Sunday, May 22, 2016

Weather. Be. Damned.

Every garden needs a few Allium (ornamental onion) bulbs. 
In addition to being drop dead gorgeous, their oniony aroma keeps the critters at bay.

Have barely had time to breathe, much less blog, this being the most wonderful time of year.

Mud month, weeding month, a reunion of sorts. The meet and greet of stalwart perennials ~ back again for another season, weather be damned.

Let me repeat that: 



Woke to an unusually bright, golden-yellow Eastern sky.

It was really pretty. And, suspicious.

We Midwesterners are often suspicious about the weather. Because wide open spaces encourage tornadoes and violent storms. And, we've all suffered mightily from what Mother Nature sends our way.

Lilac: Burgundy Queen
But, I don't live in the Midwest, any more. 
So, perhaps I should stop being such a Nervous Nelly?  

Lewisia: Best grown from seed.
Walked into the kitchen, for that highly anticipated first cup o’ Joe.

Out the Western windows, the sky was eerily deep, dark grey. The air still. The garden quiet.

Something is coming, I thought to myself.

Here cometh the Ice Storm.
So, I began to gather up the little seedlings, ‘hardening off’ on the deck.

That’s when I heard horse hooves.

Who is GALLOPING a horse, on pavement, in town??? 

Peered over the deck and saw a moose. (Yeah! A very large moose.)

Racing down the middle of my paved street, away from the mountains, heading East as quick as her gangly legs could take her.

So, now I’m scared. 

We humans have evolved to the point where we 'sense' pretty much nothing. Relying on the weather channel for advice that is bleeding obvious to the moose.

Poured the blessed coffee, dolled it up with cream.

And, then I thought to myself: Geez, Kate, are you really so caffeine dependent that it didn’t occur to you to document all of this weirdness?

I mean, seriously, a galloping moose! A picture of that is totally blog worthy. Much more so than this sad aftermath...

Started digging for the camera, in case Mrs. Moose planned a return trip.

And, that’s when it hit. Like a solid wall of ice, slamming into the house.

Blowing the doors open, battering the garden, the car, breaking tree branches (ah ha maybe that’s why Mrs. Moose ran from the woods...)

Drifts of hailstones. Hellish winds. Destroying an entire month of hard work.

And, no sign of the moose. Though, I imagine she faired significantly better than those poor little flowers, unable to run.

* TIP: Harden off your seedlings. 
Tiny, fragile seedlings are rarely capable of handling the shock of being shoved into the soil, the second it feels like planting time. Let them hang out on your porch, or your deck, for a couple of weeks. Let them deal with real sunshine, not window sunshine, winds, rain, cooler nights. A week, or two, of hardening off means many more of them might survive.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Sunny Yellows

"Flowers are beacons of sunshine, when somber skies blanket our world." - Dodinsky

Oh, where for art thou, happy sun? And, willst thou ever return?

At first, I was excited to hear no rain in the forecast. 
Until they mentioned snow.

I peer out the window, a bit dejected. It's a dark and soggy, Irish gloom, kind of Sunday morning.

During my dating years ~ college years ~ my optimistic ~ who care if it's raining? ~ boyfriend used to always say:

There is no bad weather! 
Just bad gear! 

And, while I can't remember, for sure, what happened... That's probably why I broke up with him. :)

There was a brief moment of sunshine, between the drizzle. 
I hopped off the horse and snapped pictures like crazy.

We don't need no freakin' optimists. Not during this everlasting monsoon.

In spite of the weather, we kept to our promise of a wildflower excursion every Thursday.

Tossed two unwilling horses into the brand, spanking, new horse trailer and drove off to our designated trail.

Which was closed.

Due to snow.

And, that right there, is a fine example of how hard it is to maintain a sunny disposition during so many rainy, messy days.

Not to worry, at a lower elevation, we did find a suitable trail.

After a heated debate with horse, Sable...

"Hell, no, I'm not walking over that bridge! I weigh more than you! I don't think it can hold me!" 

...We embarked on our first wildflower jaunt of the season.

