Sunday, May 24, 2015

R.I.P. Pinwheels: wherein I slightly destroy garden art

Made it through the winter, woohoo!

Some years ago, in my zeal to defend my Prunus maackii against those dastardly, ever-hungry moose, I concocted a trio of giant pinwheels. Yes, you read that correctly. Pinwheels. (I am pausing a moment to savor these feelings of humility, shame, and perhaps a touch of defiance. There. I am done.)

I designed and welded those things to last through a hurricane. (See here, here, and here, for the story.) They came with us when we moved over four years ago, but never quite looked right at the spot in the backyard lawn where I placed them. Fate intervened with the occasional windstorm in winter. Now the moving parts were bent and broken, what to do?

Meanwhile, I had found the equivalent of a hen’s tooth at the home improvement store. I have been on the hunt for Malus ‘Prairiefire’ without hope for many years, because, let’s face it, Alaska is pathetic (and I’m only slightly exaggerating here) when it comes to variety of plant offerings. I am still looking for Viburnum ‘Wentworth.’ It’s been 5 years. Pathetic.

So my $27 Malus ‘Prairiefire’ crabapple is sitting in it’s pot, waiting. And waiting. I don’t dare plant it because I have no scheme to protect it from the moose. Schemes to protect trees from the moose fall in this order, from least effective to most: 1. folk remedies, like soap-on-a-rope or wolf urine (tied for number 1 with) prayer, 2. dogs (too unreliable), 3. Plantskydd (a blood based product), 4. fencing, 5. electrified fencing, and 6. paid assassins.

Since the Alaska Department of Fish and Game frowns on number 6, and number 5 seems a bit much for the front yard, I settle for numbers 1, 3, and 4. I plant the tree. I spray the tree with Plantskydd. I pray. I sleep. I wake up. Remove pinwheels from the back yard, rip off and snip off tin wheels, march to front yard, and pound the rebar into the ground, no doubt loosing a permanent bit of my hearing in the process. (Note to self: A hammer pounding rebar is loud. Get earmuffs from the garage, idiot.)

Now I can hang some discreet fencing from the rebar surrounding my tree and have the surety of a number 4 level of protection. And what happened to the spinning portion of my old pinwheels, you ask? I managed to salvage one as a d├ęcor item for the soon-to-be-built playhouse for the kids.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the traditional “planting out” date for south central Alaska. I planted out a month ago, so I can relax this long weekend. Viva la zone cheaters!!


Any repurposing or recycling of garden art? Are your annuals and veggies planted? And do you have to protect your trees?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oops, I did it again

garden cart full of grasses and Achillea

Britney Spears notwithstanding, if you do the same thing over and over, it doesn’t matter if it’s wrong. Clearly there is something about it that pays off for you. Exhibit A: my river garden in the front yard. On a whim, I wacked down the perennials (with a couple of exceptions) on March 21st, last Saturday for those that keep track of such things. A kind neighbor passing by hollered out, “You know it’s too early to do that?!” To which I (being the classy dame that  I am) shouted back, “I don’t care. I need to be outside!”

I can see the salmon now

Which put me in mind of another year when I planted my annuals in containers rather early in April and a canvassing politician at my door made no mention of her ideas for our city, other than to note that I had planted out too early. I guess I’m edgy like that. Or perhaps early gardening activities are so provocative that no one, not even a stranger or a person that doesn’t know a petunia from a peony, can resist giving their two cents. Everyone’s a critic. Britney knows about that.

Meanwhile, we shall see who has the last laugh. The low temperatures are mostly above freezing in the forecast, and no snow in sight. I have no doubts the naysayers will continue to pester me though, I’m not that innocent.


Are you rushing things in the garden?

Monday, March 9, 2015

10 More Signs of Spring in Alaska

Salmon with a side of Festuca and a dormant Calamagrostis brachytricha

Never content to hash something out one time, or even two, this Alaskan brings you the definitive list. Again. It may not be true spring here yet, but keep your eyes peeled for the signs. It won’t be long now, I have spotted numbers 6 and 10 already.

1. You just stepped in dog poop, and it made a squish sound. This is to differentiate between stepping in dog doo in winter, when it crunches.

2. You begin to consider getting your bike off the garage ceiling, where it has been dangling in suspension (heh) since November. All except those crazy kids that bike all winter. Yeah, I’m looking at you, fat tire bikers! You just switch to your summer bike.

3. You hear an unfamiliar sound: not the wind, the plow truck, a car in desperate need of a new muffler, nor even a snowmachine. The birds are singing!  Can it be true? (This charming sound will fade to annoying, when that robin is warbling at 2 am in June.)

4. Trailers begin to sport more jet skis and boats and fewer snowmachines.

5. It just snowed again. Instead of being resigned to it or excited about it  (like in winter-time) you are annoyed, and shake your fist at the sky.

6. You saw your first jogger of the season wearing shorts. Not to mistake this with teenaged boys in Alaska, who seem to wear shorts 10 months of the year. I asked one teen why shorts were chosen on a day of snow and low temperatures. The answer, “Well, I looked out my window and it was sunny.”

7. Instead of throwing down sand on the road or driveway, it is being swept up. (In my neighborhood, not until July. Grrr.)

8. Snow boots get stacked on the shelf. Out come the puddle boots. Lots of Alaskans favor Xtra-Tuffs, but I like my Muck boots, for rainy days, gardening days, river rafting days…well, you get the idea. For a discussion on the merits of each, go here.

9. The critters are out, or back. Cue the bears, the Canada geese, squirrels, etc. Put the dog food/birdseed out of reach. We read about what hungry bears do to get people/dog/bird food almost every year in our local newspapers.

10. You just saw a motorcycle or Corvette on the road. Viva la spring!



Is it spring where you live? What are the signs?


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