Saturday, May 31, 2008

Potted Lettuce

This is going to be my new patio table centerpiece. It will soon be filled with lettuce from the seeds that I sowed in a shallow terracotta pot I had sitting in the basement. The patio table is white and I think the contrast of the terracotta pot and the mix of lettuce leaves is gonna be great!

Anybody else have an interesting edible centerpiece?

Columbine: The Witch Flower

If I was a witch (a wicked one) and I had a garden, it would be filled with all kinds of columbine. For some reason this flower always makes me think about witches. Does that make me crazy? I mean look at those spiky petals. Don't you think they look kinda evil and spooky?

Can you think of any other spooky flowers? Or does anybody have a witch garden?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Creative Water Conservation

This is the dehumidifier in my basement. It sucks the water right out of mid air into a nice collection device. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? This is the container that the water collects in (below). It's pretty big, I'd say about 2 gallons. In the summertime this thing sometimes fills up every other day. I'm always amazed how crystal clear the water looks when I pour it out.
So I was thinking instead of pouring the water down the sink in the basement, I could use it to water my garden. It's sort of like having an indoor rain barrel!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In Defense Of Big Box Stores

I'm all for a good boycott and I really want to shop at smaller privately owned businesses. I get it. But the big box stores make it very difficult and I don't feel like the little guys are doing all they can to get my business.

Case in point, plants from Home Depot (or Lowes) versus plants from J&P. Last summer I purchased 26 Simplicity Hedge Roses from J&P and was very pleased with them. They arrived in good condition, and all 26 bloomed profusely all summer long. See below.But 3 of them did not make it through the winter. J&P says I can only return them within 60 days and that they can't be responsible for harsh weather or neglect, so I'm stuck with these 3 dead roses. Is it reasonable that I selectively neglected 3 of the roses in the middle of the 26? Or that the weather was harsher on those 3 than the other 23? Doubtful. My problem is that, had I purchased these from my evil neighborhood big box store, I could simply yank them out of the ground and return them for a refund, or exchange them for 3 new ones. But unfortunately I do not have that option.

As a consumer, how can I justify buying from this company in the future? Must I rely solely on my willingness to take a bigger risk for these non-big box stores. Shouldn't these companies meet me half way on the sacrifice? I'm even willing to pay higher prices and travel further to shop but when I don't get a quality product and the return policy doesn't even allow me an exchange, I struggle to justify it.

I don't expect smaller companies to be able to offer competitive pricing but I do expect them to have the best quality plants and buffing up their return policies so that they match the big box bullies seems like the least they could do. And if they are not willing to do that, then I'm not sure I'm willing to make the sacrifice.

Am I wrong about this? Somebody, please, help me see the light.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Assembling My Organic Arsenal

While it's still cool outside and the insects and fungi are not out of control yet, I thought it would be a good idea to start planning for them.

One of my 2007 gardening magazines featured the organic garden of Master Gardener Martha MacBurnie. The best part of the article was that Martha shared her 3 favorite natural plant remedies. Her main remedy is aspirin water, which I used sporadically last year. Martha describes her plants looking like they were "on steroids" from using the aspirin water. Well, this year I'm committed to at least try to use this on a regular schedule. If I can find all the other crap that goes into her concoctions I'll try those too. Martha says that the combination of these 3 remedies keeps her garden looking great.

Aspirin Water
Dissolve 325 mg aspirin in 1 teaspoon vinegar, then mix with 1 gallon water. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons yucca extract for better dispersion. Spray on plants regularly to boost their natural immune systems (treat entire garden every three weeks.)

Insecticide Brew
Dissolve 325 mg aspirin in 1 teaspoon vinegar. Combine it with 2 to 4 tablespoons neem oil, hot pepper wax, garlic and yucca extract plus 1 gallon water.

