Wednesday, August 29, 2012

That money isn't going to spend itself

Several months after I moved into the house I moved a piece of plywood that was over our basement floor drain and noticed that when the washing machine emptied, it made this happen:

I ran some hot water and vinegar down the drain and that helped a lot but it was still backing up onto the floor. It's never been high on my list of things to spend money on because it doesn't really hurt anything and it looked way too gross to snake myself (plus mine's not long enough) and getting a pro in costs $115, and do you know how many plants that will buy?

I don't know why but I finally started worrying about it and the money in my checking account isn't going to spend itself, so I called Grumpy's Drains and they sent someone out two hours later.

He was very nice (I WANTED THE GRUMPY GUY) and he said our floor drain is still in good shape, though they generally only last 50-60 years. Mine will be 75 next year! He gave me the number of a trustworthy contractor, in the event that it does finally give up. And then I snapped one of those fancy $3 covers on it. Like a grown up.

On a semi-related "things in the basement" vein, I've been using an iPhone app that I really like called "Time Flies." It cost $.99 and it has a very simple interface to keep track of things you don't do very often. I use to track when I flush the water heater, change the furnace filter, apply fish emulsion in the garden, or clean the gutters.

It doesn't remind you to do anything but it will tell you how long it's been since you cleaned the range hood (really? it's been that long?). So if you know you're falling behind but maybe don't know how far behind, this one is for you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The boy is earning his keep

I took off on Sunday to see an HPSO open garden (that Loree covered here) and couldn't convince Greg to go with me, which is crazy because he really would've liked it. When I got back he said, "I made a change in the backyard." Those words always make me nervous.



After we put the bamboo in the stock tank it dramatically turned yellow (Laurrie says it was pulling its energy into root reformation), a few of the culms died, and then it greened up again. I hit it with fish emulsion last week and it responded by sending up new culms. We still had a bare section in the middle of the tank so Greg dug up the last of the in-ground bamboo and got it in the tank, after removing the dead stalks.

I've never known how two-gardener households landscape without killing each other. I *might* be able to do it if it involved more surprises like this. I think we need a second stock tank now, no?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer in the garden

Most of the late summer action is going on in the front yard. Things are finally filling in. The castor bean is almost as tall as me (5'6"). I've given it ample water and fish emulsion, and of course the weather cooperated. I didn't think I believed in annuals but I have been converted. Totally worth the money.

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' and Zauschneria californica 'Wayne's Select'

Sedum 'Matrona'

Happy agaves

This blue alkanet (Anchusa azurea 'Alkanet') may have been planted too late in the season to get blooming out of it this year (come on, Indian summer!) but I really like the form of the foliage. It's so cheerful.

Agastache 'Ava' has not disappointed. The form is incredible and I never have to water it. My only wish is that the color was hotter.

In the backyard it looks like we *might* get mature figs this year. Everybody cross all your fingers!

I tucked some agave pups into the wheelbarrow planter. So far, so good.

This sedum combo was sort of an accident and I'm digging it.

Left to right: Sedum 'Bertram Anderson, Sedum oreganum, NOID sedum

In bummer news, the stalks of Sedum 'Frosty Morn' that I Chelsea chopped didn't bloom. The long floppy stems are blooming but they look really leggy. I might chop all of them next year, since I prefer their foliage. Has this happened to anyone else? All of the other sedums that I pinched back bloomed normally.

Sometimes, when your boyfriend is very mischievous, he'll leave these creepy bamboo roots that look like creatures from a Guillermo del Toro movie lying around and scare the shit out of you. Punk.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Readying for guests

My two oldest girlfriends are coming into town this weekend so I've been prepping the guest room for their arrival. I've been googling "guest room essentials" which turned up some good tips (Kleenex!), as well as some weird ones ("an orange or an apple").

As an aside, I've shared a bed with all of my friends at some point, male or female. We take trips together so I know exactly who snores, who hogs the blankets, and who will spoon you accidentally. Greg was really confused about how my two friends were going to deal with the one-bed situation.

