Wednesday, July 29, 2009

MSL and FG on GW

Even though I am not a gardener in Buffalo proper, I am still so proud that our fair city received such a glowing review on the Martha Stewart Living Radio Blog. See, Buffalo (and the surrounding region) is more than just snow and chicken wings! Stacey's post really drives that home.

Also, Kerry from Fine Gardening magazine, whom I met at Elizabeth's garden party on Saturday, took this photo of me at work amongst the blooms! Thanks, Kerry, for also blogging about your experience on the Garden Walk!

Photo by Kerry Ann Moore

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garden Walk 2009

Here in the Buffalo, NY area, one of the most anticipated events of the year is Garden Walk, a weekend that features over 300 urban gardens that free and open for public perusal and enjoyment. This year, I was invited by my friend Gordon Ballard and his partner Brian to come on Saturday to be the "guest artist" and paint in the gardens while people browsed. I was more than happy to accept!

I had everything packed and ready to go, only to find upon arrival and unpacking that I had unwittingly forgot my paints and brushes! As Elizabeth succinctly put it when I explained what had happened, "Lame!" Indeed. Fortunately, I had also packed my colored pencils and a few sheets of paper to work with, so I wasn't stuck completely high and dry. It turned out to be a happy accident, as I really haven't actually sit down and just drawn something in a long time. These days I'm almost exclusively painting or collaging. It was great. I had never really sat down and worked with flowers and plants in my work before, so this was a new challenge that I really enjoyed.

Here is the most complete drawing I was able to make that day. I had a beautiful clump of Echinachea purpurea standing right in front of my set-up, so that is what I focused on.

And here are some photos I took of just a portion of Gordon's gardens that day. I also happen to LOVE his house and the way he plays off the gorgeous architecture with the plantings.

They had a wonderful little spot set up for me, where I not only made art, but also displayed a couple of my house paintings.

Shots of the lovely gardens...

As always, you can click on the photos to see them larger; if you'd like to see more of my artwork, you can visit my website: Amy Greenan Art & Design.

After my time at Gordon's, I headed over to Elizabeth's for a garden party. I guess I was too busy socializing to get any photos of her gardens, but trust me when I say that it is amazing what can be done with a small, shady, urban space. I felt like I was in a movie, that's how great it was. Thanks for the invite, E.! No doubt she will be posting about Garden Walk in her own blog, Gardening While Intoxicated—don't miss it! You can also visit Jim's Blog, Art of Gardening, for his summation of the weekend. It was great to meet you, Jim, and I am sorry we didn't have a chance to chat much.

This past weekend just went to prove how many cool people are in the gardening community, and I am proud to be a part of it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garden Update

Just a quick update, mainly for my own purposes to keep track of what is going on.

I finally got to weed the veggie garden yesterday! C. asked about how long I thought it would take, and I said, "Mmm... maybe a half hour?" He figured it would be twice that, and he turned out to be right. That happens a lot, I must admit.

I am so pleased to announce that all four of the asparagus crowns I planted have made their way to the surface! I just noticed as I was weeding that the last one finally joined the others above ground. This is very exciting to me.

We're also seeing some teeny tiny little watermelons forming. Unfortunately, the first one petered out and didn't make it, but there are plenty of others that we hope won't have the same fate.

The tomatoes still appear to be Late Blight-free. *touch wood* The peppers, all types, are thriving. We're seeing many fruits that might be pickable very soon! The tomatoes are taking forever to ripen, though. Not enough sun, I guess.

It's been raining on and off since last night, with today having some especially vigorous downpours. It would nice to see some warmth and sun follow tomorrow and give things a chance to process all that lovely moisture. Not to mention, I need to get those plants I dug up from my mom's house in the ground!

An odd summer indeed!

In other garden news, this Saturday I am excited to have been invited to paint en plein air in my friend Gordon's gorgeous urban garden for Buffalo's annual Garden Walk. I guess it's something he does every year, include an artist on one of the days. I expect I'll paint some garden things, and maybe his house, too, since that's kind of my "thing" lately. Either way, it should be interesting, and considering how many people attend Garden Walk, I should have a steady audience throughout the day!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


List #1: The tomatoes and peppers I bought from Mater Mark
• Nicky Crain
• Earl of Edgecomb
• Berkeley Tie-Dye
• Sungold
• Stump of the World

• Yellow Peru
• Chocolate Brown Habanero
• Aconagua

List #2: Plants that are drought-tolerant that I want to put in the front garden
• Sedum (have some)
• Creeping phlox
• Snow-in-summer
• Hens & Chicks (have some)
• Common sage
• Lavender
• Common thyme
• Rosemary (have some, but need more)
• Iris (have some)
• Purple coneflower (have some)

List #3: Just plain want
• Black cohosh
• Trillium recurvatum coll. (Bloody Nose Trillium)
• Spiraea Magic Carpet
• Pink velour crepe myrtle tree

... among others

Monday, July 20, 2009

Possibilities: Gardening and Life

Yesterday, C. and I went to visit my mom for the day.

