Knock Out Roses with Black-eyed Susans

While driving to and from the grocery store on Saturdays, I listen to 610's weekend call-in gardening program.  A couple years ago, I liked what I heard about Knock Out Roses.  They came so highly recommended.  I couldn't resist!  They were also reasonably priced.  I bought mine from Wal-Mart.

For me, hybrid roses have always been a challenge.  Although there is nothing quite like the grace, fragrance and beauty of a cultivated rose, I have had limited success with this flower.

In recent years, if the leaf spot didn't make make them unsightly, then the Japanese beetles did.

Sometimes, both disease and insect rendered my two hybrid rose bushes looking like something that had survived a war zone.

The Knock Out roses have had no leaf spot and the beetles don't go after them the way they do the hybrids.

Virtually carefree, this variety is compact, blooms continuously well into Fall and is fragrant. A perfect plant to grow around a deck.


Fall Has Come

I wish the maples would always be this color - a rich yellow
with twinges of orange.

The green berries of the bittersweet
have turned yellow with cherry-red centers

The sweetgum with its star shaped leaves
glows in shades of yellow, red and orange.

The pink "Knock-Out" roses continue to bloom
despite a hard frost.

I like to stand beneath the towering maples
and look up into their golden expanse.

As a child,
I used to collect and press the colorful fall leaves
in the leaves of heavy books; to visit them
in the winter or whenever my heart
wished to return to that moment in time.


On Bringing in the Seeds

Frugality. It is the buzzword of the day.
 It seems everyone has embraced this lifestyle.

I learned frugality from our parents. World War II as imputes: frugality in all things, even gardening.

My father collected seeds. He showed us how. Father also wintered geraniums and other plants. One of his prize geraniums, of Hungarian origin, was almost three feet tall. We referred to it as the “geranium tree:” deep red, a prolific bloomer even in winter.

A few years ago, seeing that my sister was doing what our father had done, I too started wintering geraniums. This year, some bright pinks will be added to the salmon and magentas. One day, maybe, just maybe, one or both of us will have a “geranium tree” to rival that of our father.

As for seeds, dill, forget-me-nots, yellow & orange marigolds, sugar pie pumpkin, purple phlox, orange cosmos, columbine and portulaca have been, once again, collected, dried, sealed and placed in a cool, dry place.

I, the frugal gardener. Like father, like daughters.

Or, perhaps it is habit. Tradition. An unwavering rite of summer's passage. Perhaps it is simply a pleasing thing to do this wintering and ‘bringing in the seed.’

Or maybe, it is an act of preserving something more: not just seeds or a favorite flower, but of preserving that invisible connection to our father, from whom we gleaned the knowledge and joy of gardening.


Time to Reflect on 2009

Sedum colors the late summer perennial bed
Another growing season is almost at an end.  2009 will go down as one of those weird years: Too cold, too wet and sometimes, too dry. 

I heard from several gardeners in Ohio and Pennsylvania that it was a challenging year.  So, when I hear some people didn't even get one ear of corn or someone else says their tomatoes rotted, I remind myself not to be a perfectionist.  My garden was good.  I was hoping for "over abundance," but "good" is good ;)

Cabbage, peppers, eggplant, beans are still producing.  A few tomato plants by the patio deck are rippening.  I started four tomato plants for indoors for the winter.  One already has blossoms.

The apple tree took a holiday this year and didn't produce much fruit.  The two pear trees, on the other hand, took up the slack.  Mom & I have been peeling, coring and freezing pint after pint of pears to use in making pear butter and bread over the winter.

I cleaned up the potting shed garden and hauled the corn stalks to the back compost pile.  There were 14 pie pumpkins in this garden.  In the next few days, they will be cooked down and made into pumpkin pie filling.

Lots to do as gardening in Zone 5 wraps up.


Zucchini the Prolific!

In historical Ohio, corn, beans and squash were called the “three sisters” because they were staple crops that were planted together. The Indians and later, settlers, planted them this way so the beans had a strong support to climb and the squash could grow in the shade of the corn.

Today, all three vegetables thrive in Zone 5; although they are most often planted separately.

Zucchini is one of those prolific, easy-to-grow vegetables. Even in growing seasons that are not favorable, zucchini manages to be a top producer. What we can't eat fresh, we freeze or make into bread.
Here is one of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy zucchini. This recipe is from my sister Dar. She is an excellent cook. She also has a sweet little blog - RusticRanch.blogspot.com.

