Saturday, January 31, 2009

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

By far the best catalog that has arrived this winter is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I sent for this catalog based on their rating at garden watchdog. I have never seen such a beautiful catalog. Now this is not a solicited or paid endorsement. I really just love the catalog so much that i needed to tell you about it.

If you have never visited their site it is You can send for their free catalog there. It is a must for any heirloom enthusiast. The mouth watering selection of melons and tomatoes is out of this world. Baker Creek carries seeds from over 70 countries with 1275 varieties. They even have a great forum site at They have also created a village called Bakersville that can be seen at It's such an amazing place. I have put it on my list of places to see.

The catalog is full of full color, full page images of spectacular veggies. I wasn't able to resist the tomato section. I circled nearly every variety available. Reds, pinks, whites, yellows, oranges, purples, and striped, a tomato for every taste!

The catalog states that all of their seeds are non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented. These seeds are as good and pure as it gets! I look forward to doing lots of great business with Baker Creek.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Found Blotanical!

Gardening is my passion. It is the number one reason why I started a blog. To share with others and to find like minded folks. I was completely unaware that this amazing world existed and that it was just sitting within my laptop a fingers click away. Well, needless to see, I am blissfully aware now.

As i hunted for all the greatest blogs I noticed many of them had something in common. A curious link to a site called I of course clicked on the link and found yet another wonderful garden world. I immediately signed up and created my account. I got to work adding my favorite blogs and really had no trouble navigating the site. Even if I had there were plenty of easy to find help links to clarify any questions I might have had.

Already, I am making new friends and enjoying the rewards of being a member of Blotanical. I'm thinking that all of this is a new beginning to my favorite things in life. Friends and gardening. To share with others, mine and theirs, joys in life and garden.
"Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like having a friend takes time." Georgia O'Keefe

If anyone can truly see a flower it is the people who tell their stories and share their experiences in gardening.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Memory of Chloie

My mother called yesterday with terrible news. Chloie had been sick for a few weeks. My mom consulted the local veterinarian who said to give her some antibiotics but when she only got worse mom finally took her in.

I was at Lowes looking for seed starting materials when she called. She was already crying when she broke the news. Chloie had cancer.

I have had Chloie since i was 11 years old. She has been my loving friend for 16 years. She has always joined me in the gardens chasing insects and hiding beneath the iris foliage. Always following me through the gardens. She at times would follow me during late night strolls through our small town. She would run ahead and then wait for me to catch up. Chloie was a fluffy long haired cat. Mostly grey with a white under belly, feat and nose. In her smokey, grey fur there were swirls of a light brown that intensified in the summer. A feisty kitten, the first time i picked her up she scratched my on my nose. I cryed and said i didn't want her. That of course wasn't true. She became my side kick. My bedroom was her hang out and favorite place to sleep. She even ripped a whole in my window screen so that she could come and go as she pleased on summer nights.

The Vet advised that putting her to sleep would be best. She had tumors in her stomach and one large one pushing on her throat. She was unable to eat very well for a few days before she went in due to this tumor pressing against her throat. I gave mom the o.k. to have her put to sleep. I have never lost a pet that has been such a huge part of my life. I didn't realize how painful it was going to be. I expected Chloie to live much longer. She has always been so healthy and active.

Monday afternoon Chloie was put to rest. I am going to miss my friend. I will plant Chloie a beautiful garden with irises and daylilies that she loved to play under so much.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gardens at Sunnybank

I have had the pleasure of visiting the historic Sunnybank home on 6Th Street in Traverse City, Michigan on several occasions. It is a wonderful place created by an English woman named Dee Blair. The home is open to the public most days except when events are taking place. She makes her wonderful gardens available for small weddings and other small parties. Sunny Bank is a large Victorian Queen Anne home set on a beautiful cobble stone street. Every home is unique and gorgeous on 6Th street. When the home was built it had a clear view of Grand Traverse Bay but the area has since grown up and no longer looks upon the water.

