Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

It's impossible that another year is over.  It seems like only yesterday that Mitchell and I were planning our annual New Year's Party for Two, and now it's time again. 
Very different planning this year, since Mitchell has the flu - yep! that one.  Fortunately, he is only miserable and not at death's door.  We both had flu and pneumonia shots, so even tho he apparently has the rogue strain, he's doing ok.

Did you  know that Tamiflu costs nearly $13 per dose!  OMG!  imagine a family of five getting this stuff. 

Anyway, it appears that our feast tonight will be chicken noodle soup for him, and leftovers for me.  i think we can survive!  Don't much plan on seeing midnight, either.

Thank you for hopping over here occasionally to read, and especially those of you who comment.  Thanks for your support when there were issues and for your encouragement when there were challenges.   It enriches my life to know that i have blog-friends out there.

My 2015 wishes for you are:

Peace - at home, in our communities and in the world.  Maybe in 2015 we can learn to live together and respect each others' differences instead of being afraid of them. 

Prosperity - whatever you are doing, i hope it goes well and keeps you comfortable. 

Health - enough with the surgeries, flu, and other bugs that are going around.  Let's all stay healthy this year. 

Laughter -  a smile goes a long way toward curing whatever ails you!

And, the love of friends and family. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On the Third Day of Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to Me ...

a truly glorious day!

I keep telling you that if you do not like the weather in Central Virginia ... just wait five days.  And this time it was really worth the wait.  It's the kind of day when the 18-year old next door has the top down on his car and people wanting to stroll around the neighborhood are having to get starting times to control the crowd.  68 degrees in the garden - right now!  Glorious.

Finally got the last of the fall clean up done and put the garden to sleep today.  
The sun is so low in the south, that at just past noon, there is already shadow nearly across the whole yard.
It's not as pretty as in June, but it has a calm stillness that I enjoy.  Nothing left standing today except grasses and evergreens.

But if you look closely there's lots going on....

Remember my obsession with ranunculus?  It's all the fault of my blog friends who also are floral designers [you know who you are].  I didn't know anything about ranuncs until i started seeing them in your lovely arrangements, and then my quest to grow them began.  Have planted them year after year hoping for a bloom.  One year I planted four dozen and actually got - drum roll here! - one, yes one, blossom.

Last March Big Blue Box store had them in planters.  I bought many pots and used them in lots of my big planters - a full two months before the normal time to set out planters in these parts.  Thoroughly enjoyed them for about a month and then they went dormant, and i put new things in the planters.  So imagine the thrill I had this morning when I saw this:

and this:

Cannot imagine that they will survive the cold to come into bloom, but i've been hoping for a lot of years and don't plan to stop now. 

Mother Nature didn't stop there, either.  The mini-rose that has struggled for years [until i replanted it in organic potting soil and started a regular feeding schedule - duh!] has a dozen tiny buds opening.

The blueberry is covered with buds for a bumper crop next spring.  [Remember that the most i have ever gotten is half a handful, so "bumper" is a matter of perspective!]

And, would you like a bit of arugula!  It seems to love the cold weather, and tastes just fine.

Or, how about a bit of cilantro?

So far, no signs of the camellia blooming this year.  We had a hard freeze right after the buds came out and they don't seem to have ripened at all since then.  The helebores are late, as well, but i see lots of new growth coming up, so maybe they will adjust, too.  One can hope!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Wish ...

... for each of you is that your days are merry and filled with those whom you love.

Knowing each of you has made my year better and I thank every one of you for your comments, thoughts and encouragement.  Knowing you makes my world brighter. 

Peace and Joy!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Garden Fest of Lights

It's been a long time since we visited a garden, and only one thing could drag me out on a cold winter night a week before Christmas ... lights!

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens - my down the street five minutes local garden - knows a fund raiser when they see one, and for the many years they have packed 'em in nightly from Thanksgiving to New Years with their light show. 

It's almost as much fun for adults alone, as it is with children - and we have enjoyed it both ways.  This year it was just the two of us strolling together and enjoying the colors and imaginative displays.  Well, we did take that new camera of mine (with a tripod!) and had a great time. 

We arrived a few minutes before sunset  [ok, so i mis-read the time for sunset.  it could happen to anyone!] but the local train club enjoys sharing a room full of trains and tiny building, so we let the sun go down in peace while we visited the trains. 

