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Finally some well needed rain arrived today, thus giving me a little time to write. We have been in drought conditions for months here and I feel like a horticultural fireman with a garden hose always in my hands.
I always wanted a cutting garden, fresh flowers in the house is a wonderful thing and is very important to Jan and I as we are always cutting flowers from the gardens for Acorn Cottage. All the while saying don’t cut all the color or show from the garden, we’ve worked so hard to get it that way. So with the thought of fuller arrangements and bouquets of greater interest I have decided a cutting garden it is.
To start with I needed to find the right spot for the garden, one that got plenty of sun and protection from the wind yet close to the house for quick access. I also knew I needed enough space or in this case length to provide room for a large variety of flowering plants. September is a good time to start a new or redo garden project because fall cleanup hasn’t come on in full tilt and the perennials and bulbs are on sale for clearance at the nurseries. The Shire Garden still had a few unclaimed spaces and one was on the north fence which was all shade up to about four years ago when we had three tall trees removed to open the garden more for our daughters wedding.
The North Side Cutting Garden as it is now so named is strange, because when you think of north side you think cool and shade. But after the trees were felled it became one of the warmest and sunniest spot in the entire Shire. With the south side of the fence in full sun all day. This spot would also protect the taller flowers from the wind and will also promise an early start to the spring. I began removing the odd perennials from the front of the fence and measured about 75 ft. along the fence and about 4 ft. out for depth, any thing deeper and I would have to step into the garden to cut the flowers, something I didn’t want because of flower breakage.
I added some landscape timbers to frame the garden and filled it with about 3 yds. of horticultural compost to a depth of around 10 in. Then I put in drip irrigation so that no overhead water would get on the flowers, only the rain when ever that comes. This would assure years of good flower conditions with strong root growth.
Now comes the fun part the flowers what would they be, with some much to decide on, I know I wanted Oriental lilies, Dahlia’s and Gladiolus and Snapdragon’s there would have to be iris and Campanula of many types plus Sweet peas and a large stand of Delphinium’s with the many shades of blues and white. Dianthus is important as well, with the many new colors of Echinacea ( cone flower ) Gypsophila ( babies breath ) Liatris ( gay feather ) and of cause Peony’s and tall Phlox to name just a few. All make for great cut flowers. When choosing your flowers for the cutting garden keep in mind the combinations that bloom at the same time so to ensure beautiful bouquets. Plant also for seasons of bloom to stretch it as long as you can.
Always deadhead your plants and cut flowers often to ensure constant flowers if you let them go to seed your plants will slow down or stop blooming altogether.
Cut your flowers in the morning while the air is cool and cut them on the slant for more water intake and place the stems in warm water for quick up take. A small note, the more complex the flower is, the warmer water helps to keep them hydrated, wilting may happen sometimes but the flowers will spring back in an hour or so. When they have hardened off, ( about an hour ) they will be ready for your vases.
When placing flowers in the home think of the spots or rooms you find yourself in most of the time, the kitchen, TV room, bedroom or bath. Flowers are meant to be seen and enjoyed, so bring some beauty into your world, even a little goes a long way.
A thought; When life delivers a quite moment, don’t forget to smell the flowers, unless you have allergies than pictures will do.
For many years I have tried to raise caladiums with very little to no success, the conundrum was those funny looking tubers always confused me as to which side up was. Then what planting medium should I start them in and at what time of the spring to get them grown enough so that I would have some kind of show in my shade gardens. I read everything I could find on them and you tubed till I couldn’t stand it any more, always with the same results empty pots of soil and me at the nurseries buying grown plants for a lot of money.
Now caladiums – Araceae, are a genus of seven species of tuberous – rooted perennials from the woodland of tropical South America. Loved for there broadly arrow and or lance-shaped leaves that can come in a verity of colors like the popular green and white to shades of pinks to reds to me all are a real shade garden or planter winner.
