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Mima–my maternal grandmother–loved working in her yard.  In my mind’s eye I see her kneeling in front of her porch, setting out marigolds and impatiens in the rich black dirt she’d bought at Kmart.  Later she’d move to the bed by the street, where the peonies and iris grew.  She’d water them with the garden hose, and if a car sped by too quickly, it might get a wetting as well, along with a hollered, “Slow down!”

We had flowering shrubs at our house, but no garden.  So on early damp May mornings, we would leave home a bit early, and drive to Mima’s house.  She’d meet us in the front yard in her housecoat, scissors in hand, to cut irises which she wrapped in wet paper towels for freshness.  These were our “flowers of the fairest” for the May Procession at Saint Joseph School.

When I discovered that I was a gardener too, Mima was right there encouraging me, giving me bags of dirt or mulch out of the trunk of her car, bringing me flats of pansies to set out in the fall, watching my little kids so I could plant daffodil bulbs.

So even though my gardening style is very different from hers, wild rather than manicured and centered on perennials instead of annuals, I often think of Mima (who died nine years ago) when I am in my garden.  I feel close to her then because it is a passion that we shared, and if such things are genetic, then my love of gardening is an inheritance from her.

It was around 20 years ago that Mima decided to move to a retirement community.  Eventually my mother moved into her house.  She kept the flowerbeds weeded and the yard mowed, but gardening is not her passion, and irises have to be dug up and divided every three to five years.  Mima’s irises haven’t bloomed in 15 years or more.

When my mother decided to move, it was Mima’s flowers I thought of most.  What would happen to her flowerbeds? Too many times I’ve seen new owners dig up and destroy treasured plantings without a second thought, intent on making the yard their own.  So when the house was sold, I went by with my trowel and dug up several irises, some peonies, and a small nandina sprout for good measure.  I put them in my own garden and hoped for the best.

The first spring came and went without a bloom.  I didn’t expect anything out of the peonies–which normally take a few years to establish–but I was disappointed in the irises.  Someone told me I had likely planted them too deeply.  I resigned myself to having to transplant them at a later time, and this year I was pleased to see that they had multiplied by a factor of three or more.  At least they were healthy, even if they didn’t bloom.

Then, the miracle.  I saw flower stalks and buds, almost overnight!  And yesterday morning when I went outside this was the first thing I saw:

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It would pretty much be impossible for me to exaggerate the extent of my excitement at this discovery.  Besides making it immediately Facebook official, I’ve made every member of the family come out to admire it and to share in my joy.   This morning a second one burst into bloom and there are many more to come, as you can see here:

iris detailiris in context

Perhaps next May there will be a sequel involving peonies.  For now I am thrilled that this bit of Mima’s garden lives on in mine.

 

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Autumn Gardening

You may have noticed my more regular posting schedule lately, because it’s November and I am once again participating in NaBloPoMo.  That means a post per day.  And it’s hard, VERY hard, for me to find the time.

So today I’m posting a few pictures, and writing a little about my garden.

Camellia Blossom

Camellia Blossom

Today is one of those impossibly beautiful autumn days, sunny and crisp, and because we haven’t yet had a killing frost, my garden is still in bloom!

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The (over)abundance of rain we’ve had over the past few weeks has made digging very easy, so I’ve been able to expand my flowerbed by several feet since the last time I shared pictures here.  I have purchased but not yet added higher-quality dirt and mulch, so you can see the rock-filled clay soil that I am attempting to grow things in!

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I’m in the middle of transplanting things that I put too close together or that are too tall or short for their current locations, setting out mums and pansies, and adding some peonies and irises that were my grandmother’s, removed from her garden because they house was recently sold.

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I may have mentioned before that I am a pretty lazy gardener and I don’t really follow the rules, so we will have to wait for spring to see what comes of all this.  In the meantime, I am having a lot of fun.  Writing and gardening are the two activities that I never have enough time for AND which make me happiest.

nablopomo

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Last year, I posted about my gardening efforts often.  This year I haven’t found the time.  I’ve gardened, though, and I’ve taken pictures.  And as fall approached I thought it would be fun to show you the progress I’ve made this year.

Here’s what the area that I refer to as the “cool” garden looked like in March.  My plan, if you can call it that, is to expand this part of the garden by a couple of feet every year until our front yard is all garden and no grass.  The neighbors with their manicured shrubbery and polite rows of liriope no doubt think I’m some kind of loon, but I don’t care.

