Sunday, August 23, 2015

Grateful for Gardens

It has been a long, hot and very tiresome summer. Was thinking about that, yesterday, when I was down in the Salt Lake City Valley, running a full day of errands.

I love my little hometown ~ the mountain town of Park City. But, I hold zero affection for the sprawling metropolis down below. I only visit when I need stuff. And, I needed all kinds of stuff. Grateful for a big car that I filled to the brim with groceries, flowers, horse supplies and even some new clothes.

The hard labor of horses + getting my new gardens all spiffy caused me to drop from a size 14 to a size 12 jeans. I probably could have hoisted myself into a size 10 but I'm allergic to constricting waist bands. PLUS, winter will arrive at some point when that excess poundage should happily reappear. :-)

Is it just me or is it darn near impossible to find jeans that flatter a 50-something's body?

The pair I like are Lee 1989s. The fact that this company has to remind me how I haven't evolved (fashion-wise) in 26 years is more than a wee bit insulting.

But, I swallowed my pride. Fought the crowds at the dumbest of stores, ("We need your phone number to finish this transaction." What?? "Use mine!" offers a loyal shopper in line behind me - eager for the purchase points.) I grabbed those beloved jeans and got outta there as quick as I could.

I don't know why I'm so anti-social but I just hate how stores demand your private information.

No. You can't have my phone number. Or, my email. No. I'm not gonna like you on Facebook. Can't you just take my money and be done with it??

Okay, that felt good. A little bitch session always does.


But, why stop there? The sad fact of life is that it's just been an awful summer. The death of a friend, sick horses, family strife, horrid work conflicts. You name it; it's happened. People and their problems have worn me paper thin this year.  I guess that's what has kept me from blogging for so many weeks. And, it's also kept me hibernated in the garden.

We were talking about that over at the barn. What to do when it all feels bad. 

What can you do? Other than tough it out? And, curse my family for the umpteenth time for raising me to be one of those stoic Midwesterners who keep things all bottled up inside.  Best of times, worst of times... I dunno. My remedy is to surround myself with beauty and hope things will get better. At some point. I mean they kind of have to... don't they?

After I finished up the drudgery of running all those errands, I decided to treat myself with a visit to Millcreek Gardens where I went a little hog wild on Coleus. Don't ya just love 'em? Such stunning foliage - though I've never ever planted one outdoors. I keep 'em in pots on the windowsill. Shade annuals make fantastic houseplants!

PS: While it's highly doubtful my mood could entertain you... I sincerely hope the gardens have!

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Saturday, August 22, 2015


I absolutely love their stunning foliage. :))

Friday, August 21, 2015


Friday, June 12, 2015

Annoying Ants and Astonishing Blooms

A beautiful garden in the Irish countryside. (From my travels, last month.) Great inspiration for what I'd like to do with my own garden. Of course, I need a centuries old farmhouse to complete the picture!
In the last, exciting episode of the Long Neglected Garden... :) I was weeding and weeding... and weeding some more. Not much has changed.

Though, I have moved onto the murderous activity of evicting ants from the property!
A pretty Iris graces my own garden (planted many moons ago.)
Ants, despicable ants. Depending upon where you live, ants are either a minor nuisance or a majorly painful experience. My [red] ants are aggressive and, most of the time, quite secretive.

Yet another gorgeous Iris I don't remember planting. Probably a rhyzome from my Mother's garden.
I uproot a large perennial, or move a big rock, and bam! In an instant! Both arms and both legs are covered, literally covered, hundreds of ants scurrying up my arms and legs. Doing battle with the human who dared disrupt their living quarters.

I keep the hose handy, spraying myself off before they bite. Then I flood their anthill.

Blissful blues. A drift of Penstamon at my 'other' garden. I'm planning to steal a few of these for the new garden, once they have finished flowering.

Okay, fine, that sounds terribly mean spirited, but I want those freeloading ants gone! ['Tis true they don't harm your garden, but if they are so plentiful, and aggressive, that they begin harming me, then it is time to serve the eviction notice.)

Once their home becomes a lake, those vicious ants will pack their bags and head to drier ground.

