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Monday, May 31, 2004

We got a little carried away 

Over the last few weeks, my husband and I have been planning how we will landscape around the pool. We started by adding pavers around the far end next to the fence. Although we had pavers installed when the pool was built, we had not taken them all the way around because we weren't exactly sure what we were going to do by the fence. Then we decided to add a two layer stone wall and put in a small water feature with some desert type plants and pea gravel. So, while I was spreading pine bark nuggets in the front bed my husband started the little wall.

It was warm and sunny but we kept jumping in the pool to cool off. By late afternoon we decided to call it a day and went in the house. Well, it didn't take long for us to realize we were both pretty red. Now we spend a lot of time outside and are fairly browned by the sun, but we hadn't thought about the sun factor at this time of year. We did the usual aloe application and hoped it would feel better the next day.

The next day also dawned warm and sunny and so did we. We were both still red and couldn't even consider going outside without shirts over our swimsuits. My husband kept telling me he thought the weight of the wet shirt was going to pull him under the water never to be seen again, but at least he was still able to enjoy the pool without doing further damage to his skin.

The reason I'm telling you this is that today is Memorial Day, which usually signals the beginning of vacations, summer school breaks, and lots of occasions to get out in the yard. Not to mention this is the day to give a humble nod to our great veterans. Many of you have probably already experienced your first sunburn of the season from this long weekend and are nodding your heads in agreement while you read this. So, what is the perfect sunburn solution? Obviously not to get burned in the first place. But, when you do here's a list of ideas that may give you relief: and the list goes on and on.

So when you're outside enjoying your pursuits, remember to slather on the SPF. Otherwise stock up on vinegar and tea bags. They both seem to help. Happy Gardening and wear your sunscreen.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

A little about allotments 

Have you ever heard of allotment gardening? I was reading a fellow blogger's latest entries and found her talking about her allotment garden. Hmmm, I thought. What the heck is an allotment garden? So, I wrote and asked if she would give me the scoop. And she did. Jane defined allotments and cited a good reference link. I learned that allotments are areas of land owned by local councils and rented out to local residents in small parcels for a minimal annual fee. Jane's reference, Eynsham discusses the history of allotments and the Act from 1845 that made them possible.

I asked my husband if there was anything similar in the US and he told me there is something called "green gardens" that was most recently publicized during the Clinton administration. So I went searching and found a bunch of references to community gardens, including the Clinton community garden in New York. There are also the Portland community garden, the San Jose community garden, and the Idaho Falls community garden. I also found the American Community Gardening Association , a non-profit organization in New York that conducts educational programs, answers questions, and holds annual conferences.

Community gardens or allotments, whichever you choose to call them, serve a great purpose. Unfortunately, with all the development taking place throughout the United States it sure makes me wonder if there is any acreage available for "allotments." If anyone knows of other community gardens, tell me about it. I'd sure like to learn and share more. Happy Gardening!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Update on the gas mower 

Well, we finally used it. As you may remember, my dad was kind enough to give us his gas mower since we had none. We tried and tried and couldn't get the dang thing started, so I was going to chuck it and buy electric. After talking to Harlan, we decided the smarter thing to do was to invite my dad over to coax the machine into life. Especially since the back 40 had gotten so long we could barely see our littliest dog when he was out there.

Saturday morning dawned sunny and warm and I went over to pick up my folks. Dad couldn't wait to get to work on the mower so he and my husband immediately took it out back. While Dad removed the spark plug, Harlan got the gas ready to "prime" it. Sure enough, after a few tugs of the rope the motor roared to life. And roar it did, although Harlan assured me later that it wasn't really as loud as I thought it was.

While my husband and I took turns mowing the lawn, my dad supervised. Every once in awhile, the motor would die from the high grass and he was right there to get it started again. After about 40 minutes, the lawn looked great and we were ready to rest.

My mom and dad enjoyed their visit. Mom sat in the swing by the pool and looked around, clucking the same chant I mentioned in a previous article "you've sure got your work cut out for you." But all in all, I'd say she had a grand time.

I don't know if I'll continue to use this mower for the rest of the cutting season or not. But what I do know is it sure felt good hanging out with my folks on a sunny, warm Saturday morning in our backyard. Happy Gardening.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Veggie Invaders 

Here's a game that will make you laugh from The Vegetarian Society: "Remember SPACE INVADERS - the game that spawned a generation of games and game designers?"
Try Veggie Invaders

"Download some free retro action and prepare for the onslaught as vegetables take over the world! Ketchup splurge guns a-go-go, the heat is on as pop-eyed potatoes and crazy carrots make mincemeat of anyone who dares to challenge their veggie might."

