Category Archives: Timing


There is a section of my garden

Where I don’t have many perennials.

I have given it over to self seeding annuals.

Poppies and Larkspur in the spring

Are followed by Cosmos, Cleome, Cockscomb and Zinnias.

This does however result in a few empty spaces.

For years – decades really – I have planted Zinnias in those places.

This happens later in the season.

Usually mid – June through Mid – July.

So when the first round of volunteer Zinnias

Get mildew

And they will.

I have a second fresh crop for fall.

This accidental plan

Has worked great for years and years.

Then comes this summer.

The first round of Zinnia seeds

Planted in mid – June

Have sprouted and started to bloom.

But the second and third rounds

Simply won’t sprout.

I’ve tried different varieties

From different companies

At different times

And zilch!

Then I read this week

That because of this relentless heat

The soil is too hot to germinate seeds.

Seriously…how can that be.

Think about that for a moment.

It’s a really scarey thought

Since growing food

Requires lots and lots of seed germination.

So, once again, we must adjust our knowledge

Of what works

And what no longer will.

Which brought to mind a book I’m reading.

“From Strength to Strength” by Arthur C Brooks.

In it he talks about the “fluid intelligence” of our 30’s and 40’s

And the “crystallized intelligence” of my stage of life

And ways of sharing our “crystallization” (my word) that will lead to happiness.

So my “crystallized intelligence” of decades in the garden

Needs to become a bit more fluid

To adapt to nature and the changes we are forcing on it.

But that is really how nature works.

Witness the life of poet Mary Oliver

Who walked the woods and shorelines of her home

Writing books and books of poems.

Leaving behind a depth of “crystallized intelligence”

For the world.

Maybe it’s the generations of Presbyterians in me

But I’m thankful I don’t have all the answers.

About gardening

And about life.

There is still space to grow.


If we don’t change we don’t grow. If we don’t grow we aren’t really living.

Gail Sheehy


Filed under cleome, cockscomb, Cosmos, Garden Planning, Gardening, Larkspur, Nature, Perennials, Poppy, Seeds, self seeding annuals, Timing, Uncategorized, Zinnia


There are some days

I just really want to talk to my parents.

This summer it will be 20 years since my mother died

And 11 since my dad.

That’s a long time.

I’ve accumulated many questions

In those decades.

I seemed to have hit an age

Or stage

Where I want to draw on their wisdom.

It goes something like this…

Many of the things in my life,

Things that have been staples,

Seem to be changing


Institutions that have been the foundation

Of our culture

No longer have the same importance.

It’s definitely time to hand the responsibility

Off to the next generation.

But do they want it?

Did we want it

When it was our turn

To take the lead?

I don’t remember even asking myself that question.

And if we let go

We can be guaranteed

There will be change.

That word that so many dread.

So how do we graciously

Begin to step aside

Providing help and sharing wisdom

At the same time embracing their changes.

How do we hold on

And let go

At the same time?

Live with the paradox.

It’s a delicate balancing act

For both generations.

I have a great example of this

In my life

As chair of the Nurture Committee

At my church.

Five smart, talented, wise and committed

Young women join me on the committee.

We constantly seek ways to nurture our congregation

And our community.

Reaching out to young families

With new ideas and activities

And working to support the foundation

That so many have known for so long.

So how do we keep all the balls in the air?

How do we keep what matters

And still make room for innovation?

How do we decide what is important

Enough to keep

And what to let go of?

How does one generation

Graciously encourage the next?












Filed under Generations, Timing, Uncategorized



The last  few weeks I’ve spent removing the blanket of leaves from my garden.

It’s a tedious but necessary task.

Last fall John mowed up the leaves from the yard

And dumped them on my garden.

It’s a natural way to protect the garden from winter.

I’m grateful he took the time to chop and distribute all those leaves.


But once spring begins.

It’s time to remove the blanket

And let the sunshine in.

This is not a quick haphazard job.

It needs to be done carefully

To protect the tender shoots

Emerging from their winter’s sleep.

The new life that is sprouting forth.


As a result I spend hours on the ground

At eye level

Observing miracle after miracle.


Nurturing the garden

And my soul.


Each spring I am in awe of this process.

What may look like a garden of dirt one week

Will quickly begin to unfurl

With hope.

And hope does not disappoint us.



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Filed under Ferns, Gardening, Gardening;Perennials, Hosta, Peonies, spring, Spring Clean Up, Timing, Winter Garden



This is the time of year that really messes with my head.

