Monday, December 20, 2010

Chapter 18 Warm Blanket of Snow

Iris are snug in their bed for a long winters nap

Mother nature dumped about 19 inches of snow on our neighborhood recently and the accumulation has created a perfect 'feather blanket' to cover my iris bed. This blanket should last quite sometime; with no real warming expected for the near future.

I was thinking of how the 'blanket' metaphor really works because the snow insulates the iris roots from the cold air temperature. It would be informative to have a thermometer in the ground to see how warm it is.

I also have tree seedlings, Rose of Sharon seedlings, Chrysanthemums, Hosta and Blanket flowers in this garden bed. It is so easy to take for granted how Mother Nature takes care of her business; whether we are aware of it or not. See you by the fireplace.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chapter 17 A Teddy Bear Christmas

Some years it has taken me quite a while to get into the 'Christmas Spirit'. Not this year. I got my Christmas cards done today; about 25 of them to family.My wife is baking weekly; Swedish rye bread, Lucia buns, Christmas bread yesterday. We do our Advent wreath ceremony each night. The Kitchen has great smells, (all day long on the week-ends) and since I don't have a corporate job anymore, my time is mine with my new business Achieve & Grow LLC. I'm definitely in the Christmas spirit; three weeks early. I love it.

Teddy Bear Bread
This morning I helped Nancy mix the dough (man that's work)for the Teddy Bear bread. Nancy kneaded the dough and later created the shapes that would become Teddy's and put them in the oven to bake. Late afternoon the Teddy Bears came out of the oven. I knew I had to take pictures.

Aren't they darling? Nancy has some pre-schoolers that asked her a few days ago "when are the Teddy Bears coming"? These little five year olds remembered her Teddy Bears. She makes miniature ones for the kids; that means about 8 inches tall. The kids will never forget Nancy's Teddy's. It's her way of bringing real excitement and joy to the little one's. It brings me joy to watch her.

What are your Christmas baking traditions? Send them to me. I'd love to hear from you. See you by the Fireplace.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chapter 16 Petunias in December

It has been a few months since my last post; busy with autumn leaves, cleaning the beds and planting all my potted Iris.

I thought you would enjoy seeing the Petunias that started by themselves in some of my Iris planting pots. I transplanted them and they held up fine in the greenhouse all the way to the 15th of November. I moved them into the house where they bloomed a few days ago. The average person does not realize how you can have winter blooms like this. What a treat. Nice surprise; I honestly did not plan this. That is the beauty of having a greenhouse. It extends the season. See you by the fireplace.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chapter 15 Who Cultivates His Own

Thought for the Day

“A gardener who cultivates his own garden with his own hands, unites in his own
person the three different characters of landlord, farmer, and labourer. His
produce, therefore, should pay him the rent of the first, the profit of the
second, and the wages of the third."

This quotation is from Adam Smith, and is taken from his book "The Wealth of Nations". He lived from 1723 to 1790. Isn't it amazing that words of wisdom are often timeless in their truth and power?

I came across this quotation today and thought I would share it with you; especially if you are a gardener who enjoys the 'fruit of your labor'. At some point I hope to add a feature where you can download pictures of your flowers or produce. I would enjoy seeing the highlights of your gardening experience. In the meantime, See you in the Garden.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chapter 14 'Jiffy Cake' Blueberry Fruit Dessert

A Blueberry Dessert that is easy and scrumptious

Autumn is nearly in the air (at least in the evenings) and Nancy seems to be drawn to more baking. She made the dessert you see below yesterday morning. I wanted some last night but she made me wait until tonight. She wanted it to cool completely. We each had a piece tonight and it was sublime. The crust was fabulous and of course the Blueberries were simply divine. She asked me if I wanted a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Can you believe I said “no, I want the complete taste of the Blueberries”? I made the right choice. Maybe I will have the ice cream on my next piece, tomorrow night.

If you would like to try the recipe I have printed it below. You can use whatever fruit you like; blueberry, blackberry, cherry, raspberry, apple, or peach.

Jiffy Cake Fruit Dessert

1 can fruit pie filling 1 package Jiffy Cake Mix; White or Yellow. 1 stick melted butter. Spread Cake mix over fruit and add melted butter, over all. Bake 350-400 about 45 minutes

Nancy said this dessert was out of her late Mothers recipe collection; so it goes way back. It is easy to make and so enjoyable. Please let us know if you try it and how you like it. I am sure Nancy would enjoy seeing your comments. See you in the Garden.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chapter 13 Cockscomb Perennial: A Brilliant Scarlet

A New Perennial: Just what the Doctor ordered

Last summer I was going for a walk in the neighborhood. As usual I was admiring all the flower gardens I came upon. One of the gardens had an unusual flower that I was not familiar with. I wondered what it was.

Finally, on another day the lady of the house happened to be in her yard and I inquired " May I ask what you call this bright red flower?" She replied "It's called Cockscomb". I told her it was quite beautiful and I had never seen it before. I asked if I might be able to get some of the seeds when they are ready. She told me "Take some right now; there are plenty". So I got some seeds. This February I planted at least a dozen seeds. Virtually every seed germinated. What you see above is a first year bloom. The other flowers next to it are called Cone flowers.

Cockscomb is an old, old perennial that seems to be a bit of a secret. You don't see it offered in the greenhouses very often. You may want to consider growing it sometime. The color is so vivid and bright. Deegan in the Garden will have a supply available next year. Just check for Special Offers on my blog. See you in the Garden.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chapter 12 Bouquet of Purple and Yellow Asters

The Asters are in Bloom

We returned home today after a week of Family vacationing in Ontario Canada. I could not wait to see if Mother Nature had watered my garden while I was away. Noticing how green the grass appeared in the front yard I was confident all the flowers were in great shape. When I reached the back gardens I was greeted by a delightful array of purple and yellow asters.

