Archive for Jan, 2007

29 January, 2007:

Cold!  My gloved hands were cold most of the afternoon in the garden.  I moved a rose…One of the Canadian Explorer roses, possibly William Baffin…back in that same garden bed where I moved the boxwood yesterday.  It will make a better midground plant that foreground, I think.  I hope I did not hurt it.

Before and after: the creation of some empty space to showcase new plants

Tomorrow, we will do some work in Long Beach.  We were going to extend our vacation till February, but if the rains return, we will be all stressed out from undone work…so best to check on what needs doing in all “our” gardens, and then get back to a little more time off . I have a feeling that, as usual, we will be very busy once we get started.  All the parks in Long Beach need a good going over.

To do in Long Beach:

*Cut back rugosa roses in Obelisk Park in order to showcase early crocuses. Weed!

*Remove two painfully huge Phormiums in front of City Hall; replace with heucheras and other small interesting plants: Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon’?  Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’? Small hardy fucshias?  Get some manure in buckets to fill in the holes.

*Cut back the South African Schizostylis in Waterfall Park.  (We have our own names for all the parks.)

*Check under all the trees for trimming perennials and for small weeds and for the pleasure of seeing the bulbs poking through the nice mulch!

The hard part will be shifting to morning hours.  Yes, it is hard being a natural night owl and also a gardener, especially when the days are short.  Vacation always sees us returning to our ways of late night reading…but to work, at least until summer, we will have to return to the morning hours to grab all the daylight.

[Note from 2012:  Oh my, every year it is the same old story about shifting to daylight hours…and every year, we do worse at making the shift.]

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Today I have one more large, tedious task: cutting back a big zebra grass.  After that, the garden clean up here will be lighter: cutting back sword ferns, weeding the creeping buttercup, pruning roses.  The grass could wait…but it will be satisfying to get it done.  It would be a lot of chopping to chop and drop the grass fronds…a method of debris disposal which is just chopping the winter stems of plants into smallish pieces and dropping them in place as a sheet compost…so every year I stuff the long grass blades behind the zebra grass clump to slowly decompose…As soon as the grass grows, the unsightly pile disappears.

Later:  It’s a bit disheartening the lack of beauty in the after picture…but it is waiting to be filled by beauty later on: White Akebia (almost too much of it along the fence), Sanguisorbas, the banded yellow and green of the Zebra grass.  I got the most monstrous sword fern cut back; the rest of those will be tomorrow’s project.  Cutting back now later reveals the unfurling of the new shoots: a joy to observe.

When I suddenly got quite tired, I came in and read the latest in Daniel Hinkley’s site…the world’s greatest plantsperson.


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Despite the best of intentions to productively cut back sword ferns, I got all distracted by doing a pretty thing: making a new plant table.  Inspired by the book “Gardening on Tables, Pavement, and Hard Surfaces” by George Schenk, I have several variations on plant tables in my garden and at the gardens of a couple of clients.  We had salvaged an interesting table from the Long Beach burn pile and with some soil, decorative junk, and a few plants, it became a new feature…while my friend Dumbledore the cat looked on with what I hope was approval.

At the end of the afternoon, I suddenly realized a certain columnar boxwood, one of three purchased from Dan Hinkley’s former nursery, had to be moved to the back of  a garden bed beause it was blocking too much of the view of other plants.  I had been trying for that lovely green spire look, but I want more colour and less good taste this year.  So back it went…quite a chore and I do hope it survives.  Boxwoods are easy from cuttings so I could make more from the other two…but it would take a long time to get back to the size and symmetry of the three matched ones.

Meanwhile, the garden is filled with the amazing scent of Hamamelis mollis, the winter blooming honeysuckle…it smells of warm apricots.  And I don’t even especially like to eat apricots, but the scent is divine.

Other tiny lovelies have appeared in the garden, too.  A determined little cyclamen was revealed when I moved some old branches aside, and while my mind has gone quite blank on the name of this lovely spear-shaped leaf, it does not care, and looks wonderful even though at this moment it remains anonymous.

