My Tulip Time

My driveway bunnies now have flowers all their own. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My driveway bunnies now have flowers all their own. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My Tulip Time

When I first started planting tulips several decades ago, I had the worst luck. If it wasn’t some hungry little mouse eating the bulbs, a family relative going through a vegan stage picking and frying them. Yes, tulips are edible although I can’t remember them to describe the taste.

When I moved to the house on my one acre Missouri limestone hill, I swore off tulips, opting to plant daffodils and related natives for spring color.

Last fall, however, my gardening buddy gifted me with a huge box of discounted bulbs including tulips. It was such a lovely, exciting gift that I got to planting them. Also helped that the first hard frost was in the forecast for about a week later.

Winter has been colder than usual but it’s still a bit of a gamble how many bulbs will make it without becoming food for mice and squirrels.

This spring, in addition to the regular spring colors of pink Eastern Redbuds, vanilla white Dogwoods, blue Grape Hyacinths and flowering vinca, I now have a lovely pop of red, yellow and purple color courtesy of these gift tulip bulbs.

Would you like to see them?

This is the flower bed across the driveway from my concrete bunnies. I see this flower bed as I walk up the driveway to my garbage can and down the road to my mail box.

A sprinkling of tulips greet me at the top of the driveway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A sprinkling of tulips greet me at the top of the driveway. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As I return from my mailbox, I detour to a path that takes me to one of my memorial seating areas.

This one is for my Uncle Tony, who lived in Louisiana. The little pop of red tulips brightens up this corner while other summer-blooming plants get their start.

A group of tulips in my Uncle Tony’s memorial bench area. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A group of tulips in my Uncle Tony’s memorial bench area. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Another way to approach my house is through this series of round concrete steps leading to, and from, the front door.

Sometimes I walk down the road and return to my garden through these steps so I lined them with a little pop of tulips as well. Frankly I don’t have large swaths of available soil to plant so I sneak tulip bundles in where I can and still protect them.

Tulips welcome visitors walking down my front door path. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tulips welcome visitors walking down my front door path. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Rainy days mean time spent in reading nooks through my house so I added a little plop of tulips where I could enjoy them from a window seat. This view out one of my windows made me think I really should add one of my Pink Tullp Quilts on my bed, then I thought no, I have enough tulips around me as it is.

A few tulips brighten up the southern flower beds. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A few tulips brighten up the southern flower beds. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

This little clay pidgeon has been with me for more than 20 years so I gave her a little embellishment by planting orange tulips around the path that leads to her sitting spot.

My clay pidgeon gets company with orange tulips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My clay pidgeon gets company with orange tulips. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Back to the other side of the garden, where I am walking back to the house from Uncle Tony’s memorial bench.

The path leads by my driveway retaining wall, which now has little bouquets of blooming tulips. You can see staining from how the water perculates through the wall, giving it a nice aged look.

This will be the third year for the retaining wall plantings and I am looking forward to seeing how it grows.

Small bunches of tulips brighten up my retaining wall gardens. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Small bunches of tulips brighten up my retaining wall gardens. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

As I walk down the path to the back of my house, I added another small bundle of tulips at the bottom. Once they stop blooming, other plants will take over and hopefully give them some cover so they will return next year.

A few tulips welcome you to this garden path. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A few tulips welcome you to this garden path. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Thanks to my gardening friend Tom for this lovely gift of spring color, I hope it’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Charlotte

Lovely Wild Violets

Recently-transplanted Missouri wild violets next to last year’s cousins. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Recently-transplanted Missouri wild violets next to last year’s cousins. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Lovely Wild Violets

If there is one native Missouri flower that represents spring to me, it’s wild violets, viola sororia or “sister,” because it looks so much like other violets.

I remember “discovering” these native flowers many decades ago in a field behind where I was living. It was in a neighborhood without street lights so it was easy to sit outside and gaze at stars at night, then walk through the field and try to find flowers.

These Missouri natives are called “common violets.” Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

These Missouri natives are called “common violets.” Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins

Common violets can vary in color from a dark, almost navy color to the light lavender here, which reminds me of the lavender applique cat in our Pastel ABCs baby quilt, which I am currently working on as a custom gift.

There are other Missouri native violets living in my garden. Some have moved in on their own, others have been invited in, such as these white violets with purple accents.

These violets look like they can use a drink of water, don’t they? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These violets look like they can use a drink of water, don’t they? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I also have yellow violets in one spot - don’t ask, I don’t remember where so I need to wait for them to bloom - and all white violets, which I planted at the entrance to my house so I can enjoy them every day.

The white violets tend to bloom later than the common violets. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The white violets tend to bloom later than the common violets. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These wild violets are not only pretty March-June but the flowers are edible and high in Vitamin C. Since I don’t use toxic chemicals in my garden, I can pick a handful of flowers and add to a salad. Not only is the color pretty but I am adding vitamin C and a little tartness to my meal.

