Monday, March 31, 2008

The Gardening Shows Are Back!

I know, I know, I'm not suppose to camp out in front of the TV, but I'm so excited that the morning gardening shows are back on HGTV!

What I like about the HGTV morning gardening shows is that it gives me inspiration to drag my ass outta bed. I'm hoping to be on the treadmill watching gardening shows every morning at 6:00. That's a tall order for somebody who has gotten in the habit of sitting around being depressed about the snow.

Here's the HGTV lineup:

Monday - Curb Appeal at 7:00 this week. I really don't care for this show...
Tuesday - Gardening by the Yard at 6:00
Wed - Outer Spaces at 6:00. This is hit or miss for me...
Thursday - A Gardeners Diary at 6:00. I love this show!
Friday - Urban Outsiders at 6:00. I'm not familiar with this one but it's that British dude that use to do the city gardens show.

Now that the gardening shows are back on, it must be officially gardening season. We made it!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Let The Gardening Begin

I finally got outside today to get a few things done. Truth be told, I'd have put this off another weekend except patio dude is coming on Tuesday and since he's agreed to fill my raised beds with the dirt he excavates, I had to get the leaves out. Unfortunately the stuff wasn't nearly as decomposed as I'd hoped.I'm sorta worried about the mildew looking stuff at the bottom of the boards. Is this normal? Will this infect my plants?
Here's where I moved the stuff.

Maybe this will heat up and break down now that its piled higher. Wanna know what excited me today? The smell of dirt. I was very shocked by this as I've often thought some of you garden bloggers were sorta wacky when you go on and on about the greatness of the smell of dirt. I get it now.

This is the peach tree I planted last year. Besides the kitchen garden, this was one of the first things I planted. I'm excited to see that it seems to have made it through the Chicago winter. There's all sorts of other great things going on in the garden that I won't bore you with but I'm pretty freakin excited...

Next weekend agenda: cut back all perennials from last year.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Project Patio: The Who And The What Decided

3rd time's a charm. Corny but true in the patio saga. I've decided who will do the patio which I hope to tell you all about as soon as I can get his approval to plaster his likeness and his company's likeness all over my blog.
I didn't care too much for the Sierra Holland Stone but it seemed to be the reader favorite and once I went to look at it in person, I could see why. I think it will look good with the color of the siding on my house and the different shades adds interest.

The landscape guy is coming by Sunday morning to sign the contract and schedule the installation. He wants to start on Tuesday - YIKES!

The estimate for the pergola was way out of my budget but I've asked him to give me a price on just installing 4 cedar posts for me. GB and Pie Guy have offered to help me finish the pergola but none of us wanted to think about digging holes and mixing concrete right in the middle of my newly installed patio.

This is very exciting but for some reason I'm a little nervous.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Garden Player Haters Ball

The official definition of a Player Hater is "one who despises or speaks ill of another 'player' because he does not have any game of his own."

I'm a Garden Player Hater. I suppose I don't "speak ill" of other garden players but I sure do covet lots of their crap because, let's face it, I have no "garden game."

Here's a list of garden players I hate on in no particular order...

Farmgirl's donkeys
Jodi's Himalayan blue poppy
Marc's exotic tomatoes
Carol's hoes
Connie's greenhouse

If I'm hosting a Garden Player Hater's Ball, who will you be hating on?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

News Flash: Summer Glow Tamarix NOT Invasive In Illinois!

The other day I posted a picture of my new little Tamarix twigs that I purchased and received from EBay. I was fantasizing about my little twig growing into a beauty like the one below which I was introduced to on last summer's garden walk, and then I got this. A comment from a reader saying I better watch out that these things are invasive and against the law in some parts of the country. Thanks, reader, for raining on my beautiful Tamarix parade! No, I'm kidding, I appreciate the information and lord knows I don't want to be famous one day for planting something in the Midwest that ruins the environment. So, on the suggestion of the commenter I emailed my local extension office.

Reply from Ask Extension -- Hort Corner -- Trees & Shrubs
Extension Message (Tamarisk = invasive ?)
Hi,Different parts of the country have different plants on their invasive plant lists. Here in Illinois Tamarix is not listed as an invasive plant species.

