Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Life up close

Life has been speeding along since we returned from Montana. We're finishing our basement with help and the spousal unit and I are replacing a cast iron tub. Meanwhile I have started freelancing for a local monthly magazine. It's been a great way to continue writing and has kept me more than busy when added to the other projects.
Sadly I have had little time to enjoy the garden, whether it be planting or pulling. When I can snatch a moment to snap some photos, it's at least another day before I get them uploaded. And blogging? Tch!
Juggling family, friends and free time is always a complex task. I think of this as I look closely at the velvety petals of the Iris now in full bloom in the front garden. At a glance, it is a beautifully unique creation of mother nature. But peer inside and the contrasts of color, pattern and structure are even more striking.

I have taken a moment to enjoy more of the Columbine growing around our house. This buttery beauty is blooming despite me wrenching it from the ground to make way for a path of grass. I tucked it beneath a large Rhododendron and voila, it lives. The perseverance of these little plants always surprise me.
And then there's the edible chaos holding court on the south side of the house. The kitchen garden is in obvious need of a trellis. The peas are all over each other as they reach out for support.
The Swedish Chard is beginning to bolt after our warm weather. I've never grown this. Can anyone tell me how long it's still good once this process starts?
And here's a present to myself. I picked up several plants _ Poppy, African Daisy, Snapdragon and Marigold _ so I can spend a few hours in the garden, just the plants and me.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday

Seattle's enjoying absolutely beautiful weather for Memorial Day weekend. However, much of our time is being spent inside tearing out an old cast iron tub.

That didn't stop me from snapping some shots of the Columbine that has self seeded in the backyard.
I wonder if this is the native variety since it looks a bit different than what I've traditionally seen at nurseries. I also don't recall planting this particular color of Columbine, though. The closest one is across the path, and it's yellow.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The untended garden

Going away for awhile has its ups and downs, especially when the trip requires a combined 30+ hours in the car. But I must say the boy was very well behaved for a 10-month-old. There were neither meltdowns nor abundant crankiness.

My garden on the other hand, obviously did not like being left behind. It seems there are certain plants that, like an unattended child, will push boundaries and become unruly.

The kale has just ran wild, so much so that I'm not sure I can rein it in without brute force. It appears it's stretched out so far that it can no longer maintain its normal structure and just collapses away from its core. That or a large animal is using it for a bed.

The grass is, of course, another miscreant that in less than a week has sprung up mid-calf in some places. The lawn will require both the weedwacker and the mower.

Then there's the general chaos now lining the path to our front door. While we were gone, good weather prompted these plants to shoot up and out. It resembles a grade-school class' attempt at forming a single-file line.

And sadly, some in my kitchen garden have either given up entirely or are gasping. Some of the carrots and many of the onions just couldn't take the heat without a daily drink. The broccoli plants just collapsed, their delicate stems turning thread thin at soil level.

There are those shining stars in the garden though, including the squash, which looks very robust despite the neglect.
The magenta spikes of Lupine have thrusted well above their soft green leaves. This self seeder is one of the early spring arrivals in my garden, although the flower takes its time to show itself.
The first Poppy of the season has burst open, its electric orange petals screaming for attention against all the muted greens.
A little less showy, but just as appreciated are the Heuchera flowers. And the Bearded Iris has sent up its stalk of flowers. I always miss this process. One day its just the sword-like leaves then I have flowers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - May 2008

The last few days have been a whirlwind of quitting jobs, starting new ones and packing for a trip to Montana to see my favorite niece graduate high school. So it was just this morning that I remembered I must post for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.
Alas, other duties (read: my son) take precedent over the garden and I only have a few minutes to snap some photos of what's going on our little property.
I can't help but return to the Bride Pearl Bush because it is so full of blooms that its delicate limbs simply slump under the weight. I do enjoy this little bush, but didn't realize it would remain quite so little. I must dig up the tag to double check its mature height.
Across a swath of lawn is the kale, now starting to flower and put on some serious girth. This monster takes over this corner of the garden bed. I'd trimmed it back earlier this year but it's not about to be contained.
I hope the nearby poppies can stand up to the kale's heavy leaves. These are oriental poppies that I planted about three years ago. They're a favorite of my husband's so I'm letting them spread freely, along with my lupine.

In the kitchen garden things are moving along nicely. I give you my little carrots with their crazy hair starting to show itself. There's also the sweet nasturtiums and their fat little leaves that just make me smile.
The perennial Calla lillies are unfurling to reveal their creamy white petal and butter yellow stamen. These grow like weeds along the south side of our house. The petals only are perfect for a day before something nibbles away at them. I go back and forth between loving them and hating them since they spread so readily.