I mentioned to Nancy how gratifying it was to "let go and let Mother Nature do the watering this year". The day before our departure I waited until the last minute to ask my neighbor if she would keep an eye on my plants. Of course I never got the chance to ask since she was out for the afternoon and evening. So it was sort of "Well, that takes care of that; it's now up to the whims of nature". It is nice to know you don't always have to be in control of everything; sometimes things just take care of themselves, when you let go. I hope you enjoy the bouquet of asters picked today. See you in the Garden.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chapter 11 Beautiful rain fills the rain barrel

Mother Nature comes through with pure rain water

Sometimes you discover something by accident and it works out great. I had such an experience with a rain gutter this Spring. My gutter came loose from its connection in the ground. There was some erosion and it simply disconnected; so I had water running down to the patio. I had an "aha" experience and said " Gee, what if I got some kind of an flexible extension to hook onto the end of the gutter; I could divert that water to a barrel and get water direct from Mother Nature, rather than through the spigot".

I made sure I measured the gutter so I would buy a connector that would fit properly. I zipped over to my Home Depot store to buy the parts I needed. Sure enough, I found everything I needed; and it cost less than $10.00. I couldn't wait to get home to hook it up.

For once, everything worked as planned. I fastened the flexible gutter extension to the gutter and brought an extra plastic garbage barrel from the garage and placed it on the patio with the gutter positioned over the top of the barrel. I did have to prop up the gutter connector to help keep it at the proper grade so gravity could do its thing. I also had to keep it in line to dump the water over the barrel. All I needed now was a rain storm to see if it would work. I was like a little kid with eager anticipation.

Smaller water containers are a convenience and are available: free

A few days later we did get rain. It rained 'cats and dogs'; just what I was hoping for. I actually put my rain coat on during the storm to see how quickly the barrel would fill up. (Don't try this at home going out during the storm; I took a little risk with the lightening) I soon discovered that it was filling fast and I thought quick; I had an extra trash can in the garage and went to fetch it. Later, when the one container was full, I knew I could not move the barrel to make room for the empty one. So instead, I just bailed the water out of the full barrel into the empty one.

The next day I had just about two full barrels of rain water. Now I had to find containers to store the rain in; so I could use it to water my garden and flowers as needed. I started asking the neighbors to start saving their gallon milk containers. We did the same. Within a few weeks I must have had about 20 gallon containers. Since then I have about 50 containers; enough to keep the cycle going. With the two barrels I collect about 40-45 gallons of rain water.

Enough pure rain water to water my house plants and garden plants

There is a double benefit here. I save on my water bill, but perhaps more importantly I water my plants with rain water, including the vegetable plants. This means there is no chlorine in the water and it has not gone through a filtration process. Pure water strikes me as a nice alternative to tap water. A win/win that really doesn't take that much effort. The use of rain barrels is another pleasant surprise in my gardening experience. See you in the Garden.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chapter 10 Canning Banana Pepper Rings

Banana Peppers are Easy to Grow

The peppers are doing well this year. Check out the Banana Pepper growing in the picture. One of the reasons the peppers look so healthy and sizable is that I cultivate the soil between the rows, pull the weeds and water regularly; when we do not get rain. I use a hand cultivator that has the appearance of a claw. I have purposely let the peppers grow long this year; it's easy to pick them too soon. Why not let them reach their full potential?

Since we are going on vacation next Saturday for a week, Nancy wanted to get some Banana Peppers canned. She made 1/2 of the recipe since I did not want to pick those peppers that were half their expected size. We can process more peppers after we return.

Banana Peppers Grow to Six Inches

You can get an idea of the size of the peppers by seeing them laid out on my hand. It is exciting to see the good length because that means we get more slices in the jar.

The Banana Peppers can be Yellow and Orange

Notice in the picture to your right there are a few orange peppers mixed in with the yellow. The orange peppers grew on the same plant, but because I allow them to grow for a longer period of time they are ripening into an orange color. I will research the variation in color to see if my theory is correct.

Canning Recipe for Banana Pepper Rings



8 pint jars, lids and seals
8 whole garlic cloves (optional)
2 1/2 to 3 lbs of banana peppers (estimate)
4 tsp. salt ( you will use 1/2 tsp. per jar
4 tsp. alum (optional-1/2 ts. per jar)
7 cups white vinegar (estimate)
7 cups water (estimate)


Prepare jars (wash in hot soapy water)
Wash whole banana peppers to remove any dirt
Remove tops from peppers and cut peppers into rings (your choice of thickness)
De-seed the peppers for mild taste
In a large pot, combine 7 cups of water and 7 cups of white vinegar
Heat on high until boiling
At the same time, in a small pot, place jar lids and boil them.
Once the jars and lids are boiling, turn on low heat.
Add 1 clove of garlic to each empty jar, than pack banana pepper rings tightly
Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp alum to the peppers
Pour hot vinegar-water mixture over the peppers
Immediately out on lid
Immediately put on lid and ring to seal.
Repeat with remaining peppers and jars.
Once the jars start to cool, they will seal.

