Wednesday, October 31

The Thinning Veil

All of the above pictures were taken by my boyfriend, who is also responsible for Halloween-scaping my house.

The orb of light in the first picture is the whim of the camera lens... or maybe it's something else entirely? After all, Halloween is supposed to be the time of the year when the veil between this world and "the next" is the thinnest. (Hence it being an opportune time to honor the dead.)

May you all have more treats than tricks today... and maybe even find a warm place in the sun to rest your weary bones.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29

Fall Cleanup... of Sorts

For the record, I want it to be known that I definitely would have made it until November 1st without turning on the heat if left to my own devices!

Really. I made it through last night's cold without a problem (thanks to an extra blanket and a dog snuggled near my feet) and the house temp had made it back up to 65 by late afternoon. Nothing colder is in the schedule from now through Thursday, so I figured I was home free... until my boyfriend walked in and announced that he felt chilled, and a little like he "might be starting to get sick." *sigh* Game Over.

He left for a few hours after supper to go teach fencing lessons, so I turned the heat back down to 60 and headed outside to clean up the less artful leaves--these gorgeous beech leaves get to stay in the shade garden for a while yet, since they set off the black mondo grass so nicely--and get a few more things planted.

I am embarrassed to admit that part of my "fall cleanup" this year involved temporarily planting a whole flat of pint-sized herbs, which were probably purchased on sale in late July, into the veggie garden. As I dug holes for sages and lavenders, I was reminded of a post that I had begun back in May about using tough plants like these in my West-facing front garden.

Going back, I discovered that I actually had three draft posts that I had never finished. The "Tough Plants" post from May, midsummer musings on gardening in the vernacular, and a recent post about transparency both in the garden and in blogging.

I have figured out why I never posted these three. The "Tough Plants" one felt too much like a how-to, when it was meant merely as a chronicle of my struggles with my Western exposure. "Gardening in the Vernacular" requires me to do a little more research on garden history and architecture in order to help crystallize my own thoughts there. And I have rewritten the "Transparency" post numerous times in an effort to remove any misconception that my words pass judgment on other bloggers.

As part of my fall cleanup, I have given myself some new homework: To resurrect and finish off these draft posts.

Finding them got me thinking, though... how many other bloggers have post orphans like mine? Begun and then saved with good intentions to complete them "soon." Noticed when the next few posts are written but continually shoved aside in favor of the latest garden events. Finally, they drop off the visible part of the post listings page and fall victim to "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome.

It's too easy to forget unfished posts for me to believe that I'm the only one who has them. Anyone else want to share my fall cleanup homework and give their orphan posts a proper introduction to the world--or at least, share here that you have them to make me feel better?!

(Note: If you're on Blogger you can go into "Edit Posts" list and click the link to "Show only Drafts" to find yours.)

Sunday, October 28

Not Until I'm Shivering Cold!

I was amused by a poll on my local ABC affiliate's website this weekend. Here are the answers so far (as of 1am Sunday) to the question: When will you turn on your heat?
11%: When temp drops below 50.
13%: When temp drops below 40.
56%: My heat is on already.
20%: Not until I'm shivering cold.

The percentage was out of 2611 votes and you can tell by the title of this post how I voted! I'll try to make it into November without turning on the heat if I can... but tomorrow night's forecasted low of 36 might prevent me from making that mark.

Snuggling up under a blanket or two is nice for me--and my (half) sled dog hasn't even started to tuck her nose under her tail yet when she goes to bed. She's loving these cooler temps. Really, the only way I would turn on the heat before I'm shivering cold is if I start to see my houseplants shivering in their pots. (Well, wrinkling up is more like it.)

I have brought in the last of my tender potted plants, and should probably dig up the tubers like the 'Lime Zinger' elephant ears and all of those cannas, too. I just can't bring myself to cut short the cannas' continued display--not even for one day. Not even if I have to dig them up while wearing winter gloves and a hat, while I'm shivering cold!

Saturday, October 27

New Front Yard Garden

Late this afternoon, a brief respite between raindrops allowed me to sneak out and take photographs of the new front yard garden. Gardeners' Glasses (similar to rose-colored glasses, these help you to "see" the finished, filled-out garden instead of the new planting presented in these photos) will help make it all look better, so please put them on before scrolling down further!

