Return to the Garden

Spring was challenging this year. It was colder and wetter than usual, with lots of windy, stormy days. I wasn’t able to get out to work with the roses as I usually did in past years, but I did manage to pull up the worst of the weeds and dumped some Miracle Gro on the front flowers one day. Really, there was some rose neglect going on, for sure.

I guess the Miracle Go, cool days, and all that moisture was what the front flower bed needed. The miniature snapdragons came back from last year and I’m pretty sure that there are more plants than I put into the ground, so some are seedlings. The roses look better than I’ve ever seen before!
Hot Cocoa roses.

When I went shopping for the front roses I looked to see what was available and then checked the list of recommended roses for Colorado published by Colorado State University on  the nice little pdf in the above link that gave hints for successful planting.  These roses, picked to go with my house, are called Hot Cocoa. They are floribundas,  so there should be more blooms following these beauties.

The roses in the back garden were finally rescued from the overgrowth of weeds one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, and look what emerged!

The Princess Alexandra of Kent rose is producing the largest blooms that I’ve ever seen on this plant!

This rose bush, Princess Alexandra of Kent, has never looked this good before. The blooms are so big the plant is having trouble supporting them, and this rose bush never got fertilizer. It has to be the cool, wet spring.

MacKenzie and I have been working diligently in 30 minute increments to get weeds out of gardens, and the most astounding discovery has been what happened to a virtually unloved rose along the back fence. Seriously, this is a rose that “went wild” when the original grafted rose died and the roots took over. I kept cutting back the runners, pulling it out of the ground, whacking it back into a reasonable rose size, and basically losing the battle with this rose that is determined to live.

Please allow me to present the “One Rose to Rule Them All” that has taken over the back garden.

That is all one rose plant that has grown immensely in the prime rose growth conditions of the last couple of months. I have now surrendered to fate, pulled the rose all back and attached the canes to two trellises and the top of my garden swing. Clearly, this rose will be growing down the fence in the years to come.

Did you notice the rotting seat to the swinging garden chair? Ugh. It is all nasty and sagging these days and clearly needed to be replaced. This week I cut the seat off and went to work to replace it with something that will allow me to return to my garden where I can read and knit in the presence of the One Rose to Rule Them All and the other flowers that are flourishing this year.

I warped up the seat of the chair with 20 lb clothesline that was advertised as “sag-resistant” and “easy to knot” after detaching the frame of the seat from the swing.
I cut lengths of line to do the weaving and knotted each line to the frame after weaving it through the weft.

I made sure that the seat was really taut so that it wouldn’t sag when I sat in the swinging chair. I reattached the seat to the frame and then lashed on another clothesline as “warp” across the seat back and then called it quits. If I need to weave in more pieces of line I can do it later, but I’m thinking that just the warp across the back will be enough to make the swinging chair function the way I want it to.

Ta-daa! It is done, the seat is absolutely perfect (not even a little sag!), and I am back into my garden.

Did you notice the weeds? Sigh. It is endless, truly it is. I’m resolved to not overdo things and will continue to work my way through the gardens, little by little, 30 minutes at a time, and day by day my yard and the gardens are looking better.

Between weeding sessions I will be hanging out in my garden swing, knitting away, with my beautiful roses. My cat MacKenzie will be sleeping in his garden, and hopefully the dog next door will be behaving herself.

This week the heat finally arrived and we hit the 90’s. My scleroderma joints are happy with the warmer weather, I continue to flourish with the new drug changes, and I can finally knit outside again. Yippee! The lavender plants and yarrow are covered with buds, and I have lots of perennials that need to be freed from the weeds.

I am back in my garden people! Life is good.

Biology Brain

When I taught high school biology I had a sign over the door of my classroom that said “Biology is Life”. (I also had a poster with a picture of Charles Darwin and a caption that said “AP Biology: Adapt, Migrate or Die”, but that is another story…) Anyway, I thought my sign over the door was cute. And true.

This week I finally took on the task of weeding out my flower beds and getting them ready for the new year. Really, a simple and somewhat rewarding task, but for me an afternoon of rich classroom memories and an endless rush of biological trivia. It was so much fun, in fact, I thought I’d take all of you on a short trip through my garden. Ready? Here we go!

