Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mystery Plant

Does anyone know what this is?  I like it - the leaves get really huge by summer.  I just have no clue what it is.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Identifying Hostas

I've been trying to figure out what different hostas I have growing in hopes of working out some barter deals with other Boise area gardeners who may have repeats of varieties I am missing.  However, there are SO MANY different varieties it may take me longer than I anticipated to find their names.

These are the different kinds I have so far:

white edge

yellow edges

lime green

I also have one with rippled leaves that gets GIANT that is still uncurling.
More to follow as they pop out....

Lucious Lilacs

My back yard smells HEAVENLY!


I now have my garden all planted.  One of my three raised beds is devoted to heirloom tomatoes, also known as "heritage tomatoes".

What makes a tomato heirloom?

According to Wikipedia: "An heirloom tomato (also called heritage tomato in the UK) is an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomato. Heirloom tomatoes have become increasingly popular and more readily available in recent years. They are grown for historical interest, access to wider varieties, and by people who wish to save seeds from year to year."

However, like the term "organic", it can mean somewhat different things to different people.  Since heirloom tomatoes have become the fashionable, more companies have pushed the envelope of what they label that way.

From Gary Isben's TomatoFest

Where did the term "Heirloom" plants begin?

"The term "Heirloom" applied to plants was apparently first used by Kent Whealy of Seed Savers Exchange, who first used "heirloom" in relation to plants in a speech he gave in Tucson in 1981. He had asked permission to use the term "heirloom" from John Withee, who had used the term on the cover of his bean catalog. John said sure, that he had taken it from Prof. William Hepler at the University of New Hampshire, who first used the term "heirloom" to describe some beans that friends had given him back in the 1940s."

Here is a link to a list of heirloom tomato varieties offered up by Teresa O'Conner - garden blogger extraordinaire over at Seasonal Wisdom.

I was introduced to heirloom tomatoes last year when I was given several plants by a neighbor who grew them from seed in her garage under grow lights.  We had several varieties I don't remember, but one favorite that I do recall is the    brandywine .  I've long known home grown tomatoes taste far superior to anything you can buy in the store, but these were especially spectacular.

This year we are trying a few different things.  I've included links to other blogs and websites that are good resources for info about and/or ordering heirloom tomatoes.  There's some great information worth exploring.

We've planted

German Queen    (photo by Gary Ibsen's TomatoFest)
German Queen

Mr. Stripey  (photo by Veggie Gardener)

Red Beefsteak (photo by Gary Ibsen's TomatoFest)
Beefsteak heirloom Tomato

Cherokee Purple  (photo by Vegetable Gardening
Cherokee Purple tomato

Marglobe (photo by Bonnieplants)
Marglobe Heirloom Tomato

plus some sort of cherry tomato, not sure of the variety.

I can't wait for my first garden grown BLT followed up with some yummy homemade salsa!

As the song says, there's only two things that money can't buy - that's true love and home grown tomatoes!   Guy Clark singing "Home Grown Tomatoes".

Lyrics from Guy Clark's 1997 Keepers album:

Ain't nothin' in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin' out in the garden
Get you a ripe one don't get a hard one.

Plant `em in the spring eat `em in the summer
All winter with out `em's a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin' & diggin'
Every time I go out & pick me a big one

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes?
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

You can go out to eat & that's for sure
But it's nothin' a homegrown tomato won't cure
Put `em in a salad, put `em in a stew
You can make your very own tomato juice

Eat `em with egss, eat `em with gravy
Eat `em with beans, pinto or navy
Put `em on the side put `em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle

If I's to change this life I lead
I'd be Johnny Tomato Seed
`Cause I know what this country needs
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see

When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin' up homegrown tomatoes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

CWI Native Plant Sale

The Biology Club at College of Western Idaho will be holding a Native Plant Sale this Saturday. Proceeds earned from the sale will fund interpretive and educational signage at the college.

•Where: CWI Nampa Campus East Entrance
5500 East Opportunity Drive
Nampa, ID 83687
•When: Saturday, April 28,
10:00 am-4:00pm
For more information contact

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tulips, Tulips, Tulips

 Victoria over at Our Life in Idaho just posted about her Tulip Explosion.  Some gorgeous shots!  After all the rain we had last week and then it turning off hot there are indeed tulips opening up all over the place.  Here are some of mine.  I don't have near as many varieties (or the right lens for good close up photos).  Still, the bright colors they add to my yard this time of year is always a delight.

