Dahlias and Tomatoes

If you gather sunshine, the smell of dirt and the essence of summer into a mixing bowl and tap it with a magic wand, I am positive a tomato would be the outcome. A fresh grown tomato cannot be imitated and proof of that is found in grocery stores in the dead of winter. Forget sub-zero temperatures, blizzards and ice storms..tasteless strawberries and tomatoes are the worst thing about winter.

I often imagine the reaction of the first person in history who discovered the tomato.  A big high five to them for picking a red ball off a plant and daring to take a bite!  I think tomatoes are especially tasty when  they are still warm, fresh from the vine in the sun and summer air. If you can’t tell, I love tomatoes almost as much as I love red wine….although I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned on my blog that I love red wine.

This year I planted Dahlia Boom Boom Red and tomatoes in my raised beds with the intention of the reds playing off each other visually. I know which one tastes better, but I’m not sure which is more delicious looking! Dahlias look great in the garden and they make pretty cut flowers in vases. I’ve never grown dahlias from tubers, so when I first planted them I thought to myself “This is never going to work.” But it did, and I’m pleased with the results!

Tomatoes and Dahlias

I will be enjoying my dahlias inside soon enough, unfortunately, I have not been able to enjoy my tomatoes much this year. Last year I planted too many tomatoes and in order to make room for my dahlias, I opted to only grow 2 plants. It was not enough.

I am always on the look out for critters eating my tomatoes because I think a skunk or raccoon took off with a few last year. This year I have another tomato stealer in my garden….. this super cute little sprite!

Ayla and tomato

I’ve seen her get out of bed on these lazy summer mornings, walk out in the back yard in her pajamas and help herself to breakfast. She is on constant tomato watch….looking for that red siren announcing ripeness from her bedroom window. She pulls them off the plant and eats them like an apple before I can harvest them! Next  year she will plant her own tomato plant(s) so that mommy can have some too! I’m awfully smitten with her and with a face like that (she told me this is her ‘sneaky tomato stealing face)….she can have them all. 🙂  I will miss summer and the tomato plants because then I will have to go back to cooking for her. Motherhood is a sacrifice!

Garden Projects Take Root – Part 1

Peony in the garden
My peonies are in their 3rd year and my patience has paid off. I had beautiful, huge peony flowers grown from tubers.

I love gardening, but unfortunately my projects this year have taken a long time to take root. Between work, end of the school year, baseball, soccer and altogether not so great weather here in West Michigan, my garden is on the slow track to blooming. I’m happy to say that over last weekend I was able to get hundreds of spring planted bulbs in my landscape. Better late than never!

Garden bed project
Front landscape beds will bloom with dahlias and caladium. All those little plastic bags are full of potential! This bed curves up to the porch and all the way around the house.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it before, but I have the best job in the whole world. It feeds my need for creativity and gardening. I’m the Creative Director for a flower bulb company and every spring, fall and winter they send me flowers! In turn, I get to work with a fabulous, energetic group of people who are passionate about the business and have a really great sense of style. I may be bias because I have had the privilege to help shape their corporate identity, packaging, messages and website and they have great taste in design. Anyway, back to feeding my gardening habit….

Front Porch
Front porch pots are filled with caladium & begonias.

Last week, two very heavy boxes filled with potential arrived on my doorstep. When I opened them up I was like a kid on Christmas morning! If you’ve never smelled a box of flower bulbs and perennials, I recommend ordering just so that you can experience it. It’s like  a big box of dirt-scented optimism and excitement. It wasn’t until this past weekend that I was able to get inside and sort, organize, plan and get dirty!

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Begonia tubers in the hanging basket before covering with soil.

I have never planted spring bulbs and tubers in such masses before but if I’m going to contribute to the photography and experience of the company I work for, I need to plant my part! I have a base of my favorite perennials in my landscape and I usually buy pink and purple annuals with companion plants for the beds and front pots. This year I planted pink begonias in my hanging basket and caladium with begonias in pots. Caladium and dahlias I planted in masses along the front landscape bed. In my shade bed to the left of the garage, I planted liatris to fill the space where a failed hydrangea and rose bush used to be (I transplanted in an actual full sun location….like I should have planted them in the beginning).

