Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

Where’s our hedge fund when we need it?

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Nyel On The Attack

It was at least twenty-five years ago, but I remember it clear-as-clear.  My mother was still living in this house and we were a mile down the bay at our place.  She called early one Saturday morning and said that we had to “drop everything” and come tend to the rhododendrons outside her bedroom windows.  “They are completely blocking the view and pretty soon they’ll block out the light completely.”

We allowed as we could come over later and see what we could do.  We didn’t give her worries much credence.  She was always a bit of a drama queen, after all.  But, when we got there we found that her alarm was well-founded.  The rhodies seemed to have grown by leaps and bounds and just overnight — or at least within the last week when we had been there doing a bit of yard work.  We conceded as to how something had to be done.

No. I’m not sitting down!

I have no memory of our solution — mostly because I don’t think I was involved.  Nyel, bless him, got right on it and trimmed all of the rhodies in the garden — not just those around the house, but those along the east fence, as well.  As I remember, our burn pile grew to a burn hill and then to a burn mountain by the time he had things tidied up.  It must not have seemed too onerous, however, because one of the first things he did after we moved into the house in the late nineties was to plant a long row of Jean Marie Rhododendrons along our west fence — not quite double the trouble, but almost.

Trimming the rhodies has been one of the summer chores every year since that first call for help from mom.  Until last year (when Nyel began life in a wheelchair) I haven’t been involved.  Now, however, it has become a team effort — Nyel getting the front parts that he has access to and me wriggling ’round to the back between house or fence and plants to get the parts he can’t reach.  And now that we are old and impaired, it takes about four or five times as long for the two of us than it did for the one of him on both feet.

In the first five minutes…

There will come a day, of course, when we can no longer manage this yearly garden chore.  I was thinking about it as we got ready to have at it again today.  “What we’ll need,” I said to myself, “is a hedge fund.”  But… the really, truly, literal kind.  Not whatever the financial wizards were making headlines with a few decades back.  One more place to spend our hard-earned pennies… Or, we could just let ’em grow.  I wonder if anyone would even notice the house had gone missing.  And us with it.

Lollygagging and Schmoozing

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

The King and Queen of Lollygagging!

We’ve been spending our afternoons (some, not all) visiting with friends in the sunshine — socially distanced and safe, BYO food/beverage if you wish.  It’s been so relaxed and enjoyable, I’ve neglected to even take a picture.  Lollygagging and schmoozing at its finest!

Yesterday, Erin came over for an hour or so.  We hadn’t seen her for almost a year!  The pandemic can only be blamed for part of it.  When you are a working mom whether from home or out in the world, time is at a premium and we are loathe to intrude.  Yesterday felt really special!  We are honored that she could come for a bit of catch-up time.  And afterwards, she sent a few photos!

Even The Flowers Were Lollygagging!

Plus, Erin left us (well, maybe just me) inspired to get a few things “done” around here!  She talked about all the “projects” she has accomplished despite teaching from home, helping son Diego with the new virtual learning curve, overseeing the farm (Cranguyma) and spending time with her mom.  The words “deep cleaning” were the ones that resonated with me — as in why haven’t I done any.

So, thanks Erin for the visit, the inspirational thoughts and mostly just for lollygagging and schmoozing away a sunny few hours with us.    It was so fun!



Everything’s rosy at our house!

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

Dorothy Perkins – 2016

Just when I begin lamenting the end of the lilacs and rhododendrons in our garden, here come the roses!  They always take me by surprise — mostly because they come in June which isn’t a very rosy month here in Oysterville — nor weather-wise, anyway.  It’s usually misty-moisty or downright rainy, and could spoil my Oh-Boy-It’s-Almost-Summer attitude.  But, then… tah dah!  Here come the roses!

Hybrid Tea Rose, Maybe

We have four different kinds of roses in our garden.  Three of them are back behind the kitchen where they are seldom seen except by us.  Somehow, that pleases me.  One bush (or is it a tree?) grows against the house outside my office.  It can only be seen from the kitchen window and I think it knows that it blooms just for us.  I have no idea what kind it is — maybe a “hybrid tea rose” whatever that is.  It looks like it would make a perfect bud vase sort of rose — but it really doesn’t.  I’ve learned to leave it uncut if I want to enjoy it for a longer period of time.  Of the four roses in our garden, it’s the only one with a fragrance that my old nose can detect.

