My Garden – Back From The Dead

When I returned home from my time in Las Vegas over the 4th of July and found that woodchucks had eaten my garden down to nothing, I truly thought that my 2012 garden was finished.  It was leveled.  In my mind, there was no way that the plants could ever recover.  I mean, remember this picture of the green bean patch?

Looking at the destruction, I figured there was no way that these stripped stems and branches could ever recover, let alone produce vegetables to eat.  I was wrong!  Nature (as I have said many times before) always surprises.  Well, Nature has surprised me again and I am glad to tell you that with a number of hot and sunny days coupled with some rainy days thrown in the mix as well, my garden has come back from the dead.  Not only has it quickly grown back, but I have also picked vegetables to eat in almost every grouping that I planted this Spring.  Take a look at a few shots of the destroyed green bean patch as it looked this weekend.  Pretty amazing recovery, huh?

Not only has the patch grown back, but the plants have bloomed and started to deliver delicious green beans to pick and eat.  I would have never dreamed of picking a single bean back around July 4th.

The next hardest hit grouping were the tomatoes.  The woodchucks had done a fine job of eating them down to only their stem and branches.  Not one leaf could be found.  The tomato plants looked like weird little stick designs.  It was hard to tell that they were ever a tomato plant.  Not anymore.  The tomato plants have flourished given our weather as you can see in the shot above and they are trying their hardest to give us as many tomatoes as possible before Fall begins.  Take a look at these little fellows.

I don’t want to forget to mention the eggplant, turnips and beets as well.  They were mowed down to the top of the soil by the evil critters and have come back with a vengeance.  The eggplant, in particular, are now closing in on two feet tall!

So here is one of my learnings from the 2012 garden.  Never give up on Nature.  Just when you think you are down for the count, Mother Nature seems to always pull a fast one to bail you out.  Who says you can’t perform magic tricks in the garden?  My garden is proof to show you that Mother Nature is quite the magician.

Garden Wives’ Tale Or Fact?

I’ve always believed that getting the best results out of gardening starts with simply listening to all the advice that exists out there and then just doing what feels natural.  You do what feels right in the pit of your stomach.  Sometimes this feeling makes you do things that no one has told you to do and might seem a little crazy to the ordinary man, but you decide to do them anyway.  Most of the time, following your gut helps yield successful results.  It makes you feel that you know best about what works in your garden.  You are one with the soil.  When doing something out of the ordinary gets you great results, you begin to share your ideas with others and you hope that they will follow what you are telling them.  Sometimes you feel like a scientist when doling out your advice and sometimes you feel like a quack.  I realized that there really aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules out there for gardeners, but there is loads of advice.  This weekend I started to think about all the gardening advice I have received over the years and then I started to wonder how much of this advice was simply old wives’ tales that I have been told time and time again and how much of the advice that I follow was based on fact?

Most of the wives’ tales I know about the garden came from my Grandma.  You know what I’m talking about.  Those old gardening tips that are sort of urban legend, like a proverb, and are generally passed down by an older generation to a younger generation.  Such “tales” usually consist of superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or untrue details.  I can think of two things that I was always told to do in the garden by my Grandma that I’m not sure helps or not.  Garden wives’ tale or not, that is the question!

The first is to always remove all “suckers” from your tomato plants because all of the plant’s energy will go to the “sucker” and not to the growing fruit.  A “sucker” is the little stem that grows out from between two healthier stems.  Think of it as a little stem that is growing from the middle of stems that are in a “V” formation.  I think this makes sense and I do it all the time.  Too many branches on the tomato would require more energy to keep the branches alive and growing.  By simply pinching the “suckers” off, less energy is utilized for stem production and this energy instead goes into the making of a tomato that is bigger, sweeter and juicier than if you didn’t attend to those little “suckers”.  So in my garden, you will always see perfect “V” formation tomato stems.  Also, think back to the old days when I’d be in the tomato patch with my Grandma and she was screaming out “SUCKERS” for all to hear!
WIVES’ TALE OR FACT:          FACT–in my humble opinion

My Grandma’s next rule had to do with toads in the garden.  Finding a toad in your garden was one of the luckiest things she could imagine.  I agree in concept that toads eat bugs and so having a toad or two in the garden is helpful in keeping the bug population down.  However, my Grandma said if you ever removed a toad from your garden, your garden would suffer from blight.  To her, toads were like her garden soldiers.  Toads were good luck and you didn’t want to curse yourself by removing one and making it angry.  For whatever reason, my garden is a toad haven.  Even though I don’t really believe the curse warning, I never remove one.  Why take such a risk?  I have enough problems in the garden with woodchucks and all of that.  Why would I deliberately try to anger my toads and make them whip up a nasty curse?