I write about this gardening stuff all the time…so why am I worried that I didn’t do it right? I kept thinking to myself “If this works, it’s going to be a miracle.” I think that has to be the way our customers feel sometimes too. To say the least, it was a humbling new experience. I just look at those little tubers and bulbs and I can’t help but wonder how in the world that’s ever going to turn into what they show on the website. BUT…it will!

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If all goes well, these pots will be brimming with shade loving flowers and foliage in the next few weeks.

In the back yard I planted callas, cannas, elephant ear, dahlias and lilies….but that will be Part 2 I will share with you later. I have a friend who says her favorite outdoor activity is going back inside. After 5 hours, hundreds of bulbs, lots of dirt and a sunburn later, I felt the same way and headed inside to my air conditioned house, a shower and a cocktail. If it all works the way it’s supposed to, I will be enjoying the blooms that came in those boxes of hope and optimism.  If it doesn’t, I can find out what I did wrong and not do that again next year. At least I got a tan.

I hope you are all enjoying the wonderful weather and doing what you love to do!

Bloom on!

A Living Fence In The Fishbowl

My back yard is HOT. I mean, really, really, hot. All plants are classified as shade, part shade and/or full sun. They need to come up with a new category for outdoors spaces like my back yard….bloody hot. It also gets pretty moist back there because  I think the developer of the neighborhood hired 14 year old kids to plan and grade the land before they built these balsa wood houses, so water tends to pool in my backyard. I may be exaggerating….I’m confident any 14 year old could do a better job. I’m totally off topic but I’m sure you can tell that I think the developers were morons (and so did the 3 landscape professionals we consulted before I had 3 additional water tiles installed).

I also have a bit of a privacy issue. The ASSociation will not allow fences, so I live in a fishbowl where everyone has full view into everyone’s lives…er, I mean houses. I am on a quest to create privacy that the higher powers will ‘allow.’ I am going to keep adding to my garden until I grow some privacy. My kids LOVE this neighborhood and at the time, I thought it would be a good idea. I love to see my kids happy, so I wear sunglasses and talk to the dog a lot when I’m outside. When you talk to a dog, people assume you’re crazy or busy and I’m ok with either.

Fortunately, I’m an optimist and I have a good sense of humor (and a lot of wine). For every challenge there is always a silver lining!!! Hibiscus, tall grasses, peonies, callas and elephant ear grow so beautifully in my back yard. My raspberry bushes LOVE it back there and my raised vegetable beds get plentiful sun! I like my house both inside and out….somedays I just wish it was positioned on 10 acres of nothingness.

I took this picture at Disney in ‘France’ last May and thought it would work great in my back yard!  I know succulents would grow and thrive in the heat in my back yard, as long as they aren’t planted IN the ground, so I have decided to grow them in a vertical garden around the patio.

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This is the perfect way to define the space to create a little more privacy. Do you think the ASSociation would have a problem with this vertical garden if it was 7ft tall?

“Go Random Stranger, Go!”

MothersDay

Last Thursday morning one of my besties called me at around 7:30am. I answered right away thinking it had to be an emergency and it was….she had an idea. The conversation went something like this:

BF: You wanna run the River Bank on Saturday?

Me: 10k?

BF: No

Me: Not the 5k.

BF: Nope.

Me: Are you crazy?

BF: Yep.

Me: Ok, I’m in.

I hung up and realized I’d just said yes to running a 25k that neither her nor I had ‘formally’ trained for. We showed up on Friday afternoon for late registration, laughing along the way. Turns out, we had a great time and made the 15.5 miles in under our anticipated pace. It also helped that we are both too stubborn NOT to finish.

