Gotta Garden

Friday, September 14, 2007

Garden Bloggers Book Club; Garden Reading

(Can you believe it?? It's not midnight at the end of the month...I'm early! Maybe I get a gold star...maybe?)

Carol of May Dreams Garden has suggested our book for this period and is the de facto president and hostess of our Garden Bloggers Book Club (Carol, I hope you don't mind the title! I mean it well.). Her choice is A Hoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber. Thanks, Carol, for a great suggestion! To my review...

What makes a garden novel enjoyable? First, it needs to be about a garden or gardener. Second, it should read quickly as it is not a reference book, per se; however, helpful information interspersed throughout is a plus. Third, the characters should be likeable enough that you would enjoy reading about them again.

A Hoe Lot of Trouble scores perfectly (for me) in all three categories listed above. Sometimes you just want to read for pleasure. I liked it well enough that I quickly read the second one in the series, Trouble in Spades, as well as the third one, Digging Up Trouble. There is a fourth one that I’ll probably be ordering very soon.

I do have a slight disagreement with something in the second book, but I’ll save that for the end. (Obviously, it wasn’t serious enough for me to stop reading the books!) On to the books…let me just say that if I am vague, it is intentional because I want you to read and enjoy these books…and not have the story spoiled.

Nina Quinn is the main character (hence, Nina Quinn Mysteries). The books revolve around her landscaping business Taken by Surprise and her interactions with family and friends. Because Nina’s life continues to evolve through the books, I’ll just say that it’s all very entertaining. The dialogue is witty and the books are fast paced. The books are murder mysteries, so in the fashion of Murder She Wrote (wherein one would probably not want to vacation in Cabot Cove due to the high murder rate), murders seem to occur regularly in the small Ohio town she resides in…and Nina is somehow right in the middle of them. Struggling in her personal life, successful in her business, she presents a character many of us could identify with. Her food choices are pretty amusing in their own right. She appears to fuel herself on cookie dough, candy bars and other foods stress eaters can identify with.

There are lots of things to admire about Nina. She’s loyal, caring, adventurous, hard working…and conflicted. Her family has an assortment of characters that become more familiar to you, the reader, with each book. I’m not sure I’m totally with the author in the direction she seems to be taking Nina’s life, but I’m leaving room to be convinced. The journey is pleasant enough and with my husband having Ohio roots, I also enjoy the references to places that are familiar.

So, if you are a murder mystery reader like me, then these are fun books. I think I read all three in less than a week. If you had the time, you could easily read one over a weekend (great to take on a trip!).

Now, I know you’re just waiting to hear what I didn’t like. In book two, Trouble in Spades, Nina mentions that “day lilies” are poisonous. The author takes that further in the section at the end purportedly written by Nina Quinn called Take Your Garden by Surprise. On page 380, under Know your plants, we are told:

"Certain bulbs are toxic too, like amaryllis, lily of the valley, tulips, daffodils, and day lilies."

Sigh. Giant sigh. Do you see it, faithful readers?? Let me back up a minute and bring you up to speed in that a dog in this book becomes ill after eating morning glories. The informative section at this end of this book (the first one dealt with poison ivy, the third with a hummingbird garden) deals with protecting your dog from harmful plants.

As someone who has hundreds of “day lilies” (you know, of course, that they are daylilies…one word), they are NOT toxic. I, myself have eaten daylily blooms. One of my cats regularly munches on daylily seedlings in the window during the winter. There are recipes for cooking with daylilies! The American Hemerocallis Society makes an effort to correct misleading information (or just plain confused) information and this looks like a case for them. I have seen discussions in the past on the email robin on this very topic.

The most obvious thing should have jumped out at you right away. Daylilies are NOT bulbs!!!! I suspect the author is referring to true lilies (lilium) which are bulbs. With a character who is supposed to be a credible landscaper, shouldn’t she know the difference??