Nancy's Canned Banana Rings

Aren't Nancy's jars of Peppers beautiful? We will have another ample supply of Banana Peppers to can when we return home from our fishing Vacation. I plan to water the garden this Friday night to tide us over for a week. Hopefully we will get at least one day of rain while we are gone. I used to have the neighbor water the garden but they just don't have the same touch I do. Watering is a bit of an art, don't you think? So I decided to forgo asking neighbors to water. I am counting on Mother Nature to help me out. What do you do about watering your garden when you are on vacation? Until next time, See you in the Garden.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chapter 9 Blueberries from Hiram

The Blueberries Are Ready

Nancy texted our son Paul last night to see if he wanted to go Blueberry picking this morning. He usually sleeps in on Saturdays. He texted her back that he would be here tomorrow at 8:00 AM. Sure enough, he was here at 8 o'clock sharp! Nancy fixed him a breakfast sandwich, a cooler for us; we said good bye to our Chocolate Lab Jonah and off we were down Rte 82 to Hiram Ohio.

We go to Wolff's Blueberry Patch. I believe it's the best in North East Ohio. We drive through the Aurora countryside and Mantua area on the way to Hiram. Hiram College is nestled in the heart of Hiram. We enjoy the country scenery. The corn fields are teeming with a tall crop and the blooming chicory on the side of the road gives a nice blue border to the highway.

The Blueberries shown above are brimming to the top of a hand made bowl. Do you see the blueberries etched on the side of the bowl? This bowl is one of our treasures bought at a quaint Gift shop in Ashland Wisconsin. (We lived in Northern Wisconsin for several years) The shop was called Roxanne's and I am not sure if it is still open for business.

Blueberry Bushes were Thick with Berries

We picked about 15 pounds of Blueberries among the three of us. Nancy of course picked the most.

On the way back from picking we stopped at Monroe Farms, located on Pioneer Trail Road. We saw the 'peaches' sign out front and were concerned that the Red Haven peaches were already ripe; we usually get them mid August. We were happy to learn the peaches that were ripe are an early variety called Summer Serenade. We bought a half a peck for eating. We also bought some farm fresh Maple Syrup and some Sweet Corn for dinner.

Nancy cans about 4 pecks of peaches each summer; which translates into about 24 jars of 'pure heaven'. There is nothing so tasty as your own canned peaches. (I will cover this topic when it's canning time)

When we arrived home Paul thought it would be nice to have brunch; "How about blueberry waffles with the fresh Maple Syrup and some strawberries?" Nancy obliged and before long we were enjoying the fruit of our labor. Nancy always heats the syrup and we ate the waffles while they were hot. Delicious!

After brunch, Nancy packaged up some pint size containers for Paul to take to his girlfriends house. He said her Dad likes blueberries as well. It was great to take a restful ride out in the country. It has become a tradition and Paul has fond memories of picking with Mom when he was younger. I think it's 'in his blood' to go blueberry picking. It put a real smile on my face today to see him enjoy it so much. If you have never gone blueberry picking you must try it. See you in the Garden.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chapter 8 Digging New Potatoes

Digging New Potatoes is like a Treasure Hunt

This morning Nancy and I walked to the garden together. I coaxed her for a walk by telling her the garden had a surprise for her. The tomato plants were leaning over so it was like walking through a jungle. We got to the cucumber patch and she got the idea. I wanted her to search for new cukes. Sure enough she found the slender six inch cucumber that I spotted when watering. She could not believe how fast they are growing. She saves them until she has enough for her canning recipe.

It's time to harvest potatoes when the tops turn brown

On the way back into the house, I looked to my right and realized that my garden next to the house had potato plants that were drying out on top; a sure sign that the potatoes are ready in the ground. I said to her" Hey, its' time to harvest the taters". We excitedly scurried over to the spot and gently pulled the plants out of the ground and began digging with our hands for hidden treasure.

If you have never grown potatoes they grow under ground and you never know how many you will get or how large they will be. We were literally digging for hidden treasure. As you can see in the picture above we did quite well. New potatoes, as they are called, are the most tender potatoes you can imagine; they literally melt in your mouth and they are a true delicacy of the early vegetable harvest. We are planning to save them for a few weeks and take them up to Canada for our family vacation. We want to savor the gourmet quality of our fresh home grown potatoes. I encourage you to grow them next year. I will discuss the soil requirements necessary to grow a decent crop of potatoes in a future post. See you in the Garden.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chapter 7 Pole Beans and Three Bean Salad

The traditional Bean Patch

For years my good wife Nancy has always planted a ‘bean patch’. She always plants ‘wax beans’ (yellow), regular green beans and pole beans. I turned over the soil by hand, with a pitch fork, raked it smooth and she planted the pole beans and regular beans.

This year Nancy was unable to locate the yellow bean seeds for a while; it seemed all the stores were out of them. She finally found some packets of wax bean seeds and I planted them for her. I was amazed how quickly they germinated. It was less than a week. Of course, I could not wait to tell her, “Wifey, guess what? Your wax beans are up!” I escorted her back to the garden and she was all smiles when we got there. Her bean patch was now complete.

A Trellis is functional & decorative

You can see in the picture that the Pole Beans are really coming along. I use a few Trellises for the Pole beans to climb on. You achieve three benefits when using a trellis; 1) you give the beans something to climb on and boy do they want to climb. If the trellis were five feet taller I am sure they would climb five more feet. 2) You give the plant more sunlight because there is nothing to shade the plant, like another plant in front of it, because they grow six feet at least. And 3) “Easy pickings”. When it comes time for Nancy to harvest her beans (our beans I should say) it is easy to pick them because they are easily accessible on the trellis. I have used a trellis with pickling cucumbers and it works like a charm. If you have never tried a trellis for your pole beans, it will give you greater convenience.

Nancy recently said, " Green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers would be all I need for a meal." They are that delicious; with a little butter and salt. MM mm Good. I love it also when she makes home made Three Bean Salad. I think I will get her recipe and post it. Why go to the deli when you can make it fresh? You can have fun adding your own special seasonings and herbs from the garden. I can't wait for the harvest. We will have fresh beans in a few weeks.

