Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Backyard Farming W e e k - The Flowers.

Hello Nature lovers!
Are you ready for a week of my backyard in it's entirety?

Here goes.

Once upon a time Michael and I were Newlyweds. Four years ago we packed a wedding's worth of toasters, sheets, glasses, and Target giftcards into our friend Scott's truck and moved into our 600 sq. foot apartment.
Just the two of us, and baby Olive.

We named it our nest, and honestly, it wasn't much different than our nest, now.

And even though the backyard-farming itch had been tickling away at me since I was a little girl, I first felt it strongly, here.
We had created this little home, and I wanted it to be everything I grew up loving. So right away business was in order, and on one 6 X 5 concrete patio, facing North, with a huge building blocking the view, I planted my garden.

Since then we've bought our home and I've spent the last 3 Summers with my hands in the soil.
The first two years I focused on light landscaping, we put in a couple trees, and I tended to my vegetable and herb garden.

This year I started my first flower garden, in hopes of bringing more color, birds, butterflies, and opportunities to practice my photography around the yard.

If you'd like to look back into the gardening archive, you can see what types of flowers all of these are.

So here are my little lovely flowers, my first year of flower gardening.

They make spending time outside every single day a little bit sweeter.

I am always in complete awe of the sunflowers.
I got two kinds that didn't require staking, and planted away.

They were my fastest growers. By the first 2 weeks they'd already started to sprout, and by the first day of Summer I was already filling vases full of clipped flowers to bring inside.

Please make sure you are soaking these in water as soon as you bring them inside. Sunflowers are known for bringing in the ants.
But don't worry, they also bring in lots of beautiful birds, who in turn eat your mosquitoes, and little pests along the way.

I've had a couple questions about how to keep pests at bay. Honestly, I believe in the most natural approach possible. I don't discount chemicals completely, but will always turn to the natural alternatives, first.

Try attracting predators, or spraying with soapy or red pepper + water sprays.

Honestly, at this point though, you might have to wave your white flag in defeat. It's late in the season, and the ants are in full force. If you treat problems very early on, they won't escalate to the point where natural remedies don't work.

I check my garden, head to toe, every single day. If I catch problems early on, I can quickly and efficiently deal with them as they come along. I can't stress spending time in your garden, enough. There is always work to be done, if you want to earn that green thumb.

I'll talk more about taking care of pests, later in the week.

PS. The ants in the bowl? I never have the heart to drown them. I just shake them loose into the water, then pour the bowl out in the yard. Thanks to my Dad, I inherited his inability to harm any living creature. It annoys my Mom, in the same way that I annoy my husband with it.

I guess it's hard for me to see the difference between the ant, the butterfly, and myself in this picture. The three of us are just hanging out, enjoying these flowers.

A lot of you have been asking what became of my garden, after our treacherous rains that we have been having.
Because of the hurricanes in the South, Oklahoma is getting hit hard with the storm traveling towards us. We have had a lot of beautiful lightning shows, cool evenings, and lazy days, but our gardens have also suffered. My veggie garden will wait for another day, because today I am going to show you what a weeks worth of Summer thunderstorms can do to a flower garden.

The pictures above were all from my garden, before last week.
These are from this week:

My dahlias have all turned brown and are officially grounded. They no longer stand on their own, and won't any time soon. You know why? Because this is right where they used to be:

You're probably asking yourself who Charlotte is. Let me give you a visual.

Yikes, right? Guys....I haven't seen spiders like that since Michael and I were hiking in the Sierra Madre Mountain range. Do you know where we were? In a tropical JUNGLE.
Do you know what this means? It means that thanks to a few mistakes I made, and a few bad weeks of weather that Mother Nature gave us, I ended up re-producing a jungle-like environment in my backyard.
I sat on the phone one night with my Mom for 30 minutes going on and on about how I couldn't believe that I didn't think to raise my flower bed when I knew that corner flooded, until finally she said:

Aura. Calm down. It's just a garden.

Okay. She's right. In Spring '11 I will lay out my new plan for the flower garden, post new tips for avoiding a jungle, and show you my new draw-ups of the yard.

For now I'll give you guys a couple tips on how to start a flower garden of your own.

Flower Gardening Made Easy is a type of website you need to be looking for, if you're wanting information online. There are tons of them out there, if you just search for flower gardening online.

