Monday, August 21, 2017

In Search of the Elusive Perfect Zinnia



While traveling this week, Bill and I decided on impulse to turn and go another way to see where the road would lead us.  We were ready for a new adventure.  We passed a sign which pointed to "Mount Pleasant, Tennessee" and together decided we needed some pleasantries, so we followed the sign.  As we toured the small town of Mount Pleasant, I suddenly saw IT!  BEAUTIFUL PERFECT ZINNIAS!  They were nothing like the spindly ones in the shady area of my garden, but were bright, bold, big healthy flowers.  I gasped, which caused Bill to slam on the brakes (my intention) and I began to ogle and drool.  In my last post Today's Blooms, I was bemoaning the fact that some of my zinnias were diseased and covered with leaf spot.  The zinnias in front of my eyes, were nothing like those I was growing back home.


As he circled the block for the third time, Bill suggested, "It's a business and they are open, why don't you go inside?"

Why hadn't I thought of that?

Breckenridge House was built in 1815.  It served as the home and business of David Breckenridge, a hatter, who made military and dress hats.  It now stands as a museum and antique shop.
As I slowly strolled through the sunny, front flower beds, I was amazed by the stunning, healthy flowers.






Inside I was welcomed by a friendly saleswoman and so I asked, "The zinnias in your front flower beds are huge. What variety are they and how do you keep them disease free?"

She shook her head and replied, "I am sorry, I don't know.  We have a gardener and he is responsible for the landscaping."

I must have appeared disappointed and broken-hearted so she quickly replied, "You are welcome to tour the back garden, take all the pictures you want."

To my surprise, she performed the most hospitable act ever, she offered me a plastic bag so I could collect seeds from any flowers I liked!


You know what I did...of course I toured the gardens, it would be rude not to since she offered.  Plus, I was in search of the reason why my zinnias are struggling and theirs were so magnificent. Besides this was a perfect opportunity that had fallen into my lap to look at more flowers, so, why not? Any flower I see is a flower to enjoy.






The back garden was just as perfect as the front garden.  Slowly, as I contemplated my problem, the answer began to become clear why my zinnias are not as lush.  I know what I am doing wrong.  I DON'T HAVE A GARDENER!  I NEED TO HIRE SOMEONE TO WAIT ON ME HAND AND FOOT!  Yep, I need a gardener, a full-time landscaper since we also have a vegetable garden.  Oh, and maybe on rainy days when he could not work outside, he could be my chauffeur, or maybe a butler doubling as a maid and clean the house, do laundry, wash dishes, and what about washing windows...???  This idea was getting better and better.  I suddenly realized I needed help, every kind of help possible...wait, is there nothing in my life under control???  Probably not.  

This required a few days of deep thought and then it hit me, it would be simpler, wiser and cheaper to plant my zinnias in full sun next year and avoid all the problems.  A gardener would be easier, but when have I ever done what is easiest?

Lastly, to keep peace in the family since my blog is dedicated to my Mom (Hi Mom!), I must include a picture of Scooter or she will complain.  So for you Mom, here is Scooter. 

Scooter hiding behind a chair when someone knocked on the door.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Today's Blooms, August 15, 2017

Morning Glory at sunrise
Today I am linking up with Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day to celebrate with gardeners around the world and will share the blooms in my zone 6b/7a southern middle Tennessee, USA, garden.



Intense Purple Amaranth

Thank you Reese for giving me this dahlia.
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia

A daylily rebloomed!!!
Mexican Sunflower
An unknown volunteer I must research.
A sunflower planted by a bird.


 Each year I grow zinnias and when the hot, sultry miserable dog days of summer arrive, some will be covered with powdery mildew and leaf spot, others will be fine.   I find this a mystery.

I would like to give a better understanding of this situation.  Below is the path from the driveway to my flower garden.  When we bought this house years ago, I started planting in the far back corner by the field fence and began moving forward.  Every year I dig up a little bit more.  The area to the right did not get planted this Spring so I decided to save it and use it as my Winter vegetable garden.  I will start planting it this week if the weather allows.

