Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oh, the absurdity!

If you have, or are currently reading Jane Austin, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, or Carl Marx - well, with the exception of Carl - then you probably appreciate absurdity. It flows in and out of their writing like a stream through the meadow; even when you don't see it, you can hear it laughing and trickling in the background. It shows itself in a myriad of ways from waiting patiently for your impatients to bloom or perhaps drinking a good bottle of white burgundy (small note: Jean Noel Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes Premier Cru 1996 is divine on warm summer afternoon).
My absurd story started when I knew that I would not have a garden as I had slaved away far too much as a meer child (I called it cruel and unusual punishment). Now I have one of the largest in the neighborhood. It wasn't love at first sight, it was more of a creeping, crawling thing that you aren't quite sure when it got there, but can't remember it not being there either.
To some extent, all gardeners are absurdly patient. We plant a seed, believing the miracle of time, rain, and photosynthesis will create a flower - and oddly enough, it does! In a time when Amazon Prime gets a table saw, diapers, and a book delivered in two days, we actually start something that will not do anything for at least 14-21 days, then will slowly grow - only to die back then grow back next year and possibly bloom, but most likely will wait for the third year. Try finding logic there. Another absurdity is composting. If you are like me, you throw weeds, coffee, leaves, cuttings, excess salad and the rest (usually referred to as refuse in polite circles) and expect black gold to come out.
Oddly enough, we are also absurdly impatient. We clamor (I may be more guilty than the most) for spring all winter long, then complain that there isn't enough time for all of our spring projects. We know  our zones' frost dates, yet plant 2 weeks early (hoping winter doesn't notice).
So, instead of trying to stop the true absurdity of life, enjoy it, revel in it; knowing we are all a little absurd. It is what makes this life on earth a little more pleasant. ;)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Northwest Garden Show...

Gardens Galore! Delightful Daffodils! Tasteful Tulips! Frightful Forsythia! Colorful Crocus'! I know that is enough of that awful alliteration! Lets get down and dirty. No more persiflage, we want cold hard facts.
The Northwest flower and garden show started last wednesday, but due to pomp and circumstances - well mostly the circumstance called working - we didn't make it until today. I have learn from past experiences that you must have a master plan before going. If you go in hodge podge taking what may come, you, well I, end up buying more than I want to and getting home wondering where I'm going to put these flowers. I made a short 10 page list of the plants I want, then checked it with a list of places that needed new plants (this list was blank) and decided that I'd only buy what I thought was a good deal and I would complement what we have already.
Lucy, Helen and Paul were troopers. They enjoyed the show and the children's area. There was pretty much anything you could imagine a gardener could want from seeds to a long pole made for picking apples. Most of these things my great grandpa would have scoffed at and said something like "new fangled inventions that make it harder" or perhaps "if they can't get your money one way, they'll invent another." I am not my great grandpa so I was amused at all the little things I didn't know I needed. As not a single one was "to die for" I came home without the invaluables.
There was also a section of "display" gardens. I liked it as it gave lots of ideas. Each had their own theme and were very creative. Sadly the entire area was very dark so picture taking was not very feasible. Some were not very practical  but I think that is a bit of the fun - this could never work in a normal garden, but I sure looks nice doesn't it!
My wife's sister and her husband came so we made quite the little gaggle wadding through the mass of humanity 4 adults 3 strollers and and 7 kids 5 and under! I hope you made it to the show and if you didn't, only 361 days left!

So, like Cisco once said, "What does it take to make a gardener? He's killed lots of plants!" (or something like that) So get out there, get your hands dirty and let the slaughter - or learning begin!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Garden Path Galore...

Like it or not, old man winter is a lot like Elvis, he has left the building! OK. I know you are thinking, "Just you wait, Henry Higgens, Just you wait. You'll be sorry but your tears will be too late. Your flowers and your roses will freeze their little toeses. Spring is not yet here, just you wait!" Well, maybe not those exact words, but you and I both know that winter likes pretend its gone, just to get all of us gardeners excited then lays one last chilly hand upon our gardens to show who is really boss. Yet, in spite of this I am feigning ambivalence. Come what may, I'm ready for spring and it's going to be an early one! (or else...)
So in light of all this excitement, I decided this would be a great weekend to make our paver pathway in the back yard. This pathway has been a thorn in the flesh for me. I have prayed thrice that it would not be an ugly eyesore, but nothing happened - so I took matters into my own two unskilled hands. This leads from our back yard into the neighborhood behind us so we frequently walk on it. In the summer it's not so bad, but in the winter it enjoys turning muddy and treacherous. You all probably know how to lay paver pathways better than me, so I won't bore you with monotonous details on how I did it. In this informational age, youtube provides lots and lots of how-to videos which are done by people who actually do this and that sort of thing all of the time. One - no two - quick hints though. A 6" x 6" paver is not a real and/or literal 6". Also, make everything about 4" lower than you expect it will be, everything ended up a little taller than I wanted it. These aren't "Oh no, lets start over" kind of things, but they are the small things that make a lot of difference.

Here is the beginning. I wanted to save the gravel to use as a base after I dug out the area.

Here be the supplies. 

So I dug it out, then made the frame (will mismade the frame) and added the gravel. I used the board to make sure the gravel was semi flat. I then added sand and made sure that was really level. 

Not is the easy part of laying in the pavers (304 triangular red ones and 108 of the grey) We teach math in school for a good reason!

The almost finished product. I still needed to fill in the edges. I am going to clean out all of the grass and then put in bark around the edges to hide the frame and give the area that finished look.

