).

DD stands for d*&$#d daffodils! I call them DD because EVERY single year I end up dividing and moving mine around. It is a tedious task I don't mind doing occasionally. I usually don't divide until February, but I found ALOT of DDs that are showing their heads already! December is way too early for daffodils to be growing above ground. I like that the DDs multiply so rapidly and I certainly like the free plants-but I want to enjoy them just ONE year without having to divide them.

I also found a bunch of radishes I don't remember planting! I must have though because you can bet it was not Jimmy nor Mr. Fix-it. If you put out some radish seeds a month or two ago, you might check and see if you too have some radishes growing in your garden. These ones are behind Mr. Fix-it's garage in Jimmy's garden where I don't always venture so that is my excuse for overlooking them.

Okay, on to the fence. Deputy Fuson did a great job finding the culprit who took out my fence. Thanks! The sleepy guy's name is John, and while he said I could use his last name, I will not use last names on my blog unless specifically requested to do so by the person. John is a very nice guy and I tell you I was almost ready to give him money for Christmas rather than him pay for the fence! Too funny. The really big thing for me was for him to take responsibility, and he has; so NO money will exchange hands. The damage is not all that bad and John will help to fix it. This is more than enough for us because of his honesty and willingness to accept responsibility. There are still decent people in this world who own up to their actions and John is definitely one of them.

John and his passenger BOTH were too sleepy to keep an eye on the road. The accident began with John drifting off and crossing an opposite traffic lane, entering the adjacent property owner's ditch, hitting their driveway and then waking up. By this time it was too late. John's little car was too far gone. As he corrected right to go back onto the road, the tail end driver's side took out the first fence pole, he literally flew over the ditch while clipping a wagon wheel and taking out the rest of the fence. All this happened in less than 20 seconds. John and his passenger were then VERY awake. They looked back and didn't see anything (it was dark this is true), thought they only hit a ditch, then drove off for some much needed sleep.

The car suffered some damage in the form of a dent on the driver's side rear quarter panel with lots of green fence paint in it, a dented wheel rim from when he hit the adjacent property owner's ditch, some scrapes, dirt, debris and who knows what else happened mechanically. John didn't even realize it until today when he really looked at his car. All in all not too bad considering it could have been much worse. I am SO grateful no one was injured, the fence will be repaired (John-we'll call!), and the plants will grow back. No harm, no foul.

Folks, if you are sleepy then don't drive. After pulling an all nighter you WILL be sleepy so have an alternative plan. Better safe than sorry this holiday season as it only takes a second. John agrees an idiot hit my fence, but accidents happen to all of us. It only takes a blink of an eye and once it is done, it cannot be taken back and you have to accept responsibility for the outcome. Just ask John.

Accidents can be big or small. Kind of like waterfalls. My family had the pleasure of visiting Niagara Falls this past spring and it was an awesome experience. One we'll never forget. The above picture is of the falls. Enjoy and be SAFE this holiday season!

in the garden....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Garden Club Christmas Party

Since joining the Beachhaven Garden Club, I have gained many new friends and shared in fellowship with them. The yearly Christmas party is always a highlight. This year's Christmas party was at the Clarksville Country Club, set up courtesy of Sandy. We love her!

The Country Club always does a great job of making everyone very comfortable. Comfortable enough to socialize in between eating so much that before we know it, the party is over and we are seriously all loosening our belts! Here are some pictures of this year's Christmas party.

The first picture is of what I call the "younger set". While they are not members of the garden club, the three children are certainly part of the 'family' and very welcomed. The three children are: Olivia, aged 10 (Eunice's granddaughter and Kayleigh's daughter), Jimmy, aged 13 (my youngest son), and Clare, aged 13 (Gerianne's daughter). All three children go to different schools but seemed to have something in common (does "Soldier Boy" ring a bell?)
The second picture shows our very own Sandy and her husband David. She works so hard and I know I speak for all of us when I say "Thanks for all you do!"

The last picture is of a few of the ladies (and a part of Darrin). Pictured from left to right are: Darrin, Rubeye, Doris, Esther, Margaret and Peggy. I couldn't possibly publish all of the pictures, but chose a few which I felt are representative of our group. (The rest will be coming via email to the group).

This year's Christmas party was just as nice as last year and we all had fun. It sure was different to see my son in a tie and everyone else talking and having fun all dressed in their holiday clothes. I look forward to next year's party to be even bigger and better!

in the garden....

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Take Responsibility

Okay everyone. Good morning! I usually post the first thing in the morning and have my post ready well in advance of posting time. This morning was no different as I have a very nice post prepared and was going to use it. But when I woke up, I woke up to the sound of thumps coming from the road. I went out to investigate and what should I find but that some IDIOT had taken out my fence, then drove off and left all the debris in the road for others to hit.

