Category Archives: Gardening

Mom’s Mums

These chrysanthemums haven’t had the benefit of any fertilizers for all of their life. I guess I should have paid more attention. But every time I looked at them, I felt a bit sad and walked away. Why?

Over 36 years ago, these mums were in a hanging basket in my mother’s back porch. In 1982, when she died, I brought the hanging basket home to my house. I didn’t expect them to come back the next year and bloom, and when they did, the feeling was always bittersweet.

I took more care the next winter to cover them with a patio chair or some kind of loose plastic to keep the worst of the cold off them. It didn’t occur to me to add fertilizer even after I repotted them when they got too big for the hanging basket.

Now, after blooming for the 36th time since they came to live with me, I have finally come to my senses and have decided to give them some fertilizer next spring.

I am grateful for this plant’s tribute to my mother each year, and have been shamed into taking better care of it. Do you think it’s too late for me to get it together?

Tenting

In this summer of wildfires, the only ones doing any tenting are the caterpillars.

In my front yard is a black walnut tree that the Captain and I planted when it was no more than a six-foot high stick. Twenty-six years later it is a tall tree, desperately reaching for the sky as the leylandi cypress beside it crowds it more every year.

But see who is camping in the walnut tree! With all the warnings about camping being banned in so many places, these tenters have invaded my yard AGAIN! They attacked the apple trees in the early spring. Then they came back to take up residence in  the walnut tree (the kind that has walnuts) in the backyard, and now they are taking up residence in the ornamental black walnut in the front yard. They’re getting smarter too. This time they are much higher and out of my reach.


Here is a closer look.

And an even closer look. You can see that many of the leaves have already been eaten. I looked up tent caterpillars and found out that these are most likely the larvae of the malacosoma moth. I don’t think I like moths anymore.

Guess I’ll have to call the fire department to come and get this tent out of the tree. They have high ladders and brave men, but oh, hold on — they’re all busy fighting wildfires just now. I’ll have to see if I can find a good Samaritan to help me out.

Do you have these unwanted guests tenting in your yard too?

Mick’s Buttercup Squash

The Captain and I try to go to Montana every year if possible. We have found good friends among the farmers we’ve met there. Three years ago, Mick, one of these friends, gave us some buttercup squash that he had just harvested. Since we had our trailer with us, he suggested the easiest way to cook it would be to microwave it.

I did that, and it was very good. So good, in fact, that I saved the seeds of the squash to bring home. For the next three years I planted and saved Mick’s buttercup squashes. This year’s crop is descended from those original squashes he gave us in 2015.

Here is one of them, growing on the garden fence where it climbed up.

The funny thing is that although I carefully started some of the squash seeds in little pots for transplanting when the weather warmed up enough, Mick’s squash has a mind of its own. I must have put some compost in the garden last winter, and this spring, way before I thought it was okay to plant anything, these squashes volunteered to grow in my garden and they have by far outstripped the ones I so carefully tended in little pots for transplanting.

I have found a way of cooking these squashes that makes us very happy. I clean, quarter, and peel the squash and microwave it just long enough to make it barely tender (a few minutes). While that is happening, I sautee some chopped onion  in a pan with butter. When the squash is tender enough to cut easily but not so mushy that it is falling apart, I cut each quarter into slices (the way you would cut cantaloupe in thin wedges) and lay these in the pan to brown a few minutes on each side.

That’s it. Eat and enjoy.

PS When you’re cleaning the squash, be sure to save the seeds for next year’s crop.

A Bad Hair Day

I think these are the last of the poppies in my garden that have a different look.

The combination of colours and texture is beautiful, but it was the crepe paper look that made these poppies special for me. I wondered what the word “crepe” meant and found that its origin in 18th C. French was “crespe” which meant “curled, frizzed” from the Latin “crispus.”

In reality, the poppy petals are soft and delicate, but it’s the crepe look that I find fascinating.

D’you ever have a bad hair day

When petals lie down where they may?

You see, for me, it’s nothing new,

They do whatever they want to do.

Crispy,  frizzy, fluttering,

My hairdo takes a battering.

The passing breeze has tousled me

I’m not the queen I’d like to be.

Here comes a lady pulling plants.

I call to her, “Give me a chance!

I’m just not ready yet to die.” 

She halts and breathes a great big sigh.

“I love the messy look  we share. 

To part with you, I could not bear.”

