Saturday, June 24, 2006

Thelma & Louise Meets Deliverance

"It's Thelma & Louise meets Deliverance!"
That was the voice mail message from my good friend, Bev.

The bleeding heart in me has wanted to volunteer on the Gulf Coast for awhile, now. But, as usual, it took the energy and resourcefulness of someone else to actually make this happen. I'm the proud owner of a new tool belt!

I don't know what to do with it.. And, I must say, Nordstrom's gives you better personal attention than Home Depot, when being fitted with a new accessory.

But, I've got my belt, a shiny new hammer and an airline ticket. I'm on my way.

Full disclosure: I grew up in New Orleans. Well, not really. I grew up in a crappy little town in South Dakota.

My Mom's sister lives in New Orleans so I got to tag along when she visited. I had my first blind date there. (Total disaster.) And, I always intended to live there - until the folks foiled my plans by refusing to pay for out-of-state tuition. So, I shed more than one little tear when I saw Aunt Florence's hometown of Metairie turn into a muddy swimming pool.

But, what can I do? I got a wild hair a year ago and tried to install a new door in my house. $600 later, it looks pretty good - thanks to the carpenter I hired to save the day...

Imagine my surprise when I applied to Habitat for Humanity and was accepted within hours! And, that's when it hit me. If they'll take me, they'll take anyone. These people obviously need our help!

So, what are YOU doing for vacation this year? Perhaps you could skip the legarthathon at the hotel swimming pool and head to the Deep South to make a difference. Lord knows, they need more talented people than me.

I am reminded of an old public service announcement: "We can all do nothing equally well."
I doubt my contributions will matter much, but it sure feels good to try.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Don't let these big, brown eyes fool you. My explodo boy wrecks havoc wherever he goes.

All pets are hard on gardens but an elephant treads lighter in a flower patch than this destructive beast.

Yesterday he dug a hole to China. Today, he ate a tree. I'm not talking about a branch. I mean the whole tree. A 4-year-old Kwanzan Cherry Tree snapped off at the base of the trunk because he needed something new to chew.

People are always asking advice on how to grow a garden and a pet at the same time. My advice, today, is simple: sell the #%$! dog!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hot! Cha! Cha!

I've met a few gardeners who turn up their noses at annuals. "They're so easy! Where's the fun in that?"

The 'fun' is bright, hot color in no time. Flowering annuals have one job to do and do it well: they bloom like crazy and then they die.

Find a spot in your garden for happy little Zinnias. Squeeze 'em close together for a big, bold burst of color.

Sprinkle a packet of Zinnia seeds in a sunny garden bed and look out. They sprout quickly, filling the spot with flowers so perfect they don't even look real.

I happen to like easy. I bet you will, too.

* Zinnias (Z. elegans), are easily cultivated annuals, flowering in a variety of bright summer colors. Zinnia seeds are available from Burpee and other quality seed companies.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pink Evening Primrose: Wild Child

Meet the rebel of the Evening Primrose family. These unique bloomers generally open at dusk (hence the name) putting on a pretty show of pale, yellow flowers at night, into early morning.

Pink Evening Primrose, or Pink Ladies as they are sometimes called, are different from traditional primroses. They flower pink, instead of yellow, and flower all day long, loving heat, drought and the worst conditions imaginable.

In dry, infertile planting sites, this long-blooming perennial is fairly well-behaved. Masses of shell-pink flowers cover a mounding, bushy plant from June to September. It's what's called a 're-seeding annual.' Meaning it's not an annual at all. It's basically a headstrong beauty with a real mind of her own. Pink Ladies will show up in a new location in your garden every year.

Do well by this flower and suffer the consequences. In moist, fertile soil it will take over your garden in one short year. That's why this particular variety is banned from sale in many states. Tame this problem child by placing it in the most inhospitable area you can find.

* Oenothera speciosa, Pink Evening Primrose, USDA Zones 5-9, is available from High Country Gardens and other wildflower specialty stores.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Scabiosa: Pincushion Flower

Perennials are like old friends who come back to visit every summer.

Just like people, they change and grow, redefining themselves, with or without your help. Some plants, like some people, are so quiet and low-maintenance that you forget all about them. And, in a way, that's kind of sad. Because the easy-going ones (people or plants) are generally the nicest ones to have around.

Pincushion Flowers* are much-loved by people, like me, who have no time to give flowering plants meticulous care. Place this lanky bloomer in a sunny, breezy spot and let Mother Nature do the rest. Like a long, lost friend, you'll see her waving at you one day, when a gentle breeze sets these tall, wiry stems in motion.

I must be doing all right by this gal because she's defying all the rules. She's 4 foot tall (vs. 18 inches the instructions predicted) and like some women I know, she's got a new 'do.' Last year, pink, this year bright fuschia. But, that's one of the greatest things about old friends. Whenever they come back into your life, they almost always surprise you.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend. ~ John Leonard

Dedicated to the adventurous gal pals: Ann, Bev, Kathleen, Maile, Sandy, Stacy, Toni and Xena. Without them, I'd have no good stories to tell.

* Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' was awarded Perennial Plant of the Year for 2000. The variety in these photos is Pink Mist - a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds. Will bloom continuously throughout the summer, with deadheading.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Garden Tour

Welcome to my garden!
Some people devote their weekends to fixing up the inside of their homes. I focus my efforts on the outside. I don't even own a dining room table. Which means the only time I can entertain is when the weather befits the lawn chairs.

