Saturday, May 23, 2015

Follow Your Arrow

I don't have a funny story  

 I saw this copper pipe at the hardware store and thought it was beautiful.

or anything introspective to say.

I threaded beaded fan pulls through the pipe to replicate falling water.

I don't even have a joke to tell. 

 Yellow pimpernel flowers in the sedum.

I just have pictures that make me happy

Blue eyed grass in the rain garden.

 and music that makes me even happier.

 Roses and knautia in the Sunny Side Garden. 

"Say what you think

 'Night Owl' rose

Love who you love

Native clematis 'Crispa' is very easy to grow. The thick flowers remind me of an octopus.

'Cause you just get

 Clematis along the rain garden.

So many trips 'round the sun

Handmade birdhouse from Mike Merritt Art.

Yeah, you only

I cut this 'President' clematis back to the ground last fall, 
dug it up, and replanted it. It survived and is blooming.

Only live once. 
So follow your arrow where ever it points."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Little Balls of Unlove

I do not like stabby plants. 
I do not like them in a pot. 
I do not like them when it's hot.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like those stabby plants
that make me bleed right through my pants.

Apparently, as a gardener I should have an appreciation for all plants, even those that slice and maim, such as agaves and cactus and I do. But it's the type of appreciation you extend to a crocodile when it's just taken a bite of an anaconda. I'm simply glad the croc grabbed the anaconda before it could grab me. I have no desire to garden in chain mail or leather chaps and am convinced most agaves have names not quite honest enough in their depictions of the plants potential. While agave 'Baby Boy' sounds rather sweet, had it been named ' T Rex' or 'Piranha' I'd find the tag less misleading.

Each of these little killers are $20 and guaranteed to die this winter.

However, it occurred to me that maybe if I spent some time with one of these botanical bad asses, I might change my mind. Perhaps my dislike was simply based on a perception of impending slaughter, rather than the reality of a plant that simply needed its own room. 

This echeveria scored a perfect 10 on the Snuggle Scale but it isn't cold hardy here, either.

But a trip to the garden center sent me running back to my comfort zone of soft, touchable plants. Several rows of overpriced, non-cold hardy agaves sat plunked in the middle of more mild mannered plants, sharp spears edging each leaf. While I appreciated their drought tolerance and ability to take down small mammals, I stayed away. I drifted towards the cactus and found a short, round sphere that looked like it's spines might be survivable should I accidentally veer too close. I'd barely touched the tip before yelling out, "That little sucker stabbed me!" Although the word I used might have rhymed with sucker, it was actually much stronger. Oops...

I do not like cactus, agaves or any of their murderous brethren and do not want them in my garden. Ever. If that means I have to surrender my status as a True and Genuine Gardener to pick up a card for the Cuddle Club, then so be it. I'll be in the hammock petting my plants.

I much prefer clematis, known to be non-lethal and unstabby.

 I think this is 'Pink Champagne'.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Just Plants in a Pot

I plunge my hands into the soil and squish the lumpy chunks between my fingers. I've left the gloves in the house, tossed into my garden corner near the dog stuff. I don't want protection from the wet mess in the pot, the cold soil too soft against my skin to dull with fabric. I don't want the feeling numbed and I'm silent as I work. Few people see this side of me, deeply internal, analytical, and reflective. It's tucked away and quietly pulled out when needed.

 Seed grown 'Mignon Mix' dahlias were root bound in their cups and overdue for transplanting.

I stop and just sit. The sky darkens and the neighbors lights flash on, curtains pulled, and I finally exhale. This has been an odd week, soft curves sharpened by hard truths and difficult decisions. I had planned a warm spot of happy but since when do things go as planned?

The flowers can be reddish burgundy to yellow.

I finish patting the soil around the plants and stand to shake out my shirt, its folds scattering black confetti to the patio below. I toss the trowel to the side and don't bother to sweep. Two dahlias stare back at me and I bend to stroke their broad leaves, round, fat buds firm under my touch. No analysis or guessing required. They're just plants in a pot. 

