Saturday, December 19, 2009

Garden Evolution -- 2007-2009

My garden is just over 2 years old. And yet in that time I've amazed myself (easy to do) at how lush the plants have become. So, here's a post with twenty some pics tracing the garden from July 2007--when my wife helped me spread 20 yards of mulch in 90 degree heat--to just this past August and September.

FALL 2007

I didn't know how best to organize these photos, so we'll go from year to year. Many of the pics were taken from near the same position to highlight the evolution. As always, click to expand (especially with those of mostly just mulch).

I've never had a garden before, but I grew up with a gardener--one who gardened by a "do it and see what happens" creed. So I just threw myself into it. In 2007 and 2008 it wasn't uncommon for me to be outside for 8 hours, even in the middle of the afternoon, sweating like a Robin Williams.

My idea for the main garden, above, was a combination of whatever native plant I happened to come across and like, as well as prairie / meadow flowers and grasses. So I just started plopping stuff in, creating scattered repetition, mixing heights and textures, hoping form would follow function. Or function would follow form? I felt blind out there the first year.

A view back toward the side garden and main gate. Though I didn't have a real plan, it was always my intention to make that side garden along the house as low maintenance as possible. To me, this meant varied shrubs, as well as ideas of what a Japanese garden might look like or work like (though mine doesn't look like one). Since this area is on the east side of the house, plants get half sun, and the soil stays damp.

Side garden

Those Amsonia hubrichtii by the deck were dug up from my old place. I had a very small porch garden were these plants never took off. Wait till you see them in 2009. (FYI the woman who bought my place tore up every last flower of my mini garden. For shame. She left the two arborvitae, though.)

FALL 2008

In the spring of 2008 we added the disappearing fountain--which took 7 hours to install. Ridiculous.

Side garden

I added a dry stream bed--which isn't dry when the rain chain is rainy.

See that obelisk way out in the middle with a morning glory on it? Well, it's out there. And it's copper. I built it. Viva Trellis Craft by Roger Beebe.

MAY 2009

I added a real bona fide bridge over the 6" deep stream bed. That stream was a real hazard during heavy rain (sarcasm).

Here's the main garden about the time I graduated with my Ph.D. Most of my plantings were at first just native perennials to the midwest and plains, with some native to other parts of the country. In 2008 I started adding shrubs so that 1) there'd theoretically be less maintenance and 2) there'd theoretically be winter interest. So far, the only winter interest comes from rabbits who eat the shrubs and make me buy new ones in the spring.

I also have 5 butterfly bushes, but in 2009 the insects mostly left them alone, as opposed to 2008. In 2009 the native perennials came into full vigor and were devoured instead--by bees, butterflies, and a massive plague of grasshoppers. (Did you need another reason to go native? Insects REALLY DO FAVOR NATIVE PLANTS). The trick with a perennial garden is to be patient, I've come to learn. Many perennials--like eupatorium--will soon grow to the gerth of shrubs and be just as interesting in every season, even in winter with the grasses. Maybe shrubs are silly indulgences.


Just look at that native sweet autumn clematis, c. virginiana, in its 2nd full season. And the smell was luscious--like roses (better than roses)--permeating the entire garden.

Entrance to the garden / side garden. That one person chair against the fence is my favorite place to sit, until the neighbor's dog finds me, or one of his toys is lobbed over the fence.

Just beyond the arbor.

From the deck.

There are several eupatoriums and ironweeds along the fence that grow to 6' high or more and act like shrubs, as well as provide a second privacy screen. By the arbor you can see one of 5 trees in the garden, a clump river birch. There is also a regular and weeping bald cypress, and two crabapples elsewhere.

Look at those Amsonia hubrichtii now.

In the forground bordering the yard are three shrubs that I hope will become a mixed hedge from this viewpoint, and from within the garden provide a nice strong background. There's also a 'Coralburst' crabapple on a stick to the right that I got at Home Depot for $60. Sometimes you can go to hell and redeam a lost soul, particularly when it's on sale for half off.

Above: 2009 -- Below: 2008



Link here to see the garden 300% more lush in mid summer of 2010--all on its 3rd birthday, and my X birthday.