I know accidents happen and there is no doubt this was accidental. But the person driving the small maroon car had to cross a two foot deep ditch and travel quite a ways off from a STRAIGHT road where the speed limit is ONLY 40 miles per hour. Undoubtedly, he was either sleepy, speeding or drunk-maybe a combination of all three or some other reason I cannot think of right now. Or maybe he was just late to work and couldn't stop to make it right. Time will tell as there is no doubt the culprit will be found with all the evidence there is on the incident.

Fortunately there were two witnesses to the accident and the Sheriff Department had already been notified by one of the witnesses of the incident by the time I called in the report. THANK YOU! It is people like the witness who are willing to get involved in matters like this that make ALL the difference in this world.

While I understand accidents happen, the smart and decent thing to do would have been to knock on my door and inform me of what happened and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY! It certainly should not be my job, time, and expense to fix something he broke, whether accidentally or not. I am sure he will be caught, hopefully he will come forward before that time. This matter can be resolved quite easily if he does. The culprit need only take responsibility.

I know the car suffered quite a bit of damage. It had to have because there are some serious rocks and castle rock which were thrown into the road. Additionally, the fence posts were cemented into the ground. The callousness of not reporting the accident is one thing, but to leave the debris in the road for others to possibly have an accident themselves is unconscienable. I know there are people like this in the world, but I am hopeful and optimistic this person is one of the decent ones and had a good reason for driving off and leaving behind the damage for others to suffer the consequences. One of the witnesses had to stop to move a fence pole out of his way prior to moving on. If he hadn't, who knows who else would have had damage to their vehicle?

The person who hit the fence did not even get out of the car and check the damage. The second picture was taken after I tried to put the pole back in the hole and righted the second pole. It was also taken after I stacked the rocks back up into the wall where they were prior to the person hitting them.

I'm in the garden....fixing all the damage to the yuccas and prickly pear this poor driver caused when he ran into my yard onto my property.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December Community Garden of the Month

Those of you from this area will not be surprised I chose the Riverwalk as my choice for December's Community Garden of the Month. The Riverwalk is a beautiful asset for Clarksville, Hopkinsville and all of the surrounding communities. We are fortunate to have a river run through our city, and the park makes the river extra nice.

If you have not yet made the trip down to the park, you still have some time to do so and I highly encourage you to take the whole family and a few friends too! Walking the Riverwalk at least once each season is a yearly Ramsey holiday event. We usually pack up the dogs and make it a whole family affair. We even bring out of town guests to enjoy the park as well. While there this year, Jimmy suggested I make a video of the park, actually he wanted me to videotape him shooting a piece of paper (hornet) into the air. But what else do you expect from a teenager?! He is on the video and says "Hi people". Just press the play button to look at some lights at the Riverwalk. It was freezing cold the night we went and we did not stay long. There were a lot of people out enjoying the lights even in the cold. We even saw a few friends from my Army time here (Alina and family).

The lights are wonderful and bring surprises around each turn. Jimmy always has a great time because of the play area and interesting displays. While our Riverwalk is not on the same grand scale as Nashville's Opryland presentation, it is quite a nice display and I know the Parks and Recreation Department spent a lot man hours preparing the park for the season. They are to be commended as it looks great and I think it is well appreciated by the whole community. That is why the Riverwalk is my choice for December's Community Garden of the Month.

Note: The winter weeds are in full swing. Stay on them to prevent blooming and seeding next year's crop. Also, now that most of the leaves have fallen, pull them away from shrubs and trees to prevent voles from having a hiding place from where they can nibble your landscape plants. I can tell you the voles are warm and happy in my garden as I found many of their resting places when I pulled my mulch away!

at the Riverwalk in the garden....

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Family Traditions

I shared one of our Halloween traditions with you, so I thought I'd share this tradition as well. Jimmy and his dad always build and decorate a gingerbread house each year.

Jimmy was looking forward to doing this for two weeks and it was hard to keep him away from all of the good things that came in the pre-made gingerbread house kit! As it was, he did a pretty good job of eating much of the icing and candies and I think Gingey would be mad at Jimmy for eating his gingerbread house out from under him!
After Christmas, Jimmy's big plan is to eat the whole house. He tries this every year and usually eats a big chunk of the house before I throw it away. Last year, unbeknownst to him I put the house outside for the birds. Jimmy never could figure out where the house went. I put the house in the front yard so my dogs would not eat it. Unfortunately, the adjacent property owner's dog must've thought I put it out front just for her, as she ate the whole thing and kept coming back for more. Poor birds never got any gingerbread.

Anyone who knows Skeeter knows she is a creative person. She was kind enough to send some pictures of her home. She spent many days decorating her home for the holidays and I know she and the Saint are definitely in the spirit. Here is a picture of her 'Snowman Christmas Tree'. When we have more than one Christmas tree it helps to name them! I love the garland across the top of the door opening and I think Skeeter put a lot of work into her decorations and family traditions.

