A Thoughtful Approach to the Garden in the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! If you were like me, you have been hibernating this week because of sub-zero temperatures. I have actually been pretty busy with getting everything back to normal after the holidays. Our holidays were wonderful, and I hope yours were too. However, there is something about normalcy that makes me buzz along. As I have said before, 2017 was a great year. I am looking forward to 2018 in the garden. One big thing that has been on my list this year has been keeping me busy during the super cold weather:

20180107_171149.jpg

…it FINALLY came. My David Austin® roses catalog!!! I requested this months ago, and was absolutely thrilled when I finally received it. I would like to pick out a rose or two to add to my landscape this year. I have to plan appropriately, and make sure I find the right place for one. I am very excited to start this next chapter, for me, at least– growing roses!

I usually have resolutions for the garden and my home every year– and I have decided that my resolution will be to “go with the flow”. Plans don’t always work out, but other opportunities come along, and that’s fine too!

This time of the year is a great time. Garden planning, pouring over seed and plant catalogs– picking out what you would like for the garden this year. Nothing has to be fancy or expensive that you do in the garden. Little additions and improvements go a long way.

I say this because I was talking to a few people who said, “they can’t afford to garden.” Anybody can afford to garden. The smallest addition, which includes buying a packet of seeds, or buying small garden decor that add value to your landscape goes a LONG way. Gardening is one of the best investments out there– the joy and value it adds to your life cannot compare to a lot of other things. It’s a work in process– just like your home. Do a little bit when you can, and do more when you can. It’s all perspective, I guess. Don’t ever think you can’t. It doesn’t happen overnight, so enjoy the journey that comes with it.

So, with that, I hope you have a great start to the new year, and happy gardening!

Dahlia Tubers- the Short and Sweet of It

Why is it, the older I get, the faster time goes? I didn’t even get to post at all in the month of November, and I feel like it was just yesterday that I actually dug up my dahlia tubers and gladiola bulbs. I have been meaning to write this blog post for a month now, and I apologize for the un-timeliness of it. I like to post when its relevant, but sometimes, it doesn’t turn out that way, and again, I apologize.

So, this is going to be a short and sweet article on digging up and storing dahlia tubers, and if you should or shouldn’t separate them right after you dig them up.  I got the advice from research, family and friends. The general consensus is that most people wait until spring to separate their tubers. 

20171104_111115.jpg

I was very excited to get so many tubers from my first ever Dahlia! 

Why?

  • When stored away for the winter, dahlia tubers grow eyes, or buds, from the crown. You want viable eyes to ensure healthy growing tubers for the next growing season.

There is also nothing wrong with separating tubers now, it will not harm them. There is debate as to if you will get any viable eyes if you separate before winter, but I believe it to be based on an individual basis. Every gardener’s tubers are different, and given the difference in many factors, including storage, temperature, etc., you may or may not get eyes at all.

Go with what you feel is right for you. You really can’t go wrong. Gardening is all just Trial and Error.

Oh, wait, I forgot– how do I store tubers?

  • Dahlia tubers need a cool, dry place to sleep for the winter. I have placed mine in a small cardboard box and tucked it away in a very dark corner of my basement. Basements are the best place to store away tubers and bulbs of all kinds.

I know this article will still help some people, as they are not in lake effect snow- prone areas of the world, so you still have some time to pack things up and get them ready for winter. For the rest of us, this can be a reference for the newbie Dahlia grower who needs a quick reference to ensuring a great growing season the next year!

Beginners Guide to the Cutting Garden

How interesting it is that my first blog post since July would be on my 3 year blogging anniversary!! So, thank you to all of my followers and fellow bloggers who take time out read my blog posts– I really appreciate it!

This summer was wonderful for me and my family. August was filled to the brim with activity, which led to the void of blog writing for the month. I feel bad that I let it go like I did, because I have made it a habit to post at least once a month.

None the less, I am back, and now that fall is nearing, and school is back in session, it’s time to get back to routine. So, blogging, here I come!

I have mentioned in previous posts my desire to start a cutting garden. I purchased several different seeds and hoped for the best. I think this was a great start to a beginning cutting garden, and I would like to pass this along to anyone else who is thinking of doing the same some time.

A couple of things to remember:

-It’s all trial and error. That’s gardening in a nutshell. Experiment with different seeds and bulbs. See what does well and what doesn’t. It takes a while some times.