Fungicide Brew
To 1 gallon water, add 2 tablespoons baking soda and 2 tablespoons of one or more of the following: Eco E-Rase (blend of jojoba and jojoba seed oil), yucca extract and mild dish detergent. Hose off leaves first to dislodge spores, then spray with the fungicide brew (weekly, or after extended rainy periods). It's also effective against soft-bodied insects and white fly.

So this sounds awesome, right? But the trouble is that I can't find a place to buy yucca extract, neem oil, hot pepper wax and E-rase (jojoba oil) besides way over in California at Peaceful Valley.

I'll also be using my compost tea that has been collecting in the container below my Enviorcycle composter as soon as I can get up the nerve to pour it out. I'm afraid its gonna smell really bad and activate my gag reflex. I was reminded of compost tea over at Colleens Organic Gardening. She's got tons of great information over there so check it out if you haven't already.

So, if you are the blue water type, why not try the aspirin water? It'll be fun - we can compare notes!

Monday, May 26, 2008

What's Cookin?

Who says vegetarians can't get their holiday barbecue on?Boca burgers, veggie hot dogs, veggie Italian sausage all smothered with bbq sauce and Cajun grilled potato wedges.

Hope everyone had a safe and delicious Memorial Day. We sure did!

Bearded Iris

Irises make me think of my mother. She's always loved them. This image is what I had in mind when I rescued this old raggedy window from the trash last year. I also meant for it to be a trellis for the Sweet Autumn Clematis that you can see growing at the bottom of it but the SAC is not really cooperating.
These Iris were one of the few plantings that were here when we bought this house but they had become so crowded that they didn't look so great. So, following David's detailed instructions, I divided them last year and they look much happier! Thanks again, David!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Winter Sowing Update

Here are the surviving winter sowing containers. I think I lost about 25% of them and I've got a couple of ideas why some of them never germinated.

(1.) Some of the containers sat for a couple of days with the lids on them before everybody commented to get the lids off ASAP. So, maybe they suffocated?
(2.) I planted the containers for some things too early before I knew any better. For example, the strawflower that I planted in Jan should have been planted much later, like March or April. And by the way, Poppies get on my nerves! They are all half dead and if I can get one flower out of 3-4 milk jugs I'll be jumping for joy. I don't know what I'm doing wrong.

I'm hoping to get the Cosmos and the Lupine in the ground later today but the rest need to grow a little more.

Want to see more about my winter sowing adventures? Here you go.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tomatoes Are In!

Looks like I'll be eating tomatoes from plants instead of tomatoes from seeds again this year. None of my seedlings made it and although I did throw some more in the milk jugs you see in the photo below, I'm almost certain they won't work.

So, I planted Hierloom Brandywine, Black Krim and Sausage Tomato plants today along with hybrid Sweet 100's, Husky Red Cherry, Grape, Early Girl and Roma. I also planted my bush bean seeds and golden zucchini and I'm just praying that the squirrels don't dig them up. It looks like the raised veggie beds are a favorite spot for them as proven by all the peanut hulls I found in there while I was planting today. Question: does anybody know what the plant below is? I thought it was a weed but when I started to pull it out I realized that it was growing from one of the coconut fiber pellets which means I planted this from seed. It is planted in the same square that I thought was either Rappini or Romanesco broccoli but there is no way. See next photo.
This is in the same square and looks a lot more like a Rappini or Romanesco, right? Yes I labeled them but badly and I can't read it anymore.

And here's the other either Rappini or Romanesco. So, then what the heck is the yellow stuff?

And why must everything be such a pain in my ass?


The other day there was an all out war going on over at Garden Rant. If you haven't seen it make sure to check it out. It was riveting!

I was fairly disturbed about the Stepables fight while reading it and although I did check back a few times (I don't usually do that), I had forgotten about it by the next day. But then yesterday as I strolled through my neighborhood garden center, I saw the familiar Stepables display and instead of thinking I should eventually buy something to go in the cracks of the concrete by the porch like I usually do, I was reminded of the slanderous attack that the Stepables (OK maybe that's harsh but I'm trying to be interesting here) guy made on the sweet innocent Garden Rant girls (GR's, please send the check to my paypal account. ha ha). And that got me thinking about e-reputations and whether or not us e-gardeners need to be concerned with them or not.

