Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Little Sunday on a Tuesday

Sometimes you just have to start over. Monday was rotten, so I threw it away and started my week on Tuesday.  And then decided, that since I was starting my week anew, why not just change Tuesday to a Sunday? I ignored my briefcase bursting with papers to be graded, ate coconut sorbet slathered in hot fudge for dinner, and went out to garden. Into my new red clogs my long feet slid, keeping me warm as I rearranged pots, took silly pictures, and planted two pots of beets, sowing the seeds in the shape of a smiley face. I haven't met Wednesday yet, but I know it will be just fine.



I think I see a smaller watering can in the distance!!


I am utterly disgusted that you bought a watering can taller than I am!


Huh? What's a watering can? Do they taste like chicken?


Geez Louise! I look like a gnome!!


Ahhh, now that's more like it! (Just not in the garden!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Counseled by a Clematis


Dark pink and lavender clematis grow along my back fence, blooming every May. Last fall I wrapped the base with several twists of a soaker hose and plan on using Aqua Cones to deliver worm compost tea this summer.  

Still in my work clothes, I stand silently against the fence, the pruners quick in my hands, my feet careful of the daffodils.  The vine clings to the wire fence lining, its dried tendrils like earthen seaweed, sinuous in a wave of slow green and pale yellow. Memories roll to the surface as I navigate the clematis stems from dessicated tips to joints cracked and swollen with life. New stems burst from the ground, and climb not vertically but sideways, circling the wires and doubling back on old wood. Running my fingers along the older stems, they crackle and peel away, bending as I prune and guide them, newly shorn, through the fence. A smooth inner heart lies exposed and fresh, almost a pulse in my hand. The pale green heart bends while the outer shell breaks and I catch my breath and stop.

Planted on a dry slope, the pink clematis should not be alive. Competing for water with trees and a mass of perennials, it should have died years ago, a victim of ignorance and poor planning. But with spring rain it's own cycle continues and I am given a gift I have done nothing to deserve. Carefully pruning last years tendrils from the fence I wonder if I am as resiliant and forgiving as my garden. At what point does one bend instead of break? Sometimes there is too much thought in my garden, memories and ideas churning and crashing like surf.  I slide the pruners into my pocket and head back into the house, counseled by a clematis.


I redesigned this section of the garden last fall. Originally sunny and moist, this spot is now dry and shady thanks to a very huge and happy Rose of Sharon. The clematis was almost dormant by mid-July. Last fall I dug the clematis up, plopped it in a pot until I could figure out where to put it, and after a few days of sun and rain, new shoots were bursting from the base. It spent the winter in a large pot and has been transplanted to the fence near the Certified Wildlife Habitat sign that's pictured on the right, at the top of the blog. I cut back the Painter's Palette to make room.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Have we met before?

Hello, my friend! You look familiar but I can't remember your name. My apologies! Spring, isn't it? Such a cheerful name. Glad to meet you again.

Our builder gifted us with a beautiful Yoshino cherry tree that blooms like mad every spring. It's like having a mini Cherry Blossom Festival right in my own backyard.

Most of the clematis have been pruned and are showing signs of life. I bought this new trellis at Lowe's. It's curved and very sturdy, which should be perfect for the  enormous vine that grows here.

The pointy fleur de lis make me laugh. If my clematis ever decide to attack, I should be well protected.

By the end of May the trellis will be covered in big blue flowers. Pale pinkish white phlox and pink obedient plant grow near the clematis. I bought the clematis from Brushwood Gardens. I checked the website to see if they still had this one, and didn't see it. But they did have tons of other gorgeous vines. The petals curve back towards the base of the flower. I can't remember the name but if you'd like this in your garden, leave me a comment and I'll dig through my plant tags for you.

Here's a close up of the bloom. They're real show stoppers!

This is doronicum 'Little Leo'. I've never grown this before but saw it on the sale table at our local nursery and thought I'd give it a try. It will probably be dormant by mid-summer but that's okay. I planted a chunk of five plants in front of a Eupatorium 'Chocolate' that if I forget to cut back, which is always a possibility, will be lounging on the very spot where the 'Little Leo' is now growing. It's an early spring bloomer growing in a moist spot near zizia aptera or Golden Alexanders, as they are commonly known.



The buds are wrapped tight, like little presents. hiding yellow daisy-like flowers inside.


"Hooray! Hooray! It's spring!!" If the dancing frog hose guide could talk, I'm sure that's what he would say.



"You're not done scrolling, are you? Keep going!"


I am a hopeless klutz and usually avoid buying pots that stand the slightest chance of breaking. Glazed clay and ceramic pots usually sell for $35+ in our local garden centers. That's about $35 more than I'm willing to pay for something I'll probably drop. But I found these at Home Goods for $6 a piece and plan on filling them with lavender. I hope I don't break them! 



These little scilla were tucked into an order of plants as a freebie from an online nursery several years ago. They are the very first plant to bloom.


New growth from a purple euphorbia from my friend Annette. I can't resist purple flowers or foliage.



 The promise of flowers from the viburnum trilobum, or American cranberry bush.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Carrot Cakes and Cream Cheese Bushes

I have a confession to make: In my quest to turn my neighbors empty grass-filled yards into the vegetable garden of my dreams, I lost. (I Hope You Don't Mind, But...)When the conversation with normally friendly neighbors begins to involve phrases like, "I'll need to check with my lawyer" and "blah, blah, blah hostile takeover blah, blah, blah", it's time to  activate Option B. Option B isn't fabulous, doesn't involve green spikey cauliflower, or UFO shaped mini squash. There will be no 'Pink Lemonade' blueberries or 'Red Swan' beans. There will simply be a few deep pots, several bags of potting soil, and a handful of seed packets. Deep sigh... When faced with frustration of this magnitude, there was only one recourse: It's time to get a little weird!