It wasn't until I sat down to post tonight that I realized I hadn't captured the full front yard in its entirety. In this first picture you can see almost 2/3 of the new bed, tucked in with a layer of Sweet Peet organic mulch.

Notice the 18in strip of grass that still remains by the sidewalk? My front yard slopes a bit from where the new bed begins to the sidewalk, and so I wanted to leave some of the grass to help retain the slope until the new plantings become well established. I'm toying with a couple of ideas for finishing off this front edge next fall, but want to wait until the plants fill out a bit and I can really see what might work best aesthetically.

Here is part of the bed that you can't see in the picture above. In this corner, a grouping of Japanese holly will form a sort of hedge in the corner of the bed. I planted them close enough together that they will eventually look like one undulating mass of plant--think of the old, rounded yew hedges in old English gardens here--but the fine texture of the foliage should keep them from looking too "heavy."

One of the hollies was even more root bound than the rest, however, and it started to die on me a couple of weeks before planting. I did some emergency root pruning and planted it in the back yard to let it recuperate and enjoy some TLC. If it recovers, it will go in the open space you see behind the two hollies in the picture... if it doesn't, I'll be taking advantage of the plant guarantee at one of my favorite nurseries and getting a new one this spring.

So what all ended up going into this new garden, anyway? The new plants are:
(4) 'Efanthia' euphorbia
(1) 'Golden Sword' yucca
(3) 'Purple volcano' salvia lyrata
(3) 'Blue Ice' amsonia
(2) 'Petit Bleu' caryopteris
(1) 'First Choice' caryopteris
(4) 'Green Lustre' Japanese holly
(1) 'Hoogendorn' Japanese holly

These were supplemented with bergenia and Spanish foxglove to add evergreen foliage near the caryopteris, and 'Fuldaglut' sedum to underplant the yucca. (The silver culinary sage, which looks like it is part of the new bed, was actually the front corner of the old bed where it curved down to meet the driveway.)

Oh, and remember how I mentioned rearranging the plants multiple times before actually getting them into the ground? My first thought was to intersperse the evergreen plants with those that would die back in the winter. I thought I had everything set when I remembered that the amsonia are supposed to turn bright yellow in the fall... so I definitely had to move them away from the yucca. I was afraid that either the yellows would clash or that all bright color concentrated in one area would make a visual black hole there, sucking away interest from the rest of the garden.

Altogether I would say that I spent about $100 on this bed expansion, not counting the mulch. (I had that on hand because I overbought in the spring.) Not too bad considering the total includes (8) new shrubs and a fancy yucca that came in a 5 gallon pot. That I bought everything on fall clearance, and that the perennials were purchased in the smallest sizes possible, helped. In the last picture you can see how tiny the euphorbias are, for example--their tidy little buns of foliage didn't really even clear the edges of their 1 gallon pots.

So there it is, my new, relatively low-maintenance front yard garden. I hope that in 3 years or so, when the shrubs all get a little bigger and the groundcovers carpet the soil below them, it looks like the garden I am seeing through my Gardener's Glasses right now. Of course, that would mean that I would have to actually not move any of these plants out of their current homes. I'm notorious for doing just that, so... well, we'll see how it goes!

Friday, October 26

Taking the Plunge

Lots of people have front yard gardens instead of lawn--I wouldn't exactly be a pioneer in creating a front yard garden, not even in my own suburb. My reasons for wanting to eliminate the lawngrass are many and varied, some selfish and others almost noble. All are very viable, defensible reasons, though. So actually putting my plan into action should have been no big deal, right?

Right. I mean, I'd already increased the front yard garden area exponentially since purchasing the house. I have been talking about systematically removing my lawngrass--not just this summer, but since I bought the house in 2004, for pete's sake--with a confidence that bordered on glee. And I even purchased the plants to landscape the remaining lawn area during various fall clearance sales.

And yet there I was, looking at the nursery pots all spread out over the grass, immobilized by my thoughts. All of the doubts that I had been keeping at bay began to tap on my shoulder one by one. Questions about resale value and what, really, the neighbors would think swirled through my head. The grass looked greener than it has since I've lived there, as if it were thumbing its nose at me for "giving up" and deciding to remove it. I swear that I could even hear my former father-in-law ask incredulously, "Really, Kim, you're going to dig up a perfectly good front lawn to plant these things?

