Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Garden Then and Now...

Thirty years of gardening and working hard can result in an amazing transformation...

Here is the 'yard' we moved to in 1975... same view.

Happy weekend in the garden everyone!

Spring At Royal Oaks

DSCN3881DSCN2089DSCN0619garden in may 019DSCN2360DSCN2449

Spring At Royal Oaks, a set on Flickr.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Allergies~ Ah-choo!

It must be noted that early buds are swelling on the Maples and Elms and with them comes considerable pollen. Without going into intricate scientific explanations, it may be simply stated that the pollen of most trees, shrubs, and grasses is lighter than the pollen of flowers. It may be carried by the wind as high as three miles up and as far as 100 miles from the original plant. Easily inhaled, it is the culprit of the condition called hay fever (or allergies) as it may irritate an individual’s throat and nose.

With our typical breeze often increasing to driving winds, it is impossible to avoid this early pollen. As way of compensation, the pollen on flowers that arrive later in the season is generally much heavier… meaning it does not tend to blow about with such a vengeance. Thus as the season progresses, allergies will ease a bit. However annoying it may be now, it is necessary for the plant reproduction so we must be accommodating… while sneezing our way through spring.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Woodland Violets

Over the weekend the blessed rains came again and with them Spring arrived in earnest. The early woodland violets have begun to bloom and their joyful faces may be seen peeking out among dry leaves. They are native to our hemisphere however the violet has over 500 species that appear world wide. The colorful pansy and viola are close cousins and among the most popular bedding plants.

As with most plants, a colorful mythological history surrounds the violet. According to Greek legend the King of the gods, Zeus, had taken a fancy to a lovely nymph. Infidelity is certainly nothing new and Zeus was behaving badly in this instance so he attempted to hide his mistress from his wife by changing her into a white cow. Needless to say the nymph was unimpressed with this change and complained bitterly over the taste and texture of the coarse grass. As she wept sad cow tears, Zeus changed them into dainty, sweet-smelling violets that only she was permitted to eat.

The Roman myth involves Venus, the goddess of love, who was always cross with mortal women. Apparently she fell into a jealous rage when foolish Cupid judged some mortal ladies more beautiful than she; in revenge she swooped down and beat the poor maidens until they became blue before transforming them into violets.

Since medieval times violets have been crystallized and appeared as an edible garnish. The early Church gave meaning to the heart shaped leaves which were said to represent the Virgin Mary’s modesty and loyalty. Symbolically, dreaming of violets is a promise of advancement in life and it is claimed a garland worn about the head prevents dizziness. They are considered a good luck gift to a woman but if violets bloom in autumn, it is said epidemics will follow within the year.

Napoleon was a devout fan of the violet and when he married Josephine she wore them in her hair. On every wedding anniversary he sent her a bouquet and before leaving for exile he visited her tomb where he picked woodland violets. Following his death, these violets were found in a locket he wore around his neck.

To pick the flowers follow the short stem to the bottom and pinch between thumb and forefinger then place them in a small vase. Add water as they 'drink' it and they will last a week or more. It is amazing that such a small flower can fill the room with so much sweet scent.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Last years well weeded Spring bed~

The weather this week has been spectacular with the lavish feel of brisk mornings and warm afternoons, both of which make it perfect for the gardener. It is the sort of spring weather which makes one rush outside to smell the newness of the season and watch the leaves unfurl in an amazing time-lapse moment.

It is truly time to address the weeds, which seem to be crashing the garden party like a drunken, raucous crowd. To the novice gardener, weeding is simply the removal of unsolicited and untidy plant material which invades the garden uninvited, overpowering and bullying the true guests. All gardens must be weeded however there are many theories on how to achieve success without repeat effort. Chemicals aside, informed personal effort is the only answer.

There are the die-hard pioneers who believe that hoeing is the only answer and that hoeing is manly. (It is!) Hoeing is primarily used in the vegetable patch to remove weeds in a crowded space; the hoe can get in and about the vegetables easily without harming them. There is an art to properly using a hoe, which must be sharpened and oiled before use each spring. The hoe, like a good knife, is a balanced tool and this balance allows the gardener to literally drop the weight of it on the intruder without much physical effort. A gentle rhythm is used and is almost as a dance... slowly lift-drop, lift-drop. It is quite effective if done properly. Experts at hoeing are often amused by those who use a frantic chopping-action, which is a waste of energy and also employs the human back to do the job of an expertly maneuvered hoe.

For the flower garden, hand removal is the only logical answer. To truly remove weeds it is necessary to trace the stem of the weed below ground to the base of origin, follow the outlying roots with the finger tips, then remove all of it in a slow steady pulling motion, root and all in its entirety. This will insure permanent removal of the culprit. Since it is difficult to feel the root system wearing gloves many gardeners chose to weed gloveless. However an inevitable snag may prove uncomfortable and without gloves over time fingers tend to split. And since the gardener's staple, Mercurochrome has been permanently removed from the market curing the split green thumb is not easy. Now it is probably best to purchase a nice thin pair of gloves and wear them to prevent soil-damaged fingers.

Weeding can be an almost a Zen-like activity, calming, unrushed, and quieting. When the soil is moist and the weather not too hot or steamy, slowly moving along the bed without rushing is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. The rewards of successful weeding are a stack of wilting weeds, a lovely garden, and the satisfying feeling of a job well done.

*Before enthusiastically weeding, do perform the 'weed test'. It is from my own observations...

The Weed Test
There is a test the gardener may use when deciding to weed, plant, or transplant. Go to the garden and find a weed who has been cleverly hiding, attempting to disguise itself as a flower. Pull the weed and drop it on the walkway and wait a few minutes to see how quickly it begins to wilt. On some days it will remain unwilted for up to twenty minutes, sometimes even hours. On other days the weed will wilt almost instantly. The day it instantly wilts happily weed and the weeds will not return. On the days the weed does not wilt, do not weed but rather transplant, trim to stimulate growth, repot, or plant seedlings... in both cases your endeavors will be met with success!