Because I Can

I admire blogs which are helpful, inspiring or just plain a joy to look at, but I think mine has a different ‘mission statement’ or raison d’être.  It’s all about me, and trust me sometimes I feel like I’m all over the place so it’s not always a pretty picture.  With the gardening season well on its way to the halfway point  I sometimes step back and ask myself what the heck got into my head when I started this or that “project”.  Thankfully the thought usually flickers away almost as quickly as it came, but someone (Chloris actually, though I doubt she remembers) said the reason I do it is because I can.  It all came together with that and although I still can’t make sense out of half of it, at least I now have a legitimate answer… and of course I’m going to run with it.

All these deep thoughts came out a little more during the recent garden tour which took place here.  Don’t get me wrong, it all went well and everyone was wonderful about it and I loved that someone other than myself was excited to see the garden, but I did find myself explaining (or even making excuses) a lot.   What I probably could have done was just answer with “because I can”.  The reason I’m a compulsive plant multiplier and divider is…. well… because I can 😉

propagating perennials

A bit of root came off my newest treasure, the variegated comfrey ‘Axminster Gold’, and within a few weeks I have a new plant.  Come to think of it I must have stuck a twig of my ‘Golden Sunshine’ willow into the ground here as well since I also see a bit of it now growing to the right of the comfrey.

I’m always pinching cuttings, scattering seed, or spading out little divisions of the plants which you can never have too many of.  Just last week I realized the coleus pots on the deck were getting a little too big for early August and gave them all a trim.  Suddenly there’s a bucket full of cuttings…

coleus cuttings

I’ve got dozens of coleus planted throughout the garden this year but almost all came from just four bushy plants I picked up this spring.  I looked for well branched plants, took as many cuttings as I could, and voila!  A couple flats of free coleus to plant around the garden.

I didn’t even bother to root the latest batch of coleus cuttings, they were just stuck right into the soil wherever things looked a little sparse.  No special prep, just maybe remove a leaf or two at the base and stick them in.  Watering would be helpful, but you’d be surprised how long these can survive rootless, even in the hot sun for days.

Multiplying your annuals is easy enough but how about something like a hardy cyclamen?  I often get self sown seedlings but this year there seemed to be even more of the curiously coiled seed pods than usual.  I’ll have to collect them of course and plant them out, even though I already have a good number.  And the reason for this?  #becauseIcan

cyclamen seeds

Cyclamen hederifolium seed pods bursting as they ripen.  Looks like I’ll need to prep a new seed bed for a couple thousand more cyclamen seedlings.  Oh well, it’s #becauseIcan

Maybe I can convince myself to give a few of the seeds away but lets talk about snowdrops (once again) for just one minute.

galanthus bulbs

The bulbs I ordered online through Cornovium arrived, plus (quite a few) traded bulbs.  How many different snowdrops does one person need, surely not dozens, so why do it? #becauseIcan

I have seedling magnolias and seedling camellias.  Neither of them are likely to be hardy over the years, so why grow them? #becauseIcan

limelight hydrangea cutting

I have a beautiful ‘Limelight’ hydrangea growing out front, but now three cuttings have appeared in the vegetable garden.  They’ve done very well this year with huge panicles of flowers over a foot across, but I don’t need them and have no clue as to where they’ll go.  Why start them in the first place? #becauseIcan 

To further prove that I just don’t learn I took a few more hydrangea cuttings this weekend.  Looks like I just want to be prepared in case everything else gets ripped up and I decide to plant masses of hydrangeas all over.  For the record it’s very easy to do, now’s an excellent time to do it, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to a few cold beverages on a Sunday afternoon.  As a brief effort to keep this blog somewhat useful and mildly educational here’s how I do it.

shrub cuttings

About a six inch ‘Goldilocks’ shoot (i.e. not too young not too mature), scrape a little bark off the bottom inch, dip in rooting powder, make a hole in a pot of sand, place cutting into hole, water.  

