Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Golden Banner

Thermopsis Golden Banner blooms in early spring
(Probably in early May for gardeners in lower altitudes.)

Welcoming in 'summer' by turning the furnace back on was not my idea of a good Memorial Day tho we managed to have a wee bit o' fun, in spite of the dreary weather.

The snow has since melted.

The sun is now shining.

Those buckets of unwelcome rain inspired Golden Banner to bloom.

And, that's a good thing because I was losing patience with her. I'm an instant gratification kind of gardener and she has taken forever to bloom.

Speaking of instant gratification...
Busted! I can't fool anybody these days. I went to the store, bought some potato salad, put it in a pretty bowl so as to pretend that I worked really hard on that dish and... even the 7-year old had a problem with that.

Perfectly Edible Potato Salad:
  1. Dice up the potatoes
  2. Drizzle with olive oil
  3. Sprinkle with crushed rosemary and
  4. Roast at 400 degrees until crispy, golden brown.
Then follow whatever potato salad recipe you like to use. Roasting those taters makes all the difference! (Thanks, Mom!)

Golden Banner (Thermopsis lanceolaota) is an early spring bloomer that adds a nice wildflower feel to my backyard. USDA zone 3, flowers best if you give her a little shot of organic fertilizer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blessings of Plan Bs

When it's raining on your garden, it's snowing on mine.

Once upon a time, I thought I had what it takes to save the world. So, I majored in education, thrilled at the prospect of becoming a high school teacher. Then I moved to Memphis, did my stint as a student teacher, and promptly tore up that diploma and tossed it into the trash.

Thousands and thousands of dollars on college tuition. Yet, no one ever taught me the 2 things I needed to know:
  1. Teenagers are horrid, nasty monsters out to get you.
  2. If you enter that classroom without a plan B, they'll have precisely what they need to make life lesson #1 come true.
I feel exactly the same way about the weather.

I've been burned too many times by Mother Nature. You see, the second that mean, old, bat hears people talking happily about a 3-day weekend, she hauls out the big guns to ruin their plans.

Which is why, when it comes to Memorial Day weekend, I like to have a plan B. Temperatures will drop to 20 degrees tonight, so this year's plan B involves a good book, a warm fire, and plenty of blankets ~ for me and my flowers.

Protection from freezing nights:
A nice warm blanket placed over newly planted perennials and tender annuals can foil every trick Mother Nature has up her sleeve.

Another slick trick: water if you know it's gonna get cold. Wet soil holds onto more heat than dry soil.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Boo Boos, Bachelors & Baskets of Gold

Alyssum Basket of Gold

Some years, it's timed just right. Alyssum bursts into flower and cascades down the old railroad ties. Hot pink tulips peek out of the yellow blooms, creating quite a show. This spring Alyssum is early and the tulips are AWOL.

I'm installing a drip irrigation system over the whole yard and boy do I have the blisters to prove it. My lofty goal was to never schlep another hose around the gardens but I had no idea how hard it would be on my hands.

So, I'm out there doing battle with my irrigation system and I look like an absolute wreck. When who comes up the driveway but the cute guy that asked me to design a garden for him.

I swear I don't even know why I bother to buy hair brushes and lipstick. They're never around when I need them.

Bachelor Buttons are often called Straw Flowers

His landscape is getting a whole bunch of Alyssum. If all goes well, it will cascade down the slope toward his driveway. Naturally, I think he needs a huge section of Bachelor Buttons.

And, since I suspect he doesn't know a darn thing about gardening, I'm planting some of these for his boys!

Big Max Pumpkins tip the scales at about a hundred pounds each. Won't he be surprised? (Gurney's Seeds)

Alyssum comes in a few varieties. I'm fond of Basket of Gold because she reblooms. Both Bachelor Buttons and Alyssum seem to thrive in poor soil and dry conditions.

Monday, May 19, 2008


On hot days [like this one] I love to weed the garden while the soaker hoses are going. The grown-up version of running through the sprinklers!

I get soaking wet from the knees on down, keeping cool as I wage war against those pesky dandelions.
Little Geum surprised me this morning. I'm still waiting for tulips to bloom and here she is in full flower. She'll stay that way all summer long if you're handy with the scissors.

Geum requires constant deadheading. When I slack off on removing spent flowers she looks as ragged as I do after a full day weeding frenzy.
Geum coccineum Borisii, spring blooming zone 5 perennial. Cute, daisy-like flowers on tall skinny stems that wave in the breeze. (The apricot one is even prettier.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Who Planted This?

Hmmm... when did I plant this?
What is it?

I say that a lot this time of year as I wander around the garden noticing mystery flowers and promising very soon to pull some weeds.