I don't use chemicals. This spring I spread 4 yards of city compost about 1-2" deep most everywhere. This fall I put down 2 yards of mulch in sunny areas. I do sprinkle a little bit of slow release all purpose fertilizer in the spring, but I maybe don't really need it. I am pretty anal about researching plants before I buy them so I know if it will work, and where it should go. Parts of my garden stay very wet, and others get very dry. I'm doing ok I suppose.

That's my garden. About 1,500-2,000 square feet in the back. There are another X feet of foundation beds along the back of the house, and 500 feet out front I never show because it's boring and I can't figure it out (and if that piques your interest, stop it).
If you want to know what anything is in the pics, let me know. A link to my end of 2008 season plant list is on the right somewhere toward the top.
And some of my favorite nurseries, online or in person:

Ambergate Gardens
Prairie Moon Nursery
Prairie Nursery

I'm afraid I might get bored this year and just start digging random holes in the yard. Lawn circles. Aliens. Insane assylum. Plant catalogs. Straight jacket. Join the A-Team. Follow? The garden doesn't need to be bigger, and we won't be here but a few more years anyway, I figure. This is my trial garden for a future acreage. Still--leave it better than you found it, and hope the next owners will also pay it forward.
Have a Merry Christmas from all of us one people here at The Deep Middle, a certified 501c nonprofit on this 1/4 acre lot looking for plant donations.

Frozen Fog Pics -- Part Deux

Who needs tree flocking? The frozen fog stuck, then the next night we had freezing rain. The double coat made the trees a brilliant white.

The sun is up there.

You can see the ribs of the freezing rain on the branches above the bird feeder--click to expand.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Poem in Your Local Paper

You and hopefully 4 million others can find a poem by me in your local newspaper sometime this week. It will also appear in other print and online publications according to their schedules. The poem is part of Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry, which provides a new poem every week free of charge to any pub who wants to print it, along with Ted's introduction to the work.

If you'd just rather go see the poem online now, click here. It will also be archived on that site if you arrive after this week and don't see it on the main page.

The poem comes from my manuscript, Afterimage, which focuses on family photographs (get it?) from the last 130 years or so. Don't ask how many times it's placed in contests or received lovely comments from editors. Some day....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ice Fog Pics

Frog. Icog. In any case, another dose this season of beautiful freezing fog. (Click on the pics--you know you want to.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Cardinal Pics

Here are three more. Suffer through it--I'm also testing the new Blogger image uploader, which is annoying at best.

Ain't that kinda neat?

Who will she choose to kick off?

This just looks postmodern to me: the female awkwardly balanced on the cedar and looking left, the male in the feeder staring off at something we can't see, and the other male frozen in his moment of greatest action. Or it's nothing more than life. Everything but life.

Picture of Me Urinating in Garden to Keep Out Rabbits

Yup, here is a pic my wife took of me outside, peeing on the shrubs to keep the rabbits away. Enjoy.

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Whoops. Looks like the pic won't load. I can't believe you came here thinking 1) I'd post a pic and 2) would actually pee in my garden. I'm a sitter, not a stander. Plus I enjoy white snow. Cheers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Help! Rabbits Eating Everything! Help!

Please help me. Need practical advice. Rabbits have eaten most of a red chokeberry, and nibbled liberally on several viburnum. Do I chicken wire every shrub 4' high? The 2' snow drifts are giving them ample leverage to reach the branches of young 2-3' tall shrubs. Each shrub cost $30-$50 (multiply that by 8 for beaucoup pain). I've tried hot pepper wax, dry cow blood, and liquid fence. Will they hit the ninebarks and dogwoods next?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Of Many Cardinals and Much Snow

Our last snow was 1" two months ago, but the last three days saw around 10" of snow (drifts of 3' as seen below), and dozens upon dozens of Hitchcock-numbering birds. The birds apparently enjoy using the snowfall and cloud cover to mask their movements from predators. I guess. Don't really know. I want Irish coffee. Anyone else? Shoveling off the driveway was terrible, but I'm so thankful I had wife-ish help. -15 windchill felt more like -10.

Now, look at these red red red hot hot hot get them while they are here here here pics of cardinals CarDInaLS CARDINALS. And snoW snOW SNOW. Stop me stop me stop me.

That's a mouthful he's trying to leave with. Preposition and all.