I don’t think anyone came here today to make softwood shrub and tree cuttings, but if you do try it,  make sure the sand is what you’d call a ‘sharp’ sand.  It feels coarse, is freely draining, and usually easy to find as bagged playground sand (NOT masonry sand which is too fine).

softwood cuttings

Butterfly bushes, hydrangeas, arborvitae… all of them are easy to root shrubs and all of them unnecessary.  I don’t bother covering them, but you could.  I don’t water them everyday but you could (mine will be lucky to get rained on).  They do need to be in a fully shaded spot though, no avoiding that.

So while I ponder the locations for another fifty or eighty new shrubs (#becauseIcan), have a look at some other equally cute little babies.

monarch eggs

Ok, Monarch butterfly eggs are not cute, but they will be!  I saw the mother lingering around the milkweed and lo and behold I was able to lift a few eggs and bring them in onto the windowsill.

I’d love to bring my little babies into the house, but the boss said I can’t, and when I asked why not she said becauseIcan’t, and we will wisely drop the argument, take the eggs, and return to the garage.

caterpillar enclosure

A few old screens, some wood cut up for ends, random leftover screws to hold it together and just like that, a butterfly (well actually caterpillar) enclosure.  Someone made a comment to the effect of ‘did you seriously stain and varnish the wood for your bugs?’ and I responded with ‘yes, yes I did.’ (while I whispered #becauseIcan)

In the meantime the eggs have hatched, the caterpillars grown, and I’ve now placed them outside to find their own spot to hang their chrysalis.  With any luck there will be fresh new monarchs floating around the garden in another few days.

monarch caterpillar

Gardeners are always complaining about one thing or another eating their plants, and here I am encouraging it.  You of course guessed it… #becauseIcan

I’m afraid it may already be too late for me to quit while I’m ahead but here’s one last adventure.  Somehow I’ve accumulated quite a few caladiums, and somehow I’ve been able to overwinter them, and somehow I’ve grown attached to them.  I didn’t see this coming at all, but that doesn’t seem to matter.  This spring (well actually early summer since apparently I was too busy doing other equally pointless things), I potted up all the roots individually because I didn’t want them mixed up anymore.

caladium

A couple years worth of clearance rack purchases and random odds and ends picked up here and there.  I think they’re awesome even if they might not be the most tasteful plants.  

This weekend I sorted them out and potted them all up again into bigger containers with each container holding just one leaf type.  The OCD amongst us will also see that rather than searching out all orange pots like last time, this time I went with all the leftover black nursery pots which litter the back of my garage… mostly because that’s all I have left.  It seems so much more controlled and I was so pleased with myself that I went immediately to my favorite local nursery to look for more.  Perennial Point came through and I decided I was worth not one but two new leaf types.  It even got better when at checkout I was told that annuals were on sale, buy one get one, and suddenly I was paying $7.50 for the pair instead of the $15 full price… or not.  I of course was already set on buying two, so did the most reasonable thing and went back to select the other two I wanted as my ‘get ones’.

caladium

Why buy even more caladiums after saying I ”have too many’ in April? #becauseIcan!

And that brings me to where we’re at.  I should really take up some less compulsive hobby like marathon running or fantasy football, but I’m stuck with this.  Fortunately the kids are still young and don’t think anything’s wrong and my wife has a remarkably high tolerance for me.  She was even out in the yard this weekend and asked what something was.  I think it’s so cute when she pretends to be interested 😉

So have a great week and if anyone out there understands hashtags let me know.  A friend uses them all the time and I just thought it might be time to step up my game. #youknowit #becauseIcan

23 comments on “Because I Can

  1. Christina says:

    Good reason. Chloris is very good with these suggestions. She told me never to admit something happened by luck but that I’d planned it all along. I think she’s right. We all need all the confidence building we can get!

    • bittster says:

      I like that. Perhaps I should start saying all of this was part of a well planned vision and it’s finally coming together! I think the real gardeners would know the truth though, and would see right through me… but on the other hand I bet they’d be too nice to say otherwise!

