Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ah, Summer!

   ...So, what did you do on the first day of summer?  I celebrated the day by hanging my wind chime.  I thought it would be the perfect act to kick off the summer, but that plan flopped miserably.  Who would have guessed it was going to turn cold with high winds strong enough to take down my ancient wind chime.  It is the last week in June and I am donning sweaters and jeans in order to stay comfortable in the 60 degree weather we are experiencing in Ohio.  In spite of that setback, I still prefer the cooler temperatures.  Le Petit Jardin must prefer it as well from the huge plants it seems to be producing this year.  I  need more larger-sized pot.  Everything is virtually crawling out of their pots in this cooler summer. No doubt it is due to the copious rains we have 
experienced. There is nothing like rain water to make a garden grow... 
    Art season is upon us much faster than I can imagine this year.  Everything is whizzing by so fast these days.  Already the Boston Mills Artfest has had both weekends of fine art.  That has always been a mile marker in my summer activities.  Realizing how fast the summer has has been upon us, I am slowly kicking into gear to create a bit art myself.  This is a good time for photography. Many of the artists I have known over the years are still at it in the open air shows.  My having not done those shows for many years, I admire their tenacity.  The last few years have seen some changes in the type of art I create.  Most is cathartic in nature.  Whenever I look over my work I still am wondering what I want to be when I grow up as I chuckle at that thought.  Will I ever grow up?  I wonder...                
      Thoughts of herb wreaths are beginning to creep into my mind.  I seem to have a bumper crop of chocolate mint this year.  So far I have harvested twice with the thought of creating my own dried herb tea.  But now that I see there is so much chocolate mint, I am aiming toward harvesting enough for a wreath or two.  Mint at the doorway is a sign of friendship. Another goal is to create some sun tea.  The anise hyssop is cranking out much more than I had expected, too.  There will be plenty for medicinal purposes and for wreaths this summer.  My chive pot is exploding with the summery hot days and cool nights.  I am about to whip up some of my chicken salad with lots of chive mixed into it. Chive also makes my morning scramble a breakfast feast that makes getting up in the morning a joy.  Also begging to be harvested is my lemon verbena since being repotted into a larger container.  Making the most of it during the summer is far less of a challenge than trying to get it to survive in my all too dry apartment during the winter months. Rosemary doesn't much like it either. Maybe I will try a humidifier this winter to manage some survival success when I take take in those two for the winter. We will see how that goes...     
       So far this has been a non-descript summer.  Finally the lawn is mowed and the Mad Whacker hasn't destroyed anything. I haven't put anything out where he can get to it.  He seems to have figured out that due to their largeness certain plants are keepers not weeds.  So far that the only challenge aside from the groundhog eating my sunflower seedlings.  So far I only have two mammoth sunflowers.  It will be awhile before they produce their happy flowers.  That will be a fun day for sure.  So, as I wait on that, I will sit and enjoy Le Petit Jardin for what it is, and continue to contemplate my life of herbs and art. Ah, summer...   

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Il Pleut! It's Raining!...

     ...The French have word for it, il pleut.  It sounds much like one spitting out chewing have, but that rather describes some rainy days. Reminiscent of the canals of Venice, the gutters and streets of Barberton are full of water racing to somewhere, but not fast enough to avoid creating small rivers and lakes all over town. At first, the kid in me wants to go outside to splash in all that liquid fun, but the I remember that I don't own any rubber boots. Note to self: must buy some Wellies.  Looking at all that water I realize that I have come into this wet season totally unprepared for the challenge of the slog.  Though I do have a couple of umbellas and a wonderful rain hat that makes me look like Wilson, the neighbor from Home Improvement who always stood behind his fence, I still have no proper slicker or boots.  One would think that as a gardener I would already have all the right gear for slogging around in the wet and the mud, but,alas, I do not.  Now the challenge is to find just the right wet ware, something to be functional and fashionable at the same time. It's a fine line between looking appropriately attired and prepared for the deluge and looking like a total idiot dressed like Winnie the Pooh on a rainy day.  That notion of looking dumb must surely be the reason why so many millenials walk through the rain in wet hoodies with no thought of an umbrella even when it has been raining all day.  Hey guys!  You look even dumber for not carrying an umbrella.  The British have perfected the sophisticated look of using an umbrella and raincoat.  The French make a beautiful and romantic statement with wonderfully colored umbrellas as they celebrate rain. The Japanese create Zen-like art with umbellas in the rain.  Why, then, do most Americans avoid carrying and using umbrellas and other rain accoutrements?  Can we not figure out what statement we want to make with our rain gear or do we just not know how to celebrate the wet?  I, for one, am not afraid to look like Hallmark's grumpy Maxine as I don my gardening wet ware.  Since I wear glasses, I am wondering if I need a swimmer's face mask, too, so that I can still see in the rain as I work in the garden on rainy days.  I do get tired of having to wipe off my glasses in order to see what I am doing.  Maybe a rain hat with a bigger brim would solve that dilemma...I'll get back to you on that decision...
         And so, here in Ohio we approach the Memorial Day weekend with the prediction of much rain for the entire holiday.  If you can't avoid the wet, I say "Gear up and celebrate it!"  And be sure to shoot a selfie in your rain gear.  Celebrate "Il Pleut!"...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

HerbnArts: Le Petit Jardin

HerbnArts: Le Petit Jardin:      ...April showers have proven to be the joke for the beginning of the month. One moment it is sunny and dry, the next there is a cloud b...

