16 April 2016

Moss phlox

Phlox subulata, common name moss phlox, is one of the earliest harbingers of spring when things are about to blow up in April.  Aside from bulbs, moss phlox is the first flowering plant you will tend to see in gardens and yards.  The semi-evergreen foliage will suddenly green up, get covered with a profusion of buds, and transform into a carpet of flowers with the domed shape of a cumulus cloud (yes, the meteorologist must make a weather reference here).  Moss phlox is always somewhat of a surprise to me; I forget where I've seen it flower in others' yards in previous years, and I discover it all over again when it blooms each spring.

The true beauty of moss phlox - particularly the 'Emerald blue' variety that I have under the peach tree in my yard - is that it is most enchanting in low light.  The blue is washed out to a light purple in bright sun, but in the early morning or evening light, the true color is revealed.  Check out the following photos and tell me the phlox isn't glowing in the 2nd one!

09 August 2015


I've tried a few different types of plant tags over the years, and always found myself rewriting names on the tags after the winter (and that's if they hadn't corroded to pieces!).  I determined this past winter that the cycle must end, and I was going to find a better (read: more long-lasting) solution.  Research led me to empressofdirt.net and her advice on the issue.  I now pass along her wisdom and the products I used to carry out this project.

1.  Rubbing alcohol and cotton (for cleaning the plant marker surface)
2.  Brother P-Touch labeler and laminated tape (Empress of Dirt recommends laminated for a longer lasting marker)
3.  Plant markers  (I chose American-made markers from the Paw Paw Everlast Label Company in Michigan, located at everlastlabel.com .  These are E Rose Labels with zinc plates, and I paid extra for stainless steel wires since wire corrosion was the biggest problem I experienced with my old markers.  As of Spring 2015, 30 of these markers were $25.50.)
4.  Scissors
5.  Tasty beverage (Runa is caffeinated, delicious guayusa tea, BTW)

I chose to include the common name (in a larger size) and Latin names on my labels.  The Brother P-Touch allows you to set margins (which I set to be slightly smaller than the width of the marker plate) so that the common name would be on one sticker and the Latin name on another.  My Excel spreadsheet detailing what's in each garden bed was helpful here.

Use the cotton, moistened with rubbing alcohol, to remove all dirt and oils from the marker plate face; this will help your labels adhere better.  It is also easier to work with the plates before you attach the wires.

The finished product is very neat, and so far hasn't shown a smidgen of corrosion or degradation after being outside for a few months.   The big test, of course, will be how they fare during the winter.  I will say that I love the way they look in the garden, and that they've been helpful in "placeholding" for plants that bloom in early spring and then die completely back, such as trillium.  I'm less afraid I will accidentally dig one of those up when I have dependable signage for them.

Stay tuned for a post-winter post-mortem in 2016!

31 May 2015


My peonies signify many things in my life.  I usually leave them out in the yard (I'm not a big one to cut flowers and bring them in the house - either I like them better where the bees can get at them or they just look more at home in the garden), but this year there is such an abundance of blooms that I couldn't resist bringing some in.  Some ants came with them, but whatever!

These peonies belonged to my great-grandfather.  They then were moved to my grandfather's house, and then to my parents'.  I was so honored and proud when my dad asked if I would like some of them for my own garden.  As if expressing approval from my ancestors, they have thrived at our house.  These plants are one of my most prized possessions, and I consider them my birthright.

The smell of a peony brings me right back to my grandparents' house while I was growing up.  I loved spending time watching the ants scamper around and around a swelling bud, feeling the silken petals, and deeply breathing in the scent over and over again until I went nose-blind with it.  I still do that today, and somehow feel that it connects me back with my grandmother and grandfather, who passed away when I was in high school. 

The peonies now function to signify another important yearly event in my life for the last 15 years - St. Benedict's graduation.  They always bloom right around that time, which is the first Sunday in June.  It reminds me that a well-earned break is right around the corner, but also makes me think of the students I will miss once school is back in session in late July.  Most importantly, the peonies signify the celebration of accomplishments and hope for the future of all the young men we serve at SBP.

The peonies are also meteorologists.  I'm serious!  Just when the blooms are at their most abundant (like now), it will rain and ruin them; peony petals are super sensitive to rotting in the rain.  So, what's in today's forecast?  Heavy rain with showers and thunderstorms. 

The final lesson of the peonies is, therefore, to appreciate the ephemeral and live in the moment.  It's a good lesson for someone like me, and I can use the reminder!