Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grab a pen and notebook!

Fall, the time of year when it’s finally cool enough to venture outside and take account of what has survived the most horrific summer on record. A gentle cool breeze dances across my skin as I slowly stroll through the gardens.
Taking notes, I pen which plants or trees need removed and which ones made the “hero” list. Noting the early leaf color changes of the ‘Autumn Blaze’ and ‘October Glory’ Maples, I smile; until a closer inspection show bag worms remain on my most valued deciduous trees. Those will have to go, so I furiously scratch a To Do note to myself on my notebook and move on with a scowl.
My attention deficit disorder will get the best of me if I can’t stay on track so I make a list of things to accomplish and move out with military-like efficiency. First, I prioritize what needs immediate attention then return later to do the manual labor. It’s a fall ritual of mine. Okay, so I like to make lists, but this one is important. The spring, summer and winter lists are too, but fall is a crucial plant, prune and plan time. Consider incorporating list-making into your fall schedule as well. It will remind you what to do and remind you of what you have accomplished. I usually put a single line through an item when I have completed it. If I am feeling braggadocios I will include the date and how much time was needed to get the job done. 
Today I scribble the words, “seed collecting, round up and pruning.”  I’ll get to those eventually. Oh! Look at the pretty butterflies! See, I told you. Distractions! The monarchs are making their annual pilgrimage to Mexico and I’ll admit, I wish I could go along.  Instead, I’ll take several photos of the intricately designed little creatures as they linger on my ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum. I love butterflies; they are so delicate and graceful, flittering around me as if they know I’m only here to admire them. Competing with them for nectar are the bumble bees, honey bees, red wasps and something that looks like a yellow jacket. One of those hateful little fliers stung me today while I was doing some general clean up in the flower beds. I don’t know which one, but sakes alive, it hurt!
Okay, enough side-tracking; back to recording copious garden chore notes. I put my game face on and round the corner of the house only to be assaulted by the most glorious antique rose scent. Heavenly! I pause to dip my nose into the deep red petals and inhale. Ah! How I adore the re-blooming roses; almost as much as I do the precocious pineapple salvia or the clamoring-for-attention crapemyrtles. I toss my notebook aside. Some days are just meant to be enjoyed not over-analyzed, criticized or categorized. Fall is glorious in Oklahoma, enjoy it while it lasts!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just two things!

It’s a good thing I wasn’t packing heat the day an unwelcomed stranger came to call on me. There are some situations where a firearm will do more harm than good. This was such a situation, I remember it like this. I had worked all day and was rewarding myself with a few minutes of quiet relaxation. Sitting on the back porch I had taken my dusty boots off and had stretched out on a cushioned bench airing my toes, enjoying a cool beverage and reading a murder mystery. The cool evening hours of early fall had lured me outside. My book was riveting; the characters had come alive on the pages and in my mind’s eye I was skimming along the windy cliff of a coastal city with the heroine, piecing together the clues. Bouncing around in the yard was my goofy little dog. She has many names, but the one we call her the most is, “Bug.” She’s so fat she can hardly move, but to watch her you would think we never feed her because she is constantly eating some helpless little bug: hence the name. On this particular day I was ignoring her while I decompressed from a day of hard labor. Don’t laugh! Occasionally I am required to exert myself.  I had been on the gun range all day and had been on my feet the entire time. Close to exhaustion, I collapsed on the back porch needing some alone time before the family arrived from their day of work and school. You know those days when not only your body is tired, but your mind is as well? That was me. I needed two things at the moment; peace and harmony. They usually go hand in hand and are more often than not found in my gardens. Being outside would have to suffice as I was too tired to stumble amongst the stonecrop or trip amidst the thyme. Nearing the end of a chapter I was totally engrossed in the story. One hand held my hard back book the other held my drink, gratefully, in a plastic cup. I paused in my reading to raise the cup to my lips when my eyes caught sight of the fat dog bouncing up and down in the yard like a rabbit. She was only a few feet away from me and just off the concrete porch. I lowered my drink to investigate what she was after when the largest tarantula I have ever seen (in captivity or otherwise) jumped onto the porch and began scurrying directly toward me with Bug in hot pursuit. Now I am going to pause right here and tell you a little something about me that I hope we can keep just between us. I am terrified of spiders, any and all spiders.  The chaos that followed is one that I am not real proud of so I won’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it. I think it would be safe to say that we all learned a lesson that day. Me, I learned that screaming at the dog to stop attacking a tarantula doesn’t produce results, the hideous arachnid learned not to come out of hiding during the daylight and Bug, well she learned those hairy creatures are not very tasty. She could be seen for several minutes after her “meal” eating blades of grass. I’m assuming she did so in an attempt to get the foul taste out of her mouth. Days after the traumatic event, I researched the Oklahoma tarantula and found that they are considered beneficial and are not harmful (at least not directly harmful) to humans or pets. In fact, most spiders are beneficial. Steer clear of black widows and brown recluse though as those can be painful and possibly make you sick. In closing, let me encourage you as I have tried to convince myself that spiders serve a needed purpose in the food chain. We can co-exist peacefully if not harmoniously.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Questions to Ponder

