27 June 2010

potted water lily galore, compared to before.

the garden center is mostly phasing out of selling pond plants and supplies since several years ago, as it's more of a specialty arena in the home and garden business kind of setting. but one item we can sell, when we have the time to prep the pots, is hardy white-blooming water lily pads.

our pond just steps away from the shop in the barn had just four pots of water lily pads placed about three to four feet below the water level probably close to a decade ago. despite being contained in pots, the knobby roots that are the main growing parts of the water lily have spread exponentially and are often floating under the pads at the surface of the pond. 

while searching through a list of plants requested by select customers a few weeks ago, i saw one request for water lilies. i knew i just had to find the time to get them potted, as we had none ready this season so far for selling.

so i had the weekend workers help me with finding appropriately sized black pots along with a load of 2b clean gravel for drainage, some screened and blended soil to cover the roots, and 3/4" river rock to decorate the top layer.

we ended up potting up probably ten to twelve lilies. these pads are about as big as paper plates and are aggressive spreaders. but the pads are quite ephemeral and soon brown out with squiggles of sunburn before sinking away, replaced by more ambitious pads.

water celery and wild mint are two very tenacious growers in pond settings, accompanying the big pond's lily pads.


wild mint of course thickens out fast in dryer plots of land too, like in my garden where it is taking over and has to be thinned out every few weeks. 

out of the nearly dozen lily pads we potted up, i think five sold pretty quickly. so if you know anyone who wants a lily pad, send them on over ! 

we've had some in from a pond supply company we used to buy from, and the lily pads were only about as big s your palm. 

customers told me the blooms were beautiful (white, possibly yellow, light pink, and a slightly light red) but that they pads never grew much. whereas on the other hand, the lily pads we pot up and sell-- i only recommend for those who have a big pond, nothing small. but i suppose you can always just rip off the pads and stems if they become too dense.

this is an example of the knobby root from which a lily pad grows. these have floated to the surface away from the originally placed pots at the bottom from years ago. they're a compromise between roots and wings, in a sense, perhaps. and the pale green dots  clustered all around it are duckweed, an invasive floater, which can be a good thing if you are looking for coverage to keep algae at bay.

anything miniature always pulls out the awh's in me ! this is a small lily we potted.

and that frog hanging on the left side of the pot may or may not be the weeks-ago smaller version of the one i posted about a few days ago.

24 June 2010

the first three tomatoes ! and a splash-happy frog.

alas, my garden has finally sprouted three red and ready, miniature tomatoes ! they are sweet 100s, and i tested out that flavor factor with a bit of salt on some sliced halves.

after the first bite, i was ready to smack myself for my former picky palate. how did i miss out on this for so many years ? my mom used to cut cherry tomatoes into bobbing halves, sprinkling them with salt. she'd plop some onto a paper plate and eat them at the kitchen table. now, i finally get it.

honestly, i'm just giddy. plant-love turned food-love is clearly exciting when you're the garden harlot.

in amphibian news, a disruptor of silence carved his dent in my day the good way outside of the shop at the garden center yesterday. with heat in exhaustive degrees, i figured out his pattern quickly. 

every so often, i'd hear a tiny splash. this frog must have been sunning himself, but his outer layer would bake too much too quickly, and he'd jump back into the water. 

it stood as a pleasant interruption, every time i'd be bumped out of my train of thought by his need to cool off in the water in the rectangle pond where he had himslf perched on the edge atop old wood.

20 June 2010

a brief spin of a tour of the garden center: part 4.

a web-spun tour of the garden center hasn't graced a scene in this place lately.

i believe this might be a pia hydrangea. so many kinds of hydrangea exist nowadays.

the more blue-split-purple blooms with a hint of brown at their tips are a lacecap hydrangea, possibly bluebird, but i'm not sure.

a sly tip about hydrangea care-- never prune them until they're almost fully grown for a season in may. let the old tall sticks from the previous year poke upward, even if ugly, till you can tell for certain what's dead and what's not. often, people prune them back while they're dormant after winter, and since in many cases, new growth can grow on old wood, leaves will plop forth, but blooms may be stunted for that year. so even if it's hideous, give the shrub some space for tidying until late may, at least. then it's easier to decide where blooms and new growth are making themselves known for the season.

some newer cultivars of hydrangea can be cut back early without the blooms being stunted, but it's safer to just leave the shrub alone until late spring, so as not to jeopardize any potential bounty of flowers.

