Six on Saturday-March 24

Saturday again?!?  And snow again!  Although we are once again snow-covered, my thoughts are still centered upon the garden and preparations are well-underway, although in somewhat of a holding pattern until Mother Nature wins over Old Man Winter.  First on the agenda is the sweet potato, which has FINALLY decided to sprout!  Although put in water on Feb. 4th, it refused to grow.  Sweet potato 3-21-18  It was labeled “organic” but I suspect it was treated to prevent sprouting.  Last week, I scrubbed it with a rough washcloth dipped in hot water, and then draped a warm damp cloth over it for several hours.  Just a few days later, tiny sprouts began to emerge.  Normally I would be fretting that it’s so late, but with the super slow arrival of Spring, it may work out fine.  Since I couldn’t actually get into the garden, I did the next best thing…retail therapy.  I returned to the Amish seed store because they had just stocked seed potatoes.   French Fingerling   I’d planned to purchase “French Fingerling” potatoes, because a potager should have a few French items, and because this variety is supposedly delicious.  Also, it is especially good in potato grow bags because it is highly productive over a long period.  I’ll just open the harvest door on the bag and remove the number I need, and let the plants continue to grow.  The potatoes are long and narrow, with a reddish-rose skin and often rose splotched interiors.  That’s what I went to purchase, but impulse-buying caught hold and I also picked up a bag of “German Butterball.”  German Butterball  I know, they look pink in the photo, but they are actually a brownish gold, and are similar to “Yukon Gold.”  I picked them because they are a bit later than the French Fingerlings, and reputed to be good keepers.  I’ll have to grow them in large pots in the seldom used paths because there is no space left in the plan, but that will be a new procedure for me, so it will be fun.   Then I happened to stroll by a display of onion plants, and saw this bundle of “Candy” onions.  Candy onion plants  I’ve read rave reviews on its outstanding qualities, and D loves a sweet onion, so I’ll give them a go.  Not sure where they will fit on the plan, but I’ll tuck some here and there.  I should have just closed my eyes and asked someone to lead me to the door, but I glimpsed asparagus roots.  Asparagus roots  I left a small patch when I sold the farm, and have missed plucking those first stems and eating them right there in the garden.  Not a clue where these 10 “Jersey Giants” will go, but I bought 10 bags of cow manure on the way home to give them a good start.  Maybe they’ll go at the end of the Cutting Garden, with a fence so D won’t mow them off?  But until the snow melts and the ground is dig-able, they’ll remain in their plastic bag in the cool garage.  Amaryllis 3-21-18  And lastly, the first of the next group of amaryllis is just about to open which will add more color to my life.  I must admit….I’m really getting tired of WHITE!  Hopefully by next Saturday, I can report a plethora of planting progress in the potager!

As always, a big thanks to The Propagator for hosting this meme.  It’s a fun one, so join in!  You can view all the “Six” contributors at his blog by clicking on the link.

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Weather delay; Spring postponed!

Potager 3-21-18  Happy First Day of Spring!  (Insert groan here!)  It’s snowing, and it’s beautiful, but it’s not the way I wanted to celebrate the official start  of the growing season.  Potatoes were supposed to be planted on St Patrick’s Day, but that didn’t happen.  Still waiting for the first daffodil so the peas can go in the ground.  Think that will be delayed as well.  Our traditional “Welcome Spring” breakfast was an indoor event rather than on the upper deck.Deck table 3-21--18  It is a pretty view out the front door, but all the color from the crocuses and tiny iris bulbs is blanketed in white.  Front view 3-21-18  So, with Spring delayed and gardening postponed yet again, I’m spending my time making items for my booth at the upcoming Kentuckiana Herb Symposium this Saturday.  Just finished six “herbal” umbrellas.  Umb  It’s a fun task that I can do while I watch basketball.  Chives on umb  There are four of my favorite herbs on each umbrella. (Chives, lavender, rosemary, pineapple sage) I can’t count the number of umbrellas I’ve painted for my shop and shows over the years, but it’s a bunch.  Lav on umb  If there are any left after the show, I’ll put them for sale on my website.  It’s still snowing….what can I paint next?

