Sued51's Blog

{June 1, 2013}   A Special Flower

Pink Lady SlippersI was out walking in my neighborhood yesterday and saw these in a neighbor’s yard.

Pink lady slipper

I did a double-take…pink lady slippers??? I hadn’t seen them since I was a child. And I remember quite well what happened then.

I was in the woods behind my house and came across this beautiful flower. Thoughtful child that I was, I picked it to bring home to my mother. On my way back I bumped into a friend who lived next door. “Look what I found! Isn’t it beautiful?” I gushed. I thought she was shocked by its beauty, but no…she said, “You aren’t supposed to pick those!”

“Why not?” I said, feeling uneasy.

“It’s illegal!”


“You are going to get in trouble!”

I thought she was teasing me, so I brought it home anyway. And my mother said it was true…they were endangered. She said she appreciated my thought, but get rid of it! I went back to the woods and laid it down next to the leaves, hoping someone would think it just broke. I was nervous for a couple of days after that,  picturing policemen at my door hauling me away. Of course, nothing happened, but I never touched them again.

Glad to see that they are still alive and well. They are the state flower of Minnesota, but can be found in the Eastern US and Canada. You can read about them here.

{September 25, 2011}   As the Avocado Grows…

As the Avocado Grows…

My successful "plant experiment"

I have written in a past blog about my “plant experiments.” This 1 ½ year old avocado plant is one of my successes, and I’m proud as a parent.

I had heard you could grow an avocado from a pit but I had never tried it.  I was interested in the experiment, so I looked up information on the Internet (the Internet IS wonderful for that; you can find out how to do almost anything).  I followed the instructions: hovering a split pit over a dish of water with toothpicks. It took weeks and weeks to get a sprout, but it happened!  I transplanted it and it is now over two feet tall!  Because it was an avocado from the grocery store it is probably a hybrid, genetically altered not to produce fruit, but it is still a lovely plant and makes me feel successful. It has a place of honor under the skylights with our other “tropical” plants.

Meanwhile out in my compost pile last year, a plant rose from the depths. I recognized the leaves because of my indoor experiment; an avocado plant had grown on its own in my compost pile without the aid of the toothpicks and bowl of water. I briefly considered digging it up and repotting it, but I didn’t think I needed two of them.  I was attached to the one I grew myself because I worked so hard to nurture it.

With very little thought, I left it to become a victim of the New England winter.

A Successful Food Experiment

We all hear about discrimination that people suffer from, what about plants?  I think some flowers suffer from discrimination based on their names—the perennial Sneezeweed for example ( ).  The garden center I work at was selling them—a beautiful golden orange in color.  People would walk over to them, saying, “Aren’t these pretty?” and then look at the name and walk away.  Similarly, I always find “dead nettle” a tough sell, despite its rare quality of producing flowers in the shade ( ).

“Weed” has such a nasty connotation—an annoying plant we always try to get rid of.  A plant lovers’ definition of a weed is “a plant that grows in the wrong place.”  Many plants considered weeds (or nicely termed “wildflowers”) are quite pretty—think of Morning Glories, Ox-eye Daisies, and Sweet William.  Growing in the right place we would enjoy these “weeds” immensely.  We should all have a “wild” part of our yard for these beauties and just let them go.

Home gardening is becoming more popular than ever due to the economy.  Most people grow some kind of food in the summer, even if it is just some herbs and a patio tomato. What do you do if you don’t have a yard, or your yard does not have a good sunny spot in the back or side to have a vegetable garden?  Is it socially acceptable to have a vegetable garden in the front yard?

In my area, I see lots of Topsy Turvys (upside down tomato growers) on front porches. At my job, I had a conversation with a woman who said she grows tomatoes along the front walkway because it is the sunniest spot in her yard, and she loves the convenience of picking them as she walks into the house after work (although her husband hates it).  Many people unable to afford the cost of fancy pots grow their tomatoes in buckets (like the orange “Homer” Home Depot buckets, which are under $3.00). When I mentioned this phenomenon to a coworker, she said she called it a “Hillbilly Garden”.

Container gardening is also becoming popular.  Google “container gardening with vegetables” and check out the wealth of information on the internet for this topic.  One book I was reading suggested using the plastic tubs sold at party stores as an inexpensive container; most any container will do, as long as it is large enough for the type of plant, and it has holes for drainage.

