Category Archives: gardening

What’s in a Name?

New seed catalog time has come, and Husband and I chose and ordered our selections for this year’s garden.  Husband always researches the varieties carefully and chooses based on length of growing season, disease resistance, past successes, and past failures. I don’t think he ever chooses based on the name of the variety. It seems like a lot of effort goes into finding catchy names to entice us to buy one variety over another.

I wonder how they arrive at the names?  I like it when a plant is named for a person-Big Jim Peppers  or Queen Elizabeth Hybrid Tea Roses.  Some names speak to productivity, such as Mortgage Lifter tomatoes or Lazy Housewife pole beans.   Why, though, would you name a variety of celeriac Mars? There isn’t anything particularly warlike about that humble root vegetable. Flower names get pretty fanciful, such as Double Scoop Bubble Gum Echinacea.

I wondered what names Baboons could come up with if they were to name some plants, so that is today’s challenge.

Come up with some clever names for varieties of flowers,  trees, vegetables, shrubs, or even  weeds  I will get us started with my choice of Dead Man Walking American Elm.

Today’s post comes to us from Occasional Caroline.

I don’t really have a bucket list, but for quite a while I’ve thought it would be delightful to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. It’s tough to predict when to be there, but last year I thought I had it nailed. I found a website ( https://cherryblossomwatch.com/peak-bloom-forecast/ ) that predicts and tracks the probable peak bloom days for the annual display. Without knowledge of this website, you probably do not know that there is an “indicator tree” that helps the National Park Service fine tune the prediction of Peak Bloom. For reasons too complicated for me to comprehend, one particular tree hits stage one of the 6 stages of blossom development nearly 2 weeks before the all the rest; the others usually follow on a predictable timetable. Usually, but not in 2017. 2017 was not a typical year in DC, on many levels.

http://www.cherryblossomwatch.com

The latest information and forecasts on when Washington DC’s cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin will reach peak bloom in Spring 2018.

But I digress. In late February, due to a very mild winter in the nation’s capital, the indicator tree indicated that the 2017 bloom would possibly be the earliest in history and particularly spectacular. The original prediction was March 10-13. The earliest ever recorded was March 15, the latest, April 18, and average somewhere around the last week of March to the first week in April. The whole show lasts 1-2 weeks, from buds to petals on the ground and green leaves on the trees; and peak lasts 2-3 days. That time frame was particularly convenient for us to take a trip last spring, so the planning began. We decided to leave on March 11, the day after our granddaughter’s 7th birthday party. We hit the road (yes, we drive on vacations) early Saturday morning, heading east. The plan was to be in DC from the 13-15 and then spend a week in the Williamsburg area. Day one was going well until we started hearing reports of the cold snap hitting the East coast. The NPS started pushing back the prediction for peak cherry blossom bloom. Suddenly the buds were encased in ice and it might possibly be the first no-bloom year in history. Peak, if there was to be one, would be at least a week later than previously predicted.

Time to rethink. Go to Williamsburg first, spend the week there and go to DC on the way home. Good plan. No problem changing reservations, peak Williamsburg season and peak cherry blossom season do not correspond. Remember the cold snap hitting the East coast. Yep, that includes Virginia. We weren’t looking for Florida weather, but 20s? Blustery, frigid winds? For days? We made the best of it, we went to the attractions that were open; most opened April 1. We were there March 13-20. We had a good time in Virginia and there was going to be at least a 50% of normal blossom “peak” on March 25, it was now March 20 and time to leave Williamsburg. Husband had been fighting off some insidious eastern US disease for a day or so, but seemed to be winning. It wasn’t peak yet, but this might be the closest we’d ever get, so we scheduled a Cherry Blossom bus tour of DC for the next day, that would require getting up pretty early, but we could handle that. Right? Nope. The illness won during the night and a feverish, achy, mess of a man was not going to make it from Williamsburg to DC and enjoy a bus tour that day. Well medicated and much later than our original plan, we headed west without ever seeing a single cherry blossom.

I have a new cherry blossom plan in mind now. My chiropractor tells me that his uncle lived in Traverse City MI, which is known (at least in Michigan) as the cherry capital of the US. If they have cherries, they must have cherry blossoms, right? While checking it all out, I discovered that a shortcut to Traverse City is to go to Door County WI and take a ferry to Traverse City, thereby going across Lake Michigan instead of around it, and with a boat ride to boot. I’ll just look at pretty pictures of the DC peak, and head for Wisconsin next time I have a yen to see cherry blossoms.

Have you ever fought with Mother Nature?

Hoping

Every morning our grey cat sits expectantly  by the front door, waiting.  She waits for the magic moment when the light appears on the living room wall and ceiling above our media cabinet.   She knows it is somehow associated with my cell phone.  This morning she saw me walk into the living room with my phone, and immediately jumped on top of the media cabinet, waiting for the light. The kitten stays on the floor, as her legs are too short to make the leap to the top.  The light sometimes appears low enough for her to pounce, and she waits for it, too.

