Friday, April 30, 2010

Investigating the Tulip Library

When I went to visit the cherry blossoms in DC a few weeks ago I stumbled on the Tulip Library, which is also near the Tidal Basin. I was excited by it, but there were no brochures or other information available. I only knew it was the Tulip Library because some excited kid came running up to his mother to report that he found the sign.

At home, I didn’t have much luck. Little research is on the web and the National Park Service write up mostly just mentions the history of tulips. The most helpful was this 2007 blog entry from Washington Gardener magazine. (Hmmmm…note to self…change blogger theme.) They have a link to a PDF of an old brochure, which was better than nothing. If Tulip Library had been here in Baltimore City I would have the good old Pratt library vertical file to play with. (Yes, I know that this garden is in another city. But I also like to write about places within easy driving distance of Baltimore because most gardeners love to visit other gardens.)

Well, with my arm still on the injured list and my ability to do a lot of typing and mousing curtailed, I pulled out the Tulip Library research and put up an article. It is not what I wanted, but if I don’t do this now the topic won’t be relevant again until next year. (Then, I can revisit it and do a slideshow or something.)

The photo at the top of this post was my first choice for the article, but it looked too similar to the photo on the National Park Service PDF and also to the one I selected for Sherwood Gardens. Tulip gardens are rather hard to photograph at times because of the way the flowers are spaced. If I don’t get a good angle and lots of flowers blooming at the same time I end up with a picture of little dots of color amidst the dirt.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A City Garden and Examiner Thoughts

Hmmm…I thought of titling this entry “lettuce behind bars” but thought better of it.

The other evening after work I went down to City Hall here in Baltimore to take pictures and get some writing material. This garden was great for me last year because I could just report on it monthly and it gave me an interesting series with lots of photos. This year, I hear that budget cuts and practicality trumped over the free flowing and widely varied design of last year. Actually, it doesn’t look too bad, except for this black netting. I assume it is there to keep both people and critters away. But, this being Baltimore city if people or rats wanted the vegetables they would just cut the net and take them.

They don’t have any educational materials out for this garden yet, but I did notice labels on almost everything this year. Some had cute little signs but others at least had plastic sticks. To see any differences see my current article and then go look at the article from this time last year. There are some similarities, but I miss the free design and the kohlrabi.

In other news, I got an email about changes with the Examiner web site but I’m not sure how this will pan out. They want to create more of a social network, which I think is a great idea long past due. Right now, everyone that wants to comment can only leave his or her name and comment and it is not linked to a profile or anything. So, I feel like a complete stranger if I comment even though I’ve been writing there for a year now. I would like to be able to leave a connection to my profile. I think this would be valuable in hooking up with other Examiners or even just interacting with the readers. It doesn’t look professional when I can’t leave a signature of some sort.

Another thing is that Examiner is going to “archive” past articles and we won't be able to edit them. They said we’d get some warning, but I’ve been working on tightening up my old articles so I’m going to step this up. In my old articles I don’t have many links to my other articles, nor do I have the “more info” paragraph with links to my Twitter page and this blog. I want the appearance of my page to be consistent.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday – National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes

(Their web site.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rainy Day Dianthus

This morning on my walk I noticed these dianthus. They were so bright on this rainy morning that they almost won’t photograph well because the color is too intense. I’ve always liked dianthus. Then, a couple of days ago when I was shopping with a friend he said that they looked like “little stars”. Yes, I can see that, especially on a gray day like today.

By the way. I'm quite happy with my new Sherwood Gardens article, which includes a slide show. I've resolved to do more slide shows this year. It is a kind of visual reporting that I like because I carry my camera everywhere.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Elbows, Sherwood Gardens and Graveyard Lilies

Owww….after all of the “advice” I give people about garden safety I hurt myself while gardening yesterday. Actually, I had been feeling a twinge in my elbow all week but I thought it was gone by the time I went out in the yard last night. Instead, it was just lurking, ready to come back in force after I came inside for the night. Now it seems worse this morning. I’m actually thinking of making a sling from a scarf. I also might have to cancel my date with the Phantom tomorrow. I volunteer at the Hippodrome and hate to miss working a show of the “Phantom of the Opera”, especially since this is the supposed farewell tour.

