Salvia argentea, silver sage, I added to the garden last spring covered with frost.
Autumn arrived at RDR this morning with a kiss from icy lips. A cold front with rain barreled through the center of the state making the roses shudder and wave their petals about in the swirling winds. This morning is chilly, and the Queens of May like it not. Poor, distressed damsels, they suffered in the hot summers of 2011 and 2012, and they want you to know the level of their discontent.
Rosa ‘Cramoisi Superieur’
Like all mid-life beauties, they want more time.
These salvia still look pretty good because they are in a protected place, but even they are beginning to show signs of a decline.
The tropical plants curled in upon themselves, their foliage black as though burned. Frost spells a chilly death for them. They will soon be dust.
Did you know crapemyrtles turn beautiful colors in the fall?
Oaks, maples, crapemyrtles and other hardwoods sing their beautiful swan song of fare-thee-well. Colored leaves rain upon green grass and make a lovely site as they fall. What to do with all this bounty they shed? Use a leaf mulcher or mower to chop up tough, fibrous leaves like those from our native oaks, returning them to garden beds and borders. Over winter, shredded leaves condition the soil and feed earthworms who pull them down into their homes underground. Fine soil shows up in spring. So do bulbs and other flowers if you plant them now. Don’t forget hellebores. If you have a friend who grows them, you can probably get babies from them. Hellebores are promiscuous creatures and procreate all the time in the right conditions.
My blueberry experiments in containers were successful. I kept them on the deck near the house where they got afternoon shade. I have two different shrubs going well and growing bigger. Did you know blueberries have beautiful fall color? Oh, yes, they do.
Blueberry shrub in fall
Asters and those plants formerly known as asters, along with garden mums bloom on. Do yourself a favor in these waning days. Buy a good garden mum like ‘Will’s Wonderful’ or an aster like ‘October Skies.’ They help the seasons change with less angst.
Chrysanthemum (Dendranthema) ‘Will’s Wonderful’
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium ‘October Skies’
Days shorten and the seasons circle again around the sun as the earth turns. The garden prepares for its winter rest, and I have my greenhouse and bulbs to force so I am not so sad. In late fall and throughout winter, I am thinking of spring, pondering all the combinations I can grow to make rebirth even more beautiful. Autumn’s frosty kiss soon turns to winter’s icy grip. What will you plant before it’s too late?
My fall flower garden which is full of eye candy right now. I’ll pretty much let the photos tell the story. At least I’ll try.
A fall collage
The roses are back in bloom. I gave them a shearing in September–later and different strategy these last few years because of the heat and drought. It’s taking a chance to prune so late, but otherwise, I won’t see them bloom much. You don’t get rose bloom in our state during summer. It’s too hot, there’s blackspot, and the roses suffer greatly. Three more succumbed to Rose Rosette, and I’ve planted different things where they grew. You should never replace a rose with another in the same spot. Some would say it’s bad karma. I would say it has to do with the soil.
‘Blonde Ambition’ blue grama grass
One spot got Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ blue grama grass. I looked for it all over Oklahoma and finally found it in Ft. Worth, Texas. Another place got Callicarpa americana ’Welch’s Pink’ thanks to my friend, Stephen Durham, who found it online. I also put in another Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibralter’ bush clover for its softness and late fall color. It is next to the very young pink beautyberry. I hope they will complement each other one day. Right now they are very small. Remember, it takes three years before shrubs and perennials take off and get going. We must be patient in the meantime.
Rosa ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ is blooming again. I deadheaded her about three weeks ago. I know it was late, but I need to see those blooms.
I can’t say enough nice things about the ornamental peppers. I started ‘Black Pearl’ and ‘Jigsaw’ from seed. Like all peppers, they were pretty easy to start. I kept them under lights, and they are now rewarding me with a last flush of gorgeous pepperiness. Although I suppose you can eat them, I won’t. They would be too hot for this Red Dirt Girl, and I like hot.
‘Jigsaw’ pepper I grew from seed.
