Posts By Benny

Sweet Cicely and The Maple Part I

Sweet Cicely Garden Journal 2 September 2019

Introduction and Hope for Rain

Dear friend and gardener. It is a warm afternoon but with a slightly cool breeze drifting through now and again; sitting outside is tolerable. During the warmer months, I try to make it a point to enjoy my lunch outside as often as possible. I just glanced westward, and heavy gray clouds are heading this way. Maybe we will be blessed with rain despite the forecast indicating otherwise. Once can hope! I have spoken about this before but living in an arid climate, every drop of rain is so precious.

In my last post I mentioned that I have had some great successes this year. So begins the story of Sweet Cicely and The Maple Tree.

Botanical Drawing of Myrrhis Odorata, Sweet Cicely

Botanical Drawing of Myrrhis Odorata, Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely

In the Beginning

This story began in May of 2013. I created a post describing my delight in planting some sweet cicely seeds. That was also the day I discovered I have high blood pressure. I would subsequently learn I have diabetes as well. That aside, it turns out May is not the time of year to plant sweet cicely. Cicely seeds need cold treatment to germinate so the ideal time to sow is in the autumn. Not knowning this, I thought something was wrong with my seeds. Months passed without germination.

I belong to an online community called The National Gardening Association. I cannot recall all the details but somehow, I reached out to other members of the site asking for advice on growing cicely. A very kind soul from Belgium reached out and explained I should sow my seeds in autumn. Thinking nothing would come of the seeds I originally planted, she was kind enough to send seeds from her garden. What a blessing! I planted this new set of seeds in December 2013 or January 2014. Because I planted at more or less the appropriate time, I hoped they would germinate after winter released its grip.

Germination

Winter blew in then melted away. Then, it happened! I believe it was April when I noticed small fern like foliage emerging. Success! Sadly, the plants did not put on much growth and they did not flower at all. All throughout the season, the plants declined and eventually faded away to nothing as the gardening season ended.

Try and Try Again

Over the next couple years, I contemplated, and attempted to correct whatever I was doing wrong. Is it too warm to grow this herb in Colorado? Possibly, but cicely should still perform well during the early part of the season. Maybe the bed I chose to grow this plant was too crowded? I had raspberry plants in this bed and if you have ever grown raspberries, you know they spread very rapidly. My raspberries never produced fruit, so I dug them all out. I thought maybe this would help. It didn’t.

I even tried digging up the clump and moving it to a berm in full sun and that failed miserably. The plant languished in its new location and eventually perished. I was certain my desire to grow this fine herb had finally been thwarted.

Fast Forward to 2017

April came around once again and thankfully the delicate fern like foliage emerged again ever so faithfully. I am sure I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I didn’t kill it by trying to move it. Whatever root system that remained was enough to produce foliage once again. As it turns out, the root system of sweet cicely runs deep so that is most likely why I didn’t kill the entire plant when I tried to move it.

As the months passed, there were a few leaves but nothing remarkable. I kept the area clear, but the plant once again languished.

A New Plan of Action is Formed

2017 faded away as did the leaves of the plant. 2018 arrived, a few leaves emerged but then nothing. By this point, I was determined to successfully grow this herb! So, at the end of last season, I formulated a plan and put it into action.

…To be continued!

Thank you so kindly for reading. This story may be comprised of three parts so please stay tuned. The rest of the story shall be told.

Until next time! Happy gardening and thank you for being a part of my community!

As always, here are some recent photos of my garden.

Fly on Leaf

Every morning, there is always a congregation of these little flies on my sunflower and black eyed Susan leaves.

Faded Cosmos Bloom

Faded Cosmos Bloom

Utrecht Blue Wheat

The wheat (Utrecht Blue Wheat purchased from Botanical Interests) has dried leaving behind the beautiful blue grains. I grew this with the sole intent of photographing it!

Pink cosmos with stinkbug

Pink cosmos with stinkbug

Drooping sunflower laden with seeds

As the sunflower blooms fade, the seed heads form. This seed head is dropping almost to the ground. It’s only a matter of time before some critter chews it off and takes it away!

Green bug on pincushion flower

Green bug on pincushion flower

Dear Friend and Gardener

Garden Journal 31 July 2019Dear friend and gardener. It’s been such a long while, I know. I feel it important to explain my absence somewhat. To put it bluntly, I have, for the most part, become disenchanted with the whole idea of writing anything. Despite this lack of inspiration or desire, I have been contemplating the idea of creating this blog entry for weeks now. Each Sunday, within my mind, I presented the idea of creating an article. Then… self-doubt would creep in. ”What would I talk about?” and my personal favorite, “What’s the point?” Hardly anyone wishes to read blog posts about gardening these days!” Well, at least, not the story-based articles. There are blogs-a-plenty that give basic gardening instruction and it would not surprise me if they were all written by bots. Yes, that’s a thing now… automated robot writing. It’s quite probable that you have read an article or news story that was written by some sort of AI program. So, what chance does an actual human writer have? I digress and must resist cynicism!

