Friday, February 27, 2009

Home and Garden Show

Tomorrow Gourdo and I plan to take in the Ft. Wayne Home and Garden Show. It's always fun to see what's new and get ideas for the coming gardening season. Attractions this year include Don Engebretson, "The Renegade Gardener." I love his title. I wonder what makes him a renegade? I hope to find out! He'll do presentations on home landscape design and container gardening. (See above for one of the containers I created in my own garden. I rather liked the chartreuse sweet potato vine and glowing white verbena against the dark foliage of the magilla perilla.)

Master Gardeners and nurserymen and women will also give talks and demonstrations on various topics. There will be dozens of displays and vendors, too. By the time we leave the show, I'm sure I'll be more on fire for spring than I am already. Patio Container photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Add Imagination--See What Happens!

Kitten is dreaming of sunshine and an open window. Around him, sheer curtains are swaying in the balmy spring breezes. What is this hanging here? It sparkles! Rainbows dance all over the kitchen. If he could just get his paw on it!

I haven't had my art supplies out in a long while--too busy knitting, then tatting. However, I did recently sort through some of my little paintings. It's always a surprise to see what I've done in the past. What? I did that? It's like I painted a dream and half forgot about it later. Looking at my past work and my sketchbooks makes me want to take up the brushes again. Water, pigment, paper. Add imagination. See what happens!
Crystal in the Window watercolor by JulenaJo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Promises of Buttercups

Creeping buttercup, ranunculus repens, is one of my favorite groundcovers. It's easy to grow and spreads well by runners, forming a glossy, deep green mat. In spring hundreds of butter yellow buttons cover the plants, followed by occasional blooms the rest of the summer.
I received a start from a friend when we first moved here, and it thrived in my sunny yard. I passed starts on to a coworker who also loved it. Creeping buttercup spread madly in her yard--a shaded plot, I might add.
In my own yard, it was eradicated during the 2002 relandscaping project. My coworker was kind enough to give me another start last year, which I tucked in under my rugosa rose hybrid, "Wildberry Breeze."
Now that's an eye-popping combo: rich pink, papery rose petals; leathery dark green wrinkled rose leaves; shiny dark ranunculus leaf mat; and electric yellow buttercup buttons. So much color and texture to experience all in one small spot. It's wonderful.
Whenever the snow melts off, I see tiny new ranunculus leaves poking up out of the wet mulch beneath the roses: harbingers of spring, promises of buttercups. Ranunculus Repens photo by JulenaJo.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Garden in Progress

