Meet-up of our local FB Garden Club

Yesterday, Barbara A. Dolan hosted a meet-up of our local FB Garden Club. I was only able to make it for the last hour (due to my daughter’s soccer game), but it was fun chatting with other gardeners, and I came away with some nice clippings (which will hopefully root, fingers crossed) and seeds. 

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Autumn Garden in Bloom

Blooming yesterday in the front garden — Kevin and I have both been sick, so the garden has been horribly neglected. It felt so good yesterday; we hired Neighbors United (“The Guys” is the new name for their landscaping service) to come out and do some mowing (our push mower wasn’t up to the task, given how long the grass had gotten), dig out some hackberry seedlings, pokeweed as tall as me, and even some burdock that had escaped my eagle eye of earlier in the summer (we hates it, my precious). They also cut away some very thorny dead rose branches. (Two guys, two hours of hard labor, $125).
And then I went around and started actually staking up some of the dahlias, moving some phlox around (I had them scattered, and I think they look better massed, so have rearranged for next year), pruning and deadheading and pulling a few of the smaller weeds. It’s looking much better now. 🙂
This is the first year I’ve really had a fall garden — I’d concentrated on spring first, then summer, so the established fall perennial garden is finally solidifying this year. The mums, sedums, and asters from last year have come back, and I’ve planted a few more to join them. Some of the dahlias made it back too, even though I planted them a bit early, and didn’t have time to do the pre-growing in pots that I did last year.
My moderately strict ‘cool tones’ of pink / white / purple / blue for the front yard gets relaxed in autumn, with more yellows and oranges creeping in. Happy with how it’s coming along.
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Afternoon in the garden, late summer.

I can’t remember if I planted this, or if it just showed upon its own, but it’s pretty splendid. Illinois native, early goldenrod.

Meadow rue (thalictrum rochebrunianum) — blooming a little late this year, but I’ll take it. Six weeks of blooms in shade make this plant a treasure; one of my woodland garden favorites.

Feeling grateful to the people who told me a begonia hanging basket could handle a fair bit of shade and a whole lot of neglect…

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Afternoon in the garden, late summer.

Dahlias are starting to really get going…

Annual salvia, “Wendy’s Wish.”

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There was a moment in grad school. Kevin and I had split up and I was desperately broken-hearted. I’d been getting up at 4 a.m. every morning to an alarm because it was the best time for me to concentrate, when the world was dark and still, writing by the light of a candle. I’d gotten about halfway through drafting Bodies in Motion at that point; I had been working so hard, for so long. I loved the book, but I was otherwise very tired and very sad. I cried all the time.

There came a day when I just couldn’t stare at the computer screen any longer. I found myself — and I honestly don’t even remember making the decision to go — at the art store, ringing up $200 of supplies (money I didn’t really have, but I just didn’t care). I came home and I made things — candles and collages mostly. They weren’t very good but I needed to do something that wasn’t just brain work, that didn’t require so much deliberate thought. I needed to use my hands. It helped. (My mother still has the candle I made her that year. She thinks it is too pretty to light it.)

• Welcome to Memoir
• Designing in Inkscape for Cricut
• Survival Cooking

I was talking to Jed a few nights ago, trying to explain why I haven’t been able to let go of the idea of the maker space, even though it takes lots of time that would perhaps be otherwise spent on writing (I am still writing, but inevitably slower than I would normally be).

• Fix Your Own Garbage Disposal!
• Checklist for a Renovation
• Visible (Beautiful) Mending

I did try to set the makerspace aside, over and over, for the last few years. I told myself, “This would be a nice retirement project, but first, write the damn novel.” Then I’d find myself scouting out spaces, or making workshop lists again, or thinking about whom I knew that had skills they could teach. (Lots of people, it turns out. Lots and lots.)

• Stop-Motion Animation with Legos
• Intro to Weaving on the Rigid Heddle Loom
• Botanical Soaps and Candles

Workshops I wanted to teach, workshops I wanted to take. And many of these don’t fit neatly into some conceptions of a ‘makerspace,’ but to me, these are all making. Making with hands and mind and generous creative hearts.

• Getting Started with Arduino Controllers
• Firespinning!
• Drawing Comics

A friend just offered to pass along some shoes for Kavi, and she didn’t want money for them. I am going to leave her some handmade soap and caramels and a book. Gift economy, and how much more satisfying that is.

• 3D Print a Custom Drop Spindle
• Planting a Wildlife-Friendly Garden
• Jewelry Making with Resin

I am not quite old enough to be focused on my legacy yet, but the thought does pop up now and again. I’ve done some good things in politics, and hope to do more. I’ve done some good things for science fiction and fantasy too, and ditto. But if I can leave behind a thriving Oak Park makerspace, one that might even (a girl can dream) spin-off into Austin and Berwyn locations too, encouraging collaboration, artistic expression, and entrepreneurship throughout our community, bridging silos and ending isolation — that would be a legacy to be really proud of.

• Worm Composting
• Knitting with LEDs
• 3D Printing for Cosplay

I can just see it, humming with life, in my mind. A makerspace, an artist shop, a free art supply exchange, cafe and lounge, co-working space, an artist residency program, low-income artist housing, and more. I hope we can make it happen.

• Stained Glass using the Copper Foil Technique
• Songwriting
• Welcome to Podcasting

(Pictured, dried marigold petals harvested from my garden for marigold-turmeric soap, made with a coconut milk base, unscented. I’ll be selling them at Pem Hessing’s Colorful Holiday fair, featuring the work of makers of color in our community, Saturday 12/15, 10 – 3:30. I’ll also be donating some to the Garden Club holiday sale, where they’ll be incorporated into hostess gift baskets to be raffled off at the December meeting, to support club activities. We’re hoping to host a fundraiser for the makerspace in December as well — details soon.)