Nancy's recipe for Three Bean Salad

Nancy has been making her own Three Bean Salad for years. I thought some of you might enjoy trying the recipe.

Place the following in a large bowl:
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of green beans
1 can of wax beans
Add onion slices- thin
Add chopped green pepper
Add celery sliced thin
Add celery seed
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Stir and place in refrigerator

When our beans are ripe we use our own; otherwise we buy canned beans from the grocery store. You can actually make the salad in the morning and eat it in the evening; but I prefer a few days in the refrigerator so the flavors have more time to blend. Three bean salad is so delicious. Please let us know how you liked the recipe. See you in the Garden.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Capter 6 Pelargoniums & Lavender

Are you enjoying your floral hanging baskets this summer?

Every once in a while, when relaxing in my back yard, I just take a breather and notice something in particular that catches my eye. Today, my Hot Pink pelargonium (see above) just seemed to stand out and I said to myself, "Wow, now that is a brilliant pink". The pink bloom and the dark green foliage create a dramatic contrast that adds a special flair to my patio experience. In the hanging basket above you will see some Vinca Vine poking its way out on the left part of the basket.

I used Vinca Vine originally (a few years ago) because my dear wife requested it. Actually I have learned to love the interesting look the Vinca Vine brings to the table. Especially when the vine starts growing over the edge of the basket and starts cascading down; it gets really showy. I will go out in the yard right now and get a picture of some Vinca Vine that is definitely cascading.How is that for immediate service? This site is a virtual living blog; happening sometimes while you are actually reading.

Did you know that Vinca Vine can perform like a perennial?

I had a pleasant surprise a few years ago when during the early Spring I was digging in the prior years heap of potting soil (dumped out of all my hanging baskets) I generally save the potting mix from year to year. I could not believe my eyes. I spotted some Vinca Vine sprouts that survived the Winter. The first year I thought it was a fluke. However I was able to generate several plants that year and come late fall; sure enough, I dumped the Vinca Vines in a heap and covered them up with soil mix to protect them from Winter.

The following Spring I had even more plant stock with great roots to make even more plants. At $4.00 per pot at the Greenhouse, I made a valuable discovery. Now, I have no idea if all Vinca Vine will do this, but the variety I had performed like a perennial. I think the virtual complete covering, in a protected location had a lot to do with it. This is a Deegan in the Garden Tip that can save you a lot of money. If you have some Vinca Vine try out this technique; let me know next spring if it worked. If you have never grown Vinca Vine I recommend you try it.

Have you ever grown Lavender in your garden?

In an out of the way spot, on the east side of our home, in the shadow of the large Arbor Vitae trees we have a large clump of Lavender. See the picture to your left.

Is there any thing like a whiff of Lavender fragrance while watering your garden? It is no wonder people use Lavender for so many aromatic purposes. Lavender tends to stay alive and well long into late fall. You almost think it will survive the winter. One year I cut it way back, but I learned that is not necessary. Some years it acts like a shrub; getting blooms on last years stems. Being located near the home; of course it gets protection from the wind and heat from the basement; so that may help its staying power.

If you have the room, Lavender will make a wonderful addition to your garden palette. The blooms are a lovely color, fragrance is haunting and you can make Lavender potpourri for friends and relatives for Christmas gifts. You owe it to yourself to experiment with Lavender if it's not already in your garden. Another plant that reminds me of Lavender is Russian sage. I plan to grow it when I move to the Country. If you have Russian Sage please send me a comment and tell me how you like it. I believe it grows quite tall. Well, that's it for now. See you in the Garden.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chapter 5 Tomatoes & Sunflowers

It's definitely time to tie the Tomatoes

How do you support your tomato plants in your garden? Or do you have a large enough garden that you simply lay straw down throughout your tomato patch and let the plants spread out naturally? Commercial growers allow the plants to 'do their own thing'. It would be fairly impractical to stake acres of tomatoes. The average gardener like you and me have much to gain by staking.

I have always staked my tomatoes with either bamboo or wooden stakes; I prefer cedar stakes because they hold up the best, but at times I have used pine 1 x 2's that you can get at your local lumber supplier. They also call 1 x 2's 'furring strips'. You can buy them in a bundle; pretty cheap.

In the picture to the right you can see several tie strips which help keep the plant growing upright. The symmetrical and healthy looking tomato is positioned to grow to maturity without any problem; largely because the vine is stabilized.

Right now in my garden I am using bamboo stakes and I am starting to see their limitations. My plants are starting to get heavy and full. As more fruit develops, the bamboo will need support to keep from bending over and possibly breaking. I will likely supplement the bamboo stakes with some wooden stakes (right net to the bamboo) as the plants get taller. As the plants grow I will tie the branches to the cedar stake. I have decided that next year I will use the bamboo for my peppers and eggplant and get some new cedar stakes.

I find it very helpful to tie the tomato branches in order to support the fruit. Also, the plant is easier to manage, and easier to harvest when you control the direction and growth of the plant. I use old cotton sheets for my tie material and I simply rip off the strips, the size I want, and then cut the length with the scissors. If you have not done this, it's pretty cool.

You simply make a small tear in the upper right end of the sheet, and with one movement just take the piece of material where the tear is and pull straight down. Because of the way the material was created the tear stays in a straight line, so your cotton strips are uniform without having to use scissors to cut the entire length.

Do you have Sunflowers in your garden?

I just have to show you this perfect Sunflower that I photographed today. It is growing in a terraced garden next to my home. After the deer chewed most of the leaves on this plant about a week ago, the large bloom you see was untouched. Also notice the other Sunflower buds coming near the top of the plant.

