Tony and I did a trip to Menards to find 2 x 2’s, complete with the obligatory jokes about wood. He is a focused shopper and I am not, especially in a hardware store with a garden department.

When we walked in, I told him we needed to go to the back, to the lumber department.

I stopped to look at gloves, then tried to find the plastic white duck with the three little yellow ducklings lawn ornaments. All I saw were pink flamingos. I walked through the doors, opened a few to see how they felt and finally knocked on some porch supports in case ours need replacing instead of painting.

He went to the lumber department.

Needless to say, we were home with lumber in tow very quickly.

Tony sawed the 8 foot pieces in half and we placed the trellises and the supports on the floor so Dominic could just screw them together when he got home.

Well, he had to find the drill and then the drill bits and then the screwdriver bit and then the screws. Then he stripped seven screws before I told him that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. We determined that the lead holes have to be wider (well, I suggested it, he told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, I insisted he try it, and when it worked, he said it was really about something else entirely and that was just a coincidence that it worked with the bigger holes. I kept breathing and muttering “I love my son. I love my son. I love my son.”)

Now one is assembled, but the cordless drill died (hmm, could it be from riding around in the CAR TRUNK for a week?) so we’re waiting to assemble the other. Meanwhile, he had to go play hockey.

So it will probably be fall before these things get mounted outside. SIGH….

I Have Seen The Enemy

April 27, 2010

Watching from my office window late in the afternoon, I see them. A pair of them. Oh, aren’t they sweet with their floppy ears and fluffy tails and their big brown ears? Aren’t they cunning, the way they slowly hop through the garden?

Absolutely not. The only emotions and thoughts I’m having are “where are the hawks and the coyotes when you really need them? Or even a shot gun.”

I watch as one slices off a new hosta leaf with those evil sharp teeth and then calmly sits and chews. Now a casual jump, the hosta still dangling from his malicious little lips. He settles under the garden bench while the other peruses the vegetation on the top of the berm. It’s amazing there’s anything of value left there – they treat it as their own personal salad bar.

GOD I HATE THOSE DAMN RABBITS.

I open the door and shout, “get outta my yard.” They look at me with little to no interest and certainly no fear. They nonchalantly jump under the fence into the Backyard Neighbor’s yard.

Bastards.

My nemesis

Well, I did an inspection on Sunday while it rained – did we seem to be getting less of the Damn Rabbit browse now that I’ve dumped milorganite in strategic spots?

The pink lilies have been left to grow back and grow in. They haven’t touched the bachelor’s buttons, long a favorite (for them) and the cause of many torn hanks of hair and furrowed brows (for me). They seem to be letting the coneflowers (also a favorite and according to the experts, not supposed to be) grow too.

Juicy and Green

April 24, 2010

It rained on Friday night (first rain in sixteen days – so much for April showers), so we got a burst of growth Saturday morning. And growth doesn’t just mean the green stuff we want; it’s also the green stuff we’re not very fond of.

Emerging everywhere are dandelions and those sticker bushes and those spidery things that look like some sort of succulent, with little white flowers and things that we’re  not sure what they are, but I know they’re not planted by my hands.

So this afternoon, I got my bucket, my weed tool and a bucket of milorganite to scatter on Damn Rabbit browse and went outside to weed.

I am so proud of my garden. Because I mulch like a nutcase, there are very little weeds in my beds. The coneflower bed went swimmingly, with only 2-3 dandelions. Saw nothing at all in the peony/hydrangea bed. Those peony buds are multiplying like those Damn Rabbits, so we ought to have a stellar year for peonies. The grow through grids seem to be keeping their heads up so far, but I don’t have much hope on that for the long term. I was amazed at the length of the roots when I pulled a few sticker bushes out of the butterfly bed. They were at least 12 inches long! But again, because of the very loose dirt and lots of mulch, I was able to pull them out completely – oh hooray!

As usual, the bed under the pin oak was more challenging. Lots of little sprouts of dandelions and UFO’s (unidentified flora objects). And here’s where I got angry. I’ve been concerned that the hostas I planted there weren’t taking, but upon very close inspection, I see they’ve been bitten down to the ground. DAMN RABBITS. Droppings everywhere! I spread that milorganite with vigor as my hostas will not be their salad bar. They really must be trained to go eat in the park – and not in my backyard. As we have coyotes living in that park, it would be a perfect circle of life thing, don’t you think?

(TANGENT – I heard them again at 3:30 am about a week ago. Howling and celebrating a meal. I hope it was a Damn Rabbit – or three. And don’t be sentimental. It’s about ecological balance.)

The Stargazer lilies from the Garden Show are coming up, strong and tall. I will be happy to go again next year just for the opportunity to buy more bulbs and roots from that vendor. Sincerely wish I would have made better notes on that.