If anyone else has some pictures or traditions to share-send them in and I will try to post them. My email is

in the garden....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Flowers in December?

Who would ever expect to have brown eyes and petunias blooming in December? Even after we have had some hard freezes?

The brown eye was found in Skeeter's garden, along with a periwinkle flower. Are the flowers shocked and confused? I think a little. Also, I think these flowers are finally so happy to have some rains they are now trying to bloom their hearts out since they couldn't this summer during "The Drought". This year will go down as a BAD year for gardeners in most of the country.

I was shocked to discover I still had petunias and geraniums. They are in a window box and are located on the railing of my porch under the overhang. The shelter of the roof sure helps them to survive the freezes, still this is not a usual occurance, even for Tennessee. Trees also help to shield plants from freezes. Same principal as when you park your car in the open versus under trees. The car parked in the open will have frost on the windshield, but the one under the tree will not as long as the tree has some leaves or mass to help hold in the earth's heat.

Does anyone else have some flowers still blooming in their gardens which don't normally bloom during this time of year?

in the garden....

Saturday, December 15, 2007

December Garden of the Month

My choice for December's Garden of the Month is this garden in Colony Estates near Exit 8 in the Rossview area. For the record, I would like to say I do not drive around looking for special gardens. The few gardens I have featured so far are gardens I have found in my ordinary travels. I spotted this garden when a fellow freecycler (Susan) gave me a ton of Red Hot Pokers. Susan lives on this road so Jimmy and I both had the opportunity to spot this garden. He liked it as much as I did. We thought this neighborhood was a very nice neighborhood and enjoyed our visit to it and with Susan. That visit was back in June and I am just now able to spotlight the garden. This blog has given me a forum to spotlight gardens I think are special and while not everyone will agree with my choices, you will all agree they are special gardens.

As you can see from the front picture this garden is unique and grabs your attention. It is a garden entirely of topiary, which is something I love, though I don't have any in my garden (as yet). The garden's one constant is that it is all unified. There is not one or two topiary plants, but nearly ALL of them are topiaried. It is important gardens be unified in order for them to seem cohesive. Another benefit of this garden is the fact that seasonal changes do not affect it much. Evergreens are constant year round so this garden shines even in the winter and is a perfect choice for this month's Garden of the Month. This garden matches both the house and the homeowner.

The homeowner (Puok) loves her garden and has a special connection to it. I was fortunate she was home when I came by to take a few pictures. I woke her up but she did not seem to mind at all. Puok told me she spends up to 1.5 hours on some bushes and loves trimming them. During the daylight hours residents of this neighborhood are likely to see her in the garden trimming her very artistic creations.

As I have said, I do not have any topiaried trees or shrubs in my yard but I know from watching others and reading about the art form, it is not easy to topiary trees. One wrong cut can ruin the tree for quite awhile. Fortunately, trees will grow back (kind of like bad haircuts-it grows back) and be none the worse for the wear.

You have to have a good eye to masterfully sculpt and shape trees into such intricate shapes. All of these are in fluid forms and shapes, I did not see any animal topiary so it is clear Puok has a certain style she likes and follows. She has consistently maintained that style throughout her yard. While the herbaceous perennials were not blooming, evidence of them was all over the garden so I know she has good color during the growing season to compliment her evergreens.

Sadly, Puok, like the rest of us, lost a bunch of evergreens. She plans to replant come spring but she will be starting from scratch as it takes a lot of time to shape and sculpt these plants.

I enjoyed this garden immensely and really like how the house is married to the yard and one feels comfortable visiting this house because the plants are not overwhelming but are welcoming, warm and inviting. Thanks Puok for letting me visit your garden. If you all are in the Colony Estates area stop by and say hi to Puok and see her garden. She strikes me as the type of gardener who would love talking to other gardeners and has a real connection to her garden and life!

in the garden....

Friday, December 14, 2007

Vegetable Garden Slowdown-December 07

I thought I would let you all know how the vegetable garden is going. I haven't mentioned it in a while. The garlic is still up and growing as the picture shows. The banana tree is gone.

I asked Mr. Fix-it to chop the banana 'tree' down. He didn't take me seriously and joked he would get an axe. I had to tell him no less than three times to please cut it down. He finally did, then left it sitting there. The compost bin is only 20 feet away but I guess he thought it was too far to toss the banana. I finally convinced him firmly that he must put it there. I think he still thinks I was kidding about cutting down the tree and is expecting some grief. But leaving the evidence in the middle of the garden is not the way to go. It is not often he gets to cut down trees. If he had his way I think he might like the yard full of green concrete and I KNOW he doesn't want any trees in it. That is another story.

