Thursday, March 30, 2017

Back in the garden

Truth in Gardening Disclosure: my front garden no longer looks like this - beautiful, that is. 😢 And the house is Santa Monica Blue.

By way of catch-up, three and a half years after his stroke plus the progression of Parkinson's Disease my DH passed away last November 29th. Now four months later I seem to have my bearings, so, of course, I have dived head first into a heavy construction project in the back garden. Dare I say it? I have decided to lay sod.

The decision was so casual. Being tired of the drab gray granite gravel and brown oakleaf mulched beds, my eyes were desperate for some color - namely, emerald green. That casual decision became decidedly weightier when I lifted the first shovelful of gravel. Typical Sherry move. Why pick an easy project when there's a monumental one to be had?

Eight or nine days and 20 or so hours later the gravel has been relocated to pathways on the sides. Brings back memories of the original excavation of this garden except that I'm ten years older - mid-sixties. I can't go all day, only two to three​ hours per day - at least for gravel moving, but I'm doing it and getting in shape in the bargain. I cancelled my YMCA membership today. Those exercise machines are child's play compared to moving rock!

I suppose anyone who does a blog should be well past getting embarrassed by what she posts, but this 'garden' does look pretty rough!
Hopefully, one pallet of sod will do the trick. I've chosen Seville St. Augustine for its shade tolerance and slower, shorter growth habit. It's supposed to be less aggressive about sending out runners. I hate edgers, but I guess I'll need one or maybe just a lawn service.

This is my postage stamp-sized back garden - taller than it is wide or deep. Since I'm always only looking down, this is a thrilling shot to me - done in vertical panorama and still won't capture the treetops. The backyard is 60 feet wide and 30 feet deep including the 12-foot deep patio and the trees which are on the north, a good thing for sun-worshiping roses, but the house is on the south, a bad thing for sun-worshiping roses.

From the other side you can see one of the weed cloth piles. It was guaranteed for 15 years and looks pretty new, albeit dirty. You may not remember but the backyard ground under the gravel is crappy, limey, cement-like sandy clay that was excavated from the beds everywhere and dumped in the back, raising its sea level at least six inches. Now grass needs to grow there. "Houston, I think we have a problem." It is extremely hard and packed like rock, so I thought I would stick it with a pitchfork to poke holes for the roots to penetrate. Ha! The pitchfork didn't even dent it - or rather I couldn't dent it. Then I noticed that where I had wet it deeply it was quite soft and easily broken up - one of the properties of clay, I suppose. So that's what I have to do to the whole area to prepare it for the sod. I think I'd rather shovel rock.

You should be able to see the edge of the remaining gravel, running diagonally towards the upper left. Sadly, I can't go all the way back to the property line (another 8 feet or so) because it's dead shade here, and even Seville needs four hours of sun. Like one sod website said, "If you can't grow weeds, you can't grow grass." My weeds must be special. They grow happily in the shade.

Stacked against the tree (and elsewhere) are the 'decorative' broken cement block pieces that were embedded in the gravel. Like Scarlet said, I'll think about them tomorrow. The neater thing about this shot is that I broke through the planting bed. The hydrangea died - seems that not much can compete with the feeder roots of those oak trees. You may remember that there's a rebar arbor spanning the area with a leg in each bed. Hopefully, the clematis on the left has survived my not watering for many months. And yesterday I bought a bright pink Mandevilla for the right leg. Keeping my fingers crossed that only afternoon sun will be sufficient for it and that it can fight for water...and beat the oaks. On second thought there's an arbor on the other side that would be better for the Mandevilla.

I probably jumped the gun by buying plants, but that's what I do. The side borders are disasters and will probably lose the roses that have been languishing there - except for Louis Philippe which has rebounded to life and bloom after being severely cut back last spring. I'm hoping that lots of water will help the liriope, gaura, blue salvia and white angelonia compete with the big bad trees. (No offense! I love the trees.) I also got a couple of white dwarf Indian Hawthorn with more coming probably and, of course, a 'Sweet Drift' rose. How could I not buy a rose?

I have such bad ground in the back garden that I am so doubtful that any plant will thrive there. Maybe I'll try a bunch of those water crystals around each plant, but from past experience that will probably only draw more feeder roots. Waaah!

