Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Tale of Love, Rescue and Reward...

Forget all the negatives you've heard 
about those big box stores and the plants they sell.
Here's the story that just may change your mind...

♥ ♥ ♥

It was not my intent to save a life.  I was merely there to find a suitable pot for herbs for my window sill. As I walked through the parking lot toward the entrance of Home Depot, I was surrounded by displays of plants and trees and bushes set out for a "Sidewalk Sale".  "It's too hot!" I said to myself. It must have been 95° or more as the sun reflected from the asphalt. The sunshine that our part of the world has eagerly anticipated through our damp cold Spring is now arrived in full splendor. 

I quickened my pace to reach the store entrance and the cool air that surely would  be inside. I seriously felt as though I were walking through a battlefield as I viewed the desperate condition of the many plants.  I imagined I could hear their faint voices calling out to me from their pots, "Help me, help me" in quiet desperation.

I was quite disturbed with the thought that these plants were struggling to survive and so I tried to focus on the entrance of the store rather than the hundreds of neglected plants who seemed to be on their last leg of hope. It is disturbing to me that these big box stores give minimal care to their offerings, these plants were in dire need of water.  

As I made my way through literally hundreds of visibly stressed plants, my eyes focused on a table filled with delicate pink flowers... Gaura 

  Gaura is a beautiful perennial with delicate blossoms 
that bloom throughout the summer.  
I prefer to call them "Pink Sparklers" as their long stems 
with flowers at the ends 
remind me of fireworks on a summer night.

I first fell in love with Gaura in the Spring of 2009. It was love at first sight! Without hesitation I purchased six of them with no thought as to which zone they were best suited for.  (Such is the effect of new love, your mind turns to mush and all reasoning is far removed.) They were a beautiful addition to my garden! 

That was last summer. 
They didn't survive the winter. 
I was so disappointed.  

No wonder my eyes were drawn to them this hot summer's day in the parking lot of Home Depot. There were several dozen potted Gaura's on the table.  All of them in gallon nursery stock pots with very dry soil. Gaura tolerates drought and heat well so these blooms didn't look as forlorn as some of the other surrounding flora. 

Before I knew it I had picked out six of the more promising looking Gaura plants and set them in my cart. $5.47 times six.  That was more than I had planned to spend. Suddenly, Deja vu entered my mind. Deja vu as in the cognitive realization of something that has already happened. "This is the same store that I bought them from last year. I almost said out loud.

My mind began to reason that despite the un-budgeted price, I was fully justified to purchase these plants. First of all, I really really love this plant.  Secondly, there were six empty spaces in my garden that still need to be filled.  And last and most prevalent in my love sick silly head, I'm not only making a purchase, I'm saving a life.  Heck! I'm saving six lives!

I proudly wheeled my cart into the store and took my place in line to make my purchase. That's when the smarter portion of my brain began to interfere: "You're going to spend over $30 for plants that will only last for a summer?"  

The love-sick silly portion of my brain quickly chimed in again: "But you are so in love with Guara, besides, their death is almost certain if you don't rescue them from this dire place!

I let the two sides of my brain battle it out as I advanced in the checkout line.  Finally it was my turn. I was still trying to justify this unplanned purchase.  The checkout lady was an older woman who immediately exclaimed, "Oh I love these! They are one of my favorites! 

As she searched for the price tag I offered the comment: "I planted Gaura last year, but they never came up this Spring.  I thought they were perennials. I guess not in Zone 5."

She looked at me with concern.  "They are perennials. Did you purchase them here?" I nodded that I did. "Home Depot guarantees all their plants for one year, my dear," she said as she scanned the tags. My heart leaped.  "You take this receipt right over to Customer Service and they will give you a full refund."  My heart did somersaults!

"Really?!  They will do that?"  

"Absolutely!  You have a wonderful day!" she said with a smile as she handed me the receipt.

And so I did.  I marched right over to Customer Service, receipt in hand and six Guara's in cart and politely asked for my refund. There was some discussion, apparently they want the dead plants as proof of your loss.  I could provide that, as I had left the dead sticks from each plant in place in my garden still hoping that they would show signs of life. However, the thought of going home, digging up the plants and returning on this hot day was more than I could bare.  "Could you possibly waive that rule this time?" I found the courage to ask. 

"I suppose we can, but next time, remember to bring the dead plants with you."  I watched with delight as the clerk put the dollar bills and change in my hand, not quite believing the reality of my good fortune.

I left Home Depot with a smile on my face, money in my pocket, and no care in the world as to whether Guara will survive in Zone 5.  My receipt is carefully tucked away in my gardening book, so that next Spring, should these little beauties not emerge, I'll simply return to the store, purchase six more, and with dead plants in tow, ask for my refund.

