Wednesday, January 30, 2008

CAN YOU TELL I'M A GARDENER?

After reading Kylee's post over at Our Little Acre about how her home shows her love of gardening, I thought that I would share some reasons why you might think that I like gardening too. You won't find house plants in my home though. Unlike Kylee, I am not much of an indoor gardener. I have a few Orchids, and the plants that I bring in from outdoors in the Fall, but that is about it.

This is my living room bookcase. This one doesn't begin to hold all of my books, but it does hold my nicest ones, not the ones that you drag out to the garden with you.

This is my dining room. Most of the pictures above the buffet are garden related. This room used to be pink with a old-fashioned flower border. I got tired of the pink a few years ago. I like this much better.


This is my bedroom. Several years ago my Sister and I both saw this picture and wanted it. She ended up with it. After hanging in her home for some time, she moved into a new home and changed her entire style of decorating. Lucky for me, this picture did not fit in. I bought it at her garage sale, and see it every morning when I wake up. It was worth waiting for.

This is my reading room. My favorite spot to read. Every wall in this room is covered with books, and as you can see, my little "reading angel" keeps watch over my books when I am not there.

This is my kitchen. I love this room. It is so cheerful, and red has always been my color. When we bought this house the kitchen was a disaster. We lived with it until a few years ago, and then decided to tackle it one winter. My husband had never done tile work, and was worried about my bold choice of color. I reassured him that it would be fine, and it turned out great, and he did a wonderful job on the tile. The border and wall paper are vegetables, and my Sister sewed the curtains.
As you leave the kitchen to go out the back door, I have a poster of different herbs from the garden. I love these posters, and have three in my home. The tomato poster you can see in the kitchen photo, and there is a corn poster in my mud room.


This is the mud room just inside the back door. I don't wear hats often, so these don't get much use.

The office is just inside the back door, off the mud room. This is where the majority of my gardening books are kept. This makes them convenient for my work, and also to get to from the garden without tracking mud all through the house. You will note the box under the chair. I have run out of room for books, so I am either going to have to move to a bigger house, or kick my Son out so that I can make the entire upstairs into a library.
Thanks Kylee. I have never looked at my house through someone else's eyes to see what you could tell about me from the way I decorate. It was kind of fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

IKEA TRIP

I don't know how many of you have ever been to an Ikea store, but if you haven't you should definitely try to go there at least once. It is what I call a "shopping experience".
Every year my Sister and I try to get there at least one time. The nearest store to us is about a 3 hour drive, so you don't just hop in the car some afternoon and head there. It is sort of an event, when we go. So, we planned the trip for Saturday, the coldest day of the year so far. There was no snow in the forecast, so we decided to brave the cold, and go ahead with our plans.
Usually, we search through the catalog before we go, to get an idea of what we might want to buy. This year, I decided that I didn't "need" anything, so I was just going along for the ride.
Never make that mistake when going to Ikea. I came home with two bags full, even though I didn't "need" a thing.
There are several things about this store that make it unique. The products that they carry are very well made, but very reasonably priced. The store's usually have 3 levels, with escalator's to each level, with a special cart escalator to take your cart with you as you go from floor to floor.
When we arrived, the first thing we did was to have a snack to tide us over while we shopped. A 50 cent hot dog, $1.00 cinnamon roll, and a $1.00 drink would be enough to keep us going for awhile.
When we go there it is an unwritten rule that everyone is on his own. We don't try to stick together, because each person has there own interests, so we agree to meet at a certain spot latter in the day.
The first thing that I found that I couldn't do without, were these tin boxes. I thought that they would be perfect for my seeds. They come in packages of two, a large one and a small one. The package of two sells for $6.98. If I had found these in a garden catalog, they would probably run around $20.00 each. There is a slot on the front of the boxes for a tag with the contents of the box on it.
The kitchen area is also a difficult area for me. I am a gadget collector, and they have plenty of them there. They also have a garden area, selling flower pots, and even plants. I did have a problem while in line watching people take these plants to their cars, with nothing over them. It was 0 degrees outside, and they were taking these plants to their cars, and letting them set in the cart while they made room for them. I can't imagine how long a plant could last in those conditions. I bit my tongue, because there were so many people buying plants, and I didn't want to get thrown out of the store for bothering the customers.
After we spend a few hours shopping, it is time for dinner. Right next to the Ikea at the Schaumburg, IL store that we go to, is a restaurant called "Sweet Tomato's". It is a tradition that we eat there. It is an "all you can eat" restaurant, but different than most. The food on the buffet are salads, soups, and pasta. It is a very easy restaurant to "eat healthy".
By the time we are done with dinner, we can usually hit a few more stores in the area, before heading home.
The only problem is, when you get home you start thinking, "darn, I wish I would have gotten a few more of this item". When I pulled the tin boxes out of my bag, my Son thought he had a few great uses for them. As you can see from the picture, my seeds won out. He can make his own trip to Ikea. I already have a list of items that he can pick up for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A SPECIAL GARDENER

