Monday, May 25, 2009

Mystery Flowering Trees

Some kind of Flowering Cherry Tree

It being Memorial Weekend and all, Mother Nature decided to jog our memory as to who's really in charge.

Some kind of Flowering Plum Tree

It rained. Buckets. Barrels, actually. No camping, no BBQs, no horsin' around, no nothing.

A Sour Apple Flowering Tree
(Not sure what kind of apple but the horses just love 'em!)

Timing really is everything. I love a good rainy day. But, I don't particularly care for torrential downpours when we're hoping to do some camping.

Flowering Almond. So, there. I'm not a complete idiot.

I wasn't thrilled but my garden was jumping for joy. This deluge inspired fresh flowers from just about everyone.

Haven't a clue.

If you're gonna be a tree at my place, you need to do more than just stand around and look green.

Seconds after I snowed the bank into approving my home mortgage, I started planting flowering trees all over the place. They are 6 years old, now, and acting like grown ups. I just wish I had acted like a grown up when I bought them and saved their plant i.d. tags. Would be nice to know who and what they are!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lilac Legacy

Devote 3 years to establishing Lilacs and they'll outlive your great, great grandchildren.

Been running around like that proverbial farm animal with her head lopped off. Test driving horses, hardening off seedlings,* making up all sorts of excuses not to weed the garden.

Sweet reason to keep a fragrant bouquet of Lilacs by your bedside: Cutting off ALL the blossoms EVERY year improves next year's flower power.

I'm quite delighted that it's finally and officially Memorial weekend. While Mother Nature undoubtedly has another trick up her sleeve, I can start digging in the dirt and celebrating this most wonderful time of year.

When everything is a distinct possibility.

Passion can only take you so far.

At some point, the giddy excitement that comes with big landscaping ideas must turn into the harsh reality of back-breaking labor.

And, THAT is why neighbors were invented.

You see, I happen to own a very big rototiller and it works a lot like a 'Free Beer!' sign. All I have to do is park that magic machine in the yard and some unsuspecting neighbor says, Hey! What are you doing? Need some help?

Too tall? Prune them back. Removing the oldest stems ~ down to the ground ~ encourages new stem growth and more flowers blooming at optimum (i.e nose!) level.

It's an indisputable fact. Hard work hardly ever wears me out. Provided I've suckered someone else into handling most of that manual labor. :)

* Hardening off seedlings: set your babies outdoors for at least a week or two before placing them in the ground. Everyone feels discombobulated after a move. This transition helps them get used to long hours in the sun and cool night temps.

** Or! You could just throw them to the wolves and hope for the best. That's what I tend to do...

** Here's a list of hearty Lilacs for the highest of mountain gardeners.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Lost Weekend

Kind of looks like she wants to eat ya, doesn't she?
Phalaenopsis Moth Orchid

Triple birthday celebrations made for a far too hectic weekend. Two humans lamented growing older but this very precious flower seems quite proud of her accomplishment. My Moth Orchid is celebrating 5 long, lovely months in bloom.

Mertensia Alpina

Pretty much everything is celebrating the arrival of springtime in the mountains. Tiny Mertensia Alpina ~ my most beloved wildflower ~ is popping out all over the place.

Meadow Phlox puts on a colorful show in the woodlands.

Baby ducks take their first clumsy steps along the edge of a muddy stream.

While I look sadly at my garden 'to do' list and admit I didn't accomplish a thing. :(

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sunflower Meadows

Find this pretty trail in the foothills above Red Butte Gardens.

Bad Dog packed his party bandanna and took off on a desert camping trip... without me.

I don't know that I've ever had really high self-esteem but it's lower these days because I can't even compete with a dog and win. He's way more popular than I am.

For the next few weeks these mountain meadows will be saturated with big, cheery sunflower impostors. Do you know what they really are?*

There is an upside to the dog heading down south for the weekend. We got to spend our Friday Afternoon Club on one of those No Mutts Allowed! trails.

So, I guess we showed him.

Swallowtails were in 7th heaven, along the Mountain Meadow Trail.

Who Could it Be?

Is this big yellow wildflower a:
  • Curly Cup Gumweed
  • Mountain Meadow Groundsel
  • Showy Goldeneye
The hiking trails above Red Butte Gardens are speckled with wildflowers. Well worth the $6 fee.

* However! If you're feeling slightly broke, (and who isn't, these days???) Make a right turn, right before you enter the Red Butte Gardens drive. Grab the first on-street parking space you see. Look on the east side of the street to find the first of the free trails that winds up into the foothills. These trails allow dogs and they don't cost you a dime.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Crazy Daisies

Mutant Painted Daisy?
I used to own a hippy skirt that looked just like this flower!

