Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cliches and lawn care

I don't believe in the adage that "everything happens for a reason" but I do really believe that entropy tends toward the good and there will always be something good that comes out of bad. I really wanted to level the back lawn this fall after hearing Maurice talk about it at the Yard Garden &Patio show. I was totally ready to cover my lawn with quarter-ten crushed basalt. I decided in March that I wanted to do it and Maurice said the latest you could do it is April. I started to actually lose sleep, trying to figure out when I could conceivably have seven yards of gravel delivered. I'd need a lot of help and those friends I have that I KNOW will turn out for an unpleasant project had trips planned and projects of their own. I finally decided to hold off until next spring, as I was driving myself crazy.

I had a couple of wheelbarrows full of crushed basalt left over from the front bed, so I dumped it in the lowest, crater-iest part of the lawn and seeded over it.

And it promptly stopped raining. The birds ate all the grass seed. It didn't rain for two weeks.

I am now so thankful that I didn't cover my entire lawn with gravel. It probably wouldn't die, but it wouldn't be very happy and I would've wasted a lot of grass seed (but fed a lot of birds). The upshot is that I only have this silly little patch to deal with. Since it's started raining again, I can put down more seed and hope that it actually sprouts this time.

And next February I'm coming for you, lawn. I'm going to weed the hell out of you between now and then and it'll be ON. Hopefully by that time this will be the only lawn we have. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Good fences make angry neighbors

It was really hot this weekend, so rather than enjoy our deliciously cool house, we decided it would be a good time to put in the fence posts on the west side. There's nothing like digging really deep holes and struggling with bags of concrete when you're concerned about heat stroke.

We're bringing the fence forward just enough to hide the air conditioning unit from the street. We're also going to install a gate so we can enter and exit through either side of the yard.

We found the buried property line pin at the sidewalk and ran a line back to the fence post in the very back of our yard. There was a lot of measuring and remeasuring and debating about how to deal with the fact that our existing fence practically meanders, it's so crooked.

You know how there's always telling you, "Call before you dig!"? If you call as a normal civilian they will mark where your lines are in your hell strip but they won't tell you where they are on the main part of your property, which is pretty useless. We know our gas line runs somewhere through this area, just not exactly where.

We got two post hole diggers from the Tool Library because we're only digging six holes. Also, I'm scared of puncturing our gas main with an auger. It really wasn't bad at all; it took us about an hour and a half to dig five of them. And I found our gas line! Thank goodness I was working on pulling out small rocks but hand when I did, so I didn't puncture it.

THANK YOU, UNIVERSE. Not blowing up is the best!

I don't have any progress photos but we dug our holes 24" down, put in six inches of dry quickcrete, then filled the rest of the cavity with wet quickcrete. It's what the bag said to do and I always listen to bags. We got everything all level but some of them settled so they're a little bit off. Have I mentioned that Greg is an engineer? These little booboos didn't bother him at all.

Just kidding, I thought he was going to have a stroke. Those little errors reallllly bother him.

I was like, look, our fence meanders anyway, and there's a huge cedar tree in the middle of it. Let's drink a beer and not think about it! This is why I'm not an engineer and why I'll never design bridges or spaceships or heart valves.

We ran out of concrete when we had one post to go, so we took a little break. At this point our next-door neighbor came by and he seemed . . . concerned. I had talked to him last summer about the fence and he was like, "Whatever! Do whatever you want, I don't care!" We stopped by that morning to talk to him but he was out. I figured he didn't care, which was not very neighborly of me. I wish I had waited long enough to talk to him again because I feel terrible now.

We have some hard decisions to make now, like whether to bring banana bread or pie when we go back to apologize again for not talking to him first, again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy accidents

Last fall I planted two types of Camassia in the rain garden, one blue and one white. I thought they would bloom together but the blues popped out in April and the whites are just now opening up.

Thank goodness for these kinds of misunderstandings. It's so much nicer to enjoy them individually.

Also filing under things-I-didn't-know, the Korean lilac smells amazing right now. I don't remember it having a very powerful fragrance last year. It's planted outside our kitchen door and walking outside right now is such a wonderful experience. I love spring!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The more you know

Every once in a blue moon I feel like my brain is firing on all cylinders  But most days I feel like, if my brain is a car, I left the parking brake on and I'm trying to drive down the street, wondering why I can't go very fast and what that whining noise is. And do I smell something burning? I came to gardening late and I feel like I've managed to amass a fair amount of plant information in my brain but there's just so much to learn

Scott and I went to the Clackamas Master Gardener fair with six billion of our friends and neighbors (so crowded! so hot!) and he'd say, "Ooh, what's that?" and I'd wager a guess like, "A fern?" and it would turn out to be a cactus or a magnolia or a small child or a ceramic pot. It was like I was picking words at random. It's a toaster! It's a park ranger!