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini with skin (if using large zucchini, cut in half and scoop out the seeds before grating).

In large bowl, beat eggs well. Blend in sugar. Mix together baking soda, powder, salt cinnamon and flour. Add oil and mixed dry ingredients into egg/sugar mixture. Blend well but do not over beat. Add zucchini, nuts, raisins. Divide mixture into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 350. Let cool 10 minutes on rack before removing bread from pan.

For a bread that is more moist, increase zucchini by another 1/2 cup.

This bread freezers well.


some of.....The Fruits of my Labor

"Sweet banana peppers,"
long and tapered, await picking....
Should picking be delayed,
their yellow flesh will turn from yellow to orange to red.

"Great Stuff Hybrid" peppers are big and flavorful -
perfect for making stuffed peppers with rice,
tomato juice and ground beef.
This Burpee variety is also resistant to mosaic virus,
a virus which can be a problem in Ohio.

Pick a peck of PICKLES :)
"Little Dillicious" medium green cukes, 3 1/2" to 5"
long with blunt tips.
Great for pickling. These beauties are soaking.
Tomorrow, they will begin their pickle transformation.

"Fast Ball" cabbage has smaller, softball-sized heads.
The nibble holes are from the cabbage web worm.
I try not to spray, so if the pest is faster than me,
they get a meal before I get to them.

Eggplants - I love the color of this vegetable:
they shimmer like deep opals.
This is an unknown variety I bought from a local greenhouse.
One of the few starts I purchased this year.

The pears are starting to fall from the trees.
A little early, but no matter.
They were gathered and will ripen in the cool basement.
These make for a wonderful pear bread.

"Small Sugar" pumpkins grow to 5-8 lb.
They are a perfect pie pumpkin: fine grain, stringless and sweet.
One pumpkin has already started to ripen.
"Silver Queen" sweet corn.
We've been waiting and waiting on you my lovely!
This variety is very sweet & white. Ears grow to 8-9".
Variety freezes well too.

We had our first tomatoes yesterday - a lovely onion/tomato/parsley salad.
This is the "Super Beefsteak."
Fruit is smooth, meaty and averages 1 lb. each.
Tomatoes were started from seeds, indoors in late March.


In the Middle of Summer

A mid-summer, volunteer sunflower is poised to bloom.

It has been an odd summer. I have heard some people describe what we, in zone 5, are going through as the "year of no summer."

While we have had a few days in the high 80's. We haven't had our typical hot, soupy Ohio weather. The tomatoes for one are lagging behind because the days have been mild and the evenings cool. I have over 30 plants filled with small, green tomatoes.

On the other hand, the zucchini and yellow squash are producing. We're making/freezing zucchini bread as fast as we can for the long winter ahead. For now, we're enjoying fresh, sauteed zucchini with frozen tomatoes (from last year's garden), onion and yellow squash.

The green beans are finally picking size. The yellow are almost ready.

We've had several yummy meals of stuffed green peppers too. The leaf lettuce is still growing nicely as are the green onions.

We're just really, really anxious for some sweet, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes. Ditto for the sweet corn!


Orange Cone Flowers Begin to Thrive

Last summer, I moved my orange cone flowers from the small deck garden to the perennial bed.
It appears to have been a good move.
The orange variety is beginning to do better after a couple of years struggling.
I also like that there are purple cone flowers on the other side of the fence. The purple accentuates the orange very nicely.


Portulaca - Moss Rose

One of my dad's favorite flowers was the portulaca. He grew it in rock gardens and planter beds. Until this past spring, I had forgotten how beautiful this flower is.

After I had dug out a large, winter-damaged barberry bush from my full sun rock garden, I went to my favorite local greenhouse. And, there they were...flats of portulaca, the Sundial Mix. I knew I had found my rock garden replacement.

The only amending I did to the relatively good soil was peat moss.

The drought-tolerant portulaca took off, creating a blanket of low growing, succulent green leaves and bright, almost translucent, cup-shaped flowers.

When I was a child, my dad showed me how to collect the seeds by breaking open the dried seed heads. Since it is an annual, I'll be collecting seeds for next year, to grow my own starts to increase the amount of moss rose in the rock garden...YES, it IS that pretty!


Asiatic & Day Lilies on Parade

It's blooming time for the lilies.
And, they are as pretty as floats in a parade.....


