Reflections

Well, I didn’t quite make it to the end of the A-to-Z Challenge, but there’s always next year!  Don’t I sound just like a gardener there!

This being my first attempt at the challenge, making it half-way really gives me a goal for next year.  Somehow, the challenge really ‘snuck’ up on me.  I think that if the reminders started coming sooner, I may have had more time to prepare.  I know for next year, I will be starting my posts well in advance of the start date.  Trying to keep up with posting daily, and still have time to hop around to other blogs in the challenge, is just a bit overwhelming.  And you really don’t realize how overwhelming it will get until you’re in the thick of it!

My stats page proved that participating in this challenge brought traffic in numbers I have never seen before.  Over 120 visitors and over 350 views – quite significant for g4t! And for only a half month participation, that’s not bad!  I did get to meet a few other garden bloggers who I may never have met otherwise.  So all in all, it was worth the half month of stress!

I’m going to have to come up with a really good theme to tie in to my gardening blog, again, thoughts for next year! One thing is for certain, I have a new respect for the bloggers who do it every day, challenge or no!

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

 

Whew! Time to breathe!  Now let’s get that weeding done!!

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Nostalgia to grow on

There are some flowers that really take me back.

Al’s wife, Pat, the neighbor on the other side, planted some 4 o’clocks a couple of years back.  Their daughter, Pamela, had found the plant at a small garden shop somewhere between her house and theirs.  Pat swore it was one plant that had miraculously bloomed in about 5 different colors.  I kept quiet, knowing full well the chances of that were slim at best.

multi four oclock

Orange, yellow, pink, pink striped yellow, and deep pink.

Pat insisted I take a bag of the black seeds she was saving for me.  A bag full that was enough seed to last for, well, a good number of years if not the rest of my life.  I have had that bag of seeds for about 3 years now.  Finally, last year, I planted a few seeds.  I was hoping for yellow.  But when it did bloom, it was the deep pink.

 

Deep pink.  The very color my dad used to have.

pink 4 oclock

Loved gathering the black seeds from his 4 o’clocks.  Never mind the daddy-long-legs that seemed to love the plants as much as we kids did.

 

Along with that bag of seeds, Pat also shared an equally large bag of marigold seed.  Not sure where she thought I was going to plant all of these seeds.  But last year, I also had marigolds growing along the sidewalk, between the liriope.

 

Orange and yellow they were.

marigold

I used to take marigolds over to grandma’s house to plant on her birthday.  May is such a super month for a birthday.  I only did this for about 4 years, before we had to sell the house and move her away.  She always said how much she loved the marigolds.

I really hope she did.

 

N

Ladybugs – One of the Good Guys

Think you know your ladybugs?  They are a welcome guest in the garden, and the reasons are many.  They are a friendly beetle and help battle the bad vermin who feast on the plants of our gardens.  Here are a few things you may not know about ladybugs.

ladybug-on-stem

What do the spots on a ladybug really mean?

Many people believe that the number of spots on a ladybug represents how many years the ladybug has lived.  The spots are actually a defense mechanism that warns its predators to “don’t eat me, I don’t taste very good”.  Ladybugs live through 2 or 3 summer seasons, so those spots really have nothing at all to do with their age.

They can’t all be girls, right?  So what’s with the name?

According to National Geographic – Kids, the name “ladybug” was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops.  After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them “beetle of Our Lady.”  This eventually was shortened to “lady beetle” and “ladybug.”

ladybug-on-daisy

What do ladybugs eat?

Most people like them because they are pretty, graceful, and harmless to humans. But farmers love them because they eat aphids and other plant-eating pests. One ladybug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime!

What’s that?  Did this bug just pee on me?

I remember capturing ladybugs when I was young, holding it gently in cupped hand, singing to it to fly away fly away home.  Then looking and realizing there was a yellow liquid on my hand.  When threatened, the bugs will secrete an oily, foul-tasting fluid from joints in their legs.

ladybug-on-dew

Do ladybugs have any natural enemies?

Birds are ladybugs’ main predators, but they also fall victim to frogs, wasps, spiders, and dragonflies. Ladybugs lay their eggs in clusters or rows on the underside of a leaf, usually where aphids have gathered.

L

 

L is for ladybugs . . . but don’t fly away yet!  This alphabet challenge is almost half over!

Japanese Painted Fern – It’s the J Word

Like so many of the plants in my garden, the Japanese Painted Fern was a toss-off from Alice’s garden.

