Thursday, August 25, 2011

Growing Lettuce

One of the vegetables I've had the most success in growing is lettuce. This is an Asian baby leaf mesclun salad mix from Renee's Garden I planted in my herb garden this past Spring. As they got a little bigger, I thinned them, using some in salads but mostly eating straight from the bed! They provided me with salad greens for months, with an amazing variety of flavors. My favorites are arugula and the buttery varieties, though the latter wilts quickly and seems to need the most water. I will be replanting again as soon as the weather cools down some. After this long, hot drought, it can't come quickly enough for me!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Baby plants

After preparing the stock pond beds this spring, I planted my first seeds and starter plants. In one bed, I planted cucumbers and beans. The second was all strawberries. The third big one held Bradley County (Arkansas) tomatoes, eggplant, radishes, beets, and assorted peppers (red bell, orange bell, banana, and others).

I marked each plant and checked every day to see how they were doing. It is ridiculous how excited I was to see those first green shoots from the beets and radishes. I planted radishes not only because Joel loves them, but because I knew they were a fast (and therefore, satisfying) crop. I also planted squash in a big pot.

I made sure to mulch them well to hold moisture in and keep weeds out. It did not, however, do much to keep bugs away!

Monday, August 22, 2011

My new book is out

Hello to all of you who have stuck with me through this looong dry spell. I am grateful you didn't dump me from the blogs you follow. THANKS! The reason I haven't been posting is I spent the last 18 months working on a book about Hurricane Rita. While everyone knows about Hurricane Katrina, few outside those who suffered through Rita know about her. I am proud of this project because it honors those everyday heroes who led us through this awful time. I interviewed more than 60 people, from first responders and elected officials to non-profits and faith-based organizations. This is their story. It is by far the most ambitious project I've taken on. You can find more about "Rita: Honoring Heroes of a Forgotten Storm" and read excerpts at

Vegetable garden

For the next few posts, I will share my first spring garden project earlier this year. It was quite an undertaking. We decided the best way would be raised beds that would allow easier access for my aging bones. We began with galvanized metal stock ponds, which are easy to find here in ranch country. We put in several inches of wood mulch from the local dump. We topped that with a mixture of composted peat, Black Kow mix and good potting soil. It was hard work turning and mixing, and would never have happened without my strong husband's help, but I was so excited with the finished beds.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Surprise! She's baacck!

Hey, everyone,

I know, I know. Where the heck have I been?

One word: Busy.

About 9 months ago, I started working on my second book. This one is about the Heroes of Hurricane Rita (I haven't decided on the title yet). It is due to be published late this summer. The book has required tremendous research and extensive interviews (at least 50!) and I've done little else. I think it's a worthwhile book to bring attention to the first responders and others who got us through Hurricane Rita. I hope you will agree.

And believe me, I've missed blogging about one of the great loves of my life - gardening. I am determined to ease my way back in, even though it will be in limited doses because of the book.

I have been taking photos and making notes to use for future posts, included those of my first vegetable garden in years.

So if you haven't given up on me entirely, stick around. And I'm so glad you didn't. Until we get back on track, enjoy one of my favorite photos - taken of my birdbath during a rain shower.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

St. Stephen's Green

If ever you are in Dublin, Ieland, be sure to take a long walk through St. Stephen's Green.
It's a lovely 22-acre park (the second largest in Dublin) with lots of color and large green expanses. It's just across the street from the Shelbourne Dublin Hotel, a beautiful place to stay. It also borders the popular Grafton Street Shopping Centre.

Here are a couple of shots I took when there this spring.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dublin flowers

When I was in Europe this past spring, I was impressed with the use of flowers in landscaping and as art.

In the Shelbourne Dublin at St. Stephen's Green Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, the lobby was filled with a fantastic arrangement. Since the hotel is across the street from the famous St. Stephen's Green Park, which is magnificent, it seemed fitting.

Here's what greeted us as we walked into the lobby.

Tomorrow, I'll post photos from the garden.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August birth flower - the gladilous

Yes, I know I am a bit behind talking about the birth flower for August. You would think a month planted right in the middle of the hottest time of the year, when the days last so long you think they never will end, would crawl by. Not so this month, at least for me.

