About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

This Gardener's Path

In our neighborhood we're coming into high gardening and landscaping season. There's always a push to get the outside looking great for the first Saturday in May when many eyes are on Kentucky for the running of the Kentucky Derby. We want our yards and gardens to be as beautiful as the most fanciful Derby hat. So, for the past month everyone has been cleaning up from the January ice storm, planting flowers, pruning, and getting the lawns cut into a green carpet.

This buzz of spring activity got me thinking about gardening. So, here's your assignment for this Fun Monday. I'd like you to share your thoughts on gardening. Are you a keen or casual gardener? How long have you gardened? Who taught you what you know about growing plants? Do you grow vegetables and fruits as well as ornamental plants? If you had just one container to garden in, what would you grow? What lessons have you learned from gardening? Have you taught these lessons to your children or grandchildren?

Here's the list of Fun Monday participants. Be sure to visit as many as you can to check out their gardening experiences. Scroll past the signup list for my own gardening tale.

1. Mariposa (host for May 18--thanks!)
2. Sayre
3. Gattina
4. Misanthrope
5. Jan
6. Karisma
7. Janis
8. Jill (Corrected link--sorry Jill)
9. Troll Y2K
10. Grace
11. Peter
12. Church Lady
13. Ari_1965
14. Pamela
15. Swampy

This Gardener's Path

Early Years--growing up in rural Kentucky, I learned about gardening by helping my mother and father grow a garden very much like this one. It was strictly a food garden where we grew enough vegetables for eating fresh throughout the spring and summer and canning for the winter. By late fall the cellar under our house would be filled will canning jars of fruits and vegetables and piles of root vegetables and cabbages. As soon as the ground was dry enough in the spring, my dad hooked up his mule to plow the ground, spread chicken or cow manure over the garden and then disk it smooth (we kids got to sit on the disk to add weight to bust up the clods of dirt) . In the cool spring we planted lettuce, onions, peas, cabbage and potatoes because they needed cool weather to grow well. After danger of frost we planted green beans, corn, and tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. In the fall turnips and greens went into the ground in time to be sweetened by the first frost. Everyone in the family was expected to help tend the garden. If I pestered my dad long enough, he allowed me to plow instead of hoeing after I proved that I could control the mule and plow a straight furrow. I worked in this garden until I left home for college.

First Home--I bought this modest little brick home for me and Zack the Crazy Border Collie. The yard was a mess when I first moved in so I began by renovating the lawn. The goal was to have a green carpet and I achieved that by watching gardening programs on TV and reading horticulture books. I planted the weeping cherry tree in the front yard, holly, and roses. Every hole I dug was full of rocks.

In the back yard I planted my first garden since leaving home for college. Vegetables were planted in raised beds with straw laid between the beds to keep down weeds and make it look nice. I also experimented with growing apples, peaches, and sour cherries on these dwarf fruit trees in the back yard. They actually bore fruit in the time I gardened there. And, can't forget the blackberries and raspberries that I trained on trellises. They produced well and the sweet fruit made the scratches from thorns bearable.

Garden Travel--by the mid-80s I had begun traveling quite a bit and I was always looking for great public and private gardens to visit because I was just obsessed with gardening. I looked and learned how to combine plants, especially ornamentals. I admired both the formal English style of planting like these roses and lavender passages at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. I studied the plantings in famous New England gardens like Wintertur and southern gardens at Calloway Gardens,
Bellingrath, Middleton Place, and Biltmore. I was always looking for new plants and combinations for my own garden. This photo of a private side garden was taken in Nashua, New Hampshire. It is the perfect combination of plant textures and colors with simple garden ornaments like the sun dial, lattice trim,fencing and rock wall.

Garden Shows and Fairs--were perfect places to learn new gardening techniques. I especially became interested in container plantings. The effect you can achieve with a collection of plants can be like a painting.
Notice this window box from the Cincinnati Flower Show. Look closely and you'll see that there's five or six different plants in this one arrangement from upright scented geraniums to trailing vines. This window box planting on the left is my version of the flower show box.

Second Home--I bought this little
place in the early '90s. The house is on a corner lot and has entirely too much lawn to deal with. The real estate agent took me seriously when I told her not to worry about square footage of the house. I needed a place to grow a garden and three dogs. i laid out sweeping beds to connect three large trees in the front yard. All this I planted with hostas, astilbes, and ferns--many varieties of each. The rule of planting is that you must do three of the same variety together so that the bed doesn't look choppy. It's hard to know how many plants were in these beds. I selected and planted all of them.