-There are some really easy seeds to start with. As I detail below, some seeds you should just buy and plant. It’s that easy.

I planted:

1. Bunny Tails. This is the second year trying these, and no dice. I will try one more time and see what happens. Degree of planting difficulty: MODERATE- they tend to be picky about where they are planted.

2. Zinnias. O.M.G. These were so easy! And beautiful– pinks, oranges and some peach colored ones to boot! I hear they also self-seed, and keep coming back every year. I recommend getting a packet of zinnia seeds should you ever want to start a cutting garden! Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

zinnia

My peachy-keen zinnia!

What came back for me from last year:

3. Cosmos. I think this was in part because last year was so warm for us– we were having 70 degree temps in November– and my cosmos kept going. I didn’t cut them down until this spring. Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

cosmo

4. Morning Glories. These actually surprised me. But, they too, were like the cosmos, and I left the brown stems up until this past spring. Even though they aren’t your typical cutting flower, they were wrapped around my cosmos, so I just lumped them in with them. Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

The bulbs I planted:

5. Dahlia. I was nervous, I have to admit. I planted dahlias a lifetime ago, it seems like, and they did nothing for me. This year, I have had great success, and am reaping the benefits. Dahlias are all over my house. Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

dahlia

*Beginner’s Tip– You will have to stake your dahlias. They are very top-heavy, and they fall over easy. 

*Dahlias are hardy in zones 8-10. If you live outside those zones, you will have to take the bulbs out and store them in a dark, dry place for the winter.

6. Gladiolus. I got these bulbs as a birthday gift from a co-worker, and they did not disappoint. I got beautiful pink and purple stalks that I have been enjoying all summer. I cut a few stems and I was very surprised at how long they lasted! Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

glads

*Gladiolus (“Glads”, as they are commonly referred to), are hardy in zones 8-11. Bulbs, too will have to come out if you are outside those zones. However, I have heard from some fellow gardeners that if you mulch heavily and live in zones 6-7, you can actually keep them in the ground and they will come up again the next year.  

So, I hope this helps you. There are SO many more cutting flowers out there. If anybody has one they recommend, please tell me. I will be expanding next year for sure!

 

Lessons Learned in the Garden – Midsummer Report

Happy summer! It’s hard to believe it’s the end of July– no doubt it’s been a busy one for us. My daughter is at an age where she can do a lot of stuff that she couldn’t before, and we have been taking advantage of it. Life has been busy, and unfortunately blogging has taken a back seat, but I honestly can say that I have been having the time of my life, and as long as I keep getting in a blog post in when I can, I am happy. Family time before all else!

Weather-wise, Western New York has been very rainy and much milder than last summer. I have enjoyed the cooler temps, though, but I have missed going to the beach! Honestly, I have not once had to actually water my plants. No sprinkler posts this year! My window boxes have been thriving, and have not looked sparse and brittle like last year!

wp-1500850365630.jpg

A little wilted after yet more rain, my window boxes are thriving this year! 

Despite the weather, we have busy bike riding, hiking, rollerblading, swimming, camping, all that good summer stuff, but I have been also doing a lot in the garden. I am at the stage where I really am not adding much, but doing more of the routine maintenance on what I do have, and there are certainly some lessons I have learned that I won’t try to intentionally “unlearn” in the future!

Lesson #1– It’s OK to have space between your plants.

I know, I have even mentioned this in past posts, I planted too many things VERY close together (we are talking so close you can smell the body odor on the person next to you close). I was so crazy about trying to get every plant I wanted, I planted them too close together– this resulted in what I like to say “The Survival of the Fittest” in my flower beds– I lost a lot of really cool varieties because I got a tad bit overzealous in my planting. I have spent a good portion of my summer thinning out a lot of my plants, and even moving them if needed…which leads me into the next lesson–

Lesson #2 Plants not blooming/growing that well? It’s OK to MOVE them.

Yes. The biggest thing I have learned in the past few years is if your plants are not doing well in the location you have them– try moving them. They just may need a new residence to make them happy!

A great example of this is my very pretty gayfeather. I purchased these three years ago for 50% off at the local farm store. I put them in an area I had some space, and they grew, but they never actually flowered. I finally had the sense last year to move them to a sunnier location. Ta-da! Full on flower power action!

wp-1500848205595.jpg

This bee is very happy I moved this lovely gayfeather!

Lesson #3 — Remember to do the little stuff.