In April of 2002 I got a call from a friend of the people that had the Voodoo bulbs that I wrote about on the previous post. I had mowed this lady's lawn 20 years ago, but had not had any contact with her since then. She called to see if I would consider helping her in her garden. I agreed to go and look at what she wanted done, but told my husband that there was no way that I was going to do it. I was just far to busy, and if I did have any spare time, I wanted to spend it in my own garden.
So I went and met with her. She started showing me around the garden, assuming that I was going to take the job. She was so proud of all of her flower's, but her knee's would not allow her to get down on the ground like she used to. She was also taking care of her invalid husband, which took up a lot of her time.
Well, needless to say, I could not tell her no. She had thought about hiring a kid to help her, but knew that they would not know the difference between plants and weeds. So, I agreed to come for a few hours every week, if I could make it. The beds were full of perennial grass, and the usual weeds that plague all of our gardens.
So, that first Friday I showed up with my trowel and gloves, and started on the beds. We developed a routine that summer, usually on Friday mornings, were I would come for a couple of hours to weed, mulch, or do whatever she thought was pressing that week. She would usually come out and garden along with me, or sometimes just sit in her chair and visit while I worked. She would often tell me that if it wasn't for me, she would not be able to stay in her home. Her children lived several hours away, and were not able to help her with everyday chores. She would come out to her garden during the week, whenever she got the chance, and would always tell me when I got there on Friday, what she had accomplished since I was there last.
Then about a two years ago, her husband passed away. I was still coming weekly, and was noticing that she was slowing down a bit, her knee's bothering her more. She spent more time in her chair visiting, than she did gardening. I learned to be a good listener, because the minute I got there she would begin to tell me all about her week. I would garden, and she would drag her chair around behind me, often sharing with me stories of her childhood, raising her children, and her gardening wisdom. She still got an amazing amount of chores done during the week, making herself go out to the garden everyday if she could. She was especially proud of her "Dortmund" roses, and they are awesome, as you can see in the picture.
Every Spring she starts her own tomato's, and has her own certain way of planting them. She will stand over me and instruct me on how much Epsom salts, and fertilizer to put into the hole, each year going over it again in case I have forgotten. During the winter months she meticulously goes over the seed and bulb catalogs, choosing new variety's to try. She loves lily's, and always orders a few of them. I stop in to see her during the winter months, and she will discuss with me which plants she is ordering for the Spring. I am amazed at her memory. She will often sit in her chair an instruct me where to plant the bulbs that had come in the mail that week. And the next Spring remember where they are all planted and what variety they were.
She gardens almost total organic, though I have had to introduce her to Roundup, or we would have never gotten control of the wild grasses. She grows many of the old fashioned favorites, and the garden is colorful the entire year.
This Fall I was able to get almost all of the garden cleaned off before winter set in. She was so thrilled, and has even called to tell me how wonderful it is to look out at it and know that she is ready for Spring.
Today she turns 90 years old. I wasn't sure what to take her, but while shopping at Sam's I noticed that they had these amazing orchid's. I love my orchid's because of their long bloom period, so I thought that she might enjoy one.
She doesn't talk much about moving anymore, but when she does, she isn't down about it. She knows that at 90 years old, she is not going to be able to stay in her home forever, and she has her "garden memories" to keep her company when the time comes that she is forced to give up her real garden. But she still drives her car, even taking friend to their doctor appointments, and getting her own groceries. She keeps up with current events, and can talk politics's, the economy, or any other item in the news.
I truly believe that the one consistent thing in her life, her garden, has kept her going this many years, and hopefully for many more.
When I took this job in 2002, I never thought that I would still be going there weekly, in 2008. But she is already making plans for this years garden, and getting her seeds and bulbs ordered.
She often tells me that she doesn't know what she would do without me. But what I know, is that I have gotten far more out of this relationship than she has.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