Yep, you guessed it. This garden area has enriched soil; some of my 'magic deegan soil'. This Sunflower is about 8 feet tall. Someday I would like to have several rows of Sun-flowers in my country garden; different types and colors.

Take time to garden with the Children

Did you know that there is a Dwarf Sunflower? Good for the little children in your family.

Speaking of children let's all be sure to garden with the children and grandchildren; what a wonderful habit to get them into while they are young. They will always remember those childhood days when something special happened; like when they planted some dwarf Sunflower seeds and the flowers bloomed for the first time. "Dad, come and see, my Sunflower just bloomed!"

I have very fond memories when I was nine years old and the Four O'clocks bloomed that I planted. The colors were deep reds and purples. The blooms opened each day in late afternoon, just like their name said they would. Also, I remember something else that is unusual about Four O'clocks; they shoot their seeds out. The seed pods actually burst open and the Beebe like seeds get disbursed over a large area. They propagate themselves very well. I was fascinated then and I am fascinated now. This would be a great flower for the children to plant. See you in the Garden.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chapter 4 Handling the Heat

When you feel the heat your flowers feel the heat

It must be 95 degrees today, full sun. We have had the air-conditioning on since 8:30 AM. There is no air-condition for our flowers, however.

I looked at my Hydrangea about 5:00 PM yesterday and virtually every bloom was hanging; totally limp from the heat. A soon as I noticed the sad shape of my star performer I got the hose out and gave it a serious drenching of water. I have great water pressure and I watered with my 'water wand' all around the plant and in the center of the plant where the thickest part of the roots congregate. Within 20 minutes Ms. Hydrangea perked up and was as impressive as ever. I was happy again.

Do you use a 'watering wand' when you water? The nice thing about the wand, versus a standard nozzle attachment, is that the wand disperses the water over a wide area and the water is softer when it hits the soil, or the plant. A standard nozzle just doesn't seem to have the appropriate adjustment, even though I've tried them all.

I have noticed that several of my neighbors tend to water the entire plant when they water. I have 'bit my tongue' to purposely avoid lecturing any of my friends about the downside of watering the leaves of the plant. Since you understand I am just discussing practical ideas I have learned from experience, you wont be offended. Good. The fact is unless we are dealing with tropical plants such as ferns or orchids (that may prefer a misting now and then) it is the plants roots that absorb the water the plant needs to be healthy and achieve its full potential. Therefore, we want to water the soil around the plant, not so much the leaves. I know many of you know this; so forgive me. But if this is a new insight for you, than you have gained a worthwhile tip.

One more point. You can damage the bloom or the leaves by watering them directly. What if I have a sprinkler system, and have no control of the watering system? Some of you may have had an irrigation system installed when your lawn and landscape was completed. As long as the water pressure is not excessive you should be alright; but it may not be ideal. The preferred approach is to protect the blooms and the integrity of the leaf system by avoiding direct contact with the water.

How often do you need to water when it's super hot?

So how often do you need to water when the temperature is in the 90's with no let up? The best thing is to observe your plants; take your cue from the way they look. If they are wilting badly, they are in need of water. While I normally prefer watering in early evening or early morning, if my Hydrangea looks like it is dying of 'heat stroke' I water in the middle of the afternoon. So far today, the drink I gave her yesterday is carrying her through the heat of the day. My guess is about 4:30 PM it is going to go limp again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chapter 3 White Iris

A poem for the Iris lover in all of us

A friend of mine from Iowa recently sent me a poem written by Bliss Carman. He was a Canadian poet who lived from 1861 to 1929. He titled the poem: White Iris.

Wouldn't it be interesting to research the Irises that were popular during his era and see if we could discover some of the white irises he may have feasted his eyes on? As a tribute to Carman I thought we should feature a few charming white Iris from our era. Perhaps one of them will do his poem justice. The Iris you see to the left is a Siberian Iris, named Swans in Flight, hybridized by R. Hollingworth.

White Iris
Chris Carman

White Iris was a princess
In a kingdom long ago
Mysterious as moonlight
And silent as the snow.

She drew the world in wonder
And swayed it with desire,
Ere Babylon was builded
Or a stone laid in Tyre.

Yet here within my garden
Her loveliness appears
Undimmed by any sorrow
Of all the tragic years.

How kind that earth should treasure
So beautiful a thing -
All mystical enchantment,
To stir our hearts in spring!

For the sake of good measure, I have included two more white Iris that may stimulate our imaginations. The white Iris above is named Beyond the Pale, hybridized by Potterness in 2006. This is the Tall Bearded variety.

In Carman's time there were probably a 'handful' of white Iris to admire. Today there are probably several hundred white Iris to contemplate. We live in a time of abundance, yet one may wonder how much progress we have made when it comes to happiness. Some great thinker once said 'a person is about as happy as he or she makes up his or her mind to be'. There may be some truth in that.

The white Iris to your right is nameless. Perhaps it is poetic that it has no name, just as Carman's white Iris had no name. I encourage you to look for the differences in the white Irises shown on this post; their shape, their texture and their subtleties.

I hope that you are beginning to enjoy the gardening adventure that is unfolding at Deegan in the Garden. I had no idea a friend would send a poem entitled White Iris. Someone once said "If you expect the unexpected you will never be disappointed." I think you can look forward to many more pleasant surprises from this site. See you in the Garden.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chapter 2 Fun at the Iris Convention

Inspiration comes to a grinding halt

Isn't it disappointing when an inspiration can come to a grinding halt? I was psyched when I penned the first few paragraphs of THE JOURNEY BEGINS. The words I composed seemed to be shot out of a cannon. The words flowed like a river. However, when I was unable to download my special pictures my inspiration began to wane. For several days my story got delayed while I was struggling to master some blogging techniques. Sometimes things can seem so complicated when in reality, they are not.