This spring I decided once again to raise caladiums, a local discount store was selling the tubers for a dollar a bag which held six tubers, I thought at this price I had nothing to lose, so I bought three bags. I then bought a bag of plain house plant soil to start them in. Opening the bag I found six odd shaped tubers rather ugly and once again guessing what side was up. I took the time to call some gardening friends to confess to my shame, that I didn’t know what end was up, and they got, in many ways a good laugh about that. They told me to set the tubers out on the table and to roll them a little see what side sets flat, that’s the top and some times the tops are dimpled like a bowl. Finally, the top is found!
So with a new enthusiasm I filled my six and ten inch pots with soil and planted my tubers about one to two inches down and about one inch apart from each other around the end of April. I decided I would leave the pots in the full sun on the terrace stone surface and if they started by any chance I would move them to the shade then, it was my thought that the warmth of the sun heated stone under their feet might be the trick to start growth. Three weeks and nothing, I was going to give up and plan for my trip to the nursery. When while on my morning walk I saw the first leaf spire coming through the soil. I ran into Acorn Cottage looking for Jan to tell her of my incredible news, that finely I can say I started my caladiums myself.
So here I am the end of August in the shade garden enjoying my home grown caladiums that I left in their pots and inserted pot and all in to the ground for easy fall removal and planning on next years new colors for a larger plantings of them. The conundrum solved with my sights set to the next one.
A thought; Always try – try and try again……
As a child growing up in the country our summers were filled with activities from summer plays in the barn to picnics in the meadows and fun games with friends like kick the can and hide and seek. There was always something happening and all of this would fill our summer days.
One of my favorite thing was blue berry time, the wild blue berries come into season around the middle of July. This was one of grandma’s favorite adventures, she would arrive early in the morning in the old Buick with her garden hat and blue berry buckets and picnic basket in hand, she would line us up and ready her belt to hold her buckets so she could use both hands to pick, thus getting maximum picking coverage, in my mind she was a pro.
The wild blue berries grew in an old woodland meadow on the top of a hill and took a while to get to. The blue berry buckets that I spoke of where old tin lard cans about a gallon in size with handles and a tin lid to keep a full bucket from spilling. Gramma would remind us that the horse flies would be out so a hat or some kind of head cover was important.
As with most of our adventures with gramma there were things to learn and she would often point out the many wild flowers and mushrooms along the way to blue berry hill as we called it. We finally reach the clearing of the wood line and the view of free stand of cedars and wild junipers stood like soldiers watching over the treasures of blue. Here every where you looked the birds where flying about taking their share of the booty. Gramma would say this must be a good year for blue berries and she would begin picking. Like a well trained picker she would comb through the bushes leaving hardly a blue berry to the sight. After about two hours she would have us find the big stone grouping on the side of the hill in the shade, known as love rock, as some of the stories told to us, that this was one of mom and dads dating spots! Gramma always had lemon aid and sandwiches and we would listen to her tell us what she would bake with the harvest of the day. After another hour of picking she would check our buckets for fullness as most time we would eat more than we carried and as we denied the fact that we didn’t our blue tongue would always give us away.
Blue berries; Vaccinium, corymbosum, is the high bush blue berry and was the most abundant in the blue berry hill meadow. Blue berries grow in acidic peaty and or sandy soils, they enjoy moist but well drained conditions in full sun to partial shade. Tip; cover with bird netting just as they begin to ripen, for some reason the birds can tell when they are ripe for the picking and can clean a bush of berries in minutes. I would also suggest you plant several varieties together for good berry performance. So picking several kinds can make for great pies.
As the late day of blue berrying, came to and end, we would begin our long walk home, with our half filled buckets and gramma with her two very filled buckets proclaiming she will make the best blue berry muffins ever with this years berries. How I look back to those days in blue berry hill and the stories of love rock and the time spent with family and feel so blessed to have those moments to remember.
A thought; Making memories and moments to remember are special indeed.
Yeah! Its summer, long days, warm nights and ice tea and lemon aid, the summer garden is special because there is so much activity with the plants in full growth and bloom and bees and birds and butterflies everywhere. the work in the garden comes to a slower more manageable pace and we take more time to just enjoy its presence.
