Saturday, October 31, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Looking out across the neighborhood, my eye is caught by the sight of a lawn full of whirligigs. Just what is a whirligig? What does having one in your space mean? If I'm feeling charitable, I might say "a touch of whimsy", if I'm a bit surly, "a touch of weird". But pass it by without making a snap judgement, I cannot. Certain aspects of gardening always seem to provoke strong reactions. The decor/art category comes to mind. One person's post modern outdoor sculpture is another's zoning violation or scrap metal heap.
Another snap judgement category would have to be certain types of annuals. There is a T-shirt available from a very reputable (and sly) mail-order nursery proclaiming "friends don't let friends buy annuals." Granted, up here in the far north, a lot more plants are annuals, whether or not they are supposed to be! Admitting you plant marigolds (in some gardening circles) seems akin to admitting you bought your opera gown at Wal-mart: a bit embarrassing, even if it's true. I do remember going through a phase (not so long ago) when the thought of a pansy (Viola spp.) in the garden would send a shiver of horror down my spine. Guess I'm over that, as little blue ones seem to be re-seeding in a corner of the garden. Very cheerful. I also came down with a bad case of the ever-popular and sometimes recurring "geranium (Pelargonium spp.) loathes" but I recovered and now enjoy the fancy-leaved varieties in my containers. Currently, my nose is in the air over gerber daisies and begonias and, though I can't imagine using them now, it is just barely possible that I could be raving about them next year. I already slipped a little and used Begonia 'Escargot' in a container this year. Oops.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Conclusion one: sketching things out, even in a very rough bubble-looking form of where, what, and how you want things to look, helps minimize future digging games. If you know you would like a patio in a certain area and you block it out in a sketch, you most likely wouldn't plant a grove of spruce trees in that spot by mistake. Get out those pencils and paper, class!
Conclusion two: read the tag for size (please, please!). This is most often a problem with trees. If that "cute as a button" little 5-foot tree you planted 10 feet off the front door of the house gets to be a 30-foot wide behemoth, goodbye all sunlight in the front room. And any visitors for that matter. How could they get to the front door?
In general, I find the width measurements more important than the height measurements for trees and shrubs. Unless you are planting under a utility line. Also, I don't plant any trees closer than 20 feet to my house at a minimum (and these are usually narrow or dwarf varieties that won't eat up space). Many of the house lots in developed now in Anchorage are relatively small, so I often recommend varieties that don't get very wide. One tree that is tall and narrow, for those tight spaces, is Populous tremula 'Erecta' (which says on the tag 40' x 6'). Yeah, I know, it's a poplar. But you can't get much narrower than that in a tree up here. Other small trees include some of the crabapples (Malus spp.), serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.), and some mountain ash, such as Sorbus decora. Go ahead, snoop around, visit nurseries, read magazines, surf online. Find something that fits and will still fit in ten years or twenty.
Conclusion three: read the tag for cultural requirements! Does it like sun? shade? wet soils? being trampled by the neighborhood children? Putting the plant in a place it will be healthy also minimizes those annoying musical chairs games.
Conclusion four: even if you have planned for every contingency, requirement, and eye appeal, you may decide you just don't like that plant in that place. Don't feel too bad. Mixing things up occasionally keeps the garden fresh and interesting, so go ahead and plan your moving projects now. When spring fever hits, you'll know where to dig.
Disclaimer: If the plant you want to move (or remove) could possibly fall onto your neighbor's yard, your home, overhead wires (in other words, if it's anything bigger than say, 8 feet), an arborist would probably be a better option than a DIY project.
The before musical chairs picture, a mishmash of Rosa 'William Baffin', Rosa 'Pole Star', and Actinidia kolomikta, all fighting for vertical space against the house. What a mess. Nothing a little digging won't fix, though. If you decide you are willing to part with plants you have dug up, consider sharing with a friend or neighbor (or put them on Alaskaslist). These days, I prefer to think of moving plants around as an opportunity (so long as my back holds up). So should you.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I was going for a really strong vertical modern look. That's how the birch tree section got hauled home from the cabin. All two hundred pounds of it. It was so heavy I just rolled it into place. It was effective for the first year by itself. Sort of modern Alaska minimalist. Not even the gale-force winter winds could budge the thing. Being frozen to the ground always helps. Year two, my hubby was threatening to hang a bunch of old antlers around the house. Now some are calling the garden home, including this little moose rack, randomly plunked onto the birch. Voila, art!
