8.25.2014

Greenhouse Gourds


I love a good gourd vine - who doesn't?
We planted this one in a new raised bed just outside the greenhouse. 
In its enthusiasm, it found a way through a cracked lower window and staked a 
claim. Bypassing the watering cans and shunning the badly used birdhouse, it seemed to 
be on its way to the ceiling vents.
(My sons are building a practice frisbee golf basket and think the greenhouse is a great place for project storage.)

Intricate curls and modestly clasped buds -

The smallest round egg gourds are forming ...

... and developing everywhere in there.

BUT -
Can you see the mildew spots on the lower leaves? It will eventually take the whole vine 
down. You can spray to stop the mildew, and after cutting off the effected leaves, 
there might be a chance of survival. 
 Some organic solutions described here which I've never tried. Seems like it might be 
worth a shot when the plant is smaller, earlier in the season.
There's always next year!



8.18.2014

Tall and Fierce


For the first time in many years, my sunflowers have grown 
unmolested by birds, bunnies or bugs.

When I look into the backyard, they're all standing around in small cliques.  
They seem gawkily awkward from early evening straight through to the dawn hours, 
like painful middle-schoolers within the society of our backyard gardens.
But when the sunshine finally streams over the trees, they straighten up and suddenly look
strongin their prime, tall and fierce denizens of a too-small kingdom.

Lemon Queen is acting like a royal out there, doing her light, bright-yellow thing.
She bloomed pretty early in the season.

The Mammoths made me wait while they grew to UNBELIEVABLE heights.
This is actually the view of one stalk from the grass:
(note the tiny bloom heads at every leaf node - so much to come!)

See what I mean???
FIERCE

*** Side Note ***
Have you meandered through the end of the first chapter of First Corinthians lately? All this sunflower talk brings it home for me. Here it is, if you'd like to see it in various versions without even leaving your chair.
He chose the foolish things ... He chose the weak things ... He chose the despised things...




8.11.2014

Here, Fishy, Fishy!


Only a few hydrangeas had any blooms here this season, due to the incredibly harsh winter just past.
The only traditional hydrangea of mine that had any blooms was a single Blue Billows bush. 
Not usually one of my favorites, but I appreciated the blue when it was so scarce in my garden this spring.
* This morning I saw that one of my Nikko bushes has added a whole new 
layer of small blooms!  It's going to do a fall bloom!  Whoo-hoo!
Super short stems make Blue Billows work best in a very small vase.
My fish is interested in anything that happens in his windowsill. 
I tell you, this fish is more like a dog in a bowl than a regular pet fish.
He (it?) rests on the bottom of his vase until someone comes to the sink for a drink 
or to wash dishes. Then he flutters at the edge, watching the water stream and wanting attention. 
Or food, whichever. 
His wife is in the background - a solar hula dancer from the Dollar Tree.
He is, after all, a 'fighting fish', so it took them a while to make their relationship work, 
but now they are inseparable. 



8.04.2014

Misplaced Faith


When you have a car full of teenaged loved ones, a traffic back-up on the express way can cause some pretty rash driving decisions. So we believed the GPS when it said we could get to the pizza place by an 
'alternate route'
Oh the FAITH required to use a GPS! 
Off we went, following the directions in a blow-by-blow format, thinking SOMEhow we would arrive
 in a busy college town after driving further and further, deeper and deeper  into farmland.
This is where we were when the GPS said something none of us had ever heard before:

Prepare to park your car and continue to your destination on foot.

Misplaced faith, for sure.


7.30.2014

Garden Failures


I tend to only take photos of successes. 
But just so I never forget, and to give you fair warning -
here are the celosia (boooo hisssss) I planted for some annual highlighting this year. 
In my own defense, they were $0.50 per cell pack. 
Pretty cheap annuals, but definitely NOT worth it. That's it!
I'm swearing off celosia for good. 
*Well, except for cockscomb, celosia cristata.
Who can resist those fluorescently brainiac beauties?

Other garden failures for this year, since I'm making my garden confession:
- planting my limelight in too deep shade. they don't look like this at all.
- putting annual blue salvia in a container. they got MUCH too big and fell all over the vinca
causing them to mildew in the ugliest way.
- planting that other salvia in containers and thinking it would all turn out differently this year 
just because i chose purple and melon. that's it!!  
I'm swearing off (that other) salvia for good!!!
- nicotinia - how dismal. maybe it was positioned too close to that other salvia.
- and sadly, my most shameful confession.
i tried delphinium again, this time in a container. 
OK ... and 4 (FOUR) other plants in the garden beds - they were on clearance. 
now they are menacing brown clumps of former stems, landscape eyesores.
that's it!!!
but no. i can never swear off delphinium. 
my ridiculous cottage garden ambitions will not allow it.
maybe someday i'll learn the trick to raising delphinium, but until then, i'll have 
 false indigo to keep me company.