Well, on with the writing news. This morning I posted on ways that gardeners could spread the word during National Gardening Month. Unlike the other articles I wrote this week, I kind of like this one. I used a photo of last year’s display at Sherwood Gardens, and the photo above is from the same flowerbed. I’ve been picnicking at Sherwood a lot over the last couple of weeks and I think last year’s display was defiantly better.

I also wrote a short piece on gravestone lilies for my Curious Urbanite blog. I’m not particularly obsessed with death at the moment, but when I visited Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond a couple of weeks ago I was intrigued by all of the graveyard symbols that involved nature. I would have liked more time there as the array of stone flowers, tree stumps and other garden related cemetery art was fascinating.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Photo Woes and Earth Day

This photo is a “leftover” from my article this morning. It took me an inordinately long time to select a photo today. I liked these dogwoods because the colors and shapes are reminiscent of Earth Day themes, (round, green white, ect.) and I have the one I prefer with the article. But, with the weird way that Examiner crops their photos on the Home and Living page I wondered if it would end up showing the blank spot near the middle of that one. (Sometimes the crop makes the subject of the photo completely unrecognizable.) So, I plowed through my backlog of photos to see what to use and then ended up using my original choice anyway. It seems to look all right.

I wanted to make a good impression for Earth Day because I slaved away on a series for Baltimore Green Week but so far it has only average readership. Plus, I’ve had such a busy week and didn’t like the photos I chose for the other articles. They were just things I had, but didn’t quite fit. I’ve been too busy to go on photo expeditions and now I seem to be paying for it. Note that yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday was a random April flowers post full of more leftover pictures. Actually, I might use the azaleas from that post for tomorrow’s article.

Another thing that I did this week was post an Examiner article every day. Again, only average readership so I’ll go back to my regular schedule next week. This only really works if I have gardening news that is hot for a day or so. Plus, Examiner told the Home and Living Writers to spotlight National Gardening Month over the next few days so suddenly everybody is writing about gardening. It is also National Park Week and National Volunteer Week. Why don’t people write about that?

Oh, yes, I’m going to stop my complaining to wish everyone a happy Earth Day!

My Baltimore Green Week series

Tree Baltimore aids city residents during Baltimore Green Week
Volunteer opportunities for Maryland Gardeners
Rethinking your garden habits
Earth Day facts for Marylanders

Friday, April 16, 2010

Encountering the Old Blush rose at the Hollywood Cemetery

Last weekend I visited Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA. Even though the east coast had some warm weather recently, I was very surprised to find a rose blooming near James Monroe’s grave. Soon I realized that there were roses all over a moderately sized bush. A helpful marker identified the rose as “Old Blush, Class: China, Intro date: 1752”. I was charmed by these lightly scented blossoms appearing in the middle of the quiet cemetery, so when I got home I decided to look them up.

Old Blush is a rose with semi double pink flowers that appear darker or “blushing” in the sunlight. It is one of the oldest roses and the Chinese cultivated it for more than a thousand years. Old Blush and other China roses were brought to Europe by traders like the Dutch East India Company. These were later crossed with other varieties to make modern hybrids. Any rose varieties that existed before 1867 are labeled as “old” while those after it are “modern”. Older roses tend to be smaller flowered and more rambling. Old Blush can grow well in poor soil but can get out of control if left untrimmed.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - April 2010

This month my blooms are almost the same as last months. I only had time for a few quick pictures, but besides these I have pansies, violets, and a lone muscari is left under my tree. I really lack spring blooming flowers, other than bulbs. This weekend I hope to get cracking on the garden and put in a few things to spice it up a bit.

I did my monthly “What’s Blooming in Baltimore?” post and was quite envious of what other local gardeners have. There are some nice iris out there and one lady near me even has a nice potted blooming azalea. I did notice that the azaleas in Sherwood Gardens are beginning to bloom as well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rooting basil

I had a very busy weekend, which included a trip to Richmond, Virginia. But, I left my camera in my friend’s car and so I have to find something else to post this morning. Hence, the cell phone photo of a coffee cup full of water and basil.