So Monday I'll order the sod which should be here by mid-week or end of week. And I should have beautiful green grass by next week. The sod website said a pallet (500 square feet) could be laid in an hour and a half. 

Rolling On The Floor Laughing So Hard My Sombrero Fell Off And I Dropped My Taco

Gardening is so satisfying!
I guess that's why I'm still at it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

In the garden again

Tada! I was digging in the garden today, first time in two years. Such elation!

My garden had deteriorated to such a state that I hired a lady, Angela, to rescue it for me. And she did! She works as hard and as carefully as I do, and she's faster. The front looks better than it has a right to after such neglect. Two beds were buried in Bermuda grass but no more. Today I was busy with the driveway bed, spraying RU on all the germinated weeds that appeared this week, digging up leftover Bermuda roots, spreading Black Kow and topsoil to raise the sunken level, and planting a new rose.

Believe it or not there are three roses in this mess. With apologies to the neighbors it remained like this for months. 

After Angela!  She had the brilliant idea to divide up several liriopies and plant them along the property line, creating a wind-break to block the neighbor's weed seeds and Bermuda grass clippings when they fill in. The debris pile got even bigger. 

Here it is all cleaned out and bigger than before. You can see the darker soil is the old rose bed. The lighter (sandier) part had azaleas and liriopes in it.

After adding 15 bags of topsoil and four bags of Black Kow. The new rose is closest to the camera. 
I nearly fainted when I saw Kordes roses at Lowe's. This is the biggest potted rose I've ever bought. 'Zaide' is said to be very disease-resistant. After lots of DH's questions about what I want for Mother's Day I decided this was it.... along with a 'Blue Girl'. It was a very large plant as well and healthy and full of buds so naturally I couldn't resist. Though it's also a Kordes rose, it's older and not disease-resistant. Oh, well, you win some and lose some. 

I'm definitely on a buying spree. Yesterday I bought three Endless Summer hydrangeas, thinking I can fill in with these easy-care plants and forget the roses. Twenty-four hours later.....

May I also add a postscript that I have been eager to tell. These roses of mine are truly none the worse for wear after two years without feeding. At this point I don't think I need to feed several times a year. I fed them last week, and I think that will be it till next spring. I really believe by using the composted horse manure I built good organic garden soil that has been able to sustain the organisms and the worms which have done their work of providing the nutrients that the roses needed.

Organic is the keyword. 

If I had been using synthetic fertilizer, I'm guessing this garden would be dead by now.

'Pink Pet' rooted through the bottom of the pot, but she's moving to the driveway bed soon.  Whoever heard of not having to feed potted roses for two years? That is not what the experts say!
After Angela
'Madame Abel Chatenay'

My garden brain is totally out of practice, so I can't remember the name of the red climber, but the salvia is 'Victoria'. The climber is now three years old, ready to leap. 

'Belinda's Dream'

'Duquesa' and 'Clotilde Soupert'
'Chrysler Imperial' 

'Clotilde Soupert, Climbing'
'Chrysler Imperial'

'Darcy Bussell' in backand 'Chrysler Imperial' in front

I wish I could remember the name. 

My hydrangeas give me such a thrill. 

Before Angela. Thank God for Angela! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stepped out back and what did I see?

At least once every Florida gardener has wished for this – a reprieve from gardening for the entire hot summer. Five months off from deadheading, weeding, feeding, tending, culling, digging…and sweating. Five months of letting the garden do its own thing. Five months of only observing. In my case glimpsing was more like it…from a distance, in the dark, never stopping let alone bending over and touching. Five months of being incapable of caring how it looked for fear of that proverbial straw on the camel’s back. Five months ago yesterday I got that reprieve. Five months ago my mad dash down the rabbit hole began, and the garden was left to fend for itself alone. Five months that now feel blurred in my memory even though a week ago they were precisely and seemingly indelibly etched there. Can this mean that the memories of hemorrhagic stroke, emergency rooms, ICUs, urinary tract infections, sepsis, altered mental status, meds and more meds, dysphagia, G-tubes, Parkinson’s, EMTs, rehabs, hospitals, et al, will be supplanted by weeds and roses and hydrangeas? May I say that I hope so?