I changed up a few of the perennial pots, then walked to the far end of the yard to look again at the shrubs I had lined up. Clearly, I was procrastinating. I finally reminded myself that I would likely be here in this house for the next twenty years. Even if I have to rip everything out at some point and sow a lawn in order to sell the house... well, I figure that I might as well enjoy having what I want in my front yard in the interim.

I took a deep breath and plunged the shovel into the ground at an angle, tipping up the end to loosen the sod. Once I got going, the combination of work and repetition eased my anxiety. I started thinking about pleasant things, like how much less time I'm going to spend mowing and whether I should use something like Karen's beautiful eco-grass to edge the sidewalk and fill in the tree lawn.

I rearranged the layout a few more times and pilfered plants from the rest of the garden to fill in the spaces. (The bergenia on the left, for example, should add some winter interest near my viburnum.)

After finishing the hard labor, I decided that I just might have enough time to mulch the new bed as well. I threw the last shovelful of mulch just as the first solar landscape light popped on... so unfortunately I didn't get any "after" pictures to share. That will have to wait until tomorrow.

But I did have just enough fading daylight to allow me to admire my handiwork. I stood in the exact same spot on the front sidewalk where I had wasted an hour earlier in the day, but this time I felt much less like a fraud. I didn't just talk the talk, I walked the walk--and I have an interesting new front yard to show for it. My back aches, my arm muscles resemble Jello... and still, I feel very, very good.

Tuesday, October 23

Long Weekend Discoveries

I have had a long weekend, seemingly full of discoveries. Brian and I found a wonderful old farm in Brunswick, Mapleside Farm, where you can pick your own pumpkins, bag your own apples and pears, take hayrides, go through an acre of corn maze, buy all manner of local jams/jellies/honeys/etc., and grin and the large number of tiny children who feel as though they really should be able to pick up pumpkins that weigh almost as much as they do.

I discovered that if you are patient enough not to rip out your late-planted Roma tomatoes in September, you can harvest enough ripe and ripening tomatoes in October to fill (3) 13x9 and (2) large roasting pans. (The tomatoes may be a little mealy in comparison to the texture of tomatoes harvested earlier, but they are more than fine for sauce and that's why I planted the Romas in the first place.)

I also discovered the old saying that "stolen" plants grow better than gifted ones is possibly true. The variegated iris I dug up from grandma's garden without asking again (I did have a blanket offer for more of these in the spring, however) are already doing much better than the ones that disappeared on me last summer:

I have discovered that my 'Dortmund' rose has dainty little orange hips in the fall:

I have discovered that some seeds, like these nicotiana sylvestris, are too tiny for my camera to focus on them properly:

I have discovered that I will miss the way the morning sun hits my 'Sum and Substance' hosta once the single red post becomes a full, shade-providing grape arbor:

I have discovered that some trees (thanks to Kylee, I know this to be a hawthorn) couple beautiful berries and intimidating thorns.

Also noted is that the foliage on some varieties of asclepias turn a bright yellow in the fall.

I have discovered that we are indeed still in the midst of a drought--or, scarier, that the reports of Lake Erie shrinking are correct--based on this part of Edgewater Park. Every other time I have been here, the water has gone right up to the rock and more rock is visible just underwater. I never knew that there was sand here at all, and yet it looks like a well-established beach:

And lastly, I have discovered that when you find yourself thinking, "This is really a stupid thing for me to be doing," you have approximately 30 seconds to rectify the situation before something bad happens.

For example, say you are climbing around large chunks of rock at a local park with your dog (who is on an extendable leash) and you have the above thought. Please remember that you do NOT have time to take a picture of your cute dog after she jumps down from the top of a 4 ft tall rock onto the beach.

If the situation is not fixed immediately, a large seagull may swoop past and your dog will give chase, as dogs tend to do. You will have a split second as the leash runs out to choose whether to jump off of the large rock yourself (and risk spraining something) or dig in your heels somewhere in a possibly futile effort to contain 90 exhuberant pounds of dog.