So, what is the best way to celebrate a project being finished? Buy flowers of course! I went to a local nursery (Portland Ave), and bought two climbing yellow roses (walkin' on sunshine) and this pink dawn viburnum. It is very fragrant and will take up an area of our fragrance garden. I wanted it last year, but no one had it at the time.

The large thing with no leaves and in a pot is the new plant. The flowering current on the left is going to be moved into a spot where one of its near relations died last year. Then we will make another little paver patio and add another bench for when neighbors come over.
So now, we will take a small peak behind the curtain of future developments. The two climbing roses will be supplemented by two dark purple clematis. These will be supplemented by two arches. As you look into your minds eye, imagine the now path in the back. As you walk through the gate, you see two arbors or arches 2' deep and about 2' apart. Right now they have a clematis on one side and a rose on the other, slowing climbing their way (and hopefully not so slowly) up to meet eachother at the top. Then they shall mingle and bloom in purple and gold. Over the years they will spread out and create a 5'-6' tunnel that you walk through. Sound good? Well, we'll see if the imagination is reality soon. Clematis won't be in at the local nurseries for a month or so, and I still need to find my arbors. But, today when I take our girls to the playground, I'll close my eyes and smell the beauty as we walk.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Late winter sowing...

This is a slightly belated post, however, not as belated as my winter sowing. Early in January (most years anyway) I decide all of the annuals I'd like to have, then plant them in my tins with the plastic lids. (mini greenhouses). Then over the next few months the cold weather breaks down the seed exterior and and warm days come, they sprout - baring the dogs, wind, or other natural disasters. 
However, this year was different as I didn't plan or plant them. So now its not quite early January, but we did our seeding. 
Lucy and Helen understand a little more how to plant seeds. I have explained how seeds grow better on dirt than on the concrete, and how too much water will wash the seeds away, but I don't think that I'm a good explainer because the concept hasn't gotten through quite yet. We haven't progressed to spreading the seeds out so they don't grow in the same spot, but maybe next year.
We set them to the north side of our house which will protect them from the wind and harsh weather, but they'll still get the rain and some sun. I'll move them into the open as they begin to sprout. 
This year I am starting Cosmos x 2, sunflowers, butterfly weed, nasturtium, bachelor buttons, coriopsis, and a few others. I have started alyssum the last few years, but had really good success last year just direct sowing them in the planters. I think I'll just do that this year. I also bought some forget me not seeds that I'll direct sow in a container as well. 
Last of all I planted some sweet peas along the ugly chainlink fence that separates our garden from the neighbors yard. The area is so relaxing, peaceful and calming, but the fence shows the harsh reality of modern times still wants to intrude upon our simple life. I think this will help soften it's affect! 
If you are interested in the ins and outs of winter sowing, Catherine @ a gardener in progress is the mastermind that got me started, her posts will give you the idea much better than my ramblings, so toddle on over there and look up old posts and you'll get the idea!
One last note, the Northwest garden show is happening in seattle next week! I missed it last year, but should be there next Saturday. It runs from Wed-Sun, but us poor working folks must make money during the week so we can afford to go. I hope you'll be able to make it if your schedule allows!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The best sounds of Saturday Morning...

I know the old song goes something like "the best part of waking up is Folgers in you cup." I might change it a little to "costa rican coffee in your cup" but that is only the beginning. I am not the kind of person that can't operate without coffee, but it sure helps.
But that is only part of the the morning fun. I also fill the bird feeders on Friday night so that in the morning all of the little finches are crowding around and making kindly chirpy noises.
Then there is the pitter patter of little feet right about 6:30. There is a tense moment of conversation whether Lucy gets sent to her bed or if she gets into ours. Everyone is happier if she can snuggle in with us.
But wait, there is more. I also enjoy the first walk through the flowers (or right now the twigs and dirt). Looking at what happened since last weekend. Noticing how the roses are beginning to show signs of tiny leaves, the tulips and daffs are a little taller than last week and how the flowering current buds are almost ready to burst forth.
I also like the sound of hammers, nails and sheet rockers arriving at 8:00 to get started on more progress - wait, that isn't exactly fun, but one more nail is one more nail closer to getting done... right.....?
And, last but definetly not least is sitting down and catching up on all of the blogs I've missed. Living in Australia for a few moments, then popping over to North Carolina, then back here to a few northwest homes.
This will be a good weekend!

Paul says, "oolonnhi" which Lucy tells us means "Hi!"

Monday, February 4, 2013

The gardeners blood is beginning to thaw and stir...

We've had a few nice days now and the slightly warmer temps combined with a few sightings of sunshine have begun to awaken the slumbering obsession. "She starts, she moves, she seems to feel the thrill of life along her keel." (One of ol' Henry Longfellows, not mine)
Time to finish plans and start new ones. Time to get out the seed magazines and check out the new varieties. Time to make sure the compost is steamy and that black rotting gold is ready for plant consumption. Spring is shaking off winters icy fetters and tulips, daffodils and gardeners are poking out their heads in anticipation.
I am not to be left behind. Yesterday I placed my Johnny's Seeds order. I am adding a few and just reordering some from last year. I always am under duress about whether to reorder all new seeds as the others might have gotten damp or old. (do older seeds have a harder time grow like we do?) or to use last years as it would be a waste not to use them. Well this year, I stuck with all of the old ones I can. Some of the packets had started to sprout, so I threw those away. Also some of the pelleted seeds were breaking down so I tossed those as well. I am going to wait until the end of February to actually plant things in my garage, but my fingers are itching to start.