Found an old packet of Painted Daisy seeds earlier this year. Decided to test them in the sunny window to see what would grow.

They're supposed to bloom in solid colors of pink and purple and do so after I transplant them into the garden.

Instead they're blooming early with bizarre mutant patterns. Looks as if they're heading to a Grateful Dead concert.

I imagine this is all part of the rebellion.

My seedling army is unhappily biding it's time in the big, sunny window. Overdue for transplanting ~ the weather simply will not cooperate. These May days are far too chilly and I'm behind on most everything I've set out to do.

Speaking of Grateful Dead concerts, check out Buddy ~ doesn't he look high as a kite?

He dearly loves the Catmint perennials ~ which are just beginning to sprout. They'll reach 4 feet tall by end of June and flower a breathtaking true blue for the better part of the summer. Catmint is very mellow compared to Catnip. Bud sniffs the minty leaves, gets all dreamy-eyed and far too lazy to pester these little guys:

Quick ~ quick! What's the first sign of old age setting in? Is it...
A) Watching the birds?
B) Feeding the birds?
C) Giving a damn about the birds?
D) None of the above.

The correct answer is D. The first sign of old age is sitting in the office taking pictures out the window because I'm too tired to walk outside this morning. (Long live Photoshop.)

* Painted Daisies, Chrysanthemum coccineum, are hardy to -40 below zero (USDA zone 3) which means you poor fools in Alaska can finally plant some cheery flowers! They grow so quickly you might as well save the dough and sow by seed. 2 feet tall, drought tolerant.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To Buy or Not to Buy

To buy [a horse,] or not to buy [a horse.] That is the question [for today.]

Whether 'tis nobler to stick my big, wiggly toe into that dark abyss.

And, suffer the slings and arrows of a magically disappearing fortune [aka money down the drain on a most beloved animal / money I don't really have.]

Or, chicken out on this as I do most major decisions in life.

Just thought I'd toss this one out into the universe in case anyone has some wise advice.

The more I think about it, the more confused I become. Because... 'conscious thought doth make cowards of us all...'

* Yep, I am bastardizing Shakespeare's Hamlet. If Mel Gibson can get away with such things, so can I. Nobody does it better than Ken.

** And, besides, it's kind of fun to be melodramatic once in awhile.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Weed Garden

Drifts of Meadow Phlox are blooming in the wild areas of my backyard.
(These pretty girls are most definitely not weeds.)

Casualties of War: Got so feisty with the weeds that I broke my trusty companion, the pitchfork.

Ever notice how professional gardens are named after the one special flower they're highlighting?

The Rose Gardens, The Lily Gardens... It's for this reason I've decided the only fitting name for mine is The Weed Garden.

'Twas a pivotal moment, I'll give you that.

Last Monday, I marched outdoors vacillating on a very big decision. I could... put the house up for sale and run away. Or, roll up my sleeves and pay the price for a full summer (last year) of ignoring my weeding chores.

Pay no attention to the crabgrass in these photos. Once I conquered that mess, I found a bunch of grateful Grape Hyacinth.

Sunny side up: Heirloom Eggs & Bacon Daffodils weren't terribly concerned about my lazy ways. That's why I love heirlooms. They're used to abuse.

Hazel calls these perky little Primrose 'plastic flowers.'

They do look fake, but I assure you they're not. Primrose blooms in horrendously bright purple and pink, long before my Daffodils.

Amazing what you find once the weeds are all gone!

When did I plant Bluebells???

*These flowers probably bloomed a month ago for you lucky gals at lower elevations. Mountain gardens get off to a slow start. Though, I feel I'm off to a great start. I'm tired, sore, exhausted from a week of hard work. And, not the least bit willing to walk out there this morning to see all the crafty weeds I probably missed!

PS: One cannot live by bulbs alone. I adore these masses of tiny yellow flowers ~ early spring blooming, Alyssum Basket of Gold:

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Quick-Growing Heirloom Veggies

I've had the great fortune of raising a daughter who never needed prompting to eat all of her vegetables. Other Moms were amazed by this since they spent half the dinner hour coaxing their own children to do the same.

What's the secret? Home grown! Even the pickiest eaters enjoy the downright delectable flavor of sun-kissed, vine-ripened, fresh-picked vegetables.

Bonus: a veggie garden can save you a fortune on grocery bills.

Time & Sunshine
Veggies happily grow anywhere you care to plant them ~ in containers on your balcony, in raised beds in the garden, or planted directly into the soil. Give them time and sunshine and they'll take care of the rest.

Storage containers make great, deep planters for veggies. (Add drainage holes in the bottom.)

How much time?
How about fresh lettuce in 4 short weeks? Mountain growing seasons are very short so we mountain gardeners need to get creative. If you've not heard of these goodies, you're not alone but most every vegetable has a quick-growing cousin that reaches harvest in short order and tastes terrific.