I can't tell you what will happen if you decide to try the former, but I do know that if you choose the latter you might discover how much flesh a large, seemingly smooth rock can shred. Suffice it to say that your discovery will happen the hard way and will require at least 7 bandaids to cover. You may also have to cut off a dime-sized flap of skin when you make it back home.

You will probably wish that you could discover why--seeing as how you are a very coordinated, athletic kind of girl--you keep having accidents that leave you looking like a 7-year-old who's been having trouble learning how to ride a big-kid bike. And then you will wonder why they always seem to happen at bad times. After all, it's tough to harvest 6 plants' worth of Roma tomatoes, plant all of the shrubs and perennials you still have to get into the ground, and complete your digging projects with a bandaged hand.

(And that explains why I got the tomatoes harvested yesterday and planted a few perennials, but got little else done.)

Saturday, October 20

Falling Short: Mexican Feather Grass

I was very excited to find seeds for Mexican Feather Grass, stipa tenuissima aka nassella tenuissima, earlier this spring. For the past couple of years I have noticed its lovely fine foliage in garden pictures and admired the way it gracefully arches sideways in the wind. I potted up a few milk cartons and stuck them outside with the rest of my winter sown pots. They sprouted late--possibly set back by the early April snowstorm--but I did end up with half a dozen seedlings by the end of May.

My front yard seemed the perfect place to site these seedlings. Mexican Feather Grass is supposed to be fairly drought tolerant, and my other xeriscape-friendly plants thrive there. It is a Western exposure, so I imagined they would look like long ponytails (Ponytail grass is another of its common names) whipping around in the wind, adding lots of movement.

There are quite a few thick-leaved plants there, from purple salvia lyrata to the glaucous leaves of sea kale, crambe maritima. Some grasses, including carex buchannii and 'Hameln' pennisetum, were already in residence in that bed, but I was counting on the Feather Grass to add some more fine texture. Its pre-flowering fresh green color would be a nice stepping stone between the dark greens of Spanish foxglove and the golden tones of variegated sage and the chartreuse 'Aureum' oregano.

Even though they were first-year plants, I admit that I did not water my feather grasses perhaps as much as I should have early on. In my defense, it was hard to remember to water them as they sat, small but uncomplaining, amongst the water-shunning likes of lemon thyme, lavender and sedum.

As you can see in this picture, they never did get taller, flower or fill out--nor did the silene maritima 'Compacta' that I planted in the center of them to act as something of a "ground" for the grasses. The silene was a last minute addition, so next year I'm going to try something else there instead--possibly a short salvia like 'Marcus,' a moody 'Matrona' sedum or maybe a wine-red portulaca.

As for the Mexican Feather Grass? Well, what happens to it over the winter remains to be seen. I've seen it listed as hardy to zone 5, but my seed packet more conservatively lists it at zone 7. One reviewer on the wonderful DavesGarden website is in an Ohio zone 6 like me and says that first year plants seem to come back the next year for him/her, while plants that have flowered die off over the winter. That gives me hope... but I'll wait and see.

Blog Action Day Roundup

mr brownthumb is a Chicago gardener who takes some of the most interesting close-up photos of bugs I have ever seen. (Much better than this one of a wasp-larvae-infested hornworm that I took last year, but that's the best I can do personally.)

He recently noted that no garden bloggers were included on Blogger's review of Blog Action Day. I had noticed Blogger's list when I logged in a day or two after the event... but it never really hit me that no garden blogs appeared there. Maybe they felt it best to highlight blogs with subject matter that was not already entwined with the environment in some way?

Whatever the reason, mr brownthumb rectified this oversight by posting a list of garden bloggers who were snubbed by Blogger on Blog Action Day. If you don't appear on his list already, please stop by there and note your Blog Action Day post on his comments.

It doesn't matter whether you feel you've been snubbed or not, and your blog doesn't have to live on Blogger to be included. The more garden blog posts that are mentioned there, the more that post becomes an even better resource for those looking for inspiration and ideas. Speaking of which, I'm heading back over there to click around the garden blogs listed, and explore some more...

Tuesday, October 16

Tomato Update & A Surprise

So many people were nice enough to offer me advice on how best to ripen my tomatoes this late in the season--and I am happy to report that a few of them are now starting to turn red out on the vine!