It was cold, and wet, though easy to ignore.. because I was photographing Wild Snapdragons!

Which later turned out to be Golden Banner.

That's another reason why I'm so very excited about this summer of wildflower trips. I know nothing about wildflowers! (Thanks Google, for correcting me.) And, I'm very anxious to learn.

But, I do know... that if you're hiking, you rarely see the extent of the glorious blooms Mother Nature has to offer.

I suppose that's because of foot traffic and how irresistible these wildflowers can be. Many picked by hikers ~ which limits their ability to reseed. (And, it's also illegal, so don't do that.)

On our horses, we pick our way through the woods, creating our own path. A path dotted with plentiful yellow flowers on this grey and rainy day.

I also found some False Sunflowers. Which turned out to be Mule's Ears. (Again, thanks Google.)

Farther up the mountain, the babbling brook, which had turned into a rushing river, overflowed it's banks, completely. Horse, Sable, finally got her wish ~ to turn around and head for home.

It got me thinking about wildflowers. 
How hard they are to grow in our gardens. Perhaps it's because we're too kind to them? 

First, they freeze. 
Then, they drown. 
Then they're parched. 
And, often, trampled. 

But, they just say: 
Oh, that's okay. I'll see ya next year.

Here's hoping the sun is shining, wherever you may be.
~ kate


Sunday, May 01, 2016

Mobile Tomatoes and the Wildflower Express

I was delighted to see the tiny Violas I planted last year (sold as annuals) 
are back, and blooming, for a second summer.

Got the text from the girls ~ aka the Saddle Sore-ority ~ let's go horseback riding at 1:00! And, while I'm pretty much always game... this day I said no. Which made Casey super happy. That's Beth's little cowboy ~ who gets to ride my horse, since I'm being a party pooper.

Utah is blessed with some remarkable wildflower meadows.

A glance at the calendar confirms it is May Day but it still feels like winter to me.

Orange and yellow Violas are already blooming, making a wonderful ground cover for the ever plentiful Montana.

Such a baby I am!

Brrr... it's chilly.

Waaa... It's cloudy.

I have no good excuse.

Though, I suppose, my lame excuse is somewhat valid. Utah is typically a very sunny state. Gloomy weather messes with my mood. Always has. Always will.

Even on a grey day, these Daffodils scream happiness.

All I need is some sunshine! Not getting a whole lotta that this year.

If only we could love yellow Dandies as much as we love yellow Daffodils. 
Then, my gardening chores would be a breeze! 

So, I bailed on the horseback riding. Poured a cup of coffee. Checked my email. Met a gardener from Austin, Texas who's planning to grow tomatoes in the mountains of Park City, Utah, this summer. And, could I give him some advice?

Amy's Sugar Gem Heirloom Tomatoes reach harvest in 65 days.
Fast-growing tomatoes are fantastic for mountain gardens.

Breaking it to him gently:  June 1st ~ which coincides with first harvest for some lucky gardeners in kinder climates ~ is actually too soon to be planting tomatoes in the mountains.

Unless....... you put them on wheels!

Mountain days are just as ideal as 
anywhere else you might like to garden. 
It's the nights that cause us trouble. 

When temperatures can drop to a chilly 40 degrees.

Though, that is the precise reason why I love living this high in the mountains.

Windows open, cool breeze, no air conditioner blasting away. "Good sleeping weather" as we used to say in the hot as blazes Midwest, where I grew up.

You can get all creative with raised beds, clear plastic sheeting, walls of water, and those methods work pretty well. Or... you can take the easy, and considerably more fun route, and buy yourself a Radio Flyer. 

Paul Robeson: my go-to heirloom, every summer.
These days, I grow most of my tomatoes in containers, on wheels, on the deck.

Why? Because it's the simplest way to do battle with Mother Nature.

* The deck is the ideal hot house for heirloom tomatoes during the day.

Bonus: I can wheel my wagon of tomato plants indoors on a night when cold temperatures threaten.* 

If you're looking for a fast-growing, truly fabulous tasting Heirloom Tomato, try growing the Paul Robeson. It's fast, fast, fast.. reaching harvest in 70 days. With a flavor 2 die 4.