 

 

 

Foxgloves

The tall white, pink, and purplish flowers standing like spikes around the edge of the garden are foxgloves (digitalis). I found the name fascinating, imagining a fox wearing the tiny blooms of this plant on his feet. Each of the many flowers on the stalks is shaped like a  sock or a glove, just perfect for a fox to put a paw into.

This plant has many common names. I first learned its name in German when my mother told me it was called “Fingerhut,” which means, literally, finger hat, and is the word for “thimble.”  The Latin name “digitalis” is also to do with fingers (digits).

Did you know that digoxin, extracted from foxglove, is used as a heart medicine? But don’t go eating foxglove thinking you’ll get a healthy heart from it. The opposite would most likely occur. All parts of the plant are toxic.

Although it is unlikely to be eaten by children or pets, I want to be careful. I try to keep my foxgloves growing mainly inside the garden fence.

In the photo above, you can see that the bells of the foxgloves gradually open starting from the bottom of the plant. The top buds are the last to open. The bottom ones will be the first to go to seed. I had to wait to see what shape the topmost flower would have. I wanted to compare it to this oddball below.

In the photo of the pale foxglove, the topmost flower opened like a wide bell facing upwards. All the other foxglove plants have drooping bell-shaped flowers right to the top.

I don’t know if it’s a different variety of foxglove or just an anomaly. Maybe it’s the teacup for the fox to sip from while he puts his gloves on. That would get his ticker racing.

The Dinner Table

My garden is a tangled mess this year because I’ve hurt my back and can’t bend down to pull out the weeds. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.) The flowers have been so generous about hiding the weeds until I’m feeling better. They’ve done such a good job that no self-respecting bird would think it was a place for humans only. One of my visitors recognized it immediately as “tamed gone wild” and made himself at home there.  He exuded confidence and a sense of ownership, only knocking once he was already  in the door.

What he knocked on was once a huge fir that stood too close to our house. We had to cut it down many years ago and only a low stump was left. After today, I’m glad, for the first time, that we didn’t try to auger out the stump and get rid of it. Apparently it made a good dinner table for Woody, the pileated woodpecker. The spellchecker insists on calling him a pillaged woodpecker, and it is partly true. He does have a pillaging nature.

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“Pillaging? … Me? A bird’s gotta eat!”

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“Now, hold on just a minute. I think some of my dinner fell off the table top.”

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“Do you think it would be polite to crawl under there to get it? I suppose if it fell on the floor, I should leave it … but it looks so good.”

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“Hmm … What to do … what to do???”

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“Oh, to heck with it. I think I can get it from up here. I’m gonna go for it.”

 

Stay tuned for the next installment, coming soon to a computer near you.

 

P.S.  I have just found out that the male pileated woodpecker has the red malar stripe (moustache), while the female does not have it. So this is definitely MR Woodpecker.

The Confession

I think I have a problem. I love my garden, but I love poppies even more. So, in my raised beds meant to grow vegetables, most poppies popping up are allowed to stay.

I’ve had to remove a few of the common red ones that want to take over the whole yard, but when I come to a pure white one, I just can’t yank it out. It would be sacrilege,

especially when the whole family of puritans lies down in submission.

Here is my confession:

A few years ago, when I was sitting in the truck one day waiting for the Captain to do some business in a shop, I noticed some pretty poppies in a flowerbox under the store window. Some of them had gone to seed, so I snapped off a couple of the seed pods and put them in my pocket. I felt a stab of guilt, but the seeds would have fallen, mostly on the driveway, and been lost anyway.

I planted those seeds at home and here is one of the progeny of the flowerbox poppies. The wild hairdo is unmistakable.

But wait! The story isn’t over.

In the grocery store one day, I saw the lady who owned the shop with the flowerbox window. She’s a lovely lady in her 80s, and I felt a twinge of guilt about having snapped up some of her poppy seeds. I approached her and told her that I had admired her poppies by her shop window last year.

“Oh you can take some of the seeds, if you like. Help yourself!” she said.

My face went a deeper shade of red as I cleared my throat. “Well, that’s just it. I did … last year … and the babies are growing in my yard right now. I just wanted to thank you and tell you how much they mean to me.”

“You’re very welcome,” she said. “They’re nice aren’t they? Take all the seeds you want.”

The lady has since retired and the flowerbox is neglected, but I always think of her when her pink poppies with the wild hairdo bloom.