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Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

I just spent another hour working on my yard and, out of the corner of my eye, I caught site of some “quiet movement” among the branches. It was a hummingbird, I don’t know whether it was female or a juvenile, collecting spiders, at least, that’s what I would presume. I stayed VERY still and quiet and watched as this little wonder of nature worked its way to just about 1-1/2 feet to 2 feet in front of me!!!

This is not the first time something like this has happened to me. It was several summers ago, when I kept a deck garden. Oftentimes, I would take one of the deck rail pots down to the floor where I could sit and quietly deadhead the marigolds and geraniums. On one occasion, I suddenly heard this hummer right in front of me and when I looked up, there she was looking straight at me as if to say “What are you doing to my flowers?”

I just love the fearless hummers!

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And Spring I got!

I've already begun thinning the seedlings, but, I must admit that this is the hardest step for me. It just breaks my heart to do it even though I know that if I don't, there won't be room for the root (radish) bulb to swell.

I've already begun thinning the seedlings, but, I must admit that this is the hardest step for me. It just breaks my heart to do it even though I know that if I don't, there won't be room for the root (radish) bulb to swell.

Not too shabby for seed that’s nearly four years old, eh?

And, while Mother Nature and Old Man Winter have still not worked out their differences, fortunately, there are still plenty of other signs of Spring. Snowdrops are peaking through piles of dirty snow, the maple sugar sap has been flowing for a few weeks now and the daytime temperatures are hovering around the 45° to 50°F (sometimes even 55° and 60°F) range a bit more often than not. It won’t be long now before I can start working on my deck garden again. … Hmm! I think I’ll have to visit a local garden center pretty soon. … Then again, my houseplants, especially my maternal grandfather’s Christmas Cactus, could use some TLC too!

My grandfather passed away in September of 1984 and I became custodian of his Christmas Cactus. But, believe it or not, I've already repotted this plant several times, just not lately! As you can see, it is desperate need of repotting again.

My grandfather passed away in September of 1984 and I became custodian of his Christmas Cactus. But, believe it or not, I've already repotted this plant several times, just not lately! As you can see, it is in desperate need of repotting again.

The need to repot is especially noticeable here. See how small the "leaves" are? Notice another difference? In the shape of the "leaves" ... the one on the left is a November or Thanksgiving Cactus and the one on the right is a December or Christmas Cactus.

The need to repot is especially noticeable here. See how small the "leaves" are? Notice another difference? In the shape of the "leaves" ... the one on the left is a November or Thanksgiving Cactus and the one on the right is a December or Christmas Cactus.

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It never fails, starting in late February and early March, when Mother Nature begins to flirt with springtime temperatures and the ground starts to show through the dirty snow cover, that I begin to crave my garden, to begin planting vegetable seed and to plant flowers in soil warmed by the sun. It doesn’t help my cravings either to find an old packet of radish seed long buried under papers pinned to my bulletin board.

Are they viable? Will they sprout and give me the feeling, at least, that spring is just around the corner?

Are they viable? Will they sprout and give me the feeling, at least, that spring is just around the corner?

Now, was it last summer? Or, maybe, it was the summer before then that I tried planting those radish seed in a deck rail pot but gave up after finding the little seedlings dug up time after time. At first, I blamed mischievous squirrels for the destruction but, then one morning, I caught the real culprit! It was an Eastern Chipmunk; the little devil was hiding among my alpine strawberry plants, waiting for me to leave so that it could continue wreaking havoc on my deck garden seedlings!

It really doesn’t matter though, my cravings are just too intense to ignore … I’ve planted a small pot of the radish seed even though I doubt very much that the seed are viable. I’ll put it in my bay window and hope that my little corner of spring will soon sprout anyway.

It doesn't look like much yet but, keeping fingers crossed, I hope that in a week or two, this pot will be filled with seedlings!

It doesn't look like much yet but, keeping fingers crossed, I hope that in a week or two, this pot will be filled with seedlings!

