Saturday, May 2, 2009

Something Borrowed....

The Tree Man gave me a good idea the other day. When he and his son finished dragging the stump out of the raised bed, he suggested that rather than putting it in the trash, I put it back into the garden. And I did.

Recently I pulled out a dying shrub rose and I plan to put an Emerald Arborvitae in the gap it left, but there is plenty of room to do more. So we moved the stump there, turned it upside down, and voila - an interesting item, a place for the birds, and some structure to grow vining ground cover. Eventually it will be rustic, but right now it's just a mess of roots and mud. Mitchell has offered to powerwash the worst of the mud and to help me stabilize it if we need to add dirt underneath for support. It will bleach out in the sun this summer and will be very pretty this time next summer.

I had wanted to do something like this for the birds for some time now. They need the shelter on the ground. We've always provided food and water, but not shelter. Hopefully this will make us even more appetizing to our winged friends. It'll be interesting to see how this progresses.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Memorial Plants

One of the nicest things that has bloomed this week is a lilac "Miss Kim" that is growing next to the back deck. I planted it three years ago in memory of an old friend's mother. When Mitchell and I were married she painted us a watercolor picture of a lovely lavender lilac. Maybe it was a lilac lilac; I never thought of it that way before. I don't recall if she particularly liked the flowers, or if she even had one in her yard, but I always loved the picture and especially appreciated her taking the time and effort to paint it for us. So, when she died I wanted something tangible in the garden as a memorial to her - what else but a lilac? And, "Miss Kim" is a dwarf that fit the scale of the plantings around the deck. I have thoroughly enjoyed her the past two years, but this year she came into her own - covered with panicles and so fragrant! I love to walk up and down the steps to disturb the air and release the fragrance.

We have several other memorial plants. The first was a miniature rose from my aunt Agnes' garden. It is a small white white blossom, but with a tiny fleck of dark red on the bud. It never goes all the way into the flower - only on one or two outside petals - very unusual.

The old fashioned chrysanthemums came from Mitchell's mother's garden and always remind me of her. They are covered with tiny pink flowers - each only half an inch in diameter - and are nearly a ground cover most of the year. Only in the fall do they get tall before they flower.

I planted peonies to remind myself of grandmother. She adored them. I had them in our old garden and would always take her a big bouquet of them on Mother's Day. When we moved I immediately put in two and later moved them to a bigger bed where I now have about a dozen. Grandmother loved the pink ones, but I love the darker colors. Since all but two are new this year, I don't know what colors the rest will be when they bloom.

My friend Garland gave me many plants when she lived nearby. I didn't plant anything especially to remember her, but then I didn't know she would move away. I especially think of her when the white iris bloom - which was today. There are some mini ones that thrive in dry shade, so I have a lot of them, and there are some medium sized that look like Japanese iris blooms, but have a totally different foliage, so I haven't a clue what they are. I should ask her!

When Dad died I planted a Mahonia in his memory. He really loved that shrub and had offered me a "baby" off one of his several times. We had never had the opportunity to bring one of his home, so I found one. It is not doing all that well, but is hanging in for now.

Somehow memorial plants make those people seem a little closer to me. I can talk to the plants without a soul thinking that I am crazy. Odd how one can talk to one's plants and be considered "normal", but not talk to oneself - think about that for a while. If you haven't tried memorial plants, I highly recommend them - even for the living. It's a nice way to hold those you love close.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

And Old Friend and a Mistake

We lost an old friend yesterday. A lovely pin oak that had shaded our front porch for the past nine years finally was felled by the Tree Man. What was once a full, round, towering tree had become reduced to something resembling a stick figure in the past three years. What was originally a ball of fire in the fall leaf season, had become a mass of sticks. We have long believed that when the driveway was paved it cut off the major source of water to this tree's root system. It may have been something else, but this tree had certainly failed to thrive the past few years. This year less than a third of the branches leafed out and it didn't even produce any "fuzzies", so we knew it was finally time to go.

Yesterday, when the Tree Man came to talk about removing the stump for my raised bed, we also had him look at the oak and all agreed that the time had come. "If it had been my tree, it would have come out a couple of years ago," said the Tree Man. Since we had asked him repeatedly about it, we found that answer a bit odd, but gave him the green light to come back at his convenience and take it out.

His convenience turned out to be six hours later. When we returned to the house around five the cherry picker was in our driveway and the Tree Man's son was in the basket cutting down the truck of the oak. I was a bit sorry not to have the opportunity to take a few photos before they started and formally bid it farewell, but progress had moved on past me. And maybe it was easier to arrive too late and not have second thoughts.

Of course, there is good news, too. Very near the center of this bed is a nice looking volunteer dogwood. Given a couple of years and more sun, it should become just the thing to fill this spot. So, we will add a couple of azaleas to fill in the void and let the periwinkle grow over the stump and in five years, a stranger will never guess that a beautiful oak once graced that spot.

A Mistake: Those of you who are eagle-eyed will notice that there is also a conifer missing at the corner of the porch. It was one of the first trees I bought and I got fooled. It was sold as an Emerald Arborvitae (15 feet tall in 15 years), but it turns out to have been a Green Giant Arbovitae (60 feet eventually). I had imagined a nice mini-Christmas tree at the corner that I could decorate annually - leaning off the porch to reach the top as it grew. Instead it rapidly outgrew any ladder I had and we had started trying to control its breadth by shearing the sides until it looked like soup can with a pointy top - not a pretty sight!

We had decided to take it down ourselves this week - in time for the neighborhood cleanup this weekend. But in the end we got the Tree Man to do that, too, so it will soon be nice mulch for some other tree. There is a pair of mourning doves, however, that keep walking up and down the porch railing looking for it. We had waited until their brood fledged and flew away, but apparently they had plans for reusing the nest.

Plans: For now that side is pretty bare looking, and sun will certainly be a factor in the living room this summer. We plan to clean the porch well and then paint the posts and railings - with a mildew retardant added to the paint - before we do too much more landscaping. But my plan is to continue the nandinas and hawthorns on around the corner in a curve, with something low to fill in the point of the corner. And then a purple clematis - Jackmanii, I think - to grow up the corner and on up the post. Let's check that out in two years!