I do like the leaves on ‘Jigsaw’ because the variegation is soft and airy. It’s a great foil for the purple and later red peppers.
Alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’ simply glows with the berries from my purple Japanese beauty berry and the summer snapdragon behind.
Alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’ looks purple or red depending upon the light. I can’t say enough nice things about alternantheras. They make my garden glow without a single bloom. ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ is below. I’ve let it grow a bit wild, but you can also pinch it back regularly. This big specimen cam from a small plant in spring. I think I bought it at Under the Sun. They have more Joseph’s coat than anyone else in the city even TLC Nursery.
Alternanthera ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ is another one I’ll never be without.
The front of the house is ready with three, large yellow mums I bought at Home Depot for $6.88 apiece. Yes, you read that correctly. I keep my terra cotta pots in the garage and only bring them out in fall and maybe early spring. It’s too hot here otherwise. Maddie photo bombed the picture. I think she’s cute.
Three, two-gallon yellow mums with pansies brighten a dark corner in the front yard. The trees will turn soon, and it will be a riot of color.
Here’s the front of the house.
Pots in front of the house hold peppers, grass, crotons and pansies. I should have bought larger grasses. There’s always next year.
This is my fall story. What’s growing and blooming at your house this fall?
Containers on the deck filled with flowers and foliage.
Hey gang! It’s that time again. Time to share with Carol at May Dreams Gardens and the world our blooms for the month. So, please step through the garden gate with me, and let’s take a look.
The back garden looking east. We’ve just walked through the gate.
Oklahoma had a splendid summer, so mild and full of rain I could hardly keep up with the weeds; honestly, I’ve lost the battle here and there. Then, starting in late August, the heavenly spigot shut off, and the weather turned sunny and super hot ever since. We even saw a few “triple digit temperatures” as our weather people say with tightened smiles.
I’m sometimes afraid the heat will make them go all Network on local TV.
Tecoma (esperanza) Bells of Fire.
Some plants responded to the heat with tremendous growth. Others, like some of the petunias, went into shock and died. I don’t let dead plants worry me much. I just focus on what looks good and pull out what doesn’t. A quick trip to Bustani Plant Farm, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Tulsa’s Southwood fixed the garden and me right up. I also think the petunias, which bloomed all summer nonstop, were understandably tired-to-death.
‘Cramers’ Amazon’ celosia which is at least ten feet tall. I probably won’t grow it again.
Celosia ‘Cramers’ Amazon’ which I started from seed indoors in late February responded to the heat by growing at least ten feet tall throughout the garden. I probably won’t grow it again though. I like the shorter ‘Intenz’ better. It fits better in the garden and makes a more robust clump. However, if you need a back-of-the-garden filler, ‘Cramer’s Amazon’ might just be the ticket.
Potager with its motley crew of boxwood.
I planted the potager with a fall crop of veggies, and birds ate nearly every seedling. What the birds didn’t eat, the grasshoppers did. What did I do? I replanted. I also bought starts of two kinds of broccoli and three kinds of cabbage from Lowe’s. My bok choy is okay, and two types of lettuce are fine. I’ll replant under hoops in a week or so after I get back from Ft. Worth where I’m speaking on the 20th. The motley crew of boxwood to the right of the potager got four new members. This is what happens when you must plant your boxwood border in stages. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the funds to plant them all at once. Plus, Bill doesn’t really like them, and I snuck them in bit-by-bit. Bless him, he just turns his head the other way and pretends not to notice.
Heirloom Phlox paniculata
Although the heirloom Phlox paniculata looks purple in the photo above, it’s actually bright pink, a trick of the light, perhaps? It started blooming at the end of June and is still going strong although in some beds, it’s time to deadhead. I’m rather relieved. I have a lot of phlox in my garden, the scent is overwhelming in the heat. I shared starts of this phlox with several people last week, and doing so, I opened up some holes in the garden. I filled one with native pigeon berry, Rivina humilis, that likes partial shade in my climate. The plants are tiny so I don’t have a good photo, but I’ve linked to it above.
