Monday, January 26, 2009

Spring Fling Chicago!

Last Spring the garden bloggers of Austin, Texas held the first garden bloggers' Spring Fling meetup, where garden bloggers from around the country gathered for a weekend of garden-related and garden blogging events. Gardens were toured, wonderful discussions took place, meals were shared, and friendships were made and strengthened. The weekend was such a hit that those attending decided it would be great to do it again in Chicago in the spring of 2009.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter was fortunate to attend the Austin Fling, and brought the idea back to Chicago where the brainstorming and planning began.

Thanks to Mr. Brown Thumb, our official website is up and ready for prime time. We're very grateful for his hard work and expertise in planning and designing the site. He's done a wonderful job!

Please visit the Chicago Gardeners site early and often for the latest Chicago Spring Fling information and updates.

We have a dedicated group of Chicago-area garden bloggers participating in the planning, helping to assure an exciting, memorable event for all our guests. We're looking forward to hosting the 2nd annual garden bloggers' Spring Fling and sharing our beautiful city in a garden.

Spring is just around the corner, so hurry on over to Chicago Gardeners for the scoop! We hope you'll make plans to join us for the 2nd annual garden bloggers' Spring Fling - Chicago style.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My First Gardening Book

Yep, I still have this little gem, a gift from my farming, gardening maternal grandparents when I was eight years old. This little book is surprisingly educational, with all kinds of information on the science, history, and cultivation of flowers. A Whitman 'Learn About' Book, it was published in 1961, and as you can see in the inscription below, Grandma and Grandpa sent it to me for Chanukah in 1965. To this day I still enjoy reading through it now and then.

This time, I was dusting the bookshelves in our den when I came across the book. I took a break, sat down on the sofa, and read its well-loved, careworn pages.

Our family has always been big on giving books as gifts, often following family tradition with a simple note inside the front cover. There are many books on our shelves with similar inscriptions. There are stories and memories in the inscriptions.

I thought about Grandpa's handwriting. As a small child I loved his handwriting and tried my best to imitate it. I thought about all the letters we wrote back and forth to each other throughout my life, until shortly before he passed away. I thought about how lucky I am that I saved so many of those letters, and how Mom saved the ones he wrote before I was old enough to take care of them myself.

I thought about how Grandma had saved the letters we all wrote to them, and how wonderful it was to find them as we were cleaning Grandma's house one day after her passing. Those preserved letters were a final, loving gift from them to all of us. We went through all those letters, all carefully placed by Grandma back into their envelopes with return addresses, old postmarks, and stamps that cost a penny or two, bundled together with strings and old rubber bands - our family history in letter form.

Letter-writing is a dying art. It's such a joy to have a life-long record of communication between my grandparents and me in our own handwriting, of the large and small events of our lives and the feelings we shared with each other. Coming across my first gardening book reminded me how well Grandma and Grandpa and I got to know each other through the letters we wrote, and I'll always be grateful for all they shared with me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

January Bloom Day

Nothing's blooming outside here, that's for sure! Like much of the country, the Chicago area is in the deep freeze this Bloom Day. Our current temperature is 19 below zero. I'm still enjoying nesting and still not minding the winter - so much so that I'm losing track of time. I've been off a day all week, so I missed bloom day. Better late than never, right?

In spite of the cold I'm still enjoying the usual suspects blooming happily in the basement 'greenhouse,' and the two dragon wing begonias blooming in our living room while they wait for spring.

The caladiums still haven't gone dormant. They keep growing, so I keep watering.

I pulled all the tired blooms off most of the geraniums in the basement, but they continue to bud.

This red is the only geranium in bloom at the moment.

The heliotrope's blooms are paler and less compact under artificial light, and just about done for now. That's a jasmine bud in the foreground.

Speaking of jasmine, this bloom day I actually have blooms. They smell heavenly.

Diamond Frost euphorbia has been going strong too. The tiny blooms are tough to photograph. This one always looks better in person than in a picture. I adore this plant. It doesn't like cold temperatures, but it blooms non-stop indoors and out. I'm crazy about the clouds of tiny blooms this euphorbia churns out, even in spots with very little sun. The plants stay smaller in the shade, but still bloom like crazy for me. In full sun, they can become shrub-like in size and bloom even more. There's a cassandra and a French pussy willow cutting in the foreground.

Mexican Heather's been a stalwart basement bloomer too!

A tiny Endless Summer hydrangea is blooming already. This little plant was started from a cutting in early October. The Annabelle cuttings are holding on, but not thriving in the basement. Endless Summer seems to be weathering winter in the basement much better so far.

In spite of the frigid, snowy weather, I'm enjoying winter. I'm in no rush for spring yet, and that's not like me. It's amazing what being off work for the winter has done to my attitude about cold weather!

For more bloom day posts, please visit the rock star founder of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Winter Picnic

or. . . What To Do With All That Leftover Holiday Food

Have you seen her yet?

I think she's cutting up the pears.

Here she comes! Act normal.

. . . Moments later. . .

Mmmm. . . now that's what I'm talking about - peanut butter on a stale dinner roll!

Wow, that overripe pear looks good! Can I have some?

I'm kinda partial to the banana bread myself. The walnuts are to die for. I hope they get more Harry & David next year.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Victory Garden on the White House Lawn

The Garden of Eatin': A Short History of America's Garden from roger doiron on Vimeo.

On January 16th, will present the incoming Obama administration with the top ten ideas for change in America as chosen by votes on their site.

Planting an organic Victory Garden on the White House lawn as an example for all Americans in more sustainable living is currently in 25th place, and needs over 2,000 more votes to make the cut. Voting ends next Thursday, January 15 at 5:00 p.m. eastern time. If you haven't already, I hope you'll consider voting. There are many other worthy causes worth voting for, and each voter gets to choose their top ten favorites.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Winter Reflections

recent foggy evening in the backyard

The garden is sleeping and frankly, the plants overwintering in the basement have been largely neglected except for occasional watering.

Posting has been sporadic at best as I've turned my attention to a long list of projects I hope to accomplish indoors over the winter. Lots has been done, and even more remains on the list. I'm not stressing about it - whatever gets done gets crossed off, whatever doesn't will stay on the list. There's nothing critical. Every door and molding that gets painted and every closet that gets organized brings satisfaction.

A couple of tired-looking but favorite old chairs got freshened up with a coat of paint. An empty bedroom got a thorough cleaning and a bit of a facelift with some new bedding. Cobwebs have been vacuumed, cabinets got new knobs, a few switch plate covers were changed. In short, I've been nesting, and enjoying every minute of it. The gift of time in the winter is a major perk of my recent career change.

It's been an adjustment getting used to having the winter off. Last winter I was anxious for spring. This winter I'm treasuring each moment. Spring will be welcomed but not rushed. I can get used to this. I love being at home. I love being 'domestic.'

The Lawn Man took time off in December and we had lots of wonderful, memorable quiet times spent together at home in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle. It's a special time of year for us, since our first date was only six years ago on December 30th, the night before our second date on New Year's Eve. Both those evenings are among the most memorable and cherished of my life.

Life has been peaceful lately, and the pace much slower these non-gardening months - more time for reading, reflecting, indoor projects, and quiet times with loved ones. The holidays are over, the decorations are all put away. The warmth of the memories from this holiday season remain as we welcome the new year and settle into winter.

To all you wonderful readers and fellow garden bloggers, I hope your holidays were merry and your new year is blessed with peace and contentment.