garden window

Forcing Paperwhites for the Holidays

In an effort to continue gardening through winter, I have decided to try some extra indoor gardening this year.  I have a garden window that looks pretty sparse these days, so I’m going to try my hand at forcing bulbs.


Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) are popular indoor plants for winter and the holiday season. Unlike other narcissus, paper whites don’t require a chilling period, so forcing them is as easy as putting the bulbs in water and waiting. The fragrant flowers bloom within about 3 weeks of planting, for almost instant gratification.

I tried a few websites first, just to take a look at the varieties that might be available.  The shipping charges for these items were enough to have me running  to my local Home Depot and checking out my luck there.  I found the Paperwhite Ziva variety, 6 bulbs to a package.  They appear to be pretty healthy, and anxious to start growing!


I used one of my favorite planters, one that does not have drainage holes in the bottom, spread a layer of glass stones on the bottom.  I then placed 3 of the bulbs in the stones, anchored them slightly in the stones, and then placed more stones around them.

Water the stones until the bulbs are touching the water.  You don’t want to cover the bulbs with water as they will rot.

Now all you have to do is wait!  But only 3 or 4 weeks.  I will be starting another planter in 2 weeks, so that the show will continue through the holidays.

compost, seeds, weather

Putting the Garden to Bed for the Winter

Here in Zone 5a, the beauty of Fall is waning.

pathway to winter

Time for reality, and tending to winterizing before it gets too cold out there.  November is the perfect time for putting the garden to bed.

  • Divide and cut back perennials.

Tall grasses should be tied with twine or tape, then whacked close to ground level with hedge trimmers.  You can then divide the roots if necessary.

Daylilies, like the tall grasses, should be cut back if they aren’t already.  About once every three years or so, the roots can be divided with pitchforks, as demonstrated in this clip.

  • Gather seeds from the beautiful annuals you had in the garden this year.  Shake dried seed pods directly into small plastic bags, making sure to slip in a small piece of paper that identifies the seed before sealing.  Here’s a seed catalog project I’ve finally been able to achieve!
  • Once the frost has hit them, dig out annuals and throw them on the compost pile.
  • Fall is the perfect time to plant new trees or shrubs.  The roots will need plenty of water and will establish themselves before the ground has a chance to freeze.
  • Amend your soil.  Here in the Western Pennsylvania region, clay soil is pretty much the norm.  Amending the garden beds by adding compost annually really helps the plants and trees that are planted in this soil perform and breathe!
  • Empty hoses and shut off water from inside the house.  Bring those clay crocks and other breakables inside, they may will break 😦
  • Take a look at your bird feeder location.  Make sure it’s high enough to discourage ground invaders, in a nice sunny spot so birds will enjoy the location.  And make sure it’s not in the range of any domesticated animal run.  Sound like experience talking here?
  • Place a stick in the bird bath, so that when the water freezes, you will be able to remove the ice and refill with fresh water.
  • Protect cold-sensitive plants.  This could mean mulching with leaves or constructing burlap enclosures and filling with leaves.  Anything to keep the plants protected, but not too warm as to encourage growth.

With minimal pain, you will have a head start on the Spring chores once Mr. Winter goes back into hibernation.

Not to rush life along, but I’m soo looking forward to Spring!


The Memorial Garden

memorial garden

On our morning walk today, Willis and I visited a garden at a local church.  It is tended by a neighbor whose son died a few years ago.  Kenny was only 22.

I like visiting this garden, and I shed a tear there today.

How close we have come to sharing her grief, how thankful we are to not know it.

And how much I understand the therapy of creating and maintaining a garden of love like this one.


A Few of My Favorite Garden Reads

In the midst of the growing season, I rarely have time to pick up a book and read.  With time for reading at a premium, I have subscribed and unsubscribed to many gardening magazines.  They are great for inspiration and for ideas when the urge strikes to change things up a bit in the yard.  My absolute favorite gardening magazine is GardenGate.

garden gate

Alice introduced me to this ‘zine on one of our bus trips to the Philadelphia Flower Show.  In addition to being a fantastic reference, this magazine arrives ready for cataloging.  It is punched with 3-holes so I keep every issue in a binder.  The accompanying website includes reference guides so you can pinpoint any category in an issue.  It’s very informative, and not one advertisement, which is so refreshing!

I have a few garden books, and then I have my favorites.

photo 1

Aunt Jane introduced me to the Reader’s Digest book called “Success with Houseplants“.

She saw how much I enjoyed flipping through it, even as a young girl.
She sent me a copy of my own that I still have today.

Before I had a yard to plant in, my indoor gardens were a product of many hours spent perusing this book.  The drawings that are included helped me identify the plants I had, and the sections on propagating helped me create new specimens to share with friends.

Another book devoted to flowering plants is “The Complete Garden Flower Book”.

This volume contains perennials, annuals, roses, clematis, orchids – every possible flowering plant in the yard.  I have gone through this book so many times, and have it marked with post-it notes by color, marking all the specimens that I have and specimens I’d like to have.  It’s my favorite resource for learning where to plant and how to care for just about every plant in my yard.  The pictures are extremely helpful for identifying many of the plants I come across in my travels.  I picked it up at a book sale that was held by a former employer.  It’s my ultimate “go to” source for “Can you name that plant?”

family, trees

Garden Momma Blues

Working in the yard this weekend, I finally dug out the roots of a former hemlock and planted a small corner garden. I had intended to put in a Japanese maple, and found a weeping variety called Acer palmatum Ryusen.  From what I hear, the leaves will turn bright red in the fall, so I’m now waiting for the show!

As I was putting the garden tools back in the shed, I was delighted to spot a new bloom – a blue hydrangea!

