Category Archives: Garden Memories

Salsa and All Things Tomato

Last summer was the first in three that I had any success with growing tomatoes – so much so that I DID win (at least, I am claiming victory) Continue reading


Like Father, Like Son

Twenty years ago, our first spring in our new-to-us home, Donny ordered some trees from the  Arbor Day Foundation. I don’t recall how he heard of it, but as new property owners, we  got a lot of junk mail and catalogs.

These days it’s all on-line; you simply put in your zip code so they determine your hardiness zone, and select from different packages: firs, flowering, Autumn classics, to name a few. And, soon, providing it is an appropriate time of year to plant them, 10 free trees will arrive in your mailbox when you become a member of their foundation.

If you are now wondering how big a postal box you need, worry not, these are tiny saplings. We still laugh about our mailbox trees. In fact, I think he may have done this for a few springs as he actually took a strip of land from the previous owner’s defunct garden and made it into a nursery area. When the trees got bigger, and my interest in expanding Little Garden into Big took over the space, he planted them out in the yard.

As we sat out enjoying a bonfire last weekend, we recounted which of the trees in our yard were from this fledgling attempt at landscaping and I was amazed at what had survived and how large they now are. In fact, he just recently moved an unknown variety –  what we believe is a pear – in front of my daffodil section, next to a large pine that also came via post.

So, while visiting my father-in-law this afternoon, we got talking about some trees he has had to take down in his yard and one he fears will need to come down soon, pointing out a very large maple with a girth of at least 10′ in diameter.

Doubting the answer, I asked him if he had put the tree in originally only to be stunned to find that every tree in their yard, including some in the yards of neighbors had been picked up in much the same fashion through a local extension some 50 years ago. He went on to show my where he had had a nursery bed to grow saplings that were about a foot tall until he could plant them out.

I was fascinated to hear this story as Donny had never told me and I am certain he never told his father he did the same thing. Apples surely don’t fall far from their trees.

Happy Father’s Day!






You’d Avoid It Too

This gallery contains 3 photos.

To be frank, I have never been really satisfied with the border that faces Big Garden and I have struggled with trying many different plants in it. Some have passed on and more are about to do the same. Here … Continue reading

Big Garden: Relearning Old Lessons

So, I’ve admitted to being a garden slacker. I’m intending to mend my ways but I got another reminder of why the old ways don’t work.

In the good old days, when gardening was new and I was learning, I poured over every catalog that came my way. It took me a while to get over being ready to order every “garden kit” that showed beautiful cartoon-like drawings of what my garden could look like.

In fact, I almost fell for a few before I kept reading and learning and soon, thankfully, realized that the plants shown would never bloom at the same time and so, therefore, my garden would never look like the proposed selection.

That was a particularly hard lesson to learn. But, I got past it and while it meant I needed to learn a lot more about colors, heights, and blooming times not to mention, sun requirements, I was learning.

Until I got frustrated and shut down. I realize that now.

SO, going forward, I will NOT just pick up a plant that looks interesting. I will actually PLAN what goes into a Perennial Border, just as I have always done with the Vegetable Section.

But, here is the lesson from today: I wanted to order some seeds for direct sowing and waited too long – most were out of stock.

Lack of inspiration led to procrastination and now disappointment.

Rain…Rain… Science Projects?

After what must be nearly 3, if not 4, weeks without significant rainfall, we had a two recent storms that delivered nearly one inch over two days. The first nearly-half-inch probably ran off, mostly, due to ground being too hard to absorb it.

Falling the next day, this day’s half-inch probably did more good. I’ll have a better sense of that in a day or so. And, here is why (also, why I want to run a Science Project…):

SWEAR to God, plants like water from the sky (acid rain not even a factor…)_ WAY more than anything you can pour from a tap and/or add fertilizer to…

I have “known/noticed” this for several years and want to document it. (Really, I want a rain barrel – it takes 21 gallons 3-4 times a week to keep my containers and more for Big Garden – which I don’t usually water) to stay alive at 90+ degrees.

Still, an inch of rain makes them look like I did nothing for them for the last 2 weeks as they waited for Manna…

So, whether (weather) or not, I think some science research on this phenom is due for Logan next January…

The French Country Garden by Louisa Jones

In a previous post, I gushed on about my turning point in gardening – a ski trip to Italy.  I know, I know. It was January and we saw no gardens… But on the bus trip from Milan to Bormio, my jet-lagged self struggled to stay awake so I would miss nothing of the views. Lake Como is probably the prettiest place I have ever been and that is something for me to say since I also adore Jackson Hole, Lake Tahoe, and the Canadian Rookies. And, that is before I think of places with beaches…

Despite being tired, I was mesmerized by the tiered gardens that clung to the mountain sides. Bormio is in the high northern edge of Italy just below Switzerland – we are talking serious Alps. I am not usually afraid of heights, but skiing here literally gave me vertigo – like if I were to fall, I would not stop soon.

So, how in the world did a gardener conquer this steppes – by cutting stepped tiers into their side to create level rows running perpendicular to the mountains’ slope. I was fascinated!

I had yet to read “Under A Tuscan Sun”, but I knew I wanted to grow everything I had eaten: arugula, heirloom tomatoes, basil and so much more. I was entranced – a  foodie was born!