Seeing the goldfinches shedding their winter coats and coming back into their bright glory. Gotta go thump the feeder though. I think the weave is too tight and they’re having trouble picking out the seeds.

Danny’s seeds have not sprouted.

But the sticker bushes are. I am plagued by these things in my flower beds and in my lawn. Sticker bushes are not something you can just reach down and pull, like a dandelion. They require gloves and often a weed removing tool. And as I’ve been wandering around with my camera, I’ve not been wandering around with gloves. No matter how delicately I try to move the sticky leaves to get a grip on non-dangerous stems, I slip and get pricked, which really hurts. So they are getting rather large from inattention. I need to do something immediately or they’ll overtake the butterfly beds.

Round Up gave us nothing but dead spots in the grass – dry and brown and haylike. I just read that boiling water is supposed to kill weeds, so I’ll be giving that a try this weekend, if the rain holds off. What I can’t understand is – if the Damn Rabbits can chew through barberry thorns like they are pudding, why won’t they eat the sticker bushes? Or the dandelions? Why can’t they eat the weeds?

Danny's watermelon seeds planted

Planting with Danny

April 19, 2010

My mom and dad are now home from Florida, safe and sound and feeling almost as if they’ve never left. That’s a nice, comfortable peaceful feeling to have. When I was in the January (Really Dark Nearly Black) Blues, I thought that the fact that they leave is a factor in that bad feeling – and then here they come back with spring and everything is right in the world again.

Dad was indeed able to give us an idea of how to assemble those trellises, with little damage to the siding (please, the woodpeckers have pock holed the eastern side of our house so that it looks like a bad case of acne – and now we have to have bird netting up all year to keep them away – they’re HUGE and destructive and endangered – tried pie tins and that not only looked terrible, but didn’t work) and no damage to the brick. Dominic should be able to get those done this week. I hope. Because my clematis is crying out for them!

So of course everyone came for dinner and that included Danny. I had set aside egg cartons and Tony picked up a bag of potting soil. After dinner, we filled the egg cartons with the soil. Danny counted out the watermelon seeds – there were 17 – but we didn’t count the purple french climbing beans. There were just too many. Danny took his job very seriously, and poked a hole in the dirt in each egg cradle, then dropped the seeds in and covered them up. He was very careful watering and didn’t spill, which is a big accomplishment for a 5-year-old. I’ve promised him to make a photo and email to him everyday so he can see how his watermelon are doing.

Buds and Buds and Buds

April 17, 2010

Today was the day of chive buds and allium buds and peony buds and columbine buds and clematis – wonderful green globes of promises. Some oval shaped, some tear drop shaped, some just a nice tight ball. They are all sizes, all different shades of green and all speak of hope for that burst of color.

The astilbes are making their way through the dirt, the hostas in that bed under the pin oak are unfurling and things are in general looking good. The milogranite seems to be working (knock wood) to keep the Damn Rabbits at bay. The clematis is all going crazy and the trumpet vine is budding out all over green. I’m filling in my veggie bed with compost and shredded paper, more each day. I think the Quiet Neighbor just behind that bed may be getting her undies in a twist, as right now, that bed looks just awful and she doesn’t know what it’s going to be used for.

Dominic put the new trellises together, but we couldn’t figure out how to get them in place without drilling into the brick. Don’t want to do that. I suggested he talk to someone who would have ideas, but he prefers to figure out all these problems himself. SIGH. The trellises are in two parts, one 8 feet tall and then a cap that’s 4 feet tall. The cap can be attached to the cedar, but the bottom is not tall enough. My dad is coming on Sunday – maybe he can put his mind to it and then let Dominic think he figured it out himself.

Aware of Everything

April 16, 2010

It was just 48 hours ago that I made photographs and even after all these years of gardening, I am astonished. This project has made me look and see and think much more deeply. While Tony will tell you that I’ve always wandered in the garden way past his understanding, now it’s become more meaningful. I look closer and discover growth, astonishing growth, every day.

A hawk settled today right above the bird house and sat quietly while I scrambled for my camera and bigger lenses. As soon as I had it assembled, he flew off and I didn’t even get a hint of tailfeather in the frame.

I think he did it on purpose. And I hope he comes back.

Today, there was a burst of color in the garden. The pampas grass is turning green and every clump has made it through winter and it putting up shoots. The coral  bells are sending buds – like raspberries on swizzle sticks. The butterfly bed in the sun is glorious, the coreopsis spreading like mad this year. Gotta love a plant that does most of the work for you!  The hostas in the back bed are upright and unfurling. Every year, the different varieties come in at different time but this is the first year I’ve really paid attention to it, and noticed the progression.

Now the white daffodils are coming in, some looking like vintage lace handkerchiefs, some bright and clean against the green. The new lilac bush has two flowers – literally from out of nowhere. Same with the purple phlox – Tuesday I didn’t even notice buds and today they are in bloom. The lily-of-the-valley that FINALLY showed up last year is advancing, marching between the garden path stones and pushing all the mulch up and out of the way.