Like the angel above, I've been thinking. What direction should the garden take this year?
Other blogs that I follow talk about "gardens in progress," and aren't they all? The above is my garden in progress. It's a haphazard collection of plants that works for me on many levels, but is far from what I would like to see here. We live on 5 acres, about half of which is yard. The remainder is incorporated into the neighbor's farm fields and is planted in a rotation of corn, soybeans and winter wheat. My yard and garden is an oasis in the midst of a desert of flat, fertile farm fields. There are woodlots dotting the horizon, breaking up the view. Often, these have sprung up where the land is too wet to be worth troubling with.
When we built the new house we lost some of the rich topsoil, I think, leaving behind a hard, uncompromising pan. Organic matter needs to be worked in near the house now. Fortunately, we have access to well-rotted horse manure, thanks to our daughter's horse. We also compost green materials and kitchen waste, and we bought a load of sand to dig in, too.
Although many of the plants that I love require full sun, and we have that aplenty, the wind here can be devastating. We've been planting trees--smaller ornamentals near the house and larger hardwoods as well as evergreens elsewhere in the yard. I'm hoping to create a windbreak as well as a "window" or a "frame" for the view beyond.
Originally, I tucked perennials randomly into the lawn as I accepted them from friends and came into them unexpectedly. This upset Gourdo to no end as he does most of the mowing. To organize things, he installed an irregularly shaped bed outlined in vintage brick around my collection. We increase the bed each year as the collection grows. We also create new beds. I planted a trio of red-flowering crabapples underplanted with nanking cherry. I think that should look fantastic in coming years--if they bloom in sync, as I hope, I'll have photos this spring.
At any rate, the garden is in progress (in my mind) even as another snow squall passes through the state. Garden Photos by JulenaJo.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The blurry photo of a zebra swallowtail is not excellent, but I was happy to get it at all.
There were far more butterflies and songbirds when I was a child. Back then my brother was mad about insects and had a fantastic butterfly and moth collection. For my part, I kept birdwatcher's notes.
The two of us remain passionate about nature, and we've taken to contacting each other by cell phone or email to note phenomenon such as the first night of hearing spring peepers, or the spotting of an unusual bird. In one of these exchanges my brother mentioned to me that he hadn't seen a zebra swallowtail, quite common when we were children 40 years go, in ages. Neither have I. We've been both on the lookout ever since.
Last summer I finally spotted one, and I didn't have to go farther afield than my backyard flower garden to do so. I had been sitting on the patio, basking in the morning sun, when out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something fluttering up around the eaves of the house. Although the sun was nearly blinding to me at that angle, I thought it looked black and white--it had to be a zebra. It fluttered up and over the house, but I figured with all the luscious flowers in the garden, the swallowtail would be back. I got my camera ready and waited. After lunch I was rewarded for my effort: the zebra swallowtail returned. As it floated from blossom to blossom I followed, camera in hand. It let me draw near, but it kept "shivering" its wings. There was no hope of a sharp image, but at least I did get several that were clear enough for positive identification--and for sharing. I was delighted to send them to my brother with the one word message: ZEBRA!
That was a day that filled me with happiness and hope. My little garden--a crazy mix of nectar-rich flowers and fruit bearing shrubs--is an oasis in the middle of acres and acres of soybeans and corn. Eventually, I'd like to fill the entire yard with fruits and flowers. It pleases me to think of how many more butterflies and birds will come to rest and dine here. It's a little thing, really, but there is such satisfaction in knowing that my garden is helping to sustain the natural world that I love. Zebra Swallowtail photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mid-February Musings

"Was it the smile of early spring
That made my bosom glow?
'Twas sweet, but neither sun nor wind
Could raise my spirit so.

Was it some feeling of delight,
All vague and undefined?
No, 'twas a rapture deep and strong,
Expanding in the mind!"
- Anne Bronte, In Memory of A Happy Day in February

Mid-February one's mind really turns to spring, doesn't it? The sun is just a smidgeon brighter and warmer, the days are a tad longer, and spirits raise accordingly. There are more smiles. People seem happier. We looked winter in the eye and came out on the other side.
Now, granted, there may be storms ahead, but in a month or so there will be enough warmth for spring peepers to break into song.

"The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within."
- William C. Bryant

On warm days sap rises in the trees and you notice the faintest swelling of the buds. Oh, we're far from leaves yet, but there are whispers of life from within. A walk around the yard and garden hints at what's to come: the dragon's blood sedum is brilliant red; creeping ranunculus repens is sending up tiny wrinkled leaves under all the roses; willows wave chartreuse twigs like lace from their boughs. Still no sign here in Ohio of the bulbs I planted last fall, but I keep looking--every time the snow melts away I look.

"From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens:
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind's eye."
- Katherine S. White

I must confess that I do not do so well with pots and bowls in the house. Gardening is all about the outdoors for me. I either drown or wither everything I attempt indoors. I have 4 houseplants: a tired looking cactus; a wan and wee baby spider plant; a green but ungrowing vase plant; and a gangly, awkwardly growing night-blooming cereus that sends out long naked shoots willy-nilly in all directions. I hope the latter will bloom this summer, but I have serious cereus doubts. (Sorry, I could not help myself.)
The garden of my mind's eye is thriving, though. I envision rows of flowers for cutting, roses aplenty, and fresh vegetables. I dream of warm spring days filled with blossoming trees and honeybees, and nights on the patio, listening to the larks' tinkling song from across the fields. February sunshine seems to shout, "Spring is coming!" I'm ready.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Morning Glory

I found these morning glory seeds at a discount store and bought them because they were supposed to be doubles. The centers never fully developed as double on them, and they didn't get very tall, but they were beautiful. I'm showing them here today because it's muddy, gray and wet here today and I need something pretty to look at.
We have had a few days of temperatures soaring into the fifties, overcast and breezy. All the snow is gone. Water cannot go anywhere as the ground is still frozen underneath, so we have little pondlike puddles and mud. The heat wave won't last, though. There are colder temps and snow in the imminent forecast. Morning Glory photos by JulenaJo.