As a child, I loved glads. My grandmother always had a row of the tall, cheerful blooms along the side of the chicken house. I especially liked that they had so many blooms, one opening to help ease the loss every time an earlier one died. That held so much comfort to a child who mourned the death of anything that crossed her path, no matter how insignificant to others, from a dragonfly to a flower.

I've always had this thing about holding up a flower petal and studying it through the back light of sunshine. I know, I am weird. It's not as if I haven't heard this all my life. I much prefer to think of it as an insatiable curiosity about the magical properties of all living things. so much of life goes unseen, and I don't want to miss a single moment of beauty.

Despite the fact that I have seen far too many glads standing tall near a casket of someone important to my life, I forgive them. They didn't choose to become a "funeral" flower, no more than carnations did.

My two favorite glads couldn't be any different. I cannot resist the luminous white blooms that fill the vases at the Macaroni Grill in Houston. They are so showy and lovely. My other favorite is the modest hardy gladiolus that springs up around old homesteads. The blooms are much smaller, but their vivid fuchsia color more than makes up for it. I have been tempted many times to "liberate" some from an empty field, but have yet to do so.

This pretty member of the iris family (Iridaceae) represents strength of character, sincerity and generosity, all traits to be admired.

Click here to see a great shot of the hardy glad on Dave's Garden web site.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Go Texas!

Cool Fact of the Day

When the grounds-keeping team that manages the grass field used for the World Cup in South Africa needed a fast-growing grass to rescue their soccer field, they chose a turfgrass bred and developed in East Texas.

The Panterra turfgrass was developed by Texas AgriLife researcher Dr. Lloyd Nelson, who said Panterra is great for sports fields to keep them green during the winter.

Go, Aggies!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


All the recent rain left a new theme garden on our lawn - mushrooms. These big white 'shrooms are so pale in the afternoon sun they seem to glow. They are about 4-5 inches and stand on tall, strong stems.

In a corner of the rose bed, small yellow mushrooms have popped through from the wet mulch.
Although I love mushrooms, I know enough not to eat something I can't identify as edible - and safe. Some mushrooms are toxic - and who wants that?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fertilizer 101

As part of our volunteer work, Jefferson County Master Gardeners record brief radio spots on gardening. Here's one we did on Fertilizer 101 - a basic tutorial for those new to gardening:

Every plant requires nutrients to grow and thrive. Three of the primary nutrients – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – come from air and water. Gardeners will need to provide the other three – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium .

The three numbers on a bottle or bag of fertilizer stand for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. in that order. The numbers also indicate how much of each is provided by weight.

Nitrogen helps plants produce protein needed for new tissue. Give a plant too much nitrogen and it will produce great foliage but no fruit or flowers. Plants can take up only so much nitrogen, and the rest leaches into the soil and can reach ground water. Give a plant only as much nitrogen as it needs.

Phosphorus stimulates root growth, aids in setting buds and flowers and increases the overall vitality and seed size.

Potassium helps make plants strong and vigorous and more disease resistant.

The best way to choose a fertilizer is to do a soil test to see what nutrients are lacking in your yard or garden. Many gardeners use far more fertilizer than plants need, which creates a serious problem for the environment through runoff.

An all-purpose, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 will provide the needed nutrients. If you need more of one nutrient and less of the other, you can choose a mix that fits your needs.

When you apply fertilizer, consider foliar feeding. Plants can absorb nutrients up to 20 times more efficiently through leaf surfaces than through their roots. You’ll get the best results applying the spray during critical growth stages such as immediately after transplanting, during bloom time and the period right after a plant sets fruit.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Blessed rain

It's raining! For the past two weeks, while my friends in Nederland, Port Arthur and Beaumont have been getting relief from the long period we've had without rain, it's been dancing all around us.

Yesterday, we got a decent rain. Now, it's raining good and hard and the dusty field next to us that our neighbors just cleared to make way for planting hay looks like a lake. Of course, it's just a thin layer of water waiting to soak in. Within a half hour, it'll be gone.

There's nothing like rain when you haven't seen it in a while. I love the smell of the air just before and after a rain. It provides delicious anticipation and blessed thanks. And I love sitting on our porch and watching the heavy drops fall from the leaves.

Today, I give thanks for life-giving rain.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer garden meals

It seems my recollections of shelling peas and my family’s recipe for cooking up a mess of purple hull peas was a hit (see comments below). I decided to write my column on it this week, with a slightly different approach. Look for it Sunday in The Enterprise.

