Saturday, June 19, 2004

Second Spring

Early-to-mid Spring (mid-April to mid-May) is always the prettiest time in my garden, with all the bulbs and irises and azaleas blooming, but now, in late-Spring-early-summer (mid June), the garden is in its second flush and there's lots blooming today.

My Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree) is blooming beautifully, and my Hydrangeas ('Nikko Blue') continue to bloom in all their sky-blue glory. Daylilies are opening all over the place, and my Monarda (Bee Balm) is looking great. Additionally, there are Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower) and Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susans) looking great in my "sun bed".

I also planted a new Canna ('Red Fortuity') in my sun bed to add some nice color in the middle with the dark red foliage as well as the red blooms. What I didn't notice until after I planted it and read the tag was that it only grows to a maximum height of 30 inches, and I really needed a taller (~ 4 feet) Canna in the middle of that bed. So, I will most likely move this small guy to the edge, and get another, taller one in there, if I can find one locally (or perhaps buy one off the internet). In any case, it's blooming today, and I must admit that I didn't used to be a fan of red anything in my garden, but this Canna has a really pretty colored bloom -- a blue-ish, rather than orange-ish, red. I've also added a purple sand cherry (Prunus cistena) in the middle, and planted three purple fountain grasses (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') in various spots of that same bed, again to add more punches of color, so that when nothing is blooming during the heat of summer, the bed won't look like such a weedy unkempt mess.

Lots to do tomorrow, and alas, none of it is gardening related. I have several errands to run, in addition to visiting mom & dad for Father's Day. I also need to do laundry and pack, as I am now back on the road again for what looks like most of the summer. At least this time I'm going North (to New England) for the project, but that didn't help me this past week -- it ended up taking 14 hours to get home on Thursday, what with all the travel delays due to thunderstorms in the Northeast. Spent two hours sitting on the runway in Hartford, and then six hours waiting at the gate for our plane to arrive in Philly. Ahhh... the life of a consultant. Thank God I had my DVD's with me -- they saved my sanity. Right now I'm in the midst of PBS' "Forsyte Saga" and am really enjoying it. I'm dying to watch the last two episodes, but don't have any more DVD's to take with me for next week's travel, so am trying to make do with !#$%^&* that's on tv this weekend. I may just have to up my Netflix membership after all, so that I won't run out of movies on the weekends!

Okay, enough blathering. If all goes well and I find a pocket of time tomorrow, I'll upload my latest gardening pictures that I took today. (I'd do it tonight, but the camera is charging).

Sunday, June 13, 2004

What Gardeners Want...

Well, I had a mildly scary thing happen to this blog the other day. I was editing the template, and went to preview the edits, and the preview page hung, so I closed it and when I went back to editing the template, most of the HTML code was gone except the first few lines. So, after the blog was published again, it was essentially blank, except for the ad at the top and the green background. I sent a couple of "Help!" emails to Blogger tech support, hoping they could help me figure out how to find my lost code, but got absolutely no response, so decided to just re-select the same template from the choices offered, knowing that all my edits would be gone. (They were probably gone forever, anyway).

So, now I'm back in blogness, but I need to add back the Links for the side panel that I had added to my edited template, which means I need to actually remember what those links were, and find their URL's again. This then led me to an attempt at organizing my gardening favorites in MSIE, which is not as easy as it could be -- I think this is definitely something that Microsoft could improve on in their next version of Internet Explorer -- they need to make a click-and-drag option, and the ability to select multiple links to drag into a sub-folder, much like how one can organize files in Windows Explorer. Anyway, so, in my effort to organize my gardening links into sub-folders, as well as get rid of old, dead links, I have done a lot of surfing on gardening websites in the last two days.

Which leads me to the subject of this post -- What Gardeners Want.

As I surfed gardening cyberspace, I stumbled upon an interesting website for a botanical reference library or master gardening website, (I didn't save the URL and forget which site it was now), but which had a list I thought was interesting enough to save to a text file. They describe their list as "What Gardeners Want: What information do gardeners seek? Our reference logs reflect their most common concerns". Basically, it's a list of the main categories of reference questions that the group receives from gardeners who call, email, or come in looking for information. I thought it would be a good list for me to have, in order to find and post what I consider the best internet resources for each of those needs.