My beautiful Gaura lindheimeri 
"Passionate Blush"
tucked safely in the soil of my garden 
where it receives plenty of water, sunshine and adoration.

I can almost hear them whispering 
"Thank you, thank you!"
as I pass by each morning.

Today I saved six lives, 
renewed my love affair with Gaura 
and received a bounteous reward for doing so.

Ah-h-h... who could ask for anything more?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

NATURE... Best Viewed by Slowing Down

When I first open my eyes upon the morning meadows 
and look out upon the beautiful world, 
I thank God I am alive.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is my Thinking Spot...

  Place where I breathe slow and deep 
and delight in all nature.

Place where I collect my senses
and renew my determination.

Place where I reflect on my world
and make it right.

Do you have a Thinking Spot?

It didn't take long to notice that
someone shared this spot with me.

 He was there all along, above the bench.
Can you see him?

He just sat there
quietly listening to my thoughts,
camouflaged by his surroundings.

I can't help but wonder...

 What else am I missing?

best viewed by slowing down.

Try it!
Today is the perfect day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The STAR of My Garden... Today!

What I love most about gardening is how 
quickly my garden changes!

A walk through my gardens each morning
with camera in hand is a favorite way to start my day 
as I discover the changes each new day brings.
Something always shines brighter!

The STAR of my garden today is... 

Clematis Jackmanii

Clematis Jackmanii 
was developed by George Jackman, an Englishman.

George held 90 acres of land under cultivation 
on St. John's Hill in England. 
He specialised in raising clematis, 
breeding the well-known “clematis jackmanii”  in 1859. 

The large blooms of the Jackmanii measure up to six inches 
and cover the vine from summer through the end of autumn.

The deep royal purple color of this clematis is exquisite!

Last year I added another variety to brighten the area.
(Yes, that's still Jackmanii to the left, the morning light is amazing!)

Clematis Piilu 
(pronounced pie-loo)
Piilu means "Little Duckling"

 Clematis Piilu is a recent introduction from Estonia 
and the late plantsman/breeder Uno Kivistik and Aili Kivistik
from the former Soviet Union.

 Look closely to see the "Little Duckling" peeking out from behind Jackmanii.
My clematis bloom on iron gates...

at the entrance to a flagstone path,
bidding all to enter and enjoy.

(be sure to click on each picture to enjoy in full pleasure!)

Coming soon... 

What beautiful element to my garden 
is down this flagstone path?

 ah-h-h... another day's post!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice in my UTAH Garden

Summer Solstice...

arrived in This Grandmother's Garden at exactly 5:29 AM this morning.

There was a multitude of melodious birds 
jubilantly singing to welcome the new dawn 
and the beginning of our Summer.

The sun triumphantly peeked through the canyon door
as small patches of snow still adorn the high mountains.
There is great promise of a beautiful new day and a radiant 
Season of Summer.

♦ ♦ ♦

A major celestial event, 
the Summer Solstice results in the longest day 
and the shortest night of the year. 

Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words 
meaning "sun" + "to stand still." 
As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher 
until it seems to stand still in the sky.

 ♦ ♦ ♦

Summer Solstice is often called Midsummer 
as the farmer's crops were sown weeks ago 
and for them it is now mid-season.

Scott Carrier, Photographer

The Sun Tunnels, 
near the town of Lucin, Utah, 
were created by artist Nancy Holt 34 years ago.

"The tunnels — actually simple concrete drain pipes —
are aligned to channel the sun's rays 
at precise celestial moments."
Want to know more? 


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Just do it!

One of the hardest acts a gardener will ever do 
is to clip a bud before it blooms. 

Think about it.
And be honest.
Do you nip off the flower buds when you plant your annuals?

I'm actually quite dedicated to removing the flowers and buds 
from my newly planted annuals, 
simply because I've experienced the benefit so many times.

This Zinnia was clipped of all buds and flowers 
before planting just about two weeks ago.

 This simple act allows the plant to use it's energy to develop the roots.  
Stronger roots allow your annuals to grow full and beautiful much faster 
and you''ll be enjoying the blooms longer.
All because you were brave enough to use your clippers.
I know, it can be hard.
Just do it.

♦ ♦ ♦

As well as I know this principle, 
my foolish folly has kept me from enjoying 
a perennial that blooms only once in a year. 
If only I had clipped the buds.

Here's a lesson I learned from a Peony:

I absolutely adore Peonies! 

They are a relatively new plant in my perennial garden. I planted them several years ago, but they take a few years to reach their potential. That's a lot of patience. 

