Friday, May 29, 2015

Socially awkward ....

Ya know ..... I am just awkward.  And to tell ya, I don't know what to do about it.

You know .... that social media thing.

I try.  And I try.  And I don't know what to do.

If you are at any business conference or marketing meeting .... they talk social media and working it. 

And I attempt to do what they tell me to do..

I tweet and facebook and MeWe and I've been linked in for ages.  I have tried Google + but I still don't get all those circle things.  I am totally pinteresting and I know I am on other sites that I can't remember! Then, I blog ..... and I blog .... and I blog. 

I write lists and I ask questions.  I post pictures and I try to be cute and clever and knowledgeable.

And still ..... I am inept.

I am sooooooo not getting it.

I mean .... what are the right keywords and tags and SEO's???   And statistics and numbers and advertising???

All I want to do is talk about pretty flowers, canned tomatoes and a new pair of hand-knitted socks.

I have been blogging for almost 7 years now.  Most of the blogs I followed are long gone.  Facebook is easier ... quicker .... but even that, seems to be fading a bit.

But I like blogging .... I like putting my words down on "paper" ...........even if they make some of my grammar teachers toss and turn in their graves!

So what do I do???  Where do I go???

Am I talking in a world that I no longer belong??  How do I tell you about my pretty flowers???  And what would Debbie and Mona read first thing in the morning????  (That's a shout out to my friends!!!! I love you guys!!!)

Where do I fit???  Is it worth writing on???  Are you reading and are you wanting more?  And how can I make it better?

I know I will never make a living off the blog .... I will never be a "life-style blogger" ..... and no company is going to say, "Hey ... let me sponsor you" or send me reproduction hardware for my new door or paint for my house.

And it is painfully obvious .... this is no fashion blog!!!!

I have to admit, it would be really nice if a appliance company and detergent company would promise to take care of this!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My crystal ball is in the repair shop ......

THAT seems to be the problem of the day!!!  Actually -- it is a problem I have every year. 

I am a lousy predictor of future events.

There .... I said it.

But I can not predict what I am going to have blooming when.

Oh .... I am really good in August!!  I will have zinnias, sunflowers, dahlias, glads, cockscomb and gomphrena blooming in August.

But will I have pink and purple flowers (and the right shade of purple!) blooming the 7th of June??????

I don't know!!!!!

I don't.  I don't mean to shout but I really don't know.

And this year has been a struggle even for best guess scenario.

We have had fabulous weather... 70's and even 80 degree days.  And less than 10 days ago .... we almost had frost.

And one 70 degree day does not make up for a 40 degree night.

I plant early.  I fertilize.  I try to stay ahead of the weeds.  And every year has kind of been the same.

I have fabulous flowers on June 15th.  And June 15th comes later than June 5th.

Just sayin'.

But here are some good news photos to make me feel better.  I still can't answer your questions but this is what I see. 

Bud production on many of the lilies look fantastic.  I am predicting that we will see lilies in bloom by June 10th or so.

This is "Summer Berries" yarrow.  It's not in bloom yet but is beginning to show color on the buds.  We will see some of these in bloom next week.  Yarrow is one of my favorite filler flowers in the spring.  And the pink, magenta, coral, white, burgundy, and yellow blooms blend with so many of our early flowers.

This is a Pacific Giant delphinium.  It is ready to cut.  But our survival rate from last year was poor and the new ones I planted are not showing stem production yet.  We had great survival rate on the Butterfly series (shorter) delphiniums but I see no stems as of yet.

Also in the delphinium family is larkspur.

This is the first stem in the garden.  It is still less than 12" tall so it has a ways to go.  Today's warm temperature of 80 degrees will help send up more stems and buds.

Snapdragons are still growing nicely and are running about 5" tall.  Dianthus is filling out.  And nicotiana and ageratum are settling in well .... and seem to be happily growing in their new homes.

But in happy happy news...........

This is cafe au lait dahlia.  I ordered and received 24 viable tubers.  I directly planted this in the ground around May 8 or 9th ...... and as of now, 20 have emerged and have great leaf growth.

Which makes me very very happy.

Cuz they will look like this when they bloom.

In August.  I predict they will bloom in August!

I'll get that one right!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Getting 'er done!

Last week, I showed you the back side of the barn

On Friday ... everything changed!  First of all, at 8 am, nine guys hopped out of a truck and two minutes later they were scrambling up on the roof!

And by 10:30 ....... everyone was packed up and on their way to their next project.  After handing me a bid for the next project.  ;)

These guys were super friendly, polite, neat and clean.  And I am totally thrilled with their workmanship and work ethic.