The wildflowers that did best out of my seeds were the ones that grow locally, in Oklahoma. Make sure you're taking regional weather into account when you're planting. Figure out which gardening zone you're in, and go from there. Don't try to grow flowers that need cool temperatures, shade, and moist soil in a sunny spot in warmer climates.

Take into account what each flower attracts. One big heartbreak for me is not being able to grow any wisteria, clematis, jasmine, or other flowering vines around the house. Michael is allergic to bees, so we need to keep the patio bee-free.
But on a positive note, certain flowers will attract birds that eat your pests right up for dinner.

&. Don't make the same mistakes I did. My mistakes for 2010:

-Planting herbs underneath the sunflowers. The flowers are so tall that the herbs no longer get sun.
-Planting my sunflowers in a spot that floods. Their roots are shallow, and if the ground is wet, they TIP. I have tied every single sunflower I have to the fence with twine. Ankle deep in mud, with Charlotte 6 inches from my leg. The dahlias I'm willing to let go, since she built her web where they used to be.
-Planting too many things in a small area. My flower garden is crowded, and adds to that "jungle" feel I created. Hence Charlotte, a ton of mosquitoes, and dead herbs.

Besides those few little blunders, I didn't do too bad my first year.
But next year I've got some big plans. And already, I'm itching for Spring '11, and starting fresh again. I hope some of you backyard-farmers who have only worked with the edible crops will venture into the world of flower gardening.

Next up will be a post about my Veggies.
Happy gardening, friends.

PS. I'm terribly behind on replying to comments. I've had right under 16,000 visitors to the blog the last two days, and the comments have been flooding in. If you were waiting for an answer to anything in my St. Augustine post, I replied to you guys earlier in the night.


Unknown said...

Beautiful photos! I am not into gardening at all, but this made me interested. I am so sorry about all of the rains! What a total bummer. But, living is learning and you are earning your green thumb :)

ronit said...

Hi Aura,

Your blog is really inspiring! I love reading it and would be happy to read more and more. Especially with those beautiful pictures!

I have just started my own blog yesterday, and would love to get your advice. http://teenagersworldishere.blogspot.com/

Keep enjoying life and making it joyful to others too;-)


Alex Quici said...


I just came upon your site for the first time today. I wasn't planning on sticking around long, but I went from one photo to the next to the next to the next...and so on.

Nicely done. Thanks for sharing.


Just Me said...

I'm inspired to start a small garden. Maybe a little too late this year...

Can I use the soap or pepper + water spray on veges too or is that just for flowers?

Jenna said...

Oh, you have a writing spider! I don't think they're necessarily "jungle spiders," though. We get them in Georgia every summer. They're some of those helpful predators you were talking about above. I know their venom isn't harmful to humans, so I just leave them be.

They're oddly peaceful to have around, though... they do seem to multiply unnervingly from summer to summer. The first summer we noticed our first Charlotte, it was just her. The next summer, there were 3. The following summer? 5. This summer? I've counted 7 so far. Eek. Not sure if my tolerance is getting out of hand!

Anonymous said...

baby olive is fab. And I'm very into gardeng and alsa very bad at it...
Really good pictures.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aura, Just a quick note about sunflowers. I was always told that they exude a chemical that discourages the growth of other plants. This means you need to plant them separately to veges and other herbs. Jerusalum artichokes are from the same family and should also be treated the same way. Plant them on their own in a separate bed. Cheers Anna

Bomb Dot Mom said...

Your garden is so lovely! I tried my hand at container gardening this year, with mixed results. I keep them on the patio, for easy access because it's so hot here (we're in Dallas), but the concrete reflects a lot of the heat, and I think it's affecting the plants.

I also love your picture of Charlotte! I grew up with spiders just like her in my back yard and I have to say, I don't think she appeared because you did anything wrong. She's an orb spider, and they usually build out of the way and feast on wasps, moths, and other large insects. She's a great addition to the beautiful nature sanctuary you're creating!



Ed T said...

The red sunflowers are amazing looking, or whatever those flowers are with the brilliant red and yellow,...!

a little black cloud in a dress said...

you've a kinder soul than I! I loathe ants.. we've had them in our house twice this year, and they've made me absolutely nuts. That spider is beyond scary.

Ashley said...

Were the sunflowers from seed or did you get plants from the farmers market?

Anonymous said...

i love your patio & garden. i cannot wait until i have a space to plant flowers and have my own garden! it's beautiful :)

Noodles and Waffles said...