Upon returning home, mid-February found me hunting down instruction on how to have, if not exactly an Italian, at least a European-inspired garden. Having already been to England years before, I was also trying to read  Gertrude Jekyll’s and Vita Sackville-West’s originals (difficult).

So, how did I happen upon a book by Louisa Jones? Titled “The Art of French Vegetable Garden” wasn’t the thing – it was the photography. But , this book changed my world, gardening-wise. I still turn to it each winter to get through a grey period.

Leap forward to Tuesday:  I drop by a new local library to grab a stack of gardening books. This is an old habit – I will take home anywhere from 5-20 books to peruse through March. In the pile was “The French Country Garden” – I didn’t make note of the author, but I figured I would enjoy it for the pix alone, if nothing else. Guess who wrote it? Louisa! I have been fooled before into thinking a particular author sounded like her only to check names and be wrong, and disappointed.

So, what is so special? The photography of course, but the lessons on garden design! Experience can teach me what plants will do what when but american vegetable growing is about production and not necessarily beauty. I am happy to have a few less tomatoes if I can have sunflowers too. The look and feel – the inspiration – of my garden is just as, if not more, important. I am feeding my soul not just my family.

“The Art of French Vegetable Gardening”

Curious thing – Donny and I went skiing in the Italian Alps about 15 years ago, and I came home fascinated with the cliff-hugging, terraced gardens I saw on the bus ride from Lake Como to Bormeo. So, I found a book on French gardens…

Actually, I am fascinated with both cultures – art, cooking, style, langauge and always thought I would see both countries more extensively than I have, by now. But, I married a man who told me we would “look” at things when we retire; until then, we would “do” them. So, Florence was never visited while I shushed down the training slopes of Italian Olympians.

How I made the leap from the envying the grape trellises of the Alps to wishing to copy the structure of Versailles is not clear, other than this beautiful book I ordered from one of my book clubs: “The Art of French Vegetable Gardening” by Louisa Jones.

It changed my view on how my garden should look; it changed it from a Midwestern row garden to a “potager”. It changed me as a gardener – in fact, I think it created me as a gardener.

The Spring following our return from Italy was spent redesigning the 18′ x 30′ vegetable garden of rows into the plotted, raised bed, perennial-bordered, 34′ x 41′ Big Garden.

It is both too big and not big enough, depending on my enthusiasm: too small in the planning stages for all I want to grow, too large in the creation and clean up stages, and again too small when the plants I could not restrain myself from growing overshoot their boundaries – something that happens no matter how carefully I plan. Actually, I will not take the blame for that – it has to be the wonderful soil I have cultivated.

At any rate, it is again time to inventory the seeds that can be resown from last year, plan the map, order more seeds, and start the babies on my garden shelves. I can’t wait – truly time to Spring Forward!

Sept 30 – Tomatoes

We had a bumper crop of tomatoes and I canned and canned but the family is still lamenting the fact that there are only 3 tomatoes left in my old wooden bowl and all that left is on the vine are green.
I know I have spoken here about being a tomato snob and I will not retract, but I was both saddened and justified when I recently passed the tomato from my Wnedy’s Jr Bacon Cheeseburger on to Logan and he complained that it had no flavor.  While I triumphantly rejoiced that my children now had taste buds, I realized I would have to start ordering without – and the kids would then get less empty fiber… Can’t try to feel like a good mom getting in the veggies anymore!
On another note, I will be working on my repetoire of green tomato recipes – seems I found a good one last fall involving Panko. Will have to find that soon and we can make it through October. By then, it will be chili season and we can survive on my canned babies…

Jun 20 – Summertime…

…and the living is easy…
My Father used to sing this to me at bedtime. It was only recently that I discovered it was from ‘Porgy and Bess’ – a musical I have not yet had the chance to see.  Believe it or not, I realized my oldest, Jackson, had a ‘thing’ for musicals when we were at Disney’s Animal Planet and he sat, attention rapt, through both the ‘Lion King’ and ‘Tarzan" reviews – at age four. I soon took him to see "Lion King’ at the Aronoff, and Logan to ‘Cats’ – the costumes disquised the more adult, poetic themes. We have been annual attendees ever since, having just seen ‘Mary Poppins’ andare looking forward to ‘Shrek – The Musical’, next spring.
So, how does this relate to gardening? Good question!
Not sure it really does other than:
  • Big Garden is PLANTED, with the exception of bordering marigolds
  • 3 nights of deer-free existance – thanks to Liguid Fence 
  • Corn seedings are peaking up – not so sure about: fennel, beets, and eggplant…

I am happy and almost ready to take a little break – always wanted to learn to play ‘Summertime’ on the piano… May just have to find a nice version for the iPod…


Here’s to a little "Easy Living"….

Apr 1 – Who’s the fool?

My very first gardening memory is a joke I tried to play on my dad for April Fool’s Day. I had to be somewhere between 6 and 10 and I simply told him that a frost had hit the daffodils in our yard and they were all past their prime. I remember this distinctly as Mar 29th is his birthday, so I always know the daffs will bloom by that date – something I rely on every year. Now that I have my own patch, I think of this every year and know when to expect them – sometimes a few weeks earlier now that the patch is established.  And, because I chose early, middle, and late season bloomers, my patch goes on for several weeks. Heaven in a back yard!