I'm pretty darn excited. I had read that Tamarix can be invasive but considering the photo above is one of the only 2 I've ever seen in my life (the other was right around the corner from the garden walk house), I wondered if it was really that invasive here or if we are really just that compliant with not planting invasive plants in Illinois. And since I was so not looking forward to the moral dilemma I'd face (A. Plant it anyway and hope for the best or B. Compost it) I'm relieved to learn that I can just plant it and enjoy it.

Man, gardening can really be stressful!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crocus, Is That You?

Look what I found!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

60 Minutes Tonight: Doomsday Seed Vault

I've always wanted to know more about the doomsday seed vault and tonight I'll get my chance. 60 Minutes will be doing a story on it. Sunday night 6:00 CST. Watch with me so we can compare notes.

Grow Rack Assembled

Here's the grow rack I got for Christmas. I finally assembled it today. There's also a plastic cover that goes over it. This thing was really a pretty good bargain if it holds up. It's made of metal and plastic and even though there were no assembly instructions, it was pretty easy to figure out. Here's my question - how do I know when it's safe to put my seedlings outside in this thing? The plastic cover zips up so I'm assuming it gets pretty warm in there but how warm do you think it gets inside during the daytime? I'd really love to get my seedlings out of the basement so that I can start more stuff but if they died I'd just die.
Soaking Smoke Tree and Tamarisk which will be planted this afternoon. I think I'll just keep them in pots on the patio until I decide where they should go.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New Plants: Trees and Succulents

I've seen varying reviews of buying plants on Ebay but as of today I'd like to say I'm all for it. I've ordered other stuff from E and all of my buying experiences have been positive but I've only browsed plants for auction, never having the nerve to actually buy one. These 2 pictured below were bought way back in December of 2007. What I loved was the fact that these 2 sellers offered to hold the plants until whatever date that I wanted them shipped. I picked March 15th. In hindsight, I should have waited longer. So, ever since December, I've been sitting around wondering if I just gave away money. I mean of course they wanted their money right away. But just as they promised, these 2 sellers shipped right on time and the plants arrived looking pretty healthy. The one on the left is Purple Smoke Tree and the one on the right is Tamarisk. I fell in love with both these last summer on the garden walk. I ordered one each for GB and myself. I know they are tiny and lord knows how long it will take for them to grow to anything that looks like an actual tree, but they were very affordable and I'm hoping to be able to show them off one day bragging that "these were only a few inches when I planted them."

You may remember me saying I don't like succulents. Well, I changed my mind. These little darlings came from the Chicagoland Flower and Garden show and I think they are just adorable. The one above is Echeveria peocockii. I have no idea what to do with these things so for now they are just hanging out in the kitchen window trying not to die.

Is this the cutest thing you've ever seen? It's called Haworthia reinwartii and I love it.

Echeveria gibbiflora is not happy at my house. I loved the way it looked at the show but it seems to be deteriorating pretty quickly. See how the leaf on the right is sorta shriveling up? I don't know what I did to it but now I'm scared to go near these things. Maybe I'm watering them too much? Maybe I'm not watering them enough?

This is a Jade Tree and I admit I only got one because GB did and I'm a copycat. (good grief my kitchen window is disgusting)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

CFGS Part 3: Did I Just Say "Tablecape"?

For some reason I hate that word "tablescape". I think it's because, before this garden show, the only time I'd ever heard the word was when it was used by a particular (annoying) lady on the food network who likes to end meal fixing with a big cornily decorated dinner table. Unfortunately, the "tablescapes" were about the prettiest thing at the Chicagoland Flower & Garden show. I liked the table above only because I'm a sucker for anything with beads and this one had some. It was also one of the few tables that seemed like you could actually eat at it, which seems like it outta be important. I mean who dresses up a table just to dress up a table?
For some reason groupings of orange, yellow and brown always remind me of a horn-of-plenty. I told GB this and she looked at me like I had 3 heads. This table had a rotating 3-sided fairy. That's reasonable for a dinner table!

This table was very cool and put together by my favorite grocery store on the planet (that I know of), Whole Foods. The thing is that it was in the middle of a pond and there was water running down the sides of the table - see the plastic cover? "Dinner is at 7 - wear your wet suit."