Soooo happy with this cool feeder made by an artist. The birds climb all over it. As do the #%$&! squirrels.

Only a sampling of the many bird species at the two feeders.

I love how the bud tips of this serviceberry are highlighted by the cardinal's plummage. Really cool. Click to expand image.

How many cards do you see? Later on in the afternoon I counted 9, so one was hiding since I always see them in mating pairs. Free copy of my poetry chapbook if you get the right number. Not really.

The front sidewalk has a preliminary 2 foot drift, and then the monster behind is 3 feet or more, covering most of the 'Arctic Fire' dogwoods I've been longing to see against the snow (not in the snow!).

Look at the cool stratification of snow, and the green butterfly bush leaf caught against the glass.

What is this a head of? Shrunken monkey? Puppy? My neighbor's yippy puppy, frozen with liquid nitrogen?



I think the rabbit is now sleeping under here, as its 'October Skies' aster is completely covered.

See that plant label out there by the sumac? It was over a foot off the ground two days ago.

And then some geese came. Perfect.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Amish Paradise

As I research my mennonite family back to 1650--they were not amish--I begin to get a bit bored with the history and theology of anabaptists. I wonder, could I learn most of what I need to about mennonites from Weird Al? Can I try? It's easier.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Emerging Space Monarchs

Check out the video of the first butterfly floating around, hanging on to its chrysalis, yet still fully able to weightlessly inflate its wings. Link here.

And below are the pupating three astropillars, floating around. One is detached from its spot, another pupated while free and easy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Against Lawn -- Poem by Grace Bauer

The midnight streetlight illuminating
the white of clover assures me

I am right not to manicure
my patch of grass into a dull

carpet of uniform green, but
to allow whatever will to take over.

Somewhere in that lace lies luck,
though I may never swoop down

to find it. Three, too, is
an auspicious number. And this seeing

a reminder to avoid too much taming
of what, even here, wants to be wild.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

David Citino, Poets, and Baseball

My thesis director at Ohio State was a kind, positive, generous man named David Citino, who was nothing less than an institution at an institution of some 50,000 students. Yesterday I ran across this blog entry from the editor at Valparaiso Poetry Review, a solid online journal (and not just because they published a poem of mine long ago).

Below is what was quoted from David's book The Eye of the Poet: Six Views on the Art and Craft of Poetry from VPR's blog. I just wish my students, and even me, would heed this advice on a more consistent basis--you can't become a poet of the future if you don't open up to some humility and learn the poets of the past and the now (the good and the bad). I think my job, especially in poetry workshops, is split 50 / 50--be encouraging, a guide, a co-writer, and also to humble my students to the point of feeding / spurring their desire to learn the craft and give themselve to the process (and to get used to being humbled... I was humbled twice last week. That's not a euphamism.).

"I went to a ninth-grader to learn how to throw a curve ball. He showed me. “You grip the seams. You snap your wrist down, as if you held a match a second too long.” Then one day the coach of my little league team, with even more wisdom won from age, told me not to throw a curve at all until I reached sixteen and started to get my grown-up body, or I’d do irreparable damage to my elbow. (Perhaps there are moves, twists, and velocities that younger poets should wait to try. I need to investigate this further.)

Years later, an opposing coach, after his team had knocked me around quite smartly, my best pitches whizzing back past my ears, told me that he had alerted his team to the fact that, whenever I threw the curve, I tipped my hand by sticking out my tongue a little, as if I were concentrating.

“Son,” he said to me, “you have to learn, when you throw the bender, to keep your damn tongue in your mouth.”

Live and learn. I hadn’t known that the art is to hide the art. A pitcher or poet needs (I hope this doesn’t mix the metaphor too violently) a poker face, so as not to announce to the batter or reader his or her intentions. I’ve never forgotten this kindness extended to an enemy—nor have I forgotten the importance to the poet of having a reader with a good eye and ear. Those paunchy, grizzled men sitting in dugouts are there for a reason. Those poets—women and men—sitting on benches back in the mists of time also are there for a reason. It’s all about coaching and being able to take constructive criticism. The hardest lesson young pitchers and young poets have to learn is that their job is to listen, and to read, carefully.

