Friday, August 26, 2011

Dagnabbit!

Before moving to Maine almost 7 years ago, I lived in Florida. I lived there for four years and never suffered through a hurricane until three months before we moved to Maine - and we got hit by two in one month.

And now that I'm living in Maine, a place I thought was going to be safe from these blasted things, here comes Irene. We had one a couple of years ago as well, but all it did was rain.

This time it sounds like we're going to get lots of rain and wind which means crop damage. I'm not too upset about the summer squash - I've already gotten tons and there's several more I can pick before Sunday - and my Buttercup squash can come off the vine if it needs to. The mutant pumpkins are done - I just haven't harvested them because I like to leave them on the vine as long as possible.

But my tomatoes - my poor, three tomatoes - ugh. If we get hit with a lot of rain, that means I will have none this year. I know, I know, a paltry thing to worry about when the winds could do so much worse damage on homes, trees, power lines.

But I will still miss my tomatoes if they drown.

My entire crop, right here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monster Plant!

Maine has a monster plant! It can sting, burn and scar permanently with just a casual touch. Youch!

The Maine Cooperative Extension posted today about Giant Hogweed, something I've never heard of and I hope I never encounter. It's described as 'Queen Anne's Lace on steroids' and can cause burning, blistering and permanent scarring if the hair on its leaves are brushed against and then exposed to sunlight.

Read more about this plant here and how to identify it.

It almost makes it seem like those old 50's monster movies are real, doesn't it?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fun with Macros

Today's Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Nice.

I'm still in my funk but it hasn't stopped me from taking pictures of the flowers out in the gardens. So today, we're going to get up close and personal with the winners of the garden beds.

Black-Eyed Susans
First up is that wild thing with that devil-may-care attitude - the Black Eyed Susan. Located in the wilds of the field, this group of flowers sprouted after the mid-summer field cutting giving us some unexpected yet welcome color to the field.

Petunias
Next are the Petunias. The baskets I planted in the front have withered and died but the Petunias I planted in pots behind the house (where nobody by we can see them) are doing wonderfully. These are my particular favorites of the multi-colored blossoms. I love the dark pink veins.

Tall Phlox
Never known to disappoint, the tall Phlox are doing particularly well this year. The white has given some blooms with a hint of pink and they are particularly lovely after a light rain shower.

Queen Anne's Lace
Another wild child of the field, the Queen Anne's Lace is popping up all over the place. The clusters of delicate white flowers make our large expanse of 'nothing' very pretty.

Snap Dragons
Back in the beds, the Snap Dragons are caged up and blooming profusely. All of them have come out this nice magenta color with yellow highlights. I will definitely be planting more of these in the future.

Wild Flower
Still in the beds, this wildflower has many brothers and sisters filling the bed with a warm, golden glow.

Wild Flower
These particular wild flowers have certainly brightened up the beds.

Zinnia - minus a few petals
Although something ate most of my Zinnia sprouts, one actually survived and gave me several flowers. This was the first and although it's damaged, it's still pretty.

Grasshopper
And lastly, here's a close-up of a garden visitor who was kind enough to sit still for several minutes, allowing me to have a nice photo shoot before he hopped away into my Petunia pot.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Celebrity Rose #8 :: Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of rock group Queen, had one of the most amazing voices to hit the airwaves. Whether singing about his impending death or about the love for his cat, he always gave it his all.


From the 'A Friend of Queen' website:

The Freddie Mercury Rose was propagated in 1993 by Battersby Roses and registered with the International Registration Authority For Roses in the USA, The naming of the Rose was decided on Fan club members who donated to the fund in order to raise the £2,000 needed to name and register it. The money was quickly raised and the first bushes were made available early 1994. The rose is yellow with a pink tint and was chosen as Freddie's favorite roses were yellow.

The first Freddie Mercury Roses were sent to Freddie's mum, his sister Kashmira, Mary Austin, Roger, Brian, John and other people that were close to Freddie. Since then a limited batch have been propagated every year and have been made available at Queen conventions or through Battersby Roses themselves with a donation of each sale going to the Mercury Phoenix Trust. 

This rose reminds me of the Peace rose I used to have. I might have to try this one.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Celebrity Rose #7 :: Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor is one of the best known movie stars ever to grace the big screen. Not only was she absolutely gorgeous, she had an abundance of talent and a generous heart.

The Elizabeth Taylor Rose

From Growquest
Like its namesake, this rose is a show stopper. The color is shocking deep pink with smoky edges. The tall buds open to lovely high centered roses that are long lasting. The plants grow to medium height and slightly spreading, producing long stems for the flowers. Elizabeth Taylor is one of the finest of all pink roses. Slight spice fragrance. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Funk

I am in a funk. This is not unusual for me but this year it's the worst that I can remember in a long time. It's caused my 'scrap it all' thinking to arrive about a month early.

It happens every year. As the seasons change from Summer to Fall I start itching to put the garden away, to just be done with it. The things that didn't do as well as I hoped just irk me and I don't want to look at them anymore. The things that are doing better than I ever imagined just irk me and I don't want to look at them anymore.

I just find the whole thing irksome.

I found myself pre-planning our Halloween display yesterday.

And I still haven't figured out my garden plans. It's obvious that the Hydrangea has to move. Even when it receives enough water the sun is just too much for it. When I planted it I didn't know it was a shade lover and it gets a full 6 hours of sun every day and it just doesn't like it.