Viva Victoria 

My mother came to visit last Saturday for the first time in awhile. She was looking at my front and side gardens and asking the names of some plants she had never seen. She looked around some more, shook her head, and said, "Boy, have you got your work cut out for you!" Well, yes and no. Yes there's lots to do to finish cleaning up the beds, and lots to do to keep them as nice as they are becoming. But work? No way. It's not work to me - it's fun. It's zen. It's relaxation and meditation. It's one of life's best things.

Anyway, one of the plants my mother asked about has blue flowers. Guess which one that might be. Ok, just kidding. There's plenty of plants with blue blooms so here's the answer. It's Salvia Victoria, more commonly known as mealycup sage. The technical name is salvia farinacea 'victoria' and it grows about 1 1/2' tall with 1/4" spikes of flowers. The plant enjoys full sun or light shade and a well-drained sandy soil for best growth. Salvia Victoria, as most sages, will flower all summer if deadheaded.

In looking for information to share with you about this plant, I was surprised that only one of my 20 something garden books detailed this specific salvia cultivar and only one plant catalog mentioned it. So let me give credit where credit is due. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials speaks to my little plant along with a variety of other salvias. White Flower Farm does not sell this plant, but does offer a hybrid called Salvia Indigo Spires.

I have no idea why this plant is called mealycup sage and can't seem to find an answer in any of my books, magazines, or online. But who cares? The plant is gorgeous and will flower all summer.
Paired with society garlic and coreopsis, it makes a mighty fine garden don't you think?
It must be that zen thing going on again. Happy Gardening!

Friday, May 21, 2004

Sayonara...and all that jazz 

Have you ever seen the movie Sayonara? It stars Marlon Brando and a bunch of other celebs along with my absolute favorite, James Garner. Every time I see that man I think - boy, if I wasn't married. Even now as he has aged, he's still a hunk in my book. So are Robert Redford and Paul Newman, but that's another story for another time.

Anyway, we were watching the movie last night and I was admiring the beauty and purity of the Japanese gardens Marlon and his friends were walking through. I remarked to Harlan that I really needed to learn more about Japanese gardening. So, as I usually do, I immediately came into my garden library and started reading. There are some things I knew intuitively that attracted me to Japanese gardens such as their simplicity, serenity, and ease of movement. But others had not occurred to me. For instance, Japanese landscape design has little floral color and relies more on trees, water, stone and evergreens. Japanese gardens are also purposefully designed spaces using texture and symmetry in their definition. To find some good resources, visit BOOKSAMILLION.COM.

The Japanese garden philosophy is not necessarily going to work for me because I like an informal space with riots of color and movement. But there is a small area that I need to clean up in the side garden that could become a small Japanese landscape with our teak bench and chairs. I'll start working on it and, if successful, will take pictures to share with everyone. Oh heck, even if I'm not successful I'll still take pictures. A garden is beautiful no matter how it's designed, isn't it? Happy Gardening.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Cleome. The name alone conjures up something elegant and mysterious to me. I went plant shopping over the weekend (surprise surprise). As my husband and I were just moving toward the cash register, I noticed a big rolling rack of Cleome, so nothing would do but I had to go and grab three pots. My husband laughed and said, "I didn't think we were going to get out of here with only a few plants in the cart" and then proceeded to take two of the pots into his cart. Yes, we had two carts.

When we arrived home, we "parked" all the plants around my front garden so that we could do a few Saturday chores. Well, Saturday turned into Sunday and I realized I better get these guys into the ground before they started gasping too hard. They had bent over slightly and looked like they really needed water so I found a home for them under the oak tree where they could get partial sun, and watered them thoroughly. The plants immediately raised their heads and put their best smiles back on as I knew they would.

Cleome hasslerana, more commonly known as spider flower, is a reliable plant. It is heat and drought tolerant once established and is elegant looking, producing clusters of pink and white flowers on stalks up to 4 feet tall. Cleome is such a versatile plant as well in that it provides tremendous color, makes a great cut flower, and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Considered an annual, the best thing is that once it stretches its roots and feels at home, it will self-seed. Of course, if you don't put it in the right place it can be a little overwhelming with its height, but I have been known to trim mine back and they have produced more blooms on branches.