In between rain showers, Bob & I hopped on the horses and went for a ride. Our near constant rains are rivaling Oregon's wet climate and the wildflowers are going bonkers!

We rode our horses through a vast meadow, filled with wildflowers.

I spotted the Tansy flower growing out in that meadow.

For one, evil, moment I contemplated harvesting the seeds, adding it to my arsenal. Did you know that Tansy flowers will kill ants? Yup! Plus, ticks, flies, you name it. It's very toxic.

That's probably how it got out there. Someone looking for a 'natural' way to rid themselves of these infernal ants. But, Tansy grows so well that it is now deemed a noxious weed in 47 states.

So, I shall stick to drowning those infernal ants. Much easier than uprooting Tansy, from my gardens, for the rest of my life.

* Most people recommend using boiling water on ants but it doesn't seem all that necessary. They hate water, at any temperature. Periodically flooding their anthill generally sends them packing. If you have a neighbor you don't particularly care for... consider guiding them in that direction. :)

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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Hello Old Friends

Jacob's Ladder brightly blooming in a thicket of weeds.
This summer's delightful task is to reclaim The Long Neglected Garden ~ my term of endearment for the garden I planted 12 years ago.

And, subsequently abandoned when I turned the house into a rental property.

Sassy little Columbine says: Hell no! We won't go! (Refusing to accept defeat from the weeds.)
The garden is, of course, a disastrous bed of weeds. 

So thick and gnarly that it was just overwhelming in the beginning. I roto-tilled a lot of it.

But, before I did that, I hand dug around all of the green shoots that I recognized as ''Friends" (aka welcome perennials) vs. "Enemies" (aka nasty ass weeds.)

Heirloom Bearded Iris
I'm kinda thinking that's one of the greatest gifts of becoming a savvy gardener. When we learn to recognize our old friends, long before they flower.

One glance at the leaf structure and I can tell... Hey! You're not a weed! You're a Columbine! Or, Jacob's Ladder... Or, Centaurea... All of whom have survived, for 12 long years, without one ounce of TLC from me.

Montana (Centaurea)
Visited Home Depot yesterday. Their nursery now contains about 90% annuals vs. perennials. So, naturally, I couldn't find a single thing to buy. (I only plant perennials because I enjoy watching them re-bloom every year.)

I suppose they did that because our weather has been freakishly hot, then cold, with a few hellacious hail storms thrown in for good measure. And, HD doesn't offer a money back guarantee on annuals. As they do with perennials. At least in my town.

Dame's Rocket: popular with Swallowtail Butterflies

What a shame! This garden is a total testament to the tenacity of perennials! Plant 'em once. Love 'em forever.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Mantis Rototillers and the Long Neglected Garden

Don't ya just love it when the world works in such wonderful ways ~ that it's hard to count up all those lucky stars?

Take last night, for instance, when my awol farrier (horse shoe guy) finally paid his disconnected phone bill, returned my call, and agreed to give the girls a long overdue pedicure.


Or, this spring, when I got an email from Steve, asking me to demo a Mantis Rototiller.*  

At that precise moment I was gazing out the picture window, at deep drifts of snow, wondering what nightmares awaited me in The Long Neglected Garden. Saying yes to this goodie was a no brainer.

Revisiting this garden has been so exciting! Beneath a pile of weeds, I found these Heirloom Iris ~ still going strong 12 years later!
Spring has finally arrived in the mountains (we're months later than those of you in the valley.) And, with it a weed problem considerably worse than anything I had imagined. The nerve of those weeds! Growing, unchecked, for 12 blissful years, thinking I'd never return.**

Red Feathers [Echium] don't seem to care if they ever get watered.
So, I've been rototilling like a crazed woman with my spiffy new tiller and I gotta say... it's fabulous.