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Six on Saturday-March 17

Freezing rain is making everything sparkle, and ensures that there won’t be any traditional planting of potatoes or peas on St. Patrick’s Day here in central Indiana.  I’m just hoping it won’t coat the satellite dish and prevent enjoyment of the NCAA tourney later today.  So, stuck indoors, here’s the really EASY Easter ideas gleaned from the recent Indianapolis Flower & Patio show. Easter 1  1) This pretty daisy floral centerpiece was enhanced by adding glittered eggs on dark green bamboo “stems.”  That’s certainly easy.  2) Adding a white plate to hold additional eggs at the vase’s base is a quick, colorful idea.  One could also use a low basket filled with “grass” to hold the eggs instead.  And, I like the pastel straws that echo the Easter colors.  Easter 2  3) Inverting a wine glass over a green “nest” filled with jelly bean “eggs” is also a very quick and easy idea.  And converting it into a candle holder is a bonus plan. Easter 4  4) Covering an old pot or berry box with moss for small floral arrangements adds a natural, spring feel.  If the grass isn’t green outdoors, at least it can be green indoors!  5) Filling baby terra cotta pots with jelly beans is a cute idea, too. Easter table compressed And finally, using a wooden picnic table and bench for additional seating, even indoors, turns Easter dinner into a fun picnic.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if it were warm enough to have an Easter picnic outdoors?  It’s certainly looking doubtful for our area, as more cold, cold temperatures and snow is in our forecast.  Thinking about Easter does make Spring seem closer!  If it’s not icy on your roads and you’re in the area, the Indianapolis Flower & Patio show is still open today and tomorrow!

That’s my “Six on Saturday” for St. Patrick’s Day.  Thanks to The Propagator for suggesting and hosting this meme.


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Garden show time!

It’s snowing…again!  And, the 10-day forecast has been revised to include night-time temperatures in the low to mid-20’s, which means plants still can’t be moved into the little greenhouse.  Nor can mulch be pulled back, or planting begin.  Sigh!  What’s a gardener to do when she/he can’t garden?  Hop in the car and go to a garden show!  In my case, it was the Indianapolis Flower & Patio show.  While not a grand event, like the Philadelphia Flower Show (my favorite!) or the Chelsea Flower show (elegant, but crowded) or the Hampton Court Show (my second favorite) the Indy show is a worthwhile event, especially at this time of year when the snow blows and every fiber of your being just craves green and blooms.  McNamara cake compressed  Wouldn’t this birthday “cake” be perfect for a farmer or rancher?  Livestock tanks filled with flowers, and the top “60” rotated while the candles flickered.  The rest of the booth was brimming with colorful buckets.  I suddenly felt much, much better.McNamara compressed  While sadly most of the “landscapes” were more focused on patios and outdoor kitchens than plants, there were a few plantings  Patio compresswed  to enjoy.  This stone fountain was pretty.  Maybe that’s what I need in my Front Garden Re-Do?  Stone fountain compressed  The brilliant forsythia, yellow-trumpeted daffodils and perky blue crocuses were very cheering.  And since none of my hellebores are even budded, seeing these in flower made me hopeful.  Hellebores F&P compressed  I know, the bright orange kalanchoe in the foreground wouldn’t be blooming (or safe outdoors) while the hellebores flower, but with all the recent beastly storms, getting enough plants in bloom trucked in was no doubt a challenge.  I’m willing to give them a pass, aren’t you?  The same applies to this tulip, oxalis combination.  Tulips & oxalis compressed  Do purple-leaved shamrocks count for St. Patrick’s Day luck?  And this setting inspired me for Easter.  Easter table compressed  I’ll show you some close-ups of some of the ideas I’ll copy and more bits of the show when I figure out how to get them off my phone and into this blog, because unfortunately, my camera battery died and I hadn’t brought a back-up.  Technology…it’s a love/hate relationship….


