Garden Rows

Friday, August 26

Lanky Lilac

There is a large, overgrown lilac bush in my back yard.  When I moved into this house it was hardly noticeable for the forest of other overgrown plants.  The critters loved the safety of the branches that reached down to the ground.  

I think my landlord got tired of mowing around it all and just trimmed things back.  The evergreen bushes (the kind that are infront of any house from the 60's or 70's) are trimmed up about 4 feet so they now look like funny trees.  The lilac was pruned back with force as well.  It needed it.  It still bloomed even.  This summer I looked up info on pruning lilac bushes.  Really, it is pretty simple.  Mostly it is about the timing.  You don't want to wait too late after the blooms fade.  They set next spring's buds shortly after this years flowers fade.  I kinda missed that window! so I opted to just cut out the dead twigs and branches.

It is amazing what cutting out leafless chunks did for the looks of the lilac!  Don't get me wrong, it still looks like an old, overgrown shrub, but it looks a bit healthier now.  There is a bit of poison ivy on the ground near by, so I was careful to avoid it as I was wearing flip-flops and have a reaction to the pretty little three leafed vine.  As I was was snipping away in the bows of the shrub, I realized there were vines growing up and into the large evergreen mentioned earlier right over my head.

I was careful to avoid contact with these vines as well because I was having trouble deciding if there was poison ivy here, too, or if it was just creeping virginia.  Better to stay out of this pile of spaghetti  to stay on the less itchy safe side!  For the record, I know these leaves are not poison ivy.  They are just kinda cool looking!

I think I got some of these vines at the base, so they will die back soon and not be competing with the lilac.  You may have noticed in the first picture that there are lots of suckers.  What is hard to see is that there are a few really tall, maybe 8 foot tall, branches that are reaching out to the left of the photo.  Most of the suckers need to come out, and the long branches need to be wrangled in so the bush is not so dramatically lopsided.  It grew this way reaching for light.  I will worry about shaping it in the late spring after flowering dies off.

As I took pictures, I realized that some of the leaves have a strange white look to them.  I am not sure what this is.

The photo has been edited a bit for color and exposure reasons, but you can see what I am talking about.  There are also little brown spots.  Even the creeping virginia has the spots.

These symptoms have also appeared on the peony that were transplanted last fall.  I wondered if it might be powdery mildew.  The difference is that the peony has this white stuff on the stem/stalks rather than the leaves.  Any ideas?  

On the bright side, there are some nice buds for lilac blossoms next spring in the works!  

The lilac may not look much different, but I really did get rid of quite a chunk of dead!  My dog, Izzi, chilled in the grass enjoying the wonderful morning in the shade, occasionally crunching a twig or two.  

It might seem silly to take such an active role in my back yard considering my landlord is responsible for it technically, but they do not mind a bit and it is a way for me to practice and learn things.  I do not feel it is a waste of time at all, I am having fun!

Sunday, August 21

The Deterrent

If you have ever grown a plant or a garden, you know that there is a risk of pests.  There are all kinds of things you can do to get rid of and discourage their presence.  No mater what though, there is still a chance the bugs will win the plant.  

When I chose plants this spring I was only thinking about the produce I wanted.  I remember big fat horn worms munching on tomatoes when I was a kid, so it crossed my mind, but I just thought I would cross that bridge if it showed up in the road.  It has not as of yet, just a few little worm/caterpillar types that I have pulled off.

One of the plants I got on a whim was nasturtium.  I think they are pretty cool flowers.  They are edible, leaves and flowers both.  They have a surprisingly spicy flavor that makes a great addition to salad.  I put the plants in pots and had to move them around until they found the right amount of light.  They seemed happy enough for a bit.  A few of the plants seemed to be struggling a little after a few weeks.  I realized they had aphids.  There is a grape vine that grows by my back porch that had aphids, but I thought I had gotten rid of them a few weeks before they showed up on the nasturtium.

I was frustrated for a while because I tried a number of different things that usually eradicate the pesky little buggers, but with no results.  Well, other than 3 of the 6 plants died.  I realized that none of the veggies had any aphids.  It occurred to me that I had a sacrificial plant.

There are many plants that can have this type of helpful effect in a garden.  Not only are there plants that can distract bugs from the prize winning flowers, but there are also plants that will deter the larger critters from stepping foot in the garden in the first place!  For example; lavender and marigolds are good to keep deer and rabbits out.  There are some helpful web sites out there if you want to investigate this concept.

I may have had luck with the bugs this summer, but I am still working on keeping the cats out of my mulch!  I am open to any suggestions!

