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Under My (Green) Thumb


Finally, FINALLY after many years months of winter (you know, every single winter, towards the end, I wonder what the hell we’re thinking living here. Winters are long and frigid, summers are sweltering and unbearable) we had our first nice weekend since the fall. It was funny, all of my neighbors trickled outside while I was out front with the kids, we all looked a bit doughy and larva-like, squinting in the sun, and we very nearly assembled a block party to celebrate the oncoming spring (FINALLY).

And I was able to realize a 2 year old dream: I was finally able to get down -n- durrty in the garden.

It’s shocking to most people that I know, and I imagine the Internet drawing in a collective breath when I inform you that I am an avid (but novice) gardener and that I don’t just pay someone else to do it for me (much, MUCH more my MO for stuff that involves work and stuff) AND that I don’t burst into flames when presented with direct sunlight.

Apparently, this love of gardening runs in my family. My grandfather had his own greenhouse, I spent most of my spring, summer and fall as a child at the local botanical gardens (Aptly called The Chicago Botanical Gardens), my mother has always tended and grown nice gardens, and there is very little that makes me feel more alive than walking into the warm, wet humidity of a greenhouse. If I could bottle that smell up and wear it (much to Dave’s dismay) I would do it in a second.

The past two years have not afforded me much gardening time, first I was hugely pregnant last spring THEN I gave birth to what my father calls “Devil Boy” who is not only an albino (not really) but was a complete dick head last summer so that I couldn’t get out and do my thang. Sure, some of my (pathetic) bulbs from the previous year did come up, but I spent almost no time weeding or playing them Brahms urging them to grow as I normally would.

Although I have a knack for it (and not a black thumb like The Daver), I am still puzzling certain things.

Mainly, do I buy bulbs in bulk (I’m planning a cala lilly/rose garden) from the hardware store OR do I shell out more cash and buy cala lilly bulbs from The Internet (which not only costs a bit more, but denies me the instant gratification of going and buying them right away)? Or is it just a scam for eager novices such as myself?

What do I need to know about standard roses? Partial sun? Fertilizer? I’m not planning to cross breed them or anything truly interesting (I need my own greenhouse before I can do this), I just want one to three rose bushes to intermix with the cala lilies (I’ve completely given up on the annual thing for anything but the many, many hanging baskets I will eventually have).

Any advice? I’ve tried to read up on it on my own, and have gotten absolutely nowhere. Apparently, the books and articles are written in a language I can’t possibly understand (maybe it’s ENGLISH).


(P.S. Ross, please put on a diaper)

28 Comments to

“Under My (Green) Thumb”

  1. On April 7th, 2008 at 9:30 am Kyddryn Says:

    I’m a fan of the “bulbs, vines, and trees” school of gardening – anything that doesn’t require me to go out in the Georgia Summer more than once or twice a month to give it a bit of water.

    I got my iris bulbs from the Internet, because the ones I wanted weren’t available locally. If you like the ones at the hardware store, I say go for instant gratification.

    As for roses…I know they like to have garlic planted at their feet, and that some of them are rather high maintenance, but aside from that…sorry. I’d call the local extension service or the Botanical Garden for advice on that one.

    If you were keen on cooking, I’d say plant some herbs – when the sun has been on the rosemary for a few hours, the front of my house smells lovely, and fresh herbs for cooking are brilliant. Sage has striking flowers, and creeping thyme goes nicely between pavers.

    Happy gardening, whatever you plant!

    Shade and Sweetwater,

  2. On April 7th, 2008 at 9:38 am Tony Says:

    If you find any good books or other such informational resources, send them my way. I *really have no clue*, but want to give it a try before I just give up and start paying someone else.

  3. On April 7th, 2008 at 9:43 am kbreints Says:

    Oh my god I am so excited to get outside this year! It is so hard to take little babies outside– so last year was shot, but this year– Sam LOVES the grass (opposite of Henry) So I am in the clear!!!

