Monday, February 22, 2010

Do you need Dr.Quinn?

Remember watching those old "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" re-runs?  (As I recall, this was a phase in my life that came just after the "Little House on the Prairie" re-runs and just before my "A-Team" days.  Or was it "Magnum P.I."?)  That plucky city gal always seemed to find a cure for what ailed the townsfolk on the frontier.  Now how badly do I need a garden version of this character?

Dr. Quinn can save the day!

I can see it now: dress swishing and held high to avoid dirtying the lavender hem, she tramps single-minded through the entrance and pauses a moment.  "Oh dear, did you know your Veronica has a terrible case of mildew?"  This would be said in a most kind and regretful manner, for Dr. Q is nothing if not classy and compassionate.  And I would bow my head in acknowledgement and a bit of shame.  If I was feeling bold I might add, "And it's been mildewed for two years in a row."  Then she would spontaneously convey that my lilac is very unhappy in it's current place (no flowering) and the grasses are getting crowded and dying out in the middle.

The funny part about this scenario is that I know exactly which plants are not thrilled with their place in my yard, as evidenced by disease, pests, or poor growth.  I don't need "Dr. Quinn" to sashay through and point out what is to me obvious.  What I need is the guts to do something about it.  Some guts and some initiative.  But sometimes the thought of the work involved in removal or transplanting seems nothing short of colossal and I find it too intimidating to start.  "I'll just wait 'til next year."

Woman, divide us, please!

I have five specimens of Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' that have been needing division now for two or three years. By procrastinating I have just made the job more enormous. So my thought process goes something like: Let's see, last time I dug and divided a Calamagrostis it took about an hour (just the "lift, divide, and avoid tramping other plants" part) for one large plant, not counting the re-planting of divisions. Applying some fuzzy math, that would be a months' worth of free time in the garden down the drain. Oh joy, when do I start!?

Martha says: Get's a good thing.

This procrastination thing might need more of a Martha Stewart approach (sorry, Dr. Quinn).  No doubt there is a special notepad adorned with scrolls and ribbon that would help me find the desire and the time to do the deed.  Hmm, maybe not.  I'm sure that her calendar has a day blocked out for transplanting tasks.  Someday I'll be that organized.  Today is not that day.   

I do find fearless authority figures to be very motivating: labor and delivery nurses are especially good.  They might make the best of what I like to call, in a highly specialized (and entirely made-up) niche of garden professional: the garden sergeant.  "It's six a.m., stop being lazy and get moving!  Dig, dig, you little nitwit!!  And none of that lip or you'll drop and give me twenty!"  I'm losing weight just thinking of it.  Just what I need to get me going...unfortunately, I haven't seen any listed in my area. 

In our consumer culture, it's too bad I can't find guts/motivation/initiative on the shelf at Target: I'd drop by and pick some up.  (I'd even settle for the generic brand.)  This reflection is rather ironic because some of my plants are moved so often they never get comfortable.  I guess it's those others that I'm thinking of, the too large or the unwieldy, those that cannot be pried out by one or two scoops of the trowel.  I have a few months to think of a solution to my mental inertia/physical reluctance on the subject.  It may crumble if spring is long coming. 

What does it take to overcome dividing and transplanting resistance?  And where can I get some? 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ga-ga at the garden show!

No, not that Ga-ga!  Maybe I'll style myself "Lady Garden Gaga" and dye my hair green.  Though I suppose compost brown would do just as well and has the added benefit of not running the LFG hubby off.

I've never even heard a song by Lady Gaga, so I have no opinion on whether she's any good. I think the LFG hubby said she's good at poker or some other card game, but that is the extent of his knowledge. If I were to judge a book (or album) by it's cover, I'd guess she wasn't strolling the Northwest Flower and Garden Show aisles at the convention center in downtown Seattle. Perhaps she's on a tour bus somewhere or getting her roots touched up....

I, however, was  "ga-ga" at the show.  People that have been deprived of green for months on end get a little tired of white and brown, and I was no exception.  As soon as I walked into the display garden room, BAM (as that TV chef says), my jaw dropped.  And my camera came out.  Several other blogs, much more reputable than mine, have given a photo tour of the display gardens, so mine will be (mercifully) brief.  (See my last post for the garden vendor bling lowdown.)   

I just love all the grasses and sedges that were used in the display gardens. Most aren't perennial in Alaska, but I can't have everything my way, now can I?

 "Hey there, darlin'...are those shoes suede?"

Why don't I seem to be able to combine plants this cleverly?

I think this is supposed to be a tongue in cheek thing about recycle/repurpose.  I would laugh if I hadn't seen actual junk vehicles adorned with plants up here in the Great Land.  Not quite as prevelant as blue tarps, but a go-to style idea for some nonetheless.

