Saturday, April 30, 2011

T is for Tulips

Tulips are the pentultimate sign that spring has finally arrived. The crocuses and the hyacinths hint toward it, but nothing is the same as those tulips.

I have dozens of varieties in my yard. They bloom from the early spring until early summer. I have every color imaginable. I don't believe in planting them in clumps of one color or color-coordinating. I like to see giant splashes of colors. This past fall, I added a couple hundred new tulip bulbs.

I fear that having been gone for two weeks, I will have missed some of them. But I also know that the season is just beginning and there will be plenty more to come.

Quick tip I learned from a fellow gardener: To keep your tulips popping up, one after the other, lay out your late bloomers first. Plant them in their holes, but don't cover them up. Place your mid-spring bloomers on top of those in the hole. Finally, add your early bloomers. Make sure each tip has space to grow straight up without being directly blocked by another bulb. Cover them all with dirt and enjoy your constant display in the spring!

S is for Snapdragons

Snapdragons are a beautiful annual. I love to use them in pots. I also used to use them in the actual flowerbeds each year. But then someone I knew who used to work in a nursery told me that they were actually harmful to nearby rosebushes. I have become much more wary of using them in the yard, then.

Photo by "aki_fukaki" on SXC

I would love to know if anyone has any insight into whether or not this is true. Thanks :-)

R is for Roses

I love roses. My very first garden came with a rosebush in it. In fact, that was the only plant in it. It's one of those old-fashioned ones that is a dark pink and only blooms in June. My next place had one, too. And when I got to my current house there were two of those in the yard, along the property line.

I quickly turned a small bed in the backyard into my mini rose bed. Mini roses are great fun, even though they pretty much only bloom at the beginning of the year.

I used the side of my garage as a big rose bush bed. I have also been fitting in more along the property line of the backyard. My goal would be for them all to grow together, as a sort of funky hedge. I realize now that it is going to be more work than I had originally anticipated. I am considering making that my major project for the summer.

Here is a picture of one of my favorite rosebushes. It is an orange and yellow mix that has a slight scent to it.

I prefer ones that are less common. It fits my personality. :-)

Q is for Quarreling

I have repeatedly mentioned how my father is the one who got me started in gardening. When I was a kid, I felt like his yard was a wonderland. I would spend hours outside playing amongst his plants. I loved to watch him plant, but was very rarely allowed to assist. If I did help, I had to follow very specific instructions. Dad's flowerbeds needed to be precisely what he had in mind. Looking back now, I realize that he had to have a manicured look out front, because it was the front of our home and my parents' business.

When I started to do my own gardening, I listened very carefully to what he had to say. Then, I started to branch out a bit. Dad would come over and make his suggestions. We would quarrel a little bit.

When he started to get sick, he often wanted me to come help work in his yard. The quarreling continued. I would help to fix something in a flowerbed or in a pot and he wouldn't like the way it was. As I continued to develop in my own gardening skills, though, he eventually realized that I knew what I was doing. He began to trust my ideas and knowledge.

Now I basically have carte blanche to do what is necessary in his yard to make it look nice. I often try to get his approval before I add something new. We definitely quarrel less about it.

P is for Perennials

I used to be opposed to perennials. When I first started I couldn't see the beauty in something that was green for most of the year and that you couldn't change regularly. Of course when I finally came around to the world of gardening, I had a very tiny bed. Then I added another tiny bed. And finally I added a third.

When I moved to a bigger place, I finally started putting in a couple of perennials. My first were a bunch of mini roses around a birdbath in the middle of the yard.

Finally, I moved to my current house. There was this annoying piece of grass between two sidewalks leading up to the house. My sister and I were living together and the time. She was in charge of mowing and asked if I could just turn that patch into a garden. It was the same day that I was going to ask her if she minded if I did that.

She had to go to work, but I have a persistent OCD personality. I spent that entire day digging it up by hand with a spade. Soon after that, my parents were scheduled to come out for a visit. I always considered my father to be a master gardener of sorts, even though he was really just as amateur as I am. But he taught me a lot to get started.

The week before they were due to come out, I fell and chipped an old break in my ankle. I had a walking cast and was told to just walk as I felt comfortable on it. When my parents came out, my father and I did a lot of shopping. He picked out a lot of perennials for me and gave me advice as to where to place them. Together we worked on that plot, with a little assistance from my mother and my sister and the neighborhood kids across the street. A couple of years later, it had filled in nicely. This is a picture from about May of 2009.