The end of last week was downright cold, but the temps this week have rebounded and I'm glad that I left them in the ground for a while longer. Tonight, I decided to race outside before the sun set to take a few pictures...

... when all of a sudden, a flash of dark pink caught my eye. I went over to investigate, and discovered a cluster of ripening raspberries!

These are from a 'Canby Red' that I purchased on clearance in July and finally got in the ground in August. Needless to say, I didn't expect to see any fruit on it until next year. I don't know how many of these will actually ripen, but it looks like I am going to enjoy at least one homegrown raspberry yet this year. Yum.

Monday, October 15

Blog Action Day: An "R" in the Garden

Even before the calendar flipped to 10/15/07, Blog Action Day had a positive effect on me. Obviously, it prompted me--along with the 15,860 other bloggers who signed up to participate--to think about the environment. I had felt compelled to put up a post explaining my reasons for joining Blog Action Day once the banner ad appeared here, and was surprised by the positive reaction it received. Many people left thoughtful comments that sent my mind swirling.

I honestly had no idea what I was going to write about here until Sunday morning, 77 hours into a crazy 85 hour work week. As I drove in to the office, my mind raced back and forth between finishing my latest garden project and finding a subject for my Blog Action Day post... until finally I realized that maybe my tired brain was trying to tell me something: My latest garden project is actually a great illustration of how the burden we put on our natural resources can be lightened just by rethinking your day-to-day approach.

Allow me to start with an explanation: When I find myself stuck in one of the conundrums of modern life I often fall back on the "Three R's" that we learned in grade school: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reuse is my favorite "R," for several reasons. It does not involve sacrifice, and it's much more creatively challenging than tossing an item in the proper bin to be picked up, melted and reformed. Instead, I can help it be reborn as something else entirely... and I like to think that these items are as happy as I would be to have my useful life extended in such a way.

And so it is that I have an old radio cabinet in my garage, serving as my potting bench. And my wheelbarrow is an ancient but perfectly balanced tool that the elderly gentleman several doors down decided to retire in favor of a new model. My next rose, 'Buff Beauty,' will be trained against an old porch railing that I trashpicked on my way home from volleyball this spring. And so on.

My latest Reuse project involves some trashpicking, too. I was lucky enough to come across some industrial shelving that was marked for either the recycling center or the dump. Some of the shelves matched in color, but others did not and there was an assortment of sizes. I obtained permission to take the whole lot of them home with me for the "cost" of loading up myself and hauling them away.

I wasn't sure just how I would use them in the garden, but I knew I'd figure out something. I have always liked the use of industrial elements in small urban gardens. Instead of making the garden seem like an oasis in the desert, disjointed from its surroundings, it has the effect (for me) of tying the surrounding city into the garden and anchoring it with a sense of place.

I was ecstatic to see that there was enough of this wonderful, blue-enamelled rack shelving to use as a pathway in the far half of the back yard. They are too small to use to create a wide, generous pathway... but when you want visitors to take their time navigating through a garden, you don't always want a wide path. A thin path with an interesting layout and/or breaks in the materials will cause visitors to slow down, and that's just what I need here.

To inject a little more fun into the whole project, I am digging out a series of what I like to think of as "locks" because of our proximity to the old Ohio-Erie Canal. (I have walked the canal towpath many times since I arrived here in NE Ohio.) The shelves will span some of the locks like so many bright metal bridges. Water-hued plants, including groundcover sedums, silene maritima, and ajuga, will be planted in the locks to provide even more color. Small grasses like blue fescue in the "shallows" will help tie the locks in with other plants beyond the locks' edges.