Quick-growing Heirloom Veggies that do well in the mountains:
  • Bountiful Bush Bean - this easy-growing small vine bean reaches maturity in about 51 days. (Heirloom)
  • Bull Nose Sweet Bell Pepper - a crisp, crunchy bell pepper bursting with delicious, earthy flavor. Matures in about 60 days. (Heirloom)
  • Red Cored Chantenay Carrots - A sweet, tender variety, ready to harvest in 70 short days. (Heirloom)
  • Four Seasons Head Lettuce - is as beautiful as it is delicious, with colorful, reddish brown leaves. Matures in 45-55 days. (Heirloom)
  • Brandywine Tomato - This yummy Amish heirloom has a neat habit of producing tomatoes that mature at different times, on the same vine, throughout the season. (80 days, Heirloom)
  • Cocozelle Bush Zucchini - has a fresh, nutty flavor that is particularly delicious when roasted on the grill. Matures in 55 days. (Heirloom)
Not gorgeous but the plants don't care. Pretty much any deep, plastic container is great for growing veggies.

More useless information!
* When buying seeds, or seedlings, check the 'days to maturity' on the seed packet or planting guide. You may need to purchase these varieties from online or mail order sources.
* Harvest days are measured from transplant time. Allow an extra 10-15 days, if planting by seed.
* Heirlooms are vegetable varieties that have not been hybridized for mass production. Most were born long before you were. These guys are infinitely more flavorful than grocery store 'fresh produce.'

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Heirlooms Around the Homestead

Rip Van Winkle Daffodils, born 1884
* Heirloom bulbs are genetically unique. They live forever, producing new flower offspring each year. (So, if you buy one bulb, chances are you'll have 20 or 30 before you know it!)

Planning is not really my strong suit. Oh, I can do it if I have to. For instance, I am planning to clean the house sometime in the near future but ~ like I said ~ that's a 'have to.' No telling when, or if, I'll find time for that.

Grand Monarque Hyacinth, born 1863

Gardening is not on the 'have to' list. It's a 'want to.'

But, if you think I lack discipline on the cleaning front, just take a stroll through my gardens...

For example!

We built a raised garden bed the year before I fell in love with horses.

Princeps Daffodil, born 1830

Now my raised bed rests smack dab in the middle of Megan's corral (aka backyard.)

That horse has zero respect for my gardening endeavors.

Meg doesn't live here. She comes over every once in awhile to mow the lawn and wreck havoc with all the goodies I've planted out there.

Like my latest batch of heirloom bulbs. They arrived so late last fall, that I decided to just stick 'em into the raised bed for a 1st year test. And, they were doing just fine!

Right up until Meg got the bright idea to leap ~ with all 4 feet ~ directly into my raised bed, shmooshing a whole bunch of those prized heirloom bulbs. (Which is why it's looking a little sparse in that top photo.)

But that's okay. I don't love horses for their brains.

Can't hardly wait for this one to blossom!
Gipsy Queen Hyacinth, born 1927

Why heirlooms? Because they're cool! And, they're rare! And, even if Meg murders half of them the other half will eagerly produce more new plants each spring. With any luck we'll stay one step ahead of the horse.

That's the new term for what's happening to these pretty heirlooms. All joking aside, heirloom flower bulbs, including heirloom Hyacinths, are on the endangered list. And, yes, they are more expensive but in the long run they are considerably LESS EXPENSIVE than hybridized bulbs. Because they reproduce, with more flowers every year. And they're twice as easy to grow as the fussy new hybrids.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Desert Wildflowers

Who could it be?
Unidentified Utah Wildflower #1
Capital Reef National Park

Mud month is a real, true season in the mountains.

Unidentified Utah Wildflower #2
Canyonlands National Park

Comes right after ski season is over, when those deep snow drifts begin to melt.

Right about the time you think you'll shoot yourself if you see one more soggy grey and far too chilly day.

Unidentified Utah Wildflower #3
Arches National Park

Oh! And, speaking of arches...
Can you spot the guys in the photo below? You've probably seen this before but until you see it up close and larger than life, you'll never really know what makes this naturally eroded rock arch so special:

There is not much to do in the mountains during mud month ~ other than to stare wistfully out the window and plot your great escape.

Unidentified Utah Wildflower #4
Dead Horse State Park

Which is why, I suppose, they invented Southern Utah.

Because it's hot down there. And, deadly dry.

Hey! Even I can identify this one...

And, just close enough that you can run away for the weekend to see how the other half lives.

I'm talking about this guy.

Not this nutty rock climber (look close, top o' the rock.)

* Think you know your wildflowers?

Then help me out, here. I'd love to know the names of these beauties....