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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wrong Plant, Snowstorm and Waltz

Have you ever bought a wrong plant? Yes, a wrong plant. I mean the plant itself was not wrong, it was a fine plant, but it was not what you intended to acquire? Well, maybe you haven't. I have. We were at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show when I saw a stand with bulbs and told myself that I was not going to do any spontaneous purchases. I looked at the open boxes. Each box had, as you could guess, bulbs and a colorful picture of its blooms. At one moment, I stopped, sharply changed directions and went straight to one box, grabbed several bulbs, paid for them and continued walking. I bought a beautiful allium.
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I thought so. It was supposed to be tall with a huge textured bloom ! To make a long story short, when the blooming happened, I saw something not even slightly resembling my dream allium. It was this:
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Blue scilla peruviana (Cuban Lily). Blooms in May.
50-75 degrees F (10-24 C), high humidity, full sun.
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I made a mistake. I grabbed the wrong bulbs.
'It's not a big deal to buy a wrong plant' I said to myself. It's not like you got the wrong wife, let's say, or the wrong husband. It's not what happened with two young people from Alexander Pushkin's novel 'Snowstorm'. Did you read it? You didn't, I knew it. It's OK. Oh, someone said 'Yes'. There are several teachers among our fellow garden bloggers, who probably read it. But, if you didn't read it, don't feel bad. Here it is, very briefly.
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Picture yourself: Russian countryside in the 19th century. Winter. Snowstorm. Night. Little village's church. It's dark, just several candles light the place. The 17 year girl waiting for her passion, an officer. Young people decided to get married secretly, knowing that the girl's parents wouldn't approve of their union.
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V.Milashevski 1971
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Priest, witnesses and the bride are waiting. And waiting... And waiting... The snowstorm is not getting calmer. The bride is about to faint. Suddenly, the door opens and a young officer appears. He is led to the altar, the priest says the appropriate words, and when he tells them to kiss each other, the bride turns her face, sees a stranger and this time, she actually faints.
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V.Surikov
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The officer turns away and leaves the church.
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D. Shmarinov 1946
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He was not a bad guy. He got lost in the storm, was exhausted and probably thought that he was dreaming. And, what would you do if you were lost, tired, and suddenly people put you aside a beautiful girl?
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Snowstorm. A.Venetsian 1947
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... Four years passed. The young woman never got married, while carrying an awful secret. The young man, who married her unintentionally, returns from the war against Napoleon after being promoted to general. He is handsome, but unhappy. Neither one of them can marry, since they are married already, although they don't know to whom. You don't believe? Are you saying it couldn't happen? Are you saying they should marry since nobody in the world knows about an accidental marriage in a church? Wait, remember what time it was - 19th century. People held their words. People had such a thing as honor. Do you know that it was customary for Russian officers to shoot themselves if they couldn't pay their card debt (not credit card, but playing cards)? To kill yourself was more honorable than to have a gambling debt. Now, you understand. No? Well, at least, you get the idea - people were different. OK, let's continue. Just a bit of this story is left, and we'll return to our bulbs. So, the young heroine and the general met (at last) and fell in love, without knowing that they got married four years ago. They get together to reveal their awful secrets and tell that they never can marry each other, since they already have spouses, although unknown to them. He tells his story first.
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"I am married..." B.Kosulnikov
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'It was you?' - exclaims the beautiful Maria. 'And you don't recognize me?' They look at each other, he falls on his knees in front of her...
Happy ending.
Do you follow my logic? To buy a wrong plant is not as bad as marrying the wrong person. This is what I told myself looking at the absolute stranger, which had nothing in common with my dream allium. It was not tall, it didn't have a huge globe-shaped bloom but nevertheless, it was as blue as I wanted. Sorry for this story which is seemingly unrelated to gardening. I wrote in my earlier posts that very often plants or garden events remind me about stories, my own stories or famous writers' stories. By the way, there is beautiful music, waltz 'Snowstorm' by famous Russian composer Georgy Sviridov written for the movie 'Snowstorm'. I don't usually place music on my blog. But, since winter is coming, as many garden bloggers have written already, and it's time to buy bulbs, why don't we pamper ourselves? I promise, you won't regret it! Make it loud. Prepare kleenex as you might cry. Think about two young people, the tragic, cold and windy stormy night of long ago, and about your garden saying Good-bye to summer.
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What is the moral of this post? If you get the wrong plant, don't be upset. At least, you got the right husband (wife). ...hopefully...
P.S. I hear someone asking what happened with the real groom and why didn't he make it to the church? He also got lost in the storm.
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Snowstorm. N.Piskarev 1937
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When, at dawn, he at last found the church, nobody was there. He was ashamed, depressed and believed that he would never be forgiven. So, he went off to war and got killed.
Sad. Now you are crying... Don't cry. Go get some bulbs, but just make sure that you get the right ones.
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Illustrations for the novel were taken from gallerynicole.ya.ru

