Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Some Days Are Like That!

Thursday, August 31st, 2023

Patricia’s Garden – 2019

Carefully considered, I do believe yesterday had many more pluses than minuses.  As a matter of fact, there was only one negative and, as it turned out, that was mostly a figment  of my imagination.  (Doncha just hate when that happens?)

The morning passed “as usual” — a few household chores, a little catching up with email, and another pass at next week’s column for the paper.  It’s not quite to my liking yet but maybe the lightening gods will visit me today.  Not “lightening” in the sense of a flash of brilliance; more the opposite of serious as in “lighten up!”  I still have a day or two. so I can but hope.

But back to yesterday — I spent the midday hours at my friend Patricia’s house — lunch and a garden tour (but forgot to take pictures, of course!) and a lot of catching up.  I especially loved seeing the latest pictures of her granddaughters and hearing the latest among her many siblings and in-laws — all areas of life that I’m not personally privy to, being as I am, an only child and also the mother of an only, unmarried child.  Thank goodness for good friends who don’t mind my vicarious clapping and cheering or (sometimes) clucking and lamenting.

Judy in her Rodeo Queen Days!

Then off to the Performing Arts Center to Judy Eron’s concert — some familiar songs, some new, and all pure Judy!  My personal favorite was her tribute to Charlie, “her very own fruitcake.”  I couldn’t help wondering how many people in the audience had been lucky enough to actually sample some of Charlie’s fruitcake — his father’s recipe — as Nyel and I had.  I think Nyel actually gave Charlie a sample of his fruitcake — in his case, his mother’s recipe! (Again, I didn’t even think of taking a picture, so entranced was I — but scored today online with one that must have been taken in her “Rodeo Queen” days!)

I drove home in the glow of friendships and laughter and music and decided to start dinner and then get back to my computer.  But… cough, sputter, rusty spurts, silence!  No hot water!  Not in the kitchen!  Not in the downstairs bathroom sinks!  Not in the bar.  I went out to listen for the pump.  Was it running?  Did I have yet another  leak?

Spiffy New Faucet

It was well after six-thirty but I called the plumber anyway.  I could at least leave a message.  But on just the second or the third ring, he answered!  Himself!  And I began to cry.  So much for Competent-Widow-Woman-In-Charge-Of-Her-Life…  Patience on his part, an explanation that he’d been here doing a little more work that we’d discussed previously, and following a few simple directions on my part and… all was well.  But doncha just HATE when that happens?

I know Nyel was nearby when I was enjoying Judy’s Fruitcake song.  I hope he was off doing something else when I was blubbering over the phone to my ever-patient plumber.  And I tried mightily to cut myself some slack. One or two plumbing disasters in a summer… maybe acceptable.  But five?  OMG! Please, please!  No more!



Fifteen Hours of Lace and… what ladder?

Thursday, July 6th, 2023

Charlie Threading Curtain Rods

It took three of us — Marta, Charlie and me — three days to take down the old lace curtains from the windows on our twelve-foot-high walls, wash them one-by-one and rehang them.  Fifteen hours of threading curtain rods through delicate channels of material and then spotting Marta as she stood tip-toe on Tucker’s six-foot ladder, none of which we can prove because we were too busy to take pictures.  (Except, of course, when all was said and done and the ladder was on its way home.)

Curtains at Twilight in the East Room

So… you’ll have to take my word for it.  The curtains fairly glow!  The rooms even smell fresher and we think they are probably good for another twenty years.  “That lets us out!” smile Charlie and Marta who will be my age and older by then.

Charlie At Work On Rhodies

Our other big project involves trimming the Jean Marie Rhododendrons on the west side of the house.  We are about half-way through (Marta says only a third) and may or may not complete our task before Departure Day on Saturday.  “Not to worry,” I say.  “I think I can manage, given enough time.”

Marta and Curtains

And, after all… what do we retired types have more of than time?  Answer (if we’re lucky):  Kids who devote two weeks of their precious time to helping us do the things we have difficulties with these days.  What could be better?




Fun! Fun! Fun! And a froggy, too!

