Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Mole People: You are not invited!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

On The Cannon Sward

Forty-one!  Count ’em!  Forty one mole hills (and remains of same) on our erstwhile Croquet Court (which really should be renamed “The Cannon Sward”).  Actually, those forty-one are only on the east end of said sward.  I gave up counting.  And there are more on the east lawn in front of the house.  Plus there are several large patches where I successfully got rid of the moss but have not been successful in reseeding to lawn.

On the other hand — knock wood! — the south lawn (the one you see as you enter by our modern-day “front” door — is pretty much mole free.  One dirt patch only and it looks as though it might be filling in.  But, unfortunately, it’s not the south lawn that is the focus of my attention just now.  It’s the sward and the east lawn that will be the setting of Our Grand Affair in September.

South Lawn, August 13, 2019

We’ve invited a good many friends and relatives to help us celebrate the 150th birthday of this house.  But we did NOT invite the mole people.  And lest you think that they are working overtime in some sort of resentful funk, be advised that such is not the case.  They have been hanging out under our lawns for years.

When Nyel was a walking man, he spent a lot of time and energy in real-life whack-a-mole games.  Periodically, he had some success.  But they must like us.  Or perhaps they like the chickens.  They always return.  And, frankly my dears, I have no interest in wasting my time on various mole hunts.  The moles (and the lawns) be damned!  I am declaring “Spotted and Dotted” to be the fashionable style for Oysterville lawns this season.  At least for this lawn!

Wow! Lookin’ at where they ain’t!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Larry Freshley once told me that his first job out on the oyster beds when he was thirteen or fourteen was cluster-busting.  The task involves giving a large clump of oysters a smart rap with a crowbar or other heavy implement to separate the oysters (which tend to cleave together) from one another.  To young Larry’s question, “Then what?” his boss said, “Throw them where they ain’t.”

I’ve always thought that was one of the best instructions I’ve ever heard.  So, when I arrived home yesterday and walked around the perimeter of our house to see what my friend Pat Fagerland had accomplished over the past few weeks…  I first had to get over being totally gobsmacked and then found myself “looking where they ain’t.”  Weeds. that is!  Gone!  Not a weed in sightf!  How she managed all that I cannot even imagine.  It would have taken me all summer long to get all of that done and, even so, I’d be going back to the beginning time and time again, never getting to the end at all.

“Don’t you have a hoa?” she laughed when I called her.  “A what?” I think I had her repeat it a couple of times but I still don’t have a clue what she was talking about or even if I heard right.  “I’ll show you when I see you,” she said.  Of course, she made it sound like whatever that tool is made all the difference.  But, I know for a fact that, no matter what, she worked like a trojan to get things in this kind of shape.  “I’m not quite through yet,” she told me.  “I want to get it so you can easily maintain it…”

OMG!  What a wonderful gift of friendship!  I am truly blessed.  And spoiled to the max!!!  And teary every time I look at where they ain’t!

 

 

Where there’s a will…

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Wheelchair Gardener

The sunshine began calling early yesterday morning.  By noon, Nyel had positioned himself (in his wheelchair) in the kitchen so that the sun was beaming through the window right onto his face.  There he sat, smiling and reveling in the warmth and the light.

“Let’s get you outside,” I said at lunch.  “I think we can do it – between your walker and the wheelchair, I think we can manage the step from house to porch and from porch to lawn.  Don’t you?”  He did and so off we went.  It all worked like a charm!

“And, while you’re here…” I suggested.  And before you could say fuchsias and geraniums, Nyel was equipped with a tarp in his lap and a pair of garden snippers in his hand.  I carried each of the hanging baskets and each of the geranium pots, one by one, and Farmer Nyel worked his pruning magic.  While he pruned, I worked in the west garden bed, weeding and planting nasturtium seeds (even though I think it’s too early for them.)

The Tendr Touch

We were outside for about two hours.  Maybe more.  There was a steady stream of visitors who, seeing the “Temporarily Closed” sign on the church, read the bronze plaque in the churchyard instead, and tried to figure out how to pronounce the “Tsako-te-hahsh-eetl” sign over our gate.  Neighbors Mark and Sandra came by on their walk and hung over the fence to visit a bit. A duck or two flew overhead.  The roosters crowed every now and then and the hummingbirds came by to say “thank you” for refilling their feeder.  It was all absolutely perfect.