Now, I fully admit that I did not pay really close attention to the sequence of events in the Stepables versus Garden Rant fight but maybe I'm the typical reader who we should watch out for.

I read something recently that said people normally won't read past the first 10-20 comments on a blog post and depending on what was covered in the GR's first comments, the reader could be left with 1 of 2 bad impressions. (1.) The Stepables guy is mean therefore Stepables are bad and we should not buy them or (2.) the Garden Ranters are swindlers who will say good things about a product only if you pay them to do so. I hope it's neither but I'm just trying to illustrate a point.

For the most part, garden bloggers seem to be pretty protected from the types of conversations that can leave the reader feeling negative. In general, blogging about gardens isn't really an emotionally charged topic and about the most heated debates you'll find are "daylilies, love em or hate em" and the old heirloom versus hybrid debates.

If I remember correctly, the Stepables guy is not the Stepables founder - he's just marketing the product which I find even sadder. I wonder if the Stepables founder even knows that some dude she thinks is helping her company has made me identify the Stepables product with this mean guy. Then again, maybe I'm the only person who over-analyzes things like this. But think about it. Now I've typed that brand name a million times in this post and it's possible that somebody will google Stepables, find my post and decide not to buy the product. I'm not trying to say that my blog could ruin a brand but I am trying to say that garden bloggers do influence product sales. To what extent? Who knows. And not only do we influence product sales but the way we write influences the success of our blog.

Like it or not, we've got e-reps to protect. There are some blogs that are, by design, more edgy and controversial compared to the average garden blog. In fact, I'm picturing the Garden Rant girls wearing the pink lady satin jackets from Grease with Garden Rant written on the back looking extremely cool. But for the most part, we're all just trying not to piss off our readers, which I for one find a challenge sometimes.

Here are my questions for you:

  1. What impression were you left with after reading the Garden Rant post in question?
  2. Will that post influence your decision to buy or not buy Stepables or to read or not read Garden Rant?
  3. Do you consider your blog a "brand" whose reputation you are concerned with? Or are you just in it for fun and could care less what anybody thinks or if they ever come back to read your blog again?

Friday, May 23, 2008

What The Heck?

I changed the look of my blog and added adsense and my total hits per day has plummeted. What the heck is that all about? It seems to be that my blog is not showing up on any google searches any more. I use to be the second site when you google "homemade composter" but now I'm not there at all.

What the heck did I do to cause this? Anybody?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Year In The Life Of Semi-Dwarf Bell Of Georgia Peach

Last year the week after I planted my first kitchen garden I bought this little homely peach tree from Home Depot. It's a Semi-Dwarf Bell of Georgia.

I complain all the time about being from the south but when it comes right down to it, I sorta miss some things about it. And even though I'm not from Georgia, I am well versed in the deliciousness of the Georgia Peach. So, when Mr. Wonderful said he'd like me to grow some peaches, I picked this variety hoping to plant a little of my southern heritage in my yard. Check out the "flower bed" in the picture below. Boy that brings back memories of sod and weed removal last year. I dug a hole and plopped it in and watered it when I remembered.
Here it is this morning. It's kinda wild looking and I suppose I should prune it some day but I don't know how to do that either. It's done really well in this spot but I'm worried that it's going to outgrow this space fast.
After I planted this tree, a guy I work with who lived on a farm with an actual orchard told me that I may as well dig this up and throw it in the trash because I'd never get a peach tree to bear fruit in Chicago. He says it's too cold. Well, that's OK too. I still think it's pretty.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How Gardening Changed My Life

Please bear with me but I'm feeling very sappy and I'm overcome with the urge to write a big ole corny post about gardening.

