Winter Day

I found a $50 gift certificate in my desk drawer.

It was a Christmas gift from some years ago, carefully stored but then forgotten, purchased from a seed company called Whatcom. Their specialty is seeds from odd plants. For example, they offer seeds to grow a tree called Midnight Horror, which sounds like a late night movie but they say its seed pods (four feet long and curved down) look just like the wings of a resting vulture. Well we all want birds in our gardens don’t we.

Anyway I looked at every last item in their online catalog, and then researched every interesting looking plant to be sure it wasn’t something like Lesser Celandine (which I am just about to dig up, really I am), and I sent an order which spent all but 20 cents of the gift certificate. So stay tuned for some horticultural excitement to result from that. (And no I did not order any Midnight Horror seeds because really I don’t need more trouble.)

Then it got to be noon and I looked outside and found a lovely sunny warmish day.

It felt like early spring and so you have to go outside–you have no choice– you have to be in the garden, even if everything is just thinking about growing.

almond tree buds

But you go out and walk around, and maybe toss a rubber ball for the terrier, maybe the orange one, and he runs and gets it a few times, then you walk around some more.


You find a few dead perennials to cut back, knowing full well you can’t blog much about THAT because you are getting an unsavory reputation for your work with sharp implements…

Then you come across a rose, and it’s Jude the Obscure (shown below in a past summer of course), and you love this rose and you carefully prune its canes and dig out a grass clump by it and then the terrier pokes his nose in and there is a yelp! and he runs off.

Jude the Obscure

Soon someone calls to your attention that the terrier’s ear is bleeding from what was clearly a rose thorn attack, and it’s normally a white terrier but now there’s all this awful wet redness on his little ear and it’s still bleeding and leaving the dreadful blood color on the tips of his fur down his cheek.  And what if the thorn is still in there?!?

So you go inside and comfort  him and lightly touch his ear but don’t feel a thorn but he looks so sad and sits in your swivel desk chair with you which means he sits BEHIND you which means you have to perch on the front four inches of chair. You think of maybe giving the little wounded dog a bath, because he needed one anyway, but then that might make his ear hurt worse, and it only just quit bleeding. So you wait and eventually you and he both go back outside but every time you look at him and see the blood on his fur you feel terrible…

You go into the greenhouse later, with lists and boxes of seeds and you prop open the door and the window because the maple tree still has no leaves and so the sun is making it HOT in there.

You notice that the petunias have sprouted.

petunia seedlingsLots of people are negative about petunias. I felt that way too once. Likely because petunias–and geraniums–were almost the only plants my mother ever grew when I was a child. She bought them at a nursery every year and planted them in planters in front of our house, like in the blurry picture here. (You can see I thought they were kind of a joke.)

petuniasBut then, a couple years ago, I bought seeds for a very pastel, soft pink petunia, single and simple, and I grew them carefully and they were nice. Then I bought blue. And now I just collect seeds each summer and grow my own big sturdy pale pink and blue-that-is-really-purple flowered plants and stick them into all the places where I don’t have anything else growing. They bloom all summer and are quite useful.

pink and blue petunias

So the sprouted petunias inspired me to start some pots of other things… And then I noticed that Something has been eating in my greenhouse!

I had tiny lobelia volunteers coming in a pot from last summer, and they were almost ready to transplant individually, but the Something had nipped off most of the leaves so that there were just these miniscule vermicelli-type stems sticking up.

THEN I LOOKED AT THE CLEMATIS CUTTINGS. You may or may not be aware that these cuttings have been a source of great stress and worry and blog dissension since last summer. But now I definitely had three, possibly four, doing-just-swell cuttings. And I swear that just yesterday I observed nice green buds on them. Then, last night, Something chomped the buds!  Here is an evidential photograph–

ravaged clematis cutting

The Something ate at them like they were fruit–while the same Something ignored the pots of lettuce and spinach which sat on the same greenhouse bench.

The whole thing looks quite suspicious.

I will generously suppose I am dealing with a mouse or some invisible bug. (Any other suggestions would of course be appreciated.) I’ve covered all the relevant pots at night and blocked the hole to the sink (which can’t become standard procedure because really the sink, which drains on the grass outside, is for tree frog access and egress).  Max seems to agree that there is some significant creature about–he is very interested in the space beneath the potting bench…

I have faith that the magnificently vibrant clematis cuttings will recover, but stay tuned for updates on this appalling  situation. (I might as well have bought those Midnight Horror seeds…)

And yes I know I kept switching from first to second person in this post but I was certain you wouldn’t mind.

