Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.
—Oscar Wilde

All By Myself

Remember when your toddler wanted to do it "all by myself?" Nothing changes when that toddler becomes a teenager. While the boys constantly test the limits of "all by myself," life is easier now that they independently mow the lawn, cook dinner (their menu of course), do the dishes, sweep the floor, do their own laundry. I'm afraid we will get used to this and then they will be gone and we will have to do it "all by ourselves" again.

Ron signed up to bring cookies to school today. Last night, as I was leaving the house for a meeting, he asked me if two sticks of butter equaled a cup. When I got home, he had stirred up and baked a large batch of chocolate chip cookies to take to school. He even pointed out that he washed the baking dishes and wiped the counter. That sure beats me staying up late to bake treats for school.

This morning, Ricky asked me when he could bake cookies "all by myself." Hmmm, Christmas baking may have gotten a whole lot easier.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More Wisteria Hysteria

School was out due to teachers' inservice (they never had these when I went to school!) and Ron came with me to work about a week after I stopped the Slaughterer from cutting the supporting above-ground roots off the venerable wisteria. When we arrived at the gardens around 9 am, I found the Slaughterer standing in a large hole swinging an axe underneath the arbor. In the middle of the hole was a large root, all that remained of a hundred year old vine. Without asking, Ron hopped in the hole and took over the axe. To my horrified "That vine was still alive!", she replied, "It was getting in the way of the beautiful clematis."

It's been several weeks and things have calmed down around the arbor...but there are stories to be told about her love affair with invasive plants.

Pick up some quantum dots while you're at the store, honey

This is such a fun thing to consider: the end of light bulbs and the start of light dots.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Wisteria Histeria - Continued

When we last left Slaughterer, she was randomly attacking the wisteria vines. Next, though, she gets down and dirty.

The arbor, designed by Gene Stratton Porter, is about 200 feet long, made of rustic logs over a stone path. She planted wisteria, trumpet vine and Tara vine. Wisteria is a hardy plant once established, (thank goodness-that's my only hope!) and her original vines were still there when the garden was rennovated in the 1950s. The bed along the west side of the arbor was overgrown with weeds and invasive ground cover. It is shady in the morning and sunny in the afternoon and there is intense water competition with the wisteria. We decide to clean the bed out and start over. The plan is to mulch 2/3 of the bed where the wisteria is planted and to replant the other third with suitable plants. (That means I haven't decided yet what to plant!)

As we clean up the bed, we discover lots of runners and suckers from the wisteria. "Sure, Slaughterer, it's ok to cut off that growth." But she cannot forget her intense hatred for this vine and starts pulling up the smaller top roots and calling them runners. I explain the difference (and she is has almost attained the status of Advanced Master Gardener) and once again think I have the situation under control....

until I look up and see her with a bow saw poised to cut an extremely large root running along the arbor which provides not only nutrition to the vine but also support.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wisteria Hysteria

I was warned. Eddie warned me when he first talked to me about this job. He needed someone to guard the garden as he couldn't be there all the time. He told me several horror stories about one of the part-time gardeners, including the time she started randomly cutting the thick trunks of the 100 year old wisteria covering a long arbor, the showpiece of the garden. The gardener then justified her actions to Eddie claiming the top foliage was dead, even though the vine was very much alive until she snipped it off. Of course, at 80 years old she couldn't climb up and remove the entangled, now dead, vines.

But I was enchanted by the garden, the site, the history of the garden and the challenge of restoring it. And I wasn't too concerned about this gardener because I've managed people for many years, some who were very difficult.

Oh, but my eyes have been opened.

The first week was uneventful. The next week, when I got to work, I discovered that she (hereinafter known as Slaughterer) had been pruning the wisteria for over an hour. Slaughterer has an interesting pruning technique, reaching up and snipping the middle of any vine that catches her eye, even though these plants are mature enough to have clearly defined collars where the vine leaves the trunk. The other gardener, a gentle woman in her 70s, was ineffectively trying to stop her. Slaughterer emphatically stated how much she disliked wisteria. I managed to convince her to take a break and we went into the garden shed (an original structure) to research how to prune wisteria. We agreed (I thought) not to prune it until after it bloomed and to contact the horticulture guru at the Extension for guidance.