Rubdeckia Marks the End of June

It's the end of June. The vegetable garden is growing well. A few weeks ago, a friend told me about epsom salt. It must be one of those old time gardening tricks. She heard about it from a co-worker and it worked for her so she was happy to share the secret.

Always one to try a garden trick at least once, I sprinkled epsom salt around the watermelon, beans, peppers, cucumbers and a couple of potted cherry tomatoes a day before it rained. Seriously, it made the plants double in size overnight. It's the magnesium sulfate.

So, my secret out, nothing else is new except a few cabbage worms; some of the corn was knocked over by a recent thunderstorm, and weeds. The usual things to contend with in Zone 5.

The cabbage worms were removed by hand. The corn should right itself. As for the weeds, I will be pulling them out as soon as I finish this post. Because of that soaking rain, the ground is soft. I like to pull weeds a day or so after a good rain because they come out easily, root and all.

The daylilies, tiger lilies, shasta daisies, rubdeckia, bee balm, yarrow and cone flowers, are dominating the perennial beds right now.

Hot days ahead now that the rubdeckia is blooming. Good swimming weather. Which is where I will be when the weeding gets to me!


They Follow the Sun

I love sunflowers simply because I love flowers and the color yellow.
When I was a child, the yellow crayon in my box of Crayolas was always a nub. I used to trade my blue or red for yellow. My suns were always big and the crayon on the paper was heavy to the point of being tacky. I just couldn't get enough of the color.
So of course, big, yellow sunflowers are planted in my garden. Some flowers, like the one pictured above, are volunteers from the bird feeders.
Sunflowers come in an assortment of colors and sizes. They are easy to grow and require no care. When the flower is spent, I dry out the seed heads, trim them down and hang them off the fence for the birds to peck at. Finches especially love the seed heads.
That their cheery yellow faces
follow the yellow sun as it travels
through the sky is, for me,
double the magic.

Yarrow the Color of Wine

Like the golden yellow and white,
the wine-colored yarrow is now in bloom.
For more on yarrow in zone 5,


A Field of My Own

A large portion of the perennial bed bordering the backyard fence
resembles a wild field. The effect is intentional.
The 'unkempt' appearance reminds me of the fields that grew
behind my childhood home near Lake Erie.

Ironically, it takes work to keep
the bed looking like a carefree field!
If left untended, the daisies and yarrow overtake everything else.

A Garden Climber

Clematis, also known as virgin's bower, is a climbing plant with an extremely diverse genus. Clematis comes in white, purple, pink, red and variations of these colors.

The clematis which grows in my garden is deciduous. Some clematis are evergreen. For the cool temperate species, the blooming starts in June. Its leaves drop in the fall. To keep the plant tidy, prune after blooming.

Hardy to Zone 5, my clematis grows in full sun and moist soil. It is doing even better this year now that the bittersweet has been pruned back to half its size.

One note of caution: All parts of the clematis are poisonous.


Sweet Peas & Early Spring Veggies

The sweet peas I planted in late March are almost ready for picking. I tried a pod over the weekend while planting some marigold starts around the edges of this small spring vegetable garden. The peas aren't full size yet but the pod and peas are very sweet. Also in this garden are loose leaf lettuce, parsley, green onions, and carrots all planted with the peas. I've been harvesting the lettuce for almost two weeks. I'm hoping the weather does not get hot and stay hot because then the lettuce will keep producing instead of bolting. The red bomb radishes have all been harvested and small green pepper starts went in their place.

All of the seeds in this garden are from Burpee and all are from older seed lots. Knock on wood, I've had mostly success with these older seeds. This year, I was looking to save money where ever possible, so I used up what I had on hand.


Iris is Greek for Rainbow

The bearded iris in my rock garden are showy and easy care. A very happy combination!

Here's a closeup of one of the pinks (missing is its bottom petal which I broke off in trying to photograph the inner beard - my bad!).

Iris like full sun and well-drained soil. Iris should be separated every four or five years. I have never separated the cluster of purple and pink irises at the center of the rock garden. The rhizomes and blooms are healthy and not in need of thinning.

The only drawback to the cultivated bearded iris is that it blooms for around two weeks and then you have to wait another 50 for the show to return!


Pansies & a Touch of Whimsy

This is one of the three pots I filled with pansies for my smaller deck. I like to sit out in the early morning on the weekends or after work during the week.

Placing a piece of whimsy here and there is sheer indulgence. I get pleasure from looking at my creations, deadheading the flowers, giving them a drink.