Oh and Max’s ear is fine.



About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in actual plants, Clematis, Max the Westie, propagation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Winter Day

  1. Roberta says:

    Midnight Horror? What an absolutely dreadful name! But I’m curious all the same and I may go and take a peak. I go back and forth about roses. I’d like to grow a beautiful rosebush with fragrant blossoms but the image of my blind dog skewering his big glaucoma eye or his shriveled other eye is just too much to bear so I don’t move forward on the idea. And petunias. You’ve inspired me. If I thought I could grow them from seed I’d give it a go. It’s just that the ones from the big box stores almost seem to factory produced – I suppose in a sense they are. I’ve had great luck growing marigolds from seed so I may just stick with that for now. I have BIG PLANS for my garden this year! I can hardly wait to share photos with you. Give Max my love and give him a bath for heaven sake.

    • linniew says:

      Yes keep Slip away from thorns! And you are right about the factory production look of those little petunia six-packs or million-packs. Much nicer done individually like real plants. Hugely looking forward to your garden images ‘berta!

  2. Bridget Foy says:

    My Mum is a big fan of Petunias too. Every year she has them in pots by the door. She also does pots for Daddy’s grave and her parents grave. They always do well and turn into big blousy confections. I tried Petunias inspired by my Mother’s success. Disaster! They were miserable straggly specimens. I was not for Petunias!

  3. Alberto says:

    I did some research on this Midnight horror of yours (Oroxylum indicum) and it seems they really have a strong imagination to look at some giant runner bean and tell they are vultures… I like that plant though, will you grow it?

    So there are Others living in your greenhouse… Are you sure you really want to find out who they are? Maybe you can have a midnight horror without seeding any plants… Shame for those clematis cuttings though, I bet they have a very strong will of living if they menage to survive until now, so don’t worry they’ll get over some chewed bud too.

    But the real question is: are we sure that that thing didn’t chew Max’ ear too? Maybe it wasn’t a thorn attack…

    • linniew says:

      I very much appreciate your confidence about the clematis recovery Alberto. I am hopeful.

      Midnight Horror potential notwithstanding I don’t feel my greenhouse is possessed. We’ll see what comes from all those other pots I’ve seeded…But that rose thorn definitely is guilty of the ear incident. Get some good gloves for dealing with your vast new rose collection next summer!

  4. Spectra says:

    I was sad for your dog, but it was a warm n’ fuzzy feeling that Max felt comforted by cuddling up next to you on that chair during his recovery phase. I always liked when my pets ran directly for me when they felt frightened – gave the feeling of being their strong protector in a dangerous world.

    I haven’t tried to grow petunia from seeds; but they have been very successful along my borders and walkways where there is enough sun. Like you, I scoffed at them as being too average and would have preferred more exotic plantings when I first returned east and began gardening here. But in the end, you go with what’s hardy and gives you color, and petunias offer a lot of color. I, too am eager to commence with springiness around here.

    • linniew says:

      Oh Spectra, should we start a secret Petunia Club do you think? Seems like petunias got thrown out with carpet-bedding in favor of cottage gardens– while I definitely favor the informal cottage garden plantings, the petunia fits in as well as other annuals. I try to pick the dead blooms, which helps keep them flowering, but they are forgiving when I get too busy.

      • Spectra says:

        Sorry I took so long to reply. Yes, We are now unofficially the co-founders of the Secret Petunia Club. I am all for starting up with the fund-raising right away. I will misappropriate those funds quickly,however. I will practice greed, graft and corruption in our new organization (I hope you don’t mind) when I have built for myself a new shed, a greenhouse, maybe an addition to my cottage…possibly pave over the street to my house, turning it into a yellow brick road – I’ve always wanting my own personal yellow brick road.

        How shall you misappropriate? We need to write these protections into our charter.

        • linniew says:

          It sounds as though the Secret Petunia Club will be a subsidiary of the Mafia. But wait a minute Spectra– whose money are we stealing? (I don’t actually have any. Should have mentioned that earlier maybe…)

          Oh, we could sell Petunia Futures! Would that work do you think?