Old Fashioned Climber

Just beyond that lovely deep red rose are the delicate little pinky-white climbing roses that came out of nowhere and established themselves along the back wall of our garage.  For lack of a proper name, I just refer to them as “old-fashioned climbers.”   Cutting them for bouquets is always tempting but they told me long ago that they don’t like it.  They are happiest in situ.

And then there are the York Roses, or at least that’s what my dad called them.  They are a variegated rose, red and white, and are said to commemorate the Wars of the Roses (1455-85), a series of English civil wars fought between the houses of Lancaster and York.   The wars were named many years afterward from the badges of the contending parties: the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.  Although my dad always called it the “York Rose” it is more properly known (of course) as the “York and Lancaster.”

York Roses

Our only roses that are up front for all the world to see are the sweet little Dorothy Perkins that climb along our west fence.  First planted here in the 1920s by my grandmother, they bloom all summer and fall but have yet to make their appearance this year.  Over the years, many people — visitors as well as locals — have asked for cuttings which we have willingly supplied.  It pleases me to think that Dorothy Perkins on other fences in town — at the church and near the schoolhouse — came originally from Helen Richardson Espy, my beloved “Granny.”

In A Garden Full of Reds and Lilacs

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Big Red Rhodie

The Reds are out in all their glory — the Jean Maries along the west and east fences, the huge no-name Red in front of the chicken coop and the smaller no-name Red near the cannon.  And, of course, Little Red Hen and Nyel-Who-Once-Was-A-Redhead, too.

It really is the BEST time of year in our garden.  Even though the reds dominate, there are other blossoms everywhere.  The lilacs by our east porch and over by the gazebo are in their glory.  Other rhodies — Mrs. G. W. Leak and those huge bushes with the purple blossoms along the north fence — are more glorious than ever.  It’s as if they are ssying, “We love to have you home!  Keep sheltering and stay safe with us!”

Nyel and Little Red Hen

For her part, Little Red Hen comes running whenever either of us is in the garden.  She loves to “help” me, scratching and pecking where I’ve been weeding to make room for nasturtium seeds.  I’ve told her that once I plant them, she’ll have to stay away, but she just gives me that cocky one-eyed look and I know I’ll have to confine her to the coop if I want those seeds to have a chance.

Lilacs In Profusion

She’s fickle, though, and easily distracted.  As soon as Nyel shows up, she abandons me and the tenuous promise of wriggly earthworms, much more interested in the here and now of dried meal worms in the Farmer’s hand.  Little Red is  about three now, the oldest of our three hens.  I wonder if she remembers Farmer Nyel from the days before his wheelchair and if that’s why she’s the friendliest of the girls.

All-in-all, we count our blessings during this 2020 Spring.  There is beauty wherever we look in the garden and entertainment, too!  Who could ask for more?

In spite of all…

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

Hyacinth Border in All Its Glory

Despite benign neglect on my part, our garden is looking remarkably well.  For the first time in many Springs, we are not starting the season with more weeds than flowers!  That’s all thanks to our wonderful friends who contributed to a garden cleanup for us when Nyel was hospitalized so long last year.

By hook and by crook we were able to continue having the Garden Girls come in every two weeks for a few months — until the winter storms came in earnest and then the Coronavirus showed up and closed down everything (except Mother Nature).

Just Beyond The Front Porch

The neat and tidy look won’t last, of course.  Not unless the sheltering time is pronounced “over” for  landscapers and other outdoors “non-essential” workers.  And I am the last one to be a back-to-work advocate right now.  Not until the health professionals say it’s “safe.”  So… being a very tentative, fair weather gardener, myself,  I’m hoping for fair skies, warm sunshine, and no wind so I can confront those pesky weeds in comfort.  (Which is precisely the attitude that I recognize as a problem… But some things don’t change.)