All within an arms reach of my chair where I can keep an eye on the cats - especially Noll - as they too enjoy the gardens and catnip standing within their reach.

A Rainbow in the Orchard

Monday, I came home from work just in time. A strong storm blew in from the southwest - heavy rains came down in angled sheets, high winds blew, leaves flew everywhere. It would have made for some treacherous driving.

My husband wasn't so lucky...or was he?

By the time he came home 20 minutes later, this is what greeted him in our backyard:
A perfect calm and a low rainbow.
As if nothing had happened.



Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are the smallest member of the onion family. An herbaceous perennial herb, chive is easy to grow. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. From mid-May to June, chives have pretty, little cluster-like purple flowers.

The hollow, tubular leaves grow 30-50 cm in height. Cuttings can be made 3 times a year (cut close to the ground). My patch of chives is over 10 years old and requires minimal care. The mild, onion-flavored leaves can be used fresh or dried.

My favorite way to use chives is freshly snipped and added to scrambled eggs. I also like fresh chives on baked potatoes with sour cream and in vegetable soup.

Punctuating the Garden

Gardening is a pursuit of both the physical and the aesthetic. I enjoy a good workout in the garden especially at planting time. I also enjoy weeding and watering as it puts me in a Zen-like state. Pausing to take in the sweet fragrance of my flowers and gaze upon their form feeds my need for beauty.

Here and there, I try to punctuate my gardens with tiny vignettes. Sometimes, the vignette is whimsical, sometimes practical. Here is a practical piece made for me by my sister, an avid and accomplished gardener. See more of her gardening delights at http://rusticranch.blogspot.com/


Pansey Faces

Pansies are a hybrid annual which will reseed. A cold hardy viola species, pansies come in a variety of colors. This year, I bought a cheery yellow - my favorite color - to compliment the purple plants already in the bed. I also made up 3 pots for my small deck.
What I like best about pansies is that they have 'little faces.' For me, these faces give pansies a charm and English cottage garden feel.
Easy to grow in sun or partial shade, pansies prefer well drained soil and can even survive freezing. Pansies are an economical and pretty flower for zone 5.

The Young Apple Maiden

Young compared to the multi-trunked old apple tree, the "young apple maiden" leans over at a severe angle. The strong west winds that sweep through the back acreage have bent her more than any of the other trees on our property.
She produces very small, red apples. Too small to be used. In early fall, yellow jackets feast on her fallen and hanging apples. Migrating birds, thankful for rest and a little nourishment, peck at the ripe, soft fruit.
Though my husband derides her unproductive state, I defend her. I am after all, the grounds keeper!
For me, the pretty little flowers in spring are her glory. I am content with that.

The Old Apple Tree in Spring

Beautiful in winter. Beautiful in spring.
Here is the old apple tree decked out in her floral splendor in April of this year. Lots of fragrant white-pink blooms. Hoping for a bumper crop this fall!

The old apple tree produces small, sweet apples. I do not know the variety and I think there actually might be two different kinds of apples. Mom and I collect the apples and with our paring knives, we prepare the apples for freezing, drying into apple slices, canning apple butter, and making fresh pies and strudel. Mom is German. She makes the most amazing strudel from a recipe she learned from her landlord back in the 1950's.



Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) is an evergreen perennial ground cover that grows well in poor soil as long as the soil is well-drained. Candytuft is a member of the mustard family.

One large, low growing mound is at the sunny front leading border of the narrow bed between the foundation and the deck. The candytuft is in the same bed as the grape hyacinths.

Hardy to Zone 5, candytuft is slow spreading and grows from 8 to 12" tall. In mid-spring, its small, bright white blooms open up and last for weeks.

In many ways, Candytuft reminds me Edelweiss. It is one of my favorite plants.

Shades of Lilac

Lilacs are a fragrant, easy care deciduous shrub in the olive family.
I have three shrubs and each is a different shade: pale pink, light violet and a dark Byzantium violet. The shrubs were planted by the previous owner, so I do not know how old they are - they are at least 20 years old. All of the bushes are in the front yard and in direct line with the westerly winds. They are very hardy to Zone 5.
The only care I have given my lilacs is some watering during the hot summer months and pruning to cut back the spent blossoms.
The shrubs bloom in mid-spring to early summer. I like to bring in sprigs of the lilac to enjoy their beauty and gorgeous scent - it is a heavy fragrance that can fill a room.