OK, I could be quoted three months ago as saying, “I won’t do anything in the way of planting flowers this year, I will just wait and see what comes up…then NEXT year add plants”. Well, that thought  lasted about two minutes once I saw that there were only a few irises, hostas, and tulips coming up in my new yard. I don’t think my husband has a clue how much gardening can cost and I don’t want to be the one to break it to him so soon. But, oh well, here goes….my name is Jane and I am a gardenholic.

About this time in May when I lived in Michigan, I would eagerly await the local garden club plant sales around Memorial Day. It was a charitable donation to their club coffers, because these clubs maintain gardens in public parks and hospitals. I also thought it was a good way to add mature perennials to my own yard that worked well for our zone. So while pondering years past, I decided to do a little detective work and see if such events happen here in the Fox Cities. I began looking through the local newspaper and noticed that some rummage sales advertised perennials. AHA!  Many gardening aficionados annually divide up and remove plants from their flower beds for healthy growth. In doing so, they wisely can make some additional money to keep their green thumbs busy. I have never seen so many sales of this kind. One little old lady who had a trailer full of plants out in front of her house told me: “Buying plants in a greenhouse is so expensive! There are lots of young families moving into new homes who want to establish gardens; it is a way of spreading the  flower wealth around when I thin out my flower beds”.  So, two different weekends I hit a few of these sales and started my spending spree. Of course, my rational was: these plants were a third or half the price of perennials if I bought them in a greenhouse. Self talk is so helpful. I used the same talk on my husband, convincing him of my thrifty savings.

A couple of weeks ago both my husband and I had items on our personal agendas to do on the weekend. For me it was about plants, for him it was about fishing. So we first went to Appleton’s Gardens of the Fox Cities on the northeast side of Appleton. We both were quite impressed. We toured and thoroughly photographed their spring garden offerings. And surprise, surprise they just happened to be also hosting an heirloom plant sale. (Believe me, I knew this ahead of time, it was part of the reason for being there.) Heirloom plants are varieties of  old-time vegetables, flowers, and herbs that were favored years ago and have continued to have a loyal following. Heirlooms also fall into non-hybrid or non-genetically altered seed, I am not  a purist but just thought I would try them. We chose some tomatoes, a couple of  herbs, and some peas and beans for our garden. That same day, a local person I follow on Twitter posted that a friend of hers was having a plant sale in Neenah, and also had raspberries. Bingo! Raspberries were also on our list to add to the garden AND we happened to be heading to Lake Winnebago to practice casting with my new fishing pole, (but that is another blog) so we would check the plant sale out. This person had wonderful mature plants at a great price, so we took two big pots and later that day got them planted in our  backyard raised beds. My husband has gotten the gardening bug by purchasing two Topsy-Turvy planters: one for tomatoes and one for strawberries. Stay tuned for results. But so far they seem to be doing great.

 Topsy-Turvy Strawberry planter holds 15 plants

My quest for new information has  me following local gardeners on Twitter as I previously mentioned, many good tips have come from doing that.  I have found out that NE Wisconsin has a Green & Gold Hosta Society. http://www.americanhostasociety.org/PDF/green_and_gold_hs_2010.pdf That has proven to be resourceful. I love hostas, but love hydrangeas even more, I am waiting to find a Hydrangea Society, maybe I will have to start my own. One other tip new to me is all the rain barrel talk, rain barrel making, and tips for using rain barrels. At first I thought that was strange that they were so popular. But the thought had not occurred to me, that beyond the obvious green reason of conserving water, was that people use them so they don’t have to use chlorinated water on their gardens. Coming from a farm in the country, treated water was never an issue. So on my new “must have” list this year is a rain barrel.  I remember two years ago it was a  composting barrel (14 Cubic Foot Compact ComposTumbler Plastic Resin Compost Tumbler). My friend Jane of Michigan got us  involved in making one for her and for me. Boy that was a case of the blind leading the blind through that project!  I hope I don’t have to MAKE  a rain barrel. (http://takomagardener.typepad.com/tg/2008/01/rain-barrel-rou.html)

This past month I re-acclimated my many geraniums that I carried over the winter, in the basement, to being outside and split them back up into several planters with assorted petunias, marigolds, and vines. Some will go on the deck and some will go out front. Many annuals can’t survive being in a yard with a walnut tree, so my solution to this is use window boxes. I am lucky to have built in planters on our front steps and I  have had pansies and Johnny Jump-Ups in them since the beginning of April. One week they were covered with a pile of snow when we had a late spring storm.  Last weekend, before the big unseasonable hot spell, I got everything planted that I bought. Now I am sitting back in air conditioning and watching things grow.  I have a few small tasks left to do:   get my summer squash and zucchini seeds started in the raised beds and  separate and germinate the seeds from the  seed pods from some favorite pastel hollyhocks in my Michigan garden.

It’s fun to have people around you who are into the same hobbies. The young couple to our south, moved into their house last summer just before we moved into the neighborhood. They have the same enthusiasm for  gardening, so it has been fun watching what they are doing and having gardening chit chat. My neighbors to the north, Pete and Lois who are in their eighties, love gardening too. They  have had a modest vegetable garden in one section of their backyard every year. Over the years Pete has crafted many cute wooden garden decorations for Lois, and annually repaints them all. Eddy and I bop over to their garage each morning on our way out for our walk to see what  project he is working on.

As warm weather again returns to NE Wisconsin,  I find that  my love of gardening can continue in a new place and new house.  It provides a reason to be outside, it brings  joy to see things grow, and it is like seeing family again. Growing up on a farm, I saw that joy and enthusiasm my Dad had for his various varieties of fruit and the  love he had sharing his knowledge with people at our family farm market and the orchard u-pick.  So  you see, Jane’s Addiction is not just an alternative rock band from California, it is a favorite summer past time that is now being continued in NE Wisconsin.


About the author

I retired 9 years ago from teaching and then remarried. Of course that wasn't enough of a life change, so I moved to Wisconsin where my husband Jon resided. This blog reflects thoughts about my Wisconsin and Michigan, hobbies, and family history. As of 2016 we have returned to NW Lower Michigan near family and friends.

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