Sunday, May 31, 2009

An old but good tip

Ever go to someone else's house and the towels for your shower just don't smell fresh? In fact, they smell a bit mildewed or moldy? Nobody likes a stinky towel, especially a guest.

It's a common problem because the bathroom is often so humid and poorly ventilated that the towels stay damp for a long period of time, giving them the tendency to mildew; especially in the deep South, where the ambient humidity is routinely above 50%.

So, what's a good host to do to knock out the stinky towel syndrome?

When washing your next load of towels, add a cup of white vinegar (and do NOT use any other kind!) to the prewash soap, and then use your normal soap in the wash cycle. It may take a couple of washings using this regimen, but the odor will vanish like magic. You will be happy and so will your guests; unless, of course, you don't use softener and your towels feel like sandpaper. For shame.

White vinegar will not harm colors and, used in prewash, will leave no scent on your clothes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Let's set a record!

Okay, so this is three posts in two days. Nothing like a holiday weekend to give you enough time to get things done and post to the blog!

So, first things first. I went out this morning and more of the clematis had bloomed. I just had to take another shot!

I had to go to Lowe's this morning to get some Roundup for Poison Ivy, to kill off that nasty stuff I blogged about yesterday. While I was there, I couldn't help but wander on in to the garden center. I went around the side of the building and to the back, where they keep plants they don't have enough room for or that have gone, or are about to go - out of season. I was shocked to find a Sappho rhododendron back the one I lost to the squirrels and drought last year. I was even more shocked to see the price. I paid $90 for the Sappho I bought last year from the nursery. (No one else was carrying Sappho last year, it's an unusual rhodo and it's just on the edge of its hardiness zone to be sold in this area.)

Granted, the nursery Sappho was in better shape than this one, and perhaps about 1/3 larger, but it was $90. But still...the one I found at Lowe's was $24.98. $24.98!! It needs a little TLC because it has been somewhat mistreated and underwatered, but it will come back with no problem. And for $24.98 to replace the one I bought last year that I was just sick about when it got eaten...well, I am in gardeners' heaven. You can be assured I won't be putting it in the same place as last year.

Here's a shot of the bloom on the Sappho. As I said, it's a little wilty, but that's okay, it's temporary...the poor thing was as dry as a bone. I can wait until next year when it should put on a very nice show after it's had a year to acclimate.

Now, a note about Lowe's...I can't say a lot for the quality of Lowe's nursery stock at time of purchase. Their people aren't gardeners for the most part, so plants are underwatered, overwatered, shade plants put in sun, sun plants put in shade...some are just beaten up. If you can buy their plants shortly after they arrive, you can get a good plant at a really good price, but every day that the stock stays there, the quality goes downhill. You will occasionally see sales on stock, which really make it worth the trip. I bought 18 impatiens there that totalled $5. They were small, but they don't take long to really get going. Earlier in the day, I had bought 18 at Home Depot that were about twice the size, but they were three times the price!

Here's our peach tree. This is its fourth season. For the past three years, I haven't been able to get a single peach from it. First year you plant it, you must pluck all blooms to encourage branch growth. Second year, squirrels got 9 of the 12 peaches that set, and the other three fell off before they ripened, probably because the squirrels go apeshit in the trees here. Third year, I only got two blooms...two...because I failed to realize that the forsythia that sits next to it was shading the branches the prior fall and winter and that is when the tree is working to produce its little blossom nubs. This year, I had hundreds of blossoms. It was amazing. I sprayed those puppies with Spray-n-Grow and they had about a 75-80% conversion rate! So I have been busy thinning the tiny little fruits from the branches in order to get a better end product. I am really excited about the fact that I have more than 100 peaches on the tree right now! Of course, squirrels will no doubt eat some of them, but it looks like this could finally be the year - knock on wood - that I get peaches. Whoo-hoo!

See the babies?

Here's another shot.

And yes, I know I show you this every year, but I always am so amazed at the loveliness of this Superstition iris...and it smells as lovely as it looks.

Now I can't wait for the gladiolus, callas and caladiums to come up!

Too much?

Well, it's clear from that last post that I've been gone for a month. Holy cow, that was long. Paraphrased conversation following that post:

Marc: "Arrgh. Now I know why I don't blog that much. That was a long and tedious job."
Jess: "You know, you don't have to blog all this stuff in one post."
Marc: "Yes, I do."
Jess: "You could post it a bit at a time, in a few short posts instead of one gigantic post. Just a few pictures with each post instead of all of them."
Marc: "No, I couldn't. You can do that. I'd start and then forget to post the rest, or I'd get too tired of it or too busy to deal with it."
Jess: "I do it with my blog all the time. A few rubgy pictures in each post and it's not such a big task."
Marc: "I like to have everything at one time so I don't wind up posting stuff when it's two months old. Even stuff in this post was weeks behind."