JapanesePaintedFernMetallicum-2

Before she moved away, I could count on receiving numerous buckets of plants each summer as she divided her plants and rearranged her gardens.  Her yard was no bigger than mine, but the variety of plants she cultivated was impressive.

japfern2

japnastilbe

The Japanese Painted Fern (athyrium) is a lovely, showy piece that loves shade.  It looks great with shade loving plants like hosta and astilbe (white flowers above).

It’s a small fern, so you will want to keep it closer to the front of your shade border.

Japanese Painted Fern at the Pond

photo by alamy.com

It is easily divided, so you can tuck it in numerous places for a showy touch of color.

J

 

Challenging time with this letter today.  Had to laugh when I googled “garden terms that start with J” and the returned search was “empty”

 

 

Iris Care Basics – I is for Iris

Irises are fairly easy to grow, and with the right conditions, will give you year after year of late spring color.

 

Do iris flowers need sun or shade?

I have told the tale of my first iris experience, and learned the slow way that iris do enjoy the sun.  After 2 years of lovely greens, I finally moved my plants to a sunny location, and wala!  I chose the perfect location since iris appreciate 6-8 hours of direct sun daily.  A well-drained soil is important as well.

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yellow iris

What kind of fertilizer should I use for iris?

Fertilize in mid to late April with bone meal, superphosphate, or a fertilizer low in nitrogen such as 6-10-10 (see my discussion of organic fertilizers here).  Fertilizers high in nitrogen tend to cause bacterial rot and lush, but weak, foliage growth. When selecting fertilizers for irises, be sure that the 2nd and 3rd numbers are bigger than the 1st.

What do you do with irises after they are done blooming?

Once all of the flowers have wilted, cut back all the flower stems to the base of the plant.  Cut out any brown or damaged leaves.  Once the leaves start to yellow in the fall, you will want to cut the leaves down to about 6 inches.  My dad always cut them back to form small fans, probably because they just look better that way.

How do you divide irises?

To divide your iris, start by lifting the clump of iris plants out of the ground with a spade or fork.  If possible, lift the entire mass out whole, but if you are unable to do this, carefully break the clump into smaller parts and lift these out.

Iris

Beverly Sills

 

When should you divide irises?

The best time to plant and transplant rhizomatous iris is late July through September. Iris loves the heat and drier weather of summer and the summer dividing will reduce the incidence of bacterial soft rot. Most rhizomatous iris should be divided every three to five years.

DSC_1721

variety unknown – my baseball mom surprise

 

I

 

Trying to stay ahead of this game is nearly impossible!  But the I’s have it today!

H is for High Hopes

As bloggers, we all like to write, and we love to know that someone out there likes what we write.  I do my best to not obsess over the stats page, but every once in a while, I do head over there just to see if anyone is watching.

Surprisingly (actually, amazingly) I do have some activity almost every day.  The surprise is that I am anything but consistent with my posts.  I know, I really need to stick to a better schedule, blah blah blah.  I do have an editorial calendar, and I do a pretty good job at ignoring it.  Just like the daily cleaning schedules I so diligently look at, and admittedly ignore.

I have no idea who pops in every day, but I really do appreciate that look, because it keeps me coming back.  Wouldn’t want to disappoint my anonymous fan.

Funny story.  A few years back, I got a notification that someone had reposted one of my posts.  I was so excited when I clicked to her blog, a college student who thought MY blog was the berries!  She loved my content, loved my voice, really made me feel like, wow, I’m not so old after all!  There are young voices out there who are figuring out how to garden on a college student budget.

I was impressed to say the least.  And she was impressed with me.  I followed her blog back, heck, she was a fan!

But as suddenly as she appeared, so did the end of the semester.

Seems her blog was an assignment.  And class was over.

bubble

I still have her blog on my followers list, if for no other reason but to read the glowing review she featured on my blog.

H

 

Hope this post isn’t considered cheating, as I did slip a bit from my promised theme.  Sometimes, a little side-tracking does good for my writing soul.  Consider this my side-track.

And no, you didn’t miss my “G” entry.  I’m still working on it!

B is for Butterfly Garden

 

Being the great avoider of housework that I am, I’ve managed to find yet another way! Pokemon Go® – I’m searching for a Butterfree.

butterfree

Butterfree

In the meantime, I’m planning to address a very neglected part of the yard this summer.  Overgrown dumping ground will become a Garden for the Butterflies.  After the monarch attempt a few years back, I’ve been thinking of ways to attract them to my garden on their way to Mexico.