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You can see where I dug out the newest part.  Just look at all that rocky red clay!  I have so much to work with!  After I dug it up, I just started by sticking the early spring annuals (pansies and violas) in there until it was time to buy perennials.  I’ve been at this for two years now so I expected the perennials in the rest of the garden to pretty much fill all the available space.

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Within a week or two the phlox and dianthus started to pop, along with (I think) the blue lobelia:

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Here you can see the echinacea (purple coneflower) coming up, along with that purple stuff which I love but cannot remember the name of:

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Next the azaleas (I have three so far):

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The salvia is just amazing!  I have little baby ones this year that I have planted all over the place:

garden from the back

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I am a terrible gardener–I can’t remember what those blue things, which were new last year, are called–but they went crazy this year (just starting in this picture):

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In all, quite a change from the first picture above:

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Meanwhile, on the other side, this is some of what was starting to happen in the “hot” garden.  It’s constrained in size by the walkway, so I’m contemplating making another bed just across from it.

Here are lilies, a gift from the neighbors across the street, starting to come up although they don’t bloom until late summer:

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Candytuft:

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Gazanias:

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And when the roses start blooming over there, WOW.

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Here’s where things really started to fill out on the other side:

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Back on the hot side, the daisies below got WAY bigger than I thought they would:

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I cannot even remember what most of this is or whether it is perennial or annual! We will have to see what happens next year!

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The flowers I have enjoyed the most this summer are zinnias that I sowed from last year’s seed.  And when I say sowed, I mean I just kind of threw seed wherever.  I didn’t bury them or anything.  Just look what happened:

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The purple coneflowers are also spreading by seed, although none of the “babies” are blooming yet:

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A few final shots of the cool side of the garden:

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The real gardeners among you will surely have noticed the crowding and lack of proper spacing above.  The plan is for a lot of transplanting to take place this fall.  I’m going to dig out a couple more rows in front and then separate and rearrange almost everything.  I did a little of that last year and most things handled it find although they did not grow as big as they had the year before.  I’ll come back next year and let you know how it all worked out.  For now, here’s the transition from beginning to middle to end of six months in the garden:

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Summer may be over but you couldn’t tell it by looking at my garden.  For all my lack of planning, it’s still blooming happily.

On the cool side, we have Autumn Joy Sedum:

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Gaura:

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Chrysanthemums (which I divided last year–they did great!), verbena (needs dividing and transplanting BADLY), and butterfly bush (planted last year and filling out nicely this year):

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Meanwhile, on the hot side, where there’s less space, we have crazy zinnia action, most all from volunteers, and more mums, also transplants:

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And also this silliness, which isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing but I’m hoping to end up with four nice decorative gourds, grown accidentally:

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For next year, I’m planning to continue to expand the cool side out into the yard (till there’s no yard left, eventually).  I absolutely have to move some things.  I always plant everything way too close together, for one thing.  Then some things have just gotten big–the salvia, for example–or are not the right height for their current location–that would be the verbena, which needs to be at the front so it has room for all its crazy spreading action.

There’s no room to add anything on the hot side except in the shadiest part where things keep dying anyway.  So I’m going to come across the walkway and put some matching flowers there, because the volunteer zinnias and marigolds have already let me know that’s what they want to do!

Finally, I took advantage of the wet weather and softened soil yesterday to start planting these:

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Lorelei and I planted 15 crocuses throughout the yard for naturalizing.  I’ll add to that each year.  We planted 25 wood hyacinths on the cool side, randomly but near things that won’t be blooming yet when they are.  And we made a start on planting 40 daffodils on a difficult-to-mow hillside which I would like to eventually cover with daffodils and wildflowers.  I had to stop after the first three because 1) It’s hard to do anything while kneeling on a wet grassy hill and 2) My yard consists of red clay mixed with gravel and it is just exhausting to dig in.  But we will persevere and see the rewards in the spring.

 

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Although it is in fact ALMOST football time in Tennessee, I am not talking about THOSE Volunteers!  No, I am talking about the ones that appeared in my garden this summer.

Last year I planted zinnias for the first time ever.  I didn’t know anything about them, and I had no idea how bountiful they would become.  I got a couple of six packs at Kroger or somewhere, and they got bigger and bigger and bloomed and bloomed all summer long.  So of course I wanted to plant them again this year.  And of course I couldn’t find the same kind this year!

But apparently zinnias re-seed, and so a month or so ago, these appeared.  They didn’t grow where I would have planted them, but I let them stay.