black knight butterfly bush is one of the darkest purple of any kind, and the scent of it, like others, is pleasantly akin to grape bubblegum, ever-lovely nose-wise in my book.

an assortment of columbine are out in the garden and nursery worlds. i've only seen a few beyond the common purple and one similar to this but with a blood maroon type of hue to it. 

a lot of the tags on the daylily broke off last season or during winter, but i think this one was an indy inca gold daylily.

sometimes mums are confused about when to bloom. this is the case here, as these puffy topped ones don't realize that it's not fall.

lantana. they remind me of the quirky butterfly bush called honeycomb.

cleome, or spiderflower, is one of my favorite leggy annuals. i have a market pack of cleome  sitting with many other unhoused plants along my sidewalk next to the backyard. i know they'd like a home soon in the soil of my garden. now for time time time.

this perker of petals is tequila sunrise coreopsis. so many kinds of it are just want-ready, at least in my plant addicted mind. a newer kind i would like to try out sometime is the route 66 coreopsis.

this pink popping sweetheart is a magic carpet spirea. magic fits well here in my opinion, as a mood elevator of sorts via the tiniest heavily blushing blooms.

the almighty, beyond durable and hardy daylily here known well from roadsides is what some call the tiger lily. if you kill one, be concerned. these plants love to spread and seem nearly indestructible. i found them titled also as ditch lily, and that name should speak for itself. although i think there is another more spotted orange, downward-facing lily, perhaps asiatic, called, tiger lily, so i'm not sure if they share names or if there's a more appropriate one somewhere for this flower.

the yucca's cupped-like bell flowers have pushed out in full sweeps in the past week or two. yucca survive on barely any water and are semi-evergreen, a relative to cactus.

verbena are often mistaken as a perennial in our region, but they mostly behave as an annual in zone 6b. these appear reddish pink but are more of a medium pink. my camera just battled a bit with the bright of daylight.

red hot poker speak for themselves fairly well also. if only their blooms lasted longer, they'd probably be more popular of a perennial than they already are for their distinguished shape and look.

until next time !

10 June 2010

familiar faces - meet denny miller.

Familiar Faces – Meet Denny Miller
By Jennifer Hetrick

Gilbertsville resident Denny Miller is regularly fashioning his backyard to be serene and cheerfully comforting, an invigorating perk after a long day at work.

In late 2007, Miller spent several months building a water feature, as a small pond, behind his house.

With wide-stretching windows in the back of his home, he had planned to have the waterfall work two ways—appreciating it outside and also while sitting, looking at it and listening to it from the cozy perch of his dining room while eating breakfast or supper.

“I wanted a waterfall, but it’s a flat property, so I had to build it up,” Miller said. “That’s mainly what I wanted—the waterfall effect for the sound.”

The plants tucked around the small masses of rocks and flowing water are always ongoing and multiplying, as his wife Gladys adds new flowers throughout each season.

Miller transformed the section of gardens from a formerly all-grass, flat-as-a-board yard, he said.

The rocks situating the waterfall are largely from a dilapidated barn on Route 73 and the land at his second home in Potter County.

Miller said he didn’t like the suggested styles of ponds he found in books and designed his own instead, using references where he needed help in understanding the construction of it.

Last year, Miller had two frogs who hopped their way to his pond, naming them George and Petunia.

Miller made sure to say hi to the frogs each time he went outside, as startling them without a greeting always meant they’d jump into the water with a fast splash.

But with a quick hello, they’d stay in place, sunning themselves on the rocks.

Miller laughed about an instance in which he said hello to George, asking him how he was doing, with the frog offering his comical side.
“He looked at me, and as soon as I said that, he turned around and showed me his hiney,” Miller chuckled, adding that it did seem like the frog’s sudden move was on purpose.

“I have fallen asleep many times sitting in front of that pond, with the sound of the water coming down,” Miller said, expressing just how calming the atmosphere of the small extension of manicured landscaping is.

Miller and Gladys don’t travel often, which leads them to reaping a lot of appreciation out of enriching the view of their yard, enjoying the feel of it.

Also set in a circular bed in Miller’s backyard is Victorian garden, equipped with the quintessential street lamppost and all, along with a birch tree, benches, and pots of flowers bursting with brightly colored petals to provoke a smile in anyone who sees them.