1st day of spring - there's a strong possibility that I may have spotted something green in the area where I planted bulbs when I looked this morning.

Monday, March 17, 2008

CFGS Part 2: To Buy and Sell Bulbs

I have no good pictures for this post - blame GB! She wouldn't allow me to take any of the Dutch girls selling bulbs from Holland because she knew I was up to no good. Picture young tall blond girls with short skirts and thick (fake) Dutch accents. I'm sorry GB but you know good and well those girls were big fakers!
So we walk up to one of the booths at the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show where there were tons of bulbs for sale. I was all up in the "Japanese Wonder Flowers" being wow'd by their claims of cross pollination producing unusual color combinations. The booth was being manned by 2 tall blond girls and when they started talking I noticed they had accents. Now I don't know what an ACTUAL Dutch accent sounds like, but these girls sounded like ME (with a southern accent) trying to imitate a Dutch accent. The point where I was ready to call them out on their fake sounding accent was when I heard one of them yell "COME ON OVER, WE CAN'T TAKE THESE BULBS ALL THE WAY BACK TO HOLLAND WITH US!" (in a Dutch accent). I was immediately turned off and sorta ticked off. I felt deceived and taken advantage of! Do they actually think people are more likely to by bulbs from actual Dutch girls?

Towards the end of the show these chicks were screaming and giggling like they were drunk, trying to lure people over. They really made fools of themselves. People were actually screaming back at them to "SHUT UP". They kept marking their sign down further and further until the last one said "50 for $30" but I just couldn't give them any money. Instead, we got a great deal from a very nice Italian (I think) man on some beautiful Canna and Peony.
  • Canna Richard Wallace (yellow)
  • Canna Red King Humbert (red)
  • Paeonia Festiva Maxima (white)
  • Paeonia Sarah Bernhardt (pink)
Have you seen these Dutch girls at your garden show? I thought they were just some random people that were paid for this particular show but I saw a comment on a post on Garden Rant that seems to indicate that they work all the garden shows. So, does anybody believe these girls are actually from Holland? If not, does this bother you too, or is it just me? If you do believe they were Dutch, did that make you want to buy the bulbs from them, rather than the other non-dutch-accent-having bulb sales people? I need to know!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show 2008: Part 1

GB and I went to the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show on Sunday. After my fabulous albeit short visit to the San Francisco Garden Show, I was so jazzed about seeing the kind of show my own town put on. Well, unfortunately I will not be able to give this show any green thumb up. From what I understand, the CFGS was held at Navy Pier until last year and when it was there, they had way better attendance and way better stuff.

Now, it wasn't all bad, and I'll try to temper my review since I'm pretty sure lots of people worked really hard on it. The first thing was that the signage was virtually non-existent on the outside of the convention center. The fact that they didn't have any big fancy signs made me a little suspicious - "do they not have anything to show off?" Not to mention, the walkway from the garage to the convention center made me feel like a rat in a science project trying to find my way through a maze.

Eventually I made it in a met up with GB and we took a few minutes to look at the map and circle a few seminars that we wanted to see. Then we proceeded to miss every single one of them. We ended up only making it to the very last speaker of the day who talked about keeping animals out of the garden. There was no new information with the exception of how to sneak up on a caged skunk in a way that will prevent you from getting all stunk up. Frankly, I do not believe this technique will work and I won't even bother explaining it to you. I've never had any skunks so I don't think I need this information and if you do have a skunk problem - GOOD LUCK, PARTNER!

The picture below is of one of the display gardens that I found particularly disturbing. It's got choo choo trains running all through it which is very sweet, but take a look at the pond.

The picture below is a little closer. Does this look like the Tidy Bowl Pond to anybody else besides me and GB? It really creeped me out. This picture doesn't really show just how gross it was but the water looked EXACTLY like your toilet bowl if you've ever used the blue stuff in it. The water looked thick and syrup-y. Thank God they had no fish in there! If you look at the rocks in the background you can see how they are stained blue. I'm sure they were just trying to make the water look clean and blue but they really missed the mark.

The best thing we discovered at the show was the display area for Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery. They specialize in dwarfs and they had some very cool specimens. The one below is Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Lemon Thread' (Sawara False Cypress) and I want it! I apologize for the quality of these pictures but I need to use them for my own personal documentation (shopping list). I just love the color!