On my way back to the garden, I happened to see Eddie and filled him in on the morning's murderous activity. He meandered over as we were discussing how to apply what we just learned to the arbor wisteria. While we were filling him in (and I subtly set-up Slaughterer to respond so she would have some ownership in the decisions), she reached over his head and snipped another vine! And then she reached over my head to snip a vine. Was I going to have to tackle this woman to keep her from mutilating if not killing the cherished arbor plantings?

The saga continues. More tomorrow.

I was reticent to blog about this at first, thinking it was resolved, but after a month, my gardening gloves are off. I have little hope that the story has ended yet.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Watch Out World

Ron has his driver's license as of an hour ago and he's just itching to drive without a parent. Our challenge now is to make him understand that a driver's license does not mean he can drive anytime, anywhere he wants. It also does not mean that we will give him his own set of keys.

Rick's broken hand slowed his driving progress a bit. He drove home the day the cast was removed. It was drizzling and he hadn't driven for over a month and it was rush hour. As we pulled up to a stoplight, a car stopped beside us and the driver gave us an angry look for the slow and rather erratic driving. Then he smiled as he saw the young man behind the wheel and the mother griping the dashboard.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I was so struck by the way this grass and the mums complement each other, that I mentioned it to a girlfriend on the phone. She told me to post the picture. Next year, I'll move the mums next to the grass. There is a large bed of pink and white cosmos inbetween. They fell over in the last windstorm so the scene is not really as pretty as it looks in the picture. I think I'll clean it up and put some pumpkins there. Following are more pictures from my October garden. Posted by Picasa

This is one variety of Toad Lily in my garden. This is a lighter color than the other Toad Lily and it blooms along the stem while the other one sends up flowers on small stems. Posted by Picasa

Here's the other Toad Lily variety. It's next to my front step and easy to see these small, unusual flowers. Posted by Picasa

My garden in October. I like the way the repetition of the sedums draws the eye through the garden. I also like how the color of the grass heads picks up the color of the sedum. Posted by Picasa

Blackberry Lily seed pods in front of Sedum Posted by Picasa

Fringed Gentian

It is the week for rare sitings. Yesterday at work we were called to rescue a colony of fringed gentians from a gravel pit operation. I took my camera to work but forgot to bring it to the gravel pit, so you will have to settle for an Internet photo. It is a biannual so we tried to find some first year plants and we tried to find some seed pods. We did not take the whole colony but five large plugs.

The transplants are in a holding bed now and I will try to recreate their natural habitat tomorrow. They like a sunny location that is consistently damp but well-drained, which is why you find them in sand/gravel next to water. The site has damp/well-drained locations but they are all in the shade. I'm thinking about burying a large tub in one of the gardens with several drain holes with the bottom filled with gravel and a thin layer of rich topsoil. We will have to water it frequently but I hope the tub will help keep it damp. They have a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizae fungi so I took a lot of soil with the transplants and hope the fungi is present. I also determined that you can buy the fungi but there are over 2500 types of mycorrhizae fungi so it may be difficult to add this to the soil.

It would be nice to have fringed gentians in Gene Stratton Porter's garden as it was her favorite swamp plant and is mentioned in many of her books.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


This is not a comment heavy blog; probably because someone has to read it first before commenting. The exception are the spammers. I'm tired of deleting comments. I have a rather full life outside of my blog and comment spam is an irritant I don't need. So I just added a small barrier to commenting. You have to verify you are human by entering a squiggly word.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Osprey Sitings

Osprey are endangered in Indiana and two years ago chicks were reintroduced but not in this area. So it was with great excitement last night that Steve and I observed an osprey take off from the river bank, circle over the riverboat and head downriver . We watched it land and as we went downstream, it took off again. Tonight Steve was on the river and sited the osprey again. Both sitings were at dusk on the St. Joseph River north of Leo.