These were very easy to grow from seed. There are more dahlias in the pot in the back. The dahlias in the front will green up quickly in the rich soil.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dear Aunt Marilyn,

There is  no sane way to describe what happened today so I'm just going to tell you everything. Last Monday I decided I needed some help in the garden. With schoolwork piling up and weeds taking over, I thought that maybe, just this once, I'd hire an assistant for a single day.

I'd spotted an ad in one of the local papers that advertised gardeners to help spring clean your garden. I'd never heard of Odd Bodies Garden Services but since weeding and digging little trenches between the grass and garden is so easy, I thought even a relatively inexperienced gardener could still be useful.

I'm training this 'Major Wheeler' honeysuckle to grow through my trumpet creeper. Who over comes to help will have to leave it alone.

When I called to inquire about the hourly rates and skill level of the gardeners, a man with an strangely deep and slightly weird voice answered. He was a bit of a mumbler and I was becoming frustrated so I decided to end the call and do the work myself when he suddenly started shouting. He was yelling about some guy named Stefano who was the most skilled of their gardeners. He was tall, muscular, and had a big shovel.

Excuse me? 

I'll need to let them know these bird eggs are fake but the nest is real so they don't worry.

Mr. Odd Bodies continued. Stefano was an expert gardener who celebrated all garden holidays. I had no idea gardeners had holidays but was becoming intrigued. He would email me a confirmation with a photo of Stefano so I knew who to expect.

Holy Hot Tamales, Marilyn. When I opened my email, I nearly died. I've attached the photo Mr Odd Bodies sent.  After pounding myself on the chest to get my heart beating again, I searched Google for garden holidays and soon realized Saturday, May 2 is World Naked Gardening Day.

How the heck was I supposed to maintain my composure while Stefano worked in my garden completely naked? Naked, Marilyn! As in not-a-single-stitch-of-clothing. I devised a plan to wear huge dark sunglasses so he'd never know where my eyes were while I 'supervised'.

By Saturday morning, I was focusing on ice cubes and glaciers to keep my body temperature down. World Naked Gardening Day was going to be my new favorite holiday. But 10 am came and went and no Stefano. By 11 my cell phone was buzzing like crazy with a notification from Odd Bodies. Stefano was running late and had sent a replacement. Was he crazy? I didn't want a replacement!

When the doorbell rang, I casually answered it. I tried to appear calm, cool, and collected. I adopted my best, "Why yes, I always have gorgeous men wandering my garden naked" attitude. But when the door opened, it was not Stefano who stood on my porch but this guy. 

Needless to say, I pulled all my own damn weeds. I hate World Naked Gardening Day.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Garden Ramble

Come on in! I'm covered in soil but I don't think you'll mind. 

The garden is bursting with growth. I've just started cleaning all the grass out of the trenches between the beds and the lawn and have a long way to go. Someday I'll rip out a massive chunk of that lawn and put in a pond but not today.

These common primroses are one of my favorite spring flowers. I love how simple and straight forward they are.

I've been trying to add more plants with interesting foliage to the garden and love this golden passalong hosta next to the ajuga I've forgotten the name of.

I have loads of dry shade but epimediums thrive in these conditions.  

I think the flowers look like little UFO's.

I found one of our turtles! I'd love to know where they spent the winter. We have three eastern box turtles in the garden that were rescued from the middle of the road.

This corner used to be one of the worst spots in the garden. After redesigning it several times, it's my dry shade success story. The diervilla rivularis by the birdhouse is now six feet tall and the glorious little golden thing in the front is a symphoricarpos 'Blades of Sun' recommended to me by expert planstman, Rob from the The British Gardener. It turns green in the summer and has little purple berries. Even its Latin name - sym for ee carpos - is beautiful.

The iron cattails are part of the failed frog pond turned successful bog garden. Tall white turtle head ( Chelone glabra 'Alba') fill this spot in the summer.