    I think that I am going to have a Salsa garden…. (in pots) haha – I hate to weed.

  4. On April 7th, 2008 at 10:48 am dolores schwartz Says:

    I wing it! HAHA – I do have a green thumb( VERY NOVICE) but, I cannot tell you what from what! For some reason’s my gardens always so spring up… And Flourish! SHRUGS… Maybe I am just weired!!

  5. On April 7th, 2008 at 10:03 am Joann Says:

    You are better off getting what is in your area. Also go to the garden center & ask. It worked for me when I decided to grow flowers that come back every year.
    Maybe if you have the space try some tomatoes even if you put them in cantainers. They taste GREAT & SWEET…
    GOOD LUCK Happy Gardening.
    PS I know I’m happy to get back out there in the SUN SHINE & do some gardening again this year..)

  6. On April 7th, 2008 at 11:08 am ames Says:

    I am going to start my first ever Garden this year, you must teach me oh Green Thumbed Garden Goddess…

    No really… if you get any good info send it my way too 🙂

  7. On April 7th, 2008 at 10:33 am kc Says:

    Go local. Not only will you be supporting local business, but the people should be able to give to some planting tips for the area.

    Besides, I bet Cash would love to poop in new plants sooner rather than later.

  8. On April 7th, 2008 at 10:58 am b Says:

    I love to work outside. I have no suggestions for your plans..BUT, check out my blog roll for The Lazy P. She’s a Master Gardener..and could give you the 411.

  9. On April 7th, 2008 at 12:31 pm magpie Says:

    I love getting dirty in the garden. I just wish I had more time.

    I’ve had luck with mail-order stuff, and also stuff bought at garden centers. The hardware store? Not so much. They’re better for nails than plants.

  10. On April 7th, 2008 at 11:36 am Kristine Says:

    We do a lot of looking around at what the neighbors have and seeing if we can find that.

    I’m super duper good at keeping weeds alive and healthy. Clint pretty much has to handle everything else.

  11. On April 7th, 2008 at 11:43 am Sarah Ross Says:

    Honestly, roses are one of the easier ones, and I like that mine bloom most of the summer. I somehow manage to usually keep them alive despite the fact that I have a terrible, horrible black thumb. But I do agree – going local is best. My aunt sent me a memorial rose for Isabel in the fall and it died over the winter. I had a total all-out bawling session on the front lawn when I realized that I couldn’t even keep the damn flower alive, let alone the baby. It was NOT good.
    If I had bought it locally I suspect I could have gotten a replacement.

    And I like the support I get from a local nursery, plus you’re not helping “the man” which is always my husband’s big beef. (I do secretly like “the man” and drink Starbucks when he’s not looking. But when he’s around, we support the local little guys.)

  12. On April 7th, 2008 at 11:47 am Don Mills Diva Says:

    I have no advice because I have a BLACK thumb…but I wish you lotsa fun gardening!

  13. On April 7th, 2008 at 11:59 am Kristen Says:

    I am so in awe of those who garden. I hate it. I love to go to the greenhouse and dream a little, but the rest of it can hang. I would love to hire someone to make it all pretty though and keep it that way.

  14. On April 7th, 2008 at 1:39 pm Judy C Says:

    Yesterday was gorgeous here too – and speaking of larva like doughy entities – all the larva in my neighborhood were on their motorcycles. Today the continuing warmth caused several middle ages divas to put on short shorts and sit on benches outside by Starbucks. Unfortunately I wasn’t wearing sungalsses and I was blinded by the searing reflection of light from snow white lardy thighs.

    Do do do plant herbs – there is nothing like having fresh parsley, basil and other stuff.

  15. On April 7th, 2008 at 2:40 pm Heather Says:

    I hate gardens. But now I’ve been lulled into wanting one thanks to you. I’m off tomorrow to check out the wares. I’m more into container gardening, though.

