Monday, December 31, 2007

Taming a monster

I'm always reading about gardeners who will not hesitate to get rid of a plant that they don't like or one that is just not performing like it should. I really admire this trait because it is one that I do not possess. It takes an act of Congress for me to give a plant the heave-ho, especially one that is perfectly healthy.

Case in point - the rambling rose, aptly named "Rambling Rector." I guess I've had this rose for about 10 tens years and every year I keep telling myself that it must go! It is a disease-free rose, very easy to grow but it has two drawbacks. The first one is that it is a once-bloomer, meaning that it blooms in the spring for a week or so and that's it. The second and most important deterrent is that it is a monster! The pergola that it adorns is a rather large one - about 20 feet in length - and this rose has rapidly devoured every inch of real estate. You can hardly see the other roses that share it.

This is what it looks like in the spring - glorious blooms, yes - but a tad overwhelming, wouldn't you say?

So, I've finally bit the bullet and for the past weeks, I've been pruning this sucker down. It is not an easy job. The thorns are vicious and it is practically impossible to get access to some of the canes on top of pergola. Today was mild so I was outside working on it again. I took the top photo that shows about 40% of it removed.

Now, my next quandary is whether or not to replace it with another rose or just try to keep it in check. I already know the answer to this and I should just stop kidding myself. Rambling roses are not meant to be pruned in this manner. This rose needs a huge tree to scamper up or a nice pasture or large expanse of lawn to show off in. I will of course try to save it so maybe I will replant it at my mother's house out in the country where space is not an issue.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A new gardening journal

One of my presents this year was a new gardening journal. Ten years ago, it took a while to find the perfect one and fortunately the company that sells it still has it in stock. This one displays one day at a time so you can see a ten year history of that day on one page. I started my older one in 1997 and incredibly, I will finish it at the end of the month.

Keeping a gardening journal is something that gardeners are always urged to do but you wonder if it is a worthwhile activity. Believe me when I say it is! It will become a goldmine of information for any gardener, reminding you where you obtained a particular plant, what plants have failed and survived in your garden, comparing bloom dates and general weather observations. It will become an indispensable educational tool and one created by yourself! It can sometimes be a depressing document as well (did I really kill that many plants?).

Alas, I am not the best record keeper and I am often lax in keeping mine up to date. I still manage, however, to jot down general observations if I fall behind. In addition to gardening information, I find myself noting social events as well, such as who we had dinner with, appointments, movies we watched, etc. If you have a poor memory like I do, your journal can be instrumental in determining when significant events occurred. Just a few weeks ago, I needed to know when we had some electrical work done. Where did I find the information? In my gardening journal of course! But I digress.

I can think of one thing that would make a gardening journal more convenient and that would be an index. When I get a question or need to find information about a plant in my garden, I know I can locate it in my gardening journal but finding that one piece of information is not always easy. Being a librarian, you would think that I would do something about it but I haven't.

I suppose if a person didn't want to fool with a paper journal, they could use their blog as type of journal. Wouldn't this work? Heck, you would even have a built-in index. Hmmm....

Well, no matter which method you choose (and why not do both?), it is a worthy endeavor and you'll be glad you did it in the future.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Garden themed ornaments

Some bloggers are sharing their garden related Christmas ornaments and we have quite a few. This is just a small sampling.

That last ornament is just one of many that Michael and I cross-stitched many years ago. I think we spent an entire winter doing those ornaments.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gardener's Bloom Day for December

I almost didn't make Bloom Day today. Today's weather is a typical example of winter weather here in the South. It started out cloudy and almost warm (in the upper 50s). By the time I ran several errands and got home it was close to noon. I noted that the overcast skies would be perfect for photos so grabbed the camera and headed outside. After about 40 minutes, I noticed that the skies were looking ominous. All of a sudden, a big gust of wind came up and before I knew it, raindrops were falling. We've had a cold rainfall all afternoon and the temperatures keep falling. There is even a possibility for snow flurries overnight. How exciting!

