Hollyhocks, Einstein, and Pigweed

Summer in Idaho! At our house David takes care of the lawn and I take care of the flower gardens, the tomatoes, and the lettuce patch.

Except, this year we don’t have tomatoes or a lettuce patch. Last year all our tomatoes caught a fungus; even the tomato plant in a pot, in direct sun, on our deck, which I only watered at the roots – got a fungus. It was completely frustrating, pissy, and ridiculous. I refuse to apply a fungicide, so I’m just not doing tomato plants this year.

And the lettuce? Well, maybe the rows could have been placed differently, whatever, but I’ve picked enough grass clippings out of harvested lettuce leaves to last me a life time. So no lettuce this year, either. Last fall I ripped out all the lettuce and tomatoes and planted perennials. Here’s how that garden patch looks today:

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Pretty good, huh? The yellow is yarrow. The pale pink flowers in the front are geraniums – annuals I planted this summer. I don’t know for sure what the rest of the flowers are – the tall reddish orange I think are coneflowers – although they shot up a foot higher than I expected – which – leads into the meat of my blog … gardening tips!:

(1) Pay attention to ALL the details on the plastic tab that comes with the plant: what it is, how hardy is it, how wide and tall it will grow, how much sun it needs, etc. (This exercise can be difficult for a person with ADHD). This helps you decide if, and (just as importantly) where you should plant each flower.

(2) Save the tab from each plant for future reference in case you want to buy more or to help you know what you have coming up again in the spring. You could simply shove the tab in the ground next to the plant you’ve just planted, or do what I did, place all your tabs together in a ziplock bag, which you then store in a very safe place, so safe that you never find it again. In early spring, when you don’t recognize anything coming up besides dandelions, limit your time looking for the bag with these useful tabs to half a morning, while assuring yourself that you will likely find it again when you decide to move.

Moving right along …

Hollyhocks: They are a funny flowering plant. Funny, in that you are not laughing when you see them growing wild in groves along desolate roadsides, but try to propagate hollyhocks to annually sprout up and bloom in a designated spot in your garden!

I do have a perfect spot for hollyhocks – or so I declared last year, where this crop sprung up and bloomed.

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But then this year nothing came back. No hollyhocks? What the hock, I mean, heck? Turns out, hollyhocks are a bi-annual – that is, the first year they come up from seed as low leafy plants, the second year they come up again with budding stalks that bloom in late July into August. Then they die. Period.

So, to deal with my bare patch, at the beginning of summer I bought two hollyhocks at a local nursery (“Hey, don’t those grow wild?” another shopper asked me in line). I also transplanted into the same bare area, every first-year baby hollyhock I saw popping up where I didn’t want it (like, in groupings, in the lawn). Here’s what the hollyhock garden spot looks like today, two months later:

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(The stuff creeping up over the brick is actually raspberries)

Our holly-hock patch is not going to be big on blossoms this year. But maybe next year? Another not-laughing funny thing about hollyhocks is that they don’t like to be transplanted. The two plants from the nursery sat there completely frozen in shock for about six weeks, then finally sprouted pencil-thin stalks with buds, stalks that won’t stand up. Thank goodness I had some extra tomato cages lying around. I encased the hollyhocks in the cages to keep the blossoms off the ground (and out of harm’s way of the evil mower).

Hollyhocks are happy when they get to grow on the spot they pick. A few feet away from the designated hollyhock spot – we have a boisterous full-sized hollyhock – grown up and ready to bloom – like an overgrown weed

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belting out the “Because I’m Happy!” song.

Down the east fence line from the happy hollyhock, I have this menagerie, involving a green bike and a hodgepodge of pots filled with shade-loving begonias:

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(The biggest flower is a gigantic metal fake?) I felt the spot here along the fence needed something. David says the whole thing is an eye-sore, why do I even waste my time? I tell you why. Because a couple times a week I have an excuse to visit that end of the yard, check on the flowers, see if they have water, see if a pest hasn’t devoured them, flowers and all, etc., and … see what the neighbor’s new rescue dog, Einstein, is up to. Sometimes he peeks through the fence.

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I’ll come over and he jumps up – props himself up for a closer encounter

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his expression begs me to let him slather my hands in his doggie saliva

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Sometimes Rudy races to the fence, barking like a maniac at Einstein.

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Einstein doesn’t make a sound. I have honestly never heard him bark. That’s okay. Rudy does enough barking for the whole neighborhood.

Yeah, well, I’m going to plaster Einstein’s expression across my face every time I pull a pigweed out

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I thought I could get it all out of this walk without using round-up.

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So far the pig weed is winning.

I’m sure I could find lots more gardening tips to share with you. What? Everyone else on the block grows countless juicy fat tomatoes? And every variety of lettuce for their salad, and all the fresh veggies that go on top of the lettuce, too?

Awwwww. You suppose I should maybe take up, say, knitting as a new summer hobby?

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