Yesterday in Richmond (rather, near Richmond) we ate at a pho place. Every time I go into a pho place these days I inspect the basil to see if I can pull off a piece large enough to root it. I don’t want to take the whole thing, see, because my dining companions and I also need to eat it. The last time I went to this same place it was very hot outside and I didn’t have anything to put the basil in, so it didn’t make it home. Yesterday I wrapped these in a napkin with some ice and then put it in a coffee cup with a little water for the journey home. While I realize the folly of carting basil cuttings from Richmond to Baltimore when I can easily get them here, I was happy that they made it.

These cuttings are a bit short, so I relied on a trick showed to me by an old friend who gardened a lot. The wax paper here not only keeps short cuttings out of the water, but also keeps from evaporating as quickly so the water doesn’t have to be refreshed as often. Hopefully, these will root and I will report on their progress.

When I checked this morning I noticed that my article on utility safety for Baltimore gardeners is listed as “most popular” in a sidebar. Hmmm…I can’t imagine why, except that people must be doing a lot of digging this week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

You're not from around here

We’ve had an unusually warm week and I had to mow my lawn again already. I use an old fashioned reel mower and a man walking down the alley said, “I haven’t seen one of those in a long time!” Clearly, he is not from Hampden where human powered mowers are the grass cutting tools of preference. Like me, many people have small yards and no sheds and keeping a reel mower in the basement is a lot safer and easier.

As you can see by my picture, it was so warm that most of my Red Russian kale bolted. (The flat leafed parsley in the background is fine.) I’m a little annoyed, but, oh, well.

I sowed a few zinnia seeds in a pot for early outdoor seedlings. In checking the weather I might get away with this. Night temperatures are expected to be just below or just above 55 degrees in the coming nights. I can move the pot indoors as needed.

In other news, my article about the DC cherry blossoms peaking has had astonishing traffic this week. I guess all the photos helped.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Six Pack Anticipation (Flowers, not Beer)

I’m a little late getting things together this week. On Friday we went to DC to see the cherry blossoms and saw some other garden related things that I also want to write about. I have piles of photos and notes to untangle. All of this combined with a family filled holiday weekend and busy days at my real job makes for a late article.

I spotted these bluebells around the neighborhood when I was walking to the Waverly farmer’s market on Saturday. I went over to see if they had six packs of anything I would like to plant yet. They do have pansies and marigolds, which I already have and plenty of herbs. I will have to think about the herbs because I know that if I wait there are other vendors that have them for a bit less money. This farmer’s market is my main source for annuals, vegetables and herbs. A lot of times they have a better selection than local home and garden stores. In fact, I an even find seedlings for the heirloom plants I was growing from seed, which works out better for me as I have a small garden an not a lot of seed starting space.

Also, now that I get down the Eastern shore more often I like to plan a May visit to get things for my hanging baskets. One stand I visit has inexpensive six packs for colors of flowers that I prefer, but don’t normally see up here. They also have a wide variety of double petunias, which I like for my hanging porch baskets.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tulips, Open Doors, and Cement

Yesterday when I was walking to work I spotted tulips in someone’s yard. Technically, it was still March so this seems rather early to me. I then spotted a snapdragon on the way home. Despite the wild winter we had, things around town seem to be doing well even though it is so early in the spring.

I was busy with many things yesterday, including posting an article about Open Doors, a program for people struggling with addiction. They do many things, but they are currently working on a new community garden. When Paul, a program director there, contacted me I was happy to write about them. This is the kind of thing I want to do more in my column of because it unites gardening with city living. Their current project is only a short drive from where I work so when they finish I would like to go out there and photograph it as a follow-up for my readers.

I like things like this and the City Hall garden as I hope that it encourages people to see the potential of their yards. Now, even though I live in a rowhouse I’m lucky enough to have grass and dirt in the back yard. I’ve struggled, though; with the all-cement yard at other places I’ve lived. When Paul talked about needing sledgehammers to remove old building foundations I remembered one garden I had. There was a rosebush surrounded by a broken cement wall, but it was mostly buried in garbage. It was next to a small, odd building (also full of garbage) that my neighbors told me was once an outhouse. It took me a long time, but I cleaned it up, tamed the rosebush, and planted some fabulous zinnias and celosia. Whatever was out there for years must have improved the soil because one year the celosia was almost as tall as I was! You never know what kind of good stuff is under all of that garbage.