Le Petit Jardin

     ...April showers have proven to be the joke for the beginning of the month. One moment it is sunny and dry, the next there is a cloud burst that would make Noah' s knees knock together for fear of a reprise of the last big rain.  The great greening is underway here in Barberton.   All the dead winter grass is giving way to a fresher appearance as emerald green returns to local landscapes.  I have been inspecting Le Petit Jardin for signs of herb life.  So far my chives are perking up and the anise hyssop is in the lead as they get bigger by the day. Ever faithful thyme is filling out as it gains color.  The lavender is showing modest signs of life from its winter grey dry stick phase. Meanwhile, inside my kitchen my little seedlings are rapidly becoming plants that will soon be hearty enough to replant into their own pots. So far, I have fennel, marjoram,  chervil, and catnip starting up. I'm not sure why the lemon balm didn't make a go of it, but I will sow more seeds to make sure I have that lemony favorite for my garden this year. 
     It is rejuvenating to begin the gardening season once again.  Though it is not quite time to start designing this year's garden areas, I am already clearing out weeds and moving decorative rocks to gain a few more precious inches of growing area for new flowers and herbs.   Freshly cut flowers are always a plus during the summer months when everything is blooming.   I love bringing the garden into my living space.  It feeds my soul. In a way,  I guess I begin to bloom on the inside, too. Having some flowers to make as delightful element of change in my herb garden will be a good thing.  This year's goal is to help out the  pollinators and to give them a wonderful refuge  with watering stations andd sweet nectar flowers for  their  nurturing.  At the moment I am gathering more  materials for the garden.  Lots and lots of pitting soil will be necessary to keep the spring plantings running along smoothly.   Gathering as many containers as I can manage is also under way. I may be sneaking in a bit of spinach and lettuce into Le Petit Jardin for trading with a friend who seems to be far more successful at growing tomatoes than I am.  A few strawberries may find their way into my container garden as well.  I do hope this summer won't be so brutally hot this year. It would be nice to be able to dine outdoor in Le Petit Jardin. 
     The flowering trees in Akron have begun their dazzling array all over the city.  As I drove around Akron I realized that forsythia is blooming in the city and along the highways.  In the meantime,  April showers bring May flowers...and maybe a pontoon boat or two if the current rains are any indication of what to expect. At any rate, the sunshine will soon be here and Le Petit Petit Jardin says "Bring it on!"...
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Grasshopper and the Secret of Dirt...

...Half way through February and it finally snowed.  We have not had much snow in Ohio this year.  There is something not quite right with mid-winter Ohio being devoid of snow.  That being said, today was a good day.  It snowed. I found myself able to write, to plan for spring gardens, to take photos...as I said, all is right with the world...
       How many of you harvested your  sunflowers  and dried the petals and seed heads for creating  sunflower potpourri? Already I am realizing that I should plant way more sunflowers this spring. Recently I stumbled across a bit of information about the Great Sunflower Project (www.greatsunflower.org) that is a worldwide effort to help the bee populations of the world to survive. We need to help them be providing food supply for them by growing sunflowers as well as other nectar producing flowers and herbs in our gardens. Even bumble bees are struggling to survive. The hybridizing of many flowers has actually decreased viable food sources for pollinators.  Planting heirloom seeds and perpetuating those varieties of plants will  greatly  aid the cause of food sources for bees and btterflies. All living creatures on planet earth need water to survive. Try placing a shallow dish of water in your garden areas for the pollinators. Be sure to put flat stones in the dish so that they may have a resting spot while sipping water. Remember to put fresh water in the dish daily. I always maintain these tiny reflecting pools of small dishes among my herbs plantings to not only provide water for the pollinators, but to bring a little bit of Zen into my gardens.  Who knows, you, too may have a friendly moment of contemplation shared with a dragonfly or butterfly over a tiny dish of water in your garden...
     Currently I am gathering every sort of container I can for this year's plantings.  As I made out my list of herbs with a few flowers, I realized that I am going to need a lot more containers. Lately I have been lusting after the loads of pallets on trucks I have watched driving down the roads. I have ideas for vertical gardening that I have never done before. When I found S-hooks at 10 for a $1, I snatched up a bunch with the thought of a bazillion projects. It would be nice to  try my hand at creating a succulent wreath  or a vertical plant panel this year. Yes, you can always go up!  I may not have a lot of square feet to create gardens, but that doesn't mean I can't  expand the  garden vertically.   2017 Will have a lot of new projects I hope to create this spring. I miss my herb tea creations. This winter left me a bit lean on dried herbs to  put to that cause. My vow is to not let go that happen again. I also miss not being able to create wreaths from my everlasting plantings, so this year will include more Sweet Annie and some Artemesia for those projects. More mint, much more lavender, and the list goes on and on...
      As I gather all the paraphernalia needed for spring gardening I am reminded about the humorous story of a friend who was driving passed a business  that creates and markets a famous brand of soil. She commented to her husband , "Oh, so that's where they make dirt." He laughed hysterically and would not let up on how silly her comment sounded to him. She was embarrassed and felt like a dummy for having said it to him. "So, how is dirt made, anyway? "she asked me.   Her question was that of a little child innocently asking  a very real question about life.  I explained how soil is created in nature and how important earth worms are in the whole process.  The company "making dirt" was only adding fertilizing chemistry to their potting soil compound. The earth worms in her garden areas are gargantuan enough to be featured in a Japanese science fiction film. The look on her face was priceless. "And now, Grasshopper,  you know the secret of dirt," I told her.  Ever since that day, whenever my friend feels dumb about something,  I remind her, "Ah, yes, but you, Grasshopper, know how dirt is made!"...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Beyond Hybernation...