For almost two weeks now DH and I have been back in our home, and though not without new fears and concerns, we are settling into a routine. We’re nothing if not adaptable. Maybe that explains the extra room in my brain now for non-medical stuff, for grabbing my phone (not my DSLR – no room for that yet) and tiptoeing into the no-man’s-land that is my back garden to snap some quick pics; extra room for withstanding the fear of stepping through knee-high weeds in the paths (fear takes up lots of space!), room for feeling the elation of plants that survived and for accepting the loss of others that didn't. A spacious mind is a luxurious, peace-inducing thing. Mine had closed in on me as if someone had attached the vacuum hose to it, leaving me with this teensy space only big enough to hold DH. We’ve all heard of coping mechanisms. Well, I’m living proof that they work. They are those survival skills I didn’t know I had that my heavenly Designer had built into me, the ones that prevent you from dissolving into a puddle on the floor.

At this point I’d like to write a paragraph expounding on how all that’s behind me now, over and done, but I’ve learned that life’s not like that. I guess you could say I’m gun-shy, and why the heck not? Nothing is like it was – except for the love; everything is different – except for his heart (and His heart); we’ll never do the same stuff – except for the laughing and the loving; and there’s this new specter of an expiration date stamped on every day, though less noticeable than not long ago. More unsettling is that I’m different…deep inside where everything used to be pat and forever settled. Plain and simple, I got shook, and I don’t like it. I don’t like distrusting my God. I don’t like flinching as though I’m about to be back-handed…again. I don’t like it, and I pray He’ll fix me... soon.

Now it's Sunday morning and look what the Lord has done. He's touched my heart with His gentle love and broken the bitterness and melted the ice. Thank you, Lord. This song found me on Facebook.
Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

~ Laura Story Music, "Blessings"
Rom.Sherry at Busch Gardens 1978 (2)

I stepped out into my derelict garden today and Hydrangea macrophylla 'Shooting Star' brightened the day.
I love the color of Hydrangea macrophylla 'Endless Summer'. I'd love to have more, but they've been hard to find for me.
'Shooting Star' has become really large at the end of her second season. I could stand a few more of these, too. This bloom cluster is about ten inches across.
There aren't many flowers in the garden (note to all rose gardeners: not deadheading greatly reduces bloom - like by 90%!), but 'Polonaise' has several buds and a fading flower. Not too shabby.