  2. Cathy says:

    What a great caterpillar house! An excellent idea. I haven’t seen any unusual butterflies here this summer, but the common ones are abundant. Those colourful leaves are lovely – I remember seeing pictures of your Coleus and Caladiums before and will definitely try to grow some… one day! 😉 With your dedication to cuttings, bulbs etc I think you should buy a plot of land, put up a greenhouse and start up a nursery! Have a great week! 🙂

    • bittster says:

      It’s strange how the butterfly populations go up and down so much. I guess that’s how things go for all bugs, it’s just that the butterflies are more noticeable. (I’m just back from vacation and found ten more Monarch eggs yesterday. Raising them can be a little addicting!)
      Coleus are so easy, you’ll be surprised. Caladiums just need heat and water and they’re also no trouble. I must be getting older because I’m appreciating ‘no trouble’ more and more.
      A nursery would be a dream, but I’d need someone else to run it and keep me from planting or giving away all the profit (which I suspect wouldn’t be much in the first place). I don’t think the nursery professional’s life is an easy one.

      • Cathy says:

        And if you had a nursery you probably wouldn’t have time for the plants what with all the paperwork! Good luck with those baby Monarchs.

  3. Awww! Congratulations on your baby caterpillars! Did your kids enjoy watching them hatch and grow? Hope you’ll see some monarchs flitting around your flowers soon! I’ll be happy to take a hydrangea start off your hands if you want to get rid of one! I personally like Caladiums–I put some in a pot of impatiens this year, and it looks really nice right now! I’m going to have to check out that nursery some time soon when I’m in WB!

    • bittster says:

      I think you need a mass of hydrangeas in order to really make a statement. Who knows, they might even be deer and woodchuck resistant! Do you prefer Vanilla Strawberry or Limelight 🙂
      Hopefully my caterpillars are safely turning into butterflies right now. I had to let them go before we went on vacation but already have a few more eggs collected for the next batch!
      If all goes well I will hopefully have extra caladium bulbs next spring. A few have been very good about multiplying!

  4. I once watched my best friend hack her hibiscus way back, leaving a big pile of cuttings on her patio. When she went inside to get a drink, I snuck over and stole the cuttings. Because I could. 🙂 Great post.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, what a smart move! To be honest I think the cuttings which do best are always the ones thrown in your hand as you’re walking out the gate or the ones picked out of the yard waste. The ones you fuss over always end up disappointing you.
      I’m laughing right now picturing you on your own patio with your own drink and a pile of cuttings 😉

  5. I have big swaths of my favorite plants for the same reason. I am not quite as compulsive a divider as you but I am taking advantage of many things that self seed for me like boxwood. Staked some soft branches of Rhodies into the ground and am waiting to see if they will root. Maybe one of your children will get the garden bug as they get older. But probably not if you make them weed. Love the caterpillars.

    • bittster says:

      There’s been absolutely no sign of a garden bug taking hold in my children. Maybe it will come along later or maybe it’s the result of just a little selfishness on my part. I’m not sure how I would handle having to share my garden with someone else’s ‘vision’ 😉
      I have a nephew who is getting into plants… as much as can be expected from a social media surfing teenager. I may try and convert him to the dark side of snowdrops.
      I wish I had more room for rhododendrons and other woody plants. They fill a garden up so quickly though.

  6. pbmgarden says:

    Congrats on those monarchs. Love your post.

  7. Nancy says:

    Don’t ever stop this blog. I am enjoying it immensely. Keep up the good work.

  8. Kevin says:

    No reason to make excuses for your wonderful blog. Like you, I love propagating — and I say the same thing, “Because I can.” 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Oh that’s a dangerous thing for you. Working in a nursery and living in a climate where everything roots overnight! Good thing you have a stronger will than I do, I’m not sure I would have the strength to cut down the palms BEFORE they land on my roof!

  9. sueturner31 says:

    Gardeners out there…it’s an untreatable addiction … just go with the flow and enjoy… ;-0 ;-0 ;-0

  10. Great job with the Monarch caterpillars! I’m so impressed (and jealous)! As far as I am concerned “Because I can” is a perfectly sensible reason.

  11. P says:

    #IcanandIwill

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