For your first flower garden, it's beautiful. Sorry about the storms destroying everything. Chicago got hit with similar storms and now all my flowers are on the ground. sigh. Love you pictures!

Johanna said...

I love those big orange puffy-headed sunflowers!

Dreamer said...

Hey Aura, I'm glad to hear you've got a whole lot planned for the Spring and I hope to still be following you then. Keep up the great work!

s. said...

rock on! backyard farming = amazing, basically.

you are an inspiration! (for my soon-to-be herb spiral, in particular)

(and i just read your about me section which was .... lovely, is the best word i can come up with at the moment. wonderful, truly.)

Kalei's Best Friend said...

As far as pests, have u tried the eggshell trick? someone told me to take my discarded eggshells put them in a container and add water.. then u water your plants w/that eggshell water..as u use the water keep adding to the container shells and water. it works as a fertilizer and u will notice as u pour the water, the smell is quite gassy smelling.. the plant gets bigger and no bugs... btw, your photos are stunning.

weezaleez said...


I decided to respond to your latest post instead of backtracking to the post in which you welcomed comments (not that you seem averse to them in general). I didn't want to risk messing up your process.

I should have commented a LONG time ago, as I've been reading your blog for quite a few weeks now. I found your blog at the end of May and have not only read every new post since, but I have also (so, SO creepily) read through your archives. I swear I'm not a total stalker- my job has me on the computer for the entire workday, and after reading your more recent posts, I was interested in how you've grown since beginning your blog.

So, let me break this down for you. When I read your blog, it feels like the person I want to be is writing to me. I just graduated from college, and my partner and I are moving to our first apartment in September, so I know it will be a long time before I have a house and garden to call my own, but I dream about them, and the way you write about your home and garden and projects makes me feel like everything I want is completely attainable. My first thought when reading the first couple of posts of yours that I found was that our tastes in music are almost identical (you had me at Alexi Murdoch, not to mention Jack Johnson and Ray LaMontagne), and since music is such an important part of my life, it was completely awesome to find the blog of someone whose "life soundtrack" sounds similar to my own. My partner, Jill, and I also have a dog and two cats, and that's not where my life's similarities to yours end. But that's not really what I'm trying to talk to you about.

What I really wanted to say to you is that, when I read your blog, I get this overwhelming sensation that if you and I had grown up together, or met at college, or been coworkers, we would have been really good friends. I read your blog and it feels like I'm listening to a story a good friend is telling me. If you weren't in OK and I weren't a CT native living in PA waiting to move to MA, we could jam. And even though that probably won't ever happen, it's a comforting thought, and it makes reading your blog a pretty important part of my day. Aura, I think you're fantastic.

Sorry for being totally weird,

Serge Yegiazarov said...

The pictures on here are incredible. Your backyard is beautiful. Like the above commenter, I've never been into gardening, but I may very well be after reading your stuff enough times. I'd love your opinion on my blog:http://theacademik.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

I'm in love with your photography!

Steph said...

Aura - congratulations on all the hits! As I've told you before, I'm glad that I found you (through Pacing the Panic room, by the way)a couple months ago. I love your pictures and stories and your spirit. Good luck with the garden and clean up!

Queen of the Rant said...


Does your husband get upset when you spend too much time in the garden. I wish I could be out there all day and night, but he harps on me about housework so now I never get to go out there, my garden looks like a mess everything is covered in weeds, and then he has the nerve to say wow, your garden needs work... Just wondering if you have ever had to deal with this???

ag. said...

Such beautiful photos, they really tell a story!

I absolutely love sunflowers, they always put a smile on my face.

Good luck with your gardening!

Vince G said...

Hi Aura..i just wanted to let you know that your pictures are absolutely amazing. I visited your blog (and started blogging myself) yesterday and i was excited 2 see what u had in store 4 2day. Keep it going.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly how you feel about killing living things, I'm exactly the same way. I often catch spiders in my house and put them outside haha. You have really inspired me to garden!


Unknown said...

Hi! I am new to your blog via Blog of Note and I think it is just amazing! I really love your photos and your writing! :)

Christine said...

Reading your blog is a refreshing and relaxing way to spend some time! I just love your creativity, thank you for sharing it with us!

Kayla said...

Love the photos. I wish I could garden there just isn't even enough sun for a window box in my apartment. It's not cool.

Ramblings of a Small Town Girl

♥Lizzy said...

Hi Aura!