If you’ve ever run a major event like this, you know that the crowd is one of the highlights. People line the streets cheering with their hand made signs, music and high fives. My personal favorites were “Go Random Stranger, Go!” “Smile if you aren’t wearing underwear” and “Worst Parade Ever.” There were others that elicited a good chuckle and one that was just so completely unpolitically correct that I think I only laughed because I was delusional at mile 13. Ok, I admit I laugh at inappropriate things all the time and will probably go to hell for the things I find funny. Overall it was a lot of fun and I’m glad I said yes. 🙂

When I got home I was greeted by my daughter who gave me the recap of their 4th loss and my son who forgave me for missing his baseball game and his 5th big win. He handed me a rose and wished me a happy mother’s day. I felt like a rockstar! Not because I finished a 25k (although that was pretty cool)…but because I am mom to some awesome little peeps.

To all the mom’s who think everyday is mother’s day and for all you do…..“GO RANDOM STRANGER, GO!”

Life in the Landscape Beds

lilac bloom

I love hard work, but I have to admit I loathe edging the landscape beds. However, behind every dreaded chore there is the opportunity to see things up close and personal that you normally wouldn’t see while sipping cocktails in comfort on the patio. While edging one of my many landscape beds, I was leaning over mumbling obscenities to the shovel and grass that has overgrown. In the midst of my quiet complaining, I looked up and noticed pretty green buds all over my lilac bush. I stopped grumbling and smiled.

I love working in the garden because it really does reflect real life. Life is full of hard work and painful truths (the equivalent of edging landscape beds), but once you get up close and personal with those realities, you can see little buds of new hope and life. Even after a hard winter, nature and life can still bloom beautifully.

There are many things to look forward to, as long as we keep looking up while edging the landscape beds.

A Dog, a Chipmunk and the Tulips That Will Never Be

Tulips are beautiful. I absolutely LOVE tulips. We’ve had an abnormally late start to spring, so not much more than my daffodils and crocus are blooming right now. Considering today is 82 degrees, I think spring took so long to show up, summer decided she was done waiting around for that diva and stole the show.

DaffodilsWell hello there sunshine and beacon of spring!

Tulips are the grand finale in the spring garden show for me….except not this year. Last fall I planted hundreds of tulip bulbs in my landscape. There has been a TON of rain here in West Michigan, so I haven’t been able to keep up with spraying them for deer and critters. Fortunately, the spray I was able to keep on my landscape beds successfully kept the deer out. Sadly, it did not keep the chipmunk that lives under the porch from enjoying a buffet of delicious bulbs.

Tulips, spring 2012Tulips of spring past.

I have a dog. She is 80lbs of pure fun, love and laughs. When her and I head out on our runs, she unintentionally satisfies my interval training. Running with Maggie goes something like this…SPRINT! (squirrel)….STOP (pee)….SPRINT! (rabbit)….run slow (sniff)….repeat. So, I find it incredibly ironic that this brilliant puppy who wants to chase everything knows how to sit, shake, heel, lay down and knows what ‘treat,’ ‘pancake’ and ‘go wake up the kids’ means cannot keep a darn chipmunk out of my garden. I had an old cat who did a better job at keeping the local wildlife in line better than this big old chocolate lab. Maggie looks big and scary, her bark sounds vicious, she’s not afraid of thunder or deer and she will jump into any pool of water. But can she protect the tulips? Nope. I have no tulips, but I have the love of a big old sweetheart.

Maggie

“What? Oh, you mean I’m supposed to chase things when I’m OFF the leash too?”

What I Loved About Winter

Based on the last couple of posts, I maybe have been too hard on winter. Maybe. Or maybe I’m just saying that because it was finally warm today and I’m feeling less bitter about winter lasting until the final week of April. Either way, I wanted to share a visual of what I loved most about winter.

