Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Little Wacky Wisdom

When my son turned two, I had an epiphany: If I could keep him alive for two years, maybe I could also keep a plant alive. If I planted stuff he could pull out of the ground or play with then it might work for both of us. So I asked my neighbor to till up a patch of my military housing lawn and planted onions, beets, tomatoes, pumpkins, and zinnias. The garden and my son both thrived.

Over the past 20 years I've learned a few things that are always true, even if it doesn't seem like it at the time. Regardless of the weather, soil, or state I'm living in, these are my constants.

1. One person's crazy is another's creative solution.


Once I realized my 'Mint Crisp' lonicera was going to be too vigorous for my threaded rod arbor, I needed to find a way to increase the surface area available to the vine without increasing the size of the arbor. (Ignore the green plastic fence. I'm keeping the dogs way from this area until I've filled in all the holes they've dug.)



I wrapped clear plastic reinforced tubing around the arbor and secured it with zip ties. I was able to accomplish my goal and horrify the neighbors at the same time. Score! I'm training the vine to grow through and around the tubing to eventually cover it up. 

2. Never be afraid to try something unconventional.


Did I mention the curtain I have hanging on the OUTSIDE of my house to block reflected heat from frying my plants?


Yes, this does look ridiculous, but it's highly effective at stopping the laser-like reflected heat coming off this window in the afternoon. A huge red salvia 'Maraschino' and tall zinnias are planted in the pots in front of the curtain. By mid-summer there are so many plants blocking the curtain I barely notice it.

'Maraschino' salvia 
Summer 2013

3. Do not prune when angry.


 When she reaches for the chainsaw, he'd better run.

4. It's your garden. Do whatever you want. No ones opinion matters as much as yours.


A gardener in a nearby town used to change the decor around the bicycles to match the seasons. I absolutely loved it and would go out of my way to drive past the house. His garden, his house, his rules.

5. Compost is your garden's best friend.



The sunny border in early June 2013

In the past 10 years I've been working in this garden I've used tons and tons of compost. 

6. Forgetting to turn the soaker hoses off and letting them run for over 12 hours will leave your rain-starved garden very well watered.



 June 2013
You know it's dry when even the Shasta daisies and orange milkweed are thirsty.



7. National Garden Naked Day probably shouldn't be taken seriously unless you're a nudist or have a very tall fence.


Check out the guy on the far left: He looks a bit sad to have been given such a small pot.

8. There is no such thing as "Popping into the garden for a few minutes". You'll be gone for hours. Just admit it.



Part of my container garden
Summer 2013

9. Mother Nature always wins.




"So you think my Rose of Sharon needs pruning? Then thanks for knocking it over for me!"

10. Don't give up.


70 comments:

  1. I loved every bit of this post! And to wrap the tubing for more surface space for your vine is brilliant! Can I just say that your salvia is insanely gorgeous! My gosh it knocked me over! So true is this post....in so many ways. I have only been at my current garden for 7 years and in that time I have learned a lot about a lot. I do think it is important to follow your own gut and to be proud of what you create. Kinda how one should roll with life if you ask me! You are awesome...it is always a treat to come to your space here! Nicole xoxo

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    1. Thanks! I spent a lot of time standing there staring at the arbor until I came up with a solution. It reminds me of the spiral binding on a notebook. Perfect solution for a teacher! 'Maraschino' is a hummingbird magnet. I thought I'd lost it this winter, but it bounced back, much to my relief. It would make a great annual for you. :o) My garden is the best teacher I've ever known. She's taught me a lot!

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  2. I love all these important bits of wisdom and your arch solution is genius, especially the part about annoying the neighbors. I am absolutely thrilled to see a photo of the bicycle house! We used to live near there too and I loved driving by this house. Since I wasn't a blogger then it never occurred to me to stop and take a picture (very busy intersection) and it is something I think of often as I add more stuff to my garden now.

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    1. OH MY GOSH!!! I had no idea you used to live in my area!! The man who lived there and maintained the fence moved but not before also adding a knight in armor. The intersection is still insane and the bicycles are gone, unfortunately. But his artsy determination to do his own thing was very inspiring. :o)

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  3. These are some good lessons! Thanks for passing them on to us! Number 7 might be modified a bit - National garden naked day should not be taken seriously unless you can afford to hire gardeners that look like these guys to do the naked gardening.