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I am actually not a huge fan of annuals.  I’ll set out a flat of pansies in the fall, and in the spring put in a few to fill in empty spots or provide a missing color, but in general I am too lazy to want to bother with replanting things year after year.  But I have to have marigolds, and this one below is my favorite kind.

volunteer marigolds

It, too, is a volunteer!  The marigolds I planted THIS year mostly died.  I have never seen anything like this one, though.  I don’t even understand it.  It’s bush-sized now and I didn’t know marigolds could get this big.

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Did you see my other volunteers?  I don’t know what they will turn out to be yet, but I know where they came from.  Every year we get vines like that all over the front yard, anywhere that pumpkin seeds fell when we carved our Jack O’Lanterns.  Last year we got all excited thinking we would have pumpkins.  I transplanted every one I found over in the side yard, and was disappointed when they instead grew various kinds of gourds, something that apparently happens with hybridized crops.  So I don’t know what’s going to happen here, and even though I hate to pull up vigorous and healthy plants, these are getting so long that I will probably have to.

Do you have volunteers in your flowerbeds?  Any suggestions for me for plants that re-seed reliably?

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If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

 ~ Cicero

I can’t believe I’ve never come across this quotation before today, but I’m beginning to believe it.  Certainly few things give me as much pleasure as do reading and working in my garden.

I haven’t shared any pictures since the beginning of May.  I was waiting to be “finished” with the garden.  Not that I won’t plant anything else this summer–I expect I will–but I wanted to get more dirt, mulch the whole thing, and get the grass mowed before I photographed it.  That was last weekend’s project, and I should have taken pictures of myself as well as the garden, because I was a sight to behold.  I just can’t wear gloves when I garden, so my hands are always dirty, but this time I had dirt just all over me.  And I was so sore the next day!

Last year, I would only garden for an hour at a time.  I just didn’t have the energy.  That’s not true this year, but I’m still not as limber as I’d like to be.  Maybe that, too, will improve, as I lose more weight and exercise more.

Shall I show you some pictures of what I’ve accomplished this year?

I was so excited that my peony bloomed this year!  I planted peonies years ago and grew them for three years without a bloom, so I wasn’t expecting this to happen.  I love peonies so much.  They are old-fashioned and the smell just says “May” to me.  They were some of the flowers we used to take to school for the May Procession when I was a little girl.

Peony

Remember me griping about the trouble I was having with the climbing rosebush in my last garden post?  Here’s a picture after we fixed it–at least for now.  I wanted an arbor to go over the sidewalk, and I used some of my Mother’s Day money to buy one, but when we got it home we discovered it wouldn’t fit across the sidewalk.  So we took it back, having measured the sidewalk this time, and soon discovered that anything that would be wide enough was also prohibitively expensive.  So we got a taller trellis, but even it had to be tied to the porch post due to the heaviness of the roses.

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I’m not really a fan of cut carnations, but growing in the garden they are another story!  Most of the other plants you see here are annuals.  I plant a few to fill in, especially blue ones, because blue perennials seem to be rare.

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These lilies were planted before I came up with the color scheme for the garden.  They don’t really go here, but I hate to disturb them.

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Here are the rest of them, on the side where they go!

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These purple coneflowers–echinacea–are in full bloom right now.  I planted them last year and they are enormous.  Y’all, you really should pay attention to the tags that come with the plants that tell you how big they are going to get.  I’ve got things growing all on top of and in front of each other.  It’s a mess.

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We need our little friend to pollinate our flowers!

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I planted two of these salvia plants last year.  I moved one because they were way too close together.  This is the one I left, and it is HUGE.  And it’s got little babies next to it, too.  I did not know it would do that.  Next year I will have several of them to spread around the garden.

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Garden angels are nice to have.

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The plant in the center is Mexican heather.  It’s an annual in this climate, but it gets really big and if there is no polar vortex this winter it might come back.  And even if it doesn’t I may just plant it every year because I like it.

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In these pictures you are seeing gazania, zinnias, and daisies, and a bunch of other things that either already finished blooming or haven’t started yet.  I have to be honest–I must prefer the other side of the garden.  For one thing, I like the cool colors more.  But more important, this side is hemmed in by the sidewalk so there is only so much room, and there is a lot of shade, which limits what I can do.  Plus the cats use it as a litterbox, and I think that kills some things, frankly.

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I saw this coreopsis just last weekend when I was at Lowe’s buying mulch and dirt. I wasn’t supposed to be buying any more flowers but I couldn’t resist this, and it bit just perfectly in that spot where something else had died.

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Here’s the mint side of the mailbox garden.

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And here’s the cooking herbs side.