The good news is I experimented and played with the Google Blogger tools. Most importantly I talked to my capable son, and I finally figured out how to download and size pictures through the Google blogger platform. What a relief to have solved what seemed like such an insurmountable problem. Back to the story at hand with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.

You meet the most intersting people on a tour bus

Did I tell you the one about the 82 years young woman that I met while on the Tour bus? We toured several Iris Gardens at the National Iris Convention hosted by the Madison Wi Iris Society. She sat right in front of me. Her name was Venita Faye. Did you ever hear of the name Venita before? I surely hadn't known anyone with that name. It sounds like a derivative of the name Venus, as in Venus De Milo.

We had assigned bus seats for three days of garden tours so the captain could keep track of us. (Like school kids) Venita had a friend named Annette that sat next to her. Annette had a southern drawl that wouldn't quit. She also had a very dry sense of humor; beat you to the punch, too. They were total cut-ups. We had more fun razzing each other. When Venita wanted to tell me something she would reach around her seat, on the isle side and tap my ankles to get my attention. (The bus noise made it hard to hear each other) She did this several times while we were traveling to the next Iris Garden.

To get their attention I would lean up and poke my head between the two seats in front of me. "Ok, I said softly, I am not going to goof off anymore, I will leave you two in peace". I leaned back in my seat, pretending I was sincere; knowing that they didn't believe me one bit. Simple fun. (More to come) Makes you wonder why we don't loosen up and be spontaneous more often. Do you find the time and place to just let go once in a while and be spontaneous?

How many 82 year old women do you know that are as sharp as a tack?

In addition to being very alert and talkative, Venita Faye was very good with her camera. She shared some of her shots of Iris with me, and I told her "Venita, I think the color in your camera is superior to my camera. Any chance I could get a copy of your photos". "Sure, she said enthusiastically; when I get back I will have a friend of mine put them on a disc for you and I will mail them to you". "That would be great, I will give you some money for your expense". I said. "Oh, don't worry about it, we can handle that afterwards", she replied. Well, two weeks after the convention, guess what I got in the mail yesterday? Yep, a CD; a disc with all her pictures on it. I hurriedly downloaded it to check out the color and quality of the pictures. Sure enough, spectacular photos of guest Irises grown specailly for the American Iris Society convention. I will soon begin to display some of her photos as well as mine. Together we probably have over 600 shots. (Some will be duplicates, so I can use the best shots. (Coming soon)

It impressed me that she would go out of her way for a stranger

It touched me that a total stranger (who became my friend on the bus) was willing to have her photos burned to another disc and take the time and effort to package and mail them to me, at her expense. I wanted to thank her in a special way. She she had an Iris hybrid named after her; the Iris is called VENITA FAYE, I thought it would be fun to create a greeting card for her using the flower named for her.

I made a trip to Fed Ex Office to make an original Greeting Card

I downloaded a picture of her Iris on a flash drive, went over to my favorite Fed X Office store and had them create an original Iris card for her. In addition I had an 8x10 of the same flower printed and I plan to frame it and send it to her. As I got home I decided "I have to write my Thank you note to Venita right away." First I had to print my Garden of Deegan logo on the card and that took quite a while to get set up; the margins, etc. Then I had to score the center of the card so I could fold it; all this work before I could put pen in to hand to write some kind thoughts. "No time like the present", I thought. "I have to mail this card to her tomorrow"

In the card, I told her how sweet she was to be willing to send me all her Iris photos. I hope she is surprised when she opens her mail to discover an original greeting card I made for her. In addition I will send her today, under separate cover, a nice 8 X 10 color photograph of her Iris: Venita Faye. It was hybridized by a long time hybridizer named Ken Keppel, He registered the new Iris in 2008.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds it's morning and is refreshed

The above verse is from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. It is amazing how simple things can give you so much joy. It was fun getting the photos from my Texas friend and then enjoyable creating the card. I have to tell you that I left a voice mail for Venita after the CD arrived at my home. She called me back and we talked for several minutes. When I asked her how the weather was, She said, "It's hotter n hell down here; 102 degrees". She just came in from mowing the grass. I said, "What? you are still mowing the grass at your age"? She replied, " Sure, why not, it gives me exercise and I can handle it". I was quite impressed with Venita before, but now I was astonished by her zest for life. Just think, 82 years old, lives alone, does her own chores, flew to Madison Wisconsin by herself and takes time to make others happy.

I want to be that engaged when I am 82. My goal is to live to about 85. Ever think about how long you would like to live? Of course my ideal would be to have the physical health to be pulling weeds at 85. Unless I can be pruning my apple trees and pickig raspberries from my raspberry patch in my 80's I may prefer the Garden in the Sky rather than passing time in a nursing home. That is not a put down of nursing homes; my brother is in a very nice home and receives excellent care from dedicated staff. I just prefer being active. My new Texas friend put it this way (when I told her I was impressed with how rambunctious she was)"Well, you might as well live until you die". I couldn't have said it better.

Ever have something named after you?

Venita's late father was an active member of the American Iris Society and would take her to the annual conventions. Over the years she got to know some of the hybridizers(dedicated plant people who cross pollinate different Irises in order to create new variations) that knew her Dad. One of these hybridizers was Ken Keppel. (See picture above) He became friends with Venita and in 2008 Keppel named one of his new hybrid Tall Bearded Iris after Venita. He named it VENITA FAYE. What a nice tribute to a lovely lady and a warm recognition of a long family friendship.