Meanwhile, I rejoice in the here and now of hyacinths and narcissus, primroses and azaleas and the promise of our Jean Marie rhododendrons next month!  Thank you Mother Nature and all your wonderful helpers who have made  (perhaps inadvertently) another year of garden beauty a reality for us here in Oysterville.

It might be a steep learning curve…

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks… Not that I’m comparing my husband with an old dog, you understand.  Just sayin’…

For those few beautiful weather days earlier this week, Nyel had the great urge to “do some things” outside.  I’m always all for him “doing things” especially in the “outside” so I put his electric wheelchair in a place for easy access and out he went.  His first desire (and, most certainly, mine) was to attach the watering wand to the hose and water the pots of geraniums and hanging baskets of fuschias on our south porch.

“Are you sure you can reach?” asked anxious Sydney.  “Yes,” came the gruff don’t-be-hovering response.  So I backed off…  But I stayed nearby, just in case things went south.

All Atangle

It all went well.  For a while.  Then… he ran over the hose which wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) ordinarily be a problem.  But somehow, one of the little “tip-back-to-get-down-a-step wheels” at the back of the chair grabbed onto the hose and wouldn’t let go.  “Stop!” I called out, envisioning a disaster in the making.

Of course, Mr. Independence didn’t stop.  Once he ascertained what the problem was (or so he thought because there was no way he could see it and wouldn’t stop long enough to hear the explanation) he backed up and, OF COURSE, compounded the situation.

It took some strong language and a bit of shrieking  on my part to convince him that there was a good possibility that he might tip himself over and that solving the problem would involve his getting out of the wheelchair and taking a look at what was going on.  That meant my getting his other wheelchair, bringing it outside so he could transfer into it, moving the  electric chair so he could see the back of it and blah blah blah.  It took a bit of doing but, eventually… problem solved!  Back to work.

Wheelchair Gardening

Yesterday, it happened again.  That time, though I wasn’t there and Nyel was  oblivious.   It wasn’t until he spoke to me rather sharply about where I should and shouldn’t move one of the hoses and I replied, equally sharply that I hadn’t touched that particular hose, that the penny finally dropped.   But… that’s another story.  Also with a happy ending but not before the “discussion” about yardwork from the wheelchair and necessary safety precautions became rather heated.

Stay tuned.  It’s likely to be a long and complicated spring and summer.


…and other duties as assigned.

Monday, April 20th, 2020

Hose Bib

Eight ayem on April twentieth.  I set the hoses and turned on the sprinklers.  Let the watering begin!  Well… we call it “watering” in our house but, lately, I have the term “irrigating” used instead.  My understanding of “irrigating” has to do with ditches and canals.  Irrigating was big in the valleys of California when I was growing up.  We didn’t irrigate our lawns; we watered them.  Still do.

On the other hand, here in Oysterville we do speak of our “water for irrigation” to indicate that we have a well on the property and to reassure others in the village that we are not using the village water supply for other than household use.  Whatever…

Let The Watering Begin

In any event, it seems early in the year to start the hose-moving process.  To cover  all of our lawn, it requires moving two hoses from two water bibs at least five times.  If I begin the process at eight in the morning, I can be finished by six in the evening.  That leaves out our south lawn which is too narrow for the sprinklers that go round-and-round.  It requires two applications from one of those back-and-forth sprinklers that usually get stuck in the up position and do no good at all.  Did I mention that moving hoses is not my favorite pastime?  (But don’t tell Nyel.  If he could figure out an efficient way to do it from his wheelchair, he’d be out there in a nano-second.  I do think he’s working on a Plan B.)

Another Hose Bib

Farmer Nyel says our pump isn’t strong enough for good coverage if all three sprinklers going at once.  So it’s usually an every other day decision — which area is most needy?  Meanwhile, we hope that this isn’t really a long-term drought… just a dry spell between rainy periods.  At least until July…  While we wait and see I’m trying to figure out how I can train those chickens to move hoses…  To myself I call it Plan C.


Undaunted… Well, maybe not quite.