Upon arriving at Sunnybank you are struck by the homes beauty. The well manicured lawn and small garden beds are perfect and ever evolving. Each time I visit there is something newly created by Dee.

To enter the garden you must walk the path to the left side of the house. There you will see a beautiful garden door complete with garden bell and visitor instructions. You must ring the bell before entering to notify Dee that a visitor has arrived.

I have never seen such perfectly kept gardens. The flowers and plants are all clean and dead headed daily. All beds are weeded and mulched and the grass is perfectly edged. The garden colors are soft and inviting and the garden walls are a soft green created by Dee as well. This water fountain is one of the first features you encounter when you enter the garden door.

A quiet resting place.

Another water features surrounded by hostas.

A sundial rests in a sea of Irish moss.

Another archway in the garden.

Another house on 6th ST. This one has been converted into a funeral home. It's my favorite house on the street for obvious reasons.

Here is a link to the Traverse City newspaper with small articles by Dee Blair.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Visit to Ensata Gardens

My friend Lynda and I took a day trip down to Galesburg MI to visit the largest Japanese iris grower in the country, Ensata Gardens. We got an early start as it was about a four hour drive and we wanted lots of time to enjoy the blooms.

We passed the entry the first time. Its tucked back and not marked at all. We pulled in wondering is this the place? Well we knew soon enough. First we passed an older white farm house. It was a charming old place on the right. We kept moving along the dirt roadfurther back onto the property. I noticed lots of Eastern Redbuds sprouting up all around the property before I noticed the house. A very beautiful, large, brick house. It was surrounded by beautiful gardens and perfect green grass. It almost seemed as though the air was green. I wanted to roll in the grass and take a long nap! It was quite enchanting.

They have a very extensive collection of conifers and hostas.

I love old barns. They had a really beautiful building with old windows surrounded with ferns and hostas.

Part of the rock waterfall and stream they built.

Some of their Japanese irises.

Here is a partial view of their growing fields.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Orchard Scouting

In winter i find whatever job is available. I put out applications and usually end up in some retail store spending half my pay on clothes I dont need. Come summer however, I'm an Orchard Scout. It's by far the best job i have ever had. What is an Orchard Scout you may ask. Well, it's simple really. I drive around looking at orchards for insects and plant diseases. My boss and I begin early each day making the rounds to our 20 clients.

All of our farmers grow cherries, apples, pears, peaches, wine grapes, nectarines, strawberries, blackberries, plumbs, apricots, and a few other things. The primary crops are apples and cherries though. Michigan is known for its apple and cherry industy and is quickly becoming a great place for wine as well.

Every week we do the same rotation hitting the same farms around the same times each day of the week. My boss does his blocks and i hit mine, jumping in and out of the car to inspect small samples of the fruits and trees. We determine pest and disease levels in the orchards. My boss is an expert on the subject of pesticides and the like. He consults closely with the farmers to give them the appropriate treatment applications for all of the problems they may face.

Orchard scouting and consulting is a great way for the farmer to use less spray on crops. They are informed of the health of the orchards and do not need to spray if there isn't a problem or that the problem is not severe enough. It also helps to prevent resistance. When one treatment is used frequently it may become ineffective. Alternating treatments is key to keep orchards healthy.

Its not a common proffesion but its definitely an enjoyable one.

Friday, January 23, 2009

plant labeling methods

This is a subject that has haunted me for years. I have been using metal mini blinds cut into about 8 inch strips. I just use a sharpy to mark them. This doesnt work at all for me. The mini blinds heave out of the ground every winter and the sharpie doesnt make it through the spring. My irises are a mess! I have a bucket of labels that belong in the garden. I have made maps of all my plants but it only gives the general area of each irises location. Since most of the irises are growing so close to each other now its not much of a help. To make matters worse the irises arent blooming well because the soil is worn out. I plan amend it heavily this summer. Not looking forward to all that digging. So with all that said getting the irises correctly labeled is going to take at least 3 to 4 years, at least!