We are a little poorer but I am happy with the prospect of a gigantic sewing/knitting area in the future.  And Honey is happy to work in there without getting wet!  But until then .... we have a timber frame barn that will last several generations more.

So here it is done .........

Next on the agenda ...... taking care of this!

Really????  And I call myself a gardener???  This is a shady area though it is getting more sun since the demise of the willow tree last summer.  There are a few lilies but mostly hostas.  It provides a nice view for those relaxing in the corn-zebo.

And another photo ..... just to publicly bring shame on the farmer!

I am totally frustrated with the number of scrub trees that show up year after year.  I feel we spend a lot of time every spring digging out cottonwood, elm, mulberry and maple saplings out of our yard. 

And trust me .... they weren't there in August last year!!!!!

Saturday morning .... we dug into this mess!  I dug up unwanted flowers.  I divided a few hostas and moved a few lilies.

And I pulled weeds and weeds and more weeds.

We rearranged "garden art".  We tore down the old trellis.  Honey mulched and I planted containers.

All the while, Tinker was in her supervisory position. 

And in the end, we have this.

Here is another view ............

It needs a bit of color on the side of the barn.  Not sure what .... so I will search until I find the right piece.  A great piece of metal advertising art would be good. 

That big heavy stately mass of metal is a corn nubber.  It has a pedal, like my spinning wheel, that turns the wheel and cuts ear corn into 3" pieces.  I love it!  I think it is a fabulous piece of art in the garden.  It has been in three different gardens ........ but this will be its last.  We have had it for 18-19 years ...... and we are getting too old to move that monster around!!!

But my dear Honey still got the job done..... with little to no help from the wimp!  ;)

To add some color to the area .... I planted lots of Ambassador Rose wax begonias around the base of the corn nubber and in small patches.

Can you see them?????

Yea ... the plugs are tiny but they will quickly grow and cover the stones that the corn nubber sits on.

Phase one of our weekend is in the books!  More pictures and gardens to come.

Now to get these things in bloom!!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The must-haves in the cutting garden ... Part One

Benary's Giant Zinnias

Now that David Letterman has retired, I am free to do Miss Eff's Top Ten list!

Yep ....I am going to tell you my picks for the top ten flowers you must have in your cutting garden.  Now -- I realize this is only my opinion.  But it is my blog, so it is the opinion that matters here.  ;)

A good cutting garden will have a mix of perennials and annuals but is always heavy on annuals.  Annuals just keep on giving .... blooming throughout the season.  The more you cut ... the more they bloom.  I also like to toss in some bulbs, corms, and tubers to start the season early and stretch it out as late as possible.

So let's see how my Top Ten Flower Choices compares to your selections.

1) Zinnias ..... Without a doubt, the flower that is the easiest to grow.  Zinnias only ask for one thing .... Sunshine and a little room.  If you over-crowd your zinnias, they become more susceptible to powdery mildew.  My favorite variety is Benary's Giant Zinnias.  They grow up 4' tall and have blossoms that can reach 5" across.

And the colors!!!!!!!!!!!!   How can a simple flower like a zinnia make us so very happy!

2) Snapdragons.....  We all played with the blossoms of snapdragons as a child and made the flower "roar".
There are lots of varieties ... some are trailing, some are very short but the best for cutting gardens is a variety named "Rocket".  It is tall ... almost 24-30" tall.  And by cutting them long ... and leaving just two leaves on the bottom ...... you will continue to have stately tall stems all season.

Rocket snapdragons ... in rose shades

3) Lisianthus.

No .. they are not a rose.  And sometimes, they aren't the easiest to grow.  But when they do .... just stand back in awe.

You should buy lisianthus as a plant ... they are difficult to grow from seed for the average home gardener.  The key is that the plant should never become pot bound.  If the roots are wrapping around the bottom of the pot, most likely the flower will never bloom.

Lisianthus is also confusing to buy as there as single lisianthus... which look more like a tulip.  Double lisianthus which is what is pictured below.  Along with border plants (short ones) and cutting plants (tall).

So you want to make sure what you are buying.  Varieties to look for include Echo, Cinderella and the ABC-series.

These usually start blooming mid-July for me (in Iowa) but they are the last flowers to leave the garden.  They often are still blooming .... slowly .... at Thanksgiving.

Cinderella yellow

4. Black-Eyed Susans or Rudbeckia.

Indian Summer Rudbeckia

What a wonderful sunny flower in the garden!  There are so many colors and configurations but I have to admit that Indian Summer is my favorite.  I love that the center reminds me of a Hershey kiss!  And that is the perfect time to cut rudbeckia.  Never a cut a rudbeckia that has a "hairy" chocolate kiss!!  These are sometimes known as Gloriosa Daisy.