"So wait, they're going to sleep together?"
"Yes. Why is this weird?"
"I don't share beds with my friends. How will that even work?"
"You've never shared a bed with a platonic friend? I imagine one will sleep on the left, and the other on the right. It's a queen sized bed and they are both petite. It should work."

And then Greg gave me one of those "women are such a mystery" looks and I thought, "It's a good thing you're cute because you sure can be weird sometimes."

Now that we had that sorted out, I just had to figure out where to put the apple or orange. In other essentials news, I've got two ottomans, which work as luggage stands and can hold towels. Or I guess they could sit on them.

I cleared out some space in the closet (extra blankets in there) and hung some wooden hangers. All of the online guides were very specific that the hangers must be wood. Joan Crawford, your legacy is undeniable.

I hung these sweet bird hooks that Bill gave me. They have very strong magnets under their chins that can hold keys or anything metal. Their beaks can hold mail or paper reminders. Or you can just hang a wet towel over them.

All of the online guides were like, "A robe! How about a robe? Have you thought about a robe?" I own five robes, one of which I spent a hot week in the summer sewing myself, and I never ever use any of them. But okay, fine, I'll give them robes.

I've got a box of Kleenex (note to self: buy a better looking square box), an iPhone charger, and an alarm clock.

Bottled water and two glasses. That's a real plate that looks like a paper plate, another great gift from Bill. I want them to be hydrated while they sleep together like cretins.

I dusted our packed bookshelves. They feature my signed picture of Stephen Colbert and the "no hamburgers" sign from the library where I used to work. You know why we had those? Because someone left a hamburger in the stacks one day. College students are animals.

And I hung the dragon doodle that Bill created for our last Chinese New Year celebration. None of the online guides mentioned dragons, but I'm sure they meant to.

I doubled up and hung the dragon calendar. Nothing says "luxurious spa-like experience" like dragons. Bill also gave me this. Don't you wish you were friends with Bill? He gives the best presents and he'll help you replace the wax ring on your toilet. He also won't bat an eye at sharing a bed with you.

I bought a rad new pot from Garden Fever and put out an empty bowl for jewelry. There are magazines and a few light books. I put out a bottle of smelly moisturizer, mostly because one of the visiting friends hates smelly beauty products. The best hostesses are a tiny bit irritating. If they weren't, guests would never leave.

And a fan. I love fans. I love the white noise, I love it being as cold as possible while I sleep.

I also washed all the bedding, down to the mattress pad, even though no one has slept on them since the last time I washed them. Like an idiot I left the comforter in the dryer too long and singed it. If the girls notice I'll tell them that a dragon scorched it. If they don't believe me I will hit them in the head with that stupid orange.

I have extra toiletries and a hair dryer in the bathroom and there's fruit in the fridge, where it belongs.

What am I forgetting?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

That stupid wheelbarrow

Last summer I bought this old cracked iron wheelbarrow at Salvage Works in Kenton.

I planted it with lavender, then sedum Autumn Joy, then with a lot of weeds. Everything I've planted has just looked too precious when I wanted the look of gothic rot.

This summer two different girlfriends exclaimed over how cute the wheelbarrow was and I tried to pawn it off on them but no one wanted to bike home trailing an old iron wheelbarrow. It only weighs 50 pounds, JEEZ. So I'm trying again.

I really wanted to do an enormous agave in this but the wheelbarrow is really shallow. I just don't think it would survive (or get big in this climate). So I did a mix of Sedum 'Postman's Pride' (the tall purple), Japanese golden sedum (the gold), Sedum cauticola 'Lidakense' (the blue one you can't see because it matches the gravel, whoops), and a mystery pink-blooming sedum that I got from Linda.

I might still sneak an agave pup in there and see what happens. Then I'll compulsively move it around the yard, which is a real treat to watch. This iron behemoth is top heavy and steering is dicey, so moving it is like getting a toddler drunk and setting them loose on a tricycle. Putting something pokey in there will only make it more fun.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two quick things

My friends Meryl and Chris from Picardy Project are going to visit me and Greg in October and help us with a home improvement project TBD. They are taking a renovation road trip because they are awesome and probably a little bit crazy. I'm excited to see if Meryl swears as much in real life as she does online.