I decided that since I could only grow a few vegetables, I would grow whatever came in the craziest colors possible and would grow well in a pot. I considered the blue potatoes briefly, just for the sheer pleasure of shocking my family with a pile of fluffy, cerulean spuds. But it was the carrots and candy striped beets that won. I work with a fabulous teacher who once declared, "You were born an original, honey. Don't die a clone!" A fan of anything unique or quirky, I immediately adopted this phrase as my own, scattering it liberally into conversation when out shopping with my daughter or chatting with students. With Ms. P's rich timbre rolling about my brain, I carefully shopped the carrot pages of my seed catalogs. Purple Dragons? Atomic Reds and Solar Yellows? Little ball-shaped carrots that look like orange radishes? Hot damn, darlin'! Sign me up!

The seeds still lie snug in their packets but the anticipation of harvest has me dreaming of multi-hued summer salads and carrot cakes striped with flashes of red, purple, and yellow. Now if I could just figure out how to grow a cream cheese bush...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Constant Regardener

I once had a neighbor who grew lavender in her front yard. Once a week or so she would don her gloves and straw hat to tenderly care for her small plot. I watched her from my window, fascinated but horrified. Beautiful and refined, she gardened in a dress, its waist cinched close with a belt, the full skirts flowing around her as she bent her knees and turned to the side to snip bouquets of lavender. She was always clean, the pink fabric ironed to perfection.

Brand new to gardening, it had never occured to me to garden in anything other than shorts and a t-shirt. I didn't own a beauitful pink dress, hated to iron, and didn't grow lavender. I admired her ability to stay so clean and to grow something so well while doing it. She and her husband moved, another took their place, and I wondered how the new neighbors would care for the tiny garden they had inherited. They ignored it and it continued to bloom. The idea that there as many types of gardeners as there are plants in a garden began to grow and flourish. And then I met Katie.



Impatiens and extra tradescantia from my garden  filled out her beds before getting whacked by the black walnut.

Katie is a regardener. I have lost track of how many plants have met their demise in her tiny backyard. Just across her property line a massive black walnut tree towers over her garden, keeping her dogs shaded as they destroy whatever the walnut tree hasn't already killed. Big dogs in a small area are always a problem, but Katie assumed they would burn off their energy by playing with each other insted of collaborating to destroy her garden. A canine combo of Einstein and Houdini, Fergie plots and schemes while pretending to sleep. Maddie, with a mane of fluffy golden fur and the IQ of a potato, eagerly agrees to all of Fergie's evil plans.


"If I can repeatedly thread a wire through the key creating a strong enough degree of tension, I can turn the lock on the door by tying the wire to Maddie's collar and convincing her to run in circles. It just might work. If I can't get the lock to turn, I think I'll keep working on my renovation projects by eating another hole through the wall. It really expedites the process of going from one room to another. My humans were so proud of my last project they jumped and screamed for joy." Fergie




"Yum, yum, yum. When I'm done with the peanut butter, I'm gonna bury my bone in the pot of dirt on the deck. Uh-huh, uh-huh. I'm gonna bury it straight up and down so it looks like it's growing outta the dirt. Uh-huh uh-huh. Katie's gonna be so proud of me." Maddie


When Katie and her husband bought their house, they spent the first summer removing overgrown shrubs, improving the lawn, and turning the tiny backyard into a garden. It was beautiful. After adopting Fergie and Maddie from a local shelter, the new improvements took on a different tone.


It's almost impossible to see the small pear tree growing in the corner of this bed.  After discovering Fergie had gnawed off all the lower branches,  Katie quickly located chicken wire, despite not having chickens, and began to cordon off the area. Fergie waited and wagged, while scheming silently to destroy the tree at all costs. But she looked so cute, Katie was fooled. And Fergie wagged some more.
 
Undaunted by a coop's worth of wire, Fergie continued her assault, chewed through the base of the six foot tree and ran gleefully around the yard with it dangling from her mouth. Tree 0 Fergie 1. Katie ranted and raged and then continued with her garden plans. A stupid tree eating dog was not going to stop her from gardening. Buy thorny plants, I advised. Maybe a quince. She tried roses. Served on a warm bed of soil with a spattering of petals, roses are delicious, countered Fergie.
 


 Hostas, astilbes, pieris, tradescantia were ravaged equally as Fergie and Maddie joyfully helped Katie with every regardening project. Eager to prove themselves worthy of her continued love and affection and sensitive to the difficulties of gardening while heavily pregnant, they dug this four foot wide hole just for her. Had the concrete slab been just a few feet to the left, they would have contiued to help. They wagged their tails and stood proudly by their work.



Sensing how difficult it is to care for a baby when threatened by bags of peat moss, Fergie and Maddie decided to help by eliminaitng the forces of evil hidden within. 


Most people would have given up after having to regarden for the hundredth time. But not Katie. The dogs are still there, the baby is safe from the horrors of peat moss, the black walnut tree continues to poison the soil, and Katie still gardens, more determined each time to create a solution that will outsmart the dogs and the tree. I may have a larger garden, but she is the ultimate gardener.



Phlox and coeopsis seedlings from my garden thrive in Katie's front yard, the only garden the dogs don't have access to.