Category Archives: rambling thoughts

Garden Bloggers Fling 2017

Garden Bloggers Fling 2017 BadgeSince 2014, excluding last year, I’ve been extremely fortunate enough to attend an annual get-together of garden bloggers from across the U.S. and from as far away as the UK and Spain. What started out as a modest gathering of gardeners in Austin during 2008, has grown into an amazing multiple day event known as the Garden Bloggers Fling. This year the Fling took place in the capital region, including all types of gardens from Maryland, Virginia, and of course Washington D.C.

It’s hard for me to describe the excitement and enthusiasm I feel leading up to and during the Fling. Speaking of it afterward to family and friends results in an odd combination of me wildly gesturing while giving myself goosebumps. Their polite nods and eventual glazed eyes only confirms something I’ve suspected since my first Fling. If you are a gardener on a Garden Blogger Fling, you are with your Tribe.

Garden Blog Flingers Group Photo
Photo by Wendy Niemi Kremer

I’m naturally more of an introvert. I enjoy being around people, but it often leaves me completely drained of energy. Also, I can be a bit anxious around those I don’t know. In no other situation have I felt so comfortable and happy in the company of people I may have just met for the first time. Our shared love of gardening links us all together over those days of the Fling.

Having attended a few Flings now, I’m beginning to see familiar faces of garden bloggers I met during previous years. There is often a lot of laughter and silliness, both of which I heartily approve. This year our knowledge of irises and craft beer was tested with a game called Beer, Iris, or Both. Though a craft beer fan, I was terrible at this game!

Flingers playing game at table

We explored many gardens of all shapes and sizes together. Excited chatter and “ooo’s and ahh’s” were quite common. At times all I’d have to do is point at a stunning display and a Flinger next to me would nod, mouthing the words “I know!” I had no fear of judgement when I asked fellow Flingers to identify any plants unknown to me. I was happy to return the favor.

Gardeners in the Woods

We were able to take breaks from the heat and share some delicious meals together. One day even brought a lunch and tasting at a winery.

Gardeners at Buffet

Armed with cameras of all sizes, we’d do our best to capture the garden we were visiting. Viewing the different unique styles and creative approaches to the gardens was inspiring. Everyone knew what it meant to get that one, last photo before getting back to the bus!

Gardener Photographing Plants

By the close of the Fling, everyone is exhausted. We’d spent three spectacular days galavanting about in hort heaven together. I usually am able to sail through on an adrenaline high and then crash on returning home.

Gardener in Hammock

Just as rewarding as the exploration of the gardens was getting to know and learn from all the garden bloggers. Heralding from different USDA growing zones, we have different plant palettes from which to work. Everyone has great stories of her or his adventures in gardening to share. We may have different areas of horticulture that interest us, but goodness we all like to grow plants. And who else but a fellow gardener will completely understand why you’d haul two banana trees onto the bus with you after visiting a nursery?

I hope the stars align and I am able to attend next year’s Fling in Austin! It’s in the planner. I already am excited to reunite with those garden bloggers I just left several days ago. Also, I can’t wait to chat with those I have yet to meet.

Tunnel of Trees

This past weekend I traveled north into Zone 5a to take a drive with Mom G. and enjoy some autumn colors. She had already taken a handful of pictures that week around their property as the leaves started to turn.

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I really love this one!

In the north eastern area of Lake Michigan there is a 16 mile stretch of scenic highway called the Tunnel of Trees. It is a popular destination in both the spring when the trillium are blooming and in the fall when the expansive stand of trees begin donning fall color. At each end of the drive there are small, northern towns. Here is a shot of the first.

101516_churchWe noticed the color hadn’t progressed as far as in Mom G’s town. When we drove along the lake, there really wasn’t much color, but boy was it a beautiful drive.

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At the other end of the drive we enjoyed a warm meal of sandwiches, European coffee, and pastries. On the drive back down to Zone 6a I stopped off at a rest area  to snap some more photos.

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I don’t know if I could ever live in an area without very visible changes in season. There is something therapeutic in the waxing and waning of the growing season here.

Eight-legged Garden Guests

So… I am not one to say I suffer from arachnophobia. I’d instead like to say I have a healthy respect for spiders and prefer to give them their space. They are fascinating creatures, as long as they stay put in the garden and do not drop down on top of me while I’m working outside. If they do that, I have been known to shriek and run away across the yard while wildly flailing my arms.

When I was outside today snapping  “this is what the garden looks like at this time of year” photos, I also took pictures of a few spiders. Over the labor day weekend, I noticed an overabundance of spiders in the backyard spinning webs that looked like funnels. I had seen one of these on a pepper plant a few seasons ago. This season Charlotte must have been having a reunion back there because I’d never seen so many in the garden at one time. Then today when I found yet another type of spider I decided to finally look up these creepy crawlers.

Funnel web spider (Agelenopsis spp.)

This first spider is the species I noticed everywhere on the Lot, especially in the backyard. What’s so noticeable about them is they do not spin what I think of as a “traditional” spider web. Instead, their web appears like a thin sheet of semi-transparent tissue that decreases down into a distinct tunnel.


These guys are Grass Spiders or Funnel Web Spiders. According to the MSU Integrated Pest Management website, they belong to the larger funnel weaver family called Agelenidae and are important predators in the garden. The spider will wait back in the tunnel out of sight for vibrations to signal something has landed on the non-sticky web. It will then rush out and either pounce on the prey or realize it was a false alarm (aka a curious gardener) and retreat to the back of the tunnel to hide.

Here’s a closer look at  the spider above. I believe it is a female. According to a graduate student at Ohio State University, a male’s palps make him appear he is wearing boxing gloves.


Araneus diadematus

The second spider I noticed had spun the “classic” geometric wheel-like web between two blooms of a potted coleus. He or she was hanging out, head downward, in the center of his/her web. This one was orange-brown and I hadn’t seen it before on the Lot.


Thanks to the Animal Diversity Web, a project of the University of Michigan, I was able to ID this spider as a Cross Orbweaver. These little ones have the traditional sticky webs that insects get caught up in. Also, this group of spiders are known to consume their webs and rebuild them each day. Overachievers. Here is the close-up.


But Will the Spider Bite Me?

Most homeowners are concerned spiders will either:

  1. bite them
  2. bite their children, or
  3. invade their homes.

Spiders do not eat people in Zone 6a. They eat bugs.

With that said, spiders may bite if you try to grab ahold of them. Most wild creatures do. If children try to pull off their legs, the kiddies will more than likely be bit. Those children should  be committed because they will probably grow up to be serial killers. (This last statement is solely the gardener’s honest opinion… just sayin’.)

Spiders also do not make a habit of entering a home, even when spinning webs near the foundation, if there are plenty of insects outside to lunch upon. The majority of spiders’ lifespans end with the arrival of our winter freezes and snowfall. The egg sacs are what winter-over to the next season, delivering a whole new staff of natural pest control to the garden.