I have a small vegetable garden on the side of my house that barely gets enough sun for me to grow tomatoes.  I have the best luck with peas and beans.  So this year, I have two Topsy Turvys on my farmer’s porch, and a line of every pot I could find on the driveway, by far the sunniest spot.  In honor of my coworker, I call this my “hillbilly garden” (though I don’t have any buckets).  I don’t think it is TOO ugly; do you?

{April 4, 2010}   Learning From Our Elders

My husband and I routinely walked around our old neighborhood and talked to our neighbors.  One of them was an over-eighty Armenian seamstress named Elmis, who loved to work in her yard. Elmis taught me a lot about gardening.  She took us around her yard and told us the names of all the plants.  She told us which ones could be trimmed when, and which could be transplanted easily.

Elmis had portulaga at the end of her driveway.  My husband loved the colorful flowers; he said they reminded him of Trix cereal.  She dug some up and gave them to us.  She also told us that even though they were annuals, she never bought more seeds. She just clipped off the heads in the fall and buried them in peat, and they would come up again the next year.  I tried it in my yard and it worked.

Elmis’ yard was a pleasure to look at, always immaculate. We would always make a point of stopping to talk to her if she was outside.  Sometimes we would see the tiny light of the sewing machine through the front window and know that she was working inside.  We learned a lot about Elmis in the quick outside chats— she immigrated to the US with her husband, who died young; her daughter lived down the street; and her black and white cat was named Mickey, after Mickey Mouse—but I never knew her last name.

We don’t live there anymore, but I think of Elmis often when I walk in my new yard.  I doubt she is still alive, but maybe somehow she knows I am thinking about her. She had much to teach; I hope there were others that learned from her as well.

{March 19, 2010}   But This is New England…

It is so tempting.  Being able to go outside in a t-shirt and feel the warm sun on my back makes me think it is time to plant my peas and flowers.  It is like a craving for a donut—I know I will be sorry.  It is not even the official date of spring on the calendar.  And yet…oh, the sun feels SOOOO GOOD. 

But I do remember the April Fool’s day storm over 10 years ago that dumped over a foot of snow, and I know it has snowed in May in my lifetime.  Even though the weather people show a seven-day forecast with no freezing temperatures at night…I can’t trust it.  It is not even Easter yet.  How many very cold sunrise services do I remember shivering through in my spring Easter clothes?

I have to keep in mind where I live right now; it’s not Knoxville, it’s New England.  Our growing season does not start in March, no matter how much I would like it to.  Despite global warming, you can’t be lulled into beginning a garden on these lovely days, just enjoy them.

My back is aching; have you ever used “The Claw”?  It is a special garden tool that you rotate in the ground to pull up plants with deep roots and break up the soil when you don’t have a rototiller.  It’s very hard work.

A few years ago when I made my raised-bed vegetable garden I naively planted some mint.  After being away from home for 1 ½ years, the mint took over the entire garden.  I attacked it today with “The Claw”.  What roots!  It had even wound itself around my bean tower, so I had to pull that out of the ground.

After churning up all the soil, I raked it and sifted through it with my gloved hands trying to find stray roots.  Before I dare plant anything else there I will have to do some more raking and sifting.  Oh, insidious plant!  Oh, my aching back!  All for a mojito…

My Favorite Catalog

My favorite catalog came yesterday—Burpee Gardening!  I can just stare at the pictures for hours; the pictures of the vegetables, fruits, and flowers are my idea of paradise.  This year the cover is graced by a cream yellow and magenta petunia called “Fancy Dress”, and it is fancy indeed. “Come into our garden!” reads the front, and I eagerly enter.

Hmmm…what are the highlights this year? The front of the book contains a “Big Pink Tomato” (that truly looks “pink” in the picture) and a “Cherries Jubilee Tomato” (the photo shows a hanging branch — wonderful depth of field –of countless red and orangey cherry tomatoes).  The names of the plants are imaginative—who can resist a lettuce called “Braveheart”, or a fruit called “Seascape Strawberries”.   And I love to read the descriptions; peppers called “Flavorburst Hybrid” are described as “Giant blocky bells [that] begin granny apple green and finish in a lovely shade of goldenrod.”  The accompanying picture is as described: peppers all combinations of green and gold.

If you’ve never looked at a burpee catalog; here’s the link; you’ll see the “Fancy Dress” on the web site.

Go to the bottom of the page and click on Request a Catalogue.   Send for one.  I’m telling you…when it is snowing outside or when you are waiting in vain for a glimpse of your crocuses breaking ground, this catalog will help you dream of spring!

et cetera
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