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Austrian Beauty

Our garden has been left to its own devices for a while, mostly due to the weather but partly because of the Sheltering Syndrome.  We are absolutely fine with sheltering in place until someone yells ollie-ollie-oxen-free but the problem might be that we are TOO fine with it.  That’s the “syndrome” part.  As in I’m starting to think of my world as confined within these four walls.

So, yesterday I forced (well almost) myself to do a walk-about in the garden.  Some of our rhodies have been blooming profusely and I apologized to them for not getting a picture when they were at their peak.  The deer people have been enjoying the camellias more than ever and that warranted another apology — I should have been giving the leaves a shot of deer repellent occasionally.

Windblown but Brave

The narcissuses (say it three times real fast) that Cousin Lina brought from Austria are still blooming and they are beautiful!  But… they are pretty crippled up from recent winds and rains.  I took their pictures, anyway, and commiserated with them.  “We’re all going through a bad patch right now.  Thanks for hangin’ in,” I told them.

I know that the only earthly reason not to get out there more frequently is inertia.  Who’da thunk that would be a side effect of sheltering in place?  And now that I know… will anything change?  We’ll see…

No Blight in Sight

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

The Green, Green Grass of Home

Tom, The-Mower-Man, (I really think of him as Tom, TMM, like the MD after a doctor’s name or the PhD titles of the academics we revered as “full” professors when I was in college) was here on Tuesday and our lawn looks FABULOUS!  What with the rains and a lingering chest cold and other winter pitfalls, it was his first mowing opportunity since early December.

Nyel says we have about an acre of lawn but when it is newly mowed and feeling in good fettle, it looks like acres and acres of lushness.  At least, it does to me.  I walked all around yesterday doing a careful inspection.  Many of those 50+ mole hills that we had last summer have grown over — some with dandelions that I need to take care of, but mostly with grass.  The big patch of moss on the east lawn has all but disappeared, and the new lawn that takes the place of Nyel’s erstwhile vegetable garden is even healthier looking than the rest.

The Green Green Grass of Home

All of the above is thanks to the hard work of so many — Dale and Mark of the Rose City Mixed Quartet who attacked the moss and did an application of lawn food; Eugene-the-landscaper who removed railroad ties and other vestiges of the raised beds and hefted soil and seed for the new patch; and even me who spread moss killer and lawn food over the entire acreage on Memorial Day, on the Fourth of July, and on Labor Day.  Whew!  And soon it will be time again…

I am reminded of my father’s question to one of the groundsmen working on the lawn in front of Christ Church in Oxford.  “How do you keep the lawns so perfect looking?” he asked.

Christ Church, Oxford

“Well, sir,” came the answer in a broad north country accent, “First we sows ’em; then we rolls ’em; then we mows ’em.”  What he didn’t add was that four or five centuries of doing the same has helped a lot!  Fortunately, Tom, TMM and I only have to think about one season at a time here in Oysterville!


Wintering Over in Oysterville

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Getting Ready for Spring

On these sunshiny days of February, it’s hard to believe that we still have a month or more of winter ahead.  We resist the urge to put on our basking togs and drag out the Adirondack chairs. But we smile more and think about the flower seeds our cousin brought us from Austria.  “Soon!” I tell them.  “Soon!”

The fuchsias in the hanging baskets along our south porch are all taking their chances.  Every single one of them (17 plants in nine baskets) is showing new growth even as last year’s leaves are still hanging on.  “Winter is SO over!” they seem to say.  “Let’s get on with Spring and Summer!”

Time was when Nyel would take down each basket, trim back the old growth, water well, and hang each from a high beam in garage.  I lack the reach and the strength to do that last part, so for the last two seasons I’ve explained the problem to the plants and left them in place.  I’m quite sure they get it.

Old Growth and New

Same with the geraniums.  Most of them.  The ones on the porch — the potted ones — look to be thriving.  Those in the tubs out in the garden… not so much.  I’m trying to cheer them on now that it’s sunny and bright.  Here’s hoping.

As for Nyel and me…  We’ve managed well thus far, thanks to all the good thoughts and kind favors of our friends and relatives.  We are both finishing up old projects and planning new ones.

Doesn’t sunshine make a huge difference, though?