What it means

What it means

Friday, May 30, 2008

Simply Sagacious

Spring was beginning to emerge and had to give thanks to the nice man at the nursery who suggested that I couldn't go wrong with sages as I was so admittedly inexperienced.

I freaked out in the fall when I came out one morning and they were limp and laying down from the first frost. I was certain I had done something awfully wrong. I went back to the nursery with my limp and lifeless children in my arms and I'm sure by the look on my face they were expecting a lawsuit for wrongful death. The wise, gardener man remembered me and with a wink, he assured me that after a few seasons I would get used to the effects of the growing cycles, no harm, he said just go home and give them a buzz cut just when spring starts. Leave the dead stuff on during the frost season to protect the new growth. I did and damn, it worked. They came back like a Beatles tune!! Oh blah dee, what a spring it was, a riot of new life! My children were alive! Pinappleus (Salvia elegans), Luke (Salvia leucantha) and Fwenchy (Lavandula dentata) were young again. My heart was renewed. I was just starting to get it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Creeping Elegance

To compensate for hefting those rocks up the hill I rewarded myself and indulged my visual cortex by embellishing the rock arrangements I had so lovingly designed. There were some old stumps and roots that I just couldn't remove so I just worked them into my scene to give it authenticity as if it were a movie set. To this I added most anything I found at the nursery that was in bloom; columbines (Aquilegia), pincushion (Scabiosa), foxglove (Digitalis), lots of foxglove, succulents of all different colors and shapes, I brought something home every night. Within a short time my addiction had truly transformed my hill into a kaleidoscopic, baroque floral fantasy. My neighbors began to wonder about the hundreds, maybe thousands of one gallon plastic pots that were stacking up in the driveway.

Monday, May 26, 2008

$50 a Day Habit

I was so proud of my little patio, why hadn't I done this years ago? I probably wouldn't have all those X-husbands if I'd just understood that a garden is all one really needs to be happy and satisfied in life.

I carried all 4 tons of stones up the hill and worked most assiduously to get every stone level. It never occurred to me to use a level, I did it by digging a hole and seating them until they were solid, shimming them up with little flat pebbles. I marveled at the way the edges all seemed to match and fit together. I felt like a sculptor.

Even though I got those stones very close I wanted to finish it off by putting some botanical mortar in between the cracks so I headed back to the nursery for ideas. Well, there were many solutions, thyme, corsican mint, baby tears, chamomile and mosses, gorgeous mosses, irish and scotch. And korean grass, which was the most pricey. I bought everything.

I didn't even ask what would be best for the hot, dry full sun conditions. I found myself going back to the nursery everyday at lunch to get more and more stuff. I'd fill my elderly Honda Prelude (Little Pony) with flats and pots of anything I fancied. At 4:29 I was out of my cubicle, out the door and speeding down the freeway to get home so I could plant before dark, spring was coming and I was euphoric, the worst part was that I really felt like I knew what I was doing.

And, I ordered 4 more tons of B.C.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Earth is indeed flat in local Euclidean Geometry

After a season the place started really shaping up, not manicured exactly, but I thought it suited my little rustic cottage, kind of charming in a raggedy sort of way. I had terraced rock gardens ascending the east hill of my property and I was truly happy looking at it. To me it was a three dimensional painting. And a place to stroll around and sigh with a glass of red wine in the evenings.

I kept extending the boundaries and clearing more vinca, scrub oak and to my horror poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum)! Boy did I spend some miserable weeks learning that lesson. I was well acquainted with P.O. and had learned to avoid it but no one ever told me about the roots. Yup, I sat right in a root system that I had previously "round-upped" trying to extricate a beautiful rock and after a couple hours of low squat crow-barring, I was in a world of prickly hurt…you know where.

