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Posts Tagged ‘weeding’

I slipped up and did not post either Friday night or Saturday night. Friday, my office hosted a little meet-and-greet for past clients, and while I was not obligated to be there, I went for a couple of hours. I hate small talk, but sometime you have to do what you have to do, and I wanted to support my real estate agents. Small talk kills me, and I came home and dove into a movie instead of getting on the Web.

Saturday, I gave myself permission to take the day off from responsibilities, writing, and plugging away at my website goals over at Two Crow Feather Woman. I did some minor chores. but most of the day was just a long, lazy, happy day.

Today, I jumped back into responsibility. Groceries, laundry, feeding the birds. The sun came out, although a bit weak, what with high, thin, clouds. I dove into the garden. Who knows when next we’ll have a relatively decent and warm day to tackle the constants of a living garden? The rainy season is fast approaching and I admit that I am none too fond of working in the yard in the cold, finger-cramping, Autumn weather.

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This doesn’t look like much. I’ll explain: you are looking at a slew of yellow evening primroses (Oenothera biennis). I have wonderful childhood memories of the fragrance of these wafting on a warm summer’s evening. Then I grew up and forgot about it until some bird dropped these seeds into my yard and I decided to see what grew from the clumps. They are every bit as fragrant as I recall, and they are insect-friendly, hosting bees, moths, and hummingbirds. Occasionally, we even get hummingbird moths (common name for a sphinx moth that resembles a hummingbird, but which flies at night. The evening primrose blooms in the evening and fades with dawn’s light.

This year, they spread over the top of my beleaguered mountain penstemon, and I had to decide: primroses or penstemon? Oh, why choose either/or? I chose to pull apart the broad leaves of the primroses to find the living branches of the particular penstemon I have: something we dug up in eastern Oregon or the high Cascades and replanted in the yard. This particular kind grows much like kinnickinnick (I love that word!): woody, close to the ground, and on slopes.

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I planted it in three different areas of the yard, naturalizing it into the rocks.

Well, that was easy, so why not tackle the irises? It is Autumn, and the best time to dig around irises. My irises survived the gravel drive of my folks’ house in Ely, Nevada, for decades. They were my mother’s, and a few years after she died, my father dug them up (he hated them) and boxed them, and shipped them to me.

They survived the wet climate here, but every few years I have to dig them completely out and pull the grass out from between them. The grass is insidious. It strangles my other plants, from peonies to irises to gladiolas to my lavenders and the Russian sage. Anyplace that was a neglected flower bed when we bought this house, the grass creeps in and takes my garden hostage.

I don’t have this problem in the beds I created since we moved in, only in the beds that were neglected by the previous owner.

Grass and red sorrel.

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I have temporarily won: the irises have been replanted sans grass roots.

Finally, I mulched a zone 9 plant out in the front garden (I live in a 7/8 zone), and I pulled out half the Hallowe’en decorations. I’ll put up the lights next weekend.

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Last weekend, I purchased some small garden fencing to try to protect my flower beds from Murphy. Specifically, I wanted to fence off the prayer garden where one of the aroids I planted last fall actually came up. I figured I could go to Fred Meyer & pick up on this sale they had since I hadn’t seen anything at Home Depot the weekend before. I bought a nice white fence and got it all set up, then Don came home and told me that he thought Murphy could squeeze through the white fence. GREAT. As it happened, we had to make a trip to Home Depot and they had the fencing in (surprise!) – and it was CHEAPER than the great deal at Fred Meyer.

Heavy sigh. We bought more fencing at Home Depot. Theirs had narrower openings and would work better we reasoned. I could use the white fence to protect my peonies from Murphy: he was using the end peonies in lieu of a fire hydrant and they were suffering. So I put up the brown fence from Home Depot and set up the white fence around the ends of the peony bed (I didn’t have enough to go all the way around the island).

Then Murphy promptly jumped over the brown fence. So I tried to up the stakes by adding a couple strands of wire above the brown fence. Ugly, but functional.

This weekend, Fred Meyer had the white fence on for buy one, get one half price. That brought it down to the Home Depot price and I figured I could finish the island. Since I was in the gardening mood and it looked like the weather might clear, I also went to Home Depot and found the mulch I like to put around the flowers. After all, I had to recover all the weed guard that Murphy dug up last winter.

Once I had all that home, I realized that I was going to have to weed the flower beds before I put the mulch on. And I would have to edge to peony island so Don can get his lawn mower around. By now the sun was shining and it was warming up. But I am determined.

You might ask where was Don? Well, he was busy trying to save his espalier apple trees from Murphy. Murphy likes apples.

When Don planted the trees (there are two, one on each side of the vegetable garden gate), he built the fence behind the trees. But since Murphy developed a taste for apples, he realized he was going to need to place the fence in front of the trees. He had to move it around his horse radish plants, too. And to move the fence, he had to dig up the sod and weed. So that is where he was and what he was doing while I was running around doing errands and getting my fence and mulch.

When we bought this house, this island was covered in grass and clover. I was horrified because it was obviously a flower bed with tree peonies and peonies. Years of neglect were threatening to choke the life out of the peonies. I considered a less-than-organic approach and looked into grass herbicide, only to be warned by wiser gardeners that peonies are particularly sensitive to herbicides.

I was going to have to clear the island the old fashioned way: with hand tools and hard work.

It took me five years to get the grass cleared without killing any peonies. I also planted irises, day lilies, penstemmon, lavender, sage, Russian sage, and a few miscellaneous items; the dogwood that I will probably dig out and Don’s hawthorn. OK, he planted the hawthorn. That was his miserable contribution to this (miserable because I cannot weed under it without being stabbed by thorns).