To the left of the Victorian garden is a heart-shaped rose garden Miller inspiringly made several years ago.

The roses bloom in white, yellow, red, and a multi-hued tone Miller characterizes as the color of the sunset.

Along the right side of his property is an in-the-works decorative fencerow.

A boastful white and pink blooming clematis recently clung to the old wood.

“The animals like to live in there, but yet you beautify it,” he said.
Miller expects the decorative fencerow to be 50 or 60 ft. long once he’s finished adorning it.

When he’s not soaking in the tranquility of his yard space, Miller is working on a 1940 Willys Coupe he hopes to soon have painted in electric silver and blood maroon, built from scratch.

Since the age of 19, Miller has ordered his stromboli the same and loves it best from Penny’s Pizza in Limerick.

Each time he phones for food, it’s always a large stromboli, extra meat, extra cheese, and sweet peppers. The staff knows it’s Miller on the line each time he calls.

So if you see Denny Miller basking in the charismatic air of his backyard or munching away at a Stromboli, say hello to another Familiar Face.

( also published in the print edition
of the boyertown area times, with less photographs)


And to spice up the details of Denny Miller's ultimately amusing stories beyond George the frog showing him his backside following a friendly salutation, here are some other tales of the entertaining way of his backyard in its location so close to nature's wiles, next to Fellowship Farm

Miller affectionately, laced with a half-giggle, titles his wife Gladys as The Skunk Whisperer. A few years ago, she began putting leftover hamburger or bacon grease, from dinner, outside on the back lawn for the wild animals to eat. 

She'd soak up the grease with bread, leaving it in a skillet for the night. By morning, it would be empty.

Gladys decided to bang her wooden spoon at the side of the pan. This reinforced the skunks into coming over to search for the grease bread she'd set out, after she walked back into the house. 

Miller said this was Gladys calling the skunks in.

As family and friends found this humorous and a bit unbelievable, at parties, they'd all cheer Gladys on, asking her to call in those skunks.  She did, and at least five skunks were quickly making their footsteps toward the pan of grease bread.

Everyone found this quite amusing, but the flaw in the system of it soon surfaced. The skunks hung around the patio in the yard and wouldn't leave, after gobbling up the grease bread. This resulted in the guests being afraid to depart for fear of being sprayed by the skunks.

After that, Gladys put her Skunk Whisperer tendencies to rest.

In another episode of a backyard blitz, Miller and Gladys noticed a cock bird walk out of the woods, meeting up with a groundhog that had formerly been cozilyhunched under their shed.

The bird and groundhog were suddenly battling, boxing, wings flapping, little paws of fists in the air. 

Miller said he wished he'd had a video camera to record the unheard of scene, as he is certain it would have won a prize on America's Funniest Home Videos, if they'd been able to tape and submit it. 

Eventually, the groundhog zipped away and hid back under the shed again. Miller said the bird strutted down their fencerow in pride after winning the battle.

And they'd watched this unusual sight all from the windows of their home.

A final whacky story to finish off these crazy anecdotes is one that involves a possibly senile wild turkey.

Wild turkeys sometimes come out of the woods and peruse people's yards in New Hanover Township. 

One day, Gladys eyed up a wild turkey outside of their home. She thought she'd give it some bread crumbs to nibble on, but when she approached it, the turkey turned around and started galloping toward her at full-speed.

She ran screaming, back inside the house, and the turkey followed her to the screen door. After that, Gladys knew not to feed this particular wild turkey.

Later, they would sometimes see him standing in the middle of the road, and once they even saw him laying on the yellow line, which led them to believe he might just be a senile wild turkey, especially after his attempted attack on Gladys.

Needless to say, Miller's yard seems to be far from an ordinary one, with the spectacles witnessed just feet away from it.

this year's reflection garden at the pottstown relay for life.

this past weekend, pottstown's relay for life boomed with masses of participants and phenomenal fund-raising efforts for yet another year.  it has been reported in the pottstown mercury that the event is the top monetary gatherer in the state of pennsylvania and also claims its name as the fourth largest fundraiser across the globe.

several years ago, the coordinators asked my brothers to design a reflection garden to sit alongside the right space near the bleachers closest to the host location, the track area of pottsgrove senior high school. 

my brother matt said that as he was setting up last friday morning, he heard that people were arguing over who could camp out at the closest spots to the reflection garden, as it's lit up at night and provides a eye-pleasing view.