The only blooms I could find today were roses and camellias. I did note some interesting foliage so I'll include them as well.

Camellia 'Mine-no-yuki' (aka 'Snow on the Mountain') -

A promising bud on the shrub rose 'Erfurt' -

A cluster of roses on 'Weeping China Doll' -

More pink roses, this time 'Lyric' -

And now, the foliage. This is the yucca 'Golden Sword' (complete with weeds underneath):

Here's a wonderful plant that every gardener should have. It is called Italian Arum. Some claim it is invasive but I've never had that problem. The foliage, which appears in the winter, is very striking. In spring, white flowers appear and are followed by bright orange berries. It then goes dormant during the summer.

Miscanthus -

The leaves of the Kerria are now bright yellow -

Notice the color of this maple - bright orange and yellow leaves and some are black. I've never noticed this variation before.

I thought the leaves of the hydrangea "Amethyst" were especially beautiful -

And here is another view with some Siberian Iris foliage -

Crytomeria Japonica (Japanese Cedar) -

And finally, my lichen and leaf covered bench. It looks kind of lonely doesn't it?

Monday, December 10, 2007

What is a 'master gardener' anyway?

I received my acceptance letter into the Master Gardeners program a few days ago. My first class starts in mid January. I've been trying to do this for years but have had work schedule conflicts which prevented me signing up. So now I'm asking myself, "What exactly is a master gardener?" I know I take classes and probably get a piece of paper in the end saying that I'm a certified one. I must then contribute 40 hours of community service, possibly answering people's questions on the telephone at my county's extension office or perhaps working on a landscaping project. And I hear that there may be field trips - that sounds fun! The thought though of being a "master" at anything is kind of unsettling to me. Sure I love to dispense advice on my web site and blog about gardening related matters but I get nervous when people start looking me up expecting the ultimate answer on what is corrupting their tomatoes or blemishing their dahlias. Maybe I will have all these answers after I take the courses (I doubt it though, my comprehension and retention levels are not that great). If anything, it will be nice to have a "connection" with my local gardening community and since I do serve on my local Beautification Board, the designation might be nice. And, I'm sure that I'll learn some new things about plants. I will probably be sharing what I learn here. It should be interesting...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

8 happy thoughts

I've been tagged by Lisa at Shower Fresh Garden to list 8 things that make me happy. Actually, this might be relaxing because this sure is a stressful time of year. Getting ready for our big party this weekend, wrapping up things at work (only two weeks until my long break!) and dealing with getting our plumbing problems fixed is taking a toll. So, thinking about good things might be a good thing.

Here are the rules:
When tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Post these rules before your list, then list 8 thoughts that make you happy. At the end of your list, you must tag and link 8 other people.

1) Chocolate (any kind!)
2) Reading - It seems that I don't have time to read as much as I'd like but I do love getting into a good book.
3) Movies - especially old movies. The film noir era of the 40s is my favorite.
4) Gardens - not just real gardens but photos of gardens. I can spend hours looking at garden books and gardening magazines.
5) Cats - They comfort me.
6) Birds - Not always a good combination with the above but I do enjoy watching them, especially in the winter. My favorites are the cardinals, goldfinches and hummingbirds. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a cardinal in the garden with snow on the ground and branches.
7) Baking - mostly a winter activity. Love trying new recipes.
8) The comforts of home - I love being at home, inside on a rainy day, just lounging in my sweat pants and flannel shirt watching tv, reading or maybe in the kitchen baking. My favorite times are the rare occasions when we get snow and get a few days off from work. Those are magical times for me.

Now, time to get back to the real world! I'll tag the following bloggers:

Pam at Digging
Chuck at Whoreticulture
Christopher at Outside Clyde
Annie at Transplantable Rose
Lost Roses
Sky at Between
Carol at May Dreams

Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas at our house

I promised to post photos of our house at Christmas earlier and here they are. We've had our decorations up for about three weeks now. We have to start early to get everything up in time. We have trees in almost every room and countless ornaments and other decorations. Michael is the Christmas fanatic, I'm afraid he suffers from OCD (Obsessive Christmas decorating). It is very beautiful though and magical at night. We always have a big party every year and share it with our friends and family.