And then there's the scraggly appearance of it all. The only garden passersby see is the front garden and that's the one that always looks scruffy, like my childhood dog. I want it to be full - and this year it looks its fullest ever - but I still have yet to achieve that look.

Hopefully I'll cheer up soon. I would hate to find myself ripping up flowers mid-August simply out of frustration.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Celebrity Rose #6 :: Dale Chihuly

The Dale Chihuly Rose
I love glass. I think it has to do with the fact that when I was young my family went to the closest theme park - Silver Dollar City - several times every summer. Silver Dollar City's 'theme' is the time period of the late 1800's and one of the main exhibits was the glass blowing and cutting center.

I loved watching the artists create art from glass and the attached gift shop was full of their work.

Dale Chihuly is an amazing glass artist and I encourage you to check out his website for some examples, especially his gardens of glass. His work is amazing.

Rose description from Growquest:

In naming a rose to honor America’s famous glass artisan, Dale Chihuly, it had to have impeccable style and an ever-changing array of flashy colors. This rose has it all! As the sun hits the opening petals, they blush from subtly-striped apricot yellow to dazzling orange and deep red...producing a remarkable display against the deep dark green leaves and mahogany-red new growth.



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Flowers are Flowering!

I'm still a relatively new gardener - I've only been doing this for 6 years. My weakest areas have always been my flower gardens. I've never tested my soil, I'm not very good at remembering to fertilize and my layout skills are just terrible.

I am learning, however, and this year has turned out to be my best years for flowers yet. They still look like an unorganized, jumbled mess - but at least they're growing!

Front Garden, South Side
One way I have found to fill in spaces is to throw in some wildflower seeds. Sometimes they take, sometimes they don't. This year, they took and I got some interesting flowers out of the bunch.

A pretty purple flower surrounded by Clarkia

Clarkia, Bachelor Buttons and a bright Orange flower

I have no idea, but it's pretty
And then there are some plants that I planted years ago and just won't die, no matter how damaged they become.

This Clematis was planted three years ago. It comes back every year, but it never gets very tall and usually breaks off at the bottom before it gets very far along. Last year I got a flower but bugs at the petals as soon as it bloomed.

This year, it grew like gangbusters and this past week it gave me a ton of flowers. No, I still haven't made a trellis for it - I honestly didn't expect it to do this - so right now it's weaving its way through the Iris leaves, which I think is quite pretty.
Clematis Vine

Clematis Close-up
The one flower that has never let me down is the Tall Phlox by the garage. Maybe it does so well because it wasn't me who planted it. Hah!
Magenta Phlox
The Magenta always blooms first, shortly followed by the white/pink.

I just love how the buds are tight little spirals before they open.
White Phlox Buds

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vegetable Garden Progress

Today's Weather: High of 81 Fahrenheit, 60% chance of rain

Although I've forgotten to comment on it, the weather this summer has been okay. We had a week of heatwave (along with the rest of the country) but ever since it's been in the low to mid-80's with tolerable humidity. I would prefer just a bit more rain but it hasn't been too dry.

Although this year's flower gardens have been doing well (for me - I'm still not that good a gardener) the vegetable gardens have been pretty hit and miss. Two of my one of my hanging tomato plants failed - it turned yellow, produced a tiny tomato that quickly rotted and died. One of my hanging pepper plants did the same thing.

Unfortunately, my remaining two tomato plants aren't doing all that well either.

Cracked Tomato
As you can see, one of my three tomatoes (the third is on a different plant) is cracked. I have no idea why - I don't think it's been over-watered. It's in one of the two remaining hanging baskets so I don't see how it could be from over-watering.

I did have a fourth tomato, but I found a bug hole in it yesterday and had to toss it. It wasn't one of the dreaded Tomato Bugs (hornworms) but whatever it was, it was super effective. Argh.

The squash, on the other hand, are doing quite well. I've already harvested a crookneck squash and I'll have two more by tomorrow. The Buttercup squash are doing well, too. The one pictured below was the first and is a pretty good size already. I have two more that are well on their way to becoming a part of our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Buttercup Squash
The cucumbers are being very slow this year. This is the first one to grow and it's been much slower than I'm used to.
Cucumber
But then, there's the peas, which have done amazingly well. Just look how tall they are! And they're covered with pods. Peas are one of my favorite vegetables so this is making up for some of the other disappointments.
Peas
And speaking of disappointments...I planted these sunflowers in hopes that I could harvest the seeds and roast them (I LOVE sunflower seeds) but it turns out I bought the decorative kind, which doesn't produce seeds large enough for eating. Oh well, there's always next year.
Sunflowers
And here's a little oddity. Remember those pumpkin seeds that sprouted from the pumpkin I threw in the garden last fall? Well, I'm not so sure that all those seeds were pumpkin. Take a look at this.

Pumpkin?
It looks like a Pumpkin plant got cross pollinated with a squash plant. It's hard to see, but the fruit is bumpy like a crookneck squash. I've never had this problem before, and since Pumpkin leaves and Crookneck squash leaves look almost identical, I think I have both planted in the same spot and now I have this wacky hybrid. My biggest problem is knowing when to harvest it. Crookneck squash mature quickly, but pumpkins take months.

If worse comes to worst, I'll just have some tall, skinny, yellow jack-o-lanterns this fall.

Future stir-fry ingredients
Overall, the vegetable garden is doing well. My biggest disappointment are the tomatoes, of course, but hopefully there's still enough time in the season to fertilize a few more flowers. I think that next year I'm going to stick with keeping tomatoes in the ground and putting Peppers in the hanging baskets.