Most mornings are started with my morning walk through, with coffee in hand looking to see what’s in bloom as I plan the days activities, I am always enamored by the great show of morning glories on the Fairy Garden bird house post that are mixed in with a large white flowering clematis, just a magical moment it is, here I will sit in the fairy wait to think for a moment. ( A fairy wait is what I call a benched area covered by an arbor of fallen branches where one can sit to watch the fairies at play.)
As the sun raises high in the sky the garden begins to warm up more and the air is filled with the essence of the garden. The scent of the roses and phlox and mock orange mix and this is transcending everything in to a soul filled experience, one that will be remembered for life times to come. The hum of the bees busy at work is a song of its own and the movement of the butterflies make for a fancy sight. In the heat of the day the garden transforms and the colors are heightened by its intensity.
Now the day grows long and the garden work can go into the evening when the birds begin to harmonize the evening song. I sit for a moment to listen and as I do, I realize that the bird are singing good night to the day. The gift of song is special and here in the summer garden beauty and song abound.
As my day in the summer garden comes to an end, I noticed the first sign of the fireflies and the nighttime show begins. the moon flower vine is in bloom for its evening dance with the lunar moth, and the four o clocks are in their glory. A new fragrance comes to the garden air, one of moss and fern as the breeze shifts from the Oak Grove gardens, telling me the elves are at play. Before its to dark, I will walk through Oak Grove to see the jack in the pulpits and pick a hand full of ferns for the side table vase. This is the walk I look forward to the most, as it calms my thoughts for the day.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my day in the summer garden, it was a pleasure to share it with you.
A thought; Always remember to stop and to take the time to enjoy special moments.
That’s right its May that lusty Month of May, as the song goes from Camelot. Every May first puts my thoughts and memories of May Day celebrations as a child, Mom would walk her flower garden with us children to gather early spring flowers like violets and daffodils and lilacs and sweet peas to make small tussie mussies that she would place in May baskets made of paper doilie cones with a ribbon handles to hang them on door knobs of our neighbors and friends, It was a great production as she would place the flowers out on the kitchen table along with bags of spring color wrapped chocolate hershey kisses to sweeten thoughts as Mom would put it. As we rolled the round paper doilies in to cones mom would go over the list of people that we where to surprise with these wonderful May Day gifts. Then she would tell us the game plan. We park the car out of house sight and proceed on foot remembering to duck below windows and to quietly proceed to the front door, placing the May basket ribbon handle over the door knob and ringing the door bell, then she would say, ” run like hell” my favorite part, how I did like the thrill of the run, but she told us to stay out of sight far enough to see the look on the receivers face. Yes its May Day, I’m not up to the run these days, but I sure do remember the thrill of those morning runs. I remember being in the car driving home after an early May Day morning and hearing Mom and Dad talk about the look on their friends faces and thinking how much fun it was to have such parents that gave so much to a simple day, yes a simple first day in May.
May starts the springs real first burst of bloom in the garden, it the time when the garden turns to full growth and we celebrate our Mothers this month as well as the time we memorialize those that have gone before us. May is truly a month for thought. May that lusty month of May, Happy May Day to all!
A thought; Memories are a wonderful thing, they help us to move in a better direction.
Sweet peas are, surprisingly not members of the pea family at all.. Lathyrus odoratus, the botanical name, is Greek for ” pulse or pea” fragrant peas as they are sometimes called.
Most peas are edible, including the wild or [sea] peas but sweet peas are poisonous and there is a medical term, Lathyrism, to describe sweet pea poising which can lead to serious consequences like convulsions, paralysis in the legs and unconsciousness.
Sweet Peas are really latecomer’s to our gardens, becoming more popular in the 1890’s. They were discovered in 1515 by a Franciscan Monk in the fields of Sicily and cultivated for their sweet scent. Thought to have magical healing powers. Just as in the story of Oliver Twist who recovers his health in a garden of sweet peas that ” perfumed the air with delicious odours.”
