Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Bark, bark, bark! No, it’s not the baying of the yellow lab in the morning. It’s the pile of wood at the foot of every sycamore in town. The bumper crop of wood shavings is everywhere. I wondered if it might be drought related, but the experts apparently don’t know much about why some trees shed their bark or why some years they shed more than others. Meanwhile the bark-exfoliation phenomenon is beautiful in some aspects and an unsightly mess in others. While the newly exposed tree trunks look Pottery Barn-chic in shades of cream, I’m glad I don’t have one in my yard and have to deal with the clean up. I’d rather just acknowledge their stalwartness as paid homage in this wonderful song by Bill Callahan.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Get any rain?

I hope you did. Only thunder here. Still all plants in the new backyard are doing okay with one exception. The spireas had some kind of die-off, where they dropped their leaves, but they appear to be coming back. The Berkeley Sedge is not dead, but it’s also not doing anything. It was the one plant I had no experience with; it was recommended by a landscaper as a great groundcover for dry shade. We’ll see about that. If you have any scoop on this plant, please let me know. The yellow shrimp have been blooming nonstop—lovely!
I got these ten toes shoes at Whole Earth (using a gift certificate, thank heaven, as they are $$$). They’re supposed to correct your gait and eliminate pains from running/walking for exercise. Well, I’m not sure about that, but they are my new favorite gardening footwear. Comfortable, sure-footed, and super-cool in the heat. Once you get over the freak show aspect... I actually saw someone wearing them on the T in Boston last week. Might be a fun gift for that gardening Dad for Father’s Day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Doggone Garden

When Zeke came to live with me in January 2010, I can't say the backyard was in great shape. I had kind of let it go au naturel. Except for a Knockout Red and a mutabilis rose, I've really never done much back there, preferring to focus my attention on the immediate area surrounding my deck where I spend most of my waking hours.
Zeke and the drought wreaked such havoc on the lawn that it had become a barren waste that had moved into eyesore zone. I've never had a dog that made any impact on my garden, let alone trampled paths like Zeke has. But I'm smitten with him, so I tolerate his habits. Here's backyard in February.

I decided to make a major overhaul and used every penny of my tax return. I interviewed several landscape designers and had 3 people give me bids. In the end, I employed a father and son I found on Craigslist who I liked because they were muy amable and came with good references as to their hard work. I designed the plan myself, after much study of online gardens and ideas. I knew I wanted to get rid of all grass. I currently have no lawnmower as my front yard is so small I can weedwhack it. I already have pea gravel in my side yard and driveway and was happy with its look and practicality. I used Zeke's existing paths as my guide and using garden hoses laid out three beds. Sprayed painted their outlines on the ground. Then la familia Avila came with their team and began work.

I specked the plants and the Avilas bought them wholesale somewhere. The north bed which is mostly shady is a plan of silver germander, lorapetalum Purple Pixie, columbine, turk's cap and shrimp plant—all plants that I currently have growing elsewhere successfully in my yard's clay-clogged soil. When the plants arrived they looked incredibly healthy. But a surprise was that the shrimp plants were already in full bloom and a sulphur yellow color I had never seen before. But since they are really quite pretty and look great with the purple lorapetalums, I decided to embrace this serendipity.

I also had the pavers around the deck removed, for two reasons. They were ugly and uneven and I was concerned about tripping over them as I head into my twilight years. The other reason is I thought it would look better to have one continuous material rather than two things going on, pea gravel and pavers. I had the workers set cut limestone pavers in the pea gravel surrounding the deck. This looks good and I'm pleased with the result but it has a downside: Zeke throws up gravel on the pavers in his running and so there is not "perfection" in the Zen garden sense at all times. Buddha tells me to get over it.

The south bed, which is sunnier, is a mix of reliable color: esperanza, blue plumbago, red sage, and turk's cap. It backs up to the fence with Port St. John's creeper. The kidney-bean-shaped bed around the birdbath has spirea, berkeley sedge and the Knockout rose. One unexpected bonus of the new plan is that it showcases the Knockout Rose and mutabilis; before they were back in the boondocks. Now they can be seen better against the pea gravel. A week after I installed the pea gravel, I had the first round of the dreaded liveoak crap; a snowfall of those caterpillar thingies. I kept planning to leafblow it, but never got around to it and it kind of biodegraded into oblivion.

I'm enjoying watching the plants settle in and mulling over possible evergreen additions to the color bed. Zeke seems to like the new layout too.