Saturday, October 22, 2016

New Perspective

You may recall that I recently wrote about the difficulty of coming up with a title for each new blog. The title for this one was from a casual friendly comment from the young woman who bagged my groceries earlier today. Her name is Taylor and next time I see her I'll give her my business card so she can read this entry. Thank you Taylor!

Now some background and I'll bring it around to gardening shortly. I have a new set of eyes. say Betty, how so? Getting straight to the point, I had cataract surgery a few weeks ago and am still getting used to my new way of viewing the world. Most people who have this surgery are older than me (way older), my friends say things like "oh, my eighty-five year-old mother just had cataract surgery and she's doing just fine." Fine? define fine please. "She can see her TV programs better." Hmm, that's all well and good, but for an active gardener who spends more time outside than watching TV, nature looks different after cataract surgery...way different. For me, things feel closer, look larger, more than huge, even the pumpkins look bigger, dare I say planet sized.  And the weirdest change was that for the first couple of weeks after surgery I physically felt shorter - like my body shrunk five inches, explain that!  

And colors, oh my...fall leaves have more saturated color - they are deeper, sharper and feel more alive. A pile of fallen ash leaves aren't just plain butter-colored yellow anymore, to me they are practically neon, unexpectedly vivid - like seeing the bright sun after a gray dreary week of snow in late February.... is this reaction possible with a simple glance at a mound of leaves? The other day on my morning walk I noticed how perfect, yet simple and distinct the fall colors and fruit were on a crabapple tree. Plus I could see them far away without any glasses! It makes me wonder what colors I used to see...milk toast taupe?

I'm certainly no eye doctor, just a gal who had very poor eyesight and has worn glasses since the second grade so it will be hard for me to explain how and why these changes occurred. I'll try.

Internet Photo
First some basic eye anatomy and functions which act similarly to a camera. Light first encounters the cornea which is the front, center clear part of the eye (it's where you place a contact lens if you wear them). The cornea acts like the camera lens. Behind the cornea is the iris (colored part of the eye) and pupil (middle black part of the iris). Our iris eye muscles allow the pupil to react to light that reaches to the back of the eye, sort of like the aperture of a camera. 

The eye's auto focus is the lens - the clear area made up of water and proteins located behind the pupil. The retina is the thin, transparent inner wall of the eye and like old school camera film it acts like an electronic sensor that converts images to signals before sending them to the brain so you know you're looking at a zebra or pink rose. The key to good, sharp vision is the lens being clear so that the retina can change the light to nerve signals that are then sent to the brain.

A cataract develops when some of the protein in the lens clumps and forms clouds which reduces the light that reaches the retina. Suffice it say that life gets blurry as cataracts grow. Colors dull out, objects may take on a brownish hue. Headlights at night may seem very bright and glaring. It's been suggested that Monet the artist suffered from cataracts and his paintings lost some detail while his use of colors became more striking. Lucky us he suffered from cataracts!

And the cause or causes? There is a fairly long list of risk factors, age being one. 40 and 50-year-olds can develop cataracts but may or may not cause any vision issues. Over the age of 60 cataracts can worsen. Read about other possible factors here from the Mayo Cliniccataracts. I think mine came about from exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. I got a lot of sun while life guarding and teaching swimming lessons during summers in college, and the sun tanning years weren't good for my eyes or my skin. Then there's family history, both parents had cataracts. I also had very high myopia. Myopia is nearsightedness - not being able to see far away. Normal visioned people have 20/20 acuity. So a person who is 20/40 must be 20 feet away to clearly see the same object a person with 20/20 vision can see 40 feet away. I was 20/1000 before cataract surgery, (a legally blind person is 20/200). Yep, I couldn't see the broad side of a red barn without my glasses unless I was 20 feet away.
According to the World Health Organization 51% of world blindness (over 20 million people) is due to cataracts. As you can guess, many developing countries or places where people do not have access to surgery suffer from blindness due to cataracts. My ophthalmologist told me recently that he removed a cataract from a young man in his thirties during one of his mission trips to Mexico. Because the man was blind in the other eye, there was worry going into the surgery. He had a very good result. The man was so overwhelmed and appreciative in seeing his young children for the first time that he cried and cried with joy.

Cataract surgery is popular and is performed on over three million Americans a year (I guess I'm now in the popular crowd). It's not too complicated and very painless. The surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens. In my case I had surgery on both eyes, two weeks apart. All good and bonus - no kitchen clean up duty for a few days post surgery!