Cyclamen and Arum Italicum ‘Pictum’

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26 January: A day of accomplishment.  With Allan’s help in hauling it out of the ground (and out of the garden), I got the one huge Phormium out of the garden.  The other one spoke to me, saying how beautifully smoky its colour was, and that it was more well behaved that the bronze one and should be allowed to stay, just somewhat trimmed.  I let it win the argument.

My hidden rainwater stream path has now reappeared…sans water, but still looking much more inviting than when one had to push through sharp Phormium blades to even see it.  I got a rampant clematis pulled off of one of my contorted filberts, so that the twisty branches show up clearly against the sky,  cut back the Siberian iris around the pond, incorporated some Darmera peltata (dug up to clear the rainwater stream path) in that area so that its umbrella leaves will contrast with the spears of iris (why did I not think of THAT before?) and planted some iris along the back of the pond…and some Darmera, too.  Meanwhile, I did a little more pruning here and there and now am so looking forward to a massive attack on the creeping buttercup.  Only 4 more days of vacation…We need to do some of the Long Beach cleanup before this pay period ends so will dig up two huge Phormiums from in front of City Hall next Wednesday…

Last night we went to the local Macintosh Users’ Group meeting and I was thrilled at how helpful and informative it was.  I learned how to get Airport working and borrowed a Macworld magazine that had a wonderful article regarding iWeb.

[In 2012, I wish to say Phooey on Apple for removing all the iWeb blogs and making it necessary to move them!]

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January 23:  Only one more pile of clay to go….Thank you, Allan, for moving two heavy wheelbarrows full when I was tired.  By the way, the reason behind on the pond dredging was cute but deadly raccoons.  A few years back some rough development on the neighbouring street changed the drainage pattern and caused a small landslide into my pond.  The resulting shallowness tempted raccoons to wade into the pond and eat some lovely, large fish, including “The Great White”, my particular and enormous favourite.  I also suspect that they ate some of our frogs.  (Raccoons also tore holes in our shake roof, inspiring an expensive green metal replacement.)

With only four large fish left, I knew the pond had to be made deeper, so for two years in a row have spent labour day weekend dredging by hoe. The pond then becomes so murky with liquefied clay that I wonder that the fish can breathe…but when it settles, they are safer. A swimming raccoon is apparently not as effective at fishing. I was sorely tempted to haul some more hoe-fuls out yesterday, but then the new clay muck would have to sit and dry, and I would never be done….I can see now that the pond is clear how much deeper the bottom is, and have thrown a couple of heavy old timber bamboo pieces in the bottom for the fish to hide in.  I count 4 large fish…one white and three orange…and one small brown fish in the clear winter water.

The winter blooming witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’) is just starting to unfurl its spidery blossoms, smelling of apricot, and the Edgeworthia papyrifera has fat buds. I have one of the red winter witch hazels also, ‘Jelena’ or ‘Diane’, but made the mistake of planting it in a corner of the garden that I rarely visit.  It’s better to plant winter flowers in a spot that is frequently passed, I think, because bad weather does not inspire a trip to the far reaches

January 24: I put on my muddy clothes to make myself go out and do that last clay pile!  Maybe I “just want to do the pretty things.”  An acquaintance once asked if I could find her some gardening work, and I told her I could have her weed a certain driveway…”But I just want to do the pretty things!” she said.  I think she imagined that a garden career involved wafting about deadheading, wearing a floppy straw hat and flowered gloves.  But there are days that I would like to just do pretty things…not much of that at this time of year.  What I look forward to, after the clay is moved, is an attack on the rampant creeping buttercup throughout the garden beds.