Growing up in the rural country sides of New England it wasn’t uncommon to have a rather large vegetable garden and Dad lovingly planed and planted ours starting just as he would say ” you could put a shovel to the ground.” I remember the many early crops he would plant and the further end of the garden was for the row of sweet peas he would plant for Moms bouquets. He would have me cut pea sticks for them to grow up on to from the fields edge, it was my job to stick them in the soil along the seed planted row. He had prepped the bed with lots of manure and peat as sweet peas are heavy feeders and love an early cool start. Dad always said if you plant them on or around St Patrick’s Day the flowers are bigger and more fragrant.
There are two types of them the bush and the climbers and you should soak the seeds in warm water over night for better germination. they like humus well draining soil in a sunny location. Some are annual and or perennial and the climbers can be used to climb up on trellises and through shrubs for a different look.
For me, sweet peas are easy to grow and make a great cut flower. However if you are going to grow some, the older varieties have more fragrance, the newer more ruffled bigger flowers are beautiful but less fragrant and in my book its the fragrance of them that I enjoy and the memories that evokes.
So the next time some one might call you their little ” sweet pea ” think how special that must be.
A thought; Sometimes new things can conjure up old memories.
I thought with this being February, in which we find our selves thinking of all kinds of love, as I look through the thousands of Valentines Day cards I always gravitate to the ones with flowers and can’t help but notice how many have roses and forget me not’s and then there was the bleeding hearts and thought, I’d like to talk about a plant whose flower makes me think of Valentines Day and all things dear to me. Now you probably are thinking bleeding heart sounds sad and lonely and why would I even think about bleeding hearts connecting to love, well if you have ever been in love and had your heart broken, you’d understand how strong and fragile love can be. Well it’s also simple, it’s all in the way one sees things and I happen to be someone who see beauty in most things. The beautiful heart shaped flowers are amazing to see and every garden should have at lest one.
Bleeding Heart, genus: Dicentra a perennial with cultivars: D. eximia -fringed deep red/pink. D. spectabilis – 30 in. tall pink/white, D. ‘ Alba’ – beautiful all white. with their heart shaped flowers that look like hearts bleeding with love to share. All are born gracefully on arching racemes. They grow best in the shady garden and prefer a rich humus soil that drains well, most bloom in early to late spring and make great cut flowers. About 150 species can be found in North America, western Asia and the Himalayas. The name Dicentra is from the two Greek words, dis, meaning ” two” and kentros, meaning ” spurs,” this refers to the flower shape. the cultivar D. spectabilis, means ” worthy of notice.”
The common name bleeding heart comes from a Chinese legend that tells of the flowers of this plant that resembles a heart with a drop of blood. Other common names for this plant are, Chinamen’s breeches, lady’s locket and lyre flower.
Here in the Shire Garden we have many bleeding heart plants. The one I most love is a native to North America, Dicentra – cucullaria, a low growing, up to 8 inches tall with lace fern like foliage and spreads naturally, mine are found everywhere in the Shire Garden and they love Oak Grove the most, there they bloom from the time the last of the snow melts till late June. Then as fast as the flowers fade the gray/ green foliage disappears to only reappear the following spring with an even greater show.
As we enter into February with its full Snow Moon and longer days of light, lets fill our thoughts with love for ourselves, for the ones we love most and for all of mankind and all living things, That the love we feel now is real and full of life with endless boundaries!
A thought; If one is to wear they’re heart on their sleeve, one might be called a bleeding heart, so I’ve been told.
Grandmother had an obsession for African violets, every window in the house was filled with them and they were always in bloom. I remember helping her water them and picking off the spent flowers and her comments about how many more buds were on the way. She tended to them like little children and knew many by name.
