Friday, June 27, 2008

Biker Babes & Blooming Gardens

Johnson's Blue Geranium & Peppermint Phlox

In the mood for a garden tour? I certainly am. I just returned from vacation. The whole time I was gone I was desperately missing my flowers. Nothing gives me more joy than goofing around outside, when every green bud is loaded with promise.

The Big Rock Garden

The Big Rock Garden will celebrate her very 1st birthday in just a few days. Johnson's Blue Geraniums are putting on an amazing show! One gallon pots last year, 3 feet wide this year and bloomin' up a storm. They'll flower all summer if you're nice to them.

Speaking of being nice... All day long I kept asking: where's the love? Two, count 'em two, truck drivers called me names for not driving fast enough!

My theory? They're just mad 'cause my summer 'car' goes the entire summer on 2 gallons of gas.

The Metro saves me a bundle in other ways, too. No way to bring home more than one new perennial from the local nursery! (Look real close and you can see why I bought it. Reflectors look just like the Poppies blooming in my garden.)

Call it a senior moment. Or, have me committed. I cannot remember ever planting Bearded Iris.

Plus! I have documented proof that I planted bright red Lupines. This year, they've decided to bloom purple. What's a girl to do?

Garden Art:
The next time a good friend suckers you into babysitting, turn it into an arts and crafts night.

These cute little birdhouses cost me 5 bucks for materials and can be painted in all sorts of fun ways:

Summer is upon us! Live it up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Star Gazing & Summer Thymes

Stargazer Lilies

All gardeners need a trick up their sleeve. High mountain gardeners need that and then some. Summer arrived as it always does ~ late, as usual, and blazingly hot just 2 short weeks after the last snowfall.

Your garden is probably in full bloom. Mine is just getting started! And that's where one of my favorite tricks comes in... transplanting a super spectacular perennial into my garden that's had a 4-month head start on summer. (I bought these Stargazer Lily bulbs in February and have been nurturing them indoors ever since.)

Definitely try this at home. It is guaranteed to make your neighbors green with envy.

Stargazers have a lovely fragrance and they're a lot tougher than they look. USDA zones 3 - 8, happy in most any type of soil. The only fussy aspect is that they love fun sun but want their roots shaded. That's where this little doll comes in:
Lemon Thyme's tiny little (about an 1/8th of an inch) flowers make a nice ground cover for taller perennials. When she's done blooming she's not done working. Dried Lemon Thyme tastes fabulous on chicken and fish. (USDA zones 3-8, very waterwise.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Cassiar Highway

Betwixt & between the breathtaking scenery of Alaska and British Columbia lies a vast expanse of nothingness called the Yukon territory.

It's here that we've been driving for the last few days ~ along the Cassiar Highway back to civilization. I was on vacation!

Nobody knew it because my geeky computer friend outfitted the laptop to function like a cellphone. So I could either a) check my work email OR! Blog about my beloved garden, when I was no where near it.

The Cassiar Highway is the road less traveled ~ much quieter than the historic Alaska highway because it's too rough and narrow for people in RVs.

My big observation about folks in RVs is that they are generally old and drive very slow. This confounds me.

The clock is ticking for all of us but once I reach retirement years I'm sure I'll feel a sense of urgency to squeeze as many new destinations into my remaining days as possible.

On the Cassiar Highway, we bumped into Boo Boo.

I was frantically trying to get the camera ready to take another photo of him in the woods, when I heard a scratching on the car.

I looked up to find his big mug pressed against the car window. He looked more curious than hungry.

I also met this crazy fellow (who looks like a statue though I assure you he's real.)

He marched right past me without even stopping to say hello.

If you make it to the exact center of the Middle of Nowhere they'll invite you to post a sign!

Hot Tips!
1) Everyone says you should not make this trip without purchasing a travel book called the Mile Post.

This book documents every single one of the 3,000+ miles you are driving. (I'm not joking.) It's loaded with titillating entries such as... "at mile post 1673 you will find a litter basket!"

But, here's the deal: There are no mile markers in Yukon Territory so you never know where you are. This book is useless.

2) Good idea to pack a lunch - or 2 or 3. The daily specials [of Caribou and Musk Ox] leave a lot to be desired...

3) The Continental Divide Cabins (which turned out to be trailer houses) will serve you an extra small glass of red wine, chilled for some odd reason, and dispensed out of a box for $10 bucks. I was damn glad to pay it.

