Category Archives: cleome

The Untended Garden

I have often wondered how long a garden lasts

When there is no one there to tend it?


A season?

Maybe two?

I’ve come close to getting my answer this spring.

I’ve spent very little time in my garden

Since May

And…well…it’s a mess.


Oh, not to the casual observer

But to me

The gardener

Who knows the bones and body of this place

It’s a mess.

The larkspur is well past its prime.

And should be long gone.


In this year where everything is about 2 weeks late

Cockscomb is all ready starting to bud and bloom

Crab grass and clover think they’ve died and gone to heaven

Because I’ve let them grow


There’s a forest of baby trees.

Mimosa, Elm, Maple and Pecan

Planted by well meaning squirrels last winter.

And so you lovers of mulch

Are likely wagging your “I told you so” finger at me.

Remembering the tough stance I took on the stuff last week.

But the truth is for me

Well, I’m standing my ground

Even at this stage of disarray!

Here’s why.

I rely on a variety of self seeding annuals to give my garden

That lush cottage feel.

We’ve talked about them before

Poppies, Larkspur, Hollyhocks

And the 3 C’s Cleome, Cosmos and Cockscomb.


Without them I would find myself needing a lot more perennials.

Now I love them all

But to have so much renew itself each year

Is a strong statement of life.

If I covered my garden with inches of wood chips.

Few of these seeds would work their way into the soil

And grow and bloom.

So what do I do to prevent those much maligned weeds.


I don’t use a pre-emergent

And I don’t mulch.

I accept them as part of this creation

I don’t plant them

But they just keep coming

So there must be some reason for them.

And I think I’ve finally figured it out.

They are there to slow me down.

To make me sit in my garden

And pull weeds.

You really can’t see the details


And touch the earth

Unless you sit

And dig

And pull

Disturbing the soil along the way

Just long enough to experience

The life within.




Filed under cleome, cockscomb, Cosmos, Gardening;Perennials, hollyhocks, Larkspur, Poppy, Seeds, self seeding annuals, Shasta Daisy, Uncategorized


My father often told me that he didn’t want to slow down as he aged.


Mother and Daddy riding in a parade circa 1962

Mother and Daddy riding in a parade circa 1962


Parkinson’s Disease forced him to

But it wasn’t his idea.

He would say

“If I sit down I’ll go to seed.”

Time and Parkinson’s won out

And his life slowly wound down.

But never completely

He conducted a meeting about the future of public education in Oklahoma

On the Thursday before he died the next Tuesday.

He got his wish

He never went to seed.

But going to seed is a natural event in a garden.

Flowers come from seed

And most go back there sometime during the season.

That process has begun in my garden

The “going to seed” sequence

Follows the blooming sequence

So since Poppies are the first

Of the “self seeding annuals” to bloom

They are the first to go to seed.

So the process looks something like this





Seed Pod


Dried Seed Pod




Next spring it will begin again.

This week it’s the Larkspur’s turn

I know

It’s late

But remember that the season

Could be as much as 1 month behind normal.

So the Larkspur blooms have begun to turn

To seed pods.


I’ll let some dry out in the ground

But not all.

I can’t imagine how much Larkspur there would be

If I let it all “go to seed”.

So I’ve begun the process of pulling up Larkspur

And laying it on the garden house floor


To dry

So that I have seeds to share

With anyone who would like some.

And what goes in the space created

When I pull up the Poppies and Larkspur?

What else but

Zinnia and Cosmos seeds.

They will go through the same bud, bloom and seed process

During the second half of the season





And crazy Cockscomb



Will follow.

These are the things that give my garden that look of abundance.

They fill in between all the flowering shrubs and perennials.


So, though the actual plant dies after one season

The seeds fall to the ground

Waiting patiently for the next year.

Popping up in new and unexpected places.

Teaching me each season.

It’s the cycle of nature

A going backward

So that we can go forward.


Pay attention to it.

Take time to observe it.

It has much to teach us.




Filed under cleome, cockscomb, Cosmos, Gardening, Gardening;Perennials, hollyhocks, Larkspur, Perennials, Poppy, roses, Seeds, self seeding annuals, spring, Uncategorized, Zinnia


Three years ago Elliott & Kristina bought their first home.

To say they had “vision” is an understatement.

Their timing was incredible.