Just think if you join your local Iris Society you could learn how to hybridize Iris and perhaps name an Iris after one of your loved ones. You have to admit that would be a fairly creative expression of love. Do you remember the poem from the Victorian era poet Elizabeth Barret Browning: How do I love thee? It is worth reading once again: (See Elizabeth's Barret Browning 1806-1861 picture below.)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

This poem is certainly one of the most profound expressions of love ever put into words. I dare not seriously add or detract from its exquisite form. For the sake of a point I want to make I think we can speculate that Elizabeth Barret Browning never dreamed in her wild imaginings that one of the ways to love was to name a new flower after her loved one. A hybrid Iris is a 'one of a kind'. Just like a 'sweet love' is one of a kind, so permit me a moment of 'poetic license' and suggest another verse to Elizabeth Barret Browning's poem:

I love thee enough to name my newly fashioned Iris after thee

Now, I confess my line above is at best a feeble attempt to expand the scope of the poem to make a point; while the line above does not have a classic ring to it, will you agree it has a modern ring to it? May I suggest there me be Iris hybridzation in your future. Don't be surprised if you are inclined to name one of your Iris 'offspring' after a dear friend or loved one.

Cross pollination leads to the formation of seed pods

I succeeded in my first attempt at cross pollination this spring (late May) and the seed pods you see above will be ripe within two to three weeks from now. The seed pods must turn brown before the pod starts splitting to release the seeds. Hopefully, I will remove the seeds shortly before nature does it for me. There is a process of what you do with the seeds prior to planting. I will explain this process as the time for seed harvesting approaches.

Any idea if you have a local Iris Society near you?

There is intrigue and adventure in growing and appreciating Iris. If you want to discover if there is a local Iris Society near where you live go to and the American Iris Society web site will come up. You can then look for affiliate Iris Societies by Region and State.

To learn more about what membership can mean to you please go to the following web site: and click on membership. You can also explore the photo gallery to see a treasure trove of beautiful Iris pictures.

This is the website for the North East Ohio Iris society, located near Cleveland, Ohio.I would love to see your comments when you join your local Iris society. It would be great to hear first hand from you what you are learning and how you are enjoying your Iris Society experience.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chapter I Special Journey Begins

A Special Journey Begins

I recently returned to Ohio after attending the American Iris Society's National Convention in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. Over 300 people from around the country, Canada and New Zealand convened at the Marriott Madison West Hotel for five days of stimulating events.

Since this was my first Iris Convention I was like 'a little kid' in the candy store'. I attended two full days of educational sessions and three days of garden tours where we observed over 2,000 spectacular guest iris blooms. The highlight of the week's events was the Awards Banquet on Saturday evening when leading hybridizers were recognized by the Society for excellence in several categories. In addition each member voted for their favorite TOP FIFTEEN Iris that were exhibited in the gardens.

They call Wisconsin 'God's Country' for a reason. The countryside we experienced had the pastoral scenes you expect to see in Wisconsin. As we traveled to several personal and public Iris Gardens we meandered through quaint villages and small farm towns. We were moved by the image of one room school houses, and the traditional wood frame churches painted white.

The palpable charm of country living pulled at my heart strings. I had that spontaneous feeling that this is the way we are supposed to live; with elbow room and the beauty of nature all around us. We drove by many hay fields and stands of Oak and Pine trees. How refreshing it was to be in the 'country'.

Is there anything more stimulating than travel?

You get away from it all, have time to think and reflect upon your life; what is really important to you. The drive to Madison from Cleveland Ohio is about 9 hours the way I drive. I was by myself so I was not distracted and had time to do some soul searching on the way there and on the way home. I even kept some notes and used my digital recorder.

Oh, I guess I am not going to live forever!

When you reach a certain age; not sure what that age is, but you start accepting the fact that you are not going to live forever. In the paternalistic culture in which I grew up a man's identity tended to be wrapped up in his work. It was very common for my generation to focus on security; raising the kids, and providing for them. It was more a luxury to fantasize about what you really wanted to do with your life. Make a living; that's what you do with your life. Have a career, or two, or three.

I started out as a teacher but spent most of my career in business. My health insurance career actually started with WPS, a health insurance Company still headquartered in Madison. Where did the last 30 years go? All of a sudden (so it seems) our two sons are grown, established and on their own. Somehow I forgot to plan for what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Life sneaks up on you, doesn't it?

What do you love doing?

Recently I have decided it is no longer a luxury to ask myself, "what do I really love doing and what do I want to do when I grow up"? It has become increasingly clear to me that it is a spiritual necessity for me to ask the right questions and come up with good answers. Are you asking yourself some of the same questions?

I have already begun making poignant discoveries and am delighted to share them with you. As Ulysses said: " My purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield, until I die".

Do You Love to Grow Things?

It is evening now on June 16, 2010. This is my second entry on this blog. I never knew creating a blog could be so interesting and therapeutic. You may have guessed by now that gardening is a very special part of my life. In the past few years I have realized how passionate I am about growing things. On most days I would rather be in my greenhouse or gardens than almost anywhere else. Why did it take me so long to recognize growing things makes me happy?

The seedlings below are Beefsteak tomatoes and Cockscomb, an old fashioned perennial. The Cockscomb is a fascinating flower that is great as a cut flower.I dry them and have a vivid maroon bouquet that lasts all winter. Beefsteak tomatoes are the classic tomatoes you slice for use on your summertime grilled hamburgers. Remember, I start these plants indoors while it is still cold out.

