Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Week In Pictures

Hullo, ducklings! As per our wont in the Casa del Piffle around Labor Day weekend, we have been very, very energetic, here among the birds and the bees (get your mind out of the gutter). Thankfully, we have NOT been among the cicadas, though. I can't fathom being out among billions of large, screaming, flying insects. I think if I lived in Chicago or any other place where the 17 year hatching is going on, I'd have to hop the first plane to Baffin Island.

We do not do bugs on that magnitude. No, we most definitely do not. I don't care how good a fertilizer their little rotting corpses are. I'll take well-rotted steer poop any day.

Anyway, the following is one of those posts I periodically warn you about. As this blog is partly for me and my gardening whims, this is all about the yard and only about the yard. Feel free to pass it by. You won't hurt my feelings in the least and will be doing yourself a favor.

This year, we (and by 'we' I mean 'I') built an addition to the famous Raised Beds From Hell, constructed 2 years ago. We now have a strawberry pen/corral. We needed the extra room for the additional 3 breeds of strawberries we added to the herd this year:

Pictures for you

Nothing prettier than a well mulched, weeded garden. Pity it won't last the week. Here's hoping they go forth and multiply. Also, schlepping just shy of 1000 lbs of cement blocks is harder going uphill from the stable than down hill to the stable. In addition, I'm not sure if there's anything more tenacious than prairie grass as far as digging it out of the soil.

Pictures for you

I am happy to report that the 4 disease-resistant apple trees and 2 sweet cherry trees planted this year are not dead, yet. They have been sprayed by a 'biologic deer and rabbit deterrent' that Charles picked up at the garden store. The nice man on the label swore by it, and as he has an honest face, we are sure he can't be wrong. I figured it was likely either coyote piss or hot pepper oil. After spraying it on all the new plantings, I can attest that it is, indeed, coyote piss. I spent most of the time walking from tree to shrub to tree looking over my shoulder to make sure no coyote came dashing out of the underbrush to hump my leg. So far, my honor is still intact, but I've still a few more sprayings to do. Molly-dog thought I smelled very intriguing and alluring. Good thing she's too much of a lady to act on it.

After last year's demise of the hardy blackberries, we are trying once again to introduce these berries to the upper Midwest, and are pleased to note that this year's blackberry-lings arrived much healthier and are actually thriving. Well, except for that odd incident last week, where I found one of the plants completely uprooted, roots cleaned off and left to die of exposure. I have NO idea. I replanted it and it's limping along. I fear it's a mob hit, left as an example as to what may happen to my jostaberries next, (done by either the thug deer or their stooges, the killer rabbits) but have yet to be told where to leave the 'protection money'. Theirs is not a very efficient organization.

Pictures for you

I also spent large time planting large amounts of perennials in the perpetual perennial black hole that is the front beds. After another 4 dozen plants, it is slowly looking better, especially after the hollows left by the mysterious alien abduction (ahem) of Wanda and Muriel were filled in.

Pictures for you

But wait! What's that? Why is our heroine giggling so heartily? Can you see it? The recent find that she just couldn't resist?

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A closer look:
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Why, yes! That would be a rhododendron. A rhododendron that's supposed to be hardy to -30 F. Why, yes! I've clearly taken leave of my senses! Why, yes! I actually spent more than a little money for this. Why, yes! I know full well that this EVERGREEN plant won't survive the winter in the freeze-dryer that is Wisconsin 5 months of the year. I know full well that plants of the genus Rhododendron love acid soil and that the pH of mine is practically 14.0. Charles is a more optimistic soul. He thinks it will live. I guess he figures that it will learn to develop a taste for -OH, like we did for brie my sophomore year of college.

Oh, how I've missed rhododendrons. It's my only plea. I really couldn't resist. Temporary insanity. And now I will watch it languish and die, a victim of my misplaced adoration. Some one should lock me up.

Finally, speaking of acidophilli flora, I bring you something that has left my gast completely flabbered:

Pictures for you

Here is a blueberry. Blooming. It was one of 2. See, I know full well that blueberries only thrive in acid soil, but such is the level of my adoration of blueberries and the depths of my denial that over the past couple of years I bought and planted no less than 20 blueberries. Most didn't make it past the first summer where I planted them, in a cluster, near the vegetable bed. The ones I placed around the slab of concrete that sits bizarrely in the middle of the back yard, near the swing set (was the floor of a dog kennel for the previous owners) that the kids use as a chalk art surface and a place to crack rocks, are, um, not dead. Well, at this writing, 3 are not dead. Day before yesterday, 8 were not dead, then my husband, Gorbag, the half-orc, took the weed eater to the area and whacked everything he thought looked suspicious.

So, maybe the rhododendron will not succumb in the next year. Perhaps it will grip on to life, becoming a spindly thing with 2 flowers a year that I can not bear to euthanize.

I will deserve such an outcome to torment me for the rest of my days; at least until Gorbag and his Weed Whacker of Death come through.



Blogger Mother of Invention said...

You so heartily show such commitment to your garden ventures even the ones you don't really think will survive! You need a greenhouse!

My husband is the plant and garden fiend. He has all the perennials in the new gardens, the annuals at the front, and now has about 15 pots of flowers to plant and hang. Later, after the pansies get spindly, there will be 4 window boxes for the front and sides. There has been 5 or 6 trips to the garden centres already! Oh, there will be more!

Enjoy your passion!

10:14 PM  
Blogger listmaker said...

You have a rhododendron?! I am soooo jealous! I'm trying to find room for one or two at my new house (I need a bigger yard).

10:18 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Admit it: you just like typing the word "rhododendron."