Their smaller size makes them a perfect replacement for sunflowers in mixed bouquets. 

Perennial rudbeckia is a staple in many of our perennial beds but the blossoms are not as showy, the stems are shorter and the vase life does not make it a great cut flower.

And finally, for today ............

Amazon Rose Magic Dianthus

5) Dianthus.  Now if you look up dianthus, you will see all sorts of sizes and shapes.  For cutting, the best varieties come from the Sweet William family. The picture above is the Amazon series in a color called Rose Magic.  Such a beautiful mix of colors on one stem.

They are a long lasting flower ... best cut when only a few of the blossoms are open.  They are not as prolific as some of the other flowers .... but I will get 3 to 4 cuttings per season.  But the first flush of blossoms are always the best!


I will share my other 5 picks for your cutting garden in a couple of days.  You may be wondering why I am telling you all of this.  After all, my income is based on having you cut the flowers that I have grown.  Let me tell you why.

I. Can't. Take. It.

I need to see flowers!!!!!  And all I have in my garden are sown seed, planted plugs and buds that aren't opening!!!

If I have to tell all my secrets to see flowers ..... I will.

Well, maybe ..............

Don't ask about that night in September in 1975.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A cold and rainy update...........

I am soooo excited!

Tomorrow or Friday, we get a new roof on this!

Charcoal gray textured standing seam metal roof with new fascia and matching gray gutters. 

Did you know that gutters can be made in almost any color???

It's why I have red gutters on the house. 

They will look awesome when all the pieces of the puzzle get put together.  Until then .............well, you know. 

Back to the barn ........

The new roof is essential.

First .... it is leaking.  And that is never a good thing for any building.  Thirty years ago, Honey tore down a post and beam constructed barn, hauled the pieces home and reconfigured it here.  It is built of 100+  year old timbers ..... nice sturdy beams and supports ....wood that we will never see again.  And for then reason alone ... it is our obligation to save it for the future.

Theoretically,  it is a 3-1/2 car garage.

That holds one car, two garden tractors, a new tiller, an old tiller, a snowblower, a snow blade, a push mower, a small tiller, an edger, various weed eaters and 15 billion plastic jugs for you to use to take flowers home.  And almost that many "future" projects.

And past projects. 

And projects that will never ever happen in anyone's lifetime ...... let alone mine.

Yes, Houston ......... we do have a problem.

Secondly ... my office/library/sewing room is exploding. 

Like .... one wrong step .... and you could be covered in 100% merino wool felt.  Or 1980's vintage sewing patterns. 

Or future projects.

And past projects.

Oh --- we have been over that already!!! 


So .......... another future project ........ after the siding on the house, the laundry room and the kitchen!!!! ........ is to convert one bays of the barn to a giant sewing/knitting/embroidery/quilting/spinning area for me.

And then Honey might be able to re-claim the kitchen table!!!!

But first the barn needs a new roof.

Until that future project comes up on the to-do list ....... I will just be happy to have another piece of the puzzle called our life at Miss Eff's in place.

Pictures will follow ........... as soon as I get the bed behind the barn cleaned up, mulched and planted.

Really????  I'm showing you a picture of our weeds and scrub trees???

I must say ..... Miss Eff is no Martha Stewart!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I should be arrested for crimes ...

OK -- I will confess.

I stole this idea.

photo courtesy of Two Women and a Hoe


Without a  bit of remorse.

The mug shot .... from Miss Eff's

Except in my line of work, we call it .... research.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A different kind of flower farm

This has always been one of my favorite photos.  The garden was filled with moms and kids ... cutting and having a wonderful time.

Most of the time, when it is like this .... I am too busy to take a photo.  But this time, I had some wonderful help ... and I got it done.

It is May 12th ... and there is a wind chill of 38 degrees.  And my garden looks nothing like this.

Except in my mind.

The mulch hasn't been spread.  The garden paths are full of grass ....  I sigh and grabbed the weeder and work (AGAIN) on getting those long roots out!  And there is still planting to do.

Lots of planting to do.

And thinking to do.

I work my garden ... like a retail store.  What is popular?  What needs to be up front??  Will you walk to the back of the garden to pick that flower?

My favorite ... lisianthus.

I write a planogram. (Yea!  There is a Retail 101 flashback!!!) 

What color is this flower??  Does it look good with that flower next to it??  Is it too tall?  When does it start to bloom??  Will it draw you in??