Once that was over I got back on the horse but realized I was running out of rocks. I had been using the broken concrete I had laying around for stepping stones but then uncovered some ancient flat Bouquet Canyon stones that were extremely beautiful after I washed them off. They looked like fish skin to me, especially when they were wet, gold sparkles and scalloped rusty veins. I started building a path and then it hit me, I wanted a stone patio. Someplace flat on this 45º hill! I unburied about 20 stones but that wasn't going to do the job, I had to find some more. That broken concrete just wasn't going to cut it aesthetically now that I knew about B.C. Off to the building supply I went and found that for a lousy six hundred bucks I could get a pallet of it, 4 tons! Out came the credit card…

Monday, May 19, 2008

Garden Lust

After a couple of weeks the plants started to establish themselves and they really started looking like they belonged. I was so proud and found myself transferring my misplaced possessiveness to the garden. I couldn't wait to get home from work everyday to get in some garden time before dark. And, oh, I lived for the weekends. I was getting really roughened from the heavy work I was doing, I was lost in it and I hated to leave it. As the season progressed I dreaded the return of standard time. Halloween was looming and not being able to bear having my garden hours cut, I started being late to work (actually, quite a bit) so I could do things in the morning.

I began noticing things I 'd never noticed before, like the huge native planted grounds at the prosperous pharmaceutical company next to work. I took my walk there everyday and I started swiping branches and leaves to take to the nursery to be identified. I wanted everything, two of everything. I had it bad…garden lust.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rock Steady

After a couple of months of total immersion into the rigors of hillside brush clearing, I felt like I had things under control. Heartache was sufficiently buried and sublimated into a new addiction and I had a few bucks to spend to indulge and compensate myself for my hard work and lost lover.

With the nasty scrub oak lollipopped and the vinca dug out by my now swollen and thickened fingers, the bare hill was visible and I suddenly had access to a million rocks! I'd always loved rocks and was not even aware of what a treasure trove I had. I had previously been collecting smaller samples like geodes and beach stones but now I became interested in the larger more architecturally useful stones. I started piling them up and their shapes began to suggest how they might fit together to create spaces for the eventual planting. I lifted some big guys that were way too heavy for me and I suffered scraped knuckles, popping patella and a really sore back but in the end I was rather pleased with my efforts. I needed the rocks to be pathways to climb up the hill so I became obsessed with seating them so the rocks wouldn't rock. I became really proficient at digging them in and chinking them together but it was hard servile labor!

I loved the look of naked rock and spent hours scrutinizing, modifying and finally admiring my sense of placement, but it was indeed…time to plant. I decided it would probably be best to keep with common specimens found in my neighborhood as I didn't know anything about cultivated plants, so off to the local nursery I went. I told the nice, avuncular gentleman I met there my story (just the garden story, not the disappointing romance) and he sent me home with lavender, sage, rosemary, mint and some varieties of fescue. I bought way too much and I planted way too close together, as if I were arranging flowers in vases. I was such a neophyte I didn't even consider that plants grow and get larger, duh! When I was finished I thought it was so pretty I wanted to sleep outside in my first little garden and protect my new friends. I just wanted to take care of them.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Slag Heap Gardening and Living with Vinca Minor

It all started with a broken heart. I had to control something.

Ok, so first of all I had to deal with the tons, tons of slag and debris intertwined with vegetation that had been left on the property by various glaciers, builders, renters, husbands and boyfriends…just like my heart, it was a tangled mess. You know the stuff I mean, broken heaps of asphalt, concrete, old rubble walls, fences and telephone poles. These ruins and detritus were completely over grown with the most vile and invasive vine known to man, vinca minor. Sometimes known as periwinkle, it is used to control soil erosion by the completely naive. The trouble is you just can't trust it! And once it becomes established, it's like the mafia, it takes over. I had a little over a quarter acre of it, and I had let it dominate me for far too long!

I tried weed wacking, no way. I tried using scissors, oh, come on, get real, lady. Pull it out by hand, ouch. Then I found what became my favorite garden implement, the mattock, it's the most superb invention, it was made for me.

I got gloves and got to work, I had to.