My husband and I had some time, at last, to hit the gardens today, so this post struck me just right. We planted and transplanted a bunch of raspberry canes and then I mucked around with my frivolous little pots of annuals...even put a few of the seedlings that have been hardening on the back deck into the new front garden.

You speaka my language.

1:18 AM  
Blogger brooksba said...

I love your tales of your gardens. Strawberries. Fresh, home grown strawberries. Excuse me while I drool.

I do hope the rhododendron survives. It will show character and strength and determination that way. Read it stories of Hercules and Superman to inspire it to live through the winter.

3:49 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Ruth- I adore your husband. I am also aware that if my husband had the same devotion to gardening that he had to home electronics, we'd be screwed, as the only self-control I have in a garden center is looking over at him as we are trying to pull 3 (oh, yes, I am a greedy soul) loaded huge, green nursery wagons around while marshalling 2 bored kids. He is a saint.

Listie- YES!!! I have a rhododendron in captivity!!! (Should I get a breeding pair?) I smile broadly at it daily. I even make special trips to wave at it. (Have you any grass you could rip out? I need 360 degree pictures of the new place. We will find a way for both that and your yellow lilac.)

Jocelyn- Actually, I do. It's been sooooo long. We've lovely raspberries, too. If you look at the shot of the raised bed, the arching green masses toward the right front and side are clumps of raspberries. The added bonus is that the birds who feasted on the berries 2 years ago pooped a HUGE stand of them by the path on the NW side of the property. I am dreaming of a bumper crop of raspberries this year, maybe enough to even make jam out of and still sate our enormous appetite for fresh berries.

Beth- You just can't beat trotting out your door in your bare feet and harvesting a bowl of berries for your breakfast. I am naming the poor rhododendron "Beth" in your honor and will crack the windows that it is between during the winter so it can hear me read tales of inspiration. Perhaps "The Call of the Wild" and "The Long Winter" as well? Maybe I should fashion some sort of cover for it? Make a quilt?

8:45 AM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Do not bore that poor, poor rhododendron with Jack London. I can't stand the Call of the Wild. Got roped into a book club once and then had to deal with everyone else looking at me like I was an idiot because I said the story was stupid and the guy deserved to die.

I love reading your gardening tales. You make me giggle. I'm glad to know your virtue is still intact but watch out for random coyotes.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Dumdad said...

Phew, glad to hear the two cherries trees are hanging on in there!

11:08 AM  
Blogger Voyager said...

Planting blackberries, now there's a strange concept. As you will remember from your days on the wet coast, we have to fight them back. No one grows any, we go to the powerlines, the vacant lots, the lanes, the side of he roads, whatever, to pick a winter's worth of jam. Left unchecked they would encircle our homes, cover the driveway and grow up through the vents of cars overnight.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Sanjay said...

Your gardening skills amaze me, I have have none :)

10:26 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dana- If I ever had a book club I'd want you to be there. I'd probably think the guy deserved to die, too.

Dumdad- Yeah. Of course, we've still got the long, hot summer to get through. Then the winter. And the deer in the winter. And what ever pests will come. And so on. They make me happy but I won't count my cherries until they pit.

Voyager- I know! Doesn't it make you giggle? It never occurred to me that there would be a place where blackberries wouldn't grow. We had a 20' x 20' x 20' high blackberry mass next to our house where I grew up. Prickly but good! I also planted morning glory, another horrible weed from my youth. What next? My uber nemesis, horsetail fern???

Sanjay- See, I bore you about the planting, I just don't mention my 50% casualty rate.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Zone denial can work! You just have to believe in it. They can't claim that a plant can stand -30 if it can't, right?

I cannot believe you lugged 1000 lb of cement blocks. That is true gardening dedication. The raised bed looks totally lovely!

11:08 PM  
Blogger Babs said...

See, as a city goil, I don't know the first thing about any of this. I couldn't garden my way out of a paper bag.

Though I am pleased to report that in passing my old house the other day, I saw that the gladiolis I planted erm, eight years ago?? are doing wonderfully. Hey. I AM a good gardener!! I don't even LIVE there--haven't even touched them and they're STILL brilliant!!

And I didn't use one ounce of coyote piss, I'm pleased to say.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Stepping Over the Junk said...

THREE breeds of strawberries????!!!!

7:21 AM  
Blogger Sanjay said...

Nah.. you don't bore me pal with your gardening post. I am amazed at how bad I am at it. :)

12:08 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Rozanne- That's it!! Zonal denial. Me to a 'T'. Yup. 80 lbs at a time, uphill. (120 lbs at a time downhill, 2 years ago when we built the main part and put the leftovers in the horse-less horse shed.)

Babs- Jolly good show on the gladioli!! (Hey, I seem to remember something about tomatoes in a pot?) I say you're missing out on the coyote piss, though.

Stepping- Yes!! They join the other 2 breeds, already there. I have no idea what will happen when they mingle their little genes. I just hope they see me as friend and not foe.

Sanjay- Somehow, I doubt that. Anyone who cooks like you has the soul to do the plant thing, should he choose. You just may be saner and prefer to let others battle the bugs and wilt and weeds and all.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Coffee-Drinking Woman said...

Flowering blueberries! I'm just itching to tell the grouchy guy, who, as I recall, cornered you and told you all about how blueberries don't grow in this region of the state because of the limestone bedrock...

10:28 PM  
Blogger moegirl said...

Wow- your gardening efforts never fail to impress! Our new place has two rhododendrons- one pink and one red- they are quite lovely.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Teri- Yes, he did. I still think he is right and the blueberries are just being contrary, but as I am obstinate, myself, I can get behind it.

(You may taunt him if this proves him wrong!)

Stace- I just love seeing what comes up in the spring in the yard of a new place!

9:40 AM  

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