Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cornus Kousa - Revisited

Back in May, I wrote about our Japanese Flowering Dogwood.  As predicted, the tree now has a mass of edible fruit.

I guess I'm not really as brave as I like to think I am.  I did break one open and nibble on it.  The taste was pleasant, but the texture was a little mealy and put me off.  I didn't eat the outside red part, and there just wasn't much pulp on the inside.  It looks like it is possible to make jam from the fruit, but that seems like it might have texture issues as well.  It's possible the fruit on my tree is not yet fully mature.  I'll be trying them again over the next few weeks, so I'll report any change in taste or texture (along with any side-effects).

According to wikipedia, the fruit of the Kousa Dogwood are actually compound berries!  Even though I wouldn't grow this tree exclusively for its berries, they are attractive hanging from the tree and provide food for wildlife.  Between spring flowers, late summer fruit, and pleasant bark/structure in winter, I feel comfortable calling the Japanese Flowering Dogwood a plant with year-round interest.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Old Pictures

We survived the hurricane with minimal damage:  no trees down, but several big limbs.  Also, the arbor into the woodland path is probably a goner.

I haven't taken any new pictures, but here are some I found on my camera.  I believe they're from June.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brent and Becky's Bulbs

Brent and Becky's Bulbs is another company whose catalog I look forward to every single year.

They're a small, family company, located in Gloucester, Virginia.  Their catalog features the typical bulbs: daffodils, tulips, crocus, and hyacinths.  It also has unusual selections, such as Bellevalia, Ornithogalum, Rhodophiala, and dozens of other bulbs I've never seen anywhere else.  They have a really large selection of daffodils and even sell some they have hybridized themselves.  I've never purchased tulips from them (mainly because I'm not a huge tulip fan), but they seem to have a large selection of those as well, especially of more reliable species type.

In the past, I've mainly ordered grape hyacinths, crocuses, and the shade garden collection.  Buying a collection was a good way to become familiar with some bulbs I had never heard of before.  I grew quite fond of Arum italicum and Crocus tommasinianus, so I'll be ordering those individually this year.

This past spring, I found two plants in the new yard I've never grown before: Fritillaria meleagris and Nectaroscordum siculum Bulgaricum.  Both were growing without much care, so I don't have to worry about whether they're suited to the yard or not.  I'll be buying more of both.

Finally, there are two plants I'm going to go out on a limb for.  Erythronium is a type of native lily sometimes called a trout lily or a dog-tooth violet.  They seem like they might be a Spring ephemeral plant and are best suited to moist woodlands.  The cultivar I'm choosing from Brent and Becky's is Erythronium revolutum 'White Beauty', which is marked as one of their favorites.  The other new-to-me bulb is Amarcrinum, also known as Crinodonna.  The big selling point of this bulb is it is rodent and deer proof.  It also blooms in mid-summer through fall.  They're not cheap, so I'm going to try one and see how it does.

Do you have any favorite unusual bulbs?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Actual Gardening!

I did some actual gardening yesterday.  I really wanted to stay in bed, but my husband dragged me out so we could plant the butterfly bushes my Aunt gave to us.  I ended up really enjoying myself.  It was good to be outside, in the sun, and to become familiar with the garden again.

I wish I had some photos of the new bed.  I found the camera, but I'm still working on the cord...plus my memory card is full.  I'm a mess.

Another awful MS Paint garden plan...

In the "plan" above, the four large multi-colored circles are the newly planted butterfly bushes.  We had a fifth white bush, but we ended up using it in a different bed.  The three small olive green circles are clumps of Siberian iris we received from my parents as pass-along-plants (possibly Caesar's Brother).  We had stuck them along the fence back in May without delineating the bed, so they were hidden in ridiculously tall grass.  The dark green blob at the bottom and oval at the top are probably skimmia.  I'm still investigating, but they're a low growing evergreen shrub with red berries that does not appear to be a holly.  And finally, the small green circle at the top is a mountain laurel.

I actually have an old picture of the mountain laurel!
We used "mulch" from where our trees were removed and the stumps were ground out to cover the bed.  This isn't usually recommended since fresh wood chips can rob the soil of nitrogen when they decompose.  We let the wood chips age for over two months, so it shouldn't be too bad.  I'm also planning to apply a combination nitrogen/phosphate fertilizer when I plant bulbs in this bed later in the fall.

Did you do any gardening this weekend?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Garden Parts: Along the Fence

I'm still going through my old photos.  I'm not exactly sure where my camera is right now and I haven't had a chance to take any new photos.  This one shows the arbor leading into the woodland path, circa May.  The plant growing on it is a climbing hydrangea.  To the front/right of the arbor are about five sections of split rail fence between our yard and our neighbor's backyard.

