A Little of This and That

Guess what?

I was out on the deck taking pictures when a bright yellow flower caught me eye. There aren’t any yellow flowers growing this time of year, so it really took me by surprise.  Then I realized little visitors stopped by the fairy garden.  What a nice surprise.

If you are reading this post and you know who the fairies are, please be sure to extend my thanks.  It was such a treat to find those flowers.  I spotted a tiny mum tucked in as well and a few greens.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!!!

Flower Surprise

Flower Surprise

Pumpkin Countdown

Last summer we grew several pumpkins.  Four of them were over 40 pounds.  My husband carved one, but they were really thick and not well-suited for ‘Jacks.  We lined the wall of our garden pathway with the remaining pumpkins, and they’ve weathered the months beautifully.  Twice in recent weeks, someone came to the door and asked if they could take one for cooking.  We happily obliged, with a warning to please lift carefully.  We now have one large pumpkin sitting on the wall, with a smaller, autographed one nearby.  That one is just now starting to soften and will probably be headed to the compost bin in another week.  We’ll be down to one ‘little’ pumpkin, sitting on a wall.  🙂

two little pumpkins

Two ‘little’ pumpkins, sitting on a wall

Avoiding the Scale

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s January and I can’t hide from the scale forever.  Time to put away the treats and face the music.  All true.

I’m avoiding the scale that remains on the now-dormant Magnolia.  Honestly, it creeps me out.  We had quite the infestation last summer.  We did a bit of research and got down to business. I ordered beneficial insect larvae. While waiting for them to arrive, I heavily pruned the tree. The inner crown was far worse, so I removed as many of those branches as I could. Left unchecked, scale can kill a tree.


Magnolia infested with scale

Now that the Magnolia is dormant, it’s easy to see what remains. I need to scrape the scale into a bucket, before it takes hold again.

To think I thought putting away the chocolate was hard.

Pumpkin Postmortem

Though it was fun to grow over-sized pumpkins this year, they proved to be a challenge. Once they were in the house, they were far too heavy to move around. I had one on a table for a few weeks, before discovering moisture trapped below. Imagine my (unpleasant) surprise when the moisture created a breeding ground for mold on my bamboo table runner?  Mike helped me move the behemoth  to the hard floor where I kept my eye on it thereafter.

Carving super-sized pumpkins proved equally challenging. Only one of the four made it into a Jack-o-lantern. The walls were super thick, making fine work a challenge. Mike persevered and carved a lovely Cinderella carriage.  With that, he hung up his carving tools for the season.

pumpkin stems

Comparative thickness of pumpkin rinds

carved cinderella pumpkin

Cinderella would be proud

pumpkin post mortem collage

Grow, harvest, carve and display

Today we filled the wheelbarrow with rotted pumpkins, and then dumped them in to the growing yard-waste pile. The City of San Jose has a wonderful composting program.  They scoop up yard waste with a “lobster” claw and drop it into a special truck on trash day.  They sell the compost to city dwellers the following year. It made me smile seeing a pile of discarded Jacks at the curb.

discarded pumpkins

Jacks in a Heap

After that unceremonious farewell, we carted the remaining giants to the garden wall. They look lovely in the setting sun. Unless we have a substantial earthquake, I don’t anticipate moving them again!

Saving Seeds

This is the first year I’ve collected seeds (other than pumpkins) from my garden. In the past I purchased seed packets at local garden centers or online without giving it much thought. Since writing about my garden every day, I have a heightened awareness that plants and flowers are more than just a sum of their parts. Hanging out in the garden with a camera in tow, helps me notice the minutiae. It’s been fun!

4 O'clock seeds

4 O’clock Seeds and Glassine Envelope

I love the way the hard, dark seeds of the 4 O’clock flower appear at the tip of the spent bloom.  They’re ready to tumble into the soil below to ensure their survival. They provide easy access for the birds as well, who can grab a seed on a fly by.  Cosmo seeds are moon-shaped and brittle, sticking out like stars at the end of the cycle. With pumpkins, of course, the seeds hide within.  If we didn’t carve them, they would eventually rot in the soil, self-seeding for the following year.

pumpkin seeds

Assorted Pumpkin Seeds

Cosmo Seeds

Cosmo Seeds

I’ve allowed plants and flowers to go to seed longer than in the past, subverting my natural urge to tidy things up.  Gardens are a messy business. I’m getting better at going with the flow.

Taking a few seeds and leaving the rest for the birds feels like the right thing to do.  When the cycle is truly complete, I can compost the remains.

Indexing Seeds

Indexing Seeds

Earlier this year I bought a system for storing seeds from The SeedKeeper.  It’s a shoebox-sized bin with alphabetical dividers and other goodies, including glassine envelopes for labeling and storing your own seeds.  It’s such a simple thing, but somehow having it at the ready in my bottom kitchen drawer, makes it easy to store and retrieve seeds. I pulled it out today and started storing and labeling the remaining pumpkin seeds.  Since I’m letting go of the seed organization on the plant, I can indulge my organizational side once I bring them indoors.

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Are you a seed saver?  Do you trade with fellow gardeners in your community?

The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. -Gertrude Jekyll

Snail Hotel: Hole in One

snail eating pumpkin

Belly up to the bar

A clever and voracious garden snail found a soft spot in one of our pumpkins.  He/she went on a pumpkin bender a few nights ago, slurping an impressive, though disappointing hole in one…pumpkin that is.

Now that they’ve breached the shell , decay will quickly set in. Add to that our spiking temperatures (yet again in the eighties!) and we’ll have a sloppy, slushy, pumpkin mess before week’s end. Taking inspiration from my friend Sheila, I converted the lost pumpkin into a snail hotel. I love my Sharpie’s! I love my pumpkins too, but the damage is done. In addition to counting down to Halloween, I’ll now be counting the days till the Snail Hotel is officially condemned.

pumpkin snail hotel

You can check in any time you like…

snail hotel closeup

Snail Hotel: Mollusks Welcome

Stay tuned!

Halloween Countdown

pirate pumpkin

Pirate Pumpkin
Shiver me Pumpkin Ribs

Pumpkin Mishaps, Emotional Gardening

A watched pot never boils.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

A watched pumpkin slowly produces fruit, but while your busy hatching plans for Jack o’ lanterns, nature intervenes.

Split pumpkin

What started as a scar is now a split in the side of this pumpkin. Oh well.

Clichés and tortured prose aside, when things go wrong my disappointment is palpable.  Pumpkin vines grow from seed to fruit in just 90 days.  If I could cast the seeds over my shoulder and forget about them till harvest, would it temper my sense of loss when things don’t work out?  Perhaps.

I’m not that kind of gardener.

When I lay seeds on the warm earth, I tuck them in with soil and hope. Emerging seedlings make my heart pump a little faster. Flowers and fruit arrive on the scene and I can’t wait to drag family and friends into the garden to see the latest earthy surprise.

Talking about tomato yields with fellow bloggers gives me a wonderful sense of community. Glancing up from the kitchen sink to see a neighbor slow down to admire the sunflowers makes me smile.

Sharing my disappointments, however, makes me sad. I learn from my garden failures and continue to plant every year, but still it’s such a let down. If only I would take things a less personally.

Emotional gardener or gardening sap? I’ll leave that to my readers to decide.

Fallen Pumpkin

The weight of the pumpkin snapped the vine from the trellis and sent it tumbling to the ground. It’s such a beautiful shape, but since it broke away prematurely, it won’t develop a hard, protective shell.