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A Re-do Required

During this time of waiting, while it rains or snows daily and is too cold to work outdoors, I looked through photographs taken over the past year.  It has become obvious  that the Front Garden is just not acceptable.  Oh, there are late-June and July days that it looks pretty good, but there are bare spots even then.  I think it needs a re-do, a makeover to give it structure, or “bones.”  Here’s how the garden looks today:  Front Garden 2-28-18 compressed  How could I not notice how bleak it is?  I rarely use the front door, but that’s really no excuse.  It’s just poor, poor planning.  I won’t even use the word “design.”  Here’s it is at the end of March last year, filling in and greening up, but still lackluster despite the first daffodils.Front gard Mar compr    And here’s how it looked mid-April.  Front Bed mid-April compressed  Nasty bare spot at the bottom right, and the ugly electric meter in the far corner detract from the beauty of the tulips.  I’m wondering if I’m allowed to plant something in front of the meter to screen it now that the “meter man” just drives by and points a reading device at it.  Gone are the days when they actually came up the driveway, walked to the meter and recorded the numbers.  But, I digress…..  By mid-June, the annuals are spreading a bitFront bed mid-June compressed  and the daylilies are beginning to add lots of color.  It needed more height in the center, but the two clumps of tall Oriental lilies certainly aren’t the answer.  Front garden 7-29-17  Late July is probably this garden’s best show, but it goes downhill fast after that.  Once all the daylilies are gone the zinnias have to carry the load, and last year’s tall zinnias were disappointing.  And, as soon as frost grips the annuals, it’s back to photo 1.  For months….and months.

I’m thinking of adding evergreens, maybe a half-circle from one inside shutter to the other, and another grouping of 3 boxwood balls on the right side to mimic the left ones.  However, right now, the boxwoods are looking rather beige.  It’s been a very, very harsh winter, and they probably should have been wrapped in burlap.  Wouldn’t that have added greatly to the loveliness?  An upright evergreen to screen that meter corner, if I’m allowed might help and I’m pondering planting one of the tree roses in the back center, within the new low half-circle of shrubbery, maybe yew?  All the plants now in that small half-circle will need to be removed, and I think I’ll keep it clear except for a planting of lily tulips.  And I’d remove the front fringe of sod (which I have to clip by hand anyway so it’s a bother) and plant even more annuals (all the little black dots represent various annuals and low-growing perennials) along the sidewalk.  So, it would look something like this:  Front garden revision compressed  Or, is the giant Smiley face even worse?????  Maybe a solar fountain would be better in the center.  Or a tree hydrangea?  The garden faces east by the way.  Suggestions?

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The Myth of Sunny Windowsills