The arugula is hanging in there only barely, as are the carrots. Failure there again. I just don't know how to grow them well. I will try again in early spring with the carrots.
I have raked the leaves into the beds and labeled where the next season's crop will grow. I am having a dilemma though. I want to grow gourds because this is the first year I have not grown any. Because of this I will probably go overboard and plant way too many gourd seeds in order to be assured of having a good crop next year. Gourds take ALOT of ground. Because of this I fear something else besides the pumpkins will have to go. Probably watermelon. Though, if I am lucky, the birds will plant some for me again next year like they did this year.

I will post my choice for Garden of the Month this week (probably tomorrow) and the Community Garden of the Month next week. Stay tuned. I am very excited about the garden of the month and you will all understand why when I post it.

in the garden....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Memory Books for Lost Memories?

It was inevitable. Sooner or later I knew I would finally log in all of the plants I have planted and create a catalog file of them all. With all this rain what else is a gardener to do? Microsoft Excel is a great way to do this. I love using Excel. Prior to dumping my computer I used to keep a Microsoft Works Garden Journal for all of the plants and daily activities in the garden.

Works was not very functional for compiling a running list of plants I had and the costs I had incurred. The problem was you couldn't search for a plant or organize the plants. Now that I have switched to Excel with an external hard drive for a backup I should be more efficient with checking plants and varieties and tracking my costs (investment). No more lost data-hopefully. Finally, I got it!

In order to log in all of the plants I had to go through all of the plant labels I had been saving for six years. I have a huge photo album with plastic pages in which I placed all of the plant labels alphabetically by latin names. A little obsessive, I know. But I have found I need to refer back to these labels to remember what is where and what is what from time to time. It is so easy to forget even for diehard gardeners who work very hard on maintaining and improving their memories.

I used to be an air traffic controller in the Army. If there is one thing an air traffic controller needs to do the job, it is a good memory. I have tried crosswords, non-verbal clues and tips and notecards. I have tried to remember by looks and placement exactly what plant is where and what variety it is, but to no avail. My memory escapes me sometimes. Sometimes a suprise will pop up that I just know I didn't plant, which of course is wrong because if not me then who? Jimmy calls it the old age disease. Funny thing, Jimmy is forgetful too and he is only thirteen so I KNOW it is not old age. We all have memory lapses from time to time and it is ok. Alas, for me, the 'memory' book of plant labels is the solution.

Once the book was compiled (maybe a little too complied because now it doesn't close), I was able to log in the plants. I have, over the six years I have lived here planted over 300 types of plants, bulbs, trees, shrubs and vines. Annuals are not counted in the count-only plants that stay around more than one season. Not 300 plants-300 TYPES! That was way more than I had expected. Some have died out, some have grown like crazy and required division but most are all still here. It doesn't seem like it when I look at my garden though. It is no wonder I take so many pictures to keep up with all the plants, as they are not all in bloom at the same time. Probably a good thing too, as it might be kind of chaotic. Then again, it depends on the eye of the beholder.

How do you gardeners keep track of your plants?
Nina sent me a picture of her lovely 'Rose in Winter'. Who would believe you can have such nice flowers in December? Those of you up north will just have to enjoy the pictures. Camelias won't survive there and barely make it here. If anyone else has some pictures they want to share send them to me. It is a good opportunity to see how other plants are doing in the area. Thanks Nina!

in the garden....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Prickly, Prickly, PRICKLY PEARS!

As you all know, I was out of town for Thanksgiving. I was in western North Carolina area for a visit with Mr. Fix-it's family. While there we all went out shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Not sure what you call this Friday. On the way to the big double decker mall I could not help but turn Mr. Fix-it's truck around practically in the middle of the highway to stop and take pictures of this very unique and (I think) beautiful community garden. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law were a bit shocked I got out in the road to snap these pictures. (There were no cars around I promise)

You can tell from the two pictures it is all of what appears to be cactus. It is in fact cactus. The common name is Prickly Pear Cactus and the scientific name is Opuntia humifusa. My Southern Living Garden Book says this is a southern heritage plant and it is native from Canada south to Florida and eastern Texas.

This is a really, really cool plant. I was fortunate to visit a great gardener here on the south side of Clarksville (Lucy) who gave me the prickly pear. My garden club friend (Nancy) set up a visit to Lucy's wonderful garden for Geri, myself and another friend in early spring. It was a gorgeous garden and Lucy is so knowledgeable about so much.

Lucy was reworking some areas of her garden and happened to have just thinned out her prickly pear. She asked us all if we wanted some. Of course you know I had to have some. My friends kindly said,"No way. We will just see how it does for you in your garden Tina." A bit squeamishly I might add. I think the spikes scared them silly. You can see them in the first picture this cactus has some spikes.