Tomorrow (May 21, 2008) my blog turns a year old. I really can't believe how my life has changed over the last year as result of gardening. Actually, some of it has been more related to blogging than gardening but the two are so blended that I almost can't see doing one without the other. It's like blogging has just become another step of gardening, like putting away your garden hose when you are done.

Here's my very first blog post that was written the same day I planted my very first kitchen garden. I really cracked up looking back at the birth of some of my flower beds and the transformation of some of my first plantings. For the next few days I think I'll make these transformations the focus of my blog because I'm telling you some of this stuff cracks me up.

Somebody get the violin!

Gardening has changed my life in the following ways (in no particular order)

  1. I've established new friendships that I think will last a lifetime with people who share a love for gardening. shout out to GB!

  2. I've crossed e-paths with some really great gardeners across the world who have been so helpful to me for reasons I still don't understand and even met one in person. Thank you all!

  3. I've found a great way to de-stress that does not involve drug abuse. HA

  4. I've learned more about the environment than I ever thought possible just from paying attention to my dirt.

  5. I've gone way outside my previous comfort zone building all sorts of crap and even though I've made tons of mistakes I've had so much fun doing it! Plus, my confidence about DIY stuff is out the roof and I'm pretty sure I could build a house or something. (OK maybe not a house)

  6. I've been inspired to explore some other creative outlets that I hope to tell you about soon.

  7. My yard is prettier and I know how to grow food!

I think my blog (and my life) will be changing in some very big ways over the next year and I can't wait. I don't have some big master plan other than to keep on gardening but I believe we should all be moving forward so that's what my garden and my blog will be doing.

Next up I'll be showing you how my Dwarf Bell of Georgia Peach Tree went from shabby to chic.

Happy Birthday to me!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Refurbishing Benches

This past weekend I happened on an estate sale where I scored these 2 old raggedy benches and the table (or is that a bigger, better bench) below. Just so happens I was looking for my next project!The extra 2x4's from my pergola project will be pefect for replacing the damanged boards making this was a great bargain at 8 bucks for all 3 pieces. These may look really horrible but only the top boards are bad and if you've ever built anything you know that the bottom part is the hardest part to build (repair) with all those mitered cuts. I've already cut the boards in the right lengths but didn't finish the job because I had all the wrong size screws. I'm thinking of leaving the old center boards for character.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to be but its going to be a table for my 2 new Adirondack chairs to be purchased in the near future. It's heavy and other than needing a good cleaning, there's nothing wrong with it.

My new patio space is filling up already. Stay tuned for the completion of this DIY project.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

DIY Pergola Wrap Up

I'm happy to report that the pergola is done! Well, I still want to stain it but it's basically done. Several people have commented that they were thinking of building one of these bad boys, so I thought I'd post a summary of the project including all the crap you'll need to know if you decide to try this yourself.

Size - I'm happy with the size of the pergola. My posts are placed 12 feet apart and the top boards have a 2 foot overhang which makes the total size about 16x14.

Cost - 940.00

  • 470.00 Lumber (4) 4x4 for the corner posts, (4) 2x6x14 for roof support, (15) 2x4x16 for the roof, (2) 2x4x14 for practice.

  • 55.00 Lumber delivery

  • 20.00 Hardware - brackets, screws, drill bit

  • 40.00 Fast Set Concrete

  • 20.00 Concrete tubes - 4 8 inch round ones

  • 73.00 Tool Rental - 2 man post hole digger. You can use a one man if your hole will be 8 inches or less but anything larger than that will require a 2 man machine.

  • 250.00 Labor - (post hole digging, lowering the pergola, attaching the top boards, replacing bricks.

  • DIY or Professional?

    If you can afford it or if you are not handy and have no handy friends, you should definitely order up a professional pergola. Professionals are in and out, they clean up after themselves and they are really good at leveling and spacing and all that stuff that you think is easy but is really a pain in the ass. If you are in the Chicagoland area, my recommendation is Thomas Landscaping. He's been great to work with and I have no doubt that he would have done as great a job on the pergola as he did on the paver patio. But, if you are on a tight budget like me and you really really want a pergola so bad that it's all you can think about, then I'd say it's a good DIY project.