It continues to be my piece de resistance, and also my pain in the you-know-what. But every year I keep plugging away at it. I divide some, I add some, and I work on keeping it cleaned out. This has been the source of a lot of trial and error. But I have now found the fun in playing with perennials.

O is for Organic Gardening

I would love to do all organic gardening. I have gotten better over the years. I purchased organic compost last year to mix in with the vegetable garden. I never add pesticides. I know that I should end up buying all organic seeds or plants. But some of these "regular" plants just entice me too much!

And I do have to say that I love the Miracle-Gro stuff for the yard. Walmart even has a good generic brand. It's more affordable and it does a great job. And still nothing tastes better than produce freshly grown in the yard.

Baby steps, right?

Z to A in May: Blogging Challenge with a Twist

What? Another challenge? But you never finished this one!

No, I didn't. My father had to have brain surgery and has been in the ICU for over 2 weeks now. My extra writing time has been sucked up by trips to the hospital, conversations with the doctors, and updating family and friends. I've also been dealing with things with my mother who has Alzheimer's.

April has been a long, difficult month. But I vow to finish the blog posts for the original challenge and THEN I will try to work on this one. I think I can do it.

Join us!

N is for New Ideas

From where do you get your new ideas? I know some people like to do the same thing every year. They find an approach that works and they stick with it. I like to try something new each year.

So far, I haven't yet decided what that is going to be. I jumped the gun a bit and I bought a bunch of new varieties of tomato plants. I have been in Ohio as my father recovers from brain surgery. When I return to New York this weekend, I will be bringing home 16 new tomato plants. I know it is a little early to plant them at home, but that is what all of those old sheets are for! And I just cannot pass up new varieties of tomatoes to try.

But I feel like also trying something else. I just can't decide what that is going to be. I have toyed with the idea of planting potatoes in a giant trash barrel. I really, really, really want to try corn again, but those stupid raccoons will probably come back. I have a lot of new lilies that I bought, also. Most of them are bulbs, but I did also get three new plants. They will bloom way ahead of time this year, but that is okay.

I suppose that some of the new could simply be making new pots. I love to make new pots every year. I have a couple of perennial favorite ideas, but I never make the same one twice. I go to the greenhouses and load up the carts with grouped ideas. By the time I get home and unload, though, new ideas pop into my head. This is the creativity behind gardening that I adore so much.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

M is for Mulch

I used to hate mulch. I didn't understand why people wanted their flowerbeds to be all red or orange around colorful flowers. To me it always made the beds look fake and painted with artificial color.

Photo by Kathy Rathbun

Now that I have found the black mulch that looks more like the dirt, I am more likely to use it. I understand the benefits. It naturally decomposes and provides necessary nutrients. It helps the soil to better maintain the moisture and allows me to not have to weed quite as much. And it does just bring about a more natural and neatened look to the flowerbeds.

Photo copyright Andrea Coventry

Mulching has also been a good industry for me in the summers. No one wants to mulch their own yard, so I often get called in to weed and mulch. My favorite was the one year that I had to move a pile of mulch that was as tall as I was and probably eight feet wide. But I love the exercise that I get from it.

This year I finally started adding it to my other bigger beds. I found that last year when I was ill and couldn't get out into my yard very often that I very quickly had an overgrowth problem. I am not anticipating being ill like that again this year, but I don't want to have to deal with such a mess again. Plus it looks better. :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

K is for Killing Beetles

Apparently I can't remember my alphabet. Or, perhaps I shouldn't write blog posts in the middle of the night. I was writing a bunch the other night and completely skipped over K. I went from Japanese Maple (J) to Lilacs (L). Ah well. I've had a lot on my mind.

K is for killing beetles. Normally I don't mind bugs and beetles. I can handle having them here and there. But those stupid orangish beetles that insist on devouring my lilies every year just have to go!

I wish I could get a picture of the little buggers to show you what they look like. They are like an elongated ladybug that is a reddish orange. They swarm all over the leaves of lilies, but only the tall varieties like asiatics and Orientals. Any lily that resembles these is doomed to have its leaves chewed to a lacy pulp.

These stupid beetles lay their slimy black eggs in abundance on the undersides of the leaves. You can also usually only see them if you gently turn over a leaf. To get rid of them you can only pick them off with your bare fingers and squish them. And you pretty much have to use your fingernails because they have such a hard shell. It is a little gross. But it is also kind of relaxing.