The Wildflower Express
Friday was the most exciting day of what will forever be known as the horse chapters of my life.

Pay no attention to those grey skies. This dismal weather can't last forever.

The culmination of 3 years of discipline! 
A brand new 3-horse trailer that fits my fat Appaloosa 
(she takes up 2 spaces) and tows like a dream.

Three years, glaring at my savings account, wishing it would grow faster. Wishing I was a more normal person who simply finances things vs. saving for them. It always felt like such an extravagance and it took forever for me to justify the purchase of such freedom...

I'm so very excited! To plot out a brand new wildflower trail each and every weekend. And, to actually get there because I'm no longer depending upon undependable horse people to drive me to exotic flowering meadows.

Giddy. I'm just absolutely giddy.

To do the weekly giddyup with Sable.

* About those Tomatoes: If temps drop below 50 degrees, tomatoes shift sugar production from fruit to stem - those lovely heirlooms won't be nearly as tasty. It's generally quite cool in the evenings, this high up in the mountains. (We're talking jackets in August.) And, that's why it's hard to grow a great tomato at 7,000 feet altitude.

** It's not a wise idea to actually plant veggies in your painted wagon. Set deeper containers in the wagon, so plants don't become root bound.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Blue Meadows and the Saddle Sore-ority

“Then the spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds.” - Oscar Wilde

Had an awfully hard time getting out of bed this morning. Partly because I was shivering under the covers. Mostly because I was listening to the song birds on the other side of the open window. 

A sweet morning serenade.

It's still cold. Though that doesn't matter so much... as long as the sun shines.

The Bluebells are rejoicing and so am I.

All that rain. You know... the rain I've been complaining about for weeks now? :)

It has inspired remarkable blooms in the meadow.

Which, in turn, has inspired leisurely afternoons in the saddle.

Sweet Sable is an Appaloosa ~ best known for the polka dots on their bee-hinds.

Sable & I have been prowling the meadow in search of wildflowers.

She likes to eat 'em and I like to take pictures ~ before she gobbles 'em up.

"The angle you choose, when photographing your flowers, is very creative." That was a kind, and undeserved, comment from a blog visitor.

True confessions... it's not creativity. It's the sweet trifecta of old age, a wee bit o' laziness and a very tall horse.

So much easier to snap flower photos while I'm sitting in the saddle. Hopping on and off a tall horse is hard work!

She's the best photo assistant on the planet. Having learned to stand motionless while I'm taking pictures.

What's in it for her? Why, a cookie, of course!

Mertensia Alpina.
The Mountain Bluebells are absolutely stunning this year. 

Horse, Sable, also recognizes the ringtone on my cellphone. The moment it rings, she stops, drops her head and starts quietly grazing.

She knows I'm chatting with a client. Best not to blow my cover. (No cookies, if you blow my cover.) Said client probably assumes I'm sitting in a dreary office working on my computer.

We often ride to the old white barn. 
The path follows a babbling brook where wildflowers are plentiful.

Ah, the life of a freelancer.

This month, this year, I am celebrating 18 years of not working. Well, I work. I actually work pretty hard sometimes. Most times.

But, when I'm sick of work I go ride my horse and since I'm a very lenient boss I never yell at myself for playing hooky. :)

Meadow Phlox is blooming along the Willow Creek Trail.

My farrier (horse shoe guy) is forever lamenting the good, old days.

Before smart phones and wireless and all those gadgets that are super intimidating. To him, not to me.

I keep quiet while he's ranting about how great life was way back when. Though, I fail to see what was so good about those days. When we were cooped up in a cubicle, tied to a land line, waiting for the weekend to arrive.

Meadow Phlox comes in pink, too.

I'm old enough to remember high school days in the dark ages. Before anything made life easy!
It's only saving grace was that it was pink.
Sitting home (for an entire weekend!) waiting for some shy boy to get up the nerve to call me and invite me to prom. I had to stay home because the answering machine had not yet been invented.

Give me technology over that inconvenience any day.

