Monthly Archives: June 2017

That Gardening is so Rewarding and Gratifying

I lived in suburbia all of my life but often spent weekends and summers with my my elders in the country. I grew up around farmers and people that grew plants as both a means of income and a way to feed their own families. They also grew flowering plants as a way to brighten their days.Most were plants with no value as a food or a sale crop but nonetheless, they earned their place on valuable land.

How I wish someone would have shared the joy of placing that single seed in the dirt so I could have seen what it could do and what it would become! That single seed goes through so much change in its life whether it is a short life or a long life and it completes its own circle of life. If it’s cared for and nurtured, it thrives and knows exactly what to do. Even if tossed aside or dropped on the dirt, it may still go on or it may struggle and possibly even die, but it doesn’t know that it should just give up! It was not taught to quit.

This is something I’ve tried to share with my own children. Sometimes no matter how much we care or try, things may have a sad ending. Other times, over caring for things can cause them hardship. More times than not, that little bit of time giving and nurturing, will give us back something worthwhile and maybe even something spectacular.

Although pulling weeds may not be fun, it is necessary for the life of the plants around them. Sometimes it is a burden to drag the hose across the yard in the heat of the summer but the fish in the pond, the small animals we raise and the plants we are growing, need that water to survive. Even though we have to feed and water the animals in the rain, snow, heat and dark, they give us back manure that is good for the plants. They teach us to be responsible and to take the time to say hello or give them a little nuzzle. Taking two minutes to carry coffee grounds, egg shells and vegetable waste to the compost are worthwhile because we can feed that compost back to the plants and make their lives better. That makes our life better and it makes our life easier.

Anything we do no matter how big or small, to make life better is worthwhile. And it’s rewarding!

I often think of a time a few years ago, when I was outside rooting coleus. I let the extra leaves and stems drop to the ground. My eldest daughter was fairly young and she grabbed up the little pieces and leaves, asking me why I was throwing them on the ground, almost demanding that they had the right to live. I told her those little pieces and leaves would not grow and showed her all the cuttings that I had already started and told her how they would all be likely to survive as I had chosen the best plants and the best parts of those plants for rooting. She would not give up. She got her own cell pack and her own seedling mix and planted all those cast offs I had deemed unworthy. She watered them dutifully and kept them in the shade and checked them often. I think every single one of them rooted, grew and flourished and they were her plants. I learned that day that I did not know everything and also that I didn’t give them a chance to be what they were.

While this might not be worthwhile for growing on a large scale, it did show me how awesome life can be if given a chance and not to discard things so quickly. I also came to the realization that she had her own ideas about things and that would not change just because I tried to discourage her.How neat it must be to see things through the eyes of a child and to be open to the wonders of the unknown!

Life is busy and crazy when you have children and often there is not much time to slow down and listen and enjoy the simple things. When they are interested, I try to take the time to hear them, encourage them and let them learn things on their own and help them when asked. The hardest part is not interfering when they do not want my help. I let them start their own seeds, do their own planting, choose their own crosses and I let them chose to pull weeds and water, or not. It is a wonderful way to teach them to nurture what they have and encourage them to seek out and learn about other things. They’ve learned also learned what happens when things are neglected because we were too busy or had something more important to do.

I’ve learned many things myself. Sometimes I am the teacher and sometimes I’m the student. I do not know everything. Some things cannot be learned in a book or on the internet. Kids that do not want to pull weeds should not if you want to keep plants around them. Kids love to look at catalogs and have opinions about what would or would not be good to grow and trust me, they feel very strongly about it! Mostly I’ve learned to listen to what they say as well as what they don’t say.

You have already planted the seed and it has started to flower. Raise that gardener on their terms and see just how spectacular it can be! Now is a great time to get started with all those wonderful catalogs sitting there. My children love to look at those beautiful catalogs and make thousand dollar wish lists that make me cringe. I make my own thousand dollar wish lists that make me cringe! They know and I know, we can’t possibly buy them but that is why they are called wish lists! It’s the stuff that dreams are made of and sometimes dreams come true.

Imagine all the things we could do or might have done, if no one had said it was not worthwhile!

Dooryard Garden

The entryway garden is typically the most visible of a homeowner’s gardens. This garden should capture the attention of the visitor, and passerby alike, as it draws one’s attention to the main entrance of the home. The front door is the focal point of the entryway garden hence the name dooryard garden. The goal of a dooryard garden is, not only to add curb appeal, but also to guide the steps of the visitor to the front door. Keep this in mind as you plan the dooryard garden and frame it so it will conduct the visitor along a direct, but enjoyable path, toward the door rather than sending them along a meandering tour of the front yard. Notice the photos below. This is a perfect example of a dooryard garden which frames the pathway to the front door of the home. This garden is obviously planned as a multiple season garden. The Autumn garden is truly colorful and draws the eye up and along the path in an enjoyable walk to the front door. The warm season garden is more muted, but still adequately frames the path to the front door. Also note that the design of the gardens matches the style of the home.

