Monthly Archives: April 2009

Don’t Forget The Sun Screen

First Spring Workout Since the weather is still cool, I was proud that I remembered to apply sun screen on my face and don a garden hat before heading out to weed and clean the strawberry bed this morning. I enjoy spring chores like cleaning out the gardens and tidying the strawberry bed. It is good exercise to get down on my hands and knees to weed and trim. With the protection of a garden hat and sun screen, it is easy to putter in the garden all morning.

Finally, the strawberry bed is groomed and weeded. All is right with the world! How does the poem go? “God’s in His Heaven, All’s Right with the World,” wrote Robert Browning. That man knew spring!

Time to get up and move onto the next chore. I try to stand up, but my bones start popping like a string of Black Cat firecrackers. Dizzy, I lean on the hoe, standing there for a wobbly minute until my blood remembers the circulation routine.

I am so stiff, I think about laying down in this gorgeous strawberry bed. Maybe I’ll just take a little nap right here in the sun-warmed garden soil. If I never get up, I will simply compost and improve the quality of the season’s harvest. What a way to go. What better final resting place than a garden? Gnats crawling up my nose change my mind.

Suddenly, my sweetheart bursts out of the house looking alarmed. He’s had a call from our widowed neighbor who wonders if she should call 911, or the funeral home. I get up and wave to the neighbor as I shout an explanation, “Just doing my yoga stretches outside today. I’m fine. Really.”

This is when I make every effort to step lively, as the neighbor has had her eye on my husband ever since she became a widow. Healthy men with good lawn mowers are hard to find. Not until the warm water of the evening shower hits my neck do I realize my mistake. I’ve been on my hands and knees all day. Head down, hat on, not really exposing my face to the sun at all. The back of my neck is on fire. It looks like a scalded chicken neck. My winter white skin has been exposed to the fires of hell. The sun has turned me into a one-sided redneck.

If it weren’t for the fragrance of lilacs wafting through the window, I’d be a mighty cranky, creaky gardener right now. I’m pretty sure heaven smells like lilacs in the spring. It has to, there are just too many grandmothers and gardeners there that have preceded us.

Bachelor Buttons

Blue Boy Bachelor Button
I plant Bachelor Buttons every year. Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cyanus) are a member of the aster family. The flower is the ideal boutonniere because it fits perfectly in a lapel button hole and can last out of water.

Easily grown from seed, butterflies and bees are attracted to these hardy sun loving flowers. To keep the blooms going all summer, deadhead as the blooms fade. Centaurea is also known as cornflower because the plant grows wild in the grain fields of southern Europe.

When Napoleon forced Queen Louise of Prussia from Berlin, she hid her children in a cornfield and kept them entertained and quiet by weaving wreaths of cornflowers. One of her children, Wilheim, later became the emperor of Germany. Remembering his mother’s bravery, he made the cornflower a national emblem of unity.

It’s is an edible bloom with a mild sweet spicy taste, and can be used to garnish salads and desserts. It also makes a lovely everlasting, or dried flower. Though most often found in shades of blue, you will also find pinks, purples, whites and even an occasional black bachelor button.

Bachelor Buttons seed is easy to find in most garden center flower seed displays. Renee’s Garden Seeds, has a brilliant blue cornflower named ‘Blue Boy’ that is a cottage garden standout. I had great success with ‘Blue Boy’ in my container gardens last year. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, has the rare heirloom ‘Black Boy’ bachelor button with lovely, nearly black flowers.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – April 2009

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – April 2009

April is also poetry month so here is a poem that you probably have memorized.

The Daffodils
by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

I found a group of garden enthusiasts who were kind enough to include in Bloom Day. As grandpa would say, “These are my kind of people.”

In the front yard this pink dogwood steals the show for weeks.
As it first begins to bloom, the flowers are almost red. When fully open. they will be a very bright pink.

Pink Dogwood Tree in my front yard was well established when I moved here two years ago.

Most of these tulip and daffodils, I think about 800 bulbs, were planted last fall and are from Colorblends. Mostly a blend of yellow, orange-apricot and red Darwin Hybrids. Like a sunset, the color aspect changes over time: from bright to pastel. The combination is called Celebration. The daffodils are mostly Daffodil Flight Time.

The dafs will be back next year and some of the tulips, provided the gluttonous grey squirrel does minimal munching.

Also, There are some heirloom bulbs. One of the prettiest and smallest is Tulip Bakeri Lilac

Showy lilac-pink flowers with deep yellow centers bob in the slightest breeze. They came up later than the other tulips, which, I am sure, is an attention getting device for these little bloomers. I love this little flower that looks like a lavender tulip until you get up close enough to discover the brilliant yellow inside. About 8 inches tall and a native of Crete. Suitable for zones 3-7. (My garden is in zone 6.)

AND THIS, which I forgot it’s name and I hope you will help me remember.They are about 3 inches tall and planted in the bed where I planted litttle early bloomers, like snow drops, crocus, grape hyacinth. In their second year, they are beginning to naturalize.