VOODOO BULBS

Since I don't work outdoors during the winter months, I try and catch up on everything that didn't get done, or got put aside during the months that I am working or gardening. I gather the tax information together, clean up stacks of paper that never got filed or tossed, and just tidy up the office. As I was going through a file cabinet in the office, I ran across I bunch of pictures
from 25-30 years ago.
I used to help an old couple that lived next door to us, with the rose beds in their back yard. They had hundreds of rose bushes, and they hired me to help take care of them. They showed me a bulb that they planted every Spring. They called it a Voodoo bulb. I looked it up in my books, and that is indeed the name of it. There are more than one variety, but I have never found this particular one in any of my books. The bulb would be planted in the Spring, and about 6 weeks later, it would start to grow. It would grow a stalk that looked exactly like the flower stalk, but then would open to umbrella-like foliage. The shade from it was dense enough to grow impatiens underneath. When they dug the bulb in the Fall, there were baby voodoo's coming from the Mother bulb. Of course, I asked for one. The Mother bulb was probably about the size of a volley ball, and the babies about the size of a golf ball. It takes many years to get them to the large "Mother" size. They are not hardy, so they have to be dug every Fall.
When they reach the "Mother" size, they begin to bloom. I would store the bulb in my basement, and come about February or March, the flower would start up from the bulb. No soil, or water, they just grow. As you can see, this is no small flower. They could reach 6-7 foot tall. Now, there has to be a a drawback, right? Well, there is. When the flowers open, and that large purple tongue-like thing sticking out of the middle of it is at it's peak, the absolutely most horrible stink comes from the flower. As I remember, it smelled like rotten meat. So, the flower could stay in the house until full bloom, and then it had to go to the porch. In our several moves since we lived in that house, I somehow lost track, or didn't get my Mother bulb dug up, but I have always managed to keep at least a few babies going. The ones that I dug this Fall are now about the size of a baseball. For the past few years I have planted them in a whiskey barrel so that they would be easier to dig. They don't seem to be getting much bigger, so I think next year I will plant them directly in the ground. I sure would like to get my bulbs back to the "Mother" size.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

We are back home! I am not much of a vacation person, and we don't take many trips because of our work. When we do get a chance to go somewhere, it has to be in the winter.
Our last day in Nashville was Sunday. As soon as we checked out of our hotel room, we headed for the Opryland hotel. Everything that I had heard about it was true. The hotel and the gardens were beautiful! It was so nice to be around plants again. It has only been a few months since I have been able to garden, but it seems like forever! I think that, that couple of hours in the hotel will get me through until Spring. The gardens are kept in perfect condition, but if I had had my pruning shears along, I would have trimmed up a few plants. They would probably frown on that, so it is lucky that I left them at home. I think that they were in the middle of Christmas decorations, and Spring planting, so there were a few open areas of soil. My husband had to hold me back from digging through it. We never found any other garden related stores, though on the way home I spotted a Worms Way store from the highway, of course not in time to get off the right exit to stop. So, I guess that I will spend this week going over the catalogs that I have received, and getting my seeds ordered. Then I will have an excuse the first of February to get out into the greenhouse and do some planting. There is nothing like the smell of the greenhouse on a sunny day in February! I can't wait!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

STILL IN NASHVILLE

I am sorry that I didn't post any pictures from the Opryland hotel. I haven't gotten there yet!
We spent yesterday touring downtown Nashville. We enjoyed the music coming out of the bars, the barbecue sandwich's at Jack's, and stopping in the guitar, boot, and gift stores. My Son found a pair of boots that he couldn't live without, and after much pleading, and the offer to sign over his tax check, he made his purchase. We then headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was very nice, but very tiring. We had tickets for the Opry at 8:00, and over the winter months, the performances are held in the Ryman auditorium. That was great to see, and we really enjoyed it, but did not get back to the hotel until very late. I was to exhausted to even check my mail.
This morning we had to be downtown for the start of the Sound and Speed event. Now, Nascar is not high on my favorites list, but I decided that I could stand it for a day, to please my family. It was very hard, but I made it through. Then, in the evening was the concert with Alan Jackson, Taylor Swift, and Jason Michael Carroll. The concert was definitely worth putting up with the day of Nascar, and well worth the ticket price. The only bummer for the day was finding out that the Ford company had opened the Country Music Hall of Fame, free for the day. I had paid $50.00 the day before for us to go through it.
So, I announced to the guys tonight, that tomorrow is my day. We will be heading, first thing, to the Opryland hotel so that I can get my garden 'fix', before we head home.
Thanks for the suggestions Jacob. I think we saw all of the sites that you recommended, but no Lyle Lovett at the guitar store. :(

Thursday, January 10, 2008

HELLO FROM NASHVILLE!!