I'm so neurotic and perfectionistic that I can't turn loose of a post until it's just the way I want it. And I don't want to create a post until I have all the stuff to make it nice. Unfortunately, that means that a lot of posts never make it here because I think they need pictures or links or other stuff that takes time to post.(sigh)

Will you still love me tomorrow?

Sunday, May 10, 2009


One thing every weekend has in common: it's too short. Even the ones that have an extra day, like this one.

Two weekends ago I did some planting. With our friend Jeff's help, I put in Wave Petunias along the fence and planted a tree peony (above). You will find that the whole yard is all about purple and pink. Oh my gosh, the peonies smelled heavenly. We went to a rugby tournament Saturday and watched some hot boys play ball. Very hot. And lots of them.

That Saturday night, Jeff and I made some delicious cornflake-crusted cod with chili-cilantro aioli, some green and yellow baked squash, and some butter and herb deep dish potatoes, along with a wonderful pitcher of sangria...I'm still working on that sangria two weekends later. Yum.

I put in two rhododendrons four weekends ago, and also planted some basil, some peas, and a yellow bell pepper plant. The pink dogwood bloomed, the purple azalea bloomed, and little violets and vinca were blooming everywhere. Three weeks ago, the wood hyacinths were just beginning to bud.

That Sunday, we went to see Star Trek in IMAX. It was truly an experience, and one of my favorites of all the ST movies. First movie that I've ever seen in an IMAX theatre that wasn't just a "made-for-IMAX-movie" like "First in Flight" or some such. I have to say, between the sound and the screen, it was impressive. Now I'm ruined for seeing an action film any other way in the theatre. We rarely, rarely see a movie in the theatre, maybe once a year, if that. Usually we do Netflix. So when we do go see one in the theatre, it's a big deal. This was definitely worth the trip to the theatre. The characters were just terrific. I especially liked the guy who played McCoy, because he had the accent and delivery nailed. But the whole movie was amazing. And let me tell you, the Romulan villains are quite sexy. But hey, the chief bad guy is Eric Baña. What's not to like?

Last weekend I didn't get as much done gardening-wise. I did manage to get eight of my tomato plants into the ground or into EarthBoxes, and I got six Coral Bells heuchera in as well. But that was it. It was the weekend of our employee appreciation party. I emcee the ceremonies. Part of my job is to get the crowd energized and then introduce the CEO. Oh, I got them energized, all right. I led them in "Shout" by Otis Day and the Knights, and it went over VERY well. People were telling me I should be on American Idol. Ha, fat chance. But I can sing well, and that's something most people at work don't know about me. So they were quite surprised.

So this weekend began Friday evening. We judged the finals of LIGALY Out Idol, which we have been judging for about the last four years. This year was a lot harder than past years because we had three really talented kids in the finals. In prior years, it's pretty much been one standout amongst a mediocre crowd. Not this time. We crowned our winner, who is somewhat of an enigma: he has enlisted in the Marines and he is Republican. Unusual traits for someone on the team. A sweet kid, nonetheless. And a great voice.

Jess and I had had several discussions since seeing Star Trek that the IMAX theatre we saw it in wasn't "real" IMAX, meaning it wasn't in a theatre that used the true IMAX "surround" screen. We wished we could see it in the real IMAX, and it was playing in the IMAX theatre about five minutes from our house. This weekend was its final run there, and so we decided to check showtimes. Because another movie had opened there, Night at the Museum (barf), it was only playing at midnight each night until Monday. Well, we were on the road home from Idol at 11:30 and decided we were going to do it. When we got into the theatre, we sat in the middle, and during the previews we quickly realized that we had made a big mistake sitting there. We had our heads tilted all the way back into the headrest and up in order to see things, and the trailers for the previews nearly made us sick (Harry Potter...lots of flying and zooming camera angles) so Jess suggested we move to the top of the theatre, and we were so glad we did. It was still too intense, even from where we re-seated, just three rows from the top. We decided that maybe the real IMAX wasn't such a better venue after all. But I will say that it was every bit as good the second time. I could probably watch it 20 times and not get tired of it, it's that good.

So Saturday I got out and planted some more, and took some photos. I planted about 30 bulbs; some glads, some caladiums and some calla lilies.

Meanwhile, the clematis is really starting to put on a show. There's this one, which is my favorite color of purple ever. It's called H. E. Young, and this year it is bigger than last. It's a rebloomer, so it will bloom really nicely now, and then bloom again in about two months.