After doing some research at Daves Garden and other sources I have discovered the magic of the p-touch labeler by brother. Amazon carries them and has good prices. I plan to buy one immediately. Then i will head over to Office Max and pick up the weather proof 3/4" tape. After printing i will affix them to Paw Paw markers. Many say the labels will last 5+ years in the garden. Problem solved!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Live to Garden

Plant Co ops

Have you ever participated in a co op? I hadn't until last spring. Wow, what fun! I started out ordering irises. Then the hosta co op started and i joined in on that one too. Before long i had about 20 orders placed in various co ops including shade plants, garden pens, daylilies, tulips, daffs, crocus, alliums and more. Soon i was running my own co ops. I first hosted a Hellebore co op with Pine Knot Farms. It was a lot of fun but time consuming. I enjoyed the organization of the process and the people that i meet. It went well and in all i had around 40 participants order and 17 flats of 1 year old hellebore in my kitchen! Once it was all over i decided that i wanted to do a peony co op and a fall bulb co op. That was a mistake. I had over 100 participants between the two of them plus i moved and was working 50 hours a week. It was exhausting. It took awhile but everything went on as planned and everyone received their plants at the end of the summer. Lesson learned! I will never take on as much responsibility as a co op when i am that busy.

What is a co op? It's a group purchase that is organized by a person or small group. In a co op the host is responsible for all the details. They take the orders, totals and keep great contact with the vendor and participants. Ordering plants this way is a great way to get them for much cheaper than usual. It's buying in bulk but the host typically does the shipping. If you love plants its a great way to get em.

Welcome to my blog

I'm very new to blogging. I don't consider myself a good writer at all. I usually throw away things i write. Perhaps this will help me learn. So far it has been lots of fun. I am really enjoying this new world of anything but ordinary blogs. So many great people and blogs on this site. Time to start digging in!

Apples and Green Beans

For a fun project at the babysitters house she decided to make paper seed cups and plant apple seeds in them. I was five and very excited to have my very own apple tree. Imediately upon arriving home I moved the seed into our vegetable garden.

Our vegetable garden was a magical place,hidden at the back of our farm. A small path through the woods led to it. The corn was taller than my father. I can still see his legs moving through the paths while i snuck around at his feet. I rember it well. Weedless with perfect rows. I had my own little spot where i lovingly placed my apple seed.

The seed started to sprout. Everyday i waited for apples on the tiny seedling. One day i went to check it and found tiny green beans! I began to cry and run back to the house. I can still remember running up the path which was cloaked by a large crab apple tree. My vision was blurred with tears. I ran to my mom who concoled me knowing the truth about my seed.

It was 10+ years later when she told me the truth. She said the seed hadn't sprouted so she replaced it with a green bean plant. She never thought i would react so badly.

Me as a gardener, the beginning

My earliest childhood memories are remarkebly from when i was around 3 years old. Im not sure but i think thats pretty young to remember things. I can recall quite a bit though.

The corn field across the road where my dad spent hours on the tractor. I sat on his lap a few times as we did laps around the field.

I recall the old glass front flower shop that we owned and operated.

The little cement bottom pond at our home that had cattails and frogs.

The large family room and fire place adorned with white wicker furniture and orange shag carpet.

I was always surrounded with flowers. If i wasn't at home in the greenhouses then i was at the flower shop in Manistee.

Looking back its impossible to imagine me doing anything else but gardening.

spring, not soon enough

I'm freezing! Everyday i am cold and uncomfortable. I am so ready for spring that i dream of it every night. Seed catalogs are arriving and that is only fueling the dream fire. I am so excited to get back to Michigan and play in my garden. Lots of work to do this year. Dig and amend all the iris beds. Plant the left over plants. Start a veggy garden. Build a green house, raised beds, cold frames, arches, fences and more! We will see how much i actually get done.