as our mother died from cancer after an almost eight-year battle, and the relay was very close to her heart once she began dealing with the illness when i was just 13 years old, we were all happy to do something memorable to contribute.

each year, we fill up that select plot of land at the relay with a variety of brightly colored flowers and shrubs, and usually a tree, to offer just a bit more meaningful of a place to relax in the perch of bent cypress wood chairs and also to take time to contemplate and celebrate  those who are still with us, thankfully, and the memories of those we love whom we've unfairly lost to what my mother deemed the coward

breast cancer originally plighted my mother. with chemotherapy and radiation treatments almost daily as she worked full-time, she beat the cancer (i've never quite known what to make of how we talk about cancer as if it's a war against the ingredients of a body). but when i was 17 years old, she felt awful shooting pains in her lower back, and we soon learned that the cancer had returned in her coccyx in addition to her liver. 

she continued to work a regular schedule with more chemotherapy and radiation treatments again. the strips of scars around her neck, from the radiation, she jokingly called her necklace.

shortly before i turned 21, as she was 60 years too young, a hospital bed claimed itself as her final resting place before she became coral-like ash care of the cremation process. my brother scott kept most of her newest form, and he gave me a portion of it, which i have in a ceramic jar in my living room. 

i hope to eventually spread some of the powder into the soil under the purple-blooming flowers in my garden, as that hue was her favorite color.

the pottstown relay for life meant a tremendous amount to my mother.  in fact, the last check she wrote in her checkbook was a donation to the american cancer society. her passion for supporting the relay and going to the event each year blossomed more and more at every new summer season. it felt so wrong, especially that first year she wasn't around for it, that she wasn't there supporting what she loved supporting with those who helped her to get through it all-- her fellow bosom buddies. 

there are so many metaphorical holes and empty spots in life, sometimes. but really, they're more than metaphors. 

here is a collage i made of my mother for my brother scott's birthday one year, after she had passed away. it's a bit telling, more so than she'd probably like for a public view, but i can't help wanting to show off her spirit, as i feel like it always needs more exposure in this life, since she's been gone.

oh, those metaphors. it's just that once a physical body you're used to knowing daily is gone, i guess it all kind of drifts into language and lacking shapes, absent solidity.

one of my mother's cancer pen pals, betti bauer-kaste of california, is now my pen pal. she fended off ovarian cancer before she and i discovered each other. i make sure to donate a luminaria for betti around the track each year and also for a spot in the reflection garden. i found betti's luminaria in the reflection garden, but i could not find my mother's, as it might not have been set out yet, and i arrived after work around 5.30 or 6.00 p.m. that saturday night.

my mother's ex-mother-in-law, florence hetrick, died from pancreatic cancer in 1997. as i've been more in touch lately with her daughter, jude shabrach, who used to bring homemade cherry and strawberry pies to my mother's house for her, just because she knew my mother loved them, i decided to be sure to donate a luminaria in florence's memory. 

florence sweetly treated me as her own granddaughter, even though i was not actually related to her. i know jude and i can relate in how difficult it is to cope with the grief of losing a mother, so i wanted to make sure to honor the kind-hearted florence.

another person i had a luminaria for, unfortunately with no photo, is tim homiller who died from cancer in november of last year. he lived alone, loved his pets and plants, and was our number one customer at the garden center. 

i've never seen a single same mini van in our parking lot so many times throughout a week. before he became too sick again, i'd always be lending a hand to load masses of plants into the back of his vehicle. many of my posts from last year during the busy season were of his beautiful gardens. i hope to eventually visit his house in the next few weeks to capture visuals of his vast stretches of calming landscape that flow along many a walking path. 

knowing from my own experience how hard it was losing my mother, just thinking of how many others know that similar, devastating loss, pulls me hope that the reflection garden always offers something comforting and introspective to its visitors while they're at the relay.

below is a photo of the luminaria specifically in the reflection garden, lit up at night, submitted by the event's co-chair and online chair person for 2010, cindy dawson.

"the reflection garden is actually my favorite spot," dawson said. "in fact, my tent site was right in front of it because it's so beautiful and poignant."

"i have seen some bittersweet, moving moments in the garden in addition to having them myself," dawson added, noting that the relay graced by this reflection garden makes the event just a bit more special.