Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Calendula ... We have all seen the name on the label of some natural health and beauty product, or even as the main ingredient of a healing salve, but what exactly is it?  Calendula officinalis, also known as English Marigold or Pot Marigold, is a hearty, self-sowing annual.  It will bloom its little heart out all season long, and if halfway deadheaded (or as I do, chopped back mid-season), it will bloom well past frost.  All it asks for in return is full to partial sun.

When someone asks what I recommend to add color when little else is blooming, if they are open to orange and yellow, I tell them Calendula.  Though it will quickly fill in an area, it is also easily pulled out.  As can be seen in my photos, the orange Calendula have gradually taken over the yellow, so perhaps it is time for me to buy some new seeds.

My Calendula seeds came from a seed exchange, and when they arrived, I thought I had been sent the chaff.  Being hopeful, I planted them anyway, and sure enough, they grew.  The Calendula I grow today are descendants of the seeds I received years ago; they come back reliably every year.

Calendula seeds

Calendula seed head

Calendula seedling

Friday, November 11, 2011


I will momentarily digress from my garden rambles.  As Jim was preparing to take the flag down this evening, I saw a view that I wanted to capture, so went for my camera.  Growing up, because of the religion I was raised in, I was not allowed to celebrate Armistice or Veteran's Day (or any other holiday), so flying the flag has special meaning to me now.  Those who sacrificed so much to give the right to fly or not fly the flag, as you choose, deserve to be honored.

The U.S. flag proudly displayed outside our home.

In honor of Veteran's Day, we went to Texas Roadhouse, where veteran's were given a free meal.  Jim and his brother, Bill, were our men of honor.  Local schools had made cards thanking the veterans and each were given one.

Jim's card of thanks.

On this day in 1918, my Great-Grandma was pregnant and my Great-Grandpa had gone to town when she heard guns in the distance.  Afraid that the war had spread to her Southern Arkansas home, she hid under the cotton pile on the front porch until her husband came home.  When he arrived, he brought the news that the war had ended and the shooting was in celebration. Nine days later, my Grandma was born.

Jim's Mom was born on this day in 1901.

Spiritually speaking, today is a very special day as well.  11/11/11 is significant in numerology.  Some even say that today marks the beginning of the Aquarian Age.  Maybe it is so, maybe not, but regardless, it has been a very special day for me.

Confession of a Gardening Junkie

From time to time someone will ask me what all I have in my garden.  I suppose the look I give is akin to that of a deer in the headlights.  Unless they have about three hours to say, "What's that?" every few plants, I do not think they really want to know.

Last year, as I was walking through the yard, I realized that I had slowly gathered collections of quite a few different plants.  I had a bit of a break in my jobs at the worst time of year to transplant things, July, but I took advantage of it and organized my gardens to better display the collections. I lost a few plants, but overall, it worked out well, and this year things were starting to recover and fill back in.

This year's project was labeling.  As I moved plants last year, I realized my tagging system was not working.  I spent quite a bit of time this year trying to figure out which unidentified plants were who.  I wanted a system that would not only tell me what was there, but that other people could look and see for themselves, as I get asked a lot.  I guess I partially got this obsession from my job of signage when I worked at the botanical garden.  After buying 400 plant labels and I do not know how many cartridges of tape for the Brother P-Touch (also bought just for this project), and still not getting everything labeled, I decided that I have a lot of plants.  Jim figured that out when he mapped them all out for me in case labels get misplaced.  I so appreciate him doing this because I am challenged when it comes to mapping things out.

I just went through my constantly updated plant list to see how many plants I do have.  Currently I have over 500 DIFFERENT plants that I can identify, and a lot more that I am trying to figure out exactly who they are!

A few of my larger collections include approximately
  • 10 Clematis
  • 30 Grasses
  • 20 Hemerocallis
  • 70 Hostas
  • 20 Iris
  • 10 Peonies
  • 25 Roses (Assuming one of each of my cuttings root, which is looking likely.)
  • 30 Sedum
  • 20 Sempervivum
I also have a lot of smaller, still growing collections and tons of awesome individual plants that I just could not resist.  Hmm ... maybe it is not just a joke when I say I am addicted to gardening.

One piece of advice I would give to beginning gardeners is to keep track of plants you get, both names and where they are planted.  Keep labels of boughten plants, and if someone gives you a plant, ask and write down the name immediately if at all possible.  It may not seem important to you at the time, but if you become a serious gardener, you will appreciate it later.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oh, Those Mums

They are a staple of the fall garden, but given the opportunity, Chrysanthemums would bloom earlier in the garden. Some gardeners religiously pinch them back, removing all buds through the early summer in order to keep them from blooming before the desired time. Another advantage of pinching them back is to control their size and prevent them from flopping under their own weight later in the season.
As many garden tasks as I have, I do not have time for pinching them back. Towards the end of June or first of July, I cut them back to about six inches. They look a bit sad for awhile and other garden plants are useful in camouflaging that, but soon they grow out of it.  By the time they are intended to bloom, you would never know they had been so "abused" just a few months earlier.
Mums are one of the easiest plants to propagate, too.  If you want more plants, when you cut them back, simply stick the cuttings in soil and keep them watered.  Soon you will have a whole crop of them.  I learned this by accident a few years ago when I was potting some up and tossed the scraps aside. Even in poor soil and a fair amount of shade, they quickly began to grow!
Some have the problem of mums dying over the winter.  Typically the problem is that mums planted in the fall do not have a chance to get established before winter.  Ideally mums should be planted much earlier in the season, but usually they are more available in the fall. Marketers know that pots full of blooming flowers so late in the year are irresistible to someone looking for quick fall decorations.  If they are planted this late, mulching may help. They are also more apt to survive the winter if not cut back until spring.

I have rescued mums and successfully overwintered them in the garage or a sheltered area until I could plant them in the spring.  I do water them if they are not getting rain and snow for moisture.  I recently noticed that though I have only bought a couple of mums in my life, I have gathered quite a collection of them this way.  One benefit of various mums is an extended bloom time, as they bloom at different times.
Insects of all sorts are attracted to mums.  Jim said amber is especially attractive to bees and wasps and that they would swarm around the lights on the utility vehicles he worked on.  That seems to be the case with mums, too.  There have been a lot of honey bees visiting this one for sure.  They are always a welcome sight since pesticides and disease have killed so many of them.
For those who like something a little more exotic, there are mums for you, too.  The last two mums pictured are a spider mum (I believe the cultivar is 'Lava') and a quill mum that I got at the end of a mum show at the botanical garden I used to work at.  Though not all show mums are winter hardy, these have survived for several years in my garden.
To browse mums that you will not find at your local garden store, go to www.kingsmums.com.