On Friday it was cold

And wet

And windy.

Frost and freeze warnings

Running through our part of the state.

But…it’s only mid October.

We should have at least 2 more weeks before a freeze

Maybe as long as a month.

So do I believe the forecast.

Drag all those ferns inside

Depriving them of a few more weeks

Of open air and sunshine.

Because once they are in

They are in.

Too heavy to lug back and forth.

Or do I just cover them for the night.

I opted for the later


And got lucky.


But basil is a different story

It begins to pout at anything below 50 degrees.

So I cut it all

And put it in the sink

Awaiting the energy to make it into pesto.

The red pesto is done.


But the green is more labor intensive.

So here we are on Sunday night.

Still with a sink full of basil.


Maybe tonight.

But it’s the front yard

That truly suffers from

Horticultural Confusion!

You’ll notice I haven’t written much about Hydrangea this summer

That’s because after not 1 or 2

But 4 freezes stretching to the very last day of April

My Hydrangea have bloomed very little this year.

Until now.

So as the mums, which line the front of the hydrangea bed,

Are budding and blooming.

So are the Hydrangea.


Thankfully for the most part they are in the same color family

So it seems to work.


Then there’s the true front yard mystery.


Growing along the grassy edge

Of the new bed John created

On the front landing.



I’ve never planted it here.

The closest would be the pot on the landing

But how did it jump so far?

And that my friends is what I love about gardening.

The mystery.

No need for answers

Just revel in the mystery.




Filed under Basil, Boxwood, container gardening, Fall, Ferns, Gardening, Hydrangea, Lettuce, Timing, Uncategorized



For years I’ve planted tulips along the path to my garden house.

I’ve chosen to cluster them all there

Rather than dotting them around the garden

The effect is quite good.

Even dramatic in a good year.


I’ve also hosted many spring parties in my garden

But I’ve never gotten the two events coordinated.

Until this year.

Back in January we began planning a bridal shower for my friend Gay’s daughter.

The best day was last Saturday, April 20th.

Gay asked if my tulips would still be blooming.


No chance I replied.

I’ve never known tulips to last that long.

Now this is the latest and coolest spring I can remember.

In fact, there is yet another freeze predicted for next week.

So the tulips began to bloom.

And bloom and bloom.

They have lived through no less than 4 overnight freezes

Including one complete with ICE!

They’ve just kept on keeping on.

Flushed with sunlight

And backed with still blooming Redbud trees.

Ali and Friends

Ali and Friends

Yesterday they really strutted their stuff.

Which only means one thing.

I want to plant more next year!


PS:  Hopefully after the final “last freeze” next week we’ll get to really dig in and start gardening!

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Filed under Bridal Showers, Garden House, Redbud Trees, spring, Spring Flowering Bulbs, Timing, tulips, Uncategorized


Yesterday I took a friend on a little tour through my garden.

Frankly, it was embarrassing.

I knew I hadn’t spent much time in my garden

For weeks.

But I hadn’t realized what bad shape it was in.

It has a major case of “the flops”.

Between the rain

And Peg looking for bunny rabbits

Plants – especially cockscomb – have fallen down everywhere.

Paths are almost impassable.

Weeds are well…being weedy.

It isn’t pretty.

Luckily, today was a spectacular day.

Cool with a high of around 65 degrees.

And cloudy all day long.

So I spent the day doing what I should have done all along the way.

Cutting back

Pulling out.

I think I have mentioned before

I have a problem of shall we say “editing”.

I let too many tiny seedlings

Grow into giant plants.

Too much of a good thing like cockscomb

Will strangle even a rose bush.

Rosa Julia Child and New England Asters

Rosa Julia Child and New England Asters

Tomato plants run amuck

Will completely shade other plants into oblivion.

So even though it’s very late in the season.

I’m whacking away.

Hopefully they’ll be time for all of this to recover.

And just in case there isn’t.

I’m throwing lettuce seed in all the empty spaces.

It’s a little late for that, too.

But what the heck

You never know

If you don’t try.

So the lesson here is simple.

From time to time

You have to cut things back

Or completely pull them up and compost them.

Begin again.

As the decades roll by its harder and harder to do that.

At least for me.

Familiar is comfortable.


But then you end up living in the shade of your past.

You just don’t grow as much in that shade.

Not good

For roses

Or for people.

Fall officially begins next week.