While walking downtown Guthrie last week a lady I’d never seen before stepped out of an antique store and began walking with me. She mentioned this gardening article, and then surprised me by asking how long I have been gardening, I paused midstride to consider the answer. I stood with my head slightly cocked off to the side, my eyes wandered to the sky above me searching for the answer. Finally, for flair, I crossed my arms and used a single bony index finger to lure the answer into my right temple by tapping. Master gardeners want to give the correct answer to every question, so it’s important to think questions through thoroughly before answering or at least to appear to be doing so (That’s Master Gardener 101.) “I guess I’ve only been gardening since about 1996,” I finally admitted. I remember feeling my shoulders sag as if I had confessed to some personal failure. The person asking the question seemed impressed though. She smiled broadly, nodded her head and asked a few more questions, told me about her gardening experiences and then was gone. As I continued on down the sidewalk, I began to think about the meaning of the question. Often we feel like we need to qualify our experience or relevance by mentioning how long we have been in performance of any activity. As if time determines our competency. As a gardener you probably know that it’s a life long journey of learning and growing for you and your plants. I’ve accepted the fact that I will never know all there is to know about the plants that I love. But I learn more everyday especially when I’m knee deep in the garden, swatting at bugs, with dirt in my gloves, under my nails and sometimes even in my hair. So no matter where you are in your gardening career let me encourage you to never quit learning. Explore the on-line world of OSU Fact Sheets that will provide you with a plethora of information on any and every topic you could possibly think of. http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/HomePage As for me, I guess I’ll spend some time picking out spring flowering bulbs. Fall and early winter is the time to plant those little babies. Should you be wondering what I’ll be planting, I’m considering the usual; tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocus, Grecian windflowers, grape hyacinths and maybe some lilies and alliums. Funny thing is, should that lady of asked me that, I wouldn’t have even had to stop to think about the answer, not to mention the demonstrative tapping of the finger against the noggin. Oh! I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done it, but it wouldn’t have been necessary to come up with the answer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guthrie Gardening

As if the merciless heat and the punishing drought weren’t enough to drive this Oklahoma gardener crazy, now we are contending with hateful raging wild fires. All across our beautiful, but stricken state we have seen hundreds of acres burnt and many people displaced. I for one have had enough. I’ve had my bags packed for weeks, ready to move somewhere cooler and somewhere wetter. But after looking at the national forecast, I’m saddened to say that such a place does not exist on this planet. With the addition of the seething wild fires, a transformation has begun to occur within me, a conversion of sorts if you will. Instead of running away, I’ve decided to dig my heels in. I’ve drawn a hard line in my crusty back yard and I refuse to be moved. In anticipation of your disbelief, I have listed a few accomplishments to prove my point. On the rare occasions where it has rained this year, I caught precious rain water in plastic rain barrels. I use that water to soak my house’s foundation and water any plant material that is within 100 feet of my house. It’s called being firewise. By removing any flammable plants that contain resins, oils and waxes from within 30 feet of my little ponderosa, I can reduce the chance of a wildfire burning my home to a pile of ashes. It’s also important to move or remove things that can burn easily like firewood, dead and dense vegetation. Speaking of vegetation, if you happen to be fortunate enough to have any plants still alive, congratulations! You are in the minority. This fall you may consider replacing some of your lost babies with some shrubs and flowering plants that can tolerate dry sites, just in case we have another summer like this one. Shrubs such as; Abelia, Rose-of Sharon, Japanese barberry, Yucca, Indian hawthorn, Firethorn and Yaupon holly will tolerate dry conditions and thrive once established. Annual flowers that also do well in similar circumstances are zinnia, cosmos and petunia. If you are a rose lover like I am, then consider planting an old fashioned rose such as hybrid perpetual, Rugosa, and shrub roses. These require less overall care than some of the hybrid tea types. Whatever you decide to replant with, keep the firewise tips in mind. You can get more information on being firewise at www.firewise.org. Let my semi-conversion and personal commitment to stick it out here in Oklahoma, be an encouragement to you in your Guthrie Gardening endeavors.