The gardener is OUT

Pink peony poppy, nepeta, and rose campion blooming out front
Pink peony poppy, nepeta, and rose campion blooming out front

Outside, that is. And I’m finding it harder than almost ever to come in and sit in front of the computer. — Unless it’s to crash out on the couch and watch Sherlock. I won’t bother apologizing because I’ve gone much longer than this between posts. Plus I can only imagine that you’re out in your garden as much as possible lately too.

I can credit a couple of factors, besides netflix, for being distracted from most social media (instagram excepted). The weather for one. So delicious. San Diego 70s with only a day or two, here and there, of horrendous humidity. But even then, it has only been sticky during work hours and all discomfort lifts with evening’s breezes.

Also, my garden is kind of pretty right now and I’ve loved hanging out on the porches gazing at it just as much as I’ve enjoyed making tweaks and adjustments to my view (i.e. weeding/editing). The tansy/feverfew is blooming away, and so is the evening primrose. Lupine seedpods are popping open like firecrackers. Poppies are poppy-ing. Berries are forming on the alternate-leaf dogwood and my roses — even the undead — are blooming. I’d say it doesn’t get any better than right now but I’m holding out for next week/month/August vacation/fall.

An evening view from the back deck
An evening view from the back deck

Are you outside right now too, falling in love all over again with your garden?

Tree pose

Tree poseI can’t tell you how many times I looked out the window at my mostly-dead Mimosa and thought “I could just take that down myself”. Luckily, two things prevented me from making any foolish attempt: The only saw in my actual possession is a Silky Pocket Boy; and I have a friend/fake brother who owns a tree care business (WhippleTreeLLC, 508-55-trees – awesome website – and blog?- coming soon). For the price of a trade that I didn’t even have to fulfill (Z has the skills E was after), I had the pleasure of watching my beloved gay tree felled by a very skilled tree yogi. I freely confess that I have trouble doing anything resembling these yoga poses on terra firma without falling over. I would also like to make a note here that landscrapers – your average mow and blow joes – should generally not be allowed anywhere near your trees even if they’re willing to send an underpaid and under-educated employee out on a cantilevered hydraulic limb during a windstorm. Hire a professional arborist. It’s also worth considering that any arborist without a boom truck in their fleet probably actually still knows how to climb and will not turn down a job for being unable to get their truck near your tree. Any arborist worth the title should know how to prune without leaving cringetastic stubs and how to drop a tree without bouncing branches off of power lines, your house or your garden. Take it from me, hire a professional. They’re totally fun to watch.

mostly-dead gay tree (mimosa/silk tree - Albezia julibrisson) - before. triangle ladder pose squirrel posewarrior one chickadee poseside angle saw pose(spread) eagle posewarrior two chickadees (and no more tree)

Have you done the tree work yourself (confess it – I know some of you have) or have you hired a professional? Did you watch?

A whole ‘nother year

the sideyard with shed. It always looks extra cool in the snow. I’ve been wondering lately about the blog and my apparent abandonment of it. I like having it, at least in theory, as a sort of record of (a)musings about the garden. I just looked back at last year’s new years post and can say now with some certainty that my resolutions. as per usual, came to a fair amount of naught. But I like being able to look back on my intentions. It’s good to remember that I had intentions.

I have intentions this year too. Some of them are the very same. I still haven’t painted the shed. And I will. Probably. Sometime. I should. (I shed, even.) But I feel a shift this year to the front of the house. I don’t like what I see in front. Part of that is, when I walk or drive up to it, I see the house itself and it’s a “mid-century” ranch (I love that that’s the description given in the NY Times for ugly things built in the 50’s-60’s. “Mid-century” makes it seem so vintage-cool.), sheathed in white vinyl with red plastic shutters. So some of what’s got to change is a little beyond my ken. But we discovered a leak in the ol’ roof and since Z will have to take a week off in spring to re-roof, he agreed to also think about re-siding, starting with the front, around the same time. And I will think about paint colors if weathered shingles, à la Nantucket, are beyond our means. I’m leaning towards dark black-ish, but can anyone steer me in a more colorful direction?

As far as the front-yard garden goes, I intend to open it back up after having closed it with ginormous plants (remember the crazy-ass grass?). The Mimosa tree (which is, in fact, dead) will come down (hopefully soon) and I’ll make more garden in front that might include a sort of open area somewhere around the (tree) stump. I’m letting go of my front-porch desire. We just can’t do that yet. And I’m thinking of jumping on the veg bandwagon after all. The more I think about food, the more I want to grow it myself and if I do that – order seeds and everything (beets!) – the food will have to live cheek-by-jowl with the ornamentals, front and back.

It's not all black and whiteAs far as the blog goes, I’d like to keep doing it too. Part of my hang up is pictures. I love the pictures I take at work. I don’t always love the ones I take away from work and so I don’t post them. And then don’t post anything. Will it it be possible to have a garden blog without any pictures? Should I even attempt such a creature? I’m not sure yet. But it’s another whole year, I have a gin martini in my paw, and anything goes right now, so we’ll see. (And meanwhile we had snow, so I have some pictures.)