What gardener would honestly say they did not have a few brilliant yellow dandelions. Here we are demonstrating Grandpas Weeder to extract a volunteer in the lawn. The link will get you to more info about this sturdy, useful tool.

A few azalea blooms survived two hard freezes. But mostly this is the second year in a row that these spring spectacles have been frozen out.

These Alpine strawberries that have been blooming since March. Cool weather doesn’t deter
them. If the blooms freeze, there will be plenty more to f0llow. I tell all about the
itty bitty berries in an earlier blog post.

There are a few more, a lone purple iris, white dogwood, and the beautiful little purple globes of the chives. But I am not at home and can not run out a snap photos.

A few poetic last words:

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Afternoon on a Hill”

So, let me say, thank you. It’s fun to be a part of this Bloom Day.

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other. ~Chinese Proverb

Red and sweet tiny Alpine Strawberries

Wild Strawberries or Alpine Strawberries are hardy, disease resistant and perfect for a low birder or edging plant.

Loads of Sweet Little Fruits

I discovered some wild strawberries once and brought a few plants home. They loved living at my house and multiplied into a beautiful ground cover in a small flower bed. My sweet husband thoughtfully cleaned up that flower bed one spring, ripping out all the weeds, which were my prized wild strawberries.

Since then, I’ve tried a couple of times to start wild strawberries from seed and failed. When I had the opportunity to start new gardens in a new home, I went a little overboard with these tiny berries.

I ordered “Mignonette” French strawberry seed from Renee’s Garden Seed and had great success using the AeroGarden. The plants, once started, are easy to grow. They are compact perennial Alpine strawberry plants producing sweet, pointed fruits from early spring to the last frost. I notice that Renee’s has an article about these itty bitty berries on her web page. This is where I got the idea to use these strawberries as an edging plant. Renee’s is one on the most reliable and prompt places to order seed.

That same year, I bought a Fragaria vesca “Ruege” plug pack of 12 plants from Richter’s. These little sweet and tangy berries are about the size of the wild ones on compact, runnerless plants but they do multiply and should be thinned every few years.Bears fruit from June til frost. Richter’s has the best selection of culinary and medicinal herb plants that I have found.

Both plants have multiplied rapidly. Since I planted them, they have mixed and I have no idea which is which. This spring, they started blooming in March. A freeze only slows them down but they soon begin setting bloom again. So, I am not worried about them surviving these late hard freezes in April.

I think that those monster sized rugged and tasteless berries at the grocery store turned me away from normal strawberries. The tiny wild or Alpine berry taste like strawberry candy in comparison.

The first year, it was a contest to see who would eat these mini delicacies, me or the birds. There are so many of them and the season is so long, that now the birds and I have agreed to share the abundant harvest. A third variety of strawberry grows in my gardens.

French‘Mara des Bois’ from White Flower Farm.

‘Mara des Bois’ lives in hanging baskets on the patio and are just starting to green up this year. Last summer I had one or two berries and a winged predator or possibly my beloved husband ate the rest. There were not a lot of berries because the plants were busy trying to escape their confinement by sending runners over the edges of the baskets. The berries are twice the size of the Alpine berries, but that still means a very small berry compared to what we find at the grocery.These hardy little plants over wintered in hanging basket sitting on the patio all winter.I’m always pleased with whatever I buy from White Flower Farm.

Fraises des bois is a French word for strawberries of the woods. The strawberries are also known by other names including: Fragaria vesca, Alpine Strawberry, Wild Strawberry, Woodland Strawberry, American Strawberry, European Strawberry, fraises des bois, and fraisier des bois. Call them what you will, these itty bitty berries a too fragile for transport. The little ones fetch premium prices at the market.

I’m sure the frost will take these little blooms. But the small and mighty plants aren’t about to give up. I thinned them by fifty percent this spring, tossing literally hundreds of plants. I should have been merciless and ripped out more and may yet.

The tiny berries are beautiful decoration on a desert plate. It is said that tea made from the leaves will stimulate the appetite. They grow as an evergreen edging along the sidewalk near the garden, making for easy picking as I walk by.

Grandpa’s Weeder

Effortless Weed Remover

For almost one hundred years gardeners have used this simple, sturdy tool to extract weeds. Grandpa’s Weeder is the best weed puller ever. It is well made and, I imagine, it will out last me.

Weeding is not the tedious job it once was. There is no pulling, no kneeling and no chemicals, no sweat. Weeding does not get any easier than this.

This simple tool pulls roots without bending, pulling or kneeling. Great for people of all ages. Invented in 1913, with a cast iron head for durability, and a sturdy 40 inch ash handle for easy leverage. Lifetime guarantee. Made in China.
Buy at Ace Hardware, Seeds of Change,
A.M. Leonard,, Spray N Grow. I even found a good price on eBay.

Weed Slayer, Neighbor Bill demonstrates Grandpa’s Weeder.

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