Here’s a link that took me about two seconds to find. You’ll note the author of this page says that some of these cannot be verified. I would question a few, right away…tulips/crocus…how many squirrels have dug up and run off with these? And, we know deer love tulip flowers (which are contained in the bulbs)…Before my cats, the rabbits loved my saffron crocus. I guess orris root was forgotten as well (it is an iris). BUT, you’ll note what is not on there….that’s right, hemerocallis, i.e., daylilies. As you can see, it is easy to be confused about what is and isn't a problem.

I must say, for me, this a glaring error and cast doubt on the “garden creds” of the author and her character, Nina Quinn. At the end of the third book, I didn’t even read the information about hummingbird gardens and found that I skimmed her plant references in the book. (I’m harsh, I know).

Having said all of this, I still enjoyed the books. It would be nice to have the character be better informed, but I have also attended lectures from landscapers whose plant knowledge was more general than specific. It didn’t spoil the lecture. Thus, this doesn’t spoil the books for me. And, I hope not for you as well.


American Hemerocallis Society

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Taking Out the Tomatoes...

Since I got them in early (for me), I might as well take them out early, right? Well, not exactly. It feels a bit like I am rushing fall (am I?). Anyway, all have been pulled out except the Sungold which is happily taking all the space it used to share with Eva's Purple Ball. As a cherry tomato, it isn't a heavy vine and causes me no problems in the staking department. It's still producing and I expect it to until frost...which could be Oct or Nov, depending on the whims of frost.

Why, you ask, did I take them out a whole month earlier than I might have had to? Good question. I'm not a neat freak (that might be an improvement) or anything, but when they grow up past your stakes (the ones that actually managed to stay in the ground) and back down to the ground again, it is probably time to reconsider. I have all winter to formulate a new plan of action. Things like cutting off the growing point, removing extra branches, more space (yes, that would help...that's one for the dream list, along with winning the lottery), maybe trying to make those cages out of concrete reinforcing wire (those might require staking, maybe not), maybe actually using some of the big pots I have...etc.

I'll definitely replant Sungold (cannot imagine not growing it), Pink Caspian and German Johnson. Maybe even that Champion, if I should come across it. This winter, when it's cold and dreary out, I'll go into that seed drawer and look at all the tomato seeds I have...and maybe actually grow some. Add a good paste tomato to my must-grow list. I did miss those this year.

The current tomato areas look like good candidates for garlic. By the time the tomatoes get big enough to really need the space, the garlic will be coming out. Sounds like a plan. Maybe. Need to amend the soil (note to self) for sure. After all, the blanket flowers insist on seeding themselves into one of my current garlic areas.

Maybe I shouldn't fight them, they seem to grow well without any help from me. I would like it/them better (the blanket flowers) if they would seed themselves in a nice row in that empty area (except for the weeds that fill it in) between the daylily seedlings and the garlic area. That would be convenient and helpful. But no.

Anyway, I harvested all the tomatoes except for some teeny ones and a few that looked like they might have wildlife. I got two big bags of tomatoes! See:

They've been ripening quite nicely. I've made four batches of sauce, so far, and think I should get another two, at least. Plus ones for eating, so all in all, not a bad harvest. Just to give you an idea, those two bags filled five dinner plates (for ripening) plus the window sill (and only one green worm!).

I think maybe I should feel sad about taking the tomato plants out, especially early, but I don't. It's just one of those years. I'm sure when the last of the tomatoes ripens, then I'll have regrets. For now, it's just good eating (and no picking up vines lying all over).


On other fronts, I found a few Black Swallowtails to be:

Parsley is another one of those things I let seed around. It does a pretty good job. I'm now finding seedlings in the daylily seedling bed which is quite a ways from the original planting site. Can't have too much parsley, right? (You're thinking...she must put parsley and garlic in everything...well, almost!)