Now I have a question for all of you. What is your all-time favorite home-cooked meal using fresh veggies/fruit from the home garden?

Here’s mine: Crowder peas, fried okra, corn on the cob, cornbread, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onion (salted and marinated in vinegar and a touch of sugar), peach cobbler and iced tea.

1.Jane, would you be my wife? I love country cookin

Comment by jesse — June 14th, 2010 @ 11:36 am

2.Brings back memories.

Comment by PJ — June 15th, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

3.Jane, all those purple hull peas need is, some hot pepper seasoning .

Comment by john — June 15th, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

4. Jane….those delicious purple hulls only need some fresh pods of okra simmering on top—until they are deliciously slimy…… Might I suggest fresh tomatoes and cucumbers as condiments? Sure works for me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flowers in art

If you enjoy seeing art that uses flowers as inspiration, check out the exhibit "Blooms: Floral Art in the Stark Collections" at the Stark Museum of Art, 712 Green Avenue in Orange. The exhibit was supposed to close earlier this month, but has been extended through much of the summer. No specific closing date has been given. If you visited the exhibit already, you have a chance to see new works, since the museum has rotated out the images shown so far.

The exhibition also provides an educational area for families with interactive learning elements (matching game, reading area and flower drawing station). Admission is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info call 409-886-2787 or visit

Shown here is "Dahlias, Asters and Various Flowers" by Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ladybug Vs spider

Ladybugs and Dill

I was excited to spot four or five ladybugs on my dill this morning. I'm not sure if that's good - because the ladybugs are feeding - or bad - because the ladybugs have something to feed on. Either way, I'm happy to see them. I have plenty of pests in my wild-leaning, limited pesticide gardens, so I'm surprised that I don't see the sweet bugs with red and black bodies more often.

Ladybugs eat aphids, those soft-bodied sucking insects that can wreak havoc on everything from ornamentals to herbs to even hardwood trees.
A single ladybug can devour 5,000 aphids during their adult life. That's efficient bug control!

Check out the cute video about a ladybug.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Purple Hull Peas

This past week, I sat down at the kitchen table to do something I haven't done in years. I shelled peas. I grew up with a grandmother who plowed with a mule and had corn, several kinds of pole beans and peas, turnips, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, greens, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and more.

I hated shelling peas and beans and snapping and destringing green beans, but I loved the time I spent with my grandmother and my aunts while doing so.

Peas and beans are satisfying vegetables to grow in a garden. Give pole beans a little support and they take off. Keep bush beans watered and they will reward you with vegetables that taste NOTHING like canned ones.

Here's how my family always cooked a "mess" of purple-hull peas: Shell, pick over and wash peas thoroughly. Cover with lightly salted water, bring to a light boil, turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Dice some smoked bacon finely (the amount depends on your personal taste and cholesterol levels) and saute in a pan until browned. Pour off most of the bacon grease and add diced onion to the pan. When the onions turn translucent, add them to the simmering peas. Pepper to taste. Don't overcook the beans. Keep the simmer slow and test to see when they are tender. Serve with buttered cornbread and fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Love Those Lizards!

We've always been blessed with an abundance of lizards at our house. I've posted before about how their favorite place used to be on the broad, tall leaves of the hardy amaryllises that once lined a bed beneath a bedroom wall. We eventually moved those plants to another bed, and the lizards followed.

When I took the Jefferson County Master Gardener short course last July, I intensified my efforts to build nice ornamental gardens at our house. I discovered how important planning is (I've always been haphazard, spotting a plant I loved and bringing it home from the nursery thinking I'd find a place for it, rather than planning a bed and buying the plants specifically for it). I also learned how many plants I've put in the wrong place.

While working on the gardens. I began noticing fewer lizards. This all began about the time a new stray cat decided our house was the perfect feeding station. Blue Bell is a master hunter, much to my dismay, and lizards are among her favorite targets. I can't tell you how many I've rescued from her sharp claws and teeth. Every week I see at least one lizard with an ultra-short tail. Hmmmm.
Here's a shot of one lizard that has escaped the black and white terrorist - so far.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spider in the house

I'm not one of those people who scream and grab a broom when they see a spider. While I certainly don't want them crawling on me, when it comes to harmless spiders, I have a mostly live and let live policy. There are exception, of course. I kill poisonous spiders and any that are so big they intimidate me. I try to keep the house relatively spider-free, because they freak my grandson out. But a few little spiders, like this unknown spider that has been hanging around the kitchen for the past few days, are safe.