Copyright 210 TatyanaS

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Front Flowerbed in August


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If you have trees growing in containers, rotate them once in a while, my friends! I ignored this rule for several years, and sure enough, one of the Italian cypresses, in the background of the picture below, sent roots through the dranage hole in its pot*. By the way, I pruned those cypresses recently, and they look better now. It answers a question asked by one of the fellow bloggers - have I hired gardeners? In my dreams, Rene, in my dreams! (I have an earlier post Do You Have A Hired Gardener, Tatyana?)
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The front bed is the one I was most pleased with
this year. I should confess that I never had a plan of what to plant in this bed and what colors to use. I was just buying plants which I liked and which required full or part sun. Somehow, it worked well with pink and purples prevailing in July and August.
Acanthus mollis (Bear's Breech) didn't bloom last year. It just took a leave of absence I guess to gather energy, and voila - here it is showing its big glossy leaves and white flowers with purple markings:
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Well-drained soil, part shade - Acanthus has what it needs for long blooming in this location.
New students in the classrom were the drumstick alliums of rich, intense purple. I planted a lot of alliums last fall and winter. The drumsticks got the space in the central bed. Their green tops poked out in the past winter which was pretty mild. For half a year, I was skeptically watching the tall, thin, sickly looking green stems. What good could they produce? So, when these textured pom-poms greeted me in July, after our 11-day Alaskan vacation, I got pleasantly surprised. Yes, they were small, but I find their heads charming and interesting. It looks like they are floating above the other plants.
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Die-hard Spanish lavender looks faded after almost a 3-month blooming period but still provides some color. Soon, I will lightly trim it to give it some shape and tidiness, but in January 2/3 of its green branches will be cut off (be sure to leave 1/3 of the GREEN branch. Nothing will grow from the leafless part of it).
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Hardy fuschias never disappoint me. I bought them several years ago as tiny starter plants for $2.50 each, and since then they proved to be low-maintainance, reliable fellows. I remember my Mom used to have them as house plants. Geraniums, fuchsias, kalachoe, miniature roses were thriving indoors in the houses heated back then by stoves which didn't dry the air as central heating does now.
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Daisies, a short compact variety, came here by chance when I was looking for a space to put clumps of them which I got after separating an original plant. They might look out of place in this picture, but there are three groups of these daisies blooming in front of the house, thus creating repetition (two of them are seen in the next picture). I would say that this summer was very good for daisies! Both varieties, short and tall, did their best!
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The rose Mister Lincoln also came here not because of some great creative idea that struck me a couple years ago, but because I didn't find another place for the plant which was a gift from my mother-in-law. I wrote earlier about another rose which I planted in the vegetable/perennial bed for the same reason. I need to clarify that it's not actually a lack of space. There is a lawn that can always be reduced. What stops me, is the difficulty of preparing a planting hole for the roses. It takes several hours of digging, using a pick-axe, and picking out a great number of rocks of all sizes. It's much easier to put roses in already existing flowerbeds.
All my Mr.Lincoln roses, planted here and there, produced huge blooms this season. Probably, this is their response to a dose of composted horse manure which I spread under each bush in the spring.
Spurge (Euphorbia X martini), seen in several pictures above, has already been blooming for a couple of months. I can't say I love its color in this particular place, but what to do.
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It's funny, I just noticed that I called this bed 'Flowerbed' and 'Garden bed'. What an inconsistency! I use the term 'Garden bed' to note the fact that, besides the flowering plants, there are shrubs and trees growing there:
Green Mound juniper, Sungold Threadbranch cypress,
dwarf English boxwood, Japanese maple, Canadale Gold euonymus and Privet tree (Ligustrum lucidum).
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*P.S. Lesson learned: After we cut that tall cypress' roots which escaped from its pot, we went on a short trip to Arizona. When we returned, the tree looked dull and its foliage was absolutely dry. I think, it's gone... It's clear to me now that the timing was wrong when we cut its roots: a heat wave came right after we left, and a neighbor didn't water it enough. This is a big loss for my garden. The remaining cypress needs to be relocated since the symmetry is now gone.
Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Picture(s) of the Day. See a Bee?


