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Archive for the ‘Flower Gardening’ Category

My First Moonflower (Datura)

Often the life of a gardner consists of a regimen of never-ending chores — water the plants, look out for pests, kill or repel insect pests and diseases (non-toxic-chemically, of course), set up trellises, construct cat (and other varmint) fences to keep the critters from either using your veggie beds as a litter box or a banquet, depending on the critter, repair things, clean up things, etc., etc. Us hard-core gardeners do it because we love our gardens, and even, perhaps masochistically, because we love the laborious work entailed.

But one of the pleasures of gardening comes when our little babies bloom. And while we thrill to any of our little babies blooming, there is sometimes an extra-special blessing that awaits us when they do. And that extra-special blessing happened to me the other night when my first moonflower, my Datura from Natural Gardener, opened up its first blossom.

I was lingering for a while in the garden that evening, surveying my drastic, surgical removal of the many powdery-mildewed infested branches on my huge sage plant. Had to be done, but always more painful for the gardening parent that for the plant child. I mean, I reduced these big, beautiful branches to nothing less than a puny little shrub, but it was indeed covered in powdery mildew that was beginning to infest other plants, like my giant Mexican coneflower. So I’d spent probably over an hour cutting it down to a much smaller version of what it was.

After I finished, I was standing there surveying it, when I looked over at my Datura. When I’d bought it the previous week, it had one bud on it, and all week it had been slowly maturing. It looked like it was almost ready to open up, but I figured it would be the next night when it did. I’d been hoping all along that I would be around when it was open, but you can never know for certain with something like this. I decided to walk over to it to look at it, and I thought to myself,  “I wonder when it is going to open?”

Just then, as if to answer me, it suddenly sprang open, right in front of my eyes! I gasped, and then stared at it in wonder as it continued to open up wider and wider. I was so amazed. I ran in and grabbed my camera and took what seemed like a million pictures. Probably the only thing I can compare it to is that it was like watching your baby walk for the first time, except this baby never fell, it just kept going until it was wide open. And it was the first blossom of my first Datura moonflower, ever, and I’d been waiting for this moment since I first read about moonflowers in Scott Ogden’s book, The Moonlit Garden, and since I’d first experienced the Datura at Leb Shomea. Here was my own, beautiful, perfect moonflower, and it opened up, just for me!

After photographing it, I sat on this tiny little gardening stool that my uncle and his second wife had given me a couple of Christmases ago. It was just the perfect height for me to look at the moonflower. I gazed at the moonflower for probably close to an hour, just feeling so blessed that it had opened up for me, so surprised that it had, so pleased by its ivory beauty, breathing in its heavenly scent. I half expected the cicadas to start their evening call to prayer like they did at Leb Shomea last summer, but I guess it’s not time for them yet here in Austin. In any case, it was like the Divine gently reminding me of her love for me, which I often need reminding of. Such a beautiful reminder too.

I wished I could have stayed with it longer, but there were a million things for me to do before going to bed. It’s hard sometimes to stay present with a blessing like this when these things that your mind thinks must be done are marching around in the back of your head, but I did my best to stay present with this beautiful little gift. When it was time to go in, I bowed several times to the moonflower blossom and plant, thanking them profusely for this gift. It was truly a gift of grace, and one I hope lingers in my memory forever.

 

 

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The new hummingbird garden

A couple of weeks ago, when I went to my fave gardening shop in the whole universe, Natural Gardener, I was so proud of myself for showing great restraint in only buying compost, seaweed extract, bean innoculant and . . . seeds for a hummingbird garden. Didn’t buy a plant one, even though they were bursting at the seams with the usual spring multitude of veggies, herbs, and flowers. Went home all smug and self-satisfied, thinking, Yes, I will just plant seeds this year, mostly from what I saved last year — how thrifty is that? No buying upteen jillion dozen veggie transplants, flowering plants and shrubs, no making any square foot beds, cuz now I have 7 (!) beds, and I will not till up any more flower beds . . .

Later I looked at my little seed packet for a hummingbird garden — a lovely array of scarlet runner beans, zinnias and nasturtiums, and all in my favorite color – RED! Then the thought — where the heck am I gonna plant these? When I bought them, I had some vague thought that I’d plant them somewhere in the back of my flower bed. However, by the time I got around to thinking about planting them, I’d already planted sunflower seeds and zinnia seeds from seeds I’d saved from last year’s multi-colored zinnias. Hum.