I'm not sure what kind of spider this is, but he's fascinating. He's tiny, moves quickly and can jump effortlessly. But what's most interesting are his eyes. They are two tiny orbs elevated above his face and they are constantly moving. They go in circles (rotating 360 degrees) as if he's scanning his surroundings at all times. He must be accustomed to seeing me by now, because he let me get close enough to take this photo of him hugging the side of our kitchen island/worktop bar.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lotus and Bamboo Festival in Port Arthur

It's Friday - Yeah! Treat yourself by taking in the 12th Annual Lotus and Bamboo Festival at Buu Mon Buddhist Temple,2701 Procter St in Port Arthur. The festival is 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. If you've never been, you'll discover a peaceful place with beautiful bamboo and lotus gardens.

The Texas Bamboo Society will be on hand to share information and sell plants, Artist Carole Meckes of Austin will bring her bamboo work and the temple will provide walking tours of the gardens and the temple. Assistant Abbot Bhante Kassapa will give a presentation of the preparation and enjoyment of tea, the Buu Mon Meditation Group will sponsor food and arts and crafts booths and will offer traditional Vietnamese cuisine. The festival is a great way to learn about the history of the gardens, Buu Mon Buddhist Temple and Buddhism in general.

Don't miss the performance of the and Dragon Dance Troupe at 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more info, visit or call Bhante Kassapa at (409) 960-8369 or the temple office at (409) 982-9319.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Birth Flower: the rose

Ah, June - the month for weddings. How fitting that the birth flower for June is the rose. Roses are considered by many to be the most perfect flower, with their delicate petals, sweet scent and long stems. What woman doesn't enjoy receiving a bouquet of roses?

The color of the rose has its own symbolism: white stands for purity, red connotes passion, yellow indicates platonic friendship and pink stands for grace or gratitude. Legend says Cleopatra lured Antony into a room filled with rose petals knee-deep. As for the Greek symbolism, here's a description of the rose's origin taken from

"Flora, the deity of flowers, was walking through the forest and found the body of a beautiful nymph. Sorrowful at the sight of the lovely creature dead, she decided to give her new life by turning her into a flower whose beauty surpassed all others. She called on Aphrodite to give beauty, brilliance, joy and charm; Zephyrus, the west wind, to blow away the clouds so that Apollo, the Sun, could cast warm rays upon it, and Dionysius, the god of wine to give nectar and fragrance. When the new flower was complete, Chloris placed a crown of dewdrops over her and named her the Rose, Queen of Flowers. Aphrodite presented the Rose to her son Eros, the deity of Love. The white rose became the symbol of charm and innocence and the red rose the symbol of love and desire."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Old-fashioned daylilies

Gardening is a constant endeavor to find plants that are attractive, dependable and low-to-maintenance free. If ever a plant fit this description, it's the standard daylily (Hemerocallis) When we bought our now 100-plus-year-old house 28 years ago, it had a long line of established daylilies along the fence. They are the classic yellow-gold-dark brown varieties. They've been growing so long I think they have hybridized, since one of the gold blooms starting developing a brown throat.

While they don't bloom as long as new varieties, such as Stella De Oro, I am quite fond of these old lilies. The leaves look good year-round, and I look forward to the long scapes spiking toward the sky before bursting into bloom.

Daylilies are native to Asia, but American and British enthusiasts began hybridizing them in the 1930s. At that time, only three colors existed, yellow, orange, and fulvous red. Now, they come in numerous colors and combinations, single, double and ruffled. For more information, visit The American Hemerocallis Society at

Even our 7-month-old Goldador, Barley, appears to approve.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Growing clematis

When it comes to vines, I've had my share of learning experiences. Flowering vines are a beautiful addition to a garden, but care should be given to choosing the right one for your needs. When we moved into our 100-plus-year-old home, the yard was rich with established plants. The first spring, we found the back fence line covered with wisteria. By year five, we were constantly fighting to keep it under control. It went up trees, across the yard and started new vines with wild abandon. We also had an abundance of star jasmine that was equally invasive. I've been fighting both vines for 20 years.

