Tonya bought a new shovel – a drain spade and raved about it on her Facebook page, Seed & Gardening Exchange. I was intrigued as I am not particularly overwhelmed with the regular shovels we have on the Southern Rural Route.

Research tells me that drain spades are used for digging narrow, deep ditches to drain agricultural land; digging post holes for fences; laying pipe; and transplanting small trees and shrubs in tight areas.

A regular shovel’s wide, concave blade is angled to scoop loose material while the blade of a spade extends in a straight line from the handle, designed for digging. The long, narrow drain spade, also called a sharp shooter, has aided farmers and gardeners for more than a century.

It has a short wood handle and a long, narrow metal rectangle at the digging end. While intrigued, I was not convinced I needed one until I got to try one out at the Mandarin Garden Club.  Within a few days, I had forked over $25.00, an unseemly amount for a dwarf shovel, to acquire one for myself.

Drain spade by Ames

Drain spade by Ames

Close-up of the plastic handle

Close-up of the plastic handle

The 16-inch blade on my Ames spade is long and narrow for making four precise cuts in tight spaces. http://www.ames.com/

close-up of the digging end

close-up of the digging end

Called treads or steps, my spade has small platforms on its shoulders for giving it some oomph when digging. On other brands, the tread may be narrow or deep and face forward or back.

shovel drain shoulder close up-2334

close-up of treads

Poppie has even used my drain spade. Having the memory of a rusted sieve, I don’t remember what he was trying to pull from the earth with his bare hands but I do remember saying to him, “Let me get my shovel,” and I returned with the drain spade.

It’s a treat to be an important visitor! Saturday, I was one of three Very Important Visitors who were invited to the Mandarin Garden Club plant and garden goodies swap which is a private event for club members. Also invited were Linda Cunningham of Cunningham Herbs and Tatyano Vaynberg, formerly of Trad’s Garden Center.

I had so much fun with all the gals and, as always, one of them got away with something I really wanted – a smiling fish face with human teeth. In rounds 1 and 2, I went for two plants I really wanted – a fern and a fancy rex begonia. By round 3, the fish was gone. The gal who got my fish promised to give him a good home by hanging him in a prominent place in her yard. I also had a nice chat with the gal who got my copper sprinkler last year. She assured me it was still going strong.

I have new photos to share of one area of the Mandarin Club Gardens. This area had a lot of new plants and as Becky B. pointed out, the new border plants hide the plants in the middle so that the walkway draws your eye into the interior.

In this first photo, notice how the bright lime green/yellow shrub catches your eye. The gals tell me this is Gold Mound Duranta commonly grown as a border or low hedge shrub for Zones 9 – 12. It attracts butterflies and birds and is not freeze hardy. I am hopeful this is NOT duranta erecta which has a stunning purple bloom with white edges but the plant itself is too messy for my tastes. Apparently, both go by the common name Golden Dewdrop so it’s confusing. My research revealed that the Duranta in the photo has a non-descript pale lavender flower in comparison to the flower of duranta erecta.


MGC Gold Mound Duranta-2546

Left to right: yellow lantana, gold mound duranta and Rudbeckia longifolia

This second photo shows plantings on the right side of the same walkway.

MGC plantings-2547

Left to right: purple lantana and Mexican Sage

The third photo is a close-up of a flower bed I have previously shown you from my very first visit to Mandarin Garden Club, when I attended the Fall Gardening Workshop. In the center was a  loropetalum shrub pruned to look like a tree. It was bordered by Variegated Flax Lily. I don’t remember what was planted inside the border but it now has caladiums and a variegated ivy ground cover. I was trying to photograph the ground cover but had the camera set on Auto Focus so I got the caladiums instead of the ivy. I never said I was perfect!

MGC Gold Mound Duranta-2548
I took enough trade plants to participate in seven rounds. In addition to a few magazines, here’s my loot:

Left to right: Patchouli, Fancy Leaf Begonia (front), Japanese Tongue Fern, Blue Skullcap, tools

Left to right: Patchouli, Fancy Leaf Begonia (front), Japanese Tongue Fern, Blue Skullcap
(it had PURPLE flowers!) and three good quality tools

While I was chatting with Becky B., who happens to be a Master Gardener, I learned that an anonymous donor gifted me with a membership to the Club. Is that Too Kewel or what? Thank you to the kind soul who became my most wonderful benefactor! They promise I won’t be on weed duty. With two acres and only Poppie and I to weed it, I would be hard-pressed to take on more weeding.