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Filed under cockscomb, Compost, Fall, Gardening, Gardening Friends, late summer garden, Lettuce, roses, Timing, Uncategorized




Sometimes it’s hard to know when to let go

To give up.

To move on.

John and I are that way about trees.

We love trees

Of all sizes.

So it’s been hard – especially for me

To admit that we have two trees in our yard

That are dying.

The Redbud I mentioned in an earlier post.

We’ve thought it to be the most likely to go down first.

All the while knowing the Mimosa at the entrance to our backyard.

Is sick.

We think it was planted sometime in the late 50’s or early 60’s.

At least according to Cindy who grew up in this house.

That means that it has lived almost a double life.

Twice as long as the 30 year average of most Mimosa trees.

It has as they say great bones.

Architectural branches that form a graceful canopy

Near the Wisteria covered pergola.

Leading into the garden.

This is after all the “front door” of the garden.

Where you enter if you are coming to

A bridal shower, an Easter Egg hunt, a garden party.

Or if you are looking for me

When it’s above 50 degrees outside.

But it’s more than just the “hostess”  of the backyard.

It’s our childhoods.

If you grew up in this part of the country

You likely have a Mimosa tree

In your memory.

Though not native to this country.

They have enjoyed a popularity embedded into our horticultural souls.

I think of them as a 50’s thing.

Along with harvest gold appliances

And gingham checks!

Now, I know some consider them “trash trees”

And, I’ll admit that they do drop a series of

Seed pods,

Frothy blooms

And leaves

Everywhere the wind blows.

I personally have pulled up 1,687,543 baby Mimosa trees.

But they bloom as the hummingbirds are migrating through.

And they are drawn to each other.

Providing great dinner time entertainment.

For us and the birds.

We had a plan.

I let one of those baby Mimosa seedlings go this year.

And it has grown…and grown.

In one season it is over 5′ tall.

Our intention was to plant it near its mother

And as nature took its course.

It would grow and replace the dying tree.

A natural transition.

Made sense to us.

Until one afternoon last week.

When out of the blue

A major branch just dropped to the ground.

When we examined the split

It brought very sad news.

Let me back up a few weeks.

Sometime in July

This tree began to “foam at the branch”.

A white, frothy, sticky substance

Just began to ooze out of it.

And we noticed the bark was splitting.

But we had hope because new branches

Were suckering all along the old.

John shifted into research mode

And discovered that it is suffering from

Mimosa Vascular Wilt

This is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f sp. perniciosum.

Which is weird because Peg had a fungus the same week!

But unlike Peg’s fungus the tree fungus is terminal.

Quickly – within months usually.

And remember our tree is ancient.

It’s a soil born fungus that is being spread by contaminated soil

In nursery containers.

Which explains why Mimosa sales are outlawed in some states.

And to add insult to injury

It can also spread via seeds produced by infected trees.

So not only is the mother dying.

I have to kill her child.

It would have been a good week not to have internet available for research!

We simply can not figure a way to have another Mimosa tree.

We have to let go.

We will wait till fall for the next dreaded step.

Give her and the hummingbirds these waning days of summer.

To enjoy each other’s company.

To soak in another August afternoon rain.

To great visitors coming to the garden.

So this week while Jason and Torry took the first step

In letting go as Cassidy gleefully headed to kindergarten

John and I were next door at a different stage

Letting go in a different way.

Life has such synergy.



Filed under Fungus, Garden Planning, Gardening, Hummingbird, Mimosa Tree, Mimosa Vascular Wilt, Timing, Uncategorized, Wisteria

Over Mothering or Under Mothering???



Years ago a friend and I used to joke about how we were mothered.

Both raised in the 50’s and 60’s

We marveled at the different styles of mothering we experienced.

We dubbed her mother’s style as “over mothering”

And mine as “under mothering”

Looking back all these years later

I realize that we were both young & wrong.

Her mother had 4 children

It’s not humanly possible to “over mother” with 4 children.

My mother had 3 children, my grandfather living with us

And no running water!

Who am I to judge.

But the truth is we all wonder if we are doing this right.

We even have those moments when our children are grown.

Which brings me to this year’s tomato plants.

The last 2 summers have produced maybe a dozen tomatoes in the entire state.

Just not good tomato growing weather.

But this year is different

People are raving about their tomato crops

And rightly so.

My uncle George has such a bumper crop

George's Tomatoes

George’s Tomatoes

He’s even more popular at the retirement village he lives in.