Amaryllis LagoonMeet Amaryllis Lagoon. I planted about 15 amaryllis bulbs in vases and containers this winter and this bloom surprised and impressed me. With a bloom size of a little over 8″ across and 2 strong, tall stems that bursted with FIVE blooms, I was speechless (I know, shocking). The dark coral bloom looked like it was almost painted by fairies with little paintbrushes of sparkles. It was so beautiful, it looked fake. The bulb size was 34cm….so if you are looking for any kind of success in an amaryllis, size matters! I planted 32/34cm and  28/30cm sized bulbs. Both sized bulbs were big, both sized bulbs produced an impressive display, but the larger bulb by far made me big bulb loyal for life.

Close up amaryllis LagoonI had a nice array of beautiful colors because there are so many different ones to choose from. If you’re in the market for some fabulous amaryllis to enjoy some indoor gardening, I got mine here.

Indoor winter gardening with giant, tropical and colorful blooms is a great way to pass the winter months.

Forcing Spring

It’s been a really, really long winter here in West Michigan. Too long. Winter is lingering so long that I think we deserve summer until November. It has seemed like an endless winter, but that didn’t stop me from starting my spring planting indoors.

I’ve heard begonias are fickle and difficult to grow. Fortunately, Longfield Gardens absolutely rocks and sent out this fantastic begonia growing kit to all of their favorite people. First of all, it feels good to be on of the ‘favorite people’ list.  Second, this actually worked!

Begonia tuber grow kitGrowing plants is a humbling experience. However, this experience left me feeling like a rock star! Just look at that little sprout and that magical greenhouse effect created by the terrarium! Ok, so it’s not ‘magic.’ Humor me and just grow with it.  If the weather ever warms up, I’m going to have some pretty little porch pots with pretty little begonias! I also have a really cool terrarium and dish for next winter when I’ve had enough of snow and am in need of seeing something grow.

Bloom on!

For the Love of Gardening

GardenLove

About the same time I originally started this blog, my life took a totally expected, but still challenging, detour. Since that time, I’ve let the things I love lapse. I  regained my balance  (as balanced as possible…but still wobbly) and I’ve realized that no matter what happens in life, everyone I love is healthy and near. I have my children, my parents, my friends, my cat and my dog. I love these people so dearly and they fill my days with spontaneous bursts of laughter and tears, but I realized I am missing 2 things: 1) running and 2) writing. Since gardening is in my blood…and engrained in my career…I said to myself “Go running and get writing!”

I have to admit I put it off a bit. The worst thing a blogger can do is start a blog and then abandon it. I’ve learned that writing is probably very much like running. The first step out the door is the hardest and it can take time to build the habit and endurance back up. Well, here I am trying to do both (for the running and the writing).

crocus

Like the last 6 months of my life, this spring is taking a really long time to come around and just be nice. If it’s not snowing it’s raining, if it’s not raining  it’s flooding and if it’s not flooding it’s windy and if it’s none of the above, it’s just plain cold. Fortunately, last fall I planted a ton of bulbs and the crocus don’t seem to care that it snowed last week.

I think there is a lot I can learn from a crocus. It’s time to bloom on.

Autumn Renewal

A stunning showcase of fall color on the Thornapple River.

Most people consider spring the season of renewal, but I’ve always considered autumn the season that the red carpet is rolled out for better things to come. This is especially true in the garden. Fall is the time to prepare the dirt, put to rest last garden season’s blunders and build on past successes. The garden is one of the few places that you can start over or improve on what you have, to create something extraordinary in the years to come. Fall gives us an opportunity to lay the dirt (or what I consider the ‘red carpet’) and prepare to welcome spring in a grand, blooming fashion.

In West Michigan, the air is crisp, the leaves have turned pretty shades of red, gold and orange and many trees have lost their leaves to reveal beautiful twists of woody branches. My sweaters, jeans and boots have made their way out of the back of my closet and a fresh shipment of bulbs have arrived from Longfield Gardens! I still have some clean up to do in my garden & landscape, but opening up that box of bulbs is more exciting for me than Christmas morning is for my children.

I’ve been wondering what to do with those overgrown raspberry bushes since August, but I’ll worry about that in the spring when my tulip blooms motivate me to work on those summer shrubs. In the meantime, I have some happy digging to do.

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