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Gail (http://www.clayandlimestone.com/ ), does it qualify as a wild flower for Wildflower Wednesday?


Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cosmos Forever


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"Who did this?" - strictly asked the director of the kindergarten pointing her finger at the pink and white flower petals scattered around.
"Who did this?" - echoed those words by a kindergarten teacher and her assistant.
During the recess in the kindergarten's backyard, someone beheaded the cosmos plants and plucked off their blooms.
The kids, twenty or twenty five of them, were standing in one single line. Nobody answered the question.
In the summer flowerbed behind the teachers' backs, they could see tall stems with feathery foliage but without any flowerheads.
"Tell us if you did it, and there won't be a punishment" - said the director. "Nothing will happen to you, just step up front!" - said the teacher.
Slowly, one after another, five boys stepped up to the front of the line. They were our group's usual troublemakers. They were silent and looked down.
Then, thunder sounded, lightning struck and the whole world turned upside down. Well, it didn't happen, of course, but this is exactly how I felt. Because, right after the culprits with desheveled hair and dirty fingernails made their speechless confession, we heard the words:
You are grounded, and tomorrow, your parents need to come to talk to the director".
It was the very first time in my life when I realized that adults can lie.
So many years passed, but every time I see a cosmos, I recall that day. Isn't it funny how some plants are associated with certain people or events which happened early in our life?
That experience was shocking for me, but I never stopped loving Cosmos.
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Airy white, light- and dark pink flowers on the thin stems can be seen all over Russia. My mother always grew them in our gardens. When we had a little summer house and a piece of land on the bank of the Amur River*, the plants selfseeded and grew between the raised beds of potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes. They had the thickest and tallest stems I've ever seen! Cosmos, as well as marigolds, calendula, portulacs and daisies, are typical annuals in private and public Russian gardens. The word Cosmos is a Greek word (Kosmos), and it is widely used in the Russian language and means "the outer space".
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Cosmos bipinnatus (Garden cosmos or Mexican aster), one of more than 20 species of cosmos,) is a half-hardy annual. Self-seeding. Height - from two to four feet (although I've seen it much higher!). Flowers are pink, purple and white, and attract butterflies including the Monarch butterfly. Prefers alkine soil (pH between 6.0 and 8.5). Full sun or partial shade. Tolerant to drought. Pests and diseases are rare.
Cosmos is recommended to be planted in groups for visual effect and support.
P.S. Did you ever try to pull the petals from a cosmos flower? You didn't? But, you sure did it with daisies, didn't you? It's actually fun! Many kids like to do that. I think it is their way to comprehend the philosophical concept of whole-part relationships.
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* Other posts about the plants of the Amur River basin are here:
"Where Amur Plants Came From"
The other plant from my childhood is Dahlia -
"September 1st and Dahlias "

Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beautiful NOT-Thorns

Can thorns be beautiful? You bet! And, I'll show you some. Can we call things by their wrong name? You bet! And, I'll tell you what I mean.
We have all seen thorny, prickly, sharp thingies in our gardens and the gardens we visited. Those thingies, if we accidentally touch them, make us say 'Ouch' or 'Shoot' or something worse.
I, for example, have a thorny gooseberry:
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Don't praise me for growing such a producing plant. If not for this picture from 2006, I could forget how abundant it could be!
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Even some cucumbers have prickly little thingies. Those who don't like them may grow a Japanese cucumber with a smooth skin. But, the spikes will fall off upon plant maturity or can be rubbed off. By the way, a cucumber is a fruit, not a vegetable...
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Good thing is cucumber' sharpies are not as sharp as those on cacti!
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Do you think cacti has them to protect its beautiful flowers?
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This cream flower, above, I found in Arizona. The white one, below, is from Hawaii:
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The scary thing with small cute leaves is also from Hawaii:
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Its heart-shaped leaves are well protected!
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Some plants don't need additional protection. Their leaves and needles are sharp enough, like on this Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana, native to Chile and Argentina) which grows in a pot in my garden:
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It's more painful to touch them than let's say these fir needles:
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Everything that was shown above was just an appetizer. Those were not the things which caused me to publish this post. The actual reason was the plant we often think of first when we hear the word 'thorns'. What are those plants? ... Correct! Roses!
Roses' thorns are not actually thorns. They are prickles!
There are three types of sharp structures on plants: thorns, spines and prickles. As our friend Wikipedia says, they have similar appearance and function, but arrived from different plant organs. All three are hard structures with sharp, pointy ends, which are generally used by plants for protection against herbivores. Let's add - for conserving the water in spines.
Thorns are modified branches or stems, spines are modified leaves, and prickles are needle-like extensions of the cortex and epidermis. (Cortex - outer layer of the stem or root of a plant. Epidermis is a single-layered group of cells that covers plants leaves, flowers, roots and stems).
The roses I want to show are not those from my garden, with 'normal' thorns... pardon me, prickles and big flowers:
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They are from the beautiful garden of Katie which we visited this summer. See the tall thick canes? They certainly add a vertical effect to a flower bed:
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A closer look reveals another attraction, bright red prickles:
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This is a Wingthorn rose - Rosa sericea pteracantha (introduced from W. China in 1890):
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I like its fine, disease-free foliage too. With the striking combination of huge blood-red prickles and gracious leaves, this plant attracts everyone's attention.
The flowers are single, white with only four petals (the image is from Wikipedia):
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The author, Val Bourne, recommends planting it where 'winter sun can slant through and backlight the stems'. She also names 'Heather Muir' as a hybrid which produces a long crop of single white flowers bossed with golden stems.
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So, roses have prickles, cucumbers have them too, cacti have spines... Who has thorns? Lemon, pomegranate, wood-apple... You can name more if you know...


Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back from AZ & Our Gloria is in WSJ


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Our blogging friend Gloria Bonde's house and garden are in a picture in today's issue of the Wall Street Journal!
I was sipping coffee in my garden and looking through the WSJ when I saw a familiar name in the article 'Gardening Without a Sprinkler' by Anne Marie Chaker (WSJ, August 18, 2010). The article is about a growing trend of converting lawns to xeriscapes. Several gardens are featured in the article. Their owners use xeric principles such as using native plants, grouping plants with similar watering needs, using mulches, etc. Some gardeners got the ideas from their trips to Tuscany and southern France. Eliminating mowing, fertilizing, weed-control applications, excessive watering, and saving money are the main pluses of "dry gardens". The article also touches upon the issue of the xeric approach contradicting the landscaping standards of some homeowner associations.
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Congratulations, Gloria, on your garden being pictured in one of the most prominent national newspapers! I was excited to see your name!
Gloria's blog, Dakota Garden, is here: http://www.dakotagarden.com/
I just came back from Phoenix, Arizona where we celebrated the 90th Birthday of my dear mother-in-law, Mary. The temperatures were 107-111 F (38-40 C), but it didn't stop me from walking around and admiring some of the wonderful desert plants and extraordinary landscapes.
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Containers in My Garden