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    1. There are several male celebrities I'd love to see celebrate this venerable holiday. :o)

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  4. True garden wisdom, Tammy! I definitely chuckled at #3, #4, and #7! And #8 is definitely true--every time. Thanks for the grins. ;-)

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  5. Again a lovely funny post. But your garden wisdoms are so true. I am definitely for the numbers 2, 4, 6 and 9. Nrs. 3 and 7 are quite shocking, grin.

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    1. I laughed out loud when I saw the picture on Google Images and knew it was perfect for #3. This was a fun post to write. :o)

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  6. No, never give up.
    I have learned that all the wildlife you want to attract into your garden will be there for a reason. To eat it.

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    1. I agree! I just had a student and her parents bring over two turtles rescued from a busy road. They'll stay small but I wonder how much of my garden they'll eat! Maybe I can train them to eat the weeds. :o)

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  7. There really should be a warning at the beginning of this post to proceed with caution - if you happen to be drinking your mid-morning tea...I will have to make a note of these important rules of (green) thumb. You are the best!

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    1. Thanks! A lap full of tea will wake you up every time. :o)

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  8. A very fun and entertaining post!

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  9. I enjoyed reading your words of wisdom, especially the one about compost being your garden's best friend!

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  10. I'm working on my newspaper garden column. I wrote this sentence and I know you concur: "Mother Nature loves to remind us lowly gardeners that She is in control." Great gardening wisdom, my friend. I'm wondering when exactly National Garden Naked Day occurs. I'll want to hide the binoculars.

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    1. Any allusion to control we have in our garden are simply delusions. :o) National Garden Naked Day is the first Saturday in May.

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  11. Tammy, you are the most entertaining blogger I know! and where do you get all these pictures? I don't suppose the picture for National Garden Naked Day was taken in your yard (at least I did not see your marvellous arbor). Keep the posts coming!

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    1. Thanks! These all came from my garden except for the Tradition poster (which I have a small copy of), the special shrub in #3, the bicycle fence, the Naked Gardeners, or the rock. Even though the bicycle fence is from a nearby town, I never took a photo because there is so much traffic in that area. But it was quite well known locally so I was able to find a picture from Google Images. All the garden shots are of my garden. I peruse Google Images for all my vintage comic photos or funny photos. But garden pictures are always my garden unless I've just planted something and then I'll show a photo from the company's website and a link. If gardening is a microcosm of the entire world, then there has to be humor, too. :o)

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  12. Tammy, your neighbours must really think you ARE crazy...not so sure what I would have thought when you put the clear plastic tubing up on the arbor...but....necessity is the mother of invention...you did good.
    Garden Wisdom #8 definitely applies to me and the world of gardeners I'm sure.
    I don't know what crazy hide-a-way site you find these incredibly funny photos but keep them coming!

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    1. My neighbors are fabulous! One is an engineer who previously worked for NASA so he has an appreciation that I'm an engineer at heart. :o) He likes my ingenuity, which means a lot to me.

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  13. Definitely don't prune your pyracantha or holly on National Naked Gardening Day!

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    1. I don't have either so I'm safe! Any flashing that happens in my garden is purely accidental. :o)

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  14. Wonderful! All you need is 2 more rules to garden by and you'd have a great calendar! You'd probably make a mint selling them (or at least enough to cover the cost of next year's gardening purchases) - or you could give them to friends and family (but not the neighbors) as holiday gifts (and the money saved on holiday expenses could be used on the garden).

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    1. This would be a fun calender except a few of the pics are from Google Images and I don't have the copyrights.

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  15. So true. Words of wisdom indeed. I especially liked 9 - Mother Nature always wins. I can vouch for that and 10. Never give up. A defeat is only a minor setback if you don't give up. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. When I teach my science unit on weather, I tell my kids that a zillion times so when we need to learn about lightning and tornadoes, they'll listen. Mother Nature is a moody gal with a twisted sense of humor and I've given up ever arguing with her. But she can be kind and just brought us a lot of rain to quench my thirsty soil. As for giving up, it accomplishes nothing. But I have taken breaks to regroup and figure out how to solve trouble spots.