From an environmental standpoint, this project is attractive in many ways:
  • Instead of buying new block for a path, I'm reusing old materials.
  • Instead of adding more solid surfacing to my garden, my new path will be porous and allow rainwater and runoff from the garage to percolate through the ground instead of being diverted into storm sewers.
  • Lawn grass all around will be replaced with plants that will hopefully remove even more carbon monoxide from the air and provide sustenance.
  • And some shelving that is old and no longer needed for its originally intended use--but is still sturdy enough to bear the weight of a human being--has found a second life.
So in the end, I get a unique, colorful path in my garden that adds a real sense of whimsy to my yard... and I get to feel good about the environmentally friendly way in which it was created. This illustrates how taking a look at any project or item with "new eyes" might result in an interesting discovery: Maybe it's not as hard as you think to do some of those "little things" for the environment that really add up... and sometimes it's even more rewarding than the "conventional" way to go about it. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

Sunday, October 14

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: October

I really expected most of my October color to be provided in the form of foliage. I swear that by this time last year, my 'Halcyon" hostas were beginning a very punk, acid yellow phase and the tips of my 'Rotstrahlbusch' switchgrasses were a dark, brooding red. Both plants are still looking rather attached to their summer blues and greens right now, however, while a surprisingly large number of other plants are still in bloom.

Not only do I have a lot in bloom... but many of the flowers showing off right now are, of all colors, white! The wonderfully scented tobacco, nicotiana sylvestris. The white brushtips of chocolate eupatorium. A stray white Japanese anemone that snuck in amongst the pinks somehow.

I think I have mentioned before that I dislike white blooms and the way they age--picture the browning mush at the end of a branch of white petunia here--and that white flowers seem a little harsh to me through the summer months.

I am discovering that I really enjoy white flowers in the fall, however. Maybe it's because my fall whites tend to be small and dainty, like these blooms on the toadlily 'Lightning Strike.' Maybe it's because the slants of fall sunlight seem to illuminate the flowers instead of bouncing off of them flatly like they do when the sun is more directly overhead.

Or maybe they're just a relief to my eyes after the smoldering colors of September. Something to clean the palate, so to speak, before autumnal colors begin to dazzle. Probably all of the above.

The other big contributors to flower color right now are the herbs. Here you see the lovely light blue of 'Huntington Carpet' rosemary in bloom. I grow other rosemaries for taste so I don't know if it has much culinary value, but it certainly cascades nicely through a huge lemongrass.

I haven't been able to stop my cinnamon and lemon basils from blooming all summer, but now an unnamed dark purple variety (a cutting from a friend) is joining the show. My melon sage is covered in warm red blooms, and my golden pineapple sage is flowering in a true fire-engine-red hue. Common oregano is blooming, too, for the first time this year. Just as it was preparing to bloom earlier this summer, I cut it back to harvest the leaves for cooking.

Following is a list of all of my October blooms, with N=New, R=rebloom, F=Fading:

'Ozark' alpine strawberries (R)
echinacea purpureas: 'Merlot' (R) and 'White Swan' (F)
Chocolate Eupatorium (N)
'Sioux Blue' sorgahstrum nutens (F)
hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'
'Whiskey' wax begonias
'Lightnight Strike' tricyrtis
'Samurai' tricyrtis
'Hillside Black Beauty' actaea (nee cimicifuga) F
variegated liriope
common oregano
ceratostigma plumbaginoides
'Caradonna' salvia
'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth
melon sage
'Golden Delicious' pineapple sage (N)
yellow lantana
basils: lemon, cinnamon, dark purple leaf unnamed
unnamed toad lily (possibly 'Taipei silk'?)
'Othello' ligularia (ugh--flowers will be removed)
cannas: 'Wyoming,' 'Red King Humbert,' 'Red Dazzler'
'Huntington Carpet' rosemary
'Yubi Red' portulaca
'Rotstrahlbusch' panicum virgatum
Miscanthus 'Zebrinus'
bronze fennel
achillea 'Paprika' (R)
various coleus (oops)
fuchsia 'Koralle'
dark red new guinea impatiens
zauschneria latifolia v. etteri
Japanese anemones: 'Party Dress,' 'Robustissima' and unnamed white
'Walker's Low' catmint
perovskia atriplicifolia
'Matrona' sedum
red snapdragons
silene maritima 'Compacta'
'Hameln' pennisetum
sedum sieboldii (F)
sedum cauticola 'Lidakense' (F)
salvia lyrata 'Purple Knockout'
nicotiana sylvestris
northern sea oats
'Petite Bleu' caryopteris

*edited to add:
orange cosmos
little bluestem

Tuesday, October 9

Blog Action Day: Why I Signed Up

I do my best to live as consciously as I can, and my interest in nature began at a very young age. Science was a favorite subject in school, and I spent my first year of college convinced that environmental engineering would be my life's calling. I garden organically and am working on eliminating my lawn.