Before planting the dooryard garden take into consideration the style and scale of the home. A neoclassic or upscale home would appear dilapidated with a profusion of rambling cottage-style plants as a dooryard garden. This style of home would be given a touch of elegance with the clean lines of evergreen topiary flanking either side of the entryway. An under planting of blooming annuals would work nicely as an accent to the elegant topiaries.

This marvelous chateau would seem ridiculous with a cottage style garden planted along its entryway. However the elegantly manicured evergreens are formal and quite appropriate to the scale and architecture of the chateau.

o we see that the type and size of plants to use in a dooryard garden are determined by several factors one being the dimensions of a home. There are many resources available to the gardener simply do the research to determine the best plants for your particular home’s style. Keep in mind that guests will stop amid your dooryard garden to ring the doorbell so put in a variety of lovely plants for them to gaze at as they wait for you to answer the door. You might also want to toss in a miniature fairy house, a gazing ball or other decorative statuary to impress your guests as they admire your dooryard garden.

The graceful lines of a Grecian statue surrounded by the fern-like foliage of the Falsespirea, Sorbaria sorbifolia, as in the photograph would be an attractive addition to a dooryard garden. The Falsespirea grows to a height of 5′-10′ tall and nearly as wide, so it is better suited to a large dooryard garden.

A pretty garden bench for people to rest on adds beauty and practicality. Give it a backdrop of fragrant flowers and your guests will never want to leave.

To create atouch of romantic ambiance in your dooryard garden plant fragrant climbing roses to frame the front door, at the entrance to the porch or even on an arbor or fence within the garden. The delicate sent of roses will waft into your home each time a guest enters. That is to say, if you can get them out of your beautiful dooryard garden and into the house.

If you haven’t the room for, or the capability to care for, a dooryard garden then try container plants as an alternative. Containers make wonderful additions to a porch, the front door steps and even look well flanking the front door. The overall look is dependent upon the type of planter you choose. ~For a whimsical touch try a trash to treasure container.~

Beautiful Blooms on a Budget

Several years ago, I started adding daylilies to my new garden beds. I fell in love with some of the named cultivars, but I soon realized that my budget wasn’t going to allow me to fill my garden as fast as I’d like. I saw people offering their extra daylily seeds on the Seed Trading Forum, and I thought that was the perfect solution! I put my named daylilies along the front of my daylily bed, and I grew out my seedlings along the back. It worked out so well that I’m doing it again. I’m planting out my second round of seedlings this year.

The first thing to know is that growing daylilies from seed is easy. They’re tough plants, and they’re not fussy about germination or culture requirements. The second thing to know is that you’ll have to be patient. It will take at least until the following year, sometimes longer, before you will see a bloom and know just what it is that you’ve grown out. Several more years may be needed to really evaluate a new seedling’s potential.

As with many plants, daylily genetics can get complicated. The blooms of an offspring may look almost exactly like one parent or the other, or you may get something quite unique. Other characteristics are also passed along, affecting foliage, height, flower form and substance, bud count, and so forth. It’s a gamble. If you like the parent plants, you’ll probably like most of the seedlings, too. Some may be truly exceptional, and some may be “dogs,” with muddy colors or other undesirable traits.

Give your daylilies a good head start by germinating seeds in winter and growing them under fluorescent lights. Many people start seeds simply by sowing them in moist potting mix. Since my space under the lights is limited, I don’t like to have any empty spots, so I germinate seeds before planting.

To pre-sprout daylily seeds, soak them in water with a little added hydrogen peroxide (1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide per quart of water). You can soak seeds in a glass, or you can soak them right in their little labeled zip-top plastic seed bag, leaving a little air space in the bag. When you see a little “tail” of root forming, the seed has germinated and is ready to plant.

I like to use deep 36 cell “sheet pots” that are about the size of 2 inch pots. Each cell gets planted with 1 to 5 sprouted seeds of a given cross. I’ve also planted 1 seed per cell in a 48 cell flat. Some people have good results using 16 oz plastic cups with holes poked in the bottom for drainage, planting as many as 20 seeds per cup.