Pet Humor

Leo, who has a question

Riley, who has the answer

Kobe, who agrees with Riley

Sam has requested his privacy. He is probably asleep in a closet somewhere and therefore has issued a 'no comment' statement.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Garlic Thoughts

Although fall isn't really here, it's starting to feel a bit like it. One of September's garden events for me is garlic planting. Well, I try for September but have planted as late as Dec. (don't tell anybody).

Weekend before last, DH took me to a DC farmers market in DuPont Circle. Because we would be spending the day out, I was under strict orders NOT to load up on stuff (so tempting). Therefore, I decided I would limit myself to searching for local garlic.

This thought came upon me rather belatedly, I'm ashamed to admit. Yearly, I order garlic and rather enjoy selecting from the tempting varieties offered. You would think, though, after some seven years of this, that I'd have quite a bit of my own to replant. Not so. I truly hadn't given this much thought until the last year. Two interesting things occurred (with the garlic). One was with some New Mexico Inchellium Red (so called by me because I bought it at the Santa Fe Farmers Market three years ago or so). I was down to my last three cloves last year when I planted it. However, this summer when I harvested those three cloves, they had produced pretty nice heads of in particular made me jump up and down (a sight to behold). Hmmm, I thought...(I am prone to stunning thought...) Could it be? Sleep, leap and creep?? And/or acclimation to growing here in Virginia vs. the Southwest??

Added to that was some garlic I bought at a Northern Virginia market (Falls Church?? I forget.) last year which the vendor said they called Korean Rocambole (exact name was unknown). It had done very well for them and they grew it year after year. This particular farm is located in PA, but still a heck of a lot closer than the Pacific Northwest where I usually (and still...two orders coming this fall...some things never change) order my garlic. The Korean Rocambole did pretty well for me, too. Hmmm.

Now, if you recall, I've written about my garlic before. Even showed my harvest. Mostly I talk about the cats lying on it and my frustration with losing track of the name of a particular variety. But, after seven years, I can't point to one and say, "See this one, it grows great for me, year after year." Partly, that is because, as I have mentioned, I like the ordering part...but, I am beginning to think that it is also because I have been impatient and have not given it a chance to adjust properly to very different circumstances. Virginia is just a tad different than Washington or Oregon. I could go off on a tangent about the differences in zone 7, but that's not my point today. (I do have a point. I think.)

So, this year, this season of garlic planting, I will test out my new theories. I will not be so impatient and will plant back more of this summer's harvest than I might normally. Back will go some of the New Mexico Inchellium Red, the Korean Rocambole...and a few others who might not have made the grade in years past. Of course, I will add the garlic currently on order.....and, I will show you (in a minute) what I bought at the farmers market in DC (most of it grown in Maryland, I think).

Funny, I recognized all the varieties from one vendor and asked her if she ordered from the same place I did (she did!). She, however, had much larger garlic to show for her efforts (okay, she grows it to sell and probably pays more attention to it). I tested out my local theory and she agreed (she probably just wanted to sell me some garlic and have me move along!).

Here's what I bought at the market:

The one up at the top is from the first vendor I saw selling garlic and was an impulse buy (I didn't know what else I might find...bird in the hand)...the gal had no idea what kind it was (as if I don't have enough of my own unknowns...I was determined to buy local!). I've grown the three on the paper bags (probably more than once) before, but not starting with local stock. We shall see. The New York White (on the pink paper) is a new one for me, so, of course, I have to try it.

And, here's some of my own sitting in the basement awaiting its fate. Yes, I'm sure you will note the fine conditions under which I store/keep my garlic.

Here's the thing. Like a lot of stuff you grow yourself, the taste of fresh garlic is unbeatable. Don't think that those bins of garlic in the grocery store are really fresh. Okay, they're better than a lot of stuff, but just wait until you grow your own. You will discover how juicy garlic is, how incredible it smells, the nuances of taste (they really are different)...and you will use much more than you ever dreamed. Once you start putting fresh garlic on your garlic bread, you will never go back to powder. Never!