When LOML (Love of my Life) Joel built us some new, small arbors, I planted moon vine (which was spectacular until it died) and a Peggy Martin rose, which is looking promising. This week, I added clematis, which my Aunt Shirley loves but I've never planted. I bought a vivid purple and a pastel lavender. I'm still debating where to plant them. I have at least three choices.

Here are some guidelines for growing clematis, taken from the American Clematis Society(

Light: at least 5 to 6 hours of sun (pastel varieties will not fade as badly if given some afternoon shade)
Site: Critical to long-lived clematis. Dig a hole 24 x 24 and fill with quality topsoil that has been amended if needed. Cut the container to avoid damaging the plant. Sink the base of the plant's stems 3" to 5" below soil level. Keep the stake in place the first year to give support.
Mulch: 3" to 4" of soil amendments or peat moss over root zone. Keep mulch 8" away from the stem to avoid stem rot.
Feed: Clematis are heavy feeders. When spring buds reach 2" long, feed with Gro-Power Flower 'n' Bloom. Alternate feedings every 4 to 6 weeks with Gro-Power All Purpose Plus. Use 2 tablespoons per plant every feeding until the end of September.
Water: Water regularly, thoroughly and deeply during hot summer months. Don't keep too wet, especially in dormant winter months.
Support: They will climb on an arbor, a trellis, other shrubs, a fence, or other structures.
Disease: Susceptible to stem rot or wilt, but it's not usually fatal. Cut off all diseased parts and discard in trash bag. Don't forget to disinfect clippers after use. The ACS recommends Physan 20.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Olive Barn is not closing

Oops. When I said Olive Barn was closing, I was wrong. What I should have said is that Olive Barn's Outlet & Warehouse in Houston is closing. Olive Barn still is very much alive and well online at They have some unique and interesting items and are worth checking out.

Thanks, Jacqueline, for calling that to my attention.

Easy to use gardening tools

For gardeners, the older you get, the more important it is to find the right tools. Gardening is physical labor. Digging, weeding, hoeing, planting - all can take a toll on the back, shoulders, arms, legs, hand and feet. While the exercise is good for the body, sore, painful joints and unnecessary callouses are not.

A couple of years ago, I found a set of hand tools at the Olive Barn in Houston that looked promising. They have become my favorite tools. They're made by NRG and have large, round handles that are ergonomically sound and easy to grip. They are not cheap (in any sense of the word), but the quality is excellent. When I retired from The Enterprise, my friend Torchy gave me a set at my going-away party because she knew I loved gardening. We lost Torchy to cancer not long ago, but the tools - along with countless other things - remind me of her energy, sweetness and joy of life when I use them.

I have lusted after NRG's large tools ever since I found the small ones, but hesitated because of the cost ($40 each). Well, the Olive Barn is going out of business (sad face) and have the tools on sale for half price. Joel splurged and bought me the weeder, spade, fork and bulb planter. They are wonderful. I'm doing some major flower bed work right now and they make it much easier.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What happens when you don't water

It seems I picked one of the driest months around to be out of town. While I was gone from mid-April to mid-May, my sweet husband tried to water all the plants, but not being the one who usually has water duty and unaware of how many plants we have and how potted plants need more water than those in the ground, well ... let's say I came home to some seriously damaged plants. When I saw the brown, shriveled up lime tree and herbs, I figured I might could save some of the herbs, but the lime tree probably was a goner.

Well, while the top of the tree still is brown and shriveled, new green shoots are coming out half-way down the tree. I'm not sure if the damage was severe enough that I should pitch the tree and start over, but I think it deserves a chance to prove itself. I have a hard time throwing out a plant, even when I should. I will discard diseased plants, however.

I'm going to give the lime tree a couple through summer to see how well it rebounds. It needs pruning, but not having experienced this before, I'm not at which points I should begin the pruning. I hate to take the top third out, but that might be exactly what the tree needs.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tuscan mystery plant

One of the many plants I saw during my three weeks in Europe that I'm not familiar with include this colorful succulent. The yellow, orange and green combination is striking. It was always growing in full sun and though I didn't break a leaf off to check, it looks like other succulents I've seen.

