The Clueless Gardener

"fanaticus sine potestas"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Getting On With It

That's the great life lesson in gardening. Yes, torrential rains and unavoidable absence caused me to lose all but a few peonies, and all but two ornamental poppies. But then--the next minute--you look down and notice the weeds sticking out of the wooly thyme in the path, and --you get on with it. You start weeding, because that's the next task. Working the garden is the best healer I know--it beats even a couple of beers! Getting on with it always does the trick. So, that's what I did---cut out all the sodden blooms, took up handful after handful of wet, slimy petals--my lovely pink petals!--and I feel renewed. So renewed, I almost don't mind that the deer have eaten all my shirley poppy plants that I was so excited about. That's 'almost.' [New idea for companion deer population doesn't care for lambs ear, so maybe I'll plant the poppies by the stachys plants next time. Who cares if they clash as long as the poppies survive?]

Is A Garden Worth Crying Over?

With all the horrors of the world, wars, starvation, disease, poverty, political evils, endangered species, destruction of the natural world, etc, a rained-out garden seems too trivial to cry over. And I'm not crying, I'm a big girl. I'm finally here in the Berkshires to see my flower patch. And, worst fears realized, all the peonies were ruined from the time they were opening buds, the iris are over, and the poppies are gone all but 2. The wild daisies are glorious, though, so that is a consolation. And the trusty warhorses Stella D'Oro [me? plant something rare and exotic? Remember, I am 'clueless'] are full of buds. If it ever stops raining, I will commence my favorite garden chore--deadheading--to the Nth degree. Maybe I can get on ESPN! "The Clueless Gardener, in her most daunting challenge, faces the worst task yet, with her only weapon--a pair of Felco's !!! Watch as she hacks her way through a rain-soaked flowerbed filled with sodden, dead peony blossoms! Thrill as she cuts iris stems to the ground! And don't get me started on those poppy seed heads...! And all this action worsened by clouds of hungry mosquitoes! And the ever-present threat of deer ticks!! Let's see if she will pass out from the effort! Stay tuned for today's episode of EXTREME GARDENING!"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I like deadheading. There's something about grooming my plants that touches a deeper chord...maybe it's akin to chimps going over each other for fleas? I have a container on my porch with a guara [my current favorite plant--what's yours?] , a wave-type petunia and a trailing lobelia...and as the tiny lobelia blossoms fade, I am trying to keep up, picking them off one by one. The conventional wisdom is to shear off the plant and let it grow back in, but I hope to avoid that... A while ago, I was in deadheading overdrive, and would pinch off the flowers before they even faded, barely after they opened, yielding plants perpetually just about to bloom...extremely tidy, but a tad on the compulsive side!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Do Your Doody

A very thoughtless owner lets his large dog make #2 deposits, not small, right on our little patch of sidewalk. Nobody loves dogs more than me, but that does not include their "business." And I can't use it for garden fertilizer! So after hosing 4 piles of it from the sidewalk, I put up this sign with plastic bags for the dogwalkers to use. Will it work?

garden string

I have a thing for garden string. I can go all through the most fascinating shops, and then spy a ball of humble string, and it's all heart is taken. And my staking skills are poor, so I really oughtn't love the string. I'm not a master of knots, though I try to do the 'figure 8' method of tying the stem of the plant to the stake, so at least I am doing that part correctly. Maybe I love string because it is so elemental, so basic. No fancy garden implement can grab me like a new kind of string. Last year in England I found bright tomato red garden twine. Red?! I'd thought all garden twine was green, but those Brits have to be different! So of course I grabbed a skein of it. My cat destroyed that lovely shape, but I still have the twine, all wadded up in my keepsake drawer...Now, for my birthday, I've just been given a very cute little ball of someone who knows what really floats my boat!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Brit Garden Magazines