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  16. Wise words indeed - your garden photos show that not everything is a failure and I agree that our gardens are ours to do with what we will - whatever brings you pleasure.

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    1. My garden is growing well this year. :o) It's so sad and frustrating when gardeners compare their gardens and feel the need to impose rules that work for one on everybody else. If all of my plants were held hostage by little hedges, I'd run for the pruners to set them all free but that style makes many happy, so to each his own.

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  17. I like your words of wisdom Tammy. Here is one I put on my refrigerator, written with my left hand because my right had was laid up with surgery. Everything had to be done in entirely new ways, since I'm a right-hander. This one is to remind me not to get discouraged. "Making the best of things is enormously creative." I wrote like a second grader!

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    1. At least you wrote it! That's what counts. I think true creativity thrives under adversity. I like to give my students building projects involving only a few materials. They used to whine they didn't have enough "stuff" but they learned to be so inventive and thoughtful and to develop a real pride in what they'd created. It's beautiful to see. :o)

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  18. Fabulous advice.....I never prune angry and now I see why!! :)

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    1. I've pruned angry before and I regretted it. Fortunately, everything grew back. :o)

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  19. Struth....poor chap on the left eh.....laughing away at that! Loved this post, gosh you have a way with you don't you....brilliant stuff! I love the new abor, how fab it looks and I like the results of the angry pruning too. Genius re the curtain! I often forget about the hosepipe and awake to floods!
    Oh yes, we have to be true to ourselves when it comes to gardens, who would want two to look the same. xxx

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    1. I am a goofball, that's for sure. Because I spend all day with kids (12 yrs old) and have crazy friends, I'm mostly unfit to work in any type of setting that doesn't involve sheer silliness and a bit of mayhem. The curtain works so exceedingly well. Plus, I just love telling people I have curtains on the outside. I once told a garden designer that and I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head he was so horrified. Fun!

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  20. I would put an asterisk next to number four as most important. If you can't relax, experiment, have fun, and follow your impulses - why bother? Though I do try to keep my neighbors' sensibilities in mind up to a point.

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    1. My neighbors like to joke they have the best view in the neighborhood: they can enjoy my garden without any of the work! But I try to make sure my plants don't wander into their yard and when I planted the honeysuckle on the arbor my neighbor wanted to know how quickly it would cover his new fence so he could enjoy it, too. I am lucky, indeed!

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    2. Same here, they are generally tolerant - even appreciative.

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  21. Lots of nuggets of wisdom there for us all, thanks Tammy :-)
    I also loved your arch solution, great idea, looking forward to seeing it fully covered!
    And I so agree with number 8 – I have ‘lost’ so much time in the garden the last few years, but enjoyed every minute of it!

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    1. Whenever I tell my family I'll be in the garden for just a minute, they just laugh at me. I lose all sense of time and don't realize how long I've been out there. :o)

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  22. Lovely arrangements gardens, greeting from Belgium

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  23. You always make me laugh:) I am still chuckling over the topiary and wondering if the pruner meant to create what he/she did:) Great words of wisdom, especially remembering it's your garden and to do what you like. It's taken me awhile to learn that lesson, but once I stopped comparing my garden to some of the fabulous gardens I would see, I have been much happier with my own. I thought your bare archway looked like a piece of modern art!

    By the way, you commented that Lazy S's Farms was a good source for the Indian Pink. I did find them online and was impressed with their offerings, but they were all sold out of it by March!

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    1. Here's a tip about Lazy S: Go to the Search tab at the top and type in the Latin name of the plant you want. It will tell you how many are left so you know how much time you can gamble with before making a purchase. If they're sold out again, try Niche. Both are excellent.

      Thanks for the compliment on the arch. :o) It's the Minimalist Suburban Gothic look.