He surprised me because the rest of the blooms on this plant this year had been pink.

I was so excited, I ran in to the house to bring my daughter out and show her this beautiful new bloom.  I told her how the science of the soil determines the color of the flowers of the hydrangea. “This stuff really excites you, huh mom?”

She plugged her earphones back into her head and wandered off.  She was less than impressed.


That IS a weed, right?

I have mentioned before that there are some plants that we call weeds that are truly beautiful, and I’m not so sure we should consider them weeds at all.  One of my favorite plants in the yard, my Spiderwort,spiderwort thrives from mid Spring till mid Summer.  It’s very disappointing when it’s time to cut it back, because I know that Summer is coming to an end.  The nice thing about the Spiderwort is that the foliage comes back and it looks like a nice grass.

There is a weed that grows out of this grass each year, but I have always questioned its status as a weed.  The leaves have thorns that grow out of them, which I find very odd, and the flowers are very delicate and white with a bright yellow center.  It’s a weed, but it’s one that I really like.

This year, I decided to identify this weed.  The best way I know of identifying a flower is to Google the description.  So I Googled “white star shaped flower” images, and searched the pictures that appeared.  Easy as that, I discovered Solanum, or Horsenettle – it’s really not a weed at all!

This specimen is one of those “extras” that came with one of the flowers that Alice gave me, more than likely that Spiderwort.


Mum is the word

One of the first signs of fall is the arrival of chrysanthemums in the offerings of the local stores.  I’m sure that pumpkin spice coffee is out there as well.  I bought a few small mums last weekend at Home Depot – only $0.88 each – how can you go wrong?

There were 4 purple and 4 yellow plants that will add some much-needed color to the yard.

purple mums
purple mums

I have truly neglected the border gardens in the back yard this year.  The cool summer didn’t lend itself to much time by the pool, and the garden areas around it suffered as a result.

rusty mums
oops – rusty mums

A few days ago, I weeded an overgrown patch and planted the yellow ones.  The buds weren’t fully opened when I bought them, and oops, one was rusty gold.  Guess I should have looked more carefully at the tags – they probably would have identified the color.

clematis seed heads

The purple plants compliment the greenery that remains around the lamppost.  The black-eyed Susan and coreopsis are still blooming strong.  The purple clematis has been long-gone, so the purple mums really look nice there.  I like to leave the clematis vine long after the blooms are spent, as the seed heads are so different and beautiful on their own.

lambs ear
lambs ear

I took the opportunity to separate a clump of lambs ear that I got from AnnMarie last year.  I also dug out a clump of shasta daisies that I’d promised to take in to the office for Sophie.  One of my favorite parts of gardening is sharing and trading specimens.  I love tending to all the plants and remembering the friends who have graced my yard with their favorite plants.


Thank goodness for seed catalogs!

I spent my lunch hour browsing through a few of the seed catalogs that have graced my mailbox these past few weeks.  They start arriving soon after the first of the year, just in time to lift you out of the letdown of post-Christmas.  And the anticipation starts then, of waiting till Mother’s Day or even Memorial Day in my Hardiness Zone 5a, so that we can start setting out and planting!  Oh, it’s like waiting for Santa – will he EVER get here!!

I may be a little late to start the garden from seed, though.  My dad used to get the tomatoes started in January!  He was always racing  to get the first red tomato by the 4th of July.  He was also very secretive about when he started his seeds.  Wait a minute, was  he was racing me?

I have a shoe box full of seed packets, some actually belonged to my dad.

photo (2)

They are pretty old.  I recently came across a great idea for cataloging your seed collection.  Thanks to Dirt, dishes & design for this great idea!

Now that I’m realizing how old my seed collection is, I have been stopping at every seed display I see, just browsing through the virtual garden in my mind.  I know I will try to start some impatiens, at least.

I was reminded today about the Phipps Conservatory May Market and National Public Market Day – an annual garden sale held right across the lawn from where I work, and I think I will make a visit there this year and pick up some vegetables to grow in containers on the deck.

Just in case the seeds from my shoe box decide not to sprout!


Weeding Wednesday

In true Flylady fashion, I’m officially declaring this, and every Wednesday during the growing season, Weeding Wednesday!

There is certainly time for all things in the garden – it’s my escape from the inside chores that I despise!  But I find if I schedule the inside chores, they are more likely to happen than if I just think about it.  Don’t know about you, but my life is full of good intentions.  From housework to grocery shopping and all stops in between, if I don’t put it on the list, it ain’t gettin’ done!

Weeding can be a very dreaded chore of the yard, but it is actually very therapeutic.  Pulling those weeds and saving the space and nutrients for the things I’m actually intending to grow makes the whole ‘chore’ worthwhile.

However, I have discovered beauty in this particular weed.  Its small orange flower is so tiny you could miss it.

I’m quite sure it’s a weed because I never planted it and it seems to like to grow between the cracks of the driveway.  So dainty for a weed!  A quick google search reveals it’s called Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).  It’s a very low-growing weed, one that I almost hate to destroy.  I may just keep some around for groundcover – it looks lovely among the rocks!

Blooming Months

Bloom Day – June 15, 2012

Here is my entry in Bloom Day for June 2012.

The clematis has filled in very nicely; I have one on the mailbox and one climbing the lamp post.

Hydrangea takes its color based on the soil conditions.  This year, a pink bloom presented right next to a blue one!  I guess my soil is mixed up this year!

My daylilies have only started – Stella d’Oro is always first, followed by Happily Days.  I love the peachy ones – I’m working on the names of all of them.

The most fascinating bloom is the Evening Primrose – we watch it bloom at dusk.  It’s easily my favorite – because the whole family gets involved in a nightly contest of guessing how many blooms we will have.

Happy Bloom Day!