I planted the Claudia bulbs (bottom picture) the first fall we were here, in 2010.  The purple one on the right was also planted that year, and is the first to show in what will be a row of multi colors  along the border of my shade bed where I have my rhubarb, hostas and ligularia.  They are generally later than all the other tulips in the neighborhood since they don't really get enough sun there, but since I have precious little spots with sun I have to make due with what I've got.

Most all the rest of my tulips came from the LDS Temple here in Boise.  Last spring they let people come dig whatever they wanted out of a particular area that would be changed in their remodeling project.   We showed up about 6:30 AM on a cold rainy morning after Mother's Day to join other die-hard gardeners in carefully digging through some of the prettiest flowerbeds in town.  Spring is not the ideal time for moving and planting tulips, but that is when they were available so we didn't want to pass them up.  Several of the clumps from that flower blessing are still in bud, so I'm waiting anxiously to see what they will look like.   Tulips don't last all that long, but with their bright, rich colors and varied shapes I can't help but love them.  They are always a sure sign we are in full spring.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bishop's Weed

While cruising some online forums, I found this comment about Bishop's Weed:

And whatever you do, don't plant bishop's weed, aka goutweed, often recommended for dry shade. Evil evil evil. It's like deliberately planting bindweed - you'll never have anything else. They were selling it at my local (reputable!) garden centre, at $10.99 a pot. Clearly they're Satan's little helpers.

And there are plenty of blog posts out there like this one from Danger Garden talking about back breaking effort digging out this invasive pest.

Still, I think it's lovely and it seems just the right thing to put in the area of bare ground at the back of the house where I have my azaelas, heavenly bamboo and Pieris japonica.  So I planted starts from my across the street neighbor last fall and have been delighted to see it coming up well this spring.   I may later eat my words and regret this decision.  But for now I'm saying one man's weed in another gardener's delight.  Grow bishop weed - grow!


As I continue to learn all I can about the various plants in my yard I love all the many resources that are available online these day.  A great example is this video on "How to grow Ligularia"

The flower on these plants are not my favorite, but I love the foliage.  Last year something ate the leaves by late spring / early summer.   I'm hoping I can find some natural ways to ward off pests this year.   This is what my ligularia is looking like right now  I'm pretty sure this is the Othello variety.  I have one other that I'm still trying to of it later.

ligularia - Othello

As pretty as this plant is, I would not have chosen it for my yard since it really does need to be kept uniformly moist.  Didn't my yard's previous owner know that Boise is high desert?   While I would not automatically xeriscape everything, I would have chosen plants that are a bit more drought tolerant.   If I were on irrigation would be one thing, but unfortunately I'm in the part of my west Boise suburb that can SEE the irrigation canals but cannot access them.   So I must rely on city water with its ever ticking meter to keep my place green.  That's making me re-think several things I have growing.

But for now, I'll enjoy my ligularia

Thursday, April 19, 2012


One of my favorite plants in the spring time is pulmonaria, There are several different varieties.  They also have many nicknames: most commonly known as lungwort, but also sometimes called Soldiers & Sailors, Jerusalem Cowslip, Spotted Dog, Joseph & Mary,  or Adam & Eve.  (I have NO idea where those names come from.)   I happen to have the variety called "High Contrast" and I love it.  I have several clumps of it going around in a ring surrounding a tall pine tree.  In that bed I've mixed it with bleeding heart, hostas, columbine and ferns.   Then just for fun I have a couple of "pig squeek" (berginia) on one edge.

The pulmonaria is always one of the earliest bloomers in my yard and I just love their delicate pink and purple blossoms against variegated leaves.

I'm thinking I may want to look for some of the white pulmonarias to add to that flowerbed, so I've been looking at catalogs and exploring online.

What's your favorite plant in your yard right now?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows I'm wild about flowers.

basket of gold (aurina) & rock cress
Money Plant

Candy Tuft

Grape Hyacinth
But what really gives my yard structure and presence this time of year are the trees.

After all winter long of seeing them stand out there like naked sticks, it's so nice to watch them put their leaves back on.

