A tomato with a story…


Most tomatoes don’t have a story worth telling, but this one just might!

Most tomatoes are planted, grow, ripen, and are picked, sent to market or canned, sold and eaten.  Or maybe you grew it yourself & you can skip the ‘sold’ part.

This little tomato, whose identity is a mystery, has a slightly different story.

I have a pebble tray in my kitchen with all my orchids.  In January this year, a tomato seedling showed up in one of the pots.  I swear, I’m not one of those cooks who throws food around the kitchen, but somehow a seed made it to the orchid pot in the window.  I decided to just leave it and see what happened.  That orchid got more water than the rest because, honestly, orchid bark is not the best growing medium for tomatoes.  It’s quick draining.

Anyhow, the weeks went by, the seedling grew.  And wilted.  And I quickly watered it.  It perked back up.  And it grew and grew.  It was in a south-facing window with good diffused light, but there was a lot a space between each set of leaves.

By end of March or early April, it was 2′ tall and blooming, much to my surprise!  Far too early to even think of putting it outside.  And it needed a stake or something, as it kept falling over.  I leaned the stalk against the window frame and kept watering.

Even end of May is iffy for putting tomatoes outside in my garden zone.  The soil is not warmed up yet and our frost date is towards the end of May.  A small, green fruit was forming on the tomato plant.  Hang in there baby!

About a month ago, mid June or so, I re-potted the orchid and gently removed the very tall, single stem, tomato plant with, basically, water roots.  I planted it quite deep in one of my raised beds and stuck a winter driveway marker next to it.  And lots of twist ties to hold it in place.  At this point it’s 2 1/2 feet tall, this stringy, leggy, but tenacious tomato plant.  I watered and fertilized, and watched with wonder as it took off.

In the collage below you can see the wild thing it has become.  Lots of side shoots, all looking pretty healthy.  Lots of other stakes to hold up its branches.  It has lots of blooms and fruits forming.  At this point I’d guess it’s what you buy at the market called ‘vine tomatoes’.

07-28-13 tomatoAnd I never though it would survive, much less produce a crop.  The first fruit, which survived the transplant process and grew more, was harvested a few days ago and put on the windowsill to ripen a bit more.  Today I’m eating it and it tasted just like any other home grown tomato – juicy and flavorful, if a bit small.

IMG_7267So that’s the story of the tomato that thought it was an orchid… or something like that.
Remind me to tell you sometime about the preying mantis egg case that hatched in my kitchen in February (with a foot of snow on the ground outside).  Happy gardening!

End of season update:  This plant produced more tomatoes for a longer period than all the other tomato varieties in my garden this year!  Truly, the little tomato that could…  I wonder if I should start all my tomatoes for 2014 in my orchid plants in January? hmmmm

Side Note:  When I want to save some tomato seeds for next year, this is what I do:

  1. I scoop the seeds directly from the tomato and smear them across a paper towel.
  2. I set it aside to dry.  I write the type of tomato and the year collected right on the paper towel.
  3. When completely dry, I fold the paper towel & place it in a baggie to store.
  4. When I’m ready to plant, I take large container, fill it with dirt, place the seeds (paper towel and all) on the soil.  Cover the seed with soil, water, watch ‘um sprout.  The paper towel disintegrates.
  5. Transplant into individual pots when the seedlings are big enough.

The silence of early morn

Headed out into the garden very early today, almost at first light.  I love the garden when it’s so quiet, fresh.  It seems no one is about yet and the world is just mine.  Everything seems renewed by the night time, and this little bit of cool weather the last couple days is so refreshing, both to me and the garden.  I needed a sweatshirt, it must be high 50s or low 60s – chilly.  Miss Maggie, my cat, says she wants out, too.  I grab my coffee and camera, clippers in my pocket, and out we go for a garden review, the first of the day.

I was thinking about the “silence” of the early morn.  It’s not really, you know.  When I stop to listen, I hear all sorts of sounds:  (it’s amazing the noise we learn to block out)

  • The bees are already buzzing in the abelia bush (abelia x grandiflora) and in the various squash & pumpkin blossoms.  They crowd, 2 or 3 at a time into the squash blossoms, jockeying for the best spot.
  • Interstate 81, a perpetual distant hum, even this early.  Early local street traffic.
  • Crickets and some other low bug-hum.
  • My quiet steps on the path.
  • The tentative slu-u-u-rp of my very hot coffee 🙂 .
  • Maggie’s tags on her collar (no sneaking up on the unsuspecting critter for her).
  • The first bird calls (The cardinal, a catbird, robin, and a Carolina wren).
  • My very own breathing.
  • Something’s rustling around at the back of the bed in the asters – that fat brown mouse I’ve seen around, perhaps?  He’s becoming very bold, but he knows I’m harmless.  I hope it’s not the wee bunny, who does not know what he likes to eat yet, and so samples almost everything!
  • The momentary ‘fwap’ of the newspaper hitting the neighbor’s front porch.
  • A very gentle breeze is barely moving the leaves at the top of the trees.
  • A runner passes swiftly by on the side street, shoes softly hitting the pavement.
  • The very distant wail of a train whistle (what a mournful sound, somehow).
  • And the wren, scolding Maggie for merely existing.