Secondly, my friend Jen recently started creating these sweet bird vases. I've been harassing her to open her shop already, so she gave me one to shut me up. BEING A PAIN IN THE ASS WORKS. 

Her shop is now open. If you like birds or pugs or ceramics or beautiful things, please check it out!

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day August 2012

I've been down with a migraine for three days, so I've been avoiding bright light in favor of dramatically clutching my head in a dark room. But, this:

Castor oil/bean plant Ricinus communis

The temperature soared to 102 a few weekends back and this guy gained six inches of height in one weekend. I am so sad this plant is an annual. Stick around, why don't you?

Everything in the front yard behaved like a champ in the searing heat, although my poor Fatsia japonica in the backyard was scorched.

Writing about these two plants in the same post makes me realize why they call Fatsia "false castor oil plant." They have very similarly shaped leaves.

Also scorched were my beautiful lilies. They were the prettiest white with a yellow center. I hate the heat so much; I would be lost without my air conditioning.

Luckily the heat turned my Angelica stricta purpurea from a lavender monster into the dark purple beauty I wanted and now I love it again. Especially flanked with Crocosmia 'Golden Fleece' and Knautia macedonica. I can't wait for these two to self-seed and expand next summer.

Angelica, you can stay!

I told Greg that I want to harvest the castor bean seeds so I can always have a plant in my yard. He's freaked out about how poisonous they are. I said I wouldn't harvest the seeds if he would buy me a new start next spring, and he agreed. So, what else should I tell him is poisonous? I think I could really increase my spending power if I can convince him that some of my other plants' seeds could kill him. Quick, what's on your too-expensive-to-buy-dream-plant list?

For the full show of bloom day entries, head over to May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Aquarium, be gone!

When I built the rain garden out front I only intended to use rocks right where the water was entering it, to prevent erosion. I had used every large rock I had scavenged in the backyard rain garden, so while I was at Home Depot buying the PVC pipe I picked up a bag of rocks. Those rocks were very small.

The backyard rain garden right after installation, with nice fat rocks

Once I got the small stones in the rain garden I kind of liked the idea of a dry creek bed. So I got more bags of small stones but then it looked less like a creek bed and more like the bottom of an aquarium. Laurrie helpfully advised making it wider (so the scale would be right when the plants get bigger) and to add larger rocks.

I ran down to Oregon Decorative Rock and grabbed a 50 pound bag of mixed medium stones and handpicked 25 larger stones. We had also scavenged some really large river rocks when we moved the dirt pile in back. I have over 60 gardening blogs in my RSS reader and I know someone posted in the last week about how to make these look natural, but of course I can't find it now.

It needs more rock down on this end but I'm not sure how to terminate the creek bed naturally.

In nature, as the water in a river (or under a glacier) slows down it drops the larger, heavier stones first. I tried to add more of the largest stones at the sides where they'd be in nature (the water is slower there), and to bury them a little in the center of the rain garden.  It still doesn't look quite right but it looks a lot better than before. And hey, look at me using those hydrology/geography classes from college! I also used algebra to calculate the water runoff to this thing. If building a rain garden has taught me anything, it's that Mom was right: you will use this stuff later in life.

I removed the dagger-leaf rushes that were responding so poorly to the summer heat and relocated a slough sedge. I need to buy more rock and then maybe have Greg's parents over to help with rock placement. They have a gorgeous garden and they have a good eye for this kind of thing.

I also decided to move one of the Zaschnerias that got covered by the Coreopsis. I thought I had read that they spread through rhizomes but it turns out they have a tap root and none of that foliage is anchored into the ground. I don't know that this guy will survive the move.

I'm still waiting for that Festuca glauca 'Golden Toupee' to get up to size. It grows so. very. slowly. If any of you more experienced gardeners want to get opinionated on the creek bed (or anything else), I am all ears. Just don't tell me I'll use that Women in World Religions class that I dropped my junior year.