Last year my Baby Pink Peony Bush had several blooms.  This is a double Peony and the blooms were large and heavy, so heavy that their stems couldn't hold their weight and they bowed to the ground. This year, I anticipated the plant would be larger with even more blooms, so I took the time to stake the plant before the buds appeared. I was quite proud of my decision and pleased that I actually acted on the idea before it was too late. 
Not much later the plant began to develop buds, lots of them! 

To say I was excited about the prospect of having so many blooms would be an understatement.  I was giddy with delight!  I've waited many years to grow Peonies. I anticipated a premium crop.

And then it happened... buds began to open, sometimes five blossoms on a single stem! My excitement grew at the thought of how beautiful my perennial garden was about to become. As soon as the snow and rain stopped, (remember the Spring Snow Storm we had on May 25?) and the sun began to shine, my Peonies began to bloom and bloom and bloom!   

But instead of delight I felt frustration. 

 The blossoms were so heavy they doubled over and brushed the ground.  
I'm actually holding this heavy stem up to take the picture.
Count them! There are five on one stem!

There were far too many blossoms on those stems even with the stakes to hold up their beautiful heads. It's only in looking back that I see my folly and realize the opportunity lost. The peonies are now past their prime and never really reached the measure of their creation. The peonies hid their faces brushing the ground.

I was so excited to enjoy every bloom 
that I couldn't make myself do the "hard thing" 
and clip those extra buds. 
What a difference it would have made in my garden.

Several times a week I drive past a field of Peonies, there must be a hundred plants.  I slowed down and looked carefully at the blooms.  One blossom per stem. A beautiful display. Silly me. Surely this garden has a gardener who understands the power of the clipper and isn't afraid to use it. I'll do better next year.

Enjoy these pictures of my other Peony varieties. 
Their blooms were much smaller and didn't even need to be staked... this year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We're going on a snail hunt!

We're going on a snail hunt!
We're gonna catch a big one!
I'm not afraid,
Are you?
Not me!

Grandchildren love to go on snail hunts 
and I love to rid my garden of these pesky little creatures.

The brown garden snail, Cornu aspersum 
Introduced to the USA from France during the 1850s for use as food
Escargot anyone? 

♦ ♦ ♦

When I was a child, I walked home from school everyday past a beautifully cared for red brick home. I always slowed my pace as I passed this home so I could take in the sight of all the beautiful trees and bushes and flowers galore. 

One rainy day, I noticed a snail moving along the sidewalk. I had never seen a snail before and was intrigued with the creature that quickly hid inside the shell when I picked it up. I held it in the palm of my hand for a few minutes fascinated by the artwork on the shell. Slowly the snail began to peak out from within the shell, probably as interested in me as I was in him. He pulled his little body almost completely from his hiding place and began to move along my palm. It tickled! He was a slimy creature, but not so much that I didn't enjoy our encounter. I placed the snail on the grass and skipped all the way home, content with my day's discovery.

The next day I looked for my little friend, he was nowhere to be seen. Each day I walked very slowly past the red brick house with the pretty gardens hoping to see him again, but he was never there.

Then one day it had been raining as I ran out through school doors. My world was clean and bright and the air smelled so fresh! I loved the rain. As I walked past the red brick house I walked very slowly looking for my snail on the sidewalk as I always did since we first met. Still no snail in sight. 

I was brave enough to walk up the driveway toward the garage as I looked for my snail. There was a fence on the far side of the garage with a narrow strip of land that had just enough room for me to walk in. There were green plants that I carefully stepped over. I felt a little naughty as I took each step as I knew this was a place I was not invited to be in. The feeling in my stomach told me I better leave. 

As I turned to make my escape I saw my snail, and another and another, there was a whole family of snails! The uneasiness I felt persuaded me to run home, but I knew that I would go back again another day. And I did, this time with a friend. 

Funny how brave you can be when there are two. Together we sneaked up the driveway and into the long green corridor looking for snails. We found them quickly and I tried to convince my friend it was ok to pick them up, that they tickled your hand as they slithered along your palm. She wasn't as brave as me, so I picked up two of them and carried them home to put in my mother's garden. I just knew they would love to live there.

The red brick house became our stopping place for several days as I caught snails to take home. Then one day as we came out from the side of the garage we were met by an old white haired man with a stern look on his face.  "What are you girls doing?"  Time has not erased the feeling of fright I had as this man confronted us.

"We're catching snails." I remember saying timidly. I opened my hands to show him my treasure. His dour look burst into a smile as he began to laugh. We were a bit perplexed as we wondered if we were in big trouble.