I have tried different pesticides. I have begged at all of the local nurseries for help. Supposedly there was only one that actually worked, but it was so strong that it had to be discontinued.

I don't like to use pesticides. They aren't good for me. They aren't good for the environment. I have a dog who plays in my yard. And the neighborhood kids are often in my yard, also.

But what else to do to save my lilies?

Monday, April 25, 2011

L is for Lilacs

I live in Rochester, which is the lilac capital of the world. In fact, we annually host the world-renowned Lilac Festival every year. People come from afar to wander Highland Park to look at the beautiful blooms while listening to a variety of music and to purchase artisan goods.

(Photo by Shannon Pifko)

Alas, I am allergic to those beautiful blooms.

I love their smell. I love the way they look. I even have purple and white lilac bushes in my yard. But I cannot be around a lot of them without having a serious problem.

I remember sitting at one staff meeting where someone had brought in an entire bouquet. After about a half hour, I had to hang my head out the window. Another time, we were doing a scavenger hunt around the city and ended up running through Highland Park. I had my first attack that seemed like an asthma attack. I couldn't breathe and had to sit down to catch my breath, then get away from the blooms. Any time I am around several lilacs, I cough and can't breathe. It breaks my heart because they are so beautiful.

J is for Japanese Maples

The Japanese maple is probably my favorite tree. One of my neighbors has fourteen different varieties in his backyard. Considering the small lot size of living in the city, that is extra impressive.

My father bought me my very first Japanese maple, for when I put in the large side bed.

Later I added one that has more delicate leaves, but I'll be darned if I can find a picture of it right now.

Last summer I was ecstatic when I found a nursery that comes to the Rochester Public Market. The man always had different varieties of Japanese maples, and they were quite affordable. I bought four new kinds. One was a green version with those lacy leaves. Another one had green leaves that looked like the one in the picture. Another one had green leaves that turn red in the fall. And the fourth one was a combination of red and green leaves. I had dreams of planting them all over the yard.

And then I got sick.

I never did get those trees planted. They stayed in their pots all winter long. I didn't even winterize them. Last time I checked, a couple of weeks ago, they weren't budding at all. Then again, it was still kind of early. But I fear that they didn't make it. A couple of them seemed really dried out and quite dead. It is kind of depressing.

I guess I had better start saving up and hope my "friend" is at the market again!

I is for Irises

Ah, Irises. When I think of them, I am again transported back to my childhood. I know my father had a bunch in his yard. But more of my memories are from studying Van Gogh in my art class in Montessori elementary. We studied this Van Gogh painting and had to make our own reproductions.

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I knew that my grandmother loved irises, so I gave it to my mother to give to her. She proudly displayed it on the wall in her room of the nursing home. I always felt proud when I went to visit her and saw it up there.

When she passed away from Alzheimer's, I remember asking my mother if I could please have my painting back. In fact, I cried and pleaded. Mom told me that they had given it to someone else to enjoy. Translation: It was probably thrown away.

Since then, every time I see irises, I think about my grandmother. I love the purple color and I love the warm and fuzzy memories. But I have never put them in my yard.

Irises have an incredible bloom, but they fade away so soon. And all you are left with are those pointy leaves. I love different kinds of leaves, but the leaves of the iris just don't do it for me.

I keep considering planting some along the back side of my house or along the back side of my garage. That way I can be sure to enjoy them while the blooms are there, but won't be so bothered by the left-behind leaves.

Otherwise, I'm just going to stick with Van Gogh.

H is for Hyacinths

Hyacinths truly make me happy in the spring garden. Once those start to bloom, you can be sure that [most] of the snow is behind you. You may still experience one or two weird snow showers (at least in Upstate NY) but spring has really arrived.

I love the little bursts of so many mini flowers on one stalk. Even from a distance, those little bursts and details can be quite intense.

The blue/purple hyacinth is of course my favorite.

But I do have several different colors in my yard. I just don't have pictures of them all.

When I was a kid, grape hyacinths were my favorites. I was fascinated by how they looked like little bunches of grapes. I think I even believed that they were grapes. I would spend hours in my dad's garden just staring at them.

I can still spend hours sitting in my own garden now, staring at them and inhaling the lilac-like scent of all of the hyacinths.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

G is for Geranium

People traditionally use those red geraniums when they are making pots. You've seen them: tall red flowers with the green spikes and the trailing green ivy. They are quite lively, but for my unique style of gardening, they just don't fly.