There’s a  small garden center in Unity, PA called Friendship Garden that specializes in native plants.  I learned about this place a few weeks back when our garden club speaker, a master gardener from the Latrobe Area, informed us.  He encouraged native plants, but at the same time, did not criticize our love and hopes with the exotic tropicals we adore.  Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

Some plants that attract the pollinators include Purple Coneflower (echinacea), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Butterfly Flower (flor de mariposa).

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My big plan was to start these from seed.  I still may, but upon careful inspection of the directions on the packet, my plants won’t be blooming this summer.

Coneflower seeds that would have naturally fallen from the flowers in the fall would have a much better chance, as these seeds should be planted 12 weeks before the ground freezes.  Ditto with the Butterfly Weed.  There seems to be some hope for the Butterfly Flower.  I will be starting them all, but will have to be patient for the bloom show.

I was able to snag 2 milkweed plants from the Friendship Garden.  I’m hoping that the Common Milkweed will attract monarchs.

Now for the work of clearing brush, moving rocks, and creating the space.

Here’s hoping all this work gets done before my plants die!!

B

 

 

My B entry for the blogging challenge from A to Z.  Trying hard to keep it up, wishing I had started these entries in March, not going to make excuses!  Keep on blogging!  I think I can, I think I can . . .

A is for Azalea

As a child, I remember stalking the neighborhoods while riding in the car with my dad, looking at the first blooms of the season, noting how lovely (or not) the azaleas were this year.  Strong, deep pink puffs of lovely on each neighbor’s lawn.  As though the strength of the winter had somehow affected how beautiful the blooms would be.  Was it actually all Mother Nature’s doing?  Or perhaps the length of time since we seemed to have seen the final blooms of fall had something to do with it.

Dad always had the bright pink varieties, and when I started planting at our first home, I loved the pale pink.

 

 

My white azaleas came with the house.  Two really fine specimens that don’t seem to care if I forget to prune them, or if I do remember to prune them but at the wrong time.  Last year, I did get to pruning them right after they bloomed, which is the recommended time to prune.  The blooms for the following year are set a few weeks after the blossoms fall, so it’s best to prune shortly after the blossoms have fallen.

I have to tell you, though, that the years I did wait until even the end of summer did not ruin a great show come spring.  It may be that my specimens are just so big that there are layers of potential blooms, and I only cut off the top layer.  I really don’t know, but I have never had a disappointing azalea show.

There’s so much that actually goes into a “good year” for the azaleas.  Let’s explore!

Weather

Azaleas do best in warmer temperatures.  I live in Zone 6a, and the azaleas do very will even our hard winters.  They prefer part sun rather than direct sun, but mine do well on my west-facing front border.  They are situated very close to the house, so that could be the reason they survive our winter.  Just know that they need that part sun in order to bloom.

Soil

Azaleas love an acidic soil.  A good mulch of shredded pine bark will naturally seep acid into the soil.  And if you like to add a boost, some Holly-Tone will always be a good addition.  Wait until after the flowers bloom, otherwise you will be feeding and encouraging the greenery.  Keep the mulch about 8 inches from the base of the plant.

Pruning

As mentioned above, any necessary pruning should be done shortly after the flowers have dropped.   Don’t risk cutting off next year’s flowers by waiting until much after 2-3 weeks.  Not only will you cut off next year’s flowers, you risk stressing the plant with any midsummer trimming.  When the flowers start wilting and turning brown, that’s the perfect time to prune.

 

Propagation

Those new sprouting stems that show up after the blooming period are perfect to cut for startings.  Strip a few of the bottom leaves off and put the stem in a glass of water.  Keep the node from where the leaves were under water for a few weeks and you should have a nice rooted stem.

My large azaleas have some smaller branches underneath that sort of lay on the soil, and those branches root without my even trying.

A

 

 

Here’s to a month of Blogging from A to Z! 

Am I up to this challenge?  Stay tuned!

L is for . . .

Oh, I don’t know.  In like a Lion, out like a Lamb.  In like a Lamb, out like a Lion.  Here it is, the first day of Spring 2018, so Let it Snow!  Makes sense on some level, I guess.

lions n lambs

Get ready, friends!  It’s time for the annual Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge!  Every day in April (except Sundays), join the fun and create a post based on a letter of the alphabet for each day.  Are you up for the challenge?  I’m not sure that I am, but I will try!

I plan to blog in the ‘Nature/Outdoors’ category, with the theme of Gardening (surprise!)  I will try to stick with flowers in my garden but may have to slip into the realm of vegetables in my garden.  Or maybe weeds . . .

Grab a month of April calendar, map out the alphabet on each day, then choose your topics for each day.  That’s the fun part!

Now get writing – that may be the hard part!