• Art Journaling
• Resume Writing
• Crowdfunding for Beginners

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Winter Garden



Finished setting up the winter garden. It’s a multi-stage process:

— first the plants, mostly tropicals, come in from the back deck.

— then they get moved around, as I try to find the perfect combination of sunlight — there are only four sunny windows on the first floor, so sunlight is the big limiting factor on how many plants I can squeeze inside.

— I make sure that none of them will drip on the floor — a combination of a few large pots that don’t have drain holes, some pots that have built-in drip saucers, some pots that have little plastic saucers added (my least favorite solution, because it’s not as pretty, but sometimes needs must), and some large trays filled with clay stones that absorb water; I usually water the stones too, in the hopes that it’ll keep a little more moisture in the environment.

— if any of the plants are sprawling too much, I add trellises so they’ll go vertical instead of wide; I also move them around for aesthetic impact, mostly trying to do a mix of heights and fullness

— and finally I trim off the excess — some of the vining ones, like mandevilla, go a little nuts in the summer, and need to be cut back to manageable proportions indoors

I’m almost done with the trimming — the duranta is blooming profusely right now with its little purple flowers, and I mostly want to trim those branches off and bring it back down to half its height; I’ll wait ’til the blooms are done before diving in with the shears. But otherwise, all set for the oncoming winter — welcome to the jungle.




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Shipping out signed copies of Perennial today to the ten people who pre-ordered, along with a little gift of a photo card of a flower from my garden, and a handmade fairy tale bookmark made with pressed flowers from my garden.

I just wanted to say thank you for the early support — this creative process is so unpredictable sometimes, and it’s hard to guess whether what you’re doing is anything anyone else would care about. Having people who show interest (and are willing to plonk down cold hard cash) early in the project is worth more than I can say.

So thanks to Christina, Petri, Mathew, Darrah, Caryn, Snezana, Cliff, Normandy, Amanda, & Carlos. Also thanks to those who ordered e-books; look for those in your inboxes in just a few minutes…

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Perennial Arrives!

My books are here, my books are here! Woot! They look so lovely, just as I’d pictured them. Thanks to Jenn Reese for the gorgeous cover design, and to Steve Berman at Lethe Press for the beautiful overall design (I love the matte finish, Steve!).

Thanks to Lethe as well for being willing to take a chance on such an odd little book: part garden romance, part cancer memoir, part poetry collection. And illustrated by novice artist me. It’s a very personal little book, but I hope one that many of you will enjoy.

I’ll have books available with me at PenguinCon (next weekend in Southfield, MI), at the Saturday night SLF party at WisCon (Memorial Day weekend in Madison), and at the launch party in Oak Park (June 14).

There’s a slim possibility I’ll make it to Denver ComiCon, and I should be at OutWrite in D.C. in early August, and WorldCon in San Jose in mid-August.

Otherwise, I recommend buying them directly from Lethe!

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Came home from teaching and DOVE into the garden. Pruned two fairy roses, three David Austin roses, including the lovely Eglantyne, which I just got a compliment on from a neighbor, who remembered how gorgeously scented it was last year. Three more neighbors complimented me while I was working, including one woman (in her 80s or so) who treated me to a little lecture on how God was so good to us to give us the beauties of nature. I may be a cheerful agnostic, but I am willing to celebrate the beauties of nature anytime.

Planted nine martagon lilies (three near the little free library, three under the tulip tree, three under the redbud — they’re notoriously a bit fickle, so we’ll see if they bloom this year). Planted one hellebore (if I keep adding 1-2 each year, I’ll eventually have a hellebore paradise) and also one wintersweet — it is a tiny 8″ thing right now, but eventually it will hopefully be a roughly 5′ wide by 8′ tall, tremendously fragrant, winter-blooming shrub. Boring the rest of the year, just a big green thing, but everyone I’ve seen who grows it says it’s worth it for the winter flowers / scent. We’ll see! My winter garden is pretty minimal right now, and it’d be nice to give people something to enjoy on their walk to the train.

SO GOOD getting out into the garden for a bit. Need to check the forecast now — if we’re done with overnight freezing temps, tomorrow, I think I may move my potted dahlias outside to start soaking up some sun.

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Nice gardening moment — last night’s pizza delivery came with an older man, maybe mid-50s, heavy accent that I couldn’t place, but might have been Middle Eastern.

“Flowers not freeze?” [gesturing to the pansies, hyacinths, and muscari I’d potted up earlier in the day]

“No, pansies are tough; they should be fine. Even if it snows a little.”

“Not freeze??” [making sure he understood me, I think]

“Not freeze! They’ll be fine!”

[big smile] “Beautiful, beautiful! Buy at Menard’s?”

I didn’t actually get them at Menard’s (local hardware store), but I’m sure Menard’s has them too, so I nodded yes. He went off with a little extra spring in his step — I suspect there’ll be pansies added to his yard sometime this week.

Garden proselytizing is the best proselytizing.

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I’m planning to start seeds this weekend — it’s the first time I’ve done this in a systematic way, as opposed to just tossing a few random morning glory seeds in the ground and hoping.

Some will be started indoors in trays (with light and heat), some (lettuce-type things) will be sown outside now, and some will be sown outside in two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, and ten weeks. Because that’s what the little packets say to do (you find out what your last frost date is in your area — it’s May 31st here — and then count from there when it says 4 weeks before last frost, etc.), and I am I nothing if not obedient.

I may have gone a little overboard buying seed packets, though. They’re just so cheap compared to buying actual plants. Kid in a candy store.

Wish me luck!

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