Not to be out done by pretty much every gardener in the universe, I did battle with a do-it-yourself drip irrigation kit and it's working pretty well.

If you open the valves all the way you can send streams of water 8 feet into the air! That's probably defeating the whole waterwise purpose but it's kind of cool having a Bellagio fountain in my own backyard.

On other matters of national importance, we've got a fox! I can't begin to tell you how many times I have almost seen a fox. In every instance it turned out to be a cat so this was a very big moment for me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Our Secrets

In another month, this Cottage Garden becomes a special place where people trespass because they can't help themselves.

The Witless Wanderer surprised me when she confessed that I was one of a handful of 'real world' people who knew about her secret. Apparently she leads a double life in the blogosphere.

Why didn't I think of that? If only virtual people knew I had a blog I could gripe and moan and bitch and complain... but, you've heard it all before so what's the point?

I was thinking about Witless a lot this afternoon while I was gardening like a crazy woman on my own big secret... as in a secret Cottage Garden that I created at a rental property in my little town. A garden no one knows I have...

Cozy perennials, the ones your Grandma used to plant, tons of spring blooming bulbs and not one ounce of the craziness you see at my own house. Blue, pink, yellow and a dash of white here and there. That's it. So, there. I can be disciplined [when I have to be.] And, now you know something that few people in the real world know. I lead a double life, too. As a cottage gardener!

- Kate_007

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Day Wonders, Mexican Shellflowers

I don't believe in fairy tales but I certainly live for magical moments... like this morning's first bloom from my Mexican Shellflower.
Tigridia, or Mexican Shellflowers, bloom for one amazing day. And, there's really no telling what you'll get ~ red, yellow, pink ~ who cares? They're all gorgeous.
And, now she's gone. Tigridias are very tender bulbs, can't stand temperatures colder than 50 degrees. Flowers last for just one day, though they have several buds on each stem.

Fingers crossed a different color will open tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Alpine Flowers

Mertensia Alpina is often called an Alpine Bluebell. I don't think it is a real bluebell but then I know just enough to be dangerous when it comes to mountain wildflowers.

"Ears laid back, then you get a bite, then you get a kick. And, they're all okay with that."

That's how J. educated me on conflict resolution inside the horse corral ~ right after Meg gave another horse a brutal kick. At first I was shocked, but I guess it's not terribly different from how people behave inside the workplace.
This is beat up on Kate week and I deserve every bite, kick or nasty phone call that comes my way. I'm catching up on all my overdue work though by 4 p.m. each afternoon Meg & I are ready to bust loose. That's when we trot off to inspect the meadow.
This low-lying area surrounded by sage-brush covered foothills, is a wildly blooming mass of alpine flowers that changes moods, with different color blooms, throughout the growing season.

The second the snow melts, one of my most beloved wildflowers - tiny Mertensia Alpina - pops out all over the place.
Sometimes the best ideas for our own gardens come from opening our eyes to the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lucy & Veronica

Veronica Georgia Blue

When you start your own business, you need all sorts of things to make you look legit. Like a logo and a business card... and a really snappy tag line. I wanted to use this one:

"Up at noon, to work by one, an hour for lunch and then I'm done."
- SW's 7 Dwarfs

My biz partner thought it made us sound lazy. I argued that honesty might be the best policy. We ultimately chose a tag line that made us sound hard-working and I gotta tell ya... I've regretted it ever since.

Especially today when I kept staring out the window wishing I could be in the garden, planting the goodies I picked up over the weekend. Meet Lucy ~ my pink flowering tree:
This Rose of Sharon [allegedly] puts up with high winds and alkaline soil so she's joining the ranks of the 'movable' trees. The ones I plant in great big pots because I am a) indecisive, b) unwilling to admit I live in a desert, c) all that and then some.

Sticking Lucy in a great big pot keeps her moist and let's me postpone the permanent planting decision for years!

Lucy Althea, zone 5, blooms all summer and has no business whatsoever in a high plains desert. But that's not gonna stop me from trying. Keeping her in a pot on the deck might remind me to water her now and then.

Veronica Georgia Blue is a non-invasive ground cover, a cute companion to this pretty tree because I think I'll shoot myself if I have to spend one more dollar on shredded bark mulch.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Fickle About Flowers

Psychiatrists consider orange the 'color of insanity' and that's got me a little bit worried.

Every spring I gravitate to a new flower color ~ something ultra-special, gotta have it, can't live without it in my garden. The really weird part is that half the time, I don't even know I'm doing it.

Take this morning, for instance, when I downloaded a camera full of photos from the tulip tour. There must have been 5,000 tulips in bloom - every color of the rainbow - but all I could focus on was orange.

