Posts Tagged ‘garden’

First of all, in case you didn’t know, I take a relaxed approach to gardening. What that means is if something sprouts up that I don’t recognize, I don’t immediately pull it out. As you might imagine, this leads to a garden that gives the impression of, well, I call it natural, you may call in barely controlled chaos. It also leads to some pleasant surprises.

This spring, a plant began growing in one of my containers. Because of the leaf pattern, I assumed it was larkspur, which I had planted there the year before, but which did not appreciate the forced neglect my entire garden suffered almost all of last year due circumstances beyond my control. That’s the long way of saying it died. I thought perhaps it has managed to drop a few seeds before passing and was glad for the second chance.

It soon became obvious that the flowers were white. Although I’d planted the purple variety of larkspur, it was a hybrid and they don’t seed true to their parent. However, once this flower bloomed, it became obvious it was not a larkspur. So, after studying it for a bit, I went to the container where I keep my seeds. I even keep empty packets of flowers I love. Sure enough, there it was. A flower I had planted 2 years ago, but had never come up.

Meet Nigella–Hot Fudge Sundae (Give you two guesses at the double reason I picked this flower)

Nigella grows in full sun, but I have it planted in a container where it gets about seven hours of sun and is sheltered from the afternoon heat, which is necessary in my climate. This flower only gets more interesting the older it becomes. The flower that is centered in the picture is the developing seed pod. Yes, these will go in my fall flower arrangements. I don’t think they’re stamens, but those long projections begin to twist soon after the flower opens and they look like ram horns by the time the flower is full grown. This is an annual, but it self seeds, so I’ll save a few seeds and see if maybe we can have a repeat performance next year.

Because it is an annual, you can grow it wherever you live. It, obviously, blooms in early spring, and after doing a little more research, I found out it will bloom until the first frost—providing I can protect it from zone 9 heat. Each of the flowers pictured have been blooming for at least 2 weeks. The one in the middle that is developing into a seed pod bloomed 4 weeks ago.

This plant is also called Love-in-a-Mist, Lady-in-the-Green, and Jack-in-the-Bush. Why all the hyphenated names? You got me.

Next year, I think I’ll pair it with something vibrant and orange, like California poppies or nasturtiums.

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When we moved into this house, the garden was pretty much a blank slate. The picture on the bottom left is the ‘before’ picture to the one you see above in the header.



What was here was overgrown: IMGP3164_resize






That first summer was a killer but I got the yard cleaned up and ready to plant. Being the organized person I am, I pulled out the

grid paper, measured and sketched everything out. I planned this garden down to color, shape, texture and amount of sun. For the most part, I love how it turned out. Even so, it’s the surprises, the things I didn’t expect, that I like the most.

IMGP4818This is an enterprising nasturtium (that I didn’t plant this year) growing up my Bird of Paradise.



IMGP4816And here is another one mixing with a petunia. This is the front bed where I plant annuals. Last year I planted this nasturtium because I was going with yellow and orange to contrast with the purple and orange bird of paradise. This year, as the bird doesn’t flower so much in the summer, I went with purple and white with a little pink thrown in for good measure. 




 There are always volunteers in the garden and I like to give them a chance. On my own, I tend not to take risks, even in the garden. I like predictable and routine but I’m reminded without risk, you’re missing out on great things. Some of the best and most beautiful things aren’t planned. I admire that nasturtium so I’ll leave it, even if it isn’t a part of this year’s plan.  Orange and purple? Never… and look at it. I think it’s a wonderful combination of color.

Is it hard for you to step out of your comfort zone? Do you think it’s been worth when you’ve done it in the past?

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Weekend Gardener

 The year before last (our first year in the house) I planted three tomatoes; I was inundated with fruit. I couldn’t keep up and several rotted on the vine. I hate that. Last year I planted two. I think I may have gotten half a dozen tomatoes and not from the plants I planted but from a wild tomato from afore mentioned rotten fruit. The two plants I’d purchased suffered from blossom drop. I decided this lack of productivity was due either to the plants themselves being poor specimens or the wildly variant weather conditions.

Last fall, I started my compost heap on the place where I’d plant the tomatoes, just in case my soil had something to do with the poor performance. I rotate my vegetables every year so they are not growing in the same spot two years in a row. This year, I only planted two tomato plants, but with high hopes of productivity. 