With all that said, you may wonder why the enviro- movement has somewhat "lost" me along the way... well, I'll tell you: I detest the superior attitude of some of those who have "found Green," so to speak, and find some of their elitist attitudes to be incredibly counterproductive. I'm sure I'm not the only one who keenly feels her inadequacy when studied with the judgemental eye of the Eco-saint. I can't be the only who hangs her head and thinks, Eeyore-like, "Little old me. What difference did I think I could make, really? Why should I bother?"

And that leads me to why I signed up to do a post on Blog Action Day. Call me Pollyanna, but I signed up because ultimately, I believe that the little things matter. The point of Blog Action Day is not to get a million people to change the bulbs in every light fixture they own--or some other equally grand gesture. No, the point is for each blogger to relate the environment to his or her usual subject matter and illuminate the issue in many small but personal ways. It may eventually create a light just as bright.

So what am I going to talk about on Monday? I really don't know. But I can tell you that you won't be getting any fire-and-brimstone or pep-rally attitude here. I don't feel very comfortable rabble-rousing or getting up on a soapbox, and I am definitely not fit to cast the proverbial first stone.

No, I'd rather be here at ground level, digging around in the dirt for inspiration.. appreciating the little things and the many shades of Green, and sharing whatever delightful things I find.

Sunday, October 7

Tomato Harvest in October?

I haven't blogged about my tomatoes yet this summer for a very good reason. Other than the garden snackers--er, cherry tomatoes--most of them have not yet ripened. How can this be? Well, I am too embarrassed to tell you exactly when I finally got them into the ground, but suffice it to say that it was a lot later than I should have!

Memorial Day is usually my tomato planting time, but this year they went into the ground closer to the next big summer holiday. *gulp* Since I knew I was planting very late I stuck with already established plants and strictly planted paste style tomatoes since they ripen fairly early and keep well.

The picture here shows what the vines looked like this morning: loaded with fruit, all still sporting a shade of yellowish green and nary a speck of orange, even, in sight. Today's high will be 86 and tomorrow's high will be 88, but then the highs drop back down into the 70s.

So... expert tomato growers, what do you think? Is there any chance that I still may get ripe tomatoes this year? Should I instead cut the vines and hang them upside down inside to see what they do?

I actually have some grasses and shrubs on standby, waiting to be planted in these spots, so any thoughts that anyone might have would be much appreciated. I don't mind being patient if there's still a chance that I may see enough ripe tomatoes for one big batch of freezer sauce... but if the situation is hopeless I will instead serve up some fried green tomatoes, yank them out and plan to get next year's crop in the ground in a more timely manner!

Saturday, October 6

Meeting and Mingling

Although it wasn't a huge meeting of Texas-like proportions, I just have to boast anyway: I got to meet a fellow garden blogger this morning! (And if that alone wasn't cool enough, she's a fellow Blackswamp Girl, too!)

Kylee from Our Little Acre came up to Cleveland yesterday along with her Mom and another Master Gardener from Van Wert. The Van Wert MG's were in town to receive a much-deserved environmental award for their new Smiley Park Children's Garden.

Due to their time/travel constraints and some events going on at my house--namely, fencing lessons being given in my driveway--we decided to meet up at Petitti's Garden Center in Strongsville. I had instructed Kylee and her Mom to visit their Avon store the last time she was in town and they loved it so much that they wanted to see Strongsville as well. Avon is newer, but the Strongsville store bowled me over when it first opened. It was loosely based on large garden centers in Europe, and included a cafe that sold coffee/espresso and real gelato!

I was pretty sure that I would recognize Kylee immediately when I saw her, and I did--but it took her a second to realize who I was. (I apparently "sound older" on my blog... what a wonderful compliment!) Once we got the identification part out of the way, we slipped quickly into comfortable familiarity. It really was like meeting an old friend.

Kylee and I quickly headed off to do some shopping for ourselves while the other two ladies looked around for items suited to the Children's Garden. (And for themselves, I'm sure--it's hard to be a gardener and resist buying for yourself at a place like Petitti's!)

