Wednesday, September 13

The Last of the Roses in Autumn

The milkweed pods are breaking,
 And the bits of silken down
 Float off upon the autumn breeze
 Across the meadows brown.
~Cecil Cavendish, The Milkweed


Sunday, September 10

Nasturtiums: Edible, Easy and Colorful

I've grown nasturtiums for years and years, yet I never get tired of these cheerful, edible blooms. This year was the best...some years I've had more leaves and less blooms. This year was the perfect mix. 

This nasturtium was a brilliant red.

The peach colored nasturtiums are so pretty. They are all just a little bit 
different as far as the shades of cream and orange.

I went out to the garden one morning as it started to sprinkle, and took a picture of the yellow nasturtiums. The drops of rain looked like jewels against the soft yellow blooms.

I grew them in the herb bed and a container garden. Both grew quickly and are still blooming into September. I have a lot of seeds developing, which should sprout next summer.

If you haven't tried nasturtiums, give them a try next spring!


Friday, May 19

Give the Dandelions a Break

I love dandelions.  I don't care if they clog up the lawn. Once you mow a few times they stop blooming. Mind you, my lawn isn't really true grass, so if yours if, you might be more selective. As proof of my love of dandelions and to explain why I love this quaint, prolific plant, I have these pictures to share.

You fight dandelions all weekend, and late Monday afternoon there they are, pert as all get out, in full and gorgeous bloom, pretty as can be, thriving as only dandelions can in the face of adversity. ~Hal Borland

If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn. ~Andrew V. Mason

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.  ~R. Search

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. ~ A. A. Milne,  Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh


Tuesday, May 16

Changing the Way We Garden After 50

I have been gardening for over 25 years. I started when we bought our first house, and my boys were toddlers. I love gardening.  It soothes my soul to sow seeds and tend my flowers and herbs. My body is another story.  I have two types of psoriasis, thankfully it's mostly confined to my hands and feet at this point.  I'm fairly healthy besides the psoriasis--my blood pressure is above normal and I need to lose weight, but it's under control.

I've always been a creative introvert with social and generalized anxiety.  Gardening soothes me, and meds take the edge off so I can work through the panic and worry.  When I can't write, and my brain is insists I take on the problems of every person I know because they NEED me to help, no matter what they say, I head out to my garden. I sit. I breathe.  I pull some weeds, and I settle.

It is only when you start a garden - probably after age fifty - that you realize something important happens every day.~Geoffrey B. Charlesworth 

Gardening is hard work, and sometimes you'll feel like you' ve taken on too much.  Perhaps, you are doing too much.  You'll need to be honest about how many hours a day, or week, you can dig, pull weeds, plant and maintain your garden.  It's not an all or nothing situation. Perhaps you'll decide to grow a few culinary herbs, a tomato plant and your favorite flowers. Downsizing your garden is not a bad thing.  It's about quality instead of quantity.

In my case, I have decided to focus on herbs and flowers in an area in the backyard I'm working on with my husband. The rest of our landscaping will be trees, shrubs and perennials that won't have too much physical maintenance. Maybe you'll need to limit yourself to a container garden close to the house, or a raised bed outside the back door.  It doesn't matter if you have more or less, as long as you are honest about what you have the time and energy to maintain.

Here are a few things I've changed in the last two years or so:

1. ALWAYS cover feet and hands with garden gloves and sturdy shoes.  No more casual weeding and digging in the soil, exposing skin to bacteria.  (Last year I had two infections.)

2. Sunscreen is NOT an option. Make yourself use it every time you're outside.

3. Drink water!  Before you head out into the yard, grab a large cover cup with a straw and fill it with ice and water. Dehydration is no joke at any age, but when you're older it can be very very bad.

4. Sit,  if you need to take a break from working.  Don't keep weeding, planting, digging or sowing seeds when you get a pain in your back or vertigo makes an appearance.  I start off standing, then grab a stool and sit while I keep working.  If that doesn't do it, then I take a break and stretch out.

5. Make lists and learn to focus. Figure out what needs to be done, then break it into sections, and work on one thing at a time. Work in the mornings and again in the evening when it's cooler. Everything will get done if you make a plan and stick with it.