The picture below is Pinus strobus 'Winter Gold' (Golden Eastern White Pine)and I want this, too.

Rich's nursery is in Woodstock, IL. We've already decided a road trip to this guy's nursery is in order but seeing his price list, it may need to wait until a major gifting holiday. I believe this tree above costs around $400 - cha ching!

Stay tuned for CFGS Part 2 The Dutch Bulb Girls: Were They Really Dutch?

Which Brick to Pick

Since my last post about selecting materials for the new patio, I've been convinced that brick pavers are the way to go. Thanks for all your help with that.

The biggest factor in deciding to go with the pavers instead of the composite decking (my first choice) was the price. One guy I spoke to said that brick pavers typically run $10-$12 per sq foot and composite decking is closer to $27 per sq foot - YIKES! He also said that installing a deck at ground level is more expensive because of the level of difficulty in creating the supports for it. OK, I'm convinced, composite decking is out. I hate that they make it so much harder to go green!

That left me with stamped concrete versus brick pavers. Concrete is cheaper but one big factor with this was the fear of cracking. Presently we are dealing with a big long crack in our not-even-3-year-old basketball court. Plus, after Katie pointed out that the pavers allow the water to drown down instead of running off, pavers seemed like the clear choic. I hate compromise!

me: "I'd like it to be 16x20 in a neutral cobblestone"
paver guy: "that's really big its going to be expensive how about 18x18?" (wait, isn't that more total sq feet than 16x20?)
me: "OK fine, 18x18"
paver guy: "its $4300"
me: "WHAT????????" "I can't afford that, what about a less expensive brick"
paver guy: "hollandstone is the least expensive"
me: "OK fine, how much for the hollandstone?"
brick guy: "3500"
me: "that's still too much, how about if we go 16x18?"
paver guy: "$3150"
me: "well that's better but still over what I wanted to spend, can I buy the materials and just pay you labor?"

paver guy: "well i don't usually work like that but let me think about it and I'll call you tomorrow"

Next day
paver guy: "NO!"

I'm still waiting for 2 other estimates, one from HD and the other from a different independent contractor who I'm pretty sure I won't select because he thinks the bricks need a concrete slab under them, so I'm sure his estimate is just gonna irritate me. Plus, the drainage benefit goes out the window with that. Here are the colors available in the Hollandstone - which one do you like?

River (above)

Sierra (above)
Rustic Red (above)
Red (above)
Prairie (above)
Charcoal (above)
Autumn Red (above)

And here are some patterns to choose from. I'm leaning toward the Herringbone at 90 degrees. The reason I liked the cobblestone is that the pattern is much less consistent, which appeals to me. The 90 degree Herringbone is the closest to random in my opinion. What do you think?

The picture below shows a few bricks of different color randomly placed throughout - I sorta like this because it seems to break the pattern up even more. What do you think?

To remind you of what the space looks like, I've included the picture of the backyard where I've attempted to draw a white line where the patio will be.

I want to make the patio as cottage-y as possible but I'm really concerned that it will be very difficult with these pavers. I'm leaning toward the 90 degree Herringbone in a neutral color (like the prairie) with a few different color bricks mixed in. I'm also thinking that it needs the perimeter in the soldier pattern so that it defines the space.

In the one picture of the sample patio above, I notice that the patio seems rather unfinished because there is no clearly defined border. I should also say that I'm sort of attracted to the charcoal simply because it seems more unusual which you know I love.

So, what do you think, people? For a 16x18 foot patio...
Pick a Paver: River, Sierra, Rustic Red, Red, Prairie, Charcoal, Autumn Red
Pick a Pattern: Running Bond, 45 degree Herringbone, 90 degree Herringbone, Basket Weave, or some other great pattern that you can direct me to.

My next decision will be the Pergola:
Should it cover the entire patio?
If not, should it be placed in the middle? Or should it begin at the back door, covering the entire width of the patio but leaving a few feet uncovered at the edge? Off in a corner? Decisions, decisions...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It's Our Civic Garden Blogging Duty

It's time to nominate your favorite garden blogs!
Most of you have participated in the "Mousies" in previous years, but I haven't, so please allow me a second to ramble on about how excited I am.