Are you giving everything an annual new year’s re-think too? Happy Happy, by the way! And thanks for keeping this little link on check list…

The fruits of my labor…

thornless blackberry in the frontgarden border…never taste as good to me as the fruits of someone else’s labor. I think there’s something sort of perverse about that. I have dutifully eaten a couple of my own tomatoes in the last week but am much more excited about the tomatoes we chose from the growers’ market. I also have an abundant crop of blackberries in the frontyard garden but remember the wild ones we picked at the cemetery last year tasting sweeter. Perhaps in the case of the blackberries, the wild ones in a dry year really were sweeter than my cultivated thornless variety in a wet year but with the tomatoes I think it has something to do with respect and pride. I have very little of either when it comes to the edibles under my jurisdiction and I’m working on figuring out why.

Everyone on the planet it seems is taking great pride in knowing exactly where their food comes from and is growing their own. According to the experts, nothing tastes better than something you’ve grown yourself. I suspect one of my issues might be that I know for certain that all I did was plunk a little something in the ground and move onto the next thing. Even the vegetables we grow at work are more appealing than my own because I at least witness the effort and love that goes into maintaining those plants. And professional local growers’ vegetables seem somehow miraculous and perfect too. My own seem like afterthoughts, wannabes and lucky guesses at best.

Rosa mutabilisThe professionals have obviously taken some trouble with their tomatoes to grow them (particularly this year), harvest them and bring them to market. I don’t take any trouble at all. It takes me all of 20 seconds to walk out the door and pluck a ripe tom from my surviving plant. I respect the market growers’ efforts but have no reason whatsoever to respect mine. On the other hand I take tremendous and overblown pride in some of my ornamental plants. These roses that I rescued from the compost heap at work haven’t ceased to amaze me and just like my tomatoes, I didn’t do anything more than plant them either. Ironically some of the ornamental plants I’m proud of are, in fact, vegetables…

Last night we ate Z’s mother’s soaked tomato salad (fresh tomato(es) cut into rounds and laid in a single layer in a shallow dish and drizzled with with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped raw garlic, basil – fresh or dried, oregano and Adobo seasoning and allowed to steep for a bit) and I was halfway through loving it as usual when Z mentioned that the tomato was from our garden. He seemed to take some pride in that and ate his share with gusto. I always think that food tastes better when it’s prepared with thought, love and care – by someone else – and I enjoyed the salad because Z made it. But maybe that’s just it with growing food too. I’ve always been willing and able to create something to look at (hell, I even have a degree or two in that) and take great pride in my successful efforts in visual loveliness even if I’m the only one that ever sees it. But food for me was never Art – and never particularly tasty – unless someone else made it. hmmmmmm… Food for thought! With my very own delicious blackberries for dessert.

blackberry perfection

Are you proud of the food you’ve grown? Is it the very tastiest? Or, like me, would you rather just look at it?

Pangs of guilt

There’s something about cutting down – deliberately lopping and sawing to death – a healthy living plant, that doesn’t sit well with me.  I’m sure every gardener on the planet understands the torment that’s born of killing a plant that someone somewhere might value.  But I’m also sure that every gardener on the planet understands the euphoria that comes with making a significant change involving new planting opportunities.

Before.  The Noodle surveys streetside.Yesterday I continued what I started two years ago and took out more of the foundation plantings that were here when we bought the place.  It’s quite likely that they’ve been here since the house was built in the late 50’s. These venerable shrubberies include(d) several of some kind of chamaecyparis that had formerly been bubble shape sheared, 2 hollies, a male and female – also formerly sheared, and some token hydrangeas – which are, incidentally, very popular amongst the Azorean population of Bristol.  I kind of love them for that.  Z hates them for bad associations involving digging and saving some for persnickity clients. – Being a carpenter, not gardener, this was regarded as a ridonculous request.  In any case, they are all outie and I, so far, have not tried to dig any up to passalong to someone else.  Part of the reason for that is that the roots of each are now miles beneath a thick layer of rock mulch, shredded landscape cloth and disintegrated bark mulch.  No mulch of which has had the muscle in near years to thwart the bittersweet (and chickweed) which would inevitably be donated along with any good deed.After. But to be continued.

I object to the foundation plantings on the grounds of … they’re not Me.  When I drive up to the house I want to see my own stuff and make way for changes even if we can’t get to them yet.  We see a porch with a generous stoop on that side of the house and imagine watching the sunset from out there, drinking tea or martinis with our feet up on a bit of rail.  With the shrubberies gone, we’ll have more bare-naked incentive to get a move on.  And meanwhile, there are plenty of giant temporary tender perennials I could plunk in that I’d rather look at than cringe inducing shrubbery.  And it will feel more like Me even if (or maybe especially if) it’s kind of a mess.

I’m trying to justify the wanton killing.  I tried to remember to thank the shubberies for their valiant attempts to hide the concrete and anchor the house to the yard but by the time I got to the first holly I just hacked with abandon.  I’ve still got a ways to go but it already feels so much better – even though it looks like sh*#.  I’m all for making my own mistakes now.

Have you deliberately killed any healthy plants just because they weren’t You? Do the guilty feelings linger?