Sunpatiens, pentas, Brazilian Red Hot alternanthera, king’s crown, and ‘Alabama Sunset’ coleus
The Sunpatiens were glorious all summer, and pentas are always a sure bet if you water. I tried Dicliptera suberecta, (syn. Justicia suberecta, Jacobinia suberecta), king’s crown, this year because I’m attempting to incorporate more silver foliage into the garden. It is a good transition between bright colors like that of Iresine herbstii or some of the alternantheras. After 2011 and 2012, I decided the garden needs more bright foliage and fewer tricky new flowers. Tropical foliage always shines no matter what the temperature shows.
Rosa ‘Frontier Twirl’ with ‘Bright Eyes’ phlox and smooth ironweed
Smooth ironweed sowed itself into this bed between ‘Bright Eyes’ phlox and an old rose. I wouldn’t suggest planting either it or the rose in this bed because it will take over this small space, and ‘Frontier Twirl’ is always afflicted with blackspot. I’ll probably pull the ironweed at the end of the season, but really it’s a toss-up. I’ll let you know what I decide. I like ironweed. It sows itself in lots of places on the property, and pollinators love it.
Boltonia asteroides ‘Pink Beauty’
Another native now blooming is Boltonia asteroides ‘Pink Beauty.’ It looks like an aster, but it isn’t. It is commonly called false aster. It should eventually grow tall, but for now, it lies on its side in one of the hottest parts of the lower garden. This is its second year.
Looking north in the middle of the back garden. Variegated tapioca is a star in this part of the garden.
Not everything shining in the garden is blooming. The grasses are in bloom, and many of them are making their presence known. They will only increase in beauty over the next two month. Variegated tapioca is at its best as it grows next to Pink Knockout roses. The grass was labeled Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny,’ but I’m not sure it is.
On another note, Bill and I removed three roses yesterday. Two had Rose Rosette Disease, and the other one, ‘Cliffs of Dover’ was dying from within. I haven’t a clue why. I replaced it with Callicarpa americana ‘Welch’s Pink’ that my friend, Stephen Durham, found. I’m excited because this variety was difficult to locate, and its placement is another wonderful native in the garden. I also planted Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’ (Gibraltar bush clover) which will grow pretty large. It is a very airy plant though, and I have it in another spot of the garden too.
I could go on and on, but I think I’ll stop here. I hope your bloom day was fun, and you have loads of good-looking plants in your garden. I can’t wait to stop by and see everyone else’s posts. I love Bloom Day. Don’t you?
Early morning in my garden on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, August 2013
This Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, you get two, two for the price of one. I’m still working on the book, and I’m too tired to think about much of anything. Early this morning, I went out and took photos. The garden is in between bloom stages. I’m going out to trim up the roses this afternoon once my self-imposed word count is reached. Blogging, for me, is an inspiration exercise. I find that if I warm up writing here I can do the hard stuff later.
From the mid position in my garden, you can see the house, crapemyrtle and our grill. Sorry. It still gives you an idea of what a jungle this is right now. Everything has responded to the rain.
Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is held the 15th of each month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Foliage followup is on the next day every month and is sponsored by Pam of Digging. Carol lives in beautiful, green Indiana, and Pam resides in quirky and drier, but still lovely Austin. I feel fortunate I’ve visited both of their gardens. Wait, I haven’t seen Pam’s new one, but maybe next time I travel south.
Salvia ‘Vanhouttei’ with ‘Australia’ cannas and Tiger Eye sumac are looking good in August.
Above are two photos of my garden in August 2013. What a difference a year and about forty inches of rain makes. Does anyone remember the song “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & the Gang? I am really dating myself here, but I was a wee lass. The tropicals I planted in our cooler-than-normal spring are starting to take over. Most of the color in my garden now comes from leaves. Consider tropical foliage plants next year at planting time because we probably won’t have a rainy summer like this one for another fifty years. Perhaps, I’m wrong, but either way, betting on tropical foliage is right on the money.