I could have interspersed the seeds in little places around the flower bed, but I really liked the idea of having a brilliant flame of red color all in one little spot. I’d also been thinking about putting in some more rosemary, thyme, lavendar and maybe some other herbs somewhere. Hum.

My eyes fell to a spot of yardage between the veggie bed closest to my patio and the new bed where I used Natural Gardeners’ convenient Mel’s Mix and planted more cilantro than I could ever possibly consume. Originally I had thought about turning this into a deeper raised bed for growing root vegetables, but there were other places I could conceivably put that, and I could even turn one of my raised beds on the other side of the house into a deeper bed. Hum.

Also, I noticed that the grass from the fence to about a foot out was pretty much dead — probably a consequence of our deadly dry summer last year and our hard freezes this winter. How conveeenient.

So last Tuesday night (in the friggin’ dark, no less), I decided to start ripping out the dead grass. In my madness I figured that would commit me to just having to put in a new flower bed. (I’m a Gemini, ya know, with the archetypal twin nature, and the naughty part of me is always plotting against the part of me that wants to be logical, common-sensical and have more time to sleep instead of tending plant beds day and night).

In the light of early evening the next day, a foot of bare earth next to the fence, I realized I was indeed committed (or ought to be committed to the State Hospital). I finished the dirty deed Friday night (again in the friggin’ dark).

Actually, I enjoyed the whole process of ripping out grass and literally getting my hands dirty. There is something so satisfying about tearing out grass by the root (I especially like ripping out my damn St. Augustine grass for some reason) and reaching one’s hands into the rich hummus of earth seeing (even in the dark) and feeling (as it gets darker) all the various components that make up this hummus — grass, leaves, rock, worms, rolly-pollys, grubworms, etc. (don’t worry, I wear gardening gloves when I rip out grass, so nothing yucky touches my bare hands). Nothing like it. It speaks to my inner child who loves digging in the dirt — or perhaps, more likely, to my inner madwoman.

Saturday I got up to get some herbs to plant along with the hummingbird seeds. As much as I love Natural Gardener, I really didn’t want to trudge out to BFE (that’s Big Frickin’ Egypt, y’all – I try to keep it a little clean here – a little) Oak Hill where it’s located so I decided to try a new place closer to me that I’ve heard about ever since I moved to deep South Austin: It’s About Thyme.

While IAT doesn’t have everything Natural Gardener does, it does have a nice selection of plants. And I went nuts, just frackin’ nuts. I not only bought rosemary, thyme, lavendar and basil (to grow with my asparagus and tomatoes), I bought some more strawberry plants, Mexican feather grass, and as a little treat for my kitty babies, some nice healthy catnip and wheat grass. Basically, I wound up spending over $60 that I never would have spent if I’d just stuck to my original plan of no more flower beds and just planting seeds this spring. Oh well.

Oh, and, I remembered I wanted to plant some moonflowers. I’ve been lusting after having moonflowers in my garden since a guy I briefly dated last summer loaned me his book by Scott Ogden, The Moonlit Garden. I fell madly in love with Ogden’s descriptions of moon gardens and the moonflowers which are an important part of them. Then I spent several days at a retreat last summer at Leb Shomea House of Prayer near the coast in Kenedy, TX (I’m not even Catholic or particularly religious, but this is a truly wonderful place to spend silent retreat), and big white and purple moonflowers were everywhere, and yes, they only open at night. Their scent is truly heavenly and out-of-this world. This sealed my love.

Moonflower bed

So yes, I wanted to plant some moonflowers. I went to Home Depot last week to pick up some mulch, and I thought, “I wonder if they have any moonflower seeds. If they do, then I’m definitely gonna plant ’em.” Right then I turned around, and – There. They. Were. Surely this was a Divine Sign, right? Yes, surely it was God’s Will that I plant moonflowers. I bought two packs of seeds.

Then, this past weekend, even though I was gravely ill from pollen allergies (OK, so I exaggerate), I went out and ripped up another, though smaller, plot of St. Augustine grass, which decided to be a real bear about being torn out this time, and planted my moonflower seeds. Unfortunately it takes 2 weeks for them to germinate (2 weeks! I can’t stand it!). Well, I just have to be patient and bide my time, which all good gardeners must learn to do.