Zinnias .... aren't they everyone's favorite??

And then ..... there is the flower selection itself.  What is its vase life??  How does it play with others in the garden?  Does it wilt instantly?  Does it take special care when cutting?

I have an expectation of my flowers. 

They should last in your vase at your home for 7-10 days.  Actually .... you should have some of the flowers at the end of two weeks.  Yes ... not all of them will be perky.  Many may have started their journey to compost.  BUT you should have a small bouquet left.

Larkspur ... delicate, curvy, beautiful ... one of the early bloomers.

And that is why I research and plan what flowers will go in the garden --- and I carefully watch and remember each flower.   Some may not do well the first year ... but they will be given a second chance.
I may make a mistake and in the excitement and heat of the order process ........... I buy an absolute loser!!!!  

(And you thought the NFL draft was exciting!!  You should hear my friend and order specialist  Rhonda and I go over my flower orders!!  Well -- in between talking about little towns in Mercer County and tomato recipes!)

There are lots of gorgeous, wonderful flowers out there but if they don't make my 7-10 day rule ..... they don't make it in my garden for cutting.  They may be tossed throughout the little beds for my enjoyment but they are not picked for the main cutting garden.

Like poppies! I love poppies but their delicate petals just don't last long enough to make it in the cutting bed. 

But these ................

These wonderful lilies will always make the cut.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Muddling along ............

The past week has been full of rainy days.

Not gully washers.  But those every day rains that drizzle and drip and almost dry out .... only to drizzle and drip again.

I did get some serious planting done.  And as I plant along .... I get more and more excited for the upcoming season.

Cuz there is some really great new stuff planted here!!!  Really!!!

You may notice a bit of a theme going on here.  I didn't think of it until I started pulling up the photos for this post. 

All of these new blooms will fit in beautifully with my shabby-chic-romantic-country-style garden that I am trying to achieve.  Who knew????  Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?????

So this is a sneaky peak of all the new stuff coming to the garden near me!!  (Note to all ........ none of this is currently in bloom!!  They are babies ... just waiting for their day in the sun!)

And on to the virtual tour............

Numero uno!!

This currently is the badge of a super-cool flower farmer.  If you don't have these .... you aren't cool!

And we all know how very hip and cool I am.  (insert sarcasm font here)


This is cafe au lait dahlias.  

Now -- I have struggled with dahlias in the past.  I have had great dahlias ... and not so cool dahlias.  And a couple of years ago ... every dahlia I ordered looked just alike.  And there suppose to be four different colors.  And I got dark red.

But I am stubborn if nothing else .... so I am back to growing these.

Every bride in the world want these beautiful dahlias for their wedding bouquets.  These should be ready in August .... the tubers had small sprouts on them when I planted them yesterday.

Most likely ..... we will have to use insecticidal soap on these.  The white color of composite flowers seem to be a bug magnet in my garden late season.  Hopefully, we can handle it with just that.

Yea ... they are beautiful and will be worth every extra minute of work!

Number two on the list of new-to-me flowers ....


Yes ... you know how much I love my lizzies!!  This is Arena Gold lisianthus.  It has the coloring of an antique tea rose.  I have high hopes for these.  The plants were incredible.  We have had great growing conditions for them.  

And I moved them to higher ground.  Last year, we received 4" of rain in one day ........ and I lost about 50% of my lizzies.  

So -- like all good flower farmers --- I am incredibly excited for a fresh start this year.

And last for today .........

 Trumpet tangerine snapdragons!!

OK -- I can not get enough snapdragons.  When I started growing flowers ... I grew 200 or so mixed colors rocket snapdragons.  And then I decided I needed to add a row of white snapdragons.  Then I added a row of rose colored snapdragons.  And last year I added lemon yellow snapdragons. 

And now ........... well, we have over 1000 snaps in the cutting garden and borders.  These may be a little trickier.  They are basically a greenhouse/high tunnel variety that they say .... can grow nicely under field conditions. 

We will see.

But if you will cross your fingers for me ... it might help.

I'm busy pulling weeds.  ;)

Tomorrow .... I will show you some other new-to-me- flowers and some flowers that are coming for a return engagement.

If I can get off my knees ..... ;)

As my grandmother would say .... getting old ain't for sissies!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Thinkin' ... thinkin' ... thinkin'

It is foggy and damp and drippy.

And I am not-so-patiently waiting for a large shipment of bulbs and plugs that will probably arrive in 4 or 5 hours.

So ..... during this soggy, rainy week .... I have been pouring over stacks and stacks of magazines.  I have pinned hundreds of pins on Pinterest.  And Houzz ........ well, let's just say that we have declared that we are BFF's.

