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A Native Bouquet

In August, I spent a weekend at a resort in the Poconos of Pennsylvania which hosts loads of family reunions and destination weddings. As our own family reunion drew to a close on a rainy Sunday, we huddled in the game room and spied on a lovely bride and groom saying their I do’s on the covered terrace. Okay, to be honest, the women and girls spied on the wedding, the boys were playing Wii. (Am I gender stereotyping?? Only reporting what I witnessed).

On our way to the car, we passed by the florist who was relocating the bridal bouquets from wedding to reception. There she stood in the rain with a card board box full of  nosegays made up of goldenrod and queen anne’s lace.  “How perfect,” I thought! “How weedy,” my husband thought. I know he thought that because his response to my effusing over the fabulous use of seasonal and native plants in a formal setting was, ” Don’t you find those flowers on the side of the road??”

Well, yes you do.

To be fair, I think my husband harbors an irrational aversion towards goldenrod. When I brought some in for a nice fall centerpiece, he asked me, “Aren’t you just putting allergens in a vase?” No appreciation of native beauty.

I first knew Queen Anne’s Lace at summer camp in Virginia where they grew like crazy in hot August next to the drainage ditches where the tractors couldn’t mow.  Goldenrod entered my lexicon when given me by a master gardener in my neighborhood. It now fills a lonely corner of my back garden, but I also now notice it lining Pennsylvania country roads in September, again, where mowing is impossible. But who cares that goldenrod grow on the roadside? It’s lovely!

So let me officially applaud that bold bride who got married in the rain carrying two of our most beautiful native plants.  Sometimes nature does know best.

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Cut and color, or spring bulb order?

Thanks to vanbloem.com for the pic!

I’ve been a terrible blogger. Not one post since July at least. Wowie wow wow. First, some excuses.

Excuse #1 – Four children home from school for 10 weeks this summer, three boys among them. Which leads me to a little story. I thought, last summer, when Philadelphia received a nice sprinkling of rain just about everyday and average temps were in the 80s, that I was a fabulous gardener. Every little last perennial, annual, bulb and weed thrived under my loving care. This summer, not so much. No rain, temperatures in the 90s daily. Everything in my garden is nice and crispy and barely hanging on.

To make the connection, I my first child was a girl. I thought I was a FABULOUS parent. She sat and colored for hours, we worked on puzzles, we read books, she played dress up. Life was full, but peaceful. And quiet. Then I had three boys in 4 years. Life is full and loud, so very loud. If they’re not yelling at each other, then I’m yelling at them. Stop hitting your brother. Stop pulling that giant cabinet down on yourself. Stop using that tomato stake as a light saber to hit your brother. Stop breaking my house. And for the love of pete, would you please STOP YELLING? Fabulous parent? Fabulous gardener? Let’s call it doing the best I can.

Excuse #2 My hard drive is full. Multiple photos of multiple flowers taken multiple times a week add up. The last time I downloaded my photos from my camera, we almost had a serious computer emergency. While blogging is a fun and worthwhile pursuit, it is not the only task performed by this old Dell laptop. It watches Glee on Hulu, it checks the baseball standings daily, it cranks out monthly book reports, and oh, it handles all the books for my family’s company. I know an external hard drive would solve all my problems, but honestly, who has the time?

Excuse #3 – Life in of doors. After 4 years of living in my house and hating most of the rooms (tired-looking cream colored paint everywhere, 1950s wood paneling, crumbling stone foundation walls in the basement, etc. etc), I have decided to take action. Kids are back in school, I have some room to breath, the crispy flowers are not inspiring right at the moment. By golly, I’m going to paint something. Unfortunately, when you decide to paint a child’s room, that child and all his worldly possession need somewhere else to stay. After two weeks of a homeless 6 year old living in my bedroom and messing with my stuff, I dedicate every free moment to that darn room.

Which brings me to my original question. The time has come to deal with the unpleasant amount of gray that surreptitiously appeared sometime during the last 5 years. The time has also come to beef up my bulb collection. This is the time to do it – I know this is the time. If I order those snow drops and winter aconite NOW, I will be a much happier person come March. The new patio is dying for some daffodils, and I will not be complaining about too many hyacinths. But boy, it would be nice to look in the mirror without a fright every morning. Thus the question: Big bill at the salon, or big bill at the mail-order bulb store??

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Gardenaholics Anonymous

My name is Kelly and I am a gardenaholic. They say the first step is to admit that you have a problem, and boy do I have a problem.

This realization has been coming on gradually. Thinking back, there were warning signs. A few weeks ago, I set the table for dinner for my family and said to my husband that it had been a long time since we all sat down together. He replied, very graciously and in a kind tone of voice, “It’s gardening season.” My husband is not a gardener, unless you include “willing to dig big holes” or “helps lift the really heavy things” in your definition. He was clearly commenting on my tendency to lose all track of time the minute I step out the back door and don the yellow gloves. What I  intend to be a quick 15 minute weeding session becomes a shrub-moving, hardscape-building landscape overhaul. I really do plan to come in at 5:30 and fix dinner for my children. Then 7:30 rolls around and I’m calling the Chinese place. Hmmm…. Problematic.

This next warning sign will undoubtedly cause much cringing and eye-averting by the neat-freaks among you. (Mom, I’m talking to you here. Please feel free to skip to the following paragraph. What follows may simply be too upsetting a display by someone so closely related to you).

