potential plants for Firefly Cottage gardens

I’ve been looking through the many, many seed catalogs I subscribed to last year when we bought Firefly Cottage. There’s something so refreshing about looking at green and growing things (even if just in photos) when it’s so cold and mostly monochrome outside.

Seed catalog season

Since we have so much yard to cover, I’m going to try to figure out smaller mini-garden areas within the larger scope in order to make it easier and manageable to get things started. As I’m a fan of perennials, hopefully I’ll be able to add on each year while still maintaining what already exists. I’ll be looking for low-maintenance plants as always, as well as those that thrive without a lot of additional water. This should help with my long-term plans of a lovely, mostly self-sustaining cottage garden. I’ll also be setting aside space for raised beds for veggies, but I am not sure yet if I’m going to do that this year or next. I simultaneously want to DO ALL THE THINGS but also don’t want to set myself up with so much stuff that I can’t successfully manage it all.

Right now I’m making a list of all the plants I’d like to eventually include in the garden. Many of these I’ve grown before, though some I’ve just admired in other gardens or in print. Here are a couple of the plants I have on my list so far:

 photo hyssop_zps8sghnxdl.jpg
I’ve grown Hyssop (this is my own photo from our garden when we lived downstate) before and it makes a nice compact shrub and attracts pollinators.

Allium photo allium_zpsp2zmrakm.jpg

Allium is also on my list – in several varieties! And there are so many varieties! I’ve had great luck with the smaller ones in the past, and mixed luck with the larger ones like Drumstick Allium (again, these are my photos from downstate). The smaller varieties have always self-seeded really well, spreading and filling in quite nicely, but the drumstick doesn’t seem to do that, or didn’t for me in that garden anyway.

More to come – what plants would you include?

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The Allergy-Fighting Garden

The Allergy-Fighting Garden

The title of this book grabbed me right away. A book about gardening, you say? For people with allergies?

give it to me now

The author is a horticulturalist with an agricultural science background and invented the scale by which plants are rated for allergenicness. Seems legit.

I learned quite a few new things reading this book, one of which is that male plants produce more pollen than female plants. THANKS, MEN. Also, back in the 1940s, apparently some (male, I’m guessing) brains at the USDA decided to encourage people to grow male trees rather than a mix of female and male, because female trees produce seeds, seedpods, and fruit, and those are too messy to be convenient in carefully-groomed communities (we’re talking about types of trees where the sexes are separate – which NOT ALL TREES are). Male trees also produce more pollen than trees with both parts in the same flowers, so this preponderance of male trees made for extra beaucoup pollen everywhere. (They, along with cloning, also made for a horribly heterogeneous tree population, so when things like Dutch Elm disease came through, it was way more devastating than it might have been. GREAT.) (Also, birds and butterflies like to eat, you know, fruit, so having no female trees means having a lot fewer beneficial creatures around. SUPER.) Back to the dearth of female trees, which, did you know? actually COLLECT and remove pollen from the air, in addition to not producing it themselves. So not only are these too-numerous male trees dropping buckets of pollen all over the place, there aren’t enough female trees to – what’s new, right? – clean up their mess. Okay, even I’m getting a little tired of talking about this Tree Patriarchy. Let’s acknowledge that most of the time when we decide to mess with an ecosystem, we don’t consider the possible consequences and we end up screwing things up in ways we never imagined. Moving on.

You might say to yourself, but wait – don’t we need pollen so pollinators can do their jobs? Yes, we do. This book is about reducing the most allergenic pollens, not all pollens. We’ve seen what problems an all-or-nothing situation creates, haven’t we? The most allergenic pollens come from trees and shrubs, it seems, so a lot of perennial and annual plants are probably fine for many allergy sufferers. Which is great news! Because pollinators love those smaller plants and we love pollinators. This book goes into detail about how to identify the plants in your landscape as well as giving recommendations for how to choose what to add to your own yard and garden. It also gives suggestions for helping to de-allergen your home space, such as planting an allergy-blocking hedge on the windward side of your property (really the hedge will be collecting the pollen not blocking it). I am all about a property-border hedge, so this makes me even more antsy for us to be in our next home and planning our landscape!

Most of the book is a listing of details about various plants. It includes their allergy rating as well as information about the plant and for some, color photographs. The back of the book includes a glossary of horticultural terms, lists of recommended books and websites, a pollen calendar for common species, and the current USDA plant hardiness zone map.

This is a book I’m certainly going to be using for reference often. It’s got a ton of great information on a wide variety of plants and, especially since we will hopefully be the owners of a new garden/yard soon, we’ll have lots of planning and plant-identifying for which to use it. I love gardening books and I’ve read a lot of them, but none have taught me as much about plant sex as this book. And how many gardening books have you read that contain the phrase, “Feminists, we need you!”

Full disclosure: reviewed from a complimentary copy provided by Blogging for Books.

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