Yes, these were the same size when I planted them. The one on the right, Beefcake, gets about 2 1/2 hours more sun than the one on the left. Oddly enough, though, the one on the left, Roma, has four tiny tomatoes. The Beefcake? Blossom drop. Not a single fruit. I’ve been keeping it pinched back but I’m wondering if its spending its energy on growth instead of fruit production. I’m thinking about cutting it way back… any suggestions?

BTW. In the background, you can see my potato plants coming up. I’m kind of excited about fresh potatoes. There is something about digging them up, washing them off and eating them…. must be my Irish ancestry because when I was writing that, it sounded odd even to me. To the right I have zucchini and peas. I love peas off the vine. Brings me right back to when I lived in western Washington. I still have a lot of lettuce and I’m letting some of it go to seed so I can have lettuce next year too. : )

We are still picking strawberries. The plants are producing more flowers so we’ll have them into June. The neighbor’s black berry vines (that I let hang over the fence for just this purpose) are giving us about 5 berries/a day which are a nice little treat. Blueberries almost ripe… those that survived Hurricane D4 anyway. Plums have a blush of color but the apricots and peaches are still green.

I’m actually looking forward to canning this year… of course, check back with me when it’s 105 outside and I have three trees to pick before the fruit rots on the tree… I might have changed my mind. : )

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How hot was it today?

IMGP4789When the rosebuds begin to wilt before they’ve even bloomed: It’s hot.

IMGP4787The dianthus isn’t too perky today.


Do you remember water from the hose? I have a confession. The first picture I took of her like this she didn’t have on a shirt. I thought it was adorable so I grabbed a shirt, put it on her and said, Okay, take another drink. She looked at me kind of strange but she did it. What a sport. : )

IMGP4791Sarah and Meow, kickin’ it in the shade.

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 In fact, looking forward to taking a shower and getting out of the house. There is the requisite grocery shopping of course (kids insist on eating whereas I could live on coffee, toast and the occasional sandwich) but I want to go to the garden store and buy some bedding plants too. Flowers make me happy so I’ll indulge myself and beautify the world in one swoop. I love multi-tasking.

I still haven’t cleaned out the pond and I don’t think I’ll do it this weekend either. (poor fish) We have enough bacteria and viruses around here already thank you, I don’t need to stand in a pool of them.

Kids are still coughing and D4 has a runny nose but they are definitely on the road to recovery. I expect there will be some resistance on Monday (there always is), but they are all going to school.

The silver lining of being sick is that I’ve had lots of time to sit in front of the computer and work. My mom and sister came during the week to watch the kids so I could rest (and I did) but I also did a lot of editing. Unless I’m really sick, it’s hard for me to sit in bed and do nothing so I compromise and lay in bed and work, or read. I also watched a few of the many movies I’ve been given. Just in case you’re interested, Joe Dirt wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I liked The Virgin Suicides but Better Than Chocolate… the editor in me kept throwing up weak plot red flags.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

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Weekend Gardener

One of my faults/strengths is that I’m a jack of all trades. This wouldn’t be a bad thing except the second part of that phrase which haunts me.  And so, when I decided to write a blog, I couldn’t choose what exactly I wanted to blog about. Parenting? Writing? Gardening? They are all a big part of my life and I’m very interested in all of them. So I decided to just blog about my life—which would contain all three– hence the name.

Yesterday, as I was gardening and determined to spend the weekend gardening, I thought about several articles I’d written for a website that never came into being and so I decided to publish one. The MC in my series is a healer and as research, I poured over the different uses for herbs and found the information valuable.

So, below you will find the modified article. When I wrote it, I must have been going for professional because it sure was… stiff. : ) I’d change it more but I want to get to my favorite store: Home Depot.


 With its distinctive purple flower spikes and unmistakable fragrance, lavender is probably one of the most recognizable herbs. It’s also one of the most versatile and its use dates back thousands of years.