  5. cynthia says:

    I love petunias, but only buy the ones that smell lovely. Most at the big box stores have no smell. The fragrant ones give off a strong wonderful smell at dusk, which I read appeals to some sort of moth or other. It appeals to me, also.

  6. Aimee says:

    Okay, you might have just won me over the petunia camp with those photos. Seriously. Not a petunia fan over here (although I love the NAME petunia), but your photos are making me think twice.

    Poor Max! Glad to hear he’s okay. I hope he manages to suss out whatever’s been after those clematis leaves. A creature with very discriminating tastes, it would seem.

    Looking forward to see what rare oddities you get in the mail from your plant place soon!

    • linniew says:

      “Petunia” sounds like an eccentric woman, or a cute hen maybe…

      These annuals are easily grown from seed. It is very tiny seed though– I think I would always start it in pots.

  7. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – It sounds like it’s been a traumatic day overall (and I’m sorry about Max’s ear), but that’s really no excuse for making grammatical errors …

  8. Holleygarden says:

    I know just how Max feels – I often come in bleeding from rose thorns, too. And I love the fact that you grow your own petunias from seed. I love petunias, but hate to buy them because I know next year I’ll have to do the same again. And here you are with a solution to that vicious circle! I hope whatever ate your clematis is full, and flew away (or jumped, as the case may be).

    • linniew says:

      Hi Holley
      Rose thorns can be quite painful–I wonder if they are poison-tipped or something. I love thinking the clematis eater might not eat again. Perhaps clematis buds taste terrible 🙂

  9. Grace says:

    I’m glad Max has fully recovered. I know how those dang thorns can hurt…and hurt…and hurt. It’s like they’ve got a venom of some kind.

    Sometimes gardening can be so frustrating. I hope you can figure out what’s eating the crap out of your Clemmy cuttings. My first thought is always slugs and I’m right about 90% of the time. But obviously this is not the case since they would have gone for the lettuce. My second guess would be aphids but I’m sure you’re aware of aphids and since you didn’t see any it’s obviously not them. I hope you figure out who/what before any more damage is done–an interesting caper for sure. Gardeners must be shrewd detectives as well as a bunch of other things.

    Love the photo of the 4-year old-ish? you and the petunias. What a sweet smile.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what seeds you bought. I don’t think I’d go for the Midnight Horror either. Plenty of horror already exists in my garden.


    • linniew says:

      It was mice. They have gone to mouse heaven–or so I sincerely hope. I started a flat of miscellaneous spring seeds, covered with a plastic dome on heat, and they went through every pot like rototillers, eating the seeds I suppose. This has never happened before and is a hopeless development for growing anything. Hence their goneness.

      Gracie I loved your comment about not needing more horror in the garden! It is a place of extreme experiences.

      The odd seeds I ordered have arrived and, now that the seed eaters are gone, I will see what I can get to grow and report back on any successes.

  10. Lyn says:

    After being away from the computer for most of a month, reading your blog felt like coming home. Too mushy? Sorry, but I do love your style. I enjoyed the winter walk around your garden, your pretty pink petunias and the mystery of who ate the clematis buds. And so I will forgive you for your cavalier approach to narrative person and tense. As’ long as’ your blog posts’ continue to avoid errors’ with apostrophes’.

    • linniew says:

      Welcome home Lyn!! Love having you here, even mushy. Or maybe especially if mushy.

      I see apostrophe’s (!) are your pet peeve. You know what I hate? The word utilize. It’s everywhere. What ever happened to use?

  11. Donna says:

    Linnie, I like petunias and really like when I find their little seedlings. Here, they take all season to mature, but the little trooper forge ahead only to be nipped by the frost. I think my fondness is just as you described, my mom only grew them and geraniums too.

  12. Roberta says:

    Since you’ve brought up aversions, “price point” is my new least favorite phrase. It was previously the word “appropriate”, which just made it sound like everyone was in therapy. My favorite and not used hardly enough word is “copacetic”. I love that word!

    • linniew says:

      I used to go to a nice wine shop sometimes to get gifts and the guy there would always ask “And what price point are you thinking about?” instead of the less delicate “How much ya wanna spend?” So the thing is that expensive stuff has “price points” while things like socks just cost. See.