Iresine herbstii (chicken gizzard plant–ugly name for a pretty plant), ‘Alabama Sunset’ coleus, purple pentas and Tecoma stans (esperanza) team up for beautiful foliage.
I’ve hardly watered all summer. No lie. I put water in the fountains, and there were a couple of weeks where I thought we were in for another hellacious summer, but no. Plants are fat and sassy instead. Just to give you an idea of last year, see August 2012. From the closeups, it looks pretty good, but the bed facing the street is surrounded by burned up grass, and the clumping bamboo is yellow in the garage border. I just couldn’t keep it watered enough. I love that clumping bamboo. I also love ‘Fireworks’ Pennisetum purpureum. Don’t you?
‘Fireworks’ Pennisetum, with ‘Bright Eyes’ phlox and ‘Pink Velour’ crapemyrtle behind.
Another group of plant deriving most of their color from leaves is coleus. Their botanical name has again changed so for our purposes here, I’m just calling them coleus. I am tired of taxonomists botanical name tossup so I’m not playing today. In articles I must, but not on my blog. ‘Bonefish’ is a new coleus from Hort Couture. I bought most of the Under the Sea coleus collection this spring, but Bonefish is my favorite, and no, they aren’t paying me to say that. I just like it especially against chartreuse sweet potato vine and ‘The Line‘ coleus. It doesn’t get much prettier.
Coleus Bonefish, ‘The Line’ coleus and ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine frame Mary in this view. Behind her is a lovely begonia in a container. I’ll be taking cuttings and bringing it into the greenhouse.
You can’t control everything though. See the holes in the sweet potato vine? Those were caused by young grasshoppers. I had a dream last night where I sprayed the garden with poison to kill them all, but then I woke from that nightmare. The Nolo bait is starting to take effect as is the cooler weather.
Crinum (milk and wine lily) is blooming again. I don’t remember it ever blooming twice before. It’s the rain I’m sure.
Crinums are pretty, but they take up a lot of room. Just sayin’. I have a dark one in the lower garden, and I’m bringing it into the greenhouse this winter. I guess I’ll be heating that puppy after all. The crinum, above, is cold hardy to Zone 7 according to Grumpy. I’m in 7a to 6b so yes, it is.
Dark purple duckfoot coleus maybe ‘Kiwi Fern’ but it needs more light for the edges to show.
There are so many coleus now from which to choose. I think I have twenty different ones in this garden if I include the pots. I can’t possibly remember all of their names. I’ve started choosing them based upon color and past performance. Aren’t we the luckiest gardeners ever?
Another coleus. Can’t remember the name, but it’s pretty.
Below is a bloom. Petunia ‘Fancy Dress’ is a crazy thing. I like it. It was in Keeyla Meadows’ garden too. She placed it against a hot pink fence. I took a pic of it which you can see in my previous post about her garden.
Petunia ‘Fancy Dress’ is one I found earlier this summer. I used it as a filler in the pot with my blueberry shrubs. The pink in the background is also this flower.
I took this closeup of ‘Lo Lo’ because the rest of the surrounding plants are much taller. It decided to grow shorter this year. No, I didn’t dig my dahlia bulbs. These are in the garage border, and they get lots of protection in this microclimate. Figure out where your microclimates are and use them wisely to stretch your hardiness and heat zones.
‘Lo Lo’ dahlia turns this color when it’s cold. Many blooms are cold sensitive.
It’s a good thing the garden hasn’t needed much tending because I haven’t had much to give it this summer. I’ve been too busy writing. One thing I did do in early spring was start my own seeds. I wanted some plants I hadn’t seen much in Oklahoma. Ornamental peppers were part of this seed starting madness. You do see them sometimes, but unfortunately not as often as we should, and it’s our own fault. Peppers need heat to bloom and flower. In spring, greenhouse growers don’t have a plant at full maturity for you to see, and shoppers only want what’s in bloom. This causes all kinds of problems. We must stop buying plants based upon “pretty.” We are doing a disservice to ourselves and the industry. Read tags. Scan QR codes on your cell phone and look at photos of the full grown plant. Consumers have the power because we control the dollars.