As a reminder to residents of Jacksonville, Florida, the Mandarin Garden Club grounds at 2892 Loretto Road are open to the public for viewing unless the clubhouse has been rented out for a private event.

This is news you can use. I’ve been under the care of a chiropractor for the last 16 months because of a car accident in 2011 that messed up my spine. I found, over time, that his treatments allowed me to work in the garden with less pain and grimacing.

At my most recent treatment, I happened to mention that I had poison ivy. Or, at least, that was my best guess. I don’t actually know what I got into, just that it happened about two months ago.

“I’ve got just the thing for you,” he said. “Biofreeze will knock it right out. My wife got into poison ivy last summer and tried the Biofreeze. Our neighbor also got into it and we gave him the Biofreeze. He came back for more!” (paraphrased)

The doc gave me 6 sample packets. According to the information card, Biofreeze is a cooling gel often used for relief from arthritis, sore muscles and joints, and back pain. I can’t believe the doc held out on me all this time! He waits until I have poison ivy to spill the goods!

I was already on oral and cream steroids so there was no point in my trying the Biofreeze but I am sharing this information for others to try. Evie says Biofreeze also stops the itch of mosquito bites.

I found it on Amazon and Ebay but if you wish to ‘buy local’ check their website: biofreeze.com/wheretobuy.


Text editing done in PicMonkey.

I am not a fan of morning glory vines because they are invasive. I took this photo in early June of last year when I was visiting Lam. Today I dropped by to leave something for her and she happened to be there. We went around back and I saw this morning glory vine again. It had completely obliterated one side of the wooden fence. If anyone knows the name of this morning glory, jump in with a comment.


The last time I called for eggs, Mrs. Beekeeper told me that Junior got rid of the hens to go mountain climbing or some such event. I don’t remember, exactly.  She mentioned that Junior kept the rooster because it was “a good guard dog.”

crockpot rooster-0501

Chickens and roosters are hard to photograph. They don’t pose.
Next time I catch him wandering, I’ll take a new photo.

I almost choked. I’m sure I gasped. That rooster’s inner clock is on the fritz and he crows not only at sunrise but all day long. However, the Law of Circumstance dictates that the very moment you need the rooster to scare off a burglar, is the moment he’s going to cock his head and give the burglar his stupid look.

With the air conditioning on, I can’t hear the rooster most of the time. When I do, I go to YouTube and crank up Martin Hurkens. He sings You Raise Me Up better than either Josh Groban or Susan Boyle.

After Junior got rid of the hens, he gave the rooster the run of the neighborhood which is only fair. You can’t lock up a rooster all by his lonely. It’s not – what is the chicken equivalent of “humane?” Chickenane? Henane? Roostermane? I dunno. You can tell me later.

I’ve seen that rooster in the middle of the road, two doors down, and all the way down at Mr. Golfcart’s. I’ve seen him chasing behind The Hippy’s riding lawn mower. I’ve seen him poking around in the grass in our yard which is okay because he leaves no evidence. However, he leaves a lot of evidence when he does his rooster scratching in our driveway outside the gate.

Note edge of driveway in bottom right-hand corner

Note edge of driveway in bottom right-hand corner

What a mess!

What a mess!

The driveway and the crowing condemned him. Despite having no authority over his future, I nominate him a Crockpot Rooster.

In Garden Tip-Compact Way To Save Seeds, I shared with you Tonya’s notebook method for saving seeds. Not everyone can cram all their saved seeds into a notebook so I am offering you another idea.

Dawn Endle, a fellow subscriber to The Plants Exchange on Facebook may have the ultimate in seed storage. Dawn stores her seeds and annual bulbs in a plastic storage unit which she puts in an old refrigerator set at 50 degrees. Come February when she wants to start seeds, everything is in one place.

Photo Credit: Dawn Engleused with permission

Photo Credit: Dawn Engle
used with permission

Photo Credit: Dawn Engleused with permission

Photo Credit: Dawn Engle
used with permission


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