When I sit in the love seat  by the bay window, the sun reflects off my cell phone screen and I can flash a light all over the walls and ceiling. The kitten tries to grab it. It always slips between her paws. The grey cat just sits and watches it with fascination and excitement.  It seems to be strangely satisfying for her, as though her day is off to a good start when the light appears.  As the days shortened this fall, the light sometimes didn’t even show up, since the sun wasn’t in the right position until after I left for work.  The grey cat never gave up hope.  She waited each morning.

Today we planned our garden and chose the seed varieties for next summer. I hope the rains come and we don’t have a drought.   I don’t think we are too different from our cats, waiting with hope for the promise of light in this dark season and these even darker times.

The new year has just started. What are you hoping for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Surprises

We didn’t grow butternut squash this year. I was delighted  when our neighbor offered us a butternut from her garden.  She thought she planted cucumbers, and was horrified and deeply disappointed when they turned out to be squash. Our neighbor is German-Russian, and the German-Russians here are mad for raw cucumbers in the summer.  The squash were truly a tragedy for her.   We certainly enjoyed the squash at Thanksgiving.

A Lutheran pastor friend of mine  operates a market garden with his family.  They planted what they thought was a very long row of onions, but what turned out to be leeks.  Lots of leeks. They were not familiar with leeks, and live in the only area of ND where there were sufficient rains this summer to insure a vigorous leek crop.  They were at a loss to know what to do with them. He asked me too late to take any off his hands.  They didn’t sell.  I love leeks, and was sad.

We haven’t had too many garden surprises or any other surprises for a while.  I hope I plant spinach this summer and don’t get gourds.  I hope I am surprised by mild weather and sufficient rain.

 

When have you been surprised?

 

 

Day Brightener

I have been hit pretty hard at work with all manner of things to deal with since I returned from a week off.  It makes me think I should never take time off, since the pay back is heavy when I return.

Today I received a delightful and refreshing phone call from out of the blue, one that brightened my day.  It was from a friend I don’t get to see much.  She is a lovely person, although a little addled at times.  She  is often out of town teaching music at some small outpost of the North Dakota plains.  Between teaching jobs she lives with her extremely difficult mother, an elderly woman in her 80’s who still substitute teaches at the high school and is probably the meanest, toughest, teacher around.  Her mother is  the leader of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union, although she must be slowing down since I haven’t seen many letters to the editor from her lately regarding the evils of alcohol. She has a very interesting perspective on life.

My friend phoned me to ask if  I would come over to advise them on how to prepare their raspberry patch for Winter. I said I could tell her over the phone, but she said her mother wouldn’t believe anything she relayed to her unless she heard it right from me in person.  We made a date for tomorrow. I can hardly wait.  It will be an amusing end to a very long week.

What or who helps make your day?

A Hill of Beans

Husband and I returned home from Minneapolis last Sunday to find that it was time to harvest our pole beans.  We had covered the four bean towers with a tarp before we left, and hoped we could forestall the effects of a killing freeze until we returned.  The very hot weather we had in July pushed the entire garden behind schedule, and the beans needed as much time as they could get to mature. We grew Good Mother Stallard and  Petaluma Gold beans.

We first encountered shell beans when we lived in southern Indiana.  Shell beans are like dried beans  (think cannellini and pinto beans) before you dry them.  They are fat and sweet and buttery. The pods are long and bulging. Our favorite is Vermont Speckled Cranberry Beans, but there seemed to be a shortage of seed last Spring, so we grew the two other varieties.  Good Mother Stallard is the quintessential New England  heirloom bean.  Petaluma Gold was a good variety that we grew several  years ago.  People sometimes let them dry on the vine and store them in bags, but  we like to harvest them before they dry and store them in the freezer. They are terrific in soups and stews.  They are also so pretty before you cook them. The header photo is some of the Good Mother Stallard we harvested.

It got so cold here while we were gone that the bean vines died despite the huge tarp we covered them with. The pods did not freeze, however, so we spent Monday night shelling the beans and blanching and freezing them.  My thumbs hurt from shelling them.

I realize that our obsession with pole beans is sort of odd, but they are such good beans. Husband gets gout from beans, but he insists we have them in the garden every year.

What are you obsessed with? Who have you known who had obsessions?

 

Birthday Boy!

Today is the birthday of our dear leader Dale!

We’ve talked here over the years of the gift that Dale has given us by starting the blog and setting a tone that we all appreciate.  Now let’s make a list of what gifts we would like to give Dale.

Here’s a poem for Dale’s birthday – although not quite up to the standards of Poet Laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler.

You’re honest,
decent, lovable,
and truly are first rate.
You’re charming,
unforgettable,
and clearly pretty great…

You’re dignified,
sophisticated,
gracious, sweet,
and kind.
You’ve got a lot
of talent
and a wit that’s
hard to find.

You’re cleaver, cool,
considerate,
and clean up really nice.
You’re worldly wise,
and wonderful
and full of good advice.

You’re fun
and entertaining,
not to mention
very smart.
You’re altogether awesome
and you’ve got a lot of heart!

What gift would you give Dale?