But really, now, two new flower beds? Especially after digging up extra beds for all my berry bushes? Yes, they’re small, but that’s two new beds I have to water, watch for pests and diseases, spray (organically, of course) for any pests and diseases I see, etc. And I have the main flower bed and all the veggie beds to tend to. And I planted corn and amaranth in the last veggie bed to be planted. And I have my new-courtesy-of-Mother-Nature-and-my-goofiness compost tomato bed. Not to mention that while my backyard is full of life and color, my front yard looks like crap, and I often forget to water my plants inside. And not to mention that there are other things I’d like to do. Like spend more time with my sweetie. Like have a social life. Like get to creating poetry and art again. Like, well, you know, have a life. But I love gardening so darn much — two years ago when I first started out on this journey, I had no idea I would love it this much. But I do.

Clearly I’m mad. Somebody needs to stop me, quick. Take me to Gardeners’ Anonymous. Hell, I probably need to go into gardening rehab. Maybe someone needs to have me commited to the State Hospital. Because I have totally lost my frickin’ mind.

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My Spring Flower Garden

And yes, I am woefully behind in posting! My apologies, I’ve been kinda busy. Not to fear, however; yours truly has been feverishly (well, OK, maybe not that feverishly) working on her spring garden! However, without much work and a lot of spring rain, relatively cool temperatures (for Texas) and sun, my flower garden has just exploded with color and beauty. The pic above doesn’t do my garden justice, but you get the drift.

The veggie garden is, of course, underway. I’ve been pulling out plants from my fall/winter garden that were going to seed and I’ve been prepping the raised beds. This weekend I look forward to planting summer lettuce, bok choy, and basil, and will be giving it the old college try again for yellow squash and butternut squash (and try to be even more vigilant for the evil Squash Vine Borer) and all kinds of beans (got bean innoculant this time, so I hope my bean crop this year will be much better than last’s).

And, yes, my famous Malabar Spinach is in full swing, with two seedlings coming up in the Malabar bed, and three coming up in seedling pots. I’ll probably be giving a couple of plants to loved ones this year because even one plant just explodes into hundreds of delicious and beautiful leaves, and I don’t need five plants just for me! I’ve also got a bunch of volunteer Thai Basil coming up in the spot in front of the Malabar bed where I’d planted the basil last year, so I won’t have to plant any of that myself, thanks to Mama Nature’s help!

Closeup of Compost Tomatoes

What about tomatoes, you ask? After all, it is a perennial summer favorite of just about every gardener worth their salt, you say. Well, funny you should ask! Earlier this spring, I moved my compost pile but instead of bagging up the compost that I had in the old pile, I forgot about it and left it where it was. I had previously noticed that there were several small weeds growing in the old pile, but last weekend looked at it more carefully, and low and behold – in addition to what are truly weeds, I have about 25 tomato seedlings popping up out of the old compost pile! While I don’t remember it, I must have thrown chopped tomato with some seeds into my compost, because these are almost undoubtedly tomato plants! I’m very excited about that, and it spares me from having to actually buy any tomato plants.

However, I’m not sure what kind of tomatoes I’m going to have – these could be seeds from last year’s crop, or regular-sized or roma tomatoes I bought from the store, or maybe even a mixed array. It will be interesting to see what comes up! My mom also gave me a hanging cherry tomato plant for Easter, so it looks like my tomato bases have been more than covered!

Also, I have just planted several berry plants along my fence near the main flower bed. My sweetie (who is also a gardener) gave me two blackberry plants and two blueberry plants for Valentine’s Day – best Valentine’s gift EVAR (well, for a gardener like me, anyway). I waited until after Easter to plant them, because we kept getting freezing, or close to freezing, temps late into what I call our Texas spring (which usually starts in February). I also planted another blueberry plant I already had, and I finally planted my Goji Berry plant that I’ve had in a pot for about 3 or 4 years now. All of the berry plants are doing well in their new locales, and I look forward to having various berries later this summer.