Those bleeding hearts are putting out those flowers that barely look real. The color is so vibrant you think they are fabric, made for a little girl’s birthday party. The peonies are simply hysterical, hardly able to control themselves. They’ve grown nicely through the grids (one stalk succumbed to the Damn Rabbits. Must have been a baby who didn’t know how nasty they taste) but we’ll see how they hold up in a week or two.

I really thought I killed all the astilbes under the pin oak last fall when we buried them in yards of black dirt. Well, those little troupers are showing up and look immensely improved over last year. Apparently, I needn’t be afraid of black dirt! I think I see some Jack-In-The-Pulpit emerging, but don’t want to count my chickens.

I thought I’d get bored, I thought I’d run out of things to think about and write about. I’m finding out that a year in the garden really means never a dull moment.

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To Prune Or Not To Prune

April 14, 2010

When it comes to clematis, I never seem to be able to go more than one season. After it reaches its full bloom and begins to die back, mysterious things begin to happen to the supporting structure. Two years ago, my walk-through arbor was literally torn right out of the ground in a windstorm and the clematis – one on each side  – broke off. I was actually giving thanks they weren’t torn out of the ground themselves.

Dominic attached much longer pegs, drilled holes in the ground (with my bulb digger. Looks like a miniature Journey To The Center Of The Earth machine. Very cool gardening tool for me and very cool power tool for him. Makes both us geeks happy) and put the arbor back.

The red clematis on the west side didn’t do much last year. Really, it did nothing. The white clematis on the east put out a couple trailers, but nothing spectacular – I think there were 3 blooms. Apparently, those plants were in shock. The newer one, the fall “starry” bloomer, took over the entire trellis and perfumed the air like honey in the cooling weather. Just beautiful.

This year, with that arbor reinforced and now covered with chicken wire for easy climbing, I  hope to see great things!

The fall clematis in the front is growing by leaps and bounds every day – another one that had to be pruned back because the structure collapsed. Now, the trellises have been assembled and are waiting for Dominic to screw them into the cedar siding this weekend. Seriously, he’d better do it fast because it’s starting to fall all over the daffodils.

The purple clematis by the porch is supported by a wimpy plastic trellis. I’d love to dig it up and move it to the middle of the porch bed where it would enjoy more sun, but I’m not doing that until the porch gets repainted. SIGH…. Which means it will stay there awhile longer. Maybe we’ll get that done this summer. Back on subject – I didn’t trim that one, just used green plant tape to tie it to the gutter and the porch railing last fall. Tacky as can be, but it did the job for that moment. Now I see buds earlier, stronger and wilder.

On the Internet and in gardening publications, there is a lot of diversity of opinion about pruning clematis. I wish I could actually make the decision myself for once!

Got up at 7:30 this morning, jumped out of bed and then jumped right back in to read for just a few minutes. Tony brought the paper up about an hour later, and finally at 10:00, I got up. Sundays are really made for that kind of laziness, don’t you think?

I got to Menards at 10:30 and bought my Milorganite, thistle seed, a new seed sock, berry suet, trellis, trellis edging, chicken wire and seeds. Danny will be very pleased as I did find watermelon seeds that are telling me the time to harvest is 80 days. I think I’ll start them inside anyway. I also bought beans and peas and sunflowers and a lettuce blend and zucchini. I’ll get peppers and tomato plants already started come May.

I woke  Dominic up when I got home and explained the trellis-building project to him. Unfortunately, this project was not on his plate for today, however much it was on mine. After some assembly, a little complaining and a great deal of frustration because the trellis wasn’t cut perfectly and wouldn’t it fit into the edging they recommended (I hate when sales people sell you the wrong thing!),  I told him to put everything away and return to it another day.

Meanwhile, I laid out a garden that’s 36″ wide x 12′ long – just the right width to put that chicken wire on the bottom of it. While Neatnik Neighbor tells me he’s never had a rabbit burrow under, I’ve seen it happen in my Next Door Neighbor’s garden regularly. So the chicken wire went in. I lined it with those bricks removed from the hosta bed with the addition of a few just laying around. You see, when we moved in, we had a brick patio that was buckled and too small, so we pulled those all out and poured a concrete patio that is much larger and more usable. So I have dozens upon dozens of bricks that I use for bed edgers, retaining walls, path edgers, walking stones, pond edgers, lifters for the rainbarrls – you get the picture. I seem to keep moving them around and they are extremely useful.

I dumped some composting material in the bed when it was finished but will need to have some dirt delivered. Dominic will be so happy about that.

My Neatnik Neighbor came over to tell me that when Jesus said “There are many rooms in my Father’s house,” he wasn’t talking about us. “You and I”, he said, “will be out in the garden.” Honestly, that sounds like where I will want to be.