I’m sure I’ve missed things, even though I was determined to hear everything in the “silence” of early morn.  And again…  Slu-u-u-u-rp!  Gulp!  Ahhh!  Hot coffee’s so good!  Sun’s up and Maggie is ready to go in for a real breakfast after a few nibbles of grass.

Lot’s of things blooming, as you’ll see by the following photos.

5-30-12 to 6-4 home & garden8

Miss Maggie and the lambs ears (Stachys byzantina)


The pergola reflected in the birdbath

Square-89 by Skeletal Mess

Tickseed (coreopsis rosea)

07-23-09 qal, bee balm, sunfl, dill10

Sunflower (Helianthus) planted by the squirrels, seeds from the birdfeeder

08-16-11 mid Aug4

Morning glory ((Ipomoea), growing on an old shovel


Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia)


Black-eyed Susans


Pink Zinnias

And I picked a handful of this and that to put in my favorite little cream pitcher.  Takes only moments to set up a little still life shot with a piece of scrap-booking paper as a backdrop, so I can share my sweet pastel bouquet with you!


Catmint, cosmos, queen anne’s lace, spirea, hosta, morning glory, dayflower, tall verbena, lobelia, blue mist spirea, a couple grass seed heads from the alley.

All so pretty in that early light!  Happy Gardening!  Go out and listen!

Side note: THE LISTENING WALK by Paul Showers is a marvelous children’s book about listening outside.  I read it to my children many a long year ago.

Datura Inoxia – first bloom

My first datura bud (aka moon flower) has bloomed for this gardening season.  So strongly scented I can smell the lovely fragrance 25′ away.  Sometimes I pick several just before going to bed and put them in my bedroom so I can enjoy the scent inside.  It’s one of the pleasures of the evening garden, as it opens in early evening.  An elegant flower, it lasts just one day.    And ALL parts of this plant are poisonous.  It seeds itself freely, so I usually remove the pods before they dry & disperse.  It’s definitely an item I love having in the garden, as it blooms well into September in my 6a garden zone!

IMG_3899This shot is an old one, taken in the fall when the chokecherry is all berried up.

09-05-09 tomats, LGbokeh12

Shown here are some of the charms of this flower: a bud, buds unfurling (love those curlicues), fully open (with bee), and a seed pod (golf ball sized).


It’s delightfully cool here this morning – 58 degrees when I got up.  A pleasant change from the last week and a half, for sure.  Enjoy your day!

A wee visitor…

7-24-13 mantis on coneflowerA tiny little, 1″ long preying mantis joined me in the garden this morn.  They’re not intimidating when they’re this small, but when they get bigger, I stand back.  In the photo on the left, I imagine him to be saying, “Whatcha lookin’ at, lady”?

They used to be considered good to have in your garden, but now the experts say they eat both good and bad bugs.  I’ll let mine stay and take my chances on how many good bugs he/she eats.  I think they are a pretty cool bug!

Failure to read the plant tag!

When choosing new plants, it’s important to fully read the plant tag, duh!  When you buy your plant at the garden center, it’s going to be smaller than the adult version.  In order to place it properly in the garden, you need to know how tall it’s going to be when it grows up.  And what it’s other requirements are.  In the case of Henry Eilers Rudbeckia, this is a back of the border treasure.  But I planted mine at the front, at the edge of the path – failure to read the tag.  Buyer beware, make sure you know what you’re buying and that you have the right place for it.

None-the-less, Henry (Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers‘), at 5+ feet tall, doesn’t know he’s in the wrong place and is starting to bloom, beautifully!  I love the little ‘shovels’ at the end of each petal 😉


Do you ever make mistakes like that?  Henry will be moved in the fall to a better location.

Fence Garden 2


Fence Garden 2

A shot from last week, before 5 days of mid-90 temps left everything looking significantly wilted. This garden has really come into its own this year. It was planted autumn of 2011, so is headed toward the two-year mark (just long enough for me to discover all the mistakes made)!  I’ll be yanking some things up in the fall, like the lamb’s ears, which has grown like a bad weed.  More on the history and making of this garden later, with some ‘before’ pix.

