Sharon's blog

Been a long time . . .
Posted on Jul 21, 2015 12:33 PM

It's been too long to pick up where I left off and how does one explain being invisible for the first half of 2015 anyway? It has been a strange and surprisingly eventful year; the kind of year that usually challenges a gardener to her limit.

It started with a heart attack followed days later by cardiac arrest. The only unusual thing about that is that it was the meds for the heart attack that caused the arrest. Talk about a mess, I was that, for most of the early part of the year. Still am.

And then once things settled down somewhat, Spring came and with it came more rain than anybody ever expected. Everything greened up and things started blooming and I couldn't get out there and do a thing about the weeds. The irises however were exceptionally beautiful. I could only sit back and enjoy the show.

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The irises were followed by daylilies, such happy blooms you'd think I spent the entire Spring out dropping compost and alfalfa pellets and mulching and dividing as I wanted to do, but the daylilies were just as happy without me.
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They kept coming, those old daylilies did, without any help from me. Some of them have been here for 40 years or more, a few of them newer, but all of them as beautiful as ever, never showing their age as their caretaker does.
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Last Fall, before the heart event reared its ugly head, I painted a logo for Bill Kurek who has Caladium Bulbs 4 Less in Lake Placid, Florida. As a result and out of the kindness of his heart, Bill sent me a box filled to the brim with mixed Caladiums (Caladia for those Latin lovers). I had forgotten, to tell you the truth, what with all the hoopla surrounding the unexpected health issues, until the day in May when the box arrived.

I had been unable to dig holes, couldn't play in the dirt and though I did yank a weed or two, cardio rehab and doctor's orders prevented this gardener from doing very much gardening. What would I do with what must have been hundreds of bulbs? Remember those light bulbs that used to appear above heads in old comic strips? Let me tell you, I had a light bulb moment.

I hadn't planted my usual annuals, no petunias, nothing decorated my doorsteps or my deck, nor did a single geranium grace my walkway. But I had all those empty pots and bags of leftover potting soil and compost from last year. I had also saved bags of used soil when I unpotted last year's annuals. It took a few days to rinse out the pots, fill them with mixed soils and compost and to plant the Caladium bulbs, but I got it done with no stress and hardly any lifting at all. I did a lot of pushing and pulling but I hardly lifted a thing. I'm very good at following rules when I've been through months of unexpected health upheavals.

Now that my spring and summer blooms are fading fast, at a time when I thought I'd have few blooms and less color, I have the most glorious Caladiums I have ever seen! Amazing color, front yard, back deck, beneath trees along the driveway, it is a Caladium show for sure!
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These Caladiums just keep growing, filling all the empty spots where petunias and impatiens and geraniums, begonias, delphiniums and even my usual sweet potato vines used to be. It is an unending parade of unexpected color.
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I don't think I've ever had a more beautiful summer at a time when I needed it most. And they just keep right on growing! Incredibly more beautiful every day. Thank you, Bill!
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Amazing endeavor
Posted on Dec 30, 2014 2:00 PM

I'm only going to post a link, it's well worth watching and it is self-explanatory. It is the Tree of 40 Fruit. Look at what one man is doing to preserve heirlooms. Takes about 5 minutes to watch.
Thank you LarryR.

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It's A Poe Day
Posted on Oct 10, 2014 5:16 PM

My grandmother would say it's pert'n-nigh a Poe day. I don't know how she knew much about Poe, but I do remember she had shelf after shelf of books, old books, dusty from time, but treasures to her. She taught me to read from those books, long before I discovered The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. So somehow she knew about Edgar Allan Poe. And since 'The Raven' has been hanging out in the corners of my mind for more years than I bother to count, I must have known about Poe all those years too, because it is for sure a Poe day, pert'n-nigh. (For those who don't know, pert'n-nigh means pretty near. Yes, I do speak a whole 'nother language; it comes from the branches and hollers of the Appalachian mountains, right proud of it, too, I am.)