...A few flakes here, a few flakes there. So goes January here in Ohio.  It has been a wet month in the Buckeye state.  Normally we would be up to our tail feathers in snow, but that is not the case for the beginning of 2017. Most of us are wishing we had received inflatable rafts for Christmas. Though we have had some sunny days, for the most part it has been gray and dreary. There was one bit of encouragement for me when I caught sight of the spring seed displays beginning to appear in stores. It was a light at the end of a very gray tunnel. I was inspired enough to begin planning my herb gardens for this spring.                                                    

      Last year's plan for raised gardens of containers full of glorious herbs never materialized. As last summer showed itself to be a drought year, I abandoned the idea of enlarging my Petit Jardin. It took a lot of water just to maintain the plants I did manage to cultivate even though many of them were considered drought tolerant varieties. But this is a new year. I still have a plan for raised garden features that will allow me to artistically arrange an expanded container garden.  For now, I am searching out whatever I can find to repurpose for containers toward this project.  Starting seeds had never been my strong point over the many years of my gardening experience, but I will try my hand at it again. Strangely, last year all my precious seeds sprouted with most of them  maturing into full plants. And of course there will be sunflowers! My biggest battle will be to keep Chuck the groundhogs from eating my tender shoots before they manage to become actual stocks of sunflowers. Another decision for Garden 2017 will be the placement of more flowers.  The need and butterflies need all the help they can get, so I hope to plant with them in mind.                                                   
     It is still the time of hibernation and I find myself not wanting to move from my comfortable easy chair.  Stacks of gardening books are cluttered all around the chair. I keep thinking I should straighten up the clutter, but then I just roll over and take another cat nap.  Spring cleaning is months away at this point, but I am having a bit of a struggle getting out of the chair and climbing over the growing mountain of books.  Inspiration to move only yields shoving aside just enough books to make a small pathway from the the overstuffed chair.  It has occurred  to me that I might be the reason the chair is overstuffed. Nevertheless, I still have garden plans and am newly inspired to search out the things I will need for that mission.                                                                      Last summer a friend expressed her amazement at how creatively I managed to use the tiny space available to me for gardening. She has a whole yard she could be planting, but her garden area was barren. I decided to offer to set up her garden area so that she would  have a minimum of work for maintenance. She would have the joy of herbs and flowers with only a bit of watering to keep them thriving.  Since several other people have asked me how to begin to set up herb gardens, I decided to design a packet of information that shows them how to accomplish making their own little herb garden. The thing about herbs is that they are easy.  Herbs are much like weeds as they grow in spite of your lack of a green thumb. Potted herbs are the best way to start.  Container gardening helps solve a lot of gardening challenges to plants.  If it is too sunny or lacks Sun, you can simply move the container to a better location.  Weeding is almost nonexistent.  As plants thrive and explains, you can have the joy of getting  your  hands dirty by re-pitting to a larger container. If you lack space, finding a way to go vertical with your pots helps to shrink the footprint  of your garden without eliminating plants.         
            So many ideas, and I haven't left my easy chair yet. Today I will begin the adventure for discovering containers for this year's garden, and buying new seeds for the beginning  of the spring garden.  Yes, that's what I will do...right after my nap...

Monday, November 21, 2016

HerbnArts: Le Petit Jardin des Herbes...

HerbnArts: Le Petit Jardin des Herbes...:     ...I went to my happy place this morning. Le Petit Jardin des Herbes, my little herb garden.  The sunflowers were basking in the morning...