Now, the not so fun goings-on is the grass that is making a run in the beds. Clearly not enough newspaper was used in my mulching. I fear what this will look like in the short time we're gone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Change is good

Today I said goodbye to my job as military beat writer with The Associated Press in Seattle. It's actually been 10 months since I left on maternity leave but my son and new job opportunities freelancing have slowly brought me to the conclusion that I can have it pretty darn close to both ways.
I credit the company, but most especially my AP colleagues who in the past seven years helped me grow as a writer and reporter. I will miss the day-to-day discussions and rants that so often occurred among what I considered to be one hell of a work family.
I would be lying if I didn't say I was a bit scared and sad to leave the people who accepted me, some begrudgingly, right out of college. It may have taken some time, but I'd like to think that with their tutelage I have turned into a fine journalist.
As I embark on this new journey it will be their advice and guidance I draw upon to continue improving in the craft I love.
This enormous change offers me new opportunities to explore my writing strengths and build on my weaknesses.
It also allows me more time to indulge in my other passion that is gardening. I hope to merge both work and play in some fashion that will only further my peace of mind.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Show and tell

I've been absent from the garden since last weekend's Green Thumb Sunday when we got the vegetables in.
Everything appears to be doing quite well, thank goodness.
Even the carrots handled the transplant out of their cozy baby food jars and are now beginning to put on those leafy tops.
Rather than capturing the kitchen garden, though, I wanted to share the rest of the yard.
Some of the chives that have had a home in a large plastic tub by the back door are starting to flower. I'm going to try getting seeds from these so I can add some to the potager. My sister-in-law once had chives re-seed all over her yard so every time she mowed the lawn she had a nice scent of chives and fresh lawn.

The rhododendron is in full bloom now, its hot pink buds waning to a more subdued blush. This is the first time the plant has been allowed to bloom since in the past it's been trimmed at the wrong time. Very delightful to look out the bay window and see these wonderful clusters of flowers.
Our lilac is putting on its blooms, often scenting the entire backyard with its sweet fragrance. It's a well established tree that previous owners let develop a double trunk that we have since cabled to prevent from splitting. Now I'm letting some of the center suckers develop to revitalize the plant.
Also tucked in the backyard, up against the house is a large Pieris shrub. It's probably not in the best location but it's healthy, despite growing at an awkward angle. I know nothing about its root system but hope it's nothing that will compromise our foundation. I love the little flowers on these plants. They smell delicious.
The name of this plant escapes me right now but I just love its glossy leaves, the size of dinner plates. They are most spectacular, if not eerie, before they open when they look similar to delicate hands.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Come and get it

The kitchen garden is complete, just in time for a Green Thumb Sunday post. I cleared quite a bit of debris and had to pull way too much grass before it was remotely usable. I used several layers of newspaper to cut down on the weeds and grass, then poured two bags each of Cedar Grove Compost and Booster Blend into both sections. We'll eventually add a cap for more comfortable kneeling and a copper strip around the sides to repel slugs.

I'm hopeful that all my seedlings make the transfer. Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew advises against starting some plants indoors because they don't transplant well. In my garden that would include carrots, peas and squash.

After a trip to the edible plant sale hosted by Seattle Tilth, I've mostly completed my list of vegetables to fill this first of three beds. I bought "Chocolate" and "Gourmet Orange" bell peppers, "Isis Candy" cherry and "Chianti Rose" tomatoes, and Pineapple Sage.

While at the sale we popped into the children's garden, which turns 20 this year. It's used for classes and camps for children aged 1 to 14.

Friday, May 2, 2008

To each his own

I can't help but shake my head when I see people continuing to use toxic chemicals in their yard.
As I mowed the lawn today with my blessedly quiet reel mower, two houses down a neighbor pushed a more mainstream gas guzzler. (More head shaking)

I went on my merry way, well not so merry since the grass has grown quickly, which means more of a workout for me. Despite that, I still finished before neighbor, who also busted out a leaf blower that I swear was gas powered, too. (Head shaking accompanied by scrunched up nose)

Next I'm pulling crab grass that has pushed past the newspaper and mulch in the garden beds when I see neighbor now spraying his lawn. A large yellow container with a spray wand in hand signals what could only be some vile substance to kill weeds. (All out glare)

We haven't used anything stronger than vinegar in our yard and have been rewarded with a healthy lawn with only a handful of dandelions that just need plucking. Chemical warfare is not needed to combat weeds

Well, nothing calms me better than to look around the garden and see some progress. I can't take the credit, though. These plants have done it all on their own with very little, if any, help from me.

The rhododendron tucked under the bay window is beginning to bloom, well ahead of its peers in the back yard. I haven't learned how to identify rhodies since there are so many of them. We have four on our lot, typical in Washington, where the Coast Rhododendron is the state flower.

The Pearl Bush is blooming, drawing fat bees to it's sweet little flower clusters. I bought this plant the year we were married, completely swayed by its name, "Bride" Pearl Bush.

The hostas are also opening, and I'm pleased to see that the slugs have not yet attacked them. This could be an added bonus of the chip mulch. It may be too rough on their slimy undersides.
OK, my question of the day: Does anyone know if this is strictly ornamental kale? I think it should be since it's large leaves are on the rubbery side.