I hurried over to where the pile of discarded leaves were and went to pick out some choice samples for my Wal-mart bag when Lucy screamed, "NO! Don't touch it!" Geri got quite a kick out of this and loves telling this story. I jumped about out of my skin because I was not expecting this. I though I had done something wrong. Come to find out Lucy was just protecting me and my bare hands. She approached the cactus with long gloves and an even longer skewer fork to pick up the leaves. She pierced the leaves mercilessly and threw them in triple Wal-mart bags. You see, it is not the big spikes that will get you but the little ones you can't see. Lesson learned. Jimmy has also learned about the little spikes you cannot see, the hard way. I don't know what it is about cactus that makes us want to touch it just to see if we will get pricked.

I had just the place for the cactus-right next to my prickly low maintenance yucca next to the road. Lucy told me to just throw it down and it will root. How right she was! It didn't take long either. I love this stuff.

When my mother came in August the one thing Dawn, my sister, requested was some prickly pear from the beaches in Florida since my mother was heading to Florida to see the other sister after she left my house. I told her don't bother, I would just cut a leaf off from mine and skewer it into a triple Wal-mart bag and she could take it to Dawn. Dawn kindly sent me a picture of her prickly pear and you can see it is doing just fine. She rooted hers differently than I did. I just literally threw mine down and the roots grew out of the side but this cactus is very adaptable and doesn't care how it roots-it just does. Dawn, I think you can safely plant out your prickly pear next spring. It should do fine in Maine.

I have seen this cactus all over town and in a lot of my travels but I am sure I have never seen its fruit. It flowers a lovely yellow flower but then the fruit comes out a dark purple as in the first picture. Isn't it cool? The entire garden in Hickory consisted of nothing but prickly, prickly, PRICKLY pear. If the garden had been next to the restaurant it fronted, a burglar would never stand a chance!

If you grow this cactus make sure it is in a location you and small children or pets will not accidentally run into. I would not plant it near my house that is for sure. It would work as a good deterrent for errant adjacent property owner's dogs and children if desired, along a border in a sunny area. It does do well in part shade as mine grows in mostly shade. I am thinking the pesky deer will not eat it either!

I have some bad news. I saw a dead fox on Dover Road not far from the bypass. I am wondering if it is the same one I almost hit over two weeks ago. Please be careful out there when driving as animals are out in full force looking for food and dashing across busy highways. It is heartbreaking to hit and kill an animal. I have done this only once and will never forget the thumps. So I feel bad for both the dead fox and the person who accidentally hit it.

in the garden....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good Tips to Help Birds in the Wintertime

Helene Gardner, the President of the Clarksville Garden Club, and the Bird Representative for the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs has kindly provided the following tips and advice concerning birds. The pictures were all taken of birds in her garden. I recognize that beautiful patio the Cedar Waxwing is resting on. I am so envious because I have never even seen a cedar waxwing! Anyhow, here is some information from her regarding birds:

Be kind to birds in your backyard this winter by providing food, water, and shelters. Then relax in your warm house while observing and enjoying your little feathered friends.

The best way to provide food is to plant native trees and bushes with berries. The birds love them (and you too for planting them). Be careful and don't plant exotic bushes and trees. Their berries may not be edible. Keep your feeders full. Replenish your suet feeders as needed. Clean feeders and the area beneath them regularly.

Fill birdbaths often with fresh water. Cleaning them with water and white vinegar will help the water to stay clear and fresh.

Plant shrub rows to provide shelter. Make brush piles. Keep old branches and dead small trees in one corner of your yard.

Be very careful about pesticides. Don't use them. Let the birds take care of the insects, as insects may be part of their diet.

A good book to have if you wish to establish a bird backyard habitat is the National Wildlife Federation's Attracting Birds, Butterflies, and Other Backyard Wildlife by David Mizejewski.

The Clarksville Garden Club has formed a study group called BBB. BBB stands for birds, butterflies and bees. The study group meets once a month in an informal atmosphere to discuss sightings of birds, butterflies, and bees. They share anecdotes and pictures and talk about their experiences with the three Bs. (It sound like lots of fun)

The BBB would like to encourage everyone to participate in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology 11th Annual "Great Backyard Birdcount" sponsored by the Audobon Society. It will be February 15th-18th, 2008 and is a really good activity to enjoy with children and grandchildren. For further information visit the website. (The local newspaper will also carry information about this birdcount and I will post about it as the time nears. It is a national birdcount and is very important and quite easy to do.)

I thank Helene for her timely tips for the birds. This is the time of year I enjoy them most and we mustn't forget them when the weather outside is frightful but the fire inside is so delightful...

I will post a list of great plants to plant for the birds very soon.

in the garden....with the birds!

Monday, December 10, 2007

December Plant of the Month

Ornamental grasses are great plants for the garden. Wintertime brings out the best of them. When most all other plants have retreated underground, the grasses proudly stand up and show off their flowers and gold fall color all winter long. That is why my choice for December's Plant of the Month is Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio'.