The plants in Tuscany all seemed somehow brighter, more vivid and color-drenched than most. Perhaps it just seems that way because of the more neutral tones of the stone, brick and rock of the 300-year-old bed and breakfast where we stayed.

Do you know what this plant is? Please share.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Grandma's Yellow Rose

There's something about yellow roses. As a young woman, I fell in love with a beautiful climbing yellow rose that spilled along a neighbor's chain link fence. The color was vivid, yet restful. Even on cloudy days, it seemed to pull all the light onto its petals. When I moved, I missed that rose. As an adult, when my friends got a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day, I always secretly wished for a dozen yellow ones.

When my first marriage was falling apart and we separated, my soon-to-be ex sent a dozen roses to my office. They were yellow. I couldn't believe it. Seven years of marriage and they were the first such roses. I threw them in the trash. All these years later, I can appreciate the too-late gesture (and remain on good terms with the ex, who found the right woman for him and is happily married) but don't regret what I did.

I've never planted a true yellow rose in my yard. I think it might be time to remedy that. The latest rose to be added to the Texas A&M List of Texas SuperStars is Grandma's Yellow Rose, shown above. The rose is the first of five plants that will be named in 2010. The blooms are not the usual short-stemmed types found in most home gardens, but a true long-stemmed "Valentine's Day Rose," the Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists say.

The researchers named the rose after Dr. Larry Stein's grandmother, Tillie Jungman, who loved the rose and helped test it in her garden near Castroville. Stein is an AgriLife Extension horticulturist and one of the developers of Grandma's Yellow rose. The new rose produces successive flushes of blooms from spring until frost and so disease tolerant that fungicide sprays seldom are needed.

Miss Tillie died in Nov. 2005. Her pallbearers each wore a yellow rose bud in their lapels.

Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns

Sunday, May 16, 2010


For the past four days, before hitting the gardening duties/pleasures, I've been getting up early and sitting on the deck to enjoy a few minutes of the few crisp, cool hours of the day May brings in Southeast Texas. I sip tea from this lovely cup (complete with a strainer and brewing lid) that Stephanie gave me for Mothers Day. It looks like you, she said when she gave it to me, along with a beautiful earthenware pot filled with a citrus-scented candle.

I've been home only a week since my Trip of a Lifetime to Europe. While there, I drank hot tea every day. With perfect 60-degree weather, I grew to love the hot brew with biscotti or biscuits (of the afternoon tea European kind, not my grandmother's breakfast delights). I plan on keeping up this daily routine until the heat of summer makes it less appealing. Then, it's back to cranberry juice or iced tea.

How blessed I am to have a daughter (and son and daughter-in-law) who spend time looking for gifts that "look like me." Speaking of Chris and Sheila, they gave me a Lily, the first Asiatic lily to go into my garden. It's potted right now, but will be planted this fall when I find the right spot.

Speaking of finding the right spot... I have a lot of catch-up blogging to do. I missed the prime spring gardening days from Mid-April to Mid-May, so I'm working hard to make up for that. It's hard to complain about not being here when I was on the T.O.A.L.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So where have you been?

I've been getting that question a lot lately. If you're a regular reader, you've no doubt noticed a looong absence of posts. There's a good reason - I've been on the trip of a lifetime.

My sister Gloria and I spent three weeks in Europe. Our travels took us to London, Paris, Rome, Tuscany, Edinburgh, Dublin and across south and west Ireland. It was fabulous. You'd think at least one thing would let you down, but other than being stuck for two extra days in Tuscany because of the Iceland ash cloud (not exactly a hardship), everything was more than we could have expected.

I saw lots of new plants, several gardens (although time didn't permit touring Kew Gardens in London, much to my sadness) and the greenest green you can imagine in Ireland and Scotland.

I'm sorting through the 1,750 photos I took (seriously) and will post many of them here later. We'll start with these lovely irises at the fabulous B&B Agriturismo Il Rigo, San Quirico d'Orcia in Tuscany (

Of all the places we stayed, this was one of my two favorites. If you are traveling to Tuscany, I can recommend this B&B without reservation. It is a 500-year-old farmhouse that sits high on a hill in the Tuscan countryside. It's minutes from several lovely villages. Everywhere you look is a picture-postcard perfect view, with lots of flowers and gardens.