Here's hoping you all had a lovely week in the garden.

~ kate

* Alpine Bluebells, Mountain Bluebells, Mertensia Alpina are all the same flower ~ so call them whatever you wish.

They did an 'okay' job of soothing colic in babies and horses ~ back in the days when we relied on a princess phone for a hot date.

As delightful as bluebells are... best to enjoy them in a wild environment.

Rich garden soil and consistent watering would encourage them to grow like crazy, squeezing out all of your other garden perennials.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bulbs, Bears and the Ice Storm

Lady Derby, Heirloom Hyacinth, 1875

Oh, happy day! The sun is shining!

A thin layer of ice melts from the garden. Hyacinth do their level best to shake off the last remnants of winter, providing a wee bit of spring color.

General Kohler Heirloom Hyacinth. (1878)
Find rare Hyacinth at Old House Gardens.

Cat's not happy. With good reason.

I love cats, hate litter boxes.

On the last sunshine-y day (which feels like a lifetime ago) I put his litter box outdoors in celebration of spring. Transforming him into a full on outdoor cat.

He woke me at dawn to inform me that I had absolutely jumped the gun on the switching of seasons. And, it is waaaaay too chilly to expect him to do his business outdoors.

It's been cold.

Really cold.

When I went to pick up my eggs, heat lamps were warming Bob's designer chickens.

Plentiful color, indoors, though, which always brightens my day.

I force Tulips every year, because it works wonders on my mood when I wake to grey skies and April showers snowstorms. (Store bulbs for 6 weeks, in a paper bag, in the refrigerator. It's just that easy.)

Did you know that cut Tulips continue to grow in the vase? 
Yes, indeedy, they do. And, they don't last very long as cut flowers 
because they need energy from the bulb for best blossoms.

That's a cat in the background. Pete likes my Tulips, too!

I grew these bulbs next to my computer so, during the work week, I could watch them quietly move from bud to blossom.

On the home front, it was another week of waiting...

Waiting with baited breath for the sun to warm our bones, for the blessings of spring to boost our spirits.

Meanwhile, back on the windowsill..

We've got pumpkins!

And Tomato plants. Rosemary, Hollyhocks. Percolating nicely in the sunny window.

Buckets and buckets of happy Tulips...

And, a bear problem.

Yup. Bears.

I'm a member of the High Uinta Backcountry Horsemen. (Which is pretty much all women so I don't know why they call it that.)

Actually, I'm a brand new member and I wouldn't have become a member at all if I had attended a meeting before I paid my dues.

The first meeting was all about defending yourself against bear attacks. 

Apparently, they have counted 45 black bears on the trails we were planning to ride.

The forest service calls them opportunistic predators. 

Meaning... they're not plotting to heist your picnic type basket. They're planning to eat you for dinner.

We participate in search and rescue on horseback.
It's downright amazing how many tourists get lost in these woods.
Seriously? Since when did berry-eating black bears gravitate to the carniverous side?

During the lively discussion re: defending yourself in a bear attack: You need to stand your ground and fight back. (Yeah. Like that's ever gonna happen...) I snatched the last cookie from the tray and hightailed it outta there.

"Kate!" Calls the woman in charge. "You need to know this stuff," she says.

"I already know what to do," I replied. (And, I'll bet you know, too.)

Best way to prevent a bear attack is to go ride somewhere else.

Or, if you must be out on that trail...  Make darn sure you're riding the faster horse!  :)

Tulip growth is affected by gravity and light. Flowers will curve upwards and bend toward the sun. In the garden, Tulips and Daffodils are BFFs. In the vase, not so much.

  • Plant Daffodils to surround your precious Tulip bulbs ~ critters can't smell your Tulips and therefore won't eat them.
  • Cut Daffodil stems emit a sap-like substance that can kill cut Tulips, if placed in the same vase. 

Happy Gardening!
 ~ kate

PS: Folks have been asking about the Hyacinth. They are all heirlooms, available at Old House Gardens because I'm doing my part to prevent these stunning flowers from disappearing from our world. Old House did not compensate me, in any way, for plugging their terrific cause and company.