The Mouse & Trowel awards are a way for us to nominate our favorite blogs in a bunch of great categories. Though the garden blogging community has a lot in common (gardening, of course) I'm always surprised to find how diverse a group we really are. I know I have different taste in blogs than lots of people do. For example, I tend to gravitate toward blogs that have more of a technical gardening focus than an aesthetic one. What I mean by technical is the "how-to" blogs. The ones that tell me how to do stuff, grow stuff, improve stuff, build stuff, not kill stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I love those "look how beautiful I am" blogs too, but they are not really the ones I spend the most time with. Maybe this is the natural progression of gardening, to learn everything you can, then appreciate the beauty. Nevertheless, it's where I am in my gardening life cycle and there are certainly plenty of blogs out there for me AND those of you who are in it for the beauty of it all.

So, with the Mousies, I have an opportunity to nominate MY favorite blogs which sorta feels like voting for president, only I KNOW my vote will count! Kidding ;)

I'd also like to send a special thanks to Colleen for taking the time to organize the Mouse & Trowel awards. I think it's great that she takes the time out of her busy pregnant life to organize this for us. I'm personally geeked out about the whole thing. Here's how much of a nerd I am - I actually waited till midnight last night just to see if there'd be a big announcement about it. I know - I need therapy.

In closing I'd like to say - GET YOUR ASS OVER THERE AND NOMINATE YOUR FAVORITE BLOGS! Remember, your vote counts!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Random News of Varying Levels of Interesting-ness

Muir WoodsI climbed Ocean View Trail in these
I think I may have broken both my hips but I'll keep you posted

Luffa Gourd seedling growing like a big strong mother of a plant

Itty Bitty Astilbe seedling planted long before Luffa is a pain in my ass.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

San Francisco Flower and Garden Show 2008

Here's where the magic happened... The wonderful folks at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show gave my nephew and I free tickets to see the show if we'd let them put our opinion of it on their blog. Hey, that's right up my garden blogging alley! You can read our full review of the show at their site. Please be sure to read what the other guests thought about the show, too. We thought it was very wonderful.
Above and below are photos of the only garden I've ever seen using colored glass mulch that I didn't hate. It was breathtaking.

Below is my nephews favorite garden. He loved all the rocks and water.

Below: We both loved this container garden filled with Japanese maples.

Below: Michelle's garden took my breath away long before I realized it was hers. Rock on, Michelle! Your's was my favorite!

Thank you San Francisco Flower and Garden Show - we heart you!

Zero, Nada, Zilch

Winter Sowing

I checked every single container today and there is not a damn thing happening in there. Several people in blogville are reporting growth in their WS containers so I'm not sure what's going on. It's warm and sunny today so get to growing, seeds!

Patio update
The paver guy came by today to look at my space and he'll call me with an estimate later. He talked me out of the stamped concrete when he mentioned the cracking. One thing I didn't like is that he really had no design ideas. I was hoping he'd come out and have some big grand vision that I'd totally buy into. Instead, he simply measured and said I should pick the kind of bricks I want. The more I think about this design thing the more I realize that I'm not so much BAD at it as I am insecure. If somebody else designs it and I don't like it, I can blame them. If I design it and hate it then I can only blame myself. Oh well, time to go paver shopping! Oh, by the way, I spoke to a composite decking guy who was extremely nice but told me that it would be almost 3 times as expensive as pavers. HOLY CRAP! He's still going to give me an estimate on a pergola - hopefully I'll be able to afford that.

Himalayan experiment update
No growth

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Random Acts of Flowers

My hotel is right across from Golden Gate Park and we discovered these flowers planted by random people trying to brighten up this part of the park. These made such an impression on my 16 year old nephew that he's decided to go home to Nashville and try this in some park near him that could use some flower power. For some reason that makes me want to cry - in a good way.This one is planted right in the middle of the daffodils. The next photo shows a close up of the sign.

Isnt this sweet? I love California!

I bet if I was able to find and by a spot in a community garden in Nashville that my nephew and all his hippie friends would love to grow some food for the homeless. He seems very motivated to try to bring some of the San Francisco ideals back to Tennessee with him. I love that kid...