Posts Tagged ‘Hollyhocks’

Hollyhocks, Einstein, and Pigweed

August 2, 2014

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?

Get Your Gardening Tips Here!

September 4, 2009

It’s that time of year again. The flowers and vegetables are mature, tomatoes are ripening, Jack Frost is breathing over us from the horizon. Time to take a good look at your gardens, maybe do some fall planting or transplanting and reflect on what you’ve learned from this year’s gardening mistakes and triumphs. I’ve got a few tips that might prove helpful to you as you update your list of summer gardening do-s and don’t-s.

First of all, if you must grow hollyhocks, then plant them in a sunny spot, so they don’t have to lurch up to 8-9 feet tall, groping for the sun over a tall fence. Of course, they work well in corners framed by tall fences and so they grow and grow and grow and then bud and finally in early August they bloom (if they haven’t already been completely consumed by slugs and fungus).

our lone standing hollyhock

our lone standing hollyhock

Then they fall over, squashing the tall marigolds or whatever else you’ve planted for show under their canopy. So … Tip #1: Have a few bungee cords handy to tie up the hollyhocks when they fall over, because they surely will – like, for example, on August 10th if your mother in-law is arriving for a visit on Aug 11. I was shocked when I glanced at our back corner garden. “Hey, where did all those hollyhocks your mother planted disappear to?” – I queried my husband, David, who was relaxing in his chair on the deck. I went charging back there to find the hollyhocks lying complacently on the ground. “Geez! You’re freaking kidding!” David quickly arrived with several bungee cords and magically affixed them all vertical again.
Hubby saves the day

Hubby saves the day

They looked pretty good, 40 feet away, from our chairs on the deck, which is where we stealthily reposed with his mother while she was here.

I guess cutesy, decorative, knee-high, wrought-iron, tomato-cage-like, fence sections would work too, there’s probably a name for these, but I didn’t feel up to going to a greenhouse in the middle of August asking the clerk for ‘cutesy, decorative, knee-high, wrought-iron, tomato-cage-like, fence sections’ to prop up our hollyhocks. So, Tip # 2: If you plan to grow hollyhocks and don’t want to spring for bungee cords (no pun intended) you might invest in the above props if you know what it is I am actually describing. If you already have them, and/or have had them for years, then, never mind.

Moving on to the next subject, I planted several rows of a lettuce mix in May and I have harvested it a couple of times. It was tasty! When the lettuce got to about 4-5 inches tall I simply clipped it back with a pair of scissors. Then I soaked the leaves in a large glass bowl in the kitchen sink, being careful to pick out every 2-inch piece of grass that had been blasted into the lettuce out the side of the lawn mower earlier that evening. That’s right. Dinner was delayed by yet an additional half hour as I picked the 100 or so pieces of grass out of the fifty or so leaves of lettuce I had harvested for our salad. Tip # 3: When you are mowing the lawn you might consider either attaching your grass catcher or positioning the mower along the garden so as to project the grass clippings in the opposite direction of the lettuce. This is a prudent pro-active step if you wish to keep the duty of salad preparation to manageable proportions and to keep from sending whoever is making the salad off the deep end.

I re-harvested the lettuce a couple of times until it got too bitter to eat – okay the lettuce was done now, and I could dig it up and plant seeds anew! This was the end of July and there was still time to grow another batch. But I didn’t. Instead our family went on that 4-day trip to Coeur D’Alene. Which brings me to Tip #4: Never leave your garden unattended for more than 24 hours. Because you can’t afford to lose precious time, energy and attention necessary to battle the weeds, fungus, insects, slugs, drought, pets, birds and squirrels. You play, you pay! Get your butt out there and work in your garden every day!

No, I didn’t plant more lettuce. I just left it there and it grew really big. And ugly.

Meet 'Jackomena'

Meet 'Jackomena'

I don’t want to hurt myself pulling it out. The lettuce has gotten so big and nasty that we are just going to leave it there and let it freeze to death. Which brings me to Tip # 5 : Leave it to ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘Old Man Winter’ (five-plus months worth here) to eliminate any mature obnoxious plants that you may or may not have planted.

Tip # 6: If you think you have a problem that may be due to soil conditions you might consider having your soil tested. If so, you should send the soil samples off now because it can take several weeks to get the results back. I remember this every spring when it’s too late to do it, maybe because I really don’t want to know what’s in our soil. We’ve had some pretty strange things crawling out of our soil and growing out of it. I know you can test for such things as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and iron but I’m starting to wonder if our vegetable garden soil might contain hormones. Like maybe I should have our soil tested to see if it contains unusual levels of … um … testosterone??

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Just a thought. I dug this, uh, ‘stud-man’ carrot dude up yesterday, trying to make more room for the baby carrots. Baby carrots? Maybe I should dig up a few more carrots to try and figure out what kind of wing-ding’s goin’ down underground in our carrot patch.

Tip # 7: One can always consider running in the opposite direction from anything remotely associated with ‘the garden.’ Focus your energies reading in your chair on the deck, doing crossword puzzles, spending time on your computer planning long, relaxing summer vacations and pleasure cruises. Long, relaxing vacations and pleasure cruises? Really? Yeah, but, wouldn’t I miss our hollyhocks?

Would you like to hear my tips on gardening attire?