Ornamental peppers are just one example. Alternantheras are another. Both deserve a place in our gardens because they mature when we need that gorgeous foliage. I grew ‘Jigsaw’ and ‘Purple Flash’ on a whim. I’m glad I did.
‘Jigsaw’ ornamental pepper
The plant below is another example of something you won’t see at the box stores. I’m not anti-box. You know that, but most plant growing is done on a large scale these days. Large trucks transport racks and racks of plants so all must be a certain height at the four-inch pot size and blooming.
Isn’t that kind of crazy?
I bought Orthosiphon stamineus (white cat’s whiskers) at Bustani Plant Farm in the spring. Steve and Ruth grow their own plants so they offer the special and unique. Plus, they have photos alongside each plant to show it at blooming stage which may happen mid-summer. I’m so grateful to buy unique plants that I’ll promote them anyway I can. I’m a plantaholic, and I’m not ashamed to say so.
Orthosiphon stamineus (white cat’s whiskers)
Do yourself a favor and pick plants that are unusual and have excellent foliage color. Buy at the box stores, but support your local growers too. Your garden and local economy will thank you. Happy Bloom and Foliage Days!
This week I picked out several dahlias for my garden. Summer bulbs and corms don’t get the kind of press that fall-planted ones do, but they are bright in the spring and summer garden when the other bulbs fade. Think about irises, cannas, elephant ears, caladiums, lilies and glads. Where would cottage gardens in sun or shade be without them? I love spring, but if you want a four-season garden with some structure other than trees and shrubs, you might consider summer bulbs and corms.
Dahlia ‘LoLo’ with dark stems.
Dahlias really don’t like Oklahoma, but I love them so I’m willing to work a bit to coax them into bloom. Let’s begin with soil. They should be grown in an area with extremely good drainage, with sandy soil. I do not grow dahlias in the pockets of clay that pepper my garden despite my best efforts. I have a border next to the garage that is a favorite because it still has builder’s sand left from construction.
Yellow dahlia, probably ‘Mystic Illusion’ taken at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum.
Here, dahlias grown abundantly, flowering in late summer when everything else is tired. After the first season in that garden, I amended that soil with Back to Nature, compost, shredded leaves and manure. I planted a few shrubs, some grasses and annual seeds. I was working on the potager too so I didn’t have much time for this border. The first year, it looked pretty good.
Garage border second season
In the second year, I added irrigation in the form of a soaker hose with a y-connector, and I pondered how I wanted the garden to look. I added a couple of daylilies, a clumping bamboo, Rhus typhina ‘Tigereye Bailtiger’ sumac and bulbs in the form of ‘Atom’ glads and dark-foliaged Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy.’ Although these are still small, I’m hopeful that one day they will take off and really grow. Later, I decided to add black or red-leaved cannas like ‘Australia’ because I wanted height. The other bronze plant in the photo below is ‘Maple Sugar’ hibiscus. It’s supposed to return. I hope it does. I can’t remember the name of the pink dahlia in front, but it pops against the cannas and hibiscus.
Dahlias, cannas, clumping bamboo and ‘Hameln’ dwarf fountain grass in the side garden.
I also planted ‘Princess Caroline’ and ‘Princess Molly’ grasses along with the even larger ‘Prince.’ I love those dark grasses with a special kind of garden love. Since they are annuals here, I’m able to change up where I plant them every year. I don’t have live with them in any particular spot for forever. Those large grasses lend stature to the border are an excellent foil for the bulbs.
I’ve always grown dahlias, but they were hit and miss until I planted ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ on a whim. This Anglican bishop likes Oklahoma weather as much as he seems to like England. Each year, I now add more of these single dahlias like the beautiful ‘Lo-Lo’ with large dark leaves. Plant them against a large, lime green coleus like ‘Electric Lime’ or ColorBlaze® Lifelime and watch them sing. Their leaves are a color echo for the dark grasses, cannas and pineapple lilies too. Now, I’m planting ‘Australia’ cannas in the lower part of the garden to tie it to the garage bed. It’s good to repeat color. I don’t really love cannas, but I like these ones with dark leaves, and they are so easy to grow here.