Although I grew up with gardens (My Mother had a vegetable garden and rose garden in Lyons, Illinois) and I have had a vegetable and flower gardens ever since I was married, it has only been in the past few years that my passion has begun to accelerate. In retrospect I should have been a botanist, horticulturalist or at least a gentlemen farmer. Should you have been something else also? Do you ever day dream about it? Of course hindsight is 20/20, right?

Is Gardening in your genes?

Are you one of those people who have a gardeners DNA? Don't you think it has to be in our genes? It seems to me you either love to grow things or you don't. There is no in between. I think there is a difference between someone who likes to transplant annuals each year or grow a handful of perennials versus someone who loves to grow things from seed. (We will talk about being a seed addict later) No matter what kind of gardener you are, on a scale of one to ten, it doesn't matter. One thing we can agree on; you are different from the folks that don't like getting their hands dirty.

A nice yard versus a need to get your hands in the dirt

Nearly everyone likes to have nice landscaping and a beautiful appearance to their yard, but how many people love to transplant their seedlings and can't wait to mix up their potting soil with compost, pearlite and peat moss? Don't you think there is something about growing things that ties you to the soil; the proverbial origin of all of us. "Dust you are and to dust you shall return". Sorry, that is pretty heavy for a blog isn't it? I will try to loosen up a bit; just like the soil is looser when we add pearlite and peat moss to the potting mix.

The magic of composting

Are you one of the privileged few that know what compost can do in your vegetable or flower garden? If you have never composted, honestly, you haven't lived. I learned to compost from a fellow gardener. He told me to build a chicken wire frame about 8 feet by 8 feet and 30 inches high. He said to leave one side open so I can easily dump my wheel barrow of leaves or grass clippings rather than shovel them.

I used some old 2x4's for the frame and regular chicken wire that you can buy at any Lowe's or Home Depot store. You can use a carpenters stapler to staple the chicken wire to the frame. To offset the periodic odor from decomposition, you can add a dusting of lime to the top of the heap once in a while. You can get a bag of lime at your local hardware store as well.

Disciplined composter or a little lazy?

I usually depend on the rain and snow to provide the moisture necessary to enhance the breakdown of the material. However, in dryer weather its a good idea to wet down your compost heap. Also, it helps to turn the pile over every now and then. However, if you are a little lazy, nature will do the entire process. It usually takes me a complete season to get mature, rich, black humus. I actually have two compost bins; one for current organic material and one that I leave alone, so I can use it the following season. Do you also put all your organic kitchen scraps in your heap? i.e. brown lettuce, apple cores, orange peels,watermelon rinds, corn on the cob, etc.

Ever grow 3 foot tall Zinnias outside your kitchen window?

The nutrients in the resulting humus are so incredible, one year I produced Zinnias that were at least three feet tall. (See colorful Zinnia bouquet to your right) We could watch them grow outside our kitchen window; it seemed they grew overnight. The hot pink and white colors were worth capturing on film. I wish I could remember the name of the Zinnia so I could order the seeds again. Suggestion: Keep a garden log with the names of the seeds you plant.

My pickling cucumbers were so abundant my wife could not pickle them fast enough. Generally I mix my 'magic deegan soil' with with 1 part rich and deep black humus, 1 part peat moss and one part pearlite. I do it like a chef; I don't really measure it, I just seem to have a feel for what the right mix should be.

Do you get a little impatient with the compost?

Sometimes I get a little anxious and cheat. I typically use some of compost before it is ready; especially when I plant the vegetable garden about the third week in May. It has not completely turned to humus, so it has some leaves still present.

A few weeks ago I placed the special soil mix (Deegan's magic soil) in the holes when I planted my tomato and pepper seedlings. It just seems to give all my plants an extra shot in the arm and with all that organic matter, you know they are happy campers. You wouldn't believe how big my bell peppers get, or how many jalapeno peppers I get off of one plant. A garden just can not reach its full potential without fertilizer; and in my opinion, organic matter (compost) mixed with peat and pearlite can not be surpassed for healthy results.

An Hydrangea with over 40 blooms this year

After the frost got my Hydrangea bush last year all the buds were killed so I had zero blooms. This spring I covered the plant whenever there was a threat of frost. I also spread a generous amount of Hollytone all around the bush and worked it into the soil. When I originally transplanted the Hydrangea I surrounded the roots with my humus mixture. The Hollytone definitely helps the blooms turn blue also. Well, right this minute I must have at least forty blooms coming. (See blooms above)I have several opened and there is a lavender blue tint. I can't wait to see if the tint remains light or if it will get darker. I know with confidence that my Hydrangea has become so lush because of my compost mix. The bush is about four years old now and this is the first season with a bountiful bloom.

June 18, 2010 'Garden of the Week' honors

My Iris bed was recently photographed by the Twinsburg Garden Club because the Iris were apparently worth a second look. The color combinations were quite breathtaking if I don't say so myself. My Garden was selected as Garden of the Week.

A picture was published in the Sun newspapers along with a nice narrative, and some of the names of the Iris. The Iris were all of the Tall Bearded variety, including Supreme Sultan, Batik, and Stepping Out. It was a thrill to have the Iris recognized for their attractive appearance. When I got home from Madison Wisconsin my wife Nancy broke the news to me.

Garden of the Week was a pleasant surprise and a special reward for my efforts. As you know it's a lot of work to create a flower bed, enrich the soil with compost; keep the bed essentially weed free and watered on a regular basis. The Twinsburg Garden Club chooses a garden of the week which demonstrates a beautiful appearance and diversity of flowers and plantings along with other attractive landscaping features. Perhaps your local Garden Clubs may want to consider this fun activity. It draws community interest and creates some excitement and fun for the local gardeners.