Later, after dark:  I did it! Oh, the soreness. An idle midwinter did not increase my stamina! All the clay has been shifted out of the garden.  Thanks to Allan for moving that last wheelbarrow! I have one more daunting task: the removal of two enormous Phormiums.  While they appear to be the only interesting thing in a photo of my midwinter garden, they are blocking the entry to a path which I love…a path of stepping stones right through a seasonal stream that runs underneath rose arbours.  The path is lost to me now, and removing the Phormiums will reveal it.  Perhaps I can find some smaller spiky accent to go in their places.

January 25:  See  before and after photos above for the results of moving clay from the back of the pond…Still a rather bare slate…To the right is the corner of our huge rock, and the spring which feeds the pond.  I might have found another spring to seep out of the back left side of the hill!

Curses! A cold steady drizzle postpones my Phormium moving project.

[Note from 2012:  Do I EVER plant Phormiums now?  Never, never!  This journal has been a continuing story of getting rid of them!]

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January 19:  I can see from my window, across the pond, that the first hellebores are in bloom.  Quite lovely even though I have not yet got around to cutting off last year’s leaves.  It is chilly and drizzly so I will content myself with a window rather than a close-up view. Mahonia ‘Charity’ has put out a dramatic spray of yellow flowers which immediately attracted two hummingbirds, inspiring Allan to put out the hummingbird feeder.  It must be cold for them at night when it is under freezing, so they surely needs lots of food to survive.

January 22: Another day has almost slipped by…the daylight, that is…as I procrastinate on the computer.  How can I tear myself away to go move mud when I have my friend Sheila on ichat, all the way from Mexico?

So here’s how a garden journal works:

First, one writes about what needs to be done.  Then, about the preparation for doing it,  then one actually DOES it and then one writes about having done it! With before and after photos of course…and during, if one can get someone else to take the photo!

Later, after dark:  Success! Two piles of heavy clay have been moved.  At first, it was terribly discouraging to go at it with a fork or shovel, but finally I went back to my previous method of bending over and grabbing chunks of the clay with both hands…much easier to peel chunks and slabs of clay off the piles that way.  It is so sticky that it hangs together, unlike topsoil.  One’s shoes soon turn into platform heels with an inch or two of clay adhered to the soles,  clay so heavy that a third of a wheelbarrow is all that I can manage at one time, resulting in many trips through the garden and out the gate.

Before the great clay moving project (two more piles to go, unfortunately less accessible to the wheelbarrow, at the back of the pond), I took a tour of the garden, which till now has been just too cold for me.  Acanthus ‘Hollard’s Gold’ has leaves about 6 inches high of the brightest chartreusey-yellow.  The wonderful Lonicera standishii, winter-blooming honeysuckle, has…and has had for a month…a scattering of tiny white flowers with a powerful scent, its blast of midwinter fragrance making up for its tatty winter leaves and rather dull summer presence.  I trimmed the old leaves off the hellebores so that the new buds and flowers show off to effect; this also removes diseased leaves from the garden as hellebore leaves are chronically blighted in winter.  Now I am thoroughly desirous of getting back into the garden to trim lots more winter debris away…yet I must move those other two piles of clay first.

In that vein, I am now about to gather gloves, wheelbarrow,  shovel, and MOVE CLAY.

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[Oooh, awesome, I can screen capture the original quite charming iWeb template!]

I think writing a garden journal might inspire one to actually do some winter gardening….because one otherwise has little to record, and sitting on one’s arse all day reading Moosey does not make for much of a journal entry.

Tomorrow I must report to Long Beach court for jury duty.  This is a serious interference with my lazy winter vacation.  But at least it will get me up to city hall where I can take a photo of those darn New Zealand flaxes (Phormium tenax)that have to come out.  I have the go ahead now from the parks manager to eradicate them. I am not even going to try to save them.  I have truly gone off the big plain bronze ones…except for the rather spectacular huge trio in the background of the garden in front of Kelly’s Deli.  As a true background plant, they are spectacular.  Anywhere near the edge of the garden, they are a sharp, pointy nightmare.

Useful things to do:

Write article for yummy northwest re food items used in the garden

[Note from 2012: Did I ever do this? Mary’s new blog is Yummy Montana.  She says I did write one article for the old blog, but I do not recall.]