The colors on this small display space were especially nice (and trendy, too.  Isn't turquoise the color for this year?).  Very cheerful!  I wonder if those cafe chairs are really comfortable?  The seat looks as if it might be a bit snug.

A bright spring scene, to be played out in gardens at least two zones warmer than mine.

The presentations, of which I have no pictures, were heavily attended.  At least the handful I listened to.  A person in front of me in line (the ticket line, mind you, not the actual walking into class line) was muttering something that sounded suspiciously like "longer lines than Disneyland."  I met several people who claimed to be from Alaska, and saw in the crush (I'm almost positive) several Anchorage area Master Gardeners, including our esteemed Cooperative Extension Agent Julie Riley, as well as Debbie H., Mary Jo B., and Robbie F.  I also endured (in line again, but of course) a couple of very funny persons that, when they found I was from Alaska, asked me if I enjoyed the two months of summer?  Ha, ha.  And yes, I do.  It's actually one month, but don't tell anyone you heard that from me....

More Carex.  I love to use them as annuals in pots, since they usually aren't hardy for me in-ground.  This bubbling fountain would be so nice in my yard.  I don't suppose they have a "carry-on bag" size I could tote home.

So how were the speakers, you're wondering?  And did I learn anything new?  Before I answer, I should be clear: I don't go to the show for the speakers (though I was very disappointed I missed presentations by the rockstars of ornamental grasses, Rick Darke and John Greenlee).  I go for the green fix.  But while I'm there, I do enjoy stopping in on some of the talks. 

Most fun: Ciscoe Morris.  If I had half his energy, the house would be Mary Poppins clean, the kids would be violin prodigies, and I might be running for president in 2012. 

Most inspirational: Val Easton.  Her talk on making the garden a bit lower maintenance so it can actually be enjoyed was full of colorful slides and great tips.  The slides were like optical caffeine.  Now where to get my next fix? 

Best audience experience:  Every talk was opened with the now ubiquitous "turn off gadgets" warning.  (Sure enough, every talk had a cell or two go off and I had a neighbor texting next to me once.  I gave her a subdued version of the "are you kidding me" look and after a few more hurried messages, she put it away.  Good grief.)  During one presentation, I observed a near brawl between two women about a cell phone.  One woman, we'll call her Woman A, had her cell go off (it was hooked on her belt) for three or ten rings before she got to it.  Her neighbor, Woman B, ardently trying to listen to the speaker above the ruckus, was visibly upset by the fact it was ringing at all.  After Woman A finished her call (yes, she finished it!), Woman B told her to turn off her phone.  Woman A ignored her.  How do I know?  Woman A's phone rang again.  I could see neck veins bulging in Woman B by now and she commanded A to turn off phone and B studiously affected an "I'm not listening to you" pose.  I'm guessing the call wasn't life altering as it didn't contain the phrase "doctor" or "Mr. President" in it, but what do I know?  By this time, I have given up all pretense of listening to the speaker and concentrated on the soap opera in front of me.  Two thumbs up.

There were a couple of talks where I had to prop my eyes open, but I won't name names.  

I'm attending a wedding this week here in Alaska.  I'm pretty sure no one has outdoor weddings, like the delightful one pictured above, up here this time of year.  The bride would have to wear bunny boots and carharts otherwise.  And snowpants on the flowergirl just aren't as charming as that cute yellow dress and white gloves.

Something about dark pots...they just make the planting look so sophisticated.

OK, here's a few more random shots from the show:

If you didn't make it to the NFGS this year, just close your eyes after scrolling through these pictures and imagine you were there...naturally you'll need a cell phone to ring in the background to make the experience authentic.  I used to think that certain places were sacrosanct as far as people refraining from cell phone calls.  But no more (I've even heard them during church services).  What is the most unlikely place you've heard a cell phone go off?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Garden Show Goody Bags

There's one truism about goody bags: there's never enough. OK, there's two truisms. The other is no one wants to share. I'm not speaking of kid's birthday party goody bags specifically, but I think the point holds anywhere free, undeserved handouts are in the offing. I suppose tantrums and headaches are a part of the goody bag cycle, too. (I'll let you know if that last bit holds true for adults after a wedding later this month.)  After going over my (100 or so) pictures and goodies from the 2010 Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle, I decided I would have to break my (completely biased and mostly factual) report up into two parts: goods and services, otherwise known as "stuff you could buy" and display gardens and presentations, otherwise known as "stuff you couldn't buy" (for next week). 

I was not the only one eager to troll the aisles.

There were plenty of goodies to be had at the show, from whirligigs, water fountains, and windchimes to trees, t-shirts, and trowels.  Some unexpected offerings: rocks, both the small and gigantic versions.   

A fun glass windmill/whirligig art booth where I couldn't afford anything....

Loved the colors at this booth.  Alas, I already had one rock to pack home....

What half the trees look like in Alaska in winter: no green.  Not that nice copper color though.