Unweeded Garden
What a disaster! This garden has several little tea roses, a beautiful English rose, and some nice perennials. Ugh. Mostly I see dandelions
Flower and Bee
Clever camera: it focused on the grass instead of the flower. (and my biology brain reminds me that the grass is a monocot and the dandelion is a dicot. Thanks bio buddy…) Oh, well. You can still make out the bee in the flower, can’t you? We think of dandelions as pests in our gardens (well, I do!), but they are actually early blooming plants and an important source of food for bees and 
Ladybug
my personal favorite (after bumblebees) the ladybug. Later on the youngsters from this beetle will help keep my aphid population on the roses under control, so that makes dandelions a good thing,
Dandelion Puff
I know that they are good for the wildlife, but I still have to get rid of these darn plants so my roses can shine. Look at this puffball of seeds (dandelions use wind as a dispersal strategy chants my brain… The seeds can survive up to 5 years and help the plant population survive fires…)
Dandelion root
and the root! I’ve been told that the root as also an adaptation to help the plant survive prairie fires. Don’t know about that one, but we all know we need to get the root out or the plant will come back. (That root is a tap root . Thanks biology brain…)
Pill Bug
Oh, wow. A pill bug! I love these guys. I would teach my AP Biology class how to make potato traps and assigned them the homework of catching 10 bugs over a weekend so they could design experiments using them in little choice chambers. The students learned how to design controlled experiments, drew conclusions about animal behavior, and the bugs had a fun outing and all the potato they could eat. It was fun, really. (Arthropods, crustaceans really, says the ever intrusive biology brain.) Over the years so many bugs were released in the flower beds at the front of the high school a robust population could be counted on to bail out any student team that forgot to do their homework.
Earthworms
Exactly the same type of thing happened at my house where yearly infusions of classroom earthworms established many happy garden occupants. (Annelids, says the brain. If you accidentally cut them with the shovel they will probably make it, but not as two new worms. ) My students loved to name and race their worms. If you put them in your hand you can feel the little bristles on their tummies (Setae! Thanks, brain.) The bristles anchor the worm as it pushes forward in the soil. Kind of like wax on cross country skies…
Rose Seeds
The English rose has a mature rose-hip with seeds in it. Look at these guys. I wonder if I can get them to sprout and grow. (…the seed is really a baby plant and the food it needs to grow. The food part of the seed is double fertilized so it has more copies of the roses’s chromosomes than the rose plant does. Roses, unlike humans, can have different chromosome numbers… shut up biology brain. Enough!!)
Finished Rose Garden
The weeding is done. You can actually see the rose plants OK now. They all came through the winter in good shape and are putting out new growth.  The largest rose is my Princess Alexandra of Kent rose, and it has started growing the first buds. All is looking good. Time to mulch, feed (plants need the elements in fertilizer to make more proteins and to copy the DNA in their cells so they can divide… yep, the brain is still going…) and get to work on the other jungles gardens.

Rich with life, details and memories, my gardens are once again growing.

Biology is life!!

FO Friday: June Socks, Joker Shawl and Roses!

I’ve been working out in the garden all week except for when the afternoon thunderstorms roll in. Then it is knitting time! I worked on the June 2015 socks all week and got them done yesterday with a few days to spare.

Socks
Ta-daa!!. These are the Petal Socks by Rachel Coopey. Here are the project notes on Ravelry. 
Sock Feet
The colorway of this yarn is called “Thunder”. That turned out to be really appropriate as I knitted the socks to the sounds of thunder, rain, and even the tornado sirens one afternoon. 

I am really happy with these socks. The pattern come with complete charts for three different sizes. I made the medium size (66 stitches on size 1.5 needles) and they fit really well (which is something that I always worry a little about in a lace sock). I used double pointed needles in the leg portion of the sock, but switched to two 16″ cable needles as soon as the sock divided to make the heel and that made the lace panel on the top of the foot much easier to manage. The yarn (Becoming Art Cielo) was kind of elastic which I think helped.

I’ve also been making some progress on my second Joker and the Thief shawl. I was not happy with the colors at one point, but I am liking it a little more now that the color pattern is easier to see.

Shawl
It is about at the halfway point now. That bright blue doesn’t stand out that much in the actual shawl. 🙂

Look what happened in the garden with all of the rain this week!  My Princess Alexandra of Kent rose is blooming! I just love this one.

Rose
This rose sometimes struggles in the dry air of Colorado, but not this year!

That it for the week. The clouds are really rolling in again for our afternoon soaking, so I think it’s time for me to fire up the knitting needles for the afternoon. Orange is the New Black, here I come!

UFO Rescue: Week 2

For the second week of rescue knitting I picked up a shawl that I had started last fall. It fell to the wayside when the weather got colder and I started working on Christmas presents and socks for the winter. Ignored and forgotten (and wearing some of my favorite stitch markers!) it  ended up getting stuffed into the back of the yarn stash closet.

Princess Shawl
UFO shawl and pattern the day I pulled it back out of the bag.

Poor thing! Hard to remember why it was abandoned in the first place.  It’s kind of a cool pattern, the lace was pretty easy to learn once I was past the edging, and I like that hand-painted pink yarn (Malabrigo Arroyo).  I only had about a foot of the shawl knitted, so this was a little bigger project than the ones I did last week, but still not too bad. I thought I should be able to make a lot of progress on it in a week.

English Rose
Princess Alexandra of Kent rose in my garden.

I took the shawl out to work on in the garden, and there it was. One of my new roses was blooming, and the color was close to that of the shawl.  The name of the rose is  “Princess Alexandra of Kent”, and the colorway of the shawl yarn is  “English rose”. Wow! Synchronicity! Obviously this UFO was meant to be rescued at exactly this moment.

Knitted Shawl
The finished shawl in my garden. I just love how international it is. The pattern is Norwegian, the yarn is  from Uruguay, the yarn colorway is “English rose”, and I’ll be wearing it here in Colorado.

I named the shawl project “Princess Alexandra of Kent Shawl” on Ravelry and got to work. I knit like crazy all week, and the shawl was finished today. Time to prune the rose and to dive back into the UFO pile to find a project for the rest of the week. I think that I’ll do a sock next…