Saturday, August 20

A New Definition of Self

For many years I thought that being born in September meant my flower was a poppy.  I do not remember where I got that idea, but I really like poppies and plan to grow some in the near future.  The other day I was talking about flowers with a friend, since she is an April baby I told her that her flower is the sweet pea.  Today I decided to look up flowers to remind myself of the other flower/month combinations.  I couldn't believe it when I did not see the poppy listed as the September flower anywhere!  I searched web site after site and not only did I not see the poppy, they all listed the aster for September.  I realized somehow must have made up the poppy as the September flower.  It was a sad moment.

 I am not actually heart broken, just having to re-evaluate who I am with the new found knowledge that I am represented by the aster rather than the poppy.  I have decided that I will still grow poppies someday, but I am now thinking about growing asters as well! What a good excuse to do something I want to do anyway:  grow more flowers.

Wednesday, August 17


My plants have been busy in the month since I started this blog.  There have been so happy discoveries and some sad revelations.  Ah, such is the life of a plant care taker.


There are actually 5 flowers today!  It has bloomed almost every day for the last month.  It is just happy, all I have to do is remember to water!  I gave it a little more food today, we will see how it liked that.  There has been a hummingbird visiting for the breakfast buffet recently.  I am just not fast enough with the camera.  I would like to get a hummingbird feeder out there.  I know it is late in the season, but they are tiny and need their energy for the flight South soon.


This guy has recovered quite nicely!  The few leaves I left after pruning have fallen off as the plant has put energy into new leaves and shoots.

Next season I will go in a little bit lower on the stalks so that they send out more shoots like these in the hopes of a bushier/denser plant.  Even the cuttings I attempted to root are doing ok.

Yes, I know they look like nearly dead twigs, but I promise there is life in them yet because there are little leaf buds barely emerging here and there.


I have good news and bad news about these guys.  Two of them have moved on in the last few days.  The first two I got. I think they must have had a fungal/mold problem when I bought them.  If I had treated them before putting them in the new pots I think they may have stood a chance.  The good news though, is that the most recent orchid purchase has continued to open more flowers!

I was so excited,  I thought I could almost see it openign right before my eyes! I was wrong.  It got about this far in 2 days.

On the third day I checked on it after work and found that the other bud opened up as well.

What a wonderful surprise!  It was so cool to watch.  It looked like the other 3 blooms actually turned to watch the new faces emerge.  I guess it decided to let one of the faces fade in trade for 2 new ones because within a day the oldest flower stared to whither. Otherwise this plant seems to be happy.  I do not know what is going on under the moss though, but with this one I am going to let be until it is done blooming.  

Edibles (the herbs and veggies)

We had a big storm the other night that the tomatoes did not want to fight.

I have been fighting gravity to keep them growing up, and off the ground.  I gave up.  Since they are in pots on a 4 inch deep layer of dirt over limestone it is difficult to stake them properly.  I have done what I could and eventually decided that gravity can have this one as long as I still get some bounty!  

The smaller plants, like the peppers, were un-phased by the wind and hail.  I picked the 2 rather ripe sweet red peppers.

Don't be fooled by the photo, the pepper is only 4 inches long.

I don't know why, but one of the jalapenos turned purple on top.  It is pretty. 

Speaking of hail . . .

The elephant ears are now pierced. 

Even some of the plants with small leaves got mauled.  


There is a crazy spider that has a huge web near the front door.  She has had to rebuild every couple days due to wind, and twigs falling through her web, but after the hail it is the nicest yet.  

She is the craziest looking spider I have seen in this area.  She seems quite happy where she is, and as long as that is where she stays catching flies I am okay with it!  Here is a profile so you can understand why she is so crazy looking.

Happy garding!

Sunday, August 14

Surprise, it's August!

The other day I noticed a spike of flowers at the back of my yard and realized it was Surprise Lily season.  I love it when these flower just shoot up over night and bloom.

It's a little bitter sweet really because in a way these flowers represent the end of the summer.  My second favorite season these days.  Most of my life I have LOVED summer best because it meant that it was swimming season, and let me tell you, I was in the water any chance I got!  My mom would start the "it's time to get out of the water" coaxing long before we really needed to leave just because she knew it was so hard to get me out.  Some how I seemed to learn a new trick that I had to try "just 3 more times Mom, please?!"  Yes, I love the water.  More recently, maybe since I am not in school any more, I have developed a much greater appreciation for Autumn.  There is something very calming about the season that I adore.  

Plants are still growing, and some in the full swing of blooming!  Fall is almost like dusk, or that bit before bed where you can just sit and breath for a moment.  Let the day melt off and relax.

There is also the feel of electricity in the air.  Maybe it is just because the sun is so close.  The critters are busy starting their winter preparations.  Not that I really want to think about that season just yet!  We have a few more months.  (just reassuring myself there)

 The picture just above is were I got the idea for this post.  I am a few days late getting around to it.  I was walking my dog through the neighborhood and realized that it was very unlikely that my yard would be the only one with these beautiful pink surprises.  Not only is this a very old neighborhood, but most people have some amount of gardening/landscaping.