For a touch of beautiful blue, I’m growing ‘Madonna’ glads. They are tall drinks of blue water in a dark garden. I’ve also added dark red ‘Tom’ glads to echo the darker dahlias.
Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ a bit tattered from grasshoppers. I must remember to spread Nolo bait to stop the grasshopper population from growing.
The dahlia obsession continues with ‘Arabian Night,’ ‘Le Baron,’ ‘Boom Boom Red,’ ‘Rosamunde,’ tiny ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Classic Poeme‘
I’ve been planning even bolder scenes after reading The Bold and Brilliant Garden, by Sarah Raven. I love this book. I found it on Amazon and read it cover to cover. Her interesting combinations of dark and light foliage and flowers made my heart skip a beat. So much so, that I went over to Old House Gardens and bought a few more dahlias, including ‘Claire de Lune’ and ‘Prince Noir,’ . With plants there never is too much of a good thing.
The back of the house. I'm standing in the middle of the back garden.
I’m a day late, but I wanted to join in on Pam’s Foliage Followup to Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.
Foliage is an important element in spring garden design. Before many flowers bloom, foliage is strutting its stuff by emerging and glowing in the sideways slant of April sunlight; unless, of course, it is raining like today. Water droplets gather on leaves and magnify colors.
Like diamonds, water droplets gather in Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass)
Taking photos while it is cloudy is another way to make the color in photos look better. That’s why, if you’re touring a botanical garden on a bright, sunny day, you’ll often see photographers shading plants with umbrellas, and using shades on their camera lenses. Bright sunlight is often too harsh. However, we, gardeners, take the shot however and whenever we can. Even in the rain.
There are other ways to make foliage appear even more beautiful to the eye.
Spiky blue-green iris foliage with the compound leaf of a tree peony
Mix it up. Use compound leaves like these on my tree peony and mix in some sword-like leaves like these iris.
Passalong ferns from my friend, Paul
Then, add some ferns for their lacy appeal and smaller leaves. People spend a lot of time talking about iris blooms, but I think the foliage is just as important. Iris don’t bloom for a long time, and to maintain their place in the garden, they must offer something more.
Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'
Color. Today’s gardeners are blessed with a riot of color, and it doesn’t just come from flowers. Reds, purples which are almost black, blue green, yellow, really the combinations are endless. Below, is a Black Lace™ elderberry. It will grow much taller than this, but I keep mine severely pruned because I have it in such a tight place next to the ‘Miss Kim’ lilac. Therefore, mine doesn’t bloom as well. I love this plant, but it needs really good drainage and lean soil. I nearly killed it three times before I moved it to a raised bed of barely amended native, sandy soil. All that purple lacy foliage was worth the trouble.
Sambucus nigra Black Lace (TM)
When you visit the local nursery, or order something online or out of a catalog, think about how its foliage will work with the other plants in the garden. Some things are happy coincidences like the yellow combination of a passalong flower mixed with chartreuse creeping jenny below, but most are planned.
The yellow flowers on the left echo the chartreuse creeping jenny in the background while other foliage are mixed.
In my case, I like a particular color palette with a lot of red, purple and chartreuse notes. However, I balance these with repetition of a particular color, along with some lovely dark green to hold it all together.
In this bed, although there are many foliage colors, the repetition of a particular color like the purple and red heucheras with the coral bark of the acer palmatum help the eye navigate through the space.
Variegation. I also love variegated leaves, but a little variegation goes a long way. One of the best places to find variegated plants is Bustani Plant Farm. Steve Owens also loves variegation, and he and his wife, Ruth, search the globe to find plants which perform well in sunny Oklahoma. Many of these are also variegated, and he sells variegated sports of natives like Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Duet’. I bought my Caryopteris divaricata from him years ago, but I don’t think he’s carrying it this year. TLC had it last summer.