African Violet [ Saintpaulia ] are natives of eastern Africa and were collected in the late nineteenth century, many by the Baron von Saint-Paul. Thus it botanical name. There are around 20 species, all are low growing evergreen perennials with several thousands of varieties. Loved for their long flowering periods and compact growth habits and are today one of the most popular of house plants. African Violets are rather easy to grow, bright light but not direct light, moist but not wet soil, actually on the drier side is better and never allow water to stand on the foliage as it will burn or rot the tender fuzzy like foliage. They are picky about their soils so I recommend you purchase a commercial mix just for African Violets, fertilize with African violet food or standard house plant food diluted. They bloom best when allowed to become slightly pot pound, repot when they become to leafy or they stop blooming for a long period of time.
African Violets will hold up to a little neglect and often I was told thrive on negative energy, however grandmothers home was far from negative and I think that was an old wives tale, as grandmother would say. Grandmother had lot of stories and places she liked to visit on a routine basis, if it where apples there was her favorite orchids, if it was berries her favorite farm, so for African Violets her favorite greenhouse and every September she would take me to see the new verities and colors at Buell’s African Violets. I remember her driving the old Buick down the dirt road and into the gravel parking lot with rows of greenhouses in front of us and she would always say ” there we made it” how she would smile and take my hand to lead me to the first house with a door. I still remember the smell of soil and the moist warm air that surrounded us. Grandma, knew the owner and would chat about the new plants. She would say stay close and don’t touch just look. From time to time she would reach over the bench and clean a dead leaf or flower, looking closer at the many new pink or lavender flowers, she really loved seeing the new variations of color in the foliage and would often say to her self, ” to many choices”. Well it was a long, but fun day with grandma, as we pulled into her driveway at home and she would tell me there was one more thing we had to do before she got dinner on the table. We would go to the basement where she had a potting bench area near two large windows and a door leading into her gardens, here she would start seeds and tend to cuttings. She placed her large hand bag on the bench and asked me to gather the empty water glasses from the shelve, she had me place them in a row and then fill them with warm tap water. She would then cut squares of wax paper and cover each glass holding them down with elastic bands. With a pencil she would poke three to four holes in each one. Then she opened her hand bag and safely took out at least twelve or more African Violet leaves with stems and inserted them into the holes.
Now this was many years ago and grandma is no longer with us, so telling this story is safe, grandma was a good woman with a good heart and at the time for me that was grandma, after all there was always extra apples and berries, why not African violets. I’m note saying this was good and that you should do the same, it’s just a story of grandma.
I told you this story not only that with every time I see African Violets I think of her, but to also tell you this is one of the way you can propagate and reproduce new plants. It takes about a month or so, but the stems will send out roots and a new plant will begin to start. At this point pot the cutting and cover with a clear plastic bag with some holes in it for air flow, it acts like a small greenhouse.
Take some time this winter to explore your local nursery or greenhouse and see for yourself how wonderful these plants are with the many new miniatures and colors, purchase one and leave the propagation to the growers.
A thought; When one chooses a story to tell, let it be true to its self.
On December 27 Jan and I will celebrate 35 years together and as a testament to those years our Christmas tree reminds us where we started and what we have come too.
Thirty five years ago a young fresh out of school girl came to work in my rather very young company of flowers. Eager to learn and to be a part of something new, little did either of us know that our lives would be forever together.
As our talents grew so did the time She and I would spend together, long days and weeks turned into a friendship and a good understanding of each other. One day after working on a major event Jan thought, with the first free Saturday in June we had off that summer it would be fun to have a picnic lunch, she would select the meal and I the location. For me this was easy, find a beautiful garden, something we both loved. I decided The Elizabethan Rose Garden in Hartford Ct. It was a beautiful sunny morning I got just the right wine and picked Jan up with her picnic basket and headed off to the garden. We had a wonderful time and she made my favorite meal, fried chicken and everything that goes with it. I never thought that our lives together would be in a garden from then on.
Well as they say, shortly after that we fell in love and I asked her father for her hand in marriage. Smartest thing I ever did. Because it is Jan’s beauty and grace with loving care that keep the family together.