In the side yard I had island beds dug and planted them will several varieties of ornamental grasses, sedums, barberry, Japanese maple, spirea, and perennials--iris, peonies, daylillies, and columbine. There was always something in bloom throughout the season.Sad Reality--very little of these plantings still exist in my garden. The trees are damaged by ice storms, most of the hostas and ferns have disappeared from under the trees. In the side island bed I have only overgrown ornamental grasses, sedum, daylilies and iris. It takes me three hours to mow the front lawn. Now that I'm retired I want to renovate the garden , but this gardener needs to take a little less ambitious path so there's time and money for other interests--like travel and blogging!


Mariposa said...

Like you I love the have 'green carpet'.

And you did an amazing jobs in all your gardens...and sorry for the weather destroying your work! I guess I'm lucky to have the sun all year...

This is really a nice topic Faye...you got me so excited...with my gardening project!

Thanks for linking me up ahead for this next week.

Peter said...

WOW I speechless (doesn't happen often).

karisma said...

Faye, I am so sorry, but could you take me off the list this week. After a doozy of a day, my sister is having major issues with her marriage right now, and needed me, and then this evening we discovered our pet rat has passed away and the girls are distraught! They have never had to deal with death before and cannot understand why he went to sleep. I was so looking forward to joining in, but I really do not have the energy right now. I will try and visit everyone in a few days. Hugs xxxoooxx and I hope everyones Monday has been better than ours!

Much love, Karisma xxxooxx
PS. Please do not say anything about the rat on my blog as my oldest does not know yet and we do not want to tell her till she gets home tomorrow. (She does on occasion read my blog and comments. thanx)

The Church Lady said...

Wow Faye, you surely have a knack for gardening. I love the window boxes. I studied them, so perhaps I can copy your design!

Sorry to hear that the ice storm damaged most of your foliage. It will be a challenge to you to try to bring them back to life!

Thanks for hosting Fun Monday!

Janis said...

You are a great gardener. Sounds like you have lots of experience working the ground from your childhood. It is sad that you lost so many plants from the ice storm over the winter. With all that grass to mow and gardens to tend to, it looks like you will be spending a lot of time working outdoors. Thanks for hosting Faye, enjoy your beautiful garden!

Ari_1965 said...

I love your ornamental grasses. I've tried to grow blue fescue several times, but it just doesn't like me or my climate. Or something.

Sayre said...

Those are some gorgeous pictures - I am impressed with your gardening prowess! However, Mother Nature always has the final say... I'm sorry the ice storm did so much damage.

My grandmother (who is 90) has always been a gardener. She is now to the point where she doesn't have the stamina to do it, so she's got a rock garden with grasses and only a few flowers. She doesn't have to mow it and doesn't have to put a lot of effort into it. And it is so unusual in Wales that I can find her house from a satellite shot just looking for her garden!

Lil Mouse said...

awesome. i def. want something to bloom or 'show' all season long when we can finally get some place to live and plant stuff! I may get my hubby a cherry tomato plant this year again. we have a patio out back that might do well for it.

Gattina said...

Wow you certainly love gardening. My Grandpa also had only food stuff in his garden and my grandma made put them into glasses for the winter.
We have an easy life compared to this and fresh vegetables all year around.

Jan said...

Thanks for hosting, today. I enjoyed your post and photos. Yes, it's hard to do everything, but your garden will be waiting for you when you're ready.

Lil Mouse said...

ACK! I think I must have given you the wrong sitename, because it comes up as a fail--it's blogSITE, not blog SPOT! no wonder I didnt have any comments. can you please correct?

Lane said...

Some people just have the knack with gardening and you Faye are one of those people. Your gardens were beautiful and I'm sure your present one is still pretty good even after the damage.
I'm more of a 'maintainer'. My garden is squashed full of plants, shrubs trees all planted by the previous owner. I've tried to thin it down a bit but it's all I can do now to just keep it under control.
And of course, dogs are condusive to a pristine garden:-)

Lane said...

That last sentence should of course read aren't condusive:-)

Debs said...

Wonderful post and such beautiful photos.

I love gardening, and whenever I'm not writing, I like to spend time planting, deadheading, etc. Our garden was like a car park (mainly tarmac/concrete) when we bought the house seven years ago, but now it's a haven and full of plants and trees. I never want to go out now.

Swampwitch said...

Beautiful. I can't wait until the end of summer when I can post our huge tumbleweeds! They are the greenest thing on the property.

Pamela said...

I didn't get around this week -- and see everyones posts.

It was a fun topic.

as always -- you're post is full of information and makes me in awe of the things you do.

Mariposa said...

Hope all's well with you!

MommyW said...

I wanted to invite you to join us for Fun Monday on June 1st.

Come check out the topic at MommyWizdom

m (the misanthrope) said...

Hello my friend! Thanks for your comment! I am glad all is well with you; I was getting a little worred :-) Can't wait to see the new innovation to the blog!