7.21.2014

Ominous

This was the sky a few nights ago. 

At least it was OUR sky from OUR backyard. We all have a personal patchwork corner of the sky, don't we? Don't you? When dealing with an outbreak of illness, I have even laid claim to a tiny bit of the sky as seen, by day and by night, from the window closest to my bed. It has often occurred to me what a harsh deprivation it would be to have no access to the sky.

 From his spot on the couch, one of my guys called attention to it - "Look at that, Mom!" We all piled out to the back porch to stand in the middle of our acre and gawk at the balefully-colored, rolling clouds. In silence, we considered the meaning of a sky like this one. My youngest finally spoke his unease aloud -  "What's going to happen?"  Every one of us felt small and helpless standing under a sky like this one.  

And I think that's an important reality check for adults and teenagers alike. 
We ARE small!
 We ARE helpless!
That night, God reminded us of our actual  state of being, and with ultimate efficiency, reminded us who He is. 
He is BIG
He is POWERFUL.

*** How miraculous to be invited to rest in the safety of One so capable! ***


“It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. 
God made man small and the universe big to say something about himself.”
John Piper




7.16.2014

Lying Petunias


Why are petunias so deceptive?
Every spring, I scour the garden stores, reading petunia tags filled with promises. 
Just the names are suspiciously pompous:
"Supertunia"
"Proven Winner"
"Cascadia"
And the pie-in-the-sky descriptions!
"self cleaning"
"drought tolerant"
"5 foot spread"

Mmmmm-hm.

Perhaps I have so much petunia disappointment because I can't bring myself to follow this advice:
"...newer varieties that say they don’t require deadheading 
will benefit from a pinching or shearing mid-season."*
While I am an avid pruner, it is beyond me to get out the clippers 
and shear a star-player in my summer containers. 
Although by ignoring this pointer, I know I will soon be yanking bloomless
petunia plants and pitching them into the side yard to be mown over.

This year I made a petunia splurge buy** at a schmancy garden store, and friends, I paid premium price 
for that single yellow and white striped beauty. Even though I planted it in optimal conditions and 
made sure it was properly watered - it's long gone leaving nothing but hateful, brown stems.

 Among the petunias I bought this spring THIS is the only one that 
remains healthy, compact and blooming well. 
It came from the lowly Walmart garden section, thrown into the cart to keep company with a pack of chicken breasts, an unfortunate mascara choice, and a box of dog bones.

You just never can tell, can you!?

* more useful info on petunias here
** $3.84 for one annual bedding plant is way inside my splurge category.


Side Note:
You never can tell who the Lord will call to serve in His kingdom - those from the lowliest beginnings often seem to end up as one of His favorite instruments of grace! 
"... God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise..."  I Corinthians 1:26-29

You never can tell what the Lord will use in the lives of His children to create beauty. Sometimes the most harsh and cutting circumstances lead to rejuvenation and then, rejoicing!  
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8






7.07.2014

Head in the Clouds

We did a LOT of driving in June, trekking to the Smoky Mountains and 
Virginia Beach. On our last day of vacation, instead of dozing with head 
lolling for the entertainment of the all, I was snapping these.

Does anyone see the elephant in these clouds?
A scary clown???

In the home stretch, there was a heated ABC Game*, with a unsolvable snarl 
around letter 'X'.  I ended up on the losing team.
So glad to be home and back in familiar routines!

SIDE NOTE:
*The ABC Game - Our Version This can be played as an all car game or as a competition between teams, persons, rows, etc.  I prefer the competition since I want to be the winner, of course. Work your way through the alphabet, in order, finding words on signs, buildings, trucks, other cars, license plates - anything. 

- Yell out your word and tack on irritating celebration phrases like, "Take that, Sucka!" (I'm sharing the most polite examples here.) If you have a wicked laugh, throw that in too.

- No abbreviated words or acronyms allowed: KOA does not count for letter 'K'. 
Especially since the 'K' in that word stands for 'Kampgrounds', one of those nasty intentional misspellings. 

- No reusing exactly the same word by multiple teams/players:
 " 'C' - Cracker!" 
"Oh! 'C' for us too - Cracker!"
Nope. No way, no how. Find your own C.
Same word found on different signs - that's (reluctantly) allowed.

- Special allowances are made for Q and X and maybe Z, if you get that far. Any word CONTAINING one of these can count.  