Why in the world...?
I was ridin' shotgun with a friend bringing her car back from Dutch Harbor, Alaska. She spent last year teaching children on this remote island and successfully avoiding the ever-popular Wednesday special: Reindeer Burgers.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Desert Gardens

Alpine Asters can easily go 2 weeks without water

IF they ship on time. IF they arrive alive... And, IF it all grows well... I'll have the prettiest backyard in the neighborhood.

Butterfly Weed is a beacon for butterflies

Our backyards aren't like most backyards. They go on forever, winding up into the hills behind our homes.

Pasque Flowers grow well with infrequent drenching

They're generally treated as wild land filled with sage brush, a skunk or two and lots of cactus. This summer I'm out to improve all that... With native plants that can survive long periods of time without water.

Into my new Desert Garden will go:
  • Blanket Flowers
  • Blue Oat Grass
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Cornflowers
  • Firecracker Penstemon
  • Hyssop
  • Pasque Flowers
  • Russian Sage
  • Wild Four O'Clocks
  • And anything else I can think of... :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mrs. Moose

We gardeners spend a good bit of time worrying about how to keep wildlife from gobbling our gardens. But then a day like this comes along... when you peer over the top deck and meet the sweetest of all visitors.

It certainly inspires me to calm down a bit when I see that another young aspen tree has become the evening meal.
It's rare for a moose to have twins and I imagine that poses a difficult set of challenges. Perhaps that's why Mom let them sleep in a yard where she knows she's welcome and no harm will come to her kids.

Moose Munchies:
Did you know...? A mother moose needs about 50 pounds of food a day. So, she's not trying to be destructive. She's just hungry and thinks all greenery is fair game. Scatter some apples or plant a willow tree in a spot where it's okay if it gets shredded. That might convince Mrs. Moose to leave your aspen seedlings alone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rain Gauge

There's a hundred and one great reasons to fill the garden with Coneflowers. They're gorgeous, easy to grow, come in bright, beautiful colors...

If you believe everything you read, they're an easy cure for the common cold.

If you're a die hard romantic they're perfect for that he loves me, loves me not game.

Wanna know my favorite reason? They're my rain gauge. I stick them into every garden bed I have. Less waterwise than other xeric plants, when their big pink flowers begin to droop I see that it's high time everybody needs a drink.

Fear not. Coneflowers bounce back after a good drenching. The orange variety seems to be the happiest in dry conditions.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bleeding Hearts

One happy acre of gardening opportunities... and 4 square feet of shade.

Which is why the teeny tiny bit of cool, quiet shade I do own is full to overflowing with these.

Don't tell my other flowers, but I secretly think the Japanese Bleeding Heart is the most spectacular perennial in my garden. (Get up close and personal with the flowers to appreciate her clever creations.)

In my mind, nothing compares to the perfection of this shady lady.
Like most women, Bleeding Hearts are tougher than they look, thriving as far north as Alaska.

About the only thing she doesn't like is dry soil. On the hottest of days in my high plains desert, I sometimes find her draped over the water fountain, keeping cool.

* In the mountains, D. spectabilis (Japanese Bleeding Heart) blooms in June, hardy to USDA Zone 3, goes dormant in the heat of summer. After blooming, I chop mine back to soil level.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just Dandy

Perhaps I'm looking at this all wrong, I thought to myself as I soaked away another day of tired muscles after waging war with the Dandelions.

I live across the road from the Guiness Book of Dandelion Meadows so the concept of growing a garden without a few Dandies is a bit ridiculous. This has me on the verge of a "can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy...

1) They're edible. We could make a case for a new vegan entree.

2) They do, after all, add bright happy color to a garden.
3) If you get up close and personal, Dandies become a work of art...

So, whaddya think? If I print up a bumper sticker would you buy it and support my cause?

Honeybees love Dandelions. (Yet another reason to stop pulling them!) Opt for insecticidal soap instead of chemical pesticides. Still, it's easier to simply throw in the towel. Order my bumper sticker and let's change the world.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Butterfly Buffet

A week ago, I wondered if winter would ever relax its icy grip. Cold winds, a dusting of snow and even some hail pelted my early mountain wildflowers.

Hardy blooms braved the temps and are appearing almost on schedule. I wasn't worried about them. They can handle this abysmal weather.

I was mostly worried about the Butterflies!

Butterflies don't venture out in rain or high winds and that means they're missing out on the scrumptious meal my flowers provide.

Want butterflies to flit about all summer? Try offering plants that meet a butterfly's needs through their life stages (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult.)