Saturday, July 1st, 2023

Me and My Little Red Wagon

Another day to remember!  One of those Fun Fun Fun Days even after I took my little red wagon out for some serious work in the garden!  We had spent the morning at the Artisan Fair at the Oysterville Schoolhouse. Loved the music, the crafts, seeing so many friends among the vendors and the attendees!  We could have stayed all day but Marta and Charlie and I all heard the rhododendrons calling.

Charlie at Work

It was the out-of-control Jean Maries along the west side of the house begging us to give them a trim…please!  I’m not sure I did any trimming last year so they’ve  had two glorious seasons of non-stop growth.  Enough is enough so… off to work we went!

Charlie, looking dapper in one of Nyel’s old cowboy hats, was the bagger.  Marta, slathered in sunscreen and also shaded by a wide-brimmed chapeau took one pair of clippers and I, the other.  We had our “measuring stick” (fashioned years ago by Nyel-the-Rhodie-Trimmer) and we bravely began.

Marta LaRue. Fashionista Rhodie-Trimmer

Our method was to cut as carefully as we could, toss the cuttings into my little red wagon, whereupon Charlie transferred them into those huge  plastic garbage bags “for outdoor use”.  We worked on two sections of rhodies — about 1/3 of the total length of what awaited — and Charlie filled three of those huge bags.

Just as we were about to call it a day, Marta discovered a little tree frog clinging to a leaf that she was about to cut and toss.  She and Charlie rescued him before he went sailing into the wagon, making sure he was happy on a nearby leaf.  (I had wanted to transfer him to the fuchsias in the hanging baskets on the porch but my suggestion was over-ridden.)  Somehow, Froggy had let it be known to Marta and Charlie that he was a Rhododendron Froggy, not a Fuchsia Froggy.

Froggy Looking For His Rhododendron

So… there you have it.  Another fabulous Saturday in Beautiful Downtown Oysterville.  And did I mention that many folks stopped to talk with us on their way to or from the Artisan Fair, but none mistook us for Tom Sawyer…



The Bane of My Existence

Saturday, June 10th, 2023

A Lot of Lawn!

My new lawn-mowing guru has been coming on Saturday afternoons — not my time of choice, necessarily, but “beggars can’t be choosers” as they say.  He does a good job, is reliable and, so far, I’m quite pleased that I found him.

East Hose

However, he does lead directly to “the bane of my existence” (more accurately the bane of my current existence) which is winding up our hoses to get them out of his way.  We have three of them — two very long (maybe 100 ft or so) and one quite short for the south garden.  They are all a pain in the tush for me.  I am definitely NOT a good hose-winder-upper.

North Hose

I can hear Nyel, loud and clear:  “Leave the hoses to the mower man!” but somehow that makes me feel a little guilty and I also think that hauling on those long hoses is good upper body exercise.  Are they neatly coiled and ready for their next use?  Not even close.  But, they’re out of the way for the nonce.

South Garden – More Lawn!

I looked up “bane of my existence” to see if, indeed, that’s what those hoses are. To say that something or someone is “the bane of my existence” means that the person or thing is a constant irritant or source of misery.  Well… sort of.  But I think the next part of the explanation is more to the point in the matter of my hose problem:  As a cliche, “bane of my existence” has lost its edge to a large degree over the years, and today is most often applied to something that may profoundly annoy us but is certainly bearable.

Yep.  Lost its edge.  And haven’t we all?

Signs and Peonies

Sunday, June 4th, 2023

The First Red Peony

I’m not one for believing in signs and portents…  But maybe, just maybe, there’s a message in our garden’s one red peony.  It’s the only red one.  It’s never bloomed before.  But Nyel was ever hopeful.

He had planted the peonies years ago, babying them along year after year.  Most of the plants didn’t survive and the ones that did all had white buds.  Nyel had hoped for red.  Or at least pink.  Like the ones his grandmother grew back in Idaho.

“They were always in bloom in time to be taken to the cemetery on Decoration Day,” he would tell me.  They were his favorites when he was a kid. And the lilacs, too.

Teresa at the Planter Box said our winters just aren’t cold enough here.  “Put ice cubes around them every morning in winter,” she said, but it seemed too onerous.  Nyel was determined, though, and year by year the plants grew stronger, the stems stood straighter, the buds stayed on the stems long enough to bloom, and Nyel was encouraged — even if they were all white.