I have taken on the task of redecorating the corn-zebo.


And I know what I want ..... and I know what I need.

Now -- getting the picture in my mind to fit the corn-zebo may be the issue.

You see ......... I want the corn-zebo to look like this.  Lush ... beautiful ... vintage.

Photo courtesy of  Pinterest

Drool.  Really drooling.
(If anyone has an antique iron crib that needs a new home ......just sayin')

Or kind of like this ............

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

I have come close in the past.  This was the table for a luncheon several years ago.

But now ............ I have two long banquet tables that don't give me the look that I want.

So ... after the first of June ...... things are changing.

One banquet table will be eliminated.  The other banquet table will be cut down to sit 6 to 8 people, not 10.

An outdoor rug will be added. The storage cupboard for dishes etc will disappear.  A rattan loveseat will be freshly painted and new chairs will be added.

And a vintage chicken crate ... like this one ... will become a coffee table.

Decorating a round space is not easy.  I have drawn floor plans and moved furniture around virtually.  I am adding more plants ... more softness .... more Miss Eff. 

Now the search is on for the right fabrics ............ floral, soft, cabbage roses and lace.  Pastel and pretty.

Yea .... in the time of chevrons and stripes ......  it may be a struggle.

So what do you think of my ideas???? 

Will you come and sit with me??

Monday, May 4, 2015

Semi-hoarding ...

Recently, I read this article.

And then -- I had a discussion about stuff in the interior design class that I am teaching.

I learned a lot from my 30-something students.

Bottom line ......... they don't want the stuff we thought made us grown-ups.

I remember 19-year-old me, sitting on the floor of the Flemish Lion with my best friend, ooohing and aaahing over hand-woven Belgium linen place mats that were made prior to World War I.  I would touch the lovely soft cotton lace and said .... I will have a house full of lace!

I would look at crystal bowls and decanters .... and I would drool.  And slowly, I would purchase a piece here and there.  And into the china cupboard it would go .... and then on to the dining room table at my next dinner party.

I wanted beautiful china, old furniture with a depth of patina, heavy brass candlesticks and wool rugs.

I wanted embroidered pillowcases, sheets with tatted edges and sofas with deep down cushions.

I wanted a home that grew with time.


Acquired over a life time.

A home with a heritage.

Because that meant I was an adult.  Capable of managing a home, a dinner party, my life.

Now .... I have a house full of lace and embroidered guest towels and beautiful linen.

And guess what???

The 30-somethings don't want my stuff.

They don't want the pillowcases that don't match their sheets.

They don't want the sterling that has to be polished.

They don't want the embroidered down pillows, the crystal bowls, and the sofas with horsehair cushions. 

My generation thought quality mattered.  Pretty was important.  And stuff connected us to the generations before us.

It belonged to grandma.

If I had a Waterford crystal ball ...................

I would see a lot of Minton china being sold at garage sales.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Bargains and Blooms

Jonathon Apple Tree

Happy May Day, everyone!!!

For a flower farmer .... there is no better day.  The start of a beautiful growing season .... a celebration of sharing beautiful blooms.  It is our own personal holiday.

You know .... unions started Labor Day.  Veterans have Veterans Day.  There is Mother's Day and Father's Day and Valentine's Day for lovers.

Our Honeycrisp apple tree should yield a large crop this year.

Well ... May Day should be for flower farmers.  We will tie ribbons to a transplanting spade and dance around spreading organic fertilizer!

Enough with spreading the organic fertilizer!  ;) 

Our Forest Pansy redbud is just beginning to bloom.  I love this tree!

Honey and I have been hitting the flea markets recently, looking for what most people would call ........ junk.

Yep .... Your garbage is my garden ornament!

Or it is your proof that I do need a Hoarders intervention.  :(

This was ........... well, who knows what it was!!  We don't.  But it will become a roof on something.  Just wait .... it will be awesome!

Cuz that is what Honey does ........... awesome!

I am always screaming for more height in the gardens.  This isn't very tall but will still help the eye move upward.

These will become giant spinning flowers in the back of yard.  Super tall ... so little fingers won't reach them.
Including mine!!!

We've also bought some new benches that will help fill our personal space. One needs fresh paint and new wood.  Another is perfect ... with wonderful pillows but the fabric is not my style so the sewing machine will get a work out on those.

Ahhhhh ............ I love how it makes the cups coordinate with the blooms!

And finally .... guess what is blooming???

Yep .... it did it again!!!  Magically!  Every year!!

Is your tea cup tree in bloom??