The next hour and a half or so passed by in a blur as we looked through plants and chatted about their performance. Kylee picked up a pot of the lovely hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' and since I was partially responsible for convincing her to buy it, I hope it does well for her!

She also picked up a fuchsia that is supposed to be hardy to Zone 5... it will be interesting to see how that overwinters for her in Zone 5b. (One of the guys who works there said that he planted one in the spring and is similarly hopeful that it is as hardy as reported!)

My haul? Well, I picked up another caryopteris, this one a bit taller than 'Petite Bleu' and meant to be planted behind the 'PB' I bought this week and the one I plan to pick up tomorrow. I also bought some fancy hens-and-chicks (I am extremely susceptible to both colorful foliage and succulents,) a 'Hadspen Blood' astrantia, and (3) 'Blue Ice' amsonia hybrids. It's so hard to find amsonia at all in local garden centers that I couldn't resist 'Blue Ice'... its leaves are a bit wider than those of the taller, more feathery a. hubrechtii that I have coveted, but it's still supposed to have great fall color.

As much fun as we had shopping, though, Kylee and I both agreed that the next visit has to be in one of our own gardens! (Frankly, I'm dying to see her garden--the pictures on her blog are so lovely.) And maybe I'll have some pictures to show for that meeting... but since today's didn't turn out, you're stuck with a shot of the hakonechloa macroa 'Aureola' that I raved about to Kylee, and two pics that I love of some mingling in my own garden. And with that, I bid you a very tired goodnight!

Thursday, October 4

This Week's Finds

Coming home from running errands on Tuesday night, I passed an interesting-looking pile of trash. My car slowed down and pulled into a driveway several doors down in spite of the little voice in my head saying, "Come on. That's not really a leaded glass window! Who would throw that out? It's probably just one of those interior bifold doors where the plexiglass is doctored to look like it's leaded."

"I knew it!" My boyfriend laughed, "As soon as I saw this, I knew you'd turn back to look."

Well, good thing I did. It's not quite a leaded glass window-- but it is an oak cabinet door with leaded glass! Many of the old houses around here were built with these cabinets surrounding a large dining room window. I can't see where the knob used to be on the "good" side, but on the interior you can see the telltale holes from the hinge hardware.

Why would someone throw out anything this cool? Good question. Apparently they were annoyed by these two little cracks in the glass... even though I couldn't push any glass pieces out when I tried. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it when I first brought it home... but upon measuring I discovered that it happens to be 5ft tall. My own large picture window happens to be 5ft wide. So even though its panes are hexagonal and my own leaded glass windows have oval designs I think it will look lovely hanging at the top of my dining room window.

When we picked up the leaded glass, we found these interesting Asian screen panels stacked up underneath it. There are four of them, with these carvings on the front and a simple line-drawing-style carving (brown lines on a black background) on the reverse. The feet of each panel are brass, but they must have hung from something as well because there is an eyebolt at the top of each panel.

One panel looks like a fist went through the line-drawing side and cracked a bit of the ornate side. I don't particularly like the soft colors but I like the cranes and leaves... so I'm going to fill in the crack and repaint the panels to liven it up and hide my fix at the same time. Not sure where they're going quite yet, but the repair will be a winter project so I have time to think about it.

These last finds actually did lighten my wallet--but thanks to end-of-season sales, it didn't take out a huge chunk. (Less than $30 including tax, so not too bad at all.)

Here you see (4) 1-gallon euphorbia 'Efanthia,' (3) 1-gallon 'Purple Volcano' savlia lyrata, (2) pints of hens-and-chicks, and (1) 5-gallon 'Petit Bleu' caryopteris. All are destined for my front garden, where I hope that they will happily reside near the likes of culinary sage, oakleaf hydrangea, and 'Golden Sword' yucca.

The giant pile to the left of the shrub and salvia consists of euphorbia flowerstalks. They had become so unwieldy and top-heavy that I'm sure many people didn't even know what kind of plant was under all of that stuff as they perused the clearance aisles. I was amazed at the amount of detritus produced so I included it in the picture.

By the way, the half-eaten chewy on the lower left is my Assistant Gardener's contribution to this composition. Apparently it's not enough that she steals garden produce--now she feels she has to have a say in my blog posts, too! Next thing you know she'll be telling me what to plant against my new fence... :)