The young have it over the older generations in everything but those degrees earned in schools of hard knocks. Many of the birds setting off on migrations and falling into the sea or getting lost under a maze of spinning stars—each year tens of thousands of birds never make it on their long and arduous journeys—are young ones who never made the trip before. Birds, baseball players, and poets need to find out what was in order to understand better what is. I tell student poets that the best way to develop is to read poetry of all ages and all cultures, to ask of every poet, Who in the world do you think you are? The answer varies of course from poet to poet (as it does from pitcher to pitcher), but also from poem to poem."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Delicious Thanksgiving Stuffing

This technique has been passed down in my family for generations, and it's tried and true.

Of course, this year we'll be enjoying our Nueske's ham. You've not had ham until you've had this expensive smoked hog. It's like eating pig Godiva. (If you are vegetarian I apologize, somewhat.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tasting The Dust -- Poem by Jean Janzen

The way he brings it in,
leaves falling from his hair,
then kisses me, you would think

that gardening is pleasure,
which he says it is, digging deep
to kill bermuda roots, piercing

his hands on roses.
Sweat drips into my eyes
from his forehead, physician

curing himself with soil.
Sometimes I join him, raking
the pages of leaves, but the garden

is his, the place which gathers
struggles from his hands
and returns its own --

the story of dust, an origin
so deep and dense, it rose
like fire to make the mountain,

a narrative of tumble
and breakage from its sides
the wet roar of ages

under the slow beat of the sun.
The mountain offering itself
in mud, sticks and stones

for his space, his touch,
to make of it a shape and fragrance,
to taste the center of this earth.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monarch (Poop) In Space

Following the monarch cats up on the space station I never stopped to think about feces. Now, I know from personal experience monarch merde needs to be cleaned up every day, maybe every two days, before it starts turning into white cotton-ball like fuzzy type things with teeth (Monty Python?). But look at this poop fest:

These cats are "currently passing over the monarch overwintering areas in Mexico. The overwintering monarch butterflies on Earth are at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet and have travelled at most about 2,500 miles (in up to 10 weeks) at a rate of 12 mph or so. In contrast, our "astropillars" are at an altitude of approximately 1,100,000 feet and have traveled a bit more than 3,000,000 miles (in just under 1 week) at an average rate of over 17,000 mph."

I wish I was a baller, I wish I was a monarch astropillar, I wish I had a girl that was phat, I would call her....

Check out more poop pics.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Fall Color -- In 18 Images

Many pics of final fall color over the last two warm weeks. This cornucopia of color has to hold us all until April and May, so imbibe deeply (and those stupid icicle Chistmas lights where only a few odd sections blink irregularly do not count). One good thing about wandering the garden this time of year is finally seeing all the places where the monarchs got their pupation on. I found an empty chrysalis on the dwarf arctic blue willow deep inside the branches.

I'm quite happy with the form and color of the garden--the form is something I can see much more clearly with no leaves vs. with gaudy leaves and flowers in the way. But I realize this garden really isn't as big as I once thought it was. I would love to plant more chokeberries (brilliant red fall color and fruit), but don't have the scratch. Or the itch to dig.

There is always two sides to every garden.

'Cascade Falls' Bald Cypress

Aster tartaricus

'Fineline' Buckthorn

Bee with pollen on aster.

Eupatorium 'Wayside'

I call it Golden Smokebush because the cultivar name escapes me at the moment.

Doesn't this lovely ground sedum (unknown) look like you could eat it and it'd taste like rainbow suger? I felt like Richard Brautigan there for a second.

Even the Geraniums do stuff.

Two yards of mulch. I'm not like Mr. Renegade Gardener who doesn't mulch his stuff. I need to improve my clay and protect fall transplants.

Unknown Fothergilla.

'Royal' Smokebush

'Ogon' Spiraea all decked out like a kaleidoscope colliding with my eyes.

'Coppertina' Ninebark. Let's hear it for shrubs that look sweet all year long, transforming themselves into at least 4-5 different ones throughout the year!

Sedum and Amsonia hubrichtii

'Little Henry' Itea loves you super long time with lasting color.

Spiraea 'Goldmound' also a rainbow of delight. Anyone else want some sherbet?

A terrific image if you click and expand. The low afternoon sun created such a delightful haze (get it?) backlighting the various colors of leaves and stems.

Next post may not be for a while. Sad, I know. Hope the five of you can manage.