A Gardeners Wish List Part I

Okay, so it's time to make my wish list! (I'm having trouble re-setting my holiday clock, and cling to the old traditions of waiting until after Thanksgiving.) So, beginning with things I've always wanted, and assuming there are other gardeners out there who share my wishes, there is:

A heated birdbath or birdbath heater. I found out there are lots of heaters out there, from solar-powered to electric, so I found a site that lists the Top 10 Bird Baths. The site made it clear that I'll need to put my birdbath in a location that doesn't require me to trudge through three-foot snow drifts to refill the vessel when it's empty. It also made me realize I'll need something extremely stable to hold up to the rigors of non-bird parties who will be using it.

My waterproof gardening gloves have finally worn out after four years. They were West County Gloves, and I want another pair. I love the fit of these gloves: Warm, waterproof, and not so bulky that you can't maneuver your hands!

There is Still Time to Plant Bulbs

It’s a double-edged sword, a blessing and a curse, and for me, another excuse to procrastinate. I don’t know how or when it happened, but November has been added to “gardening season.” Tacked on at the end as it is, the penultimate month has become a time to plant bulbs. It also happens to be a great time for bargains. Bulbs are less expensive this time of year. Yes, they’re picked over and the most coveted bulbs are sold out, but if you just need a couple hundred Puschkinia for instance, November is the month to place orders.
Puschkinia bloom early to mid-April, just as Fritillaria
are beginning to perk up.

My fall-planted bulb purchases have come full circle—beginning with an optimistic naïveté in my early gardening years—and returning with a vengeance as my heat tolerance wanes. My first “bulb garden” consisted of three dozen tulips, 24 daffodils and 100 Muscari. If I hadn’t yanked it out after the first year, it would consist of daffodil leaves and a solid clump of Muscari. It taught me that some bulbs were less generous about increasing than were others.

The next year, going for a naturalistic look, I planted a row of tulip bulbs near a rustic fence at the back of our yard. When the early spring came with a foot of rain, my bulbs came floating up toward the house looking for rescue. I learned bubs’ need for good drainage.

I finally got it right the third year, planting four five-bulb clumps of ‘Apricot Beauty’ with some Muscari at their feet. It was also the year that rabbits discovered our yard. I’d no sooner noticed how cleverly the rabbit avoided our Cairn terrier, Piper than it was time for the tulips to bloom. I learned two things that year: how to time bulb companions, and that there is nothing cute about rabbits.

I've thrown caution to the wind this year and ordered a bunch of tulip bulbs. Only two varieties are left to plant along with Muscari botryoides ‘Superstar’Tulip ‘Exotic Emperor’ (mid-April, 20”) and Tulip ‘Montreaux’ (mid-April, 20”) will go in my favorite evening spot.

Tulip 'Montreux' blooms in my garden mid-April. I'd
forgotten I already had it, so I'll be planting 20 more.

I’ve discovered how pleasant it is to sit in my favorite sunroom chair and watch the light fade. What makes it the most enjoyable is the placement of white or pale-colored flowers within viewing range. I’ve watched Phlox ‘David’s Lavender’, Lilium ‘White Tycoon’, Lilac 'Beauty of Moscow' and Oso Easy ‘Honey Bun’ rose increase their glow as the sun goes down. Next year this feature will begin in April.




Have Your Hands Survived the Season?

Hopefully your hands have survived the season and are still in good working order. Mine seem to get shorter, stubbier, and nearly to the point of resembling Harry Lauder's Walking Stick as the years roll along. My pinkies bend inward, my thumbs have lost their muscle, and the middle finger of my left hand has formed its own dowager's hump. After a day (or even an hour) in the garden, they crack when I bend them, hurt when I lift stuff and look generally like they've done a little more than dabbling at field work.
Each evening I undergo Netflix therapy, during which I massage my hands with emollients containing the highest grease content I can find. I really like The Naked Bee products, including the Hand & Cuticle Salve and the Hand and Body Lotion, both of which I smear on my hands as I lounge in my lazygirl watching movies.
I recently received a pair of gardening gloves to try from Garden Girl USA. They are quite the beauties, no? Ruffled lace and a delicate pink color belie their durable feel and well-constructed constitution. And one of the first things I noticed shortly after putting them on to dig and plant some bulbs? They actually feel good on my hands! According to Petra Maison, founder of Garden Girl, Garden Gloves are midway between the Weeding Glove, which will likely last a season, and the Working Glove, which is a heavy-duty glove made with leather. I have to order a larger size than I used to wear because of my Quasimodo hands. The Large fits very nicely, has a bit of stretch to it, and disguises my bumpy digits quite handily.
When I decided to take a break after planting, I took off the Garden Gloves, and I'll have to say, they looked a lot fresher than I felt. But after a tasty rum and Coke I didn't let it bother me.
Cheers! And Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!

These Bugs are No Ladies!

They bite. They stink. And they stain when squished.
The multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) arrived on our shores early in the 20th century. It is not the same species as the bug that has been cutified by children's toy manufacturers or accessory designers. Harmonia axyridis is officially in the beneficial category due to its ability to control aphids, scale and other soft-bodied pests.

The various patterns of the Asian lady beetle
But it's a little off-kilter from our Midwest weather schedule. While the native lady beetles enjoy a life cycle that allows us to continue our love affair with the only insect that by any stretch could be called cute, it's a different story for Armonia axyridis.

The Asian species seeks hibernation spots, often inside our homes. And there is nothing cute about that! We can rest assured, however, that they aren't covertly reproducing behind the wainscoting. The females, the gender that calls the shots in most species, don't mate over winter. They save
themselves for spring, when both genders emerge from hibernation sites.

We also need not concern ourselves that they are chomping away at our houses' frames and foundations. They are carnivores that, like us, don't have the digestive system to chomp on wood. It's possible they'd taste better if they did.

My husband was enjoying a sandwich while sailing on Lake Michigan in late summer and is now the only human I know who has eaten one of these little blighters. One apparently became immobile after landing on the mayonnaise ooze characteristic of any sandwich my husband constructs.

"The fumes came out of my nose for days," he told me.

And since it's an "eat or be eaten" world out there, they bite. It might be kind of funny if you're not the bitee. They'll land in a tender, private place usually covered by clothing. This undercover union leads to a special dance  seen only when human meets insect. The bite is not said to be serious, but it's certainly annoying.

Entomologists recommend sealing tiny cracks around windows, doors, utility pipes and other areas with caulk or other sealant, and installing screening behind attic vents, which are common entry points for the beetles.
If they end up swarming inside anyway, vacuum them up. But pitch the bag right away. You don't want them stinking up the place.

Bulb Planting Requires Planning

So I got a box of bulbs from Brent and Becky's the other day. It's a small box. But I've been drawing diagrams and making lists in preparation for their planting. As is usual whenever I bring in new plants, the prep time way overshadows the planting time. Each spring, I look forward to the 'Honky Tonk' tulips, which seem to increase over the years. I'll be digging them up and scattering them around to spread the joy.

The Brunnera 'Hadspen Cream' and companion Hellebore
might look good with some Galanthus elwesii.
I'm looking back to photos I've taken in March and April to see which plants can do with some bulb adornment. While some may see this as a stall tactic (It's only 40 degrees, after all), it's actually vital research. You don't just plop down a bunch of mixed bulbs and call it a day, after all. For the best results, they need context.

I'll be planting after digging, taking lots more time than I'd originally thought to plant this very small box of bulbs, just a few of which are:

Anemone blanda
'Blue Shades'
Anemone blanda 'White Splendour'

Galanthus elwesii

Hermodactylus tuberosa