  16. On April 7th, 2008 at 2:41 pm Heather Says:

    I should say, I love gardens, but I hate them when I am responsible for them. How’s that?

  17. On April 7th, 2008 at 2:37 pm Juli Says:

    When you’re rose-shopping, (which you will of course do locally because it’s the right thing to do), look for roses that are grown on their own roots and not grafted.

    And look up Demeter perfumes on the Internet. There’s one called Dirt and another called Tomato Leaf, and if you wear them together you smell EXACTLY like a greenhouse. The Daver might like the Gin & Tonic fragrance on you better, though. And I’m pretty sure Ben and Alex would love you in Play-Doh or Crayon perfume.

  18. On April 7th, 2008 at 3:14 pm Cricket Says:

    Good for you gardening. I used to be avid in my old house, but sheesh that’s been 10 years.

    Buy quality anything. Generally the bulbs available for quicky retail are kinda trashy.

    Roses are very picky, need full sun or you’ll get the powdery mildew stuff. Use the powder anti-mildew concoction on them. Water early so the sun burns off the excess and plant them with plenty of room to breathe in between.

    I’m thinking about getting some violets, about as fancy as I get around here these days.

  19. On April 7th, 2008 at 4:47 pm baseballmom Says:

    I LOVE Callas, but they do spread, so keep that in mind. I really like the yellow ones too. Our roses are kinda sad, we got them from my late MIL’s house, and they’re the leggy, climbing kind. So much for my dreams of a fabulous rose garden. I’m planning to get some more, though–I love the orangey ones. I bet roses and callas together will be so pretty! We did something cool last year, we drilled a big (like 3″) hole in the bottom of a 5 gal. bucket, threaded a cherry tomato plant through the hole (upside down), put newspapers around it (flat, to hold it in–maybe 10 pages thick)and filled the rest up with dirt. We planted herbs in the top of the bucket, and hung it up (pretty high) to grow the tomatoes upside down. It worked SO WELL, and we got herbs to boot, plus it didn’t take up a bunch of room in the garden! It was cool, really, and sorry for the long-ass comment!

  20. On April 7th, 2008 at 6:26 pm Angela Says:

    I love LOVE gardening. Post pictures please!!!

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  22. On April 7th, 2008 at 8:47 pm Chris Says:

    I love gardens, I just don’t like tending them…It’s just too much work, just like having children. You have to constantly feed them, weed them, and cultivate them.
    My parents are avid gardeners and I like seeing their beautiful gardens. Post some pictures.

  23. On April 7th, 2008 at 8:55 pm LAS Says:

    This sounds fun! Sometimes I wish I had a yard etc. so I could garden. My mom always had beautiful flower gardens when I was growing up.

  24. On April 8th, 2008 at 5:30 am Jessica Says:

    There is a great variety of rose called “Knockout” Roses that come in a variety of bright shades but are a great bloomer and very easy to care for.

    The first year they are a little light in the blooms due to acclimation, but seriously they will bloom May to November, with LOTS of blooms per bush, and they require very little care. Great in Chicago.

  25. On April 8th, 2008 at 6:52 am RamblingAmy Says:

    Wishing you lots of luck on the gardening. I pretty much just try to keep alive what the previous owners planted. Considering it’s nothing but hostas and sedum, I’m doing a pretty good job.

    I’d have to concur with most commenters and urge you to go with the hardware store. Instant gratification is always your best bet.

  26. On April 8th, 2008 at 8:38 am Tracy Says:

    I love gardening, but consider myself a novice too. I have found the internet useful for getting the bulbs or plants that I couldn’t find easily at the local nursery, (which is a place I love to go so I can fondle everything). I wish I could tell you about roses, but I don’t know much about them.

  27. On April 8th, 2008 at 9:29 pm TheRamblingHousewife Says:

    No clue, girl!! Haven’t got that far . . .

    Still workin’ on the weeds here! 🙁

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