- Placing a friendly bet can keep things interesting. Some examples: 
Winner gets to choose the radio station for 50 miles.
Loser carries the winner's luggage.
Winner gets first bed choice. 
Winner gets to order first at the next restaurant.
Loser cleans the garbage out of the car at the next stop.
Winner gets to choose a treat at the next gas station.
Loser may not speak for an hour ... (a personal favorite)





6.24.2014

Belle of the Ball


My Youngest gave me hollyhock seeds at last year. 
Lush plants grew but did not bloom.
But THIS year - showtime!  
Light pink, dark pink and white. 

***
As a child, my mom and her sister made tiny dolls out of these blooms and 
created a cotillion for them on the dusty doorstep of their grandmother's home.
She showed me how to make a hollyhock belle once - the wide open bloom makes a skirt and 
the tightly curled bud forms a coiffed head.

6.19.2014

Garden Notes 6/19/14


 Last year's dead hydrangea canes have made some nice mini-teepee poles -
the perfect size for a container. Gotta get SOMEthing good out of all those 
frozen canes!

- The Don Juan rose is BACK!!! Thank goodness I was too lazy to dig up the entire bush and only cut it off! One nice red cane coming up from the heart of the root ball.
- I've been longing for cleome this year - planned it out last fall. A big patch right where some nasty black eyed susans had spread. Have sewn 3 x in various areas from last year's seed. Nothing. Then along a bed edge where I usually spray weed killer - a whole bunch of mid-sized seedlings!  I transplanted them to the spot where I originally wanted to grow them. Felt like the Lord gave me a sweet gift.
- A clicking/knocking sound in a certain area in the long bed, near neighbor's wisteria. What is it???
- The sun flowers are killing it! They might make 'mammoth' status this year.
- Different stem colors for different zinnia seeds - never noticed that before.
- Red coneflower - sigh!  :0)  Wonderful!
- Cut back the r. sage ready-to-flower growth. The similarly trimmed b. e. susans are frantically sprouting new bloom stems with much smaller leaves - interesting conservation of energy on the part of the plant in order to achieve bloom 'on time'.
- Datura is gone gone gone. (Guess I shouldn't have said "thank you"...)
- Very delicate columbine seedlings coming up around the two main plants. Going to try to keep these open to the sun, and see if I can establish some new plants.
- I think the potted blackberry hydrangea has a small side growth that could be separated to make a new plant. Separate them in the fall. How to make the more raspberry color darker blue blackberry again? Try the old rusty nails trick?

We spent a whole day of our vacation hobnobbing with people like this.
They all had alot to say and with such DRAMA!
 It was fascinating - every. single. minute.


6.17.2014

Cuttings


I had hoped to put up a 'cuttings' photo once a week when the spring finally really came.
But the best laid plans and all that, you know - stuff!
Here's one to enjoy, even though none of these flowers are in bloom any longer.
Peonies (pie-knees not pee-on-knees) star in this show with Wine and Roses weigela and a few stems 
of the blue false indigo (baptisia) mixed with speedwell.
The combination is almost patriotic!
Oh the creamy dreaminess of a peony bloom!

***
Side Note:
My Bible reading this morning was in Mark, chapter 13. 
I think Mark might be my favorite gospel, although I hate to commit to picking one. See verse 33 through 37 for the big message which Jesus does not hesitate to repeat and emphasize:
STAY AWAKE!
(keep watch / stay alert)
I have to admit in the business of everyday summer life, I get spiritually sleepy. 
Isn't it odd that while extra BUSY I can be SLEEPY at the same time? 
Imagine a frantically animated sleepwalker and you might get pretty close.
The Mary/Martha Lesson is applicable here, I think, if I may mix Bible stories within such close quarters and not offend. Martha was busy, busy, busy doing, let's face it, necessary stuff, yet the Lord said Mary was the one who chose the "good portion". 
So I've knocked myself in the head over here. I've shaken myself back to a higher state of alertness, and I'm making more time to sit at the feet of the Lord.

Join me?




6.14.2014

Home Again

A week is  along time to be on vacation. 
It can get a little big jiggy at the end.
Three adult-sized males 
crammed in the rear of even a generously sized (rented) SUV can be 
unenthusiastic travel companions when facing an eight hour drive home.
 It makes coming home all the sweeter, doesn't it?
Vacation photos of the fun part - - - soon to follow.

***
My speedwell was going strong a couple of weeks ago. Bees love the purple-blue spikes which are upright and colorful all the way to the end of their bloom time. When they're finished though, they're like  old ladies who've been too long at the ball - they lay all over gasping and taking up too much room. I trim mine back to about three inches. They look awful for a couple of weeks, while the other plants fill in and disguise their rough mornings. But soon speedwell will green back up and make nice foliage plants with a stray bloom here and there for the rest of the summer. They love the sun but will also bloom in pretty deep shade.