Nyel’s Peony

But this year… up came one red peony.  A beauty, too.  Yet, I wanted to scream at it:  “YOU ARE TOO LATE!  NYEL’S NOT HERE ANYMORE!”  But I didn’t.  I chose, instead, to think of this as his “one year anniversary gift” to the garden and me.  Maybe next year there will be two.



And “…the rain it raineth every day!”

Sunday, April 2nd, 2023

Ready! Soak! Plant!

Well, at least it’s April and I can console myself that these daily showers will eventually become May flowers.  Although… I’ve been told that I should wait until Mother’s Day to plant my nasturtium seeds and my dahlia plants.  So… wot the hell?

I think the rhythm of the days is probably going to see to it that I’m not out there digging in the muddy soil too soon.  This morning it was sunny and bright and I thought, “Aha! I’ll just go out an plant a few seeds.  Sort of a test.”

But by the time I was really up-and-at-’em, it was raining again.  The seeds are still safe in their packets.  And besides, I think I’ll try soaking them overnight this year  — see if that makes a difference in how soon they germinate.  But wait!  If I plant them and then the rain it raineth in the afternoon and evening… won’t that have the same effect as soaking?

My friend Pat always has a fabulous garden.  I’ll bet she’s already been hard at it.  I think I’ll give her a call and get some good advice.  But, no matter what, I’m not working out there in the rainy parts of the day.  Only the sunny parts.

A Bright Spot, Rain or Shine!

And meanwhile, I sing my dad’s praises every day whether or not it raineth!  There are always (Yes! ALWAYS!) rhododendrons blooming somewhere in the yard.  He  planned it that way back in the 1960s when he and Paul Clark planted those 99 rhododendrons on all four sides of the property.  Thanks, Dad!

Spring Is Coming No Matter What! Or is it?

Sunday, March 5th, 2023

Dafodils Coming Up Around The Old Spruce Stump

I don’t know how things are in your garden, but mine seems to be progressing toward Spring no-matter-what!  There are volunteer daffodils growing all around the old Spruce (or was it a Fir?) stump.  Across the way, three valiant crocuses (croci?) have popped up through the thick covering of winter moss.  And, hither and thither are some primroses that the deer have nibbled but not completely obliterated.  Yet.

But… I don’t think the deer people are comfortable going onto wooden porches.  Not even for the most gorgeous primroses in Oysterville!  They are in a large pot and when they were presented to me for my birthday, I was told to put them on the porch table until I am ready to start spraying Deer Fence again.

Crocuses Through the Winter Moss

Well… it has to get warmer than the current 52° (at 12:45 p.m.) for this goosebumped gardener to get out and do anything beyond a quick picture for this Daybook!  In fact, I just looked at a packet of nasturtiums that has been calling out to me — plant when the temperatures reach 65° it said.  Really?

So then I asked Google when that would be.  Here was the answer:  “The warm season lasts for 3.4 months, from June 20 to October 2, with an average daily high temperature above 63°F. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 40°F to 66°F and is rarely below 32°F or above 73°F.”

A Bowlful of Primroses for the Porch Table

Well, maybe since our temperatures fell well below that 32°F mark, we will make up for it in June with some temperatures a bit above 73°F.  Hope springs eternal.  (I actually think that this is what happens most years — I wait and wait and wait and then… I forget all about the pesky nasturtiums! )

Where is Piglet when I need him?  And “Oh, Bother!” said Pooh!

Who’s been sleeping in my bed???

Saturday, March 4th, 2023

Rhododendron bed, that is!

Yesterday was the first day back for the “Garden Girls” after a winter break in their usually nonstop work schedule.  The two women have been looking after the flower beds (and more!) here at this house since 2019 when Nyel wisely suggested that perhaps I could use some “help” outside.  By now, they do it all — nothing added to the mix from me except questions and clapping!

So, yesterday on their first day back since last October, the three of us took a “walk about” to see what the immediate and long-term needs might be.   They were quick to spot the crocuses and daffodils (where’d they come from?) and other early signs of Spring.  And then, when we got to the rhododendrons along the east fence:  “Oh, my gosh!  It looks like some big animal has been ‘nesting’ here!”