A no-name rose on Fortuniana that may be 'Intrigue', a supposedly very weak rose (at least around here). She's puny for sure, but she survived a tough first year!
Clematis 'Jackmanii' - not the monster I've read about but not the dog in Florida that I've read about either. His purple perked me up.
Clematis 'Purpurea Plena Elegans' growing on the tripod of 'Nur Mahal'. Didn't look close enough to see how she made out.
The gravel's full of weeds and 'Periwinkle' volunteers.
Apparently, the rest of creation is free of this weed that I noticed today has tiny purple flowers on it, because I can't find it in any Google images. Thankfully, it pulls up pretty easily, and I'll be able to see gravel one day. Notice I didn't say soon.
It is about to overtake 'Mrs. B. R. Cant' between the trees, and I thought sure it had smothered 'Jude the Obscure' that I'd just transplanted days before the stroke. You can see 'Polonaise' at lower left corner. In the purple pot 'Marchessa Bocella' is lookin' quite decent even without a dripper in its pot.
Here's THE WEED. Anyone have an ID? Leaves are about 3" long. I'm just a little curious.
My sweet neighbor's Jasmine is doing wonderfully, isn't it? I usually chop it on my side. The trellis is meant for 'Hyde Hall' and 'St. Swithun', neither have grown much in 5 months but they're not dead either. To the right under that flopped gladiolus and some equally flopped salvia farinacea I found 'Sweet Jessica' that I had just planted.
I couldn't believe it! 'Sweet Jessica' lives!!
Armadillos. At least I didn't have to fight with THEM all summer.
(Left to right) 'Quietness', 'Hot Cocoa' and 'Stephen's Big Purple' - still are the weeds.
THE WEED has taken up residence on the structure of 'Leonie Lamesch'. Didn't look for life in there.
Armadillos have set up housekeeping AGAIN under my bedroom. Back in the early days of my reprieve I could hear - and feel - them banging around under the concrete slab. The azalea is suffering from their digging.
Not much gravel visible, is there? Walking through that stuff gives me the willies.
There really is a 6' wide gravel path to the shed here. And NO, I didn't venture down it.
My pot ghetto is buried in the weeds. Extra pots knocked over. All in all 'Reve d'Or' is quite embarrassed.
'General Gallieni' looking none the worse for wear, waiting patiently for deadheading.
Ha! 'Graham Thomas' is alive!! And bigger than he was!
Miracles DO happen! A slip of a hydrangea plant survived in the pot ghetto (one didn't) along with a couple of roses. Without irrigation, I might add. Five months with only nature's irrigation. Thanks, Lord.
With sadness I tell you that 'Mrs. Henry Morse' did not make it with only rain. She's the offspring of my beloved 'Madame Abel Chatenay' and had arrived from Rogue Valley Roses not long before the stroke. I will definitely try to get her again.
Amazingly, three roses that I had rooted from cuttings from last October's MCRS meeting are still living. I think one is 'Pope John Paul II'. Not sure who the others are.
And look at this little miracle. A clematis from Brushwood Nursery still in its 5" pot.
Another pleasant surprise. Healthy green leaves and a flower bud on 'Moondance', one of last winter's bargains on Dr Huey rootstock.
'Gold Medal' (another Dr Huey bargain) on the left and 'Alexander Hill Gray' on the right, looking much healthier than when I saw him last after struggling through a transplant. It occurs to me that this is a horrible photo but an accurate depiction.
Here's 'Vanity'. I'm really quite glad I missed the summer for this one. Hybrid Musks are enigmas to me. 'Vanity' is all gangly - typical - and I fear I would have been tempted to do something stupid with - or TO him in his first season.
Carol's gift of 'Pat Austin' did not make it without additional irrigation. I always meant to put a micro-head in her pot and had just figured out where to connect it. Now it's too late. She was puny for me but was finally getting stiffer. I loved her orange globular flowers.
Another path overrun with THE WEED and 'Periwinkle' volunteers which by the way hate extra water.
The same weedy path leading from the patio to 'Shooting Star' hydrangea on the left out of frame next to 'Duchesse d'Auerstadt and clematis on the arbor, looking toward 'Gold Medal', 'Alexander Hill Gray', 'Moondance' and 'General Gallieni'. 'Nur Mahal' and Clematis 'Purpurea Plena Elegans' are on the rebar teepee at top right (the rose is not looking too good from here but then it never did, being a Hybrid Musk).
'Shooting Star' flopping on the path along with 'Periwinkle' and THE WEED.
Where's my gray gravel? In the far purple pot 'Rose de Rescht' is still alive, I think. I did always have a little trouble determining evidence of life in that rose.
'Red Drift' on the left may have some life in him behind all those weeds, but I think 'Sweet Chariot' in the orange pot does not.
These faded blooms must be from 'Bonica'. I can't see the actual plant.

Looking to the left from the patio 'Polonaise' is blooming. THE WEED is rampaging. A canna lily from several years ago has sprung to life right where 'Fourth of July' was trying to get started up the arbor. And a marauding vine from the neighbor's yard along with a weed vine have usurped the arbor. We'll see what spring brings for 'Mrs. B. R. Cant' who you can't see between the trees.
Hopefully, everyone likes old photos because I’m about to impose on you all. In December my cutie and I will celebrate 36 years of marriage, so I feel like strolling down Memory Lane. Try counting the decades by the style of my eyeglasses and the absence thereof in favor of contacts in the pre-arthritis years.

Tom.Sherry.1978 Our Wedding Portrait  
Tom.Sherry at SMU Blvd (3)
Tom.Sherry.LA (2)
Tom.Sherry.golfingTom.Sherry.W Wedding     

Sherry_TomTom.Sherry c.2000
He’s such a sweetie-pie!! Today and forever.

Happy autumn gardening to you all!