I can honestly tell you that I don’t have time to weed my whole garden at once. BUT, when I am outside and my daughter is swinging on her swing, I pick an area and go to town! Even if it’s a little area, it makes such a difference! I have managed to keep weeding all summer– little by little, and I feel better about how my landscape looks! I also pruned my Lilac bushes this year, as they were getting a little to “bushy” for me. They were growing right over the area I have my daffodils and muscari, and I want that distinction, if you will, between all of my plants.

If you are follow me on instagram, you will see all the goings-on in my garden. I post pictures of my blooms and my gardening adventures. I will be posting about our little veggie patch, and my mini “cutting” garden. Two new ventures that I would like to expand next year! Until then, take care, and I hope that the summer has been good to you in your neck of the woods!

(Don’t) Blame It On the Rain

wp-1494543434376.jpgRain, rain, and more rain! My part of the world has seen its share of water lately! As we know, rain can  be damaging, destructive, and downright deadly. Despite all of this, there is an upside to rain and your garden, particularly in the spring time, right before the growing season ramps up!

wp-1494329211550.jpg

This spring deluge of water can be helpful to you in garden prep!

Now, it’s obvious the main reason why rain is crucial–it aids in growth. But there are a few other reasons that you want to LOVE gardening right after a good bout of rain:

  • It’s a GREAT time to pull weeds and/or invasive plants. You can successfully pull the whole weed/plant, root and all, right after a good gully washer.

wp-1494543396335.jpg

  • Making new garden beds. Digging into the earth trying to make new garden beds is hard enough —  do yourself a favor and dig into the ground after some serious precipitation, and that will make a hard job less hard.
  • Sinking your hands in the earth. Is there anything you can do to get closer to nature than getting dirt under your nails when it’s at its most workable and pliable? I think not.

So, even though the rain drives us crazy as gardeners, because we are stuck inside, just remember how much nicer it will be to go outside and work the soil with little effort and less headaches!

2016: A Look Back in the Garden

It’s hard to believe this is the last day of 2016. What a year! Here’s hoping we have a more peaceful, content 2017.

wp-1483192285447.jpg

My bayberry candles are lit and I’m ready for a happy 2017!

I want to thank all of my readers for sticking with me through this year. I have been trying to change things up, but at the same time, I didn’t post as much as years before. This is something I am going to actively improve in the new year. Posting more, even if it’s something small, and it doesn’t have to be as uniform as I have been trying to make them in the past.

Now, back to the garden…

This was the first year my husband and I experimented with tomatoes! We had a great crop! We also had a few small pumpkins and gourds from the seeds of our Halloween pumpkins the year before! We have since expanded this bed and I plan to start shopping for more veggies to plant this year!

wp-1466130628965.jpg

This past year was the first time I really enjoyed Spring. I loved all the cherry and apple blossoms on the trees, and I planted more unique bulbs that truly made me happy.

wp-1466726951557.jpg

This hair allium was the showstopper of my back of the garage flower bed. I was so happy they came up!

I also took a big interest in window boxes. For those of you who can actually have window boxes, please try having one. I love how they make your house look so homey and quaint!

front window box

Another highlight– seed collecting. I had never taken the time to do this before. It was actually very enjoyable, and I found a new appreciation for the beauty and uniqueness of seed pods. They are all different– some you wouldn’t even think were seeds!

wp-1474998656160.jpg

This is a Giant Hibiscus seed pod. I think it’s beautiful, and gave these away as Christmas presents!

So? What on the schedule for 2017? I am tackling projects I have wanted to get started on for the past few years, but something else always took priority.

Here’s what’s on my list for 2017, and you can hold me to it! 

  • Pergola project –I am going to make sure my pergola project gets under way. I have been dreaming of one of these for about 3 years now, but we have always had to set it aside for something else. Sometimes you just have to make it happen!
  • Window boxes— I am going to add a few more window boxes to my little house. I really LOVE how they add so much character. My dream would be to have one at every window, but I have to get approval from the hubs, first!
  • The Veggie Garden— we are expanding! If you follow my instagram account, I posted a picture of how I extended the bed on the side of the garage to accommodate more veggies– my hubby wants it bigger, so we will be expanding the bed even more, which means more veggies in the garden!!
  • Garden Appreciation — I am going to start touring more and spotlighting more great gardens this year. So many people have so many great gardens, I think their designs should be shared!