A cougar they thought.  YIKES!  And sure enough, broken rhodie branches and torn up Dorothy Perkins roses and wild blackberries were smooshed down between the fence and the Jean Maries — almost unnoticeable and certainly hidden from my usual vantage point at the house.  But whoever was settling in, no doubt had a clear view of me.  YIKES.

“Why a cougar?” I asked.  I hadn’t heard of one in the area for years — not since Dan Driscoll reported one to the Wildlife people out of worry for his daughter who was then quite young.

It seems that a garden client’s cat had “disappeared” recently and the women had found its scanty remains, typical of a cougar kill — in Nahcotta!  Only four miles away.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:  Adult male cougars roam widely, covering a home range of 50 to 150 square miles, depending on the age of the cougar, the time of year, type of terrain, and availability of prey. Adult male cougars’ home ranges will often overlap those of three or four females.   And… though mostly nocturnal, not necessarily…

So…  I’m not going back out there to take a picture of the “nest.”  And maybe some of the non-leash-law-abiding among us should think twice for a while.

Maggie’s New Book – COMING SOON!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2023

In less than a week– on February 21st to be precise — Maggie Stuckey’s new book, The Container Victory Garden: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Groceries will be in readers’ hands.  Order now (from your local bookstore, from your favorite online source, from wherever) to make sure that you are one  of those readers!

This is a book that is after my own heart.  First and  foremost:  Victory Gardens!  You have to be older than dirt to remember them during World War II, but maybe you can remember your elders talking about them or, if you were lucky, you had a part in the gardening “bug” that took hold during that time of desperate need, and “Victory Gardens” became a part of your life.

By Lee Johnston

Maggie’s book was inspired not by war but by Covid — a time when many of us stayed close to home, sheltering and staying far from grocery stores and produce stands.  Many of us didn’t really have garden space and, anyway, who would think of seriously growing a garden in containers?  Maggie, that’s who!  Once again she brings her expertise and her understanding of the limited spaces and resources of others to offer delicious solutions right to our dinner tables.  And what’s more, she brings our friends right along with her!

Farmer Nyel, 2016

Of the twenty stories Maggie includes about World War II Victory Gardens, six are told by people we know:  Margaret Staudenraus, Clay Nichols, Sandy Stonebreaker, Dobby Wiegardt. Mary Funk and my own beloved Nyel Stevens!  And in addition to the six rich original acrylic illustrations by Oregon City artist Janice Yang, are 25 detailed line-art drawings that illustrate gardening techniques and set-ups especially valuable for container gardens by — drum roll — our own Lee Johnston, one of the gardening team who keep many of our local gardens picture perfect year ’round.

I can hardly wait!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!



Quick! It’s Trimmin’ Time!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2022

Rhodie Trimming: Before (left); After (right).

What a strange year it’s been for our rhododendrons — especially our Honorable Jean Maries.  Our cold, wet spring meant spasmodic blooms late in May — not the usual solid mass of color earlier in the month which has been the  norm since we were first introduced some forty years ago.

And then, as the cold, wet spring sloshed into a soggy, well-chilled summer, whatever bloomin’ inclinations the lovely Jean Maries might have had morphed into leaf production.  Leaves, leaves and more leaves!  Bigger leaves and higher branches of leaves than most other two-year periods produce.  I was having to stand on tiptoe inside the house to see out over the plants that were blocking the windows!

Blackberries (with white blossoms), left, encroaching on York Roses, right.

So today I said, “Enough already!” and began to trim.  And trim.  And trim.  I worked for an hour or so — two big trash bags full and I had made scarcely a dent. At this rate I reckon I have job security until September.  At least!

As an added bonus, I decimated half of a huge blackberry vine that had the audacity to invade a tub of York Roses.  I felt quite accomplished and promised the other half that I’d see her tomorrow, you betcha!  What I didn’t mention to any of them — rhodies, blackberries or York Roses — all bets are off if it rains.  I’m definitely a fair weather gardener, even while lopping and trimming!