These three signs are reproductions of actual signs in Richmond.  The Sauer's sign is still there and still works- the baker is pouring vanilla into his bowl.   
Once it was dark enough, tho, it was on to the main event.  
A hundred years ago, the site of the Gardens was the site of a bicycling club - men only they point out.  This year's theme was the history of the Gardens and featured bicycles of all sorts throughout. 

Like this one!
Or, this "tree" made of shiny silver bicycle frames!  Ok, so it was weird .... but shiny!
The herb garden was sprouting these pretty "herbs". 
And these were plastic tulips with lights in the center.  Even the real ones looked a little out of focus - honest! 
The "tree house" in the Children's Garden is always one of the highlights.  This year it looks like a giant bowl.  There were dozens of kids running up and down the spiral ramp to the top.
The trees around the original building were hung with shiny wheels and thousands of white lights for the gazebo.
 the prettiest views are the ones over the ponds

and across the lake. 

 It's a wonderful garden during the day, but a magical place at night.  We always say, "oh, we can skip it this year..." and we never do!  We've even been known to grab a couple of children to take with us ... just to make it even better!

Hope your days - and nights - are filled with light, too.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Reading your blogs and thinking of my blog friends has finally brought me out of my self-induced stupor to post a few words.

I am so thankful for the supportive community of folks I have "met" here in Blogland - for your generosity, your concern, your creativity, your good wishes, and the general feeling of well-being I have knowing you are "out there" somewhere.

Have decided that I am a fair weather blogger.  Either that, or way too wrapped up in the garden.  I need a cold weather interest!  Keep hoping to magically become a better cook, so that i can share that with you, but so far that's not working, either  ...  maybe next year. 

With retirement suddenly just around the corner - June 1st - I find myself pushing everything off to "when I retire".  If i do everything then that I have pushed off, I will be really busy!

Today has been a quiet one here in Central Virginia.  Overcast, rainy, even sleet and then sunshine this afternoon.  
With only two of us for dinner, we have foregone the turkey - don't need to be eating bird for three weeks - in favor of a small standing pork rib roast - which is ready to go into the oven later.

The pie is baked, stuffing made, spinach washed, apple salad in the 'fridge, and rolls rising so I am in good shape for the dinner part.  Even have the wine chilling.
Sweet potato pie - not pumpkin.  One of those surprises when you get married.  Sweet potato was the "tradition" for both of our families.  At one time, Mitchell's oldest son made them for his family, so I always think good thoughts about him when i make it. 

Hope you are with the ones you love and doing whatever makes you happy today. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Workday

Two days before Halloween and all the work that got done in the garden today was to wander around in wonder that it still looks so good.  Fall is finally here, altho it was 85 yesterday and 75 today.  Tomorrow night will be 40, tho, so the times they are a changing .... and soon. 

In a way, i will welcome the cooler weather and in a way it will make me sad. This long warm and dry fall makes me wonder if we will soon be changing our expectations of the seasons - we haven't had a normal one in nearly two years now.  So, what will the new "normal" be?

It's been unseasonably dry this September and October [am still watering the garden] so our "color" is mostly muddy this year, altho the crepe myrtle and dogwood (above) look pretty. 

Am getting the last blooms of the roses and the panicle-type hydrangeas have lasted well.
The David Austin Rosa 'Sister Elizabeth' looks wonderful after a summer of struggling with critters and black spot.  
The new hydrangea 'Little Lime' is still blooming, even while the older blossom heads dry nicely on the plant. 
The last of the fall blossoms are finally out, as well.   We moved this daisy-type chrysanthemum from the old house 15 years ago, and have moved her around several times.  She still blooms reliably. 
Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Clara Curtis'
And, then there are the surprises:  Flowers on the blueberry bush ...

and a few Pincushion flowers ...
Scabiosa c. 'Butterfly Blue'
and, most intriguing of all ... the ranunculus that I planted last fall for spring blooming (which did absolutely nothing) has put up greenery.  It will be killed by the winter cold and will not bloom, but it did try.  [That is, one of 15 tried.  It is not in the cards that ranunculus will thrive and bloom here.]

So, I cut a handful of hydrangeas for the table and was very happy with my wanderings.

Let the goblins come!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

October Abundance

The dahlias languished all summer.  I was really disappointed, since i had hoped to use them to supplement my other cuttings.  I planted six different types - ranging from white to a very dark burgundy and in different flower types.  Sadly, they struggled and only three of six even made it far enough to set buds.

