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.