Then he said, "Oh look, it's the Wind Dancer booth!" which my brain interpreted as Dancing Oaks, and I wondered aloud, "Why did they only bring grasses?" Scott gave me a funny look and then I started talking about how "I hate that guy" while staring at Carolyn Kolb's husband. Some guy at Dancing Oaks gave me a dumb answer to a stupid question at the HPSO sale and I was confusing him for Mr. Wind Dancer WHO COULDN'T BE NICER. 

Chug, chug, whine whine whine goes my brain. And you know what? The rude person at the HPSO sale wasn't even from Dancing Oaks; he was from some other nursery. Do you smell smoke? 

This spring I've been inundated with tiny red seedlings in my front yard. There were probably a hundred in the rain garden. I've never seen them in my garden before, so I assumed it must be something thuggish I planted in the last year. After talking to Linda about how completely Sedum Angelina has colonized in her yard (it grows in the cracks of her street) I started to wonder if it was that. 

I found a more mature seedling that was putting on green growth and posted a photo to the Oregon gardeners Facebook page and asked for ideas. Turns out it's not a creeping yellow succulent. It's Doug Fir. I felt so dumb. 

In my defense, I've lived here for four years and never seen these seedlings before. And there's not a single seedling in the backyard . . . you know, where the Doug Fir is. I'm starting to think my garden is conspiring to make me look dumb.

Edited to add: Wow! Some of my sentences didn't even make sense. Sorry about that. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Waiting on butterflies

I've planted what feels like a thousand butterfly nectar plants in my yard but I only seem to see cabbage whites and skippers. I've got milkweed and agastache, allium, aquilegia, sidalcea, mahonia, and solidago. I've got arctostaphylos and ceanothus, ribes and spirea.

I've got basking sites, in the form of the large flat light-colored rocks that surround the berm in the front.

I've got a meadow in development, which will get planted with achillea and asters alongside the grasses.

I'm feeling impatient, so I made an impromptu puddling station. Apparently butterflies won't drink from open water and they like mud puddles or wet gravel. I tucked a plate filled with gravel and soil near the milkweed. It will never stay wet all day but I've read you can bury a bucket full of sand in the soil and that should have some staying power through the heat of the day.

Do you have a butterfly magnet in your yard? What plant am I missing? Just don't say butterfly bush, it's a noxious weed in Oregon.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Checking in on the front yard

We're having an unusually sunny spring and the front garden is really appreciating it. Even though the cannas are just starting to poke up and the zauschneria is still pretty tiny, everything looks so much fuller than it did last spring.




My Verbascum bombyciferum is going to bloom, which makes me a bit sad, since the rosette it formed is so, so nice.

I can't wait to see what it will look like when it's actually filled in at the height of summer. If we're being honest, I'm a little fearful too. I have crammed so many plants into this area that I think it's going to be a little nuts. I'm going to be moving some plants in the fall, I think.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bad ideas

Do you read Hayefield? I came late to discovering Nan Ondra's site so I've had the pleasure of losing myself for hours in the archives. She's been doing a series on annual events, which have been nothing short of inspiring. Like any normal person, I sometimes become irrationally obsessed with a plant and I need to have it. This has been the case this year with Daphne x transatlantica 'Everblooming Alba', then later with Chionochloa rubra. The other plant that's been sitting in the back of my head is a coreopsis I saw on Nan's site, 'Limerock Ruby.' You can see a photo of it here. It has beautiful wine colored blooms and Nan pairs them with both dark purple foliage and orange(!) blooms.

I called around and couldn't find anyone local who carried it. I searched online and found one single seller, Gorge Top Gardens. I'd never heard of them, which made me a little nervous. I haven't done enough plant buying online to know who's good and who's not. They were on sale for $3.99 so I decided to buy seven of them.

Seven! I have a big yard but I'm not really sure what I was thinking. Actually, I know what I was thinking: flat-fee shipping, might as well reach for the stars. I can do two plantings of three and give one to Scott.

It took a week for the plants to arrive after shipping, and they were smooshed down with newspaper, plopped unceremoniously into a plastic bag. The plants were very unhappy. I was less than impressed.

But coreopsis are tough and they are all perked up again, so I think we're going to be just fine. I've gotten used to ordering from Annie's and they pack their plants so beautifully; I sort of expect that from everyone now. Of course, the delivery guy always ignores the THIS SIDE UP message and parks them on my doorstep in blatant disregard for the arrow. It drives me crazy.

Are there any online nurseries that you absolutely avoid? I've been waiting for-f*cking-ever on a shipment from High Country Gardens and it's making me so impatient. Good thing I've got all this coreopsis to keep me busy.