Three weeks ago they suddenly decided to bloom and they have been gorgeous.
This may be the prettiest one i ever grew.  It looks like a lotus and is about five inches wide.
A chrysanthemum type, with the 'Double Scoop Cranberry' cone flower. 
Another chrysanthemum type in a rich pink.
Am planning to put them in a slightly sunnier spot next year and look for another source.  Anyone got a dahlia supplier that you can recommend?   I prefer the smaller ones, so that I can add them to arrangements. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday Workday

Finally.  Another project done.

Once I decided that the Emerald arborvitae was not coming back, I started planning to re-do the area.  Its death is totally on my hands.  I did a poor job of teasing out the roots and then did not water enough.  I know better.  They need two (two!) inches of water a week for the first six months - at least! - sometimes longer, and i forgot it last winter.  [That's the big drawback of planting in the fall.  Who wants to water in the winter?]  I promise to do a better job this winter.  Seriously.

The last couple of weeks in September were really gorgeous here, but i was unexpectedly busy at work and not able to steal extra time in the afternoons to work outside.

Two weeks ago - tiller all serviced and ready to go - i gathered plants and mulch and set to work.   First, tilling the entire area - which was not so easy given the large root system still under ground.

Then I laid out the plants.  The pot is a place saver for the tree.  Then I moved that large clump of 'Lady's Mantle' from the left side and spread them out to form the back "border" of this bed.
You can see the remaining root in the center.  Am hoping it will rot quickly now that I have tilled out so much of it's root system. 

This is a shady area with a few hours of sun in the summer, so i am trying to bring color using greenery and contrast.
In addition to the arborvitae [Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald Green'], i put in a dozen lilyturf [Lirope 'Variegata'] and three Mocha Heuchera [Heuchera x villosa PP 18386].  Then i have left enough room between the plants and the foot path to put in some annuals next spring.  Am thinking a begonia with the green and white variegated leaves. 

Unfortunately - actually it was fortunate - the rains came before i could get the mulch down.  It took two weekends, but the bed is finally done and mulched.  All that remains is to remember to water - two inches a week!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

An Old Friend Returns to Work

Mitchell likes to tell of a day - about 20 years ago - when he came home from work and I announced that I had purchased a tool.  He was thinking screwdriver or wrench. 

I was thinking Mantis tiller!

Having watched too many infomercials i decided it was exactly what i wanted.  You know ... he was always willing to dig me a hole, but often not really available when I needed it dug.  And, little projects just pop up unexpectedly when one would like to move a little dirt....  and a girl needs a small tiller. 

Best purchase I ever made!  Light, easy to start and maintain.  Perfect for me!  [Mantis has in no way paid me to say these nice things - i really do love my Mantis!]
Main back "garden" pre-tilling.  Bird bath has not moved.  2002
Bird bath is just to the right of the statue. 2014

She - this is such a hard working tiller that she is clearly female - dug beds at our old house for several years, and then moved here with us more than 14 years ago.  She dug all my beds, except the cutting garden. 
Side of back yard.  Same bird bath.  2002
The beds continue on to the right.  2014

About three years ago I couldn't start her.  Just couldn't.  When I finished up whatever I was doing, I put her in the shed and ... well, forgot about her.  This summer I really wanted to re-do a bed and really needed the tiller, so I finally took her in for a bit of TLC and she returned to me last week with a brand new carburetor and all ready to tackle whatever I could throw at her.  

We'll share the results in a couple of days, but it's nice to have my partner back.  She's raring to go turn over the cutting garden.  I think next weekend ...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wednesday Workday

Everyone could use a little grass ....

The most fun projects are those that just kind of pop up unexpectedly and then work out easily, and that is the story of the new grass.  Many years ago we had lovely clumps of grass, but as the garden grew and I dug new beds the grasses got replaced and we moved on.

  But, now the hibiscus have moved on, and I had a nice empty spot to fill - and at the back of the main planting bed where I could use something tall and something to provide winter interest.  It was clearly the place for grass. 

Over the weekend I checked out what was readily available and cleared the space.  Voila! an easy  project for this week.  

Sometimes I think that my favorite part of a new planting is laying out the pots and moving them around until I am happy with the arrangement.  This one was simple, but I moved the rose planter a bit and relocated the big sprinkler, too.  The only unexpected problem was the need to relocate about 15 iris, but that didn't take too long.

A few holes and I was ready to water it in.  Mother Nature did her part and sent me a rainy day to get it all soaked.  

We're still at more than six inches of rain deficit, so I'll need to keep up the watering for a month or more until things start going dormant.