Later on in the evening, our conversation turned toward what she was going to do as far as the house went (since my stepdad died last year and it's a LOT for her to take care of by herself now that she is older), and the fact that I really, really want to live much closer to her and be able to BE there for her at any time. Living almost an hour and a half away means that if I am lucky, I get to see her a few times a month.

All of us great garden enthusiasts, somehow gardening got all enmeshed in the conversation and we decided that trying to figure out a living situation where we could have our own house and she could have her own house on the same property and seeing how far we could take our gardening, i.e. selling transplants, having a roadside veggie stand, etc. and making a little business out of it if only to fund our own gardening expenses.

We talked quite at length about this and it became more and more exciting. We figured out that one possibility is for her to stay on the existing property, build a smaller, one story house behind the main house for her, and have us move into the main house. There is plenty of land to garden. The other possibility is to buy something new that already has a two-house set up, with a little bit of land that we could work. The latter would probably be the better choice since it would leave my mom with more liquid cash to have on hand for her living expenses; whichever way it went, Mom would no longer have a mortgage payment to make and wouldn't have to work anymore, which would be awesome. At the same, C.'s and my situation would be about the same whether we stayed where we are, or the two other options. It would just give us more land to play with.

Basically, pooling all our resources seems like it would give us all a better life overall. I could be with my mom all the time without us smothering each other living in the same house. I was thinking too that doing something like this now would prevent a likely inevitable situation where my mom got too old and/or infirm to take care of herself down the line, maybe even in an emergency, where figuring out the logistics of something like this would be very stressful and a lot more difficult. If we do it in the near future, there would really be so little to worry about, because we'd be all in place to help out easily.

As I said, we're all excited about our gardening venture, and among the three of us, we have complementary skills: I'd be the marketing person, Mom would handle bookkeeping, and C. would be the general manager/research and development. All three of us would work the gardens, with Mom and C. being there all the time and me contributing as necessary during the evenings and weekends, outside my day job. We could also bring my aunt and two cousins in on it if they wanted; they are all talented gardeners and former farmers. I'm sort of surprised no one in our family has thought of this before, actually!

C. and I started looking to see if there were any properties that would suit our needs, and it looks like there are some possibilities within or below what we'd like to spend. Nothing totally prefect, but definitely workable. Mom's also going to pick her boss's brain and see what he thinks (being a real estate mogul and all). At least we have an insider on the real estate side of things.

Probably the toughest part of making this happen would be selling the houses, if we ended up buying a different property. That could get tricky, but I feel confident that our house would sell fairly easily, and that Mom's would, too. I guess we'll see what happens!

It's funny how gardening starts to sort of dictate your life's direction... I do see this as something feasible, doable, smart, and fun! Who knows, in the next couple years we could find ourselves with a nice parcel of land and gardens galore to feed ourselves and maybe even fund our gardening habit. How exciting is that?


In other garden news at home, C. called to tell me that he thinks he spotted the very wee beginnings of a Sugar Baby watermelon! This is very exciting news indeed. Hopefully many will soon follow.

Also waiting to be put in the gardens from my mom's are a little variety of variegated hosta, some lily of the valley, some more pachysandra, yarrow, columbine, evening primrose, and some poppy seed heads which I will sprinkle all over the front garden. This evening will be my first big day back out in the gardens—there's a lot of weeding in my forecast.


The veggie garden

Asparagus poking its way through the squash leaves

SQUASH! (Click on photo to see ladybug)

Watermelon, amongst the weeds

Mystery wildflower—anyone?

The neighbors' new, very white fence, with tomatoes in the foreground

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Techniques, New Fence

I am very, very excited that I will be able to extend my gardening tasks well into wintertime this year, now that I have found out about winter sowing. (The link will take to you the definitive website on the subject.)

I like that it combines gardening and recycling and pennypinching all at once. In a nutshell, you plant a whole bunch of seeds (which are of course much cheaper than buying young plants) and plant them in any number of a variety of small, reusable containers—like two-liter bottles, plastic food containers, or whatever else you can come up with (see the site for a list of suggestions). Then, you set them outside just around or after the holiday season and let the elements do their thing. Holes punched in the tops and bottoms of the containers provide aspiration and drainage. Snow will act as an insulator and also provide moisture; mother nature does the rest.

Come spring, they say you will have more plants than you'll know what to do with, at little to no cost! I like it. No, I LOVE it and cannot wait to try it for myself.

Again, the website I linked to will provide you with full instructions and tips about everything from how to get started to what types of plants are best for this growing method. You can grow flowers and vegetables in this way!


I am also very much looking forward to planning and preparing new beds for next year using what I think is called the "lasagna" method, involving cardboard and newspapers, and lots of patience. Along with this, I plan to start my own compost and discovered some clever ways to do this even with my small outdoor space.