Fill your chosen pots with slightly moist, good quality soil-less potting mix. Plant your sprouted seeds 1/8 to 1/4 inch below the surface of the potting mix. Water in with a little weak chamomile tea or peroxide water. Bottom water thereafter, to help prevent damping-off and other problems. Place them under lights, as close to the bulb as possible.

The first time I grew out seeds, I didn’t think I’d manage to keep track of specific crosses all the way from soaking and germinating seeds to transplanting into pots and then into the garden. And frankly, I didn’t think I’d get any new plants worth getting worked up about. So I threw all the seeds together into one big jar. Two years later, when they started blooming, I was amazed at how beautiful some of them were!

Although parentage isn’t strictly necessary information for registering a daylily, most breeders and growers prefer to know the parentage of named varieties. I didn’t end up with any I really thought were worthy of registration, but I do wish I knew the parentage of a couple of my nicer ones.

Last year, I started some more daylilies from seed. Some of my seeds again came from trades, and I also purchased a few from a DGer selling on the Lily Auction site. I am looking forward to being able to purchase seeds for next year from Dave’s new auction site!

I made use of the lessons learned from my first seedlings. This time, I did keep track of the crosses, so I know the parentage of these seedlings. I used an Industrial Sharpie marker to write on a plastic tag that’s in the pot and will later be buried with the plant. I also used a metallic silver Sharpie to write directly on my black nursery pots. When the daylilies get planted out in my garden, I’ll add a metal marker with an Avery clear laser label.

When those first little seedlings were planted directly out into the garden three years ago, they didn’t look all that different from a tuft of grass. Some of them almost got themselves pulled up as weeds! This time, I wasn’t taking any chances. After hardening off the seedlings last spring, I potted up the seedlings into trade gallon pots on my patio. They overwintered just fine in a sheltered location near the house and will be planted out this year.

I’m not sure my garden could have too many daylilies. Growing them from seed means I am limited only by my own impatience as I wait for those first blooms, not by my budget. For blooms like these, I’m willing to wait!


Garden Design Thief

When it comes to garden design, I’m not too proud to admit that I don’t have too many original ideas. I like to steal. Yup, I steal ideas and make them a reality in my garden. Sometimes I steal a whole idea, sometimes just a piece of an idea. When summer rolls around, I’m in thievery delight as I pick up ideas from neighborhood walks or visits to design centers and public gardens. This method of inspiration is augmented by design books and Internet pictures, but there is really nothing like heading out to a local garden to see the beauty for yourself.

Last year I took a trip to Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. Cantigny is a really unique park nestled in the western suburbs of Chicago. Within the park are many sights: the historic Robert R. McCormick Museum, the First Division Museum, Idea and Formal Gardens, including a rose garden, a golf course and more. I particularly enjoyed the Idea garden, but stole ideas from all locations.

Every year I also delight in new display beds at a local garden center (Hornbaker Gardens in Illinois). In display gardens like these, I discover how plants behave in different environments. I know that places like this have much more money to invest and more youthful staff to contribute to the display than I have, but the results are always inspirational.

Of course, nothing beats a neighborhood garden walk to see how real people with similar resources develop their gardens. Several years ago I got to steal ideas from participants of a Pond Tour. This was particularly helpful because I just could not imagine what I wanted my pond to look like! I certainly came away with a better vision for my garden.

Specific Plants

Sometimes you see a plant that just speaks to you. When you find such a plant, gather what information you can. Start with a name. Most garden centers and public gardens will have items marked. If not, find a helpful staff member to assist in the identification. Note in what soil and light conditions this plant grows. Be sure to discover other growing factors such as irrigation and support. When you are home, research the plants bug and disease susceptibility as well as other plant needs.

Plant Combinations

I’m amazed sometimes at plant combinations. When you see a combination first-hand, then you really can understand design terms such as color and texture. All of these combinations are found at Cantigny Park.


Often you might have fallen in love with a plant but really don’t know the ideal place to put it. If you have the right sun and soil conditions in several places but you just need that “right” spot, gather ideas from others.

Garden Art

This is a tough category because there are so many tastes out there. From the subtle to the whimsical, there is something for everyone. When you see a display garden using art, you can take note of the way it is paired with plantings or left on its own. Your mind begins to churn with ideas for your own yard.


Most of the time when I see structures in a display garden, I can only dream about how wonderful it would be to have these. Some day I’d like to report back that I’ve installed a version or two of what you’ve seen here.


Ponds are springing up everywhere. From the small to large, the variety is astounding. I knew I wanted to add water to the garden, but how? I considered options, but was not really sure until I took a pond tour. There were many types of ponds. Some I Iiked, some I just did not care for.


“Good luck in stealing the BEST ideas for YOUR garden.”