Most of all I've learned that it's important to be honest with myself about the type of gardening I want to take on now that I'm older.  The truth is that my body has limitations, but as long as I work with them it will be fine. I won't double dig the soil, or weed for hours at a time because I know it's too much for my back. I like the feel of soil running through my fingers, but I also know wearing gloves is safer and better for my cracked skin.

Growing things brings me joy.  Overworking my body brings pain and injury, which is counterproductive. It's not an all or nothing situation.  

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

I want to be like Tasha Tudor or Ruth Stout, two gardeners who adapted and changed throughout the years so they could continue to garden as they aged, sharing their joy and expertise with those around them. They both gardened into their 90's, writing and sharing their wisdom with others.

Lastly, always ask for help when you need it. Family and friends can't read our minds. If we need help in the garden, we need to ask. Grandchildren can be amazing garden helpers.


Sunday, May 14

Mother's Day Greeting

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. ~Washington Irving
Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, April 26

Lessons From My Herb Garden

The new herb garden I started last year was as lovely as I had hoped. After a year of hospital and doctor visits because of my psoriasis which led to infections and a nasty drug interaction, I was ready for a round of stress relief. Growing and harvesting herbs has always been relaxing and peaceful. 

I've been growing herbs since we lived in the city almost 20 years ago. I learn something new each season, which, for me, is part of the joy I find in gardening. Below are the herbs I grew last season. I've included the good, bad and the ugly in growing each plant. 

Nasturtiums:  I've grown this beautiful herb from seed every year in whatever plot of land served as my garden. I find they do better in the ground, rather than in pots.Nasturtium will trail far and wide with optimum conditions. In my excitement, I ignored this lesson. They will also crowd shorter herbs such as thyme or oregano. The picture below was taken after I pulled up an entire plant that had grown to cover half of the oregano plant. This year I will plant fewer nasturtiums and sow them next to the outer edge where I can guide them to trail over the edging blocks, so they won't crowd other plants. Lesson: Sow nasturtiums where they can trail and wander without crowding other herbs.

Calendula: This is another of my favorite annual herbs, which is why I lost my mind momentarily when I planted TWO packets of calendula seeds.  Honestly, this size herb bed only needed 2-3 plants. They grew fast and furious, giving me more blooms than I could keep up with in the deadheading department. I ended up making four small tins of salve. (I'm tweaking the recipe this season before I share it.) The picture below shows both blooms and seed heads. Lesson: Sow LESS seed.

Lemon Verbena: The first time I grew lemon verbena was at least 13 years ago. I bought a small pot, knowing it wouldn't survive our Zone 5 winters. The fragrance of lemon verbena is unlike any other lemon scented herb. I can only describe it as delightful and uplifting. Last season I bought the same size pot from a local nursery, planting it in my herb bed. I watched in amazement as it grew to at least 5 feet tall and about 3 foot wide. The main "stem" by the end of the season was thick and woody, much like a small tree. Lesson: Give lemon verbena it's own space. 

Oregano/Lavender/Catmint: The only problem these three herbs developed was a lack of growth because of overcrowding that resulted in shade from the nasturtium and monster lemon verbena. They should recover this year.  Lesson: Pay attention to the spacing requirements given for an herb or flower. It makes a difference.

Other herbs grown last season:
Lemon Thyme
Assorted Pansies
Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora)

From seed:
Basil (pots)

Lastly, the pansies and moss rose were a pretty addition to the herb bed, adding color while I waited patiently for the herbs to bloom. The pansies needed watering quite often, but the moss rose LOVED the heat and sun. They do well in the hottest part of the summer and rarely need watering.

I can't wait to apply these lessons this year!

I hope you all have a lovely day,

Tuesday, October 11

Wild Asters in Autumn

Mrs. William Starr Dana admires the autumn aster in her book from 1900, How to Know The Wild Flowers:

This beautiful genus, like that of the golden-rod, is one of the peculiar glories of our country. Every autumn these two kinds of flowers clothe our roadsides and meadows with so regal a mantle of purple and gold that we cannot but wonder if the flowers of any other region combine in such a radiant display. 

Asters are lovely, whether wet on a dreary day, or bright and cheerful on a gorgeous, sunny day, they always make me smile. 


The Last of the Roses in Autumn

The milkweed pods are breaking,   And the bits of silken down   Float off upon the autumn breeze   Across the meadows brown. ~C...