Especially since, it never fails … on the 1st of March, Old Man Winter chose to make another appearance. But then, it seems that Mother Nature just may have the last laugh yet! Temperatures in the 50’s are predicted for the weekend … can springtime gardens be far behind after all?! 😀

***

A Few Notes …

  • Do you know how to test seed for viability? To plant a pot of old seed and hope for the best is one thing but I wouldn’t want to plant a whole garden that way. To test old seed is really simple, just place a few seed on a moistened paper towel then wait for the number of days till germination (which can be found on the back of the packet of seed). If then you seed little roots forming, you’re good to go!
  • Normally, I would sprinkle some milled sphagnum moss on top of the soil to prevent damping-off disease (a disease or mildew that forms on the surface of the soil when starting seed indoors. It is caused by the moist soil that meets warm indoor air, it then makes it look as if someone has pinched-off the seedlings at the soil level). But, I simply did not have any milled sphagnum moss on hand and I will have to replenish some of my gardening supplies soon!

One Final Note …

Sadly, this year’s New England Spring Flower Show has been canceled. In its place, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society has initiated a new show called Blooms! that will be held at two venues. One is in Downtown Boston from March 13th through the 15th and the other is at Simon Malls from March 12th through the 22nd, 2009. “BLOOMS! is not intended to replace the historic New England Flower Show. BLOOMS! is intended to continue the Mass Hort tradition of celebrating Spring in Boston! …”

In addition, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is asking for donations to bring back the New England Flower Show in 2010. For more information, visit New England Spring Flower Show!

For a few images from last year’s show posted to my blog, visit “Two Tickets to Springtime, Please!”

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Whoa! I sure can tell by my blog stats that I haven’t been blogging for a while! I’ll give a brief explanation for my absence in a bit. But, hey, first things first! Let’s start with revisiting a couple of my past entries like the one I called A Confederate Soldier.

William Buckner Taylor was described as a young man of “light complexion, light hair and gray eyes, his height was 5′ 5 1/2 inches.” When he enlisted at “Pinner’s Point, Norfolk County, … VA on February 19, 1862[,]” he was just 18 years old and listed his occupation as a laborer.

Mr. Taylor was first captured on “July 3rd, 1863 at Gettysburg and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland[.]” On February 18th, 1865, he was exchanged but then recaptured “on April 1, 1865 at Five Forks, and released on June 20, 1865 from Hart’s Island, New York.”

Where Mr. Taylor lived and worked, met his wife and raised his family between 1865 and 1900, I cannot say at this time. However, in the 1900 census, Mr. Taylor is listed as a stone mason and widower, “age 59, birth is listed as Feb 14, 1841[.]” This means that he should have been 21 years old instead of 18 years old at the time of his enlistment and that the date on his headstone is incorrect too. But, if you’ve ever tried researching your own family history, you would know that these discrepancies are quite common.

Living in his household in Topsfield, MA, according to the 1900 census, were his children,

“Mary B Taylor, age 15, birth April 28, 1885, born in MA
Lilian B Taylor, age 13, birth November 20, 1887, born in MA
William O. Taylor, age 6, birth March 27, 1894, born in MA”

And, by the 1910 census, William Buckner Taylor was listed “as a boarder in the home of Norman McLeod [in Topsfield], his age is listed as 69.”

Mr. Taylor passed away in 1911 and while he is buried in Topsfield, MA, “[t]here is a memorial marker to him located in Oak Grove Cemetery, Portsmouth, Va.”

Oh yes! About that grave marker … this “is a military headstone, provided by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. They will provide a headstone when one is not present for a veteran of the Civil War, both Confederate and Union, … [although] who requested it, I can’t tell you, … [i]t could be that a Son’s of Union Veteran’s could have requested it.”

—Cynthia Buck-Thompson [Personal email, June 8 and 9, 2008]

***

Cynthia Buck-Thompson is a Civil War Living Historian as well as “the family genealogist.” Her husband reenacts with the 9th Virginia, Company B as well as Artillery for the Maryland Park Service.

I’d like to thank Cindy for all the work she did to answer my questions, every bit of the information listed here has been provided by Cindy.

***

Another entry that I’d like to revisit is the one that I called Spring Greens, especially, the part in which I mentioned the rhododendrons at Bradley Palmer State Park. They weren’t in bloom back in April and, thus, I was unable to post any photographs on my blog. So, I wrote “I promise not to let you down. I will keep track of their progress and take many photos to post when the time is right.”