I am a big fan of ornamental grasses. Unfortunately, my garden is sun challenged and most ornamental grasses like lots of sun. Miscanthus sinensis 'Adagio' is one type of ornamental grass which does well in the shade. It is not the only ornamental grass I grow, but is one of the big ones and is so adaptable it is heads above the others.

I have a book called Ornamental Grasses by Peter Loewer which gives a little history about ornamental grasses. He says before 1980 garden designers were averse to designing gardens solely with ornamental grasses. Garden designers thought a garden with only grasses would be boring. That is, until Russell Page, a British garden designer came along and designed the headquarters of PepsiCo in Purchase, New York entirely with grasses. Since then, grasses have become a standard part of any garden design for gardeners desiring movement and interest in their garden.

Apparently, according to Loewer, even on the hottest, stillest day in Purchase New York, the grass garden would always move ever so gently. Then in the summer when the grasses began blooming it appeared as though the blooms were all waving rhythmically in the breeze.

Movement in any garden is a good thing. I think movement keeps things interesting and grasses are one of those plants which bring something to the garden most perennials don't, year round interest and movement.

Try an 'Adagio' or any of the many ornamental grasses available if you want some movement and year round interest in your garden. This particular grass is very, very easy to divide and share or just to move around your garden. It requires a shearing in spring prior to new growth and that is the only maintenance it has required in my garden. It also does well in any average soil and is not fussy about fertility. It is a stalwart in the garden.

in the garden....

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cutout Gardens

I few years ago Mr. Fix-it and I sold a house or two and were able to make a pretty good profit, good enough to have our driveway paved. For some people a paved driveway is a luxury and not really required, and for us it is a luxury too, but REALLY required. No more errant rocks in the lawn and under the lawn mower, no more slipping and sliding in the puddles, and no more muddy feet and mess in the house and yard. Finally, a nice parking place for all of the cars. Not to mention the fact a concrete driveway does add value and curb appeal to a home.

Chris Wallace of Wallace Concrete did our driveway and I must say he did a great job. I was out of town on temporary duty and Mr. Fix-it was left in charge of the pour. I still can't believe I left him alone to decide where the driveway and parking area would go but I did! I am usually such a micro-manager when it comes to things which affect the yard. But between Mr. Fix-it and Mr. Wallace the two of them made some really nice curves which combines the aesthetically pleasing with the functional. Curves and wide enough turn around areas are important points to consider when pouring a driveway. There are actually formulas on the Internet one can utilize to ensure the driveway pour will adequately accommodate a car's turnaround needs. One area of the pour which was not to be, was this little cutout garden.

I asked Mr. Wallace to leave me a garden space in this area and left it up to him to decide the shape and size. No one wants a sea of concrete in their yard, but driveways and parking areas are a necessity and if you have to have concrete, why not make it pretty? One thing a homeowner should do when planning a pour is to think about how all that heat from the sun will affect the surrounding area, and how the runoff from rain will drain. A way to lessen the impact of both is to build in cutout gardens, as pictured above.

I was impressed with the way the concrete crew picked the right scale with the right curves to make everything flow and work for us. This area could've been wasted space but instead has become a lovely garden which gets alot of sun. Lots of sun in my garden is a luxury and I will take all I can get. This garden has been on my mind because I just reworked it. I had to remove a ton of Liriope spicata, aka Creeping Lilyturf, then pull the Lambs ears and Goldsturm Brown Eyed Susans from the roots of the spicata. The garden did change when all was said and done. The dwarf Alberta Spruce is still there and has grown quite large since this picture was taken, but the daylillies, begonia and oregano growing at the far end have been removed or died out. Now this garden has only the spruce, then next to the spruce five Kniphofias, aka Red Hot Pokers, then a bunch of brown eyes. I also added a few Muscari, aka Grape Hyacinths and tulip bulbs.

While I was reworking, rejuvenating, removing and replanting this tiny little garden, it occurred to me that gardening is HARD WORK that never seems to end. It is like dishes. You just get finished washing them and tidying up and you feel really content and happy. Then, if you are like me, you realize the dishes will come back again tomorrow or the next meal or whenever! Dishes do come back and washing them is a process that is neverending. Just like gardening. I guess I should be overly happy I don't have to rework a garden everyday like I have to do the dishes everyday. Could you imagine?! Now which would you choose to do on an ongoing basis if you had a choice? Wash dishes or garden? And what types of hobbies to you all have other than gardening that pull you away from household chores?

As for me, forget the dishes, I am in the garden....

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sangu Kaku-The Coral Bark Maple

Next to crepe myrtles, Japanese Maples are my favorite small tree. These trees give so much to the landscape and are cherished by so many gardeners. I think the gardeners cherish them so much because they are so expensive. They are expensive because many of the named varieties are grafted and because Japanese maples generally take a long time to grow.