    Find your inspiration photo - I found a great Pergola picture in one of my gardening magazines and kept this with me during the entire project. It really came in handy while shopping for supplies. It was particularly useful to show to salesmen when I was shopping for supplies like hardware because I could show them exactly what I was doing rather than trying to explain it to them. My inspiration photo was a pergola that was much larger than mine but I loved the style of it and the way it was connected.

    Draw your plan - we laughed about Pie Guys "official Pergola plan" but when it came right down to it, this thing was very helpful. We taped it up in our work area, made notes on it and referred to it frequently during the project.

    Get organized - keep all your crap in a folder that you carry with you everywhere you go until the project is finished. Keep receipts, inspiration photos, drawings, patterns for your pergola cuts, menus for lunch and anything else you can think of.

    Make end cut patterns - I waited until right before it was time to make the cuts in order to make my pattern and that time could have been spent doing other work had I created my patterns ahead of time. It took longer than I expected to make something I liked. The pattern is pretty easy to create. Just cut a piece of cardboard that is the same size as the end of your board, draw your pattern with a pencil and cut along the pencil line with a box cutter. Be sure to save your patterns forever in case you ever need to replace a board on your pergola. Great tip, GB!

    Practice on extra boards - you'll need a couple of extra 2x4's to practice end cuts with the jig saw and to make spacer boards and other random stuff like that.

    Make a schedule - With weekend projects, time is a huge factor. More than likely you're trying to do way too much in the time you've allowed yourself so, if you have a set amount of time to finish your project, create a timeline. This will help you stay on schedule. Be specific about what you need to get accomplished by when. Share your schedule with your team.

    Shop around for lumber - I was really surprised at the different prices for lumber between Menards, HD, Lowes and Hines Lumber. Since I had my heart set on Cedar, which is more expensive than treated wood, I needed to get it at the best price possible. The variation in the total price of the lumber was almost $300! I purchased my lumber from Menards.

    Get extra wood if you are having your supplies delivered - if you can afford it, order a few extra pieces of the sizes that you buy. You can always return the unused ones. For some stupid reason, when they pick the lumber they don't look at the quality of it. As a result, they delivered me 5 boards that were just awful and needed to be replaced. I was able to throw a fit and get them to replace the wood the next day but I was very lucky and if they hadn't done that, my project would have been delayed.

    Borrow equipment - if I'd had to buy all the stuff I needed for this project but didn't have, the price would have been significantly higher. My great friends not only helped by providing the brains and the muscle behind the project, they also brought all sorts of equipment like ladders, drills, ratchets (I finally learned what that was!), levels etc. So, make an equipment list then start begging!

    Call the professionals when you need to - at some point in the project it's better to cut your losses and reach out to the professionals to help you with the really hard stuff like digging holes with big scary machines, cutting off posts that are already mounted in concrete (what a bloody mess that could have been) and replacing the bricks around the posts (I still don't know how they cut those things to fit - it's like magic!) I spent around 250.00 on extra labor but I think it was well worth it. Here's the pergola dudes who helped me. Thanks, pergola dudes!

    The verdict

    It's hard to say how much money I saved because, even though my project cost 60% less than the estimate I got, there were some big differences in the estimate I got and the project I did.

    1. Professional Pergola makers usually use way bigger wood than I did. For example, my corner posts were 4x4's and a professional would have used at least 6x6 which cost 3 times as much in Cedar. Similarly, my 2x6 would have been 2x10 with a professional and my 2x4 would have been 2x6 or 2x8. I simply could not afford that lumber but if you can, buy it! Your pergola will be bad ass! Trust me!

    2. The estimate I got was for pressure treated pine which is much less expensive than Cedar. If you are not picky about that sort of thing then you can really save the big bucks by using treated wood. Personally, I hate that stuff because of the required maintenance. Wanna get fancy and you've got the cash? Try composite wood. It lasts forever! And its a green product.