These are the trees I have in my back yard:
Maple, Japanese
Maple, Ginnala
Pine, Austrian
Quaking Aspen
Russian Olive Tree
Ornamental Plum

(plus a few more I have yet to identify)....

We also have some HUGE lilac bushes that look more like trees.  Same goes for our row of  snowball bushes.  They have been trained to grow like trees with a dominant trunk and big puffy tops.

When we were looking at houses two years ago while planning our move to Boise the presence or absence of mature trees was the deal breaker on a lot of places looked at.  We passed up on some drop dead gorgeous houses simply because they did not have any (or very few) established trees.  When we saw this place, I just KNEW it was the one.  The house is your basic late 70's ranch.  It certainly meets our needs.  But there is nothing particularly special about it.  That's ok with me.  Fancy houses are lovely, but are not really my style.   I'll trade in central vac and granite counter tops for a stand of mature trees any day of the week.

Here Come the Hostas

Most of my back yard is shade, so I have a lot of plants that do better without direct sun.  Right now I've got hostas coming up all over the place.  This morning I counted 29 plants in various stages of popping up and unfurling.  Here are just a few:

Inside the tree circle: Lungwort / pulmonaria in front, bleeding heart and columbine by the tree and the hostas I call the "three sisters" bringing up the rear.  Behind the path is a bank of "dead nettle" lamium that is just beginning to bloom.

The other shade lover that is just beginning to appear is my ferns:

Most of these are just beginning to show tips of green coming out, but I'll  have a dozen or more fully unfurled in various parts of the yard over the next couple weeks.

I love the bright colors of my few sunny beds, but I've also learned to appreciate the different shapes and textures of my shade gardens.  I'm always amazed by how quickly new things will appear this time of year.  I walk the yard first thing in the morning before leaving for work and then come home to find plants I had not seen before.  It's a good thing my classes I'm teaching at the college are nearly done for this term.  It's hard to stay focused on grading papers and planning lectures when I want to do is spend every minute I can out digging in the dirt.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My peas are up!!

I've got one of my three grow boxes planted with hardy things that can tolerate cooler temperatures.  I planted snow peas on March 22 and they are coming up nicely.  The seed packet says I will get to harvest them in 75 days so it will be interesting to see how close they come to that schedule.

I also put in garlic, Walla Walla sweet onions, spinach, and Swiss chard.   I took a chance and planted three baby cucumber plants today.  A friend brought them over this weekend when he saw I already had my box started.  My tomatoes plants I am moving into the garage at night and won't put into the ground until the frost danger is passed, but I figured I could risk the cucumbers since they will be simple to replace if they get nipped.

If this year's garden is anything like last year we'll again have an abundance of veggies to carry us through all summer.  However, if I try to plant more than two zucchini plants this year, would somebody please just slap me??  Seriously, last year I thought my neighbors were going to band together and call an intervention if I didn't stop stalking them with bags of squash.  We threatened to check up and down the street for cars with unlocked doors where we could off load it.  Don't get me wrong, I really LIKE zucchini.  But since I have limited space for growing, this year I want to put in more variety.

Egyptian Walking Onion

I'm trying something new in my garden this year.  I got a lovely cluster of Egyptian Walking Onion from a neighbor.  From what I have read it is not likely to grow top sets this first year, but as a hardy perennial onion once it is established it will come back year after year so by next year I should have some to share.  I'm excited to see how it does.

Spring Color

bleeding heart


helleborus / lenten rose

tulip - one of MANY different kinds
We've had a lovely soft rain on and off throughout the day.   My gardens are loving it.  As the temperatures come up and the water sinks in, flowers are popping out all over the place.  The old saying goes "April showers bring May flowers".  That may be true, but fortunately for me I don't have to wait till May to see these.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I recently read a quote by the writer Robert Fulgham who said:  "If dandelions were rare and fragile, people would knock themselves out to pay $14.95 a plant, raise them by hand in greenhouses, and form dandelion societies and all that. But, they are everywhere and don't need us and kind of do what they please. So we call them weeds and murder them at every opportunity".