So my cleome plants are happy and nodding their heads my way. I'll take more pictures once they are more firmly established. Happy Gardening and when you go plant shopping, get more than one cart. You will probably need it.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I'm so lucky 

Do you want to know how I know? Well, I was sitting outside this afternoon, after just getting out of our pool, and watching the moorhens swimming across the water. (I'll tell you more about them at another time.) As I was swinging back and forth I felt something crawling on my leg and guess what it was. Not an ant (first and immediate guess) - it was a lady bug! I don't know what I'm doing right these days, but the lady bugs are finding me.

Of course, it is an old wives tale that lady bugs bring good luck. But I choose to believe it. So I'm sitting there watching this lady bug, and pretty soon she flies off probably because it was getting close to dinner time and she and her man had to fix vittles for the younguns. Or something like that.

I digress. The reasons I'm lucky are many. It's nice to attribute it to a lady bug landing on my leg, but that's not it. I am lucky because I have my family - my mom and dad, in their 80s, are still here. I have the love of a fantastic man, and we share our home with three incredible dogs and two not-so-incredible cats, although they would put me in my place in a second if they could read. I have two wonderful sisters with whom I have come to share a warmer, closer relationship than I ever have in all my years (and I'm not about to tell you how many that is). And I have the beauty of an incredible garden canvas just waiting to be painted with all the colors of the rainbow.

Ultimately, I know there are a lot bigger things going on in our country and the world outside of our little plot of land and I'm not forgetting that. But this afternoon, as the lady bug landed on my leg and our dogs played in the sun I knew I was lucky. Happy Gardening.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I've got peppers! 

My green peppers have now formed. You may recall I went to my favorite home center, Lowe's, to purchase my green pepper and tomato plants just a few weeks ago. And now I'm a Mom! I'm so proud. I have also planted squash, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, radishes and cabbage. So far all but the carrots and cabbage have sprouted so I'm pretty happy about that too. It's absolutely intriguing to watch vegetables form and grow and I can't wait until we can savor these luscious veggies.

So, where do you start when you want to grow your own vegetables? I recommend consulting Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. This book is a wealth of information about garden planning, spacing and planting, starting plants from seed and extending the growing season. Square foot gardening is based on building your garden in a series of squares. Each square holds a different plant and the number of plants placed in each square depends on its variety, size when fully grown and spacing for them to develop. Here are a few examples: pepper plants need 12 inches of space between plants, so you place one pepper plant right in the center of one square. Leaf lettuce needs 6 inches between plants so you plant 4 plants in one square, etc. It's a great method of gardening that I've used in the past and highly successful. Since this is my first year of veggie gardening in a long time and I still don't have my beds properly set up, I haven't followed this tried-and-true method this time but plan to do so next year when I'm better prepared.

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but my husband and I are vegetarian. The opportunity to grow our own vegetables and enjoy their fresh flavor is exciting. Many times we've had to buy our veggies from the grocery store and they tend to just not be as fresh. We've also shopped the local vegetable stand, but just don't get over there often enough. So here we are doing it for ourselves. I'll be sure to share the results as we go. Happy Gardening and, as your mom would say, eat your veggies.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Inauguration of the Florida Gardening link 

You may have noticed the new link above called "Florida Gardening", and if you haven't I'm tellin' you about it now. I enjoy writing about gardening and other experiences. There are times, however, when the information really applies only to Florida so I thought it made sense to start another page about Florida gardening trials and tribulations and successes! It's just gotten started, but I have two articles out there already I hope you will enjoy. Stay tuned for more here and on all my pages. Happy Gardening.

While I'm on a roll...argh!!! 

Well, I broke down this afternoon and tried to use the gas lawn mower my dad gave me. As you may recall in a previous post, I was agonizing over whether to use the dang thing or not. Since it is the only mower I have and the lawn is grossly overgrown, I decided to finally try it.

Argh!!! I couldn't get it started so thought I had lost all power in my arms and asked Harlan to try. He came out and couldn't get it started either. Come to find out it is a pain in the rump, not to mention the arms, to pull the starter cord. And, the final insult? No gas. Not a drop in the tank and no gas can to syphon any from my vehicle (yes, I still drive a gas vehicle but at least it's a 6 cylinder sedan.)