The oakleaf hydrangea at the far right had pure, sparkling white blooms earlier this year and has now moved into that delicious pink stage. This plant lived in a pot for 4 years, sorely neglected, and really looked pathetic when planted a year and a half ago.  I pruned it hard last year and it branched out beautifully. This spring it bloomed for the first time, much to my delight.  Now it’s looking like a star performer instead of an abandoned orphan. Yay! (and by next year it’ll probably eat up that whole garden area and I’ll be regretting my decision to put it there). Live and learn, plant now and regret later!  …and prune, prune, prune!

The dark green vines growing on the pergola way at the back of the garden are hops (no, I don’t brew beer).  They really provide nice cover overhead and protection from the setting sun in the west, behind the pergola.  They were a gift from a friend in Yakima, WA, and arrived last spring in a priority mail box, swathed in wet paper towels and in a huge zip-lock bag.  It was a gnarled, rooty mess and they were just starting to put out sprouts.  If you’ve never seen them growing (and you CAN see them growing, almost, inches a day), the flowers look sorta like tiny pale green pine cones.  They are a herbaceous perennial (humulus lupulus) and grow swiftly on twine staked to the ground and tied at the top of the pergola.  End of the season (if there’s no one wanting the hops), you just cut them down and pitch them in the compost pile, jute twine and all!


PS – Yes, there is a fence garden 1. Stay tuned…

Happy Feet in the Garden


Happy Feet in the Garden

I know they look ready for the trash bin, but above is my favorite pair of gardening shoes, parked by the door. I’ve probably come in to fill up with coffee or iced tea (depending on the time of day); or perhaps to take a quick trip to the loo (because of all that coffee and tea).  Outside, azaleas, daffs, and a pot of violas – a spring picture, not summer.

04-30-13 shoes

Note: it’s important to stay hydrated whilst working outside in the hot summer weather. I usually try to get in 2 hours of gardening from 6-8 am, before it gets too beastly out, then again in the evening when it’s somewhat nicer out. Our summer weather in Maryland is triple H (hazy-hot-humid), so a beverage is always at hand!

My gardening shoes start out as shoes for the non-gardening parts of my life. This was a very nice pair of Bass loafers. But then they slowly become worn, sloppy, and ever-so-comfy. In other words, to disreputable to wear anywhere but at home. And so, they become gardening shoes. Easy to slide on and off, always parked by the kitchen door, just waiting to slip out to the gardens. Already my pinky toes are bursting through the sides, so I’m not sure how much longer they’ll last. No worries about them getting wet, dirty, or messed up. I’m at my happiest wearing these shoes because it means I’m working in the garden.

It’s the same way with the car. Huh, you say? Well, when you go places to buy plants, they frequently ask if you want a sheet of plastic to protect the car. “No thanks”, I say, “my car lives with a gardener.” That being said, my car is a 15 year old Honda Accord. Were it much newer, I might feel differently… or not!

Ta ta, off to deadhead the shasta daisies – they’re finished for now.  If I whack them back by half now, I’ll get a second wave of bloom later.  It’s nowhere near as impressive as the first wave, but nice none-the-less.

6-11-12 to 6-23  my flower garden15What do your feet wear in the garden?  Clogs?  Sneakers?  Old loafers?

Happy Gardening!

Why a blog about gardening?

Well…  why not?  I love gardening and want to share my pleasure with you and find others who share my interests.


I think I was born with the ‘gardening gene’ and a green thumb.  I love digging in the dirt.  I’d rather work in the garden than most anything else, although I’m not fond of mowing the lawn (if you consider that a gardening task).  My maternal grandpa was a serious gardener, my dad was frequently busy in the yard in my childhood home in Florida.  My introduction to gardening, as a child, was an hour of weeding ever summer morning.   And, except in the winter months, I’m always out in the garden now, by choice!  I garden in western Maryland, USA.

I have a garden bench, but rarely sit on it for any length of time – I always see some small task that needs to be done, or weed that needs to be pulled, or leaning stem that needs some support… oh, you get it!  Gardening is not about sitting around!

I find that I’m always wanting to tell folks what’s going on in my garden (like it was important or something).  So instead of

  • chatting with a friend,
  • boring a non-gardening coworker,
  • emailing or texting a pal,
  • or writing a letter (how outdated!)

I’m creating a blog about all the incredible as well as mundane things happening outside at Saint Claire Cottage!  And I’m so new at this, so bear with me while I figure out all the bells and whistles of a WordPress blog.

I hope to share with you the pleasure I gain from the simple (?) act of growing & maintaining gardens.  And I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me.  Cheers from the gardens at Saint Claire Cottage in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Right now there are day lilies galore in my garden, as shown in the collage above.  Simple to grow, not demanding, lots of color choices, relatively inexpensive, and ever so pretty!  One day and one blossom at a time.  I get mine from friends, catalogs, and local garden centers.  Do you grow them too?  Where do you get yours?