I use geraniums on occasion when I am making pots. Usually I use those tall pink ones, instead. It depends on were I am setting up pots, though.

The geraniums that I truly love are the ivy geraniums. They get larger and larger every year and cascade over my rocks. My favorite one is a deep bluish purple, but I have a couple of new ones that are pink, lavender, and magenta. I don't think they will grow quite as big, but they are still pretty. And they are traditionally a hardy perennial on which you can count each year.

This picture shows the blue geranium with my white peony in 2010. I can't wait until they are blooming together!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

F is for Ferns

I love ferns. When I was a little kid there was a shaded part of our property where the ferns seemed to grow as tall as I was. I always felt like I was getting lost in them and wound around the short path. There is something about the texture that is appealing to my fingers. I also just love the way the foliage looks.

My mom always had a Boston fern in the house. In later years she also started to grow asparagus ferns. I tend to get at least one of each every summer to hang on my front porch, which faces north.

My favorite ferns, though, are the Japanese ferns. Yes, it is because their leaves have a silvery purple tint and purple is my favorite color. They are just absolutely stunning, and I have several stuck in all around my house. Here is a photo of one from Spring 2009:

It's still too early in the season for there to by much in the way of my ferns in my garden. But when I was out hiking in the woods the other day, I noticed some ferns starting to perk up! Within a week or two, I would imagine they will be upright again.

Just seeing the foliage is reassuring that spring is indeed going to arrive to Upstate NY, even though we have more of that s-word in the forecast.....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

E is for Easter Lily

I love lilies. I have several in my yard every year, but of course they don't bloom until the summer. At this time of year, I get teased by the Easter lilies that are out. (This photo is by Jasmine Noor on SXC.)

Every year, someone at work ends up giving me one. It always feels too early to plant it outside, because in April I haven't yet had a chance to do anything to the soil. So, they end up rotting in their pots, and seem to never come back. So, my question for the world is, can you actually plant an Easter lily and have it come back? Should I go ahead and do it, even though we continue to get snow on occasion until May? Any tips would be quite welcome!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

D is for Daffodils, Dahlias, and Daisies

I love daffodils. I have pointed you to my slideshows in previous posts, so you can find them there. My daffodils haven't yet started to bloom this year, so I have no new pictures to put up. This is one that I took from last year's photos:

Usually the daffodils come before the tulips, but I have one tulip that always comes up before the daffodils. This morning, I went out to photograph my crocuses in the bright sunshine, and the first of those tulips had opened! I hope to have some daffodils, soon!

I also love to use dahlias in my yard. Usually, I use them in pots. They bring a ray of sunshine to the yard. I think you can sometimes dig them up and keep them in the basement or something, so that they come back from year to year, but I have never tried it. Here is someone else's picture of an orange dahlia, the kind I like to use every year. Photo: Stefan Wagner,

I also like my daisies. I am so annoyed that I can't find my favorite picture right now. A few years ago, I happened to catch my Shasta daisies in full bloom, with filtered sunshine leaving shadows on them. It is seriously one of the best pictures I have ever taken. Maybe one of these days I will find it and post it.

In its place, I will include this picture from Tiffany Clark on SXC, to help show which flower I mean.

I have Shasta daisies in my large side bed, which is primarily perennials. I don't like how they seem to take over the bed every year. But, I have also noticed that by the time they do take over, pretty much everything else is gone, anyway.

My other favorite daisy is the Gerber daisy. They literally make me happy. I cannot help but smile every time I see one. Again, I often use them in pots, and I do not have a picture of one handy. I got this one from Kathleen M at SXC.

Mmmmmm....writing about all of these flowers is making me even more anxious for spring and summer. We were blessed with a sunny day at almost 70 degrees. We haven't reached these temperatures in about six months. Hoping we don't get a May snow like last year!

Do you use these flowers in your yard? What are your favorites?

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Crocuses

Originally, I was planning for this post to be "C is for Clean-Up." I was also planning on working in the yard yesterday. I woke up at 6:45, which is absolutely unheard of for me on the weekends. I did a little A to Z Challenge blog reading and suddenly felt like I was going to keel over. I got back into bed and slept for another four hours. Again, napping is unheard of for me.

Alas, when I woke up, not only could I not find my contacts case, which I had somehow knocked under the bed in my sleep, but also had a raging headache. This is why I do not nap.