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It all started early this morning, 'while I pondered weak and weary', (Poe again) pondered over whether or not to get out of bed. It was as dark at 8 a.m. as it was when I hit the pillow at midnight. It was to be a daylily digging day. It's been windy, dry, coolish but with sun for a couple of weeks and try as I did, I could not make a dent in that sunbaked brown earth. So it rained yesterday, a real 10 minute downpour and I thought surely I could dig those daylilies today. Wrong again. The day has drizzled and rumbled and grumbled and groaned, all in darkness -- ominous - and the earth just spit my shovel right back at me.

For two weeks now the cottonwood tree has been talking, chattering in the wind, 'silken, sad, uncertain rustling,' (shades of The Raven again) and it's shed so many dried leaves you'd think it would be bare naked by now, but no. It is an old old tree. Actually it forks about 10 feet up and from up on the hill one can see that it should never have been allowed to grow because each of those forked sides has become a huge trunk, either one of them ready to fall at the slightest opportunity. I would not complain but on this mostly ominous day I'm looking at the branches that tower over my deck and my mimosa and my kitchen windows and I see that it might be incredibly dangerous. It's the bare naked branches I'm worried about and there are about 5 or 6 of them. Ominous. Foreboding. But it isn't my tree.
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Seems that it might be on the strip between lots, the strip where utilities run underground for this little neighborhood. And if that's true, then the electric company is in charge of that tree. We'll see. I really hate doing battle with a conglomerate. Ominous. But to the right of the cottonwood, there stands my old redbud, with its black seed pods draping the limbs, dripping with raindrops, like too many stalactites from the roof of a cave. More ominous. And the leaves below, when the rains finally end, compost! Not so ominous.

'Deep into that darkness peering' . . . yeah, Poe again, I glimpse color up on the hill in a flowerbed, a rose or two beneath the cedar tree. I love the look of that cedar, it's almost perfect and during winter those thick evergreen branches shelter a few birds. Yes. It's a good tree. And that flowerbed, all that green, it must be the alfalfa pellets sprinkled among the daylilies. Not ominous at all up on the hill.
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It's getting darker now, which has nothing to do with Poe since it's time for this day to end anyway. Funny how dark weather and old poetry raced their way into my mind and lingered there all day. I only wanted to dig a few daylilies today, 'merely this and nothing more'.

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Posted on Sep 22, 2014 11:07 AM

What a gorgeous day yesterday was, so beautiful I wanted to just grab hold of it and never let go. I watered and weeded and took pictures and did so much of nothing really, but it was an amazing day. A golden day, a once in a lifetime day; just free and easy and with a breeze that carried the hint of distant music. The only sound was the rustling of cottonwood leaves and maybe the red maple and the occasional musical tone. It was a day to just 'be'. Just be still and look and listen, to not think or worry or work. Just one great big beautiful day. I think maybe I could stay in that kind of day for a year or two and never want for another thing.

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People talk about the weather all the time, particularly now that hints and rumors and suggestions of climate change have been on the tips of so many public tongues. It really isn't a new topic, I grew up knowing that our daily existence depended on working hand in hand with the weather. Get those bulbs, blooms, tomatoes, whatever in before first frost or they would be blackish mush by morning. Plant that last crop of half runners as soon as last frost or there will be no green beans to put up for winter. It's all a part of living and surviving. At that time we knew what to expect from our weather at any given season, it was predictable. The difference now is that we have no clue what to expect, and the unthinkable is happening. My Golden Raintree is dead and the Southern Magnolia I started from seed is not far behind. I see no sign of damage, no sign of bugs; they're both young trees, so I'm blaming last year's winter weather.
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Both pictures were taken earlier this Summer when the Raintree looked fine and the Magnolia bloomed right along with the Crepe Myrtle.

Now things are different and I have some chopping to do. It's going to change the looks of things around here when I lose those young trees. When we first moved here 40 years ago, there were only 3 small trees on this half acre. It had been farmland in years past and large farms needed lots of sunshine. That's what we moved into, lots of sun and not much shade. So over the years with the hot afternoon sun in mind, I planted and I planted and I planted. Trees. And more trees. Now that I'm living in what sometimes seems to be a forest, I guess the loss of a tree or two won't hurt anything, but it surely does break my heart. I seem to be one who gets terribly attached to things I have planted.