    I feel pretty good about the pergola project. It was very hard work but I had a great time doing it and I would totally do it again. I think it turned out really nice, don't you?

    So, if you've been thinking of building a pergola I say go for it. I think it is a very reasonable DIY project that can be completed in about 2 weekends.

    Want to see more about this project? Start with the countdown, then take a look at my plans and then read about Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

    A Year In The Life Of Vanhoutte Spirea

    Meet Vanhoutte Spirea. It's the big ass shrub that came with the house. I had no idea what it was until some helpful gardening bloggers ID'd it for me. As you can see this thing is completely out of control. It's taller than the 6 foot fence and I think I remember that it was like 12 feet wide and protruded from the fence over 7 feet. Carolyn and Carol both told me they felt that it had a nice shape when I first posted about how much I hated it, but that was one of the few things that I totally disagreed with them about. This thing was just too much and it had to go.

    I don't know if you've ever seen a Vanhoutte Spirea in bloom but it's breath taking. Every branch is stuffed with beautiful white flowers and that is the one time where I'd agree, the bigger and more out of control the better. But after the blooms are finished, an out of control Spirea is an eye sore in a bare garden like I had at that time.
    So I hacked Vanhoutte all the way to the ground (below). I never posted any pictures of it because I knew I'd be scolded by gardening bloggers world wide. I just figured, if it lived that'd be great, and if it didn't I'd be OK with that, too. I did find that the center of the shrub looked completely dead. I don't know the life cycle of a Vanhoutte but I have a feeling this one is towards the end of it. And it took a few weeks but I finally started to see some growth. Thank goodness!

    Here it is after it started growing back (below). Isn't that adorable? And much more the size of a shrub I needed for this bed. It turns out that, for multi-stemmed shrubs, you can cut them all the way to the ground and it "rejuvenates" them. Now don't run out and do this to all your out of control shrubs because it won't work on the single stemmed ones. If you kill your shrubs, don't blame me! Mutilating shrubs is risky business.

    So then the landscaper made it in to a ball. Bad Landscaper! I had no idea that I needed to specifically tell a landscaper not to make things into balls. Why are they so obsessed with that? Is there anybody who actually asks their landscaper to make their shrubs into balls?

    And since Vanhoutte Spirea blooms on old wood, I assumed that it wouldn't bloom this year which kinda pissed me off.
    Well here it is this morning (below). I just love this shrub. That it has taken all the abuse thrown it's way over the past year really impresses me. The blooms are nearly as profuse as they normally are, but it is still breathtaking.
    It'll always have a place in my garden. And if it ever dies, I'll buy another one. It's the elder in my garden.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    May Bloom Day 2008

    OK so I'm lame and skipped a whole bunch of Bloom Days. But, what's a girl supposed to do when she has crap for blooms? Well, this time no quitting!

    So, here's to my first Bloom Day of 2008. Thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens who hosts Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on the 15th of every month. Drum roll please!

    Karen Azalea planted in my front yard garden. This was one of Carolyn's recommendations.

    Dwarf Korean Lilac also planted in my front yard garden. Another suggestion from Carolyn.
    Magnolia Ann planted in the front yard garden and still holding on. You go girl!

    Northern Hi-Lights Azalea planted in the Good Neighbor Garden. This was one of last years Charlie Brown Shrubs.

    Strawberry plants courtesy of GB. I'm sorry to say that about an hour after this photo was taken, a landscaper pulled out all these strawberry plants because he thought they were weeds. Shame on you, Bruce! You almost made me cry!

    Red Twig Dogwood. Another one of the Charlie Brown Shrubs.

    Holy smokes this is the Lily of the Valley from that nice Freecycle lady. I thought it was a goner! Look how pretty!