Here's why I love the Mantis:

It's the right size. 
  • I actually own a rototiller from another company. (I have no idea where it is... I loan it to anyone who asks and the last person never gave it back.) Fine with me. It was a huge beast, too heavy to lift, I found myself opting for a garden fork when creating new beds.
It's quiet as a mouse.
  • Well, maybe not a mouse but the other one roared like a jet engine and that made me nuts.
It was easy to put together.
  • And, I'm the kind of gal that is stumped by nearly every set of directions ever handed her.
It will last a long time.
  • Because I'm not loaning this one out to anybody! :-)
And, they're affordable.

Why Till?
There are two schools of thought, when it comes to rototilling.

Some say it's the worst thing you could possibly do to your garden ~ they say it messes with the soil structure and inspires more weeds to grow. {I emphatically disagree.}

Other swear by it. Claiming that it's fast and effective and works like a charm. I'm in this group; I swear by 'em. They eliminate a lot of back-breaking labor and those buried weed seeds are gonna get ya anyway.

This high up in the mountains, we're stuck with hard as rock alkaline soil and every inch of it requires soil amendments in order to produce a beautiful garden.
Amending Utah soils with a Mantis Rototiller.
  1. First I break up the soil with the tiller. 
  2. Then I add lots of organic matter (aka horse manure) + compost and till it a second time.
What's that you say? You don't have any horse manure?  My CFOs (Chief Fertilizing Officers) will happily help you out with that.

All kidding aside, I've been using the Mantis Rototiller for the last couple weeks and I love it so much I might have to marry it.

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They have lots of different sizes.
* Mantis Rototillers gave me this product to use and review. I am not compensated for this post. It's just one gardener's glowing review of a very good product. I personally feel they're a screaming deal, and well worth the money.

** If you've been on this blog before, then you may know that I moved back to a rental property that I've owned for many years. The Long Neglected Garden is my summer project. And, so far, I'm having a ball!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Flowers for Your Hair

I returned from my travels in the nick of time!

In time to fall in love, once again, with my most beloved spring flowering shrub. That being the Flowering Almond.

Flowering Almonds are hard to find but worth the effort. In early spring their branches are laden with pretty, pale-pink double blooms. (Zones 4-8.)

Plant a row of these and you'll get to meet every little girl in the neighborhood. They'll sneak into your yard, steal the flowers and weave wreaths to wear in their hair. I know because I used to do that. And, so did all my elementary school gal pals.

Those gorgeous pink blooms are irresistible. I was simply hanging out at the rental property photographing them, when the tenants came out to see what I was doing.

They hadn't even noticed them. Which is a crying shame.

Gardeners are in tune with the simple beauty that surrounds them, but that's not how it is for most people. We can get so wrapped up in our own little problems, we barely notice what's happening in the world around us.

And, then the very next thing they asked was if they could cut some for a vase!! I should have evicted them on the spot. Instead, I gave them a long, tiresome, threatening, educational seminar on why nobody ~ but me ~ gets to trim that hedge. :)

* Prunus glandulosa 'Rosea Plena' - Zone 4-8, hardy flowering shrub, prefers well-drained soil.
After a gorgeous spring show, the bushes leaf out, creating a nice privacy hedge for small yards.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Aching Back

Yeah, yeah... I know. Blowing the seeds from a dead Dandelion is big fun. But, you could you please blow them in the opposite direction of my beloved garden? :D

Raking, hoeing, weeding, mowing...

Schlepping hundreds of pounds of compost and mulch...

Digging halfway to China to find the roots of a stubborn dandelion...

Whoever thinks gardening is 'easy labor' hasn't toiled in my yard.

According to the calorie count website, this hard day's work burned off:

  • 3 Big Macs
  • 6 Snicker bars  
  • OR! 10 glasses of wine. (Now you're talkin'... :-)

I live across the road from a wild meadow. So, there is absolutely no possibility to rid my garden of the Dandelion plague.

However! I have found that vinegar works better, safer, cheaper than chemicals. And, they fear to tread where I've done a fine job of amending the soil. So, baby your flowers and at the same time, you'll be babying the Dandelions. To death. :-)

* Dandelions spread 2 ways - airborne seeds and deep roots. Yup, they're perennials, so if you really want to be rid of them, dig up the entire root. And, they bloom twice a year - in spring and autumn - just to keep you on your toes. 

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