"Take all the snails you want!" he said in-between chuckles. Just don't step on my plants. He explained how he had watched from the window the past many days as we had disappeared behind his garage. He was curious about what two little girls might be doing there each day. We were relieved to find that he was a nice old man and wasn't angry with us at all. He told us again that we could take all the snails we could catch.

 I can see-e-e you...

When I got home, I decided I'd better tell Mom what had happened. As relieved as I was that the old man wasn't angry with us, I was still a little shaky about the encounter. I showed my mom the snails I had collected and told her the story of how my friend and I were hunting snails each day on the way home from school. "What are earth are you collecting snails for?" she said with a curious look in her eye.

"To put in your garden so we can have snails too!" was my innocent reply. 

It goes without saying that was the end of our snail hunts after school. My mom just didn't appreciate snails the way I did and certainly didn't want them living in her garden!

And now I understand why...

 ♦ ♦ ♦

Snails are hermaphrodites, so they all lay eggs. 
Brown garden snails lay an average
of 80 spherical, pearly white eggs at a time. 
They can lay eggs up to 6 times a year. 
Talk about multiply and replenish!

 Snail Huddle

What do we do now?

Let's have a Snail Race!

Obviously my perspective on snails changed once I became a gardener.  I don't really like creatures that nibble on my leaves.  Perhaps because of my early encounters with snails I prefer removing them by hand picking,   Handpicking can be very effective but you need to be thorough and hunt for them often or your snail population will quickly get out of control.  Thank heaven for little grandsons!

And what do we do with the snails once we find them? 
We send them all off to vacation at
The Snail Resort
where they can munch away 
to their hearts content... 
(the garbage can that holds my garden refuse.)

Want to know more about snails?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Leaves of Delight

The tender new leaves of Springtime are a delight to behold!

A morning walk after the rain 
revealed some of the stars of my gardens...

Bloodgood Maple

New growth is a fiery red that softens into a deep shade of burgundy.

Pacific Sunset Maple

Tender new leaves emerge as a vibrant chartreuse
that turn to a deep green. 
Autumn color ranges from orange to bright red.

Flame Maple

New leaves are a soft shade of rust with veins of yellow green,
quickly turning to a green that deepens through the summer.
Autumn color is a beautiful yellow orange.

Japanese Coral Bark Maple

Soft green leaves with distinctive red stems and branches 
that darken as they mature.

Eastern Redbud

New leaves emerge as a soft rusty orange that quickly turn to green.
Autumn color is yellow.
LOVE the heart shaped leaves!

Oklahoma Redbud

Much the same as the Eastern Redbud, 
but much more hardy in dry summer climates. 
The leaves are shiny with an almost wax-like coating that conserves moisture. 
This is a new favorite in my garden! 

 Forest Pansy Redbud

Tender new leaves are a bright burgundy 
that add a touch of green as they mature.
The leaves grow much larger than the other redbuds
making them susceptible to damage from the wind.
I adore this tree, but wish I understood 
the strength of the winds in my gardens before it was planted. 
I would have chosen a different place for it to grow.
The winds of late have beaten those beautiful leaves so much so 
that it was difficult to find an untouched branch to photograph.

Shademaster Honey Locust

New growth begins a soft shade of rust and then becomes a beautiful green.
The tiny leaves are a favorite of mine!

 European Purple Beach

The leaves are always this gorgeous deep shade of burgundy.
I absolutely adore this tree!

♦ ♦ ♦

Fresh new leaves from the trees in my garden...
I hope you enjoyed my morning walk as well!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rough Winds Do Shake the Darling Buds of May (June)

There's been a rough wind a-blowin' in my garden!

Shakespeare may have meant his Sonnet to describe the month of May 
but it very well describes our June.

The downside of living at the base of such beautiful mountains 
are the canyon winds that blow. 

We've had several nights of great winds so fierce
that I'm always surprised in the morning
that the trees aren't entirely stripped of their leaves.

This morning I walked in my gardens to assess the damage.

One tall pine ripped from it's foundation

Same tree front view

I've learned in my seven years of living here 
that the path of the wind can be very selective. 
 Some blooms can be ripped to shreds and adjacent ones left untouched.

"Parts of my flowers beds aren't a pretty sight this morning,"
said with deep sighs of sadness.
Heartbreaking for blossoms who bloom once in a season.

♦ ♦ ♦

But when the wind sweeps through the flower beds
breaking the tender stems...

I make bouquets!

 They are a bit tattered and torn
but still beautiful to me.

I spy a little guy 
bewildered from the storm!

Baby Robins are so obedient, even when bewildered.

"Momma told me not to stir or blink until she comes back."

and he didn't!
Brave little bird.