      I had to look up copacetic, which means something like “satisfactory.” Sounds somehow clinical… But then I think “chuffed” sounds irritated and Alistair says it means you feel happy about something so there you are.

      I liked “vexed” quite a lot, and I like putting y’s on colors to make adjectives, like in Edward Lear’s poem, “The Jumblies” –“They wrapped their feet in a pinky paper all folded neat…” (Really I love everything in that poem.)

  13. Greggo says:

    btw, I was moonlight dancing with those glorified stick people. and yes I had my moon screen on as in a goose down coat. wind chill is -15 today.

    • linniew says:

      Good heavens Greggo, -15? I thought you were in Kansas, not Antarctica. When does it soften up a bit? I think you better save that moon-dancing till summer, really I do. Still, glad you had some feather protection from moonburn. (That’s how the birds do it.)

  14. Alistair says:

    Linnie, glad to see Max is fine and looking like he had his bath. I am hooked on your blog now, much more than just a gardening thing, I thoroughly enjoy your story telling. Tell Mr K to get back working on his blog again, we all miss him.

    • linniew says:

      Oh I missed seeing this comment until today! I appreciate your kind words Alistair–it’s great fun knowing you.

      Yes Mr K has been wandering around in Europe, eating too-rich foods and drinking God knows what and generally not writing on blogs. I did take the opportunity of his absence to write a very nice seduction scene between a couple of his Uncanny Death characters–He sent me a note in which he mentioned the “horror” of it.
      xo L

  15. Fay says:

    Ok, those poor drowned people living under the stones and the leaves are biting Max? And, eating your dog and your plants. They are hungry.


    On the up side, in your honour, I have drunk MUCH malt whisky, talked to many wise orcadian gardeners, purely in your honour, finding, the Ultimate Neep.

    It’s been a very tough job. I hope you like them. Seeds dispatched soon, now that I know, the one….

    But not the whisky, it’s gone……..

    Ps, I’m much better 🙂 been a horrible

    Tell max to avoid the little people.

    • linniew says:

      Oh Fay, such great news! Surely the whiskey has been instrumental in your healing too. But such a sacrifice. I heartily thank you! I’m taking good care of Max, not to worry. And I think you should probably write a whole book about the Neep Quest…

  16. kininvie says:

    I’m back.

    I have several comments on clematis cuttings:
    1) If they weren’t dead before, they are now
    2) I am not responsible, although you insinuate otherwise
    3) Mice are no excuse for failing to fulfil the terms of our wager by eating a nasty greasy corn dog at the state fair.

    I have a comment on petunias:
    It is the dark purple ones that have scent. Others don’t (don’t ask me why not). The dark purples, grown en masse really make an impact.

    I have a comment on Uncanny Death:
    It is grossly unfair to take advantage of my absence to make one of MY characters seduce another of MY characters in a style which leads me to believe your spare time is spent among a pile of sub-standard romantic novels with titles such as Passionate Heiress, His heart called to Hers, and The Surgeon’s lover……

    • linniew says:

      Why there you are Kininvie!

      You think I insinuated? Sounds like some sort of guilty conscience speaking on your part if you ask me. Still, it was mice, and you are cleared of suspicion. But we have a wager then? Wonderful.

      I will be checking my bluish petunias for being dark purple scenty ones.

      Regarding Uncanny Death: It was obvious to the most casual observer that YOU were terrified of writing the scene, after setting the whole thing up with one bed and two people. Honestly I just helped you out of kindness and this is the thanks I get. I do like the sound of Passionate Heiress. Is that by Raymond Chandler?

      Welcome home!

  17. Sheila says:

    I am biased against petunias, too, because that’s about the only annual my Dad grew. Beds and beds of petunias. But yours are pretty. I would try a few again if we had enough sun.

  18. Catherine says:

    I just found your blog through Aimee of Red Garden Clogs. So glad she introduced me to your blog. I also have a small white dog (Bichon) that likes to sit behind me on the office swivel chair and makes me perch on the edge.
    I really like petunias too, always have but it does seem like there a lot of people that seem to have a grudge against them.

    • linniew says:

      Welcome Catherine. Any friend of Aimee’s is a friend of mine!

      We could start a club for women who have to blog while perched on the edges of office chairs–it must have an impact on what we write. Makes us edgy do you think? But at least we have those cute dogs…

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