Here is the list of information that the typical gardener seeks for their most common gardening concerns:

1) Diagnostic — something is wrong with a plant. Need to identify pests, diseases, environmental situations, and recommend solutions.

2) Plant identification — what plant is this?

3) Right plant, right place — gardener needs plants appropriate for situation, i.e., shade plants or seashore plants or plants for slopes, etc.

4) Cultivation information — how to grow, care for, and propagate the plant.

5) Where to buy plants — especially ones not locally or easily available.

6) Garden travel — which gardens to visit and best time to visit.

7) Where to learn more — where to take classes, attend lectures, join a plant society; book recommendations; Web site recommendations.

8) How to research historic landscapes — user needs period garden designs and plants.

I will do my best to find at least one good website that represents each of those gardening information needs, as well as a few other excellent websites thrown in for good measure, and post them over on the right in my sidebar, under the Links heading. Stay tuned....

One other thing I noticed as I've been surfing quite a bit these past two days -- there are an awful lot of disappointingly dead website links out there. I guess every website has a lifespan, and some have shorter lives than others, especially if they're not maintained. One of the most disappointingly absent websites, in my opinion, is Barbara Barton's Gardening By Mail,a directory of mail-order resources for gardeners in the United States and Canada, which used to be hosted here, and then here, but both sites no longer exist. Gardeners' Supply Company now owns the Virtual Garden domain, and Time-Life owns the Pathfinder domain, but neither hosts the Gardening By Mail website any longer. The website(s) came after the books she published, and her Fifth (last) Edition is still available for purchase at Amazon and other booksellers. As time marches on and no new editions come out, and there's not a dynamic website that is maintained and updated, the information in her book is becoming increasingly obsolete, but at the time it came out, (1997), it was a golden resource. I suppose she and her website have hit a "publish or perish" phenomenon.... Here's hoping she'll publish a new one, and/or that someone else will take on hosting her website, since Time-Life dropped the ball. So for now, if you're looking for a particular plant, maybe your best option is to Google it....

Gorgeous weather these past few days, so what am I doing inside? Later!

Thursday, June 10, 2004

What's Bloomin'...?

This photo and the ones beneath it show what's blooming in my garden today. I love when the Hydrangeas are at their peak, and the daylilies are blooming. I can't wait for my Bee Balm to start blooming, which should be any day now....

Daylilies, Queen Anne's Lace, and Hydrangeas
blooming in my oak tree bed



Yet another Daylily

yet another daylily

Hollyhock - Pink & White

Pink & White Hollyhock



Hydrangea 'Nikko Blue'

Hydrangea 'Nikko Blue'

You get this color blue when your soil is acidic. The blooms will be more purpley, or even pink, if the soil is alkaline. I try and put Espoma's Hollytone (good for acid-loving plants) around my Hydrangeas and azaleas every spring and fall, which seems to help keep my Hydrangeas this clear blue color.

Ahhhhh... Zanfel

Well, I'm convinced -- this stuff does work for poison ivy relief. Four days ago I had ever-increasing blisters doing a blitz-krieg march across my hands, my arms, my stomach, my legs, and the itching was driving me to distraction. Today I am in healing mode. The blisters have gone down, there are no new "outbreaks", and the terrible, endless itching was gone pretty much after the first use of Zanfel. I do still have some minor itching, but that is the healing-skin type of itch, and I can definitely live with that. I don't need to wear bandaids anymore, which is also a bonus.

A friend told me recently that her "miracle-cure" for poison ivy is that stuff called "Icy-Hot", which you can find at the drugstore on the pain-relief aisle with the ace bandages and what-not. I may give it a whirl after my next bout, but I do like my Zanfel now. I found it for half-price on ebay, so I bought three tubes of it and am ready to strike, early on in my next inevitable poison ivy outbreak.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Poor, poor pitiful poison ivy

As mentioned in a previous post, poison ivy always gets worse before it gets better, and this time is no different. Today, after running out of the umpteen bandaids I use to cover it up, and finding limited relief from hydrocortisone cream and ointment, it was back to the drugstore for more options. I started stocking up on everything they had, and found something on the shelf with the calamine lotions called Zanfel, which claims to basically cure you of poison ivy, at any stage of the reaction, and often with just one use. I thought, I've got to try this stuff, and then I looked at the price.