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  24. I looked at that first image and thought you had come up with a way to get the hose across the garden without dragging it over some unsuspecting plants (I flatten quite a few myself) but of course your real reason for the elevated hose is hugely cooler. And I agree that horrifying the neighbors is just such a plus! Then too number 8 spoke to me, deeply. I have burned up hundreds--possibly thousands--of cookies when I went outside for ten minutes and came back inside just before dark. Terrific post as usual Tammy~

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    1. Thanks! I've gone outside with the timer in my pocket so I could race back inside to take stuff out of the oven. I'm a baker, too. :o) I'm actually surprised my HOA hasn't sent me a letter demanding I take it down. A friend got a letter asking that the trees she planted 10 years ago be cut down because she didn't ask permission. Apparently the first requirement for employment by an HOA is a lobotomy.

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  25. 'Do not give up' - wise words, all gardeners know them. We do not give up! Also I agree with #9 - mother nature wins especially I know it after cold winter: some plants take sprouts and others are died. So I try to grow the plants those can survive and are hardy. Mother nature knows better!

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    1. Mother Nature killed quite a few of my plants this year because our winter was colder than normal. But I just bought hardier ones to replace the ones that died. She taught me well!

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  26. You can get away with just about anything out there in the garden and you just proved it.

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    1. If raked gravel and a giant rock are a garden, then that proves there are NO rules when it comes to gardening!

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  27. Always delightful to visit, and to learn something interesting, lol. Ummm I"m just kind of glad that none of my neighbors are into naked gardening. What a sight that would be.

    Jen

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    1. My neighbors are just a few feet away and my fence is only four feet high and totally see through. I hope they're not into any exterior back yard activities that are clothing optional!

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  28. You're so creative, Tammy. This post was very interesting, and also gave me several good chuckles! Something new I learned about: World Gardening Naked Day. First I thought it was a joke, then googled it, and found out it's real!

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    1. Thanks! Not only is it real but it seems to be quite popular! But not with me unless gorgeous naked men want to come wander my garden for a bit. In that case, I'm a huge fan! :o)

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  29. A wonderful post it made me smile! Sarah x

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  30. I left your post up on the screen and my hubby started read and enjoyed your post too. Maybe it is because it is I have been eaten alive by black flies and mosquitoes, all I could think about when seeing a photo with naked gardeners is that they would have bites in places no man would want to mention! I like the bike garden and the fact that the homeowner changes the display seasonally. It's gardening as theatre.

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    1. I think spending the day scratching my butt because it was covered in mosquito bites from naked gardening would be bad for my career and hard to explain. But I do like the idea of gardening as theater. I hadn't thought of that before. :o)

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  31. I don't know how you do it Tammy, being funny all the time. Chuckles and snorts today. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks! I'm a pretty goofy person. Although I didn't feel very funny this morning when I was convincing myself that getting up and going to work was a better idea than staying in bed.

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  32. I have been missing all these for the last couple of months. And what a way to enter the blog-world again. ROFL....:-D.......:-D.....poor guy..I'm a very innocent girl...wink..wink...My lonicera is also going crazy -- climbing up the arbor. I guess I need to do the same thing as you have done, but next year as it is still a baby.

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  33. You simply oooooze wackiness. Darn! Forgot all about World Naked Gardening Day...Darn!

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    1. If it were a national holiday it would be so much easier to remember!

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  34. I'm in love with the bicycles. What a fantastic place. I would be driving by all the time too. and I need to get me one of those rocks. A lot of days I feel like throwing in the towel when it comes to my garden. I suspect I have too many expectations. By the way, great problem solve with the curtain. I remember you talking about how the windows were reflecting and creating a hot zone.

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    1. Our windows have been treated with a special tinting that helps reflect heat and minimize the amount absorbed into the house. The back of our house, which has numerous windows, faces west and turned into an oven every afternoon. I've planted large shrubs to help reduce the effect but that single patio window would create reflected heat hot enough to raise the air temp by 20 degrees. Once I covered it, the kitchen was cooler and all the plants on the patio, which also creates reflected heat, began to thrive.

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  35. Hi Tammy, that's brilliant advice and I found several of the points particularly appropriate, number 8 especially. The number of times I say, "oh, I'll just go outside and and do that little thing" turns into "oh, I'll just do that as well, and that, which will save me from doing it later. Oh while I'm here, I might as well do this..while I've got this out I might as well do that job too.." and so it goes on and before you know it, it's gone dark.

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