Back in June, we had two trees removed from this general area and our neighbor had a couple of trees removed.  The end result is, this part of the yard is sunnier than any other part.  For a little while, I thought about maybe putting in raised vegetable beds.  My experiments with pots and planters on the deck have not been especially successful.  However, I've decided to put in a deep border along the fence as a butterfly garden.

Most of my plants/shrubs bloom in the spring, so the focus of this bed would be summer and fall interest.  Also, my wonderful Aunt got me five(!) butterfly bushes as a thank you for letting her stay with us for a couple of weeks.  Completely unnecessary, but it helped me figure out what I want to do with this bed.  Butterflies and summer interest, but also a sort of tribute to my Mom. 

My very English mother grew up in Plymouth just after World War II.  Her gardening style has always had a touch of southern England to it and her gardens have always had buddleia in them.  I remember reading about butterfly bushes as a symbol of rebirth after the war, when they were seen growing out of bombed houses.  When I visited England back around 2000, I was surprised at the number of buddleia I saw growing in public settings...it's just not a shrub you see much in the United States.  So - the five butterfly bushes my Aunt has given me will be the backbone to the garden.

In between will be some of my Mom's favorite plants.  Herbs, because she had a huge herb garden and volunteered as a docent for the herb garden at the National Arboretum.  Annuals that self-seed in her garden every year, like cleome, balsam, and four o'clocks.  Daffodils, because they were her favorite flower and bloomed in front of the courthouse on her wedding day.  And primroses, because I used to get her one every year on her birthday.  I'm sure other plants will fill in as well, as the years go by.

This weekend, I'll be busy cleaning up, finding my camera, and planting bushes.  I hope to have some new photos next week.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Catching Up

A lot has been going on over the past two months.

On Tuesday, June 7th, my mother was admitted to the hospital.  She had lost her voice a few weeks earlier and had experienced a dull headache for some time.  When her primary care physician performed a CT Scan, he found some abnormalities in her lung and brain and sent her to the hospital for more testing.

After more scans, a biopsy, and an MRI, we received a diagnosis: adenocarcinoma.  Adenocarcinoma is a type of lung cancer.  In my mother's case, it had metastasized to her brain.  The growth in her lungs was pressing on her laryngeal nerve (causing the voice issues) and she had thirteen lesions in her brain (which were causing the headache).

She stayed in the hospital while they developed a treatment plan.  Steroids to prevent swelling in the brain, whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT) to address the brain tumors, and then chemotherapy to deal with the actual lung cancer.  My mother started the WBRT and was discharged.  She was very positive and was looking forward to completing the radiation and starting chemotherapy.

However, there were a lot of setbacks.  She developed a pressure ulcer on her lower back which needed to heal before she could start chemotherapy.  My mother also needed to wean off the steroids that were helping with the neurological symptoms - as the dosage was decreased, my Mom got weaker and weaker.  Radiation sores in her mouth made it difficult for Mom to eat and drink.  She got dehydrated and then when she did try to eat or drink, she ended up aspirating the food and liquids, which contributed towards a lung infection.

In July, Mom was admitted to the local hospital twice due to low blood oxygen levels.  The first time, she was discharged after a few days.  The second time was more serious and my mother came to terms with the fact she might never be able to start, let alone complete, chemotherapy.  During this second visit, she had to remain on oxygen and had a PEG tube inserted to help prevent the aspiration.

The day after she had the tube placed, she spoke with the doctors and made the difficult decision to be discharged to a local hospice.

She was put on the hospice waiting list and was admitted on Wednesday, August 3rd.  The hospice was a much more comfortable place for everyone and my mother was able to spend her last days in a room with windows overlooking a beautiful garden with birds and wildlife.

She passed away around 6:15pm on Saturday, August 6th.

Last week, we focused on the funeral arrangements.  My mother was a planner and she made sure we all knew exactly what her wishes were, which made things as easy as possible during a difficult time.  The funeral was on Friday and we spent the weekend recovering.

This week has been pretty hard.  I'm trying to get back to normal, but it's hard for me to remember what normal is.  A full eight hour day at work where I don't need to leave early to visit the hospital?  A weekend where I don't need to find someone to watch my daughter because I'm staying at the hospice?  An hour on the Internet where I'm not searching for some sort of solution for the latest medical crisis?  Suddenly it seems like I have all the time in the world, but all I really want is my mother back.

Needless to say, my garden looks awful.  I haven't done a single thing since June.  The plants I got from Bluestone?  Dead.  The bed where the dead tree was cut down?  Ignored.  I haven't taken a single picture in months.  The pictures above are from May - I haven't even walked in the woods, so for all I know, these ferns have been mowed down by the deer. 

I'm going to try to get back in the routine of posting.  I'm hoping it will help me get back to "normal", whatever that is.  Please, just bear with me in the meantime.