Today, I weeded (not too hard because I have kept ahead of the weeds ever since I finished clearing the grass out and there’s the weed guard under the fresh layer of mulch). Then I pulled six bags of mulch out and covered up all the exposed weed guard (I need about one more bag for the island). And I put up the white fence.

I like doing all my own landscaping. Even if it takes hard work and leaves me sore all over. It just looks so nice and leaves me feeling like I accomplished something. Nevermind that the house work is still sitting undone.

I’ll let it sit undone, too: I came in, took a long hot bath, then sat down and blogged.

And Murphy can still jump the brown fence which is why there isn’t a photo of that on my blog. I have to rethink that entire corner.

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We had a wonderful warm Saturday that distracted me from all of my other responsibilities and plans. No one else was at home when I rose in the morning (except the parakeets). I looked at the loads of laundry, considered the posts I wanted to add to my blog (on homeschooling, mostly), the bills to pay and the myriad other little duties I have to do on a weekend. Then I looked outside. Sunshine. Real sunshine and real warm sunshine. I wheeled the parakeets outside so they could enjoy the day. I found my garden gloves, my garden shows, and I put on some sloppy parachute pants to get dirty in. I tied my hair back and dropped my trusty knee pads onto the still-dewy lawn.

And I dug. There’s something freeing about dirt. I pulled up chickweed and used the trowel to get under the dandelions, false dandelions and thistles that were trying to get a foothold in my flower beds. The day was warm and I lost track of time. Not much was blooming – yet – but so much had the promise of opening up to the sun! I decided to get two flower beds done: the ones out front, under the big rhododendrons, and the big “island” in the back, by the camelia. I refused to look at the camellia, which had just tipped past its prime. Camellias don’t last much more than fifteen minutes, and this one is no exception. It’s redeeming feature is the trunk. Really. And the ten minutes that the flowers are fully open, still vibrant and pink with bright yellow stamens. Then they turn brown and ugly, fall off the tree (bush? Mine is pruned to look like a dwarf tree)) and turn into slug slime on the ground beneath the camellia. Slugs won’t eat them, by the way: I suppose they consider the dead flowers are as slimy as them, so why bother? No, slugs eat my irises instead.

Ah! But I was a step ahead of the slugs this year and purchased some pretty wire ribbon from Lee Valley Garden Supply which I staked around all of my irises. The slugs crawl up to the copper and touch it with their slimy antennae. It is the gastropod equivalent of licking your finger and sticking it into an ungrounded light socket. Zap! No poison ever worked as well and was less toxic to the rest of the garden. That was what else I did while the parakeets watched me work.

Work? Playing in the dirt? Not work: pleasure. Mindless, soothing, addicting, dirty play.

I raked the rhodie leaves back from the few plants that survive the acidic soil beneath my bushes (which, like the camellia, are more like dwarf trees and have been pruned up to show off their beautiful trunks). I proudly noted that all of the crocus bulbs I planted last fall had produced spring blooms.

Here are some pictures:

The camellia just moments before her full glory…

Too late. The flowers have started to fall. THIS is why I hate camellias… (And they are marketed as “long blooming beauties.” yeah. Right. If you consider a week a long time.

The Oregon Grape. Mahonia aquifolium. I have four of them, and they were just sticks when I planted them three years ago. Not even that: twigs with roots. The birds will love me this autumn, when these bear fruit!

Chrystal’s Honesty. It survives under the rhododendrons.  lunaria annua or Silver Dollar Plant. It is a biennial, but once it gets established is not only difficult to eradicate, but will fill in the blank area under the rhodie. Chrystal threw the seeds out under the rhodie and forgot about them. One plant made it; now there are two. Next year: more.

The north rhododendron. First to bloom and the one that lasts the longest. I cut a number of blooms to take to work in a vase. Rhodies, like this cultivar, are pretty and bloom long enough to sate the bumblebees. I have a love/hate relationship with the domestic ones: they litter the yard like the camellia does, but at least I can cut the branches and make beautiful bouquets that last a week.

When cutting rhodies for a vase that you will be taking indoors, always leave it outside for several hours first. Gives the grease ants time to jump ship. Sugar ants? Whatever. Those pesky little itty bitty ants that find ways into your house, around the diatomaceous earth and into the dishwasher. Those ants. 

Look what I found, folded under some weed guard the dog dug up!! One of the anenome bulbs I planted last autumn survived! Against all odds, I have a bloom! I don’t know what happened to the rest of the bulbs (or I don’t want to know!), but one made it. Yay!! it’s still looking pale and fragile from having been hidden under the weed guard, but I think it will survive.

Finally, I have a little photo essay on the dracunculus vulgaris which is nestled under the variegated creeping myrtle (periwinkle, vinca minor) and the grape hyacinth:

Week one, March 29: just beginning to stick up above the bed of periwinkle.

Week 2, April 5. The purple-leafed item is a peony growing up beside the Dragon Plant.

Week 3, April 12. Well over a foot and half tall now. They will continue growing at this amazing rate until they bloom sometime the first week of June. Then my garden will smell like rotting meat for a few days. They make stunning flowers…

The artist’s rendition. Mine, of course.

I finished all my work in the garden sometime Sunday morning. No, I didn’t work all day and night: I saved my back and took frequent breaks, bought groceries, washed laundry, even cleaned some of the inside of the house and put the parakeets back in before the temperature dropped and they got chilled. I still have one more flower bed to weed out and several small spots. I will have to buy mulch and add it to the several flower beds, too. But I am ahead of the weeds in the major beds and I have flowers blooming!

That’s what it is all about, isn’t it? Oh, and the bumblebees, honey bees and mason bees that are buzzing happily around in my yard.

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