I was so tempted by this heather nusery and am regretting not bringing one or ten home.

Think this looks comfortable?

I think Bill Clinton would love this water fountain.  The vendor made fountains and feeders out of brass instruments.  Never seen anything like it.

I would have loved to add this to my rock collection.  I'm sure the stoneyard intended them to be informational, but the inscribed stones were humorous as well.  There was also a "one man stone", a "3/4 ton stone", and a "one ton stone."  

Hellebores were extremely popular at both the plant vendors and in the display gardens, where it was used to great effect.  H. 'Ivory Prince' has been sulking in my garden for a few years now.  I really must devote myself to finding a better place for it or some more lively companions. 

Keeping in mind I was trying to be disciplined in my acquisitions, my meager goody bag contents from the show were as follows (see I'm sharing my goody bag, aren't you proud?):

 Acutally, this is not quite all.  I chucked the two lily bulbs in the veggie crisper and the glass art had to be shipped separate.  Wouldn't fit in the old carry-on.

Rubbish.  Or the"mulch" in my carry-on bag, if you prefer.

I think I avoided the goody bag evil of tantrums only because no sugar was involved.  I entered to win the trip to Hawaii at an ATM-looking machine in the convention center: suprise, I didn't win.  However the machine did spew out about ten coupons for things I couldn't use ("free scissors from Fiskars, collect at booth XYZ", now how would I explain them to those nice security people at the airport?).  The coupons in addition to receipts and literature I just had to have, made for quite a pile of papers, pictured above

This booth displayed their products to good effect!

I thought I was quite restrained given the circumstances.  Three plants in pots (to be used in my ornamental grass presentations this spring), two Lilium bulbs (gifts for friends), a glass orb for the fountain, and a small rock basin for the birds.  I felt pretty confident I could fit all that into my carry-on bag.  And then I made that fateful stop at the blown glass and copper stake booth.  Next thing I know, I'm signing my life away via credit card and having in all shipped home.  (Oh, well done, Christine, very restrained....)  I was also tempted by the giant moose made of salvaged metal, pictured below.  Maybe next year.

So the goodies were this week, and I'll be sharing the gardens and lectures presentations next week.  It'll take that long to recover from sitting in a middle seat in the airplane.  Envision, if you will: one young neighbor spit shining (truly!) his i-pod before lovingly placing it in an i-pod fanny pack and the other ear-plug wearing neighbor continuously bumping me with elbow and foot.  I consider myself an understanding traveller, but after the tenth time, I stepped on his foot.  Hard. 

I have quite a few insect art objects in my garden. Just my luck: very fun but very expensive!

I keep forgetting the most important aspect of air travel (in my humble opinion): "never wear a turtleneck on the plane", which edged out close seconds "don't wear wool socks to a warmer climate" and "don't drink a bottle of water before boarding".  What's your travel tip?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jerry Springer in the garden!

For those blog newbies (such as myself) out there, collaborations and shared topic days are pretty common amongst garden bloggers.  Recently, I ran across one idea that sounded too good to pass up.

Cover from the DVD collection ( I kid you not, there is such a thing!).  Buy it here, if you must.

"Garden oops moments", or GOOPS, as they are known from originator Joene's Garden, are posts containing a full disclosure of garden mistakes, Jerry Springer style, sans beat downs, screaming, and DNA reports. "You did WHAT in your garden?? You little fool...." OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a wee bit, but it should be fun nonetheless. My only problem is where to start. I don't want to overwhelm, so I'll just start with one.

My first choice must be the acquisition of creeping buttercup, Rununculus repens, about seven years ago.  I don't know quite how I came to have the beastie, pictured below, but one day I looked up as I was weeding and there it was, prostrate with gold-yellow flowers.  If I could hop in my time-travelling Delorean with Michael J. Fox, I would have pulled the darn thing out.  Alas, I spared the unknown (at the time) plant and continued on my way.

The dreaded (in my yard) R. repens, Jim Stasz USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Apparently, I don't weed nearly as often as I should because the next time I spied the creeper, it had done just that and claimed some more gardening real estate.  "I'm not sure that's a weed," I said as I walked by intent on some other task.  Famous last words.

The third year started out innocently enough.  But dark forces were at work in the shade garden.  I had plans for an overhaul so I decided to scope things out and make an inventory.  Holy weeds, Batman!  Creeping buttercup was everywhere.  I took immediate action.  Unfortunately, the plant had tenacious roots.  Silty soil didn't help, either.  I finished the last of the overhaul in summer of 2009.  I am still, after four or five years, pulling the occasional plant out.

Wishing I could do this with so many weeds. (seen the movie?)

Conclusion: I now give unknown plants a much shorter time to prove they are not a weed.  About two months sounds right.  Now if I can just be true to that rule....  If you are having a chuckle at my expense, how long do you give your mystery plants to prove themselves "not a weed"?


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