I rent out half of my house - my poor tenants have to subsidize this gardening frenzy. This is their side of the house - which I think looks a whole lot nicer than my side!

They say it takes 10 years to grow a garden but I don't think that's true. Most of my flowers are grown from seed. This is their third summer and my yard is filled with bright color.

I recently re-connected with my oldest and dearest friend, Haze. She asked if I still grow Columbines. Truth is, I can't imagine my yard without this favorite flower. I squeeze Columbines into every possible nook and cranny.

Lupines are my latest darlings. They grow wild along the highways in my home state of Minnesota. My garden serves as a living scrapbook for my travels. Lupine seeds came from Bayfield, Wisconsin... Wisteria from Napa Valley... I have a corner of my yard dedicated to Oregon... but, it has to look much nicer before I will show it to you.

I'm even growing Plumeria from Hawaii.

So, why am I so crazy about flowers? I have no idea. I guess I just like to watch things grow. :)

Sunday, June 11, 2006


My good friends, Mike & Stacy, will jump for joy at this blog title. Long time Grateful Deadheads, they're also the kindest, most content, couple I've ever met.

I wonder if I should break down and listen to the cd's they burn for me? Maybe some day...

Alas, my subject is much more mundane. It's about Flower Power and following Queen's orders: 'Off with their heads!'

We may think flowers are here to entertain us, but that's not really the case. We want them to bloom all summer. The plant just wants to go to seed.

And, that's where deadheading comes into play.

When you remove spent blooms, the plant gets a little feisty. Flowering kicks into hyperdrive with bigger, stronger, more plentiful flowers the second time around. Lots of perennials will bloom twice a season (or more!) if you snip off the dead flowers. This is absolutely essential to get your money's worth out of annuals, since flowering is their only job.

For loads of color, all summer long, lop off their heads as soon as flowers start turning brown.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


A wild storm lifted chairs off the second story deck and tossed them into my neighbor's yard. The garden is feeling a little beaten up, today. And, so am I.

I'm a Midwesterner, born and raised, but I had to move to Salt Lake City to experience my first (up close) tornado. You'd think a gal from 'tornado alley' would know something is up when the sky turns green and the air deathly still. But, not me. I was stuck in stalled traffic, angry that I was late in delivering printed posters to a client at a trade show.

It was like a 'Superman' movie. People were running and pointing at the sky. I thought they were nuts... until I heard a loud explosion and saw a twister hit the generator on top of the Delta Sports Center. It dropped down onto the first car in the traffic jam, a half block in front of me.

Growing up in tornado country you learn what to do. 1) Get out of your car. 2) Head to low ground. 3) Stay calm. Yeah, right.

In my mind, this took 2 hours. In reality, a few minutes. I saw a massive, swirling, grey funnel. And, then every window in my SUV exploded. Like a limp noodle, I slid under the steering wheel and cowered by the gas pedal. I'm not sure what ranked higher on the decibel scale - my screams or the roar of the tornado. Sometimes, in bad dreams, I still hear the sick groan of my truck as it rocked against that pummeling wind.

And, then... silence.

I peeked out at a miraculous thing. Debris swirling all around me but not the slightest breeze near me. Suddenly, it hit again, harder than the first time.

I was in the eye of the storm.

(True story)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Pretty Poppies

Neighbors must get weary of seeing me outdoors, early in the morning, prowling the garden in my pajamas. In June, new flowers surprise me every day. I'm up early to enjoy the show.

Taking center stage, are vibrant orange Oriental Poppies and sapphire-blue Jacobs Ladder.

Oriental Poppies are gorgeous, commanding perennials with huge flowers as large as my hand. If I call this a 'feel good' plant, you'll laugh and think I mean the opium trade. (Poppies also gave us morphine and codeine - helping people in pain all over the world.)

What I really mean is how good they make me feel. There's just something about these big, floppy flowers that put me in a happy mood.

Next to bright orange poppies are cool blue Jacobs Ladder. The color combination is spectactular - and also a little surprising. Just recently, I discovered that Jacobs Ladder is a shade-loving plant. How this fellow can happily bask in 10 hours of full sun everyday, I don't know... I'm just glad he does!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Tickled Pink

"Do you think we have a prayer?"

"Doubtful," I responded, as I greeted another gardener. She had Pink Azaleas in her shopping cart, too.

Who can resist these bright fuschia blooms? And, I suppose that's what Home Depot had in mind. Because Azaleas don't grow here. Well, that's not actually true. They grow here; they just don't flower. What good is this bush without these gorgeous flowers?

Azaleas need acidic soil in order to bloom.* Western soils just don't give 'em what they need. It is possible to fool them, though. Dig a large hole - at least three feet deeper and three feet wider than your plant. Splurge on special garden soils formulated for acid-loving perennials. Once this little beauty is convinced she's living in Missouri (instead of Utah,) I will try to make the soil more acidic by regularly adding composted leaves, wood chips, coffee grounds, pine needles and peat moss.

Grow an impossible garden. Take a risk now and then. :)

*The acidity or alkalinity of the soil is measured by pH (potential Hydrogen ions.) Generally, soils in moist climates tend to be acid and those in dry climates are alkaline. Azaleas cannot tolerate the amount of lime in our Western soil.