The outcome for most everyone is very good, they see 20/20 or 20/40. I'm seeing great now and I'm more than grateful. The one downside is the opposite vision issue - farsightedness or not being able to see or read up close. I also had this condition before the surgery but my glasses corrected the problem. I have a pair of inexpensive readers within reach or around my neck most of the time. I haven't purchased a fake peal necklace chain for my readers, but Christmas is coming up and I've dropped several hints. 

As for the new perspective, heck yea, I've got one, I've got as many as my eyes can see. I don't wear expensive corrective glasses for distance anymore - they minimized objects and fogged up on cold days. With the cataracts gone I'm seeing genuine plant colors, many in their fall glory. I can't wait until next spring to see what pink tulips and all shades in between truly look like. In the meantime I'll embrace the various tones, shadows and subtleties of Colorado snow and Bronco orange-colored sunsets.  


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Carol's Pumpkins

Carol knows pumpkins and had a great summer growing them. Check out her blog posting from CO-Horts for a very good read and tips on making them last. 


Photo from Colorado Pumpkin Patch

All America Enchanting Pumpkins 

Posted by Carol O'Meara, Boulder County Extension 

"When I plant my garden each year, two things are guaranteed to happen: I arrogantly predict which crop is going to be a beauty that year, and Mother Nature responds by turning a different crop into the blockbuster. We’ve never seen eye to eye so it came as no surprise to me that, this year, pumpkins ran amok in the garden."  Continue reading....


Monday, October 3, 2016

October Punch List

So far autumn hasn't changed much from August other then a few dropped leaves from the linden, ash and locust trees in our neighborhood. It's almost eighty degrees in Denver today and with the high winds, there's fire danger. Did I mention that it is October 3rd?  Wow, is all I can say. They say the high temperature on Thursday will be 54 degrees, then back to the 70s over the weekend and next week. You mean we'll actually be able to wear a sweater one day this week?  It sure doesn't feel like fall around here.

Lovely rose hips at Washington Park - sign of fall
BUT, and I say that with utmost respect for Mother Nature, the weather will turn colder one of these days or weeks so it is time to check off the list of fall landscape must-do's. 

Through the winter please look for my monthly garden Punch List column in the first Saturday of the month's Life & Culture section in the Denver Post.

Oh, the latest from Google Blogger on the removed links in my side gadgets (that's the technical term they call grouped links) is that it's a big project restoring all the data and will take time.  Add in the response time to other bloggers complaining about this issue and I bet it will take them until Halloween!

No need to throw in the trowel for the month of October, there’s plenty to do outside along with indoor garden projects. Don’t forget to dust off the rake and the snow shovelboth will be getting a work out soon. Continue reading the Denver Post October Punch List...

Friday, September 30, 2016

What Happened to my Links?

Dear Reader - you may or may not have noticed that all the links to my Denver Post Punch List articles, videos and favorite blogs are missing on the left side of my blog. For some reason the Google folks have deleted some of the formatted layout links in my blog and from other Google bloggers as I have just discovered from a quick on line search. I'm hoping they will be restored soon, but in case they aren't I'll have to re-create all the formatted links. We'll see if they (Google) come through and restore what was there, if not I'll add them back. I'll give them a few days.  

Since you're here, check out some of these timely garden articles -

Overseeding Bare Spots in Lawns

October Consulting Rosarian Tip of the Month

Why Leaves Change Colors

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Winding Down

When composing a new blog the challenge is coming up with the title. While doing so for this entry, I was going back and forth in my mind if the garden season is winding down, slowing down or am I slowing down? Yikes, the latter thought gives me a shudder, a chill...a shuddering me, I still feel like I'm 28! When I was 28 perms were the rage, as were very large padded shoulders on blouses and jackets. That's two trends I hope never boomerang. As much as I don't feel old, I get a bit melancholy about the end of the summer growing season and the last of ripe tomatoes and fresh snipped flowers for indoor joy.  