The house had been on the market for sometime.

The front had a mammoth awning.

I’m thinking it distracted couples with lesser vision.

Then there was the backyard.

It was….well…frightening!

But this is no prima donna couple.

They are after all, both descended from gardeners, farmers & ranchers.

They could see what it could become.


Not everyone has it.

But they possess it.

And they weren’t afraid of work.

So they began.

I guess you would call the first stage demolition.

Thankfully, I’m a state or so away so I missed this stage.

There was not  a lot to save.

The decision was made to take out even the Aspen trees.

Since, though they are lovely

They actually are a bit of a nuisance.

A single wispy tree will turn into a grove of Aspen

Right before your eyes.

Great for mountainsides.

Not so much for backyards.

The giant deck

Was replaced with a lovely flagstone patio.

Carefully layed by Elliott with help from friends.

My parents used Colorado Red flagstone

Inside and outside the “new house” at the farm.

So there was symmetry here.

Meanwhile in my garden.

I was potting up babies from all over my garden

And buying a few.

By June my friend Vivi and I loaded it all up

And drove this garden to its new home.

The humidity in my car was stifling.

Kristina and I spent a long weekend planting away.

Adding roses and hydrangea from a local nursery.

There’s a saying about perennial gardens

The first year they sleep

The second they creep

And the third they leap!

Welcome to year three

We visited again a few weeks ago

What a transformation.

Perennials are oozing onto the grass.

Morning glories dance along the fence

Greeting each new day

Thyme suns itself on the flagstone.

Cleome spills over the edge of the narrow bed

And little juicy golden tomatoes grow practically wild.

Elliott seems to enjoy puttering around the yard.

Growing not only flowers,

But vegetables as well.

Kristina never misses a chance to make a flower arrangement.

Taking them to friends, her office

And sending guests home with a freshly cut bouquet.

They both enjoy foraging dinner from the garden

And entertaining as well.

This year the Kentucky Derby fell on Cinco de Mayo

Calling, of course, for a Cinco de Derby party.

It’s reported that a good time was had by all.

And…the creeping thyme can handle a lot of foot traffic.


It brings sunshine to the world.

Enjoy this glorious week


Peg at the Morning Glory Gate

Peg at the Morning Glory Gate


Filed under cleome, Flower Arrangements, Garden Planning, Gardening, Gardening Friends, Gardening Mentors, Gardening;Perennials, Herbs, Hydrangea, late summer garden, Lupine, Morning Glories, Perennials, roses, Sunflowers, Tomato, Uncategorized, Vegetables


WARNING:  This blog entry is not for the squeamish!

Cleome in happier days.

Things in my garden have been clicking along pretty well.

At least considering this dastardly heat that is sweeping the plains.

Then about a week ago I noticed my cleome weren’t looking too good.

Closer inspection revealed what at first seemed to be a lady bug.

But lady bugs don’t suck the life out of plants.

Just aphids.

Looking again I found a beetle all right

But what kind?

It’s bigger than a lady bug.

Kind of mellow yellow in color

Ragged splotches and a shield at both its front and back.

Never seen this one before.

And there weren’t one or two.

There were dozens

On several plants.

So I began a morning and evening routine of picking them off and squashing them.

But…they were relentless.

Soon it was more than a dozen per plant.

It’s obvious I’m on the losing team here.

Time to do a little research.

Out  comes Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.

I’m of a generation that still likes books!

From my reading I determined that they are likely Mexican Bean Beatles.

New one on me.

They come for a number of reasons.

They’re attracted to beans.

None here.

They like piles of leaves.

Ooops never did get them all picked up.

And weeds.

Well, who doesn’t have some weeds?

Rodale’s listed a number of earth friendly sprays to try.

Not sure that I want to spray anything on plants in this heat.

So, I tried the last suggestion.

Fill a bucket with soapy water

Pick off the beetles.

Drop them in.

For the next several days I continued my twice daily massacre.

I just kept adding to the same bucket.

Got a little curious as to how many there were.

By the end of the week the bucket was solid floating beetles.

It was also beginning to smell.

So now how do I get rid of them?

Ann had told me about a bug that was decimating her garden.

She read that if you would take a few bugs.

Put them in a blender with water.

Whirl them into juice

Spray it on the infested plants.

No more bugs.