After a few choice words, the mower went back into the garage where it will stay until I find someone who wants it or it will go into the next yard sale. In the meantime, I'm going out and getting an electric mower after all. (The battery-powered mower won't work on our lawn since it is way too long and coarse.) Gas mowers be damned! Give me a reliable, quiet, easy to use electric mower any time. It's definitely easier on my arms and my blood pressure! Happy Gardening.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Mulch and mulch 

I have been weeding and cleaning my beds for the last few weeks and finally getting down to the next level of business - adding mulch. In the past I went for what was cheap and looked good. That was always cypress mulch. It's inexpensive and does a great job in covering the ground and helping keep weeds at bay.

Well, I got reading about how cypress trees are endangered and learned I was adding to the problem by purchasing that product. I wanted to use pine straw but couldn't find an easy source, so decided on pine bark nuggets. Pine trees are fast growing and a renewable resource. Pine bark nuggets do all the same things as cypress mulch and look good doing so. It's a little more expensive, but well worth the cost. If I don't want to spread the layers as thick as other mulchs, newspaper underneath makes a great weed deterent.

Starting this week I'll be outside as often as I can spreading those bags of nuggets. In the meantime, I'll continue doing some research to ensure I'm doing the right thing or determine if I need to rethink my mulch decision. Happy Gardening.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The Naked Vegetarian arrives on radio 

My husband, editor of The Green Cutting Board along with the folks at InstantFM.com, are producing a web radio show called The Naked Vegetarian. The show will feature an hour of vegetarian talk radio, news, comment and interviews with guest celebrities, "food heads" of all types and "people of interest". Be sure to listen in starting Monday, May 10th at 12 noon East Coast Time.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

One person's lawn... 

Our neighbor is very precise about his lawn. It is a lush expanse of Bahia grass with many trees and ornamental grasses planted throughout. He and my husband were talking the other day about how we were planning to landscape our backyard. Harlan told me he actually had a look of horror when he learned that I had intentionally not cut down the "wildflowers" growing there. Of course to our neighbor, the flowers were weeds. So while he struggles to maintain that pristine lawn, we just walk around with a weedwhacker periodically and cut around the flowers. Meanwhile he's probably thinking we are nuts and don't know how to properly keep a lawn.

Now, we do want a bit of lawn for our boys to run on in the back and a little to help define our beds in the front. But it will be a very little for sure. Hence the quandary over the lawnmower I mentioned last week.

Anyway, Harlan took pictures of those "weeds" I mentioned and I wanted to include them for you to see. I've looked through all my landscaping books to identify them as weeds or flowers and can't really find any reference to the little coral bloom or the little daisy-like plant. So, until someone tells me differently (and even if they do) these are wildflowers to me. Happy Gardening.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Pining for pines 

I was looking through some of my gardening books the other day and came across a diagram I had made of our backyard when we lived in Baltimore. The list contained 73 plants growing in the outside beds, 29 on the hill surrounding the fish pond, and another 17 in the little shade garden created in the side yard. 119 plants in total comprised of bulbs, perennials, trees and shrubs not including the various annuals added every year! It reminded me of what a gorgeous garden we had and how nice it would be if some of these plants would grow well here in Florida.

I thought of the numerous trips we made to Valley View Farms in Cockeysville and Maxalea Nursery in Stoneleigh to find just the right plants for just the right places. Each year we would also attend the plant sale held at Cylburn Arboretum and that’s how we got some very interesting trees. Two immediately come to mind – the Torulosa Pine and the Dragon’s Eye Pine. I remember when we first saw the Torulosa on the grounds of Cylburn. I fell in love with the blue color of the needles and their soft texture. The beauty of the Torulosa, or Pinus strobus torulosa, is that the needles are twisted so the shape highlights its gorgeous color. I coveted that tree and finally, when I got one of my own, would make a point of stroking its elegant needles every chance I got.

The Dragon’s Eye Pine, or Pinus densiflora ‘Oculis Draconis’, has yellow and green-banded needles with blue cones. Apparently the name is derived from the fact that when the shoot is seen from the tip, the alternate whitish-yellow and green rings are supposed to suggest a dragon’s eye. Take a look at the picture and see if you can make out the eye.

Anyway, as you can tell I’m a huge fan of pine trees. Here in Pinellas County (in long ago times known as Point of Pines) I’ve landed in the right place. We have a few pine trees on our property, but I intend to add many more. Of course I’ll have to check to see what will grow best here, but I’m really hoping I can find a blue or yellow variety or two that will happily survive.

I’ll tell you more about the plants on this list at another time. Happy Gardening and if you see an unusual pine, think of me.

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