    This is my prize Mountain Bluet from GB. I say prize because this was my second attempt to grow it. I killed the first one she gave me. Now I have a big ole patch of these and i just love them! Thanks, GB!
    6 Alliums. They look like soldiers gardening the Spirea to me, which is a good thing since some landscapers like to make the poor spirea into a ball.

    Speaking of Spirea - here it is! Despite being hacked to the ground by me, then growing back only to be made into a ball by some dude, it still bloomed! Yay, Spirea!

    Big Box Tulip

    Another Big Box Tulip. This one looks like wax to me. It's so beautiful! Mr. Wonderful picked it out last year. Nice job, honey!

    Weigelia Wine and Roses. (the replacements)

    Nasturtium that I started from seed.

    Dahlietta Anna Dahlia that I just purchased yesterday. It was already blooming so I suppose I can't really take credit for this but what the heck...

    And last but not least, the flower that needs no introduction.

    Wow! That's a good showing for May if I do say so myself.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Ornamental Grass: The Garden Seductress

    Today I was out picking up a couple of annuals for a container planting and I was seduced by a some ornamental grass. Has this ever happened to you?

    When I walk past ornamental grass I cannot not touch it. I stood there fondling a pot of Toffee Twist Sedge to the point that it got sorta creepy. "I can't stop touching it" I was thinking.

    I finally walked to the cashier with my plant but I couldn't stop thinking about that sedge - I had to go back and get it. I also bought a few small fiber optic grasses because I thought they looked fabulous with the Toffee Twist Sedge.

    No other plant seduces me like the ornamental grasses do. There is something about the way they feel in my hand, like the long hair of a beautiful doll that you can't walk by without touching. And there is something about the way they move with the wind, like the seemingly effortless moves of a beautiful ballerina. And there is something about the way every blade of grass is perfectly juxtaposed to every other blade of grass, like a great hair cut.

    When I planted the bronze sedge with the fiber optic grass, I added 2 pretty yellow/orange Dahlia's and they actually detracted from the beauty of the arrangement. They seem to dilute that softness that is so attractive with the grasses.

    I think I'd love to have a sitting area where I am surrounded by all kinds of ornamental grasses. They would be so close to me that, no matter where I sit, I could always reach out and touch at least one of them. And every time the wind blows, I could hear that soft rustling of grass in my ear.

    Do you have a plant that seduces you? I'm not talking about a plant that you like or just think is pretty. I'm talking about a plant that, when you walk by it you feel that chemical attraction that feels different from any other plant.

    Buried "Treasures"

    When I was cleaning the auger from the 2 man post hole digger before I returned it, I found this spoon wrapped around it. While this is much more interesting than digging up a plastic bag (they probably last as long as this spoon, huh?) it did make the whole biodegradable thing hit home with me. I'm going to try to be more careful about leaving stuff laying around outside because if I don't, you never know who might be digging up my crap decades from now.

    I'm interested in seeing what this spoon looks like without all this dirt on it but I tried unsuccessfully to clean it. I can't imagine how many years of grime this must be. I was thinking I should hang or mount it somewhere on the new pergola as a reminder of all our hard work.

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Lawn Mowing

    I had this very nice post written about this company who I was planning to hire to do my regular lawn mowing this summer.

    You thought I was joking about never cutting the grass again after the traumatic lawnmower rabbit massacre, didnt you? Well I wasnt! If there are anymore baby rabbits chopped up in my yard, it'll be done by a professional, thank you very much!

    The (unnamed landscaping company) is a local landscaping company owned by a delightful young dude named Blank. Blank came to see me (my yard) today and I really felt like I was taking a friend for a walk in my garden. This guy was so interested in my plants that it was just down right inspiring. Did I mention that it was raining outside while we were touring? So, yeah, it was raining and I had on plastic sandles like a dork. Even though I had told Blank that I just needed somebody to mow (and weed, shhhh) this summer, he walked right over the grass, not even mentioning it, and straight to the flower bed where he started naming off all the shrubs.

    "Viburnum! That's in my top five of plants ever" (holy crap the guy has a top 5 list?)