Maybe we’ll do it again today – at least the getting outside part.  I’m trying to dream up another garden chore that can be done from a wheelchair…  But reading a good book and Clapping and Cheering for me occasionally will work, too!  I need all that C&C I can get! (It’s right up there with R&R!)

When in doubt, call Kathleen!

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Scary Seed Pod

It’s been several months now since our replacement septic system was installed.  The smooth expanse of sand over the new installation has given way to clumps of grass and dandelions, a bramble or two, and a number of recognizable weeds.  We trust that all of that will be taken care of in short order when our landscape service puts in a replacement lawn.

Meanwhile, it becomes more and more unsightly and then, suddenly, a big ugly plant sprang forth right in the middle of the area.  You could just tell to look at it that it was something nasty.  It had a number of prickly seed pods and some deceptively attractive blossoms.  It looked evil.

Mystery Plant

“I just sent some photographs to you,” Nyel told me on his return from the early morning chicken run.  “When you get them, send them on to Kathleen and ask if she knows what that plant is.”  Kathleen Sayce is the best go-to biologist we know when it comes to identifying our local plants.  And a lot of other stuff.  Besides, she is a neighbor and a friend and always seems to enjoy helping us naturalist neophytes.

“Oh my!” was her response. “That is definitely not from around here. It is a Datura relative. I will find the name and let you know. May I come by and take some more photos?”  Absolutely!  And within minutes here she came armed with her camera, a digging tool, and gloves.  “It’s jimson weed,” she told us.  “You definitely don’t want it around.  Every part of it – stem, leaves, seeds, pollen – is toxic.”  And not just a little bit toxic I read later.  Even a small amount, if ingested, can be fatal.

Deceptively Pretty

She dug it up and we suppled a big black garbage bag to put it in.  “I don’t advise composting it,” she said.  “Better to send it to the dump.”  While she was at it, she walked around the area, identifying other plants that were cropping up – but none toxic, thank goodness.  The seeds for some of them could have been here before the construction, but most likely the jimson weed seeds came in on a piece of equipment that was being used.  Sneaky seeds!

I feel a lot better about that area now.  I’ll feel even better about it when we finally get a lawn planted and we can get back to the grass being greener over the septic tank.  Meanwhile, thank you Kathleen!!  You are amazing!

Previews and Insider Information

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Yesterday morning I spent being whisked from one delightful setting to another that I’d love to tell you about – and will! – but not yet.  Six beauty spots right here on the Peninsula.  Each to be featured on the upcoming Music in the Gardens tour on July 21st.

But it’s not quite time for the Big Reveal.  Maybe in a week or two.  Right now, gardeners are doing a lot of fluffing up and last-minute grooming, musicians and visual artists are learning where they will be ‘stationed’ for the day, and refreshments are being planned.  I felt like I was on a backstage tour as preparations for the opening night gala were being fine-tuned.

Delight in the Dunes

I was chauffeured, escorted, and introduced to the gardens by Nancy Allen and Darlene Houser, the two extraordinary organizers of this annual event – a fundraiser for the Water Music Festival.  Proceeds each year are earmarked for the Ocean Beach School District’s music program.  My teeny-tiny part in all of this is to do a bit of writing for what the Music in the Gardens website describes as a keepsake brochure.

I don’t think I’m telling too much to say that each of the six gardens could be the subject of an entire book, not just a short description in a brochure.  And each could be classified within its own separate genre – an art garden, an instructional garden, a children’s garden, even a garden that I would classify as a mercantile garden.  But, lest I reveal too much too soon, I’ll not extend this little ramble.

Work in Progress

Speaking of which, the gardens varied in size from what Nancy described as a “grandma garden” (which would be just about a manageable size for some of us less sprightly gardeners) to an acreage among the dunes with trails to walk and vistas to behold. Every garden…  different!  Every one magical!  Every one with secrets to reveal.

And here we are back to secrets!  Stay tuned (as they say in the music world.)  Meanwhile, you can pre-order your tickets online through the Water Music Festival website at https://watermusicfestival.com/event/music-in-the-gardens/.