Not many blooms here in the first week of Fall, but the days have been so glorious it doesn't matter much.
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The hibiscus, way over my head, always brightens up that little corner, just as the crepe myrtle almost blocks a walkway. And the tiny coleus, it suddenly appeared at the edge of the front walk; I haven't grown that particular coleus in a couple of years, and how this one survived the past winter while the trees did not, I have no idea. Magic, I reckon!

Of course the sedum blooms on and on and yesterday I noticed there might be a bloom stalk on one of the Elephant Ears that came with those from Xeramtheum. I've never had an EE to bloom for me before. Exciting! Gloriosas, beautiful! And a morning glory here and there.
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So it's Fall and there are changes, but on the other hand, there's always goldenrod with ragweed not far behind.
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I think I smell hickory smoke in the air. It's probably a good time to chop down a dead tree or two.

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Genes and the Daylily Parade
Posted on Jul 12, 2014 2:18 PM

The thing is, I missed out on the gene that has a great desire to hybridize much of anything. I'm not sure why that is because I come from a whole line filled with gardeners who had acres and acres of knowledge. A few of them relied on a string of native plants that were both medicinal and edible. They all made their way into my genes, those plants and knowledge about them, but not the desire to create a new look for an old plant. Seems as if I simply love the old plants, those that go without makeup and grow in the spots that were created just for them.

Western Kentucky is quickly beginning to resemble a plains state, what with the hot, dry, windy summers; though this year it seems to be fighting back with a sudden burst of more rain. Even so, its climate will never be anywhere near the mountains I grew up in and I've given up trying to get Mountain Laurel and other mountain plants to grow here. This end of the state was not created for them. Instead I try to only keep plants that belong in this zone. Daylilies are plants that grow well in either climate, and I have a lot of them.

But back to genes and hybridizing. During the last four years of the 90s, I helped my uncle restore an old home in central Kentucky, about midway between my mountains and my present home in W KY. He had inherited the gardening gene, just as I did, and we both also loved to restore old homes and old furniture. At that time he was very active in a Daylily Society in Louisville and the old family home had about a hundred acres with it; most of those acres were covered in daylilies.

He and his daylily friends hybridized and sold seedlings at their gathering once a year; it was before many had internet so the sales took place at the home of one of the members. As I remember, the money mostly went to local charities. The seedlings that were left over from the sales came to live in the gardens of the old homeplace that we were restoring. Now I already had a lot of daylilies growing in my much smaller gardens in W KY. Most all of them came with me when I moved from the mountains of E KY; old ditchlilies, Kwansos, a salmon color, a peach and one that I think is Crimson Pirate, a very beautiful red that blooms first every year.

I remember being excited when his seedlings began to bloom, I'd never seen such a variety of color, even the shapes began to change and instead of being just one color, the new blooms were exotic with their petals of one color and their sepals of another. It was a time of learning for me; I watched him pollinate, I watched seeds form, I watched as he gathered seeds and labeled each one. And at the end of each season, I'd drive home with a trunk filled with seedlings. Why I never cared enough about them to learn their parentage, I have no idea; but it was the shape and the form and the colors that I became enamored with. Some didn't bloom for awhile, but after a year or two of living in W KY, they let me know they were very happy here. But even during those 5 summers of watching my uncle, I was never interested in hybridizing on my own.

Every year, just like clockwork, the Daylily Parade begins for me on Memorial Day and it lasts through the end of July. During the time of the parade, every single one of Uncle Bill's seedlings now blooms. I've added to the collection, of course, I now have spiders and minis and tricolors and a great deal of variety in color, but nothing that I've ever attempted to create or change myself.

Every year as each daylily shows its first bloom, I'm swept back in time to the few summers when I enjoyed fields and fields of my uncle's daylilies. Makes me want to look up and say, 'See Uncle Bill, I haven't changed a thing."

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