I call this tree Christine's tree. Christine is my oldest daughter and since she has been on her own, she hasn't really lived close to me. Always in another state, except when we were all in Germany. That is why this tree is her tree. She happened to be visiting when I bought this little thing on sale at Home Depot four years ago. She was here for Thanksgiving and I remember this specifically because we had a big Thanksgiving and I was just finishing the last of my raking for the season.

The tree has flourished even in spite of the hard freeze in April. This tree was just beginning to get its fall color when I took the picture, and is backlit by the morning sun. I hope the glow comes through as well in the picture as it did in person. New growth in the spring is a light green leaf edged with red. The leaves slowly darken and turn a pretty much uniform medium green. But new growth continues to come in all season so the tree is never boring. If new growth, fall color and overall beauty were not enough this tree offers up red bark in the winter. Hence the common name of Coral Bark Maple.

Every now and then Christine will ask how her tree is doing (she still lives in Maine) and I let her know it is growing just fine. I had planted two Japanese maples when I planted this one and Christine had reminded me when I told her how this one was doing. The other was a weeping Japanese Maple, which I don't have anywhere in my garden and I love them. My dogs (probably BJ) must have thought the tree was in his way as I found it months later pulled out by the root ball and all dried up. Oh well, Christine's tree is doing okay.

Japanese maples are understory trees and ideally should be protected from the hot sun. I have seen many Japanese maples growing in full sun which do perfectly well, but this is not a smart practice. Japanese maples are native to Japan where their natural growing environment would be somewhat moist, rocky and cool. I have tried to emulate those conditions by planting this tree in a rocky area close to the corner of my house where a gutter drains. Japanese maple roots should not harm foundations but should be planted far enough away from structures so they can mature without having to be pruned. Normally Japanese maples will not need to ever be pruned except for the occasional opening up of the canopy.

Many gardeners lost portions of their Japanese maples in the freeze this year but the fact the trees did not die outright is a testament to their resilience and tenacity. I know I was very fearful my Japanese maples would not return because they were completely blackened. If you did not get a chance to prune out the dead areas, wait until spring leaf out then gently clip out all of the dead branches. They will probably not rejuvenate themselves but new growth will quickly fill in.

A newly trained master gardener and citizen forester, Judie, has trees in honor of most all of her family members in her garden. She loves trees more than me. Shrubs are my big thing. Does anyone else have trees like my Christine tree and Judie's trees? I once heard when a baby is born members of the family plant a tree in honor of the baby. And let's not forget those annual give a way trees by the tree board which come with certificates. Jimmy's little redbud he received in the fourth grade is still growing-albeit slowly.

in the garden....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Show-offs and Mulches

Skeeter is a gardener like me. She knows a showoff when she sees one and likes pine mulch too! Here is a crepe myrtle growing in Skeeter's yard in Georgia and isn't it beautiful? Do you see why I call them the showoffs of the garden and of the small trees? This one is saying, "Look at me!" What a beautiful picture of the this huge bloom.

Skeeter and the Saint also spread 100 bales of pine mulch one year. Yup, 100 bales! The below picture shows some of her large yard with the mulch and it looks great.

What kinds of mulches do some of you readers use and what is your favorite? I am obviously partial to pine needles as are many of you, but are there any really unique ones you all use which are extraordinary? Dawn, do you use pine mulch in your gardens in Maine? Since Maine is known as the 'Pine Tree State' I would think you would have alot of pine mulch but I don't recall seeing alot. Do any other regional folks have a special mulch native to their area that works great? Seaweed for the ocean areas? How about cocoa mulches or some byproducts of industry?

As for me, Geri and I are heading off to rake (what else) pine needles! Hopefully the haul today will finish off my gardens. Mr. Fix-it said he will let me use his truck sometime to gather pine needles, little does he know just how much I use my heated leather seated Buick to haul pine needles and other gardening 'necessities' like rocks and trees! Don't tell him! He bought the Buick as a birthday/retirement present for me and when he did he said, "I bet you won't haul much gardening 'stuff' with this car. Huh?!" Yeah, right.

For all of you northerners, I have sometimes heard our crepes referred to as "The Lilac of the South". We can grow lilacs here in northern Tennessee, but they are never as magnificent as the northern ones-give and take between the north and the south. lol

in the garden....

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Crepe Myrtles are Strangers

Someone looking at the bark of the trunk of this tree might think it had a disease. Truly, at first glance the tree does seem diseased, but in my opinion, the mottled bark of Lagestromia indica, aka Crepe Myrtle, is one of the best features of the tree. I love crepe myrtles more than any other small tree in the south. These trees do not grow up north so part of my fascination with them might be the fact I was never exposed to them growing up in Maine.

I have more than a dozen in my garden and keeping planting more. I was successful in rooting some cuttings this summer. It was a difficult process though. Only five total survived and do you know what I did? I forgot about the little pots out in the sun on a hot table for several days. By the time I found them one had suffered irreparable damage and passed away. The other four are still hanging in there though they were severely wilted.