These adult Swallowtails love my Dame's Rocket but they tend to nest in the vegetable garden.

Everything you need to know! Here's the website I used to get smart on gardening for butterflies.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


True confessions: Try as I might, I just don't care for Hosta. That's why baby blue Brunnera fills my shady spaces...Brunnera is often called a false Forget Me Not. Usually by people like me who forget about her each and every growing season. That is, until I stroll past her when she's covered with these little blue flowers.

This inspires a contortionist act of lying flat in the mud, taking pictures from every angle. There's lots of reasons to fall in love with Brunnera. Those silver, heart-shaped leaves are pretty as a picture. She never needs fertilizer or special care and that fits neatly into my lazy gardener agenda.

Then there's the amazing fact that this dainty little darling handles -40 (F) degree winters without blinkin' an eye...

Brunnera macrophylla is aptly named 'Jack Frost' - winter hardy to zone 3. Tiny, true blue flowers cover this pretty plant for the month of June (mountains) or May for lucky gardeners at normal elevations.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Blue Heaven

After a week of chilly rains and heavy, grey skies I'm feeling more like a rain forest gardener than the usual high plains desert rat.

If you ask me... this growing season is off to a dreary start. The yard squishes like a giant mud pie, tilling and seeding plans are on hold. Last night I heard the sorriest sound of all: the furnace starting up in June!
My little flowering friends have an entirely different perspective on the weather. They're in 7th Heaven!

Tall, lush, laden with blooms... these gals have never had it so good. And, that's got me feeling a teeny tiny bit guilty because my older perennials usually get watered once a week...

What I've learned from murdering many a flower...
Waterwise plants are not waterwise as babies. They get that way over time, by sinking roots deep into the soil to collect more water.
- First summer water every other day.
- Second year every 3-4 days.
- By the third summer you've trained them well so now you can start abusing them! Older waterwise perennials do fine with a deep weekly soak, though extra water results in more blooms.

PS: There's no point in training Petunias.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Quick-Growing Garden Veggies

I'd like to believe that Russians really do quaff a glass of vodka with every meal. It fits neatly into my romantic stereotypes of different cultures.

Plus ~ after my last visit to the grocery store ~ it sounds like a habit we could all embrace. Who doesn't need a good, stiff drink after they see the price of food these days?
Which is why I've planted quick-growing veggies in containers on my deck. The vegetables I pay a fortune for in the grocery stores won't grow in my short mountain summers. But, their less popular cousins usually do...
Easy to find, quick-growing veggies:
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach - matures in 42 days
  • Coronado Crown Hybrid Broccoli - matures in 58 days
  • Early Contender Bush Beans - mature in 49 days
  • Little Marvel Sweet Peas - mature in 62 days
  • Cold Set Tomatoes - mature in 65 days
  • Fat 'N Sassy Hybrid Sweet Pepper - mature in 65 days
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrot - matures in 70 days
* This pepper resting on my porch railing would probably prefer to be in the ground but she's growing just fine in a container. You might be surprised how well veggies do for you, in way less than ideal conditions.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Flowering Trees

Flowering Plum Tree

The downside to my line of work is that sometimes I have to travel. The traveling part is not so bad. It's when I get there that things get really ugly. I have to hoist myself into a pair of pantyhose and a business suit when I'm used to working from home in my bunny slippers. I'm not sure what's more painful! The pantyhose or pretending like I care...

Once I return home I get lots of attention. Friends and neighbors take this opportunity to complain about all the things I promised to do that I haven't done.

The cats glare at me. The horse gives me the cold shoulder.

The dog is happy to see me but he stalks me night and day for fear I'll leave again.

Seems the only group that truly loves it when I leave town are the weeds.

It's astonishing how in a week's time happy flowers have grown an inch or two ~ and ecstatic weeds are up to my knees!

Flowering Crab Apple

On the upside, high in the mountains it is late springtime and with it comes the lovely blossoms of my flowering trees.

Most people say you can't grow fruit trees in the mountains. You most certainly can! Provided you grow them for the birds. Plums, Pears, Crab Apples, Cherries, Apples and more flower beautifully in the mountains! Though they rarely, if ever, give you the kind of blue ribbon fruit we humans adore.

This is not a bad thing! Anyone with mature fruit trees can tell how messy they are. In the mountains wild birds will eat all of the tiny fruit the tree produces.

Pantyhose are now available for men. Finally! A clear and meaningful achievement in our ongoing battle of the sexes...