And a healthy 88-year-old man was pretty popular to begin with!

Then there’s my house!

Let me give you a little history.

I was determined to have a good tomato year.

So I started my plants early – like January.

As they grew I kept potting them in bigger pots

So that I would have big healthy plants to put in the ground.

And I did.

I even located extra tall – 8″ tall – peat pots to achieve this goal.

Then when mid-March was acting like mid-April

And everyone else was digging their plants into the ground.

I chose to protect mine from what I was certain would be a late frost.

Never happened.

Which means I “over mothered” them at that stage.

I kept in that mode when I finally did plant them

Making sure that they had crushed egg shells

In the bottom of each appropriately deep hole

For all those deep roots.

I even used a new – to me – organic fertilizer as I planted.

Then I left them alone – “under mothering”

They grew and grew

And began to bloom – lots of blooms.

It’s getting really exciting at this point.

Then the blooms began to turn brown

And fall off.

Every single bloom

On every single plant

Except for one

What is going on?

June was a perfect tomato month

All I have to show for it

Is about a dozen tomatoes on one plant.

And 4 large happy tomato-less plants.

I’ve tried everything.

Jerry Baker’s tomato tonic of epsom salts and baby shampoo.

My friend Virginia’s solution of a Tums (calcium) allowed to melt into the roots.

So far I can’t see any change.

If anyone has other ideas.

Let me know.

So…are they suffering from “over mothering”

Or…”under mothering”

The truth is we all are probably guilty of both at some time.

It’s hard to know when to move forward

And when to pull back.

A minister once told me that

“All parenting is incomplete

We do the best we can

God will take care of the rest.”

Perhaps the same is true of growing tomatoes!


At least the Daisies are happy!

At least the Daisies are happy!


Filed under Garden Planning, Gardening, Motherhoos, Timing, Tomato, Uncategorized


Rosa Colorific on it's second round of blooms

Rosa Colorific on it’s second round of blooms

This has been the most incredible spring.

It began early

and is lingering.

I love it.

Lilies and Larkspur

Lilies and Larkspur

It seems we haven’t had a freeze since almost Valentine’s Day.

The result is one of the prettiest springs I can remember.

It also means that my plants are blooming way ahead of schedule.

At least 3 maybe 4 weeks ahead.

A fast forward spring.

People were picking tomatoes on Memorial Day for heaven’s sake.

All of this means I’ve hit that “peaceful puttering time” early.

The “peaceful puttering time” is when the rush of spring ends.

Everything is planted.

And moved.

And tucked in to grow.

So now begins the first big weeding sweep.

Last Summer's Zinnias

Last Summer’s Zinnias

When the weeds are gone I”ve sprinkled zinnia and cosmos seeds.

And this year the cosmos seeds are actually sprouting.

Especially where I dropped an entire pack of seeds!

Puttering also includes deadheading.

Gloriosa Daisies

Gloriosa Daisies

Which is often done on my morning walk through the garden.

This year I’m also taking an oath to truly thin out the cockscomb.

You remember cockscomb.

It absolutely takes over the garden in fall.

So I’m determined to manage it better this year.

We’ll see.

Then there is the field of nut grass moving toward the strawberry patch.

It is the hardest weed to get rid of.

If  you pull it up

It multiplies.

So as much as I hate to admit it I’m going to spray it with round-up.

It’s the only way over the years that I’ve found to rid it from my garden.

I promise not to use much.

Next I think I’ll tackle the area around my compost bins.

It’s filled with this spring’s empty pots

And last falls end of season leaves and stuff

That hasn’t hit the composter yet.

I’ll stake up a few of those Orienput lilies I planted last fall.

Their heavy budding heads  are drooping.

My other weekend task is to move some mums around in the front bed.

We reconfigured it a bit earlier in the spring

So I need to move some to fill in gaps here and there.

As you can see there is a different pace in the garden.


Less list driven.

More relaxed.

Easy days to putter

And play.

And enjoy.

I plan to take it all in.


Hope you have some puttering time in your week.


P.S.  Here are a few pictures of last weekend’s wedding.  Thanks for the pictures, Pat.

My nephew Will

My nephew Will

Dinner by the Big Pond


Filed under cockscomb, Compost, Cosmos, Dead Heading, Gardening, Gardening;Perennials, Orienpet Lilies, Timing, TRANSPLANTING, Uncategorized, Zinnia