I started reading your blog when Rachel D. mentioned you in hers.:0)

Your little garden in your old apartment is kind of what my set-up is now in my condo, although the building in my view isn't so close. I get plenty of sun on our terrace. I hope you can do a post on gardening for those of us who don't have cool little backyards or at least point us in the right direction.:)

Macy said...

You mentioned visiting my blog and a song that was special to you was playing. If you're talking about "Dream" by Priscilla Ahn (and I thik you probably are) then I totally discovered that artist because of you. I love when you include playlists in the middle of your posts. I've discovered a whole other genre of music to love. I think they categorized it as "soft indie" and I'm really loving it lately.

Your flowers are beautiful, and I love that you've named the spider in your yard. Our apartment balcony overlooks a tiny little pond outside, and I can see two huge turtles swimming around out there some days. I just call them the "old crusty turtles". haha. It's nice to have bugs and animals for company. ;) I especially love going on a picnic and then watching ants run away with crumbs bigger than they are. I don't mind sharing! :)

Sarah said...

I just found your blog through "Blogs of Note" and ended up reading your FAQ and About Me.

Thanks for sharing your life with the world! :)

Kiersten said...

So I've been reading your blog for a bit now, and I love your photography. Also, your garden is absolutely beautiful.

I really like the way your posts are more photography than anything else, and most times when you do say something, it's overlayed on the photo.

Anyway, great blog. :)


Jaimie said...

I am a renter and your little patio garden really inspired me. I am finally moving to an apartment with a real patio, not on the first floor! I'm wondering.. what kinds of plants/flowers did you plant on your little patio? I can't wait to do it next year!

Buffy said...

Sounds like my future projects once I sell my ranch in the high desert where nothing grows. I tried a vegetable garden, but the sands were blown into the plot I dug out and put gardening soil in. Hard work. I did get some tomatoes, lettuce and herbs.

suzy said...

So beautiful!
So much so, in fact I have a beautiful bloggy award for you over at my place :)

Anonymous said...

Hello lovely!

(I'm one of those people with lovely attitudes who doesn't mind being called endearments by complete strangers.) (But then agian, in the UK people will call you 'love' even while they're telling you off... but that's another story.) Like all the other commenters here, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the feel of your photos and find your blog incredibly inspiring! (Just looking at it makes me feel happy and content.)

I hope that your garden keeps growing beautifully and that your blog keeps expanding as well!

All the best,


jdavissquared said...

your pictures are absolutely stunning!

IngeM said...

Oh what a joy to have a look at your blog. Living i Greenland your garden is wonderland - I love it.
Thanks for sharing!

Taylor C. Nelson said...

Lovely gardening by the way. I have been keeping up for a while now and I am going to have to nod my head in response to your efforts- you really worked hard to get that garden.

I'm only a few hours or so south of you, since I'm living just east of Texas, and have felt the burden of those strong Tropical Storms.

Mine and my mother's garden was not destroyed by the rain, as yours had been, but the flowers had lost a lot of their petals and color.

Though however you dealt with that spider, I give you cheers. I absolutely freaked out seeing it. Then again, I'm TERRIFIED of the creatures.


Hannah said...

As always, your photos are terrifically beautiful. Both your blog and your garden are inspiring to me.

kristina said...

i love this post!
so powerful colors!


John Dearden said...

I enjoy your photos. My favorite is you kissing the cat and conspiring on declaring the room for yourselves. The pictures are inspiring and fun. That just tells me I need to put MANY more photos on mine:)

anna-lee and jesse said...

hey lady. i responded to you back on my site :)


lbc flower delivery said...

Great blog! I enjoyed reading it, and your flowers are beautiful! Wish i can visit your garden some other time. Anyway, thanks for sharing this post. Looking forward for your next one.


Anonymous said...

Not sure if you have a rain barrel yet, but I remember you saying something about it and how Michael didn't want to have one because he was worried about mosquitoes. Well, when I saw this post about building your own (bug proof) rain barrel, I thought of you. Thought I'd share it in case it's something you'd be interested in. http://www.younghouselove.com/2009/03/how-to-make-a-rain-barrel/

Anyway, hope you and sweet Elodie are well!
Happy Summer!

Anonymous said...

Hello Aura
I'm so enjoying looking back over your old garden posts. This flower one is perfect timing- we've just been given a plot on the local allotment (after two years of waiting!) so our back yard can now change from veggie patch to flower garden. Very exciting!
Thanks for the tips.