This wacky guy was acquired in the Mat-Su Valley. I almost missed out, not wanting to make the 45-minute drive on a Saturday. But I took a chance and attended the Alaska Garden and Art Festival at the Palmer Fairgrounds. Lots of booths with whimsical goods, some weird, and a few "what were they thinking?" I found the mother lode at an older gentleman's booth. He informed me that he uses mostly recycled "junk" to make his work and really enjoys what he does, even recruiting his wife to paint some of his art. He had pigs, faces aplenty, bugs, lobsters, and I can't remember what else. A lot though. I snapped up a few other quirky items from him before I left. He said he might be at the Alaska Botanical Garden Fair in June next year (2010). I hope so, I am planning on adding one more funny face to make it a trio.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Ah, the memories this photo brings back. Feelings of futility, rage, anger...but I will focus on the humorous story that goes along with it. Perhaps you did not know that in a former life, the Last Frontier Gardener had another alias: the Southside Chopper.
Our story unfolds a couple of years ago in the lovely metropolis of Anchorage. The city was making improvements to a park in my neck of the woods. Mountain Ash (genus Sorbus) were planted. Right next to a swamp and forested area. If you have lived in Alaska more than, say, 10 seconds, you know that moose frequent forested or swampy areas. And moose love, love, love mountain ash trees. It's not if they find them, it's when. And they did a couple of months after planting at the park. They snapped off all the leading shoots. Major scaffolding limbs were smashed and left at odd angles on the trees. When Ralphie's mother said "you'll poke your eye out," she could have been talking about a stroll down that sidewalk. Yikes.I drove by this unlovely sight for several months before I snapped. I packed my pruning saw, Felco hand pruners, and Plantskyyd and headed out for some tree TLC. I parked the car, hiked through snow, and avoided the icy patches as best I could. I hacked away for an hour and forty-five minutes. OK, hacking doesn't quite describe it. Artfully, sensibly, pruning the broken branches with saw and hand pruners. A lot of cars were slowing down to check out what I was doing as they passed. A woman rolled down her window and thanked me. I was starting to feel pretty good.
After I slipped and slid to the trees planted in the median, I got started spraying the Plantskyyd. I love the stuff. If I didn't have it, I'm convinced my front yard trees would be short, wooden poles. As I was starting to wrap things up, saw in hand, covered in a fine mist of rotted animal blood (just what do think Plantskyyd is?), two APD cruisers rounded the corner. (My internal monologue something like: probably just some tykes into a spot of graffiti down the road. They are slowing down though. Is it possible? Yes, they are here for me!) They cautiously exited their cars, hand at holster. For a moment, I thought I might laugh but instead I said "hello, officers" and one answered by saying "uh, what are you doing?" I explained myself in my most cheerful tone and he had the good grace to look abashed and say "some lady called in and said a crazy woman was cutting down the street trees with a machete." They drove away and I laughed 'til the tears came down. Housewife doing volunteer work rates two police cruisers...I couldn't make it up if I tried.
You should know that a few days before this event, a disturbed person was running around the Sand Lake area of town with a machete and was styled "the chopper" by some, including myself. I was covered in (animal) blood and sliding down the icy sidewalk with a hand saw. I suppose I can see how the caller was confused (and now you know how I acquired my alias). The handsaw (or so-called machete) in question, is pictured, along with co-defendants (pruners and gloves).
The real point of this long reminisce is to remind you to get out the Plantskyyd (which I used religiously) or whatever you use as a deterrent and put it on any plant the moose can reach. I much prefer it to the orange vinyl construction fencing, black garbage bags, or duct tape contraptions. If you wouldn't dream of sending your yard to sleep without wrapping the trees, try burlap. It is far less conspicuous in the landscape than home improvement orange. Your neighborhood will thank you. If you need something less "mummy-on-top-of a-tree-looking" than wrapping and less odorous than spray, consider fencing. I've seen some decent chicken wire cages, both the permanent and temporary kinds.
So, final questions. Do you want your valuable, venerable, and vulnerable trees to transform into wooden sticks? Do you and the neighbors want to be looking at elevated, bright orange "tree-mummies" for 7 or 8 months? Now is the time, as my brother says, to "T.C.O.B." That's "take care of business." You've been warned.