Go to the Red Barn and get buckets of manure for my own garden

Go to the beach by ..well, I will not say where…the good driftwood place…and get some driftwood for the garden.

Drive around the Peninsula and look at all “our” gardens for how they appear in January (and how many weeds have grown).

Later: I just got a call from the court: the trial was cancelled! No more jury duty this month.  I am all for doing one’s civic duty, but….WHEEEEEEE! I am still on vacation!

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young phormiums

City Hall Phormium when it was young

Still the snow lightly covers the garden and the pond is frozen.  I spend part of each day reading the journals at Moosey’s Country Garden. There she is dealing with the same thing that is plaguing me: removing old Phormiums that are too big and drab.  I need to get the go-ahead to move the two I planted years ago at Long Beach city hall, where originally they were so small and attractively spikey.   Now they are so huge that they had to be moved back once from blocking the memorial plaque for an old mayor, and even now they seem to suck up all the light and interest from the smaller things in the garden…plus the blades get so tatty.

Allan, ever energetic, paints the kitchen a lovely yellow…then all dishes will have to be washed and returned to place (my share of the rather large job for a small room…large because he is a perfectionist in every detail).  By then perhaps this unpleasant cold snap will cease and I can get outside and do a few garden projects before our busy work season returns. By the beginning of February, work takes a heavy grip on our time as all gardens need midwinter fluffing. I hope I am caught up with Moosey by then!

This is the first winter since moving to the beach in 93 that I have had enough money saved to take a whole 6 weeks off, debt-free and guilt-free.  (Part of the pleasure has been a lot of reading, and part has been rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer…last night’s final episode again brought a tear to me eyes.)

Speaking of reading, my best books of 2006:

Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

The Whole World Over by Julia Glass

Still Life With Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

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Note, Feb 2011:  My blog was originally begun in 2007 on an apple blogging platform called MobileMe.  When the site was discontinued, I copied and pasted that year over to WordPress.)

12 January, 2007:  Cottage Memories, my first journal entry

dahlia, sweetpeas, daylily

dahlia, sweetpeas, daylily

This is the year of the blog of Tangly Cottage, inspired by Moosey’s Country Garden’s journal.
It’s easy to find time to write it now as the ground is white with a light chunky layer of snow.  On an indoors day, I found the above photo of my old garden in Seattle.
My garden now is so much more dignified and foliage driven….mostly because of lack of full sun.  However, this year I can perhaps focus on clients’ gardens to get back that lush floriferous look….I might have gone too far in the direction of sophisticated texture and foliage and I would like to return to the blowsy cottagey look.
Projects to do as soon as the weather is warm enough to set a toe out of the house:
Move two enormous Phormiums that are taking up way too much space in the lower garden. Put them along the outside of the deer fence, an area which I would like to get more defined this year even though it is slightly outside my property line.
Cut back the dead foliage on the Siberian iris..just because that will make the pond look better even in winter.
Move those two big piles of pond silty clay that I dug out last Labour Day, which are still sitting by the pond because work took over all my at-home garden time.  Okay, at least I moved one of the three piles before I got swamped. If I lived in a slightly drier clime, that clay would be wonderful for making a straw bale house.
Cut down the grove of alder seedlings that have started uphill…there are way too many and they will overcrowd and fall on our car if left to grow…In my dreams, I make a glorious wattle fence out of them…or they will make good chopped kindling for my mother’s woodstove.
It is particularly strange these days to notice that my hands are completely clean…no dirt under the nails or in the cuticles.  This past month has probably been the longest time I have gone without doing  (hardly) any gardening in perhaps 20 years.
January 13
The garden would look lovely in the frost and snow if I had taken time earlier to cut down some of the tattier foliage and picked up junky objects like white plastic buckets…and had I moved those darned piles of clay from around the pond. The evidence of undone tasks definitely brings down the tone of lovely view of snow on traceries of branches.

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