As I walk through these formal settings, I often wish that my own garden had rhyme... or reason... or both! But, then I look at the gardener (that would be me) and realize I may never have the discipline to accomplish such things.

It's the hodgepodge of color that gets me most excited. Like last summer when I flirted with hot pink and yellow. Or, the year before that when red and purple caught my eye.

That's the problem with perennials. They come back every year. Like clothes in my closet, they hang around to remind me of my fashion faux pas.

Since I honed my fashion skills in that weird, weird time of the 80's, I wouldn
't hold out hope for anything tasteful any time soon.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Glacier Lilies

I started my new work ethic this week ~ which, of course, is not the slightest bit ethical at all.

I get up before dawn, work as an alleged freelancer for as short amount of time as I can possibly get away with. Then I saddle up Meg and we go for a ride.

Janet is doing the same thing with her horse and that has a good, calming influence on my nerves. If I'm heading to the poorhouse, it's nice to know that one of my best friends will be with me every step of the way.

We ride to the big, white barn and back - not far from where we live though in springtime it takes forever to get anywhere on a horse.

Warm, sunny days and gentle evening rains have transformed this dull brown landscape into a lush green, gorgeous meadow speckled with Glacier Lilies.

The horses stop every 5 minutes to grab a bite to eat and who can blame them? After such a long, dreary winter that meadow looks pretty tasty.

In case you're wondering, I do go back to work later on in the day and work well into the night. Having this much fun is really exhausting.

However! Beginning next Monday, I plan to show more dedication. In addition to horseback riding, I fully intend to start pulling weeds in my garden.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Grecian Windflowers

"They say time changes things but in truth you have to do that yourself." - Andy Warhol

Grecian Windflowers (Anemone) bloom with my Daffodils.
A smart gardener would have planted them closer together!

I'm in as blue a mood as my little Windflowers. It started when I looked at this weekend's photographs and discovered that I'm old. And, if that isn't bad enough, I'm also fat and ugly. (When did this happen?) Of course, what should I expect, standing next to 3 gorgeous college graduates with happy smiles and bright futures ahead of them?

Update on the big, gigantic party... it was a huge success. We crammed more people into this tiny house than I ever thought it could hold. They must have had a wonderful time because they refused to leave ~ even after we ran out of food.

And now... it's over. Maybe that's why I'm cranky. The build up, the let down and those infernal what now questions.

My daughter has graduated. She (so far) does not have a criminal record (that I know of) so apparently I did an okay job with her.

I'm free as a bird. I could sell my house and move to the Kingdom of Bhutan* ~ or Idaho, whichever is more affordable.

What I really want to do is just garden in peace. Without everybody bugging me about my next move. I can't move! I have 500 little flowering friends out there who've put down roots. And, so have I. So leave me alone.

The earliest of my 'daisies,' the Grecian Windflowers (Anemone) have started to bloom - though you need a zoom lens to notice these little gals. USDA zones 5-9, they grow to a whopping 3 inches tall and bloom for about 6 weeks.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Garden Art

Are you jonesin' for a visit to the garden store?
Just dyin' to spend your hard-earned cash on some pretty flowers?

Me, too......!!!

But, I can't plant. Mountain nights are still too cold. So, I'm schemin' and dreamin' about garden art. That junk never suffers from freezing.

When my ship comes in and I rival Paris Hilton for net worth (it could happen...) I'll spend my fortune on this sculpture while Paris is out shopping for another skanky outfit.
(Reason #47 why I'm still single.)

Once she's mine, all mine, my most favorite sculpture will be free to spend her days outdoors, watching over the flowers in my English Garden. (Until someone steals her.)

How many times have you wished people would have visited your garden last week, or next week, because then the flowers would be perfect?

Perhaps you're too demanding. All the world's a stage and your flowers play bit parts throughout the season. (Clearly Shakespeare was a gardener.)

Garden art stays constant throughout the seasons while those lovely blooms, exit and enter, stage left. (Apparently, Snagglepuss was a gardener, too.)

Sure, you can spend a fortune. But, honestly, I think the most fun comes from rummaging through the garage for clever items that add loads of personality and don't cost you a dime. Like discarded shower rods that inspire Clematis to climb to the heavens.

A friend of mine is turning the antique frame of a twin bed into a 'garden bed' filled with happy bloomers.

It would be hard to rival Raffaelo but we gardeners are smart and infinitely resourceful. Let's give him a run for his money.

* In spite of her delicate appearance, the Veiled Lady is sculpted of marble. Veiled Lady, Sculptor Raffaelo Monti, 1860, Minneapolis Institute of Arts.