Well, I did keep track. The “buds” seemed to be many, the only “flaw” I expected was the fact that some heavy pruning had been done among the lower branches. Still, new growth was appearing and I fully expected that the shear number of blossoms would be enough to “detract” from the pruning.

Unfortunately, by mid-June, when the parks’ rhododendrons should have been in all their glory, … well, … much to my surprise, not to mention my disappointment, there were barely a handful of blossoms! Oh, there were plenty of buds that had opened up, but few of those buds had any blossoms to show. I just couldn’t believe my eyes!

Perhaps, even stranger still, was the fact that, back in April, I had taken a couple of cuttings from the rhododendrons. (Now, before you all come down on me for taking cuttings of plants in a state park, please remember that these rhododendrons are hardly “wild.” Bradley Palmer State Park was once the estate of its namesake, “a noted attorney of the early 1900s who represented Sinclair Oil in the Teapot Dome Scandal and President Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference after the First World War.” These rhododendrons were purposely placed to “line old carriage roads.” Besides, remember that the rhododendrons had already been heavily pruned! Apparently, though, their caretakers forgot to fertilize them. [Bradley Palmer State Park])

When I got the cuttings back home, I placed them in a vase then placed the vase in my bay window. But, for weeks, nothing happened. The cuttings didn’t die but the buds didn’t swell either. Then, about the beginning to the middle of June, suddenly the buds just shot up and opened up and I had rhododendron blossoms in my bay window!

Is that not weird or what? Did I have a premonition of sorts? I mean, really, the only other explanation that I can give you is that I did fertilize the cuttings, albeit with an indoor plant food, but still!

***

Okay, now about that brief explanation for my absence from blogging these past few weeks.

You see, I am fast approaching a very special anniversary. On August 27, 2008, I will become a five-year breast cancer survivor and, while I am just thrilled to pieces to be reaching this milestone, as I reflect on how far I’ve come in these past five years, I’ve also become acutely aware that I have not taken as good care of myself as I had promised I would do once I was finished with therapy. Oh, don’t get me wrong now, I haven’t fallen to pieces altogether! But, once in a while, we all need to step back and take a good look at where we’ve been and where we want to take our lives next. Fact is, this was just the perfect time for me to do that!

So, what more can I say? I’ve had my break from blogging, I’ve made some new plans, including some new ideas for this blog, and, … well, … I’m back! I sincerely hope you’ll all forgive me for my absence and, I certainly hope to see you all return too.

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Have you noticed how the common names of plants sometimes depend on where you live? Okay! Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “well, that was an obvious statement.” But, when I say it depends on where you live, I don’t mean that you must live great distances apart like from the east coast to the west coast or from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. No, when I say it depends on where you live, I mean as in my situation, in the same state, just a few miles apart, from inland to along the coast!

Take, for example, a rose whose Latin name is Rosa rugosa. Inland, they’re called a wrinkled rose but, along the coast, they’re called a beach rose. Same clothes, different label. Go figure!

But, what is even more amazing, is just how much this rose seems to LOVE neglect. Heck, I think it even LOVES abuse! I mean, really, what other plant does not want any TLC? Especially a rose! I have two of these rose bushes in my yard and nearly killed them when I tried to rid them of ants. And the plants along the coast? They endure salt spray and salty sand. I think that’s just INCREDIBLE!

Just take a look at this beach rose blossom! And look at those healthy leaves!

And when I say along the coast, I don’t mean just in the vicinity, I mean right along the shoreline as in this next photo!

Oh! How I wish I could include the fragrance of these rose blossoms in this post! It is pure heaven! 😀

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I love things that are “old,” they just have so much character, wouldn’t you agree? Take, for example, this front door and wisteria from a home in Essex, MA.

The wood is splitting and the paint is peeling, that front door has seen a lot of use! But then, what would you expect? After all, the home was built in 1832! 😯

By the way, Essex, MA was, in its heyday, a shipbuilding community. Can you tell?

But, while the home and door may be 176 years old, I doubt that the wisteria is anywhere near that age. Still, wisterias take at least seven years before they begin to bloom and, judging from the number of blooms and the main trunk of this plant, I’d say it has seen quite a number of seven year cycles!

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Too early! Just a day or two more and this pink Moccasin Flower or Lady Slipper will be in all its glory!

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