Sunday, May 29, 2011

Expectations of the Yard

Every year I make these grandiose plans for my gardens. And in the past I have been able to carry many of them out. I like to add a few perennials to spice up the old beds and to slowly fill in new ones. I fill my front steps with my own creations in pots. I fill the narrow vegetable garden strip next to my driveway as well as numerous pots. I relish in digging my hands in the dirt as I transfer my stress and worries. But my gardening expectations have had to switch around due to circumstances out of my control.

Last year I had the same big plans for the yard. I got a little delayed in starting the veggie garden because of working. I had the girl I babysit for help me hoe the bed and mix in the compost. We even started planting together. I love to plant with kids and to pass on the knowledge and legacy left to me from my great-grandmother through my parents.

I had been battling recurring cysts since March and was often in pain. I figured if I took it slow, I could still get in a lot of planting. But then the girl and I went hiking and one of those cysts burst. I wasn't in immediate danger and my surgery was scheduled six weeks out. But I was in a lot of pain. Slower movements meant less ability to work and many of my days were spent either sitting and reading or sitting and writing or sitting and tutoring. I managed to squeeze out a handful of tomatoes, beans, and peas and plant a few annuals, but that was it.

After my surgery, I had a long healing process, but still managed to get out and plant a few hundred bulbs. New expectations of a great yard were born.

This past April, my life changed forever. My mother had to go into a nursing home for her Alzheimers. My father, who had fallen and hit his head when out and about getting Mom situated, finally sought help for his headaches when bronchitis overwhelmed his COPD. He had to have brain surgery and is still hospitalized and relatively nonresponsive. Now instead of playing in my own yard, I have to spend a lot of time at the hospital and talking to doctors, and yes, trying to make my living. I had purchased sixteen tomato plants in April, but they are still sitting and waiting to be planted. The only peas I am going to get are the seeds that randomly started growing this year after not germinating last year. My bulbs were beautiful but I don't know if/when anything else will get done. The weeds are starting up again.

I have a friend helping me mow the lawn, because I am allergic to the freshly cut grass. I am sure he will help me with the weeding. I guess my expectations this year need to simply become maintenance of what I have and I will try again next year.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

GBE 2 Challenge

Yes, it is another blogging challenge. Now that I have finally completed the April challenge (by May 22nd), I can start to think about the next ones.

GBE2 is a revival of an old blogging challenge that had been on MySpace. It stands for Group Blogging Experience. Bloggers who participate in the group are given a weekly prompt that they must somehow incorporate into their blogs. You do not have to participate every week.

I have no idea if any of the prompts will ever fit in with the gardening theme, but you never know! So, I am going to leave the option available for this blog and we shall see what happens. Stay tuned for the tag GBE2!

Z is for Zazzle

I have finally caved and started a Zazzle store. It is called AndisGardening and features photos from my gardening adventures. I chose the name so that it can be connected to this blog.

As of right now, I only have pictures of the crocuses up, featured as greeting and note cards. Eventually, I will have all of my crocuses posted, and will turn the photos into some other products. Other flowers will follow, including my wide variety of tulips and lilies. Some day I would even like to create classroom materials using those photographs.

Please visit the store and let me know what you think!

Y is for Yarrow

The first time that I saw yarrow growing in my father's yard, I was confused as to why he would have a weed growing. The perennial yarrow plant closely resembles the weed commonly known as Queen Anne's Lace. I have always found Queen Anne's Lace to be beautiful but had never known my father to purposely include a weed in his garden.

Daddy quickly corrected me and commented that it was a different, yet similar-looking plant. That meant I had to be extra careful when trying to help him with weeding.

Dad always had the yellow variety of yarrow growing in his yard. I think it was his nod to our British heritage, as it is commonly seen in English gardens.

Photo by Evelyn Simak on Wikimedia Commons

It is not necessarily my favorite flower, but I will say that I find the pink variety somewhat attractive.

Photo by Matt Rogers on Wikimedia Commons

The white variety is pretty, but too closely resembles its weed counterpart.

X is for Xeranthemum

I have to admit that I had to do a little research to find a plant appropriate for "x." I came up with Xeranthemum. It is a purple flower that grows in southern Europe as an annual. The fact that it is my favorite color makes it worth looking at more closely.

Photo copyright Kajetan Dzier┼╝anowski on Wikimedia Commons

It reminds me of an annual that I like to use in my yearly pots. Of course, I cannot remember its name off the top of my head, but I know how to pick it out every year. The flower of which I am thinking comes in this purple, as well as a peach and a white, with a purple eye in the center. They all resemble daisies, only have little to no odor. They are simply beautiful.

W is for Wisteria

Wisteria is one of the most beautiful late spring/early summer flowers I have ever seen. Ok, part of it is because I am a purple fiend. But it also has a pungent, relaxing, welcoming odor to add to its purple majesty.

Photo by Lenda Sar on SXC

My first up close and personal experience with wisteria was in a client's yard. She grew hers as a tree off the back porch. I have also seen it as a vine growing across people's balconies and store awnings.

I would love to plant it in my yard, but I have a couple of reservations. The first is that I fear having a problem with the smell. I love the smell, but I also love the smell of lilacs. Unfortunately, I have an allergy to lilacs. I am okay with the two small bushes in my own yard, but bring them in and my chest constricts and I wheeze.

My other concern is the number of bees I always see buzzing around them. I know that they aren't concerned with me, but they still make me nervous. I'll just continue to enjoy them from afar.

V is for Violets

How do you feel about violets in the yard? I get excited when I first see them, becaue I know that summer is actually coming. I saw my first violets in mid-April when I was out hiking in a local woods.

Image copyright Andrea Coventry

A little bit later, I started to see the violets in the lawn. This morning while I was out checking on the plants, I noticed a large clump in the front bed. I know many people think of them as weeds. But I find the purple color to be beautiful. And you can do so much with violets! I remember a friend of my mother's bringing us some violet jelly. It had a magenta color and was sweet, though not really fruity. I really liked it. My friend also said she makes violet-infused vinegar as well as some kind of marinade.

I have never gotten around to making any of these. Unfortunately, violets seem to peak when I am deep in the throes of parent-teacher conferences for the end of the year. By the time I know that I have time to collect and make something with the violets, they are gone. Perhaps one of these years?

U is for Upside-Down Tomatoes

I keep seeing those ads for the Topsy Turvy and other upside-down tomato planting devices. I just don't understand them. How can you possibly convince a plant to grown down toward the ground when its instinct is to reach up for the sun?

I love to plant tomatoes every year and to try out different varieties. I have about 15 different varieties waiting to be planted as we speak. But I always put mine into pots and get lucky enough to try out a few of each variety. I cannot fathom using one of those weird planters, nor do I know where it would go in my yard.

Photo by jarsem on SXC

My mother grew a lot of tomatoes. Her family provided some of the supply for Campbell's Soup or Heinz or something, I think. She tells stories of planting those millions of plants in perfectly aligned rows. I know the thought of planting them upside down is weird to her, too.

I recently had a conversation with her "stepbrother" who used to help her family on the farm every year. He said that he tried one of those "newfangled contraptions." And what happened? The plants tried to grow up toward the sun and the tomatoes didn't quite turn out right.

Now, perhaps he did something wrong. But I cannot help but listen to someone who did it for a living for years and years. That being said, I would love to hear from people who have actually had success with these upside-down planters, for tomatoes or otherwise. Maybe there is something I am missing?