Category Archives: The Garden

Trouble Spots

I woke up this morning wincing. Stiff shoulders, aching triceps, sore hamstrings. While I work out pretty much every day and consider myself in reasonably good shape, I earned the stiff, sore and aching. 

I had an agenda for the weekend, and most of it required hard, sweaty work. I have a few trouble spots around the yard, spaces that have defeated my attempts over the years to pretty them up. One is a steepish slope, shady, on the far side of the house. I’ve tried a rock garden, failed. Tried ground cover, not so pretty. I’ve tried saying the hell with it, let the damn wild strawberries have it. But that just doesn’t work for me. 

Another is a flat space, sun and shade. It’s behind a wall of forsythia, beyond the cherry trees. A spot no one really sees–except I do. Most of my attempts there have failed, too. 

My sister presented me with my choice of top rated bird feeders for my yard years ago, what I didn’t anticipate was the effect it would have on my plants, the space between the bird feeder and my side kitchen window. I’ve thought of it as The Bermuda Triangle for plants. The last attempt was a butterfly bush. You can’t kill a butterfly bush with napalm–and this one lasted one season, is now dead as Moses. 

And finally there’s our garden shed. BW build it decades ago. It served, and is now not only too small, but hasn’t aged well. 

The shed, I figure, is an easy fix. Tear it down, buy a new one, I say last weekend. BW is very sad–which I get–but can’t argue it’s ugly and inadequate. But then he has a brain storm. We tear out the front wall, come out three more feet, put in the double doors I want, reconfigure the interior with better shelving, and do new cedar siding on the exterior. 

Excellent solution, and our construction guy can make this so, put us on his schedule. I consider this checked off the list. 

I put my mind on the solution for the Bermuda Triangle–wonder why I haven’t thought of it before. Don’t plant anything. Find a cool birdbath fountain to fill that spot. Can’t do solar, which is a shame, as it’s north-facing. Just not enough sun. But after a search on the internet, I find just what I want. So in about three weeks, that trouble spot will become a spot that gives me and the birds a lot of pleasure. 

Check it off! 

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The shed, underway.

Saturday, after my workout, I go out to garden. I’ve already dug up some dead nettle (much nicer than its name) and have a couple places to transfer it. While I’m starting this, I see BW with lumber and tools. The carpenter’s still in him, and he insists he HAS to frame up the shed addition. Our John can do the rest, but he has to have a piece of it. My first thought is why, then I think: Why am I out here hauling a bucket of dirt and dead nettle when I could hire somebody to do it? Because it’s my garden–and it makes me happy. 

So BW and I make ourselves happy. While he demos, I do some of the basic chores I’ve set out for the day. Then I look down at that damn slope. A few years back I put in what I think is goat’s weed. A pretty ground cover, at least in theory. What it is, is the Mafia. It takes over the neighborhood, bullies everything else. I haven’t been able to push myself into ripping it out before this–a lot of hard, sweaty work there–and there’s no way to get it all. I’ll be yanking it for the rest of my life. 

But. 

I start yanking and digging. I yank, dig, curse, sweat. But I cleaned it out, uncovered the pretty winter creeper it tried to smother. Plug in more dead nettle, which spreads like mad, too, but is easily dealt with. I think how I have a million-zillion Black-Eyed Susans. They seed everywhere. They’ll probably take hold here, even with the shade. So I go dig some up, plug some in. It already looks better–far from pretty as yet–but now I see potential. 

Cleared of goatweed.  Solomon's Seal in the lower right.
Cleared of goatweed. Solomon’s Seal in the lower right.

Sunday, I think, will be less labor intensive. I do a pretty strenuous workout thinking that. However, BW is banging away with the nail gun. It looks like rain so I figure to tackle some of the inside the house chores. Then the sun comes out–and so do I. Basic gardening chores, and I remember how I’ve got some Black-Eyed Susans volunteering in that flat, dull area. Hmmm. Since they like it, why not dig up more, put more in, see how that goes? 

There’s a lot of digging, walking with buckets of dirt and divided flowers–opposite sides of the house, down slopes, up slopes. But again, I can see potential. We’ll just see if this works, if everything likes where they’re planted, then we can add more. 

Go check on BW, find he’s unearthed an old bird feeder–broken off ground spike–in the bowels of the shed. I’ve got a spot for that. It can now be a little feature. Haul it over, down, and dig the base into what I’m hoping will be Susie World. Cute! 