Last year I scattered a few zinnias around to add color between the perennials and this year volunteers appeared all over the area; I let them grow.  The few volunteers on the right side of the path are doing great; however, the ones on the left side are having problems.  I am showing the path to make it clear how close the beds are from each other.


These are the zinnias on the right side of the path where everything is doing fine.



This is the area on the left side of the path where most of the plants are covered in leaf spots and powdery mildew. 



Leaf spot and powdery mildew are both caused by warm, humid weather, overhead watering, shade and crowding.   I have found spraying a mixture of 32 oz water, 1 teaspoon Joy dishwashing liquid and 1 teaspoon of baking soda will slow the diseases. It won't cure them, but will slow them down.


I have gone crazy trying to understand why some plants are fine and why others only a few feet away are suffering.  It is the same soil, weather, seeds and location.



















This week I finally realized the difference. I arose at sunrise to work in the garden (it is too hot to work later in the day) and realized as the sun rises, it hits the healthy plants about two hours earlier. Due to the tree line to the east of the flower bed, the healthy plants on the right side of the path dry earlier whilst the others remain covered in dew longer.  To me it was amazing that only two hours of sunlight could make such a difference. Mystery solved; however, I am still seeking answers to cure these diseases and would love advice. 


Now is the time of year we call the dog days of summer, between July and the middle of September when the oppressive hot, sultry weather (Northern Hemisphere, southern middle Tennessee, USA, zone 6b/7a) causes a feeling of laziness.  So to celebrate this miserable time of the year, I asked Scooter, our local canine celebrity to pose for a picture in front of my one and only zinnia plant in the vegetable garden.

Scooter said, "This is an ugly plant.  Why do you want me to pose with it?" 

"It is not ugly but perfect because it is in full sun all day long (no diseases) and I want to show it off.  Also, you are the honorable, chosen poster child representing the dog days of summer."  I cajoled. 


"But Mom, it is too hot and oppressive out here in this bright sunlight.  I can't keep my eyes open...so sleepy...must lay down...."


"Scooter, SCOOTER! I will give you a  hot dog if you can stay awake for one second." I bribed.

"Deal." said Scooter.



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Why is Bucky in My Flowers?

"BUCKY! BUCKY!" I yelled as loud as I could.  "I see you eating my flowers!"

"Huh?" Mumbled a startled Bucky.  "Did someone call my name?"


"Oh, it's you, the lady from the house." Bucky replied.


"Does your Mom know you have sneaked over the fence and are eating my flowers?  She is busy with your newborn little sister and has not been able to keep an eye on you or your twin brother.  I realize you have grown a wonderful new 7 point rack since I caught you in my vegetable garden back in June and you want to show it off, but you should obey your Mom.  Do I need to call her and tell her how you been acting?" I threatened. 

"Uh, oh."  He paused and thought for a moment then said, "If you don't say anything, I promise to behave." 

I nodded and watched as he effortlessly leapt over my fence.


"Shhhh." Whispered Bucky to his brother.  "The lady from the house is looking at us.  Don't tell Mom what I said."  

"Don't tell me what?" Asked Mama Doe

"Oh, nothing."  Said Bucky.  "Nothing at all."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Birth Announcement

A few weeks ago I shared about the irritating expectant mother who has caused so many problems.  Early one morning this past week I peeped into the nest which she had inconsiderately built in my garden shed, and noticed a bleary eye surrounded by fuzzy down looking back at me.  No one moved and I quietly slipped away.

A few days later I checked again, this time two angry beady eyes glared back at me.  He/She did not like me or the camera and slid down deeper into the nest.  He would not come out to pose for my photo-op and avoided me every time I returned.  He is going to be irritating just like his mother.

As I continued to try to get pictures, they would quickly disappear into the nest.  I knew it was just a matter of time before the home would be outgrown because Mom was feeding them every worm she could find.

Tonight it happened, I caught all four of them getting some fresh air before the sun went down.  The one second from the left who is glaring at the camera and is spread out taking up most of the room, he is going to be a problem.

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