Most of my crepe myrtles have been bargain buys at either Lowes or Home Depot. Whenever I see one reasonably priced it just seems to call my name and I have to take it home. Nevermind the fact I have no place to plant it, and not enough sun to make it truly happy, in the garden it goes.

In addition to mottled bark, crepe myrtles have a great fall show, and most bloom for over three months in the summer when little else is blooming. It is hard to miss a crepe myrtle as I think they are the show offs of the small tree group and by their very nature demand attention from all who see them. That is probably why the Japanese beetles love them so much. Sometimes too much attention is not a good thing.

The crepe myrtle with mottled bark is 'Biloxi', and the other picture is of 'Byers Wonderful White'. Biloxi is planted on the south side of my porch, and Byers is out near the road. Normally I limb up my crepes, but since the Byers is near the road and I want to block the road, I have let some lower limbs grow in. Additionally, this tree does not get quite enough sun so the more leaves it has, the more it can photosynthesize and grow.

Neither of these two crepe myrtles were well marked when I purchased them. This is a bad thing for gardeners. You really have to know your crepe myrtles if you want to plant them in your garden. I looked at half a dozen types at a big box store and the labels all said the same thing about height and spread. I am here to tell you, not all crepe myrtles grow exactly 5-8 feet in an upright manner. Some grow to over 25 feet in a vase like pattern, or spreading pattern or shrublike pattern...the list goes on. Now when I think I may purchase some crepe myrtles, I carry a handy list consisting of three pages of many cultivars, their growth patterns, height, color, length of bloom, and spread. Prepare yourself before you come home with a complete stranger and you wake up one day to find out the crepe myrtle you thought you knew so well was really something else. Know what you are buying a head of time and do not rely on the plant label as there is quite a bit of variation within crepe myrtles.

in the garden....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mountain Ash Trees

Hi Nina! I am going to have to give you some bad news. First of all, I don't have any experience with the Mountain Ash, even so, I don't think your mountain ash will grow into a beautiful tree in your yard-so I think your husband is wrong about your little tree. Even though I don't have experience with the tree, I did do a little research to hopefully help you and him out.

I am not sure exactly what variety of mountain ash you have and if you have the latin name, send it to me and I will check to see if there is anything different you need to know than what I am writing about now. I consulted Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. He is widely known as the definitive authority on trees and shrubs. He does have mountain ash listed. I think, knowing the PX, your husband got either an American or European Mountain Ash. The botanical names are Sorbus americana for American, and Sorbus aucuparia for the European. Both trees are common species. Dirr says he has seen these trees from Maine all the way along the Appalachian Mountains to North Carolina. It would seem they might do OK here, but that is not true. Dirr also says these trees grow to about 30' tall and are hardy from Zone 3-6 or 7; BUT "excessive summer heat induces problems."

Mountain ashes are members of the Rosaceae family. As such, they are susceptible to all kinds of problems this family is susceptable to, and the stress of high summer heat will certainly invite in problems. Some problems listed by Dirr are: fireblight, crown gall, canker, leaf rusts, scab, aphids, pear leaf blister mite, Japanese leafhopper, roundheaded borer, mountain ash sawfly, and scales. Dirr says the best line of defense against these problems is a healthy, actively growing tree. The tree prefers a good loamy soil somewhat acidic. It will not tolerate compacted soils. In order to combat some of the heat, I think it would be best to plant this tree where it is shaded from the hot afternoon sun, perhaps on the east side of some trees or a house. The heat here in our zone (6 or 7) depending on who you talk to, will not bode well for this tree as it is generally a northern tree or a tree of higher elevations-in the mountains. Here is an additional link which shows the range: This is on the USDA webpage which is a good website to show ranges of plants. Some other links I found which may be helpful are:

This tree is most likely going to be short lived in our area and will never grow into a beautiful specimen like the picture you sent to me. I agree it is gorgeous but there are some plants we cannot grow here due to our climate that northerners are blessed with. (My mother will love that comment)

The PX sometimes has great plants but not all plants sold at the PX or other big box stores and nurseries are suitable for our area. I think nurserymen should do a better job of warning consumers a head of time. My favorite example which I have been personally bit by, is the gardenia. Everyone around here sells this bush in the spring-but it is not hardy for this area. I once asked a nursery woman why she was selling it here since it wasn't hardy. She replied, "It hardy here-in the greenhouse." HaHa. I guess that old adage "Let the buyer beware" couldn't be more apt than in the plant business. Anyhow, nurse the tree along and if it is in a good area as described above and you pay close attention to your mountain ash, it might survive for a few years but it is doubtful it will grow as beautifully as it does in its native range. If you just planted it this year and it is in a full sun area, you might try to find a spot sheltered from the sun and in the coolest area of your yard. It is not too late to transplant a tree. Thanks for the question as I learned something new too!

in the garden....