Maybe (most likely) it isn't as big as those heads of garlic in the will win in the taste department, though! My point is that I don't waste garlic, even the small cloves get used...I'm also very picky about my garlic press. We can talk about that another time. Maybe on Gotta Eat.

You have your mission. Grow garlic. Eat garlic. Wear a BIG smile...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ornamental Grasses

Thanks to Shirl of Shirl's Gardenwatch for including me in the grass weekend. She and Layanee are leading the way. Okay, I know it's not still the weekend, but, hey, you do the best you can.

This was a good exercise for me because I have to admit, I take the grasses for granted. A few years back, I wasn't particularly excited by grasses, but, like a lot of things, they grew on me ( pun intended). I think the first one to catch my attention was a little blue one, Elijah Blue.

Festuca ovina var glauca 'Elijah Blue'

Cute, isn't it? I had always planned on having at least three (that odd number thing) but the rest refuse to hang around (I've tried twice), so this one is it. Besides, the catmint is moving in and that's okay with me. (More catmint, less weeds...yes?)

From there, I bought a couple of Miscanthus Morning Light.

Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light'

This one dances in the wind and has wonderful fall color (who knew grasses had fall color...I hadn't really paid attention until this one). It also reflects light in a most interesting way, something I notice in the fall more. You did notice I said I had purchased a couple? Well, one is barely hanging on after exceedingly rough treatment by the fence repairman. He thought it was, apparently, a good place to lay a section of the fence...for a week. That it survived at all is testament to its toughness, but it clearly has not forgotten nor forgiven its treatment. It's also in more shade.

I saw this cool (I thought) display of Japanese Blood Grass making a ribbon in the landscape. I thought that was neat idea...and since I never got around to buying more than one, thought I would just divide that one.

Japanese Blood Grass Imperata cynlindrica 'Rubra'

Not such a neat still hasn't gotten over that and so I have these teeny tiny patches (except for one)...maybe in ten years or so, I will see that ribbon.

I love the yellow of this grass.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' Golden Variegated Hakone Grass

Both of these came to me through a mail order purchase, one much larger than the other (same price, though). The smaller one continues to remain smaller. But, I like the way they light up the garden...or the way the larger one lights up its space.

These fun little guys I brought back from Seattle where I saw them in the famed Heronswood display garden. They were bright orange that October, such a startling color that I just had to have some.

Carex testacea Orange New Zealand Sedge

Hmmm. Maybe they're not too happy think?

Carex or Sedge (no edge, so much be a carex...thanks to H. the Horticulturist for the 'sedges have edges')? I will have to find the tag for this one. Tiny thing when I bought it, it is getting bigger and bigger. Like those stripes, though.

These guys were planted to solve a garden problem (grasses can be good for that). This areas slopes down and every time it rained, half the garden would slide down the slope. Very discouraging. In desperation, I bought two Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grasses

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

(a neighbor down the street grew them and I thought they were striking). Small things, but look at them now! And, I might more erosion.

My favorite little grass, although it doesn't stay here too long (for reasons I'll reveal in a moment) is Stipa, Ponytail grass.

Stipa tenuissima 'Pony Tails'

It does feel like a ponytail, smooth and fun to touch. One of my cats, Sam, loves it. I had one planted in the backyard and he would lie back there for hours cradling (or wrestling) this grass. Very cute. The grass, however, took exception and gave it up. Poor Sam, no more grass to love. I found a couple this spring and thought I would plant them in a different area (and see how long it took Sam to find them)....well, like a lot of things this year, they're still waiting to be planted...and none too happy. I think they're still hanging on, but barely.

I like these, Black Mondo Grass, although, as I think I have written before, they are more difficult to place than you might think. It's hard to get the black to really show...

Unless I think of another one, that's it for now. This is a great example, for me, of how tastes change. So, never say never. (Disclaimer: I did this rather quickly....)
Related Posts with Thumbnails