An Ode to Monty Don

I’ve got Spring Fever, and I blame Monty Don, otherwise known as Britain’s Favorite Gardener. After discovering a season of Big Dreams, Small Spaces on Netflix that I hadn’t already seen, I spent a couple of weekend mornings watching intently as people across England transform their backyards with the help of Monty. When I came to the end of the unwatched season I wasn’t satisfied. I started watching Monty Don’s French Gardens, and Monty Don’s Italian Gardens. All of this is on Netflix, ready to be binged. And while you might be saying, “I don’t care about gardening, that show isn’t for me,” I’m going to make a case for why you should all be watching Monty Don.

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On Becoming a Plant Lady

The title of this post is misleading. I’ve always been a plant lady–but focused mostly on the outdoor variety. Back in 2011, I bought a house. The yard was a bit of a wasteland, but I kind of liked that, because it meant I could make it my own. I begged, borrowed, and stole plants from just about everyone I knew. Roses and lilacs from my grandmother. Black-eyed Susans from my aunt. Peonies from my other grandmother. Irises from a family friend. Another family friend helped me procure wood for the raised beds for my vegetable garden. By the time I sold the house in 2017, the once barren yard was filled to near overflowing (though my mom did dig up some of Nana’s old roses and take them to her house before I put it on the market).

But since I sold the house and have been moving around, I’ve had to embrace houseplants. I had a few easy to care for plants at my old place–a spider plant given to me as a housewarming gift, a few cacti also given as gifts through the years. But I’ve never been much of a houseplant person. My cats were generally the enemy of any plants I brought inside. They either ate it or knocked it over. And frankly, I didn’t really know what to do with the plants, anyway. What does “bright indirect light” mean, anyway?

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My July Garden 2014

It’s July. The garden is starting come into it’s own. That means the tomatoes are ripening, the peppers have been coming in, most of the flowers are in full bloom–though some are past their prime–and the winter squash are big but not yet ripe.

This year I’ve been making a lot of flower arrangements. I don’t always do this, because I worry that cutting blooms might make things look less full. But the flowers are so plentiful this year — some of them have even spread to parts of the yard where flowers were never meant to be — that it seems silly not to bring some of them indoors.

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My May Garden 2014

I know…I know…You’ve been sitting at you computer, relentlessly hitting the reload button in hopes that I’ll start posting pictures from my garden. Well, you’re in luck, because I’ve been on a photo-taking spree. There isn’t a whole lot happening when it comes to the vegetable garden, but the flowers are really starting to shine. In some cases, I’m even getting blooms on plants that haven’t flowered before.

The lupines are starting to bloom. There’s a yellow one behind that wall of green. I don’t remember if they bloomed last year or not, but they certainly didn’t look like this.

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My July Garden 2013

The garlic isn’t from my garden, I just like to keep it close by.

We should come up with a name for the time of year when gardeners are completely overwhelmed with tomatoes and zucchini… you know, other than “July.” I also had some blueberries this month (thanks to a bush I bought with tons of berries already on it). I can hardly get to some of the plants in the raised beds. The zucchinis look like man-eating plants, even though I haven’t gotten a single yellow squash. The yellow squash were pretty spare last year as well. Anyone have any ideas on what I’m doing wrong? The plants look fine.

Cucumbers, peppers, and herbs are coming in as well. It’s a colorful harvest.

The flowers are all in full bloom, and there is no evidence of colony collapse around my house. The bees are plentiful and come in many varieties. The butternut squash vines are huge and though one of the squash succumbed to blossom end rot, there are more coming and I’m keeping a close eye.  Continue reading

My June Garden 2013

The early harvest of sugar snap peas and strawberries.

The early harvest of sugar snap peas and strawberries.

June is when the literal fruits of your gardening labors begin to show up. The plants get big, and flowers turn to fruits and vegetables… but not quite all of them. While I spent much of this month collecting strawberries, pea pods, and various greens I’m still waiting for a ripe tomato and a squash big enough to be worth picking.