Forty dollars.

For one ounce.

I bought it anyway.

Their website,, has several impressive testimonials, and it is also recommended on this other, noncommercial site,, with numerous ringing endorsements.
The Washington Post reported on it back in 2002: A Rash of Endorsements for a Poison Ivy Cream.

As a woman of science and logic, I will perform my own product testing with myself as guinea pig, and report back on the results after I try it.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Brrrrrr... June?

Yes, it's June 5th, in Central Virginia, and our high temperature today is a balmy 60 degrees. It feels and looks like Seattle out there today. But this is typical, schizophrenic Virginia spring weather, where we'll see temps in the 90's in April, and then in the 60's in June. I won't complain, I won't complain, I won't complain.... Pretty soon it'll be July and these cool wet days will be long gone, so I need to appreciate them while I can. Suffering from this poison ivy makes me want to shirk the garden, for the time being, until it heals. I really need to wear gloves out there all the time, especially when weeding.

One of my guilty pleasures on Saturdays is to watch the gardening shows you can find on various channels, my favorites being: Victory Garden (PBS), Gardening by the Yard, Spring!, and Gardener's Diary (HGTV). So I spent most of the day inside, since weather and poison ivy are against me, and enjoyed my shows!

I have added links to my sidebar, to some good gardening and botanical websites, and a few other websites I have. Happy surfing!

Friday, June 04, 2004

Rain, rain...

It's 64 and rainy today -- not so good for gardening, but God is doing all the watering that I had planned on doing out there today anyway, so really, He took over my garden chore for the day -- thanks God!

In the meantime, I'm calling painting contractors to schedule estimates -- the house hasn't been painted since I bought it ten years ago. So far, my first estimate was way high, and the second one was not much better -- I hope some of the others are lower. I tell ya, dealing with contractors is a crap-shoot. You call twenty, 5 call back, three show up, and the one you pick doesn't return your calls after he's supposedly "finished". Lesson learned: don't pay these guys until after you've inspected the work thoroughly. Also -- you can look up their contractor's license on the State's website, to see if they're legit, and if they have any complaints against them.

I've spent quite a bit of time at home these past months, for various reasons -- unemployment, employment-but-no-assignment, etc., and it has definitely given me more time to garden, which is good, but I'm paying for it now -- I have poison ivy all over my hands, and I somehow got it around my belly-button, don't ask me how! It's a miserable condition, one that always gets worse before it gets better (can take me as long as a month to heal), and those of you out west who don't have the stuff, I envy you!

I bought myself a DVD player last fall and promptly joined Netflix, which I'm loving, although lately there's been a real slow-down in delivery, and I can't tell if it's the USPS to blame, or Netflix, or both. Perhaps I'm noticing it more right now because I'm right in the middle of watching all the Sex and the City DVD's, and it's killing me when I can't pop in the next one when I'm done with the last one. I could always up my membership to have 5 or 8 movies out at a time, but, really, that's just decadent, and normally, when I'm busy and working, that's not realistic anyway. I'm almost done, anyway -- up to Season 5, disk 2 (hopefully arriving tomorrow). That's one of the things I miss about not being on the road -- I don't get HBO at home, although, now that Sex is off the air, what do I care? I liked Six Feet Under, and can't remember if I heard they're bringing that back or not. I'll have to add their latest season to my queue....

I'm going to end this post, for now, so as not to bore the poor reader to death.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

A gorgeous blue...

Siberian Iris

This Siberian Iris grows in what I call my "oak tree bed" near the front of my house. I planted it at least five years ago, and it comes up reliably every year.


I've decided to create an on-line gardening journal, of sorts, after I found this exceptional blog site. I hope to be able to post some pictures from my garden, describe my plants and plantings, rave over successes and moan over failures, and perhaps share links to great gardening websites I run across.

Thank you for reading my very first posting!