I confess, I also love the look of them on my plate.

Wild violets from non-chemical treated spot in my garden, ready for lunch. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Wild violets from non-chemical treated spot in my garden, ready for lunch. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

These are also welcome resting spots for bees and other pollinators, and their heart-shaped leaves add a nice contrast to other garden greenery. I tuck these in at the front of flower beds wherever I can. don’t know why some people find these plants to be unwelcome, we have to rethink our standard of beauty being a sterile green carpet. These are the plants we should welcome into our gardens!

Charlotte





Tomato Starts

One of my tomato starts in their own pot near my kitchen. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of my tomato starts in their own pot near my kitchen. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tomato Starts

It’s about time to start planting seeds indoors for outside growing after the danger of frost. Where I live, that is usually Mother’s Day, around May 10. But before you start, check your potted plants for any volunteers that have hitchhiked in that soil. If you replanted in previously-used soil or had plants sitting close together, you may already have plant starts growing.

Although I love having fresh, homegrown tomatoes, I don’t grow tomatoes from seed. They tend to take matters into their own seeds and sprout all by themselves and, this year ,they are right on schedule.

Over the years, I grow tomatoes in pots on my deck. The seeds end up in neighboring pots and tend to start growing on their own late winter. This year, I found the tomato starts in a potted banana tree.

Tomato starts popping up all by themselves in a banana plant. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tomato starts popping up all by themselves in a banana plant. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The tomato seedlings don’t show up all at once. The first one is now sitting in its own pot, crushed eggshells in the bottom and coffee grounds mixed up in the plain potting soil, no added fertilizer. This way I can control how much fertilizer is going into the soil.

After noting the first tomato plant, I started to check the soil for any other arrivals. Sure enough, more tomato plants are showing up so I will be potting those as well.

See the little seed on the tomato start bottom left? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

See the little seed on the tomato start bottom left? (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I let the little seedling get established before I move it and I take a whole glob of soil around the roots so that it has the least amount of trauma making the move.

When I see these seedlings, I can’t help but think of my Vegetables Baby Quilt with talking tomatoes.

This is gardening at it’s easiest. How many of us overlook those seedlings by pulling them out or piling rocks on top of them?

Charlotte

Finding First Strawberries

Can you see the first strawberries? I have strawberry plants as border plants at Bluebird Gardens.

Can you see the first strawberries? I have strawberry plants as border plants at Bluebird Gardens.

Finding First Strawberries

For many years I have used strawberry plants as border plants.

It started when I found a patch of wild strawberries and didn't want to mow them over. Once transplanted into my garden, I kept them as border plants so I could easily find them.

When my brother sent me strawberry plants for a birthday, I also planted those as border plants. There is something enticing about planting something edible along flower bed borders, the anticipation of finding something delicious along my garden walks still thrills me every time I think about the possibilities.

As strawberry season approaches, I start looking through my flower borders for the first strawberries of the season. Easier said than done because my resident turtle population also has their eyes on those berries. One day they are there, the next completely gone so I try not to get my hopes up about finding a delicious treat.

For several years, I even had strawberries planted in a raised bed thinking that would discourage slow-moving visitors. Instead, I found a turtle pulling itself up over the raised bed border to get to the ripening strawberries!

These strawberry plants are day neutral so they should fruit several times this year.

Not sure the front strawberries will make it but that one in the back...

Not sure the front strawberries will make it but that one in the back...

Strawberries require rich soil so I add compost every fall around the plants so they have enough time to absorb the nutrients before fruiting. I'm sure the turtles appreciate the extra effort!

Charlotte

First Lettuce

There are a number of ways people mark the arrival of spring. Purple crocus; yellow daffodils in bloom; maybe a favorite tree blooming. In my world, it's lettuce.

In addition to a dedicated vegetable garden spot, I keep a series of pots on my back deck where I can easily access herbs and greens. Sometimes the potted garden grows faster. It's on the equivalent of a second deck surrounded on three sides by glass. It also faces west so the soil warms up faster than the vegetable garden.

To get an early start on vegetables and herbs, I usually have a pot share lettuce seeds on one side and an herb on the other. I use shards from broken pots to set up growing guides. This year, lettuce is sharing space with sweet basil.

When I harvest my first greens for a salad marks the official beginning of spring for me.

It's a healthy, delicious and easy way to start!

Charlotte

How to Start Nasturtiums

One of my favorite summer flowers, nasturtiums, can be hard to get started. The round seeds have a hard cover, making germination difficult. One year out of a packet of 25 nasturtium seeds, only three sprouted.

To more easily get nasturtiums germinating, soak seeds in water for 1-2 days. Seed coverings will soften so that seedlings can more easily pop through. Once I started soaking seeds, I had 100% germination.

Why nasturtiums?

Besides being bright and pretty, nasturtiums are wonderfully edible, adding a spicy flavor to salads and desserts.

Pretty and practical?

Now that's my kind of combination!

Charlotte