Today is the first day of autumn, so change is imminent, let's face it together. How's your winding down list coming? Have you shopped for close-out plant deals? Are they in the ground? Got bulbs...including garlic bulbs for planting? Is your bounty of produce or fruit put up for the winter? Is your lawn aeration scheduled, same for sprinkler turn off? Once these items are checked off, it's pretty much just a waiting game for leaves to fall for filling the compost pile or used for "bed time" mulch. Last on our seasonal list is moving the outdoor furniture into the garage. Ferris is the one who really misses the patio set, especially the cushioned foot stoolit's his favorite place to relax and keep an eye out for any movement in the yard...squirrel, bird, grasshopper. 
Nothing a person can do about the changing seasons, time marches on as the saying goes, though I would prefer a very slow cadence with many sunny days in the 60s. Snow can march in on December 1st, that seems about right. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Garlic is Next

If you've read my blog for a season or two you know that I'm a fan of garlic and planting a pretty good size crop every year. Planting in the fall is recommended over spring planted garlic. Giving cloves nine months time to develop into large bulbs, so large that your friends will think you have garlic growing magic or some kind of a vampire fetish is the main reason to fall plant. Hard neck varieties grow very well in our cold, northern climate. BTW...hard neck garlic is the gold standard in gourmet taste and rarely found for sale in grocery stores (so you must plant your own)!

Since I've written about garlic planting how tos before just click the links below. 

Written in 2015
Plant Garlic Now

Written in 2014
Garlic Growing is Grand

Happy garlic planting!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dahlias, Love 'Em!

Years ago I spent a few days in Tacoma Washington in September for a niece's wedding. Prior to Jenny's joyous event, my parents, sister and I visited the gardens and sights at Point Defiance Park. It was one of those times in your life when you show up to a new place without one ounce of expectation and it turns out to be a two thumbs up (way up) experience. 

I thought of this visit as I was about to post a notice about the upcoming Colorado Dahlia Show happening this weekend at Paulino Gardens. It's amazing how one's garden oriented mind can wander and remember.

First, a short background on Point Defiance Park. With over 700 acres, the views surrounding the peninsula of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Gig Harbor rival any of the well-known natural attractions. Early explorers saw this peninsula as a model fortress, a place that could "bid defiance to any attack" while American Indians embraced the forest and sandy beaches for hunting and living. In 1888, this never used military reservation was authorized by President Grover Cleveland to be a public park. It was officially signed over to the City of Tacoma in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Internet Photo

Over the decades Tacoma park commissioners and planners replaced roaming buffalo with picnic, camping, boating and fishing areas. Sights came and went - horse trails, an amusement park, and an indoor swimming pool (natatorium) that used Puget Sound salt water heated to eighty degrees. Today there are formal gardens including a Japanese, Fuchsia, Rose, Rhododendron, Herb, Iris, Native and Dahlia garden. 

There's also Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, beaches, marina, hiking trails, and the must visit spectacular cliffs overlooking the Tacoma Narrows to view bald eagles feeding on salmon as they brave the swift tidal currents. 

The day we visited Point Defiance Park was picture perfect - sunny, no wind and comfortable short sleeve weather. I clearly remember three activities that day - the glorious waterfront views from the peninsula, the well-designed dahlia garden and a delicious, relaxing lunch with my parents and sister at a restaurant overlooking one of the harbors. The name of the eating establishment has escaped me, so I need to go back and find that place plus a visit to the rest of the park.

But....oh....those dahlias.

Here's what their website says about the Dahlia Garden -

"Dahlia Trial Garden One of the largest official trial gardens in the U.S. and Canada, the Dahlia Trial Garden is maintained in cooperation with the Washington Dahlia Society. The garden is comprised of plants grown from tubers sent by dahlia growers from throughout America, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia. Each year, the dahlias are scored by official judges of the American Dahlia Society. Dahlias receiving between 85 and 100 points are included in the annual classification book. They are then named and become available to the general public. Blooms begin in July, but August is the best time to view the garden in full bloom, when plants reach heights higher than 6 feet."

I recall so many varieties, colors and sizes that I cannot even begin to describe them with the beautiful adjectives they deserve. They were healthy and happy growing in large blocks of raised beds. There were rows and rows of them - all very well labeled.  I know I took photos that day but they must be on an old hard drive in our storage area - retrieving them sounds like a great winter project. 

For Christmas that year I sent both my Mom and sister (plus a copy for me) a dahlia book so we could learn more information and grow our own tubers the following spring. And we sure did!

So that's why I'm writing this blog today. Go see for yourself the many dahlia types you can grow in your own back yard. This weekend, September 10th and 11th Paulino Gardens in Denver is hosting the Colorado Dahlia Society September Flower Show. Stop by this free event to admire the entries and winners, plus take notes of varieties you want to grow next summer. Experts from their group will be on hand to answer questions. 

Read more about growing dahlias on these links:

Articles on Growing Dahlias from the Colorado Dahlia Society

Planting Dahlia Tubers