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There is a smorgasbord of containers in my garden. They are of different sizes, colors, shapes, materials and pedigrees. Some of them came from rummage sales, some from home improvement stores and several from upscale fountain & statuary places.
I love lush, overflowing, eye-catching plant arrangements in the containers near restaurants, hotels and other places which are created by professional gardeners. I admire them but never actually tried to make even the slightest replicas of those masterieces. I always remember about my containers later, after all the other works in the garden. I also rarely follow the general rule about container arrangements: to combine such categories of plants as thriller, filler and spiller.
I even noticed that my principles of putting together my outfit and container arrangements are somehow similar. I go for a limited number of elements, sometimes with just several colors involved. Like this nicotiana, for example, in a dark red glazed pot.
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Some containers are so ornate and beautiful that I try to plant them with the plants which won't spill out and hide their beauty. Let's take this pair of stone-cast exquisite pots.
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Geranium, pansy and nicotiana were their residents in different seasons.
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Below is my newest pot. It is very special to me because it was made by Jim, the hosta hybridizer whose breathtaking shade garden was featured here:
'Enchanted Garden Of A Hosta Hybridizer'
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Here it is in Jim's garden:
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It could be used just as a garden ornament, but I planted it as soon as I came home after touring Jim's garden. The plant material was found in the garden: sedum, heuchera, some type of echeveria.
What I like about containers is that you can always replant them, replace some plants or just move them out of your sight if you don't like them, thus waiting for the moment when new ideas strike you.
One of my favorite plants for containers is geranium. I overwinter the best and healthiest looking geraniums. First, I used to get the plants from the pots and keep them dry in the garage during the winter. How I revitalized them in spring is told here: 'Geranium Revival'

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Lately, I stopped doing that. Not all the plants survive, and I don't want to spend time on that. I bring pots in the garage, start watering them at the end of the winter and watch who survived and who didn't. I have Martha Washington geraniums, which are in their 4th season, in the same pots. With zonal geraniums, my success rate is ....let's say 50%.
Some containers miss a season or two. The strawberry pot, below, wasn't filled this summer but looks good just as it is.
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Sometimes, changing a pot makes a huge difference in how a plant looks. Isn't it true about us too? Change an outfit and you are a brand new woman! Several years ago, I was looking for cut flowers to decorate a room. Finding nothing suiting my fancy, I bought a potted evergreen for $10. It stood in the room for quite a long time, then was moved outside and spent two or three years there. Here it is, in the next picture, showing two young squirrels which I flushed out while watering. Squirrels are cute, but the plant looks like nothing special, doesn't it? It was still in its original black plastic pot that I put inside a nice ceramic container (by the way, it got broken later).
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After visiting the Little and Lewis garden this summer, I looked critically at my potted plants, and the above mentioned evergreen caught my attention. I repotted it into the big Italian terracota pot bought for a miserable price several years ago. It looked better. I decided to prop up the supporting stick and the stick broke! How glad I was! The plant looks absolutely gorgeous in its new pot and without that stick! Simple and elegant, don't you think so?
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I like small planters too, like this cute Tucan:
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If I can't part with some of the non-gardening items, I use them in the garden as containers:
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Now, a little follow-up about my tulip containers featured earlier in the season

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I use simple pots to host tulips. Next year, I hope to find out what happens with tulips if the bulbs are left in the pots for winter. Or, should I get them out and store them in the refrigerator? If I leave them outside, I'll place them under the big fir trees to prevent rottening from rains.
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The question was asked if I planted anything else in them to grow after the tulips wilt. Yes, I threw some parsley seeds there! And, I have some parsley growing!
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There are more containers in my garden, but I showed you my favorites. Thanks for visiting, and I hope to see your favorite pots one day!


Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

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