Friday, February 6, 2009

About Face

One of the most beautiful roses I grow, in my opinion, is the rose shown above, "About Face." Classified as a grandiflora, "About Face" features lovely, high-centered blooms shaped like the roses you'll get in a typical florist bouquet. Generally the blooms are larger than those of floribunda roses, a class of tough roses that produces continuous clusters of flowers. I added "About Face" to the garden because of her unusual coloring. The bloom above is actually past its prime, if you can believe that. The closed buds are fiery red, leaning to orange. As they open, you see the top of the petals are golden. They are the largest blooms of the 20 or so roses I grow now, and they are the most exquisitely shaped. The first flush of bloom produces abundant blossoms, then there is a brief pause before more are produced. From then on until frost there are constant flowers coming on. Although afterward there are not as many flowers on the plant at one time as with the first flush, there is almost always something on the plant to cut for bouquets. Oddly, these absolutely delicious blooms produce no scent. I keep sniffing at them in disbelief. Oh well. I'm enthralled with the beauty of "About Face." I think she's a keeper! "About Face" photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentatting: The Rose Heart

Isn't this a lovely bit of "Valentatting?" It's tatting perfect for Valentine's Day--or anytime for someone who loves roses as I do. The flower is a variegated pink and the frilly heart surround is dusty green. I found the pattern at:

It works up quickly, and I love the outer edging, which looks like cluny tatting but isn't. I realized halfway through finishing the edge that I need to loosen up a bit. Trying to keep things tight was making a curl where it should lay flat. Hopefully, blocking the piece will smooth it out.
Neudorf's pattern calls for a tatting needle, but I used two shuttles instead. I also did not cut and tie the central ring; I just started in with the chains. It doesn't make as neat a center as the one shown with the pattern, but I don't think it's worth the trouble of working in loose ends. I may change my mind after I've finished and blocked it. Tatted Rose Heart photos by JulenaJo.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Home; New Rose

A young friend of mine closed on a house recently and is eagerly anticipating spring landscaping for the first time. He asked me to recommend a rose--something easy and that would not grow too large. For a second my mind raced over dozens of possibilities, but then I settled on a sure bet and said, "Any of the Knock Out roses will give you tons of color, and they are completely fuss free." "Sounds perfect!" my friend said. But is it?
From the above photo you can see the deep, blue-tinged foliage and the juicy raspberry color of the Knock Out rose. Other colors are available now, including a pastel version called Rainbow Knock Out. They are not fragrant, which is a huge strike against them in my opinion. I live for the heavenly scent of roses.
My first rose garden featured Madame Hardy and Felicite Parmentier, two heirloom varieties that bloom gloriously in spring for a few sweetly scented weeks and then are gone for the rest of the year. Most years thrips would find their way into the hearts of the pale, fragrant blossoms, causing them to shatter and shortening their season even more. Other years some of the many-petaled buds would ball and turn to mush. It is a challenge to celebrate the blooms I do get, while bouncing back from each year's inevitable disappointments. Growing a variety of different roses helps. Each of the different types of roses have their own charms to recommend them, and often when one rose does poorly, another will thrive. But some years are mighty disappointing.
I finally added Knock Out to my own garden because I wanted something to be always, reliably in bloom. I wanted a rose that wouldn't drop all its leaves with black spot late every summer. I wanted one rose that would never let me down. Knock Out is that rose.
I hope my friend will be very happy with his new home--and his new roses! Knock Out rose photo by JulenaJo.