Whoo-hoo! Just got my first issue of "Garden Answers" in the mail, and I'm salivating over it...can't wait to sit down and read it cover to cover. I love British gardening magazines, and I've been lucky enough to have gone to London several times and found them on the newsstands there. There are numerous monthlies, and even two or three weeklies, even a weekly garden magazine just for women! It's a riot...big headlines like "Beware! White Rust's About!" or "How to Make Best Use of Your Water Butt." But article titles aside, the mags are full of dreamy pictures and the most detailed advice --far more meticulous than any American magazine I've seen. What magazines do you read? I used to subscribe to Horticulture and Fine Gardening, and was given a sub to Gardens Illustrated, the Rolls Royce of garden magazines. I still pick up Fine Gardening and Garden Design on the newsstand a couple of times a year. But as far as fantasy gardening goes, it's hard to beat the Brits.

Life Is What Happens When You're Dreaming About the Garden

I was about to drive two and a half hours to the Berkshires to see my June garden at its peak. But severe storms, hail, high winds, and lots of rain are predicted to start in a few hours, so I can't go. And all those poppies, peonies, and irises will be blown down. Before I ever see them in their glory.

Has this happened to you? Work 50 weeks a year on the garden, then the two weeks that the garden will be at its most aren't there. Why would this happen? It's the only two weeks your hubby can get vacation time. Someone in the family goes into the hospital. You are sent off on a business trip. You have to take the kid to camp. Etc, etc!

That's what happened signif other got himself put into the emergency room yesterday, and had to go back to the doctor today. Thankfully, everything is turning out ok. I know that it is, because my worry is less focused on him and is now free to selfishly go back to wondering about the fate of my plants. But I will have to use my imagination instead of seeing them in person. This way, not one petal will be blown down, no staking will be needed, no peony buds will be soddenly ruined, never to open. All will be beautiful.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Worm Farm

Kids ask, "Where do I come from?", but I am asking, "Where do worms come from?"

I have these half-filled bags of compost, manure and soil sitting out on the little slate terrace behind the house, and when I lift one up, underneath there are usually at least half a dozen worms wiggling around. Now, how did they get there? Are there worm eggs everywhere, and they just need a chance to develop? Is there a Worm Fairy? Do they drop in for a chat with each other? Don't get me wrong, I love worms, and I talk to them as I scoop them up and put them onto actual soil. This is how I get worms into my container plantings. I am so grateful for my bonus wigglies, even as they mystify me at the same time...

"The Healing Gardens of New York"

I just saw a preview of this wonderful documentary, by filmmaker Alexandra Isles. It tells the story of five or six community gardens, started by random citizens, around the five boroughs of New York. What these gardens do is transform a garbage-strewn vacant lot into a green oasis that brings the neighborhood together, calms and soothes the mind and heart, and gives young people a reason to work hard and get involved with others. It will bring a tear to your eye, and possibly, inspire you! Watch for it in your local listings for PBS stations; it is being shown in New York City on July 27.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why "The Clueless Gardener"?

Because I am a gardener who is earnest and loves her plants, but even after many years of devotion to tending gardens, I'm still wandering down the garden path in a daze. I've read zillions of books since I discovered gardening, so I have a lot of "book" knowledge, but I find that year after year, I don't seem to become more adept at this pastime that I adore, though it brings great joy to my life. For example, I find I enjoy ordering seeds and plants more than planting them...and does that makes me feel guilty! Hmmm. Maybe "The Neurotic Gardener" would be a better title! Or perhaps, "The Nervous Gardener," as this very evening I see that my climbing rose is running amok, with some alarming shoots going up into the sky. Oh dear!

So, I will question, and wonder, and express joy here, and maybe others who know more than I do, or others who wish to commiserate with me, just might find their way here...Ketzel Levine I'm not! Adrian Higgins I'm not! Vita Sackville-West, boy am I not! But I do love gardening in my geeky, clueless way...and that's what I'll celebrate in this space.

Speaking of luminaries in the field, who are your garden heroes? Famous or family, strangers or neighbors? I'd love to hear who they are and why you revere them. Happy troweling to everyone...thanks for stopping in.