I want to wish everyone a great 2017– enjoy every moment and be happy with everything you have. You wouldn’t believe how much more beautiful life will be!

 

 

 

 

Tribute Flowers in the Garden: An Ode to my Grandmother

My soul is mourning. That’s the only way to describe it. My grandmother, Joyce, passed away Thursday evening at 84 years old. She lived a full life, and when I saw her in December, I could see in her eyes that she was not long for this world. But still, after hearing the news of her passing this past Thursday, the news completely knocked the wind out of me. I guess the absoluteness of the situation still shocks you even though you know it’s coming.

I grew up a country girl who didn’t have much– but I always had what I needed- no more, no less. What I did have a lot of? Family. I was blessed with pretty much all of my family living on the same road in the same rolling-hills valley. For the first part of my life, I had three grandparents– my father’s mother and both of my mother’s parents. My grandmothers were the loves of my life. In the late nineties, I lost my father’s mother, Mildred and my grandfather, Bob. My first broken heart was not from a boy, but my grandmother dying. She lived right next to us, and she was so sweet and wonderful. I was constantly picking her flowers from the daffodil patch on the side of the road and she loved it. “Bless your heart”, she would say.

I am an extremely sentimental person, and I am not afraid to admit it. When I moved into the house I live in right now, I wanted a little bit of my grandma Mildred in my garden, and I planted some of her favorite flowers, peonies and narcsicuss’. I was happy to get some of her iris bulbs from my father last summer. These bulbs are close to 50 years old, and I am really hoping they come up for me this year.

While grandma Mildred was the finest example of what a grandmother was and should be, grandma Joyce blows that ideal out of the water. WAY out of the water.

My mother’s mother, Joyce, was in no way, shape or form like anybody I had ever known. That still holds true to my 35 year old self today. While you think of the typical little grandmother as being sweet and lovable, who knitted sweaters and baked cookies for you, Joyce did not. She was a old-school country woman who was brash, loud, and as lovable as a cactus. She could be downright embarrassing (ask my mother). It wasn’t her style to show affection. She drove a truck (and fast to boot). She was a tough old broad who said what she felt and didn’t fake anything. She was honest, eccentric, and what some might even call, a little bat-shit crazy. The irony of this all, is that these attributes are what made her so damn lovable.

My grandma Joyce was the original, genuine bad ass. She would pass people on a side street if they were going too slow. She would pull over on a treacherous dirt road in the middle of a thunderstorm to pick up an empty beer can just to get the 5 cents. I watched her rip a nasty snake in two pieces with her bare hands. This woman was freaking awesome.

I challenge anybody who knew my grandmother that didn’t deep-belly laugh when they were around her. You were always guaranteed to laugh in her presence. She lit up the room she was in, and anybody who was in a bad mood was no longer when she came around.

In the early years, every Sunday my siblings and I would go down to my grandma’s house and play kickball with my cousins and even my uncles at times. We would eat all her food and drink all of her milk. Grandma’s house is where I cultivated my love for black licorice and cheese curds. And she really did love having everyone around. She had 7 kids, and 16 grandchildren, so the front door was always slamming, and that drove my grandfather crazy.

20150906_184226

Grandma’s House is where I spent a good deal of time during my childhood.

As the years went on, I would continue to go to my grandmother’s house to visit with her. Unlike my friends and other people I knew, I didn’t go over to her house just to get money or something else of value, I loved talking with her. And I did that for years. She was my buddy, and I was her confidante. She talked to me about everything. I was her ear. And through those conversations was how I learned just how kind and compassionate she was. She was a genuinely good person who was just as vulnerable and sensitive as anyone else. Her tough exterior was justified. Life had not been too kind to my grandmother, she endured great loss, and lived with a broken heart for almost 50 years.

Like any great love story, there is always a rough patch. We did have a falling out for a few years, but we came back around just at the right time. I am so lucky to have had her for a grandmother. I just loved her. And I will continue to. Behind my mother and father, she was one of the single greatest influences on my life, which ultimately molded me into the person I became.

So, as for flowers or plants I should plant for her? That is still up in the air. Maybe I will ask my mom if she had a favorite. Grandma wasn’t a gardener–she didn’t have time with 7 kids. If she doesn’t know, I am sure it will come to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if grandma herself doesn’t bonk me over the head with something she does like.

Don’t be afraid to let your garden tell your story. A little bit of your past, present and future is what makes it so grand. 

Rest in peace, grandma. I will never forget you.