Last week, miraculously, the kids were fully ready for school and the kitchen was clean 15 minutes early. Found time! Great! I thought I’d get started folding that laundry that had been piling up for, oh, a few weeks. I should have been worried when I noticed my four and five year olds digging through the baskets in the living room for clean underwear, but it was this sight that made me think I might really have a problem:

And then I went to my bedroom and saw this:

And then I had to get something out of the basement and was faced with this:

Oh boy. Things are falling down around me.  But it’s May and it’s beautiful and the peonies I planted 3 years ago that never grew AT ALL have finally surfaced. There is so much fun work to be done in the garden. And so much unfun work to be done in the house. Let me ask you. Does anyone really want to organize the tool bench? Are those winter coats really causing harm? If you could spend a half hour matching a gazillion pair of size 4 socks or a half hour dealing with this chore:

which would you choose?

Last night, at 8:30 I realized I was watering my newly planted annuals IN THE DARK. Not in the dusk. In the dark. My name is Kelly, and I have a problem. Not so sure I want to be cured of it though!

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Garden Arbor or Flat Screen TV?

The garden in my head

When my family and I moved into our home 3 ½ years ago, I ponied up the cash to hire a landscape designer to draw up a master plan for my garden. (After coming up with the money for a down payment and taxes, $350 felt like pennies).  I knew I would be ripping out most of what was already here – overgrown yews, a poison-ivy-riddled hedge, a horrible barberry with 1 inch thorns that made my kids cry – but I needed help figuring out what to plant in their stead. My designer came up with a wonderful plan to create an idyllic cottage garden with two patios, loads of perennials, a clematis covered arbor, flowering shrubs and trees, a custom trellis for climbing roses, a pond with a waterfall – the works.

I’ve chipped away at it bit by bit over the years. I’ve focused on plants mostly, but some hardscape made the cut – one of the two patios, a fence to keep children from falling off the 7 foot drop to my neighbor’s back yard. As I gear up for this gardening season, though, I really really want the arbor. There are so many items on the list of pros: frame the entrance to the patio and back yard garden, create a focal point that would lead your eye and feet to said patio and garden, give me something to look at from my kitchen window. How great would that arbor look right now covered in the 2 feet of snow that just fell here in Philadelphia?

I have a reputation for being a bit frugal. I suppose some would even say cheap. (Okay, most of my friends would definitely say cheap). I am having a real problem spending many hundreds of dollars on a substantial arbor. So many hundreds of dollars in fact, that the arbor has moved onto “the capital expenditure list.” Once it makes this list, the garden arbor has to be THE ONE thing that I want to spend my money on. I can’t slip the arbor into the grocery budget like I can the occasional shrub or flat of annuals. Along with the arbor, this list currently includes a new bathroom (too expensive), a finished basement (way too expensive) and a flat screen t.v. (just about the same price as a garden arbor). The flat screen t.v. would transform my living room into a sleek, modern, well-designed dream of a living room. We’re not even talking about a big one – just a modest 37 incher. I would love a flat screen t.v.

It would be nice!

But a garden arbor – I would really love a garden arbor. Imagine: Clematis. Climbing roses. Coral Honeysuckle.

I have a picture in my head that would translate so very nicely to my garden.  It would be great if I were the kind of person to say, “Neither garden arbor nor flat screen t.v. – I’m saving for that basement!” But how do you deny immediate gratification, especially when there is the promise of flowers involved?

I understand that I am facing a dilemma regarding which luxury item to purchase. I don’t NEED either one.  This whole conversation about whether to buy one or the other indicates that I will be able to feed my family and pay the heating bill without those hundreds of extra dollars. I am cognizant of and extremely thankful for that fact.

Given that, however, let’s be honest. There is nothing good on t.v.

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, January 15

I’m a week in to my little blogging project, and I just experienced my first wave of complete overwhelmedness (is that a word?).

Did you know there are THOUSANDS of garden blogs out there? They are gorgeous and the writers are real writers and the gardeners are real gardeners. There’s even a garden blog directory (and if there’s one there are probably a hundred). 997 garden blogs currently registered on just this one.

Did you know that there is a conference every year for garden bloggers? This year’s meeting in Buffalo will be the third annual. According to their website, “during the day, we’ll hit the highlights of Western New York’s most beautiful and interesting gardens (public and private); during the evening we’ll eat, talk and hang out.” Sign me up!

Did you know that today is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day? Who knew? Actually, every 15th of the month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day  – bloggers from all over post descriptions and photos of what’s blooming in their gardens that day. It’s like a little botanical journey ‘round the world! And, let me tell you, it makes me feel a bit inferior. Lots of orchids out there, and, hey, its January so I do have one orchid bloom on my brand new purchase. But lots of real blooms – actual flowers that are growing and blooming OUTSIDE on the 15th of January. I really do need to move to California.

Did you know that I had to rip off another berry picture from a neighbor’s garden even to participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day? Nothing blooming at the old homestead this year. I think I’m going to have to appropriate the entire village of Penn Wynne, Pennsylvania as “my garden.” (The sign erected by the county on our main road actually reads “Village of Penn Wynne.” A village 15 minutes from downtown Philly. How great is that?) I think I’ll do that. My yard is miniscule as are those of my neighbors. We must stick together.

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