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I really do cook with them, but isn’t it nice they are pretty too?  I have sage, oregano, several kinds of basil, oregano. rosemary, and lavender, among others.

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Here’s the back view, with this little friend:

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And here he is again, with daylilies all around him.

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I don’t know whose bright idea it was to plant just one of these lilies here, but it’s so tall and majestic it makes a statement of its own.
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Here’s the whole “hot” garden as it looks today.

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Here’s the “cool” one, and you can see all the mulching I did!

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And here’s the whole thing, with the grass super-short, to make John happy.

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If you want to read more of my gardening posts, visit these links:

In the Garden

In the Garden II

A Work in Progress

And if you have any easy perennials to recommend to me as I continue my quest to go lawn-free, tell me in the comments!

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I’m linking up again today with Mama Knows, Honey Child to tell you about more of my favorite things!

1.  Aldi

I’d been seeing this little grocery store for awhile, and even stopped there just once out of curiosity and picked up a few things.  But I only recently started shopping here regularly.  While I hate the continuing sprawl and desecration of what little farmland remains along Kingston Pike, I’m at least happy they put one of these in the latest development.  The prices on cheese, vegetables, and some frozen goods are simply amazing.  Now, be aware that this is one of those no-frills places.  You have to deposit a quarter to get a shopping cart (and boy did I look like an idiot the first time I was trying to figure this out!).  And you need to bring your own bags or boxes to put your stuff in.  I didn’t know this the first time and forgot the second time and again looked like an idiot trying to get all my random purchases safely into my trunk during a rainstorm, no less.  But I will remember this time, and Aldi is helping me save money and eat healthy food!

2.   These shoes

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These might have been the first thing John ever purchased off the internet. (Yes, I’ve had them that long!)  They came from Lands End.  I used to wear them almost daily during the winter when Lorelei was little, along with my black skirt and Irish sweatshirt, which I considered my winter time uniform but which my mother said made me look eccentric.  I’m especially attached to these not only because they are comfortable and make all the hiking I’ve been doing lately easier and safer, but because I have so few personal possessions left from back then, and these came back to me somewhat miraculously.  A week or so after the fire, Jake mentioned he thought he had seen them in the basement.  I asked him to go back and brave the ruins (because this was after our salvage operation) and he brought them back to me.  I don’t remember doing it but I suppose I went down there wearing them one day and sat down and took them off and forgot to bring them upstairs again.  Which is good, because otherwise they’d be ashes.

3.  Weigel’s

photo credit: Craig S. via Yelp

If there is anyone in Knoxville who doesn’t like Weigel’s, I don’t know them.  For non-locals, it’s the go-to convenience store in these parts, so ubiquitous that it drove 7-11 right out of business.  All around town you can see former 7-11 buildings that now house a diverse array of businesses.  Weigel’s got its start as a dairy farm and milk delivery, and the milk is still one of the best things about it–you won’t find better prices or better tasting skim milk.  There are three Weigel’s stores within a mile or two of my house so they are super convenient for almost anyone living in Knoxville.  We shop there on almost a daily basis, and one of the things I like best is that the clerks are always always friendly and I enjoy the relationships I’ve developed with the ones at each store I frequent.

When Emily was a baby/toddler I used to leave her strapped in her car seat (parked at the window where I could see her the whole time, y’all, so calm down) while I ran inside to buy milk, prompting her to make this now-famous statement: “When I grow up, I am going to cut with knives, say bad words, and go inside Weigel’s.”

4.  Gardening

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Working in my yard makes me really, really happy.  I come home most days and just stand and stare at my flower beds.  My neighbors probably think I’m crazy.  (Actually they probably think we are ALL crazy and they are probably right.)  I started gardening again last year after a long hiatus.  I didn’t have a lot of energy then so I’d spend an hour in the evenings on it, when it was cooler.  This year I have a lot more energy.  I’ve got a gardening post in the works right now, so that’s all I’m going to say about that.

5.  The X-Files

Again, this is going to get a whole post to itself some time in the near future, but I got the world’s best birthday present this year:  ALL the X-Files episodes, AND the movies.  We are having so much fun watching two episodes every night.  It’s been so long since I’ve watched many of them–and some I think I never saw at all–that it’s like discovering new things about old beloved friends.  And William is watching too, and it’s such a delight to watch him as the story unfolds.  (As, for example, when he found out that the Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder’s father knew each other.  “That’s BAD,” he announced.)

You can find new blogs to read by visiting the link up here.  What are your favorite things?  You can tell me in the comments!

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