Dear Friend and Gardener book written by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd

With all that said, my garden this year is in fine form ~~ exceptionally fine form. More on that in a later post but this is worth mentioning because it is a driving factor for my writing.

Today’s Source of Inspiration

Buried within my self-deprecating shadows of doubt, still lives the unyielding desire to write about and ultimately share the various happenings within my humble garden. I just couldn’t figure out how to emerge from the rubble and create… until this evening.

Each evening before I turn off the lights to go to sleep, I enjoy reading a bit from one of the many books that consider my nightstand home.

Not pictured because it is resting right beside me is Dear Friend and Gardener Letters on Life and Gardening by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd (not THAT Christopher Lloyd from Back to the Future!). This book is absolutely delightful. It is an exchange of letters between two gardeners with two very unique styles of gardening. Each letter is like all the essential oils on a canvas that when mixed together portray the perfect scenes from two very beautiful, yet different gardens in different regions of England. With each exchange, I could not help but be inspired not only with planting ideas (I really want to try growing the Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ snowdrop Beth mentions in one of her letters for example) but also to write.

Benny's Nightstand

Is Gardening Still Relevant?

One could be forgiven to believe gardening in this modern, digital age to be something vanquished into the annals of historical, quaint pastimes people used to do for leisure or sustenance. Further, the only people who actually garden today are the old human relics clinging to something that serves no real purpose.

At first glance, these ill-informed thought processes could be easily supported by simply looking around one’s own neighborhood. Gone are the glorious flower borders of cottage flowers flanked by various roses ~~ at least for the most part. Instead what we see in abundance are lawns heavily laden with various cocktails of some of the most horrid chemicals known to man. Beyond that, a cursory tree or set of shrubs and MAYBE a scattering of atypical annuals. Not quite representative of the glory of the gardens of our grandparents.

Oh Gertrude! How I long to see more borders like this!

Jekyll_Manor_House_Border

So, does this truly mean gardeners are an endangered species doomed to extinction? No, I really don’t think so.

The Torch Shall Be Passed

May my words I have written this day drift surely and steadily toward a new generation of gardeners. A new generation of gardeners you may ask? Yes. You see, I have hope. Not just the selfish hope that my rather inconsequential gardening blog will one day find its audience but a much greater hope for the pastime itself.

I volunteer at the Denver Botanic Gardens and each year my job is to assist in the water smart section of the sale (planting a xeric based garden is a huge passion of mine). As each year passes, the crowds of people eager to try their hand at gardening grow tremendously. This is a crowd of glorious human beings of all ages (even as young as two) eager to make something of a bit of earth. A large percentage of these people will seek advice and inspiration from those working the sale. That’s where I come in! As mentioned, my passions revolve around gardening with as little irrigation as possible so the idea of volunteering to help sell plants that are water smart and can survive a bit of drought greatly appeals to me. As visitors arrive, they all have questions and I love answering them. Seeing a penstemon or a sedum go home with someone is for me a sheer delight!

So, yes. I have hope and I am inspired.

Thank you Beth and Christopher for YOUR words of inspiration. Thank you for that nudge I so desperately needed to start writing again. May my words keep flowing, may they find their audience and may they in turn inspire another and another.

Thank you so kindly for reading. I have so much more to share and trust me I will share. In my next post I will talk of two of my more significant successes ~~ sweet cicely and the maple tree.

Until next time! Happy gardening!

As always, here are some recent photos of my garden. Moving forward, I will be sharing exactly six images. I love the number six so thought that a good number to share.

allegheny viburnum

I have this viburnum growing behind the elderberries. Each year it grows bigger and bigger and this year I was blessed by an enchanting bloom!

New pea vines growing steadily to escape their container and journey wherever they please. This is the heirloom Swenson Swedish Pea.

Viola tricolor

Oh yes, one of my absolute, most favorite flowers, the tiny viola. I have them emerging everywhere. I love these flowers so much!

Rose leaves emerging

A glorious shot of new rose leaves emerging. I just love the red tinge the new leaves have don’t you?!

Lily emerging

This lily has emerged faithfully year after year. It sends up a huge stock which is then graced by a cluster of about four flowers. At the time of writing this article, it is about to open up in all its glory.

Pause, Reflect, Breathe

Benny's Garden 28 May 2018

A Day to Pause and Reflect

As each year passes, Memorial Day is fast becoming one of my favorite days for pause, reflection, deep breathing and spiritual fulfillment. Just like last year, I am sitting in the garden writing this entry with my feet up enjoying the sites and sounds enveloping me. I have so much to do — beds need clearing, several plants are begging to be released from their small plastic cells so they may stretch their legs within the garden soil and the never ending list goes on. All these things weigh on my mind but I absolutely must sit, get this article done and really take time to be quiet. To accentuate the moment, I am listening to the beautiful music of Kristin Rule. Please click on the link and have a listen. It will add to your reading pleasure. I promise.