WIVES’ TALE OR FACT:          TALE

So suckers and toads are a couple of the wives’ tales/facts I remember related to the garden.  Sure there were others I remember not pertaining to the garden (i.e., Never sleep with the curtains open when the moon is full.  If a moon beam hits you, you turn crazy.), but that’s another post.  Are there other garden wives’ tales out there or any hard and fast facts that we should all adopt in our routines?  If you have one, leave a comment and let me know what it is.  This Summer, I’m needing all the help I can get when it comes to gardening.

Rose Of Sharons Past And Present

This is our Rose of Sharon shrub, otherwise known as Hibiscus syriacus.  Our Rose of Sharon shrub is actually made up of four separate shrubs that have grown together to appear as one.  There are two bushes that bloom with pink flowers and another two bushes that bloom with white flowers.  It has been here since we moved into the house on Glen Road.  What amazes me is that the Rose of Sharon is a late bloomer, only beginning to show its flowers in August.  As many trees and shrubs are so affected in their blooming by how much water they receive, that the Rose of Sharon always provides such beautiful flowers in the intense heat of August is amazing.  I wrote a whole post last year about the Rose of Sharon and how they grow.  This year I was more interested in how this Hibiscus syriacus got such an unusual name like Rose of Sharon.  As with most stories of origin, the answer lies in the Bible if you believe the research that I have conducted.

The name, “Rose of Sharon” can be traced back to the Bible’s Old Testament in the Song of Solomon 2:1.  Here it is from 2:1 through 2:7:

I am a Rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men.  I delight to sit in the shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.

Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.

His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field:  Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

Rose of Sharon was once thought be indigenous to Syria, thus the origin of the syriacus part of the botanical name.  Because of its Syrian roots, it was believed possible that it was the very shrub alluded to in Solomon’s erotic song.  Botanists subsequently learned that this is actually one of many plants from China, but have retained the misleading species name.  It is now believed that the Rose of Sharon mentioned in Solomon’s song most likely was some sort of crocus.

I also remember the sister in the book ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck.  Her name was Rose of Sharon.  Whenever our Rose of Sharon shrub blooms, it always reminds me of my reaction to reading the book as part of a college prep course that I took when I was 14.  I was considered mature beyond my mere 14 years of life so the teacher thought I was plenty old enough to read the book.  Throughout the book, the sister, Rose of Sharon, was pretty flat, one-dimensional and boring.  All that changed after she lost her baby and in the last chapter gave us a somewhat creepy, but very hopeful ending where Rose of Sharon “helps” out the starving man.  I remember closing the back cover and screaming out in the middle of the classroom, “Ewwww, gross?!?”  I guess I wasn’t as mature as the teacher thought.  Seeing the pink and white blooms on our Rose of Sharon all these years later still makes me think of that incident and I always get a little smile and then giggle about one of my first experiences with great American literature.

If you haven’t read the book and don’t know what the creepy, but very hopeful ending is all about, please let me know.  I’m already thinking how I would write about it without angering half of my reading audience.  🙂

A New Plant – Witch Hazel

We’ve had such weird weather here in Connecticut over the last year or so.  I know I’m not writing anything new here as so many gardening blogs that I read on a frequent basis discuss strange weather as well.  However, the strange weather does cause some plants to die off as a result.  During the freak snowstorm last October near Halloween, several bushes and small trees in my garden split under the weight of the snow and, sadly, I was unable to save several of them no matter how hard I tried.  After removing the dead plants and looking at the holes their vacancy left, I have replaced many of the areas with new plants.  In some cases just a replacement of what was there and in other cases I have replaced the area with plants that are new to my garden and new to me.  I guess I’m just trying to mix it up a little since I’ve been given the chance to do so.  Above is a close up of one of my new plants–a witch hazel bush or Hamamelis, as it is called in botanical Latin.  For my Hamamelis, I have chosen an intermediate hybrid called ‘Jelena’ with copper-colored, scented flowers that look like little streamers.  The flowers appear in very early Spring and then the green leaves above turn into beautiful orange/red foliage in the Fall.  ‘Jelena’ being an intermediate hybrid, or x intermedia, means that ‘Jelena’ is a child of two parents:  the Chinese witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis) and the Japanese species (H. japonica).

I probably would have never purchased a witch hazel bush for my garden five years ago.  Even though I had never really looked closely at one, just the name alone was a turn-off to me.  Then I had the opportunity to see one that was blooming in early Spring of 2011 and decided that I needed one for my garden.  The streamer-like blooms so early in the Spring are quite a look and one that I wanted in my neck of the woods.  I’m just sad that the way it came into my garden was because something else had died and needed to be taken out…..I guess that’s just the way Mother Nature works it.