Bounty on the Hoof

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Apple Tree (after thinning)

It seems to me that this spring has been especially lovely here on the Peninsula – not just weather-wise, but in the greening of the trees and in the great profusion of budding and bursting and blooming  wherever I look.  I can’t remember a year when our roadside blackberry bushes have been as laden with blossoms as they are right now.  The honeysuckle near our woodpile is blooming to beat its record and yesterday Nyel thinned our dwarf apple tree four-and-a-half-pounds worth!

That thinning process always pains me.  I think how hard that little tree (and the birds and bees and other pollinators) worked to produce all those apples and I can hardly bear to watch Farmer Nyel in his ruthless pursuit.  But, the rule of thumb is to thin when the apples are about as big as a dime in diameter and, also, to wait until after the ‘June drop.’  That’s the time (usually around June 20th) when the trees naturally drop some of their fruit.  The final bit of advice is to leave about six inches between the remaining apples.

The Promise of Applesauce

Well… when it comes to second-guessing Mother Nature, it’s not a perfect world.  June drop hasn’t yet occurred in our one-tree apple orchard, it’s a few days before the 20th, and the apples are already the diameter of quarters.  Furthermore, Farmer Nyel left about two or three inches between the remaining apples, not six.  But he probably did the right thing considering this is a teeny tiny tree.  (He could reach to the very top without even using a ladder.)

Honeysuckle

The bag of thinnings is in our refrigerator crisper.  In his usual waste-not-want-not manner, Farmer Nyel’s plan is to make them into applesauce.  That makes me feel a whole lot better about that entire thinning process.  Those little baby apples seemed so hopeful!  Applesauce seems like a suitable fulfillment.

Meanwhile, there are blossoms on the old pear tree near the gazebo and the honeysuckle that surrounds it fills the air with its sweet perfume.  The garden smells delicious!  Good enough to eat!  And when those apples and pears are ripe, it will be.

The Honorable Jean Marie de Montague

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Jean Maries Near the Coop

My father really knew what he was doing when he chose to plant Jean Maries (as we call them for short) in our garden.  I’m sure he chose them because of their brilliant scarlet color.  And maybe for their name – he was always impressed by a title… even an honorary one.

I think it was just a serendipity that the Jean Maries are usually at the height of their glory on his birthday, May 12th.  Dad would have been 109 on Saturday.  It’s hard to believe that he’s been gone for 27 years.  Especially since our entire garden celebrates his birthday every year!

This year, thanks to a crew of volunteers organized by our friend Jay (when Nyel was in the hospital last year) plus a lot of tender loving care by Beach Time Landscaping, our garden is in better shape than at any time since Dad left us.  The garden was his passion and when he wasn’t working on behalf of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation or acting as the “Mayor of Oysterville” (a title bestowed upon him by neighbor Eddie Freshly), he was outside working with his dahlias and roses and rhododendrons.

Jean Maries in the South Garden

He usually had help with the heaviest chores.  In the 1970s, in the days of push mowers, I think Chris Freshley did the mowing for Dad.  When Nyel came into our lives in the early eighties, he took over the mowing and a lot of the weeding.  Then Hank Batten came along and he and Dad worked side-by-side trimming and fluffing and keeping things looking fabulous.

My father inherited that love-of-gardening gene from his mother, right down to his interest is dahlias and roses.  I don’t think Nana’s garden in Boston included rhododendrons, though.  Those were a love affair Dad began even before he and mom retired here — when he became acquainted with Dr. J. Harold Clarke and his amazing nursery on Sandridge Road.

I love the garden and I love the flowers and I love the memories of my dad “puttering” (as he called it) among the blossoms.  Unhappily, I didn’t get that gene of gardening passion. But if I had, I surely would have developed a gorgeous rose or rhododendron or dahlia and named it The Honorable William Woodworth Little.  And everyone would call it “Bill” for short.  Except me.  I’d call it “The Honorable Dad.”

Getting the Itch

Friday, February 9th, 2018

South Garden in Summer 2013

There’s nothing like a dollop of sunshine in an azure sky – even if it’s for just an hour or so – to get you in the mood for a go at the garden.  The other day, I couldn’t help myself.  Even though I had to layer up beyond ease of movement, I managed to make some headway on the south garden.  Mostly ripping out dead ferns and old dahlia stalks, but it was a start.