We choose December 27th because it was a down time in the business and gave us time to pull things together. When someone tells you creating your wedding day is easy, do it yourselves, don’t listen!
I wanted to give her a wedding gift that would remind us of the day yet something that wouldn’t become dated looking with time. While out on a last business buying trip in October, it came to me, sense her birthday is on Christmas an eight foot Christmas tree fully decorated in glass ornaments would be the perfect gift.
Well it snowed the night before the wedding covering everything in white. The morning of our wedding was sunny and everything sparkled, but it was very cold, as I remember my breath frozen in the air around me.
I can still see her on her father’s arm coming to me at the altar and I remember that kiss, I had placed lots of misletoe and white orchids with white roses and babies breath all around the altar.
Over the years she been there giving us two beautiful daughters, she planned all the family meals and trips she cares for all of us when we are ill, she cheered on our success and comforted us in our lesser hours. She saw to it that the family animals were cared for, and always stood by my side in the flower company keeping the books and designing when needed. All along the way we would purchase ornaments to remember the moments, we inherited many as well and our tree has become generational. We now have a tree that can’t hold all of our ornament but each year we choose the ones in the moment that touches our hearts more. It take me four hours to but our tree up and every moment is filled with the wonderful and loving life I have with this beautiful strong woman, that puts up with me and the grandchildren. Jan 35 years ago I gave you a tree and you have filled every bough with your love for us.
I love You with all of my heart♥
I woke to an overcast morning that looked very gray. It was a little later than usual, having had a series of early morning dreams.
I showered and got dressed for the day and after a light breakfast and a walk in the garden, I picked up my email and made my list of to do’s for the day. As most of my days are full of things to do.
This morning however seemed off, I didn’t feel like anything mattered whether things got done today or tomorrow it just didn’t matter. Now, this doesn’t happen to me, my days always start with my feet on the ground and running, there’s always a to do list. But that wasn’t to be the case for today.
I thought maybe some writing would help, that comes easy for me and it sometimes gets me thinking about things. All I could think about was a day alone and the quite it brings, now don’t get me wrong here, quite days aren’t a bad thing, but for some reason this was a lonely one.
My thoughts wonder and I hear things I’ve never noticed before. The quite of the day started to consume me. I was becoming very reflective and felt some fear, that somehow I was not allowed to do this, that a day alone filled with mindfulness wasn’t a good thing.
I tend to be all up in my head from time to time, so I reminded myself of that. I remembered that I had a few books to read and thought this was a good way to fill a quite day. As I started to read, I just couldn’t stay focused and became frustrated with myself. So I thought maybe I would finish a garden drawing design I was working on, then found myself just sitting at the drawing board thinking of everything but the drawing.
I wondered what was going on with me? Where was my day’s motivation, why were my thoughts all over the place?
Then in one quite moment of thought, as I sipped my coffee, it came to me, like a quite small whisper, let go – fly – it’s OK, so I lied down of the living room rug facing up, as I did as a young child. I let my thoughts go, I choose not to drive them but to just be aware of where they would take me.
It started with fears and flew through the clouds, brought me to tears and laughter out load. I rounded some mountains and swam in a sea. I saw family and friends some living some dead. I relived some sorrow and regrets and studied some hopes and some dreams. Time stood still and no longer existed. What seemed like forever, when it came to an end. I took some deep breaths and stood to my feet, I was a little light headed but felt well.
A day alone, feeling like nothing got done, what a waste I thought.
My day alone did however accomplished on thing, I learned how to fly again and to reconnect with me and all that I am. Maybe that a day in thought was the medicine I needed, it reminded me that it’s OK to be me. I am stronger and less fearful of thought. It opened my eye’s to the things I needed to see so that it is clearer as to where I need to be. That the rhythm of sounds that surround me is my world.
Thank – you for allowing me to share my day alone with you. I ask that you don’t read anything into it other than, it’s just who I am.
A thought; Except who you are, and be who you are, and be the best you, you can be.