Bird feeder in Susie World
Bird feeder in Susie World

I think I’m done, but also think to help my man clear out some of the shed. Not only because I’m a good wife, but because I know I’ll pitch out a lot more than he would. He asks me to help him with these iron trellises we use for the tomatoes. He wants to take three, wire them together into a kind of tomato cage. Can do. But that leave the fourth trellis. Surely there’s a use. 

BW's tomato cage.
BW’s tomato cage.

I think of the morning glories, and how so many have seeded in spots we don’t really want them. Find a spot for the trellis–one that requires a lot of sweaty weeding. Take bucket, go around, down the slope, dig up morning glories, haul them back, plug them around the trellis. It could work–a potential of pretty. 

Trellis for Morning Glories
Trellis for Morning Glories

We’re done. Toasted. Both of us hobble back to the house, have a drink on the patio, admire the garden, the hummingbird that comes to feed. 

I know some of the work I did may fail–but it may not. And I’m going to focus on these trouble spots this season, bend them to my will one way or the other. I see more digging, dividing and hauling next weekend, but if so it means what I did has a chance to work. 

And when it works, and I walk by or look out and see pretty instead of ugly and bare, it’ll be worth the stiff, sore and aching.

Nora

Perfect Weekend

Yesterday I attended the wedding of my longest of long-time friend’s granddaughter. I was there when Kara was born–in fact, served as co-labor coach with tkarajoeyhe new daddy. I’ve watched her grow into a beautiful, loving and kind young woman. And yesterday on a beautiful May evening, I watched her marry the man she loves–and who absolutely adores every inch of her. 

Gorgeous flowers, a stunning bride, a love-struck groom, friends and family ready to celebrate what the bride had dubbed The Best Day Ever. And it was. 

I brought home a nasty head cold from Derby, and haven’t had the best week–and that’s putting it mildly. Yesterday I figured to just look at my garden in process–didn’t think I had the energy to do any planting before getting ready for the wedding. Well, maybe just these couple of things. (Note from Laura:  Just a couple…HA!)

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Two hours later, I had lots more done, and felt so much better. Gardening, for me, is as good as yoga for feeding the body, mind and spirit. There’s more to do–BW is assigned to pick up the special begonias now ready for me at the nursery (and a few other things) on Monday. I’ve got spots to fill yet, and I’ll enjoy doing just that. But what’s done gives me so much pleasure. Now I can sit back, enjoy–and weed and water and maintain–but a lot of pure enjoyment. How will things grow–how will they look filled in together, what will bloom next? 

A wedding is a celebration of love–and a garden is the same for me. A marriage is the work, the joy, the changes, the growth–like a garden you get what you put in, and if you maintain, if you love, you get back even more for years and years to come. 

So I wish my sweet Kara and her adorable Joey even more for years and years to come.

Nora

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The Cruelest Month

T.S. Elliot hit the nail on that one. April teases us with warm breezes, climbing temperatures, pretty pink and yellow blossoms, tenderly greening trees–then slaps us silly with frosts and sudden plunges into winter.

Not sure what it says about me that I still love April. It holds out its sweet green hand, then yanks it away and blows cold white. You can just hear the snicker.

And still, it’s the promise, the knowing May’s coming. It’s looking out my dining room window–even though I have a fire going–and seeing my cherry trees brilliantly blooming.

pink tree

On Monday afternoon, I walked around with my two oldest grandchildren, all of us in tee-shirts, checking out the blooms and buds. Today I put on boots, a sweatshirt, my warmest hoodie, a scarf, and was still cold as BW and I went to the nursery. It’s yet to hit 50 today.

 

While I loaded up carts with plants that will make me incredibly happy, I chatted with a couple who told me they drove through snow to get there. They’re only a half hour north, and had snow. That’s pretty damn cruel.

truck of flowers

I can’t plant yet–who wants to garden when it’s 48 degrees anyway? It kills me, I admit, it kills me not to get out there and play. But I have a truckload of gorgeous plants that will, eventually, fill my beds, my pots with color and scent. I’ll enjoy every minute of digging in the dirt–when it doesn’t freeze my fingers off.

Since it’s my oldest grandson’s birthday (yesterday officially) he’s having a swim party here this afternoon (indoor pool, best thing I ever did), so the house will be full of happy–and a big-ass Call Of Duty cake, at his request.

As I can’t garden today, I think I’ll bake bread. I might as well make soup while I’m at it. They’re calling for a drop to 32 degrees tonight. But maybe tomorrow, if April decides to be kind, it’ll be warm enough to dig.

If not, well, May’s coming. And spring better be ready to bust out all over.

Nora

Good Things Come

Though the wait can seem endless, good things do come around. Tomorrow I head out for a week with the best of girl pals for fun and serious relaxation at the spa.