The biggest impetus to my gardening zeal (does 45 minutes of ripping and pulling qualify as zeal?) was the example set by Beach Time Landscaping.  Little by little they have been pruning and shaping us back into symmetry.  The view out our east windows is soothing beyond belief.  There’s nothing like a bit of balance and proportion to make you feel better about your universe.

English Cottage Garden

But, my plan for the south garden – the first area to assail one’s senses as they approach our door – is as usual.  I want a riotous tangle of color and texture –  flowers enough to cut for inside with plenty to distract from the weeds that will undoubtedly settle in first.  In my mind’s eye, those beds are an English cottage garden in all its glory.  Usually, the best I can do is nasturtiums running amuck over the porch.

But… there’s always this year.  If I’d quit stewing and get doing, I might have a chance of success.  Maybe next week…

Perhaps introductions are in order?

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.

Isn’t that the loveliest thought?  Roland A. Browne, author of The Common Sense Guide to Flower Gardening said it.  I’ve added it to my ‘list’ of things I wish I’d thought of first.  It’s a long, long list!

Right now, roses are taking center stage in our garden (such as it is).  I think the first week of June is supposed to be best for rose viewing in the Northwest.  Or, at least, that’s when the Rose Festival occurs in Portland.  But our roses out on the coast seem to be at their height a bit later.  Like now!

Not that we purposely cultivate roses.  Whichever ones bravely appear each year were planted long ago, either by my grandmother or by my father.  They were the chief gardeners on this property – my grandmother, from the time she arrived in 1902 until blindness overtook her in the 1950s; my father, from the time he retired here in 1972 until his death in 1991.

I don’t actually associate roses with either of them, though.  I tend to think of violets and silver dollar plants and sweet peas when visualizing my grandmother and flowers.  For dad, certainly for the years he lived here, dahlias and rhododendrons claimed his attention.

I do remember that we had a ‘rose garden’ when I was a kid in Alameda.  It was actually a garden bed carved out of the lawn in the back yard and I remember the rose plants standing stiffly and prickly row on row.  And speaking of prickly, in another area of that garden, up against the house, we had a ‘cactus garden’ which I never did feel friendly about – especially not after my neighbor Robert Reading fell into it from our sunroom window!

Now, with our seemingly endless policy of benign neglect, it’s a wonder that anything at all flourishes in our garden.  We do tend to have a lot of people coming and going, though.  Perhaps our roses enjoy seeing them as Mr. Browne seemed to suggest. I must remember to introduce them purposely now and then.  It seems the polite (and prudent) thing to do.

Lily, Dorothy, and that darling Daisy

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

They’re regulars at this time of year.  Lily, Dorothy Perkins and that fresh-faced Daisy and her many, many look-alike sisters. This year they all arrived on the very same day – the first of July.  It was late for Lily and Daisy and just about on time for Dorothy.  I’ve seldom seen them get into town on the same day, although once here they hang out and visit with one another for a good part of the summer.

Usually Lily arrives first – all bright colors and eye-catching stamens.  So tempting to invite her inside for a visit, but oh so disastrous if you don’t take precautions!  She’ll spot and stain your linens and laces without even nodding her beautiful head.  Best to pluck the stamens before the pollen appears.  The removal won’t hurt Lily – in fact, it may increase her lifespan. And you’ll find her a much better-behaved guest with just that minimal preparation before escorting her inside.

Dorothy, so pink and delicate looking, tends toward the thorny side and needs to be handled with care.  From a distance, she peeks out of her surrounding greenery, almost hidden until her friends come to join her in the next few weeks.  She’s shy and not eager to leave the safety of the picket fence.  When I urge her  inside, even bribing her by offering my grandmother’s silver bowl, she begins to wither within a day or two. I’ve learned to enjoy her on her own terms – outside where she prefers to be.

And then there’s Daisy.  She might be my favorite.  Certainly, she’s the easiest to get along with.  Outside or inside, she’s the epitome of purity and straightforwardness.  “What you see is what you get,” she says.  She not a bit prickly and doesn’t mess anything up.  She stays for most of the summer, along with her sun-loving sisters.  I love it that they hang out right near our porch where I see them every time I go in or out.

So… thanks, my lovely garden girls!  Thanks for the pleasure you bring every year, asking not a thing in return except maybe a little water now and then.  How lucky we are!  How very, very lucky!