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Friday, February 09, 2007

How cold is it?

In the 10 years we've lived in this house this was the first time this was possible!

This is my husband Don playing hockey on the frozen solid pool cover.

I sure wish those frozen Sedum and Sempervivum on the brick steps had a nice fluffy snow blanket to keep them warm. It will be interesting to see what actually survives after this unusual winter.

First we had the most amazingly mild December and early January and now two weeks of solid freeze.

I wonder what spring will be like.

Oh yes, click on this lower photo to see a close up of Don's face and you'll get an idea of how much he likes hockey!

(This post is a temporary one and will be deleted in a day or two)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Containers - Small

Containers - Small, what a boring title. I would have loved to punch this up with some exciting wording, even something simple like "Contain It" but I'm trying to make it a bit easier for you to find what you need.

You see, I have so many images of fun, wacky, unusual and even just plain beautiful containers that I'd like to share. By breaking them down into categories; like small, medium and gigundo, hopefully it simplifies things. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are a beginning gardener, the smaller containers are easier to begin with but don't be afraid to try something larger too.

Something I'd like to try with this message is to add additional photos and have them interspersed throughout the blog. We'll see how that works. To begin with I chose one of the easiest plantings of all.

What you see is an old flour sifter, this one in particular came from my mother-in-law. It has everything needed to make a great container. A wide open mouth for the plant material, a handle to move it around and best of all, lots of built in drainage at the bottom.

Planted in the sifter are Hens & Chicks. To be botanically correct, they are Sempervivum and the hybrid name of this variety is 'Silverene'. What a perfect name for this container!

All I did was put a handful of potting soil in the sifter, slipped the hens & chicks out of the plastic pot I had bought them in and then slid them into the sifter. A few more handfuls of potting soil around the sides and a quick tamping down with my fingers to assure there were no air pockets in the soil and tah-dah, my wonderful creation was finished.

Well now that you saw how simple that was, I'd like to share a few more small, easy and yet totally different container plantings. Here's where we'll find out if adding more photos works out the way I'd like.


Ok, so far, so good but I still have some experimenting to do. Shoes...they make wonderful containers in the garden. These images show two pairs of bowling shoes that have been in my garden for 3 years now. Nope, I don't even bother to bring them indoors, they just hang out all winter and come spring I add some new plant material.

To be truthful, my intention was to put the bowling balls in the garden as accents but when a fellow band parent dropped off two bowling balls with matching shoes that he found at the curb, well, I just had to do something with those shoes too!

Of course, as any woman knows, you can never have enough shoes. So sure enough, before my family members can throw any shoes away, I'm going to check them out to see if they work in my garden. These are my husband Don's old workboots. They required a bit more preparation before plantings. I was driving myself crazy trying to drill a few holes in the sole for drainage. All I kept getting was a drill bit clogged with rubber shavings. Don quickly solved the problem for me by taking his utility knife and simply scoring a few cuts in the leather near the sole.


Baskets also make great containers for plants. A few things to remember when working with baskets. One, I like to line the basket with something to help retain the soil and keep it from drying out too fast. If you have landscape fabric, just cut a piece slightly larger than your basket, tuck it inside and trim off any edges that show. No landscape fabric? No worries, just grab one of those plastic supermarket bags, cut a few drainage slits in it and tuck that in instead.

The second thing to keep in mind with baskets is that you will not get too many seasons out of them before they rot away so don't use your Grandma's heirloom basket if you plan on keeping it for a long time.

As you can see in this photo, I hung the basket on the handlebars of an old bicycle that I prop up along our fence. Quite charming if you ask me.

The Old Standby - A Clay Pot

The last small container I'm going to feature here is a simple clay pot. The drainage is already there so just choose your material and plant it in the pot. What's different about this container is the larger container I used to showcase that clay pot. An old set of golf clubs that was hanging around in our garage for years worked perfectly to hold this container. It's just a subtle way for me to say that we have too much lawn and need more flower beds around here :-)

Medium containers will be next if this message comes through well.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Armchair Gardening

With temperatures hovering in the teens outside, there's not much gardening that can be done other than armchair gardening. Curling up in an overstuffed armchair with a gardening book chock full of delightful photos is the way to go.

Yesterday I visited our local public library where I picked up "Designing Borders" by Noel Kingsbury. So often I just peruse gardening books to eat up those photos and don't bother with what is written but Noel seems to have sucked me in with some great advice.

Almost immediately I noticed multiple photos that featured Verbascum bombyciferum. This wonderful biennial has been thrilling me in my garden for 5 or 6 years now and I can't wait to find more uses for it. The common name is mullein and chances are you can find it growing out of the cracks along the road somewhere. In fact, I got my first plant exactly that way, I snuck it out of the curbside of the house across the street from me! You know you have something special when visitors continue to comment on a specific plant and in the past few years the Verbascum plants here have drawn many compliments.

Even when not blooming, I love the fuzzy gray rosettes of Verbascum. Hopefully some of you will be inspired to give this plant a try too.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Winter blahs

Blah! I have the winter blahs.

We were spoiled this year, right up until mid January temperatures were remarkably mild. Oh to have one of those delightful days back. Calie and I took every opportunity to go hiking in West Hills Park or even just joint around our own neighborhood here.

The garden is so frozen now that it hurts to walk on the lawn. Crunch, crunch, it makes me cringe as I hear those tender little stalks of grass just snap into pieces.

Some soft snow sure would be a nice fluffy addition to the scenery out there. This time of year I always vow to add more evergreen shrubs but with the 7 degrees we had this morning even the Rhododendrons looked awful.

This photo is a shot of my Pieris japonica 'Silver Sword'. Probably the only thing in the garden worth photographing right now. Guess I'm off to the library to look at some gardening books and to dream.