She tried it – it worked.

Now she had a couple of old blenders.

I have one and use it everyday .

So I decided just to pour my bucket of water laced with beetle carcasses at the base of the plants.

And guess what?

The beetles are almost gone. 

A few have hung around but I can deal with them.

Hopefully we’ll have cleome this year after all.

After further research,  ie. the internet, I don’t think they are Mexican bean beetles.

But…I can’t figure out what they are.

So if you know let me know – just curious.

Since this little tale does not lend itself to pretty picture

Dying plants and dead beetles and all.

Thought I’d jut throw in a few to make up for it!!!!

Caladiums and Impatiens

One more thing.

This heat is beginning to take a toll on trees and shrubs.

Do them a favor and slowly drip a hose on them for a day or two depending on the size of the tree.

I mean very slooooowly so that the water can run to the deepest roots.

They will love you for it!

And keep your self cool to the roots as well.


Garden view from my office.


Filed under Bugs, cleome


You may remember earlier this spring I talked about wanting to learn more about
growing vegetables.

Working them into my existing perennial beds.

I decided that this was the year I would focus on Sugar Snap Peas.

See if I could improve on the yield.

I got them in right on time and they have rewarded me.

Looks like a good crop. 

Then just last week I reported that Peg, our Scottie, likes them.

It was even cute that John and Cassidy were feeding them to her.

It’s not cute anymore.

Earlier this week I was out picking a few peas when I heard a snap behind me.

Peg was helping herself.

I scolded her and went on about my evening.

When I went to the garden the next morning an entire row of peas had been

Peg in her zest to “eat local” had tromped down and munched through the row.

She promptly started on the next row.

We even caught her with pea stems hanging out of her mouth.


Well the whole area has now been fenced.

And re-fenced since she has broken in a couple of times.

I stopped just short of razor wire.

I’m sure she has fence marks all over her nose from breaking in.

So far the fencing is holding.

Hopefully I can outwit a Scottish Terrier!!!



The beginning of June is a glorious time in my garden.

The larkspur continues with its vivid purple.

It’s complemented by the gold of Stella d’ Ora miniature day lilies.

Asiatic Lilies begin to bloom.


Poppies are opening up here and there.

They are interesting at all stages.

From their droopy buds

To their short-lived blooms

To their seed pods left to dry out and reseed for the next year.

Self-seeding annuals provide a lot of fill-in flowers in my garden.

As well as tons of cutting potential.

A self-seeding annual is a flower that if left to mature ie. dry out in the
garden will drop seeds and make lots of babies next year.

So even though the plant does not make it through the winter you will likely have
that type of plant in your garden each year.

You just never know where they will pop up.

The flowers that self-seed in my garden are Columbine, Poppies, Larkspur, Hollyhock,
Cleome and Cockscomb.


I also get a few Zinnias.

Now…this  sounds like a good deal.

And it is…to a point.

Free seeds.

No planting.

But you have absolutely no control over when they come up.

Or where they come up.

Or how many come up.

And because I compost the old plants at the end of their lives I end up with plants


This is most true of Cleome and Cockscomb.

They lay a carpet of seedlings.

There comes a time when some of them have to go.

Yes, friends, Peg is not the only murderess at our house.

I’ll spend the week pulling up and composting thousands of baby plants.

So how do I decide who lives and who dies?

There are a few bits of logic to apply here.

Since both Cleome and Cockscomb will get about shoulder high I will start at the
front of the garden.

Everything within the first foot of the edge should go.

Now, I do this every year but somehow they find their way back.

Next I’ll make sure that they are not growing up in the middle of other plants –
like rose bushes and tomatoes.

Then I’ll pull them up from the middle of the paths.

Cockscomb and Cleome gone wild in path

And finally I’ll go into the open areas and thin away.

A few years back I thought I’d just let them all live and see what happens.

Not a good idea.

They are so crowded that nothing really matures and comes into its own.

So…it has to be done.

Come fall I’ll be glad. 

My garden will turn from the pales of early spring

To the hot colors of the heat of summer

Followed by the richness of fall.

Cockscomb will come fully into its own.

Fall flower arrangement with cockscomb

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now I’ll just thin.

Knowing that it’s the best thing for everyone.





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Filed under cleome, cockscomb, Columbne, hollyhocks, self seeding annuals