Back again!

That’s a looong time between posts. We had a family medical emergency which consumed most of the summer. But now all is well on the medical front. The garden.. well, that is another story.

Fortunately, I have friends and family near by who came over and weeded and tended while I was gone. Otherwise, it would have been a much sorrier situation all around. It’s interesting to see which vegetables toughed it out: Kale (NO surprise there), peppers, some tiny sprouts of echinacea I’d hurriedly stuck in the ground before I left, pawpaw seedlings and other natives. Those things are survivors and producing well. My tomatoes are putting on a brave, if spindly, show. Especially since I wanted to prune them to a single stem this year. I will try that again next year under better conditions! I am still getting tomatoes but as you can imagine, it’s not ideal.

Of course some weeds flourished and I am going to be paying for that for years to come. But events this summer have given me a philosophical attitude and perspective. I love my garden and I love to be out there digging around, weeding, and primping. There’ll be no shortage of that love for the rest of the summer! Most of all, I am grateful that we survived the emergency – a little battered but not bitter (like the kale – still good). Truly that’s all that matters.


You’re Getting Warmer..

Really, what is it with the weather this year? Someone wrote in to the weather man wondering if they should put away their snow blower for the year! Nope. We historically get some big snowstorms in March, but with all this pleasant springy weather, it is difficult to believe that could happen! But the plants know. I have a patch of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) that serve as my climate markers so I know when winter is ending. They are more reliable than Punxatawny Phil, and they are nowhere to be found yet. The earliest they have popped up was last year on February 29th. Usually they arrive in March.


Bloom times of my snowdrop since I’ve kept records at this house:

2006: March 13

2007: no record of bloom

2008: March 22

2009: March 7

2010: March 8

2011: no record, didn’t write in journal until November 1st!

2012: March 6

2013: March 29

2014: April 6!! No kidding, long and brutal winter.

2015: March 28

2016: February 29 (the earliest since I’ve been keeping record!)

2017: ??

I checked the Hellebores out back – those have buds appearing, so there’s something I can do in the garden: trim off the old ratty leaves from last year. There are some Hellebore seedlings popping up around. Later in the season I’ll transplant them nearby and see what sort of blooms they end up creating. I’ve planted H.  ‘Winter Sunshine,’ ‘Peppermint Ice,’and ‘Royal Heritage.’ So it’s anyone’s guess as to the bloom type of resulting crosses, but that’s one fun part of gardening.



Bored in February

I feel like I should be doing something. There’s been no real snow to speak of and it’s dicey to tramp around on the soggy ground – and just forget about wandering into the beds. I don’t want to smash the soil. But fortunately I can see quite a bit from the patio and walkways. I am scouting for any premature growth, heaved up plants, or rabbit damage. None so far that’s of any consequence. Last fall I caged the little serviceberry because of all my current shrubs, THAT one is apparently irresistible to rabbits and it was in real danger of demise from constant nibbling.

So, nothing doing outside, and that’s good. Once the ground freezes up again I will do a little corrective pruning on some of my trees (and maybe my daughter’s) but not on spring bloomers. I like to coppice my Cotinus shrubs so they get 10′ tall with huge leaves. I might as well do that as soon as I can. Last year I used the resulting straight branches as tripods for peas and beans. They really weren’t strong enough for beans, but peas were fine.

I inventoried all my seeds and then ordered even more because I have a serious control problem. Last fall I planted garlic all down the middle of one shady section of my garden because it just got to be too much area. Now I am eyeballing that section and I realized I have plenty of room there to plant greens and root crops that don’t need so much sun. But where can I put 8-10 tomatoes and 16 +/- pepper and chile plants? They’ve got to have all the sun I can give them. Believe me, I’ve tried cutting corners on that and they don’t produce enough to earn their keep. But this year, I’m going to tie those tomatoes to one stake each and prune them properly, I promise! No more messy plants in the tomato section. Hopefully. I may have to cut down on the pepper varieties so I can fit everything in. And then, where will the cukes and melons go? Up in the air somewhere.

These are the puzzles that entertain me when I can’t do anything in the soil outside.

New Beginnings

I’ve sold my design/install/maintenance business, Fraser Landscapes, so I’m beginning over with a new blog. Still love to garden here in the western burbs of Chicagoland, but I’m switching focus. From my earliest memories, plants have always been my thing. That focus hasn’t changed, but how I spend my time has. My volunteer efforts revolve around plants: teaching about them, getting others involved in the joys and tribulations of gardening, growing food for the community, stuff like that.

What I’ll be chronicling here includes my triumphs and foibles in my eclectic garden, timely tips, gardening with kids, and other observations.

Why Claytonia? When I was getting my first degree (B.S. Forest Management, Utah State University), I fell in love with a little wildflower called Claytonia lanceolata, the western version of C. virginica that grows in the eastern part of the US (and here). I was at some kind of forestry meeting and we all wore name tags. I put “Claytonia” on mine and mingled around. Some fellow looked at my name tag, looked at me, and said sarcastically, “Spring Beauty??” Oh well. That’s one disadvantage of knowing your Latin better than your common names.

So, thanks for reading this far, and welcome aboard.