Our native red columbine and 'Corbett's Gold'. These also do well in dry shade.

Silene 'Rolly's Favorite' is much tougher than it looks. It can tolerate drought but is much happier with moister soil so I moved it closer to the rain garden.

I mixed in some variegated 'Valley High' silene to give this area some zing.

I found fabulous new pots to replace the ones that were broken or cracked. These are from Home Goods, which is exponentially cheaper than our local nursery.

Both of these will be filled with gomphrena.

Fred, the bleeding heart, is huge and getting huger. What do you mean you don't name your plants? I've interplanted Fred with 10 oriental lily bulbs. As the grow taller, I'll tie them to the black metal stakes to guide them out of his foliage. When he's gone dormant for the summer, I'll have lilies to fill the spot.

I extended the front beds by another foot to keep my plants from being decapitated by the mower when they flop onto the grass. But of course, I then had room for more plants.... I just finished mulching this. This is a big butterfly garden full of salvia, coreopsis, and orange milkweed.

The new plants are tiny and hard to see but will grow quickly. The squirrels have already been over to investigate. I have deciduous shrubs in front of my house instead of evergreens. I know this gives me winter disinterest, but who cares.

Fothergilla 'Blue Shadow' loves this spot

and I love my fothergilla.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Element of Surprise

I am a sucker for surprises. I prefer them to be good and involve lots of chocolate, but even your garden variety can be fun. After moaning about killing my tulips, I had a few bloom just to prove me wrong.

Of course, they're bright orange. I don't recall buying orange tulips, but there you have it.

They're very pretty in an orange traffic cone kind of way.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Killing the Tulips and Other Calamities

Sometimes life just doesn't go as planned. I shouldn't waste my time being surprised by this but it still occasionally catches me off guard. Last fall I planted a lot of tulips. How many exactly? Over a 100 stuffed into every empty space in every empty pot on my patio. So how many tulips do I have blooming? 


Don't ask how much I spent on all the rotten tulips whose lumpy, bulbous bodies fill my wheelbarrow because I've already brain dumped that info into the same file that records how many calories are in a brownie. Apparently, all those empty pots didn't drain quite as efficiently as I needed them to and the tulips slowly began to rot. The snowdrops that I was counting on to cheer me up on early winter mornings before  heading to work also rotted, a double horticultural homicide committed with the most innocent of intentions.

Stay strong, little buddy!

My second blooming tulip is hiding in this pot. Once the tulips bloom, this pot is being relegated to my stack of Ugly But Functional Pots I Feel Guilty About Throwing Away.

So why did my bulbs rot this year but not last year? Who the heck even knows.... They could have been planted too deep in moisture retaining soil in pots with small drainage holes. Or they could have been sabotaged by space weasels, those poop brown rodents with poor taste in beer. 

Beer chugging space weasels are to blame for every garden disaster.

Along with the tulips, the gaura also rotted but that's become such an annual event I'm tempted to hold a parade and sell snacks. Instead of pulling a groundhog out of a hole, I yanked yet another mushy blob from yet another gravel filled pocket and threw it into the compost pile. But has this cured from growing gaura? Oh, please. Don't be silly. Of course not... I think I'm going to stick it in a pot this time. 

Gaura 'Crimson Butterflies' from Santa Rosa Gardens has been ordered to replace the rotten 'Sweet Emotions', which should have been named 'Tammy, I Hate You'. 

Even my Lazarus plant, the 'Cherry Joy' penstemon that survived the winter in a pot, was so shocked at being alive it promptly died. But all is not lost. It rarely is. When my newly-planted-last-fall 'Wine Spritzer' callicarpas died back to the roots, I ripped them out and quickly replaced them with the significantly more sober 'Sem' Sorbaria sorbifolia.

I've had my eye on this beauty for a few years. It's new spring foliage is pink and green.

While I could have settled for a mass of jumbled sprouts shooting out of the root ball, I preferred to just start over and tossed them in next to the rest of the garden casualties. Dead plants tell no tales.