A day to reflect

So Blessed

The dry winter, aphids, rabbits, hail, sudden heat spells but mostly lack of water. All have taken its toll on my garden paradise. What must be sheer spite, the garden is rebounding. Rather than wallow in all the things that aren’t as they should be, I shall celebrate instead.

In a large pot under the pergola, a lone columbine has thrived. Typically it is competing with the desert bluebells but this year none came up and this allowed the columbine to take over the pot.

Columbine Flower

Columbine Foliage

The Pallida Dalmatica Irises

Preface: I ordered these vintage (circa 1597) Irises from Old House Gardens in March of 2015. I tracked down these irises as they bring back some very special memories. It was very important that these bloom so I thought moving them would help — it did!

At the end of last season, I moved two large clumps of irises away from the house and planted them along the edge of the steps leading up to the top half of the garden. This is their third year in the garden and when the weather warmed this spring, the foliage took off just as it did last year — (but foliage was all I had last year hence one of the reasons for the relocation). Weeks went by, I saw no stalks forming. I feared that once again I would have no blooms.

One morning, during an atypical saunter, I nearly cried out with delight when I noticed those ever familiar little stalks forming off the sides of the leaves! Now, they are blooming and that aroma! If heaven had a fragrance, the scent of an iris would definitely be it. Just like Francis said in “Under the Tuscan Sun” — they smell of purple — a very delicate, delicious purply heaven!

Irises Flanking Stairs

The Dedicated Poppy Bed

I could keep going on and on about all the beauty that surrounds me now but I don’t want to take up too much of your time. 🙂 Before I close, I would like to share with you a little something I created about a month ago. I wanted to have a dedicated rose bed and I have been successful with that endeavor. When I was finished positioning my roses, I had a rather large patch that I ended up designating “to be determined”.

A month ago, I was staring at this space and weighing my options: A selection of miniature roses (they don’t really do too well in our climate), herbs or perhaps a selection of prairie flowers? I then realized what I absolutely must do. I tilled the soil so to disturb it to the point where it was very loose. I then gathered all my special poppy seed and scattered them all throughout the blank canvas. What an amazing blessing it is now to see them coming up. Soon, I will have a miniature field of them!

I have written about the Flanders poppy many times and I will reiterate that this is the one plant I will always grow. When those papery red flowers sway in the breeze, I am reminded of all I am thankful for and my countless blessings.

Poppy Seedlings

Spreading the Love

The poppies I grow year after year originated from a grave site in Flanders. It has been my goal to share the seeds I gather every year with all who want them. The ultimate goal being that this little red flower proudly sways in every garden around the world. Last year I sent some to my friend Gloria. She planted her seeds last autumn and has kindly shared her thoughts on why planting these flowers were important to her. I shall close with her words that beautifully encapsulate this day and the magic a bit of sentimentality can bring to the garden. Until next time, thank you so kindly for reading. Thank you to all those in our military who give so much every day selflessly so I may have a day like today.

My garden is many things to me but mainly a sacred place filled with plants shared from neighbor and friend, some specifically chosen plants which remind me daily to be grateful for those who touched my life with love and lessons. When I discovered my friend Ben had Flanders Poppies I knew they needed to be a part of my garden, and in asking, he generously harvested his seeds and mailed them to me. I sprinkled, covered, watered and wait with anticipation, while remembering those who paid with every breath, those young hearts, new to war. It is always the staring down of fear that brings freedom. Is that not reason enough to plant the little Flanders seeds, watch as they take the ground, stand honorably and remind me daily to be grateful, so very grateful.

Here is a photo of Gloria’s poppies emerging:

Poppy Seedling

And finally, images from my garden. Blessings to you all!

Sedum

Sedum growing through the crack in the paving stones

Hens and Chicks

I absolutely love the gorgeous purple hues on this hens and chicks specimen

Apples

Apples forming! I am so excited to get fruit this year! Last year, I didn’t

Irises

Soft, subtle purple of the irises

Sedum

Sedum

Globe Mallow — Out of five specimens, I only have two left. This particular plant is thriving.

Lichen

Lichen

Pansies in pot

Pansies in pot

Hummingbird vine

Hummingbird vine

Verbascum

Verbascum — I grow this intentionally as it reminds me of ‘Old Herbaceous’

Clematis Flower

Clematis Flower

Vinca

Vinca — a plant I have been babying. This was originally in a friend’s garden.

Flax flower

Flax flower

Irises with droplets of rain

Irises with droplets of rain

Wind Chime

Custom Made Wind Chime

Columbine

Columbine in artistic black and white

Snow-In-Summer

Snow-In-Summer — Some call it a menace. I call it beautiful!

Blue Flax

The beautiful blue flax