In other news, while we really, really dislike our next door neighbors, I think relations will improve (i.e. we'll all just totally ignore each other assuming that they keep the noise level down) since they replaced the fence that bordered our tiny properties. The fence style wouldn't have been our choice (it's white vinyl), but it is six feet tall and I must say does really make things look much neater on our side. I told C. there's nothing there a couple of well-chosen tall bushes couldn't fix to subdue the bright white a bit. At least we've got the flowering quince, the lilac, and the rose of Sharon in place; we just need another one or two to fill the rest in. There's no doubt in my mind—good fences do make good neighbors indeed. It's been much more enjoyable to be in our back yard now that we don't have a semi-view of their dirt floor and weed-filled one.

A major beef I have now is that they were very inconsiderate while installing the fence. Not only did they trample onto our property, which we told them not to do after a particularly heated exchange, they dislodged and apparently discarded the one Queen of the Prairie I had planted near the tomatoes, as well as a small rose of Sharon. The latter I can live with, as we have an abundance of volunteers, but it really rankled me about the QotP. I had two plants, and the one that was pulled up was doing very well. The other one, which I had put in the front garden, hasn't been doing so hot (probably because it's not getting enough water, oops!). So the one in the back was special. I had grown it to about five feet tall from a six inch plant.

The worst part is that they never said a word to us about it, no apology or anything. Just, "Oh, we'll trample all over your stuff and you just have to deal with it." Nice.

(And in case you're wondering why we didn't say anything, I will just tell you that we decided it is not worth it in the big scheme of things that we've dealt with these neighbors. We had a big noise problem with them that seems to have been abated and now that the fence is done, we just don't want to deal with them, period.)

But seriously. What is wrong with people??? How can you just pull up a five foot tall plant and not think that you should apologize?

Neighbors really are the biggest pests of all. Or, at least they CAN be. Fortunately, every other one of our neighbors are great.

I think I am done ranting now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Flu

I miss my gardens.

I've been down and out with the flu for the past week and half, which as you can imagine doesn't pair well with gardening activities. The most I have done has been to keep up with the watering, and pull an odd weed out of the vegetables here and there as I survey daily growth.

But it's not nearly enough. The front garden especially is looking rather... well, let's just say not so special anymore. There is lots that need deadheading and cutting down. There are empty spots. I never did get around to making a nice edging up there. So, while kind neighbors still tell me that the gardens look very nice, I know otherwise. And it really bugs me.

The shade gardens are faring far better, probably because the are smaller and more filled in. There are fewer types of plants so things look more cohesive without much effort. Plus, they don't need as much watering or fussing over, which is nice.

*sigh* I am counting on feeling much better by the weekend, when I hope to dive in head first and spend many happy hours fixing things up. For now, I have to be patient.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Photo Dump

I'm still sick, but I got out to look at things and snap a few photos.

I don't know whether this is a weed or not, but I think it's pretty. Can anyone identify it? It's short, maybe six inches tall and grows in clumps.

Some echineachea I planted last year.

A daylily of some kind from my dad's gardens.

Yet another rose popped up! It's such a pretty, delicate pink.

I love the dark purple flowers on this hosta from New Hampshire.

We have strawberries!

Look how much Bobby Peru has grown! (and the weeds, ugh)

A view of the veggie plot. It's hard to see because it's so wispy, but the asparagus is there next to the younger of the summer squash plants. We also have a third asparagus plant poke up its shoot! Just one more to go and we'll have 100% success.

The shade garden has really filled in. Here you can see the scented geranium from my dad's garden which has taken off so well, and the "Pan Am" hosta I got from my friend Gordon in the back. Oh, and some more lupin has bloomed, and there are more foxglove shoots coming up, too!

Another view of the shade garden. The Solomon's Seal (also from Gordon) filled that spot perfectly. The pachysandra has been thriving and looks really pretty!

These are red hot pokers from my cousin Peggy's garden. I just love them! I'm happy to say that she dug one up for me to take home on the 4th of July.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Plants update

Just a quick update for now, as I sit here suffering a nasty summer cold, or maybe H1N1! (I doubt the latter, but I guess you never know.)

I acquired a few new plants over the weekend, having attended my cousin's 4th of July party. From her I snagged a red hot poker and a butterfly bush; from her sister, I finally have some lamb's ears! I am very excited. Fortunately, I got the plants in the garden before the worst nastiness of the cold set in.

The end of last week also saw the trimming of the lilacs, bridal wreath spirea, and some of the rose of Sharon. Oh, and the roses were deadheaded and trimmed back—else they ramble right into the driveway!

Did I mention that another asparagus popped up? And that the eggplant has a bloom? And that one of the strawberries is producing fruit? And that the tomatoes and peppers look like they will be very productive? And that the Solomon's seal looks beautiful in the shade garden at the back of the house... it added just the right touch, a little height and a new texture.

I have many photos to share, but that will be for another day.