BubbleShare: Share photos - Print Christmas Coloring Pages.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Driving the Trace

We always go to Grenada, Mississippi for Thanksgiving. It is a three hour drive and the majority of it takes place on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Michael hates the Trace because of the 50 mile-per-hour speed limit and the monotony of the landscape. I, on the other hand, love it. I think it is calming and relaxing as well as beautiful. The Natchez Trace is a 444 mile stretch that goes through Mississippi, Tennessee and a very small portion of Alabama. It commemorates a path that was used by Native Americans and early European explorers as both a trade and transit route in the late 1700s and early 1800s. There are all kinds of trails, historic sites and Indian mounds along the way. The above photo was taken at one of these sites, one of the few stops that has a public restroom. If you look closely, you can see three Indian Mounds in the distance.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mid-November blooms

I'm a little late for Gardener's Bloom Day!

The sasanqua camellias are blooming -

'Hana Jiman'

'Snow Flurry'


Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha)

The colorful foliage of Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus)

Hyacinth Bean


Red Maple


The brilliant crimson leaves of a pear tree hover over a group of hydrangeas

This is Scudder, a new addition to the family. He appeared as a stray and has been around for the past several weeks. He was on top of the garden wall today.

And here is the real Queen of the Roost - Isabella. She is fifteen years old and she's not too keen on Scudder.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The sucky aspects of owning a home

Bad news this week. After three visits in less than six months to snake out our sewer drain, the plumber runs a camera down the pipe to see what is going on. Verdict - old clays pipes which are invaded with tree roots and general deterioration. We must have a new PVC pipe installed. I don't know what worries me the most - the estimate (which I don't have yet) or the destruction to my property. Actually I do know which worries me more - the digging and destruction!

Our line runs 125 feet and when the plumber traced the line with some type of sonar device, there was some good news, if you can call it that. The line runs near the driveway, down in front of the garage and over to our fence. It could have been worse had it run south, thus right into the major part of the garden. Still, the line runs underneath a stone pathway and archway, an area planted with my only healthy rhododendron, oakleaf hydrangea and other assorted shrubs. I will have to wait until I talk with the estimator about what will have to be removed.

After doing some light research on the internet, I learn that there is an option called "slip lining" or "pipe bursting" where a secondary pipe can be pulled through thus avoiding digging (except at the ends). I have not inquired about this yet. I probably shouldn't complain considering that our house was built in 1928 and is in otherwise good condition (that I know of). Still, this is going to be a major headache!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Film recommendation - 'Miss Potter'

Life at my house has been very hectic lately so I haven't had much time to watch anything but Sunday night I saw one that affirms why I love movies so much. I hesitate to use the word "charming" to describe "Miss Potter" but it seems to be the most appropriate adjective that comes to mind. I didn't know anything about the life of Beatrix Potter but the film sure peaked my interest and I found myself Googling her after it was over. This is a beautiful film, lovingly made, with gorgeous English countryside views. Renee Zellweger is excellent in the title role and Ewan MacGregor and Emily Watson are wonderful in supporting roles. The film focuses on Potter's romance with her publisher (played by MacGregor) and her later interest in purchasing up land in the Lake District for conservation purposes. It is a film full of innocence and manners that reflect a bygone era that seems so incredible today. A wonderful diversion - go rent it!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fall kaleidoscope

The leaves have turned here and the color is breathtaking. I took a stroll this afternoon and took some photos in and around my neighborhood.

This is the most colorful tree in my own garden at the moment - the red maple 'Autumn Blaze'

And some colorful shrubs:


Oakleaf Hydrangea

This beautiful maple is on the grounds of the university where I work -

I think this is one of the most beautiful trees in town but I got to it a little late. The color seems to glow -

This group of maples is on the back side of a dentist's office -

And here is a pretty one in a bank parking lot -