I am writing this from a hotel room in Nashville Tennessee. We made plans to take this trip about a month ago, and before I knew it, the time was here.
I don't know why this idea came to me, but I saw an advertisement for a "Sound and Speed" event on this weekend, and decided to check into it. The "Sound" part for my Son, and the "Speed" part for my husband. I am sure you are asking, 'what is in it for you?' Well, I have always wanted to see the Opryland hotel, acres of indoor gardens, and water features. So, that is on my agenda for tomorrow. Doesn't that sound great for the middle of winter?
The real reason that we decided on this trip is because when I mentioned it to my Son, he seemed very excited. Shocking to me, because at 21 years old, who knew that he would still want to go on a trip with his parents. So, knowing that this would probably be the last trip that we take as a family,we decided to go. We did go through some unbelievable rain on the way, but we got here safe without any problems.
It has been worth it already to see his excitement over this town. He is a huge Johnny Cash fan, and when he plays, sounds an awful lot like him. We toured the Opry Mills shopping center today, way more shopping than I need, and not a garden store anywhere!
I am very sad that we won't be visiting the Cheekwood Botanical Garden. I am afraid that this would not be the best time of year to see it, maybe next time.
So, maybe tomorrow night, if I am not worn out from the walking, I will post some pictures of the hotel. I can't wait!!

Monday, January 7, 2008

WHITE FLOWER FARM

When I ordered Fine Gardening magazine last year, I received a $25.00 gift certificate to White Flower Farm along with the subscription. I just ran across it in my 'paper cleaning' frenzy, so I thought that I had better decide on what I wanted from the catalog.
Now, if you have never seen a catalog from this company, don't bother unless you have stacks of money sitting around that you don't have anything to do with. Their prices are higher, by far, than any catalog I get in the mail. They do have some unusual plants, and if you are unable to find them anywhere else, you might want to check them out. I also do not know the quality of their plant material, because I have never ordered from them.
My beef with them is that even the common plants they carry cost a fortune. One of the most common, Leucantheum "Becky", is priced at $10.95, and all their varieties of columbine are priced at $10.95 also. Most all of the perennials are from $8.95-$21.00. As you all know, columbine is easily started from seed, and even if you buy plants they are very cheap. Some of the specialty plants can go as high as $50.00.
So, it was a challenge to try and find something that I wanted, that I knew that I could not find locally for a lower price, and in the $25.00 range.
After going over the catalog several times, I decided on the Calycanthus 'Venus'.
I have a god customer of mine that has the common form of Calycanthus. Most people know it as Sweet Shrub, or Carolina Spice Bush. Her plant has the most interesting cinnamon colored blooms, with a wonderful spicy smell. It is probably a 10-15 year old specimen, and is only 4-5 foot tall, and about 3-4 foot wide. Venus is supposed to be 6-8 foot tall, with a 8 foot spread.
When I saw this variety I feel in love with it. I think because they describe it as having glossy foliage and 5 inch magnolia-like flowers. It reminds me of my favorite tree, the Sweet Bay magnolia. They describe the flowers as emerging ivory, and then opening to white with yellow and purple infusions in the center. The fragrance of the flower is described as a strawberry and melon perfume. This shrub is also supposed to bloom off and on throughout the season, which the common sweet shrub does not do. I did go over my budget, which is what I expect they hope you will do. The price for Venus was $39.95, and with shipping it came to $50.00. So I got it for half price. I hope that it is worth it. Now I just have to figure out where I am going to put it, before they ship it in the Spring!
We are still enjoying our Spring-like weather, 68 degrees at 2:00P.M.! I went out for a walk around the yard, to check for rabbit damage, and saw a woolly worm creeping along the foundation of the house. What is he thinking! It is winter out there! At least it was last week.

Friday, January 4, 2008

SECOND REPRIVE

Well, it looks like we are going to be back into the 50s this weekend. I think the outdoor Christmas decorations will have to come down, we may not get another opportunity for awhile. These decoration were made by my husband a few years ago. I had seen them in a magazine and decided that they would make a great gift for all of my sisters for Christmas.... and I would need a few for myself. Copper wasn't as costly then, so he bought some pipe, cut them to different lengths, and then glued regular ornaments to the tops of the pipes. I only expected a year out of them, but this is the third or fourth year, and they still look pretty good. The ornaments that I used were the boxed kind you can get after Christmas for practically free, so they were pretty cheap to make. They look really nice with just a string of white light underneath them, but this year I had these snowflakes, so I used them. I had several guests comment on how nice they looked, and they shed just enough light that I didn't have to turn the back overhead light on so people could see where they were going. The nice part is, that when the ornaments get bad, you can just knock them off and attach new ones.
The seed catalog's are still flooding the mailbox. You would think that after years of not ordering from some of them, they would give up...but they don't. I have started to look through them, but not to seriously yet. I will need to clear a large area on the dining room table, and get down to business next week. I think though before I do, I will check my seeds from last year and make sure that I don't order any that I already have.
I did run across a $25.00 gift certificate that I got from White Flower Farm when I paid for a subscription to Fine Gardening magazine. With their prices, maybe I could buy a crocus bulb or two!