So inspired by the spikes of flowers out of nowhere, I collected my camera, my dog and a friend to stroll up and down the streets seeking out these flowers.    

It was a lovely evening.  Only in the 80's.  Such a break from the last few weeks that were over 100 degrees, and only cooled down to the low 90's over night!  We enjoyed a nice slow evening walk chatting about life.

Sometimes they pop up in the most unexpected places.

These are in my friends yard.

My pup decided that despite the cooler temperature it was still hot and she really needed a rest once in a while!  She would find a nice plot of grass in the shade and spread her feet out behind her to get the best contact with the grass on her hot little belly.

She is quite the leader on walks as you can see.  I like the way these plants are arranged.  The Hosta have pretty much finished blooming just in time for the Surprise Lilies to spring into action.

This morning I walked to the Farmers Market and saw so many more Surprise Lilies.  I was sad I did not bring my camera.  Though I got some good pictures to share on the evening walk, so it is ok!

I hope you have enjoyed them.  

Sunday, August 7

Sprout to Tree

I am sure that at some point in grade school you sprouted an avocado pit.  I decided to revisit the experiment when I was in college.  I wanted my apartment to be full of big plants but I spent my money on art supplies and books in those days so I had to be resourceful since large plants often had large price tags.

I stuck toothpicks in an avocado pit to suspend it just slightly in the water and (im)patiently waited.  It sprouted roots and a little shoot.  I put it in a pot as soon as possible, and waited (im)patiently for it to turn into a tree.  After a few years it was a bit more than knee high . . . and was still holding on to the pit like a safely blanket.  One thing I did not really account for at the time was light.  There was just not enough.

After this picture was taken it seems like it really did take off.  It just grew up and up!  It seemed like it had no intention of putting out branches, so I showed it how by chopping the top off, twice.  It just wants to be big and tall!  These days it is putting out some little branches around the top and I just noticed today that there are a few more on the main trunk.

This lovely avocado tree is now just over 6 feet tall and still growing!  I put it in a larger pot this spring, but I am actually wondering if it is large enough!

It has a nice place on the back porch where it gets plenty of morning sun, direct and indirect.  It has been happily growing out there all summer.  It will take up quite a bit of space when it comes indoors this fall!

Wednesday, August 3


Hi, my name is JiMele and I am an orchid-dict.

I am sure it is not actually a word, but I feel like it is fitting right now.  I have been watching youtube videos and looking at websites about orchids.  General care, re-potting, disease, feeding, watering, different varieties and their needs.  I would not say that I am becoming an expert, I am just familiarizing myself so that I do not have to look up info every time I have a question.

I have purchased 3 orchids in probably the last 5 weeks.  I just keep seeing decent orchids marked down!  I now have 3 for the price I could get just one freshly flowering plant.  As I said a few posts ago, these are my experiments.  I can afford to make a mistake or two at the prices I am getting these babies for.

The plant in the very front here is the first one I got.  It has white blossoms with fuchsia centers.  I got a little ahead of myself last week and cut the flower spike off before I read anything about it.  I found out that if I only cut it back about half way just above a node it may have bloomed again or produced a keiki.  Keiki is the Hawaiian word for baby.  In reference to orchids it is literally a baby plant that grows from a node on the bloom spike.  I am hoping to have one of these two things happen with the plant in the middle.  It had slightly yellow flowers.  Unfortunately I did not get any pictures, so I will have to wait until it blooms again to remember anything other than that.  The plant in the back is the newest addition.  There are 2  large buds that will still bloom if I am lucky.

This is not the window they have been living in, but I am starting to think I might put one there and see how it likes it!  It may be too much afternoon light though.  It seems that these picky plants like most of the action in the early morning.  Watering, misting, light.  They are early birds :~)

Monday, August 1

Pretty in Pesto

I finally had enough basil to harvest some with out taking too much of the plant.  Actually, I had way more than I realized, I made a double batch of pesto!

I do not have a favorite pesto recipe, so I used the one in the booklet that came with my food processor.  (see bottom of the post)  Since it is a Food Network brand I thought surely it would be half way decent!  I like lots of garlic, so I may have used more than necessary...even for a double batch.

mmm fresh basil.

I lightly toasted the walnuts to help with depth of flavor.

I toasted some Tomato Basil bread from the Bread Basket to dip in lightly herbed olive oil with the (dried) thyme, oregano and baisil from my garden.

Presto! Dinner is ready!  Tomatoes and peppers in the salad from a friends garden.  It all tasted so good!

2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed
2 cloves garlic peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tea spoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound small-tube or spiral pasta

Pulse basil leaves, garlic and nuts in food processor gradually add oil.  Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cheese.