Caryopteris divaricata (variegated bluebeard) will sport blue flowers mid-summer.
My friend, Debbie, gave me this variegated Weigela florida several years ago when it outgrew her garden space. I don’t know the cultivar, but it is a multi-season plant with beautiful pink blooms in spring along with foliage that keeps its variegation spring through fall.
Variegated Weigela florida. Pink blooms will soon cover these leaves.
Thanks to Pam at Digging for the foliage followup. What are your favorite foliage garden combos? I’d like to see.
I have, and if you follow me on GoodReads.com, you might have already read my mini-reviews of these two books, but, in case you missed them . . . .
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Sharon Lovejoy’s work. For the past twenty years, I’ve read everything she’s written, smiled at her drawings, and implemented much of what she teaches. I’ve built sunflower houses, played with my children during Hollyhock Days, and we’ve shared many other adventures in the garden.
Cute cover, eh?
I’m also proud to be working with her and seven other wonderful writers on the Lowe’s Garden Grow Along blog this spring.
When she asked me to review her new book, Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars: Grandma’s Bag of Tricks, I nearly clapped my hands in delight. Its arrival in the mail made me stop what I was doing to plop down in a chair and give it a once over. This time, Sharon directed her efforts toward grandparents, especially grandmothers. She encourages them to pass on their love for gardening, nature, cooking and all things home to their grandchildren. There are suggestions for making a cozy room with a quilt on the bed and a basket full of books for visiting little ones. (I had a grandmother like this, and I can tell you, next to my mother, I love her more than anyone.)
One grandmother met her darlings with a cup of hot cocoa on the first morning of their stay and then took them for a walk to the beach to see the sunrise. Pure inspiration.
However, before you think this book is only for grandparents, think again. These same games can be played with our nieces and nephews and our own children if we only take the time. Toad Cottages is similar in format to her earlier work Sunflower Houses. You really can build a sunflower house with a morning glory roof. It isn’t difficult, and I assure you the children in your life will always remember it.
As a writer, I receive too many books describing how we should involve our children in the garden, but which base their advice only on practical matters. I think, instead, we should read and implement a book like Toad Cottages which encourages us to instill the love of gardening lore and whimsy.
We only get this one life, and childhood is very short. I would encourage you to take your child’s hand and go on an explore today.
While you’re outside, bring along a sketchbook or notebook with you. Then, if you seen a fantastic bird, or interesting flower or plant, you can quickly capture its essence on paper. Better yet, encourage your child to bring along one too. A love of a gardening starts with a love for nature in all of its beauty, violence and just plain ickiness (think of parasitic wasps eating a caterpillar inside out for example). Kids adore the ick factor as much as beauty, by the way.
Susan Leigh Tomlinson, paleontologist, artist and professor in the Natural History and Humanities program at Texas Tech University, also writes and draws at The Bike Garden. Further, as someone who can build almost anything and often does, she is a woman I truly admire. A few weeks ago, she asked if I’d like to review her new book, How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook. While reading it, I was reminded of those amazing, nineteenth-century, women naturalists who carried their field kits with them everywhere and kept detailed records of what they heard and saw on their walks.
Susan drew these images on the cover.
You might ask, in this age of Nikon D90 DX cameras, voice recorders and Flip camcorders, why anyone would want to make their own notebook? A notebook of one’s own contains so much more. Samples of flowers or ferns can be pressed, and one’s own artwork can grace the pages. If you feel intimidated by the idea of creating your own notebook, this book is for you. By the time you finish, you will know the essential information and skills to record and comment upon your own environment. Tomlinson gives both basic and detailed art instruction. Anyone can draw with a bit of help. Even me.
Each chapter addresses a different topic from required equipment for your field kit to tips for wildflower and bird identification. After reading it, I felt inspired to get out my colored pencils and draw, something which I haven’t done since I was pregnant with Bear. I’ll let you know if I draw anything worth scanning.
Meanwhile, you can’t go wrong with these two artists and authors. I’m glad to call them my friends.