from the ground up

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Cat Grass

Cat Grass?

The colors, the pictures, the rainbow spinning and whirling in front of their eyes. Blossoms and vegies and ….cat grass? The instant my boys saw the picture of the cat sitting next to a tall plume of grass, they proclaimed the seeds their own. A quick story played out: our neighbor cat slinking up, discovering the treat and indulging in this sweetest of grass  for cats after they carefully plant and cultivate the seed. The cat will enjoy it with a treat or maybe a mouse or two from the lot down the street.

The seeds came home, a special pot was selected, dirt was layed and the seeds were spread ever so carefully in the dirt and covered (possibly a little too deeply). And, just because, a few nasturtium seeds were poked into the same pot.

Common Name: Cat Grass Variegated

Latin Name: Hordeum vulgare

Planting: An annual, planted as other grasses, simply sprinkled on the soil. Needs full sun and reaches 2-3 feet in height.

Note:  “For cats & gardens”

And now we await the emergence of our cat grass.

Later to be served, no delivered….in a bowl, to our neighbor cat “Smitty” for enjoyment. We’ll let you know how it turns out!



During the first few years in our home, I worked hard to improve the rather bland landscaping planted by the original owner. My sister, and personal horticulturist recommended a Beautybush for the perennial bed on the north side of my home. In a town with several readily available options for plant shopping, this was surprisingly hard to find. At the last place I looked, after searching the corners, and finally asking the hard-to-locate staff, I found a Beautybush. Only one. A scraggly, misshapen, almost yellowed bunch of sticks-with-leaves sticking out of a gallon-size pot. But it was a Beautybush and it had come highly recommended, so I bought the sad shrub.

I gave the shrub it’s due time for adapting to it’s new home. But during the third year, it did not leap. Despite my pruning to improve the aesthetics of shape, it continued to put all of it’s energy into one branch. It did bloom, and the blossoms were pretty, but it was not living up to it’s name. But now, after 6 full years, this delicate bush with pastel flowers is beautiful.

Common Name: Beautybush

Latin Name: Kolkwitzia amabilis

Family: Caprifoliaceae

Planting: This shrub is a native of China. Requires full sun and well-drained soil. It grows 6-10 ft in height with a spread nearly as wide.

Bonus:  It reportedly has no or few disease/insect concerns.

Now, it’s light green leaves fill in, followed shortly by tear-drop pink buds. Then, all at once, the whole bush is frosted with soft, pink blossoms. The cream faces decorated with intricate orange patterns. The branches, now many of them, arc gently with the heaviness of so many flowers. It is beautiful in the morning when the dew is upon it. It is beautiful all day, and stands out from afar. But my favorite time to admire this friend is while it faces a blazing orange, late-night sunset on our horizon.

This bush is a beauty. And maybe it’s because of the wait.

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Blooming their hearts out!

“Aren’t these blossoms fragrant? Smell them, Marilla. Drink them in.” Anne Shirley

Nanking Cherry
Prunus tomentosa

Tulipa sp.

Apple blossom
Malus sp.

Grape Hyacinth
Muscari botryoides

Bleeding Heart
Dicentra spectablis

Aquilegia sp.

Lupine and Columbine
Lupinus sp. and Aquilegia sp.

Geranium sp.

Hydrangea sp.

Myosotis sp.

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The garden map

Mapping the garden. Something I’ve loved for years and my children are coming to love. The silly part is that we are a small garden family, so small that we don’t really need a map. But it’s fun to plan and dream while the soil warms. Last year, I did the drawing. This year, we did a shared drawing. And our time was sweetly narrated by 4 year old Weston.

“Let me see the seeds, I’ll get them out. Oh, beets, Mom. Rainbow carrots go here, the regular carrots go here. And beans, when do we plant the beans? Remember your arugula was here before, let’s put it here. Let’s grow spinach, I like spinach raw. Daddy can get spinach seeds at the store. Here are the radishes, they go here. Mom, I wrote carrots, you write beets. No Zephir, beans aren’t orange. We’ll have to buy the zucchini, we don’t have seeds.  Remember our watermelon, it was so small. Daddy plants the tomatoes. Daddy likes peppers. Hot peppers.”

last year’s watermelon

This year, the lull between our garden mapping and covering the first seeds was only days.

“Mom, I will give you the seeds. The rainbow carrots go here, not the regular carrots. I’ll plant the seeds. I’ll stand in the  middle here and drop in the radishes. Pat it. This stick goes here to mark, I’ll push it in, we need another one here. Zephir, those are the radishes, you’re standing on them. Zephir, put the stick there. I’ll get the watering can, Mom, I know where it is, I’ll be right back. I’ll turn on the hose. Ooooh, this is a heavy watering can, I can’t lift it, can you help me, Mom? Mom, it’s your job to turn off the hose when we’re done.”

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A math equation

Math has really never been my strong suit.  My  teachers and my always-helpful-with-homework parents frequently witnessed the blank look.  Word problems, yep they were a problem.  But really, who uses math anyway?  Ha!

With each new garden season I begin again in my greenhouse with hundreds of seed packets. Friends and other plant-wise onlookers always ask the inevitable question:  “Where will you put all these plants?” .   Then,  they see the blank look, the math stare, as I  innocently say “What on earth do you mean?”.

But the truth is, each year, I am quietly uneasy about where I will put all these green seedlings that I tend.

I innocuously begin with the seeds orders.

When they arrive, I  sort and organize by planting date.

Then, week by week, I tear open the packets and plant.

Each flat has 72 cells.  And if I am lucky, there is one seed per cell.  Often, I am not very careful about being lucky.

When the seedlings emerge, I begin to formulate the math equation.

Frequently I am seen just standing out in the greenhouse.  My husband and children have asked me all too often, “What were you doing out there?  It looked like you were just standing there.”

I was.  I was doing “greenhouse math”.

Here is what my equation looks like:



then multiply:

and multiply again:

equal this…

and eventually this…

For someone who doesn’t really care for math, I’ll take this math equation any day!

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Pea shoots

“Close your eyes and taste.”






A delicately folded, curled greenhouse treasure.

A field trip to a local, geothermal greenhouse provided us an afternoon snack and a taste of June in May.  The new growth of shoots, leaves and tendrils are the delectable portions grown for consumption.  Choosing a variety is easy, as any type of pea will do for munching.  Several varieties are recommended such as ‘Feisty’, ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ and ‘Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea’.  As the pea plant ages, the tendrils and shoots become tough, so take advantage of them during their first few inches.

On salad, with hummus, or just standing in the greenhouse, they prepare our mouths and hearts for the upcoming gardening season.  As one friend commented while we foraged, “The tendrils are the best part, they are the most pea-y tasting part of the shoot.” Come evening, we shared them on stir-fry for an extra crunch.