After I wrote “Welcome Crocus!” a few days ago, I found myself thinking about the number of sunny days in February….6 out of 28.  That’s less than a fourth.  January had 12 sunny days out of 31.  A baby seedling on a windowsill would be stretching, stretching, stretching to search for sunshine on 41 days and only find light on 18.  And that’s assuming these are south-facing windows with no trees or buildings or overhangs or other obstructions that cause anything but full, brilliant sunlight on that windowsill during the day.  East and West windows only get sun half a day at most, and that’s just not enough for seedling health.  A seedling wants 8-12 hours of bright sunlight for good growth.  Window lr compressed  I’ve often heard people talk about growing on a sunny windowsill, and just took it for granted that it was a common practice.  Now, however, I wonder.  Are there really many windowsills that are truly sunny, or is it a false perception?  Does a cheerful, positive person with a sunny disposition mistakenly perceive that there is plenty of sunlight daily  coming through the window?  And conversely, does a gloomy disposition fail to note what sunshine is there?  Only accurate observation and recording will tell the true tale.   For instance, the above window in my living room faces east, but at 9 am it’s already losing what little sunshine there was.  And, it’s certainly not deep enough to hold many plants. Often by the time the morning haze has cleared, the sun has already moved too far to help plants in an east-facing window.  Window kitchen compressed  This west-facing window in my kitchen barely has room to hold a set of salt and pepper shakers and at 2 pm is still void of any sunlight.  Window blue compressed  Because of the Mansard roof, my home has lovely deep, broad windowsills upstairs so theoretically I’m blessed with good spots for seedling flats.  Not true.  There are no south-facing windows.  Most of the east ones are shaded by trees.  They are useful for wintering over tropical hibiscus like the one shown above, ferns, and other container plants and I’m happy for that, but for seed starting they are basically useless.  The window shown above faces east, and only the left side gets any sunshine.  In January and February the sun angles so that in all the west windows only the north few inches actually get sunshine for 2-3 hours before it sets, when the sunlight is actually already weakening.  Even the big bow window in the master bedroom only truly gets sunshine on the north end, but it’s enough to get amaryllis bulbs growing.  Window bow compressed  This likely explains why our grandparents waited to plant everything outdoors “once the weather has settled and the soil is warm.”  They had fewer windows, and without the modern R-factor of insulating windows available today, those would have been frost-covered, chilly places not beneficial to baby seedlings.  They really had few options for starting seeds early indoors, and few outdoors unless they created a hot bed with fresh manure.

We are lucky that there are efficient, inexpensive lights available for seed starting.  They can be used totally, or as supplemental lighting for windowsill babies on cloudy days or for those that don’t get a full day of sunshine because of location.  Even under-counter kitchen lights will help.  Just remember that it takes 2 hours of artificial light to equal 1 hour of real sunshine, and adjust accordingly.

So take a moment to really analyze those seedling flats sitting on a windowsill.  How many hours a month are they actually getting the light they need?  You may need to add some artificial light hours to compensate for “those sunny windowsills.”

Posted in Growing indoors, Indoor Growing, Seeding, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Six on Saturday: Mar 3 ’18

March has begun very quietly here, unlike the snowstorms on the East Coast and Europe.  Basically, we are just marking time until the temperatures warm and the soil dries enough to return to the gardens.  Each time it gets close, another downpour occurs, but at least we don’t have to shovel it!   In the meantime, the moon is full and I’m enjoying watching it set with my morning cup of tea.  This photo doesn’t really do it justice at all, but you get the idea.  Moon over shed compressedIt seems huge and buttery yellow if you were here beside me.  Throughout the gardens there are signs that Spring is creeping closer.  These Tri-color crocus joined the first-blooming “Cream Beauty” that I posted recently in “Welcome Crocus!”  Blue crocus compressed 3-3-18  And in the Blue Garden, several patches of these cheerful blue dwarf iris “Gordon” are sprinkled randomly, matching the blue bench that resides there.  Dwarf Iris compressed  I’ve yet to figure out why these iris, growing in dense shade of building and trees, and therefore cold soil are weeks earlier than those in the Front Garden that get full, warming sun.  It’s another of the mysteries that keep gardening so interesting.  In the North Island, the baby lilac’s buds are swelling.  Lilac buds compressed 3-3-18  It hasn’t had too much pruning by the deer…yet!  Inside the potager’s fence, the garlic is beginning to grow,  Garlic compressed 3-3-18 forming the diagonal patterns that will be integral to the potager’s design for this season.  And these chamomile seedlings look happy and healthy.  Chamomile seedlings compressed 3-3-18  Unfortunately, they emerged in a path and will all need to be transplanted or potted, while those seeds that were sprinkled deliberately in the potager’s interior borders have failed to germinate.  Once again Mother Nature proves that she is a better gardener than I.

That’s my “Six on Saturday.”  The seeding is on schedule, the transplanting caught up so it’s just waiting, waiting for temperatures to nudge up a bit so transplants can be moved to the greenhouse and the basement space refilled.  Thanks to The Propagator for suggesting and hosting this meme.  Visit his blog to see all of those bloggers who contribute their “Six.”

Posted in Six on Saturday, Spring, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments