Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Hummingbird images via TheEye. Please visit her shop for gorgeous photography and artwork!

Everyone loves hummingbirds and many look forward to their return each year. They are tiny, gorgeous and bold. Many people set out plastic feeders with sugar water, sometimes multiple feeders because hummingbirds can be quite territorial. Hummingbirds eat spiders as well, and they make their nests out of cobwebs. So, if you wnnt to attract hummingbirds, it's yet another reason to not use pesticides.
Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, such as red and blue. They like tubular shaped flowers and need a wide variety to nectar to support their metabolisms. They need water too, of course, so if you are able to set up a mister that's perfect for these tiny little jewels.
If you want to plant flowers for hummingbirds, here are some suggestions.
Wild Columbine - this one comes into bloom right around the time that hummingbirds return here in zone 7. It is a gorgeous flower that likes partial shade and has drooping tubular red flowers. It will modestly self seed if allowed, or you can cut off spent flowers to produce more.
Geraniums - This is the species geranium, that often have scented foliage. There are a wide variety of these. Mine produce pink flowers that my hummingbirds hit up throughout the day.
Bee Balm - There are several species of bee balm, all of which are attractive to hummingbirds. I grow the wild bee balm that has hot pink or red flowers, and which also attracts bees and butterflies. This bee balm is also known as Oswego tea and was used widely after the Boston tea party as a tea substitute.
Zinnia - I grow lilliput zinnia and Red Spider zinnias, both heirloom varieites that hummingbirds like. They seem to prefer the lilliput zinnia, I'm guessing because of its form versus the splayed form of the Red spider zinnias.
Cypress Vine - This is a hardy and beautiful vine that is a self seeding annual. It has fern like foliage and bright red tubular flowers that begin blooming in late Summer and into the Fall. I grow this by my front porch, where it grows into a hydrangea, and I often sit on the porch and watch my little visitors zoom in for a snack.
Trumpet Vine - This one gets large, and takes a while to start blooming, but it's a good one to have. Give it a tree to climb as it will need the support. It has bright red and orange tubular flowers that a hummingbird can get lost in. :)
Wild purple petunia - This one is good for container gardening, as it does not get very big. It is an annual that produces masses of hot pink and purple tubular flowers. This is the variety that modern hybrids were descended from and is not fussy.
Jasmine tobacco - I also grow this one in containers, as it is not hardy here. It can be grown as an annual, or you can bring it in over the winter as long as you don't have critters that will try to eat it. It opens in the evening to emit an intoxicating fragrance. I was pulling off dead blossoms one night and a hummingbird flew up and hovered in front of me. I froze, as we looked at each other, inches apart, and then he zoomed off. :) It was amazing!
Four o-clocks - These perennial plants form a tuber that will grow larger each year. If you live outside their zone, the tubers may be dug up each fall. They produce hot pink and yellow flowers that open in the afternoon.
Old Fashioned Weigelia - This bush gets loads of bright red tubular flowers. It's hardy and lovely. There are many new varieties but they don't have the same attractionto hummers.
Scarlet Runner Bean - This heirloom bean is difficult to find. It gets very large beans that are supposed to be quite tasty, but many people grow it for the bright red flowers. I grew some last year, but not enough to sell. I hope to grow more this year so I'll have them for sale in Fall. :)
Blue sage - This plant is just gorgeous. It can be used like cooking sage, and has medicinal properties as well. It gets bright blue spikes of tubular blue flowers that bees and butterflies enjoy as well. It will modestly self sow once established.
Cardinal Flower - this plant gets spikes of crimson red flowers that hummingbirds love, but it needs damp soil to grow. It is most often found in the wild around ponds. I am growing some on the shaded side of my house where it stays damp from the sump pump. I just planted it last year so I'm eager to see how it does.
Red sage - This is another one with bright red flowers hummers love. I had some volunteer itself into my gardens and the hummingbirds made it a regular stop.
Cosmos - This one does not have the normal tubular flowers, but I've seen hummingbirds at it. I also see lots of birds eating the seeds, especially goldfinches, but I'll do another post on that. :)
There are many other flowers you can plant for hummingbirds, depending on your region. The ones I've listed do well in the largest part of the US and I hope give you a place to start. As birds lose their habitat, all birds, not just hummingbirds, depend more and more on backyard gardens for sustenance, especially during migration. So don't use pesticides, plant flowers, and provide water and shelter to help out our wildlife. Please check out my plant shops for many of the seeds I've mentioned here and thanks for reading!

Four O'Clocks
Cardinal Flower

Wild Columbine

Wild Purple Petunia


Scarlet Runner Bean

Bee Balm

Lilliput Zinnia


Blue Sage

Trumpet Vine

Cypress Vine

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Resellers and my short temper

I'm afraid I lost my temper in the etsy forums today. I've been holding on to it for quite a while but enough is enough. The plant category is full of resellers and we have been complaining for months. Now it's Spring, they are putting a serious damper on my business, which I rely on to pay the bills.
Last year I was new to selling seeds and I did not have enough saved or get photos of all my plants. Nonetheless, this time last year I could barely keep up with orders. So, all summer long every single day no matter how much I was hurting, I went out to collect seeds. I took tons of photos of everything I could think of. I had trays all over my house of seeds drying, then spent countless hours sorting them from plant material. I set up an access database to print labels, which saves me from getting writer's cramp and looks much more professional. In other words, I worked my butt off. I love gardening, but I was seriously sick of seeds. However, I am fighting to keep up with my house payments so I did it.
I spent all winter counting out and bagging up seeds in anticipation of being possibly busier than I was last year. I'm sure I overdid it on the amount of seeds I saved, but I preferred to have too many than to run out early. Well, apparently that's not something I need to worry about, because sales have been slow.
The reason they've been slow is because etsy has become overrun with resellers. Some are downright blatant about it, and state that their seeds come from China, Tibet, wherever. Others claim they grew and collected the seeds themselves, but don't have a single photo that wasn't stolen from other sites. Etsy's TOU says you cannot use copyrighted photos, but apparently they don't enforce it. Others still have commercial websites. These places are selling at Walmart prices because it's most likely leftover Walmart seed. Folks, if a deal is too good to be true, it usually is. Organic seed companies charge $3 and up per packet, but these places are selling them and claiming they are organic (except for some that are treated...) for $1.25 a pack. This one guys even has hybrid seed he claims to have collected himself. He then goes on about how these seeds are HIS LIFE, HIS LOVE, and profit means nothing!! (And yes, he caps it...)
The thing is, multiple people have been flagging these shops for months and nothing has been done. I've quit renewing items in my photo and my vintage shops, and am only doing enough to keep my shop stocked with my garden shop. I've set up on both Artfire and Winkelf for my garden items, and am on 1000Markets and am working on setting up at Shophandmade for my photography. The things I buy, I've been buying from etsy, but I will buy them from other places until these people are gone. I realize that etsy probably doesn't give 2 damns, but it's my way of protesting.
Anyway... in the forum thread today I listed the reseller shops and provided links to either their commercial operations or to where they have stolen photos from. There's been no response from etsy in the seven days the thread has been going, but it was shut down within hours of my posting the links. I also sent these links to etsycallout and have been crabby on twitter about it.
I hate being crabby. I usually don't even go in the forums, but admin was doing nothing and again, it's my livelihood we're talking about. So, while I hate to appear to be a crabby bitch, I did what I felt I needed to to try to rescue my business.

In the meantime, there is supposed to be a nifty cart feature from Artfire that I can put right on my blog and from which you can purchase without having to set up an account. As soon as I figure it out, I'll be installing it. :) Until then, please visit me at
Wise Plants on Artfire &
Green Thing on Winkelf
Or, my etsy shop is still stocked.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Yesterday it was pretty warm out so I got to do a bit of gardening. I got several areas seeded. I planted Blue honeywort in the butterfly garden, which I've grown before. It has lovely blue-purple flowers that bees go absolutely nuts for. :)
I also planted betony and Shooting Star in my woodland garden. I've tried germinating both of those in the fridge without any luck, so I just went ahead and put some out to see if it would come up. Shooting Star is an endangered species and one I'd really like to get going in my yard. The photos I've seen of it are lovely. It was used by the Native Americans to put babies to sleep. From what I've read it has a somewhat fruity scent that seems to be psychoactive. I have bloodroot growing in my yard already so that should be coming up soon. I planted a couple of trilliums, which I've always wanted, but they may take a few years to get going.
I had plastic down in two small beds. These beds are supposed to be right by where I want to put an arched trellis, so when you walk through the trellis there will be a bed on either side. This is leading into the fairy garden. On on side I planted rose mallow, purple poppies and Gloriosa daisies. On the other I planted lupines, California blue bells and Woodland tobacco. Talk about tiny seeds!
I got the trellis on clearance last year and had someone set it up for me. Unfortunately, he did not anchor it and when strong winds came along it fell over and broke. :( I was so upset! So, now I'm going to try to glue it back together and anchor it this time so I can finally grow things on it. I'm thinking about putting a climbing rose on one side and moonflowers on the other. Or perhaps a gourd... I plan to grow birdhouse gourds again, but I'm also trying luffa this year for the first time. I know the birdhouse gourds get pretty darn heavy! I grew ornamental gourds last year also but I'm not sure if I'll grow them again this year.
I'm growing black hollyhocks this year in the fairy garden, that should look wonderful against the Flanders poppies. I'll do a post devoted just to fairy gardens when I get a chance. I've always been a mythology nut and I love plant lore.
Everything is coming back to life. There are buds on all the plants and things are pushing out of the ground. My daffodils will be blooming soon, and the forsythia along the neighbor's side. I look forward to the lilacs, although last year I did not get all the spent buds broken off so I won't have as many blooms this year as I should. When I first bought this house the lilac was blooming and the scent was overwhelmingly delicious. I'm growing a lot of new veggies this year, as I expand my collection of heirloom seeds. Here's a list of what I have going:
Rutger and Marglobe tomatoes, which I grew last year.
Black Krim, a Russian variety I've been wanting to try.
(There's another, but I can't think of it's name!)
I'm growing three kinds of peppers. Jalapeno, cayenne, and an heirloom cayenne that gets 6" long fruits! I love to have dried peppers to cook with through the winter.
Jenny Lind melon, which is supposed to be very sweet and produce small fruits.
Spacemaster cucumber, which is supposed to be good in containers. I grew Straight Eight last year and may grow it again this year, but I always end up with too many cukes. :)
Little finger carrot (I think that's its name..), also supposed to be good in containers.
Black beauty eggplant, which looks just lovely. I need to learn some new eggplant recipes!
Country Gentleman corn, one of the oldest, and one that is supposed to store well and be very sweet.
Amish snap peas, which I grew last year but not enough to sell. They were so delicious I just ate them raw right out of the garden. :)
I've never grown carrots, the melon or eggplant before. I tried watermelons last year but they didn't do well. I'll try them again this year. I'm not sure whether to bother with pumpkins. One plant might be nice. I'm growing Scarlet Runner Beans again this year, although that's more for the hummingbirds than to eat. I'll grow another bean for eating.
Quinoa, which I've never tried but which is supposed to be highly nutritious.
I became enamored with basils while looking at seed catalogs and ended up with six different kinds! I'm also growing sesame, all the normal herbs I usually grow, plus parsley, marjoram, Toothache plant, (which I'm looking forward to having), Valerian, red valerian, foxglove and a handful of others. Last year during Spring I was in and out of the hospital and I did not get to plant much, so I still have some from last year plus the new varieties I got this year.
I have sweet peas planted and they are already coming up. I grew them the year before last, but not last year. They smell wonderful.
Well, I think I've babbled enough for now. I'm not feeling well and I've been upset over all the resellers on etsy. It's really put a hurting on my business and so far etsy has done nothing about it. I'm trying to push the artfire store more, but it's a new site and there isn't much going on there yet. I hope that changes.
Until next time,


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Companion Planting

Companion planting is a great way to integrate organic pest control into your gardens. Growing certain plant combinations help deter pests and attract beneficial insects, and some things when grown together improve the taste of both. It helps the soil recover from depletion and presents a more diverse (and to me) attractive garden.
Companion planting is a very old practice, with some citing it to Roman times, but is best known in cottage garden style gardens. Some plants are used as "traps" or sacrificial plants, as caterpillars and other pests will prefer them rather than your vegetables. Nasturiums are used in this way. Nasturiums are pretty and edible, but may not be as important as your vegetables so you would plant them around the more important crops.
Marigolds, or calendula, are one of the best flowers for companion planting, as they deter nematodes. I plant them with all my vegetables. They must be the French or Mexican variety. The one I use is the Mexican Crackerjack, sometimes known as African marigolds, although they are actually native to the Americas. These have large orange and yellow flowers blooming in Fall, which are pretty and make nice cut flowers as well. Tansies, petunia and geraniums are other good flowers to deter insect pests. To attract honeybees, try Orange cosmos. I can't say enough about this flower! It's gorgeous, blooms all season, and my bees slept in it every night! I grew it along with my tomatoes and cucumbers.
Many herbs when grown with vegetables will improve the flavor, increase essential oil production and attract beneficial insects such as hoverflies, lacewings, assassin bugs, ladybugs and wasps. Tomato and basil is one such combination. Borage is a general cure all and has beautiful sky blue flowers. Onions are said to be good with roses and rosemary repels cabbage fly so is good with anything in the brassica family. I'll include some links to tables on the web. There are quite a few combinations! Most gardeners have heard of the "Three Sisters" method of planting used by Native Americans. This method grew corn, beans and squash together, as well as sunflowers around the borders. Lemon balm is good to have around the garden here and there as it deters many insects, smells great and makes a lovely tea.
Other plants improve the soil. Beans and peas are nitrogen fixers, as are clover and alfalfa. If you rotate your crops, this is a good way to help the soil recover from what the previous year's planting has depleted. However, you also have to take into consideration plants that have a negative effect on other plants. Fennel is a favorite of my monarch caterpillars, but it stunts the growth of most vegetables so it is best planted in the butterfly garden. Walnut trees secrete a chemical substance called jugone that prevents other plants from growing near it, as do chestnuts and hackberries. This is nature's version of chemical warfare to eliminate the competition. These are called allelopaths and I think they're very cool. :) Try explaining them to a child to spice up the world of plants for him or her!
Here are a few links to lists of companion plants:

I hope this helps! I'm slowly getting this blog going, but I hope to add a lot to it. Comments and suggestions would be appreciated!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gardening with Disabilities

I am disabled, and as such gardening sometimes presents problems for me. I am unable to use a regular shovel or do anything labor intensive. It's my back, with my L spine being the worst. I have nerve damage going down my left leg and right arm, so both are weak. However, I have found a few ways around these problems that I'd like to share.
Gardening is one of the best forms of therapy there is, both physically and emotionally. Just being outside digging in the dirt eases stress and makes me feel better. After a day of working in the garden, I am often hurting but I feel satisfied that I've accomplished things.
One thing that I struggle with is trying to keep myself from doing too much. I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the prospect of everything I want to do in my gardens. My goal is to turn the entire yard into gardens, but I have to go slowly. I expand my gardens a little more each year, adding new beds and varieties. That is the first thing - you have to pace yourself. Stop and rest often and don't get discouraged. Since I cannot use a large shovel, this is how I start new beds. I put plastic down to smother out the grass, usually in fall, so by Spring it is dead. Then I can sit on the ground so I'm not bending, and scrape up the dirt and roots of the grass. I have a hand held shovel that I use for planting, again, sitting on the ground. If you are able to, you may want to use a low bench to sit on, but that is too much bending for me. It would be easier to use a vegetation killer, but I do not use any chemicals in my yard and I wouldn't have it any other way. By growing organically, you can nurture the earth and its creatures instead of poisoning them. This year I'm going to try lasagna gardening. Lasagna gardening is a no dig method of gardening where you layer cardboard, compost and newspaper to build beds. Those I've spoken to who have used this method have had success with it, and there are several books on the subject that you might want to look up.
Speaking of compost, I keep a compost pile and use that and mulch on my beds to help keep the weeds down. I learned long ago not to stress myself out over weeds in my garden beds. This also helps with watering, as dragging a hose around the yard can be quite the chore. I hope to install a drip irrigation system when I'm able to.
Sometimes I will recruit someone to dig up an area or move a plant for me. This is always a hassle, but sometimes you just have to ask for help.
Stretch often. Get up from what you're working on and walk around the yard. Your body will thank you for it, plus you get a chance to admire your work. One of the best things for me is to see wildlife in my garden. I love to see birds, bees, butterflies, snakes, toads, and anything else that comes to visit. I have voles living in my yard. Voles are similar to moles but much cuter. :) Voles eat grubs, so I don't mind them at all. Since they've moved into my yard, I've had far fewer Japanese beetles and my roses are thankful. They seem to like it under the plastic I put down, I suppose because it's warmer. The downside is that when I went to pull up plastic a week or so ago, I disturbed their nest. I ended up planting elsewhere and holding off on that particular area for now. (Yes, I'm a complete pushover for the critters...)
I keep a cardboard box flattened out to sit on when I'm in the yard, and I have a cart that I keep all my tools in. This keeps everything I need close at hand and keeps me from getting a soggy butt when it's damp out. :)
Use companion planting to deter pests and attract beneficial insects. I grow a lot of things cottage garden style, flowers and vegetables all together.
Some days it's too painful to sit on the ground. On those days I will work on my containers. You can grow a large variety of flowers, herbs and some vegetables in containers. This year I'm expanding my vegetables quite a bit, and several of them are especially good for containers. Last year I drilled an old wheelbarrow with holes, filled it with dirt and grew cucumbers, borage, teddy bear sunflowers, catmint, wild petunia, ladybird lemon cosmos and calendula. I have quite a few of my herbs in pots, including rosemary, summer savory, oregano, thyme and basil. I grow jasmine tobacco, evening phlox and tuberose in containers so I can move these evening scented flowers to wherever I'm sitting. These are nice by the fire on summer nights.
I have recently been having a lot more pain in my leg, and an MRI showed a ripped disk and a bone growth from a previous surgery pushing into my nerve sac. I am scheduled for a spinal fusion, but the pain clinic is going to try a nerve block first to see if I can avoid it. I am trying to get as much planting done as I can before my surgery in a couple of weeks, but I don't know how much I'll be able to get done. If I can't avoid the surgery, I will probably have to adjust more to the spinal fusion. I'll post any tips I run across here. :)
I highly recommend gardening to anyone with a disability, even if it's a single pot. Working with plants is a great stress reliever and gives you a sense of accomplishment. There is nothing like growing your own food, and you can enjoy all the creatures that come to visit your garden. The birds eat many of the seeds of flowers I grow, so I leave the stalks up in the winter. Some of their favorites are:
Tickseed coreopsis (goldfinches are especially fond of these!)
Purple coneflower
Black eyed susan
I carry all of these in my shop.
I hope this has given you a few tips. I'll write more about companion planting and gardening in general soon!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Guerilla Gardening

What is guerilla gardening?
Wikipedia defines it as:
"...political gardening, a form of nonviolent direct action, primarily practiced by environmentalists. It is related to land rights, land reform, and permaculture. Activists take over ("squat") an abandoned piece of land which they do not own to grow crops or plants. Guerrilla gardeners believe in re-considering land ownership in order to reclaim land from perceived neglect or misuse and assign a new purpose to it."

Basically, there is a lot of public space going to waste. Even small squares of earth can grow things. Guerilla gardeners take action to make use of this land by growing food and/or flower gardens. Even if you just plant some wildflowers along a strip of land by the sidewalk, you are providing beauty and food for wildlife. Plant crops and you can provide food for people. One group grew lavendar and then harvested and sold it, using the money for their cause.
Personally, I think it's a wonderful movement!

Where can you guerilla garden? Anywhere there is a bit of unused land! You can grow things anywhere, from vacant lots to squares of grass along city walks. If you can organize a group, you can coordinate a planting, where you go to your intended space and plant the lot. Since this is not strictly legal, many groups will do so at night. If your city is more green-minded, try asking permission to plant on any vacant land.
If you don't have a group, you can still act on your own. For places you need to hit in a hurry, or that are inaccessible, such as behind a fence, seed bombs are a great solution. Seed bombs work best with drought tolerant natives that will not need tending. Try a mix of self seeding annuals and perennials. Seed bombs are fun to make. Simply mix clay, water and seeds into balls and let them dry. When it rains, they will melt and the seeds will germinate. Most people make pretty small seed bombs, so you can hit a lot of places. The ones I have for sale are pretty large, and have a variety of seeds in them, so you might want to use one per location. In mine I put:
Orange Cosmos
Black eyed susans
Tickseed Coreopsis
Shasta Daisy
Daisy Fleabane
This mix will provide beauty and food for birds, bees and butterflies. It has self seeding annuals and perennials. If you make your own, you can vary them to the location and what you have available. I think these would be a fun wedding favor as well. Just attach a little note with instructions, or perhaps a poem. :)

This year I'm going to take before and after pictures of a location I intend to seed. I'll post a follow up then!

The Guerilla Gardening Home Page