The word ‘Lavender’ comes from Latin and means Lavare or to wash and it does have antiseptic properties. In fact, during WW2, lavender was used not only to dress wounds but to disinfect floors. (And you thought putting in our cleaners was a new decision)

Most of us are familiar with lavender as potpourri but the leaves are also an insect repellent and I read not too long ago, about a woman who used tied bunches of lavender to stop algae from growing in her bird bath. I tried this in my pond with less success.

 Healers and herbalists have used lavender as an antispasmodic, a diuretic, a sleep tonic and as a remedy against headaches. I can attest to its effectiveness in two ways: I‘ve always been a bit of an insomniac and keep a vial of lavender spray by my bed to help me relax. Lavender oil is also the prime ingredient in a lotion I rub on my temples when I have a headache. It seems almost miraculous to me how fast it works.

Lavender is also a culinary herb, which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s a member of the mint family. Lavender flowers add beautiful color to salads, it can substitute for rosemary in some recipes and you can add it to sugar for use in cakes, buns or custards. The spikes look beautiful in a glass of champagne or as a garnish for sorbets or ice cream. It also lends itself to stew dishes or sauces. Really the uses are only limited by the chef’s imagination.

Two cautions: dried lavender is more potent than fresh and never use lavender from florists or nurseries as it could have been treated with pesticides.

There are several types of lavender: Spanish, French or English and less common ones such as Fern-leaf lavender. English lavender has the sweetest fragrance and is most commonly used in cooking. French or Spanish lavender is better for crafts and dried arrangements. If you grow lavender, and I recommend you do, make sure it has sandy well drained soil. If you have clay soil, add a considerable amount of sand; a raised bed helps too. If the lavender gets too much water, it will die. In my first real garden, I had a bed of lavender and mint… it was a joy to weed. And though I confined the mint to a container, one of the first plants that I bought when we moved into our new house was lavender. I grouped it with Black Eyed Susan, Daisy and Echinacea and it’s still a joy to weed. Every time I walk past the plant, I run my hands over the flowers.

Whether you use lavender in your linen closet, as a tonic or in your stew, it’s a valuable, versatile herb no herbalist or gardener should be without.

Below is my lavender plant from last march.  Unfortunately, the dynamic of my perennial bed changed last fall and this plant received way to much water and died. Yes, I’m sad. But I will buy another…today.


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but the main, important story progressing scenes are all done. Just shy of 65,000 words and if I wasn’t so tired I’d be yelling YIPPEE! It’s so much easier to type than yell. : ) My mom (don’t have a nickname for her except mom) took D4 for three hours, I was going to say glorious but I don’t want you thinking that I don’t love my little munchkin, I do. 

Tomorrow I’ll do some literary spackle work and finish editing some of SO’s bits and pieces for the new book. He has an interview coming out. My goal is to learn how to put a link in the body of a post by the time it’s published.

Bit of other news. D4 and I picked two large buckets full of tangerines and oranges and spent an hour or so juicing them. 64 oz of oj is now in the process of freezing in my freezer  (I’m thinking I’ll try to save it to make orange sorbet this summer but we’ll see) We had our fill of juice and orange and the kitchen smelled divine. We also picked a wheel barrel full of grapefruit but that’s still outside. I really wish I knew someone who liked it. And my trees are still dotted with orange and yellow balls most of them so high I can’t reach them with the ladder. Sigh. I’ve wonderful tool but as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, citrus doesn’t like to be picked… the  fruit picking pole (I don’t know it’s proper name) has little tines on it like a bent fork. The idea is to catch these tines on the fruit and pull it from the tree.  It doesn’t always work with the oranges or the grapefruit. Picture this, you get a hold of a big juicy looking orange about the size of a soft ball, you pull, it doesn’t come off, you pull harder, now you’re putting your entire weight behind it and the branch is bending at almost a 90 degree angle  but the fruit still refuses to budge. So you decide to let the fruit go before the branch breaks, damaging your tree. But when you do that, it causes the tension in the branch to spring back the other way, this finally shocks the orange into letting go and so it goes flying in the opposite direction, like into your neighbor’s pool….

Yeah, we’ll call that adventures in orange picking.  Did I mention I’m tired and probably not making any sense?

One more thing, when we were out working in the yard, Mr turtle showed up. I don’t know where he’s been or what’s he’s been doing but he has complete amnesty as long as he continues eating my snails. We were going to call him Claws, but although that’s descriptive, its not a very good name. Any ideas? I’m open. Thought you might like to see one of my grapefruit trees.


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My garden

Today is the day I’ve set aside to (finally) go outside and tend to my garden. I really need to get the sweet peas planted and start the lettuce/spinach before much longer. My garden takes up much of my mental/physical energy but I think it gives back as much as it takes. One of my favorite things to do is walk the perimeter and note the changes in the plants from season to season and day to day. If you pay attention, most plants have character, like people, only silent. I like that too. I have enough voices going on inside my head, sometimes I need the silence.

I am one of the people who tends to personify things. I’ll be the crazy old lady at the end of the block who talks not only to her cats, but her begonias. Where I live, gardening is a round the year pursuit and although I may complain from time to time or even despair of keeping up, particularly in June, July, I love it.

When we moved into this house, there were eight fruit trees, a sickly azalea, two birds of paradise and a clump of Canna (SO saved the Canna. I consider them messy weeds–but in this case, he was right, they’ve stayed put and are quite pretty) and the rest was a wonderful blank slate which I filled with enthusiasm and many charts and graphs (which I’ve filed and havent’ looked at in a year at least)

 Five of the trees I love; three I only tolerate. Two of those are grapefruit, I don’t like grapefruit and these trees are prodigious producers of the large melon like fruit. Seriously, don’t stand under the trees when the fruit  fall, you could get a concussion. Of course the fruit aren’t suppose to fall, but have you ever tried to pick citrus? You can’t, you have to cut it and I also don’t like heights very much. I recently discovered just how good grapefruit juice is for you so I’ve begun drinking a glass almost every morning (like a shot of whiskey) I’ve been very tempted to cut one of the trees down because even with the juice consumption, who needs two trees of fruit I don’t like to eat? The problem? These trees have character and I spent too much of my childhood in Narnia. But really, the symmetry and elegance of the one most likely to be cut, is something I really do enjoy just standing and observing, like a work of art.

The third tree is avocado. And no, I don’t want to hear how wonderful avocado is, I don’t like it.  And the avocado, well, only 5 fruit last year and as I’ve been looking at almond trees with something like greed, it better get busy or else. Actually, the Avocado shades the area I designated for my vegetable garden, a cardinal no no.  It also drops its leaves at odd times during the year into my little koi pond. Another no no. Did I know how much work I was getting myself into when I said, lets dig a pond? NO.  Logically, the tree should go, but it survived a hellish winter when everyone said it would die and well, it seemed like it would and it didn’t. Seems a shame to kill it now, right? I’ll keep you posted on that one because I may change my mind, probably next spring when I’m trawling the fish pond.

The last five trees are plum, apricot, peach, orange and tangerine. And so far, I love them each in a different way. I’m exploring all kinds of recipes, havent’ tried most of them out, but I have a file. I also have fresh juice any time I want it during the cold months and almost year around, when the kids want a snack, I can tell them to go pick one. Nice. Did try making fruit rolls ups… er, um, don’t think I’ll try that one again, there’s a reason it’s also called fruit leather.

It’s the almost year around  thing that is getting me in trouble. January is seed/plant catalog month and I’ve been getting my share. Besides looking at the interesting vegetables (do you know there are multi-colored carrots?… do you think the kids would eat them, I mean out of curiosity?) I’ve been looking at blueberry bushes. I have one and had no idea how much I liked blueberries. I’ve only ever had store bought. I’d like another. Mine ripens in early May, about the same time as strawberries. Yum, first fresh fruit of the year. I have Top Hat, which is an ornamental, 18″ or so. I’d like one that’s about 4′, more berries, maybe enough to freeze. And then I saw the apple trees, the columnar apple trees. Lets face it, I don’t have room for more full size trees unless I take out the perennial garden and I won’t. Apples ripen in Sept/Oct, between the fruit and citrus. Joy! Perfect! Wait! More work, do I dare? The verdict is still out on that one.

Did I mention I bought a banana tree? Yes, for the patio. Home grown bananas. It will be here in a few months so I have time to prepare. Some women buy shoes on impulse, I buy plants.

And now, Id’ better put on some warm clothes, grab my shovel and well, dig, fertilize and plant to my heart’s content.

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