Speaking of berries, I was amazed to find that most of the strawberry plants from last year survived our many hard winter freezes despite me not covering them up. I replanted them in a big stainless steel tub utilizing the Lasagna Gardening method (more on that later). And I already have several strawberries ripening! Very exciting!

And finally, I have some asparagus crowns that I need to plant this weekend as well. These were also a Valentine’s gift from my sweetie. However, I’ve had the crowns so long that they’ve already sprouted a coupla stalks! I could have planted them earlier, but since they are a long-living, perennial veggie, I’ve had a difficult time deciding where to put them. Finally decided I’d put them in my little raised bed next to the house where I’d planted butternut squash last year. I’ll probably plant either lettuce or baby carrots with it, or I might transplant a couple of tomato plants from the compost pile, since tomato and asparagus are suppose to be excellent companions (though lettuce and carrots do well with it too). Of course, I’ll have to wait a year or two before I can enjoy my harvest, but that’s OK. I do love me some asparagus!

Well, I guess that’s about it for my little update. I am going to try harder to keep this blog updated more frequently, though, you know – promises, promises! But I will try. In any case, if you’ve never been here before, please check out my other postings, cuz you might find some useful gardening and cooking info, at least I hope you do!

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is a little like Nightswimming (ala the REM song), except that I wasn’t naked. I was, however, under the moon, just me, the cats and my trowel, digging in the dirt wet from the evening lawn watering. I had really wanted to get my trellises set up for the coral vine that my mother gave me from her garden almost two months ago. If I didn’t, it was threatening to crawl up the wall of my house!

But the daylight had gotten away from me after a busy day of working elsewhere in the yard, cleaning house and running errands. However, I’m a stubborn and foolish sort (see Indiana Jones and the Square Foot Garden below), and by god and by gum, I was gonna get my trellises (trellisi?) in the ground, and a hole dug for the coral vine beneath it (I’ll reserve the actual planting of the vine for Sunday morn). At least I wouldn’t be trying to do this in the sweltering, 100 plus degree sun in the middle of the day!

So I started digging. The first trellis went in fine, and so did the second one. The only problem was that I’d decided to put them close together, but then I decided that it would be better to leave a couple of inches between them. So I pulled out the one to my left because it was in a little bit looser dirt than the other one. It didn’t take me too long to get the two of them in the ground the first time, so I didn’t think it would be difficult to move the one trellis and get it in the ground.

Well, of course I was wrong.

I dug, thinking I had dug enough dirt for the trellis, stuck it in, and guess what? It was up about two inches higher than the other. No problem, I thought. I’ll just dig a little deeper. I dug some more. It was still two inches higher. I got my rubber mallet and whammed it into the ground. Nothing. Dug some more. Started sweating almost as much as when I set up my tiny SFG. Still too high, though maybe now by about an inch. Dug some more. Sweated some more. Still an inch too high. Dug some more. Same thing. Hit it with the mallet. Sweated. Same result. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I could not get the dang thing into the ground no matter how much I dug. I never could figure out why. Finally I got my gardeners gloves, sat on the wet ground, got my flashlight (I did have the back porch light on, but it wasn’t helping much) and dug. And dug. And dug. As I shined my flashlight on my work, I started wondering if my neighbors were thinking I was digging a place to bury a body, I’d been out there so long.

After a while I got the trellis again, and while it was lower, it was still too high. I grabbed my mallet and hit the trellis again, and this time – success! I finally got it in deep enough into the ground. Then I filled the holes back in with dirt and patted it all down.

Then I started digging a hole for the coral vine, so I wouldn’t have to do that in the hot sun on Sunday. Even though the soil was wet from the lawn watering, it was still diffcult to dig because of the danged St. Augustine grass. That stuff is just woven all together like a tight net, and it is really hard to dig up the soil with that kind of grass. I did manage to dig a hole. It was only about three inches deep, but I’m going to do a raised flower bed in the fall around the trellis, so I’m just going to take some of my Hill Country Garden soil and make a little mound of soil around the coral vine. The container it’s in only has about 3 1/2 to 4 inches of dirt in it any way, so I think it will work OK.

In any case, I’ve got the trellises in the ground and my hole dug. I’m just scared to death that in the morning I’m going to get up and the trellises will either look crooked in the unforgiving light of day, or will be totally in the wrong place. I guess we’ll just have to see in the morning, won’t we?

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