And, if you saw the May post about my garden you’ll know  that one of my biggest challenges this year is the wasteland which — because it’s behind my fence — I am referring to as “The Pale.” I started tackling this problem by throwing wild flower seeds down, which turned out to be a terrible idea. Plants began to sprout but I had no way of knowing what was a wildflower and what was just going to be a weed (which, I realize, is a bogus distinction). This drove me crazy, especially because I look out of my office window at The Pale all day long. So, I started to rethink my strategy. Continue reading

What do poverty, yachts, and gardening have in common?

On Friday nights I often curl up on my couch with a cup of tea and a movie. This week I decided to watch American Winter, a documentary that follows 8 Oregon families that happened to call the state’s 211 hotline looking for help with their desperate financial situations. It’s a heartbreaking movie, really. It made me feel guilty about every penny I spent on dry-cleaning and junk food over the past few days. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the gut-wrenching gist:

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Me + Spring Fever = Bad Blogger

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. This is, in part, because I’ve been busy with work and it can be hard to come up with something to write after a long day… but let’s face it, I’ve also got Spring fever. When I’ve got an extra half an hour, I don’t want to spend it at the keyboard. I’ve been spending a lot of time cleaning up the yard and gardens, planting bushes, and even some cold-season veggies.

My new quest, though, is to get some wildflowers growing behind my fence (where my giant trees used to be) to help hold down the dirt and give me something to look at from my office window. In my imagination, it looks like this:

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My Trees Are Gone & #Snowpocalypse Is Here

It’s been a big week here at my house. I started out the week getting the giant, terrifying pine trees behind my house taken down. It pains me to see a tree cut down. I am, after all, a bit of a tree hugger, but these things were a danger to themselves and others. For half the summer, my dog ends up looking diseased because I have to cut big patches of her fur out thanks to the sticky sap from the trees. Any furniture I put in the yard would be covered with the same sap, and then there were the needles… Oh the needles.


But that’s not enough reason to go to the trouble and expense of cutting down seven trees (three of which were absolutely huge, and the rest were more like weeds). But every time the wind blew branches came down. So far they’d missed the house, and anyone driving on the private road behind my house, but it was just a matter of time. I mean, the really big trees were probably damn near twice as tall as my house, and they were not pictures of health.

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My October Garden

Over the weekend I euthanized some tomato plants that looked like they were suffering. I pulled them up by their roots and tossed them into a pile at the back of the yard — and raked up all the tiny little tomatoes that were left behind. The yellow squash are still coming in and a couple of butternut squash are out there dangling on the vine. I think there might even be a lone spaghetti squash.

The tomatillos continue to come in by the bucket load, while the brussel sprouts keep growing. All of this is kind of boring though. But yesterday I went out front and saw one of my echinacea plants covered in bees that seemed barely able to move. Poor little bumble bees…

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My September Garden

September is almost over, and you can tell by looking at the garden. The cucumbers have long since stopped producing much of anything. Some of the earlier producing tomatoes have given up the ghost, though some late varieties and my cherry tomatoes are still going strong. The tomatillos are still going beautiful, and the eggplants are coming in, and I planted a new round of lettuce. The earliest signs of brussell sprouts are appearing, though I don’t know how successful they’ll be in the long run. And there’s a big watermelon out there that I’m not so patiently waiting on… It’s hard to tell if it’s ripe.

Apparently when the stem is brittle that means it’s ripe.

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My August Garden

I’m tempted to sum up this entire post with one picture:

But that would be lazy…

Yes, folks it’s turning to harvest time in the garden. Squash, tomatoes, eggplants, tomatillos, peppers… they all abound at this time of year. In my jungle-garden, it’s finding the fruits of my labor that’s the problem! Continue reading

Garden Update: The Monster Tomatoes & the First Tomatillos

I’ve been watching a couple of monster tomatoes on the biggest plant in my garden. It’s as tall as I am, and some of the tomatoes were starting to look intimidating…but they weren’t turning red. I was inspecting the plant and saw that some of the flowers up top weren’t looking so hot, and decided it was time to pick the monsters and give the rest of the plant a chance. When my cousin came over to pick up some fried green tomatoes she noticed a couple of my tomatillos were ready! The first of the season!

That epsom salt seems to have done a little too good of a job.