Here's a Nelly Moser clematis that's in its second year. Clematis take 3-4 years to really establish themselves before they become a bushy mass of flowers. I can't wait for this one to really go crazy. This is Jess' photo.

This is my photo of the same plant. Jess' camera is obviously a lot better than my automatic point-and-shoot, but my camera takes pretty good shots.

Here's a shot of the fence where Jeff and I planted the wave petunias, taken the day after we planted.

Here's the same fence shot, two weeks later, and the plants have nearly tripled in size and blooms. I can't wait until they really get bushy.

Here's a close-up of our pink mountain laurel. It has a couple of weeks before it blooms, this is just the bud phase. It's beautiful when it's in bloom. It has about four times as many blooms this year as last, when I planted it. Jess shot this. Isn't it lovely?

This is the small-leaf rhodo I planted three weeks ago. It's more like an azalea in size. Azaleas are members of the rhododendron family, so it's not surprising that they look so similar. I loved the soft pink color of this one.

Here's a close-up of a little azalea; it's in its second year after planting. It's a deciduous azalea and not an evergreen. The deciduous azaleas come in a wider variety of colors, hence the really cool purple color (more like a rhodo) that you can't get in an evergreen variety. I absolutely love this.

I like my rhodies to be different, and so I haven't bought the usual light purples that everyone else has...I've leaned toward more fuschia-colored varieties in the big rhodies, and I have been considering a white one as well. I bought a white one last year that the squirrels and slugs devoured before it could bloom, and then during the summer, it died due to dryness. The area where I had planted it wasn't getting enough irrigation from the sprinkler system. And this year, the nursery where I bought it didn't get that variety in its shipment, so I have to wait another year if I'm going to plant it...that's a big if right now.

So here is the rhodie I bought four weeks ago that has since bloomed. It's called Lord Roberts and it is fuschia-pink with a dark burgundy splotch in the throat. From the photo at the nursery, it looked redder, so I was a little annoyed that it turned out to be very close to the same color as the rhodie in the backyard, the only difference being in the flower throat.

See how closely this rhodie flower from the backyard resembles the one above from the front?

Here's a shot of Mandy enjoying time out in the sun while I planted. Jess took this, and I love this shot, it's so her.

Here's another rhodie tragedy. Last year, my Hachmann's Charmant rhododendron was new, and it bloomed beautifully, as seen here.

But then the slugs and squirrels feasted on it until it was just a shadow of its former self, with only three small branches left. I've replanted it in a place where the slugs aren't so well-traveled and I am hoping that it comes back. It has just one bloom this year. It was so lopsided that I had to plant it in the ground at a severe angle to make it look upright. I hope it comes back. It's one of the most beautiful rhodies I have ever seen.

The grapevine is starting to show its clusters. Every year, it puts on lots of clusters but they don't survive to fully ripe, and I haven't understood how to prune it. But when we visited the vineyards out east last summer, I paid attention to how they had theirs pruned and did mine similarly. I hope they produce something edible this year.

This is weigela (pronounced vy-guh-luh); it's somewhat like a deciduos azalea in that it's not evergreen. It has pretty little pink trumpet-shaped flowers, and the leaves are a bit reddish-green.

This is White Christmas Hosta, a white hosta with green accents that I just love. I am not a big fan of hosta, but I really like this.

Here's a long shot of the front yard. It's difficult to see where all the color is, but if you click on it to enlarge it, you can pan around and see it.

Today I planted some more annuals. I planted 36 impatiens in the front and back yards. During today's planting, I noticed some renegade leaves in the English Ivy that turned out to be a bunch of big vines. It had spread everywhere. I pulled and pulled this crap; some of it was really entrenched and I don't think I quite got all of it. I worked on the ground portion of it for about 15-20 minutes, when I noticed it was also climbing in one of the trees. So I worked on that for a bit, but as I looked up into the leaves on the tree, I noticed tiny little flowering mechanisms on the plant that were unusual. And that's when it came over me that I might be in big trouble. I ran in and asked Jess to look up poison ivy photos on the Net. He did, and it was. Fortunately, I have never been sensitive to it, and apparently am still not, because I didn't break out. I calmly walked into the house, removed my clothes and threw them into the washer, then took a shower. No reaction. Hooray.

That's all for now. Hopefully it won't be another month before I post again, but who knows? Next month, we'll be in Kansas at my family reunion and the week after that, I'll be in the strawberry fields on the east end of the island picking the crop for my annual canning of preserves. I can't wait for that.