Yep, that's certainly the case at my house.  The other day my beloved and I spent an afternoon sitting out on the lawn digging out dandelions.  We filled a five gallon bucket about three times. Now we have a pristine front lawn uninterrupted by weeds.  Is this an improvement?  I suppose it depends on your point of view.

Last year I had quite the adventure trying to identify a plant in my back yard.  I took samples of it to a few different nurseries.  I scoured stacks and stacks of gardening books.  I asked every gardening friend I could think of, but no one knew what it was.

The plant finally showed up in a book chronically Idaho noxious weeds.  (Imagine my chagrin!  I had been digging up starts and sharing it with everyone who had admired its beauty.) It was Policeman's Helmet,  which the agriculture department says does not yet grow in Boise.  I've got news for them.  Even though I pulled all mine out, I suspect some of the people I shared it with did not. As lovely as the plant was, having it named noxious made me feel the equivalent shame as if I'd spread gardening herpes.

I've heard that by definition a "weed" is any plant growing where it is not wanted.  That seems a rather arrogant perspective to me.  Still, in my own little space I do get to pick which plants will be nurtured and which will be eradicated.  Currently I am doing battle with spurge.

The suggested management of the weed is prevention, "since controlling these weeds is very difficult once plants have established themselves."  They've got that right.   No matter how many I pull out, it seems there are six more coming up.   So I've become rather Zen about the whole thing.  Evey day that the weather is nice I go out and do my spurge hunt, with no illusion whatsoever that I'm winning the battle, but rather maintaining order, like making my bed.  I know darn well I'll do it all over again the next day.  But keeping up with it somehow feels more tidy.

On the other hand, my Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera) is spreading like crazy and I couldn't be more delighted.  I especially like the variegated variety which I only have two small clumps of, but even the more common one that is proliferating aggressively in my shade garden is so lovely I wouldn't dream of naming it "invasive".   I guess it really is all a matter of perspective.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pie in my Garden

I've got the strawberries.  I've got the rhubarb.  Now if I could just find a crust plant I'd be all set!

Pussy Willows

Front yard pussy willow - March 2012

When my next door neighbor noticed my pussy willow tree in the front yard all covered in buds she reminded me of the verse we used to sing as children:

I know a little pussy,
Her coat is silver grey,
She lives down in the meadow,
Not very far away.
Although she is a pussy,
She'll never be a cat,
For she's a pussy willow,
Now what do you think of that?
As for me, they remind me more of a favorite old tune by Gordon Lightfoot

(From the 1968 album Did She Mention My Name)

Pussywillows, Cat-Tails

Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses
Rainbows in the woodland, water to my knees
Shivering, quivering, the warm breath of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Catbirds and cornfields, daydreams together
Riding on the roadside the dust gets in your eyes
Reveling, disheveling, the summer nights can bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Slanted rays and colored days, stark blue horizons
Naked limbs and wheatbins, hazy afternoons
Voicing, rejoicing, the wine cups do bring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Harsh nights and candlelights, woodfires a-blazin'
Soft lips and fingertips resting in my soul
Treasuring, remembering, the promise of spring
Pussywillows, cat-tails, soft winds and roses

Spring Time in Boise

Serpentine Cherry



Pulmonaria / Lungwort
Rock Cress

It is spring time in Boise, Idaho. 

It is an absolutely glorious time of year.  Everywhere I go I am discovering trees that just a few short weeks ago stood naked now covered is blossoms and new leaves.  Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are bursting open in many neighborhood yards.  Spring is such a hopeful time of year.  It is a reminder of new beginnings.  I appreciate the longer days, and leaving my coat in the closet.

I decided that this year I'd start a new blog to document my gardens.  I'm planning to use this to map out what I have growing where and to track when things appear.  During the quiet times in my yard after everything has been put to bed in the fall it is easy to forget the profusion of color I was blessed with over spring and summer.  Also, when I go to put in bulbs or think about buying new plants it will help to remind myself how full my beds are this time of year.

Gardens are a lot like life.  There are times of abundance and times when all I can see is bare dirt.  Every season has its purpose.  I want to learn to be more grateful for the changing ebb and flow of growing and quiet, in my garden and in my life.  Still, I can't help but favoring springtime.  Each new opening flower or sprouting fern I discover on my daily walks through my back yard pathways just makes my heart sing.

(All photos this post taken April 4)