    "Ohhhhhh it's a peach tree!" he said after looking at the plant tag

    I was so impressed by his passion for plants. It was very clear to me that Patrick loves gardens and that's the kind of dude I want my plants exposed to. I was also really impressed that this very young guy is running a successful business. Plus, he felt really bad for me when I told him about the poodles, too.

    But the problem was that they came one time and did a crappy job of edging around my flower beds and didn't pull a single weed. So I had rushed home to look at my awesome flower beds only to find a half assed job done. I called them a couple of times before I ever reached anybody and never was able to speak to the nice young man who I met. He was supposed to call me back but never did. At some point I just left a message to send me a bill and never come back.

    Now some other company is here. I can tell his is a much smaller operation. They are a little cheaper but the truth is in the mowing. Stay tuned!

    Sunday, May 11, 2008

    Pergola Part 3

    Does anybody else think that mixing concrete sucks as much as I do? I swear I feel like I've got rocks in my lungs.

    Saturday morning we got right to work on mounting the corner posts in concrete. This was the hardest part of the pergola build. I think we must have measured and checked level 20 times per post.

    And as you can see from the picture below, the concrete powder is really dusty and none of us had masks. I don't have a picture of it but you should have seen the 3 of us (me, pie guy and GB) all trying to stir the same batch of concrete at the same time. I laughed so hard I nearly peed myself. Once the posts were in we started working on the pattern for the ends of the boards.

    Who needs saw horses? Pie guy used the jig saw to cut the boards that support the roof then I did the other 15 upper board cuts. That's 30 cuts made while squatting on the ground! I swear I thought I'd suffered brain damage at some point from all that vibrating.

    We also had a few helpers stop by like Ms. Pie Guy and my garden blogging neighbor J and Mr. J. She brought me a Geranium which I was thrilled about. Not only that but when they noticed we only had one ladder, they ran home and picked up about a billion more ladders in various sizes and brought them over for us to use. Can you believe that? They also helped me make 15 of the cuts with the jig saw by sitting on the boards to hold them in place. Mr. J noticed that I was about to lose consciousness from the vibrating jig saw and offered to make the last few cuts for me. Thank you Mr. J! I'm pretty sure you saved my life!

    It doesn't look like it from the picture below but Pie Guy was the foreman. Him, GB and I have worked together on enough projects that we all sort of just fall into our natural role. I can't tell you exactly what any of our roles are but Pie Guy is usually anticipating and avoiding potential problems, I'm running around telling us all to hurry up because I'm impatient and GB is always right there with the exact tool you need for the job you are doing. I don't know how she does it! On this day she was very busy trying to keep people from injuring themselves, especially Pie Guy.

    "Pie Guy, don't you want to put your gloves on?"

    "Pie Guy, be careful those fingers will be performing surgeries one day!"

    "Pie Guy, PUT YOUR GLOVES ON!"

    We got the upper beams positioned correctly but we ran out of time before they were mounted. So they are just laying up there now.

    The thing is 9 feet high! After mulling it over all day today I think I've decided to lower the roof. I think the 9 foot high would be OK if all the wood was much bigger. Or, if I were nearly 7 feet tall like Pie Guy. But It doesn't have the cozy feel that I wanted from the Pergola and I think I can achieve that by lowering the ceiling a couple of feet. Don't ask me how I'm going to do that because I have no idea. I've got tools and ladders that belong to various people sitting by my back door and I'm pretty sure they'll need those back ASAP.

    So all and all I think the pergola project went great. To me, the best thing was realizing what awesome friends I have. I mean who would spend their entire Saturday doing hard labor? I haven't spoken to them today so I've been wondering if they are as sore as I am. I was nearly in tears from the pain in my feet, back, arms, face (sunburn especially the lips - ouch!) , legs, hips, head. You name it, it hurt.

    Stay tuned for more pergola fun in the coming days as I try to figure out a way to take it apart, lower the ceiling and put it all back together again.