I went outside and was happy to see that the sun had encouraged my crocuses to open. Usually I only get a chance to see my crocuses first thing in the morning or when I get home in the evening. The sun is never shining on that bed at those times, so they always seemed to be closed.

So, blind as a bat, and with a raging headache, I grabbed the Droid anyway, and took several pictures. They weren't too shabby for someone who couldn't see!

I haven't yet uploaded all of the pictures from yesterday to my computer. But, I did make a couple of slideshows on Yahoo! Contributor Network of some of them from earlier in the week. Please feel free to visit these following links, as well, as I make a fraction of a penny every time you visit. Stay tuned, as these will eventually also go up on RedGage with some of my other photos, and I will be creating a few more slideshows!

Yellow Crocuses in March 2011

Purple Crocuses in March 2011

Striped Purple Crocuses March 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Bulbs

I love bulbs. I first put in several hundred bulbs about 6 years ago, when my sister and I were still living together. Many of them have continued to come up each year. And every fall, I try to add a few more. I get all excited in the spring, as the snow ebbs and flows, when those green leaves start to poke up through the dirt and snow. That means that spring is really coming, and color will once again abound in the outdoors.

This past summer, I wasn't physically capable of doing a lot of gardening. But by fall, I was finally getting better. I purchased at least 300 bulbs, and planted them all in one day. This was probably one of the longest winters ever, both due to weather, and the fact that I cannot wait to see the dramatic display! For the past few weeks, I have been taking pictures of the growing bulbs. I have some new crocuses blooming, and I can see the leaves of the first hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils.

Among my bulbs, I have several primroses. They add some color to the ground, where the bulbs tend to be a little higher. In about a month, the tulips will be poking out of some forget-me-nots, as well.

Remember to keep track of what you have planted where. That way you can plan for an even more spectacular showing next year. I have some hints in the article Start Planning Next Year's Spring Garden This Spring.

I also love to photograph my bulbs. Here are some links to my slideshows from other years. And stay tuned for more from this year!

Glimpses of the Garden 2010

Signs of Spring: Tulips 2010

Spring 2010 Leaves

Hyacinths 2010

Daffodils 2010

Primroses 2010

Spring Tulips 2007

Daffodils and Narcissus 2007

Spring Hyacinths 2007

Springtime Garden Display 2007

You can see even more pictures, from the entire season, and other photographs, on my RedGage profile.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Annuals

Ah, I am dreaming of summer. I can't wait to dig my hands into the dirt, to be filthy every day, and to breathe in the aroma of flowers in the garden. My teaching neighbor taunted me today, by giving me a white oriental lily from a bouquet she received from one of her students. I love white oriental lilies. I have a slideshow about them. But that is not the point of this post....

I chose annuals for "A" because I just love them so much. Every year, you can recreate your garden space with them. They add constant color to the garden, throughout the entire season. And they are ever so lovely in pots.

I think that making pots is my favorite gardening activity each year. I always hit up a few of my favorite nurseries on one day. I make up pot ideas as I put the flowers into my cart. And then, when I get home, I create something even more magnificent that I had originally imagined.

I spend hours working in my driveway, putting together at least a dozen pots just for the front porch steps, alone. I also supplement with pots in the front flower bed and on the bench in the side flower bed. Some years, I have even decorated the driveway with annuals in pots.

I also use annuals in the small bed that runs along the side of the house. During the spring, it is full of bulbs. Perennials just don't make sense there. As soon as I am able, I like to add annuals in between the tulips. My favorites to put there are a variety of petunias, alyssum, and lobelia. I also like to use these along the edges of the side bed. I love how the lobelia just spills over the sides, in between the rocks.

In the front, which faces north, I am a huge fan of impatiens. I like to edge the bed with those, as the perennials will quickly fill in the remaining space. Again, whatever blank areas are left behind, I fill in with annuals in pots.

I also have a little mini-bed in the back, at the corner where my rose bushes meet. There is a peony there, but I also like to cram in a bunch of sun-loving annuals. That is where I plant my hollyhocks, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, and portulaca.

I love buying the flowers, already blooming, from the local nurseries. But that can be quite expensive. Every year, I experiment with growing some from seed. I haven't yet started shopping for seeds this year, though they have been available since January. It's April now, so it is time to start thinking!

This year, I hope I am feeling up to doing more planting. I can usually whip out a few good things in one day, so maintenance will be the tricky part. We shall see how it goes! And I will post pictures throughout the season, or at least link to my slideshows. :-)