Packing’s a lot, but pretty easy as it’s work-out gear, sweats and pjs. For seven lovely days, we don’t cook, we don’t clean, do laundry, work, and the biggest stressors tend to be what color to have our nails done and who’s moving onto the next round of Drunken Scrabble or Wii Bowling. We have a tournament. With prizes.

Yesterday was  a mega, major signing at Turn The Page. Today is recover from that, pack, do a weather check to help with that packing, get in a workout, and since it’s gorgeous out, take a walk around outside.

After what hphoto 3onestly feels like the longest winter on record, spring’s starting to pop. I can’t decide whether to be delighted or annoyed my tulip magnolia’s on the edge of bursting.I’m going to miss most of it, and it’s my favorite April treat. But the forsythia’s bright and sunny yellow on one of my hills, and I see some of my perennials in the beds, like delphiniums and dianthus and columbine, pushing their way up.

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So I’ll leave my daffs and hyacinths for a week. Then come home to serious work, and some serious gardening. I’ll be ready.

But starting tomorrow, it’s all girls all the time, and it’s a week worth waiting for.

Nora

Note from Laura:  I’m going along for all the fun.  Nora and I will take turns giving some updates.   And on Tuesday morning I’ll open a thread to discuss The Liar. Stay tuned!

 

 

A query letter by Nora

Dear Winter: How can we miss you if you don’t go away?

Yesterday I hosted my annual gathering/clothes swap for people in my local writing group. I used to do this mid-winter, but it proved so problematic with weather and travel, I’ve shifted it to early spring in the last several years.

When I sent out the invites a few weeks ago, I thought: This’ll be nice–end of March. Cool, but pleasant enough people could wander outside if they want.

Wrong.

A 28 degree high isn’t cool, it’s fricking cold. And morning snow flurries are not burgeoning daffodils.

Still, a fine time was had by all. It’s a total girl day with food and drink and talk, and the madness of a mountain of clothes–every style, shape and size–brought by dozens of women.

I’m ending the weekend making farmhouse bread, and a vast pot of chicken noodle soup as I had the chicken, and could take advantage of the leftover veggies from the party. And it had better be the last vat of soup I make this spring specifically because it’s so damn cold out.tulips on counter soup in pot

At least papansies in planternsies–who don’t mind the chill–give me some hope of spring, even if it’s cold enough to keep a fire burning instead of doing some early prep-work in the garden.fire in grate

I’ve got four tubs of books to sign, and when that’s done I believe I’m going to flop down horizontally and find some movie that won’t tax my tired brain cells.

It better be warm enough next weekend for me to at least plant my potatoes, or Mother Nature and I are going to have a serious conversation.  

Nora

Spring forward

This morning when I went outside to feed the dogs, I didn’t see my breath, and I heard birdsong. Maybe I had to pick my way over some snow and ice, but I didn’t have to haul on a coat and shiver while doing this basic ritual. I consider this a triumph. Maybe I can’t yet see the ground, and the view out my office window still looks like a black and white painting, but I’m going to believe winter’s finally heading out the door.

icicles deck snow

When spring finally gets here, I’m going to get my hands in the dirt. On those days when I’m busy, and those garden chores are just one more thing to do, I’m going to remember what I looked at for three long months–and be grateful for the work.

Every fall we haul in some of the deck and patio pots to winter over in the pool house. Like me, this little begonia wants to sit outside in the sun. It won’t be long. begonias

I’m not one to wish the time away–that’s something you can’t get back–but I’m ready for the change of seasons. Happily I live in a spot that offers four of them, distinctly. Each has their appeal–winter just loses that appeal for me quicker than the other three.

Today, I’m springing forward–though the time change will screw up my body clock for days–and assuring myself this is the shift, this is the day we start to drift out of the white and into the green.

Nora

A Garden update

A garden update for all who wonder…

Very happy pots
Very happy pots.
Thriving corner
A thriving corner.
Purple coneflowers
Purple coneflowers.
Pretty trough
A pretty trough.
Nora's mom's snakeplant, repotted countless times
Nora’s mom’s snake plant, repotted countless times.
Monarda
Monarda.
Longer view of garden wall
Longer view of garden wall.
Kayla's impatiens with pig
Kayla’s impatiens with pig.
Herbs -- the dill has run amok
Herbs — the dill has run amok.
Happy faerie garden
Happy faerie garden.
False sunflowers and purple coneflowers
False sunflowers and purple coneflowers.
Boomerang Lilies, boomeranging
Boomerang Lilies, boomeranging.